Zia’s on the Hill – A Food Truck Review

St. Louis is famous for a lot of things, at least we like to think that we are. We have a wonderful area here called “The Hill.” This area is full of Italian restaurants, grocery stores and bakeries that have some of the most wonderful items in St. Louis. I have eaten at quite a few of these restaurants, but I have never eaten at Zia’s. And, I STILL haven’t eaten AT Zia’s, but I had the pleasure of trying out their new food truck on Monday.

New food trucks continue to show up outside of my office everyday. We now have the Sausage Syndicate, Big Balls and Zia’s. I haven’t been real excited about trying the first 2, but as soon as I saw Zia’s, I knew I had to try them. I could smell the garlic wafting through the elevators as I made my way down to the first floor.

They have a small menu, but they have some really great items such as toasted raviolis, Portabello mushroom ravioli, sausage sandwiches, and a house salad. I opted for the mushroom ravioli and house salad.





I was cautiously optimistic about the ravioli. It seemed impossible for those ravioli to be very good because 1) they came out of a food truck and 2) I was locked out of my building for about 10 minutes after I got my piping hot raviolis, so they would most certainly be cold and gross. Boy was I wrong! This food was fantastic. The raviolis were some of the best I have ever had, AND they came out of a truck and not from a waiter at a fancy restaurant. This food was cooked to order, and it showed. The taste was phenomenal! The salad was exactly as expected. It was nothing special, but it was exactly what I expected and wanted. It was fresh and the perfect side to my mouth-watering ravioli. The total cost of my meal, $11! I know that sounds like a lot for lunch, but if you just got the ravioli, it was only $7. I think that’s a steal for the quality, quantity and the fresh veggies that were included.

If you want to find out where this food truck will be and to see their full menu, visit them on Facebook (link here). Check them out soon. I’m certain that this will be one of the more popular trucks and the lines will be long!

White Chicken Chili – Blue Owl Restaurant Copycat Recipe

Kimmswick, Missouri is a wonderful little town that attracts thousands of visiters every year. It has tiny little shops that are filled with handmade craft and foods. They have several festivals each year, and I have yet to attend any of them. Kimmswick really isn’t my “cup of tea” but they have a really amazing restaurant there call The Blue Owl. They have some of the most visually appealing baked goods I have ever seen, and they taste amazing too. The have a pie that’s called “Levee High Apple Pie.” I’m not exactly sure how big this thing is, but the dome reminds me of a cowboy hat. I’m not sure if there is ANY reason to make a pie this big, except for the fact that it’s really cool! There’s nothing wrong with extreme foods as long as they are in moderation. Fried Twinkies shouldn’t fall into the category of extreme foods…they should be a staple. So, go ahead and eat as many of those as you want.

The Blue Owl isn’t just known for their baked goods, they have a great lunch menu. I always order the same thing, Chicken Salad Croissant with a cup of White Chicken Chili. The chicken salad is really good, but the white chicken chili steals the show. It is full of beans and stringy, monterey jack cheese. Great, now I’m hungry!

I can’t remember exactly why or even when I started making this chili. I know that I searched the web for weeks until I found the right recipe. There are lots of imposters out there, so don’t be fooled into making those recipes. The one I am posting today is the right one.

I have made this for just about every fall party that I have. I make it for Halloween, my birthday, and for work potlucks. It’s a very simple recipe, but do not swap out any of the ingredients, specifically the Monterey Jack cheese. I realize that there are plenty of cheese mixtures available, that contain Monterey Jack, but don’t get a mixture. Get the real stuff or the recipe won’t be an exact copycat. If you don’t care about being exact, then feel free to swap it out for your favorite cheese. If you would like to put this in the crockpot, follow all of the cooking steps, add to crockpot, but DO NOT add the cheese until right before you are ready to serve it because the cheese will stick together and possibly burn. You can also use a rotissere chicken from the grocery store to save time on the preparation.

Enjoy this soup and share it with your family and neighbors, or eat it all by yourself, and then chant the famous “Beans, Beans…” song to embarass your children or your spouse.

Sorry, guys…I don’t have any pics of the soup at this time. This was a special request by my friend “N” and I haven’t had time to make it and take pictures yet this year.

White Chicken Chili – Blue Owl Restaurant Copycat
Printable Recipe

Ingredients:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion – chopped
5 cloves garlic – minced
2 (4 oz) cans of mild, chopped green chilis
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
4 cans great northern beans – undrained
5 cups chicken broth/stock
4 cups of chopped chicken
4 cups (2 packages) grated monterey jack cheese

Directions:

Heat olive oil in stock pot over medium heat. Add onions and saute until soft and translucent. Add garlic and saute until fragrant (do not burn) approx. 1 minute.

Reduce heat to low and add chilis, cumin, oregano, and cayenne pepper and stir to combine.

Add undrained beans and broth and increase heat to high to bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to low and add chicken and cheese. Stir until cheese melts. If you are putting the soup in the crockpot to be served later, place in crockpot without the cheese and add cheese just before serving.

p.s. This recipe is gluten free too!

Wanderlust Pizza – A food truck review

Working in a major city has its benefits. Although, when you work for a large company that isn’t in the heart of downtown, the benefits don’t exist anymore. We may as well be located in a cornfield. There isn’t anything within walking distance, and the one restaurant that was within walking distance, closed last month after being in business for almost 100 years. It was sad to see them go, but owning and running a restaurant is far more work than most people appreciate.

Over the past 12 months, a new phenomenon has started in our downtown area. It’s the “Food Truck Phenomenon” as I like to call it. One of the first food trucks that I tried was Cha Cha Chow, and they were a nice alternative to our boring, cafeteria food. The next truck to come around was Pi Pizza. If you haven’t been to Pi Pizza (a local St. Louis restaurant), you really should try it. They have all different kinds of pizza, including gluten-free, and they don’t use Provel cheese (a local St. Louis cheese). The menu for their pizza truck is limited, but they have their best ones. This is one of my favorites. There are several others that I have tried including Shell’s Coastal Cuisine (try the shrimp tacos and sweet potato chips), The Sweet Divine (try the Drunken Pig cupcake), and Sarah’s Cake Stop. Yes, that’s right, cupcakes from a truck right outside my office. I think they are sponsored by the Weight Watchers group because membership was declining.

There are 2 other trucks that I haven’t tried, one because nothing appealed to me (Mangia), and the other because I’ve never had a Falafel (Falafelwich) and my co-worker referred to it as “Fal-Awful.” Maybe they have good food, but I’m not willing to waste my lunch money on something I’m not even curious to try.


So, today’s truck is Wanderlust Pizza. This is the most creative idea I have seen yet. This rolling kitchen is not actually a “truck,” but it’s an Airstream camper that has been converted into a kitchen. The craziest part, they actually have a wood-fire stove to bake the pizzas. I bet their insurance is high!

Not only are their pizzas really good, but they have the best names ever. The pizza I had today was called Meat meet Meat. It totally explains what this pizza is all about….MEAT! It’s fantastic.



The one pizza that I refused to try was “The Stinky Tinkle.” Can you guess what was on it? Drumroll please…..asparagus. I laughed and laughed when I read that. It was even funnier to hear people order it. Others have told me that they really like this pizza, but you will have to wait until next year to get it because asparagus season has ended.

If you ever see any of these places parked somewhere, give them a try. They are all really great people that have fun with their trucks. I know I’m glad that they exist, because our cafeteria food is worse then what we had in grade school!

Review: Sombreros Authentic Mexican Cuisine – St. Peters, MO

Our oldest daughter had a volleyball game on Saturday.  After spending Friday evening at a 40th birthday party, “rough,” or “In the Hurt Locker” was an accurate way to describe me on Saturday.  The hubby slept most of the evening on Saturday, and I should have joined him!  But the fun we had on Friday night was totally worth the pain today.  We ended the night with an interesting conversation that was sparked by a question, “What would you do if you won $30 million dollars tomorrow?”  It really provided a great insight into how everyone thinks.  My friends all discovered that I would be like a pro athlete….buy the biggest house, never lift a finger again, buy a Bentley, and do just about every over-the-top thing known to man.  I thought everyone else would want to do the same things.  Yea…not so much.  Oh well, I guess I will be alone on my private island in the Caribbean.  Peace and quiet sounds like a good idea right now.

After the volleyball game, we decided that we should grab some Mexican food.  The hubby likes Mexican because he can easily get gluten-free food, and my daughter likes it because she can get her favorite food…tacos.  You have a mom that loves to cook and your favorite food is a taco?!  I may have to give her up for adoption.

We stopped at this place in St. Peters, Missouri called Sombreros Authentic Mexican Cuisine and Sports Saloon.  This appears to be a newer place, and the signage was really nice and fresh.  It is in a decent location, so I would assume that they would get a fair amount of patrons.

We walked in and were seated and given chips and salsa immediately. The chips were decent as was the salsa. Nothing special, but we ate the entire basket in about 5 minutes. Now, if you were at any other Mexican restaurant, you would have another basket of chips as soon as the last crumb was eaten. But not here. There were no extra chips for us. In fact, I’m pretty sure that they forgot we were there. My daughter and I went to use the restroom and discovered that this place can’t seem to make up their mind on which type of soap dispenser that they want to use. While I was in the stall, I could hear her saying…”which dispenser should I use.” She found them all to be empty. I’m wondering how the staff washes their hands. Once I joined her at the sink, I discovered that there were soap dispensers attached to the sinks, both of which were empty. Then I saw that there was a free standing, decorative soap dispenser sitting between the 2 sinks. I thought, AH HA…this must be where the soap is. No dice, that one was empty as well. Just when I was about to give up, I found the 4th soap dispenser attached to the wall and decided to give that one a try. Finally, we had discovered soap. Thank goodness!

After the 5 minute fiasco in the bathroom, I figured that we would have fresh drinks and chips when we got back to the table. Yep, wrong again. There was nothing. About 20 minutes after we ordered, the waitress come over and said that they were waiting on my husband’s fajitas. I’m not sure what that meant considering he and I both ordered fajitas. We were finally able to ask her (because she came back to the table for the first time since we ordered) for some more chips. My husband also requested more water.


The waitress came back again, but this time she brought our food. Halleluah…it has been almost 30 minutes and we are starving. The hubby has to have corn tortillas and I requested flour. We opened them up while the waitress was there just to ensure that they had given us the correct tortillas. Shocker, they had given us both corn tortillas, AND they were all broken in half and dried out. Yummy! We sent them back; it would be tough to eat fajitas with tortillas that were broken in half.

After about 5 minutes she came back to the table with my flour tortillas and Paul’s corn tortillas. She dashed away without checking the tortillas (wrapped in foil) herself or waiting for us to check them. The picture below shows what she brought for Paul.



I’m not sure what is all over the tortillas, but it was GROSS and broken. I would assume that the corn tortillas were dried out and they covered it in oil in hopes of softening it. It was awful. Paul pushed them to the side and ate the tortilla filling and beans/rice without a tortilla. The worst part is that the waitress did eventually come back and saw the tortillas sitting there broken and greasy, she immediately turned red and then turned around and left. She never once asked if everything was ok nor did she offer to get us any additional drinks. There was a guy that was walking around the restaurant, I assume he was a busser, he finally asked if we wanted something else to drink.

The waitress came back and asked if we needed anything else. We asked for the check. She picked up some of the dirty plates and completely ignored the broken tortillas. She knew that the situation was not good. While we were waiting for our check I took the picture below:

I'm thinking that this isn't supposed to be left on as decoration.



It’s sad to know that someone put their money into this place. Where is a manager or the owner? Why is there a sugar caddy on my table that is dirty and still has a price tag on it? Details, details, details. If I hadn’t been sitting at that table for way to long, I never would have noticed the tag. If the waitress had checked the tortillas before bringing them out, she would have discovered that they were bad. If someone checked the bathrooms more often, they wouldn’t have 3 empty soap dispensers. This restaurant has so much potential. The food that I had was just average. It tasted like every other Mexican restaurant. But, the restaurant itself is a very nice place. The setting is nice, and it is really big. The hubby has said that he will never go back to this place. I probably wouldn’t either.

Have you ever experienced something like this? What did you do to make the situation better, or did you simply avoid going back?

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