Lit candles rested in small piles of shell-studded sand at the center of each intimate table. Paintings of beaches hung on the walls and water trickled down the small waterfall in the corner. Everything about Lulu, Chef Colby Walloch’s pop-up in Studio 40, was calming.
Given the chance to create a sneak peek into his dream restaurant, Chef Walloch chose to go with the type food he started his career cooking: casual seafood fare from the Pacific Northwest (Chef Walloch grew up in Portland). He named the spot after his two-year-old daughter, who’s his “number one sous chef at home.”
The atmosphere at Lulu matched Chef Walloch’s personality: quiet but confident. He clearly wasn’t going to serve sous vide foie gras or deconstructed champaign infused caviar (whatever that would be), only clean, well-executed interpretations of classic dishes.
The meal began with a crab shell filled with the juices that emerge when you cook a crab.
The juice tasted more like crab than any crab I’ve ever eaten. It was fresh but decadent and super salty (in a good way). “This tastes like the beach,” Nate said joyously. It reminded me of the summer nights I’ve spent on Cape Cod, happily licking the fresh shellfish drippings off of my fingers. I’ll take dipping my bread in crab juice over olive oil any day.
The first course was a small square of pork belly coated in BBQ sauce with cheddar grits. It seemed like a deviation from the Pacific Northwest concept but Chef Walloch explained that the dish, like the rest of his menu, was “rooted within home.” The BBQ sauce stems from his time working for a southern family. The grits came from the Tillamook Creamery, a creamy on a river near Chef Walloch’s childhood home.
The grits were wonderfully creamy and slightly sharp. The cream did a good job of mitigating the sweet and spicy BBQ sauce. I was most impressed by the texture of the pork belly. I’ve had really dry fat-free pork belly and really jiggly fat-filled pork belly. Chef Walloch rendered the fat perfectly, deftly avoiding both of those results. The crispy outside of his pork belly gave away to a tender inside.
The next course was a mixed local greens salad served alongside a piece of steelhead that was sitting on a bed of roasted mushrooms.
Thin slices of pickled radishes added acid to the peppery local greens and strong blue cheese. The steelhead – which is a species of trout that lives in the Pacific Ocean – was covered in an acidic pesto-esque sauce. Charred, earthy mushrooms grounded the light flavors in the buttery fish and the sauce.
Chef Walloch followed it with my favorite course of the night: chowder.
Chef Walloch’s Portland take on New England Clam Chowder was the night’s superstar because (a) it was delicious and (b) replacing the crab with fried oysters coated in a cornbread breading was an imaginative but understated twist.
A deep bacon-created smokiness ran through the cream. On its own, the cream soup was a bit too salty for me. But with the oysters, the saltiness was replaced with wonderfulness. The breading added crunchiness, which is a texture that soups don’t often include.
The next course was a heaping pile of Dungeness crab legs covered in a chili garlic sauce. Here’s an action shot of Chef Patrick McElroy helping Chef Walloch plate:
When my plate arrived, I stared at it, wondering where to start. “There’s no elegant way to eat this,” Chef Walloch warned. I rolled up my sleeves, grabbed the crab leg openers, and started cracking away.
I’ve never had spicy crab before. The combination of chili, garlic, lime, and cilantro added Asian flare. Actually getting through the shell was a challenge but we were rewarded with bites of succulent, tender crabmeat.
The meal ended with chocolate cake that Chef Walloch added as a “nod back to the first dessert” he ever cooked in a restaurant. It was 1987 and the pastry chef didn’t show up so Chef Walloch was forced to learn on the spot. And learn he did. I don’t love chocolate (I know… it’s a sin) but I loved Chef Walloch’s chocolate cake.
When I cut into it, warm chocolate oozed out and into the salted caramel sauce and thick whipped cream. Every bite was decadent beyond belief. The salty sweetness from the caramel cut through the rich, bitter chocolate. Yes. Yes is all I can say.
Lulu was clearly a true manifestation of Chef Walloch’s dream concept; its understated elegance could only stem from genuine passion.
As I was leaving, my friend Ish said: “it’s not fair, you get to go to all of them.” Ish, you’re right. It’s not fair and I hope that never changes. I get to eat delicious food while watching talented chefs like Walloch do what they love to do.
You can experience some of the magic too. If you’d like to attend a WU Restaurant dinner, “like” Dining Services on Facebook and join the event when they raffle off tickets for the next one. The dinners only cost $12.95. $12.95 for a five course meal is unheard of.
The very talented students over at Kuumba have posted a beautiful video about this night. Check it out:
Kuumba TV is a student group that creates short documentaries about creativity on our campus.
Starting your day with a friend, a cup of coffee, and a well made meal sets you up for success. Especially if that well made meal requires little personal effort. That’s why venturing out to different STL breakfast spots is my favorite thing to do on weekends.
The Soulard Coffee Garden is a little bit more of a trek than I’m usually down for. But it’s right by the Soulard Farmer’s Market (more on that tomorrow). Soulard Coffee Garden’s walls aren’t as Instagram-able as the walls are at Half & Half and Winslow’s. But it is charming in a familial way instead of in a hipster way.
And their buttermilk cornmeal blueberry pancakes are delicious. The tang from the buttermilk comes through wonderfully. I was afraid the pancake would be like corn bread (which I hate) but they mixed in just enough cornmeal to give the pancake a pleasantly grainy texture. It was hearty without being heavy.
The biscuits with sausage gravy, on the other hand, were hearty and heavy.
I wish I was Southern enough because the sausage was packed with delicious, meaty flavor, the cream was wonderfully smooth, and the biscuits were perfectly flaky. I also which I was Southern enough because Southern people are badass.
If you are more Southern than I am, I highly recommend checking out Soulard Coffee Garden. Please let me know how their dish stacks up to the mounds of biscuits with sausage gravy that you probably eat while riding horses and listening to Carrie Underwood and shooting shotguns when you’re at home.
If that’s not your thing, I still recommend going for their pancakes.
This is Fooducated’s very first guest post and it’s written by Brendan Ziebarth, architecture student by day, food lover by always.
Being friends with Fooducated’s mastermind, Jolijt Tamanaha has its perks. As the de facto ambassador from students to their excellencies Bon Appetit and Dining Services, Ms. Fooducated gets the inside scoop.
Since I won the chance to escort Ms. Fooducated to the Rogue Chefs’ secret dinner back in December, she and I cemented our friendship with an unshakeable passion for really, really good food.
Sometimes even an ambassador needs a night off. When Jolijt offered me the chance to be a guest writer on Fooducated, I jumped at the chance. I knew that whatever event she needed me to cover would be fantastic, but I wasn’t quite ready for this.
At six o’clock I nervously approached the door to Studio 40, next to the WUrld Fusion station in BD and waited anxiously for the thirteen other guests to arrive. We were the lucky fourteen students who would get to try the second in a series of pop up restaurants hosted by WashU’s chefs. A delightfully chipper woman scolded me as I tried to peek through the window. When the door finally swung open, I was awestruck. We had been magically transported from St. Louis, Missouri, to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The tables were only inches off the ground, surrounded by burlap cushions handmade out of Kaldi’s coffee bean bags by Lorni, director of the Village Dining Hall. Colorful fabrics covered the tables and hung from the walls of our teleportation device. Beaded vases filled the corners, and a series of photographs offered views like windows out onto the rugged landscape and rich history of Ethiopia. While much of the region was predominantly influenced by Islamic cultures, Ethiopia had the additional influence of Jews and Coptic Christians. This blending of cultures and flavors created a varied and unique cuisine, of which, despite the lengthy menu in front of me, we would only sample a small portion.
Chef Hayes had chosen a selection of some of the most iconic dishes of Ethiopian cuisine; it was clear that this dinner was as much the chef’s exploration as it was an attempt to introduce WU students to something new.
The name of the pop up restaurant, BerBere, comes from name of a spice mixture unique to Ethiopian and Eritrean cuisines. It’s a mixture of 38 different spices and herbs, including chilies, garlic, ginger, basil, fenugreek, and a bunch of stuff I’ve never heard of.
The first items arrived while we took a quick tour of the South 40 kitchen. There were no utensils – we would be eating with our fingers in the traditional manner of Ethiopia.
The Dabo Kolo weren’t hard to pick up. These little balls of fried dough didn’t seem exotic in concept, but they had a complex flavor, which I learned was the berbere spice mixture.
They were so pop-able that I had to restrain myself so I wouldn’t fill up on the dense bread. I took a sip of my Fruit Punch to wash it down.
I have suspicions about how “authentic” the drink was, but I didn’t care after one sip. The punch was a huge hit, and Chef Hayes revealed the recipe:
- white grape juice
- pineapple juice
- cherry juice
- orange juice
- raspberry juice
- club soda
- and ice cubes that were actually the juice itself, frozen.
Add a little somethin-somethin and you’ll be the hero of your next get together.
Scattered around the table were four bowls of toppings to complement our meal and cool our mouths after a spicy bite. The fresh cheese and yogurt sauce would have been disastrous to pick up with my fingers, but I braved the Tomato-Cucumber Relish and Honey-Spiced Papaya Chutney in order to sample their “pure” flavor.
The Tomato-Cucumber Relish had a little bite from some chopped onion and tang from some white vinegar, but I thought it could use some salt and pepper.
The Honey-Spiced Papaya Chutney was a completely different story.
Chef Hayes had decided to make the dish after he had used the seeds from the papaya to tenderize the goat. Again, maybe not “authentic” but I praise Hayes’ ingenuity; he combined the papaya with some traditional Ethiopian flavors to create a killer new combination. The papaya was a great texture, somewhere between crunchy and squishy. The honey lit up the tip of my tongue with happy sweetness while the spice mix (more berbere?) grew to a dull burn in the back of my mouth like chipotle powder. This was clearly one of the stars of the night, and the main meal hadn’t even arrived yet.
The first course was Sambossas, two beef and two lentil.
I really enjoyed both fillings. The pine nuts with the beef were a great combination, and the lentil had a nice spice mix. The crust was delicious. It was flaky and buttery. My only critique was that I would have liked a little more filling to crust ratio. The mint and bright yogurt sauce on the plate offered counterpoints to the heaviness of meat and fried crust.
Our meal arrived on a tin plate with a layer of injera bread and portions of each dish distributed across the top. To prepare for our meal, Chef Hayes started yesterday by butchering a whole goat and starting the yeast dough for our injera.
Injera is the staple of Ethiopian cuisine – it is the plate and the utensil. Not a drop of the saucy dishes are wasted with injera to mop it up. Because of how crucial injera is, it is often the mark of a quality Ethiopian restaurant. For me, a good injera is a little like a good crumpet – tangy from the yeast and pockmarked with large holes on one side and weirdly spongy.
With the arrival of the injera, I finally got to try the Ethiopian Iab. This homemade cheese was a lot like cottage cheese. The Yogurt Sauce was also quite yummy, especially the chopped mint mixed in. I thought if anything it could have been a little runnier, maybe from some olive oil whipped in.
Next I tried the Tikil Gomen – cabbage and potatoes. This dish has never been a favorite of mine at Ethiopia restaurants, and tonight wasn’t much different. It always seems to be a side dish that rounds out the meal but doesn’t offer much flavor. However, the potatoes were a notably good al dente texture. I thought the Ye-abesha Gomen – collard greens – were similar. They tasted mostly like the julienned and limp peppers cooked in with them.
In any case I loaded up the toppings in different combinations to see what would brighten up the vegetables. I found a good mix between the collards and the yogurt sauce. Earlier I applauded Chef Hayes’ ingenuity for the fruit punch and papaya topping. I think the vegetables might have suffered from being too traditional.
The Spiced Chickpeas were, on the other hand, a delight. Loaded up with carrots and peas, they hid a sneaking heat that blossomed into a full-mouth smolder. They were also great with a dollop of the cheese curds to soothe the numb tongue.
The Doro Wat – a chicken stew served with a hard-boiled egg – was good. It is one of the most common Ethiopian dishes served in America. Often I have had this dish with a bone-in drumstick. I somewhat missed the large chunks of chicken that one pulls off the bone. The sauce was heavy on the tomato paste with a mild and somewhat sneaking heat. However the egg was perfectly hard-boiled with no grey layer around the yolk. The yolk itself was not chalky at all.
The Roasted Goat was a surprise. It sat on my plate in big chunks, threatening to leave me flossing for hours. In spite of my fears, not a single bit of goat was remotely stringy; Chef Hayes had worked his papaya-magic and created an incredible tender and edible dish! But the biggest surprise to me was the flavor. This was no mutton. This mellow fellow was my favorite dish of the night, winning my heart with a sumptuously rich, even marrow-like flavor. Given the option, I would have eaten three times as much and skipped dessert.
Except nobody would have wanted to miss dessert. It was so good that we called for second and third helpings in to go containers.
Chef Hayes had whipped up his own honey flavored ice cream. Next to it were bananas, said to be in ginger syrup, though the ginger wasn’t potent. The flavor that shone through was the honey itself. Not merely sweet, this honey had a lovely floral aroma. I bit into the tiny chunk of comb sitting atop my ice cream, and a shot of ecstasy flooded my body.
Last but certainly not least was a tiny cup of coffee, prepared Bloom-style, from Ethiopian beans. It’s notes of vanilla complemented the dessert beautifully, and, though it was strong, it was not bitter at all.
I had seconds of coffee as well.
With a full belly and eyes twinkling in awe, I stumbled out of Studio 40 with my handmade burlap floor cushion under my arm. I hail from the Washington, DC, area, which has one of the largest concentrations of Ethiopians and Eritreans outside of their countries – one neighborhood is even called Little Ethiopia. I have tried Ethiopian food multiple times and WU impressed me. The goat was certainly the best I’ve ever had.
But what impressed me even more was the fact that our chefs and Dining services staffs care so much. They definitely care about the students eating well every day. But they also care about making each meal an experience. Every dish goes through countless taste tests and continuous revisions. Even if they can’t always deck out the room with fabrics, vases, and hand stitched cushions, they strive to make each bite of food transport you to a place, whether Ethiopia, India, Italy, or home. I’m sincerely moved by the passion I witnessed at BerBere, and I was reminded how lucky I am. Keep up the great work! Until next time, betam ahmesuganalew, dehna hun!
A note from Jolijt: Oh my god… I am drooling and dying of jealousy. I hope you enjoyed Brendan’s excellent post as much as I did! Click here to read the post about the first WU Restaurant. I will be at the next WU Restaurant dinner (sorry Brendan) and you can be there too! Just like Dining Services on Facebook and keep your eyes out for when they launch the event page.
Restaurants that use the word “modern” scare me. Why fix tradition if it’s not broken? Mexican food is definitely not broken.
Mexican decor on the other hand… don’t get me wrong, I love sombreros. I love restaurants made with beautiful Mexican tiles and rustic colors. But a lot of Mexican spots look like the Fiesta section of Party City exploded into their dining room. Mexican decor is sometimes broken.
Milagro does avoid that fate. Sections of the ceiling are covered in intricate Aztec-esque symbols and Milagro’s lights are beautiful 3D stars. It’s not wonderfully elegant but it is welcoming.
We ordered the Pollo de Mole Poblano.
The chayote squash was a refreshing substitute for classic beans. I love beans but the chayote added a pleasant brightness to every bite. The chicken was perfectly moist. The mole poblano sauce was…. okay.
I don’t consider myself a Mexican food expert. Actually, I don’t consider myself an expert in anything really. But I have eaten excellent, authentic mole and Milagro’s mole poblano doesn’t come close. I think Milagro’s was screwed from the get go. Mole poblano is made by Mexican grandmothers who slave over hot stoves for hours. Mole poblano shouldn’t be modernized.
The fundamental bitterness and depth added by the chocolate was completely missing. It tasted more like a complex tomato sauce than true mole poblano.
But no worries. The Enchiladas “Divorciadas” saved the night.
The beans were packed with smoky bacon goodness (a.k.a.: the way I want everything I eat to be). The darker enchilada was stuffed with pork, covered in a tomatillo sauce, and topped with pickled onions. It was a solidly good enchilada. The pork was a bit dry but the tart sweetness of the sauce made up for it.
Nothing made up for the chicken enchilada. It was too good. The spicy and totally amazing chile ancho and guajillo sauce rocked my taste buds while the Mexican crema calmed everything down.
I don’t know what made it “modern” but I do know that the dish was delish.
It’s that time of the semester. The work is starting to pile on and the coldness of winter is losing its appeal. You’re apt to find yourself writing about the logic of casual order and wondering why you decided to major in PoliSci even though the word “variable” scares you and then thinking about how everyone on the internet is being mean to Beyonce and why can’t a girl just get away with taking an unflattering picture every now and then????
When all of your doubts start to creep to the surface and the monotony of winter threatens to monotonize your soul, turn to food.
The notion of emotionally relying on food sounds incredibly unhealthy. I mean, isn’t stress eating and depression eating and eating in general the reason why the people on the Biggest Loser all need to be the biggest loser?
Perhaps so but the reality is that food is deeply tied to emotion. Good food can make you happy. Bad food can make you unhappy. Roasted vegetables remind me of cozy holiday evenings. They bring me back to a time of year in which I don’t mind that it’s cold because it’s an excuse to cuddle by the fire.
The roasted potatoes were a bit dry and bland but a sprinkle of salt brought them to life. I could taste the herbs and enjoy the crunch provided by the blistered skin. The squash was so soft that it reminded me of puree It wasn’t doused with butter or sugar so the slightly sweet flavor of the squash came though wonderfully.
Eating comforting foods when you’re actually hungry is, in my opinion, a healthy way to tie food to how you feel.
Best Dinner Location: Ibby’s
Best Lunch Location: Holmes Lounge
Again, not much of a surprise. Holmes is one of the most beautiful spots on campus. Lunch can’t get much better than wraps packed with succulent carvery meat. Holmes took 43% of the vote. The DUC came in second with 27%.
Bear’s Den only garnered 7% of the vote but I caution readers against dismissing it as a lunch spot. Bear’s Den has ample seating and some great chef-inspired sandwiches.
Best Carvery Meat At Holmes: Lemon Pepper Turkey Breast
The lemon pepper turkey breast garnered 28% of the vote, beating my personal favorite, the Herb Roasted Leg of Lamb by 4%!
Best DUC Station: The Wash U Wok
The Wok creamed the competition, taking 46% of the vote. No other station came close. Clearly, students love their Asian daily specials and street food.
Best Bear’s Den Station: World Fusion
Wash U is home to a pretty cultured student group. It’s no wonder 42% of us love the World Fusion station the most.
Best Student Run Restaurant: Green Bean
Green Bean won “Best Student Run Restaurant” by 75%. “Green Bean is the only one! What are you doing voting for this option?” won a measly 25%.
Best Campus Cookie: The J.E.M. Cookie
Best Loop Restaurant: Snarf’s, Fitz’s, Ranoush
We are dramatically divided when it comes to best restaurant on the Loop. Snarf’s, Fitz’s, and Ranoush all took 19% of the vote. I’ve put up a picture of Snarf’s because, in my opinion, you cannot beat their delicious sandwiches.
Best Unofficial WUSTL Bar: Three Kings
Thanks for voting everyone!