Notes

1. I spotted hardback copies of one of my favorite foodie books, The Apprentice by Jacques Pepin, on the discount racks of the Creve Coeur Borders.  I can’t possibly recommend it enough.  It’s incredibly interesting as a whole but, with Pepin’s insane skill, the really interesting bits are his years at Howard Johnson’s.

It’s hard to imagine a time when people were attempting to make chain food that actually stood up to some level of high standards.

2. Guanciale.  Salume Beddu was slinging some made with Fararr Out Farm Berkshire jaws at Tower Grove recently and it is delicious.

Toast some good bread, render some up like lardons, and top it with arugula and a fried egg cooked in the rendered fat for the ultimate (and fast) after-work snack.

3. Grits.  I’d been unimpressed by Revival’s in the past, but this week, cheesy grits baked in a dish and topped with a slice of ham and a sunny-side up egg were absolutely perfect.  It doesn’t get much better than egg yolk running over anything.

4. Getting much better…the Fat of stlbites.com has made an appearance at Niche.  Lamb belly is now the final savory course of the tasting menu and it’s ridiculously good–everything a solitary slice of tender lamb gut was meant to be.

Lamb – mushroom, cauliflower, tapenade (& Brussels Sprouts when I had it)

5. A guilty pleasure: Chicken Modega and a side of white cavatelli at the Town & Country Rich & Charlie’s.  Bonus: it was $28 for two of us to eat.  Bonus 2: That Rich & Charlie’s is BYOB. Bonus 3: It was enough for lunch the next day too.

Because it’s Offaly Good

offal butcher shopLast night, in telling my mother and sister about some of the better things I’ve eaten recently, the looks of horror on their faces, while not entirely unexpected, were a bit stronger than anticipated as I spoke of offal like tongue, and testicles, and cheek.

My sister did not understand why I would want to eat such things. A married mother of three, she rarely has the opportunity to go out for a nice meal, and when she does, she and my brother in law are interested in going to a place they like to have precisely what it is they liked about it in the first place. They don’t want anything new and they don’t want anything they would consider weird.

This contrasted slightly with my mom’s response which was more along the lines of Midwestern people simply not having the same tastes as other parts of the country.

But so too are Chicago, Kansas City and Milwaukee, and each of these cities have taught their clientèle to be slightly more daring than the average meat and potato diner of St. Louis.

Recently, however, there has been an adventurous trend towards the types of eating many of us like to do in St. Louis. Some chefs and restaurateurs have slowly worked their guests towards these foods, and they have done so

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More Modern Marvels

TamworthLast night the episode of Modern Marvels was titled “The Pig.”

Although I braced myself for a biased portrayal of the pork industry as it shifted from the lard type breeds of old to the lean “white” meat of the 80’s and 90’s; and they were a bit generous with their praise regarding the genetic engineering of hogs and made it sound almost like a good thing that you need to take showers before going into a CAFO operation; they did swing it around at the end showing an organic farm that raises Berkshire hogs and even fattens some of them on acorns in their final days.

Still, it was after showing some medcal uses for pig genetics like insulin and tissue repair that the episode steered into a direction I didn’t see coming: Chris Cosentino was on cooking offal at Incanto.

He cracked open a pigs head, poached the brain, and then sautéed it with mushrooms and capers.

The listing on The History Channel’s website also shows that Missouri’s Burger’s Smokehouse was also in the episode, but I missed the first ten minutes and it must have been in that segment as I didn’t see it.

It will air again May 7, and here’s the rundown on upcoming episodes of food-related interest:

  • Whiskey – April 26
  • Corn – May 5
  • Farming Technology – May 6
  • The Pig – May 7

3 Things I Learned Last Night

An American Place LogoWe had a great meal at An American Place last night, and although I will comment on it further when I have recovered, I wanted to make three quick comments.

  1. Duck Testicles are really not a big deal. They have the texture of a soft sausage with its casing removed, and they are wonderfully delicate. If you didn’t tell someone what they were, they would devour them with glee.
  2. Cockscombs I don’t quite get. It doesn’t really taste like much, and has a rubbery texture that I likened to soft liccorice before our server rolled in with the win and called it gummy-bear-like. Yes, yes it was.
  3. Tripe. I hate tripe. I loved Josh’s tripe.. It was the best of the offal we ate last night. I was in utter disbelief.

They’re cooking up some great food at An American Place and it’s sad there were so many available seats on a Thursday.

I have no room to talk on that point, as we’d only eaten there four times previously, but we’ll definitley be doing our best to go a little more frequently than before.

And man, that is such a beautiful restaurant.

Questionable Foods

Unable to be a ringer on your Convivial Pursuit team, I and a few others are heading over to Mike’s house Saturday to act as guinnea pigs for a test run of the questions.

Kimberly Henricks — Slow Food Member, blogger, and I think friend of Cupcake Grand Champion Stef has vowed to make The Cupcake Projects Beer Cheese Cupcakes with Bacon Cheddar Cream Cheese Frosting.

beer+cheese

I am terrified at the prospect of eating a sugary, cheesy cupcake topped with bacon, but at the same time it will be a part of this weeks personal food challenge.

Namely, which will I enjoy more?

  1. Joshua Galliano’s offal tasting at An American Place including common offal like tripe and not so common offal like the duck testicles (which they say has a texture like sausage).
  2. The Bacon Cheese Cupcakes

We will see.

Niche Tasting Menu

Niche LogoNeither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night stays these courageous couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.

Of course in the case of Ellie and I we’ll call it sleet; and in place of couriers we’ll call ourselves diners; and instead of appointed rounds there was the fact that after we both got sent home from work early because the weather was bad, I realized we could walk into any restaurant we wanted in St. Louis and have our pick of seats.

And so we went to Niche to have the new tasting menu because hey–Mathew put the kulfi on the menu, and in the back of my mind I believe he did it for me (even if he didn’t really).

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In regards to the forum, you were right!

twoheartsSo, um, yeah, I had no idea the forum would take off like that.

In basically three weeks 47 people have posted 835 articles, and while a nice chunk are from only four of us (and you know who you are), we have everything from magazine editors, to a wine rep, to local chefs.

This morning, one of them who we will call Josh Galliano, walked away with the award for greatest post (by about twenty fold) in this thread about offal. One of Josh’s tasting menus at the moment is completely comprised of offal like cockscombs and honeycomb tripe, and he took pictures of a lot of it to not only explain to us what he’s up to, but show us as well.

The pic above is actually beef hearts from American Grass Fed Beef, and it’s An American Place’s amuse for the weekend. I don’t know which I like more, that they’re getting away with serving beef heart, or the fact that he titled the pic “two hearts” and I can’t stop laughing because of that goofy eighties song.

So thank you everyone for posting and showing me that there is a core group of people in St. Louis that get it. I’ve never been more proud to live in St. Louis.

Offal Watch

NicheIn my continuing quest, offal was spotted at Niche last night.

On menu they have pork cheeks pan fried with what I would describe as a peach puree. I forget the exact description, but they’d taken the cheek, made a patty out of it, breaded it and pan fried it, and then served it with the puree and some greens. Ellie liked it more then I did. I thought the fry flavor overwhelmed the pork cheek a bit, but still, it’s nice to see cheeks, and it was good, just not my favorite cheek dish ever.

Better still, Gerard was running a pig ear terrine as a special which consisted of smoked pig ears laid into a terrine and then alternated layers of smoked scallop potato mousse and more of the meat from the big ear. It was served with some tossed greens and a garlic aioli. It was delicious, and I have to say, the pig ear didn’t have the texture I’d have expected. More then anything, it was soft and kind of gelatinous. It was totally unoffensive, though I still couldn’t get Ellie to eat it.

Embarrassingly, our server, Deah, had commented that “I knew if anyone would order it, it would be you” or something to that effect, so I guess I’m a pretty known commodity at Niche.

So I’d like to take a moment to say that, offal aside, it’s really nice to see the staff at Niche really hitting their stride. Ellie and I always joke that Gerard has the Quik Trip philosophy to the restaurant business because they’ve slowly weened people into their food as apposed to pulling out a pig ear day one and telling people they were stupid if they didn’t like it. They seem, always, to be concerned with pleasing everyone at least on some level and this is, to me, the mark of a truly great restaurateur. Starting modestly and affordably, they’ve continuously brought in better ingredients and gradually raised prices all while somehow managing to tread a fine line between the less adventurous diner and those who will eat just about anything.

I admit, it’s a weird analogy, but when Quik Trip opened I remember people saying they’d never make it without car washes. They started out undercutting pricing a little to get people into their stores, and once people did go in, they saw how much cleaner and friendlier the places were. Once they got people in, they were then able to get the prices to what they should have been in the first place.

Niche has done a similar thing. First, there’s the obvious bread and salad situation (carwashes). Then there’s the pricing. We ate there the second day they were open, and at the time you could get three courses for $30. This was changed to $35 somewhere along the way, and for quite some time, this is how things remained. They briefly flirted with offering two sizes of most items on the menu over the summer, but now, (and from what I gather the menu was just changed) they have settled into a more standard menu, with only a few selections still being a part of the 3 for $35 options. At no point were you ever unfairly charged, however. In fact, there were times when I felt I was cheating them with some of the things I ate.

Obviously, I have a strong bias towards Gerard, Matthew, and their crew, so perhaps any praise I give them should be taken with a grain of salt. I’d certainly overlook faults here more then any other place else in the city. The thing is, I can’t remember them faltering. There are things I haven’t cared for entirely, but even the worst dish I’ve eaten at Niche is still better then most of the food at other restaurants in St. Louis. If you haven’t been, you really owe it to yourself to give it a shot. I’m not the only one that considers it some of the best St. Louis has to offer, and we can’t all be wrong.

Oh, and make sure you save room for dessert.