Your Table is Ready

The World Series: Food Edition. Boston vs St. Louis, Ted Drewes vs Toscanini’s

Here we go, it’s late October again, which can only mean three major subjects at Trev’s Bistro: Pumpkin everything, Halloween candy, and the World Series: Food Edition.

Last year San Francisco defeated Detroit handily for food & drink. Then the Giants followed suit with a baseball sweep. However for the Super Bowl in early February, the 49ers lost to the Ravens despite San Francisco defeating Baltimore at the table and the bar.

The Gateway Arch, St. Louis, MONow for the 2013 World Series we have two very fine and if I may say, underrated, food and drink scenes in St. Louis and Boston. In both towns the food and drink take back seats to their beloved Cardinals and Red Sox during the season. But there’s no doubt this match-up of food and drink will be as close as the two excellent teams on the field.

This championship is based on my experience and knowledge with both cities. It is not perfect. Both scenes have WAY more exciting options than what is listed. Please feel free to create your own lineups. Yes, I have much more experience with Boston’s dining scene and am a longtime Red Sox fan, but this is a completely unbiased showdown. Good food and drink doesn’t relate to baseball team bias, at least for me.

Since this is baseball, we’ll craft a starting lineup of nine “players,” a starting pitcher, a set-up man out of the bullpen, a closer, a manager, a broadcaster, and a mascot for our “teams.”

The mayors of the two cities elected not to bet each other this time around, but other city officials did. If the Red Sox win, St. Louis would send a six-pack of Schafly beer, toasted ravioli from Ricardo’s, and a smokehouse specialty from The Shaved duck. If the Cardinals win, Boston would send Harpoon’s Oktoberfest beer, shepherd’s pie from Amrheins, and clam chowder from Legal Sea Foods.

Fenway Park

Fenway Park

That’s a nice little wager. Bonus points for both cities going the microbrewery route (we’re not talking about you, Samuel Adams). However, it’s time for the big leagues. Let’s play ball Boston and St. Louis.

Leading Off: The leadoff hitter needs to set the pace. You need your signature dish here. For St. Louis, that’s toasted ravioli from one of the places that claim to be its inventor, Charlie Gitto’s. For Boston, it’s gotta’ be clam chowda’ from one of the 34 Legal Sea Foods. You can get both specialties at the two teams’ ballparks even. I can safely say the toasted ravioli did not impress at Busch Stadium. It didn’t taste fresh and it almost wasn’t legal!
Boston

2nd: A 2nd hitter needs to understand the situation. Advance the leadoff hitter if he’s on base, or somehow get the offense going if nobody is on base. Here’s an opportunity to really know the situation. In kitchen terms, know your seasons. Nobody does that better than Lou Rook III at Annie Gunn’s in Chesterfield, MO, or Jody Adams’ at her rustic Italian Cambridge legend, Rialto. I have to side with a 16 oz. Heritage pork chop with local peaches, jalapeno grits, braised collard greens, and fried okra.
St. Louis

Gus' Pretzels, St. Louis

Gus’ Pretzels, St. Louis

3rd: The third hitter has power, speed, defense, and a gift for making the right play at the right time. They’re your stud player. They’re your captain. Your Dustin Pedroia. Sydney Street Café in Benton Park and its chef Kevin Nashan emerged on the scene before Albert Pujols. I haven’t been to Craigie on Main since 2009, the year after it moved and transformed from the more humble Craigie Street Bistro. In addition to having a very celebrated weekend brunch burger, chef Tony Maws is one of the country’s foremost voices on whole animal butchery, and commenced a surge in small, chef-driven establishments in previously sleepy Cambridge. Tough call. One of the best octopus dishes I’ve ever had was at Craigie.
Boston

4th: The clean up hitter is the power hitter. The slugger. Big Papi. Here is where St. Louis and Boston bring the chefs who represent the best of the city’s dining scenes. There isn’t much debate about who the flagship chefs are: Gerard Craft and Barbara Lynch. I’ve had a stellar meal at Craft’s original Niche right after it opened and the same can be said for Lynch’s No. 9 Park. Both now have diverse, exciting restaurant empires. For Craft, that’s Niche, Taste, Brasserie, and Pastaria. Lynch’s stable includes No. 9 Park, Menton, Sportello, The Butcher Shop, and B & G Oysters. She almost single-handedly resurrected the Fort Point neighborhood of Boston. We’ll compare the two chefs’ craft cocktail bars later. Such close similarities! What a fascinating study! This is like choosing Pedroia or Yadier. In the end, Lynch wins for brining back fine French dining at Menton.
Boston

The building with Drink, Menton, and Sportello in Fort Point, Boston

The building with Drink, Menton, and Sportello in Fort Point, Boston

5th: It’s time for the big bopper, the fifth hitter. Speed and youth aren’t a factor. We want a classic, full of passion. You dive (belly-flop) like Jonny Gomes. That must be Tony’s in St. Louis. I’d say Durgin Park in Boston, but it’s for the tourists now. The locals go to Hamersley’s Bistro for a guaranteed excellent celebration and the best roast chicken this side of Zuni Café. Plus, Gordon Hamersley is a huge Sox fan. Still, Tony’s has what I want in a fifth batter: sautéed Dover sole with lemon sauce. Tried and true.
St. Louis

6th: Pizza: Here, the sixth batter must be reliable, with a little power, and a very sure glove. In other words (not sure how my rationale explains this in baseball terms), we must choose pizza. St. Louis-style pizza still loves artificial and Wisconsin- made Provel on its thin crust pies at the likes of Imo’s and Farotto’s. That won’t win any games. The Provel-free deep dish and thin crust pies at Pi (supposedly President Obama’s favorite pizza place) just might. But, it’s tough to counter the legendary Pizzeria Regina, Santarpio’s charred pies in East Boston, and new favorite Picco in the South End.
Boston

Busch Stadium's Big Mac Land. Don't eat here.

Busch Stadium’s Big Mac Land. Don’t eat here.

7th: Craft Beer: The seven hitter often is streaky, usually either really hot or cold during the postseason. They won’t stand out offensively most times, but sometimes are the best defensively. Or, we can just consider both cities’ and greater region’s craft beer scenes. It’s a tough call. Neither city is a Denver, Portland, Oregon, or Seattle. Craft beer powerhouses Portland, Maine, and Vermont don’t count for the Red Sox. We will count the likes of Jack’s Abby in Framingham, Somerville’s Slumbrew, Mystic Brewery in Chelsea, Clown Shoes in Ipswich, and Boston’s own Harpoon. St. Louis really knows its craft beers courtesy of Urban Chestnut, O’ Fallon, Perennial Artisan Ales, 4 Hands Brewing Co., and Schlafly. Both cities have their signature legendary bad to mediocre breweries in Samuel Adams (the Boston Beer Co.) and Budweiser. It’s Schlafly that gives St. Louis the nudge.
St. Louis

The Budweiser clydesdales

The Budweiser clydesdales

8th: Statistics don’t mean anything to for the eighth hitter. Stephen Drew has 2 hits in his last 24 at bats. This spot is about the intangibles. Price is unimportant. This is about clutch hitting. Lobster rolls and barbeque. You have to have a lobster roll in New England. In Boston, the best I’ve had is the version at Neptune Oyster, all drenched in butter. Lynch’s lobster roll at B & G Oysters is second. One of the best barbeque meals I’ve had anywhere, from Texas to North Carolina to Kansas City, was the sauced and dry rubbed pork ribs at Pappy’s Smokehouse. How do you choose between barbeque and lobster rolls? I’m still licking my fingers after Pappy’s.
St. Louis

Lobster roll at Fenway Park

Lobster roll at Fenway Park

9th: Think of the ninth hitter (in the American League) as the second leadoff hitter. They’ve got speed and energy to set the table, with less pop in their bat. I’m looking for something different. Ana Sortun’s Eastern Mediterranean-Turkish cuisine at Oleana and its sister bakery- café Sofra, is truly magical. For St. Louis, we’ll choose the beloved Vietnamese institution Mai Lee. It’s 200 plus dishes strong on the menu and I’m told you can’t go wrong. Now that is impressive. Biggest praise belongs to the ech xao lan, a stir-fry of frogs’ legs, curry, and lemongrass. Still, oh to have the Sultan’s Delight and the chocolate baklava again from Oleana.
Boston

The excellent street corn at Toro in Boston

The excellent street corn at Toro in Boston

SP: The starting pitcher. You really want him to go long into the game with no clunker innings, just like a tasting menu. Go ten courses for $100 from chef Ben Poremba at St. Louis’ newest gastronomic gem, Elaia (sweetbreads with burnt eggplant, Tasty Jade cucumber, and egg yolk!). The tranquil, masterful omakase experience from Tim Cushman at O Ya in Boston is one of the most unique and pleasurable dining experiences in this entire country. O Ya is hard to compete with. A Pedro Martinez complete game win here.
Boston

Set-Up Pitcher: The set-up man needs to keep things under control for the closer. Handle the eighth inning and happy hour. In other words, cocktails and wine. St. Louis’ craft cocktail scene is led by Craft’s Taste Bar, Sancturaria’s bourbon collection, and Eclipse. Boston’s scene is headlined by Lynch’s Drink (this summer’s best cocktail I sampled anywhere was a riff on the “Bone Crusher” with vanilla infused aged Rum, lime, Tabasco sauce, and simple syrup made from demerara sugar.   there). The Hawthorne, Strega, and Eastern Standard are also tops. Here, it’s a tie between Craft and Lynch again. Boston squeaks out the victory since one of the most important cocktail recipe books is Mr. Boston and the Red Sox actually have two wine labels (called “Red Sox Club Series Reserve”): a 2011 Alexander Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. Yeah, the grapes are from California, not Cape Cod. Trust me, that’s a good thing. Cheers!
Boston

Cocktails at Drink in Boston

Cocktails at Drink in Boston

Closer: Get those last three outs. Ignore the hostile crowd. Finish the game and the meal, and get the win. We’re talking about dessert. Here comes the controversy. St. Louis is known for their gooey butter cake, cannoli on The Hill and the vintage Americana soda fountain joy of Crown Candy Kitchen. Really though, it’s all about the magnificent frozen custard at Route 66’s Ted Drewe’s. It’s as essential to St. Louis as the Cardinals. Boston has mighty fine hot chocolate (Angelina in Paris quality) at Burdick’s and the classic Indian pudding at Durgin Park. Ice cream is truly king here. Whether it’s Christina’s burnt sugar in Cambridge or Kimball Farm in Westford, Boston is almost crazier for ice cream than the Sox. I have to side with Boston. I’ve gone on the record calling the ice cream at Toscanini’s the premier texture and flavor intensity I’ve experienced in this country. A controversial save here, but go with the goat cheese brownie. Not as a concrete.
Boston

Manager: Little Italy: Mike Matheny and John Farrell are perfect examples of what we want in a manager: wise, innovative, thoughtful, and positive. They know that it’s the fundamentals that win games. Fundamentals lead to great food too. We’re thinking about classic Italian neighborhoods here: Boston’s North End and St. Louis’ The Hill. In St. Louis, spring for venerable red sauce spots like Charlie Gitto’s, Cunetto, Gian-Tony’s, and Zia’s, the sandwiches at Amighetti’s and Adriana’s, and new school Italian at Lorenzo’s. Boston’s North End’s notable characters include Mamma Maria’s, Monica’s, Carmen, Terra Mia, and Prezza, not to mention cannoli at Maria’s (so good!), the aforementioned Pizzeria Regina, and Neptune Oyster. Mamma mia, close decision for this manager. We’re going with The Hill for the sandwiches on fresh-baked bread at Adriana’s and Amighetti’s.
St. Louis

Amighetti's, St. Louis

Amighetti’s, St. Louis

Mascot: The Cardinals’ Fredbird doesn’t dabble much in the food and drink world, preferring to peck fans on the head with his beak. His Facebook profile picture is of him grilling chicken skewers and sausages. Hey, he’s a great grill master. Wally the Green Monster in Beantown loves his beer and his ice cream. Numerous versions of mint ice cream around New England are called “Green Monster,” including those by Hood and Richardson’s. At Fenway Park, enjoy the (decent, not hoppy enough) Green Monsta IPA on draught from Wachusett Brewing Co. No question here. It’s Wally.
Boston

Fred Bird!

Fredbird!

Broadcaster: Along with both teams’ passionate fan bases, you have iconic broadcasters. Boston’s Jerry Remy has his own restaurant and bar near Fenway Park. Don Orsillo I’m told is an excellent home chef, often with Italian specialties on the menu. However, the radio voice of the Cardinals Mike Shannon’s restaurant Shannon’s Steakhouse near Busch Stadium is actually quite highly regarded. The same is said for J. Buck’s and Joe Buck’s, even if Joe is actually not a Cardinals broadcaster (he’s the voice of Fox’s national telecast for the World Series). His late father Jack was the legendary voice of the Cardinals and quite simply one of the great voices of sports, an idol of mine.
St. LouisRed Sox win

The final score: Boston 9, St. Louis 6. Like this World Series, this food edition came down to the wire. And we didn’t even include important dishes like fluffernutter sandwiches and Bartley’s burgers in Boston, or the excellent Mexican dishes my friend Eva Pearlstone pointed out for us, the burgers at Blueberry Hill, slingers, or pork steaks.

Boston gets the win. No arguments with the umpire allowed. On the field, I’m expecting and hoping for the same close result. Let’s Go Red Sox!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s