Sanctuaria

With summer winding down, I am stepping up my game about hitting all the places on my list of must-do’s. Yesterday after work my sister, B, and I headed to The Grove area for happy hour at Sanctuaria. Now I have heard nothing but rave reviews about this place and let me say, it met and exceeded them all. I personally love happy hours (I mean who doesn’t??) but for the main benefit that you get to be a bit more adventurous when you’re ordering. With cheaper prices, I am more willing to take a chance on a stranger cocktail or an interesting sounding appetizer.

Sanctuaria is a tapas restaurant but they are best known for their cocktails, more specifically for their famous cocktail club. If you’re not familiar with it, let me give you the low down. For a one time fee of $20 you get access to their exclusive cocktail list – 80 classic cocktails that everyone should try once and 80 of their own creations. As a member you get to order from this list and all the drinks are just $8 (for all those regular people – they’re $10) and you get a nifty little notebook to keep track of all the drinks you try. Personally I think this is a pretty awesome concept and judging by the wall lined with notebooks, so do other people. Alas, since I’m leaving in a week or so (and not sure if I’m coming back to St. Louis… scary…) I didn’t join the club. But we did make our way through some of the list.

To start off I ordered the Enemy of My Enemy (they all have fun little names). Made with Flor de Cana Rum, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon juice, cardamom tincture and a big beautiful sprig of fresh basil, it was sweet and tart all at the same time. The basil really was the best part. Every time I took a sip, the fragrant herb added a whole other layer of flavor.

B couldn’t decide so she told the bartender that she wanted something sweet but a little bitter. He came back with a champagne saucer glass filled with a coral-colored concoction. But before he walked away he pulled out a lighter, lit an orange peel on fire, rubbed the glass with it and dropped it in the drink. It let off such a fragment aroma. And added a nice zest to the drink.

For round two I ordered the Clark – Pepper. It is made with Del Maguey Mezcal, Marie Brizard Apry, orange and lime juices, sage, jalapeño, hot sauce, and club soda. I was a little apprehensive because it sounded super spicy. But like I said, happy hours are the time to try drinks like these, so if I end up not liking it, well I’m only out 7 bucks instead of 9. I did question our wonderful bartender Joel about the level of heat I was about to endure and he assured me that it was spicy but still sweet. Well…I didn’t get much of the sweetness. Wooo, was it hot! It was not like anything I have ever drank before. The heat of the jalapeno hit the back of the throat but in a really interesting way.  It just took me a while to drink it….but I wasn’t going to wuss out and ask for more club soda. I wanted to prove I could handle it. Little did I know, bartender Joel didn’t even add the hot sauce!

That’s the kind of bar Sanctuaria is, they listen to the customers and make drinks that they will enjoy. He saw the hesitation on my face and made the drink a little less hot. He explained that most of the heat comes from the jalapeno anyway because they are muddled with the mezcal (a tequilla-like liquor) and let sit for 24 hours.

B got the Sparkly Gin Fizz for her second drink which was a frothy creamsicle like drink made with Broker’s Gin, lemon and grapefruit juices, honey, rose syrup, cream, cassis, and egg white. I wasn’t a fan, but she enjoyed it.


 {the green diablo sauce was to die for!}

Now onto the food. I can’t say whether the cocktails or the tapas were better so let’s just go with both were a win-win. We started with the Piquillo Poppers with Diablo Verde. It was a set of five roasted red peppers stuff with goat cheese and then fried. It was paired with this incredible spicy green diable sauce. They were a bit messy, but I had no shame in licking the cheesy goodness off my plate. Then we had an order of Papas Rellenas – flash friend balls of mashed yukon potatoes filled with picadillo and spanish cheese. Now I will admit, these were my least favorite thing of the night but they were by no means bad. I’ve just had better. Specifically at Porto’s Bakery in Los Angeles. But they were better when dipped in that diablo sauce from the peppers (we ended up dipping everything in that sauce – soo good).

And finally we ordered the Frita Sliders. Now these were not your ordinary sliders. They were made with a combination of Cuban pork and chorizo and topped with cheese and the best part? Crispy little potato straws. (I’m a sucker for any type of crispy goodness on my burgers, onion straws, potato straws – all yum!) They were served on a sweet roll with a citrus herb sauce. But again we dipped them in the diablo sauce. I could have ordered several more tapas but unfortunately my stomach was full and not cooperating.

Guess that means I’ll have to make another trip to Sanctuaria!

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Berry Bloody Mojitos

Sunday nights mean one thing at my house – True Blood time! If you’ve never watched the show than you seriously need to jump on the bandwagon and catch up. This season is shaping up to be even crazier than the last two and I for one can’t wait to see what’s going to happen between Eric, Bill and Sookie, as well as all the other crazy mythological creatures HBO keeps throwing into the mix.

True Blood is already pretty perfect but my sister and I did find one thing that makes it even better…drinking delicious mojitos while watching the equally delicious men of True Blood show off their abs (and sometimes other parts…!) To go along with the blood thirsty theme of the show we decided to make mojitos that looked like a vampire-worthy snack.

Introducing….Berry “Bloody” Mojitos!
Adapted from a recipe from HowSweetEats

First off, if you’re creeped out by the idea of drinking blood…well you and I can’t be friends. Just kidding. But no, you can always just call them Triple Berry Mojitos and move on with it.

Ingredients:
(Makes 1 mojito – but we obviously tripled it…twice)

4 fresh mint leaves
2 1/2 ounces of mint simple syrup (1 cup water, 1 cup sugar, 10 mint leaves)
2 ounces of rum (you can add less if you want…)
1 1/2 ounces of diet tonic water
2 ounces of mixed berry juice – (1/4 cup water, 6 strawberries, 1/3 cup blueberries, 1/3 cup raspberries)
juice of 1 lime
fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries

How – to:

First off you want to make your simple syrup. Simple syrup is well, very simple to make, it’s just equal parts sugar and water. It’s usually the base of most sugary cocktails. In this case we added mint. Add all ingredients to a sauce pan and heat over medium heat till it bubbles. Turn down to low for 2 minutes and then let sit for 15-20.

While your simple syrup is doing its thing, make your berry juice. In a blender combine the berries with 1/4 cup of water. Again if you’re doubling, tripling (six-timesing…) the recipe, do so here as well. Pulse it till it’s pureed.

Now here’s where I made my slight mistake, but of course you will learn from it. You want to strain this mixture after it’s blended. I didn’t and while I did like some of the texture, I didn’t like having to pick blueberry particles out of my teeth.

In a pitcher combine berry juice mixture, diet tonic, rum and the juice of your lime(s).

Grab your glasses and pour in 2 1/2 ounces of simple syrup and couple of mint leaves. A little tip? An ounce is a little less than a shot glass, so if you’re like me and you’ve got plenty of those lying around but not as many measuring cups, it will work! Then muddle the syrup and the mint with a muddler – or in my case a meat tenderizer, also the bottom of a screw driver will work (be creative!).

Add crushed ice (regular ice works to but it’s always more fun to chew on crushed ice). Then fill the rest of the cup with your drink mixture. If you’re looking for a measurement then I would say about 5-6 ounces. Then top off with a beautiful sprig of fresh mint and sip away! You have a tasty looking glass of bloody goodness without the messy part of sucking on someone’s neck. (Too far? Maybe. But go with it!)

Enjoy!

Running for Life

One of the best parts about working in journalism is all the interesting people I have the chance to meet. Over the past four years I have met countless people on different stories and a few of them continue to stand out as my favorites. This past week I had the fortunate opportunity to interview a woman who I am sure will be one of the most memorable. Her name is Colleen Caul and her little sister has Cystic Fibrosis. In an effort to raise money for CF and spread awareness, she is going on a 65 day, 1,000 mile run from St. Louis to New York City. It’s an incredible story and I was luckily given the chance to write about her and her run for the Get Involved section for the September issue of ALIVE.

I met up with her last week for the initial interview. I had no idea what to expect when I walked into Starbucks – was she young? old?  Whenever you’re meeting someone new for an interview, there’s always that awkward “hmmm could that be her in the corner? Or the woman sitting by the window?” Luckily she had a flyer with her and I was able to spot it. Turns out she is a 29-year-old actress from St. Louis who began running to bond with her little sister Katie. Katie began running because she discovered that it strengthened her lungs and helped control her disease. Colleen’s story is one that really touches you deep down, especially for anyone who has a sibling or friend that they would do anything for.

{Colleen Caul and her younger sister Katie – both were so inspiring!}

My interview with Colleen could have lasted several hours. She’s one of those people you instantly feel comfortable with. Bubbly and outgoing, she has the ability to captivate you with her stories and I was fascinated to hear how she came up with the idea, which she is calling Run for Roses. The rose is the symbol of the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation as well as Katie’s middle name. Colleen’s been planning the run for a year now and she is finally off!

Thursday was the kick off rally, held in Keiner Plaza in downtown St. Louis. Friends, family and volunteers all gathered in the 105 degree heat to give Colleen a big farewell. She will be running 15 miles each day, ending at Rockefeller Plaza in New York on September 23.

{The beautiful Kiener Plaza in Downtown St. Louis}

I stopped by the rally to film a piece for ALIVE Around Town blog, you can see the video and story here.  It was the hottest day of the summer but it didn’t stop Colleen’s many friends, family members and supporters from coming out and cheering her on. Even St. Louis Rams kicker Josh Brown suffered through the heat (a whopping 103 degrees!) to show his support for Colleen and the cause. CF is close to Brown’s heart after a friend from high school passed away from the disease.

{Colleen and Rams kicker Josh Brown}

I was so glad to be a part of the rally and if I didn’t have to head back to the office (or wasn’t wearing heels) then I would have run a couple of miles with her. But instead I will follow her along the way on her blog and hopefully will be able to do a follow-up interview when she lands in New York in September!

Happy Thoughts


   {the perfect treat on a hot summer day: fresh brewed ice tea with lemon}

Some how summer is flying by (only three weeks left!) and I feel like I haven’t had much of a chance to relax and enjoy the joys of being home in St. Louis. While many might think I’m crazy, I really love St. Louis summers. The heat and humidity don’t really bother me (unless were talking 116 degree heat index as predicted for later this week). I actually enjoy the enveloping feeling of warmth when I walk out of an air-conditioned building, with such a temperature difference that my sunglasses immediately fog up. So this weekend I made sure to spend some time outside. I woke up early for a run and grabbed the few spare hours of the weekend to soak up some sun by the pool. Here’s a look at what’s making me happy…

 {measuring spoons from Urban Outfitters – almost too cute to use!}


  {perfectly golden baked zucchini fries – see recipe here!}


{adorable yellow flower balls that continue to bloom despite my terrible watering habits}

Summer Reading

Do you remember when we were younger and each summer, teachers would hand out the summer reading list? Well while most people dreaded the idea of taking time away from swimming, playing and sleeping in, I loved this list of new books to dive into.

Pure summer bliss

I can easily admit that I am a bookworm. I would 90% of the time rather read than watch a movie or TV. Perhaps I have my dad to blame who made us carry a book with us at all times, whether at a restaurant waiting for a table or sitting in the doctors office, I always had a book under my arm. Unfortunatly during the school year, my schedule is jam packed and when I do find the time to read it generally requires me to read from a textbook (not very interesting for the most part). So once again when summer rolls around I cherish the thought that I will have (almost) endless hours to peruse through my ever growing mental reading list.

This summer I’ve already made my way through a couple of title, Claude & Camille (a touching and beautiful tale of the tormented life of artist Claude Monet), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. And at the moment I am halfway through Truman Capote’s terrifying and engrossing, In Cold Blood. But once again, time seems to be slipping away from me, and as summer shortens, my list seems to lengthen.

Last week New York Times Magazine released their staff picks for the top five best fiction booksof all time. To my sad surprise I am far from making progress on the great literary works of all time. So I’ve added a couple of those to pick up at the library to my list.

Summer Reading List – No Textbooks Allowed

  • The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath
  • Playing President, by Robert Scheer
  • The Girl who Played with Fire, by Stieg Larsson
  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J.K. Rowling
  • The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides
  • Lolita, by Vladimir Nabokov

My ever growing stack of books to read.

There are of course a few books that will wind up falling into my lap, whether from friends or my mom’s recommendations. But as of right now I have quite a comprehensive list to plow through before I head back to school. As for order of importance, there isn’t one really, except for I will probably set aside In Cold Blood for the next few days while I give myself a nice refresher  of my good friend Harry Potter before he battles Voldemort for the last time on the big screen come Thursday (I’ve got my tickets!!). But after that I think I will need something a bit more upbeat after Capote’s detailed account of the horrific murders of the Clutter family.

Summer is the perfect time to grab a book and relax in a hammock (as I did the other day). You can multitask by stimulating your brain and getting a sun-kissed glow in the sun. Happy Reading!
eat.write.love,
Alexis

Roasted Vegetable Quesadilla

I’ve already expressed my recent obsession with roasted vegetables, just a touch of cooking spray, salt and lots of pepper (I looooove lots of fresh cracked pepper), and put it in a bowl. But yesterday I decided to see what else I could do with them and ta-da, a new recipe that I’m loving: roasted veggie quesadilla! I love Mexican food but alas it’s not the most healthy so I realized that I could rework a classic fav by using healthier ingredients and adding my roasted obsession.

Roasted Vegetable Quesadilla

Ingredients:
1 Whole Wheat Tortilla
1 cup zucchini, thinly sliced1 cup red pepper, sliced1/4 cup red onion, sliced
1/4 cup reduced fat chedder
Cooking spray
Salt, pepper, and oregano to taste

 

How-To:

First chop up all your veggies. I used zucchini and red pepper because that’s what I had in the fridge but you could use any kind of pepper and add squash, or mushrooms (I hate them, but apparently some people enjoy them…), or any ol’ veggie that strikes your fancy. Line a cookie sheet with foil (easy clean up!) and spray with cooking spray. Pile your veggies on and spray with cooking spray and sprinkle, salt, pepper and oregano on top. Instead of baking them (as I usually do with my roasted vegetables) I used the broiler. Put the pan about five inches beneath the flame and cook for 20 minutes. Turning once. While those are cooking, top half of the tortilla with the cheese. When the veggies are soft and looking a bit charred take them out and pile them on the tortilla, fold close. Spray a frying pan with cooking spray and grill the quesadilla until the cheese is gooey and it has a nice crisp on both sides. Top with salsa and dig in!

I paired it with some pita chips (we were out of tortilla chips, whoops!) and big ol’ pile of salsa, the thick chunky kind. I doubled the batch for lunch the next day so I could have my yummy treat two days in a row!

Happy Thoughts

One of favorite bloggers, Emily Schuman of Cupcakes and Cashmere, does this adorable section called Five Things in which she posts five things that are making her happy. I love this idea because usually I’m just rambling to people what I’m obsessing over at the moment. And I can admit that I’m a fickle person and my favorite things are constantly changing (as I am always mocked by friends when ever I exclaim that I’m something new is my absolute favorite thing). So here we go…my first Happy Thoughts section in which I’ll post the random things that are making my life a little brighter.

A vintage turquoise and silver bracelet that I “borrowed” from my mom years ago. She picked it up on one of her many adventures in the 70s and recently I’ve been pairing it with everything from my new pink pants (see below), to a crisp white dress. It’s the perfect go-to accessory of the summer.

I am currently loving all the fresh summer produce and recently I discovered how simple (and delicious!) roasted vegetables can be. Chop ’em up, spray ’em with a bit of cooking spray, and then bake for 20 minutes, turning once. So simple and so yummy, I’ve been making it several times a week!

                                                             

 Colored jeans have been big this spring and summer and I’ve been dying to try the look but wasn’t sure if I could pull it off. I went with my mom to a friend’s house who was hosting a clothing sale from the like CAbi. Most of the stuff was a little older in style, but these pink, marble pants popped out on the rack and after trying them on, I was in love. They fit like that perfect, dream pair of jeans you’re always searching for and the sublte white marbling gives them a cool textured look. And you can tell from the look-book (Source: CAbi Canary) that they go with pretty much anything! I love them with a white top and some colorful jewelry, like my turquoise cuff or bright yellow necklace.

Home Away From Home

Home is a funny word. In the most basic sense it’s the place you live, but in reality its meaning is more sentimental than physical. Home of course can mean your house, but more often it’s a place where you feel safe, warm and always welcome. I love the house I grew up and it will always be home because it’s filled with family and millions of memories. I But there is another place that has always been my home away from home, and that is Camp Taum Sauk.

I started going to camp when I was 10 or so and with a few exceptions I have spent the majority of my summers there since. Its about two hours south of St. Louis in a tiny, tiny little town called Lesterville, MO. Its situated right alongside the Black River and in the valley of the Taum Sauk mountains.

Home away from home.

Camp Taum Sauk has given me many of the things that I hold dear. Basically it has defined me in ways that nothing else ever has. It has given me friends that I will have forever, it’s where I develop my love for country music, it has made me the leader and outgoing person I am today and it is where I met the love of my life. Without camp I would have an entirely different life today.

Taum Sauk is a little like Neverland, you can go there and get sucked into never growing up. But last summer I realized I needed to spend my summers working towards my future career. And while I love interning (last summer at KMOV News 4 and this summer at ALIVE), I miss the long summer days canoeing, lifeguarding and making up skits with my campers. But fortunatly, when I get the chance I drive down those long country roads for a long weekend at CTS.

And one of the best weekends to spend at camp is 4th of July (more on one of my favorite holidays in next post), so right after work on Thursday, I grabbed my swimsuit and a few changes of clothing and headed down. The weekend was filled with sun and more than a few thunderstorms, floating down the Black River, catching up with old campers, and tie dying. While I can’t call Camp Taum Sauk my summer home anymore, I know that it will always hold a place in my heart and a place on my calendar when another long weekend pops up.