The Pastry family continues to get the job done here in St. Louis. We’re all weary from a longer-than-expected stay, and we have a couple of weeks yet to go, but the hard work is paying off handsomely for the sick one among us, and that’s obviously the main thing. We couldn’t be more appreciative of the city we’re temporarily calling home. I can honestly say: I love this town.
The architecture alone could keep a history nerd like me busy for weeks. Walking the different neighborhoods, I realize how much my city of origin, Chicago, lost in terms of its history when it burned down in 1871. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow deprived us of any of the Colonial-style structures the city may have once had. But you can find block upon block of French Colonial townhouses and storefronts in St. Louis’ Soulard neighborhood:
Then there are the magnificent Second Empire homes not far away in Lafayette Square. Anything like this that Chicago may have once had went up in smoke long ago. Captain Horace Bixby, who employed Mark Twain on his Mississippi paddle boat, built and owned a house here. Notice how these homes pretend to be made of stone in front, but are actually brick.
This was once a police station. Now that’s policing in style.
I do love a good mansard roof!
While it’s sad there are so few truly old structures left in Chicago, the upside is that the burning-down led to a magnificent building-up. The allure of working on the virtual blank slate of Chicago attracted architects and planners like Louis Sullivan, Daniel Burnham, and Edward Bennett, who along with many others built the most architecturally advanced city the world had ever seen. To this day Chicago not only remains a center of modern architecture, it is still (I believe) the only major city in the world to set aside 300+ acres of its central-city shoreline for public park space.
But I digress from my digression. While I’m on the subject of architectural jewels, have a look at this glittering example: The St. Louis Basilica Cathedral. You could spend days in here staring upward and still not see everything.
Oh yeah, baking. I’m interested in that as well as I recall. I haven’t had much time for it the last couple of weeks, but I’ve been doing plenty of eating. Check this place. And I thought I grew up in a kolache-loving town! I’ve never seen a bakery dedicated solely to the art of these lovely little rolls. This place does them both sweet and savory, which is a nice twist I think.
And then there are the doughnuts. I’ve visited my share of shops here, eating, drinking coffee and swapping war stories with staff and owners. These are hands-down the best (maybe really the only) scratch doughnuts I’ve found: Vincent Van Doughnut on Tower Grove. I can truthfully say that they are outstanding.
This little neighborhood hole-in-the-wall on Vandeventer Avenue has a spectacular berry-infused cake doughnut. Plus a knockout strawberry jam-filled.
I probably spent half an hour in here talking about batter temperatures with the baker on duty. I recounted the effects an early fall cold snap on my cake doughnuts one year, how the paste-like texture of my shrunken rings caused me to stomp out of my kitchen, flop down in the parking lot, and weep.
“I’m glad to hear I’m not the only one who’s every cried over doughnuts,” she said.
We doughnut makers are a unique, deep-feeling breed.