Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Poppy’s Ristorante

2000 N. Truman Rd.
Crystal City, Mo

We’re back!
Thanksgiving weekend we didn’t go out, no need to, we’re crazy for turkey leftovers. Last week Angel and Adam were in Springfield, Mo. to attend a baby shower for her son and daughter-in-law’s fairly soon to arrive daughter. I stayed at the compound and attended to the needs of the seven or nine dogs, subsisting on home-made Chinese, rice, sweet/sour chicken and turkey-scrap wontons. Angel and Adam would be having the real deal, as is tradition whenever any of us go to Springfield . She would be bringing some back, which is mandatory, and I wanted to compare my rice to the Queen City’s best effort.
Earlier in the week I received an email from Poppy’s, a free pasta dish coupon on account of my upcoming birthday. I’d filled out a card last time we were there. I even entered my actual birthday on it. Sometimes I am less than honest when filling out those things. Usually I also put a phone number that is less than completely accurate. The number is in my name, it’s just that it’s only connected to a fax machine that Angel uses for her business. It’s usually turned off anyhow. And the email address I give out goes to an account that I only check once per week or so. I don’t know why I go to such great strides to mask my true identity, just habit I guess. Oh yeah, and because I don’t like junk-mail and solicitor phone calls. The fake birthday thing I can’t really explain though.
So with the coupon, I figured this was a sign from above that we should go to Poppy’s. Actually it’s more a technical feature of Poppy’s marketing strategy than divine behavior, but still, it solved the problem of where to go. I’ll probably get more of these things over the next few months from other restaurants as my many fake birthdays approach.
The Place:
The place is gorgeous, charming, warm and welcoming. Hard to imagine from the inside that it’s next door to a bowling alley. Go to the place’s web site to see some pictures if you haven’t already. Wood, lots of wood. The centerpiece, a thick German-looking stag-adorned mirrored hutch is prominent. The artwork is classy and well thought out.
It was about half-full when we got there, which was a bit later than usual. Angel needed to make a quick stop on the way to pick up some medicine for one of the dogs. Poor Deedee was suffering from a bug and exploding from all ends earlier in the day and Angel’s friend and comrade from CARE had just the dope she needed.  Unfortunately, since CARE’s shelter is well south of DeSoto in Washington County, this meant it was not really ‘on the way’ at all, it was in fact about an hour and a half from the time we left the house till we got to Crystal City. For those of you in Kentucky, it would be like driving to Hopkinsville by way of Mayfield, or in southern Maryland, like going to Annapolis via D.C.
Poppy’s is beautiful though, and they make awesome food.
As could be expected, there was Christmas music playing softly throughout, not a bad mix altogether although when ‘Santa Baby’ came on I wanted to throw a chair at something.*
The Food:
I wanted something different, so I scanned back in my top-secret notebook to see what I’d had the last time. Cannelloni, loved it. Adam asked for what he’d ordered as well, and recalled it fondly.
Scanning the menu anew I was rather indecisive. We ordered our tea, tea and Coke and shortly they arrived along with a basket of rolls and faux-butter packets. The rolls were near baseball sized and not too fluffy. They were not heavy at all but they were more substantial than the flour clouds that some places serve. I finally decided on the Shrimp Fettuccine, the waitress returned to take our orders. I let Angel order first, since I’m a proper gentleman, and as she spoke I looked down at the menu once again. The description of the Fettuccine popped up at me: Shrimp, mushroom, garlic, broccoli in a light cream sauce with provel cheese. I panicked. It was my turn to order having just discovered that my chosen dish was contaminated with broccoli! 
“And for you sir?” The young lady asked.
“Uh, the uh, Cannelloni.”
That’s right, I once again crumpled under the enormous pressure.
Angel looked at me, baffled, after I finished my order.
“I thought you were going to get something different.” She scolded.
“I’m fine.” I replied confidently.
Greek Salad
Angel and I had ordered the Greek Salad as a side, Adam the cheese, potato and bacon soup. Angel and Adam’s meal allowed for two sides, they each chose the day’s vegetable, broccoli.
The salads and soup arrived in good time, while waiting Angel and Adam played with their phone apps again, leaving me to scan the room and quietly absorb the ambiance. My phone doesn’t have apps, or a data plan, it may as well have a rotary dial and hopelessly tangled cord.
The bread was awesome, the salad delightful, with just one problem. The crisp and attractive salad was served on a saucer and was piled too high. Cutting the red pepper ring could not be done without considerable spillage.  It was quite tasty, almost as good as Trattoria Giuseppe’s, but the presentation, though cute, was a fail due to the messy top-heaviness of it.
The main courses arrived shortly after the salad and soup dishes were pushed aside. I had asked Adam about his soup.
“It was potato, cheese and bacon, what could possibly be wrong?”  Was his snarky answer. He gets his snarkiness from his mother.
The cannelloni is a tube pasta, filled with beef, veal and chicken, covered in a red sauce and melted provel cheese. Provel is a St. Louis area specialty, you won’t find it many other places. It is not made around here, it’s just a blend of cheddar, Swiss and provolone that is made for the region due to the local differently-sophisticated tastes. It’s a hallmark of St. Louis style pizza. I’m not a huge fan of it, though it isn’t disgusting. I just find it a bit rich and overpowering. I’m no cheese snob though, I grew up on the stuff labeled ‘Individually wrapped, processed American cheese product’ which also means ‘not really cheese’.
Chicken Terazzini
Angel had ordered the Chicken Terazzini, Lightly breaded, fried , on a bed of spaghetti and a white cream sauce with fresh sea clams. Adam got the Chicken Alfredo, charbroiled  or lightly breaded, fried, topped with a blend of cheese and cream sauce on a bed of spaghetti. (He chose ‘fried’)
My portions were deceptively sized, they seemed small, but the sweetness and richness of the sauces filled me up in no time. It might have had something to do with the bowl of chili I’d had a few hours earlier. I couldn’t finish, and the heaviness was starting to make my cardio system ache, but there was it was actually very, very good.
Adam seemed to suffer a similar issue. “Heavy, a bit too cheesy, I should have gone for grilled.” He said as he pushed the not-quite-cleaned plate aside. Angel was still going gangbusters though, even dipping her disgusting broccoli into the creamy pasta sauce.
Poppy’s is very, very good. It is also very, very rich. Do not go there if you’ve already had something heavy that day. Save it for the rich, creamy, heavy main course. The tastes are multi-dimensional and consistent. It’s a beautiful, classy yet casual place, staffed well. The price is not out of whack, especially if it’s your birthday. The original ticket said forty-seven dollars, but the final, discounted price was thirty-six. The food is top shelf, the menu is not cluttered. Highly recommended, we would happily take guests there.
BTW Last weekend Angel brought back some rice from Springfield, I compared, I liked mine better.


*’Santa Baby’: I’ve always hated this song, I didn’t know why until a couple of years ago after I spent some time trying to figure out why this one, more so than even ‘Grandma got run over by a reindeer’ made me clench my fists. I think it has to do with the fake, cheap, lazy use of the word ‘tonight.’  It’s at the end of every verse. It doesn’t rhyme with anything else in the song. It’s used as a replacement, a fake rhyme in place of a rhyming word because the writers, J. Javits and P. Springer, just  weren’t very good at writing songs. I’ve noticed this sort of lazy fakery in other songs too, just not as prevalent. It’s as grating to me as listening to a teenager improperly use the word ‘like’ more than five times per sentence. “And I was like ‘whatever’, and he was like ‘sure thing’, and I was like ‘I know!’. . .”

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