Approximately three months ago, the ladies of my “For the Love of Food” group discovered a St. Louis restaurant called Home Wine Kitchen. That very day we called the little restaurant in downtown Maplewood, Missouri and made a reservation for six at 6:30 on Monday, April 23.
Who makes a reservation three months in advance, you ask? Normally, not me. But, for Home Wine Kitchen it was totally worth it. In fact, the demand is so high for this quaint and homey eatery, that reservations are practically required. This demand is especially high on Mondays, when the restaurant hosts “no menu Monday,” a down-home, made-just-for-you eating experience.
No Menu Monday follows the mantra of, “your mom doesn’t give you a menu, so neither will we.” On this day, restaurant-goers are asked to fill out a short and insightful questionnaire about what they like, dislike, and prefer. Then, the Home Wine Kitchen chef and owner, Chef Cassandra Vires, works her magic and provides each person at the table with their own just-for-them menu.
At Home Wine Kitchen, food isn’t some kind of play-time fodder, it is life-changing cuisine. Seriously. I can finally say that I have found “my favorite place to eat in St. Louis”–in fact, it may even be the best place to eat in this city (that I have found so far, at least).
So, here’s the general information: No Menu Monday provides eaters with a three course, personalized meal, complete with wine pairings. The meal is more than just a good dinner, it’s a complete eating experience–in fact, my girl friends and I sat around that table for two hours, talking and laughing, trying each other’s meals and, you know, groaning with pure delight.
I’m sure that by now you are thinking, “Girl, shut up and tell us what you had to eat!” Well, the wait is almost over, I promise. But first, let me post my quick “grading” system:
Being a straight A student myself, I know that Home Wine Kitchen would be proud to see these grades. I also know that they would love to hear why they got these grades, so before I get into the food (the most important part), let me speedily fill you in as to why I have graded the rest of the experience the way I did.
Atmosphere got an A–the cozy restaurant has a definite rustic, “homey” feel. Presentation also gets an A–as you’ll kind of see in the pictures below, everything was very professionally plated (sorry some of the photos are blurry, it was a tad dark and I was admittedly shaking with excitement the whole time). Price gets an A too–yes, the total price for our 5 meals (with tip) was over $275, but it was 100% worth every penny. Finally, service gets an A–the waiters were attentive, but left us alone, friendly, but not too boisterous, and just generally respectful and pleasant. They were everything that I could have asked for in a wait staff.
Alrighty. The time is finally here. It’s time to talk about the food–and everyone should either skip to the photos (don’t do that) or settle in, because I’m going to tell you about all five of our meals (and most of them had very long names). [Can I mention that just thinking about my meal is making my mouth water.]
The Appetizer Course
The five appetizers were as follows: scallops over a jalapeño and tomato salsa; baked goat cheese with roasted tomatoes and a balsamic reduction, served with crostini; fried duck egg over bacon and garlicy onions; pork tenderloin with polenta rounds and a blueberry sauce; and savory bread donuts with green onions and a berry compote.
Each of our appetizers came with a wine pairing that enhanced and emphasized the dish. Now, how to describe the food… well, for the sake of this blog’s length, I am going to quickly summarize as best as I can. The scallops melted in your mouth and their salsa had some excellent heat to it. The baked goat cheese had a real smokey taste to it and the crostini added an excellent crunch. The fried duck egg was something very interesting and new–the combination was very smooth and savory. The donuts were warm and sweet, with just the right amount of salty undertones. (I’m having some trouble remembering the pork tenderloin… sorry about that!)
Whew! That’s a lot of delicious food.
After the plates were cleared away from the first course, we excitedly watched our waiter bring new wines to the table. We took turns trying to guess who would get what protein based on the type of wine we had received; but, none of us could have properly guessed what we were in for…
The Entrée Course
The five entrees were as follows: seared duck with strawberry couscous and a balsamic reduction, white salmon with jasmine rice and rosemary roasted tomatoes, beef tenderloin with pan seared polenta and crispy spinach, roast chicken with garlic mashed potatoes served with a white wine reduction, and flat iron pork with English peas and chorizo sausage.
Wow wow wow. Once again, we each tried each other’s meals and marveled over the layers of flavors that each contained. Many of us commented that it felt like we were eating food that should be featured on the Food Network. Lord have mercy. Everyone’s meals were so fantastic. The salmon was flaky, the beef, chicken, and pork were moist, and those garlic mashed potatoes were literally the best I’d ever had.
My meal was the duck–and I was a little surprised by this dish. I’ve decided that they gave me duck because one of my answers to the questionnaire was that I would like to try “a meat that I couldn’t make myself at home.” I had never had duck before and man alive was that some smooth, buttery, savory meat. It practically melted in your mouth. I really enjoyed that portion of my meal. I was a little less impressed with the couscous, as it was a little bland and had an odd texture–but, it was definitely fun to try something new.
The Dessert Course
Last but definitely not least was dessert. The five desserts were as follows: buttermilk panna cotta with poached grapes, chocolate pudding with fresh baked short bread cookies and raspberries, goat cheese whipped with honey and served with fresh berries and a vanilla reduction, bread pudding with amaretto and fresh whipped cream, and white chocolate rhubarb bread pudding with a raspberry sorbet.
Each dessert was fabulous, but I’d have to say that mine was the best. I had the chocolate pudding–which was more like a fudge-y mousse than anything. It was so rich, thick, and decadent. Plus, the homemade, fresh shortbread cookies were still warm from the oven and had just a little bit of a savory taste that complemented the sweet chocolate deliciousness super well. The other desserts were also very good–and it was nice that our lactose intolerant friend, Emma, was able to get a dessert as well–the goat cheese yogurt. Yum!
All in all, this is a dining experience that you just have to have for yourself (and frankly if you haven’t been convinced yet, I don’t know what’s wrong with you). As my friends and I toasted with yummy wine between courses of world class food, many of us commented that this must be what it is like to be a famous person. Now, if only I had a personal trainer to keep me thin after such a luscious three course meal.
If you are ever looking for a great Monday date, a fun start-of-the-work-week night out with friends, or the perfect way to impress a guest–Home Wine Kitchen is where you want to go. And, please, let me know what they serve you when you go!