The 10 Dishes that Made My Career: Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe

by First We Feast, Alia Akkam

The St. Louis powerhouse talks pierogi, pozole, and paella.

Photos courtesy Sidney Street Cafe

“I tried to escape the restaurant world by going to law school, but it was the pits,” says Kevin Nashan, the Illinois-born, New Mexico-bred, James Beard-nominated chef behind Sidney Street Cafe and the newly opened Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. in St. Louis. “I was meant to cook, I just didn’t know it was in my DNA until I was force-fed it at the Culinary Institute of America, where I fell in love with the kitchen instantly.”

After graduating from the other CIA (you know, the Carrie Mathison one), Nashan’s Hispanic grandfather opened the restaurant La Tertulia, a vibrant hacienda in Santa Fe. A young Nashan spent a good amount of time washing dishes, but he also got experience in all aspects of kitchen life—all while developing a deep appreciation for the chile-inflected cuisine of New Mexico .

Once he realized he wanted restaurants to be his fate after all, Nashan kicked off his career with an internship in New Orleans at Commander’s Palace. Chicago and the great chef Roland Laccioni of La Français beckoned next. Perhaps Nashan’s most “important step” was venturing to Spain, where he mistakenly thought he had secured a stage at Santi Santamaria’s El Racó de Can Fabes. “I knew I had to find something else, so I went through the Michelin guidebook and kept contacting restaurants,” the Nashan remembers. “Martín Berasategui, in San Sebastian, brought me on, and I stumbled upon a year’s worth of learning. I also got to stage at elBulli—before it was popular.”

I OPENED THE PEACEMAKER WITH SELFISH INTENTION. WHAT DID I WANT TO EAT AT THE END OF DAY?

His European sojourn was rewarded with a job in the kitchen of Daniel, but he soon left New York for on-the-rise St. Louis, where he and wife Mina took over Sidney Street Café. Eleven years later, they’ve transformed the Benton Park restaurant into an icon of the region—a destination for dishes like Carolina-style BBQ sweetbreads and pea-filled pierogi with caramelized crème fraîche that embody Nashan’s playful, globally-inspired modern American cuisine. The Peacemaker, an ode to both the humble seafood shack and the nomadic Acadians who migrated to Louisiana from Maine, turns out buttery lobster rolls, po’boys, and freshly shucked oysters.

“I opened the Peacemaker with selfish intentions,” Nashan admits. “What did I want to eat at the end of day? Not a fancy meal. It’s not less work—I could argue that it’s even more—but it’s about figuring out how to cook yummy food and keep the lights on in a fun atmosphere.”

Nashan has certainly solved the conundrum. From childhood bowls of fiery pozole to David Kinch’s graceful assembly of vegetables, the energetic chef—and multiple Ironman vet—recalls 10 of the dishes that celebrate his diverse cultural heritage and far-flung travels.

POZOLE WITH HATCH GREEN CHILE

Some kids grow up with porridge, but since I was in diapers I was having red and green chiles. At my family’s restaurant there is one dish among many that stood out and it’s the pozole with hatch green chile. It was a sort of benchmark of simplicity and comfort. It didn’t matter if it was two or 90 degrees outside, it was one of those things we had three or four times a week. (Photo: James Ransom/Food52)

MOM’S EMPANADITAS

Kind of an empanada, kind of a pierogi, my mom made empanaditas every year at Christmas. They were shaped like a half moon and she filled them with deer meat, beef tongue, applesauce, molasses, pine nuts, and sherry. She always deep fried them. They brought our big family together, so it showed me the importance of tradition. I saw all the meat stewing, but she never told us what it was, and I never really asked. (Photo: Food Network)

DANIEL BOULUD’S ARTICHOKE BARIGOULE

In 1997, a group of Culinary Institute of America students all saved our money to eat at Daniel. It had been a long year and we wanted to treat ourselves to a celebration dinner. To this day, it’s one of my favorite meals of all time. But what stood out in particular was the artichoke barigoule. It was the first time I had experienced an unsung vegetable that way. It was one of those points in my life where I was like, ‘I have to work with this guy.’ Lucky for me, he let me in, and it was amazing. (Photo: Daniel Krieger)

PAELLA IN SPAIN

When I lived and worked in Spain for a year, I came across paella, a dish I thought was familiar with. But it wasn’t until a friend’s family made it for me on an open fire that I realized how much technique went into it. It was communal, complex, fun, and downright delicious. My favorite bites were the ones from the side of the pan that were full of flavor, and both crispy and soft. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

SCALLOPS AT MARTÍN BERASATEGUI (LASARTE-ORIA, SPAIN)

I will never forget my first scallop in the shell, when my sous chef, David, had me shuck it out. It was pulsating in my hand and then he said to eat it. It was so sweet, clean, and briny. You think you have an idea of what a food is, and then you taste something like this and you realize you’ve had impostors your whole life. If everyone ate this scallop, they’d never want to eat another kind. (Photo: Food Nutrition Table)

GRANDMA’S PIEROGIES

My dad is German and Polish, and we would spend summers in Chicago, where my grandmother would make all these amazing meals for family gatherings. She could have bought them, but she wanted to make her pierogies by hand. My favorite was stuffed with shredded pork and caramelized onions, oozing out garlic potatoes. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

ROLAND LICCIONI’S FRENCH ONION SOUP

Liccioni was my main mentor. He took me in, showed me everything, and was meticulous in the kitchen. His French onion soup at Le Français is the cornerstone of my career because it taught me patience and discipline. I had to make it every day, the onions had to be sweated in a certain way, and it was just a pain in the ass. But after a few weeks I grew to love it and it wasn’t laborious anymore. My goal was to make it better each time. You have to understand a dish completely before you can move on. (Photo: lesnomades.net)

JOHN SHIELDS’ CHILLED VEGETABLE “MINESTRONE”

I skipped it this year because I was opening the Peacemaker, but for five years in a row I have had this tradition of staging at a different restaurant on my birthday. One year I did it at Town House, in Chilhowie, VA, and it was just incredible to find that caliber of food in the middle of nowhere. It would be easy to say that John’s minestrone was just another soup dish, but he stacked maybe 14 different types of vegetables with different textures in a pickled broth. Like Michel Bras’ gargouillou, he took such an elegant approach that stood out. (Photo: Starchefs)

GRILLED WHOLE REDFISH AT PÊCHE SEAFOOD GRILL (NEW ORLEANS, LA)

This was a recent meal, maybe about a year and a half ago, and it was similar to eating at Etxebarri in Spain. It showed me how embers can make a fish I have eaten all my life taste that much better. You eat out all the time, and then you taste something like this, charred and so clean underneath, and it just hits you. (Photo: Peche/Facebook)

INTO THE VEGETABLE GARDEN AT MANRESA (LOS GATOS, CA)

I’ve been lucky enough to eat at Manresa four or five times, and David Kinch nails it every time. He’s a cook’s cook, and what he does to vegetables—like in this dish, where there are over 30 of them, all so clean and with different textures—well, it makes you wonder why you do things the way you do. He always makes it look so simple. This dish made me want to be a better cook. (Photo: Manresa: An Edible Reflection, Ten Speed Press)

 

Best Chef St. Louis 2014 – Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe

by Riverfront Times

Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe

It was 2003, and Kevin Nashan had just moved back to town. Hot off the heels of a stint in New York City working under the acclaimed Daniel Boulud, Nashan and his wife had plans to open a restaurant, starting from scratch. Then they were approached by Tom McKinley, who was looking to pass on the torch of his Benton Park restaurant, Sidney Street Cafe. The St. Louis dining scene was forever changed. There’s no question that Nashan’s ten-year run as chef and owner of Sidney Street bears a significant amount of responsibility for the explosion of St. Louis’ culinary scene. Before Nashan, fine dining in this city meant a nice steak and a twice-baked potato. But once he got his hands on Sidney Street, he infused the menu with creativity and finesse that challenged diners to think differently about what a great meal means. It was a gamble. Sidney Street Cafe already had an established clientele and successful business model, but Nashan was convinced he could do something truly magical with the place. Ten years and heaps of national acclaim later, it’s clear that he has.

2014 Feast Awards – Congratulations to the Winners!

by Feast

2014 Feast Awards

Every year we look forward to sharing the Feast 50 issue with readers, not only because it’s our anniversary issue, but also because it’s an over-the-top celebration of our city’s remarkable food-and-drink scene. This year, for the very first time, we are proud to present the Feast Awards, which will become a new tradition that makes the Feast 50 issue that much more special.

In the spirit of celebrating the industry experts who are shaping the St. Louis food community, we chose to give the Feast Awards a peer-to-peer judging structure. We approached seven local industry experts and asked them to weigh in on 25 categories ranging from the finest local chefs and restaurants to the very best wineries and breweries and more. The judges established the initial list of nominees, and after their winners were determined, we launched an online poll to give readers the chance to weigh in as well. Though only one of the five nominees in each category could claim the top spot, we have also shared honorable mentions, which indicate close second choices as determined by the judges. In addition to the judges’ winners, we have included the people’s choice winners in each category.

Feast Award Judges:

Vincent Bommarito III, executive chef and co-owner, Tony’s
Steve Gontram, owner, Five Star Burgers
Dan Kopman, co-founder and chief executive officer, The Saint Louis Brewery (Schlafly Beer)
Cary McDowell, corporate chef, Euclid Hospitality Group
Matt McGuire, director of service, Craft Restaurants Ltd.
Zoë Robinson, proprietor, Bobo Noodle House, I Fratellini, Bar Les Frères
Adam Tilford, co-owner, Tilford Restaurant Group

2014 FEAST AWARDS WINNERS:

Chef of the Year

Judges’ Winner: Kevin Nashan (Sidney Street Cafe)
Honorable Mention: Ben Poremba (Elaia and Olio)
People’s Choice: Josh Galliano (The Libertine)
“Kevin is not only a very talented chef, but he is also a really nice guy who cares about his employees and his community.” – Dan Kopman
“I can’t say enough about Kevin. He represents everything that is right with our industry. He is as passionate as the day is long; always challenging himself and his team, and my goodness, does it show. Sidney Street continues to evolve and reset the standard for fine cooking in St. Louis.” – Cary McDowell

Restaurant of the Year

Judges’ Winner: Sidney Street Cafe
Honorable Mention: Cleveland-Heath
People’s Choice: The Libertine
“It’s so reassuring to see that with constant dedication, patience and a whole lot of love, a restaurant can be propelled into its own. For those who ever questioned Kevin, his brother Chris and his wonderful bride Mina for taking the St. Louis fave and running with it, certainly they have had the last laugh! Proof positive that the ‘family restaurant’ is alive and well in America – and what a gift that we were all able to watch it grow as the rest of the country now takes notice of their finesse and success.” – C.M.

Service in a Restaurant

Judges’ Winner: Niche
Honorable Mention: Tony’s
People’s Choice: Sidney Street Cafe
“I’m admittedly very biased – but Matt McGuire is just fantastic! He has the rare, natural gift of being able to anticipate the needs of his guests, and has a superhuman sense of attention during service. Nobody makes me feel so important.” – C.M.

Feast 50 Q&A: Kevin Nashan

by Feast

Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe

Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Cafe (shot on location at Sidney Street Cafe for our January 2014 Tastemakers Issue)  Photography by Demond Meek

Kevin Nashan
chef-owner, Sidney Street Cafe

Who or what do you believe is a hidden gem in the St. Louis food scene? Nate Hereford. Not necessarily under the radar, but he has helped Niche evolve with my buddy Gerard [Craft]. He flat out has great talent and, more importantly, [is] a [good] person.

What do you think is a definitive flavor of St. Louis? Smoke and hops – both seem to consume our air with amazing breweries and barbecue.

What do you hope to see happen next in the St. Louis food scene? A different winter than last. Selfishly, a great butcher shop by Chris Bolyard, because he has worked so hard for the past three years for that goal. [I] can’t wait to see it come to fruition.
Imagine you have one entire day to dedicate to dining out in St. Louis. Where would you grab breakfast, lunch, drinks and dinner? Start with Half & Half, then coffee at Sump. Lunch would be at Pappy’s and Mai Lee and a snack in the afternoon at Crown Candy. Dinner would be bites at Niche, Farmhaus, Cleveland-Heath, The Libertine and Olio. Finish it up late with an In a Pickle [cocktail] at Taste. And yes, this has been done before; I just wish there were more hours in the day.

What’s playing on the radio in your kitchen? Eminem, Kenny Chesney, Rage Against the Machine and a little Sam Cooke.

What inspires you to do the work that you do? I get inspiration everywhere. It could be a book, person, something I watched, a bike [ride] or run.

If you weren’t in the restaurant industry, what would you be doing? Probably in the CIA. My grandfather was in it for 22 years, and I have always found it fascinating.

Sidney Street Cafe celebrated its 10th anniversary in December 2013. What did celebrating that milestone mean to you, and what do you hope for the restaurant’s future? Lots of emotions. We were so grateful and humbled to be around for a quick 10 years, yet excited for the future because there is so much more we can do to improve and evolve Sidney. I hope we can continue to contribute to the St. Louis dining scene for many years to come.

10 St. Louis Restaurants Growing Their Own Food

by Riverfront Times, Sarah Graham

Cooking with produce, meat and dairy from local farms and growers is a growing trend across the country, but there are several restaurants in St. Louis that are taking this a step further. Gut Check spoke with ten local restaurants that are actually growing their own produce, cooking seasonally, saving money and having fun while they’re at it.

SidneyStreet_PolishedPigMedia.jpg

Sidney Street Café (2000 Sidney Street; 314-771-5777)

Sidney Street Cafe chef Kevin Nashan converted his parking lot into a 100-yard urban garden about five years ago. Each station in the restaurant’s kitchen has its own bed, and Benton Park neighbors who help to maintain the garden are welcome to pick freely from it. The garden grows more than 50 varieties of fruits, vegetables and herbs, depending on the season. Currently the garden has rue, saltwort, borage, stevia, lovage, purslane, hemlock, cumin, dill, epazote, nasturtium, chamomile, magenta lambsquarters, native Missouri black raspberry, dewberry, blueberry, sumac, Dorman red raspberry, sunchokes, Tokyo turnips, beets, Egyptian walking onions, red dragon carrots, cardoons, horseradish, fennel, tomatoes, melons and peppers. Local elementary schools and the Hoover YMCA have visited the restaurant to learn first hand about gardening and healthy eating.

How Chefs Cook with Unripe Fruits, Vegetables

by Bon Appetit, Leah Koenig

If you’ve ever eaten a fried green tomato, that crackly-crusted round of tangy, late summer deliciousness, you already understand the genius of cooking with immature produce. But that’s just the beginning—right now, chefs across the country are challenging the notion that ripe equals right by incorporating all kinds of green fruit, nuts, and vegetables, onto their menus.

Unlike their fully mature counterparts, which are all about sweetness and juice, these tender-footed fruits and vegetables add sour and bitter notes to sweet and savory dishes alike. Here are six unripe ingredients that prove why, sometimes, eating off-peak produce can be just the right thing.

Green Almonds
What they are: Crisp, tart, and covered in downy fuzz like a peach, green almonds can be eaten whole, from the sea-foam-green husk to the tender, milky kernel. They have the watery snap and bright, tangy flavor of a green apple, with just a whisper of almond-y bitterness. In the Middle East, where almond trees grow in abundance, the immature drupes are dipped in salt and oil and eaten as a snack.

How chefs use them: At New York City’s Lincoln Ristorante, chef Jonathan Benno batters and fries soft-shell crab, and serves it with pickled fennel, caper berries, lemon aioli, and—the real kicker—pickled green almonds. The almonds, which he sources from growers in California (“the first time I worked with them was at the The French Laundry,” Benno said), add an element of surprise and intrigue. They also bring a unique flavor reminiscent of fresh cucumber, fennel, and celery. Benno extends the almonds’ season by pickling them in a brine made from water, white vinegar, salt, dill, garlic, and jalapeño.

Use them at home: Since green almonds’ growing window is quite short—typically about six to eight weeks in late spring and early summer—Benno suggests that home cooks pickle and preserve them to use at a later date, like he does at Lincoln. Raw or pickled, the almonds can be sliced into salads or fresh salsa. They also make a fantastic addition to a cheese plate, paired with grassy goat cheeses and melty triple crèmes.

Green Strawberries
What they are: Color-wise, green is a bit of a misnomer here; the unripe version of early summer’s favorite berry is more of a pale, emerald-twinged gold than a true green. But the taste (think the love child of a kiwi and a lemon) and gentle cucumber firmness perfectly embody a sense of bright, ultra-fresh “green-ness.”

Foie gras torchon with green strawberries from Sidney Street Cafe

How chefs use them: Green strawberries are quickly approaching cult-like status amongst chefs. At the Sidney Street Cafe in St. Louis, Missouri, chef Kevin Nashan livens up a foie gras torchon with green strawberry leather and pickled green strawberries. “They lend themselves to so many applications, from pickling to grilling and juicing, and give dishes an unexpected pop,” he said. In the foie gras dish, he said, green strawberries add a welcome vegetal flavor that helps cut through the richness.

Use them at home: Nashan said he loves using green strawberries in combination with rhubarb when making a pie. No doubt a cobbler or homemade jam would also benefit from a hit of green strawberry’s tang. Bonus: If you have a dehydrator, Nashan suggests drying out green strawberries and pairing them with fully ripened strawberries and greens for a salad with layered depth.

Green Papayas
What they are: Thanks to Americans’ longstanding love affair with Thai food, green papaya has gained notoriety as the base of the slaw-like salad, som tum. As it matures, papaya takes on an aggressive orange color and musky flavor. But early on in its ripening journey, it tastes very mild with just a touch of floral sweetness. Looks-wise, its smooth, waxy skin resembles a lime peel, and the pale flesh is crisp with the slightly spongy texture of zucchini.

How chefs use them: In New Orleans, Commander’s Palace chef Tory McPhail moves beyond salad to create a bold green papaya ceviche. Mixed with snapper or mahi mahi sourced from the Gulf, and tarted up with lime juice and Malibu rum, the green fruit ceviche is served with crispy unripe plantain chips (more on those below) and Louisiana hot sauce. McPhail said he loves using papaya at all of its stages, from green to overly ripe, when its juice is perfect for cocktails. For this dish, he said, green papaya’s firm texture is preferable.

Use them at home: Try your hand at julienning the fruit for a green papaya salad, or use the thin strands in the place of noodles. Green papaya can also act as a killer meat tenderizer: purée it in the food processor, then add a tablespoon or so to a pound of ground meat for extra tender kebabs.

Unripe Plantains
What they are: Unlike their vilified cousin, the dry-mouth-inducing green banana, plantains are beloved in both their ripe and unripe forms. The immature version is firm and starchy with a mild flavor akin to potatoes. Not surprisingly, they are treated similarly to spuds, especially in Latin American cuisine, where they are fried into chips or smashed into mofongo with garlic and other savory ingredients.

How chefs use them: As with papaya, texture is McPhail’s favorite aspect of unripe plantains. In the papaya ceviche dish, they add a crunchy base that perfectly complements the bright, tender fruit. “With so many different textures on one plate, your palate does not get tired,” he said.

Use them at home: McPhail said home cooks should try making green plantain chips and use them as a substitute for corn chips in an updated take on homemade nachos (make sure to use a mandolin to get the slices extra thin). They can also be mashed, filled with cheese, and fried into dumplings.

Green Plums
What they are: As glossy and green as a Granny Smith, but about a fifth of the size, unripe plums are eaten throughout the Middle East and Asia. When raw, they are intensely sour and crunchy. Pickling them softens their flesh and dulls their grassy color, but adds a bright acidity and extends their short early summer season.

How chefs use them: At Craigie on Main in Cambridge, Massachusetts, chef de cuisine Carl Dooley layers hiramasa (yellowtail amberjack) sashimi with house-made yogurt, fresh mint, and “little sexy slices of pickled green plum,” which he sources from a nearby Armenian market. “Whether they are paired with raw fish or charred lamb, pickled green plums have this way of pushing and pulling other ingredients’ flavors,” he said. “The sour and floral notes balance out fat and richness really well.”

Use them at home: With an ingredient as unusual as pickled green plums, Dooley suggests letting them shine in simple dishes. Try slicing them thin and pairing them with vanilla ice cream or Greek yogurt and a drizzle of honey. Green plums can also be added to salads or, like rhubarb, cooked down with sugar into a sweet and sour compote.

Fresh Chickpeas
What they are: For anyone accustomed to seeing chickpeas dried or poured from a can, fresh chickpeas, which can be found at farmers’ markets across the country, come as a surprise. The first shock: They are as green as new tree leaves, from their wispy edamame-like pods to the inner legume themselves. Their mildly sweet flavor and hint of nuttiness are equally surprising—and delightful.

How chefs use them: Chef Lee Gross at M Café, a contemporary macrobiotic restaurant in Los Angeles, constructs a hearty salad out of blanched green chickpeas, pearl barley, asparagus, and a lemon-tarragon vinaigrette. “I love how unusual fresh chickpeas are,” he said. “They have the verdant sweetness of a fresh green pea, but the dense creaminess and rugged good looks of a chickpea.” Thanks to his Cali locale, Gross is able to find fresh chickpeas at the farmers’ market from early spring through midsummer.

Use them at home: “Think of them like English peas,” Gross suggested. “Eat them raw, straight from the pods, or lightly steam them.” Fresh chickpeas add heft to stir-fry and curry dishes, and protein to guacamole and salads.

Favorite Restaurant: Sidney Street Cafe

by Sauce Magazine, Meera Nagarajan

SauceMagazine_ReadersChoice2014_v2

Kevin Nashan took over Sidney Street Cafe in 2003. Here he reflects on the lessons he’s learned running the beloved Benton Park restaurant for the past decade.

The greatest lesson Sidney Street cafe has taught me?
Listening to my wife, my brother, back of the house, front of the house, customers. It helps you grow. It makes you better.

The first time we put foie gras on th.e menu, we were so excited and nobody ordered it. Another time, we did a mackerel dish and we loved it, but customers didn’t get it. A year later? Customers wanted it. Sometimes they’re ready, and sometimes they’re not. You have to listen.

Honestly, it’s harder to take over a restaurant because the expectations are so high. You know what’s worked and what hasn’t. You just don’t know if you should change anything. It takes time and a little courage.

When we took over Sidney Street, we were under a microscope, but we knew people would show up because there was an existing clientele. With Peacemaker (Nashan’s new restaurant to open In the coming weeks), we get to be creative instantly with the food. There’s no model to follow.

You always want to re-polish. Before I make a vichyssoise I research it because there’s always room for improvement. You want to respect your craft and the way you do that is by doing your homework.

STL’s Provel vs. KC barbecue

by St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Ian Froeb

Chef Kevin Nashan works at Sidney Street Cafe

Chef Kevin Nashan works in the kitchen at the Sidney Street Cafe on Wednesday morning, April 9, 2014. Nashan has been nominated for a James Beard Award. Behind him is cook Justin McMillen. Photo by J.B. Forbes, jforbes@post-dispatch.com

Gerard Craft is the name most associated with contemporary dining in St. Louis. His flagship restaurant, Niche (nichestlouis.com), offers upscale New American cuisine. Next-door to Niche in Clayton is the casual, family-friendly Pastaria (pastariastl.com), which serves terrific pasta and Neapolitan-style pizza.

The past two years have been especially strong for new spots, including a new home for the Louisiana stylings of locally beloved chef Josh Galliano at the Libertine (libertinestl.com). In a quiet corner of the otherwise bustling Central West End neighborhood is another Southern-food gem, Juniper (junipereat.com).

Ben Poremba serves refined Mediterranean-influenced cuisine at Elaia (elaiastl.com), located near the Missouri Botanical Garden. The adjacent wine bar, Olio (oliostl.com), inside a renovated 1920s gas station, serves snacks and small plates.

An established restaurant that continues to draw acclaim (and crowds) is Sidney Street Cafe (sidneystreetcafe.com) in Benton Park. Owner Kevin Nashan is without a doubt the most respected chef among his St. Louis peers.

St. Louis might not enjoy the same national reputation for barbecue as Kansas City, but the area has experienced a ‘cue boom in recent years. Pappy’s Smokehouse (pappyssmokehouse.com) in midtown is the epicenter of the renaissance; a favorite of Cardinals pitcher Adam Wainwright, it’s famous for its ribs.

Pappy’s pitmaster Skip Steele also operates Bogart’s Smoke House (bogartssmokehouse.com) in Soulard, which features incredible ribs and smoked prime rib. For Texas-worthy beef brisket, head to Sugarfire Smokehouse (sugarfiresmokehouse.com).

No visit to St. Louis would be complete without trying one of the city’s unique foods. St. Louis-style pizza from Imo’s Pizza (the original and most famous vendor, imospizza.com) is distinguished by its cracker-thin crust and love-it-or-hate-it Provel cheese. Follow that up with one St. Louis’ two famous desserts: a frozen-custard concrete from Ted Drewes Frozen Custard or gooey butter cake from Park Avenue Coffee or Gooey Louie.

The BLT Variations

by The Wall Street Journal, Matthew Kronsberg

In one sandwich lies the formula for infinite deliciousness. Try these five recipes for riffs on the classic, swapping out the bacon, lettuce and tomato for new combinations that are both surprising and satisfying

EVEN IF YOU DON’T KNOW the first thing about playing an instrument, you’re probably intuitively familiar with the I, IV, V chord progression. It is the basis of countless pop, rock, blues and country songs—everything from “Let It Be” and “Wild Thing” to John Lee Hooker’s “Boom Boom,” and even “Home on the Range.” The progression is made great not by any particular notes, but rather by how they relate to each other, and how well they take to embellishment.

Think of the BLT as the I, IV, V progression of food—basic and familiar, yet incredibly flexible. The magic of the sandwich is not so much in the specific ingredients as in how they complement one another: the bright, sweet tang and squish of tomato balanced by the salty crunch of bacon; the fresh, vegetal quality of lettuce, which throws both bacon and tomato into relief. Roasted red pepper, arugula and guanciale is really just a BLT set in a different key.

A whole new repertoire of sandwiches is at your fingertips once you understand the interplay between the elements. You can riff infinitely, swapping in new combinations of ingredients—a skill that will be especially useful this summer, since an unseasonably cool, damp spring will surely push prime tomato season back.

FOR BACON, SWAP IN: merguez / gribenes / eggplant ‘bacon’ / pork rinds / seared cauliflower

FOR ICEBERG LETTUCE, SWAP IN: Boston lettuce / sorrel / arugula / kimchi

FOR TOMATO, SWAP IN: butternut squash / beets / roasted red pepper / rhubarb / pickled raisins

PKR (Pork-Rind, Kimchi and Rhubarb)

Kevin Nashan uses rhubarb mayo and kimchi to conjure the sweetness and earthiness of tomato.

Total Time: 15 minutes Serves: 2

Make rhubarb mayonnaise: In a food processor or blender, purée 1 stalk rhubarb, chopped into 1-inch sections, 1½ teaspoons sorghum syrup or molasses, 1½ teaspoons Chipotle Tabasco sauce, ¼ teaspoon salt and ¼ cup mayonnaise until smooth.

Assemble sandwich: Spread 4 slices untoasted white bread with rhubarb mayo. Divide ½ cup kimchi, julienned, 1 bunch watercress and 1½ cups pork rinds between half of bread slices, then top with remaining slices.

 

Live Coverage of Monday’s James Beard Awards, 2 St. Louis Chefs in Running

by Feast

PHOTOS Sidney Street Café Chef Kevin Nashan's

Sidney Street Café chef Kevin Nashan (left) with Niche chef Gerard Craft at a Magnificent Missouri dinner.

In March, we reported that two St. Louis chefs — Sidney Street Café’s Kevin Nashan and Niche’s Gerard Craft — landed on the finalist list for the James Beard Foundation’s 2014 James Beard Awards in the Best Chef: Midwest category.

The annual awards recognize chefs and restaurants across the United States, and this year’s ceremony to announce the winners takes place on Mon., May 5, at 6pm in Lincoln Center’s David H. Koch Theater in New York City.

Feast publisher Cat Neville will be in attendance and live tweeting throughout the evening. Follow Cat on Twitter at @cat_neville and Feast at @feastmag for the latest from the ceremony!

Nashan and Craft are among six chefs nominated in the Best Chef: Midwest category:

Best Chef: Midwest (IA, KS, MN, MO, NE, ND, SD, WI)
Justin Aprahamian, Sanford, Milwaukee
Paul Berglund, The Bachelor Farmer, Minneapolis
Gerard Craft, Niche, Clayton, MO
Michelle Gayer, Salty Tart, Minneapolis
Kevin Nashan, Sidney Street Café, St. Louis
Lenny Russo, Heartland Restaurant & Farm Direct Market, St. Paul, MN

We caught up with Nashan back in March when he first received the news, and he told us: “What a day …. All I can say besides ‘floored’ is grateful and proud of my team at Sidney Street Cafe.” Asked about what this meant for the St. Louis food scene as a whole and the increased national attention, Nashan said, “Well, those drums are just beating a little louder today.”

Craft told Feast that, “It is a pretty amazing feeling to be nominated, especially when there are so many amazing people on the list.”

“St. Louis has been pushing for a while now and like anything great it takes time to see the results. I think everything that everyone has planted is just starting to break through the soil,” Craft said.