Craft Beer, Fine Wine, Artisan Spirits, and Mouthgasmic Food.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Pastaria in St. Louis

One of the delightful things I learned about St. Louis was that their food community was blossoming strong.  The chefs are close with each other, and they have the "rising tides lifts all ships" mentality.  It made me feel, amazingly, like I was home in Austin.  Pastaria, Farmhaus, and Libertine are some of the newer restaurants pushing their community forward.

When I was glancing at the menus, I saw this raspberry black pepper soda.  I've been intrigued with the idea of black pepper in sweet offerings.  This drink had just a bit of berry tang and zing of black pepper with the pop of carbonation.  This is something to would have paired well with a sandy beach and warm sun. 

I saw the chicken ramen on the menu, and I had to try it.  The parmesan broth was intense with flavor, but not overly salty.  The well-executed chicken was well-balanced against the broth and springy noodles. 
My favorite part was the egg.  I've been fascinated with poached, sous vide, or fried; I love eggs with the runny yolks.  I am a bit (actually very) sad that I only got to try one dish.  However, it was my second lunch for the day, and I needed to save some stomach space.  I hope to visit Pastaria during my next trek to St. Louis. 

Monday, October 21, 2013

Yuji Ramen in New York City

I recently took a trip to New York City - one that was right around 24 hours long from touch down to take off.  Even in my short time frame, I was able to stuff myself silly.  When I got there, who else but Pichet Ong took me for an eating adventure of the Big Apple.

Yuji Ramen, owned by Yuji Haraguhi, was one place that he insisted on.  He didn't just suggest it.  He insisted.  So off we went to Whole Foods on Houston Street.  Yuji was supposed to be a rotating pop-up on the second floor of this Whole Foods.  But I guess they became so popular that at they stayed.

Here's another write up of Yuji Ramen by Serious Eats.

Something you might find curious about Yuji is that he didn't eat ramen growing up.  It wasn't a part of his comfort food or college food for that matter.  As a result, he says that his ramen is unique and different because he doesn't have an ideal ramen that he's trying to emulate or replicate.

Yuji's history starts with an education in business and then sales at a seafood supplier.  He has no official culinary training so he says, with a shy grin.  I have a plethora of respect for those in the culinary arts who learned it on the job or out of passion - and you can taste that passion.

While we were there, admiring fans would come by for a bowl and smile cheerfully at him.  He's pretty darn lucky as I saw many, many young women exploding with giddiness at the counter.  Oh, what is it like to be a Ramen God? 

The first dish I ordered was the salmon and cheese mazeman (ramen with little to no soup) - a pretty amazing dish.  The goal of his seafood offerings is to "showcase seafood through ramen."  And he hit the nail on the head with this one.  The cured salmon is sweet, savory, and has the flavor of the sea.  The texture was tender yet had structure that said "someone took great care of me!" 

I can't really find words to explain the flavor of this dish.  I can only describe it as a mashup of subtle gastronomy on a bed of noodles.  You just need to try it.  And then you'll understand my inability to describe it.  

The second dish I got was the daily special, a clear fish broth that was beautifully clear and flavorful.  This dish does have the comfort feel of soups that my mother made, and the careful execution that would can impress even the pickiest of ramen connoisseurs.  If I'm back in New York, I'd definitely visit Yuji Ramen again!

Monday, October 7, 2013

Libertine in St. Louis with @CookingKid

The Libertine isn't just an eatery, it is like a secret meeting ground for food and beer lovers.  The staff was one of the most well-educated and cultured I've met.  I'm pretty sure they were 10000x more knowledgeable about food and beer than I was.

I arrived pretty late on a Friday night and sat at the window.  It was great for people watching and relaxing.  David Cohen actually recommended this place to, for which I am very grateful. 

Chef Joshua Galliano generously spend his time chatting with my about the St. Louis food community, and the similarities to Austin's food community made me homesick for Austin.  However, it also made me really happy that to know that St. Louis gets to enjoy a supportive and tight knit community. 

One of the first dishes I ordered was the carrot dish.  The carrots are ash roasted, served with pea cavatelli, served on miso-carrot puree, topped with hickory-pecan soil, and pea shoots.  This dish was brimming with unami flavors from the miso-carrot puree and the smoke gave it depth. 

This was a really delightful dish because it had a comforting Asian flavor in the undertone, but it was so subtle that it leaves you wondering, "How did they do that?"  This is one of my favorite vegetable dishes, ever. 

This was a gift from Chef.  And OMG, it was amazing.  The foie torchon's cold and rich flavors and the tart jam was perfect.  I took the leftovers home and had the rest on some toasted naan.  And then I thanked geese for having the biological mechanisms for fat storage in the liver. 

This was another dish that I was very pleased with.  These were crispy pig tails prepared buffalo style served with whipped gorgonzola brown butter polenta.  The crunchy exterior, chewy piggy goodness, and the pungent gorgonzola was a nice twist on familiar flavors. 

And finally, we have dessert.  They were out of gooey butter cake; so I decided to get the cheesecake.  The cheesecake was delicious.  However, my favorite part is the crust - embedded with cocoa nibs.  The dark bitter bits gave the sweet crust some crunchy bits and hints of chocolate.  I usually put toasted walnuts in my cheesecake crusts.  Next time, I'm stealing this idea for my own cheesecakes. 

A big thanks to @Explorionary for introducing me to @Cookingkid and @TheLibertineSTL.  A big thanks to Chef and staff of the Libertine for making me feel like home.