Simon Says Cheese @ the Kitchen Conservatory

Shameless plug…I know.  But I don’t care.  Simon will be doing an intro class on cheese at the Kitchen Conservatory on April 17th.  Please visit to sign up.

you know you want to.  just do it. 

The Shaved Duck

If you know me…you know I love the Scottish Arms….more so a good cock-a-leekie pie and plate of scotch eggs and a cold pint of Guinness.

Well, Ally Nisbet is opening another spot…this time it’s a hop, skip and jump away from us.  The Shaved Duck will be open within the next 2-3 weeks….this timetable was recieved right from the horse’s mouth.  I have been waiting VERY patiently for this spot to open up and my patience will be rewarded in the next month.

Along with great food, the Shaved Duck is going to feature N. American craft beers.  STLHops joined in on the fun and helped the boys out and came up with an amazing list of beer.  You can CHECK THEM OUT HERE.

Hip Hip Hooray!  I can’t wait for the Shaved Duck!!!!

Over the river and through the woods to Kevin Willmann’s house we went

Last night marked our first visit to Erato on Main Street in Edwardsville, Illinois.

I was born and raised in the city….almost downtown to be honest. I grew up thinking everything I needed was within my reach in the confines of the 9th and 7th Wards. As I aged, I found myself leaving St. Louis and realizing that there is a great big world out there to experience. I moved back to St. Louis in 2004 and made a promise to myself that I wouldn’t pigeon hole myself to my pre-conceived notions of my hometown. I think I have done a pretty good job of that. Yes, I hate going outside the 170 inner-belt….I still think 270 is a hassle and crossing the Mississippi is a weekend trip.

But, earlier this year, I was lured to the quaint little town of Edwardsville by some mind-blowing, make you slap your mama, fresh baked artisan breads and sweets at 222 Bakery. Down the street is a wine bar, Erato. Little did I know that they served a full menu….and then a fellow StL food blogger had a spot on his site about it. I decided then and there that we would head back over the great muddy Mississip to check this place out.

Then life got in the way…broken foot, trips to Ireland….until last night. We kept our Friday night completely free to make the 30 mile drive to Edwardsville to eat at Erato. And, after the meal I had….I would run the 30 miles to dine there again.

I won’t go into specifics about the meal, but Erato has been put into my top 5 meals in my adult life and my top 5 local eating spots. Do yourself a favor. Gas up the car, get a sitter and head to Erato on Main Street and let Kevin Willmann make you one of the most amazing meals you’ll ever eat. The wine list is wonderfully organized with some great (and reasonable) selections. The beer list is above par compared to most St. Louis spots. The deserts were scrumptious. It’s amazing what comes out of that tiny little kitchen those guys make their magic in. It’s a comfortable, laid back restaurant for folks who appreciate locally grown, amazingly prepared meals and taking time to experience a local chef’s ingenuity. I’m almost tempted not to publish this post because I want to keep it all for myself…..but…I won’t hide Chef Willmann’s light under a bushel basket and share him with the world. Go to Erato on Main.

State Beer?….No,State Dessert!

A while back Bill Burge of STLBites fame discussed MO’s push to have a state beer. Well, this morning on NPR (yes…I listen to NPR) Ketzel Levine discussed Maryland’s push for something along the lines of MO. It’s not necessarily beer….but something just a good: Smith Island Cake. cake.jpgYep…dessert. Maryland is pushing for Smith Island Cake to be crowned the state dessert of Maryland. Smith Island is located about 12 miles out in the Chesapeake Bay. I have never had the opportunity to visit the island…but I have had their cake. And take it from me…it’s delicious. Some ladies make it with 9 layers…some 12…some even 18!!! The women in the community are known by how many layers each of them use in their cakes….kinda like a classification system of chocolatey, sweet goodness. A perfect evening to a perfect Maryland day is a big slice of this bad boy and a big glass of whole milk. ugh….makes my mouth water just thinking of it. Wonder what airfare to Maryland is these days.

Guinness Milk Chocolate Ice Cream

I am so making this tonight and giving it to the kids before they go to bed (wink).

Seriously….This is going in the ice cream maker tonight. I cannot wait.


Courtesy of one of my favorite ice cream books: Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. I love beer…and ice cream. I am going to eat this ice cream while drinking beer….I might even make a float. There is also a recipe for Guinness Cupcakes as well….STEPH!!!

And I’d like you to spoon feed me too….

How much do you expect from your chef? Some folks are pretty damn nervy if you ask me. Sitting at fine dining establishment recently (not in St. Louis…for those wondering) I saw countless amounts of patrons just walk back to the kitchen DURING DINNER SERVICE to thank the chef. While the praise is welcomed…the invasion of this kitchen was not. I just find this practice to be so very very rude. Unless you are good friends with the chef (and good friends know when their buds are busiest) you should not go back in the kitchen unless invited.

This rant was born after reading an article NY Times this afternoon. The role of the chef.

sung.jpg photo by Evan Sung; David Chang, chef at the new Momofuku Ko in New York, serves with a smile.

Grab a stool and belly up to a new brand of upscale dining, where closeness to the cook comes with your meal as routinely as bread. Although counter seating, open kitchens, and chef’s tables are not new to the scene, Momofuku Ko and a few other restaurants are reaching for a new level of intimacy. The chefs are not only cooking and plating the food, but also serving it, taking coats, recommending wine and confirming reservations.

“Everyone who works here is a chef, and everyone is also a dishwasher,” said Michael Carlson, the chef at Schwa in the Wicker Park neighborhood of Chicago, which serves elaborate multi-course menus of dishes such as parsnip custard with ice-wine vinegar caramel, candied sweetbreads and a lavender lecithin bubble. (It’s a dessert.)

So often patrons want that intimacy with their chef….and the feeling of prestige or entitlement arises when spending your valuable time & money in their restaurant.

But I ask this…how much can one person do? They are only human…why do we constantly expect super-human from a person who just has a passion for food and wants to share it with you.

Help me St. Joseph

Rumor has it if you pray to St. Joseph, bury a statue of him upside down in your front yard…your house will sell. Mom picked up a statue for me this week. But the trick is to then continue the good mojo by prominently displaying St. Joe in a good spot in the new diggs.

Our house is for sale. Wanna buy it? I’m dying for a yard big enough for a garden…one besides potted herbs. Don’t get me wrong….I appreciate my potted rosemary, parsley, thyme and lavendar….but I crave more. It’s my nature. I wish I would have had one of these!

Food Map Containers…..could have been exactly what I was looking for. It’s too late now. We are selling the brownstone and looking for a big kid house. It’s a bittersweet moment for me. This was the first house I ever bought…way before I knew Si. I cut my proverbial ‘rehab’ teeth on this bugger. I will be sad to leave it….but happier to be in a house with a bigger kitchen and an actual dining room. This place was perfect for me as a single gal…lots of cocktail parties on the patio and late night Guinness sessions. Hard to do a dinner party for 12 in the main level when you don’t have a proper dining room.

So do me a favor…pray to St. Joseph that the guy who looked at the house this weekend buys it.

Oh…he’s in Ireland but I see his face in my daily newspaper!

My sweet husband is featured in the PD’s weekly cooking column by Joe Bonwich.

I spoke to him this evening from Maghera. He is loving every minute of it there. He won’t be able to email the videos…so look for some footage of lambing season next week when he returns.

this little piggy went to market..when she should have stayed home

Given the fridgid temps there was not much at the River Hills Farmer’s Market today.  Just got a look at two donkeys, a small gaggle of turkeys and some hens.


But all was not lost.  I stopped in Troy at Orschlein’s Farm and Home and got the Cheesemonger some dearly needed apparel for his trip to Ireland on Monday.  Carhartt insulated coveralls were on sale from $80 to $40…heavy duty rubber barn boots  for a whopping ten bucks…a killer C&W shirt with pearl buttons for $5 and a book on starting a sheep farm.  Not bad for an hour’s drive.  Plus…it was a gorgeous day for a drive.

I hope things pick up out there as the weather warms up.  Its a blink of a village, Silex.  There is a big hill on the north side of town with a wonderful old Victorian home.  I’d live there….looking down on everyone.  As the years pass the kids would spin tales about the cheesemonger’s wife that lives in the haunted house on the hill…with all her sheep (i don’t do cats).  I think that right there… is the making for a horror movie.  I’d learn to cackle.

Deconstructed, double pork lasagna; sans ricotta

so, I don’t know what to call this. I have been making this for some time now. it was born out of a need for cheesy, spicy, pasta bake when I didn’t have any lasagna noodles. It varies with every repeat but the gist of it goes like this:

1lb of noddles (penne rigate usually…i just like the way the slide onto my fork for easy upward motion to my mouth)


spicy meat mixture

cheese/bread crumb topping.

It’s everything you need on one dish, creamy and comforting, good texture from the topping and spicy kick from the meat mixture. Today (I’m a bit under the weather and took the day to re-coup) I had some various pork products sitting in the fridge that needed to be used up. Bacon and prosciutto. I dare not put Jamón Ibérico Bellota into the mix but I did toy with the notion briefly.

So, I fried up the bacon, when it was crispy I threw in the prosciutto, shallots, garlic, oregano, basil, black pepper, red pepper flakes and pinch of sugar. Once all the flavors mangled together, I toppled in a can of tomato paste and thinned with a bit of stock. Note: I put A LOT of red/black pepper in that mix. It is way too spicy to eat with just pasta…I would not recommend it.

Then the basic bechamel. When desired consistency reached I shredded some Grandpa Ed and parmigiano reggiano into it (about a cup all together).

Par boiled the pasta for about 4 minutes. i like my pasta cruchy. al dente is a bit too soft for me. weird, huh. it’s a texture thing.

Then, in a gratin dish I spooned in some bechamel, then a layer of noodles, then some spicy pork mixture….and repeated until all used up. (lasagna-ish aspect of the dish) Put a lid of parm/some kind of hard cow’s milk cheese I found in the fridge that Si brought home that I don’t know the name of and some bread crumbs on the top and popped in a 375 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbly.

it’s good.

this little piggy went to market

It’s March. It’s St. Louis. It’s cold…but according to Mother Nature, Spring Equinox is slated for March 20, 2008. uh..right.


All I know is that the River Hills Farmer’s Market opening day is tomorrow. If you have never been to the River Hills Farmer’s Market, located just about 70 miles NW of St. Louis in the quaint little town of Silex, MO…you should come with me tomorrow. It seems that on Saturdays into the 1930s the city fathers would gate off Main Street into stock pens so butcher stock could be loaded onto the Short Line. Eggs and cream were bartered for essentials, and horses and mules were traded on one end of town. Inspired by this in its search of a community-service project, the Silex 4-H Flyers club decided to recreate the traditions of a Saturday Market Day and thus, River Hills Farmers Market was born.

Amish baked goods, green beans and tomatoes, table eggs and hatching eggs, baby chicks, peafowl, goats and sheep are just a few of the weekly offerings. I can’t wait to gas up the truck and head up north for a day of fun in Silex.


River Hills Farmers Market is entering our 18th year. We are open on the 2nd and 4th Saturday, starting March the 8th. We offer a variety of market items, from Heritage poultry to Heirloom vegetables. On any given Saturday you can find Welsummer chickens, fresh country eggs, honey, fresh baked goods, Royal Palm Turkeys, local fruits and vegetables.

The Cheesemonger will be at the shop that day and unable to travel to the market. That means I will be left to my own devices. muuwhaaaahaaa!

**we will be leaving St. Louis at approx 8:45 am from Clayton.