Road Foodie

Some people drive simply to arrive.

The Old Man and the Road

Posted By on December 27, 2008

No foundation...

No foundation...

Dinner is very important to us. A bit rushed when researching our dining options for tonight, I simply googled local/sustainable, fine dining, and St Louis. I was rewarded with Riddle’s Penultimate Wine Bar in “exciting University City.” There was a La Quinta located only 5 miles away; we were set. After 9 ½ very tiring hours, we roll in, back to institutional hospitality after 4 nights of supreme comfort. C heads off to the gym and I play get-the-lime-green-frisbee-plushtoy with Stella for 20 minutes while the travel chardonnay chills. She caromes off the bed, floor, and walls like a demented racquetball. When we manifest the unmistakable signs of going out, her liquid brown eyes carry all the sorrows of the world, and then some. It is always the same: like all dogs, she doesn’t remember that we always come back.

Foolishly, I entrust the supposed 5-mile route to the restaurant to the lame GPS in our iPhonies (“You Are Off Track!; Go Four Miles and Make a U-Turn! What?).

Eventually we find The Loop in University City, and it is, indeed, exciting. College kids often have that effect on a community. Riddle’s menu looks very promising, and although I have been immobile in a small cubicle all day, there’s no way I can pass up the local garlic sausage and the local smoked trout. C wants to try a bowl of chile, plus the red beans n’ rice (another nice, light collation). The sausage is adequate, the trout dry, the chile tastes a bit canned: all is better on the menu than on the plate, but I appreciate the effort and intentions. We eat at the bar, as always, for the conviviality of it all, and soon strike up a conversation with our co-barcorner-dweller, a craggy, seventy-something man with a dirty white beard that may possibly reach his waist and a face that looks like the rocks at the foot of Niagara Falls. He identifies himself when asked, as a hobo.

It's a well-meaning menu.

It's a well-meaning menu.

His eyes light up when he finds that I write cookbooks, and he approves of our road traditions with a wise smile, although they are very different from his own. Before settling down here to look after his ailing mother (how old is she—or, has the rough life aged him quickly?), Rick Escoffier (no shit) spent 20 years hitchhiking back and forth across the country, and along the way became a fan of Berthold Brecht and William Saroyan, was picked up by the golfer Payne Stewart (and nearly became his caddy). “No foundation, all the way down the line,” says the Old Man of the Road, quoting Saroyan, as we sit and sip together at the rustic bar. My natural state is a bit more optimistic, but I can see the point. When we leave Riddle’s, he is happily contemplating the bottle of Courvoisier in front of him. We are tucked up with Stella in a cozy bed, not our own, by 10:30pm. Tomorrow, Tulsa. Before his ridiculously untimely death, my brother-in-law wrote a book called “The Keys to Tulsa.” It was made into a movie starring Mary Tyler Moore, Eric Stoltz, and that plump guy on Boston Legal–what’s his name? I SO wish I could call him and say “Hey Brian, we’re going to Tulsa! Any tips?


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