Ideas in Food – In Case You Missed It…

It’s time again for one of my favorite type of blog posts, a special event!  This was a one night only dinner at Niche in Clayton.  It started with a cocktail hour at 6 with the one seating only dinner at 7.  Of course James Beard Nominee Gerard Craft was on hand.  He was joined by fellow James Beard Nominee Kevin Nashan of Sydney Street Cafe as well as H. Alexander Talbot from the popular blog, Ideas in food.

It was a carefully orchestrated seven-course dinner with an optional wine pairing.   As the days lead up to the event, tweets began appearing with hints of what the menu could contain.  However the final menu was kept a surprise until the night of the event.  Chef Gerard Craft and the Niche crew created three of the dishes and chef Kevin Nashan created two.

Overall the night was fantastic.  Anytime you have people who have the passion that these chef’s do, it translates into excellent food. The whole experience was top-notch and I hope they choose to do an encore in the near future.  Below are some pictures of the courses.  Yes it’s a little mean if you didn’t get to make it, but maybe you should watch my Events page so you don’t miss out in the future!

Ice Cream and Caviar

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Dungeness Crab by Chef Nashan

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Escolar and Parsnip by Chef Craft

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Scallop and Carrot

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Monkfish by Chef Nashan

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Surf and Turf

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Elk by Chef Craft

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White Chocolate with Rhubarb by Chef Craft

Missing :)  Those cocktails and the wine pairing may have contributed to this…

 

Stone Soup Cottage, Cottleville, MO – Treat Yourself to a One-of-a-Kind Dining Experience

Looking for a place to celebrate a special occasion?  Stone Soup Cottage in Cottleville is a way to create a long lasting memory for that upcoming anniversary.  Take note, they are only open Thursday through Saturday plus a few Wednesdays.  They only do one seating a night and you are probably going to have to get a reservation at least 3 months in advance.  Is it worth that kind of wait?  Let’s find out.

The restaurant is set in restored 1850′s farmhouse.  Each night is setup as a chef’s tasting menu that is 6 courses and lasts about 2 1/2 hours.  The menu changes every 3 weeks.  The setting is intimate and capacity is only 24 lucky patrons.  Chef Carl and his wife Nancy are involved in every part of your experience.

Here is a bit about the meal I recently enjoyed.  It featured several recipes from their cookbook as part of the restaurant’s anniversary.  First off, the place setting.  Don’t be overwhelmed by the 5 forks, 3 spoons, and two knives.  Also don’t ignore that house made butter tucked away in the upper left corner.

First Course:  Late season corn bisque with bacon and Gruyere croquette.  They recommended you let the croquette sit for a minute to allow the smokiness of the bacon to infuse into the bisque.  The corn came from a farm just down the road and they left whole kernels for some crunch.

Second Course: Burgundy poached pear with beet micro-greens and blue cheese souffle.  When I first saw the menu, I was a little sad to see this dish.  I’m not a fan of beets or pears.  However, this was surprisingly good.  If you don’t like blue cheese, the souffle probably won’t make your top ten list.  However, it was perfectly fluffy.  At this point, all signs pointed to Stone Soup Cottage living up to all the hype.  They convinced me to eat beets and pears in the same bite while also enjoying it!

Third Course: Sea bass en papilote.  The picture below features chef Carl’s hands as he was cutting open the parchment used to cook the sea bass.  It was light and flaky.  It was another great example of going that extra step as part of the experience.

Next was quick intermission with a palate cleanser.  It was a sorbet with limoncello. It reminded me of a lemon dream sickle.  Creamy, cold, with just the right amount of tartness.

Forth Course: Pommes Anna with shaved black truffles.  Now I know why we were cleaning our palettes!  Pommes Anna is a classic French potato dish that uses lots of butter.  What could make it even more decadent?  Black truffles of course!  It was spectacular.

Fifth Course:  Rabbit ragout with pappardelle pasta, asiago cheese and toasted pistachios.  The house made pasta had just the right amount of bite.  The ragout offered a nice hearty stew-like characteristic to the dish.  The pistachios brought depth of texture with their crunch.

Sixth Course:  White chocolate and huckleberry hot pot.  Awesome way to end the night.  My only issue was not burning my tongue as I was trying to eat this before it cooled.  I loved the combination of berries and white chocolate.

If I had to describe the night in one word, it would be EPIC.  From start-to-finish, course-to-course, there were too many highlights to mention.  There is no doubt that I will return.  Personally I wish I could go every 3 weeks to see what extraordinary items make the next menu.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 5.  Yes, there is no valet and you are out west of the river.  This place is worth the drive. The parking is a little confusing.  There is something about having the chef look you in the eye and tell you about the dish.  It doesn’t get more personal than that.  Chef Carl is also waiting by the door to verify you enjoyed things one last time as you leave.  Yes..it’s on the expensive side.  The ambiance is very intimate with such limited seating.  It starts off relatively quiet but progressively will liven up as the wine pairing takes effect.

A little secret from your friend at DB2FS, get on the email list.  If you don’t want to wait three months for a reservation and have some flexibility in your schedule, you may get lucky.  They email when they have cancellations.  We used it to get in with 2 weeks notice :)  So keep that babysitter on speed dial and be ready!

Stone Soup Cottage on Urbanspoon

Blood and Sand – An Inside Look in a Members Only Restaurant

I finally found time to make it downtown to Blood and Sand.   I have been excited about trying this members only restaurant for a long time.
The experience started by driving down St. Charles street in downtown not sure where I was going.  For those that aren’t familiar with the road, it was basically an alleyway.  The GPS told me I had arrived and I saw “1500″ on a building above a revolving door.  Since it was a Thursday, it was time to find some street parking.  They only do valet on Friday and Saturday.
The outside of the building is simple, nothing that would hint of what lies inside.  Once inside I was greeted by a receptionist that had my membership card ready and waiting.  Currently they only have limited memberships for Monday through Thursday for $10 a month.  When full memberships are available, they are $15 a month.  The inside is very modern. It’s night and day from what you experience outside.
Blood and Sand is starting to make waves for not only their food, but some of their creative cocktails.  The staff is very knowledgeable about both and will help with recommendations on both food and drinks.
One thing that came highly recommended from friends and the staff was the tater tots.

Unlike anything tots you have ever tried

After the first bite, you know why.  The outside is perfectly crisp.  The inside is what really surprises you.  It has the consistency of pureed potatoes.  The different textures and the perfect amount of salt made this a perfect way to start.  If this is what they can do with tater tots, I realize I am in for a treat.
After that exciting teaser, on to the first starter.  I had a tough time narrowing it down, but I usually try to pick out something more unique when available.  The clear choice was the  veal sweetbreads.

Veal sweetbreads. Watch out for that mustard.

Sweetbreads are the thymus glands.  I wish I had taken a different angle for the picture, but I couldn’t wait to dig in.  In the back right, you can see the mustard that had a horseradish like finish.   There were caramelized pearl onions on the left.   The best part about it was this was the first time that my wife enjoyed sweetbreads.  That’s a huge thumbs up!
For my entrée, I chose the grilled quail.  The main reason I wanted to try it was for the bacon fat tamale.
The quail was tender.  Quail meat on its’ own is very delicate so the mole sauce was a great complement.  The bacon fat tamale was rich.  The best way to describe it is a soft cornbread.  I loved it.  The only downside to this entrée was the pickled pear.  I’m not a fan of pears.  The pickled pear added a twinge to the dish that I tried combining with the meat, tamale, etc.  I liked the other flavors too much to mix with the pear.
Since I am trying this for my blog readers, I did order dessert.  Ok….maybe I used that as an excuse.  :)  I am a self-proclaimed chocoholic, so the chocolate mousse was an easy choice.
 
This was served with shortbread cookies with hazelnut butter.  The chocolate mousse was off the chart.  There was tons of luxurious chocolate flavor in such a small package.  This mousse was on the creamy and thick side which I prefer.  The shortbread cookie sandwich was there to give you a break with a less decadent sidekick.
From beginning to end, the meal and every detail was amazing.  The staff was well-trained, helpful, and knew the menu well.  The menu had a great amount of imagination combined with precise execution.  The experience is well worth the membership fee.  This is the perfect place to take someone to surprise them with an experience that is truly one-of-a-kind.
Dive 2 Five Scale – Although the dress code is “smart casual” and valet is only for the weekend, the members only mystique paired with the experience scores this as a 5.  You don’t need a tux, but any place that has rules gets a bump up by 1 point on my scale.

Blood & Sand (Private Club) on Urbanspoon