Crystal Schilling stood in the back of the store looking more like one of the customers than St. Louis’ newest artisan chocolatier. Dressed in jeans and a crisp blue shirt with blonde hair neatly pulled back, she was wrapping up a chocolate and wine pairing at Extra Virgin An Olive Ovation in Ladue, Mo. The months of February and March are gold for chocolate makers, and her year-old chocolate company, Weston & Wade, is doing quite nicely, thank you.
Nashville, Tenn., pulls you in with its vibrant and diverse live music tableau but keeps you engaged with its delectable array of culinary options. This city will knock you in the teeth with surprising finds, whether that’s a yet-to-be-discovered musical talent or an unexpected food discovery. On a recent weekend in Music City, I was socked by Olive and Sinclair, makers of artful Southern chocolate.
With the closing of Elle’s Patisserie, Springfield, Mo., is a little less sweeter.
News of owner Elle Feldman’s decision to sell her darling patisserie was shared via her social media channels on Jan. 12. Although I’m more than four hours from Springfield, I was sad to hear the news. Elle’s Patisserie is a proud part of my book about Missouri chocolate, Delectable Destinations, and she has been recognized by numerous publications, both regionally and nationally. Whenever I was in Springfield, I’d stop by for a treat and bring a few truffles home (though not all made it during the long car ride).
In her statement, Elle says the decision was based on what was best for her family. She’ll now devote all her boundless energies to her Lavare Spa.
Recently, I hosted a few friends for a casual evening of food, drinks and cards. As it happened, we were in the middle of a cold weather snap — single digits for St. Louis, which is unusual. One of my friends asked about having some hot cocoa. She was thinking about the instant drink mix in the packets, but I had something else in mind.
Everyone has a favorite bar, right? Maybe it’s the neighborhood tavern with the guy behind the bar who knows your first name and pulls your favorite draft before you sit down. Or maybe you frequent that place with the bartender who excels in making the best sazerac or a similar cocktail, so classic it’s trendy again.
For the longest time, those of us who loved all things chocolate – from brownies to decadent martinis – had one place in St. Louis to visit: Bailey’s Chocolate Bar in Lafayette Square (1915 Park Ave.) The first restaurant opened by restauranteur Dave Bailey grew to have a loyal following, and it was a popular place for first dates, girls night out, or to simply get your chocolate martini fix on Friday night.
(Left: The bar area at the new Bailey's Chocolate Bar/Deborah Reinhardt)
Some mornings, the standard cup of coffee isn’t enough to get my engine going in the morning. In full disclosure, I am not a morning person, but most days, I can get out the door after a cup of joe and a light breakfast.
But the other day, I needed something else, and when I saw those luscious chocolate muffins, I knew it was a match made in heaven. Warm, with melted chocolate chips in the middle, I savored each bite with my cup of coffee.
Rinse cup, repeat for tomorrow.
Which brings to mind a wonderful chocolate treat from Kansas City’s Southmoreland on the Plaza, one of my favorite B&Bs. Innkeepers Nancy Miller and Mark Reichle are wonderful hosts and excellent cooks. Nancy said her chocolate zucchini bread always is a favorite with her guests, and she graciously shared the recipe for inclusion in Delectable Destinations.
And because I know that sometimes, you just need that little something “extra” in the morning, I share it now with you. Of course, chocolate zucchini bread is good anytime you need something a little sweet.
For more ideas on how to cook with chocolate, make plans to attend the upcoming class, “Chocolate Lover’s Dinner,” at select Dierberg’s Cooking School locations, on Nov. 13, Dec. 4 and Dec. 12. St. Louis author and culinary professional, Suzanne Corbett, graciously invited me to assist with the class. We are going to have such a blast, and I’d love you to join us! Registration should be opening soon, so watch http://dierbergs.com/school for information.
Meanwhile, let’s get to baking...
Since February 2016, the date Delectable Destinations: A Chocolate Lover's Guide to Missouri was released, I've been on a lovely adventure. In about 18 months, I've shared the book with many chocolate fans, met interesting people, held three successful tastings, and I've been welcomed into a new group, the Saint Louis Culinary Society, where I'm known fondly as "the chocolate lady."
In April, the Missouri Professional Communicators recognized the book with a first-place award. And now, the National Federation of Press Women granted the book first-place — my first national award. Ah, sweet success.
On April 1, let's take a quick tour of St. Louis chocolate stops as we sample and learn about our favorite Easter candies. Stops will include Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate Co. on The Hill and Kakao Chocolates in Maplewood.
Private bus transportation is included. We're meeting up at Le Chateau Village on Clayton Road across from Frontenac Plaza at 9:30 a.m. Then it's off to The Hill and then Maplewood. If we have time, we'll squeeze in another chocolate stop — perhaps Bissingers in Frontenac Plaza.
We'll be back at by 1:30 pm.
Tickets are $35 per person ($45 if you also want a copy of Delectable Destinations: A Chocolate Lover's Guide to Missouri) and prepaid reservations are required. It'll be a fun morning of sampling some of St. Louis' sweetest places. Get your tickets now!
A woman in my office has a daughter who's planning a wedding. It's been fun hearing my friend tell the stories of their family's women surrounding the young woman with support and help. What a joyous time for them to celebrate their family and its traditions.
One bridal tradition has an interesting history. According to theknot.com, the idea of giving a bride "something old, new, borrowed and blue" is tied to an Old English rhyme ("Something Olde, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something Blue, A Sixpence in your Shoe"), and the four objects that the bride adds to her wedding outfit or carries are for good luck.
Well, we all know for a marriage to be successful today, a woman needs more than luck. A strong faith and belief in God (a holy, higher power) is so important. It's carried me through many storms. And while buttons, hankies and pennies are a nice tradition, I'm going to give this young bride a set of bridal prayer beads to tuck into her bouquet.
How do I love thee? I don't know...let me check my wallet first.
It's projected by the National Retailers Association that Americans will spend $18.2 billion this year on Valentine's Day (which actually is down from 2016). The average cost for a box of chocolates, about $15; diamond earrings, $325 (of course, you won't be able to actually see the diamonds), and a bottle of excellent champagne might set you back $90. (A copy of Delectable Destinations is $24.95, a little more than the chocolates purchased at the drug store, but she'll get to have it forever)!
While I think Valentine's Day without chocolate is simply WRONG, you could have an Valentine's Day outing with your sweetie pie, either on the holiday or the following weekend. The website WalletHub determined the 20 most romantic, yet affordable cities in the United States. And St. Louis, Mo., made the list (at number 15). Here's an idea for a day out on the town with your No. 1.
What You'll Find Here
We should embrace all of life's sweetness. This blog explores how we can cultivate good things in our lives: food, and experiences. Join the conversation!