What started with a breakfast croissant at La Patisserie Chouquette became a full tour of St. Louis thanks to Ben Poremba, the inspiring local chef behind Olio + Elaia, Nixta, Benevolent King, Parigi and more. We drove through rain, which highlighted the city’s grittiness and mystical quality. On the way to Olive Ovation, the local destination for quality EVOO, we took a quick detour to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. From outside it reminded me of Notre Dame (I swear!), but its ultimate beauty lay within: the Byzantine-inspired mosaics glimmered in gold, and the multitude of domes transported us to another world where the sky is both far away and within hand’s reach.
At Olive Ovation we met with Marianne Prey, with whom we talked about the olive oil industry. She shared her thoughts on the retail side, and tasted Libellula EVOO. The store itself held a specially curated selection of quality olive oils and wines. A true gem in the heart of St. Louis.
And here comes one of the day’s highlights: St. Louis buttery ribs with voodoo sauce, pickles and egg salad from Bogart’s Smokehouse. Here we took a quick turn towards heaven.
Driving back to Elaia + Olio, Ben’s first restaurant, I saw the most extraordinary, goose-bump inducing, palatial homes. Every home was unique, unlike anything I have seen in the most wealthy neighborhoods around the USA: colorful facades, old floor-to-ceiling windows, dreamy gardens, exquisite wood trim. We learned St. Louis was the center of east-west trade, before train tracks were re-routed northward towards Chicago.
An incredible day ended just how it started, with good food, great company and inspiring conversation with Ben. We hosted a Libellula EVOO tasting at Israeli-inspired Elaia + Olio, and had hummus, pita, and nostalgia-inducing aperol spritz.
Alla prossima St. Louis!