Tag: food


 Home Cheep Home

In the middle of our other spring project, the timing was right to get our new pets, but that started the six-week clock for building them a place to live. Because, trust me, you do not want these critters living in your basement permanently. Noah helped me start the framing, and after a full weekend of work, we had the beginnings of a coop. After that, the weather stopped cooperating for a while, so it took a couple of weeks to get back to it. In the meantime, I stumbled across a ridge vent at Lowe’s on clearance for $2 that seems to work pretty good on top. I guess we’ll have to wait for summer to find out if it does a good job of keeping things cool inside.
My design was roughly based on the Catawba Coops design, with some modifications to increase the interior space. It’s also a foot wider at the base. Beware of these design changes, however! You will wind up with a portable coop that isn’t really all that portable — I think ours weighs about 150 pounds. I also got inspiration from the many designs available on Backyard Chickens. Ours combines features from several different ones.
After another full weekend, we were almost done with construction. One exterior wall and the roof got a coat of primer and two coats of exterior paint, while all of the other exposed wood got a couple of thin coats of Thompson’s Water Seal. I also sealed the edges of all the boards with silicone caulk. We ended up taking the fancy waterer back and just ordering some poultry nipples on Amazon and making our own from a couple of plastic juice bottles.
Now for some lessons learned. If you go with a design that involves a ramp, make sure it is no steeper than 45 degrees, and you will want rungs attached to the ramp every three inches, or your pullets will find it difficult to climb. My initial plan involved a removable wall made from a single sheet of half-inch plywood. After the first rain, however, this board warped pretty badly, so I ended up scrapping that and replacing it with hinged panels (patent pending) and some foam weatherstripping to keep the rain out. These have performed flawlessly so far. The most expensive material by far is the wire mesh (which is actually half-inch hardware cloth), but as we have learned from reading up on the subject, chicken wire only keeps chickens in, it doesn’t keep predators out. Another indispensable design item is the “poop tray” which is essentially a litter box filled with Sweet PDZ that completely eliminates the odor and makes collecting the droppings for your compost quick and painless.
We are lucky to have the OK Hatchery nearby for our chicks, feed, and other supplies, and as they have told us, “you chicken people are taking over the world!” Now we are just looking forward to gathering eggs! Stay tuned for pictures of our first omelets!

 Staycation Day 4

Day four of our staycation took us to see the St. Louis Cathedral Basilica, a rather incongruous blend of Romanesque architecture and Byzantine art that took almost 70 years to complete. It houses one of the largest collections of mosaics in the world, all of which are stunning. The kids were impressed with the size of the space inside, and Noah really liked the stained glass windows. It’s hard to believe I’ve lived in St. Louis almost my entire life and I’ve never visited before. They currently have on display a bronze cast replica of Michelangelo’s La Pieta, a marble statue at the Vatican.

We ate lunch at the Central Cafe and Bakery that serves a refreshing menu of Lebanese cuisine. Dixie and I enjoyed the babaganoush appetizer, and I had a very flavorful salad of vegetables and herbs with some yummy lamb kabobs. Luckily their menu also includes a cheese pizza that was a hit with the kids. We followed this up with a walk around the block to The Cup for gourmet cupcakes for dessert. Dixie had a “Graceland” that is banana cake with peanut butter frosting. They even provide free candles if it’s your birthday.

We ended the day with a tour of the Herbaria Soap Factory on The Hill. They make all natural cold process soap with essential oils for scent and color, and if you ask, they’ll take you in back of the shop and give you a tour of the soap-making process, and even let the kids cut out their own bars of soap using cookie cutters. Humans have been making soap for thousands of years, and it is somewhat surprising that the process has remained unchanged in all of that time.

 Stone Soup Cottage

Having made reservations a full five months in advance, I had a long time to anticipate Dixie’s birthday dinner at Stone Soup Cottage in Cottleville, Missouri. Prior to attending the Chef’s Tasting Dinner last Friday, I had read that St. Louis Magazine had given them the Best New Restaurant award when they opened in 2009, and had named them Restaurant of the Year again in 2010, so my expectations were pretty high. Chef Carl McConnell and his culinary creations did not disappoint. However, I did find a few aspects of the overall dining experience that could be improved.

The food was simply fabulous — a unique blend of distinctive flavors, with many fresh ingredients from local farms and gardens. A bisque made with corn harvested that morning. A potato puff with black truffles and locally picked morel mushrooms. One should keep in mind that it is a tasting, so the portions are small, but with six courses and a few extras on the side, no one leaves hungry. We also chose to include wine pairings with our dinner (at an additional charge), and the selections (two white, two red) were very good.

The restaurant is a restored cottage that dates from the 1850s, with a small dining area that seats about twenty people, at well-appointed and candlelit tables. Having Chef McConnell personally deliver most of the courses to our table and comment on them only adds to the intimate atmosphere. But, my only criticism would be of the dining area itself. The room was dimly lit, and as we approched the final courses, well after sunset, I could barely see what I was eating, which is a shame since a great deal of effort goes into the presentation. With its hardwood floors, the room is also loud, and the night we were there, a boisterous party of 10 made it difficult at times to carry on a conversation. So I would think they might benefit from a few area rugs (if not wall-to-wall carpeting), and a few tapestries on the walls perhaps, as well as turning up the dimmer switch just a bit.

Overall, our meal was fantastic, and I would strongly recommend this cozy place to anyone looking for a unique dining experience to celebrate that special occasion.

 I Bought A Cow

I challenge anyone to watch the documentary Food, Inc. and not be influenced to make at least a few changes in the way you eat. More than likely, you’ll change a lot. You’ll look at that half-pound chicken breast and wonder if the chicken was still able to walk, supporting its unnatural weight. You’ll wonder what dose of antibiotics you’re receiving in that burger you just ate. Most importantly, you’ll wonder if cheap food really is the blessing we all assume it to be, when you take into account the hidden costs associated with eating it.

And you may even go off the deep end, like we have, and buy your own cow. Actually, it’s only half of a cow, and it’s in our freezer. But it was raised eating grass on a Missouri pasture not too far from here, it was slaughtered on June 4, dry-aged, vacuum-wrapped, frozen, and delivered to our door today. We figure it will last us about a year and it cost less than five dollars a pound.

Without wading into the debate about so-called “happy meat” and whether it even exists, I’ll just say that the fact that grass-fed beef is healthier for you than grain-fed beef is enough by itself to justifiy the decision. And I believe this method of raising livestock is more sustainable, so there are environmental benefits as well. It may end up costing us more in the long run, but maybe that’s what beef is supposed to cost?

 Boathouse Forest Park

Dixie and I celebrated our ninth anniversary with a trip to the Boathouse in Forest Park. The weather could have been better, but the food was excellent and they even had a live band. But the biggest attraction at the Boathouse is, of course, the boats. You can rent either a paddle boat or a kayak by the hour and enjoy the scenery and wildlife while exploring the extensive waterways in Forest Park. We opted for a paddle boat and worked off our dinner as we plied our way to the Grand Basin and tried to imagine how “indescribably grand” the World’s Fair must have been. The Boathouse is truly a unique dining experience, and I would recommend it. Make sure to save room for dessert, and save your energy for some serious pedaling.

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