Travel & Food – St Louis, Missouri

We had a real whirlwind stop in St Louis. We were there less than 24 hours and crammed a lot of stuff in!

We arrived about 3.30pm after a 4 hour drive from Kansas City and headed straight to C&K BBQ for snoot. Snoot is a type of BBQ made using the snout and cheek of a pig and is unique to St Louis. The best snoot is only available deep in the ghetto of St Louis and we saw some interesting sights while driving around. We were slightly unnerved by the bullet holes in the windows at C&K but it was all fine.

C&K BBQ St Louis

Nick was dissatisfied with the snoot at C&K so we headed to Roper’s Ribs for round two. These were apparently much better. I didn’t eat any but I did devour a delicious pot of their coleslaw. You should have seen them. I’m not even going to post a picture.

Ropers Ribs St Louis

After that, we headed to our hotel. The wonderful Hotel Ignacio. It’s the perfect mix of upmarket and trendy without being too posh. I really wish we could have stayed longer than one night. Our hotel room felt like a swanky loft and looked out over the university campus.

Hotel Ignacio St Louis outsideHotel Ignacio St Louis lobbyHotel Ignacio bedroom St Louis

Once we’d Googled some directions we headed to the local institution of Ted Drewe’s for some of their famous frozen custard. It’s a really cool place which just has little serving windows so there’s always a nice buzzing crowd hanging around outside the front of the building. When you drive past, it looks like it’s a huge queue but we got served pretty quick given the amount of people there. I chose a micro concrete with Reese’s, which is basically vanilla frozen custard with broken up Reese’s pieces mixed into it (dare I say it, a bit like a McFlurry, but a million times better).

Ted Drewes Frozen Custard St LouisTed Drewes frozen custard St LouisTed Drewes Frozen Custard Concrete with Reeses

Just over the road and down a little bit from Ted Drewe’s is Donut Drive-in. It’s in a tiny white building on the corner of an intersection and has been there since the 50’s. When we opened the door we were enveloped by the warm, sweet smell of fresh, hot doughnuts and I nearly died of happiness. They were just taking some regular glazed out the oven so we got one of those along with a fresh-out-the-oven glazed jam, a custard doughnut with chocolate on top and a cake-style doughnut which is made in a slightly different way. Four doughnuts cost us $3. Ridiculous.

Donut Drive-in St LouisDonut Drive-in St Louis

The first one I tried was the straight-from-the-oven original glazed. It was like biting into a cloud. Me and Nick were just taking sat in the car taking it in turns to bite it, giggling like children with huge grins on our faces like crazy people. I doubt I will ever find a doughnut that good ever again. It is worth the trip to St Louis just for that.

Donut Drive-in St Louis doughnuts

Then (as if we hadn’t squeezed enough stuff in already), we went to Niche for an after-dessert dinner. Niche is totally posh and I hadn’t really realised so I turned up in jeans and Converse in a room full of properly coifed and polished women in glitzy evening dresses. I did have a blazer on so hopefully that made up for it a little bit.

The food was gorgeous. As you can imagine, we were quite full, so we only had a couple of starters between us and a small dessert. We shared a trio of beets and buttermilk followed by carrots three ways and then smoked trout with huckleberry and cocoa nib. For dessert we had a plum upside-down cake with toasted marshmallow ice-cream that was delicious. The chef and owner Gerard Craft came and had a chat with us and was really lovely.

Then we rolled ourselves back to the car and into bed after a very long day!

This morning we awoke to bright blue skies and sunshine. Unfortunately we had to leave very early as we did another 3 hour drive today to a place that shuts at 3pm on a Sunday. We did a quick drive-by of the Arch and off we went. It was pretty impressive. I wish we’d had time to go to the top but I don’t mind too much as I’ll definitely be returning to St Louis in the future for one of those amazing doughnuts so I’ll go to the top then (if the lift can manage!!)

I realise these aren’t the best pictures, I would have loved to have been able to cross the river and get one from the other side of the bank but we really didn’t have time.

St Louis Gateway ArchSt Louis Gateway ArchGateway Arch St Louis

Travel & Food – Kansas City, Missouri

I had the most awesome time in Kansas City. Hectic but amazing. We had so much to squeeze in!

Kansas City skyline

So, to pick up where I left off, I never made it house-spotting, I had too much work to do and I ran out of time. I’m a bit gutted but I know we’ll see nice houses in Alabama and Georgia so it’s okay. I did manage to get down to the gorgeous Union Station though. Thursday evening we went for a drink in The Flying Saucer and then headed to Stroud’s to meet Mark, Simon & Derek for the best fried chicken I’ve ever eaten.

Union Station, Kansas CityUnion Station

Honestly, the amount of food was insane, especially for the crazy cheap price! We had a plate stacked about a metre high with fried chicken, a mountain of mash potato, two huge tubs of gravy, some green beans and an enormous bowl of cinnamon rolls. Needless to say that there was enough left over to feed a small country for an entire week. But, the chicken. Oh my word, the chicken. It was dry and crisp on the outside but succulent and juicy on the inside without even the tiniest hint of grease. Literally unbelievable. The photos really don’t do it justice.

Strouds fried chicken, Kansas City

The next day we got up early and headed for Oklahoma Joe’s to get in line 45 minutes before opening time as it gets seriously busy. It’s attached to a petrol station and we were there to try the ribs. We ended up getting brisket, pulled pork and fries too. Oklahoma Joe’s is the one BBQ place that most people would argue is the best in town but I wasn’t a huge fan. I found the pulled pork to be far too salty and smoky and the ribs were also too smoky for my taste, the brisket was okay but again, the smokiness overpowered the beefy flavour a bit too much. The fries were awesome but had way too much salt on.

Oklahoma Joes sign, Kansas City

Inside Oklahoma Joes, Kansas CityBBQ at Oklahoma Joes, Kansas CityAs soon as we left Oklahoma Joe’s we headed for second breakfast at Woodyard BBQ (which is actually in Kansas City, Kansas). Woodyard was easily the cutest BBQ joint we went to. It’s a little wooden house which sells wood for fires etc but they also run a BBQ restaurant out of it and the huge smoker is right in the front yard so you can watch him turning all the ribs and stuff. The guy manning the smoker was a really nice chap, as was the owner. Here we had some chicken, ribs and brisket. The brisket was easily my favourite, much more beefy than at Oklahoma Joe’s. The chicken was a bit too smoky for me, as were the ribs. Turns out I don’t like my meat smoky, think I might struggle a bit on this trip!

Woodyard BBQ, Kansas CityOutside Woodyard BBQ, Kansas CityWoodyard signsWoodyard BBQ, Kansas CityThen we got in the car and made our way to LC’s for brunch. We passed this cool drive-in movie theatre on the way.

Boulevard drive-in movie theatre, Kansas City

At LC’s we ordered a burnt ends sandwich. It was really good. The burnt ends were fantastically crispy and the sauce was delicious but obviously after all the other barbecue, we were a bit full by that point to eat much of it.

LCs BBQ sign, Kansas CityInside LCs BBQ, Kansas CityBurnt ends sandwich at LCs, Kansas City

By now it was about 1pm so we headed over to the American Royal barbecue competition. Once Simon had given me a quick tour around the invitational and we had met the UK team, Bunch of Swines,  he put me to work helping him prepare martinis and coleslaw for the Burn Rate team. The American Royal is truly awesome. It’s the biggest BBQ competition in the world (although not the most prestigious) and it’s just jam packed with people having the best time ever. The party atmosphere is amazing, especially once it gets dark and all the guests start arriving. The Royal is a bit weird as you can pay to walk around the arena during the day but you’re not allowed to sample any food, unless you happen to know someone on one of the teams. So it would be quite boring if you didn’t know anyone but once it hits evening, if you’ve got an invite, it’s all go!

American Royal BBQ competition, Kansas CityAmerican Royal, Kansas City

Sunset at The American Royal BBQ Competition, Kansas City

The people I met at The American Royal are some of the nicest people in the world. The guys on the Burn Rate team were so friendly and welcoming, especially as all the other wives are told to keep away on the Friday! I was quite sad to leave Kansas City yesterday.

Burn Rate flag, The American Royal Kansas CityBurn Rate team, The American Royal Kansas CityEmma from The Style Box at The American Royal BBQ competition Kansas City

So now I’m in St Louis, which I’ll try and blog about tonight. I had the best donuts EVER last night.

Travel & Food – Driving from Chicago to Kansas City

As the title suggests, we didn’t do much yesterday other than sit in the car. It took us just over 8 hours to drive from Chicago to Kansas City with a quick stop in Springfield, Illinois for lunch. We drove 500 miles on a tank and a quarter of petrol in our Yaris that cost about $40 (£24)! Crazy!

Everyone always talks about the amount of space in America. It’s the kind of space that as an English person, you can’t really comprehend until you see it. The houses are literally miles apart. And although they look lovely and idyllic, the more practical side of me can’t help but wonder how frustrating it must be if you forget something at the store or how scary it is to know that if you hurt yourself, how long it would take to get to the nearest hospital. It must get pretty lonely too, especially if you’re a kid or teenager.

Most of our drive was rather dull flatlands but there were odd sections where the trees were gorgeously autumnal or the houses would be especially pretty.

Driving from Chicago to Kansas CityWe stopped off about halfway in Springfield, Illinois at a place called Cozy Dog Drive-in. It’s actually on Route 66 and is the home of the corn dog. I’ve always wanted to try a corn dog so I was pretty excited. I rather liked it. It was a cheap Oscar Mayar weiner dipped in batter, but not like a battered sausage in the UK, more like a pancake batter. I’d have preferred a better quality sausage I think but for $2 it was pretty good.

Cozy Dog Drive in Springfield illinois route 66Cozy Dog Drive-in Springfield IllinoisInside cozy dog drive in springfield illinoisCorn dog and fries at Cozy Drive In, Springfield, IllinoisNick at Cozy Dog Drive InThis was followed by more driving and crossing the Missouri state line.

Missouri state lineWhen we left Chicago, it was grey, raining and about 60F (15 degrees) and it just got sunnier and sunnier and hotter and hotter as we drove to Kansas City. It was about 80F when we arrived (26 degrees).

Driving into Kansas CityIt’s quite funny driving into Kansas City. After hours and hours of flat land, there’s suddenly a little bunch of skyscrapers on the horizon. We arrived around 4pm and checked into our hotel (Hotel Phillips) then went to meet some of Nicks friends and American Royal team members, including the lovely Derek who we stayed with in Napa earlier this year.

We hung out at Marks house for a little while, catching up and then went to Port Fonda for dinner (you can tell how cool it is just from the website!). It was all a bit spicy and wacky for me (pigs tails & tongue tacos) but the guys loved it. We didn’t take any photos as Nick had left his camera at Marks house but Simon was tweeting some pictures. Then we went to Glace for some beautiful ice-cream. I had fleur de sel caramel and Christopher Elbow dark chocolate.

Today I’m on my own as Nick is doing a judging course to become a certified Kansas City Barbecue judge so I’ve spent the morning catching up on work, emails and blog stuff and will probably spend the day just wandering around the residential streets ogling the incredible houses. Everything looks like a movie here! I would LOVE to stay for Halloween! Unfortunately Nick has the camera so I’ll only be able to take iPhone snaps but I’ll be sharing them on Instagram and the blog tomorrow I’m sure.