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Nov 24, 2014
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Guide to the Holidays 2014: How Not to Be a Potluck Jackass

November 23rd, 2014



Hooray! Someone likes you enough to invite you to his potluck dinner. But don’t screw it up by being a nitwit. Not clear on what exactly constitutes such behavior? Read on for a comprehensive list of potential potluck party fouls. Avoid them, and you’ll secure an invite to next year’s shindig before the night is over. Commit them, and you better hope the host appreciates your better half.

1. Do recon. Ask around, then prepare a dish that complements the other guests’ offerings. Don’t be the lazy twit who whips up slice n’ bake cookies while someone else sweats over mini creme brulee. Presenting a posh pate to an onion dip crowd is an equally boneheaded move.

2. Don’t ask to use the oven. Your hosts have carefully timed the prep and cooking of their own dishes. If they can’t cook their lasagna because you’re baking your brie en croûte, you’re a self-important dolt. Slow cookers are a great way to keep food warm – if your host has available electrical outlets. Better yet, choose a dish that is served at room temperature.

3. Do supply your own serving spoons. It’s poor form to assume your host has enough serving pieces for everyone. But as potluck gaffes go, this is a relatively minor infraction. If you accidentally leave your cake cutter at home on the kitchen counter, don’t sweat it. You’re only kind of a jerk.

4. Do keep your food issues to yourself unless you have a life-threatening allergy. Otherwise, use common sense to determine what you should pile on your plate. People who make a production about what they can and can’t eat are attention-seeking blockheads. Bonus jackass points go to anyone who declares food to be “clean” or “unclean.” Leave the paleo platitudes at home.

5. Do be transparent about the ingredients if asked. This is the flip side of the previous faux pas. Always disclose what’s in your dish. Anyone who says there’s no meat in something made with chicken broth – even if it’s “just a splash” – is a certifiable jackass.

6. Don’t get drunk. Let this be your party mantra, and not just at potlucks. Getting so sloshed that you tumble down the stairs, fling your cocktail, and land on another guest’s husband is the jackass trifecta. If you find yourself in that undignified position, immediately redeem yourself by offering to host the potluck next year. Then compliment the host’s lasagna.


-illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan



The Scoop: Taco Circus to offer quick-serve tacos in Bevo Mill

November 22nd, 2014



The tacos will fly when quick-service restaurant Taco Circus opens in early December. As reported by Ian Froeb of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Taco Circus is a project by Mikey Carrasco and Christian Ethridge, both transplants from Austin, Texas. The long-time friends settled on 4258 Schiller Place in Bevo Mill as the space where they will give St. Louisans a taste of what they ate as kids: tacos.

“When we were growing up, if we had $5 we would go to taco places,” said Ethridge, who left his job as commissary manager for Baileys’ restaurant group this summer to get Taco Circus up and running. Ethridge said he wants Taco Circus to be a legitimate alternative to current fast food choices. The duo chose the restaurant’s name because it suggested “controlled chaos, family-inclusive and light-hearted – and just wanting to convey the message that it’s a fast-food place and not a restaurant with servers.” In fact, it will be just Ethridge and Carrasco cooking, ringing up orders and wiping down the few tables in the 700-square-foot space.

The menu will be limited; look for just a handful of tacos (including a breakfast taco featuring eggs, potatoes, house-made chorizo, breakfast sausage and local bacon), a couple fajitas, side dishes like beans and rice, a salsa bar and perhaps a dessert. With only 15 or 20 seats, Ethridge and Carrasco expect Taco Circus to do more carryout that dine-in business.

Ethridge anticipates opening Taco Circus in early December after brightening the space with a lively paint job, a neon sign and vintage circus posters. “No clowns,” he added. “We’re not to the point of kitsch.”


By the Book: Ben Towill and Phil Winser’s Leek & Peekytoe Crab Gratin

November 22nd, 2014



Full disclosure: cooking intimidates me. My culinary skills pale when compared to my family’s kitchen queens, my mother and aunts. There’s nothing better to this starving college student than visiting a relative’s house, where there are sure to be tasty, homemade dishes waiting. It’s a nice alternative to my fallback, the $6.51 large pizza around the corner. My large Italian family gathers monthly to swap stories, celebrate birthdays and cook and consume substantial amounts of food. My “honorary Nana,” Pat, has dubbed one my family’s perennial favorites “that effin’ crab dip,” as in, “Why do we always have to bring that effin’ crab dip to the party?”

Even family favorites can use an update now and then; that’s why I was excited to see a new variation on one this staple in The Fat Radish: Kitchen Diaries. Co-authors and chefs Ben Towill and Phil Winser showcase recipes featured at the NYC restaurant, The Fat Radish. While meat dishes do make appearances, vegetables and seafood steal the show in this new cookbook.




The recipe was simple enough for even a hesitant college cook like me. If I could simmer leeks in a pan, I could handle this. I did find the dip a bit dry for my liking, so I added more liquid to smooth everything out. I am also a huge fan of cheese, so a few extra shreds of sharp white cheddar may have found their way into the pan. After all, when has extra cream and cheese ever been a bad thing?




Overall, this dish was impeccable. The delicate crab and leeks were aromatic, and the dip was warm and filling. A drizzle of oil olive on top and a pinch of lemon were the perfect garnish – though an extra crack of black pepper on top wouldn’t hurt, either.




Nana Pat may moan when she sees I brought yet crab dip to our next family get together, but after one bite, I think she’ll be talking about that “effin’ good crab dip” for a long time.




Leek & Peekytoe Crab Gratin
8 servings

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts only, washed and finely diced
½ cup sherry
1 cup heavy cream
1 lb. cleaned crab meat (use whatever type you like)
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ cup breadcrumbs
½ cup coarsely grated sharp white cheddar cheese
Pinch grated nutmeg
Pinch red chili flakes
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Lemon wedges for serving
Toast for serving

• Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
• Place the butter in an ovenproof skillet set over medium heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring now and then, until softened, about 10 minutes. Add the sherry, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Cook until the sherry is nearly evaporated, 5 minutes. Add the cream to the pan, turn the heat to low and simmer until the cream is slightly reduced, 5 minutes. Allow the cream mixture to cool. Stir the crab into the cooled cream mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste.
• Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, cheese, nutmeg and chili flakes. Cover the crab mixture evenly with the breadcrumb mixture and drizzle with olive oil. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the top is golden brown and the sides are bubbling, about 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot with lemon wedges alongside and plenty of toast.

Have you put a twist on one of your family’s classic recipes? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Fat Radish: Kitchen Diaries.

Sneak Peek: Earthbound Brewing

November 21st, 2014

Cherokee Street’s Earthbound Brewing will soon lay claim to the title “St. Louis’ Shortest Brewery Tour.” At less than 1,000 square feet, it takes a person less than 30 seconds to walk from the front to the back of the shotgun-style space. Located at 2710 Cherokee St., Earthbound is smaller than most tasting rooms, but co-owners Stuart Keating, Rebecca Schranz and Jeff Siddons have big ideas for their new brewery, which opens doors tomorrow, Nov. 22.

As The Scoop first reported in July, the Earthbound Brewing team is turning their homebrew habit into a full-fledged business. Beer recipes saluting both classic styles and unique ingredients are in the works; Keating said some of the first Earthbound beers he hopes to offer include a pale ale brewed with rosemary and juniper as well as a pecan-chicory stout. Batches will be small and frequently rotated since space to actually brew is limited.

About 30 people can imbibe at the bar or at tables and stools that Keating, Schranz and Siddons crafted with salvaged local wood. The trio also decorated the narrow walls with antique farm implements and maps framed inside refurbished window frames.

Behind the bar, eight taps will eventually pour a selection of Earthbound brews and those by local favorites like Augusta Brewing, The Civil Life, Ferguson Brewing and more. Patrons can also order that most hipster of canned beers, Stag, or choose from a selection of spirits. There’s no food service at Earthbound, but customers are encouraged to pick up fare to-go from a Cherokee Street eatery and dig in over a pint.

Earthbound will be open Thursdays and Fridays from 4 p.m. to midnight and Saturdays and Sundays from noon to midnight.



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-photos by Michelle Volansky

The Scoop: St. Louis breweries take top honors at recent beer festivals

November 21st, 2014




Raise ‘em high and toast to our area breweries, many of which seem to be scooping up medals right and left at prestigious beer festivals. Recently, Perennial Artisan Ales picked up gold and silver medal wins at the Illinois Craft Brewers Guild’s 12th annual Festival of Barrel Aged Beers. Perennial’s barrel-aged Abraxas brought home the highest honor in the festival’s experimental category and was runner-up for best of show.

This is the third consecutive year Abraxas has brought home the bling, first with a silver in 2012 and then with a gold in 2013 and 2014. “It’s humbling to see people like it so much,” said Perennial brewmaster Cory King. “People are always after the next new thing, so for (Abraxas) to be around for so long is awesome.”

Abraxas is aged is an imperial stout which is aged for a year in Rittenhoue Rye barrels with cacao nibs, vanilla beans, ancho chiles and cinnamon sticks which started as a home brew in King’s kitchen. More than 90 breweries could submit up to three entries each, for a total of more than 300 beers in 11 categories. Perennial co-owner Phil Wymore estimates that Abraxas won out over 30 beers in the experimental category. “This is one of our favorite festivals,” he said. “It’s so niche that to be honored as having the best barrel-aged beer is special.”

4 Hands Brewing Co. also took home FOBAB hardware last weekend. The brewery announced via Twitter that its barrel-aged Bonafide with cinnamon brought home bronze, while Volume 2 walked away with the silver medal. Owner Kevin Lemp could not be reached for comment.

Meanwhile on the East Coast, Urban Chestnut earned accolades at the Great International Beer & Cider Competition in Rhode Island. UCBC earned three gold medals for its Schnickelfritz, Zwickel and Bushelhead cider and a bronze for its Aramis, as reported by Alive Magazine.

Co-owner David Wolfe said he was pleased to see the honors bestowed upon UCBC’s top-selling beers and cider. “It’s neat that the two of them combined make up a considerable amount for our total portfolio volume,” Wolfe said.

Wolfe said competitions like this one help UCBC realize where it stands on a national level. “You like to see where your beers stack up against other beers, specifically in those categories,” he said. “It’s a great barometer in that sense.”

Catherine Klene contributed to this report.

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

November 21st, 2014

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




I believe that Crown Candy in St. Louis overdoes it by putting 2 lettuce leaves on its legendary BLT. One is plenty.

Bucket list moment: meeting this culinary giant. @ruhlman, come back to #STL when it’s time to talk #howtobraise. https://twitter.com/LigayaFigueras/status/535418409258070016/photo/1

i woke up from a dream in which i was baking pound cake at a bakery called “Pound Town”. wow. thanks, brain. “Welcome to Pound Town”

Milk Punch time! @Bigbadchef @4RosesBourbon #snowday #sundayfunday https://twitter.com/bmox/status/534110609739366400/photo/1

A first tonight: Saw my name appended to my seat on the restaurant’s computer seating chart. Should’ve worn my giant-sandwich disguise.

Can you even imagine how fresh the rangoons must be in China?

Move over Cronut (trademark symbol), at Pastaria were making Geloni!! https://twitter.com/CroyAnne/status/535512400649142273/photo/1

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

The Scoop: Kaslik relocates, Lester’s closes two locations

November 21st, 2014



Less than two years after opening its doors in Florissant, Kaslik Restaurant is moving just down the road to 7847 N. Lindbergh Blvd., into a free-standing 3,500-square-foot space with seating capacity up to 150. Kaslik chef-owner Wesam Hamed said he’s glad to have the additional space to serve locals and out-of-towners from as far away as Joplin

“Business is very good and people come from all over, but we have a problem with dining in because there are only 20 seats,” Hamed said. “We’re missing the diners.”

Those diners will now have plenty of room to sit and enjoy the hot and cold appetizers, vegetables, eggplant and the rest of the traditional Mediterranean fare that made the original location successful. Kaslik’s catering business will be run out of the new location as well.

Hamed plans to keep the lease at 8141 N. Lindbergh Blvd., and open a new restaurant whose concept is still under development. Hamed hopes to open Kaslik at the new location Dec. 1.

While Kaslik expands, local sports bar Lester’s is cutting back. As reported by The St. Louis Business Journal, Lester’s locations in the Central West End and Chesterfield have closed. Vice president of operations Pedro Beltranena was not immediately available for comment. Lester’s in Ladue remains open.


Drink This Weekend Edition: Mother’s Winter Grind

November 20th, 2014



St. Louis loves its craft breweries, but the state of Missouri has more to delicious brews to offer outside the county lines. Take, for instance, Mother’s Brewing Company in Springfield. Mother’s opened just four years ago inside an old bakery and has grown at a rapid pace ever since. Mother’s isn’t available in St. Louis city or county (yet!), but the 20-minute drive south on Interstate 55 is well worth the trip to find out what the rest of the state is talking about.

November brings one of Mother’s best-known seasonals. Winter Grind is a delicious coffee stout made with a cold brew-espresso blend from another Springfield anchor, Mudhouse Coffee. The result is a wintery treat to please lovers of both coffee and beer. Winter Grind pours jet black with a beautiful light brown head, and the aroma packs a big espresso punch with hints of malt and smoke. The first sip hits the palate with big black coffee notes, and if you dig deeper, you’ll detect cocoa and chocolate. The medium-bodied mouth feel means this beer is rich without cloying, and at 6 percent ABV, this is smooth and easy to drink.

Winter Grind is a perfect beer to sip as the temperatures drop, but St. Louis city and county residents will have to travel a bit to find it. It’s available bottled at most grocery stores in Arnold, Imperial and much of Jefferson County, and Weber’s Front Row in Arnold pours draft Winter Grind as long as the season allows. Until Mother’s expands its distribution, take the short drive and see what the (coffee) buzz is about.


Eric Hildebrandt is the moderator and ambassador for STL Hops. Find him on Twitter at @EricSTL6.

The Weekend Project: Lasagna

November 20th, 2014



Ready or not, here it comes… The holiday season is upon us, and there are a million-and-a-half things on your to-do list: a house to clean, gifts to purchase, decorations to dig out of storage, family to host for the big meal next week – and how are there already Christmas carols on the radio?!

Pause. Take a deep breath. Now is not the time to spiral into a frenzy of takeout or frozen meals. You need simple comfort food, and if it can be made in advance and feeds that crowd about to show up on your doorstep, all the better.

Homemade lasagna is the perfect solution – and we promise it’s not as stressful as it sounds. Even with an infant, three other children and two full-time jobs, we still found this dish easy to prepare. You may be tempted to substitute store-bought ingredients (we understand; we opted to use store-bought ricotta instead of making our own this time), but this meal is a much lighter, more elegant affair when you take the time to make as much as you can from scratch.




Prepare the hearty ragu on Saturday morning (omit the sausage and double up on the mushrooms for a delicious vegetarian option) and let it simmer slowly on the back burner while you continue your myriad of Thanksgiving preparations. On Sunday, enlist an assistant to help roll out the pasta. It only takes a few minutes, and the taste and texture of fresh pasta blows the boxed stuff out of the water.





For those who want immediate gratification, assemble and bake your molten, cheesy creation Sunday night, then dig in with your prep crew. If this meal is meant to fortify you during the long week ahead, cover the unbaked lasagna in plastic and hide it in the refrigerator up to two days. When your Thanksgiving guests arrive, just throw it in the oven and enjoy a relaxing, stress-free meal that will warm and invigorate even the weariest travelers.


The Game Plan
Day 1: Make the ricotta. Make the sauce.
Day 2: Make the pasta. Assemble and bake the lasagna.

The Grocery List*
1 gallon whole milk**
1¼ quarts heavy cream
1 cup 5 percent-acidity white vinegar
2 king oyster mushrooms
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion
5 cloves garlic
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
½ cup white wine
½ cup sweet marsala
2 28-oz. cans of crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 to 7 large basil leaves
5 eggs
2 lbs. sliced mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan

*This list assumes you have olive oil, butter, kosher salt, freshly ground black pepper and flour. If not, you’ll need to purchase these things, too.
** Raw or low-temperature pasteurized milk is preferable, but ultra-pasteurized milk will work, too.

Courtesy of Blood & Sand’s David Rosenfeld
Makes 1 quart

1 gallon whole milk
1¼ quarts heavy cream
4 Tbsp. kosher salt
1 cup 5 percent-acidity white vinegar

Day 1: In a large pot, gently heat the milk and cream until it reaches exactly 188 degrees. Add the salt and vinegar and stir once to combine. Remove from heat.
• Use a strainer to skim the curds from the top of the liquid and place them in a fine-mesh sieve lined with cheesecloth. Continue to skim every 15 to 20 minutes as curds form, until the whey is clear. Discard the whey or reserve for another use.
• Let the curds drain in the cheesecloth until the ricotta reaches the desired consistency, up to 12 hours. Ricotta will keep, covered and refrigerated, up to 1 week.



Sausage-mushroom Ragu
Makes 1 quart

2 king oyster mushrooms, diced
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. butter
1 lb. Italian sausage
1 onion, diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
2 carrots, diced small
2 stalks celery, diced small
½ cup white wine
½ cup sweet marsala
2 28-oz. cans crushed San Marzano tomatoes
3 oz. tomato paste
2 cups vegetable stock
1 sprig fresh thyme
6 to 7 basil leaves
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Day 1: In a large stock pot over high heat, saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons olive oil over high heat until brown, 5 to 7 minutes, working in batches to avoid crowding. Remove the mushrooms from the pot and set aside.
• Add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and 1 tablespoon butter to the pot and reduce the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the sausage and brown about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onion and saute 3 minutes, until the onions are translucent, scraping the bottom of the pot to remove any browned bits. Add the garlic, carrots and celery and continue to saute another 3 to 5 minutes, until the vegetables are fragrant. Salt to taste, then return the mushrooms to the pot.
• Add the white wine and marsala and simmer until the liquid has nearly evaporated, about 10 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and stock, stirring until the paste is incorporated. Add the thyme, basil, salt to taste and several grinds of pepper.
• Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to low. Continue to gently simmer about 3 hours, stirring occasionally to prevent the ragu from scorching. When the sauce is reduced by half, season to taste with salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Ragu will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 week.





Lasagna Noodles
Makes 8 large sheets

1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 eggs

Special equipment: pasta roller

Day 2: Scoop the flour onto a clean counter and make a well in the center. Crack the eggs into the well. With a fork, stir the eggs to slowly incorporate the all flour until a dough forms. Knead the dough, adding flour to the surface when necessary, until the dough is firm, about 5 minutes. Wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
• Unwrap the dough and slice it into 4 even pieces. Press 1 piece flat and feed it through a pasta roller on setting No. 1. Repeat on the same setting, then roll it through twice on setting No. 2. Continue feeding the pasta sheet through roller twice on each setting through No. 5. Cut each sheet of pasta in half, sprinkle with flour and place on a large cutting board. Repeat the rolling technique with the remaining dough.
• Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Prepare a large ice bath.
• Drape a sheet of pasta over the handle of a wooden spoon and dip it into the boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove and plunge into the ice bath, then let drain in colander. Rinse under cold water to remove any starch, then lay the blanched pasta sheet onto a clean kitchen towel. Repeat until all the pasta is blanched and rinsed.




6 to 8 servings

2 cups Ricotta (recipe above)
3 eggs
1 tsp. kosher salt
Olive oil, for greasing
1 quart Sausage-mushroom Ragu (recipe above)
8 large Lasagna Noodles (recipe above)
2 lbs. sliced mozzarella
½ cup grated Parmesan

Day 2: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
• In a bowl, whisk together the ricotta, eggs and salt together until smooth. Set aside
• Grease a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with olive oil. Spread about 1 cup ragu in a thin layer on the bottom of the baking dish. Cover with a layer of lasagna noodles. Spread one-third of the ricotta mixture on top of the noodles, then sprinkle with Parmesan. Cover with a layer of sliced mozzarella. Repeat the layers 2 more times, then sprinkle the top with Parmesan.
• Bake 15 to 20 minutes until the top is browned. Lasagna will keep, refrigerated, up to 1 week.




-photos by Michelle Volansky

Wheatless Wednesday: Healthy Chinese Almond Cookies

November 19th, 2014



The holiday season is a dangerous time for me. When confronted with a tray of sweets, I’ve been known to channel Cookie Monster (“C is for cookie, that’s good enough for me!”). Those overly processed, sugary treats are addictive, and I quickly learned that I would need a healthier alternative to stave off the cookie massacre.

Everyone can use a recipe for those times we crave a treat without spiking our blood sugar levels. I find when I bake with higher protein flours, less sugar and minimally processed ingredients, I am more satisfied with just a couple cookies rather than the whole tray. These almond flour cookies are a healthy, simplified version of the traditional Chinese dessert, sweetened with just enough honey and almond extract to make the taste buds tingle. This dough is easy to work with and doesn’t contain raw eggs, so lick the that spoon guilt-free. For holiday flair, replace the vanilla and almond extracts with peppermint extract and swap whole almonds with crushed peppermint candies.


Healthy Chinese Almond Cookies
Makes 18 to 20

¼ cup extra-virgin coconut oil, melted
⅓ cup raw honey
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1⅓ cups (135 g.) almond flour*
2 Tbsp. (15 g.) coconut flour
¼ tsp. sea salt
½ tsp. baking soda
18 to 20 whole raw almonds

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
• In a medium bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, honey, vanilla extract and almond extract until well combined. Add the almond flour, coconut flour, salt and baking soda and stir until a firm dough comes together. It should be able to roll into a ball. If not, refrigerate up to 30 minutes.
• Roll the dough into 18 to 20 1-inch balls and place them on a baking sheet 1 inch apart. Press 1 almond into the center of each cookie. Bake 10 minutes, until edges start to lightly brown. Let the cookies cool slightly then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

*I advise weighing any nut flours to prevent inaccurate measurements.


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