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…..talk 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…..it 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….

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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.