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Oct 5, 2007 06:03 PM

A (mostly) St. Louis report

We had breakfast at Rooster, which someone on this board put me onto because they have bacon from a local supplier called Hinkebein Hills. The bacon was indeed very good (more on that later) and the crepes were excellent. A few days later, Riverfront Times named it Best Breakfast of 2007.

The friends we visited took us to a Vietnamese place they like that actually turned out to be Chinese and Vietnamese and I felt was not very good. Another night, we went to Cafe Brasil. We ate there maybe 4 years ago when the place was very small, but it has expanded hugely, offering churrascaria and losing its liquor license in the meantime. That was a nasty shock when we sat down and expected to order caipirinhas. Personnel was cagey about why they could offer no beer, wine, or liquor. My expectations about the food weren't high after learning of these developments, but it was solidly okay. Truly awful decor.

Our friends also really like Racanelli's Pizza, which is in their neighborhood and purports to be New York style pizza baked in a brick oven. Yeah, that's complete [swear word edited out]. I can eat the worst of pizza, so had no problem getting it down, but it's nothing close to what they advertise, and the cheese is really fluffy and just plain weird, like it was whipped with eggs or something.

We went to the Wednesday night farmer's market at the Schlafly Brewery and bought many pork items from the Hinkebein Hills guy: Cured bacon, P.R. bacon (this compares to rashers), Italian sausage, and bratwurst (because I love brats). We toted it all to Iowa and really liked it all.

I was struck by how tiny this farmer's market is. My friend toted along a lot of fabric shopping bags in preparation, so I was expecting a larger market. I was really impressed by the chocolates made by Kakao. I asked the woman at the stand a lot of questions. They are a very young company, so their prices are still pretty low. I'd jump on that, because the truffles were excellent. I asked her what kind of chocolate they use -- it's combinations of Scharffenberger, Cluizel, E. Guittard, and others. The flavor profile of a particular brand may clash with the filling, so they tailor a different combination of couverture for each type of truffle. I was very impressed with them and will definitely be ordering their chocolates in the future.

There was a guy with homemade gelato, which I didn't try, but he had cannele, which I can never pass up. It really suffered in the heat and storage, however.

Visited Jilly's Cupcake Bar in St. Louis, which been open only for a few months. The cupcakes, especially the plain chocolate/chocolate frosting and vanilla/vanilla frosting, are outstanding. Pricy at $3 (a bit more for the more frilly combos, which are of varying success but also tasty), but big and substantial and delicious. We also had a Monte Cristo that was pretty good, accompanied by a very delicious slaw. Great place, and I would definitely make this a daytime hangout if I lived in St. Louis.

In Iowa City, I visited one of my old favorites, the New Pioneer Co-Op. Still a decent store, but their cheese selection has really gone downhill. I did fine one fantastic cheese (Robiola) I hadn't had before.

On the next required trip to St. Louis and Iowa, I plan to try Lincoln Cafe in Mt. Vernon, Iowa (which is owned by the friend of a friend -- I've had his fantastic cooking, but at a friend's home, not at the restaurant). Also am interested in Devotay in Iowa City. Maybe a tonier St. Louis restaurant next time when the tyke is not so squirmy. The folks at Niche were very nice on the phone and said they'd welcome my 2 year old, but confessed that they don't see many kids. I didn't want to inflict my pre-cooperative kid on fine diners. I was also a little less interested upon finding out that they don't currently offer the dish that has bacon ice cream as one of the components.
Lincoln Cafe:

I would add links to locations, but frankly, the "Link to a place BETA" is extremely buggy, and I don't have the time to screw around with it. I tried.

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  1. That fluffy cheese on your pizza is a St. Louis favorite called "Provel". It's processed cheese of some combination. I never got used to the stuff!

    13 Replies
    1. re: Pat Hammond

      No, it's mostly Imo's that uses Provel. Racanelli's even says on their website that they use 100% mozzarella.

      1. re: Atomica

        Well, you dodged that bullet! Next time you go, give Frank and Helen's on Olive a try. It was always a favorite. Broasted chicken, too!

        1. re: Atomica

          Just out of curiosity, did you perhaps order a "white pizza" or spinach pizza. Because I believe that is made with dollops of ricotta that has been beaten with an egg or milk. It's different, but good for a veggie pizza. But definitely NOT a regular cheese pizza.
          Thanks, p.j.

          1. re: p.j.

            No, it wasn't a white or spinach pizza, and it wasn't ricotta, but I appreciate the post. They were regular cheese (Racanelli's claims 100% mozzarella). Someone on a different board mentions Il Vicino in Clayton, MO as having very good pizza.

            1. re: Atomica

              There are a couple of good places in the pizza wasteland that is most of St. Louis. LaPizza on Delmar & Napoli in St. Peter are two. Il Vicino sounds great but I have never been there; the same wih Pizzarelli's way out in Ballwin(?).

              1. re: Richard 16

                Both of Richard 16 suggestions are spot on...
                Don't bother with Pizzarelli's, Racanelli's is much better for that style.

                1. re: FriendOfTheDevil

                  ...and the other he mentioned, La Pizza is better still. The owner used to work at Racs until going out on his own do to the falling quality as they expanded.

                  1. re: bobzemuda

                    I'll vouch for La Pizza. Had some while watching the Indians boot the Yankees out of the playoffs and it made an enjoyable evening even more so. It's good NY style pizza, not to be confused with the thin crust pizza that is so popular around here.

                    La Pizza
                    St. Louis, Mo, St Louis, Mo

              2. re: Atomica

                I've often recommended Il Vicino on this board. They have a wood-fired oven, and a fairly creative menu. What I appreciate is that they will make any pizza in a "small" size, even tho' the menu indicates that only the Pizza Margherita is available that way. I am also working on portion control.
                Their spinach salad is good, as well. I always get the pesto dressing on the side. Excellent for dipping the foccacia, even though that clearly defeats the purpose of putting the dressing on the side!
                Take care, p.j.

                1. re: p.j.

                  I used to go to Il Vacino all the time until Dewey's opened. They both do similar things for me, but Dewey's has better beer -- and I'm sorry, but what's better than beer with pizza?

                  1. re: bobzemuda

                    Although last time I went there, they informed me they no longer carry Bell's on draft.

                    1. re: sheriffblalock

                      I'm glad I'm not the only that was hurt by that. New Belgium over Bell's? no way!

                      When I went to Traverse City Michigan earlier in the year, we made a detour through KZOO just so I could see the Bell's Eclectic Cafe. I had so many awesome beers there that you can't get in St. Louis it was unreal. I wish I'd have brought more back with me.

                      anyway...the new growler's list includes a few Bell's now including the two-hearted, but unfortunately it's not draught like it was at Dewey's.

                      1. re: bobzemuda

                        Two Hearted is likely my single favorite beer, I was crushed when they switched. I don't like Dewey's as much as most people, their crusts tend to lack character. Maybe I should order a pie and eat it there sometime to give it a true test.

        2. The original comment has been removed
          1. Ah, I'm glad you got to try Kakao. I've had a few of their chocolates and all were very, very good, and they're such nice people. If you're brave, order their hot pepper chocolate, but be warned: they're not joking around. It's hot! A great melding of flavors though, the heat of the peppers with the smooth, dark chocolate.