Tico time

December 9, 2013

Costa Rica pan2

Well, we’re back from two weeks in Costa Rica, a nation of astonishingly diverse landscapes and wildlife, proud and hospitable people and even some pretty decent food here and there. There is quite a bit of work and family stuff to catch up on so a full write-up will be a few days coming, but to tide you over, some quick notes:

  • Patric Chocolate got some well-deserved pub from the Tribune last week. I will say that we visited a coffee and chocolate producer in Costa Rica and while theirs was good, it simply paled in comparison to Alan’s products. The depth of flavor he achieves just blows everything else I’ve had away.
  • The SEC Championship game ended in disappointment, but we still have a local champion in Sporting KC, who won the MLS Cup for the second time Saturday (and in an epic series of penalty kicks, no less). The bad soccer news is the the Unites States got grouped with Ghana, Portugal and Germany for the first round of the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
  • I’ll be doing a bit of work for Columbia Home magazine in the coming months. My first piece for them, on CoMo restaurants pairing desserts and drinks, is in the Dec/Jan issue and is available online.
  • Interesting that somebody at a Kansas City-area Sonic thought this would be a good idea.
  • Inside Columbia‘s “Best of Columbia 2014″ voting is open and, in what I think is a first, yours truly is up for best blogger. We are lucky to have a number of active local bloggers, so get over there and vote away.

Chicken and Potato Curry

December 4, 2013

Hot, Sour, Salty, Sweet” has become our go-to resource for Southeast Asian cooking over the past year or so. Nearly every recipe is fantastic, and the pictures and background info are top-notch as well. It’s not a new book (published in 2000), but you need to add it to your Christmas wish-list. Basil chicken, pho, spicy greens and this little number below – everything’s tremendous. You can thank me later.

Chicken and Potato Curry (serves 8)

1 1/2 pounds chicken (breast, thigh or combination of both)

Salt and ground pepper

2 lbs. potatoes

2 cups water

3 dried Thai chiles, soaked in warm water

2 T minced garlic

5 small shallots, coarsely chopped

2 T vegetable oil

2 T Thai fish sauce

2 cups coconut milk, 1/2 cup of thickest milk set aside

8 kaffir lime leaves

1/2 cup chopped scallions (optional)

1 cup cilantro leaves

2-3 T store-bought red curry paste, just in case

Cut chicken into 1 1/2″ pieces and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Set aside while preparing the potatoes and spice paste. Chop potatoes into 1 1/2″ cubes and place in a pot with 2 cups of salted water. Bring to boil and cook for 8 minutes, then remove from heat.

Chop chiles and pound in a mortar with shallots, garlic and a pinch of salt. You can do this in a food processor if you don’t have a mortar and pestle (or sense of decency). Set aside.

Heat a large pot or wok and add oil, then stir-fry the chile paste briefly, until starting to brown. Add chicken and cook, stirring frequently for several minutes. Add fish sauce and cook until chicken is nearly cooked through, approximately 6 minutes (if using a combination of light and dark meat, start with the dark first, then add the light).

Add 1 1/2 cups of the thinner coconut milk, 1 1/2 cups of the potato water and the potatoes themselves to the chicken and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer, the cover and cook for about 20 minutes.

Add the lime leaves and 1/2 cup of remaining thicker coconut milk and return to simmer. Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly. Note: This is where we kicked it up with pre-made red curry sauce…it was a touch bland before that.

Stir in scallion greens and transfer to large bowl, garnishing with cilantro and a few grinds of black pepper. Serve with rice and pass  a small bowl of minced Thai bird chiles loosened with a few dashes of fish sauce for doctoring to individual preferences.

Kale, Bean and Sausage Stew

December 2, 2013

Beans with Kale and Portuguese Sausage

One of our more successful first-attempt recipes ever – especially in terms of ratio of work to deliciousness – was this one, which I adapted from a Bon Appetit magazine recipe.


1/4 cup olive oil plus more for drizzling
8 ounces andouille or other sausage, sliced 1/2-inch thick (I used the outstanding CACC andouille)
1 medium onion, sliced
6-8 garlic cloves, smashed
2 T tomato paste
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
1 cup dry white wine
1 small piece Parmesan rind (optional)
2 chiles de árbol or other dried chiles (or 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes)
1 large sprig thyme
2 large bay leaves
2 cups chicken or turkey broth
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 can garbanzo beans (or other beans)
3-4 cups kale, mustard greens, whatever you have on hand, cut into 3/4″ ribbons
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat. Add sausage and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion and garlic; season with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onion begins to soften, about 5 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook for about two minutes.

Add wine and cook, scraping up browned bits from bottom of pot and stirring occasionally, until wine is reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add Parmesan rind, if using, chiles, thyme, bay leaf, broth, tomatoes, and beans. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer gently, stirring occasionally, for about 15 mins. Remove from heat and leave covered. Go run some errands, take a kid to soccer practice, whatever.

Reheat at mealtime, add a squeeze of lemon, season to taste and serve, preferably with some habanero vinegar or Tabasco.

Friday links

November 22, 2013


Four members of the Walton family are collectively worth more than $100 billion – greater wealth than the bottom 40% of Americans combined – but their employees are taking up collections so they can have Thanksgiving dinner. Just let that sink in for a second. And yes, I get that this could/should be looked at as a warming act of kindness, but the visuals (and underlying disparities) are not good.

Elsewhere, a professor of Christian Ethics takes on the evils of factory farming. Charge up the Kindle, cuz Michael Pollan has a new book out on the ways cooking makes us human. Jimmy Kimmel and Mario Batali went to some random guy’s house and cooked dinner. Kleenex nearby? Good. Listen to friend and fellow food lover Maria Oropallo tell her granddaughter (and KBIA) why “everyone was very happy and very sad at the same time.” Chicago fired back over Jon Stewart’s epic (and legit) takedown of deep dish pizza as “tomato soup in a bread bowl.” I don’t really understand Macadoodle’s (the 80s-era signage, the hideous building they designed and built on purpose, etc.), but I’ve been in and they do have a rockin’ wine selection (beer, less so). Also, it’s that time again, people:

I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get my hands on some fucking gourds and arrange them in a horn-shaped basket on my dining room table. That shit is going to look so seasonal.

I just love decorative gourd season.

Finally, the must-watch for the week is highlights of the second World Cup qualifying match between Portugal and Sweden. Portugal won the first match so Sweden needed to win by two in the second to go to the World Cup. Each team is made up of ten piles of leaves and one cartoon superhero – perfect human specimen Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal and Swedish anger bear/black belt Zlatan Ibrahimovic – and those two traded haymakers all second half. It was amazing.

Topic: Turkey

November 20, 2013


Turkey tips, in no particular order.

Start with a good bird. For several years we’ve been buying our turkeys from Country Neighbors Farm. They sell chickens, mostly, to The Root Cellar and Broadway Brewery and Hy-Vee, but in the fall it’s turkey time. The birds are smaller but fattier and just plain tastier than conventionally-raised CAFO birds. And as I found this year with our early Thanksgiving, they’re far more forgiving. Despite overcooking by a solid 15 degrees, the meat was perfect.

The whole garbage in, garbage out mantra should seem obvious at this point, but most people are still buying conventionally-raised turkeys from factory farms. Missouri’s the fourth-leading producer of turkeys in the U.S., but very few are raised on a farm like Country Neighbors.

Quick aside: If they won’t let you visit the farm, you have to wonder what they’re hiding. Laura at Country Neighbors will welcome you out there…and you have an excuse to visit Emmet’s.

Anyway, the average return to the producer for a turkey is $0.50 per pound and the grocery store’s only going to charge you $1.50/lb. (some, considerably less), so you can see the incentive to cut every possible corner. I paid $60 for two turkeys I picked up from Laura – 24 lbs. worth. You’ll pay a little more for retail at The Root Cellar – $50 for a 15-16 pounder or $65 for a 16-20 pounder – but it’s worth it in every way. You do need to order quite soon, however, as processing happens Monday, November 25 and most are spoken for. Call The Root Cellar at 573-443-5055.

Brine. You have to brine the turkey. Salt, sugar, garlic and some aromatics. I rarely measure any of these but it always works out. For the faint of heart, Brook Harlan is here to help (and I love the idea of “carving” the turkey before cooking it). Brine your turkey.

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Post-Dispatch: Support builds for Missouri man who violated Iraq sanctions

November 12, 2013

Scott Rowson shops at World Harvest International and Gourmet Foods in Columbia, Mo., on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013. Rowson is one of several customers and friends who have signed petitions and written letters to the White House asking for the early release of owner Shakir Hamoodi. Photo by Laurie Skrivan, lskrivan@post-dispatch.com

It’s been more than a year since Mr. Hamoodi of World Harvest reported to the federal prison in Leavenworth, KS. Despite near-universal recognition of this as a misapplication of justice, he sits there still, sharing a 9×7-foot cell with another inmate.

I stopped by the store the other day to pick up my CSA and load up on cheeses and ran into a St. Louis Post-Dispatch photographer, there to shoot for a story on Mr. Hamoodi’s case. Apparently Sen. McCaskill has forwarded information on the case to President Obama, but she may not or may not be actively pushing for his release. Here’s the story, and worth a read even if you are familiar with Mr. Hammoodi’s case.

If you feel moved to act, do some of your shopping at World Harvest, sign the online petition, contact Sen. McCaskill or even write him a letter at the following address:

Shakir Abdul-Ka Ani Hamoodi (21901045)
USP Leavenworth Satellite Camp
P.O. Box 1000
Leavenworth, KS 66048

Friday links

November 8, 2013


The must-watch for this week is a two-parter. First, take a couple of minutes to watch the highlights of Sporting Kansas City’s thrilling comeback win in the Major League Soccer playoffs Wednesday night. I was there with a few friends and it was, simply, the most thrilling soccer match I’ve ever been to in person. Amazing shots and saves, end-to-end action, villainous refereeing and overtime drama. The stadium was electric from the opening whistle until the very end. I promise, you don’t need to be a soccer fan to enjoy the highlights (which really could’ve been 30 minutes long). The second part: Sporting KC plays again Saturday afternoon at 1:30pm on NBC. Yes, the Mizzou football game will still be on but hey, that’s why DVR was invented.

That note isn’t food related unless you count the Z-Man sandwiches we picked up at Oklahoma Joe’s on the way into town for the game. Z-Mans are the greatest sandwiches in the world.

A few other links and notes:

  • Apparently we’ve been eating apples all wrong.
  • Marcia had a really nice piece on Fretboard Coffee in the Tribune the other day. I’ve been in twice and love the little space, the service and, naturally, the coffee. Just know that it’s little. Little as in seating for about seven people total. If you can grab a seat no one’s going to rush you out; just know that you may be getting your coffee to-go.
  • Those looking to land top-notch turkeys for Thanksgiving should look no further than Country Neighbors farm (up by Fayette). You can order them through The Root Cellar or, if you need a good reason to get up to the excellent, trip-worthy food at Emmet’s, visit them in person. Your call.
  • If you’re interested in hitting the easy button this Thanksgiving, you have some local options (they won’t even mind if you claim it as your own), namely the Columbia Area Career Center (orders due Nov. 12) and The Wine Cellar and Bistro (due the Tuesday before Thanksgiving).
  • Reminder: The Mid-MO Home Brew Fest is coming up next Saturday, November 16. It is going to be a family friendly event. Yeah, you know I’ll be there.

Wednesday food news

October 30, 2013

A couple of food and bev items of note (and that just couldn’t wait):

  • The Columbia Area Career Center is preparing an early dose of tryptophan this year with their Thanksgiving Buffet fundraiser. It’s tomorrow in front of the Rock Bridge High School planetarium and a solid helping of turkey-day goodies runs just five bucks.
  • The Root Cellar is starting to take turkey orders this week.
  • Organizers are frantically putting together a homebrew festival for the very near future (November 16!). It’ll be out at Stephens Lake Park and feature live music and plenty of beer-sampling. Good times. Check out the website and Facebook page for more info.
  • Dave Elman and Fretboard Coffee will be opening the doors on their new, brick-and-mortar location behind Ernie’s this Friday at 7am.
  • Better load up on Sriracha while you still can

Friday Links

October 25, 2013

I’ll be on KFRU this morning at 9:15 am, talking about how to up your Tiger tailgate this season. Now, news and random links:

Columbia’s best coffee roaster – Fretboard – will be opening doors on their brick-and-mortar location next Friday, November 1. Excellent CoMo coffee news. The news last week that Boulevard Brewery has sold out to Duvel was met with shock. Doctors at Ole Miss did the unthinkable – dissected chicken nuggets and looked at them under a microscope – and will now have nightmares forever. Here’s a map of Pangea with modern political boundaries. And finally, your must-watch for the week: Triumph the Insult Comic Dog visited the Great American Beer Festival.

Have a great Homecoming weekend.

SEC speed, it’s not just for the gridiron anymore

October 23, 2013
2013-10-19 09.36.26

Homemade biscuits, Burgers’ country ham, shrimp ‘n grits and a spicy egg casserole. A tailgate with SEC speed, you guys.

When Mizzou entered the SEC the rub was that our football players were going to be too small, too weak and most of all, too slow to compete. The team lacked “SEC speed” – a euphemism for just not being good enough. I figured that would take care of itself over the span of a few years as the Tiger recruiting staff entered new markets, but lo and behold, here we are in year two beating big programs like Georgia and Florida. It remains to be seen wether we can truly crack the upper echelon of the league – let alone stay there long term – but I think we can put the SEC speed thing to rest. We’ve got it (and in some cases we’ve got it at the backup positions too).

Where I still think we need to up our game is in the off-the-field stuff, and tailgates specifically. Mizzou games in college (mid-late 90s) were about pounding Natty Lights and crappy burgers until kickoff, wandering into the stands and then leaving when the Tigers went down by 20 points or so (usually early in the second quarter). Even when we were “good” we weren’t really actually good. But it’s 2013, we’re in the SEC and have been a legit top-10 team multiple times in the last five years. It’s time our tailgating evolved along with the product on the field.

A few suggestions:

  •  Match your food to the opponent. This varies from the easy (say, LSU) to the more difficult (Florida), but cooking the regional specialty of that week’s opponent not only provides the opportunity to cook something new, it demonstrates that you’re as serious as the Tigers themselves. And because we didn’t join the Big 10 that regional specialty is pretty much guaranteed not to suck. Think shrimp ‘n grits for South Carolina (pictured above), MoonPies  as a dessert for the Tennessee game and brisket vs. Texas A&M. There should probably be sweet tea available.
  • Eat the actual opponent itself. This one was a little easier when we played Colorado and Texas regularly because hey, buffalo and beef are good and ‘gator is mostly not. But we’re frying chicken wings – and bringing an assortment of sauces – for this weekend’s tilt with the Gamecocks. Consuming your enemy as a function of conflict is a time-honored tradition, so who are you to fiddle with eons of ritualized human violence? Get with the program (not applicable versus Georgia, Vanderbilt, A&M, etc.).
  • Cocktails. We haven’t explored this particular aspect of our Lot X (ie, cheapskate donor) tailgate much, but a drink station of Sazerac-makings and Abita beer would be a big-boy addition to an LSU tailgate someday. Or Shiner Bock versus the Aggies in a few weeks. Go crazy.
  • Go local. They’re not going to be trying to recreate Booche’s burgers in the Grove whenever we get around to playing Ole Miss. They’ll be eating what whatever they damn well feel like, regardless of the opponent (the fact that most of them will have their tailgates catered is beside the point). So don’t feel like everything has to match – it’s just a fun socio-geographic exercise. Serve Swiss Meats brats or Missouri Legacy Beef burgers and have a ball. And finally,
  • Attire. It’s time to put away the sweatpants and ratty Mizzou sweatshirts. Save that nonsense for walking to class or recovering on the couch on Sunday. A proper SEC tailgate is a balance of class and depravity, so even if you are going to be a bit of a drunk idiot on a football Saturday, at least look good doing it. That means shirts with buttons, guys, and preferably a black and gold tie.

Food Writing 101

September 27, 2013

I will be leading a food writing class at the Columbia Area Career Center in a few weeks. Four two-hour classes on Monday and Wednesday nights starting October 14. Read more or sign up here. We’ll cover everything from memoir-writing to blogging to what makes a good (and bad) restaurant review. I’ll keep it lively, interactive and fun – promise. I may even sneak in some in-class tastings to help develop our internal restaurant critic.

Have you ever read a cookbook or restaurant review and thought, “I could’ve done that better?” Now’s your chance to make it happen. Learn from an experienced food writer the tips and tricks behind crafting memorable food blogs, memoirs, restaurant reviews, cookbooks and more. (4 Sessions)

Having failed at food, The Rome aims higher

August 29, 2013

I’m not saying I have serious questions about the ability of someone to finance a major demolition and rebuild project downtown with awful/gluten-free pasta, but sure, go right ahead.

The owners of The Rome restaurant have applied for a demolition permit for their downtown building and propose to build a mixed-use development that would have commercial space on the ground floor and three floors of residential units above it.

And really, nobody was fooled by the “renovation” claims.

Friday bites

August 23, 2013

Lots going on right now in Columbia’s food world. To wit:

  • Glenn’s Cafe is moving back to downtown Columbia, specifically the Tiger Hotel. I’m excited, because Glenn’s is pretty darn good food. But be on the lookout for fireworks because from what I can tell, the Tiger Hotel folks have ticked off and/or run off just about everyone they’ve come across (Bleu, local chefs, The Oak Room project, SEC football fans, even – at times – True/Falsers), so a pairing with the reportedly (and contrary to my personal experience) prickly folks at Glenn’s Cafe should be interesting.
  • Logboat Brewing is coming along quite well, thank you very much. Really looking forward to these guys coming on-line.
  • Within the next few weeks – at least in theory – International Taphouse, Gunter Hans and Freebird Burrito will be opening their doors for business.
  • Last but certainly not least, today is Food Truck Friday at the Inside Columbia offices on W. Broadway. At least nine mobile food vendors selling awesomeness in the out-of-doors (and Dennis Clay is doing cronuts!). See you there.

Finally, I’ll be on KFRU at 10:15 this morning. Allegedly we’ll be taking about dining in our neighboring big cities to the east and the west (and maybe Denver?!), but who knows. Simon likes to throw curveballs just for fun.

RIP, Mark Newman

August 22, 2013

Mark Newman, happy-pig raiser and storyteller extraordinaire of Newman Farms Pork, passed away sometime Tuesday night or Wednesday morning. He’ll be missed by food-lovers and chefs around the country and of course most of all by his wonderful family, who the SMEs family have come to know a little over the years. He was a man equally at ease with Mario Batali and David Chang as he was with Ozark bumpkins and, for that matter, yours truly. It’s a very sad day.

Eating to the West, Eating to the East: Part I

August 9, 2013

I’ve not always been the most fervent backer of our neighboring big city to the west. Kansas City comes off sometimes as little more than a confusing tangle of highways and strip malls – it’s pretty unsexy (as I post this police are trying to corral cattle on I-70 in KC…just saying). St. Louis has always felt more like home; Cardinals, Soulard and my first foray into big-city dining after graduating from college. For me, it’s always had more appeal.

Most of this is not Kansas City’s fault. I spend far more time in KC but because we’re virtually always staying with the in-laws and that means dining in. We eat well for sure, but the result is a near-total ignorance of the dining scene. Bluestem? Been twice over the years, and dig it just fine. But after that, I’ve had takeout pizza, middling Mexican and some pretty average bbq (Smokehouse BBQ…blech). That’s no way to explore a city’s culinary offerings.

We spent a few days there recently and made the most of it (and the free babysitter). Here’s what I found.

Real Jalisco
1414 NW 7 Hwy
Blue Springs, MO 64014
(816) 229-8200

I’ll cop to finding this place via Yelp, which comes in handy when you’re already on the road and want Mexican food that doesn’t involve foil packets of sauce. Real Jalisco was highly-rated and allegedly authentic, whatever that’s worth. It’s in a strip mall not far from I-70 near Blue Springs, and that’s worth plenty. Anyway, they came through on all counts.

First, if you put a zucchini flower quesadilla on the menu, I’m gonna order the damn thing, sans hesitation. Best thing was it was delicious – we’ll be recreating it shortly via our three apparently flower-only zucchini plants in the garden. Then, Pollo Tapatio, a smoky, tender grilled chicken breast. Mariposa Jalisco was a perfectly-grilled skirt steak with bracing acidity, roasted tomatoes and Oaxaca cheese and soupy beans. A stunning winner. I ordered Chiles en Ogada, because like that quesadilla, if you put roasted, steak-stuffed poblanos on the menu, I’m going to order the thing. Poblanos, steak, walnut cream sauce, dried cranberries and cooked apple. So different, so wonderful.

2013-07-09 19.10.24

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Hot weather, cool new menus

July 12, 2013

With summer hitting its stride over the past few weeks (though I’ll take 75 and sunny any day), the more nimble restaurant are coming around. Fresh, green and veggie-centered is the way to go right now. Here are a few restaurants changing with the weather:

Wine Cellar and Bistro – The chicken and pancetta ravioli and pommes frites are as pleasing as ever but Chef Craig Cyr has debuted a number of items that showcase the bright flavors of the season in his typically creative ways. A pitch-perfect example recently was a delicately pan-seared piece of halibut served with a lemon balm tartar sauce. A side of grilled, then wine-braised celery was far more interesting than it sounds, and roasted potatoes offered a crunchy, salty contrast. A small plate of beef cheek with spicy kimchi could’ve used a little actual kick but was otherwise delicious. The cornmeal-crusted potato and kale cakes are something we’re going to have to recreate at home. I have heard great things as well about the walnut and sage-crusted duck with grilled red onion and swiss chard. The Wine Cellar isn’t the cheapest spot in town, that’s true. So if budget’s an issue, go for lunch or happy hour. Same food, smaller bill.

Broadway Brewery – The ever-changing, up-and-down brewery/restaurant appears to be in an “up” phase at the moment, at least based on our visit one night last week. Crawfish-stuffed pattypan squash was playful, tender and a breath of fresh air in general (more interesting foods, please!). One gripe is that several of the small plates come served on a bed of arugula. Now I love arugula like a fat kid loves cake, but encountering it on plate after plate is wearying. Maize griddle cakes deliver a peppery punch and are topped with a fried egg and syrup. It’s the kind of sweet and savory pairing that drives some people crazy, but I dug it. Cream of artichoke soup was rich, and thick with fresh artichoke hearts and tender leaves. Mrs. SMEs ordered the salmon, that night’s special, and was only able to finish half of the plate-sized entree, which was served with avocados and pine nuts (one note: if you prefer your salmon on the more done side, order it that way…hers bordered on send-it-back-for-another-minute-under-the-broiler territory). A small plate of meatballs set into a halved, carved-out and roasted zucchini and served with a bbq-esque sauce was a playful and summery take on an otherwise wintery dish. The APA and Wee Heavy beers were tasty in their own right and properly-carbonated (always a crapshoot at BB for some reason).

Note: While Broadway Brewery has a website, it seems their Facebook page gets much more frequent updates. Browse accordingly.

Trey Bistro – I haven’t stopped by Trey Bistro in a while, but have no good excuse. The menu constantly changes and Trey’s an inventive chef – his food is always fun. And look, a snazzy website (with the phone number RIGHT THERE…and HOURS…and the MENU. Take heed, sucky resto websites of the CoMo, take heed.). I’m overdue for a visit – my guess is you are as well.

I’m sure to have missed a few notable menu change-ups. Care to enlighten?

Breaking News from “Portlandia”

July 10, 2013

This is the funniest thing I’ve read in awhile. Mostly because there’s nothing more hilarious than the mental image of some precious hipster fretting about what to do actually do with his Urban Chickens when it’s time to change the bedding in the coop or load the Subaru for the drive to Coachella.

“It’s the stupid foodies,” Chicken Run Rescue owner Mary Britton Clouse also told the news channel. “We’re just sick to death of it…. People don’t know what they’re doing.

Apparently killing and eating the chickens is too much to ask. Hahahaha chicken hipsters.

RIP The Rome – 2008-2013

July 3, 2013

There was a time when The Rome generated some excitement. Italian food! An Italian grandma writing down recipes! And hey, Italian food! Then it opened, and very quickly sucked. The cavernous space sported cheesy “Italian” awnings over the booths. The salads were beyond dull; like a time portal to a salad bar circa 1988. The bar – gorgeous and full of potential – seemed geared more to slinging Bud Lights at the college crowd than putting on big boy pants. And the food, it started out as a total roll of the dice and steadily got worse – though I see on Facebook they crafted something of a gluten free following (nothing better than a gluten free Italian place!). My general take was: either be Bambino’s or aim higher; you can’t do both. I hadn’t been in for four years.

Now, they’re closed, per the website it’s for renovations. Their voicemail says it’s just for the summer. On Facebook they say they’re looking at different locations, to “better accommodate our customer base.” Right. Given the various messages, and the fact that I’ve heard separately that it’s closing for good and that the staff has been let go, I’m calling it. Time of death: none too soon.

Now the question becomes, What should go in there?

Chert Hollow CSA spot

July 3, 2013

Eric and Joanna Reuter of Chert Hollow Farm have let me know they’ve had an extra share in their CSA open up and are looking for an interested customer to step into their place. We’ve been members of the CSA the past two seasons and can attest to the quality and diversity of the produce…it’s really good stuff. More information is posted over at the Chert Hollow site.

‘Cue reviews

June 19, 2013

For reasons I can never quite fathom, Columbia is a bit of a barbecue wasteland. Shotgun Pete’s is pretty good. Rootin’ Tootin’ is solid. After that, you’re largely better off making your own. That came through in this write-up I helped Vox Magazine out with recently. Most of the sides I tried were pretty dreadful, Buckinghams’ coleslaw, jalapeno poppers and fried onion and jalapeno straws particularly so. Blech.

The diamond in the rough, of course, is Lonnie Ray’s BBQ up in Harrisburg (and subject of a nice profile in the Missourian today). It is the best barbecue around, and not by a small amount. Mike cares about the food he serves. Cares a lot. He and Brandon turn out world-class brisket, cool sides and unusual items that’ll keep you coming back (candied Brussels sprouts!). If you haven’t been, or haven’t been in a while, take the 20 minute drive north. You’ll be well-rewarded.


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