One-word Prompt: Storm

This one is almost too easy considering a beast of a storm ripped through the St. Louis area just last night. While we did get crazy high winds at home that tried to rearrange all the flowers and plants on our front porch we didn’t lose power, unlike nearly 100,000 people in and around the St. Louis area.

Large swaths of destruction could be seen both on my evening commute yesterday and my morning one today primarily comprised downed branches and piles of leaves, sticks and trash but there were some major incidents of property damage as well. Some trees snapped nearly in half and one fell over this house only a few blocks north of mine.

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There were several HUGE old trees downed in and near Forest Park. Sad to see such majesty felled so easily. And the property damage continued as some unfortunate citizen had gambled on a parking spot and lost.

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Storms are always prevalent during the Summer months in the Midwest but it sure seems they’ve grown in intensity over the last year. Thankfully my friends and family are all safe today after Mother Nature’s wrath but She’ll be back. She always comes back.

This post was in response to The Daily Prompt.

Storm

Be more Human

By now many of you and much of the entire planet are familiar with the TEDx series, talks given in various forums addressing various topics, all in the spirit of  sharing “ideas worth spreading.” 

A good friend of mine, Eliot Frick, recently spoke at a TEDx event here in St. Louis and he was amazing. His topic was the humanization of business, and if you’re an employer, employee, a leader of people, or even simply a person interested in creating a better future for humanity, I highly recommend you make 20 minutes of free time to watch this video.

I’ve known Eliot since high school, and while I’ve always known him to be brilliant, his success as an entrepreneur here in St. Louis has been a pleasure to watch. In 2004 he started bigwidesky, a marketing company that has evolved into so much more. I count myself lucky that I’ve had many occasion to sit and just talk with him over the years about topics such as Artificial Intelligence, String Theory, philosophy, music and quantum physics. Authors such as Brian Greene, David Foster WallaceDouglas HofstadterRay Kurzweil and Michio Kaku are on my bookshelves because of Eliot.

He doesn’t know I’ve written this today and my intention is not to inflate his ego, put him on a pedestal or spout saccharine platitudes. He certainly deserves the praise he’s received for the work he’s done but he’s not done it alone and he’d tell you the same thing, that he’s had plenty of help along the way. This post today was simply intended to share his message, which I find profoundly inspiring. I hope you do too.

 

Wednesday Eats – The Block

Tuesday night I had the pleasure of dining at The Block in Webster Groves. Voted one of St. Louis’s Best New Restaurants in 2011 and St. Louis’s The Riverfront Times’s Best Neighborhood Restaurant 2012, I may have a new favorite restaurant of my own.

 

 

The Block combines locally grown and raised ingredients in its dishes and locally brewed beers behind the bar. Setting itself apart from most local eateries, The Block also features a full service meat counter where you can buy whole and half hogs as well as cuts of beef and pork from local farms. My dad and step-mom took my girlfriend and me there for birthdayIMG_1693 dinner and it’s one of those places where literally everything on the menu sounds incredible. From the salads and appetizers to sandwiches and full plate entrees, the Block offers what I felt was the kind of comfort food you’d want to cook for yourself at home, but with exotic twists most of us probably don’t have stocking the fridge or cupboard.

We started off with these amazing pretzels, dark and crunchy on the outside, white and chewy on the inside, served with a delicious savory and sweet mustard sauce with some kind of caramelized onions. Wow. My dad and I both commented that we could probably just eat the pretzels and drink beers and be happy! More on the beers later. For the main course my step-mom had the Double Star Farms Amish Chicken: grilled chicken accompanied by Yukon gold potatoes, butternut squash, mushrooms, and arugula with a local honey balsamic reduction.

They have a Grass Fed Beef menu special, sort of like the “catch of the day,” and that night it was a 12oz ribeye, served with garlic herb fries and The Block’s house steak sauce.  Ribeye is my favorite cut so that was a no-brainer and it was cooked exactly how I asked. The meat was smooth and cut like butter though I didn’t even need a knife. I believe the cut of Grass Fed Beef changes, but I will get that ribeye every time they offer it.

The off-the-menu specials were amazing too. We enjoyed a flatbread appetizer with shrimp and roasted red peppers which changes daily, like the Grass Fed Beef on the menu. My girlfriend had pan-seared cod with roasted red potatoes, roasted garlic, shaved Brussels sprouts, wild mushrooms and topped this unbelievable bacon jam (that you can buy in jars from the butcher’s counter, do it!) AND truffle oil! Decadent. My girlfriend and I thought we’d end up sharing but both of us cleaned our plates relinquishing only a bite or two at most.

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My dad had an 8oz sirloin, also cooked perfectly, served with a root vegetable gratin: potato, sweet potato, fennel maybe? And Swiss cheese. The coup de grâce though, was a BIG rib, cooked sous-vide, and riding shotgun along with the sirloin. The meat was falling off the bone as the plate was presented at the table. Amazing. All the meat is butchered fresh, on-site, and again, most of the vegetables were said to have been harvested locally. The Block even has a garden project with the local grade school nearby in the spirit of seed-to-table.

Go to The Block for the food, but by no means ignore the incredible, locally brewed beers on tap. There are a lot of micro and artisanal breweries in St. Louis these days, and most restaurants in town feature at least a couple of selections. At The Block their choices matched SO well with the food. It was masterfully done. IPA, altbier, a vanilla porter (awesome) Perennial’s Hommel Bier (RFT’s Best beer 2012) and multiple Urban Chestnut offerings, including Zwickel, Urban’s “flagship lager.” Cloudy, yeasty, unfiltered, unpasteurized, authentically German, and I swear to you, probably the best beer I’ve ever tasted while eating a perfectly cooked steak. I’m a dark beer guy and they also had Civil Life milk stout, one of my favorites, but the grass-fed beef and that Zwickel were so good together it was almost criminal.

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My folks drove a good hour to meet us last night. They got there ahead of us and had time to meet and talk to some of the staff who were genuinely grateful they’d come all that way to try the place. The Block is co-owned by Marc and Amy Del Pietro and Brian and Lea Doherty. Our server was friendly, knowledgeable, and made excellent suggestions. She even brought us a bit of dessert, complete with a candle, when she found out about our birthdays. A very sweet gesture, pun intended. No, they don’t sing Happy Birthday.

The owners are present and engaging. Everyone there did a nice job of making the patrons feel like guests in their home, in my opinion. Oh, and while they’re making mouth-watering lunch and dinner, The Block makes their own ice-cream too! We will try that on our next visit (maybe even the Bacon Candy Crunch!) but honestly, the Six Row vanilla porter would’ve sufficed as my dessert all by itself.

Come to St. Louis, seek out Webster Groves, and find The Block. You’ll be glad you did, and like us, you’ll be making plans to come back even as you’re walking out the door.

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The Holidays are Upon Us

And yes, Winter is Coming. Officially, Winter is still a month away, the solstice falling on December 21st. Here in St. Louis it’s going to be in the 60’s this week for Thanksgiving which is hardly Winter-like weather. Last Winter was mild, we had barely any lasting snow, so it almost feels premature to say Winter is Coming already, but it is.

One of the ways you can tell around here is that the powers that be begin setting up for the Winter Wonderland in Tilles Park! Acres upon acres of Christmas and holiday lights strewn across a public park, over the river and through the woods, around the lake, o’er hill and dale:

You can pay (a fairly hefty sum, though I think it goes to charity?) to drive through the park and view the shining, flashing, running, festive attraction, or you can pay (an even heftier sum) to take a horse drawn carriage ride through it, but it’s worth it, especially for the little ones or if you’ve never seen the spectacle before.

I occasionally drive past Tilles Park on my way to work and you can see them working on the displays early in the month of November. Once the “show” opens for business, traffic is re-routed through the park and cars, trucks, and buses line up for miles to get in on the busy nights. Driving through this part of St. Louis County during those evenings requires more forethought than usual to avoid the traffic jams.

I’m thankful for the opportunity to live in a city where such events are possible, and I know many families who have made great memories of a trip to the Wonderland. I’m not a huge fan of the Holiday Season, though I’m big on holiday feasting- need to make sure I know the gym hours over this weekend! I hope you all enjoy your family gatherings and if you’re in the St. Louis or surrounding areas, come visit this Winter Wonderland.

This post was inspired by the weekly prompt over at Studio30 Plus. Stop by to read more entries and join us!

Wednesday Eats, Another Review

It occurs to me that I’ve sandwiched a disgusting post about dirty toilets with posts about food, but I kind of like that about myself. Dare to be different, or something. I didn’t use the bathrooms at either restaurant so I can’t say there’s a connection. Anyway…

Had another opportunity to dine out Monday night, this time at a neighborhood Italian “pizzeria & trattoria:”

It’s a very warm, cozy, comfortable little corner place with an upscale menu serving everything authentic you’d expect when you think Italian food.  They advertise supporting local farmers and list the ones whose food they serve and note most of them can be visited via various farmers’ markets around town. St. Louis is big on those markets, one small reason I enjoy living here.

The local farms are featured in the specials but our party opted for menu pasta standards though the quality and taste of our dishes was anything but. Everyone enjoyed their meal and I can say the Eggplant Parmesan was *excellent.* Huge portion of roasted, very lightly breaded layers of eggplant, in a delicious red sauce over spaghetti.

Not an actual image of my dinner but the portion size isn’t far off

We shared (comfortably between 5 adults) an Arancini appetizer that was bigger than a softball, cheesy and served with a just-spicy-enough bolognese sauce. When entrees were served we half-joked about the portions being so big we couldn’t eat everything since we’d already been plied with garlic knots, buttery and a little too dense for my taste, but still a nice variation on a basket of bread.  I commented that I likely *could* eat all of mine, though probably *shouldn’t.* In the end, I *did* because it just tasted too good to stop.

We had a wonderful, mellow, California red wine with our meal and had a really nice time in general, enjoying lively conversation with folks we care about. The restaurant is kid friendly and, even better than the food (which again was outstanding,) was the service.

If you live in or are visiting the St. Louis, MO area, I HIGHLY recommend stopping to indulge in lunch or dinner at Onesto, who is not paying me to say any of this, it’s just that good. You can link directly to their website through their logo above, which I hope I don’t get in trouble for using, lol. The staff was fantastic and took such good care of us that I know I’ll be going back there, and often.

Visit Onesto at 5401 Finkman Street, St. Louis, MO 63109