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Small Batch — Davey, Davey, Quite Contrary

February 18, 2014

Milkshakes and burgers. Beer and sausages. Whiskey and…vegetables.  Classics all.

Yes, I do believe that David Bailey was having a bit of perverse fun with his latest endeavor.  I get it.  Push the envelope.  Challenge the expected.  Plus, with other whiskey joints popping up like daisies (see Gamlin Whiskey House & The Whiskey Ring), pairing vegetarian fare with an extensive whiskey list merits notice.   But at the end of the day, I’m not sure I’ve been cured of a carnal craving for red meat with my bourbon.

As with other Bailey joints, the atmosphere is well-engineered.  Sexy vibe for sure.  Although…you may have to go on a bit of a quest to find the bathroom and you may get to watch an AA meeting from across the street–all trade-offs for the midtown alley location I suppose.

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The Whiskey.  I’m definitely a whiskey fan,  but I’m not enough of a connoisseur to be critical of their offerings.  It’s a huge list.  I saw plenty of favorites.  I’m guessinggg you’ll find something you’ll like.  I got one of their tasting samplers–the 101 (Powers, Glennfiddich, and Elijah Craig)–and was very pleased.  In fact, I think they should offer more tasting samplers.  I love the chance to explore and it’s even better when you can make side-by-side comparisons.  For example, the Elijah Craig 12 year: did NOT care for it.  Now I know.  But I still had two other tasty options to make up for it.  Totally ideal.

The Food. It was fine.  The two small plates I sampled were not especially savory. The gratin was a little heavy on uber sweet caramelized grapes (more shallots, goat cheese and rosemary plz). The gougeres had great texture, but the stone fruit compote was again pretty saccharine. Beyond small plates, somewhat expectedly, there is plenty of pasta on the menu.  Which, if you’re not going to be soaking up whiskey with a ribeye, there better be carbs.  I chose to chase my share of the starters with the pappardelle with mushroom bourguigon.  Mushroom sauce was satisfying.  The pasta was pretty thick and doughy though.

Ah well.  The portion sizes were healthy, the price points were exceedingly reasonable, and I’m confident Small Batch will grow into its menu.

Small Batch on Urbanspoon

Wheelhouse — Keeping it Classy

January 5, 2014

Thanks Wheelhouse.  I really appreciate the fact that there was not a roofie in this “off-label” Urban Chestnut.

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Strange Donuts — Get Stranger

November 9, 2013

So, recently made some trips to Strange Donuts.  I’ll hand it to the guys.  They certainly were able to whip up a frenzy around their donut endeavor.  Sauce and Feast feature articles, craft brew collaborations, …pog tournaments…  The Strange Donut fellas put on a social media blitz that has had every hipster within the Greater St. Louis area salivating for fried dough.  Bedeviled by setbacks and delays–one can only assume–Strange Donuts did not meet its goal opening date of National Donut Day (the first Friday of June every year).   Nearly five months later, the store front on Sutton started whirring with activity with both early morning and–admittedly inspired–late night hours on the weekends.
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Alright, the donuts.  I’ll cut right to it.  They are no Worlds Fair Donuts.  I certainly was not among the faithful waiting in line at 6am on opening day.  As of right now, these are not wait-in-line-at-6am-donuts.   I have hopes they’ll remedy this in the next couple months; getting up off the ground is always brutal.  However, when you’re open, you’re open.  On the very first visit, I opted for one of the more basic cake donuts topped with chocolate icing and sprinkles.  And I sampled Bart’s Revenge (left, below) and some peanut butter-creation.

The chocolate icing on these things is actually spot on.  It’s that low-brow ganache type substance that is absolutely essential for donuts.  The yellow cake donut was not as dense as it looked–fairly light and not too sweet, which I like.  However, there was no added punch.  There was no soupçon of lemon, tang of buttermilk, whiff of cinnamon–nothing that made these things particularly distinctive.  I expect more from something ‘strange.’  And the chocolate cake was quite dense, quite dry, and similarly blase.  And regarding whether the two donuts below are strange…as far as I can tell, they are just donuts with candy crumbled on top.

Well done identifying a niche that was otherwise unoccupied in St. Louis.  And well done with some of the late night, weekend creations–most of which involve a collaboration with a local meat purveyor (ex. a Salume Beddu/jelly-esque donut or a Sugar Fire Smokehouse/fold-over donut with brisket and gravy).  That’s some good stuff.  But up your A.M. game.  Thx.

005PS  Thank you to SK for the non iphone shots of ye donuts.  Not to mention the thought provoking donut/boot photo, which is THE MOST HIPSTER SHOT OF DONUTS EVER TAKEN ON THIS EARTH.

Strange Donuts on Urbanspoon

Shaved Duck – Le Sigh

September 30, 2013

The first time I went to the Shaved Duck, I followed it up with two return visits more or less in the same week.  I loved it.  And it’s still a favorite spot.  If only because I can get fries covered in cheese sauce and bbq pork.IMG_3841

But now, if I want said smothered fries, I may or may not have to gaze upon the following:

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Why dude?  Why?  As if this wasn’t enough, there is a Grotto de Fieri in another corner of the establishment.  (I mean, I know why.  They’ve gotten beaucoup business out of their appearance on his show.)

Had to resist writing a much longer screed about this.  But it would have been whiny and bitter and snobby.  And I haven’t the heart.

Ah well.  Will just stick my face in my fries and beer.

United Cerebral Palsy Wing Ding – Tonight!!! Come!!!

August 22, 2013

I fully intended to post about this a while ago.  This is a straight-up fabulous event for a wonderful organization.  Charity trivia nights are great, but UCP’s Annual Wing Ding is a fun alternative.  Dozens of STL restaurants come out to serve their iteration of buffalo wings.  There’s beer (Schlafly, AB, and Ferguson).  There’s music (Willie and the Poor Boys).  Done.

6-9pm at Queeny Park.  General admission is $25.  Come get your hands grubby.  More info, if you need it.

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Half & Half – Let’s all just calm down now

August 21, 2013

Ah, Half & Half.  Beloved by so many.  Hailed as a brunch to end all brunches.  Offering a late morning repast beyond compare.  To all this I say, sure.  It’s pretty good.  Is it wait-an-hour-and-a-half good?  Perhaps for a first time visit, yes.  Why not.  For every succeeding visit.  No.  No thank you.

There is a reason why people wait though.  Half & Half does have some compelling strong suits.  Mike Randolph, as is reputed, ain’t messing around.  After all, Half & Half is a major financial motor behind his growing empire.  The staff are friendly to a fault–skilled in managing herds of stroller toting yuppies.  The menu is creative without getting too cute.  Oh, and they have these:

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FRIED PICKLE ON MY BLOODY MARY.  WHAT.  I LOVE YOU FRIED PICKLE BLOODY MARY.   So much salty, restorative goodness.  Enough said about that.  Get you some.

I think that while I appreciate Half & Half, I remain ambivalent because of my rather provincial tastes when it comes to breakfast.  I do have a sweet tooth supreme.  But, in the morning, what I really crave is some melange of savory items with a top-off of syrup.  And there are simply fewer savory options from which to select that fit in that category.  Because if you aren’t going to get one of of the more composed, specialized breakfast dishes, it has to occur to you, “wow, I just waited an hour and a half for two eggs, potatoes and toast” (the eponymous ‘half and half’ breakfast option).  And, I can’t say I’m totally down with the heavy brussel sprout representation.  A  hash nearly always satisfies my breakfast needs, yet Half & Half nearly always puts brussel sprouts in their hashes.  Meh.   However, I do love love love the cornbread and chorizo with two eggs–officially my go-to Half & Half meal.  Or, pro-tip, if I’m not dining in, I’ll call ahead for a tasty ham biscuit (complete with preserves) to go.  Then, ham biscuit and I walk to nearby Shaw Park.

So, returning to the wait-time investment vs. relative reward issue.  There is a solution, and it has to do with the early bird getting the worm.  I reside conveniently close to the establishment.  Meaning, if I am of a mind to venture to Half & Half for a soporofic amount of breakfast food, then I walk myself there the moment I wake up…but only if I start that process well before 9am.  Because what am I not doing with my weekend morning?  I am not waiting over an hour for eggs, cured meats, and syrup.  Thirty minutes–tops.   Yes, this timing restriction means I often have to forego a bloody mary crowned with a fried pickle.  Yet, there’s always the Crow’s Nest’s quiet-bordering-on surly metal brunch, which is probably where my malcontent self belongs anyways.
Half & Half on Urbanspoon

Beer + Dessert — Sweet Synergy

August 11, 2013

So, finally tucked into my Craft Beer Week Kakao chocolate sampler.  I’m down for adding  beer to pretty much anything.  However, I’m just not sure I detected much beer-y essence in these dudes.  Superb chocolates though.  Kakao, as always, particularly shines with its caramels.  It’s just some fun schtick I suppose.   And Kakao certainly isn’t alone in jumping on this bandwagon.

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