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Sep 21, 2014
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By the Book: Sara Deseran’s Butternut Squash, Kale and Crunchy Pepitas Taco

September 20th, 2014



Tacolicious is a collection of Mexican recipes with California flair taken from its namesake: Tacolicious, a Mexican restaurant in the San Francisco Bay area. There are actually four Tacolicious restaurants in California now, an impressive feat for something that started off as a farmers market stand run by Sara Deseran and her husband Joe five years ago. Her debut cookbook includes popular restaurant favorites like tacos, empanadas, salsa and cocktails. A strong love for Mexican cuisine and party-appropriate dishes are laced throughout Deseran’s writing.

As I flipped through page after page of colorful, festive Mexican dishes, I was intrigued by this seasonal recipe described as a “nontraditional taco, sweet with squash, earthy and nutty with kale, and crunchy with fried pumpkin seeds (pepitas).” I was pleasantly surprised to discover that these tacos were also vegan. A good friend of mine follow this dietary lifestyle, and I’ve realized how hard it is for her to find just about anything completely vegan-friendly at Mexican restaurants.




The recipe was fairly easy to follow, although I did deviate slightly, using ground cumin instead of cumin seeds and soaking my raw cashews for only a half hour as opposed to the full hour suggested. Deseran has the cook use a blender or hand mixer to blitz together the soaked cashews, cumin, lime juice, water and salt. The result was a zesty vegan crema that appeared like hummus in its consistency and color. Presoaking the cashews for a less time than recommended caused no issues; they blended just fine. I did feel that the completed crema was quite heavy on the lime juice, but I left it alone to see how it would taste when combined with the sweet squash and flavorful kale.




I tackled the pumpkin seeds next. I was unable to get my pepitas to “puff up and pop” as the recipe described, so after sauteing them for two or three additional minutes, I sampled a few and decided to settle for the toasted ones I had created. I seasoned them with some cayenne and salt and set them aside to focus on the filling.




I had no problems with the filling as I sauteed some onions and then tossed in some garlic, later adding in my squash and finally some chopped up kale, which needed a few extra minutes than the recipe called for before taking the filling off the stovetop.

I built my tacos with a smear of crema on the base of my tortilla before adding the squash filling, then garnished them with the pepitas and some cilantro. The tacos were visually appetizing: the bright orange squash contrasting with deep green kale, and the pepitas adding a rustic touch. They also packed a ton of flavor; the cashews and lime juice provided a creamy, tangy base for the sweet squash and earth kale, and the pepitas gave them a much-needed crunch factor.  However, I would still probably use less salt and lime juice next time.





Butternut Squash, Kale and Crunchy Pepitas Taco
4 to 6 servings

Cashew Crema
2/3 cup raw cashews
1 tsp. cumin seeds
6 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lime juice (about 3 limes)
¼ cup water
2 tsp. kosher salt

Pumpkin Seeds
2 tsp. vegetable oil
1/3 cup raw hulled pumpkin seeds
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
¾ cup finely chopped yellow onion
1 clove garlic, minced
3 cups ½-inch-diced butternut squash
1 tsp. chile powder
2 tsp. kosher salt
4 cups finely chopped kale
Corn tortillas, warmed for serving
Chopped fresh cilantro, white onion, and salsa for serving (optional)

• To make the crema, soak the raw cashews in room-temperature water to cover for at least 1 hour. Drain and reserve.
• Toast the cumin in a small, dry, heavy skillet over medium heat for about 1 minute, until fragrant. Transfer to a spice grinder, let cool, and grind finely.
• In a blender, combine the cashews, cumin, lime juice, water and salt. Start the blender on the lowest speed and gradually increase to the highest speed. Blend for at least 1 minute, until a creamy consistency. Pour into a serving bowl and set aside.
• To make the pumpkin seeds, heat the vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the pumpkin seeds and saute for about 2 minutes, taking care that they do not burn. The seeds will begin to puff up and pop. Once they appear toasted, immediately pour them into a bowl. Toss with the cayenne and salt and set aside.
• To make the filling, heat the oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for about 3 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic and saute for about 1 minute more. Add the squash and saute for 6 to 7 minutes, just until the squash begins to soften. Season with the chile powder and salt.
• Add the kale and cook, stirring, for about 1 minute, until it begins to wilt. Remove from the heat, taste, and adjust the seasoning with salt if needed.
• Serve with the tortillas, crema, pumpkin seeds, onion, cilantro, and salsa. To assemble each taco, invite guests to spoon about ½ cup of the warm filling into a tortilla and top with some crema and pumpkin seeds. If guests want more toppings, they can finish off their tacos with onion, cilantro, and salsa.

Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press.

Thanks to 1111 Mississippi for providing the cumin for this recipe.

What’s the most unique taco filling you ever tried? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Tacolicious by Sara Deseran.




Tweet Beat: The week’s best tweets from #STL foodies

September 19th, 2014

Are you following us on Twitter? Come on, get Saucy @saucemag



Carbsssssss @junipereats pic.twitter.com/xqO0e5DAZp

@COCHON555 @heritagebbq @cookingkid won with our Large Black! #awardwinningpork #kingofpork #heritageBBQ #Cochon555 pic.twitter.com/4sXFWtCpt4

Staff meal @thelibertinestl Nachos w/ Kimchee Pork, jalapeño mayo, hoisin sweet potato pic.twitter.com/gZykTUNihg

As I’m studying German beers, I realized I was humming “Springtime for Hitler” from The Producers. #cicerone

Found a spider in the microwave. Super grossed out. But a little impressed it found a way in there.

Yes, we chose our hotel based on proximity to @bluebottleroast Ferry Building. See you soon.

A customer just paid for a soldier’s entire meal that he did not know! What a classy move! #SupportOurTroops #ThankYouForYourService

First time at @PeacemakerSTL. Great new addition to the neighborhood. pic.twitter.com/xVvaoSuteg

So pregaming for an all-you-can-drink beer fest is a thing. No wonder I don’t do these things anymore.

Pumpkin beers are the reason for the death penalty



Think you should be on this list? Follow us and let us know @saucemag

The Weekend Project: Bao Buns

September 18th, 2014



Bao buns are a classic Asian street food, and they are commonly eaten in American dim sum restaurants. They are also an economical meal to make at home, easily spread over several days if cooking solo or an enjoyable group project to make with friends and family on a laidback weekend at home.




The dough for these pillowy little U-shaped buns are a cross between Western-style dumplings and biscuit dough and can be filled with any variety of meats, vegetables or beans. In East Asian countries, they are steamed to order and eaten at all hours day and night. The Chinese version of bao buns uses quick-rise dough leavened with yeast, while the Vietnamese variety uses a similar dough using baking powder as the rising agent. Both are enriched with milk and a little sugar. To get that perfect shape without crushing the delicate dough, use a chopstick to fold and transport them for their next round of rising.

Seasoned appropriately, any combination of meats and vegetables make excellent filling for these mini sandwiches. Typical fillings usually include cabbage, a leafy green, onion, and a protein like fish or chicken. Feel free to improvise and use any leftover roast or grilled meat you may happen to have waiting in the refrigerator.

This recipe divides the process over two days, but it can easily be accomplished during one ambitious day of cooking. It’s also not necessary to cook all the buns at once. Steam some of the buns empty and freeze them up to six months. Then pull them from the freezer later for easy dinners, say with leftover char sui pork and homemade pickles.




A few tips for those new to bamboo steamer baskets: First, bamboo steamers are traditionally lined with cabbage leaves to prevent the food from sticking to the basket. We found that lining the steamer with greased parchment paper and slicing holes for the steam to rise through worked much more efficiently. The parchment paper lies flatter and can be reused multiple times without sticking to the buns or tearing. To use your steamer, place it directly into the wok. Be sure to keep enough water simmering the entire time; as the name suggests, they don’t work well without steam!




These bao buns are a new family favorite and make great leftovers – if you can keep from eating them all as they come out of the steamer!


The Gameplan
Day 1: Make the fillings.
Day 2: Make, fill and steam the buns.

The Shopping List
4 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. hoisin
½ tsp. ground white pepper
2 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. canola oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
1 tsp. minced ginger
2 cups shredded zucchini
4 cups sliced shitakes or portabellas
1 Tbsp. natural mushroom seasoning**
4 cups shredded bok choy
1 cup bean sprouts
4 cups chopped Napa cabbage
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 Vietnamese pork sausage**
½ lb. ground pork
1 lb. shrimp or scallops
1½ cups milk
2 packages (3½ tsp.) yeast
5 Tbsp. lard or vegetable shortening

Special equipment: A bamboo steamer basket

*This list assumes you have sugar, an onion, garlic, kosher salt, canola oil, baking powder, baking soda and flour at hand in your kitchen. If not, you will need to get those, too.
**Mushroom seasoning and Vietnamese pork sausage can both be found at Seafood City in Olivette. Vietnamese pork sausage is raw and must be cooked before eating.




Vegetable Filling
Makes enough for 16 to 18 buns

2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. hoisin
3½ Tbsp. water, divided
1 tsp. sugar
½ tsp. ground white pepper
1 Tbsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. canola oil
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ tsp. minced ginger
½ tsp. minced garlic
2 cups shredded zucchini, peeled and seeded
2 cups sliced shitakes or portabellas, stems removed
1 Tbsp. natural mushroom seasoning
½ tsp. kosher salt
4 cups shredded bok choy greens, stems removed
1 cup bean sprouts

●  Day 1: In a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce, hoisin, 2 tablespoons water, sugar and ground white pepper and set aside.
● In another small bowl, stir the cornstarch and the remaining 1½ tablespoon water together to create a slurry and set aside.
● Heat a wok over high heat and add the canola oil, swirling it around the pan so it creates vein-like lines on the surface. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir quickly, 10 to 20 seconds, until the onions begin to turn translucent.
● Add the mushrooms, mushroom seasoning and salt and cook, stirring quickly, about 1 minute, until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid. Add the zucchini and stir-fry 1 minute.
● Stir in the bok choy, 30 to 45 seconds, then stir-fry the bean sprouts and the soy sauce-hoisin mixture until the bok choy beings to wilt. Stir in the cornstarch slurry and stir 1 minute to cook the starch and thicken the mixture.
● Remove from heat and let cool. Use for Bao Buns (recipe follows) or store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 1 week.




Seafood and Pork Filling
Makes enough for 32 to 36 buns

4 cups chopped Napa cabbage
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce
2 Tbsp. soy sauce
2 Tbsp. water
1 Tbsp. fish sauce
1 tsp. sugar
2 Tbsp. canola
½ cup finely chopped onion
½ tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp. minced ginger
2 cups sliced shitakes or portabellas, stems removed
1 Vietnamese pork sausage, finely chopped
½ lb. ground pork
1 lb. shrimp, peeled and deveined, or scallops, finely chopped

Day 2: Toss the cabbage and salt together and let sit in a colander 10 to 20 minutes. Squeeze out any excess water, place it in a bowl and set aside.
● In a small bowl, whisk together the oyster sauce, soy sauce, water, fish sauce and sugar and set aside.
● In another small bowl, stir the cornstarch into the water to create a slurry and set aside.
● Heat a wok over high heat and add the canola oil, swirling it around the pan so it creates vein-like lines on the surface. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir quickly 10 to 20 seconds, until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the cabbage and stir thoroughly.
● Add the mushrooms and the soy sauce mixture and stir quickly, about 1 minute, until the mushrooms begin to release their liquid and the sauce is incorporated.
● Add the sausage and the ground pork, using a spatula to break up the meat and brown it while stirring, 1 to 2 minutes. Stir the cornstarch slurry into the filling to thicken the sauce and cook 1 to 2 minutes. Add the shrimp and stir-fry 1 to 2 minutes, until the seafood is just cooked through.
● Remove from heat and let cool. Use for Bao Buns (recipe follows) or store, covered, in the refrigerator up to 1 week.




Bao Buns
Makes 32 buns

1½ cups milk
2 packages (3½ tsp.) yeast
4 Tbsp. sugar
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. baking soda
5 Tbsp. melted lard or vegetable shortening, cooled to room temperature, plus more for greasing
4 cups flour, plus more for dusting, divided
Seafood and Pork Filling (recipe above)
Vegetable Filling (recipe above)
Sriracha for serving
Soy sauce for serving

Special equipment: Steamer basket

Day 2: In a saucepan over medium-low heat, gently heat the milk until it is warm to the touch, about 110 to 115 degrees. Pour the milk into the bowl of a stand mixer and gently stir in the yeast and sugar. Let the yeast proof until bubbles form on the surface, about 10 minutes. Affix the dough hook attachment to the mixer, and add the salt, baking powder, baking soda, melted lard or shortening and 1 cup flour on low speed. Continue adding 1 cup of flour at a time, until it is well incorporated and a ball forms on the hook. Continue to knead on low speed for 10 to 12 minutes.
● Grease a large mixing bowl with lard or shortening, place the dough in the bowl and cover with a clean towel. Place the bowl in a warm place and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
● Turn the dough out onto a large floured work surface and shape it into a long loaf. Slice the loaf into 2 equal halves. Roll each half into a 16-inch log 1-inch thick. Cut each log into 16 walnut-sized pieces. Roll piece into a ball and set them 2 inches apart on greased baking sheets. Cover the baking sheets with clean towels and let rise about 20 minutes.
● Roll out 1 dough ball onto a lightly floured work surface into a 4-inch long oval. Grease a smooth chopstick with lard or shortening and place crosswise in the center of the oval. Fold the top half of the oval over the chopstick to make a thick, U-shape. Use the chopstick to transport the bun to a greased baking sheet. Slide the chopstick out and repeat this process with the remaining dough balls. Let the buns rest 20 minutes to rise.
● To fill the buns, gently place 1 tablespoon of vegetable filling (recipe above) or seafood and pork filling (recipe above) in the fold of each bun.
● To steam the buns, fill a wok with 4 cups water over medium-heat and bring to a simmer.
● Meanwhile, line the trays of a bamboo steamer with parchment paper, poking a few holes in the paper to allow the steam to rise. Working in batches, fill the steamer trays with filled buns, leaving a bit of space between them to rise while they cook. Stack the trays, cover the steamer basket and place inside the wok over the simmering water. Steam 10 minutes, until the buns are cooked though. Add more water to the wok as needed. Place the steamed buns on a plate covered with a towel until ready to serve. Repeat until the desired amount of buns are cooked.
● Serve with Sriracha or soy sauce on the side.




-photos by Michelle Volansky

Drink This Weekend Edition: Oktoberfest St. Louis at UCBC

September 18th, 2014



One of the world’s biggest beer parties kicks off this weekend in Munich as the Germans begin their annual Oktoberfest celebration. Lucky for St. Louisans, there is one among us who knows a thing or two about throwing an authentic Munich-style party: Urban Chestnut brewmaster Florian Kuplent, who hails from Munich. Urban Chestnut and Schlafly team up for Oktoberfest St. Louis 2014 this Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 20 and 21, at UCBC’s Midtown Brewery.

Oktoberfest St. Louis is two days of German food, music, and, of course, beer. Fill your stomach with bratwurst, currywurst and pretzels, then dance to music provided by the likes of Über Cool, The Deutschmeister Brass Band, Larry Hallar and more. UCBC Oktoberfest will also have some fun traditional Oktoberfest games. Flex your muscles (or your thumbs) and prepare for a round of Masskrüge (stein holding, pictured), Fingerhackeln (finger wrestling) and Baumstamm sägen (log sawing).

But this is Oktoberfest, and when hosted by two of our city’s best breweries, it’s all about the beer. Imbibe with at least six styles of German beers from UCBC and Schlafly, including Oktoberfest, Kölsch, Schwarzbier, Fest Bier (Oachkatzlschwoaf), Weissebier (Schnickelfritz), Zwickel and dunkel (Dorfbier).

No tickets needed for this awesome party, but buy a commemorative glass stein for $8 in advance or $10 the day of the event. Refills are $8 for a whole liter during the entire festival. Bring cash to cut down on wait times; UCBC will only have one stand accepting credit cards.

This is always one heck of a party– don’t miss it. Prost!

Sauce Magazine is a sponsor of this event.

The Scoop: Hydroponic gardening shop opens in Overland

September 18th, 2014



Don and Heather Willman, co-owners of Advanced Garden Supply in Jefferson City, have opened their second shop Sept. 2 at 2126 Woodson Road in Overland. They’re aiming to provide customers with the essentials to grow their own healthy garden with a hydroponic twist.

Hydro-what? The difference is in the soil – or lack thereof. Hydroponic, literally “working water” gardening, utilizes nutrient-packed water to raise crops. These plants grow suspended above nutrient-enhanced water, as their roots grow freely in the liquid underneath. “You get all kinds of weather (in Missouri), from hot and dry, to wet and soggy,” Don Willman said. “When you grow a garden inside on a water-based system, your possibilities are unlimited … Instead of working with soil, water is the main delivery system for getting all the nutrients needed.”

The Willmans, both longtime hydroponic farmers, have grown a variety of vegetation from shiitake mushrooms to banana plants. Advanced Garden Supply sells plant nutrients, LED lighting and other tools necessary to successfully grow hydroponic gardens at home.

Willman chose the St. Louis area after witnessing a growth of hydroponic gardening in the city. “There are all kinds of people getting into it right here in the St. Louis community,” he said, including rooftop gardeners, professional farmers and novice gardeners.

Advanced Gardening Supply is open Tuesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.



Baked: Fudgy Peanut Butter-Pretzel Brownies

September 17th, 2014



I love a good brownie, and I love trying new recipes for them. They’re simple to whip up and satisfy a chocolate craving in less than an hour. I was initially drawn a David Lebovitz recipe because it doesn’t call for flour. That’s great news for the gluten-averse crowd, but for me, it meant a fudgier, more chocolaty crumb. I was not disappointed.

But I couldn’t let it rest there. One of my favorite cookies at Whisk, where I help out from time to time, is a peanut butter-pretzel cookie. The salty, sweet, crunchy combination is perfect, so I took played with those same ingredients, except now the pretzels and peanut butter snuggle together in a fudgy chocolate bed. You’ll definitely need a glass of milk for this one.

A few tips: Be sure to beat the batter at least 2 minutes, until it is glossy and pulls away from the bowl for a cracking top and the perfect brownie texture. A hand mixer on medium speed is ideal.

Also, for the fudgiest brownies, under-bake them. No more than 25 minutes in an 8-by-8-inch pan is best. Remember, they are still cooking when you take them out of the oven, so let them rest for 45 minutes to finish. Enjoy and happy baking!


Fudgy Peanut Butter-Pretzel Brownies
Adapted from a David Lebovitz recipe
Makes 1 8-by-8-inch pan

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¾ cup sugar
8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped or in chips
2 room-temperature eggs
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. cocoa powder
3 Tbsp. cornstarch
1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup coarsely crushed pretzels*
¼ tsp. flaky sea salt

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line an 8-by-8-inch cake pan with parchment paper (Do not skip the parchment paper; these brownies will stick to the pan without it.).
• In a large saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Remove from heat and add the sugar and chocolate, stirring to coat the chocolate in butter. Let sit 1 minute, then stir until chocolate is completely melted and the sugar is dissolved.
• Use a hand mixer on medium speed to beat in the eggs one at a time until incorporated. Beat in the vanilla, cocoa powder and cornstarch about 2 minutes, until the batter is smooth and shiny.
• Fold in the peanut butter chips and the crushed pretzels, then pour the batter into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with the flaky sea salt.
• Bake 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool 45 minutes before slicing and serving.

*Substitute gluten-free pretzels or omit them entirely to make this dessert gluten-free.

Budget Crunch: 10 delicious dishes and sweet deals to try right now

September 17th, 2014

Welcome to Budget Crunch, wherein intrepid reporter Byron Kerman offers 10 tips on delicious menu items and sweet deals happening now. Got $10? Grab a friend and sample, split and stuff yourselves with these steals.


1. There are about 25 chocolate-covered blackberries to a pound at Bissinger’s, and at $42 per pound, that’s a just less than $2 a blackberry. It ain’t cheap, but thankfully it only takes one to get your fix. Oh, mama. It’s worth driving to either Bissinger’s at Maryland Plaza or Bissinger’s at Plaza Frontenac, and savoring a dark or a milk chocolate-covered blackberry through September only.


2. Writing about fried chicken is, as Martin Mull might say, like dancing about architecture; one medium can hardly express the pleasures of the other. But one must persevere, so here it goes. I once ate fried chicken at the monthly Thursday Night Supper Club at Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Cafe and jotted down some notes: “great, thick, savory, dense, spiced crust –wow.” Boneless fried breasts make it kid-friendly, plus fried drumsticks, for those who like dark meat. In the spirit of “wow,” we must recommend this delightful feast for Budget crunch even though $16 is a touch higher than we usually go. In this case, though, it’s a steal. Tomorrow, Sept. 18, Thursday Night Supper Club includes an unlimited buffet of this mind-blowing fried chicken, Caesar salad, deviled eggs, slaw, potato salad, cornbread, mac-n-cheese, desserts and more, all from the mind of Jilly’s chef Dana Holland.




3. Forget bottomless cups of coffee; the brewers at downtown’s Alpha Brewing Company choose one of their brews every Tuesday and offer a swimming pool of it for $10. That’s all you can drink, matey. Some beers that have been included in the deal recently are Lapsided (a mildly hoppy pale ale Alpha describes as “fruity, with a smooth bitterness”) and Alpha’s Belgian pale ale.


4. The Taste of Benton Park Festival  on Sat., Oct. 4 at the corner of Arsenal Street and Jefferson Avenue  is offering a sweet deal: $5 gets you a plate with samples from three Benton Park restaurants. Blues City Deli, Capitalist Pig BBQ, The Choice at Something Special, Ernesto’s Wine Bar, Frazer’s, Jax Café, Luvy Duvy’s Cafe, Melt, The Mud House, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co., Sidney Street Cafe, Spare No Rib, Whisk: A Sustainable Bakeshop  and Yemanja Brasil are all in on the act. Also, look for live music, a vintage Volkswagen show, and wine and beer sales.




5. The Robust Wine Bar outpost in Edwardsville is celebrating its one-year anniversary with a BBQ, Bourbon & Bubbles party tomorrow, Sept. 18. The evening will feature edibles from $6 to $10, including a barbecue of land and sea cuts, and appetizer specials on items like buffalo-chicken meatballs and bacon-wrapped jalapenos. Also look for $8 to $9 specials on bourbon-based cocktails, sparkling wines and live music.


6. Ten out of 10 potatoes agree: they’d be happy to end their days baked into poblano au gratin potatoes ($4) at J. Gilbert’s Wood-Fired Steaks & Seafood. The creamy side dish is made with gruyere and pepper jack cheeses, heavy cream, roasted poblano peppers, onion, garlic and spices. It’s served in a mini cast-iron crock, and as the weather gets colder, it tastes better and better.




7. The mouth-watering Cuban sandwich at Capitalist Pig starts with Companion bread, brushed with butter. Next up, a brushstroke of sauce made with mustard, mayo and more, followed by slices of house-smoked ham, Emmenthaler, smoked pork shoulder and house-made pickles. A trip through the sandwich press yields a Cubano with a crusty exterior with the sharp flavors of mustard and pickle playing off the moist, salty meats. All this flavor for $7.50? We’ll call that a steal.


8. The relocated Taste of St. Louis will tantalize and satiate from Chesterfield Amphitheatre, from Sept. 19 to 21. The eateries in Sauce Magazine’s Restaurant Row will offer Taste Bites, smaller-sized portions priced from $2 to $7. From Annie Gunn’s to Villa Farotto, there are more than three dozen restaurant booths. Don’t forget the free Art & Wine Walk, the Stella Artois Chef Battle Royale, culinary demos, Kid City, and big ticket items like appearances by Food Network’s Tyler Florence and Duff Goldman, as well as music by Big Head Todd & the Monsters and The Urge.




9. Iron Barley’s chef-owner Tom Coghill is crazy like a fox. He makes a bacon brownie ($9) using bourbon instead of water, and bacon fat instead of vegetable oil. He then dips very thick-cut bacon in brewer’s malt extract before double-smoking it and adding chunks to the batter. The final flourish: house-made vanilla ice cream and more bacon, of course. The bold dessert is available during dinner service at Iron Barley Thursday through Saturday.


10. Hey, ladies! A fun new deal at Art Bar Saint Louis, Nails and Cocktails combines booze, beauty and bargains. For $10, gals get a cocktail and a manicure the first Wednesday of the month. The oft-changing cocktail, said bar owner Tatyana Telnikova, is “a refreshing and fruity special that’s not too sweet.” Telnikova does the 15-minute manicures, which are “not too complicated, but better than what you would have done by yourself.” Art Bar, which opened about five months ago, also has a food menu that includes sweet and savory crepes, pierogies and a hummus app.





Extra Sauce: Homemade Amaretto

September 17th, 2014



In August, Dan and Anne Marie Lodholz, the husband and wife duo behind The Weekend Project, showed you how to use every last bit of your peaches and cherries, all the way down to the pits. Today, they’re sharing a recipe for one more boozy way to get the most from your end-of-summer stone fruits: amaretto.

In addition to macerating the lovely floral and herbal notes of fruit and spices with vodka and brandy, the Lodholzes also create a double simple syrup and a caramel syrup separately. This method allows drinkers to sweeten their amaretto exactly to their tastes.

Need a refresher on how to crack open those peach pits to get at the seeds? Click here and follow the instructions in the Peach Pit Tincture recipe for steeping, roasting and cracking those bad boys open.

Makes about 2 quarts

5 cups sugar, divided
3½ cups plus 2 Tbsp. water, divided
4½ cups vodka
1½ cups brandy
½ cup roasted peach seeds
½ cup peach pits pieces (remains of broken pits from removing seeds)
3/8 cup chopped raw almonds
2 Tbsp. anise seed
2 Tbsp. fennel seed
½ cup cherries, pitted and chopped
½ cup peach slices and scraps
½ cup apricot chunks
4 whole cloves
1 Tbsp. mint leaves
2 allspice berries or ¼ tsp. ground allspice
Almond extract

• To make the double simple syrup, bring 1½ cups water to a boil in a heavy saucepan and slowly whisk in 3 cups sugar until it is dissolved. Once the liquid is completely clear, remove from heat and let cool. Store the simple syrup, covered, in the refrigerator up to 6 weeks.
• To make the caramel simple syrup, bring 2 cups water to just below a boil in pot over high heat. Meanwhile, pour 2 cups sugar and 2 tablespoons water into a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Gently swirl the saucepan until the water is incorporated into the sugar and it begins to turn an almond color, about 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat and carefully whisk in the almost-boiling water until well incorporated (Use caution, as the mixture will steam.). Remove from heat, pour into a container with a lid and let cool. Store the caramel simple syrup, covered, in the refrigerator 4 to 6 weeks.
• To make the amaretto, pour the vodka, brandy, peach seeds, peach pit pieces, almonds, anise seed, fennel seed, cherries, peach slices and scraps, apricot chunks, cloves, mint and allspice into a large pitcher. Mix and then divide the mixture evenly between 2 quart-sized mason jars. Seal and shake.
• Store the jars in a cabinet for 4 weeks, shaking every couple days to agitate the ingredients. After 3 weeks, open the jars and smash the fruit with a wooden spoon. Seal again and place back in the cabinet. Let the jars rest the last 4 to 5 days of maceration so the ingredients can settle.
• Line a fine mesh strainer with several layers of cheesecloth and pour the liqueur through the strainer into a large pitcher. Discard the solids.
• To bottle, mix 1 cup amaretto liqueur with ½ cup double simple syrup, ¼ cup caramel syrup and 1 teaspoon almond extract. Pour into clean mason jars and serve with additional syrup.

 -photo by Michelle Volansky

Guide to Drinking 2014: Trendwatch – Part 2

September 16th, 2014


Did you miss Part 1 of our Trendwatch? Click here for more about the latest trends in the beverage world, part of our annual Guide to Drinking.


5. Drinking Weed: Some people mow down dandelions. Others eat them. And then there are those who use the plant for booze. Following the national trend of using foraged ingredients for housemade elixirs, The Fortune Teller Bar on Cherokee Street has concocted a house-made dandelion tincture that adds vegetal tang to a reverse martini called Summer Switch No. 2. Meanwhile, look for the release by mid-October of Lion’s Tooth, a dandelion liqueur made with dandelion roots and Crown Valley brandy. The liqueur is a collaboration between Water Street in Maplewood and the Ste. Genevieve distillery.

6. The Spirit of Korea Takes Flight: Soju, the best-selling alcohol in the world, is making a splash in the Gateway City. The Korean spirit distilled from rice is traditionally consumed straight, but from London to NYC to San Francisco, bartenders are mixing the low-alcohol liquor into everything from aperitifs to slushies. Locally, The Purple Martin bar manager Joel Clark prepared herb-steeped soju for a multi-course Asian-themed dinner held this summer at the Fox Park bar and restaurant.

7. Day Beer Believers: Brewers have answered the call for beer that you can drink and drink some more. It’s out with the double and triple IPAs and in with sessionable suds. We’re familiar with Schlafly Sessions IPA and Founders All Day IPA, but in the last year, we’ve also seen Stone Go To IPA, Goose Island Endless IPA, Lagunitas DayTime IPA and Boulevard Pop-Up Session IPA arrive on the scene.

8. Choose Your Own Booze Adventure: Has it been years since you had your nose in a Choose Your Own Adventure book? Time to join the adult version of that club. Lots of bars around town are offering build-your-own cocktails, and no matter your poison, there’s a drink adventure in store for you. If gin is your thing, build your own G&Ts at The Gin Room at Cafe Natasha’s. At Bar Italia, you can have your spritz – a classic northern Italian combination of amaro and prosecco – just the way you like it (and if you head there during happy hour for 5 O’Clock Spritz, you’ll get free plates of antipasti). At Boogaloo, they’re still building mojitos your way through September; then it gives way to a maze of Manhattans. Finally, at Cielo, you can build your favorite cocktail using its house barrel-aged spirits.

9. Alpine Aperitif: Génépy, the alpine herbal liqueur reminiscent of green Chartreuse, has jet-setted from French ski resorts to St. Louis bars. For a taste of the French liqueur, head to Small Batch and order Bright, which features genepy with rye whiskey, house-made wormwood bitters, lemon and cava. At Taste, you’ll get génépy when you order Gimme Samoa, a combination of rum, cognac, génépy, crème de cacao, pineapple and lime juice. Meanwhile, bartenders at Planter’s House are génépy-happy with drinks like Eight is Enough and Unusual Suspects.





The Scoop: Former Cuban and Mexican cafe La Tropicana Market sees new life as El Tropical

September 16th, 2014



When the Trabanco family closed doors to its La Tropicana Market last October, St. Louis waved a sad goodbye to the nearly 40-year-old market-cafe at 5001 Lindenwood Ave., that was an institution for Cuban and Mexican food. But La Tropicana is seeing new life with a different name and under new ownership.

Now known as El Tropical, the South City corner eatery is a project by Daime Gomez and Lorena Roble Munoz. “We’re following La Tropicana’s traditions of serving Mexican and Cuban food,” said Munoz in her native Spanish during a break from making fresh tamales. Munoz has ties to the state of Zacatecas in north central Mexico. Gomez, a native of Cuba, has lived in St. Louis for the past four years.




Like its predecessor, El Tropical offers a menu of Cuban and Mexican cuisine patrons can eat at the cafe (including outside on the patio) or carry out. With Munoz as the primary cook, the menu leans heavily Mexican and includes items such as tacos, burritos, fajitas, tamales and empanadas, all featuring a variety of meats like chicken tinga, chorizo, pulled pork and shredded beef. Gomez will lend his hand to Cuban offerings that include Cuban-style empanadas, Cuban sandwiches and yuca herbida (boiled yucca).

While El Tropical does not have a grocery component like La Tropicana did, Munoz and Gomez hope to soon see the refrigerated cases along the walls stocked with some fresh market items, as well as beer and other adult beverages. The approval of a liquor license is pending.

“It’s great. It’s wonderful to know (the space) is going to be occupied, that there will be food, and that we’ll keep the Cuban aspect in the city,” said former owner Luis Trabanco.

Although El Tropical opened quietly Aug. 29, its website and Facebook page have not yet launched. El Tropical is open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday. Those looking to contact the shop can call 314.833.3513.

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