Over Labor Day weekend, John, the family and I traveled to St. Louis for a wedding. The groom is a long time friend of John’s, and John was the best man. I was thrilled to be invited (as I’m big fans of both bride and groom), and I was even excited about a little field trip to St. Louis (never been before), where I could possibly do a John and Elana Talk About Food Travel Edition (please read that with intended echo).
So, here I bring you the gastro-adventures of our trip to St. Louis! Please return your tables and chairs to their upright position, we are ready for take-off.
To establish a baseline for our meals, we begin with the above, courtesy of Continental Airlines. I will note that John refused to eat his airline meal. He was completely disgusted by the plastic, play-doh-ey slice of ham and it’s partner-in-crime generic cheese. I, as usual, was hungry so I ate my sandwich, which I might add was tiny. Smaller than my fist. I did, however, appreciate the mini Twix and was a little upset with John that he refused his meal, because I would have stolen his.
Luckily, much better food awaited us….at the rehearsal dinner.
The rehearsal dinner was held at the St. Louis Racket Club, a blast into St. Louis past (and present, as it still functions) with brick walls and dark mahogany accents. It’s like walking into a giant trophy room with…wait for it….TAXIDERMY! Unusual taxidermy at that. How do you even go about taxiderming a rhino? Mad props for that effort, mad props.
Onto the food! The highlight of the hors d’oeuvers was the SWEEEEET bacon. You might remember that this inspired me to make my own. I actually don’t even remember the other offerings, or what the bacon was served with (because it was served with something). I just kept grabbing strips of bacon.
The dinner was well presented and delicious. My favorite “accent” was the tiny cheese popover that accompanied the salad. Not greasy, and just a hint of cheese (I kept tasting blue cheese, but someone told me it was parmesan). I will be opening the science lab (kitchen) to try and replicate those guys.
The next day we had some time on our hands so we visited the Anheuser Busch Brewery for their free tour and tasting. If you ever find yourself in St. Louis with an hour or so to kill, do this tour. It was so much fun. You get to see GIANT horses (Clydesdales – named Lenny and Carl) and taste beer! And, I bet you guys knew this cuz you’re sharp, but I had no idea that the entire place smells like baking bread! I don’t know how the people that work there handle it. It smells like a bakery. It was awesome. In conclusion, my advice is to go to the brewery, smell the air, and taste the free beer.
I assembled some vintage beer advertising that was displayed in their entryway. I love vintage advertising. The fonts! The crazy phrases! I could go on…..so indulge me and have a look.
After the beer it was clearly time for pizza (am I right, or am I right?). I was searching through one of the St. Louis magazines in the hotel room for a place to eat, and apparently waaaaaaaay back in 1995, Bon Appetit recommended a place called Rigazzi’s for pizza. It’s located in the Italian section (“the Hill”) of St. Louis. So we went there. Unfortunately.
Now, I will admit to being something of a pizza snob. I did, in fact, host a Pizz-Off! at my apartment back in February (and am planning on another one). I like a nice thin crust (Neopolitan style), and FRESH ingredients. I figured Bon Appetit couldn’t/wouldn’t/shouldn’t lead me astray. But, the recommendation WAS from 1995…
….The pizza was terrible. I’m sorry, but it was. I really hate saying stuff like that. BUT! On the flip side, the whole experience was so entertaining! We started off with something called “Toasted Ravioli” which is essentially, as my dad said so eloquently, “a pasta covered meatball” fried, with parm sprinkled on top. Kind of like a mini Hot Pocket. We were distressed. Then, we ordered two pizzas: a Margherita (interestingly (by which I mean alarmingly), the menu description indicated it was topped with Blue Cheese) and a Bianco (white pizza).
I will just note that the ingredients on the pizza were not fresh (nor had they been recently – although maybe in 1995!), and the crust seemed to be some kind of frozen and reheated variety – something like a Lean Cuisine pizza. The Bianco Pizza had enough roasted garlic to knock over either Lenny or Carl.
I couldn’t finish my pizza (which is saying something. I ALWAYS finish my pizza, and then start looking around at the people who are with me to see if I can eat their crusts).
We left disoriented, confused and full of processed cheese. And we had a wedding to go to!
Luckily, the wedding food turned everything around. Our chilled asparagus soup (the menu called it a “vichyssoise” but I don’t know what that means) was light and delicately asparagus-y flavored. The beef and salmon paired well together, while the Merlot sauce that accompanied the beef was not heavy or too salty, but a reach-for-a-piece-of-bread-to-get-the-last-bits good. There was another appearance of a poached pear, which I never mind, and the wedding cake, a moist carrot variety had an impressive buttercream icing (I always prefer buttercream to fondant). I would also like to compliment the choice of champagne. Our table’s waiter was not opposed to keeping our glasses filled, and refilled, and…until I finally broke one. And then he brought me a new one and poured me some more. Good man.
As a final treat, we had these hand-rolled pretzels tucked into our hotel goodie bags from Gus’.
Thank you, Lauren and Matt for a wonderful weekend. We had a fantastic time at your wedding and in beautiful St. Louis (I would like to return, frolic with the horses, smell and taste more beer and figure out how they hand-roll pretzels).
John and I wish you many years of health and happiness. And for good pizza, you know you are always welcome at my place.