St. Louis and Strawberry Shortcake
Greg’s one day trip to St. Louis seemed to go smoothly. However, during his one hour of work, checking the tabletops, not one person that worked for the country club was around to answer his questions. What’s with that? Jerks!
The rep that picked him up at the airport and drove him around for a tour of the city was kind and bought him lunch at a place called Hammerstone in the Soulard area. (Not one that I put on the list but I think he was in those areas while sightseeing-except the Hill.) The rep said this restaurant is a pretty big scene for Mardi Gras and St. Patty’s celebrations. He enjoyed the fried ravioli and now wants me to make them.
When Greg mentioned that I am a food blogger, she took him to Ford Hotel Supply Co. where they were setting up a display of some sort for an event that Greg didn’t know about but he bought me a restaurant quality saucepan. What a sweet man!
I said yesterday that my St. Patrick’s Day wasn’t a very pleasant time for me. I don’t want to go into it-too much is involved. On top of this saucepan, the rep sent Greg back with about a dozen serving pieces for me! Plus, she picked up the Sauce magazine (recommended by reader John), a paper about Soulard and the Riverfront Times (maybe we should move there…everything was cheaper-dining, rent, services, etc.). Somehow he managed to keep it a secret and I’m glad because I really needed a lift when he came home that evening.
For the first time, I thought about Greg’s career and my aspiring foodie career and how they go hand in hand in a way. He is the “wood engineer” for a company that makes restaurant furniture. They’ve had some big chain and smaller fine dining clients, along with companies not related to the food industry. Whenever we go out to eat, he looks at the benches and chairs to see how they were designed and put together. Always working and thinking this man. Sometimes he hands out his card and adds the client’s name to a catalog mailing list. We’ve had some looks, believe me.
On our way home to Indiana last year an older woman asked him if he was looking for some gum, which began a nice conversation with this lonely, charming woman in Illinois. Something makes me think that she goes to this restaurant every day to chat with someone.
Anyway, I knew there was a connection but it wasn’t until his trip, with the places he visited and the way the rep responded to me as a food enthusiast (she works for a restaurant service company that sells dinnerware, cookware, stoves, etc. and is connected as a sales member for Greg’s company, I think) that it sunk in that we go well together.
Before, he was building guitars and making furniture, more of an artistic thing than a profitable career…although we’d give what we have and do now up in a heartbeat if he could have a company of his own that we could both pour our hearts into and only if it pays the bills. The job he has now soon will not pay the bills and the notice that raises will not be given for a year (unless a miracle profit happens) seals that we will be in trouble in a few months. Issues, issues.
Last week, we went to a grocery store in a town about 15 minutes from us. This is a town that we used to venture to every week or so but we stopped and began buying more expensive groceries in our town so that we wouldn’t have to drive far in the winter.
Now that spring begins tomorrow, I want to go back again. There is an employee-owned grocery store called HyVee that has a great, affordable produce section (the deli, organic and meat areas are awesome too). They also have a gas station that will take 10 cents/gallon off with a HyVee receipt…nice. You might be familiar with it if you live in the Midwest-they have 220 stores. I’d never heard of it until we moved here and no, I am not connected to them somehow.
I feel like I’m going to be attacked by some people for supporting this store, as if it’s evil. It’s not evil, it’s affordable with great products, service and people who are almost always friendly and if you know me, that’s a rare judgment that I make in the state of Minnesota. I won’t go there every week but it’s a rough time to buy fresh, local ingredients since none of the farmer’s markets in the area are open for another month or so but this store does provide some local options. I’m not kidding either, the stores in our town are noticeably more expensive than anywhere we’ve ever lived.
I bought strawberries, gorgeous berries for less than $2/lb. so I grabbed a few containers and planned to make strawberry shortcake. I knew I had a recipe from Chocolate Shaving’s blog (adapted from a Martha Stewart recipe) for such a treat. I began to wonder if it could be too early for this summery dessert but then the temps were in the 60’s and suddenly, I was good to go. If I were you, I would make my own whipped cream (it’s in this recipe) and I would take advantage of the strawberries out right now. I made half of this recipe for individual cakes and it was delicious. I also added a mashed strawberry puree to the bottom layer so that more juice would be absorbed by the cakes. Yum!
½ cup butter, room temperature
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup sugar plus 1 to 2 tbsp
2 large eggs plus 2 egg yolks
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ cup milk (I used 1% but whole is recommended)
1 lb. strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1 ½ cups heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350. Butter the bottom of an 8-inch pan with removable bottom (a tart pan perhaps) or use individual pans.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt together, set aside. Using an electric mixer on high, beat butter and ½ cup sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each and add the vanilla. With the mixer on low, add the flour in 3 parts and the milk in 2 parts, alternating between the two until combined. Spread the batter in the pan or pans. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes (less for individual pans). Cool in the pan for 10 minutes and invert onto a wire rack to cool completely. With a knife, split the cake in half horizontally.
I thought that half of the berries should be mashed with some sugar to release some juice for the bottom layer. In a small bowl, mash half of the strawberries and 1 to 2 tbsp sugar (to your taste) until they release their juices and are well pureed. With the remaining berries, place in another bowl, toss with ¼ cup sugar and set aside.
For the whipped cream: with an electric mixer, beat cream and remaining ¼ cup sugar in a large bowl until soft peaks form.
Place the bottom cake piece on a serving plate, top with half of the whipped cream and all of the mashed strawberries. Add half of the un-mashed berries to this (make sure to leave enough for the top). Top with the other cake piece, adding the remaining whipped cream to this top and decorate with the remaining un-mashed berries in whatever design you’d like. Refrigerate until chilled or dive in like we did.