Who made the grade in St. Louis??


Last evening I had the opportunity to attend St. Louis Magazine’s A List Awards Party at Lumen (it is a gorgeous event space…wow). It is not an event I would normally attend. Mind you, at one point in my life, it would have been on the radar. Many of you may not know this, but St. Louis Magazine crowned me one of St. Louis’ Top Singles back in the day….not shabby for a kid from downtown. But, as time passed….I grew tired of the scene….fell in love with the Cheesemonger and left that life behind.

Alas, my buddy Mathew Rice was being honored for Niche’s desserts and we set up a table to hand out the goodies. Much to my surprise we were put in the best spot in the house: center balcony over looking the crowd (and was there ever a crowd! Whoa). To our left, Eric Brenner, A List Chef winner…and to our right Ricardo’s Italian Cafe…A list winner for casual Italian food. ***Sidenote on Ricardo’s: My very first job as a bus-girl was at Ricardo’s over 15 years ago…yep. I have known Mark and Michelle Adams for years and started out babysitting their two little boys…who now help run the restaurant. Good people, that Adams family. If you have not had the chance to go to Ricardo’s in Lafayette Square…make a point to get over there. They are even open for lunch.***

So, with being flanked by two tables of pals…the night was sure to be fun. And lucky for us the open bar sat directly across from our table. Nice perk.

Along comes Mike Emerson owner of Pappy’s Smokehouse! Mike and I have been chummy since he has opened his doors. We were one of his first customers and I was sure to tell him how much we loved his BBQ. After some more chit chat at the awards event…turns out Mike and I go way back and didn’t even know it. I’ve known his brother Danny my entire life and he grew up with some older members of my family. Pappy’s was being honored for best BBQ in St. Louis….what an honor….open not even ONE YEAR and they are picked for the A List. That was a no-brainer, though. Pappy’s by far is the BEST BBQ in St. Louis….hands down. Don’t fight me on it…you won’t win. And Pappy’s is another place to rush to…..amazing. And before you all shout out ‘favoritism’…..please know that I was singing this joint’s praises long before I actually met Mike and realized his family and mine were close. So zip it.

It was a great time.  Kevin Willmann, chef at Erato on Main was being honored as well.  It was great to see him outside the kitchen!  City Hall was representin’ with Mike McMillen and his crew.  All the pretty people were out in droves….dressed to kill….and packed in Lumen like little sardines sweating.  I was so happy when we ran out of food and could head outside to hang at the Pappy’s table.  (they were outside)  It was a great night to be outside with a cocktail.

Good party St. Louis Magazine….and even better choices for your A-List winners.

Mushrooms and Truffles


If I had to pick one of my favorite winter dishes…and by winter I mean that goofy season in St. Louis falling in the months of February, March and the first part of April….I pick mushrooms with truffles. Yes, yes…truffles are spendy…but worth every shiny nickel. My two favorite truffle mushroom dishes are from right here in St. Louis. The first being at Moxy. Chef Brenner did this amazing starter with polenta, various types of mushrooms and truffles. Geez…it was good and rich enough to have as a main course. Sadly, I haven’t seen it on the menu in a while. It was great with a glass of Malbec (or two). Triangles of grilled polenta made with a rich meaty mushroom stock covered in a fantastic mound of perfectly sauteed wild mushrooms spiked with truffle oil. Made for some good eats.

Last night, we didn’t feel like cooking. And lucky for us our favorite restaurant is in walking distance…almost in our driveway. So, we braved the unploughed back alley of Benton Park and moseyed on over to Niche for dinner. We were the only ones in the joint. Lucky for us. (eventually 2 more tables arrived). Given the state of our fair city, servers were unable to make it in. Lo and behold, Brian the bartender. Brian stepped up to the plate and not only worked the bar but served all the tables…and he did it amazingly well!!! It was a great night to dine at Niche. Quiet, relaxed and terribly fun.

Simon had the tasting menu and I had the prie fixe. The chef’s tasting menu is just too much for me on a Tuesday night. Si is a big boy and can handle it! We both started with the cauliflower soup-served two ways. I had the traditional soup, served with warm apples and walnuts. It had a deep earthy curry undertone. Rich and velvety. I could have just had that for dinner. Satiating and scrumptious. Simon was served the soup aerated with crispy bacon and apples. It was just as good. Anything with bacon, right?

I can go through the tasting menu, but I’m not. See Bill Burge’s review at STLBites . Spot on as usual.

What I want to talk about was my dinner. The tarragon gnocchi with wild mushrooms, truffled, greens, parsnips and sweet potatoes. oh.my.god.

First off, if you have never had gnocchi at Niche, do your self a favor and go. The very first time I went to Niche was within the first few days Gerard opened the door. I hadn’t even met Simon yet. I just finished a gut rehab at our Benton Park house and G had finished the restaurant. I remember being so excited when I went looking at the house, seeing the posted occupancy permit and liquor license in what is now Niche. I didn’t know what or who was going in there at the time. All I knew is that having a restaurant/wine bar in my back yard was a plus…signed on the house that day. A dear friend and I stopped in for a light dinner. He had the gnocchi. He is just about a finicky as they come with regards to food. He knows what’s good and what he likes. Niche gnocchi was put on that list that evening. Never had he tasted gnocchi so light and tender…full of flavor. Little puffs of amazing-ness.

Last night, I ordered the gnocchi thinking I would re-live that night. I didn’t. What I was served was a gastronomic wonder in it’s own right. (too strong of words???…nah) The gnocchi were made with a bit of chickpea flour and had a golden brown crust. They were studded with fragrant tarragon, served with a medley of wild mushrooms (morels, trumpets, oyster, hen of the woods were some I think i recognized in between shoveling it in), truffles and a rich truffled oil sauce. Jumbled up in the mix were some greens and tiny diced parsnips…maybe a turnip…I can’t remember. All I know is that those gnocchi and mushrooms made the favorite dish list at Niche.

I ordered the chocolate cake with Tahitian vanilla ice cream and Simon got the coconut kulfi. Lucky for me Simon doesn’t like tropical flavors and I do…so we did the old switch-a-roo and everyone went home happy.