If you are a regular reader, you know I don't do restaurant reviews. I prefer to leave that to the professionals. However, when I have an experience that makes me excited to live in St. Louis, I try to share, because boosting one's city and promoting it's exceptional businesses is important to me. This is the logic behind my ongoing St. Louis' Best Balls series.
Niche probably doesn't NEED boosting... the chef, Gerard Craft is nationally recognized as one of the country's best, and it is well-known in St. Louis as the place to go for ultimate dining. It most recently got a 4-Star review from the well-respected local food critic Evan Benn. That's a big deal. I don't go enough. I am more likely to go to one of Chef Craft's other eateries, Brasserie or Pastaria, for the simple fact that they are more affordable (but holy cow what a value... those 2 restaurants serve up some phenomenal food). After this recent visit to Niche, though, I have started reconsidering my priorities. I need to figure out how to get there more often, because my mind was blown straight out of the top of my skull.
I had high expectations, because I know that Gerard is an amazing chef. These expectations were exceeded. The food was all so perfect. Yeah, I said "perfect." But what got me was how CRAZY it was. I don't know what other word to use. I kept saying that when the servers (yes, a server per person when they served our dishes... fancy!) brought out the courses... "WHAT?!? THAT IS CRAZY!!" And I would occasionally punch my poor boyfriend in the arm out of excitement over these masterpieces. For instance: Chicharrons with white chocolate and chorizo powders (!!), parsnip/rum/lime otter pops (shut up!!!), white sweet potato soup with sage(!!!) marshmallows, celery (what the?!?!) granita with pop rocks (!!!!!), aged butter (?!?!), whipped lardo with cloves (!!!).... I mean.
I came to the conclusion that this was the work of a mad genius. These flavor/food combination were certifiable, but they all worked, and worked REALLY well. My apologies to the chef if he saw me shaking my head most of the time. I was in disbelief.
It got me excited about food again. I didn't even realize I had lost any of my spark! I am constantly reading about food and everything related. Obviously I am constantly eating. But every once in awhile you need to be re-awakened to your passions. These dishes were fun and entertaining while being ambrosial. It reminded me of why I appreciate food so much... it keeps us alive, it is a necessity, but beyond that the possibilities are endless. I am inspired. To be a better cook, to be a better eater, to be more creative, to be more appreciative of what life gives me. Sorry if this sounds like over-the-top gushing, but food is my passion, and when something I live and breathe every day all of the sudden makes me start punching people out of excitement... gush I must.
To bring this post back to more "Iron Stef-y" territory, Niche did have some fabulous balls:
Coxinha are a Brazilian street food, usually made with shredded chicken and deep-fried. Niche's version featured chicken skin wrapped around Brazilian cheese and fried. They are indeed some of St. Louis' Best Balls. Wowsers.
While I'm on the subject of inspiration in St. Louis, have you been to our newly renovated Central Library?! It is downtown, it is huge and it is my new favorite place.
I could spend weeks at a time in this place. In fact, while I wander through it's glorious rooms of books and reading tables, I look for possibilities of where I can put a bed.
Perhaps under this?
The room with all the science books is also the room with all the food books. And ohhh what food books they have. All the food books. And look at the ones they chose to display:
The have great taste. Heh.
Here are some books about food that are inspiring and focus on the art of cooking. I feel like these kinds of books will help me get into the minds of insane-genius chefs. If anything, they will open my mind more... expand my world-view and increase the flow of my creative juices.... mmmmm. brain juice.
The Flavor Bible: The Essential Guide to Culinary Creativity, Based on the Wisdom of America's Most Imaginative Chefs
In conclusion, what I'm trying to say with this post (besides visit these awesome St. Louis places!) is: keep eating, keep learning, keep your eyes and taste buds open!
Similar posts from the archive:
Roving I-ron Stef (posts about STL for a friend's travel blog)
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