Wednesday, November 23, 2011

bailey's range - st. louis, mo
920 olive street
st. louis, mo 63101

located in the space that was previously city gourmet, bailey's range is the fourth restaurant from st. louis restaurateur david bailey. the range is a burger and shake concept with an extensive menu of interesting craft burgers made from missouri grass fed beef as well as bison, turkey, chicken, lamb, and even duck. bread is baked on site, all the condiments and ice creams are house made, and most everything else is sourced locally. given my enthusiasm for bailey's chocolate bar and bridge taphouse (rooster not as much) and love of a well thought out burger, bailey's range quickly jumped to the top of my list of must try places.

upon finding metered parking a few blocks down from the restaurant, carrie and i along with my brother chris entered the restaurant around 2pm on the day before thanksgiving, and were offered seating at either the bar or community table located on the downstairs level. choosing the table, we were shown to the far end which separated us from other diners significantly. like both bridge taphouse and bailey's chocolate bar, much attention was paid to the interior design of bailey's range as it is both unique and impressive to say the least. shortly after getting situated we exchanged pleasantries with our server and were left to browse a menu filled with excellent sounding choices

for drinks, bailey's offers an enormous selection of cane sugar sodas and local microbrews along with milkshakes (some boozy), cocktails, and a concise wine list. i opted to start off with a beer, and selected the perennial southside blonde. this was an enjoyable brew with mild hop flavoring and a bit of citrus. carrie went with a cocktail called the raspberry, made with citron vodka and raspberry nectar.

for food, we started with two items from the "snacks" section of the menu. pictured first are the smoked onion rings which were a big hit for all three of us. the second starter, fresh marcoot cheese curds, came as a bit of a disappointment as i was expecting the cheese to be fried. to be fair though, if i had paid more attention to the wording on the menu it could have been avoided. served with an excellent house made mustard, apples, and crisp bread, the curds were tasty for sure, just not what we were anticipating.

moving on to the main event, i went against my conventional way of thinking and instead of ordering a traditional beef burger opted for an offering made with a bison patty. called the pb&j, this burger featured the aforementioned bison patty with arugula pesto, house tomato jam, fresh goat cheese, and baby arugula. served on a seriously awesome pretzel roll per my request (+$1) and cooked "pink" as opposed to "no pink", the pb&j burger proved to be an excellent choice. i will say, however, that while i really enjoyed the sweetness of the jam mixed with the tang of the goat cheese, those two flavors really dominated my palate and did not allow the pesto to be as prevalent as i would have hoped.

for her burger, carrie decided on the ozark made with ozark forest crimini mushrooms, caramelized onions, black peppered goat cheese, lettuce, tomato, and onion. although cooked a tad more thoroughly than either of us would have preferred given her request for "pink", this burger was another success. while not a big deal to me, carrie did mention that she felt the burger was somewhat difficult to eat given the thickness of the patty, and wished it had been spread out a little more.

to go along with our burgers, the three of us elected to share the $4 order of fries which proved to be more than we needed. the fries were excellent and came with a choice of one sauce which i differed to our server. she brought us the "rooster" sauce which was a terrific sriracha mayo that the three of us all enjoyed.

for dessert, we all decided to try out one of the many interesting sounding "boozy" milkshakes made with house made ice cream. i knew going in that i would be trying the sweet sweet bacon shake (bourbon, candied bacon, salted caramel ice cream), and although i was surprised to see a large piece of bacon sticking out of the shake as i was merely expecting small bits to be mixed throughout, this drink was heavy on the bourbon and had a great sweet/savory interplay going on. fantastic! both carrie and my brother had the irish coffee shake prepared with jameson, bailey's, and expresso ice cream. while not on the level of the bacon bourbon goodness in my opinion, this too was a good shake. if i could find one fault with the shakes, i would say that they could stand to be a bit thicker. (note: pic on left is from iphone 4g, pic on right iphone 4gs...what a difference!)

going into our meal at bailey's range, i was excited but yet somewhat nervous due to some of the poor reviews i had read on yelp about the wait times, food quality, and rude staff. i am happy to report that i had no such issues whatsoever. we were seated immediately and without confusion, our server was as friendly and professional as can be, and the food was all well worth its cost and was served at a proper pace. there is no doubt that carrie and i will be visiting bailey's range many more times, and being that they stay open until 1am, the range will be perfect for a late night snack after a blues/cardinals game or concert

Baileys Range on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 18, 2011

franco (2) - st. louis, mo
1535 south eight street
st. louis, mo 63104

after enjoying two successful lunches at franco this year, carrie and i have always said we wanted to return to franco for dinner at some point to really see what the soulard located restaurant was about. however, franco kept getting passed up in lieu of something new or potentially more exciting, and it wasn't until i saw a tweet from the restaurant advertising a five course tasting menu in honor of their five year anniversary that we decided to finally commit to a dinner at franco.

with a 7:30 reservation booked via open table and my parents joining us for the meal, we parked in the lot across the street from franco, and made our way inside roughly ten minutes early. we were led through the full dining room by a seemingly disinterested hostess to a four top in the window along the restaurant's rear wall, and settled in for what we hoped would be an excellent night. after exchanging pleasantries with our sever, we mentioned that we were all going to partake in the five course tasting menu, and away we went.

arriving shortly after our order was confirmed was a basic offering of bread and butter. the bread went quicky and another loaf appeared without prompting later in the meal.

caesar salad - romaine lettuce, caesar dressing, croutons, baked parmesan
m. chapoutier "bila-haut" grenache blanc, cotes de roussillon, france, 2009

course one was a prototypical caesar salad with the addition of a baked parmesan crisp. this was a decent starter with the crisp lettuce and tangy dressing making for a well executed but fairly pedestrian take on this traditional offering.

escargot - baked in shell, garlic-herb butter
eric chevalier chardonnay, loire, france, 2009

next up was a quintet of escargot baked in their shell with a garlic herb-butter. prior to this meal, the only time i have had escargot was in a ravioli at girl and the goat in chicago. unsure what to expect, i dug out the snail meat with my fork and was met with a fairly mild flavor and pleasant texture. the snails were not rubbery or mushy, and the main flavor i detected came from the garlic-herb butter. while not offensive in any manner, this course did little for me as a whole, and if this is what i should expect from escargot, i will not go out of my way to have them in the future.

sweetbreads - puff pastry, mushroom ragout
domaine la garrigue syrah/grenache, cote du rhone, france, 2008

course three was the strongest course of the tasting so far, and featured sweetbreads with a puff pastry and mushroom ragout. the gland was nicely prepared and mild in flavor while the mushrooms added an earthy punch.

grilled bistro steak - cafe de paris butter, bacon braised brussel sprouts, pommes frites
gerard bertrand cabernet sauvignon, france, 2009

our final savory course of the evening was the largest portion of the meal, and came in the form of a grilled bistro steak with pommes frites and brussel sprouts. cooked spot on medium-rare and topped with an excellent cafe de paris butter, the steak was cut into thirds and was a great way to end the meal. while the pommes frites were also tasty, the bacon braised brussel sprouts were fantastic.

tahitian vanilla creme brulee
carmes de riussec sauternes, france, 2008

paired with a sweet sauternes, our dessert was a tahitian vanilla creme brulee. with a thicker than average layer of burnt crust on top of the creamy custard, this was a tasty albeit unremarkable ending to the meal.

given the price paid for the meal ($50 per person inclusive of wine), i would consider this dinner a success. while none of the food was overly creative or exceptionally good, i enjoyed all of it and really can't think of any issues or glaring faults in either the flavors or preparations. additionally, all of the wines were quite palatable and paired well with the corresponding courses. the service, on the other hand, was a bit lacking to me. while our server was definitely friendly, i was a bit disappointed that each of our courses and wines were merely set on the table without any descriptions whatsoever. had i not requested to keep a copy of the tasting menu on the table, we would have been left in the dark as to the details of the food and wine. additionally, empty plates were occasionally left crowding the table for longer than i would consider acceptable. given that it was a full house that night and the fact that franco does not offer tasting menus on a regular basis, we did not hold either issue against our server. in the end, i am glad to have finally made it to franco for a dinner service, and i would like to come back sometime and order al a carte for a different experience.

Monday, November 7, 2011

fixe @ half & half (3) - st. louis, mo
8135 maryland avenue
st. louis, mo 63105

pics only this time around as i have allowed far too much time to pass before getting around to writing about this meal. what i can say is that chef mike randolph's cooking on this night was exceptional per usual, and while it seems as though the fixe concept has been put on hold for the time being with the inception of medianoche, i would certainly be interested in attending another one of these dinners in the future.

fish n' chips - halibut, tartar, malt vinegar

salmon pastrami - apple, brussel sprouts, mustard

beef - shortrib, hanger, pickled fall vegetables

lamb - shank, loin, cabbage, turnip, truffle

roquefort - celery, chery, port, pecans