....St. Louis, Louis! - "Meet Me in St. Louis" from Meet Me in St. Louis
Part Deux of my trip took me to St. Louis to visit one of my best friends Anna, her husband Rob, and their new baby, Charlie. The Reby Bertmans, which we've shortened to The Reberts.
I've been to St. Louis a few times and I've always loved it. The neighborhoods all have their own charm and all have several great restaurants. One wouldn't think of St. Louis as being a food town, but I'm here to tell you that it is. They even have The Sauce, a monthly food periodical letting you know of restaurant/bar openings, events, restaurant reviews, etc. Does your town have that? Having spent some time there, I knew a few places I needed to visit in order to get my fix.
After spending some time at The Rebert household with baby Charlie, also known as The Bean, which came from him looking like a bean burrito when he was all wrapped up. See why we're friends? The kid's nickname is after food and Mexican food at that. Of course they did get married on Cinco de Mayo (which we coined Cinco de Wedding) and had a mariachi band at their cocktail hour. And, might I add, was one the best meals I have had at a wedding. Cheesy bagels as cocktail food, YES! And that cake! Enough about that past....on to where we'd go for dinner. Anna and I left Charlie with Rob and headed to the Central West End to dine and chat at Liluma. Two years ago I was in St. Louis for work and I lived in the CWE. It's so cute! Great restaurants, great bars, great cafes, great shops. Maybe I'll live there one day (Anna, that was for you). Everything is within walking distance in the CWE which made my summer there very easy.
Liluma serves American, French and Italian foods and also offers a $32 create your own 4-course tasting menu, which is a great deal! The atmosphere is great, a very relaxed bistro sort of feel. Even when it's busy, it isn't loud. I've yet to be disappointed here, although when the server told us that they were out of all foul, I was thrown. I opted against the tasting menu this time and started with the Chopped Salad. This is not something I would generally order as I tend to go with salads containing the greener greens, but for some reason it stuck out to me. I was very pleased. Perfectly chopped romaine lettuce with bacon (always makes things good!), tomato, and red onion tossed in a blue cheese dressing. It was just the right size,very fresh, and the blue cheese was not overpowering as it can be.
We both went with the Missouri lamb pasta and shared a side of the brussel sprouts with pancetta (never a bad idea!). I love brussel sprouts. I don't know what is about them but I just love them. I think they're so funny looking, in a good way. And then toss them with pancetta (rich man's bacon), you can't go wrong. I will say though, that I did miss the crunchy leaves that happen when these baby cabbages are roasted and I like my cooked vegetables to be more on the crunchier side. With that being said, they tasted fantastic and were not overly oily, which I enjoyed.
The Missouri lamb pasta, also not something I would generally not order, being that I am not the biggest pasta eater and I can probably count on 2 hands how many times I've had lamb. But hey, when in Rome. Boy was I glad they were out of foul. This was amazing! The lamb was braised and was literally falling apart. So tender and tasty. The pappardelle was so light and thin but did such a great job of standing up against the meat and sauce (a tomato ragu, if you will). Such an interesting and different twist comfort food....spaghetti and meatballs? And the portion was perfect. I left with a full stomach but wasn't feeling stuffed. Liluma wins again.
Tuesday morning, after The Bean had his breakfast, we went to one of my required stops, City Coffee + Creperie. Holy crepe, I love this place. A European style coffeehouse that serves breakfast, lunch, and brunch items. There need be more crepe places in the world. Or maybe I just need to find them.
I always end up getting a breakfast crepe but they have a whole list of sweet and savory options.
But they also have Belgian waffles, homemade pastries, sandwiches, soups, and quiches. I always order the same thing. Bacon and egg with gruyere cheese on a traditional crepe (they have the option of Buckwheat as well). You order at a counter and they give you a number in a mini Eiffel Tower to take with you to your table. So gimmicky. I like it! As I sat there sipping my latte with Anna and The Bean, full of anticipation. My crepe arrived and it was just as I remembered. Perfectly folded in a triangle stuffed with my ingredients of choice. The eggs light and fluffy, the cheese gooey, and the bacon crispy, all blanketed by the thin soft crepe. Mmmmmmm! I could sit in this place all day, it smells so good!
For dinner that night we tried a new place in town called The Good Pie: Pizzeria Napoletana.
Exposed brick walls adorned with bicycles and large blackboard where you can read about some of the pizzas and an exposed pizza oven made this casual spot a great place for Anna, Rob and I to have some pie. We sat at a high table on bar stools, which I like. Being tall it sometimes nice to not have your feet on touching the ground. I really wanted a beer. You know when you just get a craving. I tried the Schlafly Pilsner, a medium bodied, golden colored lager with German and Czech hops. Great aroma and very smooth. Schlafly is a local brewing house featuring 7 regular beers and revolving cast of season brews. On one of my visits, I had a very delicious brunch at one of their brew pubs.
Back to The Good Pie (sorry, I know I can be the king of tangents....get used to it). We decided that we would each order our own pie, being it thin crust and we would each start with a salad. I was so excited because they had an arugula salad, my green of choice. When my bowl of goodness arrives, I couldn't wait to dive in. So simple. Arugula drizzled with a lemon and EVO (not to quote Rachel Ray, but that's how it was listed on the menu) and topped with pecorino cheese. I love the fresh, pepperiness (I just made up that word) and bitterness of arugula so much, then paired with the hint of citrus and the creamy olive oil and the cheese. YUM! And so so simple. Highly enjoyable.
For the pizza, I choose the salami. Tomato sauce, fresh mozzarella, and genoa salami. The pizzas here are thin crust but not crunchy and the edges are chewy, almost resembling naan bread, almost. The sauce was great and the pie was not too overwhelmingly big. I managed to eat 4 of the 6 slices. Rob had the marina diavola which had a nice kick to it and Anna tried the funghi which was also tasty. I'd say overall that The Good Pie has a got a good thing going.
My last meal in the town known as The Gateway to the West was lunch at The Terrace View Cafe (sister restaurant to Liluma from the other night).
This great little spot is in City Garden - "an urban oasis in downtown St. Louis." Full of sculptures from renowned arts like Jim Dine and Keith Haring, City Garden was the perfect backdrop for our meal. Windows on all sides of the building we had a great view of the park and downtown. We both started with the roasted beet salad which is probably the best beet salad I have ever had. Formed in to a round the bottom layer was diced golden beets then a layer of goat cheese topped with a layer of diced red beets, drizzled with a sherry vinegar and sprinkled with pine nuts. WOA! So good. The earthy beets, the tangy goat cheese, the bite of the sherry and the crunch of the pine nuts. Well done!
For our main course we both had burgers. I thin patty on a delicious bun with a a horseradish slaw and cheddar cheese. I believe it was a quarter pound patty, which is smaller than most places, but it was perfect for lunch. The slaw was tasty and I'm not the biggest slaw person. Oh, the fries were great. Seasoned nicely and cooked exactly the way I like them.
What a great trip! Good friends and good food. It doesn't get much better than that.