Monday, November 23, 2015

Main & Mill Brewing Company

240 E. Main
Festus, Mo.
On the Web
Social Media

We've been waiting, for over a year.
This place sounded ambitious. Take an old main street storefront and convert it to a brewery/brew house. . . in Festus.
The Place:
They stripped the interior of building and built it up again. Early on there was a significant delay when someone thought they were at a drive-thru and crashed into
Photo courtesy of
the side of the building, knocking down a few yards of brick. This prompted the owners to go to the city fathers (and mothers) to install large, concrete planters between the building and the street. This has caused some 'discussion' around town, but in my opinion it doesn't appear to be all that inconvenient, excessive or tacky.
They finally opened up a few weeks ago, we thought we'd wait a little bit to work out the kinks.
The job they did was simply amazing. On the inside, mostly brick and heavy wood. The highly lacquered bar and wood tables were made from some of the 100 year old building's original lumber.
The exposed rafters were very much the work of buildings of that time, oversize by today's flimsier standards. The trim was mostly black, window frames, chairs, etc. The brewing equipment was bright stainless steel sitting in the center of the first floor. We went in and escorted upstairs to a large area with a bar and several rows of high bistro tables and chairs. The place was abuzz, about half full at five in the afternoon. The stairs appeared to be original, heavy, old and steep.
We were seated against the wall behind a long, high table and nice chairs. You end up sitting next to strangers along the table, but just because you sit by them doesn't mean you have to socialize with them. . .or even acknowledge they exist. I was fine with that.
A young lady stopped by and handed out menus and asked about drinks. I broke from the traditional, after all it is a brewery, and ordered a 'Session IPA'. It seemed to fit the taste niche I had set my mind on. I don't drink much beer, but when I do, I want it to have a bold flavor. By bold, I mean something with  more actual taste than popular domestic beers. I really, really don't like weak beer.
I once worked at a very large beer company in St. Louis. . . you know the one. . .  so I know a thing or two about. . . business software.  Seriously, in those three years I learned little more than I already knew, which wasn't much,  about beer. I handled the accounting and financial data, not the recipes. I have tried several beers though, I know what I like and don't like. Angel and Adam settled for soda pop. Losers.
The Food:
I'd looked online ahead of time. . . I knew what I wanted. There's not a huge pile of food offerings, but they span a wide enough variety. Sandwiches, burgers, salads, steaks, salmon, etc.
The appetizers looked appealing. . . different. . . oh, no fried ravioli, how odd. But they did have another temptation, Beer Cheese Pretzels.  That's what we ordered. We also called in our entrees, Angel and I asked for the fish and chips, Adam, a House Pub Burger. Fries for Adam and me, Angel wanted the house made chips. No salads please.
I sipped my first beer in a year or so and was greatly pleased. I'd had a few other IPA's (India Pale Ale) in my lifetime, this was a very good one. Hoppy, tasty, not at all dull or bitter. If I had to drink beer more often, this is probably what I'd ask for. As far as the 'brewery' bit goes, it was a home run for the first brewery to open in Jefferson county in 120 years.
Then came the pretzels, long thick sticks alongside a beer cheese bisque dipping sauce. I love a good
soft pretzel and these were certainly good. As good as they were though, the real star of this appetizer plate was the beer cheese bisque. Angel agreed, this was not your standard nacho cheese machine sauce. It had a depth of tastes I can barely describe. Cheese, beer, and something else, I cannot figure out exactly what, veggies, I think, maybe celery and a dot of onion, but I'm pretty sure there was even more to it than that. At the end of the meal, the only thing we boxed up was the remaining half pretzel and the last of the bisque.
We could have stopped right there. It was that good. Pretty soon though, the entrees arrived.
I've been looking for a decent plate of fish and chips. It has been mostly a futile task. The 'chips' are easy, a basic French fry does nicely. It's the fish
that everyone fusses with and fails. Fish and chips are a take away food, like a sandwich or a deep fried Twinkie. They were invented for people on the go. In other words, eaten by hand. That means the fish has to be breaded and crispy. This is apparently, incredibly difficult to do right. Fish, unlike chicken fried steak and Twinkies, is high in moisture. Fish is also crumbly. To make it street-ready, the breading has to hold up to and hold together through all that internal steam.
Main and Mill's fish was absolutely delicious. They served the two large fillets with the obligatory tartar sauce as well as a bottle of malt vinegar. I like both.
At first bite, the breading started slipping off the rest of the fish. As large and as heavy as the cut was, it could not support its own weight. Only a couple of crunchy corners stayed intact. This rendered the notion of dipping the fish into the tartar virtually moot. I tried, part of the fish stayed in the ramekin. This was sad since the taste and texture of the fish itself
was extremely good. I tried cutting it, tearing it, nothing worked, there were fish flakes everywhere, I had to re-wrap the flaccid breading onto the chunks to get a taste of both.
I try to be constructive, so I'd recommend this: Use a slightly thicker batter and definitely use smaller cuts of fish. The average fish and chip aficionado wants to break off a piece, dunk it in tartar without the rest of it falling apart.  It simply must support its own weight.
This is not to say we didn't enjoy the meal, far from it! Adam wolfed down his "good" burger in near record time, no problem there. Angel and I loved the taste and done-ness of the fish, but we were both just a little put off by the sheer clumsiness of it.
Except for the fish batter issues, everything was absolutely great. The IPA and the pretzel were to die for. The decor, the ambiance, were awesome. The wait staff, in our case a capable and friendly young lady name Lexie (Short for Alexandra, or Alexandria, we learned) was exceptional. Why she wants to shorten her solid and proper name like that I'm not sure. I simply won't allow people to call me anything other than my full first name, even though I don't particularly like my full first name. It's almost criminal to chop up a classic name like Alexandria, or Alexandra, whichever it is. However, she did a first rate job waiting on us, chatting when we wanted to chat, she even capably answered a few questions about the bisque and other things, including what her name was derived from.  She definitely deserves a substantial raise.
We will go again, maybe not for the fish and chips, we'll probably try something else. They seem to really care about quality, it shows in their beer especially.  They've done an outstanding job of fixing the place up , no cutting corners, well, short of having an SUV plow into the place. It is classy, tidy and very well thought out.
The bill came in less than I expected, an appetizer, a fine IPA and three entrees for fifty two bucks and change. That's less than we pay at Ruby Tuesday's or other sports casual places.
Definitely going back, definitely recommended!


As noted above, the photo of the SUV inside the building was taken by Denny, one of the owners. I've been following this place on FB since I first heard about it. They updated the progress frequently, including after the accident.  I asked him via FB Messenger if I could use this photo in a future blog post. . . well Denny, here you go. 
Hold it. . . 'Denny'. . . isn't that a shortened version of 'Dennis'?  Grrr....

Main & Mill Brewing Company Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Monday, November 9, 2015


9992 Linn Ferry Drive
St. Louis, Mo.
On the Web
On Facebook

My friend and co-worker Doug suggested this place. Twice. Once a few months ago, then after I forgot about it, he reminded me again. I scanned the online menu and sent Angel a message with the link and one word: "Lamb!"
Her response: "Have you made the reservations yet?"
We watch a lot of food porn on TV and there are certain things that we've decided we'd like to try, but we had to be reasonably sure that the place we tried it was good. We'd hate to try something and not have it again just because it was poorly prepared.
Angel and I both grew up in areas that were decidedly midwestern and non-ethnic in cuisine. So even things that are fairly common in other places, we've just never had an opportunity to try. Like lamb.
I can't say I've never had lamb, but I don't recall ever having it.
The Place:
Not too far from the Concord Grill, just off Tesson Ferry and Lindbergh in South County. Angel recognized it, having passed it many times on the way to clients' homes to pick up or drop off dogs. "I always thought it was a sandwich place." She said. It did look like that, the signage boasted of gyros, sandwiches. and burgers.
Inside though, instead of a deli, it looked more fine dining. White tablecloths (covered with glass) thick red cloth napkins, classic Greek art on the walls, dark wood floors. There was a bar, separated from the dining area by a tasteful glass block wall. Breaking up the ambiance were three large TV's, one above the bar, two in the dining area. All were muted and tuned to college football, three different games as best I could tell by the bright colors of the players' costumes. This is the sort of thing you see in a sports bar. Not even Ruby Tuesday puts TV's in the dining area. They were muted though, so I just ignored them. Overhead, Greek music, all familiar, some would say stereotypical, played from the sound system.
We were told to sit wherever we liked. We picked a table in the back. The dining area was not massive, but it was very well laid out. a couple of dozen four-top booths and tables fit efficiently into the space.  Immediately upon sitting we were waited on by a young lady with definite Greek features, who later told me her name was. . . something. . . I couldn't quite make it out, but it sounded nice. She even told us how it was pronounced "in my country".  She was very nice and attentive, asking about drinks.
Tea, tea, Pepsi.
While we were waiting, a neighboring table was served a plate I couldn't quite make out. the server set it afire and shouted "Opa!", as is apparently the tradition for that particular dish. I later learned that it was called Saganaki, a flaming Greek cheese. WARNING: Greek cheese is apparently flammable!
The Food:
When one of our drinks was delivered (they were having to brew a fresh batch of tea) The menus looked similar to the online version. It listed pasta, pizza, fish, chicken and there it was, lamb.  Two options, shank and chops. The shank was covered in a marinara sauce, which to me sounded a bit over the top. I wanted to discover lamb, I didn't want to swim through spaghetti sauce to find it. It appealed to Angel though. She chose it with the soup and a baked potato. I happily chose the chops, about the most expensive thing on the menu.  I asked our server about 'Greek Potatoes' She explained they were sauteed with onions, peppers and olives. That sounded good, so I went for that, when in Greece. . . goes the old saying. Or was that Rome? I always get those two confused, what with ancient empires and all those crude, cruel and crazed deities. Instead of the soup, I took the house salad. Adam, staying true to form went with the Greek Chicken and the soup.
The young lady asked if we had questions. I did, several, but Angel jumped in and asked for the ravioli appetizer. The toasted ravioli (because, St. Louis) was pretty good, fluffy, yet crispy. They would have been a little better if we'd had something to wash them down with.
Our tea finally arrived, a young man, also decidedly Greek in features, brought the tea. It was rather weak, but it was fresh.
The soups and salads came soon. The soup they'd chosen was a lemon chicken. Small bowls, it looked rich and creamy. The salad was about what I expected, maybe a little less. Mediterranean style salads are usually similar, lettuce, onions, shredded  white cheese, olives, maybe a little chunk of artichoke and maybe a cherry tomato or two. This version contained only the lettuce, onion and cheese. At least the dressing was correct, olive-y. In all a pretty good salad.
Adam and Angel seemed to enjoy the soup. Afterword they agreed that it may have been a little too-lemony.
I made sure to not finish the salad. Often during the week, my entire dinner is a salad. . .well, maybe one with a few more things in it, but I can fill up on a salad.
The salad plate was never taken away, a minor annoyance, but soon the entree's arrived. I had expected three chops and the potatoes, there was quite a bit more on the plate though. The thick, grilled chops, each  about the same diameter as a baseball, were sitting on a pillow of fluffed rice and surrounded by steamed veggies, cauliflower, broccoli (blech), squash, carrots, etc. I would have been happy with the chops and the potatoes, all that other stuff was going to go untouched.
Angel's shank was indeed hidden in a thick layer of marinara. Also surrounded by the veggies.
So, for the first time in my life, that I recall, I carved into some lamb. About an inch thick, with that grilled texture that makes any meat better. It was more similar to beef then pork, but not quite the same. It was not gamy at all. It tasted exactly like a properly cooked piece of meat. I struggled a little finding all the meat on the bone, not being familiar wit a lamb chop cut. In the end it was easier to navigate by picking it up like a chicken leg and gnawing around the curves and corners. I liked it, a lot. Truly a good piece of meat.
The potatoes, what few there actually were, had absorbed those other things it had been sauteed with, a hint of olive and an almost overwhelming amount of onion. . . it mostly tasted of onion.
I like onions, I love onions, I pretty much put onions in everything I cook. But this was a little overpowering. the texture of the potatoes was spot on, they just need to dial back the onions a bit.
Angel seemed to enjoy her shank. There was a lot of red sauce, but that didn't seem to deter her. "Really interesting." Is what she said about it, though conceding she'd probably go for chops or even kabobs the next time. Adam said little about his chicken. "Good." was his total stated assessment. His dinner was served with the same rice bed and steamed veggies.
Since this was more about trying lamb than the restaurant itself, I'd have to say I loved my chops. they were obviously prepared well. So for that, they score 100%.
As for the rest of the experience, well, there's room for improvement. The service was mostly good, our server was very good about stopping by and checking on us, not so great about clearing expended dishes. Nothing major though.
More than anything I got the impression that the dishes were. . . dated. kind of like Beef Wellington or Chicken Cordon Bleu. The beds of rice and steamed veggies seemed to be a throwback to a mid century dining guide. Today's dishes are simpler, cleaner. As I said, I would have been pleased with just the chops and the potatoes. No need for all that other stuff, unless we'd asked for it. The three TV's made it seem like they were going for sports bar, a thing that this place is decidedly not.
however, those are the biggest complaints I can come up with.
Price-wise, well, I did order one of the most expensive things on the menu. So the appetizer and three full entrees came to about $73. Not awful, but for that there was a lot on the plate that did not get eaten.
We may go again. . .

Ari's Restaurant & Bar - Lin Ferry Dr. Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Tuesday, November 3, 2015


1 Ikea Way
St. Louis, Mo.
On The Web

We were very excited about this, we'd been waiting for it for over a year, from the first
announcement that Ikea was opening up a St. Louis location.
It had been nine years, or more, since we'd been to an Ikea.
That one was in College Park, Maryland, about 30 miles north of our house in Calvert County. We went several times during the five years we lived there. It was always more than a mere shopping trip, it was an event. Angel and I are not 'shoppers'. Rare is the casual trip to one or more stores just to browse. Ikea has always been different though.
We'd always stop in the cafeteria and order Swedish meatballs, maybe a sweet dessert.
Then we'd take the tour. We sometimes bought flat pack furniture, but the real delight were the small things, clocks, lamps, office storage stuff, pillows, etc. We'd marvel at the tidiness, efficiency and pleasant forms in the small rooms in the big store.
A casual search around our house, even now, will reveal several Ikea-unique products.
The new location finally opened a few weeks back. We were patient, there was an absolute frenzy for the first few weekends, the crowds made the news.
Ikea was founded in Sweden in 1943, during that cold country's darkest unpleasantness. Most people consider it a Swedish company still, though it is now multinational, headquartered in the Netherlands.

The Place:
Just north of I-64 off of Vandeventer Ave. You can't miss it. The signage and lighting are big and bright.
It was well received when Ikea announced they would be building in downtown St. Louis. There's been a lot of flight and blight in the past several decades. Metropolitan St. Louis has been expanding though, mostly westward, toward and into St. Charles County. This location, just a hop and a skip from the Arch should be a real shot in the arm for the downtown economy.
Oddly enough, Adam had never been to an Ikea. All those trips we made in Maryland, he'd never gone. So we left our house early, around four thirty, so we'd have plenty of time to browse and still get him home in time to go to work. Trying to use Tina-Tina in Angel's SUV proved useless (Her Tom-Tom GPS device tuned to a naggy female voice) since the store's listed address is "1 Ikea Way" Tina-Tina hasn't had a map upgrade in over a year, it wouldn't have a less than one year old road in her database. . . Instead, Adam served as navigator, using his smart phone's GPS and maps. It knew where "1 Ikea Way" was.
The parking lot revealed hundreds of cars, but there were still a few good spots not far from the door.
We went in on the ground floor (1 of 3) and rode up an escalator to two. There was a lady handing out maps and answering questions there. We located the massive cafeteria and got in line. Yes, a line of dozens of people ahead of us. There were poles and ropes set up in an infuriating zig-zag to keep everyone in line in a relatively small area. In the very large dining area there were scores of people and families, from about a dozen or more discernible ethnicities. I remembered this from the College Park store as well, a big draw for a very diverse customer base. College Park is, as the name implies, a big college town. (enrollment 34,000+) "1 Ikea Way" is very close to St. Louis University (enrollment: 13,000+) This is relevant since Ikea's products are made for small, efficient apartments and rooms, which are common up near the arctic circle, not unlike college accomidations. It's a match made in heaven.
Adam's been looking into getting his own place, maybe an efficiency or studio apartment closer to his work. He values efficiency and convenience as well.
The Food:
A no-brainer. For myself and Angel, Swedish meatballs and mashed potatoes. She added a side of mac and cheese, I added a salad. We both grabbed a slice of garlic toast, she also pulled out a violently-sweet looking chocolate cake. Adam, predictably picked out the chicken tenders and fries. Also available were some veggie wraps and some salmon dishes. It's not a huge selection, but there's certainly something for just about anyone.
For drinks, I smartly chose the grind-and-brew-right-into-your-cup, coffee. Angel and Adam were stuck with Pepsi products.
We found a table near the big window.
The first bite of the small, gravy'd meatballs sent be back in time and place. . .
I have admired and respected the Scandinavian lands and cultures for many, many years. Even to this day. I'm one year into my 'translated Scandinavian crime novels' theme of reading material.  It all started when I was quite a bit younger and I discovered Sweden's finest export and pop mega-phenom, ABBA.
Yeah, ABBA. You have a problem with that? Well, do you? (pause for a self-empowering 'Fernando'
Actually I discovered them about the time they were breaking up, in the early 80's. I did buy all their albums though. I have since collected everything they ever released, even solo works in Swedish. Also a few documentaries and video DVD's, including a questionably sourced copy of ' ABBA The Movie'. As recently as last Christmas, Angel gave me a coffee table book of photos from the group's heyday.
There is, of course, quite a bit more to Sweden than ABBA, or so I am told, but this was where my infatuation with all things Scandinavian began.
Hmmmm, we've drifted off course here. . . back to the food.
The salad was quite good, though I was disappointed to only be able to find two kinds of dressing, a raspberry and a balsamic. There may have been more. The salad was fresh and crisp though.
The little meatballs were smooth, creamy and delicately spiced. No heat or punch, just mild, comfortable and cozy. They contained beef and pork, but the mix is thorough, not a pairing of flavors or textures, more of a perfect, harmonic blend. The gravy was the same, nothing striking or pronounced, just smooth and mild. This dish makes me think of cold, dark days. . . a plate of comfort, like a cozy blanket for your shivering soul.
The mashed potatoes were not laced with garlic, or cheese, or anything else, just creamy, buttery and
The serving, at first glance, seemed rather small, especially compared to meat and potato offerings at American-style eateries. . . but the meal was indeed quite filling and satisfying.
I sampled Angel's mac and cheese, smooth and creamy as well, perfectly acceptable without being remarkable.
She shared the cake around, not as violent as it appeared, not overly sweet at all. Quite tasty, especially with the bold coffee. .
Oh yeah, that coffee. . . The dispenser had a touch screen that let me choose espresso or American. . . I picked the latter because I would need to get some sleep sometime during the next week. . .
Fabulous, fantastic, perfect. I even lingered over the cup after Adam and Angel finished and headed off on the tour.
Lingered, lingered. . .  Oh yeah, that reminds me. On the plate with the meatballs and mashed potatoes was a small dollop of lingonberry jam.
Lingonberries are quite common in Scandinavia, they thrive in those northern latitudes. Lingonberry jams are quite simple, just berries and sugar. They are somewhat raspberry-ish, though much less tart. It's not a strong taste. I think most Americans would enjoy it quite well on a biscuit or pancake if it were more common here. So go ahead, don't be afraid, it's not that strong of a taste.
I knew what the meal would be going in. My only negative comment would be that the meatballs were not as warm as they could have been. Servings are plated from small steamer baskets, mine had apparently been there for a while. Not really cold, just not quite up to optimum serving temperature.
The place is huge, with multiple seating options, even rows of easy chairs. It's a bit noisy, like a cafeteria or food court, but tolerable being as it is so vast. Everything appeared to be clean and the cafeteria was very well staffed. There was a shortage of dessert options, the lady at the register had said that there were lines for the cafeteria since the store opened that morning. Desserts are time consuming to prepare and bake, so it's quite understandable that those will run out most often.
The prices are more than reasonable. The meatballs and potatoes were $4.99 and the sides just as reasonably priced between two and five dollars. (The cake was $3.29)
On the way out of the store, you can grab frozen/bagged versions of almost everything. We grabbed meatballs and a gravy packet, we also grabbed some of the coffee. Mmmm, it was good.
The whole Ikea experience is amazing. It's more like a tour than a shopping trip. There are interesting little things, kitchen and bathroom gadgets, stuffed toys, mugs, pans, glasses, lamps, clocks. . . We managed to half fill a blue bag. No flat pack furniture this time, but we did see a couple of things we're going to take measurements for.
Highly recommended, better at off-peak times.