Friday, December 19, 2008

Baetje Farm Booth Displays Gingerbread Home

At the Baetje Farm booth at the Soulard Farmers' Market, Steve Baetje displays a gingerbread house he made and patterned after a Soulard French Second Empire townhouse. Steve created the delicious looking model to publicize the December 20, 2008 drawing at their booth for a Christmas cheese plate which features their products. Baetje Farms owners Veronica and Steve Baetje produce pure, artisan farmstead goat milk cheese, "the most delicious cheese you ever put in your whole mouth," as Lafayette Square resident and seamstress Lyn deMoss comments. She runs Studio L, a drapery workroom, and she adds that "Steve and Veronica are just wonderful folks. They just welcome everybody to the Soulard Market at their booth."

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mid-August Farmers' Market Shopping

Lafayette Square resident and gourmet cook Kelly Steiman garners food tips from Chef Justin Keimon of Franco's Bistro, located at 1535 S. 8th Street. Justin was featured on August 9th in the Chefs at the Market program, held on July and August Saturdays in the front courtyard at the market.

Kelly purchased a pound of home made sweet butter from Chris Bequette at the Harr Family Farm booth, located on the western most end of the northeast wing. The butter is available salted or sweet, and many market shoppers love this product, including Kelly. It is one of those "best kept secrets."

Franco's Bistro is located on the first floor of the old Welsh Baby Carriage Factory, directly north of the Soulard Farmers' Market building. In fact, their door is the first one right out the back door of the Soulard Farmers Market after crossing the street. It was voted "Best New Restaurant" when it first opened. It is a bright spot on the St. Louis restaurant scene. Their phone is (314) 426-2500, and you can visit them at their site at The Chefs at the Market program provides an opportunity for interaction with professional food folks.

Other good buys at the Market on Saturday, August 9 were fresh sweet corn, blueberries from Michigan, locally grown melons - picked ripe and brought to you fresh, peaches, grapes, flowers and you name it. Specialty items include goat cheese from the Baetje Farm booth and sweet corn from Scharf.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Continuation: Litter is Good, No?

The boasting of the Soulard Restoration Group about its litter abatement program illustrates the bankruptcy of neighborhood leadership. Resolving the litter problem is something we all need to confront and be responsible for. We all need to work to improve Soulard, Madame Chouteau believes. Perversely, the SRG has assigned litter control to Marvin Powell and his crew, which Madame Chouteau assumes to consist of homeless people - hired for a few dollars.

Just as Alderwoman Phyllis Young has done nothing to rein in the curse of the designation of Soulard as an "Entertainment District," so the Soulard Restoration Group displays its impotence by palming off our litter on the homeless, making them responsible for the mess.

Their clueless approach to problem solving is detailed in the June, 2008 issue of the SRG publication Soulard Renaissance (subtitled "Living with History") in the lead article, titled "Krewe of Clean on the Scene."

The article, written by Ann Russell, comments that "yes, for the first time in a few years, Soulard is enjoying a sustained weekly litter clean-up program. Overseen by Marvin Powell of Peter & Paul Community Services (PPCS), the Soulard Clean Krewe has taken to the streets at least once a weekend (weather permitted) since March."

The article continues with SRG President Don Kirby explaining that "then after they go out, our task force members - me included - take a bike ride around the neighborhood and see what’s been done and what needs attention next round. It’s an effort that involves many great organizations who all have one goal in mind - a clean, safe Soulard."

The program is funded by a grant of $5000 from Peter and Paul Housing Corporation (PPHC), a non-profit organization separate from PPCS. This grant was matched by funds from the Soulard Business Association (SBA) and the Soulard Restoration Group, from what Madame Chouteau can understand from the article.

Rather than suggesting that the neighborhood residents, property owners, business owners and visitors to the neighborhood assume responsibility for their actions and for cleaning up the neighborhood, the Renaissance article provides an e-mail address ( so that people report where the litter is thickest. Then the homeless can be dispatched to solve the problem. The homeless can wipe the neighborhood’s bottom, once a week.

In fact, Madame Chouteau eagerly awaited the July issue of the Soulard Renaissance, hopeful that a follow-up editorial would suggest that all who live in the neighborhood, who recreate here or who just pass through join the efforts of the homeless crew and support them by not littering and by picking up after themselves. But the pages are silent on the subject.

Nowhere in the lengthy June article was there mention of individual responsibility or the necessity of community involvement - other than reporting the location of litter. The tone of the article implies that the swells of the SRG consider the problem is solved - by a weekly sweep. If the Soulard Restoration Group abdicates its leadership role by supporting band-aid solutions, at least Alderwoman Phyllis Young could have issued a statement, something like:

"We all need to work together to try to solve the litter problem in Soulard (and throughout St. Louis, for that matter). Whether you are a property owning resident, a tenant, a non-resident landlord or a visitor to one of our many bars, places of business, or a restaurant, we ask your assistance. Please do not litter. Please help make Soulard more user-friendly and attractive by picking up litter that thoughtless people have created. If you are an owner of a business which sells alcoholic beverages, please do not let your patrons exit your premises with open beverage containers. These containers often end up littering the landscape. Please pick up the newspapers and flyers found in the streets and gutters. Please use City of St. Louis trash containers appropriately. Those who are dog owners need to pick up after their animals, too. If we all work together, we can have an impact. Please join Marvin Powell and his crew to help make Soulard a better place to live, to do business and to visit. After all, if they can do it, so can the rest of us. Thank you for your contribution to our neighborhood."

Friday, July 4, 2008

Baetje Farm Cheese Products Explained

Careful St. Louis food consumers have hardly begun to realize how lucky they are to have such an excellent source of outstanding goat milk products at the Soulard Farmers’ Market as those provided by Steve and Veronica Baetje of Baetje Farm. Their products have attracted considerable attention. For example, Neville McNaughton of CheezSorce L.L.C. recently made several insightful comments about Baetje Farm. He noted that:

"Veronica is a little gem in the cheese business. She represents a whole new era of cheese production that will literally make us a better nation. She and Steve are making very fine cheese. They are a quick study. They have an excellent facility, they are hard working and they are destined to do well."

Neville, who is a consultant in the cheese business, adds:

"Baetje Farm throws the spotlight on some of the issues surrounding the concept of regionally produced foods. One important element is the requirement that regional food producers must be able to make a living from their efforts and from the products they produce. It is important that we are able to communicate this need to the consumers.

"Another realization is that some aspects of food production result in distortions in the entire industry. These distortions tend to favor the big guys, the result of advantages they hold over the supply chain as the result of their size and control. These advantages include passing off costs to producers and to consumers, something which undermines quality and consumer satisfaction. Freshness and flavor are lost. This is not the case with Baetje Farm products, for example. They live for these qualities.

"These issues aside, regionality is being given a boost because of the rising costs of fuel and energy. A window is being opened by devoted producers such as Veronica and Steve, who clearly offer insights into top quality and readily available options. Rising energy costs spur consumers to search for options, and Baetje Farm products reward this search."

Neville has considerable background in cheese production. Born and raised in New Zealand and now a resident of Davisville, Mo., Neville has over 34 years in the dairy and cheese industry. His job as a consultant to people like Steve and Veronica includes providing insights into project management, set-up, aging room design, plant layout, new product development, cheesemaking training and specialized promotional activities. His website is

Neville concludes that "it has been a privilege to be of assistance to Veronica and Steve. Their cheese is made from raw milk when it is appropriate and pasteurized when it is legally required. Her products are wholesome and represent the best of what can be done with milk. Large industrial producers rarely just use what is on the label. This applies to milk and milk products, and particularly to cheese, which usually has additives. Baetje Farm, which sells its products fresh and close to its source of raw materials, sidesteps this entire issue. The consumers benefit."

It should be added that Scharf Farm and a number of other Soulard Farmers’ Market vendors also provide market shoppers with regionally produced or grown products. As an aside, it is nice to note that KSDK Channel 5 did a very nice piece on Baetje Farm and on several other Soulard Market vendors. The short aired on Show Me St. Louis. The publicity helps broadcast one of the greatest assets of St. Louis - the Soulard Farmers’ Market. Many thanks to KSDK for the coverage and to Neville McNaughten for his explanation of the importance of Baetje Farm.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Locally Grown Produce at the Market

Allen Hagemann grows a variety of crops at Hagemann Farms in the middle of scenic Lion's Den Valley in Imperial, MO. Locally grown produce, including spinach, tomatoes, green beans, corn, catalopes, watermelons and others are available at his stand at Soulard Farmers' Market, fresh from the fields, all in their season.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Cheese Tart Recipe from Baetje Farms

Following is a recipe forwarded to Madame Chouteau by Veronica Beatje from Baetje Farms, source of the excellent goat cheese products found at the Soulard Farmers' Market:

Ingredients for crust:
1/4 cup Oat Flour from Kimker Hill Farm plus 1 3/4 cup 10 Grain Flour from Kimker Hill Farm-or 2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1 1/2 sticks chilled butter, cut in 1/2" pieces
4 T shortening
1/2 cup iced water, plus more as needed

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl. Place in a 2 qt. or larger food processor with the slicing blade on. Pulse once or twice to smooth out the dry ingredients. Add the butter and shortening and pulse 4-5 times, until the flour mixture starts to pull together into small pearls. Turn the blade on and add the water in one fell swoop, stopping the blade just after and pulsing another 5-10 times until the dough just starts to come together around the blade. Do not overmix!

Pull the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and quickly form into a ball, working fast to stop the butter from melting due to heat from your hands. Wrap tightly in plastic and chill for at least 2 hours and up to a day in the refrigerator. The dough will freeze for quite some time if carefully wrapped.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and roll out on a lightly floured surface to just larger than 9". Carefully transfer the dough to an 8" tart pan rubbed with butter. Gently press the dough into the edge of the pan, forming the bottom and sides of the tart. Place a piece of aluminum foil on the tart and fill with beans to keep the tart from puffing during baking. Bake on a sheet at 400 degrees for 10 minutes.

Remove the crust from the oven and carefully remove the aluminum foil and beans. Use a fork to prick the bottom of the crust in several spots, then return to the oven for another 8-10 minutes. Remove when center is firm and edges are just starting to brown.

For filling:
1/2 lb. bacon lardons - I used Greenwood Farms' smoked bacon
1/2 cup sliced fresh green onions, green and white parts
4 cloves minced garlic
4 cups fresh spinach, washed and dried
9 oz. Baetje Farm's "Coeur de la Creme" cheese (1 1/2 hearts)-substitute with your favorite chevre
2 T softened butter
3 T heavy cream
2 large eggs
pinch of Penzey's French Four Spice-substitute with fresh ground nutmeg
salt & pepper to taste

Heat a dash of olive oil in a large skillet and add the bacon. Stir over med-high heat until the bacon pieces are browned and crispy. Remove to paper towels with a slotted spoon. Pour off all but 1 T drippings. Stirring quickly, add the green onions and the garlic. Heat for 30 seconds until the onions start to open up, then add the spinach. Cover and remove from heat. Let the spinach wilt for 1 minute, then stir to begin mixing in the onions, garlic and oil. Cover again and wilt for 4 minutes. Stir again and let cool (preferably to room temperature but it can be a little warmer if you're rushed for time).

Mix the softened goat cheese, butter and cream with a fork until lightly blended. Beat the eggs in a separate bowl, then add to the cheese and mix well until smooth. Season with a pinch of Penzey's French Four Spice and salt and pepper to taste.

Fold the wilted spinach into the cream mixture. Scatter bacon pieces on the bottom of the cooled tart crust, then gently spoon in the cream mixture, smoothing with a spatula. Bake uncovered for 25-30 minutes, until center is light and puffy and the top is just starting to brown. A knife to the middle should come out clean.

Cool on wire rack for 10 minutes, then gently remove the sides of the tart pan. Cool to room temperature, then slide the tart off the bottom of the tart pan. Serve at room temperature or cold. Keeps for 3-5 days covered and refrigerated.

Recipe by Chris Freeland -
More local recipes at

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Soulard Farmers' Market Quality Selections

John Davis, the Mushroom Man, shows off his wares at the market on Saturday, May 17. In the basket are Crimini, and he holds a container of morels. A variety of mushrooms are available from his specialty booth.

Soulard Quality of Life Over the Weekend - A Report

A friend of Madame Chouteau, who will be known as Brenda Starr, provided insight into neighborhood life over the weekend, on Saturday and Sunday, May 17 and 18, 2008. There were a series of street closings and miscellaneous celebrations. Pictured are some empties lined up along the gutter near the intersection of S. 10th Street and Allen, found on Sunday, May 18. How many dead men can you count? Following is the report of Brenda Starr. Enjoy.

One of the street closings over the weekend was for the 9th Annual Car Show, originally begun by Hammerstone’s Bar. For 8 years the car show was confined to Ninth Street. But, like most things in Soulard, in an attempt to draw more beer-drinkers to the neighborhood, the show has been expanded to include more and more cars, and then to add to the excitement there was created the "Wacky Soapbox Derby." To make room for this wonderful event, all of Geyer Avenue was temporarily closed for the excitement.

Another spectacle was billed as the "Soulard Olympix." The main event seemed to be elbow bending, since the Olympix was described as time to "crawl your way thru Soulard’s Pubs and Private residences."

Still another street closing - the area where S. 10th Street intersects Allen - was sponsored by Jim and Julie Price. I was told this was a charity affair, but the person I questioned about the matter did not know the name of the charity.

Friday night: Geyer, my street, looks like a fraternity party. Three young men have pulled chairs out onto the sidewalk in front of their apartments at 1006 and are drinking. At 1003 there are three young men and a young woman drinking beer on the stoop. Emergency "no parking" signs are posted all up and down the street, in anticipation of the Wacky Soapbox Derby.

Saturday, early afternoon: Old-timey music from Spooty’s bar is blaring across the neighborhood. I assume it is for the benefit of the neighborhood, since there are only five patrons sitting on the patio where the speakers are located.

In the late afternoon the old-timey noise is surpassed by rock music coming from the Price’s event on 10th Street and Allen. I am a block away. With my windows and blinds tightly shut and the air-conditioning going, I can still hear the music inside my home.

Saturday evening: at 10:30 p.m. the music is still blaring away. My stroll down the alley at that hour reveals several young men urinating in a neighbor’s dogtrot. When I suggest that they use one of the three port-o-potties at the event, they said that they were urinating on the neighbor’s property because the port-o-potties were full. It is not clear whether the facilities are full of people or full of urine. But, what the heck, an excuse for public urination is an excuse.

There were a lot of people at the 10th Street celebration, some of them obviously drunk, and some of them obviously underage and drunk. One wonders if anybody is supposed to monitor underage drinking. The Prices? The City of St. Louis department which authorized the liquor license? Alder woman Phyllis Young? Obviously, nobody was in charge. Obviously, nobody cares.

Sunday morning: at 7 a.m. the neighborhood is blissfully quiet. 1006 Geyer still has the chairs, now empty, and a few beer bottles, now empty, on the sidewalk. 1003 Geyer is more poetic - a beer bottle sitting in a flower pot. Soulard’s flowers. And 10th Street between the alleyway and Allen, the site of the Price event, is a mess. Plastic trash bags overflowing with food and miscellaneous garbage are everywhere. One must assume that the rats had a good time when the music stopped and the drunks went home.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Quality of Life Issues in Soulard or Trash is Good, No?

We were out walking early on a Sunday morning, on May 4, 2008, and discovered this cache of trash in Soulard on S. 12th Street, near Russell. When we drove by hours later, it was still there. It looks like some people had been partying. To the left is the front door of Tucker’s Restaurant.

We watched the television program on Channel 10, the city channel, about littering. Interestingly, we did not see our alderperson, Phyllis Young, featured in the program or saying anything anti-litter. In fact, we did not hear any politicians address the subject. The Channel 10 story featured citizens urging other citizens to pick up litter around their property.

Madame Chouteau wonders why this issue is left to those who are faced with picking up after others. To be honest, St. Louis is a very litter strewn city. Go to Chicago and you do not see the litter that St. Louis boasts. Of course, go to Lafayette Square and you do not see the litter that Soulard boasts. Can you say Entertainment District?

It is a quality of life issue, just like street crime. But nobody goes near it. It seems to Madame Chouteau that the problem stems from a lack of self respect exhibited by those who litter. This group needs to be addressed. Instead, the victims are lectured, as usual, and urged to do something about the problem.

The April 30, 2008 (May 1-May 7, 2008) issue of the Riverfront Times carried an interesting story ( titled "La Dolce’ Veto," a story about quality of life issues resulting from a bar downtown. Fights, noise and some sort of drive-by shooting were all discussed, along with the outrage of nearby condo owners/residents. The police had to concede that shots were fired because there were bullet pock marks in the building and a window had been shot out. The highlight of the story was the quote from Rob Olsen, described as the owner of Dolce’ Ultra Lounge & Bistro, the name of this place, who said: "I just don’t get how people think they can move downtown and not hear some noise."

This is the classic response of discourteous, couldn’t care less people who ignore the impact of their actions on a community. In Soulard, I guess the quote would be: "I just don’t get how people think they can move here and not be confronted with litter. After all, it is an Entertainment District."

Madame Chouteau certainly has to concede that point, and she has to thank the fine folks at City Hall - and our local leadership - for ignoring the impact that an Entertainment District designation and liquor sales has on residential interests and quality of life issues. And of course, we tip our hats to those who litter, to those who are making Soulard - and the City of St. Louis - what it is.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Crime Stuff: Stay Alert, Shots Fired?????

Following is a crime alert from Lisa Otke dated April 30 and forwarded by Terry Hoffman on May 1, 2008:


Residents reported hearing shots fired on Saturday night in the vicinity of Shenandoah & 7th/9th Streets. Per the police the shots came from the area around South Broadway Athletic Club where the suspects were not allowed into a party. The police received over a dozen 911 calls – a resident reported being on the line for 8 minutes without a answer from 911 which may have been due to the volume of calls. The police have a partial license plate number and are investigating. A problem with the investigation is that all the “victims” refused to make any statement and would not give any good physical descriptions.

Terry Hoffman added to his e-mail the following note (note was above description of "Shots Fired"):

additional information we received from hi-tech security re: the event below...

"original call was for a "large fight with shots fired" around S. Broadway Athletic Club (around midnight on Saturday night.) The call was reclassified as "large crowd causing a disturbance" and the "shots fired" was canceled. Crowd was dispersed by officers and everyone was back in service in about 10 minutes."

Madame Chouteau is not following this report. Apparently a dozen or so people called 911 to report shots fired, but now the "shots fired" concept has been deleted from any police report. Madame Chouteau is starting to understand the April 25, 2008 St. Louis Post-Dispatch headline: "Crime down, except for the killings," found on page C1. We like creative crime reporting: if it isn't in the police report, then it didn't happen. Some may remember that this happened with rape statistics a couple of years ago.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Too Many Bars in Soulard? When Did That Happen?

A friend of mine moved to St. Louis from California almost two years ago. She purchased a home in the Lafayette Square Historic District. One day I asked her if she had considered the Soulard neighborhood while shopping for a home to buy. She had, but when she questioned her real estate agent about Soulard, the agent said that there were too many bars there.

Madame Chouteau wishes to thank that real estate agent for doing his job. Soulard has many charms. The Soulard Farmers’ Market, the European flavor of the architecture, the convenience of the neighborhood, and other elements are tremendous assets for an area that was dismissed as a slum and slated for demolition as recently as the early 1970's. However, the neighborhood recognizes that it does not benefit from people moving in and then discovering an aversion to bars and bar byproducts: noise, litter, vandalism, drunkenness and other quality of life issues. People should make decisions based on understanding the positives and negatives.

The need to confront reality is not concealed by Soulard residents. In the Sunday, August 29, 2004 issue ("News Watch: Issues and Analysis," Section B, page 1) of the "St. Louis Post-Dispatch" there was a very apt quote: "Anyone who lives in Soulard isn’t going to be anti-bar. You wouldn’t move here if you were." This excellent quip (or slap in the face, if you will) for Soulard residents (and potential residents) is attributed to "Gary Siddens of the Soulard Restoration Group." The context of the quote was a debate resulting from an "effort to limit the proliferation of nightspots in the neighborhood," according to the newspaper.

Madame Chouteau remembers talking with somebody who thought Mardi Gras was too declasse. This lady had gone door-to-door with a petition, trying to enlist support for controlling (or limiting) the main event, the Grand Parade, as it is known. At one rental unit, a woman answered the door. After learning the purpose of the petition, the woman replied: "I can’t sign that, I’m a drinker." And we know another family who bought a house in Soulard. Their proud explanation was: "We were down here partying all the time, so we thought we might just as well move to Soulard."

In the early 1970's, Soulard was a slum, the result of lack of insight and of attention during the watch of Alderman Raymond Leisure. Then things started to look up, as so-called "urban pioneers" discovered the area and started turning it into a residential-oriented historic district. Just when things started to look their brightest, Soulard turned again. It was sidetracked, turned into an entertainment district whose foundation is a potemkin Mardi Gras.

This peculiar and ugly celebration - which symbolizes the difficulty of Soulard (and of St. Louis) to envision a future - and the growth in the number of bars and liquor outlets (and the designation of Soulard as an entertainment district) has occurred on the watch of Seventh Ward Alderperson Phyllis Young. The alteration in the personality of Soulard has been ignored by the clueless neighborhood organization, the Soulard Restoration Group, and it has been spurred by the venality of liquor purveyors who have been given a free reign.

This course change, which caters to the lowest common denominator of neighborhood interests, has just happened, like a rudderless ship foundering on the rocks. The metamorphosis harks back to the visionless leadership provided during the years of Raymond Leisure.

Madame Chouteau thanks Alderperson Young and her supporters and handlers for her governance, for looking out for the interests of the businesses in Soulard and for helping turn the neighborhood into the setting for an annual, mirthless bacchanal and for the year-around antics of people devoid of any respect for Soulard or themselves. And Madame Chouteau hopes that real estate agents will continue to inform their clients of the existing reality in Soulard. After all, if this is as good as it gets, then new arrivals and the unwary need to be informed.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Despite Cool Weather, Spring has Arrived

Scharf Farm delighted Soulard Farmers' Market patrons by trotting out the first asparagus from their fields in Millstadt, IL on Saturday. They offer bundles of thin, thick and medium asparagus stalks. Madame Chouteau purchased two bundles, and this fresh-from-the-farm, locally grown produce was absolutely delicious. Many thanks for the treat.

Roco Trading, which seems to have settled in at Stand 23, sort of across the way from the Scharf booth, is offering seafood, including shrimp, Alaska cod fillets, Maine lobster tails, scallops, dressed catfish and other products. The market is offering an array of seafood, it would seem, with Roco Trading and 2 Big Fish. Seafood fans are provided with an interesting selection.

Another stand of interest, also located near the Scharf Farm booth, sells Autumn Crest Bistro Blends of Napa Valley Gourmet Flavored Balsamic Oils and Vinegars.

With the warming weather, the Soulard Farmers' Market is beginning to hop. Pictured is the barn at Baetje Farm. Of course, the snowy picture was taken in February. Warm inside were the happy goats, sources of the milk that makes the delicious Baetje Farm goat cheese, available at the market. By the way, Steve Baetje is a stone cutter, and he has created some unique and beautiful stone cheese boards. Thick and thin cheese boards are available at their booth, along with the excellent Coeur de la Creme and Fleur de la Vallee cheeses.

City dwellers are fortunate to have available at Soulard Farmers' Market so many vendors with such outstanding offerings. Stop and talk with these folks, and buy their products. And add your reactions to the market in the comments section below. Madame Chouteau is always interested in hearing from you.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Remembrances of a Pope's Visit Past

The visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United States revives for Madame Chouteau fond memories of the stop in St. Louis of Pope John Paul II in January, 1999.

It was exciting. Even today I can replay in my mind the tv footage of the Popemobile carrying Pope John Paul through the empty streets of St. Louis. Yes, empty! Nobody came out to see the Pope. No cheering crowds lined the streets. I can hear the news announcer intoning before the event: "Don’t even think about coming downtown (to see the Pope)." St. Louis leaders forecast that the crowds would yield gridlock, and so they orchestrated a media campaign to keep traffic in check. It was a clear case of meddling (big brother knows best) and overkill. They scared almost everyone away from the historic event.

Not only did people who wanted to see the Pope stay home, but downtown workers took time off, staying home to avoid being caught in the anticipated crowds.

The "St Louis Post-Dispatch" story dated 1/31/1999 by Repps Hudson and headlined "Business prayers weren’t answered" describes disappointed parking lot owners (their lots were empty), unhappy restaurant owners (burdened with extra supplies laid in for the non-existent crowds), etc.

A paragraph from the story stated that "according to many merchants and restaurateurs, the news media left the indelible impression that downtown would be swamped with cars, pedestrians and papal parades. So tens of thousands of people who normally went downtown stayed away Tuesday and Wednesday."

One quote from Hudson’s story says it all: "Downtown looked like a city during World War II," and the interviewee added: "Downtown has a tendency to do boo-boos like this."

The blame game is classic St. Louis. The absence of people was blamed on the weather and on papal security. And the press was blamed for publicizing the dire warnings that organizers told them to publicize.

More insightful than blaming the weather and the press, though, was the blaming of the citizenry. Following is a quote from the "P-D" story: "‘We had no idea the local folks could be so easily swayed and scared,’ Franklin "Kim" Kimbrough of the Downtown Saint Louis Partnership said Friday. Kimbrough had urged street-level businesses to stay open to show the world how downtown works."

But some good came from this debacle. It put a name and a face on a time-honored leadership tactic. To get your way, do a "Pope Scare." Basically, a Pope Scare campaign is designed to terrorize the populace so they do what civic leaders want, usually something contrary to public interests and good government.

For example, when the Cardinals owners wanted a new stadium and tax breaks, the Pope Scare line was: "If the poor Cardinals owners don’t get what they are so humbly seeking and need, then the team will move to East St. Louis (or Granite City or Mascoutah or East Whatever)." The majority of the population trembled in its shoes, and the Cardinals received whatever they demanded. A mud hole is only a down payment in the price to pay.

And how about this one: "If the voters don’t approve legalized gambling, then gambling tax revenues will not be available to revive and power our school system and people will not move to the city." Well, that certainly has worked out! The City of St. Louis public school system makes the wreck of the Hesperas look like sunny day, smooth water sailing.

Want another? How about: "If you don’t vote for this sales tax increase, then our firemen and policemen will not get a raise and they will quit and your house will burn down and you will be at the mercy of criminal elements." The resulting increased tax revenues mean that municipal finances do not need to be put in order. Special interests can continue to feed at the trough.

On the national level, here’s a great Pope Scare from the Bush-Cheney misinformation machine: "If the troops are brought home from Iraq, Al Qaeda will follow them home."

And, of course, the local beer peddlers have one for the Soulard neighborhood: "If Mardi Gras moves downtown, then all the police will be there, and when drunken hordes return to Soulard, the residents will be at their mercy." Another overkill. Downtown wouldn’t touch that pig. Let it wallow where it is.

In the St. Louis vernacular, Pope Scares are fabrications designed to invoke fear. And they really work. But we always pay a price for buying a phony line in exchange for security. Madame Chouteau loves Pope Scares and applauds their use by our leaders. Pope Scare based government is a substitute for thoughtful planning and real leadership. So when somebody tells you to go with the flow or something terrible will befall you and the entire community, think of the Pope. His was a lonely, bleak introduction to the deserted streets of St. Louis. And St. Louis lost an historical moment on the world stage.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

A Walking Tour of Soulard in St. Louis

History buffs and folks looking for some moderate exercise, as well as those curious about the Soulard Historic District, are invited to participate in a walking tour of the neighborhood. Provided will be discussions of architectural characteristics and insights into the people who built and lived in early Soulard. The charge is $10 per person for a two hour tour, minimum $30 per tour. Reservations required, minimum 24 hours advanced notice. Comfortable shoes are suggested and participants should bring a water bottle. For additional information, please e-mail Madame Chouteau at All proceeds are used to increase security in the neighborhood. Tours begin and end at the Soulard Farmers' Market, unless otherwise discussed.

Pictured is Rick Soulard, a resident of Petrolia, Ontario, who points to the vestigial boundary line in the sidewalk on S. 8th Street of the property of Julie Soulard, widow of Antoine Soulard. Julie obtained title to the property in 1836. Rick's side of the Soulard family moved from France to Acadia - the Fundy coast of Nova Scotia - in 1636. Antoine Soulard, the namesake of the neighborhood, arrived in St. Louis in 1794 after deserting the French Naval Service in Martinique because of social upheaval in France. Neighborhood points of interest were spotlighted for Rick and wife Agnes during a Soulard walking tour.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

A More Amazing Mardi Gras

Madame Chouteau found this press release on another blog. It certainly contains good news. A more sophisticated Soulard (a French word meaning "Swami Gupta will not be at the office today") Mardi Gras. What joy this brings. And now it is the largest Mardi Gras event in the country. Our fragile little historic district does not get any better than this. For your pleasure and edification, we reproduce the release:

Draft Press Release, February 20, 2008

Soulard Mardi Gras sees Great Things in 2009

Preparations are even now underway to make Soulard Mardi Gras Grand Parade Day 2009 even more exciting than it was on Feb. 2, 2008.

For example, more exotic and costly floats are on the drawing boards. Some krewes started design and construction as soon as a week after 2008 parade day. The underlying float theme for 2009 parallels this year's theme: sophisticated floats which caricature and imitate trucks. Just as in the Rose Parade, thousands of flowers are used to create floats which resemble truck floats. It is really very unique, as all parade goers testify, and the St. Louis floats always have put the Rose Parade offerings to shame. After all, Lumberous Place, sponsor of the Grand Parade, don't sponsor no cheesy events.

In addition, more publicity for the festival, now billed as the "2nd largest Mardi Gras celebration" in the United States, is coming. Negotiations are underway with FOX, CBS, Discovery Channel and BET to nationally televise the parade. Imagine the favorable publicity for St. Louis when Siegfried and Roy, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen or some similar sparkling personalities sit alongside Mayor Slay to moderate the parade to a national audience. First in shoes, first in Mardi Gras is the objective.

Already St. Louis has several feathers in our cap to capture the national spotlight. The New Orleans Mardi Gras is now borrowing our good ideas, such as our Krewe of Barkus Parade. They have started to hold a similar event in the French Quarter, or what is left of it. Hey, N.O., give credit where credit is due. They are obviously on their last legs, while St. Louis is on the upswing, enjoying the favor of Fortuna, thanks to our innovativeness.

Parking problems are also being resolved. Both Soulard and adjoining LaSalle Park have restricted parking, so all you party animals are urged to park in Lafayette Square and Benton Park. The kind folks in Lafayette Square are so in love with their neighborhood that they pick up after us, so it is less a clean-up expense to Mardi Gras Inc. Who knows what goes on in Benton Park?

Finally, and most exciting, is an increase in the number of bars and restaurants in Soulard. In French, the word "soulard" translates as "drunken pig." We are all excited about living up to that. More and more buildings are being converted to or used as bars and bars and restaurants. Mardi Gras fans are grateful for the excellent support from political and redevelopment officials with the City of St. Louis, who perceive that the family-oriented festival and more bars will help save St. Louis and bring it greater prosperity, just as the increase in gambling facilities will contribute.

In summary, Soulard Mardi Gras profiteers are looking forward to bigger and better things. As Official Parade Spokesman Back Madly comments: "Lazy less beantowns rolaids," which is French for "let the good times roll."

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Troubling report about Soulard restaurant/bar

A story titled "State Rep Experiences Racial Discrimination" has been published on The story reports that State Representative Rodney R. Hubbard, his brother and a local businessman received an unexpected reception on March 19 at Johnny's Restaurant and Bar, 1017 Russell in Soulard. Following is a quote from the story: "Shortly after their arrival, they became the victims of racially-charged threats by two male patrons who told them that they were in a 'white bar' and [were] unwelcome."

We do not know what to make of this.