French Buttercream Cake

French Buttercream Cake

Peppermint Mousse Cupcake

Peppermint Mousse Cupcake

Peanut Butter Mini Cakes

Peanut Butter Mini Cakes

Oatmeal Stout Cake

Oatmeal Stout Cake

I decided to play hookey from work on Saturday so Em & I could make a trip to the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market.



My weekends have been slammed this season so this was probably my first and last stop for the year.

After running into some friends and grabbing a cup of hot Kuva coffee we made our way through the booths. The selection of produce was great for late season. We grabbed some salad greens, spaghetti squash, & green beans.  There were also a number of local farmers selling meat so we picked out a brisket & some bones for Muggs.

After the trip to the Market we decided to keep the EAT LOCAL theme going so we headed to Local Harvest for lunch on the patio. On an obvious overdose of indigenous organic nourishment we made plans for a pumpkin carving party.


On Sunday I rolled out the Weber for a Sunday-fun-day (Sunday-fun-day = smoking meat + relaxing + drinking some wine).   I slathered the brisket with spicy grain mustard, brown sugar, crushed chili, cinnamon, cumin, kosher salt, pepper, and tossed it over an indirect fire.  A few handfuls of soaked cherry wood chips provided the smoke and my brisket was on its way to delicious.



About 3 ½ hours later the brisket was tender with a nice dark brown bark from the mustard & brown sugar mix.  Our farmers market friends came over and we channeled the inner fat kid at heart for an evening of pumpkin carving and BBQ.

I sliced the brisket very thin and served it with caramelized onions, grain mustard, on toasted ciabatta.  The open faced sandwiches were topped with the farmers market greens and a red wine vinaigrette… I am putting this sandwich in my notes for the café.

Beer & Cake

Beer & Cake, ok

I put this cake in the case at the café a month or two ago on a whim. With some extra time in the new kitchen we have gotten to have some mad scientist experiment sessions. I’m not one for extraordinarily crazy flavor combos but its beer and cake, worst case scenario we scrap the cake and drink the rest of the beer. Luckily this makes a tasty cake… and there’s always more beer in the fridge.

I can’t give up all of my top-secret recipes but here’s the general idea. The main idea is that the rich dark beer plays nicely with buttery pound cake & dark chocolate.  Here’s the roadmap to Oatmeal Stout Cake.

  1. Empty two bottles of oatmeal stout beer into a saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring the beer to a boil and reduce until it becomes syrupy. Turn off the heat and let the reduction cool
  2. Whip the beer reduction into your favorite buttercream recipe
  3. Slice 2 – 9” round vanilla cakes (I use # cake) into 3 layers each
  4. Poor Oatmeal stout cake over sliced cake and allow to soak in for about 10 minutes
  5. Make a batch of dark chocolate ganache
  6. Stack the cake: cake, stout Buttercream, ganache, cake etc.
  7. Crumb coat the cake in stout buttercream (Watch me crumb coat a cake)
  8. Finish Icing the cake & top with ganache
  9. Eat

We did it!

We did it! Someday I will write a book about the last year and what it has taken to move our little business into its larger home. We have all been working around the clock, but  are all really happy with our new digs. One of the best things about the restaurant world is to see how much a great team can get accomplished. My mom described our first week as moving into a new house & throwing a dinner party for 500 people your first night in. We were all a bit slap happy by the time we got out of here Saturday afternoon.

We have officially been open for a week and it has been great to see the new space fill up every day.

Art work for the new cafe.

These pictures were some of the first things that I picked out for the new space. I didn’t really think about it when I was picking them out, but I guess that in an abstract way they describe my cooking style: Midwestern roots mixed with California Fun… and a bit of a quirky sense of humor.

“Papaw on the Farm”

This is my Grandpa Ping (Papaw) on one of the farms that he managed. My Dad grew up in Milan, IN on a cattle farm. My Dad’s bragging right is that he went to the high school that the movie “Hoosiers” was based on. We have passed by this farm many times on the way to visit my Grandparents, but I’m told that the old pictures do it the most justice.

My Grandma (Mamaw) was the cook, and known for her biscuits. This was the fried chicken, bacon fat on the stove, loaf of white bread at every meal kind of cooking to sustain the farm crew at lunch every day.




“Peterson’s in Palm Springs”

This is my Mom’s family on a trip to Palm Springs in the 1960’s. My Mom grew up a few miles from the beach in Southern California. A pool in the backyard and avocado orchards close enough to pick and mash on your toast in the morning.

My Grandparents (Grammy & Grandad) were always entertaining. My Mom & Aunt would help Grammy cook for days before big parties. My favorite story is when my Grandfather placed a bottle of champagne at the bottom of the pool… whoever gets it out keeps it. I can’t remember all of the details, but it ends with a guy in a full suit diving in the pool for his prize. I can just imagine a scene out of Mad Men, a guy in a black suit & skinny tie taking a dive.



This is our dog Muggins. This picture just makes me laugh. For those who think that this is a mean looking mutt, know that he is more of a Ferdinand The Bull in true life.





“Pigs on a Roof”

This is a picture of one of the houses on the way to the beach from my Grandma’s house in La Jolla. These pigs have been perched on the roof of this bungalow for two generations of walks to the beach. Everyone in our family has some form of “pig on a roof” in their home.





“Chicken Wire Napa”

This is from a trip to Napa that Em & I went on last summer. After a few days of eating great food and drinking great wine we were ready to pack up and move there. We took a couple hundred pictures of scenery, food, etc. but this was one of our favorite photos from the trip. This is the chicken coup at Frog’s Leap Vineyard.

Well if we had any doubts about moving into a new space, our current space has politely been telling us to get the heck out over the last two weeks. Last Saturday started out with an early morning call from my morning baker, “Um… I just walked in and the thermostat say’s that it’s over 90° in here.” Followed by a second phone call from Diane (Kitchen Manager) as I was on my way in to asses the air conditioner problem.

“Hey Russ. Have you had your coffee yet?”

“No, I’m on my way in. Is the air conditioner working yet?”

“No, and now the grease trap is backing up.”


Over the last two weeks the air conditioner has frozen up, the grease trap & drains have backed up twice, the espresso machine has died, a refrigerator died, and the freezer went into cardiac arrest but was revived by the repair man.

I am convinced that the ceiling will fall in before we officially move out of the space. Luckily, we have a great team that realizes that the show must go on. All of this has happened and everyone adapts to the situation and makes it work without a hitch.

It will be a little sad to move out of our original home, but I’m sure whenever it starts to get sentimental the toilet will erupt, or the walls will cave in and I will get a quick kick back to reality.

OFFICIAL OPENING DATE (If the inspectors are nice) – June 4th!

What a difference a week makes. We were finally given the go from the Fenton Fire Marshall on Tuesday and construction is fully underway at the new spot.


So, what is the new place going to look like? Here is a glimpse of a few things going into the new space.

The “Farmhouse” table (or the Bill Mulford): I have always wanted to have a large gathering table meant for large groups or patrons to share and get to know one another. Em’s Dad (Bill) is pretty crafty with wood so I asked him to start on this project when we knew that we were moving into the larger space. This handcrafted piece will be a perfect centerpice of the new spot.

Lighting: I am kind of a nerd when it comes to restaurant lighting. Whenever Em & I walk into a new space I’m always pointing out fixtures that I like or don’t like… She trys to act like she as interested as I am. Here are a few of my picks:


Chairs: We have been doing a bit of DIYing with the chairs, and have a lot of work to do. The idea is to use the chairs at the cafe & find new ones for a mis-matched look. All of them will be painted out black. I have never been much of a resale/antique shopper, you certanly do have to look through a whole lot of crap before you find something worth while. We found these at a shop in Shrewsberry last week for $5.00, not too shabby once they got a few coats of paint.

Range: More than likley none of you will see the kitchen, so this is my new toy.

It is great to start to see things come together in the new space. The word from the contractor is that we only have about 3 weeks of construction left! Looks like the roller coaster is heading down the frist hill. I’ll be sure to keep everything posted as we progress and experiment with new recipes.