I had the good fortune of being seated next to Christy Augustin at Sidney Street Café's ten-year anniversary dinner and quickly developed a bit of a girl-crush on the Pint Size Bakery (3825 Watson Road; 314-645-7142) owner. It was impossible not to. The effervescent Augustin was pontificating about the virtues of real butter when she was interrupted by another diner. The man was Augustin's former co-worker at Sidney Street (she used to be the pastry chef there), and he started razzing her about how mean she was to him. Apparently, Augustin had quite a reputation on the Sidney Street line. "I politely asked her if I could use one of her burners -- she had, like, eight -- and she just looked at me and snapped, 'Who the hell are you?'"
Augustin laughed. Stories like this are what contribute to her signature "punk rock grandma" persona. But there is substance behind the style. The Florida Culinary Institute graduate honed her baking skills in New Orleans at the Ritz-Carlton and the acclaimed Bayona before returning to her native St. Louis. Here, she has graced the kitchens of the now-shuttered King Louie's and Sidney Street Cafe before venturing out on her own with Pint Size.
Augustin took some time out of the kitchen to answer a few of Gut Check's most pressing questions.
What is one thing people don't know about you that you wish they did? I'm obsessed with all the tiny babies and cute dogs that come to the bakery every day, but I don't have kids and am a certified crazy cat lady. Check out the #pupsofpintsize on Instagram.
What daily ritual is non-negotiable for you? Coffee -- I sometimes try to cut it out for a day, but I always regret it.
If you could have any superpower, what would it be? It's totally cliche, but I want to be Wonder Woman and look great in a bathing suit while still eating all the cookies I want. Is that a super power?
What is the most positive trend in food, wine or cocktails that you've noticed in St. Louis over the past year? I feel like it is much more than just a trend at this point, but I am beyond thrilled that people are feeling a true need to know where their food is coming from. Connecting with local farmers and seeking out restaurants that directly support our local agriculture is what Pint Size is all about.
Who is your St. Louis food crush? Chris Bolyard, chef de cuisine at Sidney Street...but soon to be opening a nose-to-tail butcher shop, is my pretend boyfriend. But in all seriousness, St. Louis will truly benefit from what Chris and his wife, Abbie, are looking to do...hopefully this fall.
Who's the one person to watch right now in the St. Louis dining scene? Rick Lewis at Quincy Street Bistro is one of my best buds, and I'm pretty sure my husband and I couldn't get through a tough week at the bakery without his awesome comfort food. As a recent James Beard nominee for "Rising Star Chef," I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Which ingredient is most representative of your personality? Lemons -- bright and sunny, great in sweets but bitter as hell when bitten.
If someone asked you to describe the current state of St. Louis' culinary climate, what would you say? St. Louis is on the horizon of national recognition of our food scene. Gerard Craft and Kevin Nashan have had a ton of accolades outside of St. Louis, and they are both always quick to point out how amazing and supportive the city is...they've paved the way for the rest of us.
Name an ingredient never allowed in your kitchen. We are a peanut-free bakery, not only because it is a major allergy concern for many children, but because I can't even stand the smell of peanut butter. Also raisins -- they are just sad little grapes.
What is your after-work hangout? We love a great patio and spend a good amount of time at the Royale, but my favorite Saturday dinner spot is sitting at the bar at Farmhaus. We are such early risers that we tend to eat super early, but somehow Kevin and Jess make us stay till close just about everytime! Dangerous.
What's your food or beverage guilty pleasure? Sammies! We make three kinds of sandwich cookies at Pint Size, and I just can't stop eating them.
What would be your last meal on earth? Pink Champagne and crusty sourdough with olive tapenade and gooey cheese.