Monthly Archives: March 2014

Cedar Lake Cellars

We couldn’t have had a more perfect morning to drive the 50 minutes out to Foristell to have brunch at Cedar Lake Cellars. I have been there several other times to enjoy a glass of wine with friends, but I was unaware that they served Sunday brunch until it was suggested that I try it. The setting is beautiful with a newly built indoor restaurant and bar that opens to an outdoor, covered patio. Next to the patio is a large grassy area with Cedar Lake Cellars front entrance+picnic benches, chairs, and fire pits that back up to a beautiful lake complete with a dock that offers even more seating. Live music is often playing when the weather is nice and a second outdoor bar makes it easy to access wine, beer, and wine slushies (that’s right, wine slushies!).

Brunch is served from 11a.m. to 2p.m. on Sundays for $18.95 per person and we arrived at around 12:15p.m. without a reservation, although it is recommended that you make one. The hostess found us a table outside and offered to move it into the sun for us which was appreciated. She instructed us that our brunch would come with a Bloody Mary, Mimosa, or a glass of wine and that we could find plates inside next to the buffet.

We went to the buffet right away but we were unable to find plates where we were told they would be. We asked a waitress who said that they were running out but that she would try to find us more. She did come back after a few minutes and we proceeded to fill our plates with food from the buffet since the omelet line was several peoplCedar Lake Cellars buffete deep. Nothing on the table was labeled so I took my best guess at choosing vegetarian-friendly items. The bowl that should have been filled with biscuits was empty but the dish of macaroni was brought out while I was standing there so I helped myself to a serving of that as well as broccoli salad, marinated eggplant and onions, and potato casserole.

We sat down at our table and ate while we waited for a waitress to come take our drink order. The potato casserole and broccoli salad with poppy seed dressing, cranberries and pecans was good but just about everything else was disappointing. The marinated eggplant was spongy and had not been cooked while the macaroni was covered in sauce that tasted like Alfredo sauce from a jar and was cold (even though I watched it come out of the kitchen). My husband had beef stroganoff and didn’t touch it after the first bite. By now we had been at the table for 20 minutes and we were starting to feel thirsty but we decided to wait a bit longer, just to see what would happen.

We went back for more food and since there was no line at the omelet station, we headed that way. There were two pieces of French toast left sitting in a pan so I helped myself to one of those and then placed my omelet order. Since there were only 4 choices of toppings (cheese, turkey, red pepper, and red onion), the decision wasn’t difficult. My husband asked if they had tomatoes but the chef informed us that they “ran out a few days ago.” I know it is a small town but I have to assume that they have access to a grocery store every few days.

We went back to the taMimosa and Bloody Maryble where our old, dirty plates were still sitting and decided to flag someone down for drinks. The hostess happened to be the closest to us and she apologized, took our plates, and promised to send someone over. We ate our rubbery French toast and omelets which were good, despite the odd toppings. After 10 more minutes without drinks, we asked to speak to a manager who proceeded to apologize and offer us our drinks as well as a free meal. While we waited another 10 minutes, my husband went to get dessert. He returned with freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, fruit, and bread pudding. Since there were no serving utensils, he used his hands to pick up the fruit and cookies. Finally, 50 minutes after we were seated and 30 minutes after we first started asking for drinks, our Bloody Mary and Mimosa arrived from an apologetic waitress.

I can count the times that I have complained to a manager on two fingers and while it was appropriate that we did not pay for our meal, we could have left on our own without paying and no one would have noticed the difference. While I would return for a drink on a nice day with a group of friends, Cedar Lake Cellars is just too far to drive to ever give it a second chance for brunch. I have seen them host large events in the same space where brunch is held but they seemed incapable of serving the number of people that showed up this morning. Aside from improving the service, simply stocking the buffet would have easily made this a more enjoyable experience.

Cedar Lake cellars is located 11008 Schreckengast Rd Wright City, MO 63390

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Olio

Olio by dayHoly delicious! This is the first thought that pops into my head when I try to think of a way to describe Olio. When pulling up to this restaurant, one may ask themselves how something so amazing could come from what once was a small, average gas station. Well to answer your question, this Old Standard filling station was converted into a restaurant after sitting vacant for 30 years. It was then connected to the building next door where its sister restaurant, Elia is located. Many of the original features in the main dining area of the building were left as is, while others had to be rebuilt. Coupled with soft lighting, quiet music, and creative décor, the atmosphere at Olio is like none other in St. Louis.

Olio does not take reservations so with fingers crossed, we arrived at around 6:30 pm on a Tuesday and were immediately seated with our food and drink menus. The beer offerings are a bit pricier than one would expect to find in St. Louis but the selection is unique. The extensive wine list, managed by renowned sommelier Andrey Ivanov, features wine and bubbly from around the world. We were fortunate enough to meet Andrey, who graciously volunteered to take us on a tour of the wine cellar that sits beneath Elia. The cellar houses beer, wine, bubbly, whiskey, a bit of produce, and even a giant red boiler that was kept from the original setup. Outside of the wine cellar is a private dining table that can comfortably seat 14 people.

The infamous burrata

After a long deliberation about the drinks, we went with a Weihenstephaner “Korbinian” doppelbock beer for my husband and Giusti and Zanza “Nemorino Bianco” wine for me; both did not disappoint. We were told that the dishes are meant to be shared and we ended up choosing four. Our first dish, and the best thing that I have eaten since my blogging adventure began, was the burrata. These two heavenly pieces of cheese were drizzled with the most delicious olive oil and spice which made them slightly sweet. I went to bed that night thinking about this dish and I would return for it alone. Next, we moved on to the hummus with chopped nuts, smoked paprika, and noticeably high quality EVOO. The hummus was cold and silky smooth and balanced with just a bit of crunch from the nuts. It was served with fresh bread that had a perfect crisp crust and a soft center. My husband then chose the Turkish flatbread with beef and cilantro which I obviously had no part of while I went for the cauliflower tartine. This is best described as a cauliflower salad with a hint of curry served on three pieces of the same delicious bread that came with the hummus. While this was tasty, I just could not stop thinking about that burrata!

Because we were having so much fun we decided on another round of drinks and a dessert. We shared a white chocolate raspberry “pie in a glass” that was created across the street at La Patisserie Choquette. This small dessert was the perfect end to our meal.
While I was sad for this night to end, I know I will be returning for a glass of wine on the [surprisingly large] patio once the weather warms up!
I wanted to give a special shout out to Andrey for walking us through the space and making it feel like home.

Olio can be found at 1634 Tower Grove St. Louis, Mo 63110

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Frida’s Deli

Some of you may know that I recently remodeled my kitchen. During the 4 week renovation, I ate out, A LOT! In my quest to get my waist line back in check, I challenged myself to a two week, healthy eating challenge. In order to satisfy my goals and my desire to blog, I chose Frida’s Deli in University City as my pick for the week.

Fridas 3
Sweet Zinger Juice

I will preface my review by saying that this is not the first time I have been to Frida’s. In fact, as a vegetarian living in U City, I was one of the first people in line when I heard that there was a vegetarian restaurant just blocks from my doorstep. However, I was less than thrilled with my first experience and it took me about a year and a half to come back. Nevertheless, I returned with an open mind and I could not have been happier about my experience. With a space that has more than doubled in size, menu items that have been refined, and service that has had a chance to get the kinks worked out, Frida’s has turned into a place where I can see myself being a regular customer.

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Mushroom Reuben Sandwich

Don’t let the idea of a vegetarian restaurant scare you. While they do serve some meat substitutes, they also serve great dishes that involve no meat at all such as falafel wraps and Caprese salad. This restaurant is all about options and most meals can be customized for those wishing to eat clean, raw, avoid gluten, or go vegan. Food is purchased from local shops and is organic whenever possible.

Frida's Kale Chips
Spicy Cheese Pizza Kale Chips

I started my meal off with fresh juice where you have the option to choose a menu item or develop your own creation. I chose Sweet Zinger juice made from apples, carrots, and ginger which was delicious and had a spicy kick. I then ordered the Mushroom Reuben sandwich. You may be asking yourself, how does a vegetarian get away with ordering a Reuben? Well this sandwich is made with mushrooms, Swiss cheese, avocado, tomato, sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing, all between two pieces of grilled pumpernickel bread. The sandwich was served with a side of hummus and sliced, raw zucchini. The zucchini had a very mild flavor and soft texture which was a nice variation to raw veggies that are more commonly served. I also added a side of the spicy cheese pizza kale chips which were really flavorful and felt more substantial than what I’ve ever been able to make at home.

After my second experience, I’d definitely return to Frida’s and recommend it to anyone looking for a new spot in the area. It gets a bit crowded at lunch time but I think that just means that they are on to something good, right?

Frida’s Deli can be found at 622 North and South Road, University City, Mo 63130

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Southwest Diner

I have received several recommendations about restaurants to check out but today’s pick is the only spot where multiple people have told me that this is a “must try”. Southwest Diner, appropriately located on Southwest Ave. in South City, is tucked between several houses with only a cactus out front to give it away as something special. We chose to attempt brunch on a Saturday around 11a.m. but apparently our idea was not so unique. The restaurant was full when we got there and remained packed for the entire two hours that we were there. My biggest complaint of the day is that there is no waiting area so if you are seated at one of the unfortunate tables by the door, be prepared to have waiting patrons towering over your table. On the plus side, the wait moved relatively quickly and there was plenty of unique Southwest décor on the walls to capture our interest while we waited.

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We were seated and quickly greeted by our waitress who provided us with great service throughout our entire meal. As we looked over our menus, I sipped on Kaldi’s coffee while my husband had a beer-mosa consisting of OJ and Schlafly Hefeweizen. While I prefer a Bloody Mary as my breakfast drink of choice, this was definitely an acceptable alternative. We also ordered an appetizer of sopapillas which are very light, puffy, doughnut-like pastries that came accompanied by a bottle of honey. This created a sticky mess of deliciousness that would have probably been more appropriate for the end of the meal but let’s be honest, I would eat these 24 hours a day if I had the chance.

Our food arrived quickly and a giant enchilada-style, New Mexican breakfast burrito with calabacitas (an assorted mix of corn, squash, zucchini, and onion) was placed in front of me. In addition, the burrito was filled with eggs, home fries, cheese, and green chilies and topped with salsa and melted cheese. While I lost the battle with this giant, spicy, yummy burrito, the leftovers made a perfect late-night snack. My husband went for the Grande Egg Combo: complete with two eggs, breakfast sausage, home fries, and a short stack of buttermilk cornmeal pancakes served with an optional side of cream cheese butter. We both agreed that his dish could have used a bit of sauce or spicing up of some sort but luckily each table had about 5 different sauce options and the Cholula hot sauce really helped. The cornmeal pancakes tasted just like cornbread but were a bit more dense and soaked the cream cheese butter and syrup right up. Even though my stomach felt like it was going to burst, I could not stop stealing bites of the pancakes from my husband.

Southwest Diner provides the perfect twist to your average breakfast and diner fare and it comes at a reasonable price. Thank you to everyone who suggested this spot. Please share this review and keep the ideas coming!

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