Sunday, November 3, 2013

Owner Natasha Kwan at Frida's Vegetarian Deli

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Frida's Vegetarian Deli is all about making "healthy just a little bit healthier." Natasha spends her time whipping up meatless options and raking in the accolades. In 2013 alone, Alive Magazine named Frida's St. Louis' "Best Vegan Menu," Sauce Magazine readers lamented the dietary needs flexibility at Frida's, and the Riverfront Times readers awarded Frida's best wrap, vegetarian section, and vegetarian restaurant. 

Why do you guys source locally?
Well the vegetables are better and there’s less carbon footprint and it tastes better. If it’s successful in the ground here then it’s going to taste better.

What do you guys source locally the most?
Tomatoes 100% of the time. Tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, corn, jalapenos, jam, honey, I mean there’s a bunch of stuff. But always the tomatoes. Even in the winter we’ll do the hydroponic gardens at the farms that are in Illinois. Tomatoes are really important to us.

What’s your most popular dish?
The Frida Burger is number one. Number two is the Reuban. Three is the Falafel Wrap. Our number one salad is our kale salad.

What’s on your Frida burger?
It’s a vegan burger. Its 40% soy, 60% beans and vegetables with a zucchini chipotle slaw and tomato on a local bun made by Black Bear Bakery.

Which one of your dishes is underrated but secretly a must-order?
The quesadilla. It is so good.

What’s in the quesadilla?
It is cheese—and of course we have a vegan cheese option—mushrooms, bell peppers, scallions, and it’s served on a gluten-free brown rice tortilla. The people who do order it continue to get it.

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Sunday, October 27, 2013

Owner Roxanne Cypret from Annie Moon's Bakery and Cafe

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Annie Moon is a bodacious world traveler with a bakery and cafe in Tower Grove. She's also a figment of the imaginations of co-owners of Annie Moon's Bakery and Cafe Roxanne Cypret, Mike Dudley, and Eric Hall. But Annie Moon is very much present in everything from the bite size quiches to the blueberry muffins to Roxanne's quirky plan to add a comic book store to the space. Annie Moon's just opened in March and almost everything served is either made from scratch or purchased locally.

Why do you think sourcing locally is important?
We like to support local farms, that’s one great thing. It also adds a little extra something to your place.

What’s your most popular dish?
Our Canon Club—that’s our chicken club—that’s a really popular lunch item. And then as far our baked items go, our strawberry cheesecake muffins sell really well/

Which one of your dishes is underrated but secretly a must-order?
I’m going to have to say our Mendez Falon. That’s our Cuban sandwich and we don’t get a lot of people ordering it but I love it. I think it’s awesome.


What is your favorite thing about Missouri?
I think that we have really friendly people here, kind of a small town attitude, which is nice. St. Louis is kind of a small town attitude with a big city feel.
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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Owner Ryan Pinkston at Three Kings Pub House

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Three Kings Pub House is packed with people enjoying a crisp beer or two (or three) every night of the week. But don't let the "Pub House" in their name fool you into thinking Three Kings is all about the drinks. Owner Ryan Pinkston and Executive Chef Anthony Redden are serving up some seriously fresh, seriously local, and seriously delicious food. Of course, they have all of the bar standards, like award-winning wings and juicy burgers, but they're also doing dishes like a locally-sourced Moroccan pork shank (more below) that'll make you wonder why you'd ever go to any other bar.

Why do you source locally? 
First and foremost, it’s just a better form of eating for everybody. At any restaurant I go to, I prefer them to source as much as they can locally. It’s better to be eating local ingredients that you know how they were produced and better freshness. That’s the main reason, we want the best possible quality product that we can give to the people that come in. And we try to make it a reasonable price at the same time.

What do you source locally?
We source all of our pork products locally and most of our vegetables, as far as the seasonal ones, we source locally. Obviously, we get more in the summer time. Our tomatoes and heirloom tomatoes, green beans, and a lot of leaf lettuce. We try to get as much of our greens [locally] in the summer time. It kind of just depends on the quality of what comes in. And that’s what we base most of what we’re getting in: the quality vs. the price vs. being organic and local. We’re looking into sourcing additional items as well but we also want to keep it cost effective for people who come in on a day to day basis. 

What’s your most popular dish? 
In the last six months, we sell just a ton of wings. We won best wings in St. Louis for the last two years and we won best original wings. We also sell a ton of our burgers and a ton of our fish and chips.

Which of your dishes is underrated but secretly a must order? 
We have a pork shank dish. It’s a Moroccan-style pork shank dish. In Morocco, they would normally use lamb but pork is easier to source here and people are more in pork than in lamb. So we have a pork shank dish that we serve with an apricot chutney and couscous that is a really great dish that is overlooked.

What is your favorite MO-grown ingredient? 
Heirloom tomatoes. Or any summer tomatoes. There’s nothing better than in the summertime when you have great, fresh tomatoes. There’s a lot of dishes you can do with them. It’s an item that you can just sprinkle a little salt on there, or don’t sprinkle any thing, just let them be.
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Sunday, October 20, 2013

Video: Kurt from Windcrest Dairy Tells His Story

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Meet farmer Kurt Bizenberger from Windcrest Dairy and learn about how and why they make the very best yogurt right here over the river in Illinois. Where to buy his yogurt.

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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Chef Ryan Buettner from Vin De Set

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Vin De Set is a beautiful (and incredibly romantic) restaurant that's been serving St. Louis comforting French bistro style food since 2006. Since its opening, Vin De Set has received rave reviews. Ryan Buettner took over the helm as Executive Chef last month after Ivy Magruder moved to work on Gamilin Whiskey House and it's clear he plans to continue Vin De Set's commitment to sourcing locally.

Why do you source locally? 
I think it is important to support any local business.  It is the communities that you live in that help boost the success of your business.  Restaurants like Vin de Set rely on and support the Lafayette Square community and the St. Louis community as a whole because that is who comes in the doors and that is who we try to make happy.

What do you source locally? 
We try to source as many products as we can locally.  Currently all of our beef is from Rain Crow Ranch in Southern Missouri.  Produce, cheeses, beers, liquors, anything we can get our hands on we try to support either locally grown, locally made, or locally owned and operated businesses.  We even grow many items that we use in specials and dishes on our rooftop patio right by the bar.  So customers get to see the freshness of the ingredients.

What is your most popular dish? 
We sell the most of our Petite Filets. It is a wonderful grass-fed product that we source from Rain Crow Ranch.

Which of your dishes is underrated but secretly a must-order? 
Our Boulliabase is a house specialty.  Made in the traditional French style, it is a rich tomato-tarragon broth with fennel, tomatoes, and four kinds of seafood.

What is your favorite MO-grown ingredient? 
I'm not sure I can pin it down to one.  I like the seasonality of the fruits and vegetables we have available here in the Midwest.  There is such variety that in the height of the season I find it hard to constrain myself to not over ordering such tasty produce.
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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Veronica Baetje from Baetje Farms

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The Baetje family wall is completely covered with over 60 different awards for their rich, creamery, and flavorful goat cheese. They've wowed America at the America Cheese Society and the world at the World Cheese Awards. Luckily for us, the Baetje family raises their goats and makes their cheese a mere 60 miles away from St. Louis in Bloomsdale, Missouri. Where to buy their cheese.

How many years have you guys been making cheese?
We were licensed in 2007 but I started making cheese years ago back in 99 when we just had a few goats and I was experimenting with different cheese recipes. I really enjoyed it and I went to the University of Vermont and went through their advanced cheese making course. They have a Vermont Institute of Arts and Cheese there. I went through that. It took a few years. They have a really good course there. And I just continued to increase my knowledge with other cheese makers and reading books. And then we were able to build up slowly.

Do you have a cheese philosophy? I think the best cheese is made from the best milk and the best milk and the best milk comes from animals that are in the best state of health and nutrition. So we’re very conscious about how our animals are treated and what kind of diet they have. We monitor each goat individually and test their milk and try to make adjustments with their diet. I think that really reflects well for us because to date we’ve won over 60 national and international awards since 2007. Those awards are from some of the big competitions like the American Cheese Society and the World Cheese Awards in Birmingham, England. We’ve really been competing against the top names in the industry and we’ve won several Super Golds, which is the highest award for our Bloomsdale.

What’s your favorite thing about making cheese?
I guess my favorite part is seeing the cheese in the aging room and seeing just really good cheese come to perfection. I really enjoy that.

What do you want people to know about cheese making or farming? All cheese is not the same. The cheese that you see at Shop and Save that’s two packs for $5 is commodity cheese. The standard nutrition is nothing extraordinary. What we’re making is something extraordinary. We’re making artisan cheese that’s really hand crafted and it’s patterned after cheeses they’d make for centuries in Europe. Our cheeses have brines on them and they go to through a period of affinage* when we’re either washing them or drying them. Kraft Singles is really not cheese. They’re just processing milk in a factory. It doesn’t have any of the flavor profiles or the care that our cheese has, which is why ours is going to be more expensive. Those that have a sophisticated palate and want something new will find that in our cheese.

*Affiange: a French word that describes the care that cheese gets while going through the aging process.

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Friday, October 4, 2013

Chef McConnell at Stone Soup Cottage

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Stone Soup Cottage is booked solid a month in advance, which means, once you score a spot, you've got a month to think about nothing else other than eating there. Chef McConnell serves guests a six-course tasting menu that features drool worthy dishes inspired by France and Northern Italy and sourced from farms right here in Missouri. 

What do you guys source locally?
All of my ingredients are coming from my farm that we’re moving to next week. It’s just a ¼ mile from my current location, which is my past location now since we finished up dinner service. It comes from the Wiese farm and nursery. Our new restaurant will be located on that property there. Norma Wiese is the farmer that I work directly with that grows all of my produce for the restaurant.

What’s your most popular dish?
This summer it was definitely my pistou, which is a chilled basil soup with tomato and black walnut relish.

Which one of your dishes is underrated but is secretly a must-order?
Well I don’t really work that way because my menu changes every month so I barely repeat any menu items. But I would say one of the more popular requested dishes I have is my duck cannelloni with lavender brown butter.

Will you bring that back?
I will do a rerun of that every now and then. My apple and taleggio cheese soufflé is another popular one and I use local apples in that. But my smoked duck cannelonni has beautiful ducks from Ben Roberts in Columbia, MO.

He’s great.
He’s an awesome guy, yea. He gives me just absolutely beautiful fresh ducks. And, of course, we add fresh lavender from the farm.

Why do you believe in sourcing locally?
For a number of reasons. We are named “Stone Soup” so we want to keep it in line with that story of keeping it within a community and supporting local business. That’s one. Two, there’s nothing better than farm fresh and ingredients that are literally picked out of my backyard and used. Not that I’m completely against using items that don’t come from here: bananas and pineapples and all that kind of stuff. Good stuff has its place. So we would never claim to be a completely locavorian restaurant. But as far as produce is concerned, we do mostly. And any protein we use, we want to use local.

Image: J. Pollack Photography courtesy of Feast Magazine
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