Tag Archives: reviews

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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What Adam’s Reading: “The Casual Vacancy” by J.K. Rowling

200px-The_Casual_VacancyJ.K. Rowling. At this point, everyone knows her name, which is why I’m not even going to dive into her previous work or accolades since it would just be reiterating facts that you’re already familiar with. Therefore, it comes as no surprise that when she released her first novel since the Harry Potter series back in September, it became an immediate global best-seller. Being a fan myself, I was very excited to sink my teeth into it and shape my own impressions of her as an adult author and not a creator of children’s books.

As I mentioned, this is JKR’s first foray into being an adult writer and in that perspective, it feels like she’s trying to distance herself from her previous work as much as possible. The first indication of this is the scope of this story. It’s so small compared to Harry Potter not just in its setting but in its depth. It’s true that small town politics can be intriguing and even scandalous but her ability to paint colorful characters doesn’t prevent the plot from falling flat. The second clue that she’s trying to assert herself as an adult is the prevalence of sex, drugs and alcohol. Gone are the squeaky clean kids who were the paragon of moral excellence and courage. Instead, you find the protagonists dealing with some real-life issues of self-image, harsh parenting and unforgiving environments. In a way, you get the impression that she’s trying to keep her imagination in check and stick to more contemporary challenges.

Narrative aside, one of my biggest criticisms of the book is the lack of a chart outlining the various characters. She throws so many at you at the very beginning of the book that it would have been nice to have something to refer to for at least the first 100 pages. It got to the point where I was scribbling names down on my boarding pass at the airport while waiting to board my flight home to Kansas City for the holidays. Sure, it made me look hardcore but at the end of that day, that work should have been done for me. Luckily for you, the Internet is a beautiful place and you can check back here (in case you’re worried, the list doesn’t reveal any spoilers) for a brief list of characters that might be throwing you for a loop.

Overall, I’m glad I read “The Casual Vacancy” and I will most likely read everything that JKR puts out in the future. However, you can’t help but wonder if this book would have been as successful without her name attached to it and my gut instinct is telling me “no.”

Summary:

  • Grade: B-
  • What’s it about: A member of the Pagford city council dies suddenly, opening his seat to whomever wants to rise to the challenge. As the election unfolds, you discover more and more about the candidates, their families, their secrets and the relationships that tie them all together.
  • Who should read this book: Anyone who’s read Harry Potter and anyone who hasn’t and wants to become familiar with J.K. Rowling’s style. There’s no arguing that she can be very engaging.
  • When should you read it: Someone looking for a casual read but not wanting to compromise on the quality of the writing.
  • Where can you find it: Amazon.com for $16. Still only available in hardback.

Has anyone else read it? What were your impressions? Am I being too harsh?

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