Monday, February 11, 2013

Weekend Recap: Soulard Mardi Gras Edition

The time for repentance and fasting is upon us. The time to ask forgiveness of our grievous sins and to give up our wicked ways begins this week when Lent starts on Wednesday. So what do hundreds of thousands of people do the weekend before this solemn time? Gather in my neighborhood for the annual Soulard Mardi Gras, of course.

View looking Southwest towards McGurk's Irish Pub.
{Photo credit}
Rio has the raucous Carnival, The Big Easy has the biggest Mardi Gras celebration in the country, and my little neighborhood hosts thousands of visitors each year with a month of fun beginning with Twelfth Night in early January. Since its inception in 1979 on the steps of Johnny's Restaurant and Bar, Soulard Mardi Gras has welcomed St. Louisans and visitors alike to partake it its parades, its Wiener Dog Derby, and its Taste of Soulard.

Think Mardi Gras is all about the beads? Think again, divas. In 2012, the Beggin' Barkus Pet Parade smashed the Guinness World Record for "most dogs in costumed attire gathered in a single location." N’awlins can’t claim that, now can they?

This year, like the VIP's that we are think we are, we watched the River City Casino Grand Parade from the VIP Tent where we ate, drank, and tried to stay warm. Like any good celebration, Soulard Mardi Gras is about making memories. And if they're good enough, hopefully you'll remember them in the morning.

It's always fabulous meeting Twitter friends IRL, including Martin Casas!

It's not a party until Fredbird makes an appearance.

Soulard Mardi Gras: Booze, beads, and lots o' food.

Monday, February 04, 2013

Fabulous Find: Tabletop S'mores at Kayak's

Last Friday, my boss and co-worker took me out for a very belated birthday lunch at Kayak's.* I was last there in 2011 and I forgot just how much I enjoy the food, the imported free-trade coffee, and of course, the tabletop s’mores.

A haven for Washington University students, Kayak’s has the feel of a Canadian ski lodge with rough timber walls, snow skis mounted on the ceiling, and colorful Tibetan prayer flags hanging in the air. The rustic atmosphere is perfect for studying, relaxing, or reading the RFT by the fire. Enjoy a carefully crafted cup of coffee? Kayak’s, a member of the Kaldi’s family of coffee shops since 2010, is committed to providing its patrons with the highest quality certified organic, certified kosher, and certified free trade coffees and teas. The food at Kayak’s is equally delish: I love that their sandwiches are named after ski towns such as Breckenridge, Jackson Hole, and Telluride. My favorite? The Aspen.

Jeremy gets his kicks at Kayak's.

But we came here to talk about their tabletop s’mores, didn’t we divas? Forget sitting outside in the cold around a campfire, Kayak’s provides the flame and all the fixin’s. If you’re in St. Louis and hunkering down for winter (hello unexpected snowfall), Kayak’s tabletop s’mores are the perfect winter treat.
Tabletop s'mores for two.

Want to get your kicks with Kaldi’s Coffee? Follow them on twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.

*It turns out, I really do celebrate my birthday all month long!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

New Restaurant Wednesday: Kansas City Edition

What a view: The Kansas City, MO skyline from the top of the Liberty Memorial. 

A few weeks ago, I visited Ruthie for a long weekend in Kansas City (KC), MO. The last time I visited KC, I was a wee diva and traveling with my family, so I was excited to see what the “City of Fountains” had to offer me as an adult and as a foodie. Aside from touring the National World War I Museum and visiting the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, (hello extensive Picasso collection and Shuttlecocks) Ruthie took me on a culinary tour of KC that included Vienna, Paris, and even a little sufferin’ Succotash.

As a former student who ate and drank my way through studied my way through Austria, I’m always ready to take a walk down memory strasse. With traditional dishes like Wienerschnitzel and Käsekrainer served with a bottle of Salzburger Stiegl, I felt right at home at Kansas City’s Grünauer. The interior space has the feel of an Austrian ski chalet with exposed wood beams and dark wood accents. And while I enjoyed my Traditional Wienerschnitzel, I wish I would have opted for Ruthie’s Hungarian Beef Gulasch which was hearty, rich, and sehr gute!

Aixois Bistro (55th Street location)
By far, my favorite stop on our tour de Kansas City was the cozy and classy French bistro, Aixois. Named after the region in southern France where owner Emmanuel Langlade called home, Aixois is the epitome of Kansas City joie de vivreWe started with the cheese plate which came with an assortment of imported cheeses, fresh fruit, and the tastiest little sampling of jam. If you’re stopping by Aixois before a visit to one of Kansas City’s 200 fountains (as the Parisians would do) or if you’re simply enjoying lunch like we did, the cheese plate is an absolute must. After two glasses of Vieux Papes Vin Blanc each (as the Parisians would say, When in France…or Missouri), my lunch of soupe á l’oignon gratinée (traditional French Onion Soup with Cheese Crouton) and Croque Monsieur Sandwich arrived and it was très délicieux.
 A cozy French bistro in the heart of KC? We'll drink to that!

If Aixois is my top spot for dining in KC, then The Rieger (as locals know it) comes in a very close second. From the moment we were greeted by the friendly hostess to the open kitchen concept to our delicious dinner, this historic restaurant in Kansas City’s Crossroads Art District lived up to my lofty expectations. While the restaurant is fairly new, opening in 2010, the building itself has been part of downtown KC since 1915 and many of the interior features are original to the building. Using local and seasonal ingredients, chef and owner Howard Hanna has brought this “Kansas City classic forward in time” with such dishes as my dinner entrée, the Winter Squash Fettuccine. From my perfectly concocted French 75 to our superb service, The Rieger is proving that it will be as much a part of KC’s future as it was its past.     

*No photos of this meal exist because we were too busy eating and drinking and loving the service at The Rieger.

Succotash Catering and Bruncheonette
Succotash is every hipster’s dream: Organic food, repurposed furniture and funky wall art. Ruthie took me to Succotash for my last meal in KC – Sunday brunch. Located in the Dutch Hill neighborhood, Succotash is the essence of the “farm to table” movement. Their eggs are delivered weekly from a local Amish community, their produce comes from a farm in Wathena, Kansas, and their coffee is brewed at Oddly Correct Coffee Roasters in KC. Owner Beth Barden is a former sex education teacher and Succotash, originally opened in 2001 in the River Market district, is a reflection of her sassy and bold approach. Ruthie enjoyed her breakfast sandwich, but my Wild Blueberry Pancakes were enough to feed the entirety of the Jackson County Juvenile Detention Center – Succotash’s neighbor (a word to the wise – order the short stack!). 

Monday, January 14, 2013

Fabulous Find: The AMC Fork & Screen Theatre

A night out at the movies ain’t what it used to be, divas. Forget about sticky floors, crying babies, and rude attendants. AMC Theatres has created a whole new movie-going experience. Reclining seats, cocktails, and cheery employees await you at your local AMC Fork & Screen Theatre.

A night at the movies - Fork & Screen style.
To celebrate my birthday, Laura, Sylvia, and I headed to the AMC West Olive 16 to view the Academy Award nominated Les MisérablesOne of only ten Fork & Screen theatres in the country, we ordered dinner and drinks all from the comfort of our reclining seats. Need a bag of popcorn? How about some Milk Duds for the movie? A cosmopolitan to get you through “Castle on A Cloud”? No waiting in line and missing a pivotal scene, your friendly seat attendant will pop over to the concession stand for you.

Laura needs cocktail to get her through "Castle on A Cloud."

The menu selections were surprisingly delicious.

In an age where customer service seems to have gone the way of the newsreel, the AMC Fork & Screen Theatre proves that you can have your meal inside an upscale movie theatre and eat it too.

In the St. Louis area? Follow the AMC West Olive 16 on Facebook.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Fabulous Find: The Flying Saucer Starbucks

The famous flying saucer-shaped building on Grand Avenue, not far from the campus of SLU, was destined for demolition when Del Taco vacated the premises in 2011. But saving the building was paramount to St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay and other preservationists who petitioned to have the building, which was built in 1965 and an example of Mid-Century style architecture, listed on the National Register of Historic Places.   

Saving the day, and the unique building, was an unlikely hero - Starbucks. Recently named one of the "Ten Remarkable Preservation Wins of 2012" by the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the global coffee giant stepped in and created a space that is comfortable, metropolitan, and uniquely St. Louis. Miss your Tex-Mex fix? Chipotle is rumored to move into the other side of "The Saucer" in the summer of 2013.   

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

New Restaurant Wednesday - Onesto Pizza & Trattoria

On a residential street in the historic South Hampton (SoHa) neighborhood of South St. Louis is Onesto Pizza & Trattoria. Nestled among Hansel and Gretel and Neo-Tudor style homes from the early 1900's in the Macklind Avenue Business District, Onesto has been serving gourmet and specialty pizzas, pasta, and Italian favorites Stromboli's and calzones since 2008. Jeremy and I headed there on a cold December night and opted for the BBQ Chicken pizza, garlic knots (free with every meal FTW!) and some very strong sangria.

Look at the size of that organic jalapeno!
Winner of the RFT’s Best Kid Friendly Restaurant in 2009, Best Outdoor Dining in 2010 and a finalist in the Best Italian category by City Voter in 2010, Onesto is famous for their East Coast style pizza, but they’re a winner in my book for their commitment to using seasonal ingredients and promoting sustainability. Onesto strives to “make the world a better place one meal at a time” by supporting these local farmers, using antibiotic free and hormone free meat and seafood, and recycling and reusing nearly everything in the restaurant.  Even their straws are compostable!

Whether you’re a resident of SoHa or just looking for a perfect slice of pizza, head to Onesto’s and you’ll find yourself saying, “delizioso!”

Keep up with Onesto on their Facebook page and twitter.