Making Fabulous Food in a Big Green Egg – Cork & Barrel Chop House & Spirits
St. Peters, MO/February 1, 2017 (STLRestaurant.News) Cork & Barrel Chop House & Spirits – Kamado style cooking is unique. It involves building a fire of lump charcoal in a ceramic or earthenware vessel and roasting or baking food on a rack. The word itself is a traditional Japanese term for a wood or charcoal fueled cook stove. This efficient and flavorful style of cooking dates back some 1700 years. And now, there’s a restaurant in St. Peters using it to prepare food unlike any other you will find in the St. Louis metro area. Cork & Barrel Chop House & Spirits at 7337 Mexico Road just opened January 29, 2017. This is a classic American chop house and it’s the first restaurant in Missouri to prepare those great cuts of meat using a Big Green Egg kamado grill.
To call Cork & Barrel a family business is to undersell it. This is an idea that owner Jill Ragan says was inspired by a casual conversation with her husband Joel, and her father Robert Ridgway. Jill’s first ambition was to open a liquor store where she could feature the beers, wines, and spirits of each of the 50 states. As the three began the search for a site, it dawned on Jill that what she really wanted was to feed people. That meant opening a restaurant—and not just any restaurant. Jill wanted a farm-to-fork concept with an upscale bar, and something really special. She wanted the kind of place people could go for a great meal and an artisan drink, and have a relaxed good time with friends and family. It had to be warm, inviting, and comfortable, and offer great food and drink. And in order to make it in the competitive restaurant industry, she and her family knew it had to be distinctive too.
It was Jill’s husband Joel who thought of using the Big Green Egg ceramic grill to prepare food. He’d become expert at using one after first encountering them as the child of a US Air Force father stationed in Japan. Joel knew he wanted to offer steaks and chops cooked kamado style, because there’s nothing else quite like it. So Cork & Barrel formed a culinary partnership with Atlanta-based Big Green Egg. Choosing this cooking method made building a restaurant more challenging, because the kitchen had to be fitted with special equipment and ventilation. But it also meant C&B could offer something no one else had. Joel Ragan says their XXL model is the largest Big Green Egg in the nation that’s in use in a restaurant kitchen, and Cork & Barrel is the first and only restaurant in Missouri to use one.
Executive Chef Lee Gustin says the flavors achieved using this ceramic kamado grill are unique because the juices from the food drip onto the organic lump wood charcoal (U.S. grown natural oak and hickory). That creates smoke that then permeates the food. The state-of-the-art ceramic “egg” and its ventilation system allow the chef to maintain perfect temperature control and seals in the flavors, meaning it can be used to prepare a wide variety of foods at very high and very low temperatures.
Cork & Barrel’s decor began with 210 wine barrels that Jill knew she wanted to incorporate in the restaurant’s style. You’ll find elements of those barrels in every corner and along the front bar. The large stone fireplace gives the dining room a warm, inviting ambiance. Couple that with efficient, friendly service and terrific food, and you have a special destination for drinks and munchies, or a meal with friends and family.
Cork & Barrel serves lunch and dinner every day. Lunch features such unique finds as Chef Lee’s Cocoa Chili—a classic winter comfort food with a twist. Made with a blend of cinnamon and cocoa, this chili is a blend of spicy, sweet, and savory that makes it stand out. The slice of peanut butter toast served with it is the perfect accompaniment. The Big Green Egg is also a great way to make pizza and Cork & Barrel offers some delicious flat-breads. You can build your own, with sauce choices like garlic butter, basil pesto, or classic tomato. Add mozzarella, feta, a gorgonzola-mozzarella blend, or St. Louis style Provel. The list of toppings includes pepperoni and Italian sausage, mushrooms and onions, but there’s also roasted tomatoes, pork shoulder burnt ends, shrimp, and a delicious grilled chicken Mediterranean olive mix. They also have a couple of signature styles like the Buffalo Steak: steak tips tossed in Butch’s Buffalo sauce and topped with white cheddar.
The menu includes the Missouri Pork Shoulder Burnt Ends: Big Green Egg smoked pork shoulder ends smothered in their house-made barrel ale BBQ sauce and served with a sweet corn bread load, and cider apple ale slaw. You’ll also find Angus beef tenderloin medallions that are served on a lobster and red pepper corn cake with sun-dried tomato butter and lemon mint asparagus; pork belly mac & cheese that’s as rich and delicious as it sounds; plus Chicken Agave–a lime and cilantro laced chicken breast with an agave nectar glaze that’s served on a bed of chocolate rice.
And that’s just lunch. Chef Lee steps it up a notch for dinner. The apps menu expands to include such treats as Olive Martini Tapenade: crushed Mediterranean olives that have been infused with Kansas City’s 360 Vodka and served with garlic crostini. Dinner also brings Asian Nachos: crispy wonton chips topped with sesame stir-fried chicken, sweet peppers, onions, snow peas, and spicy-sweet chili sauce and creamy lobster rangoon dip. Entrees include Orange Seared Duck Breast with spiced cherry chutney and roasted baby carrots; Parmesan Crusted Salmon with lemon cream sauce and a bed of sautéed arugula; a nice selection of steaks, chops and prime rib. All of the beef used is Angus. The pork is locally sourced heritage pork. And it’s all cooked to perfection on that XXL Big Green Egg.
Cork & Barrel also offers a late night menu Fridays and Saturdays that features comfort foods. They even use the Big Green Egg to smoke fruits which they then blend into small batch ice cream and use in other glorious meal enders. And on Sundays they do brunch from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. That was their very first offering to the public. They opened with brunch Sunday January 29, 2017 that included top round and cocoa encrusted pork loin. The brunch menu, like the other meals offered and C&B, reflects the freshest seasonal ingredients. And although the menu will change somewhat throughout the year, brunch includes a carving station featuring meats cooked on the Big Green Egg.
There are 32 beers on tap, including 20 Craft Beers which can be purchased to drink there, or in a Growler to go. Diners will also find professional wine pairings and artisan cocktails made with premium liquors. In fact, C&B’s bar is only stocked with premium liquors, even for well drinks. Their well vodka, for instance, is sourced from 360 Vodka in Weston, Missouri.
They’re open Monday – Thursday from 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., Friday – Saturday 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 a.m., and Sunday 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. (with brunch 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.). There’s a spacious dining room and once it warms up, a nice outdoor patio too. Reservations aren’t required, but they are encouraged for larger parties and on weekends. They also have an event space available that includes a private dining area with its own patio. And of course, they are the only place in Missouri making great food using the Big Green Egg.