St. Louis 2018: Day 1

You’re probably wondering why I picked St. Louis for my latest weekend escape. I’ve been a huge gymnastics fan all my life, and for the past several years I’ve been following NCAA gymnastics pretty closely. When I found out that the 2018 SEC Gymnastics Championship was being held in St. Louis, it quickly got added to my “year of travel”. Plus, I’ve only ever passed through the St. Louis airport, so it was a good excuse to explore a new city. I wasn’t sure I was going to do any blogging this weekend because I didn’t think I’d have much to write about. As it turns out, St. Louis has some pretty amazing food. So if you’re hungry (or even if you’re not), prepare to salivate.

St. Louis 2018 033
Butterfly Garden at the St. Louis Zoo

It was pretty late when I arrived last night, so it was a quick trip to the rental car location and then I high-tailed it to the hotel and into bed. My room has a distant view of the Gateway Arch and downtown St. Louis, but I’m staying on the outskirts of the city. Since most of my weekend is going to be taken up with gymnastics, I didn’t plan too much in the way of sightseeing. This morning, I spent a few hours at the St. Louis Zoo, then made a quick trip through the St. Louis Art Museum before stopping back at the hotel for a snack and heading to the Chaifetz Arena to watch the practice sessions for tomorrow’s gymnastics championship. I’m a Florida Gators fan through and through, but considering all 8 SEC teams are ranked in the top 25 in the country, it’s a pretty amazing sight to see all of the teams in action.

S’mores French Toast at Half and Half

“But Laura, I thought you were going to talk about all this amazing food you mentioned?” Don’t worry… I’m getting to that right now! I started off the morning with breakfast at Half and Half in Clayton. I always research the best breakfast places around because it’s my favorite the most important meal of the day. Once I saw a picture of the incredible S’mores French toast at Half and Half, I added it to the top of my breakfast list for this weekend. Half and Half is small cafe tucked into a nondescript block of Clayton, Missouri, just a couple of miles from St. Louis. There is a mixture of counter seating, communal tables, smaller tables, and booths. Very homey and welcoming. I immediately set about ordering my S’mores French toast and settled in with my weekend reading material (“The Flight Attendant” by Chris Bohjalian – a great book if you’re looking for a good read). I could hardly believe my eyes when my French toast arrived. It was two enormous slices of bread smothered in chocolate sauce, graham cracker crumbs, and marshmallows. I wish I could say I wasn’t able to finish it, but… of course I did!

St. Louis 2018 078
Imo’s Pizza

I skipped lunch and saved room for my next culinary adventure in the form of St. Louis style pizza at Imo’s Pizza for dinner. What exactly is St. Louis style pizza? My research shows it is a cracker-thin pizza crust topped with sauce and Provel cheese. Until a few weeks ago, I had never even heard of Provel cheese. According to my internet sources, Provel is to provolone what Cheese Whiz is to cheddar. What may sound a bit unappetizing is actually pretty awesome. The pizza is cut in what I like to refer to as “Connecticut-style”: a round pizza cut into squares. I wouldn’t say it was the best pizza I ever ate, but it had a completely unique and weirdly delicious flavor. I ate the whole thing.

St. Louis 2018 083
Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery

Next up: dessert. “But Laura, how could you possibly have room for dessert after you just ate a whole pizza?” I know. I planned to have just one single scoop of ice cream as an after-dinner treat. I ended up eating AN ENTIRE PLATE of ice cream. I kid you not. I discovered Clementine’s Naughty and Nice Creamery advertised on a map I picked up at the hotel. A quick Google search told me I couldn’t possibly NOT try it. Clementine’s bills itself as a “microcreamery” and serves only small-batch, handcrafted ice cream. Once I got there, my one scoop turned into two and I decided to try a scoop each of Gooey Butter Cake and Salted Crack Caramel. But then the nice girl behind the counter offered me a sample of Toffee Butter Brickle and the next thing I knew, I was sitting at a small table by the window indulging in a full 3-scoop plate of ice cream. It was seriously the best ice cream I have ever tasted. If you’re ever in St. Louis, just take my word and go there. You will not be disappointed.

St. Louis 2018 037
Butterfly Garden – St. Louis Zoo

Alas, the clouds of the day finally decided to turn to rain, and I fear my plans to visit the Gateway Arch tomorrow morning may be thwarted. My backup plan is the Saint Louis Science Center and then, of course, an afternoon and evening filled with gymnastics!