St Louis – Barbecue, Booze (not really) and My Baby Girl

Airplanes and I do not mix.  I don’t enjoy flying. And that is an understatement. Just ask my husband, who usually gets stuck sitting next to me on flights.  So two weeks ago, when I visited my daughter and her boyfriend in St. Louis for her 21st bday, I got there by driving. It’s a long drive, so I split the trip up and stayed overnight near Cincinnati both coming and going.  Of course, I stayed near Cincy just to go to Jungle Jim’s, a magnificent grocery store in the suburban town of Fairfield. Jungle Jim’s never disappoints (more on JJs sometime soon) but neither did St Louis.

Juan and Lindsay had already thought through the necessary food stops before I arrived. (Juan’s recommendation to stay at the Knight Center on the campus of Wash U. was the best advice. It was perfect.)

The night of my arrival, there was a food truck ” festival” of sorts.  Many food trucks, all with long lines waiting for the goodies, were lined up on the edge of a city park.  I think Pittsburgh definitely needs more food trucks. The park was filled with young and old, all hanging out together eating falafel, sushi, pizza and cupcakes.

We had a fun time at the memorabilia filled restaurant in the “loop” section called Blueberry Hill.  Known for burgers and for being the St. Louis home of Chuck Berry, I had a darn good Club Sandwich there and I’m picky when it comes to club sandwiches.

Time for BBQ!

Next came the St Louis institution called Pappy’s.  BBQ is king here and the line, even at mid-day when it was over a hundred degrees outside, strung through the restaurant.  I had barbecued brisket, green beans and sweet potato fries. This was good stuff.

On the morning of the bday ( it was her 21st, after all) we toured the Anheuser-Busch factory and were treated to a complimentary brew after the tour. It was the first time she was carded and legal. We both tried the wheat beer and it was perfect, even for before noon.  Dinner was at a Peruvian restuatant called Mango, recently voted Best South American restaruant by readers of St Louis Magazine.  Clean fresh flavors prevailed here with  tilapia seviche and other treats like plaintain chips with a salsa verde and beef empanadas. Oh, and a winning Sangria that I wish I could replicate at home.

The nest morning, before getting on my way back . .well, back to Jungle Jim’s for an evening cooking class, we had breakfast at Winslow Home, a charming store/cafe near University City. Love love love.

This was my first real adventure in the mid-west outside of the Chicago end of Illinois and  parts of Ohio (Ohio doesn’t count as the mid-west to me) and I was impressed. I hope I get to go back soon.  Thanks Juan and Lindsay for a great time.

Hop Devil beer, Herr’s potato chips and Curry – A Smellilicous Day

I recently took a break from working on my own culinary tours and decided to go on a few food factory tours out in the eastern part of Pennsylvania.   First stop:  Herr’s.  When I stepped out of my car at their Nottingham factory (where they make potato chips, tortilla chips, pretzels, cheese balls, etc.), a big puff of warm potato-y steam wafted my way. Oh, it smelled so good.  I love conveyor belts and packaging and this tour had lots of that.  And at the end, the sampling of warm chips was fantastic. The tour was free and definitely worth the side trip if you’re driving to or from Baltimore or Philly.

See those little puffy clouds coming up from the buildings? That's the tempting scent of freshly cooked potato chips.

From Herr’s, the next stop was the Victory Brewing Company in Downingtown.  Their Hop Devil beer is one of my husband’s favorites and since I really don’t know much about beer making, I thought it was time to learn.  The Victory folks also have a large beer hall style restaurant here and the food is beer focused and really good.


The tour was short and sweet. ( I was the only taker on the 4 PM tour.)  My favorite part was seeing the bags of hops before they are used for the beer.  The hops add that bitter, somewhat tangy flavor to brews.  At Victory, they have an entire cooler filled with large bags of hops. I rubbed one of the buds between my hands and the smell was somewhat like the scent of a frat house party. In a good way.

When at the brewery, I noticed a wonderfully sweet smell outside. Not like beer at all, but more like ketchup. I found out that it was curry, from a sauce making facility in the same area. No one seemed to know anything about the curry production, so I had to investigate.  Turns out August Foods, Inc.   is an Indian sauce maker that distributes to private labels, including Trader Joe’s.  The smell was truly intoxicating.

Who would think such a great smell would come out of this building?

I guess if I woke up every day to the scent of fresh potato chips, yeasty beer or spicy curry I would get tired of it.  But for today, it was  scent-sational!


Yikes, where did December go??

The Christmas plates are waiting for the Buche De Noel.

So, my last post was Foodie Gift #7.  I still have to do 8, 9 and 10 and there are just a few days left until Christmas. I’m not sure where the time went, but the last few weeks just disappeared.  Because of this, I’m putting 8, 9 and 10 all into one post.

#8.  Go to Jean Marc Chatellier’s Bakery in Millvale and buy a few chocolate croissants for your family on Christmas morning.  Get there early on Christmas Eve, because the goodies will sell out.  I place my order a few weeks ago for croissants, macarons, mini croissants and a Buche de Noel.  Your family will love you for this.

#9.  Take a trip down to the Strip District, armed with a little patience and a lot of holiday cheer. The Strip will be crazy during the next few days, but if you go with the right attitude, it will be a blast.  Pick up a few of my favorites for last minute gifts –  fresh salsa and locally made tortilla chips from Reyna Foods (2023 Penn Avenue –  (412) 261-2606),  the BEST marshmallows from The Pittsburgh Marshmallow Factory at the Pittsburgh Public Market, or a prosciutto end    (the end pieces are really inexpensive but still the same sweet meat) from Pennsylvania Macaroni.

#10.  I love local, even when it comes to alcoholic beverages.  My choices?  A bottle of wine from Glades Pike Winery

(and you can buy it at the Pittsburgh Public Market),  East End Brewing Company beer ( also at the PPM) and a bottle of Boyd and Blair vodka ( made in Glenshaw).

Even if you’ve checked everything off your list, definitely pick up a few of these items just for yourself.

Happy Holidays!!!

Edible Gift #3 – I’ts “Berry” Good

Practically every day I’m reminded of how many wonderful people I’ve met in this past year during my new Fork and The Road adventures.  This morning, as I was checking out the tempting cookies, baklava, pierogies and more ( yes, more means marshmallows – they had ROOT BEER ones today!) at the Pittsburgh Public Market, I turned the corner and there were the folks from The Blueberry Patch in New Florence, out past Ligonier. I bought some of their Spiced Blueberry Jam this past summer at the Ligonier Country Market and figured I would have to wait until  spring when the market opens again to get another jar. It was my lucky day. The  jam, thick with berries and loaded with a cinnamony, spicy flavor, is just right for toast or a bagel on these 20 degree mornings.  So happy to see them, I wanted to buy everything in sight – I’m a bit of a food hoarder –  including their precious flaky mini-pies, which they call empanadas. But I held off.  With too many holiday parties this weekend, I thought I should  show a little restraint. I sampled (and bought) The Berry Patch’s pumpkin butter. It’s like a mouthful of pumpkin pie minus the crust and if your pie crust is anything like mine, that’s a good thing to be minus the crust.  And their new product, beer jelly is made with East End Brewing’s Snow Melt Winter Ale (try a sample or buy some actual beer across the aisle at East End’s stall at the Public Market.)  My first thought was “ick”, but it really is fantastic on cream cheese or served with an aged Cheddar.  They even sell the beer jelly in a pint beer mug. So cute, or maybe handsome is a better word  . . and such a great gift.   I can’t think of better treats for your friends and relatives.  Just drive on down to the PPM tomorrow (Sunday, December 5) and stock up for those last minute hostess gifts. (The Berry Patch won’t be there next weekend, but will be back the weekend before Christmas.)

Philly Food – A Mouthful of Gelato and A Bit of Fermentation

The City of Brotherly Love.  Usually I only see the skyline from my car window while stuck in the eternal congestion on the Schuylkill  Expressway (aka Surekill Distressway –   sorry, just had to type that.) It’s the route I take on my way from visiting my oldest daughter on the Main Line to my fave beach town on the Jersey shore.  This week it was time to get off the highway and explore. After dropping off my bags at the pleasantly quirky  Hotel Palomar,

Copper Wall Sculpture at Hotel Palomar

I went in search of Capogiro Gelato. I read about this small batch gelato maker in Saveur magazine and in The New York Times so I had to check it out.

Capogiro Gelato Cafe at Sansom and 20th

Lucky for me, indecision always reigns, because the gelati and sorbetti  can be sampled  before your final selections.  I tried. . . Grapefruit/Campari, Burnt Sugar, Thai Coconut Milk, Sal (yes, sal means salt and it was fabulous .. so there, sodium police), Bacio (chocolate and hazelnut with bits of caramelized hazelnuts), Tangerine and Bananas Foster.  Smooth and creamy, with pure fresh flavors, this gelato was the best I’ve ever tasted.


Due to gelato overload, dinner was a few small plates and a glass of wine at a casual cafe called Tria  on the corner of Sansom and 18th near Rittenhouse Square.

Tria Cafe at 18th and Sansom Street

Tria focuses on fermentation (think cheese, wine and beer) –  one of my favorite chemical processes besides getting blond highlights and using Nair hair remover.  Their wine list is playful, with labels such as  Zippy, Smooth, Sociable, and Funky to describe categories of wine.. I chose Bold – a 2002  Mas Igneus Priorat  that tasted like  dark red cherries. Mmmmm.  I ordered Tuna and Chickpea stuffed Piquillo Peppers withParsley Garlic Oil and Warm Poached Black Mission Figs with Gorgonzola and Prosciutto. Both were delicious, but the plump, oozy figs were sweet and salty perfection.  Dessert was a small sliver of  completely unctuous Creme ux De Bourgogne, a cow’s milk cheese from Burgundy, served with a spoonful of sweet dried cherries soaked in Allegash White, a  wheat beer from Portland, Maine.  A  walk around tree lined Rittenhouse Square was necessary after dinner and before returning to The Palomar.  More in the next post about my fun foodie walking tour of Ben Franklin’s hometown.