Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Only in the Lou

This morning there was a blurb on the local news about the anniversary of Hostess Sno-Balls. It seems my good ol' St. Louis eats the most sno-balls per capita of any city. Go STL! Oh, and to add to that victory, there was also a news story that we lead the nation in cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea!! awwww yeah. I don't know if the sno-balls and STDs are related in any way....

I am now inspired to write a post about the foods of St. Louis. This sounded like a good idea this morning...but the more I think about it and read about it and gather links about it....holy crap we have a lot to talk about! Here goes...

Toasted Ravioli. A staple in most restaurants in the area. Bars, too. "Toasted" ravioli is pretty much deep-fried meat-filled ravioli. There seems to be several people who claim responsibility for inventing it. Was it an accident? Was it pure genius? I don't know. I do know that there are some miserable examples out there. In most places, actually, what you get is tough, boring, made-from-frozen fried junk. It's bar food, for the most part. I'm not a big eater of these guys...I don't order them usually, but I have had some wonderful toasted ravioli. They were wonderful because they were made from scratch and you could tell. The pasta was tender and slightly chewy, the filling was moist and flavorful...these do have the potential to be outstanding. Here's the Recipe from Charlie Gittos, one of the restaurants that claims to be the originator. Actually, the yummy ones I was talking about above were from a place in St. Chuck..Fratelli's on Zuhmbel...Yes, Fratelli's, just like the Goonies bad guys :)

Frozen Custard. I'm pretty sure this is not a St. Louis invention, per se, but we certainly are passionate about it. Specifically, St. Louisans are loyal to Ted Drewes Frozen custard, and his famous "concretes." I have to admit I don't venture there all that often. Of course it's delicious. Sadly, Serious Eats doesn't totally agree (let's blame the travel time, shall we?).

Gooey Butter Cake. So St. Louis. All the bakeries here make it. And yes, it is fantastic. Gooey? Good. Butter? Good. Cake? Good. This article has a bit of history, Paula Deen's recipe (not a St. Louisan, but she's so liberal with the butter that you gotta love it.) It's seems pretty simple, using cake mix...)and some variations.

Gus's Pretzels. I know pretzels are not a STL thing. But Gus's is known by everyone here. Do other cities have guys in busy intersections selling pretzel sticks? And if they do, are they popular? Doubt it. But here, they are a tradition for many families. My Uncle and his brothers get a bunch before every trivia night (another St. Louis activity). They even have Salsiccia and Bratwurst INSIDE a pretzel! Brilliant!

Pork Steaks. Pork Butts are more often used for pulled pork sandwiches in this country's BBQing communities. In St. Louis, it is sliced into pork steaks. And simmered in Maul's sauce. Even if you don't agree with the method of smothering and simmering your frilled pork in sauce, you have to agree that the pork steak is a versatile, flavorful cut of pork. Lots of fat=lots of flavor. And it's effing cheap!

The Slinger. Oh, should I be ashamed i have never tried a slinger of any sort? A slinger is a late-night meal usually consisting of eggs, hash browns and hamburger all covered with chili, cheese and onions. So, basically, all the worst things you can do to your heart on one plate! Kinda the perfect food after a few too many, I'd guess. I always crave crap like this the morning after...I'm just usually too lazy to go out and get it. There was an article about the slinger recently, it's history and how several up-scale restaurants here are making their own versions.

Provel ™ cheese. Love it or hate it, Provel is strictly STL. Not many people outside of here have heard of it. Apparently it was created specifically for St. Louis style pizza (discussed next!), to melt quickly and cut cleanly (no stretchy-cheese chin burns!). I used to HATE the stuff (I have never been able to stomach Velveeta or Kraft singles...which are the same kind of consistency), but I have grown to like the pizza it's on...so I won't curse it to heck or anything. Just keep it off my salads and antipasto trays, please.

St. Louis Style Pizza. Thin, unleavened crust, Provel cheese and square slices is what sets out pizza apart from others. Some say it's an aquired taste, but there are so many awesome versions of it around town that you are bound to find one you like. I grew up with Faraci's pizza in Ferguson. And actually, I wasn't too fond of it as a kid, much preferring (blech!) Little Ceasars (Pizza!PIzza!). As a grown up I look forward to getting the opportunity to have Faraci's. Besides bringing back wonderful memories, it is really delicious pizza. Of course, most of the time I just settle for Imo's, the most wide-spread and popular St. Louis pizza chain, because they are always nearby and they deliver. My favorite toppings for Imo's are Bacon, or Anchovies and Red Onions. These entries in Urban Dictionary dot com are pretty hilarious, though I feel the urge to defend my hometown's pie.

St. Paul Sandwich. Around the age of 18-19 I worked at a Chinese restaurant for a couple summers. I could not understand why people would order the St. Paul Sandwich. It's an egg-foo young (egg, bean sprouts and onion, with your choice of meat...often pork..) with pickles, mayo, lettuce and tomato on white bread. They were quite popular. Like the Slinger, I see this as an "I had too much" food. Greasy, quick and satisfying. There must be something right about it, since it appeared in PBS's show "Sandwiches You Will Love." Maybe I'll try it again someday. After a late night out or something.

Brain Sandwich. Does anybody know the best place to get one of these? i know it's a South City thing, right? I really want to try one.

When Alton Brown came to town for his show Feasting on Asphalt, he went to a bunch of family-owned donut places. Until seeing the episode, I was not aware that we were known for our donuts. The show prompted these guys to do a donut bike tour of the city. Awesome! Another reason I need to get a bike.

That's all I got for now. I'd love for my fellow St. Louis food bloggers to chime it. What's your favorite pizza? Where should I get my first brain sandwich? Do you eat Slingers and St. Pauls? Toasted Ravioli...boring? Did I miss anything?

And for your lucky visitors, please keep these food treasures in mind. It's our history and culture, and it's pretty interesting. If you want to start a conversation here, any of these items is sure to spark something (although natives usually start conversations with the question "where did you go to highschool"...that won't work for out-of-towners...)

For more on this lovely Gateway to the West, check out my "local links" section over there in the Right column, and my posts tagged "local."

Go CardsBluesRams!


MamaPhunk said...

God I love Imo's. *whew*

Ok, anyway.

Now about the brain sandwiches, the one place that I knew that had them was called (I think) "The Backdoor". It was right by my Grandma's in South County (Gravois & McKenzie *maybe*), the other claim to fame for The Backdoor is thats where John Goodman hung out as a kid. Supposedly.

ironstef said...

mama, what is your favorite topping/topping combo on your Imos?

So when are we going to the Backdoor for some brains? You're in, right? :)

MamaPhunk said...

My favorite topping is bacon and black olive, super salty but so good.

I'll go to The Backdoor with you, but I'll just sit there and drink. I think the sandwiches would ruin my appetite.