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!

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.