Stuck on you: Stuffed at the Iron Fork food festival (St. Louis, MO)
Before we begin our actual road trip tomorrow, there is plenty to share from the past three weeks Jen and I have spent in her home state of Missouri. I will try to cover it all over the next several days if I can.
As an ignorant, elitist east coaster who has considered New Jersey wine some of the best ever produced (I’m not so ignorant as to not recognize such a claim might dismiss my opinions by many, but I am holding firm), I was so pleasantly surprised by the Missouri wine industry. With little knowledge of spirits, I was less surprised but still exceedingly pleased by the gin and whiskey we enjoyed and purchased at Pinckney Bend Distillery in New Haven. Having been in South Korea the past six years, I had a little knowledge of the craft beer boom in the U.S. but have yet to fully grasp its scope. So, I was not entirely surprised when Two Plumbers Brewery + Arcade in St. Charles tapped into my lifelong love of video games and my adultlong appreciation for suds.
One area I was not at all surprised to find was good was the region’s food culture. I mean, does any place really have “bad” food culture? Maybe. Then again, I have the tendency to find the good in any food, whether it be the most ubiquitous fast food offerings or the most artisanal, organic, farm-to-fork farkers out there.
Speaking of forks, we got a fantastic taste of the St. Louis area’s restaurant offerings and the quirky and inviting City Museum of St. Louis at the annual Riverfront Times “Iron Fork” competition last week.
Think Iron Chef, the cooking competition program that began in Japan in the 1990s and eventually made its way to the U.S. Chefs are given a food item for which they have a set amount of time to prepare various dishes that incorporate that item, with a panel then sampling those offerings and then judging whose reigned supreme. For the record, I preferred the original.
Also, for the record, Jen and I did not actually see this competition during the Iron Fork. There were too many people, too many food stalls to sample and far too much fun to be had in the museum, which was open after hours for the event only.
I feel bad for anyone who tried to suggest this place to their kids but didn’t explain it well enough. “The City Museum? Museum? No, thanks, mom, I want to play the iPad or whatever the kids are doing these days” I imagine them saying. For shame. City Museum is an awesome hands-on playground and something I totally did not expect.
Expect the unexpected. City Museum is a hundred-year-old warehouse in downtown St. Louis in which artists have repurposed the pieces of old cities to build miles of tunnels, slides, climbers, bridges, and castles. There are secret passages and grand galleries. Playgrounds and ball pits. A circus and a train. A rooftop school bus and a Ferris wheel.
The food was copious. Sample portions (as many as you wanted to grab) of, and this is only from memory: tuna poke on crispy wonton chips, ceviche atop cucumber, vegan ceviche with marinated beets, pulled pork tacos, macaroni and cheese x3 (was there more? I lost count), pizza, smoked pulled turkey, fried raviolis (a St. Louis tradition, apparently), falafel fries with incredible tzatziki, and plenty of booze sample booths on top of the five drink tickets baked into our completely-worth-it $45 admission fee. Take that, overpriced New Zealand Wine Festival in Korea. Moving to Ananti Cove is not a good enough excuse to nearly doubling your admission fee in a few years.
Once we’d had our (over) fill (I realize how few food photos we took. Too busy enjoying it), we focused most of our mental energy into the museum itself, which featured various hands-on (and body-in) exhibits, giant slides, interactive fish tanks, and even a retro arcade.
Being after hours, a few things were unfortunately closed, including the roof. Will we come back during regular hours? Definitely. This time, I won’t feel like a stuck pig at the end of a fork heading toward my already overfilled mouth, however. I’m still full.
JPDdoesROK is a former news editor/writer in New Jersey, USA, who served a one-year tour of duty in Dadaepo/Jangnim, Saha-gu, Busan from February 2013 to February 2014. He is now a teacher in Gimhae.