A drop of incentive for your morning coffee

First off, let’s dispense with imitation vanilla — and when we say dispense with, we mean ‘throw in the trash.’ Not only does it taste as artificial as it is, it’s made from a chemical derived from wood pulp, and stored in the same chemical used in the antifreeze in your car.

Throw. It. Away.

Vanilla extract is something to behold. Real vanilla beans, steeped in neutral grain alcohol, with dozens of aromas and flavors melding into a flavor that can’t compare to anything. The scent alone can immediately transport you back to your grandmother’s kitchen and a fresh batch of cookies.

Wait…neutral grain alcohol? Well, yes, that’s what they typically use, so as not to interfere with the flavor of the vanilla itself. But what if you didn’t interfere — what if you accentuated?

That’s exactly what Kate Banks and Charlie Hammond of Vain Foods of Kansas City, Mo. did. By pairing the flavor profiles of vanilla beans from specific regions with different spirits, they created an assortment of extracts that can raise your baking game in amazing ways. Tahitian Vanilla in Cane Rum. Mexican Vanilla in Apple Brandy. Indian Vanilla in Ginger Spirits.

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You can see why people rave about them.

But then they got really creative. They put the extract — some in Kentucky Bourbon and some in Irish Whiskey — in a bottle with an eye dropper. So you can more easily put a few drops in your morning coffee. Coffee Drops. How clever is that?

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Available at Larder & Cupboard in assorted flavors, $14-15 for 3.75 ounces, and $8 for 2-ounce Coffee Drops.

Whooo knows how to mix a drink?

Some say that you only really need three ingredients to make a cocktail: a spirit, a mixer, and a drop of bitters. The alcohol and mixer usually combine sweet and sour flavors while thinning out the alcohol a bit, and the bitters add just a touch of, well, bitter — just a couple drops is all it takes.

You probably already have your favorite liquor — or you’re always on a quest for the next one to be your favorite — and you’ve got some bitters on hand, because they last pretty much forever. (You can check out our selection, too.)

But mixers become more complex, and interesting, the further you get into crafting cocktails. Sure, you can use fruit juices or syrups, some type of soda, maybe even dare to use a shrub. But have you ever thought about using tea — yes, the stuff you get when you steep leaves and flowers in water — in your cocktail?

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Luckily for you, the folks at Owl’s Brew have already thought of that, and gone right ahead and made some great tea specifically for crafting into cocktails. They wanted something less sweet than fruit juice, something lighter than typical mixers, and they thought, hey, why not do something with tea.

The result was a selection of mixers made from tea, to enjoy with your favorite liquor:

  • Coco-Lada, made with black tea, chai spices, pineapple and coconut, and especially amazing with rum (and also vodka, and even champagne)
  • Pink & Black, which is fresh-brewed with black tea, strawberries, lemon peel and hibiscus, all perfectly blended to mix with tequila, vodka, or whiskey (including Scotch and bourbon)
  • White and Vine, a blend of white tea, pomegranate, lemon peel and watermelon, which mixes exceedingly well with tequila, gin, wheat beer (yep!) and vodka.
  • The Classic, a smooth English breakfast tea infused with lemon peel, ready-made for cocktails using tequila, gin, and vodka (seriously, you can mix just about anything with vodka, right?)

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Two parts Brew and one part booze, and you’ve got a really great drink. Bonus: your new drink has one-third (or less) the calories of a comparable drink. Bonus bonus: you’ve got no artificial flavors and no weird additives. Bonus #3: it’s made from completely purified water.

Of course you can get more complicated if you like, and start layering and all that. We’ve even got recipes for you to use. But it starts with Owl’s Brew, available at Larder & Cupboard in 8-oz bottles (enough for four servings) for $10, and a special three-pack for $25.

As they say at Owl’s Brew…Drink Wisely.

Butter FOR Wood, Not FROM Wood

You know Larder & Cupboard carries meaningful specialty foods — those from small producers, award-winners, things you won’t be able to find elsewhere in St. Louis. We also carry some nifty kitchen gadgets that we personally use so much we can’t live without them.

You might not know that Larder makes some fantastic products, too, and one of them isn’t for eating, even though it comes in a canning jar and is called Wood Butter.’

Larder & Cupboard Wood Butter, $12

While you could eat it — it’s made from food-grade mineral oil and beeswax — we don’t recommend that at all.

We DO recommend that you put it on wood — cutting boards, wooden utensils, even wooden tables. In fact, the farmhouse table at Larder has only L&C Wood Butter on it.

Farmhouse table, restored with Wood Butter

You’ll need a little elbow grease to apply it, and a soft cloth, but that’s all. Smear some L&C Wood Butter on that wood, and take the cloth and rub it in. You’ll notice an immediate difference as soon as you start, just like we did when we applied it to a dried out cutting board.

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Before – a bit dried out

After one application of L&C Wood Butter

One application of L&C Wood Butter

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you can see, it’s kind of like magic!

If the wood is really dry, you can let it absorb for a day or two, and then apply another coat. After that, you can just wipe it down with water, use only a little soap if necessary, and reapply if you notice the wood drying out. (And you never put wooden cutting boards in the dishwasher, right?)

Larder & Cupboard Wood Butter comes in an eight-ounce jar for $12.

Father’s Day Gifts for Dads Who Like to Grill and Chill

June is for grilling and chilling, and for celebrating Dad. We’ve got you covered on all fronts.

Got a dad who’s the master of the grill? Let him take the day off and grill for him! We have German Links from Mac’s Local Buys, and our Williams Brothers Andouille is 25 percent off. Top it with any of our three naturally fermented sauerkrauts from The Brinery, throw in some of Serendipity‘s new Latte Frozen Yogurt made with locally-produced Windcrest Yogurt and Stringbean Coffee for some grilled and chilled pampering.

Speaking of serendipity, Ryan Maher from Missouri Wild Edibles recently delivered more of his in-demand smoked ramp mustard. We had a huge waiting list for this mustard while it was out of stock. Get it while it’s here, and make sure to set up your dad while you’re at it. Throw in some locally-made catsup from Juniper or Zimmerman’s.

If you really want to show off your grilling chops to the old man, Bon Appetit featured a recipe for a gorgeous grilled porcini-rubbed rack of veal this month. We have Ozark Forest Porcini Powder and SaltWorks smoked sea salts to make the dish sizzle.

While Dad’s waiting for your creation, he should be sipping on a Brewed Mary. That’s a Bloody Mary with beer instead of vodka. Sound weird? Think about the extra layer of flavor a pot of chili gets when you add beer to it.  We can set you up with best ingredients for it.

BLOODY MARY ESSENTIALS

Brewed Mary

Serves 8

1 container SaltWorks Hellfire Smoked Habanero Sea Salt (It won 3rd place in last year’s Scovie Awards for Condiments)

8 lime wedges

2 cups Zimmerman’s Tomato Juice (made locally in Vandalia, Illinois)

8 tablespoons Stu’s Bloody Mary Concentrate (any flavor – we have Original, Smoked Jalapeno, and Jamaican Jerk)

Col. Pabst All Malt Amber-Lager Worcestershire Sauce

8 12-ounce cans light-bodied beer (Schafly Summer Lager is a perfect match, available down the street at Bottleworks.)

8 strips of Scrumptious Pantry Heirloom Beaver Dam Peppers

Pour SaltWorks Hellfire onto a saucer. Rub the rims of eight pint glasses with the lime wedges. Dip rims in Hellfire to coat. Fill each glass with ice.

In each glass add ¼ cup Zimmerman’s Tomato Juice, 1 tablespoon Stu’s Bloody Mary Concentrate, a dash of Col. Pabst Worcestershire Sauce, and a can of beer. Garnish with Scrumptious Pantry Beaver Dam Pepper strips and the lime wedges.

If your dad loves the Hellfire rim on on the glass, give him SaltWork’s gift pack. It includes Bonfire, a sea salt smoked over 14 different woods, fiery Hellfire, and herb-infused Wildfire, packaged with three salt spoons.

Or add to his grilling supplies with our selection of Spiceologist spice rubs.

If your dad’s more into chilling than grilling, stock his bar with Dutch’s Spirits Bitters. This small New York State company makes bitters that are as fantastic as their story – they’re built on the site of a Prohibition-era distillery hidden in the Catskills.

We get a lot of questions about bitters. They’re super-concentrated flavorings with a bitter base that’s made from infusing alcohol with naturally bitter botanicals. Their bite is tempered with aromatics. Just a few drops add depth to drinks – cocktails and non-alcoholic – and they can even be used in cooking.

Dutch’s Spirits crafts their bitters to match different eras in American cocktail history, each with a unique flavor and composition. Start Dad with a three-pack of small bottles if he’s new to artisan bitters. If he’s a mixology pro, we have large bottles of Colonial, Boomtown, and Prohibitters. He’ll love ending his chilled-out day with this summery drink:

Colonial Southside

Makes 1 drink

2 ounces gin

½ ounce lemon juice

2 teaspoons Bourbon Barrel Mint Julep Sugar

5 fresh mint leaves

Dash of Dutch Spirits’ Colonial Bitters

Combine everything but the bitters in a shaker with ice and shake. Strain into an ice-filled Collins glass and add a dash of bitters.

Pasta alla Carbonara

I have a friend in Ann Arbor who shares one of my food peeves: attaching the label “carbonara” to anything with bacon.

Guys, there is no such thing as chicken carbonara. It’s chicken and bacon. There’s nothing wrong with chicken and bacon, but it’s not carbonara. Not that we have a solid idea of what carbonara is, anyway. The history’s muddied and full of much rumor and argument for a dish that’s so simple. Pasta, pancetta, cheese, eggs, maybe some cream. Done right, pasta alla carbonara’s simple and easy, a spotlight for quality ingredients that can be pulled together with little work or time.

I love pasta alla carbonara on Friday night. It’s easy to make after a long week, but still luxurious enough to feel a little celebratory. Pastaria deliveries fresh pasta to Larder & Cupboard on Thursdays, and their strozzapreti’s great for catching bits of sauce in the nooks between pasta strands.

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Salume Beddu’s pancetta has an herbal touch to the cured pork. Some carbonara purists prefer guanciale, which we also have in stock, but I’m a sucker for this belly.

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Our Parmesan Reggiano’s one of the few imported cheeses we carry, because it’s hard to beat the real thing.

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I chop my parm instead of grating it to show off the cheese’s crystallized texture. My farm eggs came from Mac’s Local Buys to round out this small producer take on this big flavor favorite.

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Pasta alla Carbonara
Serves 4

Extra-virgin olive oil

½ lb. Salume Beddu pancetta, cut into 1″ chunks

4 garlic cloves, finely minced

4 large eggs

⅓ lb. Parmesan Reggiano, chopped, plus extra for grating

12-16 ounces Pastaria Strozzapreti pasta

salt and pepper to taste
1. Bring large pot of water to boil. Add salt and the rind from the Parmesan Reggiano to the water.

2. In a large skillet swirl one round of olive oil. Add the bay leaf from the pancetta, and heat. Add pancetta and saute until the fat’s rendered and the meat’s crispy. Add garlic, toss, and remove from heat. Scrape into a large mixing bowl. Remove bay leaf.

3. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs until just soft. Stir in the cheese.

4. Add pasta to boiling water and cook 3-4 minute or until al dente. Remove the cheese rind. Drain pasta, setting aside ½ cup of the cooking water. Toss pasta with pancetta until the pasta’s well-coated with the rendered fat, about 2 minutes. Pour in the egg mixture, tossing constantly with a fork. The heat from the pasta will cook the eggs. Keep it moving so the eggs don’t scramble. Drizzle in pasta water until sauce is the consistency you want.

5. Season with grated cheese, salt and pepper.
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While my Ann Arbor friend didn’t approve of the strozzapreti, I’m standing by it. It’s dense enough to stand up to the toothsome chunks of cheese and the richness of the egg sauce. It’s definitely not random pasta with some bacon thrown in, though, and that’s what counts.

 

 

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We’re very excited to be officially open! Our hours are 10 am – 7 pm Monday – Saturday, and noon – 5 pm on Sunday.

And please join us on Saturday, November 15 for our Grand Opening festivities, with lots of samples of some award-winning products!