La Terraza’s Forum location has been open for a few weeks now, a blessing to those west Columbia residents stuck with Rio Grande’s sad, salty Tex-Mex. Same menu as the other location but with an emphasis on the bar and televisions (ie, soccer fans have a new option).
Do you like food? Do you live in Columbia, Missouri? Well then, you have a lot of great options today.
First the culinary arts program of the Columbia area career center has your lunch taken care of. Till 1pm only, however.
The Wine Cellar and Bistro has oysters from Puget Sound all weekend.
Finally Mark Sanfilippo of Salume Beddu in St. Louis will be at Schnucks from 3 to 5 PM this afternoon. Their charcuterie is simply some of the best I’ve ever had.
Can anyone argue that Sycamore Restaurant is not now the best restaurant in Columbia? Not the flashiest, the most stylish and certainly not the most conversation-friendly. Just the best – day in and day out – in town. Chef Mike Odette hasn’t been a nominee for any James Beard Award for a few years, but I think they’ve only gotten better.
Our visit the other day was a case in point. We were there with the kids – ages 8 and 5 – and requested our customary dining-with-kiddos booth toward the back of the restaurant, where we made our way through no fewer than eight dishes (we like the salads and small plates at Sycamore at least as much as the mains). Brandade we sold to the kids as hush puppies went over well, as did the fried orange tomatoes in an electric pesto vinaigrette that invited swooshes of bread long after the tomatoes were dispensed with. Onto a pork terrine featuring creamy duck liver and crunchy pistachios. It’s nothing you haven’t had there before, but it’s still damned good. Then it was gnocchi with confit tomatoes and fried oysters with remoulade – both excellent in concept and execution.
Trey Quinlan’s new restaurant – opening in the old Trattoria/Red and Moe space next to The Blue Note – is all but open (heck, they’re already The District’s dining page). There will be a soft-launch and then a full opening. As for what, exactly, it will be – who knows? Some combination of Trattoria II, global tapas, bistro, Italian/Midwestern, industrial farmhouse.
Guess #1: Trey’s will confuse the hell out of some people.
Guess #2: The food will be pretty damn tasty.
I can’t wait.
From a Missourian story I missed last week:
At 2 p.m. on Aug. 28, Hamoodi — Columbia businessman, community leader and former MU nuclear engineer — will begin serving 36 months in federal prison for violating U.S. sanctions against Iraq, the country where he was born. He was sentenced May 16 for arranging to send $270,000 over nine years to his relatives and those of 15 other Iraqi families.
There’s so much wrong with this situation that it’s hard to know where to begin. I find it personally offensive that we’re going to take a good man, a tax-paying businessman and throw him in federal prison for three years. It still doesn’t seem real. Click here for more information or to sign the petition in support of Mr. Hamoodi.
There was a nice piece in the Washington Post today on the National Museum of American History’s re-opening of one of their best exhibits: Julia Child’s television kitchen. I had no idea how moving the exhibit would be before I visited in the mid-2000s. I’ve seen only a few episodes of her show and a dozen or so more of clips from YouTube. I’ve read much more from and about her than I’ve seen on screen (the rather regrettable “Julie & Julia” book and film aside). But her “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” was the first serious cookbook I owned. That and her other writings showcase her trademark wit and spirit. Uncompromising yet utterly accessible; learned yet devoid of pretension – and of course, funny as hell. The Smithsonian exhibit is strangely mesmerizing. You stand there and think, “In this tiny space a most unlikely woman changed the way we ate.” So cool.
Bonus: The Post is hosting a live chat on Julia Child, the exhibit and other associated topics tomorrow at 11am CST.
I was going to include some initial thoughts on west Columbia’s new Chinese restaurant, but based on lunch today – again, amazing – I’ve decided they warrant their own post outright.
Some background is in order. Basically, the west side of Columbia is home to almost no good restaurants. You have Shakespeare’s, which is fine, and Mandarin House, which does decent Americanized Chinese food. But after that, it’s ho-hum (Pasta Factory) to worse (Truman’s, where the food and clientele vie endlessly for most awful thing about the place).
To this mix has been added Bamboo Terrace, located in a former El Maguey location just west of Walmart on West Broadway. My first visit was auspicious, with “House Special Pan Fried Noodles” and “Velvet Beef in Hot Chili Oil” both delivering the goods. Bright, distinctive flavors, proper attention to vegetables, no gloopy, all-purpose gravy. My impression was, “Damn, there are some people in this kitchen that actually care.”
Even better have been slightly more adventurous dishes. “Malaysian Style Curry Chicken in Hot Pot” (photo above) featured tender, dark-meat chicken, Thai basil, potatoes, coconut milk and loads of heat – absolutely delicious. Today, thinking I might trip them up, I went with “Eggplant with Garlic Sauce in Hot Pot.” I mean, eggplant, right? Instead of a misstep, I got the best eggplant dish I’ve ever had – slices of purple eggplant in a garlicky, firecracker-hot sauce. Again, each ingredient remained distinct in flavor and texture. The place truly is the Chinese anti-buffet.
That’s not to say Bamboo Terrace is flawless. The interior is sleepy and cold-feeling and the appetizers (drab “Curry Seafood Rangoon” and oily “Basil Duck Rolls”) have been average. And for some, the prices are going to seem a bit steep for Chinese food. But that’s only because we’re conditioned to Chinese food being – mostly – cheap junk. They don’t play that game at Bamboo Terrace and price and food reflect it. Bravo, I say; it’s worth every penny.
I asked about their approach while paying for my lunch today. The hostess – owner’s wife, I believe – said they are shooting for a more authentic style of Asian food than many restaurants serve. They stir-fry each dish individually, she told me, so customers are welcomed to request a little more chilies, a dash extra of sugar, a touch less salt. Also, if something is labeled “hot,” they’re not kidding – both hot pots packed a mean punch. But again, at Bamboo Terrace, they’re flexible…and Columbia’s west side just got a whole lot tastier.
3101 W. Broadway, Suite 101
So there was this guy once who had a food blog. Then he went to France and when he came back, was so busy helping facilitate ye olde rapidly-expanding family business that he thought he might never post again. But he did continue to eat, so let’s get back on this horse.
One thing we did not have a lick of in France was spicy food. It was great there, and I promise to share pics shortly, but ever since we returned it’s been non-stop Mexican, Thai and Chinese around here, folks. Take today’s lunch, for example, prompted by a food52.com post on Twitter and some Chert Hollow Farm cukes that were starting to wonder if they’d ever get any love. They did.
Early tomorrow morning we will board a M0-X van, the first step in the wife and I spending the next two weeks in France. We’ll be starting in Paris, of course, and staying in Le Marais neighborhood in the 4th arrondissement for four days. In the works are a small, guided walking tour of the area and the Nortre Dame cathedral, dinner at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon and catching lots of Euro 2012 soccer* on tv. And taking our time sitting at cafes and eating and drinking and generally being French.
From there we head to the Loire and then Bordeaux for a few days each, possibly doing little more than wandering around and drinking wine. We may visit a couple of wineries and castles, take an aerial tour of the Loire, visit Rocamadour, go canoeing – who knows? To satisfy Mrs. SMEs’ beach needs, we’ll then train up to Ile de Ré, a small island just off the western coast of France. Nothing scheduled but lots of harborside vin de maison and the train back to Paris. There, we’ll mop up some of what we didn’t get to before and take a walking food tour of Montmartre. Then it’s back to reality. For now, au revoir!
* – While I’m gone you have one** homework assignment: Watch at least one match in the Euro 2012 soccer tournament. Because it only includes the best teams in Europe, there are no crap teams – unlike the massive World Cup. Just about every game has been a winner so far and it’s only going to get better. Every game is being shown on ESPN.
** – Actually, you have two homework assignments. If you haven’t visited Pepe’s taco trailer, do it soon. I’ve had everything on the menu and feel pretty safe saying that it’s probably the best Mexican food in town. Particularly dig the adobado tacos, tamales and shredded beef burritos. And any taco, really. They’re outstanding.
I’ll be on KFRU tomorrow morning at 10:15am. We’ll be talking World Harvest (focusing on products, not legal wranglings) and two other markets you may not know about. Other topics include our annual patio-dining rundown, summer beers and the official kickoff of grilling season this weekend. We’ll get through what we can.
If you’ve never made cajeta – sort of a Mexican goat milk cinnamon caramel – do it today. It’s freaking amazing (and you can make it with cow’s milk too). • You’re probably not following the locally-focused team blog at Re-Fresh, but you should be. • One outfit you REALLY need to be following is *Pepé’s of Columbia, newly opened and serving true Mexican-style tacos and tamales. On the taco side, I highly recommend the adobado, asada and carnitas; as for tamales, the poblano and cheese is fiery and delicious. • I’m working on a biscuits and gravy round-up; what are your favorite spots to get that all-American classic? • Thomas Keller is getting some serious blowback for tut-tutting the hyper-local, farm-to-table movement, saying his primary responsibility as a chef should be “quality, not geography.” For what it’s worth, I’m 70-30 with Keller on this. • The Wall Street Journal’s MarketWatch helpfully points out that the Obama spending binge actually never happened. • One Columbia restaurant is planning on moving into the ground floor space of the 5th and Walnut parking garage. No idea which one it will be. • I ran into Trey Quinlan, formerly of Bleu and Red and Moe, yesterday and asked him how his plans for Trattoria II were coming along. He reports that they have financing in place and are moving away from the original, Trattoria-focused concept, instead gunning for a bistro. More flexibility, less baggage, I suspect.
* Disclosure: I play soccer with Pepé and our kids go to school together. I consider him an acquaintance, if not a friend. Great guy.
UPDATE: Some supporters of Shakir Hamoodi will be gathering today at 2:30pm at Rock Bridge Christian Church to discuss a response to the sentencing. No idea what that response would be – or even if Mr. Hamoodi has given the meeting his blessing – but thought I’d pass along.
Shakir Hamoodi, owner of World Harvest, was sentenced yesterday to three years in federal prison. What he did – funnel money to family and friends in Iraq in violation of federal sanctions – is pretty clear. But Columbia is better because of Mr. Hamoodi and his store. It’s a tragedy. That’s really the only word I’ve been able to come up with. I’m sick to my stomach for him and his family and wish them the best.
Note: I’d feel pretty sleazy asking questions about maintaining my access to excellent cheese and olive oils at a time like this, but I’m wondering what will happen to the store as well. I’ll stop in soon and see what the word is.
We’re doing the Chert Hollow Farm CSA this year and are having a good time with it. Great eggs, strawberries and greens so far. My favorite feature of theirs* is the ability to customize what you receive each week by way of an online survey. We’re growing tons of herbs already at the house, so no need for Eric and Joanna to drop more on us – they wouldn’t get used. Instead, I double up on things I don’t grow, like cooking greens and radishes.
We also get the chance to buy raw goat milk through the CSA – for an extra fee. I won’t even touch on the raw milk issue, mostly because I tend to tune out issues that attract
insane people cure-all types as well as ignorant people the chronically over-reactive. I’ve gone for four quarts so far and last night made cheese** with it. More on the cheese-making process later. For now, a picture of lunch, almost entirely supplied by Chert Hollow Farm.
* Second-favorite feature of the Chert Hollow CSA? Home delivery.
** Note: I have not died or, to my knowledge, been cured of anything.
The Farmers Market is hitting its stride right now, and here are three good reasons to stop by tomorrow:
- The Culinary Arts program of the CACC is doing their annual omelet fundraiser. A couple of these kids are going to the national competition, and this event helps fund their trip. Your omelet-makings are listed after the jump and as always, consider stopping by during school hours and buying some of their excellent stocks, soups and cured meats. If you don’t make it out tomorrow, you have a second chance on Sunday. Details below.
- Missouri Legacy Beef will be selling steaks at 10% off tomorrow – 15% off if your name starts with “M.” Best beef at the market in my opinion.
- Blade Runner Sharpening. Your knives probably aren’t as sharp as they should be and it makes cooking less fun, more difficult and even more dangerous (pushing a dull knife through an onion takes more pressure, leading to slips and cuts). Drop them off with Corby and then do the rest of your shopping. Chances are the knives will be ready by the time you get back.
When it comes to high-concentration dining areas, Columbia has limited destinations. Downtown can take care of you whether you’re in the mood for sushi or whether it’s a steak-and-potatoes kind of day. It’s got variety and, because of that, is our go-to venue when we want to go out for dinner but can’t make up our minds on exactly where.
But I hereby nominate the Peachtree area south of town for second place. Often overlooked at the southwest corner of Grindstone and Providence — in a maze of weird side streets and dead-end parking lots — is some of the best food in town.
As I suspected, readers of the Tribune and listeners of KFRU knew about far more good places to eat along I-70 than I did. So, hooray…thanks for doing my “job” for me. Anyway, here’s what we’ve come up with. Not quite as hopeless as I’d thought.
To the West
Snoddy’s Store – Boonville/New Franklin
I believe the KFRU caller that recommended Snoddy’s suggested a liverwurst or head cheese sandwich with pepperjack, though now the entire exchange seems more like an acid flashback or something. Is this even a real place?
Cree-Mee Freeze - Concordia
Giant tenderloin sandwiches, soft-serve ice cream, old timey setting.
Bates City Café (exit 31 – Bates City)
Housed in an old gas station, right off the highway. Diner food, good steaks, think 63 Diner.
87 Diner (exit 106 – Boonville)
Chicken fried steak. Crunchy, tender and covered with truly world-class sausage gravy. The “87 Diner Mess” is a split biscuit topped with hash browns, two eggs and a heart-testing amount of that gravy. The rib-eye breakfast would be worth the drive, as well.
Highway 13 exit north to Higginsville, Mo (5 mins off of I-70)
- Red Shanty BBQ and Ribs n’ More downtown Higginsville.
- Further north to Lexington is an old school Maid Rite from the 1930′s and Riley’s Pub in downtown Lextington. Great food and homemade fruit based ice creams.
South of I-70 on 13 @ Warrensburg is Perry Foster’s BBQ (5 mins down Hwy 13 – exit 49) never has closed a day since opening in 1974. The Wall Street Journal just sent their food editor there and obtained his secret to the beans. (smoked ham bones thrown in). Really rough-looking spot and iffy service – food reputedly very good.
To the East
Two Dudes BBQ – Warrenton. Take the Jonesburg exit off I-70. “Fried everything counter, homemade breading, chicken gizzards.”
Williamsburg exit (exit 161) Crane’s General Store. Been selling everything from farm equipment to clothes since 1920s. Fresh sliced meats on dollar sandwiches.
I’ll be on KFRU tomorrow morning at 10:15 am talking more about the (generally miserable) food to be had on I-70. If you’ve read last week’s column, some of it will be familiar. But I’ve received six or seven good tips from readers and will pass those along tomorrow. My earlier take:
La Terraza will be opening a second location where El Jimador was for about a month and a half, next to Dunn Bros. coffee on Forum. Christian tells me they’ve finally started to make money on the first location and they hope La Terraza II will be open in late May. He says the menu will be the same but the vibe will be more bar, specifically more sports bar.
Meanwhile, Taqueria El Rodeo continues its downward spiral…sad.
Though we enjoyed our winter CSA with The Root Cellar, we’re going with Eric and Joanna of Chert Hollow Farm for the growing season. The reasons? We like them personally, their produce rocks and, well, we thought it’d be interesting to try a more hard-core version of the CSA. Why “hard-core?” Because if a hailstorm wipes out their tomatoes, we don’t get tomatoes (mind you, they already have our money). So there’s risk involved. The Root Cellar is a good, entry-level CSA. I highly recommend it. Risk is minimized and the variety is great. We’re going to CSA grad school. Should be fun.
We’ve received three shares from Eric so far. All good stuff. Lots of herbs, green onions and – the purpose of this post – a cubic shit-ton of spinach. I’m okay with this because, unlike salad greens, you can cook spinach. And oh how we have been cooking spinach. It’s gone into vegetable gratins, warm salads (mmm, bacon) and as pictured above, the Thai dish pad see ew.
This stir-fry comes together in, I swear, about two minutes once you have your mise en place done (also easy). I borrowed the recipe from Chez Pim, but do recommend going ahead and throwing a couple tablespoons of brown sugar in at the end. I subbed out Chinese broccoli for two mega-handfuls of spinach, reduced the time the greens cook to about 20 seconds or so and went to town. Do take Pim’s advice and prepare this in batches of two servings at the most. I was able to perfect the seasoning in batch two.
Next: Spinach and Chard Gratin.
Great news from the Culinary Arts program at the Columbia Area Career Center:
We are proud to announce the results of the Missouri SkillsUSA State competition this weekend.
The Columbia Area Career Center had all four competitors place. This is the tenth consecutive year that the Career Center has had a state champion for Culinary Arts.
Will Kinney – 1st place Culinary Arts (RBHS Senior)
Mallory Barnes – 1st place Commercial Baking (RBHS Junior)
Hailey King – 2nd place Culinary Arts (RBHS Junior)
Ashleigh Johnson – 3rd place Commercial Baking (RBHS Senior)
These students did a tremendous job and have spent countless hours practicing.
Will and Mallory are going to continue on and attend the Skills USA National Convention the last week of June for their shot at the national title.
We will keep everyone informed about upcoming fundraisers to help send Will and Mallory to Nationals.
Thank you for your support,
Brook, Carri and Jeff
Lutz’ BBQ* of Jefferson City is coming to Columbia. A second outpost of the well-regarded ‘cue joint will open in the newly-vacated Blue Moon space on Nifong. They’re aiming for a June opening and would, likely from day one, become the best barbeque in town. Now if we could just lure Lonnie Ray’s down here…
* Note, it’s pronounced ”LOOT-ziz.”
This morning on KFRU we discussed this and other restaurant news in Columbia. Here are the basics:
bleu at the Tavern
Training staff on wine and menu. Renovations (which appear to be blending the seemingly incongruous styles quite well) are speeding along apace. Staggered opening beginning early April; full opening mid-April. Check out their Facebook page for updates and pics.
The Oak Room
Menu will be upscale; steaks, seafood, pasta and RAW BAR! Hoping to open May 1. A sharp-eyed friend on Twitter noticed a couple of similarities to another establishment.
Red and Moe Trattoria II?
Very early stages at this point, but Red and Moe chef Trey Quinlan is looking to open a full-service, seasonal Italian restaurant in the same space on North 9th Street. They’re shooting for something along the lines of a reincarnation of Trattoria Strada Nova (including that nice bar in the back). Trey is aiming for a fall 2012 opening. Eric Reuter, who provided Red and Moe with much of the produce, has the goods in greater detail.
The long-closed Japanese/sushi joint is nearing a reopening date. They’ve redone the roof and interior, but the menu may not change much.
Chef-co-owner Bryan Maness is quietly turning Broadway Brewery into one of Columbia’s best places to eat. It’s getting bigger too, expanding into the old Root Cellar space next door. They’ll have more seating, a less-cramped kitchen and an area for live music (but will be closed from this Sunday after brunch until the following Friday).
South of Town
Has relocated about 500 feet west on Nifong.
Is situated in its new digs at the old Buffalo Wild Wings location.
Is currently installing floors for their third shop at the former Southside Pizza location.
Newly-opened in the Gerbes parking lot on Nifong, this chain boasts nice fries and solid, hot sandwiches. The Italian and reuben were both excellent on a recent lunch visit. People seem to really dig the Philly cheese as well.
Cheddar’s Casual Cafe
The vacated Chevy’s building (as well as an adjacent car wash) will be razed to make way for Texas-based, classied-up (?) Applebee’s chain Cheddar’s Casual Cafe.
Eh, I think that one’s been covered.