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Mar 30, 2015
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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The Scoop: Gerard Craft named JBFA finalist for Best Chef: Midwest

Tuesday, March 24th, 2015

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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

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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.

Ross, 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

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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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

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{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.

 

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{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.

 

First Look: Chi Sushi in the Central West End

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

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Things have been quiet for the last eight months at Chi Sushi & Sake in the Central West End. During that time, owner Jay Yoon sold the sushi lounge at 4 N. Euclid Ave., to his brother, Jae Hoon Yoon. Now, the restaurant has re-opened with an abbreviated name, Chi Sushi, and an expanded menu.

While Chi Sushi & Sake leaned toward the lounge scene, Chi Sushi posits itself as a full restaurant. Chef Whitney Yoon, wife of Jae Hoon Yoon, worked at Nippon Tei in Ballwin for 15 years before bringing her skills to the Central West End eatery.

The menu, previously a slate of sashimi, nigiri, maki and specialty rolls, now includes hot and cold appetizers and entrees. You’ll find a number of starters and small plates like tako yaki (crispy octopus balls) and kaki furai (fried oysters). Larger plates such as chicken teriyaki, grilled salmon and tofu-vegetable tempura are served in a bento box with miso soup, a house salad and rice.

The sushi bar has expanded its offerings as well. Look for more exotic fish and seafood, from giant clams to uni. More rolls have been added, including a number that feature crispy tempura thanks to the addition of a fryer in the kitchen.

Here’s a first look at the new Chi Sushi:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

What I Do: Marc Gottfried of William K. Busch Brewing Co.

Monday, March 2nd, 2015

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Marc Gottfried was 14 when he started brewing beer at home. Five years later, he joined Morgan Street Brewery, where he worked for 16 years and rose to become brewmaster before he departed in 2011 for William K. Busch Brewing Co., maker of Kräftig lager and Kräftig light. Here, its vice president of brewing and chief brewmaster – and the most decorated brewer in St. Louis history – gives a behind-the-scenes look at his craft.

Why did you leave Morgan Street?
I knew if I didn’t take the risk I would think about it for the rest of my life. While (Kräftig) had a high probability of failure, there was a chance of extreme success. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever had to make. In retrospect, it was the right decision. I’m more of a complete brewer.

In what way?
When I left Morgan Street, I thought I was resigning myself to a boring lifetime of brewing the same damn beer over and over. The chasing (of) consistency and quality that I have to do with this company is equally as challenging and fun as the ability to brew whatever the heck I wanted at Morgan Street.

How did you develop the Kräftig recipes?
We were trying to develop one beer, (and) we were just going at it two different ways. One of the guys we work with says, “Guys, stop trying to decide. We’ve got two beers: a light and a regular.” We kind of shot ourselves in the foot. The most efficient way to do it would have been to develop a regular and add water and that’s your light. We didn’t develop it like that. Those recipes are completely different, so I have to brew Kräftig light and lager as totally separate beers.

Kräftig beers are brewed in La Crosse, Wisconsin at City Brewing Co. How often do you travel there?
I drive to Wisconsin every other week. The day when I can go to work in St. Louis and brew beer, I’ll be a happy guy.

What does the term “craft beer” mean to you?
Craft, by definition, is a volume-related thing. It’s annual capacity. But craft is more than that. It’s a movement, a rebirth of beer styles gone by the wayside and a birth of thousands of beer styles that never existed before. The craft brewing movement was small breweries brewing beer styles that were less common because they were from other countries. And then those people started experimenting. What if we put it in a barrel? What if we put whiskey in it? What if we put raspberries in it? That was the beginning.

Apart from your own beer, what do you drink at home?
What I had the other day that was awesome was a Samuel Adams Escape Route. It was a Kölsch. Also, I love Bitburger. It’s a Bohemian Pilsner. I drink a lot of Schlafly, too.

Which brewers inspire you?
I probably would never have become a professional brewer if it were not for Phil Colombatto. He was brewmaster at Anheuser-Busch. (I was) 15 or 16. We go to Anheuser-Busch, meet with him. He spends hours with me. At the end, he gives me a book, The Practical Brewer. It’s looked upon as the bible of the professional brewer. He signs it: “To Marc, I hope your experiences in brewing will be as fulfilling for you as they have been for me.” It inspired me.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

The Scoop: Retreat Gastropub to open this summer in the CWE

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

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{Retreat Gastropub owner Travis Howard}

 

Retreat Gastropub is coming to 2 N. Sarah St., in the spot previously occupied by 6 North Café. Owner Travis Howard, who signed the lease to the Central West End spot last week, hopes to open the American gastropub in June.

The restaurant will serve lunch and dinner. Its midday menu will focus on flatbreads, sandwiches, salads and soups – quick-service items to facilitate area professionals. Howard envisions a dinner menu of burgers, plus small plates like poutine, chicken wings, crabcakes and other seafood dishes. Although a chef has yet to be tapped for the kitchen, Howard foresees the food prepared from scratch with as much local produce as possible.

The bar at Retreat will pour local and national craft beers. Expect a minimal selection on tap but an expansive number of bottled and canned brews. Retreat’s cocktails will feature house-made infusions, tinctures and syrups, said Howard, who spent the last three years at Baileys’ Range, initially as a bartender and most recently as general manager. This is his last week at the downtown restaurant.

Retreat takes its inspiration from the outdoors. That feel will be reflected in an interior design that Howard called “retro-modern,” outfitted with outdoors-y tables and benches that he is building with his father, a hobby woodworker. Besides 60 seats in the dining area, Retreat also will offer outdoor dining on its covered patio and sidewalk.

“This restaurant has been a project of mine for several years, and my personal experience of nearly 15 years in the industry has me prepared for this opportunity,” Howard said. “I have been able to hone my craft, build my knowledge, and gain invaluable experience while managing Baileys’ Range … I will take that experience with me and build upon it.”

 

 

The Scoop: The U Bar to open in old Sir’s BBQ space in U. City

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

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The space at 6714 Olive Blvd., in University City will see new life next month as The U Bar, opening March 6. The U Bar is a venture by husband and wife team Jason and April Spain. Though the Spains have experience in the nightlife biz (He was the owner of now defunct J. Spain’s Waffles & Wings at 1901 Washington Ave.) , they aren’t going for a late-night club scene this time. Instead, The U Bar will lean toward neighborhood bar and grill.

The Spains hope to attract lunch-goers from offices on Olive Street and to keep the traffic flowing with a happy hour and as an evening hangout. “We want to create a neighborhood vibe that is comfortable, approachable, safe,” said Jason Spain, a University City resident.

The abbreviated menu includes just six or seven items. Spain ticked off hand-battered wings, a burger, fries, hand-battered shrimp, a chicken sandwich and a salad, plus periodic specials. “Everything hand-made. We’re not freezing anything,” Spain said. “We’re a bar with a great kitchen.”

The full-service bar will not be “fancy-dancy,” said Spain, but that doesn’t mean cocktails won’t be made with care. Expect fresh juice in that mixed drink “to get the flavor and taste of what great cocktails are,” he said. The U Bar will have six beers on tap and a small selection of wine.

The Spains made minimal changes to the 50-seat interior since its days as Sir’s BBQ, which closed in late 2012. Spain said the tweaks they have made emphasize the history and architecture of the building, whose art deco glass block windows are a prominent feature at the entrance.

The U Bar initially will be open Monday through Saturday from 2 p.m. to 1 a.m. After a few weeks, it will open for lunch at 11 a.m.

 

 

Sneak Peek: Público

Thursday, February 26th, 2015

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Nearly one year ago, restaurateur Mike Randolph announced his plans to open South American gastropub Público at 6679 Delmar Blvd., just doors from his Neopolitan pizzeria The Good Pie in The Loop. The wait for the wood-fired cantina is nearly over; Público opens doors for dinner March 3.

The menu is divided into crudo (raw), botanas (snacks), tacos, arepas (corn pancakes), parrilla (grill items) and desserts. In the raw section, look for appetizers like oysters and tiradito, a Peruvian dish of raw fish similar to sashimi served with a spicy aji pepper sauce. Botanas range from El Tri, a trio of house-made dips and salsas served with corn flatbread, to jalapeno soup with smoked trout. Diners can expect tacos with fillings such as seared shrimp, smoked chorizo, carnitas and carne asada on stone-ground corn tortillas made in-house. A custom-built open-wood hearth that also has smoking capabilities will turn out everything from Argentinian-style steak to whole grilled snapper. Although menu items cap at $15, expect an elevated presentation reminiscent of Randolph’s former restaurants-within-a-restaurant, Little Country Gentleman and Medianoche.

On the beverage side, bar manager Nick Diogiovanni will put rum, tequila and mezcal center stage. A frozen drink machine will also churn out a rotation of boosy slushes like Fernet and Coke. The wine list will focus on South American and Spanish wines, along with cellar wines (that include an extensive riesling selection from Little Country Gentleman days).

SPACE Architects + Design renovated the former hair salon, which now offers seating for 60 guests at a bar, a wall of booths, a 10-seat community table and a few stools along the counter next to the open kitchen.

Here’s what to expect when Público unlocks doors March 3:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

Sneak Peek: Taco Circus

Wednesday, February 25th, 2015

Quick-service Mexican restaurant Taco Circus is opening doors at 4258 Schiller Place in Bevo Mill Friday, Feb. 27. As Sauce reported in November, the restaurant is a venture by longtime friends and taco lovers, Mikey Carrasco and Christian Ethridge.

Although the entire menu is available all day (Taco Circus will be open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m.), the morning crowd might prefer to fill up on breakfast tacos filled with farm eggs, potatoes or house-made chorizo, saving the ground beef, chicken, pork steak and other fillings for lunch and dinner. Diners choose between soft flour, soft corn or a fried corn tortilla and toppings of either cilantro and onion or lettuce and tomato. Other additions, such as cheese and sour cream, are extra. Sides like beans, rice, chips and salsa are offered a la carte.

While tacos are the main event, other offerings include a Frito pie, a taco salad and funnel cake dusted with cinnamon sugar and drizzled with lemon-butter icing. No item is priced higher than $2.25, even though the meat is sourced from respected Missouri farms such as Rain Crow Ranch and Root + Holler. “We want (customers) to compare us to Taco Bell as far as price goes,” said Carrasco.

Service will also be as fast-casual as Taco Bell. Considering that the brightly painted 700-square-foot space only has 14 seats, Carrasco and Ethridge expect to do more carryout that dine-in business.

Here’s what to expect when Taco Circus unlocks its front door on Feb. 27:

 

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-photos by Michelle Volansky

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