We love the Herme Mons camembert so when we saw this triple creme at Whole Foods it was a no-brainer to pick it up. This cheese is something special. It was perfectly ripe without even a hint of ammonia, meltingly soft and tender, with a range of textures. It was ever so softly ripe and pungent in a way that we wish we could find more cheeses. This St. Nuage was an absolute pleasure to eat. We served it to a group of discerning palates (i.e. chefs) on pizza night and they seemed equally happy to taste it with crackers and sliced local peaches. And again on a pizza paired with roasted onions, bacon, and arugula. It was everything we love in a cheese, smooth, creamy, subtle and assertive all in one delicious bite. If we can secure more and hold ourselves in check we will explore using it in a ravioli filling and to make ice cream.
We extruded large ropes of rigate. We used dies 78 and 79 for the Arcobaleno AEX18. We let the ropes air dry on the pasta trays for several hours. Then we hand cut the ropes into penne. The results are worth the effort.
We started with our bourbon butter parts. We planned to culture the butter for 24 hours. Due to cooler temperatures we let it go another 12 hours. Then we refrigerated the cultured cream. We churned it in the food processor. Then we soaked roasted corn husks in the buttermilk and wrapped them around the butter. We vacuum sealed the husks in place. We let the butter infuse for several days. We cut the bag open to taste the butter when my patience caved.The butter is sweet and tangy. The aromatic vanilla notes from the bourbon permeate the butter. The roasted husks blend with the smoky notes of the bourbon essence. The only thing missing was some coarse salt and roasted corn.
I've never been a fan of croutons. Especially popular when I was a kid at places like Beefsteak Charlie's salad bar (anyone else remember the chopped chicken liver and all you can eat shrimp?) they have become a seemingly automatic topping on salads everywhere. I never understood the allure. Commercially produced croutons are especially daunting with their stale flavor and dredging of dried herbs. To be fair I have tasted a few delicious, freshly made croutons but their large size always seemed to pull focus from the main event, the vegetables. Last night we had dinner at Pastaria in St. Louis. I have a thing for kale salads right now so ordering the shaved kale with anchovy dressing was automatic. It was a riff of the classic Caesar with extra anchovy in the dressing. The salad was gorgeous, topped with a generous scattering of crispy bread crumbs. Their added texture and flavor made the salad. They slipped through the crevices and adhered to the resilient green leaves, interspersed with creamy shreds of parmesan cheese and the slightly salty, pungent dressing. So good I know we'll be playing with this one at home, perhaps with Caesar-flavored crumbs to top a bright fish salad or crispy cornbread crumbs for green tomato salad. It was one dish in a truly great meal. Now we just have to get Gerard and Adam to open one in PA.
While teaching the workshop yesterday I mentioned that we had never tasted St. Louis gooey butter cake before and was hoping to find it on this trip. Kimberly heard the want in my voice. She quickly made some phone calls. This morning our new friend Chuck, her husband, made a special trip to a Russell's. He swung by the Food Media Forum and delivered the still warm cake. Eating our first gooey butter cake put me into sugar overload. It was everything I expected it to be and more. Smooth and creamy, it was a blanket of sugary goodness on a soft, shortbread-like crust. After a little time to digest I was filled with ideas. The tang of the filling and its luxurious mouthfeel would make for an incredible ice cream, perhaps pureed into a custard base as the sweetener. And since we were on the ice cream path, why not make it a soft serve flavor? And since we are in St. Louis after all, why not take a page out of the Ted Drewes playbook and turn this local specialty into a concrete? Start with a coffee custard and mix in chunks of gooey butter cake. The ideas just keep on rolling.
"Good food makes you want to stand up and give someone a hug."
Yesterday Kevin picked us up from the St. Louis Media Forum so we could get another taste of the local cuisine while we were in town. We stopped by Sump Coffee where I got to taste the complex and slightly acidic glory of their Kyoto coffee. Then he took us over to his place, Sidney Street Cafe, and gave us a tour. It's a beautiful place that makes you want to curl into a seat with a nice glass of wine and settle in for a great meal. Amaya's not quite ready for fine dining dinners yet but we thoroughly enjoyed seeing the front and back of the house. Kevin showed us everything from the vegetable beds in the parking lot to the salumi hanging in the cellar. It gave us something to anticipate the next time we come back.
After that we headed over to Bogarts, a barbecue institution. As we passed by looking for parking we could see the line snaking out the front door and down the block. No matter, we found a spot and joined the queue. As we neared the front door Chef Skip Steele wandered out to check the line. He came over to see Kevin as we entered the building. They chatted amiably while Amaya entertained herself looking at all the people as she soaked in the atmosphere. Shortly thereafter we were handed cups and shooed towards a table where Skip and his wife treated us to one of the best barbecue meals we've ever had. We happily ate until we couldn't possibly fit in one bite more. Kevin boxed up the leftovers to take back to the restaurant. Meanwhile Amaya slipped a rainbow colored Bogart's t-shirt over her dress and twirled in circles in front of the restaurant window.
Kevin uttered the memorable words above as we were finishing up our meal and it struck me immediately. A great meal served by warm hearted and generous souls makes you feel as though you've already been hugged and you have an overwhelming need to share the love. All of our meals in St. Louis have felt like that, delicious food served by and shared with truly wonderful people.