Friday, January 27

going mad

As another St. Louis-area Restaurant Week rolled around, I knew it could only mean one thing: free dinner with my mom. This year I selected the Mad Tomato at the corner of Carondelet and Meramec in Clayton.  I had been wanting to try the place for quite a while now, particularly since it has the same owners as South City's Onesto.

I arrived around 5:30 (15 minutes earlier than our reservation) and the place was bare.  We of course didn't want to be the only ones eating, so we hunkered on up to the bar.  The bartender (and the nice lady from the Chamber of Commerce who saddled up next to us) made for nice conversation as we sipped our reds.  We, however, experienced a bit of sticker shock as we settled our tab at the bar.  Perhaps it's because we are cheap frugal, but $22 dollars for two glasses of wine was not what we were expecting.

Despite that, we sat down and promptly ordered two more glasses (hey, the 'Restaurant Week' specials were only $7 per glass). We placed our order and were soon  handed house made focaccia.  The bread was excellent - crispy outer edge, with a soft slightly cheesy, slightly saucy inside.  Yum, yum, yum - a perfect start to the meal. 

For my first course, I went with the minestrone.  It was a solid choice - beefy broth, a touch on the thick side and perfectly seasoned.  Nothing to dance around in circles about, but a good first course nonetheless. 

I went with The Other Grandma's Eggplant for my main course.  It was a bit like an eggplant lasagna - a stack of thin sliced eggplant layered with cheese, tomatoes, garlic and basil all broiled in an individual pan.  The basil really shone through the otherwise mild sauce, giving it a great flavor.  The only real downfall was the amount of cheese - it sort of took over the dish and was so thick, there were bites I wasn't sure if it was eggplant or a hunk of cheese.  Perhaps the Original Grandma's eggplant would have less cheese? Either way, still an enjoyable dish. 

And then came the dessert....

Holy cow, the dessert was amazing.  I would have paid $25 alone for it.

Lemon and Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Warm Apple Compote.  The cake itself was airy - and had just a touch of sweetness poking through the tangy flavors. And the apple compote gave it just the right boost of sweetness, along with adding a touch of warmth to a cool plate.  It was simply perfect.  Plus the syrup from the apple compote was done in a swirly pattern - and hey, who doesn't like swirlies?  This was by far the second-best desert I have ever had (shout out to NYC's Lupa and its Lupa Tartufo), and I am really not a dessert person.  DEE. LISH. US.

Mad Tomato on Urbanspoon

bottom line: i cannot wait to go back and explore more of the menu.  and eat another five pieces of that cheesecake.

Thursday, October 13

a tale of two birthday pies

There is no better excuse for me to make others pay for me to try new restaurants than my birthday.  This year, my birthday weekend took me to two pizza places: Onesto and PW Pizza.

Since it was such a beautiful day, I took Friday off of work and searched for a eatery where my mom and I could eat outside.  The search took us to a place I've been wanting to try for quite some time, Onesto's Pizza on Macklind in South City.   I never really ventured into the actual restaurant, but the outside set-up was simply gorgeous (the '75 and sunny' weather maaaaaay have helped boost its gorgeous-ness, but very cute and cozy, nonetheless).

We settled in and each ordered a "quartino" of red wine (don't judge. drinking at 11 a.m. is normal, right?), a lunch pizzette (a 10-in. pie) and a small house salad.  The salad was simple - a very light vinagrette, mozzarella, tomatoes and red onion on a bed of mixed greens. The lettuce was the fancy kind that has the type with those little tentacle bunches (that's the technical term, correct?), which I could have done without, but all-in-all very good.

The BEST part about the pre-pizza portion of our meal, however, was one of my ol' NYC favorites: garlic knots.  Pizza dough tied in a knot, brushed with butter/oil, garlic and other seasonings and baked to perfection.  I mean, really, can you get better that that? In NYC, garlic knots were essential whenever I grabbed a slice. And Onesto's lived up to the hype.  So light and airly, but buttery and delicious.  Yum, yum, yum.

My mushroom and roma tomato pizza was equally as delicious.  The crust was the perfect crisp/soft, thin/think blend, while the sauce and seasonings were simply spot on.  (WARNING: the 10-in lunch "pizzette" is huge.  My mom and I would have been perfectly fine splitting one and still have had a slice or two to take home.)

Overall, it was a beautiful day and a great experience at Onesto - there is something to be said about simple, elegant, good food.

Onesto Pizza & Trattoria on Urbanspoon

Saturday led us to an equally as amazing, though somewhat different pizza place: PW Pizza on Choteau underneath Vin de Set.

What I liked about PW so much was the variety of sauces, cheeses and toppings that allowed you to get as creative (or as boring, ahem hubs) as you would like.  From chimichurri sauce and tuna to gruyere and roasted eggplant, the combinations can take you to places pizza has only dreamed of.

Since we had already stopped in on the patio upstairs for a drink and an appetizer (yum, frog legs), we jumped right into 'Build-Your-Own-Pie" mode.  For my birthday dish I went with some of my favs: marinara sauce and goat cheese topped with artichokes and sweet pickled peppers.

Ok, ok. so I may have went a little overboard on the tangy items.  But that's the beauty of it.  You can make it anything you want.

The base of the pizza was excellent, however.  Again, an in-between type crust, though PW was a bit more on the chewy and airier side of things. 

Regardless, I cannot wait to go back and see what other combos I can come up with... aaaaand to try an appetizer or calzone or two.  Everything at PW Pizza is handmade (thanks for the info, STLPD), including the oh-so-delicious fennel sausage that made its way to the hubs pizza, so I am imagining good things.

PW Pizza on Urbanspoon

bottom line: both awesome, in different ways.  both intriguing enough for a return trip.

Thursday, September 29

take my order 'cause (filomena's) like a carryout

Thursday night of a long week can only mean one thing: takeout for dinner. I've passed Filomena's Italian Kitchen many times while gallivanting down Manchester, so I figured tonight was as good as any.

After navigating a rather awkward parking lot, I walked in to a very home-y feeling place.  A plethora of well-aged ladies, couples and small families filled up most of the space. Among them, a group was enjoying a bottle of wine - as I do not see wine on the menu, I am assuming it's a BYO type place (Filomena's - 1).

My order was taken right away and came up much faster than I expected (that, or I got lost in the time warp that is my smartphone). Since it was our first trip, we stuck with the basics: red pasta, white pasta, salad and garlic bread.

(Ok. So it was garlic bread with sauce and cheese. Big diff.)

I dug into the Pizza Bread first - an Italian loaf with sesame seeds split into two, then covered with marinara and a "blend" of cheeses and baked until delicious. When I cut into it, the cheese kind of slid off making it a bit if a messy project.  But hey, I'm not that picky.  The bread had been toasted to a nice crisp on the outside, while the amount of sauce perfectly helped to soften up the middle.  The melted cheese was a bit too much for me and was heading in the rubbery direction by the time I got home.  Overall, though, a solid selection.

Our side salads were on the basic side - romaine and iceberg with tomatoes, red onions and a sprinkling of provolone.  Balsamic Vinaigrette was the house dressing and it just didn't do it for me (surprisingly, the hubs loved it though).

I chose one of my favorite dishes like ever for my entree - spaghetti with marinara (that's foodie like... right?).  My ideal spaghetti dish has a mild flavor and lands on the saltier side of the sugary-salty spectrum.  And this hit the nail on the head. Steady flavor, not over powered with garlic, complemented by a sprinkling of cheese and fresh parsley basil something green (I promise, I've been practicing my foodie skills, but the flavor was just so mild, I couldn't pinpoint the herb).  Regardless, just my style.

Per my usual, I stole politely asked the hubs for a bite of his Penne Alfredo with Chicken - purely for research, of course.  His dish was also quite a solid piece.  Garlic definitely hinted through, but it was not overpowering.  The sauce itself had a nice not-too-heavy consistency, but there definitely could have been more.

bottom line: great first takeout experience; left me intrigued enough for another visit sometime soon.

Filomena's Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 16

pho grand friday

I convinced the hubs to head over to Grand for our Friday dinner. Pho Grand, that is.  I've heard nothing but great things, so I was excited to give it a try.

We drove around a bit to find a meter, and parked just a few block down (6:05. Only :55 of meter fare to pay - score!). Walking in, the decor and atmosphere let much to be desired.  But hey, we were here for the food.

We skipped out on appetizers and went right for the main course: me, the Vegetarian Special (without curry);
him, the Ga Nuong (chicken in a garlic sauce).

My dish was simply excellent.  Fresh cilantro, mushrooms, baby corn, tomatoes, peanuts and garlic (along with a plethora of unidentifiable veggies) all set atop thin rice noodles.  To me, it was hearty enough to be filling, but light enough to not weigh me down.  Yum, yum, yum.

As is customary, I stole politely asked for a bite of the hubs dish. His chicken was smothered in garlic sauce and accompanied by peppers and onions.  My, oh my, was that sauce sweet.  Delicious, but sweet.

Besides being delicious, this meal was cheapy, cheapy cheap. $17 for dinner out? I'll take it.

(For the record, the clock read 6:41 when we jumped back in the car. 36 minutes from car to car.

holy. cow.)

bottom line: fast, cheap and good. definitely a go to.

Pho Grand on Urbanspoon

Friday, May 27

bartalino's (near) the hill

Since I was out of town this mother's day, I decided to use a Groupon to treat my mom to dinner at Bartalino's Osteria hear Hampton and 44.  We've been there before, but both agreed it was repeat worthy.

Before we headed into the main dining room, we wandered over to the bar to grab a glass a wine (as is customary when dining with my mother).  Having just returned two days prior from a trip to the California Wine Country, I had to go for the good stuff - the house red.   Surprisingly, Bartalino's namesake wine was nice (and a bargain). Waaahoooo.

Making our way to the dining room, I never felt like I was in a hotel restaurant.  Elegant and simple.

Based on the waiter's recommendation, I went with the Bartalino's Special Salad with house dressing.  Once he said artichokes and bacon, I had heard enough.  It turned out to be just the type of salad I love: more toppings, less lettuce.  It was packed with salami, bacon, artichokes, green onions and pepporcinis - so much of the good stuff that I even left a small pile of salami (Gasp!).  A very light, creamy Italian tied it all together. Yum, yum, yum.

For my entree, I went with the Filetto di Sogliola alla Ragni (aka fillet of sole topped with crab and parmesan). It was an okay experience - a bit on the salty side, but a nice combination of flavors otherwise.  On the downside, the fish seemed a bit slimy for me (the wannabe foodie in me thought maybe it could have been cooked a bit longer) and I caught a tiny piece of shell in the crab mixture.

On to the appetizer.  Wait, back-up. What?  Yep, somehow our appetizer took so long in preparation that it took as long as our entrees to come up.  I'm not sure if it's foodie etiquette or not, but I hate that.  Oh it will actually be a nice addition to your dinner said the waiter.  No. I want my appetizer first. If I make it through the salad without it, take it off my bill. But instead, I smile nicely and let him set it in-between our dinner plates. 

Regardless of the timing hoopla, the bruschetta was delicious.  Six hand-prepared individual pieces of "grilled crisp on the outside, but still soft and warm on the inside" bread topped with three different combinations:  fresh pesto with large hunks of pinenuts, a bit too salty  olive tapenade and fresh tomato with shaved parmesean.  Loved the idea of it, just wish I hadn't of been so full (ahem, waiter).

bottom line: love the feel of this place and the nice deviation from typical St. Louis Italian. though spotty service this time, definitely a regular place for me.

Bartolino's on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 28

the fountain on locust

For my mom's birthday lunch, we decided to give the Fountain on Locust a try.  She had been there before, but she thought it was a place I'd like.

The place itself was very kitschy and had the retro diner feel.  We took a seat in a homey booth outfitted with curtains.

My mom's favorite part of the restaurant was the retro cocktails (I believe the phrase, "I used to drink that as a kid" came up... hmmmm...?).  So I obligingly tried one: the Sloe Gin Fizz.  Sloe gin (which is actually a red,berry-ish liqueur), gin, lemon, sugar and soda water provided a surprisingly refreshing late-morning cocktail. It was a bit on the tart side, but since I did not drink these as a "kid," I have no frame of reference otherwise.  Either way, delicious. 

As an avid pickle lover (yes, I actually once attended the International Pickle Festival in NYC), the Polish Dill Pickle Soup was an obvious choice.  Much to my dismay, I (gasp!) did not like it.  It came out a beautiful mint green color, with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of dill.  The taste really can't be described as anything other than pureed pickle and cream.  For me, while I liked the idea, it just was too much.

With my soup combo, I went for the Roast Beef sandwich.  Served on a soft, floury Vienna roll, it was a solid choice.  The sandwich was smeared with a thin layer of goat cheese/herb combo, though I think it would have been enhanced with more.  Billy Goat chips (my fave!) rounded out the plate.

bottom line: nice place, more for the atmosphere than the food, but the desire to try a "champagne float" will most certainly draw me back.

The Fountain on Locust on Urbanspoon

Thursday, April 21

a westport lunch

The big boss was in town, so you know what that means - free lunch. yum.

As a frequent walker-arounder of the lake near my Westport office, we noticed that Dierdorf & Hart's had recently re-opened after months of renovation. Obviously, that's where we went.

Lunch was surprisingly reasonable - most sandwiches between $7-$12 (including a side). I went with the Crabcake Reuben sandwich (minus the bread) and Napa slaw. Holy amazing. The crabcake itself was a bit on the bready side, but was moist and tender. But the star for me and my tangy-loving palate were the toppings: braised red cabbage, shallot marmalade and chili aioli. The tang meshed with sweet and meshed with the smooth and meshed with the crab. I could literally eat a popcorn bowl full of the toppings. There was also a nicely melted slice of cheese on top of the crab cake, but it was not necessary in my book (I, in fact, ended up sliding most of it right off).

The slaw was just so-so. Nice tangy dressing, but had (a bit too) large carrot slices and what seemed like iceberg lettuce.  But regardless, I walked away so excited about the new lunch place. Yum, yum, yum.

bottom line:  fantastic lunch for a fantastic value.  i will be back. soon.

Dierdorf & Hart's - Westport on Urbanspoon