Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Some Favorite Central Missouri Appetizers

In my previous post I had the audacity to suggest to you what I think are some of the best concerts and plays coming up this fall. (Yeah, all my top picks happen to be in Columbia!)

Whether it’s jazz or classical, theater or the opening of an art show, one of the reasons Sue and I love the fall is because that’s when all these excellent cultural series start up again. We love going to hear orchestras and jazz musicians. And best of all, we love to make a “night” out of it.

And part of that “night” is getting some delicious chow and libation before or after the concert. Nothing heavy—just tasty and delightful. Appetizers are just the thing!

Some of our long-time favorite appetizer-places are gone (Felini and its Greek-dip plate; Village Wine and Cheese’s goat cheese, honey, and dried fruit appetizer . . . ahh . . .), so we’ve had to find new places. Here are some current favorites.

Crostini Platter, Teller’s Gallery and Bar (820 E. Broadway, Columbia). The Crostini Platter is the perfect light meal for two. The menu describes it thus: “Toasted parmesan bread [slices] with roasted red bell pepper spread, peppercorn encrusted goat cheese, pesto, olives [both Greek and California black], tomatoes, and pepperoncinis.” The parmesan-toasted bread is tasty enough on its own, but the “schmears” are delicious, too. All the parts harmonize well, and it’s a pretty platter, besides.

I think you should enjoy a glass of good white wine with this. They have other good appetizers, too: Try the baked brie in puff pastry with honey and walnuts (with assorted crackers and fresh fruit); and the fried artichoke hearts (with chipotle aioli). Note: Teller’s house martini is fantastically “dirty”! If you love dirty martinis, you’ll love Teller’s.

Portabella Mushroom Fries, Paddy Malone’s Irish Pub (700 W. Main, Jefferson City). It’s an Irish pub, so in addition to all that Guinness, Harp, Smithwick’s, and whiskey-whiskey-whiskey, there’s a lot of fried stuff on the menu, particularly among the appetizers. (They do fried stuff well, here! And they even deep-fry burgers!) We’re partial to the Portabella Mushroom Fries because they’re big, meaty, and the beer batter coating is nice and crispy. Naturally, great beer is the perfect accompaniment to anything at Paddy Malone’s. To my Columbia friends: Seriously, you need to try this place. From the perfectly tapped Guinness to the fish and chips to the mushy peas and Dublin coddle, they do it right here. And it’s in a historic building that practically hums with history.

Italian Nachos, Sophia’s (Southern European Influenced Cuisine) (3915 S. Providence, Columbia). There are so many dishes on the Sophia’s menu to love (the Godiva Ahi Tuna is heaven!)—and appetizers, antipasti, and tapas are specialties—you can’t really go wrong if you’re wanting a small plate of something. The hardest part is making a selection among all the excellent choices. But a couple appetizers stand out.

The Italian Nachos at first seem odd, but are really addictive: “Fried pasta chips piled high with asiago, marinara, roasted red peppers, scallions, black olives, and your choice of chicken or sausage” (get the sausage). The “pasta chips” are light and crispy, and the whole thing is a fun, grown-up twist on Mexican-style nachos with their gooey orange fakey cheese. We also love Sophia’s Spinach and Portobello Quesadillas, which are made with tomato tortillas. The cumin mayonnaise that it comes with—well—I could almost take a bath in it! You should get wine with these appetizers—and Sophia’s has an excellent list!

Spicy Boiled Shrimp, ECCO Lounge (703 Jefferson St., Jefferson City). Again, there are a lot of good appetizers here, including fried green pepper rings dusted with powdered sugar; soft pretzel sticks; and huge, huge, beer-battered fried onion rings. Many people loooove the German Potato Nachos (though I honestly can’t decide if I like them or not). But I point out the spicy, boiled, peel-n-eat shrimp (served hot or cold, with cocktail sauce) because of the venerable-ness of it: The ECCO’s been serving this dish for at least fifty years, and yes, although better beers exist, Stag is the thing that pairs best. Because it’s ven-er-a-ble. You can order a half or whole pound of the shrimp, and you can get it as a meal, too, which comes with a salad and choice of baked potato, fries, spaghetti, veggies of the day, or rice pilaf.

(By the way, ECCO has been voted to have the best burgers in town, and their specials and salads are excellent, too.)

Appetizer Platter, India’s House (1101 E. Broadway, Columbia). You know I love Indian food, right? But you may not know that Indian folks are in love with finger snacks! “Street food” such as aloo chaat (spicy fried potato chunks) is extremely popular, and appetizers are a big part of India’s famously opulent, elaborate, multicourse meals. They are also popular at afternoon tea. India’s House’s Appetizer Platter is a good way to get acquainted with some of the famous Indian appetizers, with a sampling of pakoras (chicken, cheese, and vegetable, all fried in a spicy batter made with garbanzo flour) and samosas (which are sort of like little pyramidal fried burritos filled with spicy potatoes and peas). The condiments are chutneys: tamarand (which is sweet/sour) and cilantro/mint (which is more spicy). You can also order mango chutney or raita (a cucumber-yogurt-based sauce similar to Greek tzatziki), too.

Beer usually goes well with fried things, but if we’re just having the appetizer as a light meal, I often enjoy a glass of iced rose milk (a divine beverage on a hot day) or a mango lassi (like a mango-yogurt smoothie)—the creaminess harmonizes with the spices. If the weather’s cold, I’ll savor a warm cup of masala chai (Indian spiced tea) instead. The rose milk is pictured here:

Brock’s Green Pepper Rings, Murry’s Restaurant (3107 Green Meadows Way, Columbia). It might seem weird to fry up some green pepper rings the way you’d do onion rings, then sprinkle powdered sugar on them, but it really works! The sugar brings out the sweetness of the bell peppers, and the more you eat, the more you want.

Actually, Murry’s has a ton of good appetizers, such as the Blue Chips Cheese Bread (hot, gooey, grilled cheese bread with bleu cheese and shrimps), Fried Oysters, Sautéed Artichoke Hearts, and—get this—Sardines and Crackers. Maybe you haven’t had sardines in a while, but maybe it’s time you tried ’em again. Grandpa was no dummy: They go really well with a cold brewski and a bit of horseradish sauce! The wine list is excellent, too, so perhaps you’d like a nice glass of Chateau St. Jean fumé blanc—? And glory, it all goes well with good jazz!

Alligator Eggs, Shorty Pants Lounge (1680 Autumn Ln., Osage Beach; by boat, Mile Marker 21.2, Lake of the Ozarks). Shorty Pants is off the beaten path, but worth discovering! Cajun food’s the specialty, and drinking is encouraged—you know—to help with all that spicy stuff! The appetizers are really good. We like the Fried Green Tomatoes, the Crab Cakes, and the fried Duck Tenders served with Cajun blue cheese sauce. Here are the Fried Green Tomatoes:

But the real standout on the “Starters” menu is the “Alligator Eggs”: “Baked jalapeno peppers stuffed with a four-cheese blend and wrapped in prosciutto [and finished in the oven], served with a sweet raspberry-habanero sauce.” Yes, they’re spicy, and yes, they’re awesome!


Osage Bluff Quilter said...

Tonite we had Ecco! (My brother is in from California and that use to be his hang out) anyway, I had Southwest chicken and LOVED it, the blacksmith had prime rib and LOVED it, the brother and wife had golden breaded fried shrimp and they LOVED it.
Always good food.

TSannie said...

That last appetizer (those jalapenos!) looks delicious. Must tell you, I've been a regular reader and enjoy your blog immensely. I told my mom about it (she lives in Columbia)and now she's a faithful follower as well. She LOVED the post you did on the upcoming music, etc. events you did and has booked or is booking tickets for 4 of them! Wish I was closer to Columbia.

Julianna Schroeder said...

Thank you both for your kind comments! Patti, yes, the ECCO seems to be doing well. As you know, on their Facebook page, they often post a "heads-up" on the day's lunch and/or dinner specials--which is a nice way of advertising. I would also like to commend ECCO manager Sally Powell for her ongoing generosity to the Old Munichburg Association and for the many things she does to make the Southside into a fun place! The ECCO, for instance, is one of the sponsors of tomorrow's festival for the 100th anniversary of the Jeff City Fire Dept.--it takes place 6-10pm Fri., Oct. 5, behind the ECCO Lounge.

Julianna Schroeder said...

. . . And Annie, thank you. You don't know how good your comments sound today, since some things are going on around here that are making me sad. Honestly, the idea of going out to enjoy a show or grab a bite to eat seems like another world--a happy one, where I don't live right now. I've been preparing those posts for a while, and meanwhile, we've gotten some really bad news about one of our cats. We've been giving our sweet little Genji palliative care since the middle of September. I'm trying to keep the Op Op posts going on, even though my personal enthusiasm is at low ebb. I posted just to post, thinking no one would care about my pretentious opinions about concerts and chow and what-not, but your comment has made me feel a lot better about something in my life today. Thanks again.


TSannie said...

One of the worst things about being owned by a cat (or dog) is they almost never outlive us. You have my deepest sympathy. Hope sweet Genji is filled with peace. And you (and Sue), too.

Julianna Schroeder said...

That's so true, Annie. They have such unfairly short lives, and worse than that, they're innocent, like children, and bear their illnesses with confusion, resignation, and sweetness, making it so hard to witness. And such a slow decline is hard to watch, too.

But we do what we can to make him feel comfortable and loved. And I can tell he appreciates it.