Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Smoke and Salt...screen

After hearing so much about Salt and Smoke we decided to give it a try. We went to their restaurant at 501 South Main st. in St. Charles, MO. They have other locations in the Central West end, on Delmar, Hampton and coming soon to Ball Park Village downtown.

This is a great place for spirits drinkers with 64 bourbons, 58 ryes, 37 worldwide whiskeys, 28 scotches a multitude of craft beers on tap and in bottles and cans. The prices seem to be reasonable. They also have a wine list with red, white and sparkling wines. I must say I am not aware of many of the brand names of wines on their list.

Now let's talk about our dining experience. Salt and Smoke features BBQ and I almost always enjoy BBQ. We started out with fried pickles with a flax seed mustard. It was an excellent choice. It featured both pickle spears






and slices that were perfectly spiced and served hot and tasty.

Other appetizers of note include burnt end toasted ravs, hushpuppies with maple butter, fried chicken skin with honey grain mustard and more.

Salt and Smoke offers BBQ sandwiches and plates. Sandwiches come with one side, plates come with two sides and a bacon-cheddar popover. More on the popover later. Sides include; beef fat fries, pit beans with smoked bacon, sweet pepper potato salad, vinegar coleslaw, white cheddar cracker mac, green bean and tomato salad, BBQ sweet potato chips, creamed corn, brisket chili and a seasonal side.

Sue had the brisket plate with potato salad and white cheddar mac. I chose a half slab of ribs with the chili and pit beans. Both came with the popover. The popover was a thin skinned, hollow pastry item that had zero taste of bacon-cheddar. It was, in-fact, a perfect Yorkshire Pudding suitable for an English Sunday Roast. I think corn bread would be a better fit for their menu.

Both plates were equally large portions, especially for the price. Plates start at $12.00 and go up depending on the number of side items you order. Sue's brisket was hot and juicy. The potato salad was excellent, but the white cheddar mac was an abysmal failure. The macaroni was mushy, it was very dry with too many crackers and little, or no taste of white cheddar.

Everything on my plate came to the table barely warm. I asked our waitress to please zap the plate for a minute or two, and to their credit, she said they don't have a microwave. She took it back and served me a new meal that was at a satisfactory temperature. The pit beans were OK, the brisket chili was more of a very dry cassoulet. It was the first chili I have ever eaten with a fork. The ribs were smoked with a dry rub, lots of dry rub. In retrospect, I wish I had scraped it off before I started to eat them. The meat was “fall off the bone” tender, but very dry. The various sauces, Mustardolina, My sweet Bestie, Hot and Tangy and I Can't even ..can be summed up as “OK, if you say so”. All of the sauces were thin and watery. My Sweet Bestie was the best of the lot. The Mustardolina literally tasted like watered-down French's mustard. I honestly think my meal was warmed over items from the previous day of two. I was not impressed.

We split a piece of pecan pie with cinnamon ice cream. It was very good.

The service was OK, as was the ambiance. They are located in the historic Main street area of St. Charles, so the exposed brick walls decorated with the work of a local artist fit the scene. There is a large, outdoor patio service area as well.

In summary, I feel this is an average at best BBQ restaurant with a great bar. I don't think Salt and Smoke is representative of the St. Louis area's great BBQ tradition.

Monday, January 27, 2020

The Impossible Burger?

Sue and I decided to try the "Impossible burger" Our local Burger King had a special 2 for $6.00 special, so we went for it.  It looked like a regular burger, it smelled like a regular burger, and that was about it! It was as dry as a piece of cardboard. There was no taste of "juicy burger", in fact, the only taste was that of "char-broiled" something! At a special price of 2 for $6.00, I was not impressed, and at $5.89 each, there is no way I would buy this poorly fabricated sandwich!

Image may contain: Kevin McCarthy, sitting, eyeglasses and indoor

Thursday, May 23, 2019

Little Rock Italian Festival VIP Tent and Grape Stomp

We recently did a live broadcast from the Little Rock, Arkansas Italian Culture and Food Festival.
We did a live broadcast from the event and had a great time at this family friendly event.

Here is a link

https://youtu.be/144r1EflvVM

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Great Mexican Food In Ofallon, MO







Call me crazy, but we decided to go to a Mexican restaurant on Cinco de Mayo, their busiest day of the year. But it could be a real test of their service as well as the kitchen crew.
The dining room was packed at 5:30pm and the tents in the parking lot were full as well, but Jose Penos passed with flying colors!
We were quickly seated and the service was incredibly fast. So much so that we told them we were not in a hurry.
There are three dining rooms and you can make reservation for twenty or more people. There is also a nice bar area which has a huge selection of premium tequilas and numerous imported and domestic beers. A must see is the margarita tower, a large, clear plastic tube of margaritas with a spigot at the bottom. It is large enough for a group of people but doesn't take up a lot of table space. Beside that, it's just really cool!
Our first item was Guacamole prepared table side. Very fresh and tasty, and we were asked if we wanted it chunky or smooth. That was a nice touch.
Jose Penos menu is large and has everything you would find in a typical St. Louis Mexican restaurant, but, you should definitely look at the last page before you order. It is titled “El Sabor De Mi Tierra”, “the flavor of my country”. Here you will find items that come from family recipes. I was not familiar with many of these items, but they all sounded delicious.
I chose the Pollo Con Rajas, chicken cooked in a cream sauce with corn, onions and roasted pablano peppers, which are very mild. It was served with rice, re-fried beans, sour cream and tortillas. It was amazing!
Another item I considered was the Torta, a Mexican sandwich, with steak, chicken, pork or Milanese with re-fried beans, mayonnaise, lettuce, tomatoes, jalapenos, tomatoes, onions and avocados. This is served with french fries. YUM
Many items on this page came with their own mole sauce which I will try the next time we visit Jose Penos.
Sue went with a more Tex-Mex three enchilada platter with rice and beans. The enchiladas were covered with a red sauce, white cheese sauce and a chili verge sauce and served with rice and re-fried beans. It was as colorful as it was delicious.
Sue had a house margarita and I had a Modelo beer on draft.
The servings were above average in size and I wish we had room to try a dessert, but we were too stuffed to even consider it.
They also feature live music on some nights. The musicians were very talented and played a number of songs other than La Bamba! The pan flute player was very good.
Jose Penos also has a very reasonably priced lunch menu and daily specials.
Here is an interesting addition to Jose Penos, they would love to cater your next event and have an umber of catering options to match your budget.
They have a Happy Hour as well! 3pm to 6pm and 9pm to Close Everyday with a $6.00 20oz Pitchers of House Margaritas, $13.00 Domestic Buckets and $15.00 Import Buckets, $2.50 - Well Drinks, 1.00 -off of Draft Beer, $4.00 - Select Silver and Reposado Tequila Shots and Monday through Friday Lunch - $3.50 Small Margaritas.
Jose Penos is a family run restaurant and when you dine at Jose Penos you are having dinner with family. Smile, relax and enjoy some of the best Mexican dining in the St. Louis area.
Jose Penos is located at 973 Waterbury Falls Dr, O'Fallon, MO63368. This just north of I-64 on highway K. Waterbury falls is one block north of Crusher St. Turn right on waterbury Falls and immediately left into a shopping ceter and it is straight ahead.
Phone (636) 477-6888 for reservations and more information. Jose Penos is open from
11:00 am ~ 10:00 pm. You can see their menus and learn more at josepenos.com.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Childhood Memories Still Live!







Childhood Memories Still Live!

Returning from Chicago, we stopped in Springfield, IL to visit a radio friend and Channel 20 meteorologist, Joe Crain. He took us to Keefner's Sandwiches, Subs and Stories for lunch.

Joe told us that the original Keefners was a soda fountain in downtown Springfield and my memory flashed upon huge ice cream sundaes and delicious chocolate malts!

As a child, I would visit my uncle during the State Fair and he would take me to Keefners on each visit. Needless to say, these are very fond memories. I told this to Angie Keefner, who is the second generation proprietor of Keefner's and she pointed to a shelf above the bar. Low and behold, the original, green, Hamilton Beech mixer was sitting there in a place of honor. They also have the old adding machine and cash register on display as well.

The menu is filled with comfort food and gourmet selections as well as some “healthy” items and of course, the mandatory Springfield favorite, the Horse Shoe and Pony Shoe sandwiches. A Horse Shoe is your favorite protein on a piece of toast piled with french fires and covered in cheese sauce, YUM! A Pony Shoe is half the size of the Horse Shoe. Almost every restaurant and bar in Springfield serves their version of this local favorite.

Keefner's also has a small bar and a great selection of craft and premium beers. A large chalk board covers one wall. You will see a very colorful display of the available beers as well as an ever changing, floor to ceiling, tribute to Spider Man. The Chef, another family member, is also the in-house artist responsible for these drawings.

My wife, Sue started her lunch with the Lobster Bisque. It was delicious. I had the home made Mushroom Soup, also delicious. Sue had the Italian Beef sandwich with home made chips and I tried the Braunschwieger sandwich with a slice of onion. It's difficult to find a good Braunschweiger sandwich and this was very good one and larger than I expected. A bit of spicy brown mustard and it approached perfection. I also had a small side salad that was enough for two people.

The portions were large enough that I had to pass on that chocolate malt for dessert, so we will be going back!

The next time you visit Springfield, IL you can experience the history of Abe Lincoln and Keefner's Subs and Stories. Its worth a visit!

Keefner's is open for lunch and dinner! Keefner's is located on the southwest part of Springfield in a small strip mall at 1941 W Iles Ave. Springfield, IL 62704. Their phone number (217) 546-1941 The atmosphere is pure Americana and the food is great!

Good Things Come In Small Packages!

Good Things Come In Small Packages!


After re-connecting with a co-worker from years ago, we decided to get together for lunch. He suggested a restaurant in a building that his son had redeveloped in the Historical Botanical Heights area of South St. Louis.
The restaurant Olio is in an old Standard Oil gas station at 1624 Tower Grove Ave. It sits next to its sister, fine dining, restaurant EliA. These restaurants, along with La Patisserie Chouquette just across the street, were founded by Internationally known Chef Ben Paremba. This was my first clue that this would be a wonderful experience.
On a side note, this keeps getting better, Executive Chef for both restaurants, Araron Martinez, was recently a finalist in America's search for a Chef to represent the United States in the Culinary World Olympics in Lyon, France. (he came in second).
Chef Paremba describes the fare at Olio as “Middle-terranean”, a nod to his Middle Eastern, Israeli heritage along with items and flavors from southern Europe and north Africa.
I agree with Chef Paremba's feelings that food is a celebration of life, family and friends. To that end, every item on the menu is hand crafted including home made breads.
While at Olio I felt I was sitting in a friends kitchen and kept waiting for his mother to come around the corner with something delicious! There is nothing pretentious about olio. It's simply a place to gather for an amazing dining experience.
When I read the menu I wanted to try everything I saw. There are many items that I have only seen during our two visits to Israel and can't wait to return to try them all.
My friend ordered the Famous Egg Salad, which is a recipe from Chef Paremba's Grand mother. I ordered the “King of Kings” Hummas with tahini, smoked paparika and parsley. There is also Taim Hummas with marinated local mushrooms, almonds and harissa. The “Deluxe” Hummas which includes braised lamb shoulder,almonds, pine nuts and harissa.
My Hummas was nothing like the paste you get at the grocery store. It was exactly like the hummas I fell in love with in Israel, buttery smooth, drizzled with olive oil and garnished with fresh herbs and spices. It was perfection! Along with a fresh baked flat bread, it was a meal unto itself.
I also tried the soup-of-the-day, a perfectly spiced bowl of eggplant, sweet potato, fresh herbs and sour cream. WOW! It was incredible.
Our choices came from the MEZZE section of the menu. MEZZA is defined as small, savory dishes served as appetizers or accompaniments to alcoholic drinks in Greek or Middle Eastern cuisine. While defined as small, these dishes were more than enough to be a very filling lunch.
A hot green tea was the perfect accompaniment for both of us.
The menu also includes small plates and large plates all with their Middle-Terranian selection of tantalizing items.
Olio also has a full bar service and a “Spritz Hour” from 3 to 6pm with hand-crafted drinks featuring club soda, sparkling wine and citrus wedges.

There is a large number of hand crafted, true cocktails featuring an impressive list of vermouths, aperitifs, amari an anissettes. Beers include at least 25 local, regional and national craft beers.
The wine list is more than adequate with wines from America, Argentina, France, Germany Italy, New Zealand, Romania, Austria and Spain. All wines are sold by the glass, and the bottle, and are reasonably priced.
Try to save room for a Macaron at La Patisserie Chouquette across the street. They a true piece of Paris!
I am anxious to try EliA's offerings but I think it may be a while as it will take some time to try everything at Olio.
Olio is located at 1626 Tower Grove Ave., you will easily recognize it as an old gas station, They are open Tuesday – Friday, 9am -2pm and Saturday, 9am – 5pm. Phone 314-932-7935.








Wednesday, February 27, 2019

“Flap Faster Winged Warrior”

Flap Faster Winged Warrior”
We recently had dinner at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill in St. Charles located at 1501 Beale Street, in the Streets of St. Charles, just south of I-70 at 5th Street. This is where the old Noah's Ark was located.
We had made reservations for four and were quickly seated upon our arrival. The FireBar is a visual experience with it's colorful back bar, and fireplace with what appears to be a cast iron logo of a Thunderbird. So far, so good.
After being seated, our waitress gave us our laminated menus which included a number of very creative items. The problem was that my menu had a good portion of another person's meal smeared all over it. My friends menu was also dirty. We asked for different menu's and got two more smeared menu's. We finally got clean menu's and placed our orders. And yes, I did mention this to the host on our way out and he seemed rather non-pulsed. I expected more.
Sue, and our guests, ordered the evening special, short ribs with Gouda grits and brussel sprouts. This was a very tasty item. I ordered a cup of chicken corn chowder which was also very good. My main dish was steak frites, which our waitress insisted on calling steak fritz! Oh well. I asked for medium rare and it came to the table medium well. After looking at a number of website reviews, this seems to be a recurring problem. The fries were very good.
In the interest of journalistic integrity, I also ordered the seasonal dessert of Ooey Gooey Pumpkin Spice Butter Cake topped with spiced pecans and vanilla whipped cream, drizzled with Woodford Reserve-spike salted caramel sauce. This was the best part of the evening.
The atmosphere could be somewhat romantic were it not so loud. We we there on a week night, so it was not that crowded, and they are definitely in need of some acoustical treatment. It was difficult to carry on a conversation.
The wine list is more than adequate. Cocktails appear to be above average in cost. Food cost is average to a bit above average when you add ala carte side items.
Over all, I will give them another try, but I am not holding my breath. In the words of Ms. Hellfinger, of Chicken Man fame, they need to “flap faster winged warrior”
Firebirds Wood Fired Grill is located at the Streets of St. Charles near the AMC theaters. They serve wood-fired steaks, seafood, specialty cocktails and select wines. Happy Hour is Monday thru Fridayfrom 4-7PM in the FIREBAR or on the patio.
They are open 11am – 10pm SUN – THURS and 11am - 11pmFri – Sat . Reservations may be made at 636-866-0984








New Hotel Saint Louis


A Reason To Go Downtown

There has been a lot of well deserved press regarding a new hotel in downtown St. Louis. The Hotel Saint Louis, at 705 Olive street is a $68 million dollar renovation of the historic Union Trust building. It was designed by Louis Sullivan and constructed in 1893. Sullivan is Considered the creator of the modern skyscraper, he is credited with the modernist credo, "form ever follows function.".

In the early 1970's I worked for HFC, now HSBC Bank. Their central collections office was in this building and I spent a number of months working in that facility. When we were asked to review items from Hotel Saint Louis' restaurant at a pre-opening tasting, I jumped at the opportunity!

The Hotel Saint Louis is the first Marriott Autograph Collections hotel in St. Louis. This description is based upon the fact that the hotel features many things that are unique to the St. Louis area. Everything from carpet design to food items have a local, St. Louis touch. Including their Chef.

Chef Birk is a native St. Louisan. I have known Chef Birk since he was flipping burgers at Maplewood's Cousin Hugo's. Since then his culinary journey has taken him to a number of prestigious hotels, Disney Cruise lines, his own restaurant in Jamaica and more. His philosophy at the Saint Louis Hotel's Union 30 restaurant is to serve you gourmet comfort food with a St. Louis flair at a reasonable price. This includes breakfast, lunch and dinner service.

Appetizers include their version of Famous Barr's French Onion Soup, and Mama's Chicken and dumplings. Salads include Al Baker's Chop Salad and the Mayfair's grilled Caesar Salad.

There is a daily special from the smoker which includes, St. Louis Pork steaks, Ribs, chops, Busch's Grove Cottage Fries, Collinsville Horse radish sauce and more.

Sue had the Classic Hill Fettuccine with Blackened Chicken, Parmesan and fresh cracked pepper. I had the Cold Smoked Strip Loin that is custom cut and grilled to the temperature you like. This was served with Creme Fraiche Mashed Potatoes and grilled Brussel Sprouts. Each item was excellent!

For dessert we decided to split the Union 30 Bread Pudding, a wonderful assemblage of bread pudding topped with smoked maple, bourbon ice cream topped with a bourbon caramel sauce and crispy bacon bits! Of course there is also St. Louis gooey Butter Cake if you want to go traditional.

A pleasant surprise ending to our meal was a salute to another piece of St. Louis history. We were presented with a miniature ice cream cone, which was invented at the St. Louis world's Fair.

The menu for each meal service includes a large number of delectable items with a St. Louis flair, all at a reasonable price. There is definitely something for everyone at Union 30 in the Saint Louis hotel.

A very well lighted parking lot is located behind the hotel for your convenience. There will also be food service available at the roof-top bar and pool area.

For more information go to hotelsaintlouis.com or call 314-241-4300.

I think we will be spending a lot more time downtown from now on!









Childhood Memories Still Live!

Childhood Memories Still Live!

Returning from Chicago, we stopped in Springfield, IL to visit a radio friend and Channel 20 meteorologist, Joe Crain. He took us to Keefner's Sandwiches, Subs and Stories for lunch.

Joe told us that the original Keefners was a soda fountain in downtown Springfield and my memory flashed upon huge ice cream sundaes and delicious chocolate malts!

As a child, I would visit my uncle during the State Fair and he would take me to Keefners on each visit. Needless to say, these are very fond memories. I told this to Angie Keefner, who is the second generation proprietor of Keefner's and she pointed to a shelf above the bar. Low and behold, the original, green, Hamilton Beech mixer was sitting there in a place of honor. They also have the old adding machine and cash register on display as well.

The menu is filled with comfort food and gourmet selections as well as some “healthy” items and of course, the mandatory Springfield favorite, the Horse Shoe and Pony Shoe sandwiches. A Horse Shoe is your favorite protein on a piece of toast piled with french fires and covered in cheese sauce, YUM! A Pony Shoe is half the size of the Horse Shoe. Almost every restaurant and bar in Springfield serves their version of this local favorite.

Keefner's also has a small bar and a great selection of craft and premium beers. A large chalk board covers one wall. You will see a very colorful display of the available beers as well as an ever changing, floor to ceiling, tribute to Spider Man. The Chef, another family member, is also the in-house artist responsible for these drawings.

My wife, Sue started her lunch with the Lobster Bisque. It was delicious. I had the home made Mushroom Soup, also delicious. Sue had the Italian Beef sandwich with home made chips and I tried the Braunschwieger sandwich with a slice of onion. It's difficult to find a good Braunschweiger sandwich and this was very good one and larger than I expected. A bit of spicy brown mustard and it approached perfection. I also had a small side salad that was enough for two people.

The portions were large enough that I had to pass on that chocolate malt for dessert, so we will be going back!

The next time you visit Springfield, IL you can experience the history of Abe Lincoln and Keefner's Subs and Stories. Its worth a visit!

Keefner's is open for lunch and dinner! Keefner's is located on the southwest part of Springfield in a small strip mall at 1941 W Iles Ave. Springfield, IL 62704. Their phone number (217) 546-1941 The atmosphere is pure Americana and the food is great!