Archive for October, 2010
• Dia de los Muertos: Adios Halloween? Not quite. November 2nd is the Day of the Dead, so paint yourself all skeleton-like, open up a bottle of primo tequila (I recommend Milagro Reposado Reserve), and feast upon candied pumpkin and sugar skulls…candy corn and leftover Halloween treats works for me. Just be sure to have enough to share with the visiting dead. If you’re reading this beyond the Mexican Holiday, start celebrating immediately. Any day is actually a good day of the dead.
We’re actually planning on a Halloween sequel. Think of John Lithgow in “Santa Claus: the Movie” as BZ, the evil toymaker, gleefully shouting out “CHRISTMAS TWO!!” Yeah, now prepare for “HALLOWEEN TWO!“ Rome’s ancient feast, LEMURIA, on May 13th sounds like a great date for a Halloween sequel. Party away those pesky evil spirits!
• HAMPSHIRE: A GHOST STORY now listed on Netflix. Add it to your queue.
• Meat trays at Martinis at 515
• New eats — Sydne’s Café and Catering: Victoria: Sydne Holder has a new café. She previously owned Out To Lunch on Hampshire, and is now located on 12th Street in the former My Koog location. The menu offers items for breakfast and lunch. Sydne’s soups have always been delicious, as well as her sandwichs. Give it a try.
• The Madison Avenue cocktail
• Wishing for Wine event at the Ambiance: Victoria: We were informed that the event this year is on November 11th at the Ambiance in Quincy from 4 pm to 8 pm. Proceeds benefit the Make A Wish Foundation. We went to last year’s event, and we really enjoyed it. Lots of different wines to taste as well as beer, and items to munch on. Definitely attend this event. You can buy tickets at the door for $10 per person. Hiring a chauffer or a prom bus to cart you to and fro would be a helluva good idea.
• The Blood and Sand cocktail
• Blue Heron Orchard’s Apple Cider. Probably all spoken for, by now, but if you can get a jug of it from Dan Kelly or anyone else, do it. Hey, do it.
• Secret Underground Dinners in Quincy with secret guests serving secret food that I’m not supposed to talk about. Forget you read this.
• Thanksgiving turkey/dinner ORGANIC-STYLE: Victoria: We’re going organic this year with the meal. Free range turkey from US Wellness Meats, all the way down to organic stuffing. Yum! But the real fun, besides stuffing our faces, will be spending time with family….ah, sentimental, yes, but enjoyable.
• Black Friday: Victoria: Yes, we’re the crazy couple that will get up at 3:00 am to be entertained by the frantic masses in search for bargains. I love it! Nothing makes me smile more than the hustle and bustle — free entertainment. Sure, we may go out in search of a door buster, but we mainly go out for the fun rush of it all. Then, we come home, pop on some fantastic Christmas film like “Love Actually,“ and decorate for Christmas. This is one of my favorite days of the year.
Christopher Kelley and his wife Victoria
Wednesday before Halloween. Every day is fun day, as far as I‘m concerned. The day before was movie day with 1931’s “Frankenstein” starring Boris Karloff. The day after will be movie day with 1941’s “The Wolf Man” and 1943’s “Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man,” both starring Lon Chaney Jr. and Bela Lugosi. But Wednesday night, that was a going- out night.
Megan and Justin were destined for San Diego on the Halloween Weekend, so we car-trained to Fuji for the Wednesday Sushi specials and cocktail challenges. With bartender Ryan at Fuji and Chad at Martinis, we have an ongoing cocktail recipe challenge. This night, we challenged Ryan with Halloween mixes.
Martinis at 515 is doing something similar all this weekend.
#1 was The Ghostbuster — a green concoction with melon liqueur and drops of Baileys, which separates and becomes gruesome strands of delicious ectoplasm.
#2 was Devil’s Punch with tequila, orange liqueur, limoncello and a few other tasty ingredients.
#3 was The Jack-O-Lantern with Cognac, OJ, Grand Marnier, and ginger ale.
Then a round of warm sake with sushi.
Susan Pierson texted: “Let’s go have a drink.”
The four of us met Susan at Fitz’s on 4th, who we saw walking in with a loaf of bread she ran over in the street and decided to pick up and throw away. Susan’s always so caring about keeping Quincy streets clean…at the cost of touching grody things with her hands.
I pondered joining Fitz’s Beer Club (making your way across the list of all Fitz’s offered brew), which is kid brother to the Martini Club. My name is proudly displayed at #3 on the Martini Club Martini plaque. A companion listing on the Beer plaque seemed like a good idea, but, in the end, I went with a glass of Gnarly Head Red Zinfandel. We said hello to the Kathys from Beeline, who were next door in the dining room. Justin ordered a beer, but did not find Fitz stuck to the bottom of his bottle.
The five of us always have great conversation when we’re together — life, religion, afterlife, work, play, wine, movies. No subject is off limits, including the subjects that make the prudish turn red. We made a decision to spend a night in Lemp Mansion in St. Louis for the sole purpose of experiencing the supernatural firsthand, so that our very next conversation can begin with: “Now we know there’s SOMETHING going on when you die…” Plus, it’s about time I take a real peek at the world I often write about.
Susan packed it in. Megan and Justin went home. Michael and Nadine Mitchell buzzed us on the phone. “We’re celebrating Michael’s Birthday. Meet us at Tiramisu?”
We stopped off at Brix, first, for a birthday bottle of wine. Brix has various bottles on clearance, most of which are fantastic. We had acquired an $80 bottle of sherry for $48 to drink on our anniversary carriage ride that was out of this world. For Michael, we picked up a Barbera D’Asti – a smooth red Italian wine that tastes excellent with just about anything. While we selected the bottle, a glass of Zolo Malbec, previously un-tasted by us, was ordered and shared.
Tiramisu. Michael and Nadine were at the tail end of their dinner while sons Henri and Jasper stared curiously at Victoria and I. A double limoncello for me and a single for Victoria. Someone asked when WE were going to have kids. “We’re not.” The response is so programmed, it usually skips off our tongue before the question is finished.
“Who’s going to carry on the Kelley name?”
“Jake and Tyler Kelley.”
“Who’re Jake and Tyler Kelley?”
“They’re a couple of tough mo’s. You’s don’t wanna cross them.”
Said hi to Roberto & Terry, downed the limoncello, paid, followed the Mitchell’s to their house where Nadine had a homemade birthday cake waiting for Michael. We showered Michael with his wine gift…actually, that would be a fun, wet way to wish someone a happy birthday. In reality, we just gave him the bottle. I made the Mitchells offer me some of their apple cider, which I heated up with some spiced rum. Nadine served the cake and I reached out to have a second slice. We made other cocktails. Henri chased me around the house. Phoebe – the cute little doggie – snarled and howled at me. We sat on the porch for a spell and shared a fine cigar.
It was apple-crisp cold outside, the kind of chill you welcome after a long summer in the Midwest oven, the kind that makes you cross your arms and stamp your feet and burn your glass of whiskey, and after several minutes, your teeth begin to drum roll and you know it’s time to go back in the house and take a 70 degree steam in the living room before trying it all out again. It’s getting colder already. Last night, a low of 28F. Why does Quincy do it hardcore? Why can’t Quincy go mellow in the temps for long stretches of time like it did with the heat, this year?
Fall’s only just begun – the leaves finally Crayola’d to the Autumn palette – and I’m already preparing for the Winter abduction. At least, we’ll always have Wednesday.
VICTORIA: You may remember Ray Wise as the Devil in the CW’s brief “Reaper” or as the bad guy who tried to kick RoboCop in the crotch. Here, he stars in this eerie, wonderful, campy film about a family driving through a long stretch of dark forest to get to their relative’s house on Christmas Eve. It includes a detour to a wooded road that seems never ending and a spooky woman in white hiding in the trees. Bickering ensues among the family leading to funny dialogue, amidst all of the strange occurrences. Murder. Ghosts. Creepiness and some gore, but too good to be considered cheesy-bad.
“The Lady in White”
VICTORIA: I remember watching this as a kid and being totally creeped out. The tale involves unsolved murders and ghosts. A song whistled by the killer in the movie has stuck with me since. An older flick that still holds up today, despite one terrible special effect of a man falling off a cliff that leads to giggles from the audience. Starring Lucas Haas and Mona from “Who’s the Boss?”
VICTORIA: Bruce Campbell, enough said. Wait, Bruce Campbell as Elvis in a nursing home fighting a mummy alongside an elderly black man who claims he‘s JFK, nice. “I think you know what I’m gettin’ at Mr. President. We’re gonna kill us a mummy. “ A Chris Kelley favorite. Sadly, Bruce Campbell backed out of the sequel over creative differences. Really, Bruce? You didn’t seem to have any hang-ups making “Alien Apocalypse” but you’re drawing the line here at Ho-Tep 2? Really?
VICTORIA: Faux documentary about a haunting, much more engaging than those awful “Paranormal Activity“ movies. Very creepy. Dialogue driven, so not one of those mindless horror flicks. You’ll want to pay attention to this one. Scares in just the right places.
VICTORIA: Classic movie from 1932. Don’t be intimidated by age or black and white film. This one will keep your attention. One of us. One of us. One of us. One of us…
CHRIS: I DVR’d this a few years ago to watch with friends on Halloween night. They rejected it and made me turn it off. Making weird siren-like noises while sobbing, I wrote a frustrated letter to Roger Ebert who had my back, printed my letter and wrote, “no one who rejects black and white should be allowed to watch movies.” Word.
Christopher Kelley and his wife Victoria
We had just left the parking lot after Six Flags Fright Fest (for more details, check out my previous blog, A weekend in St. Louis, Part 1: Fright Fest). Our calves were on fire. Our hamstrings were sore. Screams from zombies and trolls were ricocheting around inside our skulls. Well, after miles upon miles of walking, there was only one way to put our feet up: a five star hotel and casino, with valet service. Sweet, convenient valet service. In our case, we stayed at the The Lumière, located right by the riverfront landing in downtown St. Louis.
The Lumière is the real deal in terms of ritzy (especially for a small town guy like me). The lobby opens up into a giant foyer with a bar, about twenty broadleaf trees in illuminated stands shaped like giant clay plant pots, leather couches and chairs in a variety of colors, several big screen LCD TVs, and a four story waterfall running down plate glass to a marble platform. Necessary? Not really. Awesome? Definitely.
Check-in was no hassle, and we were up in our room in ten minutes. The room was just as nice. We reserved two queen size beds (since we were with friends), and we got a living room area with a 37” LCD TV and a couch with a pull out bed, a kitchen with a refrigerator, and a bedroom with two queen size beds and another 42” LCD TV. We did have a problem with our mini-fridge being locked shut, but we called the operator and a maintenance man came to our door in minutes. The only thing that seemed weird was that they charged for wi-fi. I’ve been to hotels and even dirt motels all around the U.S. where the internet was free.
Even though we were tired, we had to check out the entertainment. Curiosity can usually evoke a second wind from me anyway. The casino and restaurants are separate from the hotel, connected by a skywalk on the fourth floor. The casino is a very distinct building. You might know it. If you’ve ever driven through the middle of St. Louis on I-70, it’s the building across from the Edward Jones Dome with a giant wedge through it that lights up and changes color at night. If that description isn’t clear, check out this picture. Architecturally speaking, it’s really interesting to look at.
We ate at a restaurant called Asia, which serves (you guessed it) Asian cuisine. I had chicken Pad Thai. I have had Pad Thai before, but this was by far the best. We also had plates of sushi, rice, noodles, and octopus salad floating around the table. Belinda ordered one of their specials: Cornish hen with pan fried patties of sweet rice served with honey garlic sauce. It was a very tender and flavorful meat, and I highly recommend trying it, with or without the sauce.
Halfway through dinner, my friend Fred leaned over and asked me if I thought the chef was in. I didn’t know what that meant, but he just smiled. Across from the restaurant where we were eating, there was a steakhouse called SLeek. Fred walked over to the hostess and asked her if the chef was in. She smiled kindly, and used a phone at her podium to call back to the kitchen. I was confused. This young lady was, as far as I knew, a complete stranger, but she seemed to know exactly what Fred was asking for. Why?
Then I saw Chef Hubert Keller. He walked out of a back door on the side of the steakhouse, right in front of us. I didn’t know a lot about him. Heck, I didn’t even know he was French. It turns out that he and Fred are both from the same region of France, called Alsace. They greeted each other. Chef Keller shook our hands. He and Fred spoke to each other for a few minutes in a French dialect I could not understand, but I was still enthralled. Chef Keller was a gentleman. He still addressed me, even though I’m sure he could tell I could not understand his language. After a few minutes, he began to speak English. I asked him about his restaurants. Chef Keller told us about his five world renowned restaurants in three major cities—The Burger Bar (Las Vegas, St. Louis, and soon to be San Francisco), Fleur de Lys (Las Vegas and San Francisco), and SLeek (which is regarded as the best steakhouse in St. Louis). He told us how he got his start with a small restaurant in San Francisco, but, sadly, it caught fire. He was forced to reopen, and business only skyrocketed from there, thanks to his culinary expertise.
A few tidbits on Keller: he was the first chef ever invited to The White House to cook for President Bill Clinton, his Fleur de Lys in Vegas boasts a burger a burger call the Fleur burger 5,000 (because it literally costs $5,000.00), he is an accomplished DJ, and he had his own show, Secrets of a Chef, airing nationally on PBS.
While we were walking back to our room at the hotel with warm bellies stuffed full of good food, ready to hibernate, Fred looked at me and shrugged his shoulders. He smiled and said, “You never know if you never ask.” What good advice, especially coming from a man who left his native country three years ago and came here to risk everything and open a bakery. I can say my trip to The Lumière was memorable. Some people might think it was the five star atmosphere, but I don’t. I think it was because we made our own memories, and those are the best kind.
What kind of wine is California famous for? A week ago, I wouldn’t’ve really had an answer, but I probably would have felt a strong urge to watch wine movies and drink wine while discussing wines that I like and being unfairly judgmental about wine that I don’t like. Someday, I’m sure, someone will trick me into enjoying a White Zinfandel then rub it in my face, chanting “Chris and White Zinfandel sittin’ in a tree…” – you know the rest.
Speaking of Zinfandel, that’s what Californians would say. Going back to “What kind of wine is California famous for?”, that is. Zinfandel. I just learned that. For a guy who claims to be a wine enthusiast, I should know some of these things.
Thankfully, Quincy’s Hy-Vee Wine & Spirits (both at 20th and Broadway and 13th & Harrison) sponsored a night with a California winemaker at Microtel where I got to learn a little bit and drink a lot. Edd Lopez from Seghesio Family Vineyards in California took a roomful of people on a tour of tastes. With over 400 acres in the bulls eye of Sonoma Wine Country, Seghesio produces a small variety of wines with a passionate quality-over-quantity mentality.
It was a fun event, but the setting was a little odd. Held in a meeting room at the Microtel, it felt like a business conference more than a celebration of wine. But we all got past it. There was a spread of food begging guests to dig in, “try me with that wine.” Edd had a lot to say about the wines and the Seghesio family and spoke very passionately about all, despite a table of talkers. Edd kept pausing in his presentation and looking in their direction, but no one seemed to get the hint. Finally, after the 5th or 6th taste, I shushed the talkers and got looks in return and grins loaded with hostility: “How dare you shush me.”
It’s all good, though. We made peace after the shindig and even went out to Martinis together for one final nightcap.
Back to Seghesio.
We tasted a Pinot Grigio – one on a short list that I can actually tolerate. We tasted Arneis, Sangiose, and Barbera before getting to the real stars of the show: The Zinfandels – RED, not white. There were six varieties of Seghesio Zinfandels, only five of which were there for the tasting – the cheapest of which was actually one of my favorites: Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel. The other Zinfandels were Cortina, Rockpile, Old Vine, Home Ranch, and San Lorenzo.
The San Lorenzo was the most expensive at nearly $50 a bottle, and it was the only one not available to taste during the event. However, after nearly everyone else went home for the night, Edd sat at our table with Tiramisu’s Roberto & Terry and the table of talkers and Hy-Vee’s Tony Terwelp produced a single bottle of the San Lorenzo to pop and taste. Edd poured us all a glass and shared the story of the wine, which included a heartfelt passage about “Momma Seghesio.” All I can say about the San Lorenzo is “Amazing”.
Hy-Vee currently stocks several of the Seghesio label wines, including my favorites from the tasting: Sonoma Zinfandel, Cortina Zinfandel, Home Ranch Zinfandel, and San Lorenzo Zinfandel. They’re not cheap wines, ranging from $20-$50 for the Zins, but, again, it goes back to quality-over-quantity.
Edd Lopez: “We’re not competing with the big boys who put out hundreds of thousands of cases per year. We’re making less, concentrating on our best. We want to make great wine.”
CHRIS: I could hear the wind brush the trees, gently nudging handfuls of amber and brown leaves off the branches and onto the sidewalk outside, where aggressive couture bootstrapped feet crunched through the piles of dead leaves and ninja’d up to my front door. The team of raiders were pros – three hungry kitty-cats and a beautiful femme fatale. They burst through the door, distracted me with cute looks and batting eyes, then took me down, tying me to a chair. The cats plopped to the floor, showing off their tum-tums. The femme fatale began to type on my computer:
It’s me; Victoria; I’m back (aka — Mrs. Chris Kelley). Once again, I have hijacked Mr. Kelley’s blog. The focus – a terrific dinner presented by Thyme Square Café on a Sunday night. It was the café’s first ever Farmer Feature Dinner. The featured farmer was Blue Heron Orchard. Blue Heron provides amazing organic products from apples to peppers to an applesauce that, when combined with snickerdoodle cookies, creates smiles and thoughts of Fall.
The dinner consisted of four courses and offered the opportunity to hear Blue Heron owner, Dan Kelly, introduce himself and his business.
The first course was fried green tomatoes with three types of aioli (roasted red pepper, herb curry, and garlic) for dipping the tomatoes. Chris and I have never had fried green tomatoes, and they were very enjoyable, especially with the aioli. Plus, fried green tomatoes always reminds me of the movie.
CHRIS: The only thing I remember from this movie is Kathy Bates ramming some snooty young tart’s car in a parking lot and saying, “Face it, girls… I’m older and I have more insurance.” I think that was in the trailer. … I’ve never seen this movie.
The second course was a mixed green salad with egg, pickled onions, and this fantastic maple-cured bacon. The bacon definitely elevated the salad. But what is it that most people say…..ah yes, bacon can make anything taste good.
The third course, and my favorite, was a seared halibut with swiss chard, and roasted squash, potatoes, and citrus buerre blanc. The fish was cooked perfectly, and the presentation was spot on.
The final course was an apple and raisin bread pudding with caramel sauce and cinnamon whipped cream. Chris and I had eaten the bread pudding at Thyme Square twice that week, and each time it had a different twist. This is the best bread pudding I have ever had. So good, I could sit by the fireplace and eat endless amounts of the bread pudding…..not good for the waistline, so I opt to have it in moderation. You must go and have this treat!
How do you find out about these dinners? Go to Thyme Square and be placed on their e-mail list. When you find out about the second dinner, reserve quickly. The dinner was worth every delicious bite.
CHRIS: After the final keystrokes, the team of hijackers untied me from the chair and showed me the manuscript above. “Oh,” I said to the grinning femme fatale. “Well, this is okay. So, you, uh, wanna get a drink, or something?”
We checked in at the downtown Hyatt and downed a quick champagne at RED Kitchen and Bar in the lobby before stepping over to Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse in the hotel for more drinks in their cool bar. I ordered a Madison Avenue and wondered why this place was called Ruth’s Chris. My iPhone informed me that a lady named Ruth bought a couple of steakhouses called Chris in New Orleans and expanded it into a chain of Ruth’s Chris. Got it.
We cabbed it over to Local Harvest Café in the Tower Grove Park area, which serves mostly organic and locally grown food. We ordered white wine, red wine, enchiladas, chili, goat cheese and trout … not all mixed together. It was a lot more of a casual dining experience than we expected, but still good and fun. Check it out at localharvestcafe.com
Next was The Darkness — see The Darkness blog entry.
After the ladies freshened up at the hotel, we made it to the grand opening party of Lola’s Absinthe Lounge — a new addition to a downtown spot called Lola (welovelola.com). The party was sponsored by Alive Magazine. Our friend, Gilberto Pinela, was getting us in, but the doorman couldn’t find his name on the list. Thankfully, a second doorman recognized Gilberto and told us to go on in. He opened the door, and we were hit with a sudden rush of thump-thump music that was so loud I forgot who I was for a minute and almost disrobed. We passed the front part of Lola’s, where a DJ was spinning beats and walked back to the new absinthe lounge, which was really cool, but for some reason we went back to the front bar to order drinks, which took a year and a day, and I tried saying hi to some strangers, but my mouth wasn’t making any noise because the music was so loud that I probably looked like a mime. After my ears started bleeding, we tried the absinthe lounge once more, and there was another DJ in the absinthe lounge whose beats weren’t so aggressively damaging, but were still loud. We ordered a round of absinthe cocktails that tasted like happiness and founds seats on a leather couch. Our friend, Allen, said he was talking to a film producer, but he couldn’t hear her because of the music so he just kept smiling and nodding and agreeing without question. Gilberto started club dancing, so I started doing my own dancing thing, and Gilberto stopped me and said, “Don’t dance like that.”
I said, “I don’t understand the appeal of bars and clubs with music this loud. I like socializing with conversation, discovering similarities and common interests between myself and others that can lead to long-term friendships, talking likes, dislikes, movies, wine and everything else. These kinds of places aren’t for me, but rather for single people who just want to lock eyes, talk in body language and hook up for the night. You know?”
Everyone responded by smiling and nodding and agreeing. “Isn’t this great?” someone asked.
The last stop of the night was Atomic Cowboy (atomiccowboystl.com) near Central West End. We’d been there before on a Monday night when it was real chill with a light DJ and the guys from DrinkLab manning the bar. Being Saturday, the place was pretty packed, but most of the action was happening out back where there was an outdoor DJ, dance floor, beer garden, fire pit, and outdoor lounge. Sipping on a fresh cocktail, I started wondering how in the world these St. Louis people managed to stay up so late on the weekends when I was getting ready to collapse. That’s when I realized most of the people were drinking beer, while I’d had wine and cocktails all night. I toughed it out a while longer because I was doing it for you … the readers who have the right to know what to do and where to go when visiting St. Louis for something unique.
A moment later, we called it a night, got back to the hotel and collapsed.
First, think about what defines Halloween for you. Costumes? Toy machetes? Face paint? Candy? A blood curdling scream from the surprisingly elastic lungs of Jamie Lee Curtis? I bet you wouldn’t include Roller Coasters in this list? How about Bugs Bunny or Daffy Duck? I wouldn’t associate these things with Halloween either, until this past weekend when I went to Fright Fest 2010 at Six Flags St. Louis with a car full of friends.
Like most days, the park opens between 11 a.m. and 12 p.m. If you’ve been to the park in the past couple years, you might know what to expect: The feeling of excitement when you see the roller coaster tracks looming from the highway. The anticipation of waiting in line to park. The familiar security lines at the entrance for metal detectors and bag checks. The antsy patrons craning their necks left, then right, then left again, just to see what is taking so long.
But, if you pay close attention, you’ll notice a few subtle differences. When you approach the park, you might notice the large headstones placed back in the shrubbery near the entrance, the sinister gargoyles peering over buildings in the entrance patio, or the spider webs draped over just about everything. If you haven’t noticed that something is amiss by now, the shrill screams, creaking doors, and eerie sounds over the PA would probably give it away. Then, as you walk (or run) to your favorite roller coaster—past more headstones, clowns lynched from the roofs of saloons, and zombies—you will start to notice the great degree of effort and coordination the Six Flags staff put forth to decorate the entire park in honor of the haunting holiday.
Fright Fest is held annually, each weekend in October. My best advice is to come early and get the rides out of your system. If you are quick, you can hop on two or three coasters with as little as a five minute wait. We rode The Batman first, which is an inverted coaster closest to the entrance of the park. I would say that it is one of the smoothest and most dynamic coasters at Six Flags, especially when compared to traditional wooden coasters like the classic Screaming Eagle or The Boss. Our goal was to ride just about every coaster, and we succeeded only because we arrived at the park at 11:00 a.m. Plus, the best way to kick off a scare fest is to put your life in the hands of a fiberglass cart on steel rails, barreling down tracks at 70 mph with only a single lap bar between you and oblivion.
Six Flags normally closes around 8:00 p.m., but they stay open until 11:00 p.m. for Fright Fest. The reason for this is because most of the special events like haunted houses, Halloween musicals, and a professional hypnotist performance open after dark. The park also dresses up live staff members in goblin and zombie outfits to sneak around and terrify patrons. They pop out of cracks, from under bridges, and anywhere else they can hide. This is why the Park really gets choked with guests around 6 or 7 p.m. Just from observation, I would say the population of the park tripled at that time.
Since we planned it right, we were hungry. While everyone was b-lining it for rides, we were neck deep in Friar Tucks roasted turkey legs. All the food and drink prices at amusement park are, as everyone knows, astronomical, but, if I had to guess, I would say these huge, $8.00 turkey legs were roasted over wood from the Garden of Eden. They are that delicious, and they will fill you up (unlike like the $14.00 mini-pizza and mini-Coke combo at Papa John’s).
After dinner, we walked around for while, saw some of the spooky performances, and then headed for the door at 8:00. Nine hours of walking really killed our feet. Good thing we had reservations at The Lumiere, a five star hotel on the riverfront in downtown St. Louis. What a way to put your feet up, right? I will tell you more about my stay there in the next blog, including how I met and spoke with Hubert Keller, a world class chef from Alsace, France, who has four restaurants in three major U.S. cities and has in own cooking show aired in PBS.
The moon shimmers on the rippling Mississippi that laps at the banks outside. Occasionally, one or two of the engines from the eight Harleys parked out front chop to life, cleaving all conservations in half. The waitress juggles three or four Budweiser longnecks between the fingers on each of her hands with ease.
In the back, the cook is grilling thick patties of ground beef with a slice of cheese melting on top and buttering toasted bread for a patty melt, unless, of course, he’s deep frying homemade potato chips and chicken fingers so they can be slathered in hot sauce and, eventually, ranch dressing. There’s a stuffed buck head on the wall just above our table, college football highlights on the TV, and Zeppelin on the stereo. This is Kutter’s on a Thursday night.
Kutter’s is a bar and grill on Front Street with a good selection of beer and excellent tavern food down. As with most traditional tavern food, it isn’t for the faint of heart (literally). Just about everything on the menu is deep fried, red meat, or both. If you’ve had a previous coronary or a family history of heart disease, order at your own risk. But, if you’re a true American, ignore the consequences and indulge. After all, isn’t this considered authentic American cuisine? Aren’t Americans aloud to be a little hedonistic from time to time? I vote yes. The only thing I can think of that’s more American is Busch beer (also known as Busch Heavy or “tractor fuel”), or, better yet, a bottle of Busch beer for a dollar. Well, on Thursdays, Kutter’s can take care of that too.
Most people refer to this phenomenon as “dollar bottles,” but I’ve also heard “dollar longnecks.” I don’t really know if Kutter’s actually uses any of these terms to describe this drink special, and, frankly, I don’t care. What I know for sure is that it’s the special of all specials. It’s the answer everyone is really looking for when they ask the waiter/waitress, “What are your specials tonight?” There’s nothing quite like going to the bar with a 10 dollar bill in your wallet, knowing full well that you can drink all night. Plus, your wounded conscience won’t curse you for wasting sixty bucks just to go out and get drunk.
There’s also nothing quite like taking your girlfriend out to dinner with a twenty either. Sure, a bar like Kutter’s isn’t the most glamorous place in the world, but the food is excellent. My girlfriend and I are also the Johnny Cash loving, Tennessee whisky sipping, prefer mountains to beaches, dive bar kind of people anyway, so it happens to work out just fine for us.
But I have to be fair. I wouldn’t recommend Kutter’s to only those types of people, and it’s certainly not a dive bar. It’s a nice, clean place with tables outside on the front patio and friendly waitresses. From fried carp and catfish to taco salad, Reuben sandwiches to burgers, they have something for everyone. If I had to make a recommendation, I would suggest the Kutter’s patty melt—a thick burger with melted cheese, tomatoes, smothered in Kutter’s special sauce, served on buttered toast. MMMmmm. I think I’m just going to end this blog right now, and let that thought settle down in your grumbling belly.
This past Saturday, we were in St. Louis doing a thing, which presented the perfect opportunity to go to the Soulard neighborhood for a scare at The Darkness — a gargantuan building of terror, thrills, chills, and terror and thrills. Luckily, STL-TV’s Gilberto Pinela was with us to access the VIP treatment from The Darkness staff.
“We’re here,” Gilberto announced to a delightful chap dressed in black at the front gate, who promptly escorted us past the long, winding, outdoor line of people and into the antechamber where horror reared its ugly head in the form of another line. This one, we were not allowed to skip. But don’t worry; this line is almost part of the attraction with a taste of things to come. An animatronic demon screamed at people from above. Actors in costume worked the crowd. A puppetronic old-man-warlock-thing bobbled against a wall and I pretended he was doing sorcerer stand-up comedy. A soda machine tormented thirsty people by displaying an “out of order” sign.
It was hot that day, too. It was like Global Warming firehosed the Autumn’s cool groove with boiling water and started yelling, “Who still doesn’t think I exist?” As bodies started pressing together in line, I started apologizing to my companions for the unavoidable sweat that would soon pour down my face and body.
Finally, the main entrance!
The Darkness in a multi-level haunted house, rated as one of the top in the country. We recently saw a Travel Channel program featuring 2008’s setup. Each year, the staff rebuilds the attraction to keep it fresh. Every section features a different horror theme, from prehistoric terrors to sci-fi scares. Some are new and inventive; others are classic spectacles I’ve come to expect.
Strobe light and darkness. For some reason, at of haunted houses, I break into a fake karate pose and slowly chop my way through the danger. But I always have fun and I am always loud. The first scare was proof as I yelled and did some kind of weird judo thing.
Victoria was following me, holding on tight to my belt loops and keeping her eyes closed. She was certain she was going to tug too tight and pull my pants down – a true horror, to be sure. I creeped around a dark corner, reaching ahead of me with my hands, and touched the belly of an actor who was getting ready to do a little startling.
We saw a madhouse overrun by psychotic patients. Mummies and the horrors of ancient Egypt. Zombies. Medieval torture. Lots of animatronics, which really don’t do anything to scare me, but are neat to look at. Lots of dummies mixed in with real people. A very, very little person was made up to appear fused to a full-grown man – a half formed brother. He was posed and perfectly still. At the second we passed him, he lunged forward and reached for us. I didn’t think he was real until that. It was one of my favorite scares. Who’s inanimate and who’s going to spring to life?
The heat was really getting to me at that point. Not only was I soaked in the kind of sweat that normally makes my wife back away from me with a “yucky” expression on her face, but I was also feeling a little faint. I could only imagine what the performers were going through in heavy makeup and costume and running around the building for hours. We were marching up and down stairs. Plus the group ahead of us slowed down so much we actually caught up to them and it became a slow-moving line. But I was still screaming.
The regular thrills ended and we were handed a cheap pair of 3-D glasses for the next part of The Darkness. Black lights and neon colors made everything pop. I started acting stranger than normal on purpose and that seemed to make the actors not mess with me as much. We passed through a 3-D moving tunnel that disoriented me so much I nearly fell over the railing and I started to wonder if they just recycled these 3-D glasses and if the person who previously wore them had snot or puss or disease all over his face.
Finally, it was over. I marched straight outside – away from the cooked BO smell caused by the stupid heat wave – and took in a deep breath of lukewarm air. Ahhh….better.
And a very cool attraction that would have been much more enjoyable had the leftover, dull summer heat not come back to make me all sweaty and gross. Visit scarefest.com for information and tickets. And go when it’s cooler outside!
Who wants candy corn?