THE DECK!……almost.

Simon made crazy progress on the deck this week! Old deck down…new girders up. We have decided to go with composite for the deck instead of treated wood. It took some time to decide on what type of material we would use for the deck but we ended up deciding on composite. We have a good number of trees surrounding the house and given the shape the original deck was in, we needed something that was durable and could be washed easily. Lots of birds and sap….need I say more?

So, here are some pictures of the progress. The farmhouse has been cleared of most of its contents. The dumpster is on it’s way next week….and the bathroom is next on our list. Should be awesome! Continue reading

Lebanese cooking class with ME at The Kitchen Conservatory!

Join me on March 26th for my first cooking class at Kitchen Conservatory! We will be cooking all things Lebanese. We will be making laban, shish barak over rice , fatoush, hummus  b’thini and baklava! For more information click HERE!

Baa Baa Black Sheep….

Well, things are still moving along with the farm, albeit in slow motion. This cold, snowy winter has put the kibosh on any farmhouse remodeling until the spring thaw. All of the technical/legal stuff that goes along with this farm is on track. Life is busy for us right now, that if for sure. Continue reading

Filmmaker/Photographer Needed for farm project!

To all my friends in film/photography: I am in search of someone (or a group of someones) to document the start of our life on the farm. If I haven’t talked about it enough already, my husband Simon and I are embarking on a new journey of sorts. We’ve been given the great gift of a large parcel of land in Festus, MO to start a farm and cheesemaking business. We have grand plans for the farm and are looking for someone to document the process from start to finish. It is an opportunity for you to film us from the very first planting to when the animals arrive and we start making our own cheese.

If you know me, you know that I am a city girl at heart….so this is going to be a major departure from my norm….but I have to be honest ans say that I am VERY EXCITED about this new venture.
So, who’s up for the job? This would be a great opportunity for a film student to do a project…or a novice photographer to get some experience. We won’t be able to offer a salary/payment for your services. But you will get as much veg/cheese/wool that you can use as the years pass. It would also be necessary for you to be in the southeastern MO area/St. Louis area.

Drop me a line if you want to give it a shot!

Christmas came early to the CWE

Seriously!  How lucky are the residents of the Central West End (CWE)!?!  Gerard Craft opened Brasserie by Niche in the former Chez Leon space.  With Perry Hendrix at the helm of the stove, the CWE folks have just gotten themselves one heck of a neighborhood hotspot! Focusing on classic French bistro fare, you’ll never eat onion soup anywhere else.  Cassoulet, moules frites, French cheeses, country pate….and an amazing croque monsieur…coq au vin…you’ll feel like you are sitting in a Parisian bistro! With a nice beer and wine selection…Brasserie By Niche is one of my new favorite places to go. Lucky for me it’s a stone’s throw from the hospital…and after a long day caring for the masses…Brasserie is a welcome respite!

Next up: Pi!! Pi is close to opening its doors in their new CWE locale! That makes the third space opened by Chris Sommers! With the crazy success of his spot in the Delmar Loop..and the cult-like obsession cultivated at the Kirkwood spot he is about to dish out some of that crazy good cornmeal crust deep dish on the corner of Euclid and McPherson! And to make it even better Mathew Rice is going to be doing his ingenious desserts at the new CWE locale! His milkshake bar at the Kirkwood locale is a favorite already.  I suggest a Purple Cow or a chocolate malted milkshake if you make it out Kirkwood! The CWE spot is geared toward adults with a gorgeous reclaimed eco-friendly bar manned by Chad George!

So…no more complaining about the CWE not having anything new….get over to Brasserie (open NOW!) and Pi (slated to open to the public on Tuesday 12/ 15/09!)

Niche TasteBar

you should go there.  the drinks are amazing…the food spectacular.  Ted Kilgore is a mad scientist and booze genius…pair with Gerard Crafts inventive and satisfying food….it’s a win-win.   they also stay open late…where else can you get a great cheese plate at midnight, hmm?  need i say more?

it is really, really good…and fun…and just all around a nice place to sit for an hour or so……plus the music didn’t suck.

there…that is my review…done and done.

From the Scoop on

Master mixologist Ted Kilgore will be moving from Monarch Restaurant to Niche Taste Bar, which is slated to open next month. “While I was not looking to make a move, the project is right up my alley,” Kilgore said. Details to follow. P

Three of St. Louis’ Finest are in the running for a James Beard nod…

The James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its restaurant and chef awards. Three St. Louis chefs made the cut in the “Best Chef: Midwest” category: Gerard Craft of Niche, Josh Galliano of Monarch and Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe.

Five finalists will be announced on March 23rd….keep your fingers crossed.

Keys Change Hands at 33 Wine Bar

From Jake:

It was with great privilege and deep happiness that I signed a term letter yesterday and agreed to pass 33 onto my close friend, Jeff Stettner.  

Best of luck to you in your new adventure, Jake.  We will miss seeing you behind the bar.

The State of Cheese in PHX/Scottsdale

What a sad story…a town full of foodies…great restaurants, wine bars and brew pubs…but not one proper cheese shop.  Yes, they have Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and thier little local gourmet off shoot of their supermarket, AJ’s…but alas…no place sells cut to order, high-end..good quality cheese.  Now, some of you would say…”Why don’t you guys open one?”  And it has crossed our minds…we even found a little space next door to one of our favorite wine shops.   But what is the point of opening a shop if we are going to be here less than a year or so?  I just don’t see how pouring our heart and sou (and savings) into a shop before we head back to the Midwest to start the farm.  I was thinking that maybe we could run a web-based business out of the house…I’m still mulling that one over.

It’s not that the local shops don’t carry cheese…they do.  Whole Foods has thier standard fare…albeit over-priced in my opinion..and even the local Fry’s Supermarket carries Humbolt Fog…but it’s all pre-cut and packaged.  You don’t know where it really came from…or when it arrived.  There isn’t a cheesemonger there to guide you, make suggestions or prevent you from doing something you’d regret.  It’s a lonely cheese experience.

Now, some locals like Cheuvront Restaurant and Wine Bar.  I was not overly impressed.  The cheese looked old and some had an off flavor I just couldn’t put my finger on.  The staff were nice, but the one person I spoke to did not really have a deep knowledge of the cheeses on hand.  I hope to give them another shot…maybe it was an off day.  Folks around here tend to sing the praises of the frommagier there…so..I’ll give it another whirl….because they do have some winners on their cheese list.

So for now…we rely Valley Wine and Cheese in Henderson, NV for our fix..make sure we buy enough to last us a while b/c it’s a 4 hour drive (on the way to Vegas…that’s a whole other post)

From their website:

Valley Cheese and Wine is the premier specialty wine and food store in the Las Vegas valley. Founded in July 2006 by Bob Howald and Kristin Sande, Valley Cheese and Wine features flavorful, artisanal products that are produced in small quantities. Every item we carry is hand-selected with taste in mind, representing the world’s finest. At Valley Cheese and Wine you will find include hard-to-find wines, artisan cheese, charcuterie, specialty dry goods and wine accessories.

“We seek out the very best and are committed to promoting these labors of love,” says Kristin “and we extend the care that goes into the making of each product by offering excellent service to each customer.”

Cheeses and meats are cut to order to insure optimum quality. We offer educational classes and free tastings on a regular basis. Consider Bob and Kristin’s expertise as your passport to a world of tasty and authentic food and wine.

my deepest apologies

I know I have been MIA lately.  LIfe has just been quite busy for us here in AZ…with work, school, quasi-parental duties…I have neglected my blog….and I am so very sorry.

So…where to begin?  Let’s start with our favorite new bar…well, favorite in a sense that we’ve been there twice…they have fried cheese curds…it’s a Packers Bar and you get draft Pabst Blue Ribbon beer for $1.50…and it’s served in a Mason jar.  Live country & western to boot.  Not what most of you would assume would be our watering hole….but…the food is good and simple…the beer is cheap and cold and you can toss your peanut shells on the floor.  It’s called the Buffalo Chip SaloonbclogoOne of the last cowboy bars out here in our neck of the woods.  Where we live, the horse rancher is king….the Buffalo Chip even has an area for you to tie up your ride…give it a cool drink of water while you load up on fried cheese curds and Pabst Blue Ribbon.  And yes…it is used often…you can tell by the huge piles of poop.  Sunday nites is Rodeo night and they have real-life bull riding.  Simon was quick to ask if anyone could ride the bull…and no, it’s only for professionals.  The minute I walked in the joint I was instantly taken back to my time in Austin, TX…nights at Jenny’s Little Longhorn Saloon.  It’s not often I can tolerate a night of country music….but this place is different.  It’s authentic.  The dust on the walls is at least a half inch thick…loads of vintage beer posters/neon signs…the house band in the corner..including a little old guy that plays a mean steel guitar and about 10 true to life old cowboys sitting around the bar in their ten gallon hats with thier horses tied up out back.  Just down the road is a Steeler’s bar called Harold’s.  I don’t like Harold’s as much at the Buffalo Chip.  Harold’s is a Harley bar…Harley’s are BIG out in these parts.  Lots of baby boomers livin’ the good life on thier Harley’s….kinda annoys me…but hey…at least they are having fun.

So, about Cafe Bink…..

I’ve noticed some folks have been searching for Cafe Bink in STL….sorry folks…it’s in Carefree AZ.  If you ever travel to Scottsdale…it’s just a 30 minute drive north….don’t miss it.

But I digress:  Lunch at Cafe Bink was delicious….albeit on the spendy side.  We knew that going into it though.  I’m just not accustomed to dropping $75 on a mid-day meal….but it was worth it.

Upon our arrival, Simon was very skeptical.  There was a young mother and her two toddler children in the cafe and (as silly as it may seem) Simon dreads eating out with children around….unless they are well behaved.  Mean, I know…but it’s a pet peeve of his….and I must say I have to agree with him at times.  There is nothing worse than trying to enjoy a great meal with a toddler running around screaming at it’s mother for chicken fingers.  But….that is a topic for another day…..

We were greeted at Cafe Bink with house-made foccacia.  Wow.  It was really good.  Had the lovely crust on the outside and was warm and chewy on the inside.  Flecks of Fleur de sel were strewn across the top and gave a salty little kick here and there.  It was served with a sweet, fruity extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar plate….simple but pleasing.

Of course we ordered the famous fries.  Now, you have to understand something…..I am not a big potato fan.  I like them two ways, whipped with cream and butter or deep fried to a golden brown.  I don’t like new potatoes, potato gratin or scalloped….just whipped or in fry form…I know…I know….but it’s who I am.  Before leaving St. Louis, we fell in love with the Shaved Duck’s fries….uber shoestring potatoes fried in duck fat.  Now….I have said this from the beginning and the boys at the Duck know all about it…..I just wanted the fried thicker cut….I don’t mind shoestring but these were SUPER shoestring and they were tricky to eat….although delicious….I always managed to get them down.  The fries at at Cafe Bink (not fried in duck fat mind you) were thicker and friend to PERFECTION!  Jesus H Christ…..they were the best pomme frites I have EVER put in my mouth.  They arrived in the traditional Parisian fashion (wrapped in newspaper and stuck in the little metal cone)….and were accompanied by 3 different dipping sauces: 1) truffled catsup 2) herbed mayo 3) traditional aoili.  Each sauce was beautiful.  Don’t need to say much about the truffled catsup…it was simply that…house-made catsup with a hint of truffle.  I almost died and went to heaven.  (I am a big catsup eater….and truffle lover).  The herbed mayo was jam packed with herbs…a bright green concoction with a heavy dill flavor….would go great with fish….and the aoili was light and garlicy…..not heavy or oily…perfect.

Next Si had the french onion soup….nothing very fancy but it was executed properly.  The gruyere was strong and flavorful….so many times they top french onion soup with chinzy swiss cheese and it has no flavor….not at Cafe Bink….the cheese was great.  The soup was rich and almost resembled an onion compote under the crouton.  I had a mixed green salad with chevre, dried figs and pancetta.  Simple and good.  The one thing I must say is that they knew how to dress a salad properly.  There wasn’t a pool of vinegarette at the bottom of my bowl…each leaf had a nice touch of dressing and that was it.  Simon had a truffled grilled cheese… about decadence.  It was one of the best grilled cheeses I have ever had.  Not greasy at all!  The bread was crispy golden and the cheese was melted just right… came with house-made dill pickles and chips…both good as well.

We finished off the meal with a strawberry milkshake and some chocolate chip cookies……I must tell you that I am VERY picky about dessert and have been spoiled by one of St. Louis’ best pastry chef’s magical creations…..

while the shake and cookies were good…they couldn’t hold a flame to the work of Mathew Rice.  Not even close.  The presentation was cute but the shake lacked strawberry flavor and the cookies we not fresh…..what i wouldn’t give for a peachy keen shake from Veruca right now…….or a peppermint matty….ugh.,…

now…all Binkley’s needs is a little jonny style stage action……but alas, the man himself is in NYC……playing with the cool kids….

The only thing left is cheese….

Well…and some beer.  But most everything else has been disposed of properly.  Our home is an empty shell…save for a few ‘staging’ items for the home sale.  We leave soon….I’m excited now.  School is over…the house is packed and ready…all we need to do know is have a huge party and hit the road.  We are not rushing out west…we are going to take our time.  Stopping in OK CITY, OK…staying at a gorgeous boutique hotel...driving then to Winslow, AZ to stay at the ledgendary La Posada.….home of my all time favorite artists James Turrell.  His life’s work: Roden Crater is just north of us and I hope to get up there before we move back east.  I also want to explore the National Parks of Utah…go to Salt Lake City and see the Grand Canyon…..but all in good time…not on this first excursion out there of course.

Then into Carefree to unload the car, settle in to our new living space and have a beer by the pool.

I’ll get to take over 2 weeks off  of work before starting at the Mayo Clinic.  I have never had that much time off of work since I started bussing tables at Ricardo’s in 1991.  Can’t wait.

So…sorry about the lack of posts…I’m sure once we are settled in AZ I’ll have lots to say.  Looking forward to eating my way through PHX/Scottsdale.

just my opinion

I realized something last night…..Pat at the Shaved Duck is one damn good bartender.  The drinks there are really really good.  Yes, I mostly drink beer there….but he made a Manhattan for Si last night that was simply amazing.  The drink menu there is innovative, delicious and so, so reasonably priced.  There ingredients are freshly prepared….for instance, there is a jar of fresh peach puree, house preserved olives and cherries, fresh picked herbs…and always a BIG bowl of fresh citrus.  Good job, Pat!!!  I’ve decided that next visit I will have the mojito….served with a sprinkling of rosemary….reminds me of Simon’s famous rosemary pineapple martinis.

Food and Wine: June Issue

**Photo by Jonathan Swegle

Be on the lookout for St. Louis’ favorite new pastry chef in the upcoming issue of F&W. That’s right, Mathew Rice will be the featured pastry chef for The Last Bite. Wonder what they will feature….some would say red velvet cake….some would say the kulfi….what dessert do you think they will feature?

Whatever it is, it will be delicious. Be sure to pick up June’s issue of Food and Wine and support our local chefs!!