#header-inner {background-position: center !important; width: 100% !important;}

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin

Pin It

Much as I love cooking at home in my own kitchen, I also love dining out, as you may have guessed by my collection of restaurant reviews. When I eat a meal in a restaurant, it's often more than just satisfying my hunger. Family and friends will tell you that for years I had a not-so-secret desire to be a server in a restaurant. Though that wish was never fulfilled (yet!), I enjoy interacting with and observing my waiters. My favorite types are those who engage in conversation with those dining (without being overbearing), know the menu well enough to make recommendations (none of this "welllll it depends on what you like..."), and of course, offer good, attentive service throughout the meal. Aside from the service, I love to take in the ambience of the restaurant, which often leads to conversations between Ryan and me about our dream restaurants and what they look like and how they operate. Of course, it goes without saying that it's also all about the food. I look to restaurant menus for inspiration (remember the October Special Egg Sandwich?), often ordering things that are unique and different than meals I've had...only to go home and try to recreate them.

Two weeks ago, I had a mind-blowing restaurant experience. Strong words, but I have no better way of describing the evening. My grandparents were in town and took Ryan and me, along with my sister and her boyfriend Nate, out the night before they returned to Wisconsin. We used the opportunity to try out a fairly new St. Louis restaurant: Salt. Considering its short stint in the Central West End thus far, it had high reviews on Yelp, and we were excited to see for ourselves.

I won't bore you with a play by play (though if you're a St. Louisan and want details, shoot me an email!), humor me while I tell you just a few things....
1. Fabulous service. Some of the best I've ever witnessed in a restaurant. Turns out Geoff is not just a server, but a musician and I happen to think he's pretty talented at both. Check out his music, he deserves a shameless Sweets Life plug!
2. Unique ambience. This home turned funeral home turned restaurant is a one-of-a-kind space. I adored the bright lighting, the ornate bathrooms, and the party spaces we had the privilege of checking out after eating.
3. Delectable food. Local, creative, and fresh, this is about as good as it gets. Each small plate that arrived at our table was better than the next. Pork and fennel meatballs with blackberry jam, beet chips with ricotta dipping sauce, and a lingonberry bread pudding were just a few of the standout dishes.

As you can see, an all-around top notch meal that has me itching to return! If you happen to live in St. Louis or find yourself passing through, don't pass up the opportunity to eat here. Better yet, call me up so I can join you!

This Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin was inspired by the one I had at Salt. Though this is a much larger portion of what you get at Salt, it came pretty close to capturing the essence of the original dish...so this will be a good stand-in until I get the opportunity to return!

One Year Ago: No Bake Peanut Butter Balls

Asparagus Goat Cheese Gratin
inspired by Salt Restaurant, STL

-1 lb asparagus, ends trimmed
-1/2-3/4 cup crumbled goat cheese
-1 tbsp olive oil
-1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs, toasted (I didn't toast, but next time I will!)
-salt and pepper, to taste
-1/2 lemon

1. Preheat oven to 400F. Arrange asparagus in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Roast for 15-20 minutes.
2. Remove dish from oven and season with salt and pepper. Top with goat cheese and panko. Return to oven and broil on low for 5-10 minutes until cheese begins to melt.
3. Remove from oven, squeeze half of a lemon over the asparagus, and serve immediately.