Thursday, March 31, 2011

taste, st louis mo
4584 laclede avenue
st. louis, mo 63108

once owned by chef gerard craft located in soulard directly next door to niche, taste has moved to the central west end, and is now run by chef/owner adam alnether. alnether, who was formerly chef de cuisine at niche and executive chef at brasserie by niche, has expanded the menu to make taste a place you can come for a full meal as opposed to just drinks and snacks. the food menu, however, is not the only thing that has been expanded. master mixologist ted kilgore, who was a staple at the old location, has an incredible menu of libations with more than thirty unique choices.

upon arriving at taste, we were greeted by a doorman outside. after confirming our name was on the list, we were led inside. after passing through a set of thick black curtains, we entered the intimate candle lit dining room, and were shown to our two top with views of both the kitchen and bar. alnether's goal in the new taste was to channel a 1920's speakeasy, and i think he has achieved his vision. with that being said, taste is probably the darkest restaurant i have ever dined at, and as i refuse to use flash, my pictures certainly suffered from it. while it is nice to have good pictures, this blog is by no means my priority when dining, and i am just not willing to use an actual camera (all pics are from my iphone) or go great lengths to get as good of pictures as possible.

to get things started on the cocktail front, my first choice was the suffering travis. served in a tiki glass, this was yamazaki whisky, broker's gin, rhum barbancourt, hibiscus, lime, grenadine, and ginger beer. this was a very refreshing drink, with a great aromatic quality to it that i assume came from the hibiscus leaves. carrie opted to start with the subtle hustle, featuring aperol, cocchi americano, lemon juice, passion fruit, and champagne.

for food, we got things going with a cheese plate, featuring smoked gouda, camembert, and a third offering that i cannot recall. all three cheeses were excellent, with the camembert lending itself well to being spread on the crisp bread provided.

after the cheese came an order of the chicken meatballs. these were served in a spicy tomato sauce, and while they certainly were not bad by any stretch, they were the weakest dish of the night in my eyes.

for the second round of cocktails, i went for what is called taste's foundation, made with broker's gin, flora de cana gold rum, rittenhouse rye, barola chinato, don's spice mix #2, maple tincture, and angostura. now i will admit that i do not really know what half of those ingredients are, but mixed together they made for a deliciously boozy and complex drink. carrie's second cocktail was the immigrant punk, comprised of milagro reposado, taste vermouth, and grapefruit agave nectar.

moving on to the larger plates, we have braised pork belly with chilled white beans. although the portion of pork belly was a bit smaller than i had hoped, it was cooked perfectly and literally melted in my mouth. as a whole, beans in general have a texture that i am not fond of, and these were no exception. this is merely a personal preference, and is no fault of the quality of bean or the chefs preparation.

along with the pork belly, we ordered the fish chowder with cod, scallops, and bacon. also in the chowder were house made potato chips that added much to the dish in terms of both taste and texture. this was our second favorite offering of the night.

in need of a final round of cocktails, i ordered the tranquil scot. this drink had tranquil breeze infused scotch whisky, amaretto, lemon, ligonberry jam, berry, egg white, and soda. this was an interesting drink with a frothy quality to it from the egg whites. carrie's last selection was the transporter, consisting of coconut ginger rittenhouse rye, passion fruit, and pineapple.

our final large plate of the night was an order of the lasagna. this was made in vegetarian fashion, featuring ricotta cheese, escarole, radishes, and parmesan. this was my favorite course of the evening without question. we also had a side order of the roasted fingerling potatoes, which weren't bad, but didn't quite live up to our expectations given the flavors of everything else.

moving onto to dessert, we may have overindulged slightly by making three selections, but i am glad we did as all three were excellent. pictured above is the wonderful house made pistachio ice cream. this was probably the most savory ice cream i have ever tasted, and i commented to carrie that it tasted more like pistachios than i ever would have expected.

another dessert selection was the sticky toffee pudding served with vanilla ice cream. this was basically a toffee flavored cake, and while it may have been the most typical dessert offering, was very good.

our last bites of the evening came in the form of pigwiches, which are a carry over from the old location, and are most likely a permanent menu staple. served in pairs, pigwiches are chocolate cookies cut in the shape of a pig with bacon flavored cream in the middle. having only been to the old location once for drinks before a meal at niche, this was our first time tasting the famous dessert, and we were not disappointed. these are another must order for someone visiting taste for the first time.

without question, taste lived up to our high expectations. as i mentioned earlier, we had only made it to the old location once, and it was just for a quick drink before dinner. this time, we ran the proverbial gamut, ordering as many drinks and food items as we could handle. i assume that the food menu will change fairly often, and we will most definitely be in many more times to try future dishes.

Taste by Niche on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

prime 1000 (2), st louis mo
1000 washington avenue
st. louis, mo 63101

after a wonderful lunch at prime 1000 during the first part of january, i stated that a return for dinner would be in our near future. although it took a bit longer than i had hoped, we made it back almost two months after our initial visit. neither of us had had a steak dinner since our trip to boston in november 2010 when we visited mooo...., and we were both feeling long overdue for a big bloody hunk of prime beef.

with street parking being difficult to find on washington aveune, we had a longer than expected walk to the restaurant, leaving us about ten minutes late for our 6 p.m. reservation. this was not a problem, as there was only one table currently seated in the spacious dining room, and we were led to a four top in the window.

unlike last time, no cocktail list was provided on this visit, however, our server rattled off a few signature martinis. carrie opted for what was called the plum sassy, and i had a mojito. carrie liked her drink quite a bit, however i found the mojito to be merely average.

along with our drinks, an offering of house made bread and saffron butter was delivered. the bread was warm, crusty, and had a terrific bite to it. the smooth saffron butter was sweet in flavor and very enjoyable.

our two appetizers, arriving together, were a trio of carpaccio (in the front) and crispy sweetbreads (in the back). the carpaccio, which is something we rarely order, was served with three different accompaniments. there was hon shemiki and shiitake mushrooms with apple saba and shaved grana padano, baby arugula with garlic chips and truffle aoili, and black garlic ponzu with ginger bubbles and micro cilantro. overall, the carpaccio was decent, but not something i would particularly recommend or choose again myself.  the sweetbreads, which fared much better than the carpaccio, were plated with duroc bacon and roasted artichoke and topped with a truffle emulsion. although the dish was a tad more salty than i would have preferred, it was quite good, and ranks highly amongst other sweetbread preparations i have had.

after the appetizers, we opted to share a caeser salad, as the preparation featuring crisp speck, white anchovy, quail egg, and a crostini crouton sounded better than your typical caesar salad. however, the salads arrived sans quail egg, with our server stating they had run out. she then said in a joking tone that she hoped that didn't ruin our salads, and walked off. this was a little perturbing as carrie had literally said she was looking forward to her quail egg not two minutes before the salads were placed in front of us. not being one to complain, we let it slide, but felt we should have been alerted before the salads arrived in case we wanted to change our order. also of note, we were still charge full price for the salad when the bill arrived.

after the salad plates were cleared, an appropriate amount of time passed before our steaks arrived. topped with roasted garlic, my choice was the dry aged 16oz. bone-in ribeye cooked medium rare. prime 1000 gives you the choice of one sauce to go with your steak, and i went for the candied bacon jus. my thought, however, is that a usda prime dry aged steak should be able to stand on its own with minimal seasoning and no sauce. this steak did just that. although it was a bit fattier than i would have preferred (even for a ribeye), this was no doubt one of the best tasting steaks i have had in st. louis. also on the plate was a zucchini filled with bone marrow butter. i did try a few small bites with both the butter and jus. the butter added a nice little bit of savor to the meat, and the jus was tasty but too sweet to use much of.

carrie ordered the 8 oz. usda prime fillet, which was also cooked medium rare. although i am typically not a great fan of fillets, as they tend to lack the flavor of a ribeye or ny strip, prime 1000's offering was terrific. being incredibly lean and tender while still possessing a huge beef flavor, this was the best fillet i can ever recall tasting. carrie's thoughts echoed mine, and think i will even go so far as to say that i preferred her fillet to my ribeye.

each steak also came with the choice of one side, and we chose the smoked white cheddar mac and cheese as well as the grilled asparagus topped with fermin sarrano jamon and a poached QUAIL egg. now this was an interesting development, as we were told earlier they had run out of quail eggs when our salads arrived without them. again, i did not push the issue at all, but found the whole situation a bit strange. the asparagus was the better of the two sides, with the delicate egg and bold spanish ham adding greatly to the spring vegetable. the mac and cheese was just ok, being much lighter on the white cheddar flavor than i had hoped.

our plates were cleared was the sun began to set outside, and dessert was offered. as opposed to having dessert menus to look at, our server listed off the three choices prime was currently offering. this is definitely not my preference, as it is difficult to remember the details of multiple desserts, and i would much prefer to be able to have a menu in front of me. regardless, i am sure i would have chosen the same dessert either way, so this became a non issue. my choice was the cabernet decadence cake, served with cherry ice cream. an ok dessert overall, but truly nothing to get excited over.

carrie's choice was a play on banana's foster, which i honestly don't recall the details on. like mine, this dessert was fine, but not particularly memorable. a final detail thats needs to be addressed is the way the after dinner drinks were handled. when asked, carrie said that she would love a cappuccino. our server told us the machine was like a woman (moody) and would only work when it wanted to. apparently it was having one of its bad days, as carrie never received her drink. also, i am a scotch drinker, and while this may seem minor, i am much more likely to order a dram after dinner if i am presented with a list with prices, instead of having to ask what is offered and hope the prices are not out of line.

minor issues aside, we enjoyed much of what we had a prime 1000. although i mentioned that some of the food was average, it is worth reiterating that nothing was bad by any means, and i would consider the steaks to be the best in the city right now. however, this meal alerted me to the fact that steakhouses as a whole do not excite me the way they did a few years back, and i feel like visiting them will be a occurrence that happens about three times a year from now on. overall, based on the success of the lunch we had a prime 1000 in january, our dinner was a slight disapointment. luckily, however, it was not the steak that let us down, and for that reason, i feel like prime 1000 will be our go to st. louis steakhouse.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

milagro modern mexican, webster groves mo
20 allen ave suite 1
webster groves, mo 63119

almost a year after its opening, carrie and i finally made it over to webster groves to check out milagro modern mexican. with a menu deviating from the typical mexican offerings found in the st. louis area, milagro had been on our must try list for some time. the restaurant is tucked away in the rear section of a strip plaza known as the shoppes in olde webster, and was slightly difficult to locate initially.

per our usual, we had made reservations via opentable (dining points!) , and arrived almost fifteen minutes early. this was not a problem, and we were seated right away. i was a bit underwhelmed by the ambiance and decor, but it is certainly a step up from your typically mexican joint with cheesy music playing and walls plastered with sombreros and other items that make it clear you are in a mexican restaurant. 

a decent offering of chips and salsa was brought to the table to kick things off. the salsa had decent spice and flavor to it, but did not really excite us. the chips were warm and toothsome, however i do not think they are made in house.

milagro offers a nice selection of specialty cocktails and margaritas, and narrowing down our choices proved difficult. i chose the el diablo margarita, made with house infused habanero tequila, blood orange puree, orange liqueur, and a splash of limonada. the drink had a nice dynamic flavor profile being sweet at first with a spicy finish. carrie's choice was the x-rated margarita, featuring sauza blanco tequila, x-rated fruit fusion liquer, triple sec, orange juice, pineapple juice, and limonada. 

our first taste of milagro's cuisine, the duck tostaditas, definitely got things going on the right foot. the delicate blue corn tostaditas were topped with savory duck carnitas, black bean puree, shredded cabbage, and drizzled with a wonderful blood orange habanero sauce.

next up was the tuna ceviche, which was formidable, but not quite on the same level as the duck offering. served with the same blue corn tostaditas as the duck, the ceviche was good from a flavor standpoint, but marred by tuna that was occasionally rubbery in texture.

after debating between two or three options, my choice of entree was the cochinita pibil. this was a pork shoulder, achiote rubbed, wrapped in banana leaves and slowly braised. the shoulder was topped with pickled red onions and served with crispy red potatoes and street corn. this proved to be a terrific choice, as everything on the plate was delicous. the pork was incredibly moist and tender, the potatoes crispy and spicy on the tongue, and the street corn was the best corn i have ever eaten. under no circumstances should anyone dine at milagro and not try the street corn!

carrie's entree choice also came after much debate, and was an excellent take on beef enchiladas. this was also a nice choice, however both the rice and beans were fairly average.

upon completion of our entrees, we were each in the mood for another drink. carrie went with another x-rated margarita, and i ordered a left hand milk stout. the milk stout is probably left hand's most well known brew, and its notes of chocolate and coffee make it a great after dinner beer.

our meal at milagro modern mexican was largely positive, but i do need to add that the service was lacking a bit. mere moments after being seated, a food runner delivered two plates to our table that we did not order, and then questioned us when we said they weren't ours. we brushed it off, but throughout the course of the meal, things did not get much better. service was very slow, with water not being refilled often enough and dirty plates being left to sit for long periods of time. when i ordered my entree, i asked for a side of potatoes, not realizing they already came with my meal. they were taken off the bill, but a server who is on top of his game would have caught this right away and asked if i wanted to make a different selection. finally, i have no idea if milagro offers dessert or not, as there was never any mention of it. we had other plans anyways so it wasn't a big deal for us, but i can't ever recall not being asked if we are interested in dessert. service glitches aside, we enjoyed our dinner, and will most likely return.

Milagro Modern Mexican on Urbanspoon

Thursday, March 10, 2011

pickles deli, st louis mo
22 north euclid
st louis mo, 63108

could a mere deli be worth a half hour drive one way? that was the question at hand as carrie and i headed to pickles, which is located in the central west end. pickles has been voted the number one deli in st. louis by the riverfront times for the last couple of years, and we felt a trip there was warranted.

it was a cold and rainy afternoon, and we walked in the find the place almost empty. we took a good five minutes to thoroughly read over the menu and weigh all of our options. carrie and i both agreed that there were easily three or four choices we were strongly considering. after much debate, we placed our orders, and were told they would be brought to our table when they were ready.

the first plus for pickles is that they serve beer, and actually have a fair selection of bottled microbrews. i went with an old standby, the magic hat #9. billed as a "not quite pale ale" by the brewery, this is an easy drinking beer with hints of apricot. while the flavor profile of this beer isn't extremely complex, it is a brew that i always really enjoy with food.

after about five minutes of waiting, our sandwiches arrived. my choice was the reuben, which was corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, and thousand island dressing served on grilled marble rye bread. i was sold on the first bite! stacked high with flavorful beef, the sandwich was terrific, with no one ingredient coming to the forefront to dominate the palate. on the side i had a bag of route 11 chesapeake crab chips, which i had to try for the novelty alone. the chips were fine, but not something i would have again.

carrie had the mediterranean wrap, which was made with sliced chicken, black olives, cucumber, roasted red and yellow peppers, red onions, mixed greens, feta cheese, greek dressing, and served in a grilled pita. she reported that the sandwich was good, and i did try a bite towards the end, but did not get to try all of the ingredients. she had the potato salad on the side, which i did not ask about, nor did she mention anything about it. this has me assuming it was par for the course, but nothing special.

to satisfy our sweet tooth, we ordered a pair of gooey butter cookies to split, one original and one chocolate. both were fresh and delicious, with the chocolate being the winner in my eyes.

so to answer the question of the day, a deli can in fact be worth a half hour drive one way. pickles sandwiches delivered, and i am looking forward to returning a few more time to try the other offerings that piqued my interest.

Pickles Deli on Urbanspoon