Category Archives: Field Trips

Fish Fry Season

The wife and I are big fans of Fish Fry Season, a/k/a Lent. The River Front Times has a Fish Fry Frenzey blog where visitors can follow along with one of their journalists as they try various local options. The first week was a church doing falafel and hummus and such, a not your grandparents fish fry. Then came a Webster Groves gluten free barbecue or something. In the past they’ve also covered Mexican meatless events. We prefer old school fried fish. Give me jack salmon and a cornmeal crust, and she’ll take the fried cod.

On a trip to Farmhaus for lunch I noticed the Epiphany of Our Lord Catholic Church hosted a fish fry on Fridays. Catholic churches, VFW posts, and gun clubs usually have the best fish, so, I thought we’d try it.

The fry was held in a championship banner draped gymnasium next to their bowling alley, which was featured as 2006’s best bowling alley in the RFT. A great atmosphere for fish.

The meal was a la carte, and featured some tasty vinegar slaw, fruit cocktail, generic deserts, spaghetti and mac ‘n cheese, both looked straight out of a bag, green beans, triangular cod patties, fried shrimp, a great jack salmon, looked hand breaded, and they were out of catfish. Three of us ate for $18, so, though it wasn’t perfect, it was cost effective.

My plate:

Wife’s plate:

She wasn’t feeling very well.

The jack salmon was excellent, but the sides, outside of the slaw, were awful. No hush puppies or fries, no bakes beans. That mac ‘n cheese looked terrible and about as flavorless as the spaghetti. You can score beer and wine, which is nice. I’d go for that jack salmon with a Bud, but I’d have to go alone.

We’ll try a different church this week on our mission to find the perfect Fish Fry Season spot. I will suggest to those in the mood for Friday fish, go early, these things shut down by 7 PM and often times they run out of the good stuff. Hopefully we’ll find one as perfect as the Highland VFW or Edwardsville Gun Club, now that we’re on this side of the river. Until then, happy hunting.

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3×33 = A good week

I was discussing Yelp with a local business owner and proprietor, there are a lot of strong feeling out there, and, as a Yelper, wanted his opinion. I mentioned that I’ve only written reviews on establishments I didn’t care for, Oceana Bistro, for one. He suggested that that was one of the problems with Yelp. I countered, that I balance my negative reviews with checking in at joints I frequent on a regular basis. Thus, publicizing my liking of those places on my respective Twitter and Facebook accounts. I also mention my favorites on this very blog. What higher praise could an establishment get than a shout out on Amuse-Douche, a tweet mentioning @AmuseDouche11, or a check in on Facebook? But, my wife, who’s in the hospitality service industry, agrees with Jeff, so I’ll do my best and give props to my local favorites.

I had some free time this morning, and wanted to do a review of one such place, so, after checking where I’d been checking in, I was lead to 33 Wine Shop & Tasting Room just off Lafayette Square on Park. It’s the blue building, there is a sign above the door, but it’s about 2 x 6 inches in size, so don’t go looking for it by the sign. But don’t worry, there’s no lame speakeasy vibe.

This past Tuesday I went by 33 wine bar for a wine tasting. Venge Vineyards brought six or so wines in, including a wonderful Pinot Noir and the Scout’s Honor, which, with my being an Eagle Scout, was a treat on several levels. The following is the write up from 33’s invite:

We are honored to have Venge Vineyards owner and winemaker Kirk Venge join us this evening for a wine tasting of the spectacular 2009 and 2010 offerings. More than just the Scout’s Honor, Kirk will present Cabernet, Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and a few surprise gems from this venerable winery started by Kirk’s dad, Nils. There is no charge for the tasting… wines will be available for purchase at a discounted price. Please join us and welcome Kirk to our fair city.

The wines were all quite nice, but unfortunately out of this guy’s price range. I may grab a bottle of Scout’s Honor the next time I want to splurge. One of the great things about 33 is that you can enjoy wine in the shop or take a bottle or, better yet, a case home.

Tasting sheet with wines and price list.

The picture at the top of this posting is that of their menus. The wines are broken down by variety and I believe the listings arranged by price, with region or state listed beside the wine name. This makes searching for a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir easy, especially when price is a concern. Jeff and the rest of his staff are all very knowledgeable on wine and beer, so just ask their advice. Give them your menu, varietal preference, price range, and let the pros guide your decision.

The next afternoon I had a friend coming through town, and we needed a drink. Had he been coming through that evening, we’d have hit Taste,Sanctuaria, or Blood & Sand, for dinner and drinks, but it was 3 PM and those joints don’t open till 5 PM. Fortunately Jeff, at 33, welcomes customers, with his signature hat and chuckle, starting around 3 PMish.

We had a seat at the bar and each enjoyed a glass of white off their by the glass list, as it certainly felt like white wine weather outdoors. My friend stayed with wine, and I went with a couple of their, very well selected, beers. We also
Enjoyed a great cheese and meat platter. My friend ended up purchasing two bottles of rye as well, but those were to take home. The price was right at what The Wine and Cheese Place was getting for the same rye, yet another reason to go to 33 and not TWCP.

For beer, their draught and by the bottle selections are top of the line. They’ve got quite a few bottles in standard, bomber, and 750 ml sizes. I believe they’re limited to six draughts, but you can tell much care went into their selection. While we drank our low proof treats we discussed with Jeff their higher proof options. They have one of the best selections in the city for whiskey, be it Irish, Scotch, Bourbon, or other American whiskey.

Wether it’s a 28 year Hirsch, 16 year Black Maple Hill, Pappy 23 year, when it’s in stock, or Leapold Bros Colorado whiskey for the Americans, or some high end Scotch, 33 is the place to be for a dram. I can’t remember what Irish they have, sorry, you’ll have to go by to find out for yourself.

The chalk boards seen just to the left of the booze are a nice way to amuse yourself while you imbibe. The first one is their draught list, the other two are generally some sort of list of places, quotes, artists, or films for trivia purposes.

I don’t feel the need to say too much about their wine selection, other than it’s vast, and reasonably priced. The carry out price is discounted, as it should be. Jeff does a great job selecting the wines for his store/bar.

Another tally on the pro side, is that 33 is the best place I’ve found to have a get together. Be it a birthday party, guys night out, anniversary, engagement, or what have you, 33 or so folks, pun intended, can fit into their back room for drinks from the bar, or you could see if you can prearrange for a few bottles to be poured to your guests. I ordered a toast of grower’s champagne for twenty once, and then left the guests to provide for themselves at the bar. They can put out great charcuterie and cheese plates along with Billy Goat chips to provide snacks for your party goers. If you’re bringing in a crowd you may be able to have the room to yourself without a room charge, call in advance, like a month if you can. Try doing that at McGurk’s or Blueberry Hill. The Dubliner will allow for free room usage and your own bar tender for a certain period of time, if 33 is unavailable and you can’t change the date.

On Thursday Civil Life did a tap takeover. This was not to be missed.

A couple of the guys behind Civil Life used to be behind the bar at 33. Their beers, especially the American Brown and the English Bitter have no rival.

In general they brew classic European style beers. You won’t find any overly hopped, ancho chile, chocolate covered strawberry, nonsense there. Not that I don’t love nonsense, Hopslam anyone, but if you want a perfectly balanced beer, brewed locally, using solar power, you’ve got to get down to the brewery or try one of their beers on tap at your better beer bars.

I guess this ended up being a review for two local gems. I’ll be sure to give them both five subjective, arbitrary, but at least INFORMED, and in their cases, well deserves, stars, on Yelp.

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Business Lunches

Every now and then, I can’t bring a bagged lunch or whip up a meal in the kitchen, so I choose to go on field trips. These ventures into the restaurant and bar world allow me to try new things, steal ideas, talk to the pros, and gather information to pass on to friends, family, and readers. Yesterday and again today, were such opportunities.

Yesterday I made my way into Washington, MO to the Old Dutch Inn.

Had a seat at the bar, my favorite place for eating alone, because with the bartender there, you’re never actually alone.

Started with a Bells Two Hearted Ale and a bowl of beer cheese soup.

Nice, salty, creamy, soup. The ale, with it’s crisp hoppiness, cut through the soup perfectly. Next came the Reuben.

The sandwich was very flavorful, but the a bit tough. I could not cut through the meat with my bites of the sandwich. Pieces of corned beef would exit from between the bread as I took bites, not good.

I should have gone with the open faced roast beef sandwich, but I love to try reubens when offered. It’s a good way to judge a place, like how they prepare their burger.

If you’re out in wine country stop into the Old Dutch for dinner or lunch, stay away from the reuben, and check out the beer list. If you’re in town for breakfast I’d suggest Cowan’s, it’s your run of the mill mile high pie establishment, which is to say, sunny side up, sausage patties, grits, a piece of that pie, and coffee, black, please.

Today, I was at a U-Law symposium on the exclusionary rule and accountability. Unfortunately, as far as police are concerned, there is none. That’s not really germane, for these purposes, other than to explain why I was able to have lunch at Diablito’s Cantina.

Diablito’s is located in the old Pasta House site in SLU’s campus. It’s run by the same folks who run Sanctuaria, which is why I thought to check it out.

They certainly are festive,

but, I don’t eat at places for the decor, though it is a factor, when it’s white table cloths, but when it’s authentic Mexican, I feel there is a zero sum gain, more quality “Mexican” ambiance, less quality food.

I found the decor to be that of a generic Mexican restaurant on steroids, which didn’t bode well for the food. Its also a bit distracting, very in your face. Though their target audience, or loss leader, I assume margarita by the pitcher swilling coeds, may feel it’s a talking point while they try to score numbers and other things.

I ordered the Smoke & Mirrors margarita. It contained mescal along with the standard margarita ingredient list. The mescal was the smoking agent and it did deliver some smoke.

Unfortunately, the drink itself, though a bit smokey, seemed watered down and was quite thin, I should have just ordered a shot.

For the none liquid portion of my lunch, I went with my Mexican joint litmus test, tacos al pastor.

My first thought was, this is it? Second was, where’s the cilantro and lime, or any flavor other than sumptuous perkiness. The meat was tasty, but instead of this being the flavorful dish I’m used to when at cantinas, stands, or trucks, the non-pork flavor component was was missing. These tasted like carnitas tacos with some pineapple to sweeten, not al pastor. I love carnitas, but al pastor should be so much more. The rice and beans were okay, but there weren’t enough of them to leave me full after re three scant tacos.

Both lunches ran me $20, which is outrageous for me. Diablito’s won’t be a place I visit again, or recommend, and I feel that is very unfortunate. Cherokee Street and Las Palma’s in Maplewood will have to do when I need a taco fix. As I said earlier, I do recommend Old Dutch, and will be dining there in the future.

Both ran $20 with tip, had I stuck with an entree and tea, I’d have probably kept the bills under $12. Its easy to keep your lunch field trips under budget, just like when on a date, splitting a salad and a dessert, not boozing, and staying away from things like the filet or crab cake appetizer, which you can do just as well at home, will keep your date night field trip bill under control.

All in all, a nice, or at least informative, little couple of field trips for nourishment and reconnaissance.

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