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Apr 28, 2015
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The Scoop: Pinckney Bend Distillery wins gold at 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Thursday, April 9th, 2015



The results of the 2015 San Francisco World Spirits Competition were recently announced, and a handful of area distilleries were honored with medals. New Haven-based Pinckney Bend was awarded gold medals both for its sherry cask corn whiskey and its cask-finished gin. Bronze medals were awarded to: Defiant Spirits for its Defiance High Rye bourbon whiskey; Rebel Yell, a honey whiskey locally blended by Luxco; and local dandelion liqueur Lion’s Tooth. Defiance High Rye and Lion’s Tooth were both released in 2014.

This is the fourth time in as many years that Pinckney Bend has earned recognition at the esteemed spirits competition. In 2014, Pinckney Bend took home a coveted double gold medal for its American Rested Whiskey. In 2013, its un-aged corn whiskey received a gold medal; in 2012, its gin also took home a gold.

The number of submissions for this year’s competition totaled nearly 1,600 entries and hailed from 41 states and 66 countries in 90 classifications. The entries were evaluated by a judging panel that consisted of journalists, distillers, beverage directors, mixologists, restaurateurs, Master Sommeliers, hoteliers, consultants and educators from the beverage community. Click here for a complete results of 2015 medal winners.

Editor’s Note: This post originally reported that Pinckney Bend won for its corn whiskey and that Lion’s Tooth is a collaboration between Water Street Cafe and Crown Valley. It has been updated with the correct information. 


The Scoop: Don Emiliano’s Mexican restaurant to open in O’Fallon, Missouri

Monday, April 6th, 2015



Mexican restaurant Don Emiliano’s is coming to O’Fallon, Missouri. Husband and wife team Victor and Gabriella Arellano are shooting for a July opening at 8600 Veterans Memorial Parkway in the former home of S and S Bar-B-Que.

Gabriella Arellano said they aim to bring an upscale Mexican dining experience to O’Fallon. Victor Arellano is a native of Jalisco, Mexico, and Gabriella Arellano is a native of O’Fallon. The couple recently returned to the Gateway City from Michigan.

The Arellanos plan for Don Emiliano’s to “be a little more upscale than traditional Mexican restaurants in the St. Charles area,” said Gabriella Arellano. She also hopes to expose diners to nontraditional Mexican fare, such as lesser appreciated meats like lengua (tongue) through special menu tastings and tapas. “We just want to offer a different version of Mexico,” she said.

While favorites like tacos, quesadillas and chips and salsa will make an appearance look for different presentations like fajitas served in a molcajete. The restaurant will also have a full-service bar.


By the Book: Shrimp, Mango, Scallions and Chile Salad from Salad Love

Saturday, April 4th, 2015



David Bez’s photo-driven salad blog, Salad Pride, and his newly published book Salad Love: 260 Crunchy, Savory and Filling Meals You Can Make Every Day, are the result of his yearlong project of creating a new salad for lunch every day. That’s a healthy endeavor of which we at Sauce heartily approve. In fact, last year, we embarked on a similar challenge, albeit only for 31 days.

Bez asserts in the introduction that the book is not a cookbook. “It won’t teach you how to cook,” he writes, instead describing Salad Love as “a collection of salad combinations.” The salads are grouped by season, which is helpful for those who cook in sync with Mother Nature. Also nice are the color photos of each recipe: there’s no guessing what your mélange is going to look like. Some readers may find the notations on each recipe that denote it as vegan, vegetarian, raw, pescatarian or omnivore (and adaptation suggestions) to be useful.

The day I worked with this book, it was a balmy 70 degrees outside, sunny and beautiful. I wanted something light and fresh that screamed springtime. Mangos are just coming into season, so Bez’s composition of mangoes and shrimp on a bed of greens fit my mood.

When composing a salad, Bez divides it into layers that include the base (often lettuce or hearty greens, but sometimes grains or pasta); raw vegetables and fruit; a protein; toppings like nuts, seeds, olives or dried fruit; fresh herbs; and a dressing. For this salad, mixed salad greens form the base layer. Mangoes offer a pop of tropical fruit flavor and color, shrimp lends protein and chew, and willowy cilantro adds citrus and pepper notes.




The shrimp is where Salad Love’s non-cookbook character became evident. The recipe calls for a handful of cooked shrimp. Plain cooked shrimp tastes blah. I wanted bright flavor and a hint of heat, so I broke By the Book rules and let the shrimp marinade for nearly an hour in a bowl with fresh lime juice and crushed, dried ancho chiles. Much better.

A well-stocked pantry will have most of the ingredients needed to whisk the majority of dressings in Salad Love, including the one for this salad: sunflower oil, soy sauce or Thai fish sauce, salt, pepper and red chile flakes. I tried the dressing with soy sauce and with fish sauce, and ended up using equal amounts of both. I liked the anchovy flavor of the fish sauce, but as a backdrop, not a fish-flavored bomb. My taste-testers thoroughly enjoyed their salad bowls; there wasn’t a green leaf, mango cube or shrimp remaining.

Salad Love didn’t teach me anything new about salads. However, the book is a hefty collection of nutritious, filling options that can serve as inspiration for someone stuck in a salad rut.




Shrimp, Mango, Scallions and Chile
1 serving

For the salad, assemble:
2.5 oz. mixed salad greens
1 small mango, cubed
Handful cooked shrimp
2 scallions, sliced
Handful fresh cilantro leaves

For the dressing, mix:
1 Tbsp. sunflower oil
1 tsp. light soy sauce (or Thai fish sauce)
Pinch salt and pepper
Pinch dried red pepper flakes

Raw alternative: Replace the shrimp with a handful of cashews; and soy sauce with lemon juice in the dressing.

Reprinted with permission from Clarkson Potter Publishers

What’s the most innovative salad you’ve ever created? Tell us about it for a chance to win a copy of Salad Love.



What I Do: Glenn Kopp of Missouri Botanical Garden

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015



Looking for ways to make your garden the envy of your neighbors? Glenn Kopp, horticulture information manager at the Missouri Botanical Garden’s William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening, is at your service. Kopp, a MoBOT employee of 30 years, tells how he and his team help everyone develop their green thumbs.

How do you decide what to plant in the demonstration gardens?
We’re selecting things of interest to home gardeners, so if there are new cultivars of roses that are more disease-resistant or a new color, we’ll try that. Also, we have an experimental garden. We’re always testing new things that might be appropriate to grow in our area.

What happens to produce grown at Kemper?
If we have overproduction, it goes to food banks. Some (produce) we give to staff and volunteers to get feedback. If the timing is right, we can use it at a cooking class.

What do you do to people who pilfer the produce?
Give a very stern look. There have been occasions where someone will come in with a shopping bag and start grabbing things. We have to say, “I’m sorry. There’s no picking allowed.” We are a display garden. If everyone took samples, it wouldn’t look very good. People would say, “What’s the matter with that plant?”

What are the biggest mistakes gardeners make in springtime?
People try to work the soil when it’s still wet. Some people plant warm season crops too early; you should wait until mid-May to plant tomatoes. Inadequate soil preparation; doing a soil test is worthwhile to find out the nutrients you need for the soil. Matching sun conditions with what you want to grow; most vegetables do not do well in shade. Watering: People water in the evening, which is not a good time. If you keep the plants wet overnight, there’s a greater chance they’ll get fungal diseases.

You’re a Master Gardener.
What is that? It’s a volunteer program that started in Washington State in 1973. People are trained and then do volunteer service. Here in St. Louis, our volunteers go to 16 weeks of classes once a week. Some come with gardening experience, though that’s not required. We match their skills to where they can work.

What does a Master Gardener wear for gardening?
An old T-shirt from the old Japanese festival or a Best of Missouri T-shirt. Those are good. Pants instead of shorts. Good shoes. A hat.

What oddball gardening questions have you fielded?
Recently, somebody wanted to grow edelweiss in their home. Edelweiss is an alpine plant known from The Sound of Music. It won’t grow in St. Louis. The volunteers at the answering service write down some of the unusual questions. Someone asked how would they use Miracle Whip on their strawberries. They meant Miracle-Gro.

Does talking to a plant help it grow?
Breathing minimally increases the carbon dioxide around the plant, some people say. There’s nothing conclusive.

Each spring, a whole team of gardening experts at MoBOT’s Horticulture Answer Service fields hundreds of questions from St. Louis-area gardeners – including a few oddball ones that catch even these seasoned professionals off-guard. Click here to see some of the strangest queries ever received.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Extra Sauce: 14 weird questions from St. Louis gardeners

Thursday, April 2nd, 2015

In our April issue, we picked Glenn Kopp‘s brain for tips and tricks to make our home gardens as fruitful as MoBOT’s William T. Kemper Center for Home Gardening, where he serves as horticulture information manager. But Kopp isn’t the only helpful Master Gardener on staff. Each spring, a whole team of gardening experts at MoBOT’s Horticulture Answer Service fields hundreds of questions from St. Louis-area gardeners – including a few oddball ones that catch even these seasoned professionals off-guard. Here, the MoBOT team shares 14 of the strangest queries ever received:

1. What is the name of the plant that has pink flowers on it?

2. I don’t remember where the sun comes up – is it the east or the west?

3.  Can I use birth control pills and put them on my plants to fertilize them?

4. Q: How do I kill a pine tree?
A: Why do you want to kill it?
Q: Because I want it taken away.
A: Why not have someone come in and cut it down and take it away?
Q: My brother-in-law will do that, but only after it has died.

5. Q: What is the round fuzzy thing growing on my red bud tree trunk? Maybe a bug? What to do?
A: Put on a pair of gloves and pull “things” off.
Q: Oh, I couldn’t do that! Couldn’t I just hit the things with a hammer?

6. My big black oak is dropping its acorns! Does that mean it is going to die?

7. Is it too late to bring my geraniums in? (Call date: Feb. 2)

8. Do you have reproduction facilities?

9. I put my poinsettia in the closet on Sept. 15. Can I take it out now? It doesn’t look good. Why doesn’t it bloom? (Call date: Dec. 8)

10. I have a hole in my yard. What do I do?

11. I have a plant that’s too tall. The bottom leaves fall off and it grows from the top. What is it? What do I do to make it shorter?

12. How do you keep birds out of trees?

13. Can you tell me when photosynthesis will occur this year?

14. I understand there’s a new spray for sweet gumball machines?

Do you have a pressing gardening question? Call MoBOT’s Horticultural Answer Service at 314.577.5143 to get one-on-one help from a Master Gardener.

The Scoop: Adam Altnether parts ways with Niche Food Group

Tuesday, March 31st, 2015


{Adam Altnether}


Adam Altnether has left the Niche family of restaurants. According to majority owner chef Gerard Craft, Altnether is no longer a shareholder in the restaurant group, which includes Niche, Taste, Brasserie, Pastaria and soon-to-open Porano. He sold his minority shares in the restaurants back to Craft at the end of March, positing Craft as the majority owner of the company.

“Adam has been a part of the team for over seven years, and we are proud of the work that we were able to accomplish together within that time,” Craft said. “We’re excited to see what’s next for him.”

Altnether’s departure brings to an end nearly decade-long tenure with Craft. Altnether began working at Niche in 2007. This member of the Sauce Ones to Watch class of 2009 quickly rose through the ranks at Niche and became Craft’s business partner in late 2010.

Altnether said after nearly eight years working with Craft, the two saw the elements of the restaurant group going in different directions. “I’m super lucky to have done what I did with Gerard, and I’m very grateful for everything we were able to accomplish … but sometimes it’s time to break out and start something new,” he said.

Though he’s not yet certain what that something is, Altnether said he plans to stay active in the St. Louis food scene and that his time in Craft’s kitchens and as his business partner has prepared him for almost anything. “We’ve almost seen it all,” he said. “You get to see a lot of interesting things, and it makes a lot of fun and unforgettable memories.”

Craft said Pastaria executive chef Michael Petres will take on the role of corporate executive chef, focusing on kitchen operations at Pastaria and Porano, his fast-casual pasta concept slated to open downtown this summer. Pastaria chef de cuisine Ashley Shelton will transition into the exec chef role at that restaurant.



{Gerard Craft}

The top toques at Craft’s other restaurants remain the same: Nate Hereford helming Niche, Nick Blue heading the brigade at Brasserie and Heather Stone commanding at Taste. Stone assumed that position in January upon the departure of Matt Daughaday, whose first venture into chef-ownership will begin in a matter of months when his Reeds American Kitchen opens.

The news of Altnether’s leaving comes with the announcement that Niche is seeing changes at the front of the house. Christopher Kelling was hired as general manager. Kelling, former GM at Niche, will begin walking the floor at the Clayton fine dining restaurant, while current GM Matt McGuire has been named director of service for Niche Food Group. Kelling left Niche for his most recent position as dining room manager at The Restaurant at Meadowood in Napa Valley, California.


Editor’s note: This post was updated March 31 at 11:30 a.m. to include comments from Adam Altnether. Also, the original post stated that Gerard Craft is the sole owner of Niche Food Group.

Catherine Klene contributed to this report.

The Scoop: Gerard Craft named JBFA finalist for Best Chef: Midwest

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015



Finalists for the 2015 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today, March 24, and one St. Louis-area chef remains in the running. Gerard Craft, chef-owner of the Niche family of restaurants, made the short list in the Best Chef: Midwest category. Craft was also among last year’s finalists in that category. “I think it’s a great testament to our team, that 10 years in, we are still part of the conversation,” Craft said. “To be included with that group of people is such an honor.”

St. Louis chefs who did not get past the semifinal round in the Best Chef: Midwest category are Kevin Willmann, chef-owner of Farmhaus; Ben Poremba, chef-owner of Elaia, Olio and Old Standard Fried Chicken; and Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe and Peacemaker. Ed Heath, chef and co-owner of Cleveland-Heath, was also in contention for the title of Best Chef: Great Lakes. Heath was a first-time JBFA semifinalist.

Among national awards, Annie Gunn’s was one of 20 restaurants named semifinalists in the Outstanding Wine Program category. The estimable fine-dining institution did not advance to the final round.

Winners of the chef and restaurant awards will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago May 4. A full list of nominees is available here.


Editor’s Note: This post was updated March 24 at 10:15 a.m. to include a quote from Gerard Craft.

The Scoop: Elijah P.’s Burgers & Brews to open in downtown Alton

Monday, March 9th, 2015



The name Elijah P. Lovejoy is familiar to history buffs and journalism students, and it will soon be well-known to customers at the Elijah P.’s Burgers & Brews in Alton, Illinois. The new pub slated to open at 401 Piasa St., is a project by Russ Smith, who named it for the Alton newspaper editor and abolitionist murdered by a pro-slavery mob in 1837.

Smith, who also owns Bossanova Restaurant & Lounge, said burgers will feature prominently on the menu. Elijah P.’s will source its proprietary blend from nearby Hansen Packaging Co. in Jerseyville and buns will be made in-house. The menu will also include salads and soups, and Ross hopes to make use of local ingredients. Jarvis Putnam, executive chef at Bossanova, is developing the menu at Smith’s newest restaurant.

Beer lovers will find 60 choices on tap and another 40 in bottles, with cicerones on staff to help decide. Expect local brews from both sides of the river, including Alton nanobrewery Templar and Excel Brewing in Breese. Smith also hopes to have draft beer by Scratch Brewing.

Located in a former furniture store, the space has been rehabbed to offer seating for 200 and a warm ambiance with an historic feel. Seating capacity will double when a patio with a pavilion opens in warm weather. Smith said Elijah P.’s Burgers & Brews will open as early mid-March with a grand opening slated for mid-April.


By the Book: Kimberly Hasselbrink’s Roasted Cauliflower with Olives, Currants and Tahini Dressing

Saturday, March 7th, 2015




Reading Kimberly Hasselbrink’s Vibrant Food reminded me of Nigel Slater’s Tender with a touch of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s voice from his River Cottage cookbook series. It’s because of the colorful photos (she’s a photographer) and personal narratives (she’s the creator of the blog The Year in Food) that celebrate ingredients in their ripest moment. I love fresh food at its peak. I love a veritable rainbow of food on my plate. And I love good stories. I devoured Hesselbrink’s cookbook.

Vibrant Food is a gentle tribute to mother nature for whatever bounty she bestows on us throughout the year. If you’re the type to cook up whatever you’ve found at the farmers market, you’ll soak up Hasselbrink’s writing. Food is described as tender, delicate, soft and dramatic. As a cookbook, this one is filled with unfussy vegetarian recipes (with the exception of a handful of fish and seafood dishes). The parade of fruits and vegetables is ordered by seasons. The spring section is alive with recipes for greens, alliums and flowers; summer sees dishes appropriate for berries, stone fruits, tomatoes and peppers; autumn brings ways with grapes, figs and tree nuts; and winter cooking is defined by roots, brassicas and citrus.

Were I to cook from this book come May, I’d try Hasselbrink’s grilled halloumi with strawberries and herbs. In fall, I’d give her chile-roasted delicate squash with queso fresco a go. Alas, it’s winter, and nothing’s growing unless it’s in a hot house. The landscape is barren and brown, infrequently changing to a brilliant, snowy white. I’ll take white on a winter’s day, so I chose to make roasted cauliflower with olives, currants and tahini dressing. Nothing like some caramelized, crunchy brassica, briny olives, sweet currants and tangy tahini to brighten up a dull gray day.

If you’re in a hurry, this is the dish for you since it comes together in 30 minutes. Just season the cauliflower with olive oil and salt and pop it in the oven.




While the vegetable is roasting, whisk together the tarator sauce. Typical uses of this tahini-based sauce are with falafel (try it with the creative falafel loaf I made just a few weeks ago), with beef or lamb on pita or as a salad dressing. As Hasselbrink’s recipe proves, tarator is a fine partner for all sorts of vegetables.




Then, just toss the warm cauliflower in the sauce and add currants, olives and parsley. Normally for By the Book, I follow recipe directions to the letter. I admit to deviating with the olives. Hasselbrink called for kalamata. I wanted vibrant color (and flavor and texture) so I included a mélange of olives. Stop at the olive bar at your area grocery or at Extra Virgin, An Olive Ovation in Ladue. And if you have leftovers after serving this dish, stop by the Sauce HQ and leave them for me. As with this cookbook, I’ll gladly have another helping.




Kimberly Hasselbrink’s Roasted Cauliflower with Olives, Currants and Tahini Dressing
4 servings

1 large cauliflower (about 3 pounds), trimmed and cut into florets
3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Fine sea salt
¼ cup tahini
2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1½ tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1 small clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
2 Tbsp. water, plus more as needed
¼ cup currants
¼ cup coarsely chopped kalamata olives
¼ cup coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

• Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
• Toss the cauliflower florets with the olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt to taste. Arrange the cauliflower florets in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet. Roast for about 20 minutes, turning once, until the edges are brown and caramelized.
• While the cauliflower roasts, make the dressing. Whisk together the tahini, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and salt until smooth and creamy. Add the water and whisk until combined. The sauce will be thick. Add more water to thin it slightly if you like. It will continue to thicken as it sits.
• Toss the warm cauliflower with most of the dressing. Add the currants, olives and parsley and toss to combine. Taste and add more dressing or salt, if desired. Serve warm or at room temperature.

What’s the most creative way you prepare your winter produce? Tell us in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of Vibrant Food.

The Scoop: First Stop Bake Shop serves up pastries in Rosewood Heights

Thursday, March 5th, 2015


{Raspberry-swirl cheesecake}

Illinois residents in the Riverbend area have a new place to pick up pastries. First Stop Bake Shop opened in late January at 611 East Airline Drive in Rosewood Heights, a small community just east of Alton, Illinois. A venture by pastry chef Michael Jenniches and his wife Mary Jenniches, First Stop specializes in French pastries and breakfast baked goods.

Morning bites at First Stop include bagels, croissants, scones, muffins and danish. All of the baked goods are made from scratch, with flavors and fillings that change daily. “There is no menu,” said Michael Jenniches. “I come in every morning and make what I feel like.” Prior to venturing on his own, Jenniches, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, worked as a pastry chef at the Ritz Carltons in St. Louis and San Francisco, Four Seasons Hotel-Newport Beach and, most recently, at Meadowbrook Country Club in Ballwin.



{Frangipane stack}


Desserts range from mini treats like red velvet or almond-chocolate-raspberry cake pops to by-the-slice frangipane stacks, gooey butter cake and fudge brownies to whole cheesecakes, tarts and fruit rolls. Jenniches also bakes fresh dinner rolls and loaf breads.

Jenniches said he has fielded numerous requests from locals with fond memories of another area bakery – the defunct Mrs. Siebold’s Bake Shop. He has appeased their cravings for long-lost Mrs. Siebold’s treats like a strawberry roll, cream puffs and sugar cookies decorated with a smiley face.

While many customers grab their goodies and go, the tiny 750-square-foot bakery offers seating for those who want to eat in. Coffee and tea are also available. First Stop Bake Shop is open Tuesday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.


Editor’s Note: This post originally misspelled Michael Jenniches’ name. It has been updated with the correct information.


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