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eGullet Society staff emeritus
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    St. Louis, MO

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  1. 24, plus a dozen at the bar, plus cocktail tables and outdoor seating in season. The concept has always been that I want direct contact with each dinner customer - no servers, no need to do any more than reach across the counter to give them their plate. 24 is about all I and my sous can handle at maintain the quality we expect. Bar customers will get small plates and possibly prefix menus.
  2. Sounds like you would like my grits special today - Fitz's (a local company) root beer braised lamb neck grits with smashed fried potatoes. In other news...fingers crossed everyone...
  3. Camel Milk

    Camel milk drama! I'm still trying to find a store that actually has it in stock.
  4. Camel Milk

    OMG! I could open a whole business around that idea! Maybe I'll do a pop-up weekend.
  5. Camel Milk

    Anyone who knows my cooking knows that I'm all about supporting local foods...well...apparently I will have a few gallons of local camel milk here in St. Louis next week. I'm thinking yogurt and fresh cheese to start, and maybe make a caramel, but what else? Anyone use it before? Suggestions? Warnings?
  6. There's a number of different types, and quite frankly I'm a fan of all of them, but my favorite is the pale colored wood parched variety...typically the most expensive. Almost looks like sticks instead of the slick black long grains.
  7. @chefmd I have zero control. Even if someone did have control it would be the distributor of the publisher, not the lowly author. I'm glad to see them doing a little price cut. It had a good run on Amazon, but we are at the one year point so it would make sense that they would try and move the inventory.
  8. Just wrapped up our first week. Very exhausted. I love the energy of creating everything new balanced with the fear of making it (or not), but the hours are long. Very long. HERE's another fun article about the opening. Apparently my challenge will be to get folks in for breakfast. Lunch did fine every day but breakfast was only good on Monday and Friday. It'll get there with word of mouth. Every guest has been super excited by the food. Hash - Duck confit, 100 layer apple, sweet potato dressed in cayenne maple, real wild rice, egg Callas - Missouri jasmine, Minnesota wild rice, sorghum syrup. Sorta like a rice beignet. Root Marrow - Asian seasoned roasted root vegetables, hollowed and filled with carrot or beet hummus; carrot halwah, seeded crisps A little snack for myself - marigold caramel on my fresh made english muffin.
  9. What's fun is that we cut it open for the picture. The guest will just see two or three beets on their plate and not know what's inside until they cut in.
  10. What a whirlwind. We got into the kitchen 15 days ago. There was no 220 outlets so I couldn't hook up my convection oven. Finally got electric 8 days ago. We open this Monday. That's sorta a 2 week turnaround, or 1 week if you count when I finally had a full kitchen. We did our media preview day yesterday and there is a building frenzy...now my sous and I are scared that we'll run out...that's not a good thing IMO. Anyway...here is the menu and a couple of pics. Cassoulet (Missouri white beans, Green Finn Hippy pork and duck; fried beans, toasted rye crumbs 100% Missouri flour; duck soup dumpling (dumpling wrapper made using same Missouri flour). 100% grown, raised, seasoned from Missouri. Beet salad (Beets filled with savory lemon curd, goat cheese bavarian, topped with granola powder, local greens, pickled onion, bronze fennel and a slice of the same rye bread)
  11. Jordan Kahn's Vespertine

    I had heard that too but no one seemed to care, and it wasn't just me as a chef doing research - a table next to ours was and his flash went off...they immediately stepped over for a chat. I sorta had the sense that he was on the Bieber I'm sorry tour (followiing his handling of the LA reviewer scandal, or maybe just a few harsh reviews)...very humble and very soft-spoken.
  12. Last week I had the opportunity to eat at Jordan Kahn's Vespertine in Culver City, the new restaurant that Jonathan Gold just proclaimed the top in the city. I decided to fly across the country because I have long held that Jordan is the most creative chef in the country in recent years. I'm sure others could make the claim for a number of chefs, and certainly anyone from that opening class of Alinea, but Jordan, to my way of thinking, ups the ante every time. I was so disappointed when I failed to dine at Red Medicine before he closed it that I swore I would not miss his next restaurant. And hence my trip. Plenty has been written already about the spaceship experience, but it all starts with collaboration. Collaboration with ceramic artists. Collaboration with metal smiths. And most importantly the collaboration with the architect who built this amazing space just for Vespertine. I'll note that this is across the street from his daytime restaurant Destroyer, which was the r&d part of my trip related to my own restaurant opening next week. The building is three stories plus a roof space which is enclosed in the grid. First floor - entrance and art installation; Second floor - main dining; Third floor - kitchen; Fourth - roof lounge. There is also a outdoor garden with heated concrete benches surrounded by horsetail plants (you can see a bit on the bottom right of this pic). As would be expected at this price point the team had done its research. As I walked up the street (I was staying at a nearby AirBnB) the valet greeted me by name even before I was on the property calling out, "Good evening Chef Connoley." Just to be clear that means he had researched my face and background. They didn't know who my guest was (who is far more famous and important than me!), but I didn't tell them who I was bringing. After foraged seasoned sparkling wine in the garden they brought us into the first floor where we were sent to the third floor. As the door opened Chef Kahn was waiting for us. Greetings and pleasantries, dietary concerns and preferences, and then he just chatted me up about my upcoming project...He and I have a lot of parallels although in very different realms, but near identical sensibilities and philosophies. He sent us up the stairs to the roof where we were again greeted and sat at a low cushioned bench. Custom furniture everywhere including this table that was pegged for lights and dishes to be placed anywhere...all custom fit of course. The manzanita branch held some kelp and seaweed both natural and with superfluous quotes. Then snacks... I don't remember everything and you can decypher from the menu at the end of this post. All were delicious. All were intriguing. All were beautiful. This one was a cracker set inside a ceramic "bone" that cracked open to reveal the crackers... The star of the night was, as often is the case, the most simple - mango encased in sunflower petals. My VIP guest for the evening and I enjoying an early buzz while the LA sun sets. My spouse Tyler is insanely jealous that he keeps missing out on my LA trips, last year to n/Naka and then this one. Oh well pooker, keep dreaming! It was down to the dining room next. I was a bit on a budget (I know that makes no sense eating here at $250 per person but that meant I had to go with the cheaper wine pairing ($115 v $185). We saw the wine book...huge and custom designed case and covers. Then the courses started coming out (around 10 I believe). Sweet pea stuff: Scallop stuff I remember this one - some crab dip...not my favorite - a bit boring but still yummy The only dud of the night - turkey. Interestingly I've since read other people saying the same thing - I think its time to kill your darlings: And then we were done. Staff brought us back to the first floor and out to the garden for housemade liquors on the seated benches with an opportunity to view the stars with a provided telescope. It was too cloudy for us but a neat idea. And one final nice touch...a note from the chef. I assume everyone gets one, and maybe they're all personalized as mine was: The menu provided via email the next day: And a quick comment to say that as much as I loved Vespertine, I equally loved the more casual Destroyer across the street. Superb oatmeal and berry bowl. Interesting take on avocado toast, although a friend screamed, "Deconstructed avocado toast? F&%k off!" This last pic is a comparison of Destroyer's avo toast and Sqirl's that I got the next morning.
  13. ...and what was I just saying...Eater's response.
  14. Yesterday Jonathan Gold proclaimed Vespertine to be the top restaurant in LA. I just ate there last week and thought it was amazing, but it's only been open a month or so. Last year a chef in St Louis was a semifinalist for Best Chef, Midwest after having been open only a few months. That restaurant's quality has dropped dramatically in its second year. I know that most of the magazines, and JBF, consider best "New" restaurant to be up to three years old, which to my mindset is smart because it's not about what you can do one night, but repeatedly over time. So I'm wondering what other examples are there of chefs and restaurants proclaimed "The Best" a bit too prematurely only to fall and not be so great.
  15. A little late, but I don't want to assume that you know "the obvious," so how bout some professional kitchen basics: 1. Wear non-slip close toed shoes. 2. Wear long pants (or mimic whatever you know the chef to wear) 3. Wash your hands always, often, forever and well 4. Don't touch the chef's knives unless they offer them to you 5. Be aware of your surroundings so you don't bump into something and ruin other projects the chef may have going on 6. Be honest about your knowledge. If they chef says, 'dice a mirepoix' and you don't know what dice or mirepoix is, just ask...most chefs love to teach.