Tuesday, May 31, 2011

search and devour: the sweet divine cupcake

last week, we attended the "cooking with food" event, the most recent brainchild of rue lafayette's marc felix.  the details of the show are a bit muddy right now, but from what we gather, it's going to be a cooking show devoted to vegetarian food!  for now, chef felix is still shopping the show to various networks, and we sure do hope he's successful.  as most of you know, most of us vegetarians would love a cooking show to call our own.

in any case, while at the event, the sweet divine truck dropped to supply event-goers with one of their signature cupcakes: vanilla toffee caramel.  the cupcake is remarkably good-looking, with just the right density-to-fluff ratio, and the crunchy toffee pieces worked beautifully with the smooth caramel.  these cupcakes are daggone good, y'all.  and although you'll definitely have to search a bit harder for their truck (affectionately called "georgie"), it'll just make the cupcake reward that much sweeter.
Rue Lafayette on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 30, 2011

search and devour: terrene's newest veggie burger

terrene's ever-changing menu always reflects the bounty of the season, and that means that chef mike has lots of opportunity to change up the specials. on our most recent trip, we spied a new veggie burger special and promptly ordered two, knowing it could not possibly disappoint. it features a smooth layer of avocado mousse; crunchy, sweet jicama slaw; and some lightly pungent queso fresco for contrast. the delicate balance of light, fresh flavors and the play on textures really makes this burger a unique treat. terrene's specialty really is how they can embody the season in a meal, and this dish is no exception. a bonus, too, is that they've been experimenting with the match patty and have achieved a strangely not-unappetizing meaty yet matchy patty that could silence anyone's doubts about the char, richness of flavor, and texture of veggie burgers.

savor it all the more knowing it's a limited-time offer.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

search and devour: schlafly bottleworks's spring salad

from the field green salad with the best vanilla vinaigrette we've ever had to the greens and grains (substitute baked chicken for match meatballs, of course), we almost always make room for the salads at bottleworks.  on our most recent visit, we were lucky enough to discover a salad on the specials menu: the spring salad.  with greens straight from schlafly's garden, the freshness and vitality of the salad were impressive; we loved, too, the mellow but delicious turnips and radishes.  combine all of that veggie goodness with the pistachio-encrusted goat cheese, and you've got yourself a helluva salad.  schlafly was serving the salad with some kind of meat, but we substituted match chicken, instead.  dear gods, is that stuff good!  it turned a very good salad into something exceptional.  here's hoping they make this a staple on their next menu.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

search and devour: rasoi's pudina paneer

duh. derp.  um, yeah, like, this stuff is make-you-stupid good. rasoi takes their homemade cheese cubes and gives them a tandoori and mint leaf rub, and then they stick them in the tandoori oven for a nice grill session.  the result is magic.  the rub gives the cheese cubes a green shell, which only gets further enhanced by the char from the oven.  they're so crispy you might think that were flash-fried, but rest assured they aren't saturated in an oil bath.  think of them as the fitter, prettier cousin of paneer pakora.  and once you add the delectable rasoi chutneys into the mix, you've got yourself one of the finest appetizers in the city.  quite literally, we moaned from bite one til the nearly-tearful end.  we probably would've ordered another helping if not for the whopping 12 dollar price tag.  yeah, like most of you, we think 12 bucks is usually too much for an appetizer, but rasoi's is one of the few that's worth it.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

vegstlouis content changing

beginning today, clark will no longer be writing reviews for vegstlouis, as he's now writing a column for the river front times.  (here's a link to his first post.)  rest assured that vegstlouis aint closing up shop, though.  we'll still be posting "search and devour," updating restaurant openings and closings, and providing intimate portraits of local chefs and owners in our "rap session" series.  (by the way, we're curious if any of you are enjoying those interviews.  if you are and you want some more, please let us know.  in general, we'd love to hear more of anything from all of you.)

in any case, we really hope you'll keep checking in with us here at vegstlouis.  we also hope you'll support clark (aka bryan peters, aka veggielante, aka all around great guy) in his new endeavor at rft.  please spread the word to anyone you think might be interested.  the more readers he gets, the better chance he has of 1) not getting canned and 2) spreading the word about st. louis's great vegetarian scene.  

thanks to everyone who has visited us over the last year, and thanks to everyone who keeps coming back for more!

now, here's a picture of some chard.  go get some from whole foods, lightly sauté it, eat it, and marvel at its wonder. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

search and devour: taste of maplewood

this saturday, may 21, we'll be heading over to one of our favorite neighborhoods for the taste of maplewood.  we're looking forward to getting samples from our old standbys--monarch and schlafly--but we're even more excited to try some new places.  the new kid on the block is water street, which serves up contemporary american/fusion cuisine, and we're curious to see if they cater to vegetarians at all (from the looks of the menu, it doesn't look promising, but we'll stay open-minded).  we're also looking forward to tasting food from some maplewood standards that we just haven't had a chance to visit yet.  acero and maya cafe are at the top of our list, but we'll also be on the lookout for some guacamole from las palmas.  and, of course, we'll save room for some baked goods from foundation grounds.

please let us know if you're also planning a trip to the taste of maplewood, and we'll try to arrange a time to slap fives with you.  then we'll pound some black pepper and cheddar scones together.

[update] as much as we love some of the maplewood purveyors, we were really disappointed with the taste of maplewood.  we couldn't believe how un-veg-friendly everything was.  so, we still haven't tried acero or las palmas or maya cafe, and we're beginning to wonder if we ever will...

Friday, May 13, 2011

puravegan: vegadeli's new restaurant opening!

if you haven't heard, vegadeli is set to open the doors of a new restaurant in the cwe. according to their website, they'll be kicking things off tomorrow morning, may 14!  located on belt avenue, just north of forest park, the new restaurant is called puravegan, and it features a 100% raw, 100% vegan, 100% gluten-free menu.  they'll be offering cooking classes, as well as other community-centered events.  they're taking a pretty big risk with this venture, and they're going to need as much support as possible from the vegetarian community.  please hop over to belt avenue and show them some love.  

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

search and devour: malted mayhem

cruisin' around for a light lunch, we decided to head over to jennifer's pharmacy and soda shoppe for some old school eats and treats. behold the malted mayhem: a glassful of delicious chocolate, hazelnut, banana, and malt, this beast will unleash absolute bedlam on your tastebuds. it is out of control good. we think it's a fun experience best shared with a pal, but if you're alone, all the women behind the counter are good company and you'll feel right at home. jennifer's really feels like a neighborhood place, and it's clear to see what keeps their dedicated regulars coming back. next time we go, clark is going to have to get his own shake, because lois won't spare a sip.

Jennifer's Pharmacy & Soda Shoppe on Urbanspoon

Sunday, May 8, 2011

revisited: schlafly bottleworks

not long ago, schlafly released a new menu, and so far we've been quite impressed with the quality and consistency of the new offerings.  on our most recent visit, though, we were there for some old-school dishes.  we had two primary objectives: 1) try the portobello sandwich again, and 2) review some breakfast/brunch options and compare them with our current favorites (sweetart and local harvest).  (you can peep our original schlafly review here.)

schlafly bottleworks

we got the party started with one of our all-time favorite schlafly concoctions: "match" vegetarian biscuits and gravy.  many a morning we've warmed our tired bodies and souls with this starch and gravy goodness.  it's on the short list of our ultimate comfort foods.  and as most of you know, it's not often you can find vegetarian gravy, particularly of this quality.  no, the gravy aint purty, but boyhowdy, it shore is good!  schlafly's unique version relies mostly on the faux-pork from "match," which is pure gold in terms of flavor and texture.  when we interviewed scot smelser, he told us a number of his meat-eating customers don't even notice the difference.  this is not to say, though, that the gravy tastes like a freshly-slaughtered "babe"; it just tastes more of spices and light sodium, just savory enough to pose as the meat most folks are used to seeing in traditional milk-flour baths.  in any case, on this visit, the gravy was a little underseasoned, but this is not typical of bottleworks.  honestly, we won't think twice about ordering it on our next visit. 

because we've heard from a number of readers and other acquaintances who love the bottleworks grilled portobello, we decided it was time to give it another shot.  it's been a couple of years since we've ordered a portobello sandwich anywhere, you see, because we not only believe portobello mushrooms are overrated to begin with, but we also believe any restaurant offering up yet another boring portobello on a boring bun is just not interested in a vegetarian's wants and needs.  of course, there are exceptions to this rule, and we figured if any place would handle this mushroom with care and creativity, it would be schlafly.  bottleworks serves their version with provolone, spinach, roasted garlic and green olive mayonnaise, and a wheat bun.  it also comes with a side of their three grain blend, which is something we usually adore; on this morning, though, it tasted like metal, and we could stomach no more than three bites.  anyway, we were worried about the provolone not carrying its weight, and we were right.  (frankly, we're baffled as to why restaurants insist on using this uninteresting and played-out cheese.)  the spinach was scant at best, and the mayonnaise was unevenly applied, leaving parts of the bun dry and other parts grossly thick with sauce.  the portobello itself was palatable, but it was not good enough for either of us to want to finish it off.  overall, it was a disappointment, but we weren't really expecting that much from a portobello, anyway.   

we concluded with the build your own frittata.  we ordered ours with the cheese blend, kalamata olives, "match" meatballs, mushrooms, and onions.  lois has ordered this a few times in the past, and more often than not it has been pretty good.  this time, too, it was pretty good.  what prevents this frittata from becoming great is that, unlike local harvest's slinger, nothing about it communicates "comfort food," nothing about it transports you to another, happier place.  we've noticed, too, that there never seems to be as many vegetables as we'd like; instead, the frittata gets dominated by the cheese.  we understand that most patrons probably prefer the salty gooeyness of the cheese, and many of you may prefer it, too.  we'd just rather have more veggies.  so, if you're like us, be sure to order your frittata with light cheese.  

as most of you know, we're big supporters of all things schlafly, so it's not like a mediocre portobello sandwich is going to sour us.  neither is it likely that we'll ever order a portobello sandwich again, here or anywhere else. as for the brunch offerings, schlafly comes in a close third behind local harvest and sweetart.  no doubt, before it's time to pay the piper, we'll be snarfing down grub many more times from all three of these treasures.

assessment: b+

vegetarian-friendly score: a-

Schlafly Bottleworks on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 7, 2011

search and devour: cheddar and black pepper scone

while making the rounds of the maplewood coffee crawl last week, we made a pitstop in foundation grounds for a little sample of goshen coffee company's java.  not only did we get an entire bag o' beans from the very generous owner of goshen coffee, but we also picked up one of foundation grounds's glorious scones.  it was a tough choice, but we decided we wanted something savory.  the result: lives changed forever.  see that molten cheddar pouring out of the scone?  glorious isn't it?  but it's not just the cheddar that makes the scone noteworthy; it's the inclusion of black pepper that makes us want one of these every morning FOR THE REST OF OUR LIVES.  combine the cheddar and pepper with a crumblybiscuity texture and you've got some kind of magic.  and we can hardly wait to try their other flavors!
Foundation Grounds on Urbanspoon

mango madness

when clark first heard about the "mango hometown tour taste-off," he knew immediately that vegstlouis had to make it a priority event.  lois, you see, is gaga over mangoes (particularly ataulfos, aka champagne mangoes). so, yesterday we attended the show-down between chef galliano of monarch and chef miller of harvest.  galliano's monarch was the host restaurant for the competition, which was cool with us because we're more comfortable at galliano's place.

now a quick rant: about a week before the scheduled taste-off, clark sent a letter to both chefs to inquire about vegetarian options for the event.  the letter was quite clear: if you're not going to be offering veg-friendly options, it's no big deal and we'll just pass along our tickets to some of our omnivore friends.  as we've mentioned before, it doesn't bother us at all if a chef only wants to serve only bloody meat in his or her restaurant.  what does bother us is when a chef can't be bothered to communicate with potential customers.  chef miller falls into the latter category.  now, you can make a hundred excuses for miller--too busy, too distracted, too many letters--but the facts are the facts, and the facts is these: chef galliano responded to the letter within a day.  a day.  countless other chefs and/or managers across the city have managed to send replies to our inquiries within 24 hours, too, and these people work in some of the busiest places in st. louis.  so, yeah, we don't want to hear excuses for miller or any other chef/kitchen (we're talking to you, highlands brewery, amongst others).  we think it speaks volumes about a person or place that isn't willing to interact with its customers.  and, again, we wouldn't have cared if chef miller had written back and said, "nope, i'm not making anything for vegetarians."  from there, he could easily have said, "but please visit harvest for dinner, and i'll be sure to whip you up some wicked good veggies."  how hard would that have been?  not at all.  how much would it have done to encourage us to tell our vegetarian friends that harvest is a great place?  a lot.  so, chef miller (a guy we're sure will never read these words, but we insist on typing them anyway), we bid you adieu, as we will not be joining you for that dinner you never invited us to.  never again, good sir, will we send hungry patrons your way.  (side note: the food wasn't very good, anyway.)

lest this post devolve into more of a mudslinging event, let's get back to the mangoes.  the mangoes!  upon arrival, we were given gift bags full of mango literature and one gigantic haden mango each.  we took a seat at the bar where we served iced tea and a cup of freshly diced mangoes.  after we listened to the event coordinator speak about mangoes for a bit, she introduced the judges (shout out to a vegstlouis reader, alanna kellogg, who was one of the three judges!), and soon after chef miller delivered his food for scoring.  we, of course, did not receive a plate.  not long after, chef galliano's food made an appearance.  true to his word, he had two beautiful plates made up just for us.  gorgeous, vibrant, stunning--these impotent adjectives cannot adequately express this brilliant presentation of color, texture, and flavor.  there was a mango vinegar that is as difficult to describe as it must have been to execute, but it was the grilled mango that had us crushing hardest on galliano's skills.  oh, yeah, and galliano was the winner on this day.  as you might imagine, we were delighted to see galliano send the interloper home with his meat-loving tail between his meat-loving legs.  (btw, we're just having a little fun at miller's expense; we don't really hate the guy.  and, as lois rightly said to me yesterday: "it's hard to hate a guy when his dad is sitting across the bar.")

all in all, we had a lovely time.  it was enough to be a part of such an interesting and quirky community event; the icing on the cake was experiencing galliano's culinary virtuosity.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

revisited: modesto

we recently brought a bunch of friends with us to modesto to contribute to the "dining out for life" event.  not long ago, we had an awesome meal at modesto, and we wanted to spread the good word about chef grace's food. (peep our original modesto review here.) unfortunately, as you'll see, the results were quite mixed.  still, with 25% of the bill (for a table of 7!) going to a great cause, we felt good when we left. 

the hill

we kicked things off with a couple of new plates: the coliflor refrita and the tortilla espanola.  knowing that chef grace insists on keeping one fryer exclusively meat-free, we (and you) don't have to think twice about ordering fried foods at modesto; still, we're pretty sure these cauliflower florets were pan-fried rather than deep-fried.  either way, we enjoyed the coliflor refrita well enough, even if they were a touch underseasoned, and we were more than satisfied with the quantity of florets.  (if you're thinking about preparing fresh cauliflower at home, you're in for a very labor-intensive endeavor.)  but the highlight of this small plate was the subtle truffle notes.  truffle oil = love.

the tortilla espanola was a new experience for us, and, despite its humble composition, we have to admit that it was our favorite dish of the night.  the menu says it's a spanish omelet, but it's more like a quiche/pie.  comprised of potatoes and onions, the flavors were mild yet complex, and the texture was divine--tender and occasionally flaky.  the sauce was lovely, too, but it was the caperberries that really sent us over the moon.

from here, we moved on to two of our favorite dishes from our last visit.  we both badly wanted to again sink our teeth into the ensalada de verduras mixtas, but we were sorely disappointed this time.  the marinade seemed to be of an entirely different composition than last time, and the flavors overall were just... flat. 

as bummed as we were about the grilled salad, we thought surely the vegetable paella would save the day.  it did not.  as it was with our very first visit, the paella was under-seasoned and the vegetables were overcooked.  it wasn't inedible by any means, but it wasn't the sensational dish we remembered from our second visit. 

it's possible that the preparation of food was rushed this night, what with the full dining room from the charity event, but we fear that the underseasoning is more status quo than exception.  we've now visited modesto three times, and though that's hardly a large sample, we feel uneasy about the prospect of returning.  we had such a lovely meal on our second visit that we thought for sure the vegetarian food was trending toward "awesome," but now it appears it might just be "good."


vegetarian-friendly score:
Modesto on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

search and devour: pepperjack daiya

not long ago, we wrote about the magic of daiya, and in the post we mentioned that a new flavor was rumored to be coming soon.  well, people, it's finally here, and it's fantastic!  daiya's newest cheese-substitute is "pepperjack," and it melts as beautifully as the other daiya offerings.  though not as peppery/spicy as we'd like, the pepperjack does distinguish itself enough to make it a permanent fixture in our fridge.  we found the new pepperjack flavor at the brentwood whole foods.  if you spot it anywhere else, please let us know.

if there's a better cheese-substitute than daiya, we haven't found it.  and if you've been waiting to try it, don't delay any longer.  just make sure you melt the cheese in the oven (we broil ours), as the complexity of flavor is vastly improved with the addition of heat.

Monday, May 2, 2011

closed: fond

just tried to go to the fond website to book a table for our anniversary, but the site is down.  after doing some more digging, we can confirm that fond is now closed for business.

this is just devastating news.  we have no idea why chef amy has decided to close up shop, but we hope it's because she's decided to move closer to st. louis.  eating at fond was one of the most memorable dining experiences we've had, and we're awfully sad that others may not get the chance to try amy's food.  

so. frickin. bummed.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

the scottish arms

countless times while on our way to terrene, we've driven by the scottish arms, mistakenly assuming that they wouldn't feed "our kind."  we'll be the first to tell you that it was our mistake (you know what they say about making assumptions...), and we're glad to have been proven wrong.  vegetarians don't usually have a lot of options when it comes to finding good pub grub, let alone some homemade, traditional scottish and english favorites. whiskey and veggie pasty, anyone? cheers!

central west end

it's comfortably lived-in, with all the nicks and scratches and the accumulated chotchkes to prove it. the scottish arms almost feels like it's been here for generations, your local cwe public house. the old ceiling tiles, the mantle-like bar, and the tall, sturdy booths make it a cozy spot for a post-work happy hour or an evening nightcap.

one of our favorite things about the scottish arms is that the servers are decked out in kilts, and it somehow manages not to be self-conscious, costumey, or gimmicky in the least. our server was really helpful with suggestions and didn't hesitate at all when we informed her of our diet. she quickly fired back with all the options we had and made clear that she would talk to the chef for us if we had any concerns. we did have a miscommunication at one point, but she took care of the issue without us having to prompt her to. bonus points in our book.

we started with the cheddar ale dip and melted brie over black garlic baguette. originally, we were trying to ask for the black garlic baguette with the dip (in lieu of its usual bread), but we got both instead. it was a happy accident, and that's saying a lot because neither of us likes brie--but it was smooth without being waxy and had a really subdued pungency. usually brie rind is just a touch too keen for us, but apparently melting it makes all the difference. once again, we were glad for the scottish arms to prove us wrong. the dip was unlike any other beer-cheese dip we've had before. this one managed not to separate at all--even when it cooled off--and it showed off both flavors equally well.  the only criticism we have for this one is really only a half-criticism--it was a little thin and has the consistency of a soup more than a dip. still, it was fun to soak our breads in, and when the flavor is this spot-on, we can forgive a little soupiness. 

to supplement our entree, we got some roasted root vegetables and a couple orders of colcannon (a combination of mashed potatoes, cabbage, caraway seeds, and red onion).  the roasted roots were well seasoned and had a nice browning on them.  they were tender but not overdone, and they featured a nice variety.  really simple, really lovely. the colcannon, on the other hand, were strangely unevenly seasoned: pockets of salt made our faces pucker, while other, unsalted pockets just tasted sort of starchy and bland. we know not everyone else will agree, but we also thought they were too buttery (or maybe it was also just that the butter was also lumped in there unevenly). the caraway seeds (which are actually technically fruits, did you know? us either!) add deliciously nippy kicks of flavor to balance the richness of the butter. it's definitely worth a try, just maybe give it a good stir before you dig in. 

finally, we finished with the vegetable curry pasty. it was served fresh out of the oven, piping hot, with a brilliant brown on the pastry. pasties are truly a comfort food: warm, flaky, buttery, reminiscent of family dinners around the dining room table. even if that never really happened, pasties can transport you there. we were glad to have such a vibrant side salad because, unfortunately, the pasty is not as wholesome as you might think it would be. there just isn't the space for a whole lot of vegetables in that pastry pocket, and the proportion of dough turns out to be a bit generous. it's a good dough, no doubt, but once it cools off and the vegetables are gone, it's not enough on its own. the curry sauce, too, isn't loud enough (even for english curry) to make it a dish we'll crave. it's not a bad dish by any means, just not one we'll opt for in the future. still, we think it's pretty awesome that they offer a meatless pasty, and we certainly weren't displeased enough to discourage anyone--vegetarian or omnivore--from giving it a try.

all in all, we were pleasantly surprised with our meal at the scottish arms, and we're grateful to know that whenever we're craving a taste of the u.k., we can head over to sarah street and see what they've got cooking.


vegetarian-friendly score:
Scottish Arms on Urbanspoon