Category Archives: Eats

Frozen Custard Season

When temperatures reach almost 80 degrees, it’s the start of frozen custard (and ice cream/frozen yogurt/shaved ice) season. Today was that day.

I would normally mark its arrival by going to some local place, but not this year. Today, I found myself instead in the St. Charles County area, exploring the trail system that meanders through the city of St. Peters.

Walking 3.58 miles in the heat (it sure felt hot) and windy conditions meant I drained the one and a half water bottles I had with me. So at the end, it only felt right to commemorate my survival with a frozen treat.

A Google search yielded several results, and I went with one I hadn’t heard of before – Deters Frozen Custard. It’s a family owned business that’s located off Highway 94 near Interstate 70.

I could have driven straight past it. The bright white building sits at the bottom of a hill, out of view from most of the other businesses lining Highway 94, but their cheery sign draws your attention.

20170409_163611

To my surprise, they offered both frozen custard and shaved ice. I wish I had taken a picture of the menu, because there are literally dozens of flavors to choose from.

Faced with decision paralysis, I asked the person taking my order for her recommendations. I ended up with the beauty below – an apple pie frozen custard sundae. Try saying that phrase ten times fast. It has vanilla custard, bits of apple and pie crust, pumps of caramel, and whipped cream and cherry to top it all off.

20170409_163901

The front had a small seating area with tables and wrought iron benches. I sat at a table while enjoying my sundae, and watched the cars go by. Business picked up right at that moment. Older couples and younger families began arriving in droves and lining up to get their orders in. Everyone stood or sat around while updated oldies hits cycled through the sound system. It was a nice atmosphere for a first warm weather treat.

So there you have it. If you’re looking to mark the start of your frozen custard season, you have my recommendation and two thumbs up for Deters.

 

Know Before You Go

Address: 755 Friedens Rd, St Charles, MO 63303

Hours: Check out Deters’ Facebook page for updated hours.

Cash or Debit: Both. I’ve been to some frozen custard/yogurt places that only take cash, so it was nice to see they also accept cards.

Advertisements

Celebrating National Coffee Day (with Free Coffee)

Because I like coffeeand better yet, free coffeeI wanted to share with you some momentous news.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, September 28th, is National Coffee Day.

Coffee

Which, for many coffee shops, chains, and cafes around the country, means a free or discounted cup o’ brew.

I did some research, and these seem to be the chains offering deals in the St. Louis area:

  • Dunkin DonutsDunkin’ Donuts hot or iced Rainforest Alliance Certified™ Dark Roast Coffee, with a limit of one per guest.”
  • Krispy Kreme“a free Original Glazed Doughnut and a free 12 oz cup of coffee (at participating US locations).”

Don’t forget to check out your favorite local coffee shop! Either way, tomorrow is a great reason to celebrate the delectable aroma and taste of coffee.

And maybe a cupcake too.

Homemade Cupcake

Minding My Own Latte: Comet Coffee & Microbakery

In today’s post, I’m going to highlight a recent find in my exploration of St. Louis: Comet Coffee & Microbakery

In all honesty, I’m still acquiring a taste for coffee. I remember managing to make myself drink a strong cup o’ joe after an early morning cross country meet, but to make it palatable, I had to slather the inside of my cup with sugar and creamer first.

And I have to admit, I still haven’t progressed much past that point.

However, spending a recent Friday afternoon at Comet Coffee & Microbakery may have helped tipped the scales in favor of a less is more approach.

Coffee Art

With the Help of Yelp

I had been planning for awhile to spend an afternoon hidden somewhere in the recesses of a coffee shop doing some reading, writing, and future planning.

The problem was deciding where to go: Should I go somewhere I’m familiar with? Some place where I already know what to expect? Or somewhere new that would expand my horizons of St. Louis?

In the end, my curiosity for exploring won out.

Since I didn’t have any coffee shops sitting on my list of need-to-visit places, I turned to Yelp to explore my choices. If you’re not familiar with Yelp, this website functions as a sort of “Facebook for recommendations.” Users can post pictures, reviews, and other information about a variety of businessesrestaurants, hotels, nail salons, attractions. You name it, you’ll likely find a review of it on Yelp.

One little shop, Comet Coffee, intrigued me because it appeared again and again as I refined and tweaked my Yelp searches. I ended up reading some reviews and perusing their website, which further convinced me that a visit would be necessary.

One Friday Afternoon

After running errands all morning long, not too long ago, I needed a place where I could go clear my head and think. And get a coffee. I remembered back to my prior searching, and to double check my options, I even asked Siri on my iPhone, “Where can I find good coffee in St. Louis?” As you can see, Siri confirmed what I’d found from my research.

Displaying FullSizeRender.jpg

With this destination in mind, I set the GPS and headed out.

When I came in, I was immediately greeted by the barista behind the counter. Which highlights one thing I would repeatedly note about this placethe level of customer service. These people strongly impressed upon me that they know what they’re doing, they’re passionate about it, and they’re eager to share that passion with others. I was open about my lack of coffee knowledge, but after asking a few questions, the barista guided me toward two latte choices I might enjoy.

A homemade caramel latte. Twelve ounces of pure, steaming joy. It may not be the official description of this drink, but it’s an accurate summation of what I was served. And it came complete with coffee art.

To satiate the hunger pangs I was beginning to feel at this point, I also bought a slice of spinach and cheese quiche made by the resident pastry chef (who, I also learned, went through the pastry program offered at St. Louis Community College. Double score for this place using local talent). It was promptly warmed up and delivered to me at the street-facing counter where I’d taken up residence.

IMG_8313

It turns out that Comet Coffee is located across the highway from Forest Park. Unfortunately I couldn’t see much of the park, but it was nice to sit and take in some sunshine and some of the outside happenings. I sat at that counter for quite some time, slowly enjoying my latte, quiche, and a local magazine I’d also picked up. I also got to enjoy other curiosities, like a robin poking its way through the flowerbeds in search of a meal.

A robin outside of Comet Coffee in St. Louis.

A Bonus

About halfway through my visit, as I was absorbed in my reading (and my playlist), the barista approached me with a surprise. She’d prepared the other latte she had recommended! I enjoyed a second (this time vanilla) latte compliments of Comet Coffee.

I certainly can’t promise you’ll get free coffee for visiting, but it really was a nice gesture. And next time, I think I will go with the vanilla.

 

Know Before You Go

The following information was up-to-date as of the publication date of this blog post.

Comet Coffee & Microbakery

Phone: 314-932-7770

Address: 5708 Oakland Ave, St. Louis, MO 63110

Website: http://cometcoffeestl.com/

Approaching the Confluence: An Afternoon Near Alton

Itching for Adventure

For some time now, I’ve been getting the itch to do some more exploring outside of St. Louis. While the city and suburbs are interesting in their own right, something about my flatlands upbringing has forever engrained in me the desire to seek out open spaces and sweeping views. And my adventure last weekend quenchedeven if only brieflythat deep thirst.

Confluence of Missouri and Mississippi Rivers

On that Friday afternoon, I had mentioned to a coworker that I wanted to go eagle watching sometime. I asked if she knew of any local hotspots. In response, she told me all about a beautiful area just north of St. Louis where the Missouri and Mississippi rivers meet. My mind began racing with possibilities. By that evening, I had laid the tracks for a Saturday jaunt up U.S. Route 67 into the Alton, Illinois area, for a day of fun and exploration. And what a day it turned out to be!

Seeking Out the Confluence

The first objective of the day was to navigate our way to a small park on the Missouri side known asget ready, this is a mouthfulEdward “Ted” and Pat Jones-Confluence Point State Park. It’s located at the tip of a talon-shaped piece of land bordered by the Mississippi and Missouri rivers.

From U.S. Route 67 just before the bridge into Alton, we hung a right, drove past one of the busiest looking gas stations in America, and continued past a visitor’s center and marshlands filled with migratory birds. Before the road took a sharp left, we turned right onto a bumpy, gravelly road that winds aimlessly for four miles before arriving at an equally gravelly parking lot. For all those concerned, there are restroom facilities available at this point. I’m sure some people would be thankful for them after the bumpy ride.

Confluence of Missouri and Mississippi Rivers

The weather was just favorable enough for the short walk through the treeline to reach the water. At this point, the wind seemed to converge from all directions, uninhibited by the open, frigid waters ferrying chunks of ice southward.

A dozen or so other brave souls were also out at the point. There were a few educational signs, an extremely tall pole commemorating the infamous flood of ’93, and a cement walkway that went further out to the edge of the water.

Sign from the Flood of '93

I ventured out to the very last rock connected to land and stared ahead. It was indeed a neat sight to see the slow-moving, albeit powerful currents of the two rivers colliding and merging into one.

Before we turned to head back to the cars, someone pointed out a lone eagle, soaring above the precise point of the confluence.

The Confluence of Two Great Rivers

Bar Food Extraordinaire at Fast Eddie’s Bon Air

After visiting the confluence, my stomach was growling for lunch. To remedy that, we headed into Alton to experience a local legend of a restaurant. Fast Eddie’s has been in existence since the 1920s, and since then it has expanded to seat nearly 400 people. (Be prepared for packed parking and to flash your ID at the door; patrons must be 21 to enter.)

Preparing Burgers at Fast Eddie's

I’m glad we were accompanied by people who had been there before. After you enter, you then need to snake your way behind a bar to join the end of the food line. Fast Eddie’s has a simple and inexpensive menu, and because of the simplicity, the line moves blessedly fast. You can grab a half-pound burger hot off the grill for $1.99. (Another tip: Come with cash, as that’s the only accepted payment method for food. ATMs are available, but you’ll likely get charged a fee for using them.)

The other half of the experience was finding somewhere to sit. The place was packed to the hilt with all kinds of people, which made for interesting people watching, but it complicated our efforts to find a table with four available chairs. We checked both the indoor and enclosed outdoor seating areas. We did end up finding a table and enjoyed tearing into our food and sharing in conversation.

Winding Down at Grafton Wineries

As the sun was setting, we followed Illinois Route 100, also called the Great River Road, north from Alton toward the smaller town of Grafton. The road tightly hugs the curves of the Mississippi to the left and gives way to the region’s rising bluffs on the right. The combination of scenery and sunset was spectacularly beautiful.

Sunset from Aerie's Winery

We reached our destination,  Aerie’s Winery, with enough light left to enjoy the view. The winery overlooks both Grafton and another confluence—of the Illinois and Mississippi rivers. Reaching it involved a steep ascent up several hills, but the view at the top was entirely worth it. It was the perfect place to relax, unwind, and enjoy some locally bottled wine.

Another Sunset View at Aerie's Winery

We also stopped by the Grafton Winery, which sits right off Main Street. The owner herself took care of our wine tasting and poured a sample of an item not even listed on the menu. She and her staff earned a lot of points in my book for their attentive service.

All in all, our experience in Grafton was the cherry on top of an exhilarating dayand that has only whetted my appetite further for exploring the area surrounding the Great River Road.

Know Before You Go

The following information was up-to-date as of the publication date of this blog post.

Fast Eddie’s Bon Air

Phone: 618-462-5532

Address: 1530 East 4th Street, Alton, IL 62002

Website: http://www.fasteddiesbonair.com/

 

Aerie’s Winery

Phone: 618-786-8439

Address: 800 Timber Ridge, Grafton, IL 62037

Website: http://www.aeriesview.com/winery/#aeries-winery

 

Grafton Winery and Brewhaus

Phone: 618-786-3001

Address: 300 West Main, Grafton, IL 62037

Website: http://thegraftonwinery.com/Winery-In-St.Louis/

Falling for Flour House Bakery & Coffee

Over Thanksgiving, I had the opportunity to travel home (northern Illinois) to visit family and friends for an extended weekend. One friend in particular, Sarah, and I hadn’t seen each other in over a year. It was amazing that not only where we going to be in the same area at the same time, but we both had time in our schedules to hang out and catch up.

Now, one thing I’ve noticed is that when you’re planning to see old friends, the challenge always seems to be, ‘Where do we meet up?’

For us, Flour House Bakery & Coffee was the perfect answer. The year-old addition to Princeton’s downtown art district has attracted a lot of attention from the local community. I had also been there over the summer, and the atmosphere (and need I mention the coffee?) was just right—artsy, vintage, and fresh. My second visit did not disappoint, either.

Exterior of the Flour House Coffee & Bakery

The vibe of the Flour House starts from the exterior facade. The signage almost looks like dough-shaped letters strung together, just in a much more polished way. It sits atop a generously sized black-and-white awning that flaps in the breeze, almost beckoning passersby to come inside. Sarah and I were glad to escape from the late November chill that hung in the air.

Inside, we were greeted by the sight of whitewashed walls—built in bookshelves, actually—lined with an assortment of books, lamps, and other curated items. The place was bustling with people placing and collecting orders, and filled with the din of conversations rising up to the original tin ceiling.

The scent of cinnamon and coffee grounds mingled with that of the baked goods displayed behind the counter. For a small batch bakery, the Flour House offered a variety of options.

Fresh Baked Goods in the Flour House

As appetizing as everything looked (many of the names were also mouthwatering—hello Heath Bar Cheesecake!), I went for the tried and true bagel. These were also freshly baked, with four flavors to choose from. I ordered a plain one, with cinnamon spread on the side.

Bagel and Hot Chocolate from the Flour House

While I also ordered coffee, Sarah tried out some hot chocolate. And, as you can see from the above picture, it was topped with a rich foam. What a decadent treat!

We sat at one of the several small tables available and took in the sights, sounds, and smells of the cozy bakery. It ended up being the perfect way to while away the morning after Thanksgiving. Instead of getting caught in throngs of frazzled deal hunters, we enjoyed the slowed pace of our hometown life.

This place is definitely on my list for a return visit. What is a hidden gem from your area?

Interior of Flour House Bakery & Coffee

Know Before You Go

Hours: Thursday – Monday: 7 am to 4 pm

Address: 950 North Main Street, Princeton, IL 61356

Website: http://www.princetonflourhouse.com/

They also post their daily menu on Facebook.

Jilly’s: Of All Things Sweet and Sweeter

There’s no better time than the present to dive back into the world of blogging–or, as I prefer to think of it, chronicling the adventures as I plunge into the St. Louis life. Via cupcakes.

Cupcakes aren’t exactly a staple here, but there sure is a place I’ve heard about since my arrival here a year ago: Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Cafe. If you’re picturing a dimly lit establishment right now, allow that image to evaporate from your head. After two visits (several months apart, mind you), I can confidently report that Jilly’s is a neon color explosion. Mixed with some white. And loads of frosting. The only “bar” effect you’ll find here is the sugar intoxication you’ll suffer after ingesting one of their sweet confections. Take, for instance, “Chocolate Thunder,” “24-Karot Carrot Cake,” or one of this month’s creations, “Pineapple Upside Down.”

On my latest visit, I sampled “Chocolate Thunder.” Who could resist? But not to worry, because I captured photo evidence before the deliciousness got demolished.

The "Chocolate Thunder" cupcake is one of many delicious creations available at Jilly's.
The “Chocolate Thunder” cupcake is one of many delicious creations available at Jilly’s.

Have I mentioned the size of these cupcakes? They’re not like the dainty things we create in our home ovens. These mega-giant, behemoth offerings can tip the scales at nearly half of a pound. You will probably feel full after three quarters of one (so it’s probably not a good idea to get too many if you go).

From my observation, you can probably expect to spend between 5 dollars and 6.50, depending how many fancy you go or how many flavors, fillings, and toppings are packed into one. For the purists out there who don’t want the extra bells and whistles on their miniature frosted cakes, there are “Simply Iced” cupcakes available as well.

So make a date of it! The first time I went, I was accompanied by my main man, and the second time around I ventured in alone on a whim.

Jilly’s is located on the corner of Delmar and North McKnight Road, just off I-170. If you’re planning to be in the area anyway to explore the Loop, then Jilly’s is definitely worth the stop. USA Today would approve.

Golden Hour Bike Ride, Golden Delicious Pizza

I bought a basic bike rack from Walmart a few years ago, and I’ve been itching to pull the contraption out of the cave of my trunk for weeks now and use it again. Fortunately, it was not corroded, stolen or bearing teeth marks from the engine monster when I hauled it out of the depths today.

I felt it. Today had to yield adventure. After all, the second day of fall was celebrated accordingly yesterday with a trip out to A Hundred Acres Orchard and Market for raspberry picking. Never mind that I have 700 gallons of berries to use up now.

Todays’ objective: bike the Lowell Park Trail with my friend Megan.

Lowell Park Bike Trail
Right around sunset is a beautiful time to experience the Lowell Park Bike Trail.

I’ve pedaled a section of it before, so it’s safe to say this paved trail is safe for all skill levels of bicyclists. It’s not a heavily traveled trail, but we saw enough bikers and walkers to feel safe throughout our ride. The trail is flat and follows the path of an old railroad bed. Be forewarned that it briefly skims the fence of the Dixon Correctional Center, but the chances of not seeing an escaped convict are highly in your favor.

The path also runs by the gate of the Hazelwood Estate, which was (and maybe still is) owned by the Walgreen family. “Walgreens” sound familiar? The founder, Charles R. Walgreen, grew up in Dixon.

Gate to the Hazelwood Estate
The entrance to the famous Walgreen family’s Hazelwood Estate.

Farther down, an offshoot from the trail leads to an overlook in Lowell Park. Ready for one last bit of trivia? Ronald Reagan, the 40th president of the United States, was a lifeguard there for several summers.

We pedaled leisurely past all these landmarks and ended up at the overlook while the setting sun illuminated the river valley below in brilliant golden hues. Tree shadows were also extending, so the contrast between the two was incredible. There’s a shelter up there as well with a few picnic tables. Had we come earlier, it would’ve been perfect weather to sit awhile and write.

The park can become mosquito-ridden at the height of summer, so it’s best to visit on the fringe of spring and fall when the little buggers aren’t out yet or have disappeared . Beautiful stone shelters are scattered throughout the premises and make for popular backdrops during photo shoots. Swimming is not allowed. Come in early spring, perhaps around April, and you’ll see the woodland floor carpeted with bluebells. It really does make a good destination during a day trip.

Our bike ride lasted an hour and a half, counting stops, and covered about seven to eight miles.

Lowell Park Outlook
Megan celebrates our trip’s culmination: the magnificent lookout view. In another week the fall colors will be even more brilliant.

Pizza

We followed our stomachs  afterward to Al and Leda’s Pizzeria, a place I heard about from a friend who described it as a combination of two other restaurants I like. It’s a mom and pop type place. The decor doesn’t take itself too seriously, and tables and chairs are exact replicas of the set that sat in our kitchen in the early 90s.

Al and Leda's Pizzeria
The interior of Al and Leda’s Pizzeria is no fuss and no frills.

We ordered a small 12-inch pizza with five toppings, all meat. Pepperoni, sausage, bacon, salami and hamburger made it a meat-lover’s paradise. It might seem excessive, but we were hungry and everything sounded good.

Two other parties were there when we first walked in, and two more couples arrived after the parties left. It looked like a quiet night. The service was on the slow side, but I think the pizza was worth the wait.

It had generous amounts of toppings and wasn’t scalding hot. The roof of my mouth was very thankful for that. Between two very famished girls, only crumbs remained on the pan at the end of the meal.

If you want something fairly inexpensive and aren’t a high maintenance customer, I would recommend a stop here. The food was good and a great way to top off our energy supplies after a long bike ride.