fireflies and cottonwood

our wedding blog

Maps and Such December 6, 2009

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I have been working on a Google Map for the wedding. I put some restaurants down on it, plus where some of the MetroLink stops are, and the locations of the hotel, wedding, and reception. Finally, I have some of the different locations mentioned as “Things To Do in St. Louis.” I’ll likely add some more things to do and restaurants, but I wanted to have this up.

Then, our dear friend and bridesmaid Janet found some information about parking in downtown, so we have a handy map here.


Things to Do in St. Louis: Wineries! November 15, 2009

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I was thinking this morning about when I went to my friend Carlos’ wedding in Switzerland. The day before the wedding (or maybe two days before), we were casting about for something to do to get ourselves out from underneath all the people planning the logistics of the wedding. Carlos and the whole lot of young non-Swiss guests ended up taking a day trip out to Gruyere. It was fun. I was thinking what would be a similar trip for people hanging around St. Louis before our wedding, who might want to dash out for a day trip, and I thought of the wineries.

Most people don’t think of Missouri and wine together, but the state actually has a long, proud history of winemaking. Most of that history stopped at Prohibition, and it is only just starting up again, but surrounding St. Louis on all sides are some really nice wineries, and Stephanie and I have happily visited several of them. My family has also made a sort of tradition of going out to Hermann (one of the major wine towns), because it is so close to my grandmother’s house.

Hermann – Hermann is a town on the Missouri River, about an hour and a half west of St. Louis. It is a seasonal town, with a lot of stores that open only in the summer, for the traffic that the wineries bring. The wineries themselves, though, are open year-round. There are three good ones, which I have visited. Stone Hill is the most prestigious, and they have their building on top of a hill, surrounded by vineyards. They have an old cellar, a restaurant, and a big tasting room and store. They give regular tours, which are really cool (and quite cheap). Closer in to town is Hermannhof Vineyards, which seems a bit more homely. I have never taken their tour, and their tasting room is much smaller. They also feature sausages and cheese, which they sell. Their port, though, is excellent, and near and dear to my heart. Further out from town, in the countryside, is the Adam Puchta Winery, which may have the best wines, and definitely had the best tasting experience when I went there. Very personable and creative.

Ste-Genevieve – Down the Mississippi River, an hour’s drive south on I-55, is the town of Ste-Genevieve, which has some of the oldest buildings in the Midwest, and tries to maintain some of the old French frontier feel. I was not as impressed by the wineries in town as I was by Hermann (which may be German chauvinism on my part, I know), but outside of town is the Charleville Winery & Microbrewery, which is great. The beer is good, the wine is OK, but the atmosphere is fantastic. They have tables set out on the hillside facing their vineyards, and you can buy wine and beer from their shop, bring your own picnic, and sit out and enjoy the view. In May, 2007, just before moving out to New York City, Stephanie and I went out with some friends (most all of whom are in the wedding party) and had a lovely picnic here. In January, this may not be the best thing (and in inclement weather, I think that the dirt road out to the winery may be impassable anyway), but if we get one of those odd Missouri winter days when the sun is out and you could be tempted to wear short sleeves, it might be cool to go there.

I don’t know much about the Southern Illinois wineries, or the Augusta wineries, but I know they are out there. I think in all likelihood, everyone will stay in St. Louis, and enjoy the sights and company of the city, but I figured I’d throw this out there as a Thing to Do.


Things to Do in St. Louis: St. Louis Art Museum March 7, 2009

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Changing the date of our wedding, from July to January, changes a lot of things. Stephanie, of course, is far more competent to articulate the stylistic changes that will happen, now that we have a winter wedding. I think for me, it makes my twill Argyle jacket more of a winner, but that is about the extent of it. But then, if I am looking for what to recommend to the out of town visitors coming in for the wedding, the season makes a bigger difference. Ted Drewe’s is less of a destination in the bleak midwinter. Here’s a place that is dear to Stephanie and I, the St. Louis Art Museum.


SLAM was a place both Stephanie and I loved when we first met, and we went there together many times. Like many St. Louis museums, it is free for the permanent collection, and has a really nice and diverse collection. Both Stephanie and I really like the contemporary sculpture The Breaking of the Vessels,which is in one of the main atria, but my favorite piece was a Japanese screen in the Asian gallery, which I used to go an look at on evenings when I was stressed from work. It rotates in and out with other large Japanese works, and hasn’t been there the last few times I have gone, unfortunately.


One of the things about SLAM in the winter is that Art Hill, which rolls down from the museum to the pond with the fountain, is one of the popular sledding hills in the city. I haven’t been, but it was always one of those things I wish I had done in the city.


Things to Do in St. Louis: Places to Eat October 18, 2008

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Stepanie and I have, since very early in our courtship, always cooked together a lot. Neither of us ever has too much money, so we don’t eat out terribly often, but still we have a number of places that we would clearly recommend, and from which we have many fond memories. For this list, I didn’t include any chains, though St. Louis Bread Company, Starbucks and Qdoba would have to rank highly in any honest accounting of where we actually spent our food budget.

Dewey’s Pizza – Right off the bat, I am breaking the “No Chain” rule, but Dewey’s doesn’t really feel like a chain. Stephanie and I had our first dinner date here. They have wonderful pizzas, with crusts that are just the right mix of thick and chewy and thin and crunchy.

Blackthorn Pizza & Pub – There is nothing balanced about Blackthorn’s pizza. It is Chicago-style deep-dish, bubbling over with cheese and chewy crust, spicy sauce and generous helpings of toppings. This place is clearly a pub that also serves delicious pizza – there is little space in the ovens, and the wait for a pizza (which you have to order at the bar) can be well over an hour. There are many pub games (shuffleboard, air hockey, darts, etc.) to keep you occupied while you wait. When they call out your name, and you grab your enormous pizza and paper plates, it is all worth it.

Schlafly Tap Room & Bottle Works – These are clear favorites. We have been to each a number of times. We went to the Tap Room after Tom Peteet’s speech at the Old Post Office, which was the first time we went together. Notably, we went there for Burn’s Night, and, of course, we will have our reception there. It is an old converted mill building, with an English Pub theme. The Bottle Works is in a converted grocery store. It is much more sleek and modern in decor, with a menu heavy on locally grown vegetables. My parents first met Stephanie at breakfast here.

Dressel’s Pub – This is just solid comfort food. We love the rarebit here, and the chips with malt vinegar, and they have some of the best fish and chips I have ever had. We have eaten here together several times. I fondly remember eating with Bob and Beth on the patio out front, and eating with Chris before Tom and Mya’s wedding. The downstairs is decorated on one side with poets and writers, and on the other with composers and musicians, and I have a favorite photo of Stephanie in front of their portrait of Herman Melville.

Mangia Italiano’s – This is a wonderful Italian place on Grand. I’ve only eaten there twice, both with Stephanie, Bob and Beth. The first was just a chance for us to meet up with them, and the second was downstairs at the reception for their wedding. Both times, the food and atmosphere were great.

Pho Grand – This was an old standby for me. I would sometimes get it from work, sometimes I’d get takeout to carry home. Stephanie and I ate here several times, once we met Bob and Beth here, and I fondly recall sitting on the floor of my apartment eating takeout and watching Horatio Hornblower in the wintertime. They are cheap and very tasty – Vietnamese food, specializing in soups and noodle bowls.

Fitz’s – This is a really cool place. Fitz’s is a popular root beer brand in the St. Louis area, and they have a diner-style restaurant with a glass wall to see their bottling process. They have great desserts and solid food.

McGurk’s Irish Pub & Garden – I’d been here once before Tom Peteet’s birthday, when I was called on a school night to come out and join a gathering where I was fortuitously (through intricate unspoken maneuverings) seated next to Stephanie. We talked well past my normal school night bedtime, and the next day we began to e-mail each other, quickly getting to a two- or three-a-day rate. McGurk’s is very close to my old apartment, so we went here often afterwards. I particularly remember meeting Larry and Crystal here a couple of times. The food is really good, and the outdoor seating in the garden is lovely.

MoKaBe’s Coffeehouse – This isn’t really a restaurant, and their coffeehouse food is all pretty basic, but it is right by Tower Grove Park, and we went here several times for a little nibble and some coffee after or before walking around the park.

Soulard Coffee Garden – This is a short walk from my old apartment, and they have a nice breakfast menu. The upstairs room is nice, with murals on the walls and mismatched furniture. Another place we would stop by when out walking.

Blueberry Hill – This is a St. Louis landmark. Chuck Berry plays here monthly, and the owner of Blueberry Hill is the driving force behind the U-City Loop. The restaurant is decorated with his collectibles and souvenirs, mostly from the history of rock and roll and pop culture. The food is good, but it’s not what I remember of the place. It is just a good place to sit and look around and soak it all in.

India’s Rasoi – Stephanie’s favorite Indian restaurant, we went here once or twice together. The food is good, even the buffet (which I am normally not a fan of). They recently moved, and Stephanie says the new place is fantastic looking.

Crown Candy Kitchen – I already wrote about Crown Candy, but it clearly belongs on this list.

The Google Map, showing these locations, together with pins for my old apartment and the infamous Essex House.


Things to Do in St. Louis: Cahokia Mounds October 5, 2008

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These days, and for the past two centuries or so, the center of “civilization” in the area around the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers is on the Missouri shore. To the credulous visitor to St. Louis, the East Side can seem like a wasteland of chemical plants and strip clubs. Uncle Tupelo, an alt-country band that formed on the East Side, wrote song called “Sauget Wind”: “They’re poisoning the air/ for personal wealth./ It’s a long way to heaven,/ it’s a short way to hell./ I don’t know what I’m breathing for,/ ’cause the air around here ain’t so good anymore.” And it is true that the East Side has been an unloved stepchild for as long as Europeans have lived across the river. But that is not all the history of the East Side. Once, it was great. Once, it was Cahokia.

“When I reached the foot of the principal mound, I was struck with a degree of astonishment, not unlike that which is experienced in contemplating the Egyptian pyramids.” This was the statement of an American traveler in the early 1800s. As Charles Mann explains in his book 1491, Cahokia was impressive enough that Americans couldn’t believe it had been made by Native Americans. It was a complex of mounds, rough stepped pyramids, which had once been the largest city north of Mexico in the Americas. Now, Cahokia Mounds is not nearly so grand, but it is still compelling. Stephanie and I once spent an early evening walking around the grounds, and climbing to the top of Monks’ Mound. I struggle to find words to describe the feelings you get climbing on a near-forgotten monument in the midst of Collinsville, Illinois. The world is a much more mysterious place than we often realize. The monument marking the high point of a superseded civilization seems to be as good a place as any to think about this.


Things to do in St. Louis: The Zoo September 30, 2008

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“St. Louis has a wonderful Zoo, and it is free!” Really, that should be enough, I would think. But there is so much more. That Zoo has so many memories for me. Along with Union Station, Busch Stadium and the Arch, it was one of the places actually in St. Louis, where my family would go when we came to visit my grandparents in St. Charles. I remember the big concrete block “ZOO” sign at the entrance, and all of the pictures we took there. When you went in, you could always hear the raucous sea lions in the long pool down the middle of the zoo. The smells of the reptile house, the long loops around the antelope enclosures, running hither and yon… you couldn’t pick too many places in St. Louis now as redolent in happy memories as the Zoo. And it’s free. Check it out.


Things to do in St. Louis: City Museum September 27, 2008

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I have been to City Museum three or four times now. It really is an amazing place. First off: get the word “museum” out of your head. It is more a menagerie than a staid “museum.” Strange modern art installations double as jungle gyms, strange jungle gyms double as modern art installations, trippy tile mosaics, plaster gargoyles and icons, and gunite grottos litter the first few floors. Upstairs, there are various exhibits of curiosities of St. Louis history, including things pulled out of old-fashioned privies, photos and relics of demolished buildings, and whatever memorabilia the owners collected. There is also a circus, of course. If you have elementary-aged children, especially, this is a fun thing to go and do-the jungle gyms are amazing.