Headed to Points South

You have to love a tailwind when you’re at 30,000 feet; it often puts you at your destination earlier than anticipated. Recently for us, it meant landing in Saint Louis a half hour ahead of schedule.  After grabbing our luggage and boarding one of those lovely shuttle buses for a ride to Hertz, we found our Toyota was waiting for us. I was a little hesitant riding in a Camry due to all the recent publicity about unexpected acceleration, but we survived the car and Jon’s aka JT’s driving (just kidding, he actually does quite well.). For the most part, Hertz Never Lost (which I often refer to as Ever Lost for the amount of time sitting on the side of the road, trying to make sense of where “Madge” was taking us) directed us where we needed to go including Festus, Potosi, and Crystal Lake Park, all the big cities around Saint Louis.

The downstream effect of gaining time allows one unexpected opportunities.  In our case, arriving early at Rigazzi’s gave us a chance to teach our waiter and bartender the fine art of making the cocktail called the Sidecar.   There are many recipes for a Sidecar, but here’s the one that we gave them with the hope that something similar would come back to our table.  Add ice cubes to a cocktail shaker, filling ¾ full.  Add equal parts freshly squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, either Cointreau or Grand Marnier, and Hennessey or another premium brandy.  Shake and serve “up” in sugared rim martini glass.

According to our green-behind-the-gills waiter, there wasn’t a lemon in the house.  I wondered how there could be no lemons when every glass I saw had a wedge. Reluctantly, we conceded and limes were squeezed. The next ingredient was simple syrup.  “Simple what?” we were asked.  You know — equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, simmer until sugar dissolves, and then cool.  They had all the necessary alcohol in the house, so we were in good shape there, it was just a matter of making the simple syrup and squeezing (in our case) some limes.

I have to say that after the 15 minute wait, the outcome was not horrible, but not great, either.  Most disappointing was the fact that it came out in a miniature lowball glass.  It did have a sugared rim, but also had floating in it an eighth of a lime.   The size of the lime wedge would have been more suited as part of a bowl of freshly-made guacamole.  I was grateful for the valiant effort and I hope that the bartender was inspired to keep experimenting.

I won’t go into details about the menu, but feel free to check out their website.  I will say they can accommodate a large crowd and were attentive to our group of 11 people the night we were there for dinner.

After dinner, Jon and I headed to Bad Dog Bar & Grill for some country western dancing.  I was beginning to wonder if Missouri was really part of the south, as there was a seeming lack of southern hospitality, i.e. not one soul said hello.  Although I’m Mr. Introvert, I made the first move and asked the line dance instructor for a spin around the floor.  Shortly afterwards, however, Missouri’s southern hospitality was redeemed as new friends Robb and Greg said hello to us. With the hour getting later and later, we said our goodbyes and headed south to Festus to visit Jon’s parents.

Saturday’s drive south to Potosi was lovely as we traveled through the rolling hills of southeast Missouri.  We were headed to Boo’s Market for lunch and a mini high school reunion with Jon’s classmates.  Then we returned to Festus for dinner with JT’s parents and niece at the Country Café.

Sunday, we enjoyed a delightful lunch with Jon’s family which included an unbelievable array of desserts including an Angel Food Cake, Coconut Cream Pie, a Four Layer Dessert and Jon’s favorite Lemon Ice Box Pudding.

Early Monday morning, we headed to Crystal Lake Park to meet up with Robb and Greg for breakfast at City Diner on South Grand.  It was an excellent breakfast joint with friendly, attentive service.  I think it’s a place that Jane and Michael Stern should visit.  After our leisurely breakfast, we headed to the botanical gardens.  The gardens were hosting a Japanese Festival over the Labor Day weekend.  What a fabulous sanctuary in the heart of Saint Louis!  After walking around for more than three hours, we had seen less than half of what there was to explore.  I took particular note of the fact that they host cooking classes there and have a space for outdoor grilling classes.

Realizing we were all hungry, we headed to the Soulard neighborhood with the hope that the vendors would still be open.  According to JT, there is a terrific spice shop that would put Penzey’s to shame.  I’d have to see it to believe it as Penzey’s is a pretty awesome place to purchase spices, dried herbs, peppermills, etc.

The spice shop in Soulard is just one more place that will have to wait until next time as they had already closed.  However, since we were in the neighborhood anyway, we grabbed some lunch at Chavas.  With such a gorgeous afternoon, we really had no option but to enjoy it outside with a rather large pitcher of margaritas.

The point of all this rambling is that I’ve heard for years, mainly from JT, how much there is to see and do in Saint Louis. There’s supposed to be some fantastic food in the fair city to our south.   It will definitely require a trip back, if not two or three, to see and eat our way through the gateway to the west.  Then there is always the ride up the arch.  Maybe we’ll do that before lunch.

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