Tonight, we had our “Farewell to Summer” dinner, which was also a Beast Feast, because we wanted to celebrate the awesome job David Sandusky of Beast Craft BBQ did on Food Network’s BBQ Brawl this summer!
In keeping with the St. Louis theme, I made a gooey butter cake for dessert, only I overbaked it, rendering it not gooey. It still tasted good, though, so that was something.
It’s been a while since I tried something new at Beast Craft BBQ, but I’m back with one of my favorite items on the menu yet!
I am a sucker for fried, or tobacco, onions. Not onion rings (although I do like those, too), or the gross ones in the can, but fresh, fried onions that are thinly sliced and breaded and hot and get tangled together when you try to pull one out of the pile. Pretty much anytime I go anywhere that has good fried onions on a sandwich, I comment that I would buy a box of just those, and Beast made my dreams come true. Perfect as a starter or a side dish to share (I mean, if you can…I can’t!), their fried onions are topped with cotija cheese, cilantro, and their awesome fry sauce. They’re crunchy and salty and have just a bit of a kick from the sauce. It’s seriously the perfect side dish! (Or lunch, as the case may be.)
In case you’ve missed it, David Sandusky, the genius behind Beast Craft BBQ, has been competing on BBQ Brawl on the Food Network. Next week is the final episode, which means he’s in the final four, and I can’t wait to see what happens, and what kind of amazing dish he comes up with next!
Beast Craft BBQ currently has a delicious winter special on the menu…buttermilk fried chicken!
This item is a staple on the menu at Beast Southern Kitchen & BBQ, and I’m happy that they’ve temporarily brought it over to the original Belleville location. It’s not your basic fried chicken, because it’s dusted with creole spices, which give it a delicious kick. The breading was perfectly crunchy…it didn’t get soggy on its journey from the restaurant to our house. And I love that they put a piece of white bread under the chicken to catch the spices and the drippings. The plate comes with four pieces of chicken, plus two sides, and of course if you’re smart one of those should be Beast’s amazing sprouts with pork belly, but there are plenty of other options, too (we especially love the bacon mac). I love seeing the new ideas the Beast family comes up with at all of their locations (check out their sandwich pop-up in the Grove, a perfect example of how they’re rolling with the punches and thinking creatively to make the best of a rough time for restaurants!), and I can’t wait to see what hits the menu next!
I wouldn’t normally post a “Tasty Tuesday” on a Sunday, but today is a very special Sunday, because the newest concept from Beast Craft BBQ, Beast Southern Kitchen and BBQ, is opening in Columbia, IL today! We were fortunate enough to carry out a meal on Friday night, and their new selection of items is quite impressive.
I had the pickle-brined fried chicken sandwich and fries. They use thigh meat for their chicken sandwich, which I thought was a genius twist on the normal fried breast meat. Beast’s signature, amazing house pickles were served on the sandwich, along with a dill aioli and butter lettuce. We all know how delicious pickle-brined chicken is right? But the batter on the chicken was also excellent, and it was an outstanding sandwich!
We also tried the pimento cheese dip, which is served with fresh biscuits. The biscuits were amazing, and the dip was beyond delicious…the addition of blistered tomatoes to a familiar, comforting dish really elevated it to a whole new level!
As long as I was already splurging, I also had a piece of their bourbon pecan pie for dessert. It includes…are you ready for this?…candied bacon! It was the best piece of pecan pie I’ve ever had. I even liked the crust, and I’m notorious for hating pie crust!
Here’s a look at some of the other entrees our family tried…the cornbreaded catfish, the crispy pork belly and grits, the pimento cheeseburger, and the chicken po’ boy. (Not pictured are a couple of the extra sides we ordered, including collard greens and mashed potatoes and gravy.) I sampled a lot (but not all) of the meals, and everything was in keeping with Beast’s high standards. Everyone loved the items they picked (with five children, there’s no guarantee that all the dishes will be a home run, but they were!), and we were definitely all full by the end of dinner!
I can’t wait until the day we can actually dine in at the restaurant for the full experience!
Who doesn’t love chicken wings, am I right? I was intrigued when Beast Butcher and Block announced a new sub-restaurant providing delivery and carryout wings running out of their St. Louis location, and I was ecstatic when I found out that it was also going to be offered right here in Belleville!
Wing Runner currently offers 10 different flavors of wings (plus a cauliflower “wing” for the non meat-eaters who darken the doorstep of a BBQ joint). Sides are very limited, and because it’s a separate business, you can’t just tack items from Beast onto your order. We went with a bulk pack of 50 wings (there are seven of us, after all, but we didn’t finish quite all of them in one sitting!)…you can get up to five flavors, but for our first visit, we chose the four we were most interested in.
First up, my choice, the roasted garlic butter wings:
Of course we had to try the traditional mild buffalo (they also have hot buffalo, but not all of our children are open to that level of spice):
The spicy BBQ mustard was another popular request:
And the char siu, featuring sesame seeds, was our “wild” choice:
Well, not as wild at the habanero jerk…we got a 5-piece order of those to try alongside the other flavors.
Have you ever seen a better-looking plate of wings?!?
OK, on to the flavors. The habanero jerk was HOT. Like, scary hot. Even Ryan, who is the biggest fan of heat in the house, couldn’t eat more than two wings. So, if you order those, just be aware that your face may melt off. They’re excellent…I know that on a culinary level. But my taste buds would not thank me if I ate them again!
The other four flavors were all a huge hit. I don’t think I could pick a favorite if I tried…they were all delicious in their own way. The char siu was especially amazing…it was such an unexpected flavor on wings, and that just made it taste better. The spicy mustard had a great kick, and I loved the actual mustard seeds on the wings. The garlic butter had just the flavor I was hoping for, with the pleasant addition of cotija cheese crumbled over them. And the mild buffalo was exactly what you want out of a traditional buffalo wing.
I’m hoping it won’t be too long before our next order. I really want to try the shishito lime wings, and the fish sauce caramel sounds just unusual enough to be delicious. I’m also pretty sure I need to try the dry rub wings, too, and any seasonal varieties they offer in the future! It’s always exciting to see what new ideas David Sandusky and Beast come up with, and they never fail to disappoint!
Here we are, almost three months after everything started shutting down due to COVID-19. At this point, some places are starting to open back up, but not like they used to be, so things definitely aren’t back to normal. I’m especially feeling that lack of normal, as I’m still only going grocery shopping once every two weeks, and pretty much no where else, and that’s hard. But cooking is fun, and something normal I can do, so I’ve continued to do a lot of it. Here’s a look back at some of the meals we’ve been enjoying in the third month of lockdown life (including one amazing dinner from Beast Craft BBQ!):
We’ve kept up with our baking, too. Sunday afternoon “quarantine cookies” are definitely a thing! We’ve had fun trying all sorts of different combinations of baking chips, but the base recipe is always the same. I’ve also made some other things, including blueberry muffins, and even quite a few cakes…a carrot cake for our 19th wedding anniversary, a red ale strawberry cake for Pentecost, and a red velvet cake for Trinity Sunday.
I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two other special treats we’ve enjoyed in the last month, too. Eli’s Cheesecake kindly sent us an original favorites cheesecake sampler, which was a huge hit with everybody here, and I was blown away by the lovely gesture! We also indulged in another Chicago favorite, Frango mints…since we couldn’t go to Chicago, I had an extra little bit of Chicago sent to us!
I can’t say I care much for shopping every two weeks, and having to plan our meals so far ahead and in such great detail, but I do have a routine, so there is that. My refrigerator Tetris and pantry Jenga games have also reached a whole new level of expertise, so that’s fun. And we all enjoy having some extra-special meals to look forward to!
I don’t know if I’ll have another “Cooking Through a Pandemic” post next month…things will maybe be closer to our old normal by then, but who really knows? And even if they are, I think some things have changed for us permanently!
We’re “back home” from our virtual vacation, and I don’t feel like cooking…so let’s take a look at Beast Craft BBQ’s family take home packs!
To be honest, more often than not, we would get Beast to go, even before COVID-19 shut everything down. I was still excited when they debuted their new family take home packs (they have offered up to three varieties, to feed two, four, or four to six), though, because it’s so much simpler than taking orders from seven people, and trying to sort it all out once we get it home!
So here’s the deal. A family take home pack for four comes with two pounds of the main course (pork, brisket, turkey, hot links, or smoked cauliflower), one pint of slaw, two sides (one quart each, and you can choose from pit beans, potato salad, bacon mac, cauliflower, and my favorite, sprouts with belly), a half pint of pickle slices, and eight tortillas. We have done this twice, and each time ordered two of the packs (turkey, bacon mac, and sprouts, plus an extra side of beans), to feed our family of seven.
Seriously, have you ever seen a more delicious looking plate of BBQ?!?
Now, even though this meal, as ordered, in theory feeds eight, we have managed to make it last for two dinners both times we ordered, and believe me, no one went hungry at any of the meals. The only thing we ran out of the first night each time was the tortillas, which makes perfect sense, and even though Beast has the most amazing tortillas, let’s face it, they’re not the star of the meal!
I really love that Beast has added this option for this weird time of carry-out/delivery only, and I wouldn’t complain if it stuck around once the dining room opens again, because it’s the perfect option for our family!
So it’s been almost two full months since we got the call that Moose’s school was moving to distance learning. I figure that’s about the time our period of isolation began, even though it wasn’t fully official until a week or so later. Anyway, I’ve continued to do a lot of cooking, and I’ve continued to try to make some family favorites as well as some new things. Most of what I’ve made so far has been pretty popular (although the pork chops weren’t a huge hit), and we’ve repeated a few meals that were especially enjoyed (cheese and chorizo quesadillas are a new favorite!).
Baking has also been a favorite pastime…we bake cookies almost every Sunday afternoon. I also made a loaf of bread (not really from scratch, because I used frozen bread dough, but there was some effort!), plus a chocoflan for Cinco de Mayo, and a cake for Ladybug’s birthday.
New this month: We were actually able to support a few businesses, as well! We did carryout from two local favorites (The Wine Tap and Beast Craft BBQ), plus mail order from two others (Portillo’s and Eli’s Cheesecake). It was nice to have a small break from cooking on those occasions, because I’ve been going pretty much non-stop for the last two months!
I’m going grocery shopping on Thursday, and I have a whole new lineup of meals that I hope we’ll all enjoy!
I think we can all agree that Easter was weird this year, right? Without our normal church commitments like choir, acolyting, and serving on altar guild, Holy Week and Easter Sunday fell a bit flat. But whether we were at church or not, we still had reason to celebrate, so I tried to make this time at home as special as possible.
On Maundy Thursday, we enjoyed some beautiful weather while we were out for a walk in our neighborhood before we “went” to church, which we watched from the comfort of our living room.
We were a little busier on Good Friday, with some baking (including homemade hot cross buns for the first time!), and another walk, before we once again watched the church service from our living room.
We were especially busy on Holy Saturday. We did some more baking, including these amazing rosemary dinner rolls, one of my favorite new recipes that I’ve tried:
We also made our new Paschal Candle for the year, as we usually do on Holy Saturday…it was disappointing not being able to take it to the Easter Vigil, though!
We had a fairly last-minute change of Easter dinner plans, because Beast Craft BBQ announced that they were going to be selling hams, so Ryan went and picked that up Saturday afternoon. It smelled amazing, and there was great restraint on the part of everyone in the house, because we left it alone until Easter dinner!
I dug out some extra candles so we could really feel like we were participating in the Great Vigil of Easter:
But once again from our living room:
We always get hot fudge sundaes at McDonald’s on the way home from the service, so I tried to recreate that experience, as well:
We didn’t “need” Pop-Tarts for breakfast this year (do you ever really need Pop-Tarts?),, because we didn’t have to get up as early for the sunrise service, but tradition is tradition!
I was very happy to get to sing my favorite Easter hymn at the first service, which we attended from, you guessed it, our living room!
We always have Easter breakfast at church between services, so I tried to replicate that experience, too. Homemade biscuits and sausage gravy were the star of the meal (both of which I prepared on Saturday), because that’s what they serve at church, plus sausage patties, eggs, orange juice, and mini donuts:
I always take pictures after breakfast, and this year was no different. Yes, we all got dressed up, even though we were at home!
I really missed taking photos of the children by the baptismal font, but at least I got pictures of them on Easter, right?
I already shared the details of my Easter outfit, but here’s one more picture, with Ladybug, because this was her first occasion to wear a dress from Pinup Girl Clothing!
Back inside, and back to the living room for the second service, where we sang another favorite hymn:
The church part of the day was over much quicker than usual, which was sad. I did have plenty of time to prepare our Easter dinner, though, starting with setting the table with our china and spring table linens:
On the menu: ham, mashed potatoes, a trio of green vegetables (Brussels sprouts, asparagus, and green beans with almonds), cherry Jell-O, and rosemary dinner rolls. It was a delicious meal!
For dessert I made the same lemon cheesecake with lemon-rosemary shortbread crust that I made last year:
We’re not done, yet, though! Since Easter is a celebration that keeps on going, and since our dinner plans had changed after I had already bought what was supposed to be the main course of Easter dinner, we had another special meal tonight…rack of lamb with some new sides (roast potatoes and cauliflower), plus some repeats (Brussels sprouts, green beans, Jell-O, and rolls), plus more cheesecake for dessert!
So there you have what was the strangest Easter I have ever experienced. Of course, our reason for celebrating never changes, but just the same, nothing felt quite right, and I truly hope we never have another Easter like it!