Tuesday, June 29, 2010

coming back to KINKEAD's for the creme de la creme (6-29-10)

Yes I am biased since Will works at Kinkead's, but if you look at my
reviews, you don't see us eating there very often. I honestly should
be ashamed of that, since the other night Samuel said to us both,
"when are we going to eat at Daddy's restaurant again?" Well, we
headed right out the next day and had, as we always do, one of the
best meals in DC.
As we walked in Samuel mentioned how "snazzy" Kinkead's is compared to
other dining spots, and he has indeed got a point! The crystal,
plates, linens and are truly elegant, and the service is always top
notch, especially our sever, Stephanie.
We ordered a bottle of Gruner Veltliner which was sold out so settled
for the crisp Verdicchio dei Castelli de Jesi "Ca'Ruptae" 2008 from
Mancaro in the Marche region of Italy; it's great with oysters and
Kinkead's always has the best of those too:
Will liked the Hurricane Harbour from prince Edwards Is, while I
preferred the same locale's Salutation Cover, but we both agreed the
Little Skookums from Washington State were the tastiest of the
Samuel had the tasty FISH & CHIPS with battered flaky cod and yummy
seasoned fries (each time he looked away I munched one!).
Will started with the always pleasing SOFT SHEEL CREAB TEMPURA with
Green Papaya Salad, Thai Herbs and Lime Dipping Sauce while I went for
the House Made CUTTARA PASTA with huge chunks of LOBSTER MEDALLIONS in
a light, but slightly spicy Tomato, Clam, Fava Bean & Basil Broth. It
was divine.
We switched to the house Chardonnay 2005 JT Cellars from Alexander
Valley which is quite oaky and intense, especially due to its age,
then moved on to a divine "La Neblina" PINOT NOIR 2007 from Radio-
Coteau in Sonoma with our main courses.
Will had the Cumin Cocoa Nib Pepper & Sea Salt Crusted RARE TUNA on
Tortilla with Mole, Chayote, Chile Relish & Guacamole which has to be
one of the more inventive approaches and especially perfect in summer.
The new GRILLED WHOLE SNAPPER is rum marinated and prepared Jamaican
style with a Banana Habanero "ketchup," Mango-Lime Salasa and Red
Beans and Rice all on the side. The ketchup is tasty, but a bit too
banana-intense, although with the fish it is a great foil. The salsa
is a great change for every third bite or so as well. It makes for a
fun dish.
Don't forget the homemade Parker house rolls crusted with coarse salt,
which Sam now loves (the salt, I mean) as well as the tasty soda
cracker and peasant breads.
For dessert we split the Local PEACH TARTE TATIN with Tahitian Honey
Ice Cream & Caramel, and thie fruit tart is still one of the best
around as well. Indeed, Kinkead's always seems to wear well with time
and the quality of everything does still stand up even after all these
years.We always love going back, because it IS FAMILY and everyone is
always treated that way!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

best bet is BRASSERIE by NICHE in St. Louis' West End (6-19-10)

At the opera matinee yesterday I was surprised to bump into a dear
client whom I had forgotten I booked into St. Louis this weekend. So I
quickly invited him to join me between the operas for dinner at Gerard
Craft's recently opened French bistro just blocks from my hotel.
BRASSERIE by NICHE (www.brasseriebyniche.com) is a casual indoor and
outdoor bistro with plaid linen tablecloths covered by that ubiquitous
brown paper. Large French posters adorn the walls and the space is
cozy and not too crowded. By the time we left at 7:15pm, there was not
an empty table indoors (it was still over 90 outside and had just
Our server Meredith raved about the CHICKEN LIVER TERRINE with Red
Onion Confiture, so we indulged and ordered this an a spare starter
along with our other two. It was rich, creamy and divine and the
confiture gave a great tart foil. Only five small toasted baguette
croutons came with it, so we used the warm pull-apart French loaves at
the table as well which was just as good.
I had a glass of Laporte "Le Bouquet" 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from the
Loire (the wines are mostly French and there is a large beer menu as
well) which was a very traditional steely tasty French version of the
varietal. My second wine was an also steely (read:not oaky) Domaine
Cordier Chardonnay 2008 from Macon-Charnay in Burgundy. My guest had
the SANTA DUC "Vielles Vignes" 2007 Cotes du Rhone we he said was also
quite good.
His starter was the Wild Burgundy ESCARGOTS served in a 1/2 dozen
ceramic container and loaded with a very herby butter with garlic
which was almost green from the herbs. It was nice to have the herbs
overpower the garlic for a change. My BRANDADE of House Salted Cod was
served in a ramekin with Arugula on top again with the small toasted
baguette slices and was not the rich bacalao with loads of creamy
stuff, but a tasty largely fish brandade in the very old traditional
For main courses both dishes were dreamy with my guest opting for the
Braised BEEF SHORT RIBS with carrots and potato puree and my TROUT &
ALMONDS with GREEN BEANS offering up a whole boned trout without tail
or head that was completely edible and had no one sliver of bone. The
ligh butter sauce and almonds were of the highest quality adding to
the excellence of this dish.
Dessert was a treat as well, and how nice after the awful one the
evening before. BLUEBERRY CLAFOUTIS was a tasty version of the fruit
cobbler and a huge scoop of creamy homemade LEMON VERBENA Ice Cream
was ladled on top. My guest opted for a scoop of the same along with
the Honey-Lavender Ice Cream as well!
What a divine meal as my last big dinner here in St. Louis as tonight
I picnic before the opera.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Escape to 'SCAPE in St. Louis and next door to CREPES:etc. (6-18-10)

My hotel this trip is located in the wonderful West End of St. Louis
about 10 minutes from downtown with a thriving dining/shopping area
right outside the door.
The two closest dining spots were yesterday's ventures and for lunch I
returned to CREPES:etc. (www.crepestl.com) at 52 Maryland Plaza and
loved my AHI TUNA CLUB with guacamole, aioli, tomato, crispy bacon and
more. A large CAFE au LAIT woke me up just before noon after the big
meal the night before as well.
I may even go back today for one of those yummy crepes! Keep your eyes
For dinner I went to their next door fine dining spot, SCAPE (really
meant as LandSCAPE) (www.scapestl.com) at 48 Maryland Plaza facing the
pretty spurting fountain outside where many people enjoy the outdoors
as long as the weather cooperates.
On arrival in the over 95 heat, I was asked would I like to sit inside
or outside. Are they NUTS? While sunny, the heat index was close to
110! But I guess some folks love to melt. I sat down at the glossy
black lacquered table with a center of bronze that are found
throughout the carpeted room with wooden booths and chairs. The noise
level is not too high and comfort is part of the scene as I sat near
the window watching the fountain from INSIDE!

I ordered up 2 each of the featured raw bar oysters and they were both
those always wonderful KUMAMOTOS from the West Coast and the large
plumper, briny and tasty BLACKBERRY POINTs from Nova Scotia (I'll have
to find these when we head there later this summer!). The oysters come
with traditional cocktail sauce with a dollop of grated horseradish on
top (you know I never put this on fresh oysters, but do enjoy it on a
piece of bread) as well as two vinaigrette style sauces called ASIAN
Salsa and JALAPENO Salsa. They were both pretty mild and I liked
dipping my fork in these for a simple dribble to enhance each oyster.
The bread was crusty and fresh and there was also a large scone (odd
choice for dinner).
My salad was a THEIS FARMS Heirloom TOMATO with Fresh Basil, Goat
Ricotta, Hazelnut Vinaigrette, Hazelnuts and a puff pastry stick with
olives. While the vinaigrette was superb and the salad nice, the
tomatoes themselves don't come close to those we had from our own
garden last summer (Cherokee Purple) or for that matter any really
good farmer's market.
I asked for a glass of Sauvignon Blanc and told the brand had been
changed (to one I don't care for as much) and opted for the
My server Ellen steered me toward the DUCK CONFIT and she hit this
right on the button. Two legs and thighs with the crispiest/crunchiest
of skins were moist inside and truly superb with the light Mustardy
Sauce. Stewed Leeks and Fingerling Potatoes made this dish the hit
that it so often is not usually because the duck is dry). I marveled
at every bite.
Dessert was, for me, a disaster. I debated over the peach cobbler and
"Wimbledon" PAVLOVA and should have gone with the former. Ellen said
the meringue on the Pavlova was great and it came with Strawberries,
Cream and Nutella which sounded interesting. The order of ingredients
was wrong. Cream should have been first as this dish was piles and
gobs of way too much whipped cream, a disc of very hard and way to
sweet meringue, several strawberries and a slash of nutella for fun
flavor. The sweetness had me stop after 3 bites and the berries were
gone. To top this off the Cappuccino was small and had no froth...this
sad from a cafe/creperie sister that excels in their coffee drinks!
So while you will want to escape to SCAPE, be careful of the sugar
when you enter the dessert realm.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

St Louis' NICHE number #1 and not just in St. Louis (6-17-10)

I returned to St. Louis again for my annual opera trip and was happy
to head right to NICHE (www.nichestlouis.com) just south of downtown,
where I have truly found the best dining places in the states--
repeatedly!). Seconds after arriving and greeting from all of the oh
so friendly staff, Chef/Owner Gerard Craft moseyed over to say
"hi" (his parents are friends of ours in DC) and apologize that he was
not in the kitchen for the evening as he had to handle some business.
He now has three dining spots in St. Louise, with NICHE keeping the
top honors as his quality dining spot, TASTE by Niche next door for
smaller plates (I gather) and his new Brasserie (where I head
tomorrow!). He left Chef Adam Altnether in charge, and I couldn't find
one fault with his perfect staff when he took off!
Niche now has a larger window looking in on the kitchen, and I did get
to witness a small pan fire at one point! The decor oozes simplicity
with linen cloths covered by those brown paper squares I am not so
fond of. On each table is coarse ground pepper and salt and a single
short marigold in water along with a small votive candle. The star
If you head to NICHE, you really must have the Chef's Tasting Menu,
still unbelievably priced at $55 (wines are $35 extra). I ordered a
small order of WHITE ANCHOVIES on Toast with Smoked Paprika and
munched on the lemony fish with a glass of delicious refreshing TREANA
Viognier/Marsanne from Central Coast, California 2007 (a wonderful
white that I must look up back at home).
The tasting began with MAPLE CUSTARD which was served a la Thomas
Keller in a brown eggshell. The custard on the bottom was lemon-maple
and it was topped with superb local Roasted Mushrooms and bonito
"caviar" which was actually gel pearls from the bonito fish stock as
opposed to its eggs. It was a tantalizing start bursting with flavors
and if you could call it an amuse, one that would get anyone so
excited for what was to come. A GERARD BERTRAND CREAMNT BRUT 2007 from
Alsace made from Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc and Mauzac was a refreshing
accompaniment with a bubbly twist.

My server, Jeff (who was simply drop dead gorgeous, making the
experience even more enjoyable) explained the next dish BEET and
BUTTERMILK, which I will call "everything soup." The cold broth of
beets was mixed with buttermilk and cucumber broth so that it was
fairly light and thin and most refreshing as well in the 94 degree
heat! Mint and chives were added for flavor along with small pieces of
roasted beets and beet crisps for crunch. Several pasta folds (Jeff
called them akin to tortellini) were filled with a thick beet puree
and a couple of pickled cucumbers were floating along as well. I found
these pickles a bit mismatched with the multiple ingredients, but
that's just my preference. Pea shoots were scattered on top and the
entire dish was really a perfect summer treat. CHATEAU LAMOTHE
BORDEAUX BLANC 2009 (Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon) was a simply perfect
pairing for this fascinating experience.

My next wine was a BELLE GLOS "Meiomi" PINOT NOIR 2008 from Monterey/
Santa Barbara and it filled my mouth with a huge explosion of fruit
and flavors. I got to enjoy this for a while as I took a break and
also was treated to two EXTRA courses courtesy of the chef (not on the
1)ASPARAGUS SALAD with HOUSEMADE RICOTTA was the perfect dish for
anyone not wanting to fill up on a starter. There were raw ever-so-
thin slivers of asparagus and with blanched whole spears in a Ramp
Vinaigrette with Fresh Clove & a dash of Orange Oil al meshed with
fresh baby cress.
2)For someone looking for a veggie starter, but warm and slightly more
filling than the Asparagus, the BABY CARROTS Braised in CUMIN & ORANGE
with Candied Maple Bacon and Vanilla Oil is a buttery, but not to rich
dish topped with those yummy pea choots again.

As I looked at my surroundings, I did notice that the noise levels as
the place was full were pretty high. I later realized that music was
playing, but could not be heard until much later when at least 1/2 the
tables had cleared!
Niche is not noisy, but I would love for them to find a way to lower
the noise level.

Back to the tasting!
PORK SHOULDER PAPPARDELE is a ragout of braised pork on ever so yummy
homemade pasta (at the level of our finest Italian pasta back in DC!)
in a rich sauce of Apples, Mascarpone, Champagne & Olive Oil that has
a southern BBQ sweetness to it that really brought out a slight
Southern feel to the dish. It is perfect as a taste or starter, but as
an entree it would be way too rich. The Pinot was simply divine with
the intesnity of the sauce and the pork.

Cucumber Mint Sorbet was a refreshing and tasty intermezzo before the
PORK main course. A medium sized cube of meaty (and very little fat)
PORK BELLY(smoked then slow roasted) was seared crispy on top and
served with a rich sauce of FARRO (thing large risotto-style) mixed
with Comte Cheese, Toasted Groats, more pea shoots Braised TURNIPS and
a slash of Strawberry-Black Pepper sauce. I adore pork belly, but tend
to avoid it due to the high fat, but here it was perfect and I managed
to eat almost every bite. The wine was not my favorite match of the
night. A lighter TAVEL ROSE 2009 from Domaine Lafond was chosen
obviously to counter the richness, but I still would have preferred a
big red.

Dessert was LIME & BASIL CUSTARD which was very akin to Panna Cotta
and served in a RHUBARB Consomme with Poached Rhubard and Crystalized
Basil that was a sweet crunchy treat on top. The wine was a La
SPINETTA Biancospino MOSCATO d'ASTI 2009 which again worked perfectly
and finished my meal to perfection. Chef Adam came out and I told him
that everything was perfect while he was in charge. I hope he doesn't
sneak off and start his own place! As always, all the Niche staff
really make you feel at home, welcome and serve up a great dining

I am so glad I get to head to Gerard's newest spot, Brasserie by
Niche, tomorrow, but am already looking forward to my next trip to St.
Louis when I can head straight to Niche.