by Ian Froeb
This weekend Tower Grove Park hosts the annual St. Louis PrideFest. If you plan on attending the event and expect to eat lunch or dinner in the area, know that South Grand is home to many restaurants. Several of these are well-known: City Diner, Mangia, Pho Grand, King and I. However, I'd like to point out a few of the neighborhood's hidden gems.
Meskerem offers something for everyone. Longtime fans of Ethiopian food -- not to mention dedicated carnivores -- will relish the kitfo, a dish of raw beef with clarified butter and chile powder that's so good you'll imagine you've never really tasted meat before. Vegetarians will be happy to discover the attention Ethiopian cuisine lavishes on vegetables and legumes. (Ethiopian Orthodox Christians observe many fasting days.) Everyone will enjoy the tangy injera bread you use to scoop up your food and the warmth and hospitality of the staff.
A few more suggestions after the jump...
Mohammad says that if you go to someone's house in Afghanistan and they really, really want to impress you, they'll serve muntoo. It takes some high-tech kitchen wizardry, and patience, to pull off: First you make a pasta dough and run it through a pasta machine. Then you cut it into rounds, preferably using the lid of a silver teapot as a stencil (per Mohammad). Then you brown ground beef and season it with dried mint and some other stuff and wrap it up in the dough like tortelloni or ravioli. Then you steam 'em in a tiered steamer called a daig, a common Afghan appliance designed exclusively for cooking muntoo. Steaming, as opposed to boiling, renders the pasta less soggy and imparts a unique texture. Muntoo is plated on a bed of daal nachod (a mix of spinach, carrots and lentils) and topped with a garlic-infused yogurt sauce. Mohammad and his wife have added only one non-Afghan touch: a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese on top. Delicious.
Thai recipes are complex, or should be, yet the cuisine's pleasures are often elemental: sweet, sour, savory, hot. You can try to tease out all the flavors in a bowl of Basil Spice's excellent tom kha gai soup -- sweet coconut milk, tart tamarind juice and kaffir lime leaves, exotic galangal -- or you can simply enjoy how the citric flavors and the chile peppers' heat add zest to the otherwise bland chicken swimming in the broth, and how the meat, mushrooms, lemongrass and galangal counter the coconut milk's sweetness.
That's it for this weekend. Next week: More than you could ever want to know about what I ate in college.
Have a great weekend. Eat something good.