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“Passport to CWE” links great cause & great deals!

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Food and Drink Shop News  Wolfgang's Pet Store The Vino Gallery The Chase Hotel Starkloff Institute Pickles Pi Pizza Passport to the CWE Libby's Lemon Spalon Kelly Twins Jennifer Walker Jewelry Herbie's Halbert Rug Company Duff's Coffee Cartel Children's Education Alliance of Missouri Brewington Art & Design. Borough Vintage
I met dynamo Bridget Kelly*, above, for coffee at Pi to learn more about the "Passport to the CWE," a fundraiser that benefits the Children's Education Alliance of Missouri, and supports local businesses too. Bridget, Community Outreach Coordinator of CEAM, is definitely the woman you want in charge of a project such as this. No stranger to the television camera (see "up close" below), Bridget has made several appearances on local stations promoting the "Passport to the CWE" wearing, in one appearance, clothing from Libby's on McPherson, and carting along other goodies from local businesses participating in the event. These included a salad from Pi, wine from The Vino Gallery, brass candlesticks from Shelton Davis, and sandwiches from Pickles. There is a link to Bridget's recent appearance on Show Me St. Louis on CEAM's website.

The Children's Education Alliance of Missouri chose the Central West End to launch its first "Passport" fundraiser because it loves the idea of bringing the neighborhood together over this worthy cause, and because their offices are at 4742a McPherson, it was pretty easy to enlist the support of surrounding businesses. CEAM is launching a program that provides financial assistance for children with special needs and parent-training programs for their families in St. Louis City and County. The Passport is only one part of a development campaign targeted to raise $122,500 to get the program through its first year. So far, they have raised $30,000 toward this goal. There are 133,000 children with special needs in the State of Missouri. In the St. Louis area alone 20% of the students have been diagnosed with a special need. Frequently parents don't know where to turn to get information as they seek better educational opportunities for their children. The Children's Education Alliance of Missouri hopes to offer 15 to 30 students scholarships to a school of the families' choice starting this September.

For $25 your "Passport to the CWE" will take you to Herbie's for a tasting of Petite Beef Wellington, Shrimp Dumpling, & Missouri Trout Pancake, $5 instead of $9; to Coffee Cartel for a free scoop of ice cream; Borough Vintage for 25% off a regularly-priced item; Lemon Spalon for $20 off a haircut;  Wolfgang's Pet Store for $10 off grooming (my cat is "kitty non grata" after she terrorized a groomer here); Jennifer Walker Jewelry for a free stamped initial charm (Update: I just picked mine up and it is about the most adorable charm you have ever seen!); Duff's for a free dessert with purchase of lunch or dinner; to Halbert's Rug Company for 20% off; to Brewington Art & Design for 15% off all accessories, and so many more wonderful discounts including 10% off a night's stay at the Chase. You can purchase your passport online and pick it up at The Vino Gallery, or purchase it directly from Vino at 4701 McPherson starting tomorrow, March 31. This Saturday, Vino is offering a special 10-wine tasting  in addition to their 10% off wine purchase special for Passport holders. The Passport is valid from Friday, April 1 through Sunday, April 10.

How nice to know that a donation of $25 will support a worthwhile charity based right here and  promote neighborhood businesses at the same time. Everyone's a winner with this one—so what are you waiting for?

Children's Education Alliance of Missouri, 4742 A McPherson, (314) 654-4544.

*Up close and personal: As Bridget said, "If your readers think they may know one of the Kellys, they probably do." Our great-grandfather, Joseph P. Kelly, was the contractor who built the Missouri History Museum; her grandfather, also Joseph P. Kelly, placed the Missouri seal over the statue of Thomas Jefferson in the Museum (he went on to become a chef). There are 11 Kelly children. Bridget and her identical twin Margaret, who develops recipes for Bissinger's, are the youngest.  Another sister, Colleen Starkloff, runs the Starkloff Disability Institute. Colleen and her late husband Max founded Paraquad, which was based in the CWE for many years.

Bridget and Margaret were hosts of "Food Talk w/ the Kelly Twins," formerly on KTRS, and "Twicebaked," formerly on CCIN and currently on Blue Highways TV.  You can also check out the talented sisters' entertaining bloopers made while filming "Twicebaked" on youtube: .

In case you missed it: Behind the scenes at Bissinger’s…how yummy is that?


Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's   

I decided to republish this post from last year's Easter season describing my visit to Bissinger's "factory." Recently Bissinger's on Maryland Plaza added early morning coffee and pastries, opening everyday at 6 a.m. Tomorrow morning why not dash in for coffee and pick up some Easter candy too? Not sure that the prices on the chocolates are the same on everything in this original post, but I do know that the 12 oz. solid 38% milk and 55% dark chocolate bunnies are on sale, $9 instead of $15.  

Continuing my posts on Easter goodies, I was searching for a different angle to cover the premier chocolate shop in St. Louis…Bissinger's on Maryland Plaza. Frankly, I was amazed that my request to tour the Bissinger's plant was enthusiastically accepted, and I'm thrilled to share my experience with you. 

Terry Wakefield, Chief Chocolatier at Bissinger's for the past 5 1/2 years was my tour guide. He is a food scientist/engineer who heads Research & Development at Bissinger's production facility located off Vandeventer on Gratiot. My tour began with the photo above showing the original St. Louis "plant" on McPherson, where the chocolates were made by hand in the back room to be sold out front.

The story of the Bissingers, a German chocolate-making family, began in the 1600's. At that time the family lived in Paris and made confections that were the favorite of King Louis XIV, the Sun King. Later, Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte bestowed the title: "Candy Maker of the Empire" on the family. The Bissingers left Europe in 1845 and settled in Cincinnati, continuing to make candies there. After Karl Sr. died, his widow Mary became the first female owner of a chocolate company in the United States. Karl Jr. decided to spread his wings and moved to St. Louis. He opened the store on McPherson in 1927, where it remained for the next 80 years until the move to Maryland Plaza in 2007.  Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's
This is the kitchen where the candies are made, using recipes that are at least 200 years old. The copper pots, which are as old as the recipes, transfer heat very rapidly and are used when making cremes, truffles, fondants and caramel (see below).  Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's
The large tray in front holds blocks of caramel that are cut into squares before being covered in chocolate. The gigantic tray in the background holds bear claws as they are cooling. From the pile of pecans on top of that tray, It was obvious that Bissingers does not skimp on ingredients.Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's

After the caramels (these are vanilla, there are also chocolate, raspberry, etc.) are cut into squares they are put on a cold conveyor belt that coats the bottoms in chocolate as they head to the chocolate "enrober," which is made in Germany.Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's

Here's the part of the process that makes you wish you were a caramel. Bissinger's prides itself on using only the best ingredients and that's what makes their confections stand out.
 Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's
Donna (above) is signing the vanilla caramels by picking up a corner of wet chocolate and drawing a "v" on top. Each kind of chocolate gets a different signature. Donna is one of several "stripers" and has a distinctive "hand." Everyone in the plant can tell who is striping on a particular day. Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's   

Little chocolate bunnies awaiting packaging—boxes of six are $11. Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's   
The "ultimate rabbit" had just been unmolded and placed in a box ready to be shipped out. He is solid chocolate and weighs 11 pounds—known around the plant as "Harvey." The dark chocolate pattern is hand-painted in the bunny mold and left to set before milk chocolate is added. This item is in the stores, but call ahead to be sure of availability, $123.Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's
Terry showed me a tray of business cards that a local company ordered for an event. Anything can be written in chocolate, and to illustrate his point he pulled out this white chocolate bar imprinted with a photo of Lauren Bacall. The actress is a big fan and has been a loyal customer for years. Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's
These ladies are assembling chocolate assortments for shipment to the stores or available through Bissinger's internet catalog. The plant produces 200 products at this time of year, there are about 400 products in all. Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's   
Ever wonder how a company such as this comes up with new products? Put samples in the employee lunchroom (there are 38 to 40 employees in the production facility) and see what gets eaten. So this year Bissinger's introduced bunny ears in milk or dark chocolate, a set of 4 is $8…why is it that the ears are the best part? Another new product is the 100 calorie chocolate bar. Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Lauren Bacall coffee candies Bissinger's   
The tour ended with Eric in shipping. He packages about 600 orders a day right now. At Christmastime there are sometimes 1600 to 1800 packages shipped out of the plant each day. Terry says they will probably be hand-delivering last-minute Easter orders to the three stores around town as late as Saturday…even the Easter bunny sometimes procrastinates!

Bissinger's, 32 Maryland Plaza, Mon. to Weds. 6 a.m. -6 p.m., Thurs. 6 a.m. -10 p.m., Fri. & Sat. 6 a.m. -Midnight, Sun. 6 a.m.- 8 p.m. (314) 367-7750. Closed Easter Sunday.

It won’t be long now…

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Urban Gardens  Urban Gardening in Raised Beds Bowood Farms

This morning, Dave Rickard of Bowood Farms said that he'll be planting an early Spring crop of peas, arugula, and lettuces later this week in the garden on Olive Street (shown above in a photo taken earlier this winter). In the meantime there are bags of spring mix lettuces for sale in the cooler by Bowood's restaurant, Cafe Osage. On Saturday there will be additional vegetables brought in from Bowood's greenhouses in Clarksville, including baby Japanese turnips, kale, and other greens.

Another reason to stop by on Saturday is the lecture being given by PBS's Patti Moreno on "Urban Gardening in Raised Beds" at 10 a.m. and again at 2 p.m.

When we lived on Lenox Place we built several raised planter beds. We planted dwarf apple trees in two larger beds and perennials in an oval one at the back of the property. The beds gave our small city garden an appealing structure and, because they were filled with good soil from the beginning, the plants thrived.  I remember hearing that Lenox Place was developed on top of a swamp which was covered over with landfill. Perhaps that's why it was difficult to dig a hole for a plant without encountering a piece of concrete. Raised gardening was a great solution. Learn more from an expert on Saturday at Bowood.

Bowood Farms, 4605 Olive, (314) 454-6868.