Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Pork Belly Pastrami

Belleville’s Beast Craft BBQ has daily specials, as you might expect from a restaurant, and I’ve reviewed many of them in the years they’ve been open. But every now and again, they have something extra special, something so unique that it’s only around for a day or two, and you have to jump at the chance to get it before they sell out. Over the weekend, they offered such an item, a pork belly pastrami sandwich topped with dill cucumber salad, on sourdough, plus fries:

So, here’s the thing. When the owner of Beast messages you to let you know about the special, and tells you to get there early to try it, you really have to listen to him. So even though Ryan was out all day on Saturday (with our only vehicle), he found some time to swing by and pick one up for me.

That was a good call.

It’s obvious that I’ve liked everything I’ve tried at Beast, and have many favorites. This sandwich was extra special, though. The meat just melted in my mouth. It was so tender and so flavorful, and then when you add in the crunch of the cucumber salad…it’s definitely now one of my Beast favorites! I don’t know if they’ll ever bring it back, but if they do, I’m certainly going to have to get it again, and this time I know that I need to be there when they open, because I’m pretty sure Ryan got some of the last of it they had on Saturday, and that was at lunchtime!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: HAM!

I have a confession to make. I’m not really into ham. I mean, it’s fine for sandwiches…I don’t hate it or anything. But I’ve never really considered it to be special enough for a holiday like Christmas or Easter (even though Ryan suggests it almost every year), which is why it’s almost unheard of for a ham to make an appearance at our holiday table.

But this year, I was wanting to try something different, and I also wanted something that wouldn’t be too much work for me, because I knew that by the time our fancy Christmas dinner rolled around, my injured ankle and I would be pretty worn out (spoilers: I was right…I didn’t even decorate the table or use the china). So I decided to order a Compart Family Farms Cherry Smoked Duroc Bone-In Ham from our favorite local restaurant, Beast Craft BBQ.

So, yeah, I’ve changed my mind about ham for the holidays. This was truly the most delicious ham any of us ever tasted. The flavor from the smoke was just right…not overpowering, but definitely noticeable. The meat was so tender, and even though we didn’t really know what we were doing carving it, it cut so easily. And there was so much meat…we had ham dinners two nights, plus ham sandwiches for lunches, and I used the bone to make a great pot of bean soup, which fed us for another two dinners…and I’ve still got a bag of ham left in the freezer for a pasta dish I’m going to make next week! (Did I mention that there were nine of us, including four adults and three teenagers with big appetites, at Christmas dinner?) So even though it was a little expensive up front, we definitely got our money’s worth!

Here ends another happy tale of a delicious meal from Beast Craft BBQ. I’m always looking forward to seeing what they’re going to come up with next (I can’t wait to check out Beast Butcher & Block when it opens in the city this year!), and wondering what new menu item I might try in the future (right now, I can’t stop thinking about the #beercheesesteak, which includes bread browned in Wagyu tallow…pretty sure I’m going to have to eat that at some point!). We’ve been eating at Beast for four years now(!!!)…pretty much since they first opened, and I can still honestly say that everything we’ve tried (which has been a lot of stuff!) has been excellent!

Christmas on the Town Square…and Main Street

It’s hard to believe, but another year of festivities has wrapped up in downtown Belleville. Here’s a look back at some of the Christmas fun from this year.

Live reindeer made several appearances by the Christmas Market:

I’m pretty sure the market is a permanent fixture in Belleville, now…it’s always good to see people shopping!

As always, there were gingerbread houses on display in store windows:

The whole downtown always looks so nice!

I love Christmas in Belleville!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: The Hawaiian

You would think that by now, Beast Craft BBQ would have run out of new combinations with which to tempt me.

You’d be wrong.

On Saturday, Beast introduced a new sandwich: The Hawaiian. It included pulled pork, smoked pineapple, and a jalapeño, cilantro, onion, and lime slaw. It sounded so good. But I was strong, and let it pass me by.

Until the next day, when it was on the menu again, and my resolve crumbled.

This sandwich is amazing. It’s even better than I thought it would be, and my expectations, because I know Beast so well, were high. The pulled pork, which I’ve had before, was as delicious as always. The slaw was just the right amount of spicy. And the smoked pineapple added the perfect extra something to the sandwich. I can only hope it appears on the menu again, because it was delicious!

Art on the Square 2018

Between a very busy weekend schedule, and some rather unpredictable weather, I was worried that this was the first year since Ladybug was a baby that we weren’t going to make it to Art on the Square. But the weather cleared during a break in our schedule on Saturday, so we had a (fairly quick) walk around to see the sights.

There are always so many unique and beautiful things to look at!

One of my favorite things to do at Art on the Square is watch the artists at work…we were lucky this year, because there were three different women demonstrating their various crafts while we were there:

It’s always nice to see such big crowds turn out for this event!

Tasty Tuesday–Schnitzel and Spätzle and Strudel…Oh My!

It seemed like we waited over 400 years for the Belleville Hofbräuhaus to open, but they are finally fully operational. Of course, we had anxiously anticipated eating at this restaurant since the day we heard they were going to build it, and now we’ve been there twice in two weeks! That was kind of an anomaly, because of a birthday celebration, so I think it will be awhile before we go back, but I’m excited to share our experience(s)!

First of all, the restaurant is HUGE. It is billed as the largest Hofbräuhaus in America (30,000 square feet!!!), but you don’t really get just how big it is from driving by…you really have to go inside to  understand its grand scale!

In addition to seating for 450 in the restaurant (and that doesn’t even count the banquet room), there’s also an outdoor biergarten that can seat over 200, and the weather is finally nice enough for diners to enjoy it!

Both times we went, there was live music. Since they bring musicians in from Europe every month, we got to see two different bands (one in April and one in May), and both were great…I think we heard all of our German favorites, including “Edelweiss,” “Mein Hut, der hat drei Ecken,” and “Roll out the Barrel.” We also enjoyed the sounds of the alphorn the first time we visited.

The brewery is a big part of the operation, and they are always brewing several varieties of beer (according to the Reinheitsgebot), including a seasonal selection.

Of course, the main attraction is the food (ok, depending on who you ask, because some people are there for the beer!), and the menu is quite extensive:

We tried two different appetizers…Bayerischer Raditeller (shaved radishes and rye bread) and a jumbo pretzel with Obatzda cheese, sweet mustard, and onion mustard. Both were excellent!

We tried quite a few main courses over our two visits, as well. Pictured here is Schnitzel Wiener Art, Kartoffelpuffer, the special “sausage tower,” Sauerbraten, Schweinebraten, Bavarian potato salad, and my personal favorite, Paniertes Jägerschnitzel (with spätzle, of course!). Ryan said it’s the best schnitzel he’s had outside of Vienna!

We tried three beers over the two visits, as well…Märzen, Dunkel, and Maibock:

We even had a dessert, and let me tell you, the Apfelstrudel is AMAZING!!!

Did I mention that the servers wear German national dress?

There’s even a small gift shop, where they have a variety of beer glasses, imported candy, and other German novelties:

After waiting so long for the Hofbräuhaus to open, I was a little worried it might not live up to the hype, but in my opinion at least, it really does. It feels just like I imagine a real German bierhall does, and the atmosphere, with the music, the lederhosen, and the enthusiastic diners just reinforces that feeling. It’s a great experience, and I’m already looking forward to whenever we might get to go back!

400 Years in the Making

Like much of Belleville, we’ve been anxiously awaiting the opening of the new Hofbräuhaus restaurant located just off of Illinois 15. For years. Literally. It was supposed to open back in 2016, and they have announced something like six or seven estimated opening dates, only to have each date come and go with no schnitzel or beer in sight, leaving Belleville wondering if the restaurant was ever really going to open.

The billboard that they put up in downtown St. Louis says it all…“A Unique Experience over 400 years in the making.”

Has it only been that long?

Obviously, the billboard references the original establishment in Munich, which first opened in 1589. But I think the developers of the project missed the irony of the statement on the advertisement, because it certainly feels like we’ve been waiting at least that long for the restaurant to open!

Anyway, the Hofbräuhaus announced today that they are officially in soft open mode. I don’t know the full details of what that means, but I do know that for the next three weeks or so, until their grand opening on April 18th, you can finally get a German meal there! Even though we’ve become a bit disillusioned with the project over the years, we’re still looking forward to enjoying a dinner at the Hofbräuhaus at some point in the coming weeks…we’re just hoping the restaurant itself is managed better than the construction project has been!

Tasty Tuesday–The Best of Beast!

I’m still super excited that Beast Craft BBQ made the top 20 of Ian Froeb’s “STL 100” restaurant list, and was named the “best barbecue restaurant in the St. Louis area” on that list! I thought today, it would be fun to take a look back at all of the amazing meals I’ve had at Beast over the last three-plus years:

Some of the items pictured are from when Beast was just starting out, and don’t really appear on the menu anymore. Some are rather new addition’s to Beast’s menu, and are available regularly. And a few have been there from the beginning, and are such favorites that they’re menu staples. They all have one thing in common, though, and that’s how delicious they are!

Tasty Tuesday–Beast Craft BBQ: Wagyu Beef Eater

Last Saturday morning, I woke up to discover that the St. Louis-Post Dispatch had published Ian Froeb’s “STL 100” restaurant list online, a day ahead of the print version coming out in the paper. I always look forward to this list, because I like to see what food in St. Louis is good. In general, the top spots are taken up by fancy restaurants that I just can’t afford to eat at. This year, however, I can actually say that I’ve eaten at a “Top 20” restaurant…frequently!!!…because Beast Craft BBQ right here in Belleville made the cut, and was also named the “best barbecue restaurant in the St. Louis area!” This of course came as no surprise to me, because I’ve know about Beast’s awesomeness for over three years now, but it’s still exciting every time they receive another accolade!

Anyway, in honor of that, Ryan decided that I should try something new from Beast for lunch that day. I’ve heard so much good buzz about the Wagyu beef that I knew I had to try the Wagyu Beef Eater, which almost seems like it was custom-made for me, because it has all my favorites: beer braised beef, grilled onions, horsey sauce, and Swiss cheese, all served on Beast’s amazing Texas toast:

I am not exaggerating when I say the beef just melted in my mouth…Wagyu definitely lives up to the hype! The sauce was perfect, and gave the sandwich just the right kick. And of course, grilled onions and Swiss always make a beef-based sandwich even more delicious!

I also tried the loaded fries (I know…I’m just as shocked as you are that I didn’t get the fried Brussel sprouts, because they’re my favorite, but I wanted to try something new!). Beast makes great fries, and these were topped with sauced pork, white cheddar jalapeño cheese, and green onions. This, too, was delicious, and the cheese was just the right amount of spicy.

On a side note, you currently have the opportunity to reserve your Easter ham from Beast…a beautiful, Compart Family Farms Duroc cherry-smoked ham at that. They’re 8-9 pounds (bone-in) and they look amazing. If you’re looking for something new for your Easter table, you can’t go wrong with Beast!

Nativity Scenes from Around the World–2017 Edition

The 12 Days of Christmas aren’t over yet!

In 2014, we visited the Cathedral of St. Peter in Belleville to see a display of nativity scenes from around the world. We had the chance to go there again last month, where they had a similar display, but with many different nativities than the last time we were there!

There is no doubt about where some of the nativity scenes came from:

My personal favorite was from Germany, although I guess the origin of this one wasn’t as obvious:

I love how unique and beautiful they all were…especially the ones made out of unusual materials, like shells!

The most talked about item was the “hipster nativity scene.” While I wouldn’t want it on display in my home, it certainly was food for thought. There were some things about it that really make me hope that this isn’t how history remembers us, though! Here are some of the things we noticed about it:

  • Solar panels on the stable roof
  • Drone on the stable roof
  • Joseph, sporting man-bun and barefoot, taking selfies
  • Mary, Starbucks cup, duck-face, and possible Uggs
  • Shepherd with an iPad and a sheep with a Christmas sweater
  • Wise men on Segways sporting a combination of fedoras, sunglasses, facial hair, scarves, suspenders, and skinny pants, carrying Amazon boxes
  • 100% organic cow with gluten-free feed

I love seeing how different cultures depict something that has become so common to me!