Alright...where to begin?! (or continue)
After the last review we got our others:
Sauce magazine - a local food publication
Riverfront Times - alt weekly with critical reviewer
and over the weekend we were named the best new restaurant (Best in Class) in St Louis magazine's biannual listing...essentially the best of the past two years! That's not digital yet, just print until next week.
Each review had a little tidbit or two of Midwest Nice critique, and we've responded to each, as we felt each had a kernel of truth. To Ian's review mentioned last time I posted - we've significantly upped the anty on the dessert construction. Now, I still don't know if he was criticizing or just using the adjective "haute," but it I view that term as an insult to my food so we remedied it. Sauce mentioned our lack of Missouri wines. Well, show me one that works with my food and I'll serve it, but in the meantime we found this amazing little off-the-beaten-path meadery in the Ozarks that has some dry meads, and now we're the only restaurant in the state serving it. And RFT suggested that the price was too high for many people from the Ozarks (I know her well enough that I didn't read that as a serious criticism), so we are now offering a Bit Of Both Worlds experience where you can get both food from the bar and tasting menu, with drinks for a fraction of the price.
I feel like our food just continues to mature as our larder matures. And we're able to gauge crowd response to the food and adjust. One of the things I'm most happy with is that my sous, Justin, seems to finally be walking the same path as me. His food has always been stellar, but much more traditional. His last few new courses get at things that are important to me but not as easily teachable - whimsy, surprise, completeness of textures, cravability. He's currently featuring cabbage - sassafras butter sous vide cabbage wedge, finished on the grill for a good char crust; sauerkraut cream, pickled apple spheres, parsley oil and crisped ham hock bits. Who knew you could be blown away by cabbage...and this coming from a guy who would be happy to have stuffed cabbage rolls on his death bed.
We're still struggling to get customers to eat at the bar. The media just wants to focus on the sexy aspect of the tasting menu. So now I'm focusing all of my media efforts on the bar. Just this morning we were on our local CBS morning news show. Next Monday we're on our local Fox channel.
We've been working on gathering our farmers for next year. The goal is to grow historic crops that have been lost to time and productivity/fashion that we've found in our research. I have over a dozen farms just waiting for us to tell them what seeds to get. I the same light, we got a new history intern from St Louis University. He's been going back and transcribing all of the documents that my research uncovered, and coding them. Now he's starting to do new research based on key words i've provided him. Here's what I sent him:
So it's exciting to me to get back at the research angle. Just today I got an angry email that we are satan incarnate because we're serving walleye...well, let me just show you the message:
I was excited to here about the concept of your restaurant on Great Day St Louis, until I saw you was serving walleye. Walleye has never been in the water of the Ozarks. Walleye is Native to deep water lakes in northern US and in Canada. There are no waters in the Ozarks that are deep and cold enough for walleye. A fish commonly found in the Ozarks is goggleeye. Pronounced gag-ga-lie. So now I am disappointed. I think you are misleading people. You need to do more research. My family had lived in the Ozarks since 1820 so I am well aware of Ozark Native cuisine, plants and animals
to which I responded:
Thanks for the info. When we make claims such as that, it is always based in some form of research. And while our research is constantly happening (ie, we are regularly updating our info), I'm curious how you square your experience with the MDC: https://mdc.mo.gov/conmag/2014/02/show-me-walleye
This article, was in fact, our source for this decision. Early on we were doing pond fish, but obviously that wasn't sustainable for a restaurant, whereas walleye gave us more bang for the buck. As I stated on the web portion of the show, for legal reasons we source our walleye from a distributor who gets it up north. But if we are incorrect about them being native, please help me understand what I am missing in our research. The only thing I can think of is that you are stating that they are native to northern Missouri. Let me know.
And I do want to state clearly - we don't expect to be perfect in every choice we make. We're doing our best. We do have some legal restrictions like where we can get our meats from. And my family's experiences and many of my sources may not jive with yours. But we are working our butts off to continue to gather info both from books and individuals' families with long histories in the Ozarks. We're trying to do this right and we're a very small restaurant, so this has never been about getting rich. We rely on folks to feed us info and correct us, so my response to you is sincere - if we are wrong, we need to know it so we can fix it.
(sorry I can't fix the formatting now...)
@kayb My sorghum farmer had a bust year because of the flooding. All he's getting is vinegar. If you know of anyone I've been planning to do your family tradition for fresh sorghum...but I gotta find some first and they're all pressing right now!
In personal news, my spouse, Tyler, accepted a job in Portland OR as Conference Minister of the United Church of Christ - sorta the equivalent of a bishop. Yes this sucks that after 19 years together we'll be doing the long distance thing, but it's unavoidable right now. I keep reminding him that if I could live at my restaurant I would. There simply are not enough hours in the day...and I've always been a workaholic.
Gonna stop there because I have an Imo's pizza on my table now and while the rest of the world hates St Louis style pizza...it's like milk from my momma's bossom!