Archive for the 'St. Louis' Category

Sauce Magazine

SAUCE MAGAZINE

As much as I embrace and appreciate new media in all of its diverse and chaotic forms (blogging, Twittering, and Facebooking), there’s a part of me that pines for the good ‘ol days of print media. With everything moving in a digital direction, I can’t help but miss the feel of good quality paper between my fingertips, the excitement of receiving a new issue in the mail, and the simplicity of sitting down with a magazine and giving it my undivided attention. Sure, I find pleasure in having ten windows open on my laptop and erratically switching from one website to the next, but there was something glorious about the recent past that I can’t seem to get over.

SAUCE MAGAZINE

On a recent trip to St. Louis, I re-experienced a thrill that I had abandoned sometime ago. Flipping through the gorgeous pages of Sauce Magazine, I felt giddy like a school girl. In a time when beloved publications are folding and talented journalists are being laid off, it was uplifting to read a magazine that seemed to not only be surviving, but truly thriving.

SAUCE MAGAZINE

Sauce is St. Louis’ monthly food-focused magazine. It is available for free at nearly every eatery in town and highlights the city’s bounty.

SAUCE MAGAZINE

Sauce‘s pages are filled with restaurant reviews, seasonal recipes, chef interviews, ingredient breakdowns, and pertinent trends. It provides a window into the city’s belly.

SAUCE MAGAZINE

The writing is solid and all, but what I adore about the publication is it’s clean design and vibrant photography. The magazine’s paper and pixels are just a smidgen nicer than the daily newspaper, which means that colors really pop and the photos really shine.

SAUCE MAGAZINE

I think Sauce needs to come to Los Angeles. We’d rename it Salsa, of course.

BBC Asian Bar and Cafe – St. Louis

BBC ASIAN BAR AND CAFE

As curious as I am about Vietnamese restaurants located outside of major ethnic enclaves, I rarely visit them out of fear of being disappointed. Even though St. Louis is home to a large refugee community, I’ve avoided exploring the Vietnamese establishments in the city during my last couple of visits due to my big city leanings and Midwest prejudices. Growing up on my ba ngoai‘s fabulous home cooking and living abroad in Vietnam, I’ve developed an admittedly snotty attitude toward the cuisine. In my mind, there’s a right way to do things in the Vietnamese kitchen, and as a result, I have avoided eating in places that might compromise my notions of properness.

A mouthwatering spread on banh mi sandwiches in the January issue of Sauce Magazine, St. Louis’ monthly food-focused publication, convinced me to reconsider my policy. The vivid photos and sharp writing painted an exciting picture. As far as I could tell, the humble banh mi was taking over the city and I had to have a taste—authenticity be damned.

BBC ASIAN BAR AND CAFE

The majority of the banh mi shops featured in the article were located on or near Grand Avenue in South City. However, due to time constraints and lack of wheels, The Astronomer and I visited BBC Asian Bar and Cafe in the Central West End. The Korean-owned restaurant was formerly called BBC Banh Mi, Boba Tea & Crêperie.

BBC ASIAN BAR AND CAFE

Both of our sandwiches were served with snack-sized bags of Doritos. I thought the side item was a bit strange, but somehow fitting of our environs.

BBC ASIAN BAR AND CAFE

Based on Sauce‘s recommendation, we ordered the lamb banh mi ($5.50).

One of the more noteworthy local variants of the banh mi graces the menu at BBC Asian Cafe & Bar in the Central West End. There, lamb inspires wolfish gusto over an exceptionally well-balanced, if amusingly messy, sandwich.

I was initially weary of fusing Greek gyro meat with traditional banh mi fixins, but the combination turned out to be a treat of Zeus-like proportions! I was most impressed with the baguette, which was light, warm, crispy, and the ideal thickness.  Additionally, the chili infused mayo gave the sandwich an edge unlike any banh mi I have ever tasted.

BBC ASIAN BAR AND CAFE

We also ordered a good ‘ol banh mi dac biet ($4.95) to see how it stacked up. The sandwich contained slices of head cheese, ham, and cha lua (pork loaf), along with the usual mayonnaise, pate, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, chilies, and cilantro. I appreciated that the pate, cha lua, and head cheese were served in all their funky glory, not watered down one bit. The sandwich’s ingredients melded together impressively, save for the deli counter ham.

After such a positive Midwestern banh mi experience, I am convinced that it’s only a matter of time before the-little-Vietnamese-sandwich-that-could goes totally global.

BBC Asian Bar and Cafe
#241-43 North Euclid Avenue
St. Louis, MO 63108
Phone: 314-361-7770

BBC Asian Bar and Cafe on Urbanspoon

Fitz’s American Grill & Bottling Works – St. Louis

St. Louisans love few things more than the Cardinals, toasted ravioli, and Fitz’s root beer. Just ask The Astronomer—he’s a native.

Fitz’s root beer was first produced in 1947 and sold alongside hamburgers and fries at a small drive-in located in Richmond Heights, Missouri. The eatery and root beer production shut down in 1970 when the owner retired. It wasn’t until 1985 that the original Fitz’s root beer recipe was resurrected and “St. Louisans once again could enjoy their favorite root beer in bottles.”

Fitz’s American Grill & Bottling Works opened in 1993. According to the eatery’s official website, “To assure authenticity, the call went out for a vintage bottling line. Incredibly, a 1940’s bottling line was found in an old barn in Shawano, Wisconsin. It was refurbished and installed at the restaurant, where it is visible from every table on the main floor. Fully operational, the bottling line can turn out a bottle every second.”

Wes and I sat on the second floor and thus avoided being treated to non-stop bottling action and unflattering florescent lights during our meal.

To kick things off, Wes ordered a root beer served in an icy mug, while I ordered a cool bottle of cream soda ($2.19). My vocabulary isn’t Swarthmorean enough to describe the cream soda’s nuanced flavors, but I assure you that it was superior to everyday root beers like Mug and A&W. There’s definitely something spicy in the mix that gives the brew a smooth and mellow kick. The secret root beer formula was developed with the help of a flavor house in St. Louis and remains a closely guarded secret to this day.

The menu at Fitz’s features all-American favorites like pizzas, pastas, wraps, sandwiches and burgers. I ordered a bison burger—a lean bison patty grilled and topped with spring mix, a tomato slice and onions, and served with a side salad ($9.99).

The bison patty was as dry as a bone, while the grilled onions were raw and the spring mix was a wilted mess. I kept sipping my cream soda to moisten up the meat and help it down my esophagus.

The side salad served with my burger was substantial and uninspiring. Poorly made salads are why Americans have a tortured relationship with vegetables.

Wes went for a BBQ burger with Colby Jack cheese, BBQ sauce and onion tanglers ($8.19), which really satisfied his burger tooth. In retrospect, I probably should of gone for some fatty cow instead of the bony bison.

We also shared an order of onion rings, the first of many during my stay in St. Louis. The freshly fried ringers were of the mass-produced-in-a-factory variety, which is to say that they were tasty and greasy, but not so special.

Come to Fitz’s for the house special root beer, cream soda, and ice cream floats, but don’t bother with the grub. It’s not worth the space.

Fitz’s American Grill & Bottling Works
6605 Delmar Blvd
St Louis, MO 63130
Phone: 314-726-9555

Fitz's on Urbanspoon

The Cupcakery – St. Louis

The transition from “trend” to “staple” is best illustrated by Uggs—a plush boot that’s easy on the feet and questionably easy on the eyes. Sometime during the fall of 2003, everyone and their mother, in cold climes and downright hot ones, started donning Ugg boots. Seemingly overnight, every gal from California to Maine was tucking her skinny jeans into a pair of chunky Uggs. Copycats emerged to compete with the Australian powerhouse, but the Ugg brand never lost its comfy edge. Six years later, Uggs are still as popular as ever—their unparalleled warmth and comfort have propelled them from uber-trendy footwear to wardrobe staples.

It’s unclear which direction the cupcake trend is headed, but I hope with all of my heart that cupcakes have Ugg-like staying power. While Los Angeles embraces Sprinkles and New York adores Magnolia, St. Louis has The Cupcakery. With its sparse and modern space, cute-as-can-be packaging, and toothachingly sweet creations, it is clear that The Cupcakery is applying the same successful formula as its East and West Coast counterparts.

During a short jaunt to St. Louis to visit my dear friend Wes, I found myself at The Cupcakery on more than one occasion. On our first visit, Wes picked out a Strawberries and Cream ($2.75) cupcake, while I indulged in a Gold Rush ($2.75). The skewed ratio of cake to frosting on the Gold Rush had me worried initially, but after one bite it was clear that the bakers here know what they’re doing. The classic yellow cake was moist and light, while the chocolate buttercream frosting was rich, thick, and sweet. A yellow cupcake with chocolate frosting is a benchmark for cupcakes in much the same way that the pizza Margherita is the benchmark for pizzas. The Cupcakery’s Gold Rush was phenomenal.

A couple of evenings later, Wes and I headed back to The Cupcakery for a post-dinner nightcap. This time around, Wes ordered a Confetti—vanilla buttercream with French vanilla cake, while I had a Raspberry Beret—raspberry buttercream with French vanilla cake with raspberry filling. The Raspberry Beret was so very sweet that my molars ached. I should’ve stuck with the tried and true Gold Rush.

What sets The Cupcakery apart from places like Magnolia and Sprinkles is their unapologetic use of trans-fats. You gotta love Midwestern sensibility.

The Cupcakery
28 Maryland Plaza
St Louis, MO 63108
Phone: 314-367-6111

Cupcakery: on Urbanspoon

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