Wednesday, October 19, 2011

blood and sand

blood and sand is one of the newest and most innovative restaurants to open in st. louis this season. what you find here is totally fresh, from the concept to the menu. co-owners adam frager and tj vytlacil (whose cocktail handiwork you may have enjoyed at demun oyster bar) established their restaurant as a members-only endeavor in order to offer their customers a more customized, personal experience, and under their care and focus, blood and sand has been enjoying a lot of positive coverage. basically, blood and sand offers bespoke dining, and we love being catered to.

blood and sand

as is appropriate for a members-only spot, there's nothing outside to identify blood and sand by, unless you recognize their logo on the windows. once you're swung in through the revolving door, you're greeted by a sleek but comfortable interior. it's not gilded and draped in fur and tapestries, nor is it a shadowy, candlelit hideout. it's very unpretentious: cozy but modern, open yet somehow intimate. the exposed kitchen emits a warm glow and fills the space with the positive buzz of anticipation. in contrast, the light by the bar seems almost a shroud, the perfect place to unwind and enjoy a cocktail after a long day. 


everyone we’ve interacted with has been very warm and helpful but never heavy-handed with recommendations. adam is very cordial and easy to talk to. he’s knowledgeable without making you feel like he’s talking down to you, but telling a story. that’s sort of the spirit of the place, after all: the cocktail “blood and sand” has a great story behind it, both in the origination of the drink, and how tj and adam were so inspired by it they built a restaurant around it.


at the risk of sounding hyperbolic and inspiring some skepticism in our readers, we would like to confidently declare that this was the best meal we’ve had in st. louis to date. oh, and if you haven’t applied for a membership yet, you should.

we started off with an order of the truffled tater tots and the hush puppies (the fryer is vegetarian, at least for now). the tots are not what you remember from your school cafeteria days--delicious and addictive as those were--they’re actually better. with a mash-like consistency on the inside that’s so smooth it's almost creamy, and a delicate shell on the outside, they’re an elevated tribute to a classic kids’ favorite. and the truffle oil doesn't overwhelm, as often is the case with anything truffled. hush puppies are another really nostalgic treat for lois and clark, and chef chris bork’s are made with noticeable care. pickled red onions add a welcome hint of tart pungency to the mild sweetness of the pups. they strike the perfect balance of crunch with cake-like softness, sprinkled with just enough salt to get your tongue tingling. and it’s a good thing they’re so awesome on their own, because vegetarians should stay away from the chicken stock-based mole sauce.  

on special this night was the spanish omelet, generously drizzled with a vibrant red pepper sauce.  we love the comfort-foodiness of the spanish omelet, and we love even more that they left the potato skins on to add a little rusticity.   

next we shared the pecan agnolotti. the pasta was hearty, delicate, more delicious than any we’ve had since we can remember: they were smooth with a subtle sweetness from the squash, and tender but with a satisfying thickness. the broccoli puree, pecan and goat cheese toppings were the perfect complement to add some decadence while retaining the “clean” feeling of the whole dish. 

as a surprise addition to our table this evening, we also enjoyed a verbena chickpea dish that defies explanation. it can’t be found on the menu because of the limited availability of the hand-shucked, fresh chickpeas, but keep your eyes peeled, because you seriously don’t want to miss out on this when they can make it happen again. it was, quite simply, one of the best dishes we've ever had.


vegetarian-friendly score:

Blood & Sand on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

search and devour: veggie burgers at bailey's range

when david bailey gets involved with a new restaurant, we pay attention. pretty much everything this guy touches turns to gold, and each new restaurant garners even more accolades. so, when a couple of months ago we read about his newest project, we shot him an email to let us know if he'd make sure we were there for the "soft" opening. well, that opening was last night, and we were lucky enough to be in the neighborhood.

what we found in bailey's range was a massive space. we're not sure how many it can seat, but it must be in the hundreds. the biggest surprise, though, was the discovery of mikey warhover manning the kitchen. formerly head chef at terrene, warhover has serious skills, and it's his job at bailey's range to design the menu and make sure bailey's new restaurant is one to remember.

the veggie patty at bailey's range is different than all the others in town, as it's made of pinto beans and hominy. warhover spent many moons perfecting the veggie burger at terrene, and he's using the exact same toppings on his bailey's range version: avocado mousse, jicama, and queso fresco. this new burger is quite good, but it becomes truly memorable when you add the chipotle ketchup to it. in any case, if these toppings don't appeal to you, bailey's range has countless others to sate you, from the exotic to straight up pickles and mustard.

search and devour: food for lovers' vegan queso

many months ago, a friend of ours in "the business" passed along a tip about vegan queso coming to st. louis. this friend didn't know where or when we'd be able to get our hands on it, but we were told it would be worth the wait. well, it's here (whole foods - galleria, to be exact), and it's spectacular. a company called food for lovers produces the queso in austin, texas, and from what we can tell, it's the only thing they make (!).

the queso is entirely vegan and contains no soy, either. the primary ingredient is nutritional yeast, so the flavor is plenty cheesy enough. (and if you don't know about the magic of nutritional yeast, yet, get yerself over to the whole foods bulk section and buy about a pound of it. it makes almost everything taste better.) the best compliment we can pay this queso, though, is that it doesn't come up short in the spice department. each bite brings the heat, but there's never too much spice standing in the way of all the other flavors. 

tl;dr - this queso is daggone good. go buy some and eat it.