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eGullet Society staff emeritus
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Posts posted by gfron1

  1. I can't believe how cool our project is getting! This is a document my history intern found last weekend. Today I attended an archivist association meeting and was told that the Recorder of Deeds for St Louis had a bankruptcy proceeding from a seed store in 1837 that lists the inventory including 10 pages of seed with specific varietals listed. I get it next week!


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  2. 3 hours ago, teonzo said:

    You should see this person as a potential powerful ally, not as an enemy, even if you are right and he/she is wrong. His/her comment should be read like "I'm following every single detail of what you are doing because I REALLY CARE, you made this minor slip and I wanted to take the time to make you notice it". If this is his/her only complaint then it means that everything else is perfect even after being scrutinized with a magnifying glass, so you should be proud of it. And you should try to become friend with him/her: if he/she took the time to write you for such a minor detail, then if you befriend him/her he/she is going to be a living advertiser of your restaurant (for free), which is always the best form of advertising for every business.

    I got there this morning already. If they're willing to engage I can participate with them like I do my other contacts. 

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  3. I don't serve it but it is very authentic to what I do. The folk wisdom is to boil 2 or 3 times with no lid; boil, rinse, repeat. I don't bother because there are plenty of other greens to make for people not to like.


    As for confusing with elderberries...not even in the same ballpark nor season. Study the shape of the berry clusters to make ID easy. And then realize that elderberries came and went back in July and here we are in September...


    If in doubt, throw it out. Everything is edible ONCE.

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  4. 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:



    You focus on the Missouri Historical Society database and libraries and I focus back on Little Rock. For both of us we're looking for...
    1. Not printed books unless they are issued pre-1870 and document livestock breeds, produce/grapes varietals or any information on indigenous or enslaved peoples.
    2. Counties. The researcher I talked to with MO Historical Society said that our best bet would be to look up by town or county, versus Ozarks as a search term. So for you I would focus on the attached map. That is not fully inclusive of the Ozarks but we need to limit ourselves if we're going to keep this manageable. Further I would really focus in on the counties including and below Shannon and Green Counties. I know there's a lot of heritage work around those areas. Remember that searching by towns/cities in those counties may net results too.
    3. Topics. We are most interested in these terms (and I'm sure you can think of other synonyms) - food, cooking, farming, hunting, agriculture, trading, indians, native americans, slaves, recipes, seeds, crops, heirloom, preservation, pickling, plantations. Based on my experience those words won't get you far, but they are ultimately what we're looking for. My experience says that if you can find a hand written letter from any of those counties, pre-1870 they will be short enough that you can read to scan for these terms (which likely will have not been coded for the database). The older the better because those are the folks who are writing back home to tell people what they're growing and trading. It might be worth asking just about plantations to see which ones existed and if they have any written documents.
    That's probably all the guidance I have because my best luck was just having them pull boxes off the shelf and me reading through very quickly for anything related to food and drink. As you have now seen, sometimes it's just one word or a very brief mention. Rarely is it a complete explanation or description. But those brief snippets are enough for us to work with. My other hope - if you decide you want to stick with this - and we continue to think about a potential book, is to start allowing your mind to develop higher level categorizations. My dissertation was completely qualitative, and that involved transcribing and reading thousands of pages of notes. In the process my mind would start to recognize patterns and topics which ultimately became the format and narrative path of my dissertation. You don't need to know how to do this because your brain will do it for you as it subconsciously unclutters your thoughts.


    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!


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  5. On 9/3/2019 at 4:30 PM, Desiderio said:

    Old post, but I was wondering if you could share what model did you get. I am still with my little Badger, which has been getting super hot lately and yesterday while I was using it, was spaying moisture (I wasn't using the bottle with colored CB, but just the air from the top portion of the bottom fed mini gun), so I am not sure whats the deal with that. Michigan is humid and my new kitchen doesn't have an ac vent and it gets warm and super humid. Also I have noticed your gradient are pretty smooth, of course due to user skill, but I wondering what do you use for airbrush. Again, I am super behind on all matter of chocolate and colors right now. Trying to catch up 😛

    Thank you!

    Bought on Amazon: California Air Tools CAT-4620AC Ultra Quiet & Oil-Free 2.0 hp 4.0 gallon Aluminum Twin Tank Electric Portable Air Compressor, Silver

    • Like 1

  6. I don't know if he gets the concept or not because he's also limited by word count and we're a pretty concept dense restaurant. BTW, thanks to the feedback from the eG group we modified our portions including downsizing the entree (@ChrisHennes) and making the dessert more delicate and plated. As a result we added a course, but it was too much food so we dropped another (the peach and chanterelle pate which just wasn't clicking withe guests).

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  7. 16 hours ago, Tri2Cook said:

    That reads to me like a politely stated "I'm not a dessert guy". I have no idea if that's the case or not, just has that feel to it. If it is the case, nothing's gonna make him be a dessert guy. But if you're not a dessert guy, why include the dessert as part of your review? A restaurant has no control over whether or not a person is into dessert, they're just serving you what you ordered (the tasting menu in this case, which includes dessert). Or maybe I'm just overly touchy on that subject because desserts are what I really enjoy doing and I got a bit fed-up with the dessert backlash thing where everybody was suddenly too cool for cake and ice cream and complained about silly things like "well the candy was delicious but it was sweet". :D

    I've gotten to know Ian fairly well over the past three years. He is not big on desserts, nor carbs, and it's clear from his reviews he is impressed by fussy service, which we very consciously do not do. One of our goals is to define what service and restaurant experiences should look like in 2019, which to my way of thinking does not include servers hovering around my table refilling water after every sip. He, like others, is having a hard time defining or understanding our big picture efforts.

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  8. 2 hours ago, pastrygirl said:

    I could go for a vibrating table or one of the small copper pans ... are you willing to pack and ship items that size?

    My role would be get things to a shipper, but you would have to do the shipping....for example, I would take it to the UPS store and give it to them to box. I don't have the supplies to pack big items, and I certainly don't want to be responsible if they get damaged in shipping. 

  9. 11 hours ago, Kerry Beal said:

    That's a dangerous offer! 

    *Some restrictions may apply :)

    10 hours ago, pastrygirl said:

    Very interesting.  Will you be going to a preview?

    I'm going to try. That's the day our big review comes out so everything is tentative, but I'm going to prep to do my best to be at the auction. I'm going for the guitar so don't bother asking me to get that for anyone.

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    • Haha 2

  10. Kerry shared this with me and so I thought I'd share with the group. The reason Bissingers couldn't participate in our eG gathering in May has now become obvious. They have all of their equipment being auctioned. if anyone wants to buy with a local person on the ground let me know. I'm going to do my best to be onsite for the auction so I can grab a few things, but those of you looking for slightly bigger volume could grab some deals. My point is, if you need someone to move and store items I'm happy to help.




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  11. 3 hours ago, Alex said:

    What a great offer! Thanks. I'll be there, too. If something changes, I'll text you.


    Ideally I'd be coming from Arsenal. It looks like there's some street parking on Center Cross Dr just south of the circle. (I'm guessing the parking spots on the circle are where the food trucks will be, yes?

    Center Cross/Tower Grove Ave will be full because of the food trucks and farmers. The roads inside of the park are all one way so you can go around the circle and enter the inner road on the northwest end of the circle...that's the tennis courts. You'll find easy parking then.

  12. 29 minutes ago, TdeV said:

    @gfron1, good news. Where should we meet?

    (Please pick something obvious in Tower Grove Farmers' Market because I'm not familiar with St Louis)

    The farmers market is on the circle in the center of the park. Since we'll be there at 8 you can find parking relatively easily (worst case park on Magnolia and walk the extra 50 yards, but you can get much closer than that parking by the tennis courts. We can meet on the steps of the concrete/stone pavilion next to (west of) the playground and play fountain. The farmers market surrounds that building...so if you're confused look for the food trucks and then look west 30 yards and it'll all be obvious. I'll look like the picture in my avatar to the left here minus the apron :)

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  13. 15 hours ago, TdeV said:

    Ooh, I'd like this! How early do you usually go?

    I go right at 8 before it gets too crowded and too hot.

    14 hours ago, kayb said:

    I'd be in on that as well. Always up for a good farmers'  market. Heck, I might even get stuff to take home with me.

    This is a really good one - best in Stl.

    11 hours ago, TdeV said:

    National Weather Service shows flood warning for St Louis. Should we worry? (Coming from Illinois)

    We've had that since spring. St. Louis is fine. It's really the surrounding country roads that have been a problem.

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  14. It's almost time for many of you to hit the road so I wanted to offer some last minute suggestions. Remember that many big attractions are free in St Louis. It's an old historic deal for the land that was given to the city back before the city expanded beyond the riverfront. That means the zoo, art museum and many of the big attractions only charge for special exhibits. The zoo is considered one of the top 3 in the country and has for many, many years. Our Botanic Gardens is also considered top 3 and is doing a special event this weekend - a lighted nighttime event. And while I know many of you are going to Vicia on Friday, Friday night across the street from the Botanic Gardens is Tower Grove Park (I live one block from the garden), and this Friday is Food Truck Friday. It is absolutely the best food event in town - live music and a slew of food trucks with big trees offering lots of shade.


    Our War Memorial and the Arch are both recently updated and both are spectacular!


    You need your coffee...Sump is king for snobs (the owner just won some international award for coffee somethingorother). Comet, Blueprint are top tier but not snobbish. Comet is the one that I sent all the eG chocolatiers to and they agreed - great coffee and baked goods.


    My favorite breakfasts - Egg on Gravois, Kitchen Kulture at the Tower Groves Farmers Market (If anyone wants to go to the farmers market with me let me know because I chat with all of my suppliers on Saturday mornings - you'd get the chef tour of the market.


    My favorite lunches - Mac's Local Eats & Beast Butcher and Block


    Best cocktail bar (Besides us of course) - Planter's House


    Best beer for snobs - Side Project


    Best beer for hanging out in a beer hall - Urban Chestnut (either location) or Earthbound (our buddies)



    Lastly, please remember to show up a few minutes early. We start the seating at the reservation time and when folks come late they are served at the point of the rest of the group. Any missed courses are grouped as quickly as possible. Thanks.

    • Thanks 2

  15. 4 hours ago, TdeV said:

    Thanks, Rob, recommendations for housing would be helpful.

    Depends on price point. Hotel Ignacio is very close and cute as a button. Angad is extremely hip and cool, and certainly pricier. The eG Chocolate group stayed at Marriott Courtyard West.  And there's a Drury that is probably best value and super location.

    2 hours ago, Chris Hennes said:

    @gfron1 what are your feelings on cameras at this event? I normally hate taking photos at restaurants, but was wondering if I shouldn't make an exception this time around given the eG interest in seeing what you are up to. 

    You certainly won't be the only one. It's common and our room is lit such that it's not disruptive to the other diners.

    1 hour ago, TdeV said:

    I'm sorry for dithering. My friend has jury duty and wasn't released today, she may to go in tomorrow; she told me she has to serve all week. So worst case, we'll leave on Friday afternoon and get in too late for the Friday night dinner. If she's unable to go, I should know before Friday, and then I will come on my own–which day, I don't know yet.

    We will continue to play it by ear until the moment that we can no longer.

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