Predicting the James Beard Awards…Easier Than You Think?

James Beard AwardsTwo years ago I told you the James Beard Awards are actually pretty predictable.  Once a chef has made the short-list of five finalists for their region, unless they jump ship to another restaurant, or something crazy happens in or to their region, they’re probably going to continue moving forward each year until they’ve won.

In the past, ripples have been things like Grant Achatz opening Alinea.  Heralded as one of the best—if not the best—restaurants in the country, he bucked the typical trend and won quickly.  Another was

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Wednesday 9/29 Benefit for Good Pie Cook / Hit-and-Run Victim

The Good PieThough there is little pizza I actively turn up my nose at, my favorite parlor—and favorite restaurant in St. Louis for that matter—is The Good Pie.   Generally visiting at least once a week, I’ve written about the restaurant on numerous occasions and although I did not set out to do so, I’ve gotten to know many of the workers on a personal level out of shear frequency.

And so it was with sadness that I heard the news of Pizzaiolo Ryan Skyles hit and run accident while riding his bike to work last week.   He is a great guy and a passionate cyclist who rides his road bike everywhere–occasionally competing on his days off.  Thankfully initial reports were more extreme than his actual injuries, but Skyles suffered a broken ankle and dislocated finger along with other injuries and although it will be some time before he is once again making our pizzas, please get out and show your support tomorrow, Wednesday, September 29th as three local businesses (The Good Pie, 33 Wine Bar, and Gioia’s Deli) will donate all proceeds from tomorrow’s sales to assist with Skyles medical bills and the purchase of a new bike.

Putting it in perspective, another cook at The Good Pie, Ted Sullivan, told me Saturday that Skyles had just upgraded the rims on his bike for over $1000.  On a cook’s salary that’s a lot of saving, so let’s do our part to get him back out there as soon as possible.

Babies, and Art, and Food, Oh My!

Art of Food LogoWhew! After nine months (the final few weeks of which were filled with anxiety revolving around questions like, “What the hell am I going to do with a baby?), I now have a daughter, Quinn Reese Burge.  Definitely meaning to brag, Ellie did it 100% natural for both her health physically and mentally and the babies.  It was amazing, but more than that, they are amazing.

Bragging about my wife and daughter out of the way, in the few moments of spare time I’ve had this week, I’ve been tracking down chefs to belatedly nail down this year’s Slow Food St. Louis Art of Food menu.  It’s not quite assembled 100% (come on guys!), but I just wanted to let you know one thing:

If you’re in town this Saturday, and you haven’t got anything planned, and you care a lick about local food, you need to get your butt down there. It’s Slow Food St. Louis’s biggest fundraiser of the year and it’s the reason we’ve been able to give over $12,000 to ten small farms over the last two years to increase the biodiversity of what’s available to us locally.

And if that’s not reason enough for you to go, know this: whatever excuse you have can’t possibly top the fact that I’ll be there and I’ll have a 7 day old daughter, and Josh Galliano will be there and he will have a 13 day old daughter.  (we are of course hoping this means stellar birthday parties!)

Here’s the menu thus far if you’re wavering, and I hope to see you there…

Annie Gunn’s – Lou Rook III

Roasted Viking Village Sea Scallop with Annie Gunn’s Bacon and Ratatouille.

Companion – Josh Allen

1. Panzanella “Bread Salad”  – Companion Roasted Garlic Fougasse w/ local heirloom tomatoes and cucumbers (working to identify farmer this week)

2. Grilled Bread Station with assorted pestos & tapenades

Five – Anthony Devoti

Benne’s Farm Pork confit, sesame cracker, tomato jam and pickled Claverach Farm baby carrots.

Harvest – Stephen Gontram

Harvest Bread Pudding

Kakao Chocolate – Brian Pelletier

1:Bacon Caramels Made with bacon from Hinkebein Hills Farms and local honey.

2: Chocolate Dipped Double-Layer Pates de Fruits

Local Harvest Café – Clara Moore

Horseradish Pickled Heirloom Tomato Relish on a Prairie Breeze Cheese Biscuit

Monarch – Josh Galliano

Prairie Grass Farms Goat Terrine, eggplant tapenade, Greek yogurt, fennel mostarda

Niche – Gerard Craft

white gazpacho, smoked grape sorbet

Sidney Street Café

Rabbit bratwurst with Companion brioche and house made sauerkraut

Winslow’s Home

Winslow’s Farm Cucumbers and Heirloom Tomatoes with pulled Prairie Grass Farm Lamb

and dishes still to come from…

Bailey’s Chocolate Bar, Farmhaus, Franco

Taking the Edge off E-Ville

It’s not my style to alert you to all deals because some deals are at places I wouldn’t want you to eat at in the first place.  With a definite amount of bias, however, I’d like to point out that although Kevin Willmann has moved on to great new things at Farmhaus, Edwardsville’s Erato on Main is still chugging along.  With the same great wine and beer list they’ve always had (and really that was part of the reason many of you drove to E-Ville anyway), the restaurant is still worth the trek.  Doubly so because you’ll get to sample  Jonathan Olson’s evolving menus as he finds his personal cooking style. Triply so because if you’re on the fence about the visit, today only you can turn $10 into $22 with the new Hot Sauce Deals of the Day website.

As an added bonus, 10% of all Hot Sauce proceeds will be donated to help fund important programs and services at Children’s Hospital.

For a taste of what’s in store, check out the new Erato on Main website.  Menus are updated each Friday so you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’re in store for.

Full disclosure: As always, please keep in mind that while I believe my opinion to be correct, there are some establishments where my opinion is personally biased. This is one. Jonny “Style” Olson and other members of the Erato staff have become friends of mine because of my regularity in the restaurant.  Heck, Jon even guest-blogged once.

Doing Good at The Good Pie

The Good Pie OvenIf I’d compiled a list of what I felt were the best things to happen to St. Louis food in the aughts, somewhere near the top of that list, you’d have found pizza.  From Pi, to La Pizza, to Ohio-native Dewey’s, the stylistic selection of pizzas in St. Louis has become somewhat staggering.  But as much as I love the pizza from many of the newcomers, it’s my love for what goes down at The Good Pie that’s without parallel.  The taste of their chewy crust, slightly burnt, and with just the right touch of salt, is one of the few things I’m confident I could consume nightly.  And that’s not to say I dislike other pizzas–far from it–it’s just that to me, pizza is a lot like barbecue: everyone has their own idea of what makes the perfect pie, and my perfect pie is found at The Good Pie.

I mention it, belatedly, because while today many restaurants in St. Louis are generously raising money for the people of Haiti—and in turn sending every blogger in town an email hoping we’d mention it–I was shocked to find that Good Pie owner, Mike Randolph, isn’t just donating a percentage of the restaurant’s profits from this evening to Mercy Corps, but literally 100% of the profit.  That’s a huge thing for such a small business to do, and while it might not ultimately equal the same amount of money as a larger business, I wanted to single them out and publicly commend it.  For a business I was worried about finding its niche not all that long ago, to be able to do this means, I hope, that things are looking good and a steady stream of great pies will continue to fill my belly for years to come.

For other restaurants donating money to a host of worthy charities in support of Haiti tonight (1/19/2010), head over to Gut Check as Ian has done a far better job keeping up with them than anyone else I’ve seen.

Full Disclosure: I eat in The Good Pie often and am terribly biased because the thought of never again being able to consume the broccoli raab and Salume Beddu topped pizza is shear horror.

A Slow Taste of Tuscany @ Onesto November, 18

slow food image

A Slow Taste of Tuscany

St. Louis, MO / November 10, 2009 / – Wednesday, November 18, 2009, join Slow Food St. Louis and Welcome Books as they team up with Onesto Pizza & Trattoria to present a celebration and special dinner commemorating the release of Welcome Books’ new book: SLOW: LIFE IN A TUSCAN TOWN.

In the spirit of The Oxford Project and American Farmer, SLOW: LIFE IN A TUSCAN TOWN, by Douglas Gayeton, is a magical and utterly unique portrayal of rural Italian life, and a tribute to the region’s kaleidoscope of charming local characters whose livelihoods and shared culture center on the growing, preparing, eating, and everyday pleasures of food. Gayeton’s imaginative and interactive portraits are layered with handwritten notes, anecdotes, recipes, quotes, historical facts and sayings that cleverly bring context and color to the subject of each sepia toned image. The book also features a preface written by Slow Food International founder, Carlo Petrini, and an introduction by notable Slow Food USA member, Alice Waters.

With support from Zagat, in celebration of the book’s release, Welcome Books has contacted leaders of Slow Food and other sustainable food organizations nationwide to host dinners across North America.

As Slow Food St. Louis co-leader, Bill Burge said, “When Welcome Books contacted me about finding a local Italian restaurant doing things ‘Slow’, Vito was the first person I thought of. Every Wednesday we see him hounding the best farmers at the Maplewood Farmers’’ Market to source the finest products he can for his customers. He obviously feels it’s the right thing to do, and we couldn’t be more pleased to have the opportunity to have teamed up with Vito and Michele.”

The dinner will feature

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Niche Taps Mike Sweeney for Beer Consulting

Niche BeerAs the craft beer market has expanded, so to have the requests that top-tier restaurants take as much care in assembling their beer lists as they do for their wines.  In an effort to address this and expand the beer selections in his restaurants, Gerard Craft of Niche has today tapped Mike Sweeney to consult on the beer lists for Niche, Niche Taste Bar, and the soon to open BRASSERIE by Niche.  Most know Sweeney as the owner of the popular St. Louis beer blog and forum, STL Hops.  In speaking with Sweeney this morning, he was excited about the news and stated that the goal is for each space to have its own list of beers to complement the food coming from each restaurant’s kitchen.  As one might imagine, at BRASSERIE this will mean a strong focus on French and Belgian styles.  For those looking for more esoteric selections, however, Sweeney also stated that Craft’s vision is that Niche Taste Bar will be the one place where the rules are “anything goes”.

Full Disclosure: As most know, Mike Sweeney is one of my closest, personal, friends.

Event: Mollie Katzen at Washington University 10/6

molly.pdfOn Tuesday, October 6th, please join Washington University, along with The Burning Kumquat and their special guest, author Mollie Katzen, for a special day of events at the Washington University Danforth Campus.

With over 6 million books in print, Katzen is and award-winning illustrator and best-selling author of such classic cookbooks as The Moosewood Cookbook and The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Her newest project is Get Cooking, a multimedia series of books and videos for beginning cooks.

For more information view the event flyer or visit The Burning Kumquat’s site.

#stl Foodies Look Forward to Another Niche

Niche Tweet

No longer a rumor, Chef Gerard Craft announced via Twitter last night that he has officially secured the Chez Leon space in the Central West End.  Having spoken to him two weeks ago, he’d confirmed his interest in the space, but an agreement had not then been reached.  The hopeful plan was a quick turn around to get the restaurant open quickly, and some additional weekend tweaking to get things just the way he’d like them.

Now official, he confirmed last night that they’d be “shooting to open Nov 1” and that the restaurant “will be called BRASSERIE by niche just as BOUCHON defines the style of the restaurant.”

He also commented that because of the use of Brasserie, the French word for brewery, “a much stronger beer list” would also be in the works.

Next Up: Galliano in Southern Living

josh_southernlivingThe accolades keep coming for St. Louis’s favorite chefs, and this time they’re for Monarch executive chef, Josh Galliano, who appears on page 28 of the September issue of Southern Living magazine.  Not yet in stores or online, writer Corlanne Griffith Roberts gushes over Galliano’s dishes even if she is an Alabama fan (Galliano graduated from LSU).

Check it out on newsstands in the coming weeks, and join me in congratulating Galliano for joining the growing list of chefs bringing national attention to the St. Louis dining scene.

Remember also, you can check out Galliano’s cooking for yourself at Monarch’s Australian Wine Dinner on August 25. (menu)