Since moving to the greater St. Louis area, we have been doing our best to feel at home, starting with the unique foods and drink that the region has to offer.

Number one on my list of good St. Louis food is an appetizer called “toasted ravioli.” You take a beef ravioli, bread it, fry it, sprinkle parmesan cheese on it, dip it in marinara sauce, and eat. I like ravioli anyway, but this is really good.

Next on my list is a cheap cut of meat called the “pork steak.” It’s like a big, yummy pork chop, but always prepared on the barbecue with lots of sweet, tomato-based, barbecue sauce. There’s a place about a mile from our house called “Big Mama’s BBQ” where the pork steak is so big, you absolutely must take at least half of it home for lunch the next day. I’ve made it very successfully at home on a low fire grill with lots of basting. I normally grill very hot on a fast grill and only baste at the end, if at all. But low heat and lots of sauce is the way to go with pork steak.

Finally, a Belleville, Illinois, original. We live in Belleville, the birthplace of a special beverage called “Stag” beer. It’s an American lager, light and full of rice, but also a little sweeter and fuller than those other American brews. With virtually no finish, it is a great beer for drinking when you are hot and thirsty. No longer brewed in its hometown, Stag is now owned by Pabst up in Wisconsin.

Not a bad way to get acquainted with a new place!


Homebrew Results

June 28, 2007


The beer is ready. Its flavor has pronounced grain, not too hoppy, with a good head. It is clean and balanced. I’ve got another 5 gallon batch fermenting, so we’ll need to keep focused on freeing up bottles.

Homebrew Update

June 17, 2007

The beer outfit was a Fathers’ Day gift, and I bottled today as well to make this a delicious Fathers’ Day Ale. Here are the empty bottles sanitized and ready to be filled with excellent homemade beer:


This next photo shows the carboy of fermented wort. You can see the thick layer of yeast sediment that has grown in the beer. The newspaper I was using to sop up excess water on the counter coincidentally featured a fascinating and promising note about some of my nearby competition.

ready to rack

Here are the fifty full bottles, put away in a closet to condition in the bottle for a couple of weeks before they’re totally ready to chill and enjoy.


By 4th of July, it should be ready!

When I was in college, I bought a homebrew beer kit and made several batches of good to fair beer. Through many moves and other disasters, I lost all of my homebrew equipment. But this year, for Fathers’ Day (early), Alex gave me a fully tricked out set up, and I’m back to making homebrew. This first batch is a brown ale and will hopefully be somewhat similar to Newcastle.

First I steeped some cracked grains in an insulated cooler:


Here’s some pictures of the equipment–a carboy for fermenting the beer, a bucket for some all-purpose mixing and straining, and the stewpot Alex got for me a few years ago:



After the grains steeped, I boiled up the wort on the stove, adding some malt extract. The floating things you see are hops:


After boiling the wort, I transferred the baby beer into the carboy and moved the whole business out to the garage to ferment. Yeah, that’s five gallons of beer:


In a few weeks, I plan to bottle the beer in Heineken bottles (I’ll post about that, too, if I remember to take pictures). Here’s a picture of the brewmaster getting one of the bottles ready to go:


If you’re around here in about a month, you are invited to share the final product.

No-Knead Bread

May 30, 2007

A few months ago, a recipe for no-knead bread raced around the internet. I finally got around to baking a loaf, and I have to agree with all the reviews: this bread is easy and far surpasses most home-baked loaves in crusty goodness and chewy and complex crumb.


cut loaf

Normal, Illinois

May 20, 2007

According to an Associated Press analysis of Census Bureau data, our new state, Illinois, is the most average.  The story in our paper (not from IL) sums it up:

Illinois’ racial composition matches the nation’s better than any other state. Education levels are similar, as is the mix of industry and the percentage of immigrants. Incomes in Illinois are a little higher and the state is more urban than the rest of the nation. But the age of the population is very close to the country’s mix of minors, older Americans and those 18 to 64.

So, Illinois is normal.  Coincidentally, there is a Normal, Illinois, named after the normal school there, now Illinois State.  One of my wife’s parishioners has a son-in-law who lives in Normal; he is evidently quite active in the local farmers’ market of that part of the state and is something of a farmer himself.  This parishioner went to visit her daughter and kindly brought us back several bags of the Normal produce.  We received:

  • 2 dozen eggs
  • 4 heads of lettuce (romaine & leaf)
  • bag of mesclun
  • bag of spinach
  • beets & beet greens
  • green onions
  • green garlic
  • carrots
  • several small bags of herbs

I’ve never had green garlic, but instructions accompanied the food saying that the whole little shoot is edible, though the longer ends may benefit from a saute.

Farmers’ markets seem to be on the rise all over.  Here’s hoping that they also become the national average!  I look forward to exploring our local market very soon.

The Spaghetti War

March 9, 2007

Today, March 9, 2007, a battle royale between spaghetti and my children took place. Bibs were of no use; clothes were shed in favor of raw and primal attack. In the early part of the battle, it seemed like Tom and Lily had the upper hand, but no clear winner could be predicted.


By the end of the meal, the spaghetti and kids together were starting to look rough. When actual bodies were counted, two wiggly children remained. The spaghetti had been completely annihilated.



Spaghetti, in retreat, shouted that it would return another day…