some of my favorite people got gold stars……


The RFT just announced thier “Best Of” (for you PHX/Scottsdale Folks is the equivalent of our PHX New TImes).  I am proud to announce that Kevin Willmann (of Erato on Main….oh how we dearly miss it) was named BEST NEW CHEF!  Go Kevin!!!!  This is what they said about Kevin:

What do you need to be a topnotch chef? A fancy, cutting-edge kitchen? A corps of a dozen line cooks at your beck and call? Prime real estate in a major metropolitan area? None of the above, if you’re Kevin Willmann. In a kitchen that makes a freshman dorm room look expansive, in a restaurant a half-hour’s drive from downtown St. Louis, Willmann takes ingredients from local producers and fashions them into dishes that are playful in conception, beautiful on the plate and, above all else, delicious. The menu changes frequently, but you’re certain to encounter unusual combinations — peach and prosciutto, scallops and truffled whipped cream — and contemporary spins on good ol’ fashioned home cookin’. (If a dish includes spoon bread, order it.) Willmann was born in Greenville, Illinois. After making his bones along the Gulf Coast in Florida, he worked at several St. Louis restaurants: Big Sky Café, Lucas Park Grille and Mosaic. But it’s at Erato in downtown Edwardsville that he has found the perfect outlet for his talent. Yes, the kitchen is small, but it hardly matters when the talent is so great.

Ugh..I’m so happy that he was recognized. It’s the least he deserves…I’m dying for Kevin and his sous chef, Jon to trek out here and stage with Kevin Binkley…it would be AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Up next for Best New Restaurant:  Pappy’s. If you have read this blog at all….you know that I LOVE PAPPY’S.  I love it so much that since moving out to the desert, I’ve dreamed about eating ribs at Pappy’s three times…and dreamt about the brisket twice…..So, when I read that Mike Emerson and his crew got the nod for best new restaurant….I did a little happy dance….Here is what the RFT has to say bout Pappy’s:

Winning sports teams often cite “chemistry” among the players as a reason for their success. The metaphor works for restaurants, too. In fact, Pappy’s Smokehouse can credit actual chemistry — you know, the subject you slept through in high school — for being named Best New Restaurant. After all, what is barbecue but the most delicious and, in its own way, elegant chemistry of all? Tough cuts of meat, cooked long and low over apple and cherry wood, become Pappy’s indescribably delicious pulled pork, pork ribs and beef brisket. Chemistry also imbues all that meat with a gorgeous dark pink smoke ring, the telltale tattoo of great ‘cue. Now add to that the other chemistry: Owner Mike Emerson works the floor as if the success of his midtown restaurant depended on that very moment. He greets regulars and newcomers alike waiting in the long line with a hearty handshake; he clears tables and serves food. When Pappy’s runs out of meat, that’s it: Emerson would rather close his doors than serve yesterday’s reheated goods. To those who seek greatness in multimillion-dollar build-outs and fancy cuisine, however soulless, Pappy’s might seem like just another barbecue joint. But to those who appreciate the rare chemistry of great food, great people and a passion for serving the best possible product — well, Pappy’s ain’t rocket science. It’s a bona fide miracle.

And best of all, my dear, dear friend Mathew Rice was given praise for his delectible treats at both Veruca and Niche.  I am soooooooooooo proud of him.  I know how many hours he toils over his creations…he puts his heart and soul into his work and it shows.  I’ve yet to find better anywhere in the US…and I’ve eaten at some pretty fancy places…nothing compares to Matty’s goods…nothing.  It’s one of the things that almost brings me to tears when I think of home…..now, who else’s red velvet cake can do that….right, NOBODY’S.  Here is what they said about my friend:

“Pastry chef” seems an inadequate title for Mathew Rice, who masterminds the desserts at the Benton Park restaurant Niche and its new, adjacent bakeshop, Veruca. “Mastermind” works — though that too seems to miss something essential about Rice’s baking. His desserts plug into someplace deep in the unconscious, where the simple pleasures of our childhood reside: tollhouse cookies, Hostess snack cakes, s’mores. Rice interprets each in a way that brings both a smile of recognition and the thrill of the new. Those s’mores, for instance, are toasted-marshmallow semifreddo with salted caramel and a graham cracker. Not that all of Rice’s ideas are rooted in the past. Sometimes it’s a combination of cleverness and convenience, like his slices of red velvet cake served to look like a small sandwich wrapped in wax paper. And sometimes it’s working with something no one else does, like the South Asian dish kulfi, a dense frozen dessert so good it might supplant ice cream as your favorite summer treat.

A nod also went out for the best beer selection in a restuarant and rightly so, it was given to the Shaved Duck. Good job, Pat…..we really miss you guys.  We really do.

Best Cheesesteak went to 9th Street Deli….I told you that a looonnngg time ago…but congrats to Mike Risk (a nice Lebanese boy, by the way!….we have to support our own, ya know!)

Best Bakery:  222 in Edwardsville…duh.  I’d kill for a bear claw right now….really…I would…seriously.

Last year, Simon won for best cheese counter at the Merch….DiGrigorio’s won it this year….which I guess is okay if you want to limit yourself to Italian cheese…they’d be the folks to ask.

I know this is a goofy post….I’m just so damned happy for these guys that won “Best Of’.  They are my friends and I’m not ashamed to say it.  Call me a braggart, name dropper or whatever….they just rock and it’s nice to see that they are getting recognized for the great work they do.

**Last but not least by any means is 33 Wine Bar in Lafayette Square!  Jake and his boys got the nod for best wine bar….and it is the best.  1. because he has bubbles hanging from his ceiling.  2.  a GREAT patio 3.  knowledgeable staff and some amazing selections of both wine AND beer. 4.  it’s smoke free and you don’t leave smelling like the inside of an ashtray.  Good job Jake!

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Our Last Supper: Erato on Main


Don’t have much time to post…so sorry if this is short and choppy.  7 of us gathered at Erato On Main in E-Ville, IL last night for our ‘Last Supper’ of sorts.  Since our moving date has been solidified we have been trying to see all of our nearest and dearest.  Last evening was no exception.

Our regular wine tasting group meets a couple times a month and we have all been together for years now….so…ya know…we’re a close group.  It was a bittersweet meal…knowing we’d be leaving in a week, a couple in the group is now expecting their first child…..and we’d be missing seeing each other so often…but I digress:  let’s get on to the Erato tasting menu.  I’m lazy so you are going to get bullets: (and please remember I had wine so this is hazy at best and may be out of order)

  • Shrimp noodle with deep fried okra and a smoky chili sauce.
  • Reconstructed Caprese salad with frozen (via liquid nitro) olive oil and balsamic vinegar cubes and smoked salt
  • Sashimi over a peach/creme fraiche sorbet (my favorite) with truffled salt
  • scallop and crawfish on corn cake with truffled whip cream….HOLY LORD!  FANTASTIC!
  • smoked jalapeno sorbet (HOT…but cold….such an ironic dish…amazing)
  • smoked chicken in a purse of it’s own skin served with pan jus and spoon bread
  • peach brined pork with ham hock, chow chow and corn bread
  • local ribeye sereved over Ivan’s figs with blue cheese
  • assorted house made sorbet and molten chocolate cake and basil ice cream. (damn)

There may have been more but I was in a food delirium by the end of the night…..not to mention the amazing sparkling shiraz…and the great viognier…and cote du Rhone (who’s names escape me at this time)

What an amazing meal to have upon our departure.  I cried a little bit on the drive back to StL b/c not only are we leaving our friends and families…but our beloved restaurant  where the staff has become like family as well…..my heart breaks just a little when I think of not being able to go back for a whole year.