Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Dorm Dinner Redux

Last night, the mrs. and I had the opportunity to attend the Dorm Dinner at 33 wine bar. I think I have explained this in the past, but here's the skinny: a local chef is invited to cook a dinner at the wine bar (which has no kitchen) for two seatings of about 30 people each. The rub is that they can only use implements that would be allowed in a dorm room to cook. I'm talking microwaves, hotplates, toaster ovens, etc. This forces the chefs to take things way out of their comfort zones, and get really creative.

To start, since this is "Sippin' Saint Louis", we had a 2006? Alaia from Castilla y Leon, Spain. This is a really cool little inexpensive drinker made from Prieto Picudo, Tempranillo, and Merlot. It has quite a bit of acid to it, and also some earthy funk that I thought would go well with the pork-centric menu. Speaking of, here's what we ate, all prepared by Gerard Craft, and the guys from Niche:

"Chips and Dip"-
They took french onion dip, added tapioca to it, and fried it. The result was these delicious little fluffy chips, with a really strong french onion taste. Wow. I could have put a hurting on these things during football season!

"Pork of the Sea"
This was pork rilletes, served with warm bread and home made pickles, in an open tuna can. One thing I loved that these guys did was to keep "pure" in the whole dorm room thing, including presentation!

"Pork and Noodle Soup"
This course was fantastic- a pulled pork wonton served in a really rich broth. It came out in coffee mugs, which again was a great homage to dorm life. This was needed on such a cold night!

Okay, follow me here- two peanut butter cookies, with moscato jelly and foie gras in between. In the vernacular of modern texting tweens, "OMG". This was so rich and delicious it blew me away. My table mates where a little overwhelmed, but I thought it was ridiculously good!

"Pot Pie"
This was a small pork pot pie. The crust on this thing was absolutely perfect.

"Candy Bar"
served on a plastic plate, this was a home made version of a "Whatchamacallit" bar, made with ice cream. I thought it was amazing.

Kudos to Gerard, Adam, and the rest of the guys from Niche for pulling off an amazingly fun and delicious dinner!


Thursday, February 18, 2010

James Beard Nominations

Congratulations to two of my cooking heros, Gerard Craft, owner of Niche, Brasserie, and Taste (one of my favorite places for an after-work drink) and Josh Galliano from Monarch for being nominated for James Beard awards. They are both on the long list for "Best Chef Midwest".

Another chef with a Saint Louis connection is Frank Stitt from Birmingham, Alabama who was nominated for Outstanding Chef. Frank's brother David owns Veritas on Clarkson, which is a really cool place to grab a bite, a bottle, or just about anything you need in your kitchen.

Cheers guys! I hope one of you makes it to the final list!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Next Week's class cancelled

Hey wine fans,
I wanted to give you the heads up that my class next week (Old World vs New World) has to be cancelled.

Go to Foam anyway, and support their business. Mike is a great guy, and they serve fantastic Coffee, Beer, and Wine.


Wednesday, February 10, 2010

V-Day suggestion

I hate Valentines Day. I really do. It's a shame that it takes a Hallmark-sponsored holiday to get couples to tell each other that they love their sweethearts. My contempt also comes from the fact that twice in my life, once in High School, and once in College, I was dumped on Valentines day, AFTER I had given the girl a gift. And don't get me started on Prix-fixe meals at restaurants....

Anyway, I do realize that some people love and adore this particular day, and try to be romantic. That being said, I think it's a great day to break out the Champagne. My recommendation for this year is the Jean Lallement et fils NV Brut. This is a Grand Cru Champagne from Verzenay, and is made of 80% Pinot Noir, 20 % chardonnay grapes. The total production of this winery is less than 2000 cases- Moet literally dumps more than that each year of bad product. I know it's available at the Wine Merchant, and at 33 wine bar. Your retail cost will likely be around $60.

So, pop the cork, and enjoy!


Monday, February 8, 2010

Who Dat?!!!?

In honor of our brethren down in New Orleans, that just won their first Super Bowl, I offer the following cocktail recipe for the Sazerac. Invented in the 1830's by Antoine Amedee Peychaud, this is storied to be the first cocktail invented in America. In 2008, it was designated legally as the official cocktail of New Orleans. You will need:

1 1/2 oz Rye whiskey (don't use bourbon)
1 cube sugar
Peychaud's bitters
1 Tablespoon Herbsaint or Absinthe
lemon peel garnish
two old fashioned or rocks glasses

pack one old fashioned or rocks glass with ice. In a second glass, muddle the sugar cube with three dashes of the bitters. Add the Rye to the bitters mixture. Dump the ice out of the first glass when chilled. To the chilled glass, add the Herbsaint or Absinthe, and swirl around to coat the sides of the glass. Dump out any remaining Herbsaint or Absinthe. Now add the Rye mixture to that glass. Squeeze one drop of oil out of the lemon peel into the drink, garnish with the peel, and enjoy.

Congratulations to the Saints. Cheers, and have a great day.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Wine Recap- 2006 HdV Syrah

Last night, a buddy of mine came over to help me tear up my basement. I'm in the process of semi-finishing it, in an attempt to have a wine tasting area, a workout area, and a "man cave". While demolishing some old, cruddy cabinets, we needed something to sip on. I wanted something bold, but not jammy. My friend is a cab drinker, but willing to learn about other varietals. I decided on a 2006 HdV Carneros Syrah.

HdV is a joint project between Larry Hyde (owner of the Hyde vineyard in Carneros), and Aubert DeVillaine (one of the owners of Domaine de la Romanee Conti in Burgundy). The Carneros Syrah that we tried was flat out delicious. It had the Syrah fruit and was clearly New World, but the earthiness and secondary tobacco notes came from a style that was much more French. There wasn't any of the bubble-gummy notes, or the rocket fuel alcohol that I sometimes get out of California Syrah. This was a well made wine, and was perfect for causing destruction.

Pick up a bottle, if you can find it, and check it out.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A dive bar tour of Soulard/Benton Park

Today, I was calling on one of my accounts, and the subject of a certain "dive" bar in Soulard came up. The question was brought up by the owner of a popular bar, and he had never heard of the dive. Therefore, as a public service, I offer the following guide to the bars of Soulard. I mainly have only walked into these places, trying to sell them cheap wine. However, it is a commonly held belief that every wine sales rep should have one or two bars that they don't do business with- just in case they need to grab a beer in the late afternoon/early evening, and not have to talk shop. Plus, I have met some of the most interesting people in dive bars! Most of these are in Soulard, although I do stray in to Benton Park a tad.

Gladstones- this is the bar that started the conversation. This place has pretty good barbeque, and prides themselves on it. They also have really good daily drink specials. It is quite smoky in there, but the waitresses are nice. They normally dress a bit...um...skimpy. However, they are kind of the people that may have worked in Souldard for a long time- not exactly in their prime. Dennis, the owner, is a super nice guy, and enjoys good wine.

The Cat's Meow- This is the epitome of small, local, dive bars. I don't think they serve food in here. It is crazy smoky, the drinks are cheap, and they only take cash. Go in there with someone who has been there before, or you might not get acknowledged at all.

D's Place- This is the smokiest of them all. Really nice staff, no food (that I know of), but a decent jukebox.

Grizzly Bear- I really like this place. It probably has the best food of any of the bars in the area. The staff dresses skimpy, but not so much that my wife was uncomfortable going in. Try the "Bear Balls"- sort of like hush puppies, but they have chicken in them.

Johnny's- this is the king daddy of Soulard bars. Yeah, the girls dress like strippers on their day off, but it's not too smoky, and the food is decent. It's not like you are going to see naked chicks in there or anything, they just hire good looking, friendly women. If you have the hunger, try the Calypso sandwich.

DB's- sort of a Johnny's wanna-be. The staff is also scantily-clad, but much snottier and the drinks are expensive. The only redeeming quality of the place is the fact that they have free wings on Wednesdays.

Park West Grille- This used to be a great little place with okay food, and a fun staff. I think they have closed.

Frazer's- Not really a dive bar (and it's in Benton Park), but go in for lunch sometime and say hi to my friend Sabrina. Tip her well, because she's about to have a baby, and needs all the cash she can get. They have an amazing, inexpensive menu.

1860's- I have only been there twice, but both times resulted in funny stories about meeting regulars. One lady cussed me out because she thought I was on Top Chef. At first I told her I was, and then told the truth. She didn't think that was very funny. I did.

Carson's- Dirty, smoky, the food is terrible, and the drinks are cheap. You will likely be flashed by a semi-inebriated waitress.

Hammerstone's- I have always heard good things about the food here, but I have never tried it. The one time I was in there, I had a very intelligent conversation about wine with a bartender from New Zealand.

Nadine's Gin Joint- Definitely a locals place. I have been in twice, and was treated really rudely both times.

McGurk's- the place to go in the spring and summer. They have an awesome patio, good beer selection, and decent Irish grub. Not very "divy" though, the place is enormous.

Tucker's- Again, tough to label this a "dive bar", as it has three locations. However, the steaks are decent, and really affordable. Kind of an old school place that I wouldn't mind taking my dad.

The Filling Station- in Benton Park, this is the type of place that you go at the end of the night to grab a beer, and play either darts or pool. Pretty cool vibe, though.

Venice Cafe- If you have out of towners visiting, take them here. The place is like Alice in Wonderland on an acid trip. During the summer they serve great Carribean food on the patio, and really cheap drinks. It's a blast going in there!

Joannies- good pizza, cops eat here a lot.

Trueman's- This place has a special place in my heart. When I first moved here, I got here 6 weeks before my wife. I had rented an apartment that was a 92 second (I timed it) walk from this bar. The food is, well, bar food. However, the beers are only $1.50 during happy hour, and I didn't have any friends in town yet. I must have spent 4 nights a week at this place until my wife arrived in town. Since then, a new owner took over, and there are flat screen tv's and some of the dirty charm is gone. That's okay, we still go in here once every 6 month or so for a fit of nostalgia.

Places I have never been into: Clementines, the Shanti, the Hiway Bar, and a slew of others I'm sure.

Cheers! Raise a glass of PBR at a dive bar soon!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Saint Louis Wine Therapy

I am fortunate to be able to be part of a couple of secret, "underground" food and wine groups. One of these is the monthly get-togethers of the Saint Louis Wine Therapy group. Basically, we get together at one of our homes, and everyone brings a bottle to be tasted blind. We then ascertain as much info as we can (it's easier at the beginning of the night than at the end), and guess what the wine is. We have started doing themes- this last weekend, it was for guys to bring a malbec, and for the ladies to bring a "dealers choice" white. After those were all tried, there is inevitably a slew of other bottles opened, for research purposes of course. Here is the line-up from Saturday:

08 Grand Veneur White CDP
05 Phillipe Fleury Condrieu
08 Eternal Confidence
08 Rombauer Chard
05 Morey Coffinet Chassagne Montrachet "La Montrachet" 1er cru
04 Baumard Quarts du Chaume
88 Max Ferdinand Richter Valdenzer Elisenberg Auslese Riesling
07 Haggipavlu Moshofilero (drank out of a peron)
06 Tikal Patriota
06 Vine Cliff Malbec
05 Archaval Ferrer Finca Mirador Malbec
06 Chateau Haut Monplesir Cahors
08 Felino Vino Cobos Malbec
05 Zuccardi Zeta
04 Le Cedre Cahors
05 Leonardini Family Pinot
04 Seps Estate Napa Cab
04 Rodano Chianti Classico
06 Luca Pinot Noir

This was a great evening of fantastic wines. Nobody got too out of control (which is good, as my wife might have committed murder is anyone got sick in the freshly scrubbed bathroom), and the wines all showed really well.
I would say that my favorite white was either the Chassagne or the Condrieu. My favorite reds were the Le Cedre and the Archaval Ferrer. The most surprising was the Rombauer Chard (I have spent years making fun of this wine- it wasn't too bad), and the most disappointing was the white Chateauneuf.

All-in-all, I was excited to try several Cahors that I had never seen before, and really surprised that only 2 of the wines were 100% malbecs from Argentina! There's a ton of great juice out there, and it is so fun to try new things.