Juniper, Central West End – Finger Lickin’ Good

If you are a health nut that removes the chicken skin before cooking, go find another post to read.  Besides that, hang your head in shame for missing out on something glorious.  If you are the type of person that savours every crispy bite of the skin when you make fried chicken, let me tell you about a dish you must try:  the “Nashville Hot” Fried Chicken Skins at Juniper.

chicken skins

These chicken skins are fantastic!  It’s the best part about eating fried chicken.  They are salty and slightly spicy, and the strawberry buttermilk adds sweetness.  I could eat these all night.  In my opinion they are one of the best bar snacks PERIOD.

I realize this is a short post, but this was something that more people should be talking about.  I tried these on my third trip to Juniper and this will ensure that I visit more frequently.  I may need to get baseline readings on my cholesterol, because I’m sure it’s going to be climbing with this new addiction.

juniper

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  Juniper is slightly off the beaten path in the CWE.  It has a lively atmosphere even though it is not on the busier Euclid Ave.  I have been a fan of the chef since my first trips to Entre Underground events and he continues to provide great fare to his patrons.

Reflection, Motivation, and Camera Phone Pix!

My blog post frequency has been sporadic lately to say the least.  To be honest, I needed some motivation.  I found my muse in the simplest of places, the memory on my camera phone.  Here are pictures that haven’t made it into the blog before, but deserve to be shared.

Dive Bars to Michelin Stars?

During the past few years, I have been fortunate enough to eat and drink at some of the most amazing places. I have experienced food prepared by James Beard nominees and winners, eaten at my first Michelin rated restaurants, and enjoyed my first trip to Napa.  Here are a few highlights.

During my last trip to New York, I had my first Michelin experience(s).  I was able to get a table at both Daniel and the Modern during that trip, and both dinners had me wishing I could have worn stretchy pants.  So many courses and so many amazing bites… Below is a picture from the beginning of a peaceful dinner at the Modern while I was enjoying a Blood and Sand.

blood and sand

You know those folks that always talk about hearing a band before they were big?  Yeah, we do the same thing with food.  Below is a chef’s gift during a five course meal at Bluestem before Chef Colby Garrelts won his James Beard award.

bluestem

In 2013, I went to Napa for the first time.  What an experience!  A weekend full of some of the best wine on earth and some of the best restaurants to go with it!  This is my favorite picture from the trip, a glass of Opus One at their winery.

opus one

 

What about Dive Bars?

Of course Dive Bars have continued to be a way of life for me.  They keep me grounded and it would be a shame to miss out on the entire spectrum of food and drinks available.

Did you know that I like PBR?  Yes, it’s true.  Here are two of my favorite pictures involving that beer that is best served in ice cold cans.  It’s no surprise that both come from watering holes in my home away from home, Lawrence, Kansas.

An excellent sign at Louise’s on Mass Street:

pbr

I just happened to be in Lawrence during one of their Final Fridays.  The Lawrence Arts Center helps setup an event where artists show their work in different spaces downtown. In the picture below you can see a PBR that I was enjoying while listening to live music and checking out vinyl at Love Garden sounds.

pbr2

What is the furthest thing from five and Michelin stars?  A buffalo roast in the middle of nowhere.  To be more specific, the 3rd annual buffalo roast:  It was cool that they kept the head each year on this tree.  It was a good hour and an half drive out of St. Louis, but worth it for the experience.  There is something special about eating meat prepared on a fire out in the woods.

buffalo

Libations Anyone?

I love all things boozy, whether it is beer, wine, or cocktails.  Here are a few favorites:

I have to mention Libertine, as the bartenders do an excellent job taking care of the regulars.  I drank the drink below (the tequila based Voodoo Glow Skull) so often they once told me that I have consumed more tequila than any other Patron…. I mean patron.

vgs

 

The best part about it was seeing a drink that I tasted in its’ earliest form be transformed into something that made the latest cocktail menu.

Skatalites in Jalisco

Skatalites in Jalisco

Just another Wednesday night at the Libertine waiting to see if Ben will accidentally set himself (or the bar) or fire.

old flame

I’m a little sad when I look at the picture below since it’s from the now shuttered Table.  I had some excellent times sitting at that bar.

table drink

Here is a view of my favorite spot at 715 in Lawrence.  I still get a Former Spy martini every time I go to that town.

715 lights

But of course the focus has always been about food

I have more pictures of this dish than any other. However this is my favorite!

Crispy Pig Tails at the Libertine

Crispy Pig Tails at the Libertine

A lobster that was alive just minutes before:

At the Chelsea Market in NYC

At the Chelsea Market in NYC

Some cupcake creativity:

cupcakes

My favorite sushi in STL at Central Table:

central table

 

And let’s finish it off with how my blog started:

My first post ever was an Entre Underground event.  I recently started attending another group’s underground dinners, Rogue Underground.

I love the uniqueness of their decorations:

rogueAnd they experiment with food in fun and creative ways:

Pickled Lam Tongue, Crispy Mushrooms, Arugula, and Tarragon Aioli

Pickled Lam Tongue, Crispy Mushrooms, Arugula, and Tarragon Aioli

"Live" Scallop, Roe foam, Sea beans, Black salt, and Edible flowers

“Live” Scallop, Roe foam, Sea beans, Black salt, and Edible flowers

So there you have it!  My blog will be two in July and these are my favorite pictures from my phone that were never posted.  Some are favorites for how the photo turned out and some just for the moment they captured.  Hopefully it has inspired you to try something new or at least go out and eat somewhere fun tonight.  Now let’s see if it has inspired me to get back on track with some more reviews!  CHEERS!

 

What Makes a Good Food Establishment?

The title sounds a bit posh and snooty but go with it. Sometimes we need a little bit of snobbery in order to tell the difference between good and bad food experiences. We all eat in restaurants, pubs, bars and cafés.  We’ve all had experiences in these places that we would rather forget.  Food poisoning, dirty cutlery, a mouse running into the kitchen, bland  food, poor service, and ridiculous meal prices are just a few examples.

For every food establishment in St Louis and beyond, you will find both good and bad reviews for places that serve food and drinks. Some get more negative feedback than others, but overall, there will always be someone who hates even the best reviewed places. You know why? Because we all have different tastes. Some people might love Facebook while others prefer Twitter. Others will adore their Xbox, while their best friend has taken to FoxyBingo.com game play. What is it we are all looking for from our dining experiences?

Hygiene

Have you ever been in a restaurant where you immediately suspected the service staff don’t wash their hands? Or you’ve gone into the bathroom and it clearly hasn’t been cleaned all day? We all want evidence we are eating food which isn’t going to make us sick.

Atmosphere

Some people love a loud and lively atmosphere, while others would prefer to hang out in a low-key place of relaxation and fine dining. It’s all about preference. And considering different establishments will have themes, you’ll end up avoiding the loud and obnoxious ones if you’re into peace and quiet.

The Menu

Nothing bodes well about a small restaurant with a huge menu, or a huge restaurant with a tiny menu. For the most part you want a very specific menu, with notable and classic dishes which suit the premises. It’s strange going into a local restaurant that serves the cuisine of 10 different countries at once. Unless that’s your thing.  Let’s face it, the food is, and should be, the star of the show.

So readers, what else do you require out of a restaurant to earn your seal of approval?

Katie’s Pizzeria, St. Louis, MO – Kickstart My Heart

Recently I heard about a Kickstarter effort to open a new restaurant, Katie’s Pizza and Pasta.  This new restaurant is based on the existing restaurant, Katie’s Pizzeria in Richmond Heights.  I loved the idea of a restaurant reaching out to the community help fund their future dreams.  I made a trip by the existing location to see what pizza Katie had to offer.

A quick glance at the menu revealed that this is not your typical pizza place.  They had pizza choices with potatoes and parsnips on a pizza.  Who does that?  It was like a mad scientist creating some extremely unique combinations.  In order to get a feel for the place I ordered two regular size pizza’s and a small kids pizza for my son.

While waiting for the pizza to arrive, they brought out some fresh bread.  The server sat it down and you could see it was still steaming out.  It reminded me of fresh rolls.  It was soft, salty, and dense.  It was a great.  My son agreed.  He was stuffing two to three pieces of torn up bread in his mouth at a time.

breadFirst the kid’s cheese pizza.  How cute is this? 🙂

kids cheese pizzaFirst grown up pizza, the spicy coppa.

spicy coppaThe keyword for this pizza is spicy.  It brought back memories of pizzas I would eat in New Mexico with green chili’s.  If you like heat, this is your pizza.  The crust was a good base.  A little crispy but still have some chew to it.

Next was the pizza I enjoyed the most, the egg pizza.

egg pizzaIt was a little burnt on the edge.  I love eggs on everything, so why not pizza?  I should have known that I would enjoy this.  The surprise for me was how well the egg, rosemary, and onion went together.  I’m sure I will order this again.

Katie’s Pizza is not your typical pizza place with standard offerings.  Katie’s Pizza pushes the envelope with fantastic topping combinations.  I’m now a backer of Katie’s Kickstarter campaign.  How about you?  Click here to contribute!

box top

Dive 2 Five Scale: 3.  When I pulled up, it was plain on the outside.  I was surprised when I walked in how much I liked what they had done with the space.  I loved the character that the mismatched tables and chairs added.  The wooden bar was really nice. There were fresh flowers on each of the tables.  The attention to detail made this a great experience. The prices are on the high side for pizza, but the ingredients are fresh and well paired.

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