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!










Thursday, December 13, 2018

Tasty Texas

On a quick trip to Texas we ate at two different restaurants. The first was Marty B's at Bartonville, TX It appears to be a relatively new restaurant but there were no flaws in the service. In fact, our server went out of his way to accommodate the finicky tastes of our granddaughter who asked for a salad with no tomatoes, cheese, onions or chopped eggs. She also ordered mac and cheese with no bread crumb topping.

BBQ and TexMex are the featured items, I had smoked pulled pork tacos that were huge and very tasty. My grandson had a bacon burger big enough for two people. Sue had smoked brisket tacos. Our daughter in law had a beautiful and tasty dinner sald and Sue's son had Texican Tamale Cake, a sweet corn griddle cake topped with smoked meat and a house made slaw with a side of charro beans.

Everything is locally sourced, organic and hormone/antibiotic free. Dinner for six with two beers was only $106.00. This is a great place! Plus, they have a hitching post in case you ride your horse to dinner! We will go back.

We flew home from Dallas Love Field and got to the airport early enough to have dinner. We ate at the Cool River Cafe inside the secure area of the airport. This is a restaurant and bar rather than a fast food hole in the wall. Our server was very nice but they were out of Stella Artois beer.

I ordered the Soy & Honey Salmon with molasses bourbon butter, crispy fingerling potatoes and broccoli. This was a large serving and well prepared. Sue had the Pasta Fernando, hickory grilled chicken & shrimp on trumpet pasta with spinach and peppers in a Grana Padano and Arevalo sauce. Again, a larger than expected serving and very tasty.

For dessert we had a Makers Mark Pecan Bread Pudding and a chocolate lava cake, both of which were excellent.

The only problem was we ordered a Sam Adams draft beer and a “dobel-rita” which came in a plsner glass filled with ice and very little margarita!. The beer was $9.00 and the margarita was $19.00!! RIDICULOUSLY OVER PRICED!! I guess that is why the drink menu has no prices on it.  I should have known better. Total price of dinner for two: $98.00!  Next time it will be Dickey's BBQ.









Thursday, October 4, 2018

Lobster, It's what's for Dinner at the Five fishermen, Halifax,NS

Lobster, It's What's For Dinner!

We had the recent good fortune to visit Nova Scotia which offered me the opportunity to try to eat my fill of culinary crustaceans.

Lobster is in season in Nova Scotia year round, but that may not be the case in a particular area where you are located. The season rotates through various geographical locations depending upon the time of the year. While fresh lobster may not be available in one city, a ten mile drive could bring you to an area where it is available. Of course, frozen lobster is always available.

While Poutine, french fries with cheese curds covered in brown gravy, may be the go-to fast food of Canada, Lobster is the signature dish of Nova Scotia. Roadside bars have portable signs in their parking lot that say “Beer and Lobster, Enough Said” You may have Lobster Benedict for breakfast, a lobster roll sandwich for lunch and a whole lobster for dinner. I like Nova Scotia. But if lobster is not for you, Nova Scotia also offers an amazing selection of other fresh seafood as well “Canadian AAA Steaks”. This is a grading system similar to “USDA Prime”. It is a tender, tasty, but more lean steak than it's US counter part.

We had a wonderful meal at the Five Fisherman restaurant in Halifax, NS. The building itself is of great historical importance for the City of Halifax.

In 1818 the parishioners of St Paul’s Church of England opened the building as a school. It would become the first school in Canada to offer a free education. It is for this reason that the building has the distinction of being the First National School and is a protected Heritage site.

The building changed hands to its new proprietor, Anna Leowens. She started an Art school, the Halifax Victorian School of Art. Before coming to Halifax, Anna was the governess to the children of the King of Siam, an experience she would later write a book about called “Anna and the King of Siam”. That book would be translated into the Broadway musical, “The King and I”.
The building was then taken over by the Snow family. John Snow & Co. Funeral Home would play a significant part in two of the world’s greatest disasters processing the victims of the Titanic disaster and the Halifax Explosion, the world's largest explosion prior to the Atomic Bomb! If you are not familiar with this. It is worth a google search. This appears to be the basis of the many reported hauntings throughout the building.
Our meal began with a Shrimp Cocktail for Sue and three different types of Fresh Oysters for me. The oysters came with fresh ground horseradish, hot sauce and a Mingonet White Wine dipping sauce, yum!
The wine list at the Five Fishermen is extensive, with world wide selections at reasonable prices. We had a Jost winery, Tidal Bay. Tidal Bay is a designated viticultural area wine made from the L'Acadie grape. It is a perfect accompaniment to seafood and only $19.00 per bottle.
Sue had Acadian Shellfish Tagliatelle, clams, shrimp, mussels and fresh herbs in white cream sauce with fresh sorrel sprouts. It was very rich and totally delicious.
I had the Classic Lobster dinner, a whole lobster with roasted potatoes and Chef's selection of vegetables that included carrots, broccoli, along with yellow and green zucchini. It more than met my wildest expectations.
Sue's dessert was a cherry tart with whipped cream and toasted almonds. I had a crème brulle' with currents, strawberrys and a pane of sugar glass. This was a great meal in a beautiful location in downtown Halifax, NS
The Five Fishermen is a multi-level restaurant with a bar area, dining rooms upstairs and down, private dining and an oyster bar as well as al fresco dining. It is a must visit place in Halifax and we highly recommend making reservations ahead of time It is always a busy place, but the service never suffers.

The Five Fishermen is located at 1740 Argyle Street, Halifax NS B3J 2B6, Phone: (902) 422-4421
Email: fivefishermen@graftonconnor.com











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