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Twice Baked Potatoes

DSC_1433There is something beautiful that happens in the time after guests arrive for dinner and before we actually sit down to the table that I love. After greeting friends at the door, we happily pour wine for everyone, catch up on the latest in their lives and simultaneously return to our paused cooking tasks. So many times the conflicting emotions of “They’re here!” and “It’s going to burn in 30 seconds!” hit me. At this point in the evening, it’s a bit of a chaotic dance in our little kitchen, but I like it. I like the challenge of fully engaging in conversation with people and fully attending to the cooking task at hand. Yes, sitting down at the table and sharing a meal together is incredibly meaningful and I’ve written about that before, but the time before is to be cherished as well. Being able to chiffonade the basil without cutting my fingers while maintaining appropriate eye contact with the person I’m talking to is an art form I am slowly learning to master. (But I’m not there yet. Sorry if I tell you to “hold that thought!” … it’s probably because I just remembered something is burning.)

One dish we like to make when guests come over are twice baked potatoes. They’re easy, impressive, and one of those dishes that doesn’t take too much thought so you can fully engage in your conversation with friends. We add a whole head of roasted garlic to our filling to pack some sweet garlicy goodness in our potatoes.

First, oil your potatoes and garlic head and salt everything generously. Wrap each potato and garlic head in foil and bake. Squeeze out the roasted garlic in a large bowl. Cut the potatoes in half and scoop out the middle into the bowl, leaving a thin layer of cooked potato in the skin.

DSC_1393Add shredded cheese, butter, sour cream, salt and pepper, and whip it with a hand blender. I say whip it… whip it good.

DSC_1408Fill each potato skin with the mixture and place them in a cast iron pan. Top each potato with additional shredded cheese. Really load it on there. (I still have “Whip It” in my head.)

DSC_1451Place cast iron on the grill or in the oven until cheese is melted.

DSC_1473We usually serve these alongside steak and salad, but they are super filling and could make a meal of their own the next day for lunch. Next time you are cooking for friends, cherish the bit of chaos that comes in the time before you sit down to your meal. It could be as memorable as the meal itself.

Twice Baked Potatoes
Prep Time: 1 hour (for the potato) + 20 min. Cook Time: 15 min.
Makes 6 twice baked potato halves

Ingredients:

3 russet potatoes
1 head of garlic
2 cups cheddar, shredded
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons butter, softened
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Olive oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 400°. Coat each potato and the head of garlic with a drizzle of olive oil and a generous sprinkle of salt. Wrap each potato and head of garlic in foil. Set timer for one hour and bake, removing the garlic after 45 minutes. Unwrap garlic foil and cut the top of the garlic head off. Squeeze roasted garlic cloves into a large bowl. Discard garlic skin.

Bake the potatoes the full hour, or until cooked through. A knife should easily pass through the center when tested. Unwrap foil and allow potatoes to cool before handling. You might need a mitt or a paper towel if they’re too hot to handle. Cut each potato lengthwise and allow to cool even more. Scoop insides of the potato into the large bowl with the garlic, leaving a thin layer of potato in the skin.

Add the sour cream, 1 cup of cheese, butter, salt, and pepper to the bowl. Using an electric blender, whip all the filling ingredients until smooth. Evenly portion the filling into each potato and top with a generous layer of shredded cheese.

Grill or bake the cast iron pan with the potatoes until cheese is melted and potatoes are hot, about 15-20 minutes. Top with an additional sprinkle of salt and pepper and enjoy.

Olive + Oak

DSC_0021By now, if you live in St. Louis, you’ve heard of Olive + Oak. You might have even tried getting a reservation, surprised that the next opening for a table for two on a Saturday at 6:00pm is eight weeks away. You might have driven down Lockwood on any night of the week and thought of how you’ve been meaning to pop in and get a seat at the bar, but it looked too crowded, so you kept on going. You might have even been to Olive + Oak, snagged a reservation long ago, or got there early to grab a seat at the bar, feasting upon some of the finest dishes the city has to offer. But you still might not know the story behind Olive + Oak.

We approached one of the owners, Mark Hinkle, about writing a blog post not only to highlight their ever-changing delicious menu and new summer cocktails, but also to tell their story.

Long before Olive + Oak came the restaurant’s namesakes: Ollie Hinkle and Oakes Ortyl. Both sweet boys were born with congenital heart defects and passed away at an early age. Ollie’s parents, Jennifer and Mark Hinkle and Oakes’ parents Greg and Becky Ortyl met through the shared tragedy of losing their sons. Both families started foundations to raise awareness and support continuing research in honor of their sons: The Ollie Hinkle Heart Foundation and The Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation. And in the darkest time, a new partnership was coming forth.

Hinkle (most recently on the managerial staff at Annie Gunn’s) and Ortyl teamed up to venture into starting a restaurant in Webster Groves, where both of their families are from. Olive + Oak is appropriately located in the heart of Webster Groves, and brings with it more than just good food.

There is no huge sign for Olive + Oak outside. Its humble storefront and patio seating blends in as a natural part of the Webster community. This makes sense, of course, since the Hinkles, Ortyls, and Chef Jesse Mendica are all from Webster. They understand the importance of the small town, community feel that Webster is known for, and it seamlessly translates into the decor at Olive + Oak.

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At some point during your visit, you will probably meet Mark. He walks around the restaurant graciously welcoming everyone (even folks like us from the neighboring rival town Kirkwood) with a warm smile as they dine, and making sure they’re enjoying their experience, embodying his dedication to excellent service and hospitality.

DSC_0178You’ll notice right away the neon heart glowing above the bar, a symbol prominent throughout the restaurant to remind the staff and patrons alike of Ollie and Oakes, and to bring awareness of congenital heart defects to the forefront. The more we visit, the more hearts we find hidden throughout the restaurant. They’re hanging amongst the olive and oak leaves of the large welcoming tree by the hostess stand, each of the servers have felt hearts pinned to their lapels, a large wooden heart hangs on the wall in the front, and guests can even purchase and take home hearts to support the Mighty Oakes Heart Foundation.

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Donned in her apron with the red felt heart proudly displayed, bartender Chelsea Little chatted with us about her new cocktail menu. Little hails from Wisconsin, and is a rising star in the St. Louis bar scene. Little makes you feel at home at the bar of Olive + Oak, and takes the time to really make sure the guests are cared for. The detail she crafts in each of her cocktails doesn’t go unnoticed. She hand picks her barware, experiments with new flavors, and tells you to, “here, try THIS,” because she just knows you’ll like it.

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Little released a new summer cocktail menu last week with a Gilligan’s Island theme, something she says she’s always wanted to do. One of our favorites on the list is The Skipper: ancho chili-coconut-campari, bonal + rye. It is the perfect amount of heat and sweet. Pictured here are the Ginger: tequila, big o, lemon bitters + cantaloupe-carrot ice pop and The Professor: plum rum, lemon, absinthe + amaretto.

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Chef Jesse Mendica also came from Annie Gunn’s, and champions an impressive ever-changing menu. If you’re looking at the menu online, don’t get too attached, because when you come in for dinner it might have changed based on what’s fresh that day. For example, we heard someone brought in a bunch of peaches as a gift, and sure enough the next day there was a peach dessert on the menu with those exact peaches. We’ve had a lot of the appetizers and haven’t had one we didn’t like, so we’ll touch on a few of our favorites. The blue crab gratin is outstanding. The warm, gooey, cheesy, dip with delicate crab served alongside toasted pretzel bread makes it really hard to NOT order this each time we visit.

IMG_5180The cheese curds are some of the best we’ve ever had. Light, tempura-like batter crisps through to reveal delicious white cheese on the inside as you take a bite of these monstrous curds. They’re served with a charred scallion aioli and we crave these things on a regular basis.

DSC_0050Not being the biggest clam fans, we breezed over that option the first few times we were in, but when owner Mark Hinkle said it was a must-try, we weren’t going to argue. He was right, they are the best clams we’ve ever had. These beautiful clams are finished with casino butter, lardo, and topped with melted cheese and lemon. Show stoppers.

DSC_0062But the show must always go on. Chef Mendica continues to impress us with her entrée offerings. The light-as-a-feather gnocchi knocked (gnocced?) our socks off back in February, and we were excited to see it back on the menu served as a side to steamed halibut. Chanterelles, lemon, dill, and parsley added to this refreshing summer entrée.

DSC_0118The hanger steak was beautifully presented with a stuffed tomato and grilled zuchinni-roasted onion bread. The bread was so interesting dense and flavorful, and the perfect accompaniment to help sop up the juicy steak and tomato.

DSC_0123You can’t go wrong with their grilled prime strip. A chef from Annie Gunn’s knows how to do steak, after all. This evening it was served with a sweet corn purée, marmalade, and blue cheese potato salad.

DSC_0093One thing we really like about Olive + Oak is that you don’t have to drop a ton of money to have a delicious meal. Their sandwiches are over-the-top good. Their burger is certainly a winner. The lamb dip sandwich is one of the best french dips I’ve ever had. (Wow, starting to sound like a broken record with all these “one of the best I’ve had” descriptions). Roasted lamb is cut impeccably thin and piled high on the sandwich along with drunken goat cheese and lamb jus. The fries are addicting. As for sides, you can’t go wrong with the beets, broiled tomatoes, or green beans.

But then, dessert. The butterscotch pot de crème is our go-to, and it seems to be everyone elses go-to as well, because it hasn’t left the menu since they opened. Served with salted caramel and oatmeal crumb, the creamy sweet goodness of this dessert makes it hard to order one of the other rotating dishes.

DSC_0145The ginger macerated peaches scream of summer and are paired with basil-ginger cookies and vanilla bean ice cream.

DSC_0165If you’ve been following this blog for a while, you know about Neil’s love for key lime pie. He was excited to see frozen key lime pie on the menu. Decadent, sweet, and tart at the same time, topped with toasted coconut and accompanied by a blackberry coulis, this one didn’t disappoint.

DSC_0157To say that we love Olive + Oak would be an understatement. To say that Olive + Oak loves their guests and their community would be an equal understatement. Out of the darkness of losing Ollie and Oakes came the light this restaurant is pouring out to others. Our hope is that people go to Olive + Oak not only for a good meal, but because what they’re doing at 102 West Lockwood goes way beyond the food they serve.

DSC_0173Tickets are on sale for the 4th Annual Ollie Hinkle I Heart Food & Wine Festival, November 6th at the Ritz-Carlton in St. Louis, Missouri. We hope to see you all there!

Cuisinart Fruit Scoop (Boozy Milkshakes + Boozy Root Beer Floats)

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Cuisinart. The Newlywed Chefs received The Fruit Scoop Frozen Dessert Maker as compensation. As always, all opinions are our own.

DSC_0259I’m looking forward to the 4th of July a little more than usual this year. I don’t know if that’s partly because I’ve been listening obsessively to Hamilton or what, but July is almost here and it’s time to party, America! July is knocking on our doorstep and the temperatures are sure to soar. One way we’ll beat the heat this year is by making frozen concoctions with the Cuisinart Fruit Scoop Frozen Dessert Maker.

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Photo Credit: cuisinart.com
The Fruit Scoop looks like an ice cream maker, but it also comes with an additional fruit paddle that crushes and freezes fresh pieces of fruit. You only need a few simple ingredients to make delicious frozen treats that are perfect for the summer. We splurged on calories and decided to make boozy milkshakes and boozy root beer floats. Both were super simple to make and start with the same boozy ice cream recipe. First, whisk milk, sugar, cream, salt, and vanilla together.

DSC_0094Next, fit the ice cream paddle according to the instructions and turn the Fruit Scoop on. While the machine is running, add the cream mixture.

DSC_0109After churning for about 20 minutes, the mixture will thicken and look like soft serve. Beautiful!

DSC_0111Then, add the Bailey’s Irish Cream. Yep, pour it on in. Go for it.

DSC_0137Churn for another 10 minutes. Now here is where you need to make a decision: milkshake or root beer float? If you go the milkshake route, it’s ready to serve! Top with whipped cream and enjoy.

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They are creamy, smooth, boozy, and delicious.

DSC_0206Hey, it’s a holiday right? We went ahead and made root beer floats as well. To make them, simply transfer the soft ice cream to an airtight container and freeze overnight. The ice cream will harden and will be ready for root beer floats the next day. (Shout out to Fitz’s root beer- the best!)

DSC_0239To make a root beer float, pour one root beer in a glass and top with one or two scoops of the boozy ice cream!

DSC_0247I sort of forgot that when you plop the ice cream in, it fizzes everywhere and might overflow. You’ve been warned. We also need to try making boozy beer floats, but we’ll save that for another holiday. No matter if you’re craving boozy milkshakes, boozy root beer floats, sorbet, slushies, or smoothies, the Cuisinart Fruit Scoop Frozen Dessert Maker is the perfect appliance for the job. Happy 4th, everyone!

Boozy Milkshakes
Prep Time: 5 min. Freeze Time: 20 min.
Makes two large 16-oz. milkshakes
Recipe adapted from Cuisinart

Ingredients:

3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt until sugar and salt dissolves. Follow the Fruit Scoop instruction manual to set up machine. Fit machine with the ice cream paddle. While machine is running, pour in the cream mixture and churn for 20 minutes. Add in the Bailey’s. Allow machine to churn for another 10 minutes. Pour into glasses and serve with whipped cream.

Boozy Root Beer Floats
Prep Time: 5 min. Freeze Time: Overnight
Makes four 12-oz. root beer floats
Recipe adapted from Cuisinart

Ingredients:

4 12-oz. root beers
3/4 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
1/2 cup Bailey’s Irish Cream

Preparation:

In a large bowl, whisk together the milk, sugar, cream, vanilla, and salt until sugar and salt dissolves. Follow the Fruit Scoop instruction manual to set up machine. Fit machine with the ice cream paddle. While machine is running, pour in the cream mixture and churn for 20 minutes. Add in the Bailey’s. Allow machine to churn for another 10 minutes.

Transfer ice cream to an airtight container and freeze overnight. To prepare one root beer float, pour one root beer in a glass and top with 1-2 scoops of the boozy ice cream. Repeat with other root beers and serve.