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If there is a culinary buzzword for these times, it might just be “gluten-free.” The Nest, a new restaurant concept that offers parenting classes, day care and café fare, has probably just debuted the single most expansive gluten-free menu from the Arch to the Wentzville Flea Market. (They opened to the public Monday.)
Let’s explore this hyphenated and healthy hinterland, yes?
The Nest, which we hepped you to here, occupies the former Calico Corners fabric store deep within a Frontenac strip mall. (Is it even proper to call it a strip mall in Frontenac? Shouldn’t we call it a “shopping-and-dining experience” or a “bazaar of sensual pleasures” or somesuch?) It is right next door to Grassi’s, home to one of the best Italian salads and probably the fastest counter service on the planet.
The Nest is different. You can buy a membership and let child-caregivers watch your kid while you use your Smartphone to cancel a pedicure in the adult lounge or at the bar (both below).
You can drop in with your nuclear-family unit and stuff the little ones with a junior version of chicken and waffles. You can take a yoga class, nibble on high tea, host a children’s birthday party or kiddie high tea (above), and, for an extra five dollars, launch an Intercontinental Ballistic Missile at a target of your choosing. (Just kidding about the missile. All that multitasking may go to one’s head.)
Nest Executive Chef Chris Vomund gave us a dandy preview of the fare at this mom-and-kid-centric mecca.
The pho/matza ball soup hybrid (right) uses a lemongrass/ginger broth and rice noodles. Vomund plans to add the traditional forest-sized garnish of greens on the side, as well as a creation he’s calling “Sriracha tapioca balls” so the diner may adjust the spiciness as s/he wishes. The matza balls (which have gluten) are still a work in progress. (Vomund is not Jewish. He’s still learning. Cut him some slack, why don’t you?)
A healthier take on chicken and waffles (above) includes chicken marinated in molasses and apple-cider vinegar and crusted with corn flakes, drizzled with optional Sriracha, over a gluten-free waffle slathered in delicious sage butter. The waffle, made with free-range eggs from Cock & Bull Farms of Highland, Ill., is marvelous. You truly don’t miss the gluten on this one.
Another “alterna-carb” breakfast item, quinoa pancakes (Vomund with pancakes, left) really stick to your ribs. The quinoa joins gluten-free flour and whipped egg whites in the batter, and the flapjacks are topped with blackberries, blueberries and real maple syrup. They manage to be heartier than typical pancakes. Milk is highly recommended.
The “Tangled Thai Salad” (below) offers rice noodles tossed with almonds, ginger, garlic, red pepper, carrot, sesame and olive oils, and house-made cashew satay sauce on bed of arugula, spinach and Asian vinaigrette, garnished with zested Cucumber “noodles.”
Lox on flatbread (below) features caper-flavored cream cheese, arugula, capers, dill oil and smoked salmon, baked for a just a bit. Because the flatbread is thinner than a bagel, the flavor of the lox stands out more than it would atop the traditional NY breadstuff. (The texture of the Nest’s version is swell, but yes, to a purist it’s no bagel-and-lox.)
Other dishes of note (will) include a sweet-potato hash Benedict starring a poached egg, chipotle hollandaise, gluten-free buns, and grilled asparagus with olive oil; fish tacos; a “juicy lucy” turkeyburger filled with goat cheese and topped with a goat cheese/guacamole blend; and a seasonal flatbread with molasses-roasted, pureed butternut squash, thinly shaved parsnips, arugula, red onion, and citrus zest; and other choices from an unusually healthy kids’ menu.
Why all the gluten-free fare? Because that’s the sort of diet adjustment that helped the Nest’s big bird Christina McHugh relocate her inner and outer hottie, she says, and she wants the moms and others who frequent the Nest to be healthy. There is plenty of gluten – along with meat, sugar, and other bugaboos – on the menu, but for every squirt of real maple syrup there is an option for agave syrup, if you will. Mom can pretend she’s at a California spa while Dad’s burger explodes with molten cheese, and Junior nibbles on free-range chicken tenders. How you want to play it is up to you, stresses McHugh.
Incidentally, we probably overhyped the Nest’s “three-story treehouse” play feature we gushed about here. It’s not so much a treehouse as a simple play structure, and not so much three stories as three modest levels. Our bad.
Tue-Sat, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m.