Eleven Eleven Mississippi (St. Louis, MO)

I decided to spice things up a bit with this latest post. Instead of my usual restaurant review, I wanted to try to write this post how I would normally try to pen one of my novel chapters as a challenge to myself and a way to shake things up a bit. Combining the novel style of writing with my typically more laid back blog posts proved to be way more difficult than I thought it would be. The styles are incredibly contrasting both in tone and structure and trying to make a food review sound romantic is…complex…at the very least, but I’m relatively pleased with the result regardless. For reference and to avoid any confusion, each chapter starts with a song that I associate the particular chapter’s memory with. Without further ado…

Chapter XX

 

 I am, I’m ready to be new again

I’m ready to hear you say who I am is quite enough, quite enough

 

Taking Back Sunday – “New Again”

 

 Through the haze, I could see the apex of the Arch barely peeking over the foggy silhouettes of the skyline that I had not seen in almost a decade. Seeing the monument again was a surreal feeling. I had not expected to be back in this city so soon. Not under these circumstances. Not with you. Driving down the interstate toward the city, you sat in the passenger seat of my car, my fingers linked with yours resting on the shifter. I smiled slightly as I thought about the satisfaction I got from not having to let go of your hand to manually shift like we would have had to do in your car. I was happy with you next to me, but I couldn’t feel the joy I wanted to. Not with you this sad. The usual spark was sapped from your eyes and your smile shone slightly smaller and less bright than usual. I was hoping to do what I could to fix that.

That’s why I had set this up on the spur of the moment the night before—a surprise visit to one of the most highly regarded restaurants in St. Louis, Eleven Eleven Mississippi.

“Do I get another hint about where we’re going?” you playfully asked for about the dozenth time on the drive.

I smiled. I had promised I would give a hint every ten miles we got closer to the restaurant. I liked keeping you guessing and was hoping you hadn’t been to the place before, although you didn’t seem to have any idea at this point.

“We’re going to the French district.” I grinned, my clue still drawing no previous recognition from you.

As we pulled into the neighborhood, I was pleasantly surprised at how rustic and warm everything felt, even down in the heart of the city. The restaurant itself was set in a quaint, brown-stone building that made me feel more at home in the city that once was home even before stepping out of the car. Getting out, you wrapped your hand around my upper arm as we searched for the entrance, and after a small trek down the wrong alley, we finally managed to make it inside.

The décor was not what I expected it to be. Multiple levels of tables overlooked the main floor, and high, vaulted, wooden ceilings gave the whole restaurant an open, airy feeling. It felt like something straight out of California wine country. I liked it.

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We sat down at a table for two on the main floor straight across from the gorgeous, homey bar that stood majestically against the other wall. After getting situated and exchanging the usual pleasantries with our waiter, I looked across the table and, as always, my heart skipped a beat. You looked stunning in a black and white striped shirt that draped elegantly from your shoulders. Your curly, blonde hair hung in that perfectly chaotic way that I could never get enough of and your piercing blue eyes stared back at me. And you smiled. A full, beautiful smile that lit up the room.  I loved that more than anything.

Finally diverting my gaze for long enough to look at the menu, I was torn between two appetizers – the Wild Boar Ravioli and the Sautéed Crab Cakes. I very rarely pass up crab cakes, but I had never tried anything with boar before and was curious. After asking your opinion, and of course not getting a decision out of that, I decided to just say what the hell and ordered both. I was not disappointed with my choice…or lack thereof.

The crab cakes came in a sun-dried cherry and Chianti compote and thyme remoulade. The combination of the incredibly tender crab meat and the heavy, sweet red fruit of the cherry and wine was heavenly and the remoulade gave it a slight herby kick. The boar ravioli was exotic and unlike anything I had ever tried before. The boar itself had a very rough texture that contrasted nicely with the al dente pasta, but the real reason the dish worked was because of the tomato-vodka cream sauce it was smothered in. The sauce soaked into the boar and made every bite savory while also softening the meat up a bit. We washed all of this down with a 2009 St. Christopher Piesporter Goldtropfchen Spatlese Riesling. The wine had coconut, lime, lemon, and nectarine aromas on the nose, and much of the same on the palate with a slight slatey finish. It was delectable and sweet with the crab cakes, but I had to switch to water when washing down the ravioli because I knew the Riesling wasn’t quite meant for the tough, heavy red meat.

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After I had finished the majority of the appetizers since you were cutely worried about being full too soon, it was time for the main course. You ordered the chicken carbonara, a monster of a pasta dish served with heaps of mushrooms and shallots and bathed in a white wine and parmesan egg cream. Your eyes lit up when you took your first bite, and after giving me a piece to try, mine did the same. It was probably the best chicken carbonara I’ve ever tasted. The creamy sauce was perfect, the chicken was tender, and even the mushrooms fell apart in my mouth. For my main dish, I had ordered the Eleven Eleven BLT, which was not your usual bacon, lettuce, and tomato. No, this BLT stood for bourbon apples, Maine lobster, and thyme remoulade with watercress sprouts. It was completely different from anything I’ve ever tried. The sweetness of the apples mixed deliciously with the chewy, salty lobster, and the watercress sprouts gave everything a nice crunch. The sandwich was served on two perfectly toasted slices of bread, which added nicely to the eclectic texture of the dish.  The rest of the Riesling was just icing on the cake and went perfectly with both of our plates.

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By this point, we were so full that neither of us was able to finish our dishes, regardless of how good they were. We packed all of our food up and walked hand-in-hand back to the car. All I wanted was to make you happy again, just give you a few moments to forget everything going on, and I had hoped that sharing this experience would at least help a little bit. Beside me, you turned and smiled, and for a second I saw that spark again in your eyes, that hint of you coming back to the surface. And in that moment with our eyes locked, everything disappeared, and it was just you and me. It was then that I knew I would do anything to never let that beautiful, perfect, breathtaking smile ever leave your face again.

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