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STL House Tour!

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The outside of my humble Dogtown duplex – those blue doors were not my choice.

Any self respecting DIY/design blog has a house tour and since I was going to start posting a few more projects, I figured this was the right time to show you the place, or most of the place, that I moved into in STL. (This is where you prepare yourself for a lot of photos and a long list of projects.)

The first thing you need to keep in mind is that this place is a work in progress. The second is that the lighting is bad. The third is that I have no control over the wall color, which means I lovingly refer to this place as the beige box. So, now that I’m done making excuses for myself, here you have it.

Living Room

Loving the big window in the living room.

Loving the big window in the living room.

Who doesn't love a good stained glass window?

Who doesn’t love a good stained glass window?

And now for the piece de resistance: a wall of books.

And now for the piece de resistance: a wall of books.

This room is probably the most complete, even though there are some big items that need to be replaced or added. Overall, it feels nice and homey enough that there isn’t a fire under my butt to get things changed – this can be a good thing or a bad thing. Right now, it’s very tone-on-tone so the goal is to bring in color, specifically more navy blue, key lime green and yellow/gold. This room’s to-do list includes:

  • Find some oversized artwork to go in between the two niches
  • Replace the coffee table
  • Replace the pillows on the couch
  • Put in a new entertainment center
  • Potentially put some artwork above the TV
  • Make a box of some sort to hold magazines, computer chargers and other miscellaneous knick-knacks
  • Get ahold of a more modern floor lamp – this one’s been through more moves than it should have
  • Replace the lamp on the console with something more modern
  • Think through a coat rack by the door

Hallway

Looking from the living room down the hallway.

Looking from the living room down the hallway.

My beloved wall of art.

My beloved wall of art.

This small stretch of interior real estate is very finished and I love it. It was the perfect place to hang all of the random prints and frames that were, up until a few weeks ago, lying around on the floor. You can find this great Chicago print I bought right before I moved, the vintage looking Gameboy artwork that used to hang next to my bed and even the old Mizzou drawing that used to be in an even bigger frame. My only goal for the hallway at this point is to:

  • Contribute more to the frame wall

Bathroom

This is about as exciting as it gets.

This is about as exciting as it gets.

The biggest downfall of this place is how small the bathroom is. It gets the job done but doesn’t leave much room for anything. A good shower curtain, some art and that’s all you need. Oh, and these items:

  • Buy a better toothbrush holder
  • Replace the horrible faux stained glass in the shower with plain contact paper – we’ll see if I can convince the landlord that this is better for everyone

Kitchen

Looking from the hallway into the kitchen.

Looking from the hallway into the kitchen.

If only I had stainless steel ...

If only I had stainless steel …

So, this kitchen is very nice: new cabinets, double sinks, and granite counter tops – most of the work is already done! There are a few small things I’d like to do, and already did with this project, but overall, I’m pleased.

  • Hang some oversized art above the kitchen table
  • Buy a better container for the dish soap
  • Streamline the magnets on the fridge
  • Add foam pads to the bottom of the chairs – they keep scrapping the floor and dirtying it
  • Find a centerpiece for the kitchen table – I’m thinking a mini herb garden would be nice
  • Find something to put above the cabinets that are above the sink
  • Come up with a better trash/recycling system – I’m afraid this is going to mean buying a new trashcan
  • Buy more wine – duh

Office

So many windows, which means more light to bring out the flaws.

So many windows, which means more light to bring out the flaws.

Ugh. It's so bad.

Ugh. It’s so bad.

This room is the catch-all for the random furniture that wasn’t used in the rest of the house. None of it matches, none of it is even nice so I’m basically starting from scratch. Get ready for the list from you know where:

  • Replace the desk; buy a desk chair
  • Modernize the desk lamp
  • Replace the bookshelf
  • Add a bar cart
  • Buy an area rug
  • Buy a lounge chair
  • Hang artwork
  • Find a floor lamp
  • Accessorize

Voila! My current quarters with a very long to-do list. I can’t predict when any of this is going to get done but I’m looking forward to the adventure.

Have you made any updates to your place? What changes would you suggest to the rooms? I’m seriously open to anything.

PS: Every time I proofread this, I keep adding to the various lists. This truly is going to be the never-ending project and I haven’t even talked about the bedrooms.

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Say hello to Pappy’s!

Happy Fourth of July! Errr … I mean post Fourth of July weekend!

I don’t know about you but I was very busy. Not only was it a glorious four days off, I had friends in from out of town, which means there was a constant stream of activity – BBQs, fireworks, City Museum, bars, restaurants etc. My friend Ryan even got engaged. All in all, nothing beats a mini reunion over good food and drinks.

One of the joints that we found ourselves at was Pappy’s Smokehouse, home of the most famous BBQ in STL. Heralded as one of the 101 best places to chow down in America by The Travel Channel, expectations were high. And apparently, everyone had the same idea since we had to wait 50 minutes before placing an order and finding our seats.

The menu is very simple, similar to the plain brick facade of the restaurant and wooden tables scattered throughout the inside. The only way you would know the place is of any importance is by the pictures of celebrities and celebrity chefs peppered on the walls touting the accolades of Pappy’s.

Your options are the traditional smokehouse selection: ribs, pulled pork, chicken, brisket, turkey and sausage. For about $18, you can get a half rack of ribs in addition to 1/4 pound of another meat – in my case, brisket. Let me tell you up front, no need for the second meat. After juicy, smoky-flavored ribs, the second protein was left forgotten on the plate. The brisket was just OK and the bite I had of the pulled pork was delicious but the big daddy of Pappy’s is the rack of ribs.

Obviously, the main focus of any smokehouse is the meat but we all know that a true BBQ experience wouldn’t be complete without the sides and Pappy’s delivers in spades. All the regulars are on the roll call: baked beans, slaw, sweet potato fries, corn on the cob, green beans and applesauce. I know, I picked the same ones you would have – baked beans and cole slaw a.k.a. the best sides I’ve ever had.

Let's dive in!

Before – let’s dive in!

It’s impressive when you remember more than just the proteins from a BBQ restaurant and I guarantee you’ll remember these. The beans were very sweet, but not heavy. Soft and even a little smoky, you’re left with the perfect blend of flavors. The slaw was a keeper too. The dressing was vinegar-based versus mayonnaise, which means it was light, citrusy, and a great refreshing, bite to follow up the richness of the meat and the beans. See for yourself, I left nothing on the plate … except the brisket because I was too full.

After.

After.

And here you have it, the abbreviated review of the best BBQ joint in STL:

  • Price: $$
  • Taste: 4/5
  • Ambience: 3/5
  • Service: 5/5 – while we had to wait a little bit, everyone was very friendly, brought us samples of beans in line and checked in regularly once we sat down after placing our order. A+

Oh, and before you ask me about the BBQ sauce, know that I didn’t have much since the meat was flavorful and moist enough. You’ll have to make your ranking of Pappy’s Original, Sweet Baby Jane and Holly’s Hot Sauce when you pay a visit.

How was your Fourth of July holiday? Try any new restaurants? Where’s your favorite BBQ?

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The Perfect Taste

Disclaimer: Unless you’re from St. Louis or are planning on visiting, you probably won’t find this post very interesting. However, I’m hoping that it inspires you to explore some of the wonderful local restaurants you have in your own backyard – you never know what you’ll find! Oh, and this post is long one.

I announced a couple of weeks ago that I had moved to STL, which is how I will be referring to the Lou from now on. It’ll probably mess with my SEO – Search Engine Optimization for all you non-marketing folk, but I’m perfectly OK with it since we need to work on rebranding this city so that it’s not overrun by high school enthusiasts.

I’m not going to lie, moving from an international destination like Chicago, chalked full of museums, architectural history, and an incomparable food scene, I was nervous about my new surroundings and how it was going to affect my cultural horizons. After being here for almost a month and exploring the Gateway to the West, I’m thinking that this place might make a suitable substitute – minus my awesome friends, DMK burger and public transportation.

While on one of my STL adventures, I stopped in at Taste, an upscale bar/small bites eatery in the popular Central West End neighborhood. Unfortunately, their website doesn’t offer much information on how it started but I will do my best to convince you that the food and experience are worth any detour.

Before setting foot into taste, you’re greeted by a simple wooden door, topped with a very explicit sign so as to prevent any confusion as to where you’ve stumbled to. It would be easy to walk right by it if you’re not paying attention but on the rainy night that I found myself there, the warm candle light couldn’t have been more welcoming.

No  way you're going to get this place mixed up with anything else.

No way you’re going to get this place mixed up with anything else.

Like I mentioned, Taste is first and foremost a bar – not a bar where you go for cheap drink specials and fried food. A bar that enables you to try liquors in combinations that you will probably find strange at first. Because of the hundred classic and innovative cocktails to choose from, I won’t elaborate on them here. Instead, I’ll direct you to their menu and give the best advice I received at a similar place: try a cocktail that has an alcohol you don’t usually gravitate towards.

Now, most people treat Taste like an upscale bar with a couple of amuse-bouches to choose from. I, however, wanted dinner and decided to indulge with six items off their snacks, small plates, large plates and sweets menu.

Gremolata

Roasted curried cauliflower with anchovy chili gremolata – don’t forget the bread crumbs!

First off is the roasted curried cauliflower with anchovy, chili gremolata. I was nervous about this one since I’m not a huge cauliflower fan but consider myself a convert. It tasted a little pickled, which combined some great vinegary, sweet flavors with the freshness of the vegetable and spiciness of the curry. Add some gremolata and you now have a sharp citrus tang that cuts through all the flavors while managing to bring them all together and playing to the velvety taste of the side of aioli.

Bacon fat fried cornbread. Ugh. I want some now.

Bacon fat fried cornbread. Ugh. I want some now.

Next up, we have the bacon fat fried cornbread. For those of you that know me, you’re aware that cornbread is one of my favorite foods. Fry it in bacon fat and you pretty much have the perfect meal – I’m not joking. I could have eaten a full plate of this and asked for more. The bread is perfectly moist on the inside, surrounded by a salty, crunchy outside that creates the perfect contrast of flavors for anyone to enjoy.

Potato gnocchi with bacon, dates, snap peas and basil.

Potato gnocchi with bacon, dates, snap peas and basil.

The third stop on our culinary adventure finds us trying the potato gnocchi with bacon, dates, snap peas and basil. It sounds like a mouthful but it’s the best kind. The gnocchi is so soft and a little sweet with the hit of the dates. All of that is offset by the salty bacon or lardons, which make for a heartier bite.

Pork scrapple, brown butter, sage and fried egg.

Pork scrapple, brown butter, sage and fried egg.

Barbacoa, masa, salsa verde, red onion, queso fresco and cilantro.

Barbacoa, masa, salsa verde, red onion, queso fresco and cilantro.

The next two dishes, pork scrapple, brown butter, sage and fried egg, and the barbacoa, masa, salsa verde, red onion, queso fresco and cilantro, were not my favorites so I’m not going to elaborate on them here. They’re perfectly OK but you should save room for dessert.

Moving on to the sweets! We asked the waitress for a recommendation and after spending 45 seconds describing the churros but only saying that the “Manhattan shake” was good, we knew the choice had been made for us.

Churros, almond ice cream and chocolate.

Churros, almond ice cream and spiced chocolate.

Churros have a lot to live up to after having savored the ones served up at Xoco in Chicago, however when churros, velvet almond ice cream and spiced chocolate showed up, I dove in and didn’t look back.

These were the best churros I’ve ever had. Light, airy, sweet, dipped in chocolate. They were a little spicy but the almond ice cream was the perfect counter balance to the heat. I would go back just for those and the cornbread.

Alright, I’ve bored you enough. To streamline this process, I created a key below and will use it on any restaurant reviews moving forward (look at me and my business speak):

  • Price: $$
  • Taste: 4/5
  • Ambience: 4/5
  • Service: 4/5

So there you have it – my first STL restaurant review! How do you think I did? Anything else on the menu I should have tried? What would you have gotten?

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Life Update!

So … I moved to St. Louis. Surprise! With that comes a lot of change – new job, new house, new city, new friends, but overall, I’m excited! Sure, I’m sad to leave Chicago; I’ve spent three wonderful years there but it’s time for a new adventure, one where I’m hoping to unlock the charm and cultural potential of STL.

There are a couple of posts I have in the works so I recommend sticking around. I promise (at least I’m going to try) that I’ll post a little more regularly a.k.a. I have a new job and I’m not as busy as I was at my old one. At least not yet.

In the meantime, let’s do another shameless plug for my Instagram account that I keep MUCH more updated with my whereabouts:

I made a trip down to CoMO for graduation. I also realized that I've been out of college longer than I was in college. I feel old.  PS: Bonus points if you can identify the iconic Mizzou building in this picture.

I made a trip down to CoMO for graduation. I also realized that I’ve been out of college longer than I was in college. I feel old. PS: Bonus points if you can identify the iconic Mizzou building in this picture.

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I visited my parents in their new hometown of Austin, TX. A mandatory meal at the famous Salt Lick was on the schedule.

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And now, I present to you my first car: a Honda Civic! I calculated the MPG after dropping $40 at the gas station and it came to about 36 – not bad!

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Friday Favs, Kansas City Edition

I hope everyone had a wonderful, relaxing holiday! I’m still on mine, which means that I haven’t been on a computer much. That’s why I’ve decided to spend this Friday telling you about some of my must-do activities when visiting Kansas City, the home of my parents and extended family. If you ever visit, I think you’ll enjoy your time in this underrated midwestern city. For all you natives, is there anything that I’ve missed? Be sure to let me know in the comments!

BBQ

Oklahoma_Joes0005

Don’t freak out but yes, the flagship location is in a gas station. It just adds to the charm!

You know me – I love to eat! So let’s start with the food. Kansas City BBQ is a staple, right up there with Chicago Pizza and New York City bagels. Pretty much any joint you decide to try will be good, like Famous Dave’s and Arthur Bryant’s. However, the general consensus is that Oklahoma Joe’s is the best. Hands down. Over the years, the restaurant has amassed quite the accolades including a spot on Anthony Bourdain’s list of “13 Restaurants to Eat at Before You Die” and Men’s Health “Manliest Restaurant in America.” The meat falls off the bones, the sauce is the perfect balance of sweet and savory and the fries can’t be beat with their signature seasoning. What more could you want? I particularly recommend the Z-Man: a decadent sandwich of brisket, provolone cheese and onion rings on a kaiser bun. My mouth is watering just at the thought.

Boulevard Brewery Tour

boulevard-4If you’re a fan of craft beer, you’ll enjoy the local brewery’s flagship offering: Boulevard Wheat, a great example of a mild, light colored beer with depth of flavor. Don’t worry, you’ll get to try the full selection but be sure to get your hands on the classic. Now, I hate to say that I have yet to go on the tour myself – it’s not for a lack of trying! For some reason they get booked up quickly, which means that you need to be on top of your game and plan ahead, something I’m clearly failing at.

The Country Club Plaza

webhome_PlazaLights_stormyThis is the Mag Mile of Kansas City. Or, if you’re unfamiliar with Chicago, the Rodeo Drive. A quaint boulevard near downtown, it houses 150 high-end shops that you’re used to finding in more urban areas. You can take a stroll through the spanish-inspired ornate buildings covered in bricks and mosaics, surrounded by fountains now synonymous with the city. I highly recommend a visit during the holidays as you’re able to feast your eyes on more than 80 miles of light. While you’re at it, be sure to stop at Topsy’s for a taste of their cinnamon popcorn!

Nelson-Atkins Art Museum

One-of-four-large-sculpture-birdies-placed-throughout-The-Nelson-Atkins-Musueum-of-Arts-Green-by-husband-and-wife-team-Claes-Oldenburg-and-Coose-van-Bruggen.-Each-birdie-weighs-5500-pounds-standing-nearly-18-feet-tall.2Sure, you wouldn’t think of Kansas City as a big destination for art enthusiasts but you’d be surprised. Often housing some of the most prestigious exhibits in the world, it boasts more than 33,000 pieces of art that frequently rotate to provide a new experience during each visit. And be sure to take full advantage of the giant shuttlecocks placed randomly throughout the property. They’re the prefect photo opp.

Power and Light District

image.aspxSo you’ve eaten, you’ve toured and you’ve shopped, which means you’re ready for a drink and some relaxing at the bar. Kansas City has done a wonderful job at revamping its Power and Light District over the past couple of years. It now consists of a covered courtyard surrounded by bars and restaurants that allow you to walk around with your beverage of choice, be it alcoholic or non. Frequently, you’ll find live music acts which just add to the ambiance and sets the scene for a good time. Cheers!

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A Century of Coming Home

Mizzou vs. Iowa State

770 miles, 15 uses of #MIZ100HC on Twitter and 68 hours of time spent in Columbia, Mo., are a few ways to describe the wonderful Homecoming weekend I had at Mizzou.

I had many expectation running through my head on the drive down to my Alma Mater. Months of build-up and four years of personal experience with this tradition only added to the pressure of making this weekend unforgettable.

I could spend the next couple of paragraphs recounting the many favorite locations I revisited, the great friends I ran into and the delicious late-night food I enjoyed, but it’s the realizations I came to that are much more interesting.

  • I’m an alumnus – To state the obvious, I went through graduation and I’ve been out of school for over two years but it was sitting on the alumni side of Faurot Field and chanting Z-O-Us that really drove that fact home. It’s sad knowing that I will never yell M-I-Z again, as it’s tradition for the students to initiate the call, but I took relief and delight in looking around and seeing the same familiar faces that accompanied me during my four year adventure at Mizzou. Just because I went on to pursue other opportunities doesn’t mean that my friendships and memories were left behind.
  • Great friendships last a lifetime – I will be the first to admit that I’m horrible at keeping in touch. Since I’m someone who very much lives in the moment, I tend to focus on the people that are in my life at that time, making it hard for me to take a step back and appreciate the individuals that got me there. This weekend is a testimony however to the fact that you don’t need to talk to someone every week or month to value each other’s company and genuinely care for their wellbeing. It is with fervor that I a greeted friends I haven’t seen in two years and with enthusiasm that we brought each other up to speed on our lives. To those reading this, know that I love you and can’t wait to reconnect at next year’s Homecoming!
  • Those are only SOME of the best years of your life – My time at Mizzou is completely unforgettable and has not only shaped me into the man I am today but is still playing a huge role in my career and my friends. I can safely say though that I’m having just as much fun after college as I did during. Looking back on graduation, it was definitely time to leave and go explore the next chapter in my life. Homecoming is just a great annual excuse to experience those four years again in a concentrated weekend of fun, friends and football.
Having put a great part of my life to rest and experiencing another memorable one today only makes me restless to charge forward to see what lies ahead. I do so bleeding black and gold, taking on one day at a time.

PS: Did you know Mizzou started the tradition of homecoming in 1911? If you don’t believe me, you can read up on it here. What is your favorite school tradition?

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