Tenderloin Grill, Kansas City, MO – You Sniff Me, I’ll Sniff You Back

My weekends have involved lots of trips through Kansas City and opportunities to try new restaurants.  My most recent trip took me to a restaurant surrounded by taquerias and South American food; Tenderloin Grill is located just minutes from KC’s popular Power and Light district.  The family has been serving sandwiches the same way since they started out of a wagon in 1932.  Their slogan is “the times have changed but we haven’t.”

Tenderloin Grill is known for their hand-battered pork tenders as well as their pig snoots. They are both sandwiches that are dressed the same way: mustard, in-house hot sauce, horseradish, onion, and tomato.  They will ask if you want their standard dress, so there is an option to leave things off.  I had to give both a try.

First, let’s talk about the pork tender sandwich.  It is lightly breaded to add some flavor but not overpower the pork.  Obviously it’s going to be on the greasy side; it’s a fried chunk of pork for Pete’s sake!  If you order the standard dress for the sandwich, be prepared for some heat.  The hot sauce they make in house is flavorful and lives up to being called “hot”.  Pair that with the horseradish and your sinuses are going to have that familiar nose-tingling burn.  Thanks allyl isothiocyanate.

pork tender

If staring at two pig nostrils doesn’t bother you, why not try a snoot sandwich?  Unlike their crispy cousins served in St. Louis, these are pressure cooked and then boiled. The snoot had more meat on it than you would think. If you have texture issues, this may not be for you. It lands somewhere between tender pot roast and jello on the texture scale.  This was the first sandwich I have ever eaten that sniffed me back!  For me, this sandwich was more of a gimmick.  Trying it allowed me to renew my man card for the year.

pig snoot
All of their sandwiches come with hand cut fries.  Those that remained crispy were fantastic, however, about half the bag was soggy. 🙁  If they had a little bit more consistency, they would be a great side for sure.

Tenderloin Grill turned out to be a unique stop as I drove through KC.  The pork tender sandwich was great and now I can say I have had pig snoots both St. Louis and Kansas City styles.  It’s a fun little diner that believes in doing things the old school way is the only way.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2.  It’s definitely more on the “divey” side of things in a good way.  It has that diner feel and is very simple.  You can watch the food being cooked right behind the counter.  You will use a lot of napkins because these sandwiches leak mustard and hot sauce everywhere.  Maybe it should be BYOB (bring your own bib).

Joo Joo Restaurant and Karoake – Creve Coeur, MO – Eat, Drink, Sing, and Be Merry!

The New Year is upon us and mine is off to a fast and furious start.  My “real job” has provided some opportunity to travel and my next trip will likely be to Korea.  To ensure I’m prepared, I have already started my “research”.  What started as one exploratory trip with friends has turned into an insatiable appetite for Korean food!  Let me tell you a little bit about a place in Creve Coeur called Joo Joo.

Joo Joo (Restaurant and Karoake to be exact), is in a corner of a strip mall in Creve Coeur by Olive and Fee Fee.  It’s pretty unassuming from the outside and there isn’t much to look at on the inside.  The menu can be a little bit daunting for a Korean food virgin, so it’s best to go with friends that can help you order.  Better yet, check out some recommendations from awesome bloggers online (hint hint…).  Although all the staff are very helpful, some speak better English than others.  When ordering, keep in mind you will also receive banchan (side dishes) so you don’t order too much food.  In the last month alone, I have been four times.  Here are some of my highlights:

I love to start with the dduk pok ki. It’s spicy rice cakes served in a very flavorful sauce with a hard boiled egg.  I love to use this sauce to spice up the standard white rice that comes with the other meals.

rice cakes

My first love was the marinated BBQ Kalbi Beef Ribs.  You grill these yourself at the table.  It includes an egg stew (think watery scrambled eggs with green onion), lettuce, and sauces. If you are concerned about not knowing when to flip the meat or how long to cook each piece, don’t be.  The staff is close by watching to ensure that everything is going according to plan, they don’t hesitate to come take over.  For me this isn’t overpowering, I appreciate the help!  Here’s how to eat it:  take some of the freshly cooked beef, slap it in the lettuce leaf, and then add some of the bean paste.  You can’t go wrong.

kalbi

Lately my go-to-dish is the black pork belly.  It’s a special they have listed on their wall and I pray this dish does not go away!  It’s another “cook your own” dish, but this time it’s on a grill that cooks it on a slope so that the excess grease can drain.  If you love fatty pork dishes, this will be your jam.  The pork belly is also served with lettuce leaves and bean paste, but I prefer to dip it in the small plate of sesame oil, salt, and pepper they provide.  This dish does not help my blood pressure for sure!

black pork belly

Extreme close up to watch it start to sizzle!

black pork belly 2

If you are an adventurous eater, there is another special dish you should try: the Korean raw beef.  As it states, it’s raw beef served with ginger, pear strips, and a raw egg.  For fans of tartare, it should be no big deal.  You need to like the taste of raw ginger.  I found that the ingredients added a little sweetness.  The serving is quite large and it’s not a dish you want to take as a leftover so I would only suggest ordering if you have a group of 4 or more.

Korean raw beef

In case you can’t tell, I definitely have enjoyed my visits to Joo Joo. 🙂  Eating Korean BBQ is a fun experience, and I’m definitely looking forward to trying the hot pots on an upcoming visit.  Keep an eye out on Instagram and Twitter to see how they look!

Dive 2 Five Scale:  3.  Great family friendly restaurant if you are looking for something different.  If you haven’t tried Korean BBQ, this is a great way to experience it in a more relaxed atmosphere.  They have private Karaoke rooms that I have not tried…I haven’t crossed that boundary of Soju and Sapporo required for me to think I can sing… yet.

Mission Taco Joint, St. Louis, MO – Late Night Dining in the Loop

Adam and Jason Tilford opened their new restaurant, Mission Taco Joint, on Thursday.  It’s located in the Delmar Loop and serves burritos, tacos, and tortas.  Being a fan of Milagro, I made a point of stopping in for the opening.

A lot of people think it is uncool to review a restaurant on opening night.  I tend to agree, but I also know a lack of available information on new places can deter people from taking a chance.  So hopefully this post will help give a little information on a new place from some already successful restaurateurs.

I started with the wild mushroom huarache.  This was a crisped corn masa boat topped with refried black beans, mushrooms, huitlacoche, goat cheese, arugula, and Mexican crema. If you love mushrooms like I do, you need to try this dish.

DSC00469 For my main course, I ordered three different tacos and a side of street corn.  A breakdown of the tacos: tacos

  • Roasted duck (left) – shredded chile roasted duck, crispy pork belly, avocado serrano sauce.
  • Yucatan chicken (middle) – achiote marinate chicken, pickled onion, fiery arbol salsa, and queso fresco.
  • Cochinita pibil (right) – achiote marinated pork shoulder that was slow roasted in a banana leaf with pickled onion and ancho BBQ sauce

My favorite was the duck but closely followed by the pork shoulder.  If smokey flavors are your thing, then go for the chicken.

Last but not least… the street corn.  When I go to Milagro, I always order this side.  I can never bring myself to order anything else.  Street corn is a drug and I’m addicted to it. street corn Mission Taco Joint offers some well thought out versions of typically simple Mexican food items.  It reminds me of the great tacos I used to enjoy when I lived in the Southwest.  Only thing missing for me would be cow’s tongue as a meat option for one of the tacos.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  They have a huge bar area with a nice selection of cocktails and craft beers.  Mission Taco Joint can satisfy that late night craving when in the loop.  For an opening night, they had the place over staffed to make sure things went smoothly.  Riverfront Times has some scans of the menu as part of their article.

Mission Taco Joint on Urbanspoon

Hendricks BBQ, St. Charles, MO – EAT BBQ!

Since I moved back to the Midwest, I have started eating a lot of BBQ. The southwest didn’t have much to offer but St. Louis has a ton of great options.  My most recent BBQ joint was Hendrick’s BBQ in St. Charles.

Parking can be a little confusing the first time you go.  However, if you just follow the signs, you won’t have an issue.  You sneak up behind the building and can enter by climbing a flight of stairs or taking an elevator.  I took the elevator.  When the doors open I was greeted by that old familiar smell.  If you weren’t already hungry, you are now.

I love the decor of this place.  Wooden tables with chairs that look like old window shutters.    The paper on the tables reminds you that you are going to eat BBQ and it’s OK to be messy.  Also there is this awesome neon sign by the kitchen:

Eat BBQ

The menu is intense.  There were too many things that I wanted to try.  I decided to start with 2 appetizers.

First up, deviled eggs.  Deviled eggs are a staple at most of my family gatherings.  These were nice and tangy.

deviled eggs

Wait a minute, things were about to get even better.  For the 2nd appetizer, I had the pork cracklin’. They were salty and addictive.  I loved the ones that had the crispy outside and a nice creamy fatty inside.

pork crackling

As you have read by now, I love pork.  I order it any chance I get.  So of course for my meal I ordered… the brisket sandwich.  Why the change of heart?  I typically have a rule to try what is recommended by the staff when I am having a tough time deciding.  This was one of those times.

brisket

I ordered mine with the melted pepperjack cheese.  You can choose two sides with the meal.  I ordered the corn casserole (see above) and the mac n cheese (pictured below).

The brisket was tender and served on a very soft bread.  They had multiple BBQ sauce choices on the table, I stuck with the sweet for my sandwich. This was a very enjoyable brisket sandwich.  The corn casserole was like a soft cornbread.  It had creamed corn, onions, and whole sweet corn kernels.  I definitely recommend it.

mac n cheese

The mac n cheese was not the typical style your mom made. This was made with penne pasta, white cheese, and topped with bread crumbs.  Another winner.

Hendrick’s BBQ was a pleasant surprise in St. Charles.  I can see why their chef won the Chef Battle Royale at the 2012 Taste of St. Louis.  Tasting is believing, so get some for yourself.

Dive 2 Five Scale – 3.  Hendrick’s BBQ is family friendly but is also a great place to go grab a cold one.  If you follow some of the food review sites, some people complain about the prices.  For BBQ it is on the pricey side, but they do serve quality dishes.  They have a great selection of local beers on tap.  You will hear lots of blues while you are there.  I loved all the small touches.  Sweet tea from mason jars… nuff said.

Sweet Tea

Hendricks BBQ  on Urbanspoon

Feed Me, St. Louis, MO – Porkapalooza Continues With A Triple Pork Sandwich

Is it me, or have I been eating a lot of pork lately?  In the past few weeks I’ve had ribs, bacon, shank, shoulder, ham, and now belly.  I think I may have to start raising some pigs to help balance out the impact I am having on their population.

Wednesday I tried my first Vietnamese style sandwich.  I had the Banh Mi Special (#1) from Feed Me.  Yes, this is another post about a food truck. Yes, I do follow over 20 different food trucks in St. Louis on Twitter.  Don’t judge #obsessed.

Inside an unassuming plain white paper bag was this work of art:

BBQ Seasoned Pork Belly, Vietnamese Ham, and Sweet Ground Pork sandwich served in a French Baguette. It’s topped with Sliced Cucumbers, Fresh Cilantro, Pickled Carrots & Daikon Radish, with Pate & Mayo Spread.

You can tell from that picture that the toppings are fresh and they did not skimp.  You get three types of pork in one sandwich!  They each had different flavors and textures keeping things unique with each bite.  I’ll admit I normally don’t put as many veggies on my sandwich, but these belonged.  There was just the right about of spread.  This was all sandwiched in a great flakey French baguette.

There isn’t anything I would change about this sandwich.  It’s a good thing I work outside of the city.  These sandwiches could become a habit.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  2 Yep, it’s a food truck.  For me, this is one that I don’t see as often as I would like.  It was quick and efficient.  Follow them on Twitter.  If you work close to one of their normal stops, consider yourself lucky.

Feed Me Mobile Food Truck on Urbanspoon

Pachamama’s, Lawrence, KS – Pork Perfection!

Hopefully everyone had a great weekend and survived their Monday.  I spent the past weekend playing tour guide for a friend on my 3rd consecutive road trip to Kansas.  One of my “must-do” stops when in Lawrence, KS is Pachamama’s.

Pachamama’s is a trendy restaurant conveniently located in the downtown area.  This allows for easy access to Lawrence nightlife post a great meal.  First things first, I had to enjoy one of their cocktails.  Normally I don’t blog about the drinks that accompany my meals, but check this photo out:

The Barbados Squeeze

That was the Barbados squeeze.  It contained rum, ginger beer, lemon, and soda.  It wasn’t overly strong.  It was actually really light and refreshing and allowed me to focus on the flavor of the food.

My appetizer was the slow cooked and pulled BBQ goat.  I can’t remember the last time I had ordered goat.  It was served on a buttermilk bacon / scallion biscuit.  I really enjoyed the biscuit.  The scallion added a little bite to it.  The goat was a little bland but the sweet chow chow added nice tart kick.

Slow cook and pulled goat

My main course was the slow cooked Heritage pork shank with a bourbon brown sugar glaze.  It was served on a bed of cheddar and apple grits with a side of snap pea slaw.  OMG!  The pork was amazing.  Cooking it with the meat on the bone it adds so much flavor and texture.  There is something about having meat served this way that triggers those latent caveman instincts.  I had to remember my surroundings so I didn’t just pick it up and gnaw it right off the bone.  The glaze was sweet and enhanced the juicy pork.  The grits and slaw were both nice, but the pork was clearly the start of this dish.

So much delightful pork!

Pachamama’s is my top choice for a fine dining experience in Lawrence.  It holds a special place in my heart since I first tried duck at their original location.  I have gone there for over 10 years and that won’t change any time soon.

Dive 2 Five Scale:  4.  This is a nice restaurant for a college town.  There was live music during my visit but it was subtle and still allowed for conversation.  There was a mixture of people dressed in jeans to suits.  Don’t forget to check out the Star bar when you visit.

Pachamama's on Urbanspoon

Farmhaus Nose To Tail Dinner – The Lesser Used Cuts of Pork

Today’s post is about a unique dining experience I had this week at Farmhaus.  Farmhaus is one of the premier farm-to-table restaurants in St. Louis.  For one night only, they had their “Nose to Tail” dinner.  It focused on the lesser used parts of the pig.

First course:  Amuse.  I preferred the crostini to the cornbread but both were good.  The lardo was still pretty cold so it was a little hard to spread but had lots of flavor.

Bread and Butter. House cured lardo, cornbread, crostini

2nd course:  Charcuterie. My favorite of the 3 was the coppa romana.  I LOVED the spiciness.  The pig ear was a little chewy but added texture when combined with the tender tongue.  I also enjoyed the house made pickles.

Porchetta di testa (right), coppa (middle), tongue and ear terrine (left).

3rd course:  Green Bay salad or “Because We Had to Have a Salad”.  As you can tell by the picture, shadows were becoming an issue later in the night.  Maybe it was the wine pairing as well. 🙂  I loved the fried cheese curds.  The breading was light and let the cheese be the focus. The braunschweiger was of a higher quality than I remembered eating as a child.  You have to appreciate liver to enjoy it.  I practically licked the plate clean.

House Braunschweiger, fried cheese curds, pork croutons, smoked egg salad dressing

4th course:  Reuben.  This sandwich was fantastic.  The pastrami had some chew to it being made from the pig’s heart.  The house made rye was nicely toasted.  The 1000 island dressing was a great accompaniment.  I liked it being served on the slaw so you could add (or not) to the sandwich to taste.  At this point this was my favorite dish.

Pig heart pastrami, smoked rye bread, house 1000 island dressing

5th course:  Pork Belly.  However, after the first bite of this dish I had a new favorite!  This dish had so much depth.  The yin and yang of the ingredients hit all the key elements.  You had sweet (corn / melon), salty (pork belly), and spicy (green beans).  The contrast of the cold melon served on top of the hot belly. The crispy pork belly skin compared to the smooth fatty rest of the belly.  This dish had it all.  I eat pork belly every chance I get and this was one of the best I have sampled.

Pork Belly. Spicy pickled green beans, creamed corn

6th course:  Crostata.  This was the dish that was the most talked about with my co-workers.  No one could understand how pig liver could work in caramel.  Even at the event, the chef de cuisine shared how they thought the pastry chef was nuts for suggesting it.  From what they said, it took several iterations to develop the version we tasted. I appreciate that effort because it was well worth it.  This was a dish I woke up still thinking about this morning.

Crostata- local peaches, buttermilk ice cream, pig liver caramel

7th course:  Black pudding.  As one guest questioned, “is this what I think it is?”  Yes, it contains blood.  I liked the presentation with the tulie covering up the black pudding and suspending the meringue.  My inner child liked that I got to smash something.  The richness of the meringue and the slightly mineral twinge of the chocolate pudding were a lot for some to handle.

Black pudding. Burnt orange meringue, walnut tuile

This was a very exciting night for an adventurous eater like myself.  I appreciate the chances that Farmhaus and its’ chefs took with the menu and the event.  Most of my co-workers thought I was nuts as they heard about this event.  Although that may be a fair assessment of me in general, there was nothing crazy about the Nose to Tail dinner.  It was well thought out and executed in every detail.  I hope they schedule more events like this in the future.

Dive 2 Five Scale:   A solid 4.  Although Farmhaus has a very minimalist approach to decorating their restaurant, the experience is top-notch.  From the server’s knowledge and excitement of the menu to the preparation and attention to detail throughout the service.  A great place to celebrate a special night with an amazing meal in a lively environment.

MEDIAnoche – Half & Half at Twilight

Last Saturday, my wife and I dined at MEDIAnoche. For those that have been to Half & Half, it’s the same location but a completely different style. Half & Half focuses on breakfast and brunch while MEDIAnoche is Mexican. This won’t be your typical Mexican restaurant, but you will find familiar dishes and ingredients used in a new and unique way. Since I have been a fan of Half & Half for several months now, MEDIAnoche has been on my list of places to try.

I love when restaurants offer a prix fixe menu because I usually have a list longer than what one human should consume in one sitting. Their version, called Probando, ensured that I would try an appetizer, a taco, and an entrée. Having my wife there, meant we could double what I would sample 🙂

My appetizer was the biscuit con Puerco. It was a biscuit made using pork fat with BBQ smoked pork belly inside and topped with Brussel sprout slaw. It was served with a side of mango Habanero jam. For those that read my post about Atlanta’s Six Feet Under, you are probably surprised I went for Habanero’s again so soon. I sampled the sauce first to determine how much to use for the biscuit. It started off with the refreshing taste of mangos and then had a nice after-burn from the Habanero. The texture of the biscuit was more soft than your typical flakey variety. The pork belly was a little tougher than what I typically like but still had that extreme pork flavor. I was surprised at how well I liked the Brussel sprout slaw; it provided a nice crunch. Overall this dish was unique but not something I would probably order again. The highlight was the mango Habanero sauce which has endless possibilities for use.

Watch out for the kick of the sauce!

My wife’s appetizer was the atun fresco. It was seared tuna with corn, oyster mushrooms, and jalapeno. It was a typical seared tuna that was cooked perfectly. The slight taste from the corn and jalapeno do give it more of a Mexican flair than you get at most restaurants. A solid appetizer for those that like seared tuna but not too out of the ordinary.

For the 2nd course, I had the de panza de Puerco (pork belly taco). My family has started to wonder about my obsession of pork belly. If there is an option for pork belly I will try it. As you can see it was a part of the 1st two courses! I love that they served the taco in a paper tray. It reminds me of real Mexican style street food tacos. You can tell that the toppings were fresh and that is a key to a good street food taco. If they only had cow’s tongue as an option….

My wife’s 2nd course was the avocado taco. I was hoping she would try the beef cheek or lamb. As all married guys know, there is give and take in a relationship. This was a time to let it slide. I was pleasantly surprised at the flavor. It was as if you took a good guacamole and served it in the taco. It has a peppery kick. In both cases, I really enjoyed the tacos.

For my entrée, I had the pato agridulce. This was seared duck breast with sweet and spicy confit and corn tortilla puree. The duck was tender and had a good flavor. The tortilla contained the sweet and spicy confit. Luckily the server provided the instructions to break that tortilla to mix in those ingredients. My favorite part of the dish was the corn tortilla puree. It always excites me to try familiar flavors in a different way. In this case, it was the mouth feel of eating something that tasted like a tortilla but had the consistency of mashed potatoes. It makes me want to puree things at home to experiment.

Fun presentation. Don’t ignore the corn tortilla puree.

My wife had the special lamb dish for the night. It was three different cuts of Jones Heritage farm lamb. It featured braised belly, shoulder, and leg. It was served over balsamic vinegar and had large fresh blackberries. The presentation was the best so far. She was nice enough to share a taste of the three types. The braised belly was my favorite. It may be too much for some if you aren’t used to that fatty of a cut of meat.

MEDIAnoche provided a unique spin on Mexican cooking. The staff was knowledgeable and friendly. They provided great suggestions for drinks and description of the food as it was served. I do recommend the prix fixe menu for sampling their diverse menu. I prefer the morning version of the restaurant, but this is a solid choice for dinner if you want something different.