We Heart STL – A Night of Food, Drinks, Music, and More!

Hello my cyber-STL-loving-foodie-friends.  Do you have plans for May 29th?  If not, I have you covered with a great event.  Heck, even if you do have plans, you are going to want to change them.  May 29th, Alive Magazine will celebrating the best of all things STL with their event called  We Heart STL.

Since this is a food blog, let’s focus in on what I know you want to know: what is there to munch on at the event?  Glad you asked!  The current food vendors are: 



pi pizza360

That’s a pretty impressive line-up.  Chef Bernie Lee of Hiro is really tearing it up.  If you haven’t had his slinger for brunch, you are missing out. Another dish that should be on your short list is his KFC (Korean Fried Chicken).  I recently sampled some of his food at a pop-up restaurant that took place at Hammer & Hand; great space and fantastic food.  Here’s one of my favorites from that night:

Curry puff

Curry puff

Have you tried Clementine’s ice cream?  I had not until the Power of the Dinner put on by Strange Cares.  It was part of a beer float.  Yes, that  exists.  I was lucky enough to try some of the ice cream on its’ own.  It is going to be a guilty pleasure this summer for sure.

What can you say about Pi Pizzeria that hasn’t already been said?  What started as a local hotspot has spread its wings.  They have pizza for all pizza lovers from thin crust to Chicago style.  It’s deep rooted in our culture and part of what makes STL special.

Three Sixty is my go-to spot downtown on game day.  If you don’t have tickets to the game and want something a little more upscale, it’s a great way to enjoy the atmosphere of game day without the heat and humidity.  The view is second to none and the cocktails will keep you cheering all game long.

The event is sponsored by Lucas Park Grille and Central Table.  One of my favorite STL foodporn pictures from a previous visit to Central Table for sushi:central table

In case you haven’t heard, Central Table is shaking it up a bit.  They are dropping the “Food Hall” from their moniker and are going for a more upscale dining experience.  They have started hosting several events with live music, wine tasting, a ladies night, and an industry night.  It’s worth checking out if you haven’t been for a while.  You can view their new menu on their Facebook page HERE.  You are likely to see some old favorites and some new items you will want to try.

Central Table (1) Lucas Park Grille

Need any more convincing?  I doubt it.  If so, check out ALIVE Magazine’s  top 10 Reasons to attend the We Heart STL event.  You can buy tickets  HERE.  However if you missed my post from last Monday, I also have a drawing going until May 27th that could give you two VIP tickets!  How’s that for awesome!?!?  All you need to do is click on the  LINK and follow the directions to enter.  Good Luck!

WHERE: Old Post Office Plaza in Downtown St. Louis
(enter at 9th Street and Locust Street)
WHEN: Friday, May 29 from 7 to 11pm

Stay up-to-date on the event by following them on Facebook or Twitter

Other sponsors include:


Who Wants Free Tickets to the “We Heart STL” Event May 29th?

Greetings again STL foodies! Do you have plans for May 29th?  If not, I have you covered with a great party. On May 29th, Alive Magazine will be celebrating the best of all things STL with their event called We Heart STL.  There will be drinks, shopping, live music, local vendors, dancing, and of course delicious food.  Some of the fantastic food vendors at the event are:

Are you unfamiliar with some of those vendors?  Stay tuned for another post this week to showcase some highlights from each of them. It will make you hungry, you have been warned.

All you need to do to for a chance to win a pair free tickets is to click on this LINK and choose one of the options to enter.  It’s that easy!  Good luck!

If you want to make sure you don’t miss out, you can go ahead and purchase your tickets HERE

More Details

WHERE: Old Post Office Plaza in Downtown St. Louis
(enter at 9th Street and Locust Street)
WHEN: Friday, May 29 from 7 to 11pm

Stay up-to-date on the event by checking out the We Heart STL page on Facebook

We Heart STL is proud to have the following sponsors:


Dishcrawl STL – Recap of First Event and a Chance for Discounted Tickets!

Hello again St. Louis food fanatics!  If you follow local food events, you have likely heard the buzz about one that took place on April 24th.  It was the first ever Dishcrawl event and it featured 4 restaurants in the Washington Ave area.  That night consisted of visits to:

Samples at the Dubliner

Samples at the Dubliner

  • The Dubliner – St. Louis first true gastropub.  This first location “separated the men from the boys” so to speak.  With Liver Pate and Cheek to Cheek to sample, it was time to get your game face on.
  • Mosaic – The chef provided samples from their new spring menu.  It was great to be able to sample the new items before the general public.  I was a huge fan of the jalapeno fried chicken served on baked lentils.
  • Robust – They supplied us with some of the favorites from their standard menu. The Spanish meatball reminded me of my experience at Giada’s Meatball Madness in NYC.
  • The downtown movie theater with chocolates from Kakao.  We were lucky enough to have more than one of each 🙂  If you have not tried these chocolates, you are truly missing out.  I typically try to pick some up at the Tower Grove Farmer’s Market.

What’s to like about this event?

  • When you first sign up, you have no idea where you will be going or what you will be eating.  
  • You will be surrounded with other adventurous eaters.
  • You can’t beat the price. $45 for great food from 4 different restaurants

What’s not to like about the event?

  • Nothing I can think of!

Things to know:

  • Your ticket includes only the food you will eat at the four places.  Beverages are extra.  
  • We typically had 5 minutes or so to walk between places.  It wasn’t a sprint so don’t worry.  Yes, you will be walking, so wear appropriate footwear
  • Seating ranged from individual tables of two at the Dubliner to one large communal table at Robust.  It’s a great opportunity to make new friends.

Is your interest peaked yet?  If so, sign up for Dive Bars 2 Five Stars first contest for your chance to win a ticket to the next event on 5/29.  It will be in the Lafayette Square area.


To sign up all you have to do is email me and tell me your favorite restaurant in the St. Louis area and your favorite item on that restaurant’s menu.  The first 5 people to respond will receive a discount off of the next event at Lafayette Square.  You can contact me by email:  sam@divebars2fivestars.com.  Four of the 5 will receive $5 off and one randomly chosen winner will get 50% off!  Sounds simple, eh?  Ready….set….GO!

7th Annual Iron Fork Event Presented by the Riverfront Times

Anyone make it out to the Iron Fork event on 3/28?  If not, you missed out on a ton of food samples from some of the best restaurants in St. Louis.

Iron Fork is a benefit for the St. Louis Area Foodbank and this year it took place at one of my favorite places in St. Louis, Union Station.  It is sad to see such an awesome space that is not utilized to its’ potential.  I love walking around and checking out the architecture of the hotel when I am there.  Someone please buy that place and give it another life!  Ok, off of my soapbox…

So how was the event?

The Good:

This event featured lots of diverse restaurants.  There was tons of samples so you had no excuse to leave hungry.  I wish I could have tried them all, but I reached full stomach capacity way to early. Some of my favorites were:

  • BBQ was well represented.  Not only did you have the big two, Pappy’s and Bogarts, but you had PM BBQ and the Shaved Duck.  The surprise for me here was the Shaved Duck.  I love their house cured bacon but wasn’t a huge fan of their ribs when I tried them a few years back.  The rib sample I had last night was excellent.  I also enjoyed the smoked meatloaf slider.  I just wish I had some mashed potatoes to go with it.
  • Cleveland Heath – fine, I get it.  I need to drive over and eat there.  I haven’t done so yet, but when I go to these events I am reminded of why I should.  I loved the beef tongue sandwich.  Tongue can be so tender when cooked properly and they nailed this dish.  The cauliflower soup was really unexpected.  This did not interest me at all, but once I tasted it I wished I had more.
  • The Tavern Kitchen and Bar – the oxtail ragu and gnudi.  This was the first thing I tried and it kicked off the event well. I have sampled this before from them and knew it was a hit.
  • Honorable mention – Salume Beddu, Kakao chocolate, and Seoul taco.   All are in my regular rotation already. 

The Bad

I should have done my homework.  I didn’t know that there was a Blues game the same night.  Had I known, I would have been better prepared for the craziness that was traffic and parking in that area.  I missed the valet parking on the first try and it took a long time to make it back to that line.  They were extremely efficient when I was able to get in line.

The Ugly

This week has been review delivery week for work.  I don’t normally talk about my “real job” but let’s say that delivering 7 reviews in one day takes its’ toll.  I really wanted a drink to help restore balance in my life, but the bar lines were intense.   This seems to be a common issue with food events in St. Louis.  Someday we will all realize that we love our drinks when we go to these events and will be adequately prepared.  Dare I share that I did not use all 3 of my drink tickets…gasp!

Iron Fork lived up to expectations.  It gave me an excuse to visit Union Station and sample lots of food from the premier restaurants in the area.  Parking and accessing adult beverages was challenging, but it did not detract from the event itself.  I look forward to attending these events each year.


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


Dungeness Crab by Chef Nashan


Escolar and Parsnip by Chef Craft


Scallop and Carrot


Monkfish by Chef Nashan


Surf and Turf


Elk by Chef Craft


White Chocolate with Rhubarb by Chef Craft

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


The Tavern Kitchen & Bar – St. Louis, MO – Wine AND Beer Pairing

I recently attended the first dinner of St. Louis Magazine’s new series, “Table Talk”.  For the first location, they chose the Tavern Kitchen and Bar.  It just so happens that this was also their pick for 2011 restaurant of the year.  As soon as I heard about the event, I jumped on buying tickets.  They had limited tickets for the chef’s counter and I was not going to miss out.

So what is the “Table Talk” series?  It combines a 4 course tasting menu with cooking demonstrations.  The chef was mic’d and walked everyone through the keys to each dish.  If you were lucky enough to have 1 of the 10 seats at the chef’s counter, you had a great view of the action like this 🙂

Chef Justin in action

For those that didn’t, they had monitors in the dining area that were fed from a couple of cameras.  Before each course they had representatives discussing the wine and beer pairings.

“Table Talk” started with a cocktail hour with hors d’oeuvres. How many times have you tried a chef’s tasting menu or underground dinner and had to choose between the wine or beer pairing?  This is not one of those times.  Each course came with the wine AND beer pairing.  Score!

First Course:  Maine lobster ravioli, tomato confit, basil pesto.  The lobster shells were used to make a bisque-like stock for the tomatoes.  The ravioli were tossed in the pesto.  They were then topped with Parmesan.   I loved that they used tomato confit and not a more commonly used lighter sauce.

Second Course:  Potato crusted grouper, basil-bell pepper vinaigrette.  The grouper was pan seared with salt and pepper.  It was cooked 70% through on one side before flipping.  The three things that made this dish for me were: the crispy hash browns, the bell pepper vinaigrette, and lots of butter.  The hash browns were as crisp as a potato chip.  The bell pepper vinaigrette had a surprising hint of sweetness from the honey.  This was a “lick-the-plate-clean” dish.

Third Course:  Ricotta gnudi with oxtail ragu.  Imagine the texture of great dumplings, that was this gnudi.  The ragu was rich from the oxtail.  I was surprised at how easy it would be to make the gnudi at home.  I will be giving this dish a shot in the near future.

Dessert:  Half baked chocolate chip cookie.  What is better than a soft cookie right out of the oven?  Well this one is so good because it has “twice the butter” as Chef Justin tells the crowd.  It was topped with ice cream and peanut butter mousse.  Typically I don’t like fruit flavored beer.  Especially one as over the top as the Wild Red.   However, this was a great pairing.  Go ahead and make fun of me.  Pull my man card if you want, it was off the charts.  Several people at the chef’s counter were eating two desserts.  It was that good.

Sitting at the chef’s counter, I really enjoyed watching the kitchen staff working together.  It was impressive to watch the attention to detail for each plate.  They were all very open to advice from the chef.  As expected, there were issues and hurdles to overcome throughout the night.  They clearly were working as a team to tackle them one at a time.  Watching them work was almost as impressive as the meal…ALMOST 😀

What a night!  Thanks to St. Louis Magazine for putting on such a great event. I am looking forward to seeing what they do for an encore.  Go ahead and sign me up for the next one!  The Tavern and Chef Justin did an awesome job.  I appreciated his willingness to share his tips for the dishes.  I have been to the Tavern on normal nights and had equally remarkable experiences.  It’s a must-do place if you a have not tried it.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 4.  One of the nicer places to eat outside the 255/270 loop.  It has a nice modern inside.  I was able to enjoy both the cozy bar as well as the chef’s counter.  I have been seated in the normal dining area before. There isn’t a bad seat in the place.  It’s a great fine dining place and not too pretentious.

The Tavern Kitchen & Bar on Urbanspoon

New York City Wine and Food Festival – Recap of a Weekend of Excess

Last weekend I had the opportunity to attend the New York City Wine and Food Festival.  This is an annual event in NYC to help raise money to end hunger.  What could be better than a weekend in NYC that involves an event presented by Food and Wine Magazine and the Food network?  This is a recap that will allow me to brag share my experience at the multiple events I attended.

Thursday, October 11th

My wife and I arrived earlier in the day and settled in to our hotel.  That night we had tickets to S. Pellegrino’s Meatball Madness hosted by Giada De Laurentiis.  This was one of the “smaller” events that had about 500 guests.  The space was divided into a downstairs lounge and 3 areas upstairs with 50+ different exhibits and tasting tables.

It was a great way to start our experience at the NYCWFF.  Who doesn’t like an event that allows them to make PG-13 references to balls all night? 😛  My only regret for this event was not being able to sample them all.  There was just more food than one stomach can take.  I would soon learn most of the events were like this.   There were traditional meatballs, veal meatballs, lamb meatballs, etc; the list went on and on.  The best part of the night was getting to meet the host of the event.  She took time to talk to several people individually and was just all around a great person to be around.  Go ahead and be jealous guys 🙂

Giada and Sam

Friday, October 12th

Our Friday stared by recovering from Thursday’s Meatball Madness and the after party craziness by taking in some non-NYCWFF food.  Some highlights from those places can already been seen on this blog (Doughnut Plant and Katz Deli).  Friday night we had tickets to two events: Burger Bash hosted by Rachael Ray and Rock & Roll with Morimoto and Friends.

The Burger Bash – This was the event of the weekend for us.  We just happened to be in the right place at the right time and it made for an unforgettable experience.  First off, there was 30+ burgers to sample.  As I have stated before, burgers are my thing.  Secondly, the event was sponsored by Blue Moon.  They had buckets of beer on every table and kegs flowing.  Thirdly, the Food Network and Travel Channel celebrities were at the event in full force.

This event also featured a panel of judges selecting their favorite burger as well as a people’s choice vote.  Once again my stomach was not large enough to sample all 30+ burgers.  They were mainly giving out 1/4 to 1/2 sized burgers so it was too easy to fill up.  A few of my favorites:

  • Bobby Flay’s Burger Palace – I finally was able to try the crunchified burger.  A solid burger with potato chips on it.  I now get what the hype is about.
  • Le Rivage – The French onion soup burger was great and the dark chocolate dipped potato chip was a great decadent side.
  • Neely’s BBQ parlor – Their WTF burger was served with bacon and pulled pork.  The pork lover in me was in heaven.  This was my vote for people’s choice.  It was a great burger.  The part that put it over the top was interacting with them a few times that night.  They were just awesome to be around.  Also remember their cousin does do some great BBQ here in the St. Louis area.
Thanks to sharing a table with a very nice couple from Chicago, we were able to make it into the judging area (thanks again John and Eileen!). This made the experience even more special.  Check out some candid pics:

Top: Anne Burrell, Andrew Zimmern, and Sam
Bottom Left: Sam and Adam Richman
Bottom Right: Sam and Alex Guarnaschelli

Rock N’ Roll Karaoke with Morimoto and Friends – After getting our fill of burgers and beer, we then headed off to the Harvard Club for the next event.  This event featured sushi, drinks, and karaoke.  The sushi is some of the best I have ever tried.  It was as if you were sitting at the sushi bar interacting with some of the best sushi chef’s around.

After about an hour of eating and drinking, the Karaoke kicked into gear.  Morimoto himself started the event off.  Before you knew it, Andrew Zimmern and Chris Consentino were on stage belting out Don’t Stop Believin’ .  Robert Irvine was singing Madonna’s Like a Virgin.  So many comments….but he’s a big man so I will stay quiet!  Morimoto came back and sang Dancin’ Queen.  It was like watching all your favorite Food Network and Travel channel personalities just having a good time.

A few other non-food highlights.  Guy Fieri showed up to hang out with his buddy Morimoto.

Chris Consentino, who recently won season 4 of Top Chef Masters, was also on hand.  He was one of the funnier people I met that weekend.  It was a great way to close out Friday into early Saturday morning.

Saturday, October 13th – Day 3 and our last day of our trip of excess.  This time we were squeezing three events into one day.  They were the Oyster Bash, the High Tech Happy Hour, and Brooklyn’s Backyard.

Oyster Bash – This was my 2nd favorite event of the trip.  It took place in a beer garden under a highway.  Pearl vodka and Captain Lawrence brewing company were providing some “hair of the dog” drinks.  

There were oyster farmers as well as many restaurants showcasing dishes using fresh oysters.  Many were on the half shell with little or nothing done so you can enjoy their briny flavor.  Finally I was at an event where I could sample every item provided.  The most interesting of them all was the oyster pot pie.

Enjoying a fresh raw oyster

High Tech Happy Hour – This was the surprise event of the weekend.  I expected an exhibition of making drinks using new techniques and sampling the different creations.  It was, but I got way more than I bargained for.  Dave Arnold & Wylie Dufresne were the two hosts of the event.  However, Dave did most of the talking.  I was entranced listening to someone discuss their craft who was so excited about it.   He was like a cross of Rainman and a mad scientist.  I mean that with all the respect and awe in the world.  Having this as only a one hour event was too short, I could have listened to him talk all day long.  Maybe having a degree in engineering and a love of science made this the perfect event for yours truly.  I would love to see him teach a bar tending class for chemists.  I would go ANYWHERE to attend it.

Some of the topics from this event included:  clarifying using a centrifuge, rapid liquor infusion using a whipped cream maker, use of liquid nitrogen to chill glass as well as just looking cool, and how to properly saber a champagne bottle.  Probably the most unique drink….bullslhot.  You can read more about the technique as well as some of the recipes here.

On your mark, get set…

Let’s not forget about Wylie’s creations he made for pairing.  The crab patty was off the charts.  It was interesting to hear them both discuss wine / drink pairings with foods.  Although they both have opinions of what you should and should not pair, it’s great to hear someone flat-out tell you to experiment.  Every person’s tastes are different, go with what you like.

Perfectly chilled glass

Brooklyn’s Backyard – Whew, 3rd event on our last day.  By this time I am feeling the effects of over indulgence.  Of course that didn’t stop me from continuing on.

This event took place in the bottom of an old bank.  It was transformed into trendy and extremely upbeat space.  Adam Richman got the crowd excited during his quick talk on why Brooklyn is so special.

Great job picking the location and getting it ready

Once again there was more food available than any one person could sample.  It covered the spectrum from duck confit to pizza.  I think my favorite that I sampled was the rice pudding with caramel and apples.  I even found a place that was serving samples of St. Louis style ribs.  They were good, but c’mon…..

This was an awe-inspiring weekend.  Every detail was planned out and executed to make it something I will never forget.  Hats off to Food and Wine as well as the Food Network for the money they have raised as well as putting together these special events.  Is it too early to book for 2013?

Not every event had one, but I had quite a collection


Grand Tasting at the Taste of St. Louis

What an exciting weekend!  Everyone around St. Louis has buzzed about the Taste of St. Louis.  As a resident foodies, I was one of them.  This was my first time attending the event.

My wife and I had tickets to the 4pm Grand Tasting at the Peabody Opera House.  We chose to arrive just in time for the Grand Tasting.  There were two levels each with about 10 chefs / restaurants to sample on each level.  The lower level had a nice band playing.  The upper level had a stage setup for demonstrations.

I was amazed how different each of the setups were.  Some of them took time to describe in detail their dish and used that opportunity to interact with every guest.  Others were focused on cranking through the lines as quickly as possible.  Some put extra effort in the presentation of their dish while others didn’t.

Jack Mac’s spiced avocado hummus

A few things that stuck out from the Grand Tasting:

  • Duff’s wild boar ravioli.  I can’t believe how much they stuffed inside that ravioli.  However, it wasn’t overpowering.
  • Bistro 1130.  They had a few items to sample.  They were proud of their dishes and I enjoyed discussing the dishes with them.  I loved the tomato / crab bisque.
  • Hendrick’s BBQ.  I have wanted to try this since it opened in the past month.  They had mini pulled pork sliders with slaw on them.  The St. Louis sauce had some kick.  They have moved up on my must try list.
  • Russo’s catering.  They had the longest line on the lower level.  After surviving their line, I’m not sure why.  The person greeting everyone was slightly rude.  They had three samples.  The scallop was nearly rare.  Although you can’t technically under-cook a scallop, I usually like to know more about the source when eating one that rare.

After getting our fill of food from the Grand Tasting, we did a lap through the rest of the Taste of St. Louis.  What a crowd!  Getting by the beer tents with their lines was next to impossible.  It was good to see such a great turnout but it was a little much on a full stomach.  For those that didn’t check out the Grand Tasting, I saw most (if not all) of the same restaurants were represented outside.

I’m glad I was able to experience my first Taste of St. Louis.  I plan on being an annual participant.  I suggest the Grand Tasting for those that would like a smaller version and to have more interaction with the restaurant’s personnel.

Two weekends in a row with food events in St. Louis.  One weekend off from regional events and then the grand daddy of my trips this year……Food Network’s New York City Wine and Food Festival!!!!!

Art of Food, St. Louis, MO – A Slow Food Event That Was Over Way Too Fast

What better way to spend a Saturday night than at a fundraiser that involves sampling some tasty food?  Last night I was lucky enough to attend Slow Food St. Louis‘ sold out annual fundraiser, the Art of Food.

Each of the restaurants prepared small plates using fresh, local ingredients. Some of the participating restaurants were:  Niche, Sidney Street Café, Farmhaus, Local Harvest Café, Home Wine Kitchen, Sanctuaria, Pint Size Bakery, and many more.  This was truly an all-star lineup.

The event took place at the Koken Art Factory.  It’s a unique space and was setup very well for this event.  There was a live band, bar, silent auction, and of course lots of food to enjoy.

First sample courtesy of Cleveland-Heath

There was limited table space but it encouraged everyone to mingle.  Of course most of the conversations revolved around food.  Recommendations were flying for what to try next.  A few of my favorites were:

  • Pint Size Bakery’s apple cider spice cake with sweet chèvre mousse and apple butter caramel.  This was the 2nd item I tried.  Is it wrong to jump right to dessert?  I will definitely be trying their bakery in the near future.
  • Home Wine Kitchen’s savory cornmeal pancake with pork cheek ragu, ricotta and fried rosemary leaves.  Is anyone surprised that I am mentioning a pork dish?  Probably not by now 😀
  • Sanctuaria’s zucchini funnel cake with roasted red pepper and jalapeño coulis.  Yes, that is powdered sugar on top.  This was probably my favorite of the night.  Mainly because of how unique it was.

Even better than it looks.

St. Louis has a great food scene and events like Art of Food just showcase it.  It was a great opportunity to taste food from some of the best restaurants the metro area has to offer.  It was nice to try dishes from some of my favorite restaurants, but even better to try places I have not been to yet.  I’m sure some of them will be the subject of future posts.