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Apr 16, 2014
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The Scoop: Russo’s Catering rolls out food truck

Monday, April 14th, 2014


Russo’s Catering has joined the fleet of local food trucks. Its mobile eatery, Russo’s Trucktoria, hit the pavement in late March.

The Italian-centric menu for the truck includes offerings such as a chop salad, linguine Bolognese, grilled lemon-herb chicken spiedini, jumbo ravioli and sandwiches like Italian beef and a chicken BLT.

The truck rolls onto the street three to four times a week, according to Trucktoria manager Jeff Robinson. Besides offering lunch to curbside diners, Russo’s Trucktoria will make an appearance at community events, including Food Truck Friday. Follow the truck on Twitter @russoscatering.

The Scoop: Eric Kelly leaves Scape to move to Seattle

Monday, April 14th, 2014


Scape American Bistro’s Eric Kelly has left the Central West End restaurant. After six years as chef and partner at Scape, Kelly is moving to Seattle to work for multi-concept dining operation Restaurants Unlimited. His last day in the Scape kitchens was April 10.

“I’m stepping away from the kitchen and going into operations,” said Kelly, who will join the company’s corporate office. Restaurants Unlimited manages nearly 50 restaurants, primarily located in California, Oregon and Washington. Kelly said the opportunity appeared just two weeks ago when the president of Restaurants Unlimited approached him. The two had previously worked together as employees of Levy Restaurants.

Scape began as a venture between Kelly, Ted Kolpar and his son, Sam Koplar, both of Kolpar Properties. The Koplars purchased Kelly’s share in the business. “It was a very, very difficult decision,” he said. “My experience at Scape, the relationships I built with hundreds and hundreds of great people from St. Louis – it is a difficult separation.” Kelly departs for Seattle May 1.

Taking the helm in Scape’s kitchen is Joe Everett, who transitioned from his role as Scape’s executive sous chef. “Joe is an amazingly talented chef,” Kelly said. “Culinarily, he’s more talented than I am. He’s going to take Scape to another level.”

Everett’s experience includes 10 years working for Levy Restaurants at venues in Florida like Wolfgang Puck Grand Cafe and Disney’s Grand Floridian Resort and Spa before joining the team at Scape last year.

“He was ready for the task,” Ted Koplar said of his new executive chef. “We couldn’t be happier with the way the restaurant is right now. We have exciting plans for summer. We’re opening the courtyard soon. The team that is in place that people are used to is still there and doing a great job.”

-photo by Wesley Law



What I Do: Kore Wilbert

Friday, April 11th, 2014



Kore Wilbert, 29, is a former member of hip-hop group The Royal Illete, has twice competed on the winning team at Taste of St. Louis’ Chef Battle Royale, and from time to time he works the line at Mad Tomato and MX Movies. But as sous chef at DePaul Heath Center, the L’École Culinaire graduate is a rising rock star in institutional dining, proving that cooking outside the confines of a restaurant has its perks, especially when you want to be a family man.

What’s it like to cook at a hospital?
It was a whole different world coming from a small restaurant where you feed 250 people a night to thousands of people on a daily basis.

What’s your job?
I’ve got 30 guys under me. I work with the catering staff, and we do production for the cafeteria, as well as patient room service. And we feed the other facility, St. Vincent’s. That’s behavioral health, and we feed the adults, the children, the adolescents. They give me the control to put it all together.

Is the kitchen decked out?
We have everything: flattops, ranges, 60-gallon tilt skillets. We have these really cool machines called Rationals. They are ovens and smokers and steamers. I’d never worked with one before I came here. We have four walk-ins (It took me three weeks to know where everything was.). We have a CVap, an immersion circulator – everything you can think of. And if we don’t have it we can get it, which is something that a small restaurant won’t be able to do.

Why have cutting-edge kitchen equipment at a hospital?
Usually when people are staying here, it’s because they are ill or coming to see a loved one. We want to make sure that the food is something they don’t have to worry about. That it’s something that’s really good, that’s comforting, that can maybe change their mood even just a little bit to make their stay more comfortable.

What are best-sellers at the cafeteria?
We’re never going to get rid of our chicken wings. Rice noodles and beef: All the nursing staff, if it’s that day, they are going to be there. Once a year we do soul food, which is very popular. People will bring their lunch all year, but on that day, they head right down to the cafeteria. It just let’s you know that the hospital does have a sense of community.

I’ve always perceived of hospital food as bland, gray mush.
People definitely think about it like that. But here, we’ve changed a lot of people’s minds. We don’t cut corners; we do everything from scratch. [At the cafeteria,] you’ve got a lot of options. Our “innovation station” showcases different foods from around the world: Japanese, Italian, Indian … it changes every day.

Do you miss working at a restaurant?
I do. Being on the line, putting out really good dishes, turning over an entire dining room – it’s a rush. Cooking on the line here is completely different. If I was working at a restaurant, I’d be working long nights, long hours and my family would be neglected. [There is] little to no personal life. This job gives me the time to do what I want to do. I can spend time with my kids, put them to bed every night. It’s the perfect job for a chef.

Is the mindset that a restaurant is the only place to find a job as a chef?
It is. But that’s not the only option. You can still be a chef. There are plenty of places you can go. If it’s food-related, you can get into it.

Can you still be a chef and in a hip-hop group?
I dance with my kids, but I don’t perform anymore.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

In This Issue: Trendwatch – Part 2

Thursday, April 10th, 2014


Last Course: Earl Grey
Tea is no longer just for drinking. It’s accenting sweet treats across town, and Earl Grey – that black tea with a touch of citrus – is the blend of choice. You can find this timeless classic in baked goods and pastries at 4 Seasons Bakery (Earl Grey macarons), La Patisserie Chouquette (Earl Grey macaron with Cream Earl Grey caramel ganache and Earl Grey tea biscuits), at Comet Coffee (Earl Grey cookies), the recently relocated London Tea Room (lavender Earl Grey bread) and Winslow’s Home (a rotating special of chocolate cake-bread pudding with Earl Grey anglaise). In the mood for a tea-spiked frozen sundry? Go for Earl Grey-blended gelato at Gelateria Tavolini or Gelateria del Leone – both call it London Fog.

It’s a Southern thang
Pimento cheese, that pâté of the South, rises again. A pimento BLT has been on the menu at SugarFire Smoke House since it opened (And with location No. 2 soon to open in St. Charles, it will double the pleasure.). Pimento cheese also appears at Juniper, where y’all can find it in a pimento grilled cheese sandwich. The spreadable orange stuff is everywhere at Quincy Street Bistro: in smothered potato chips, pimento cheese skins and, of course, its (artery) killer The Hog Burger. Last November, QSB collaborated with Strange Donuts on a hog burger stuffed inside a doughnut and topped with pimento cheese; it still ranks among the most popular of the doughnut shop’s savory late-night Strangers.

No boloney
David Chang thinks bologna is going to be bigger than pork belly. At least in these parts, the old-school sandwich with its underappreciated meat is back and maybe even worth being dubbed “artisanal.” The Southsider at Quincy Street Bistro is no ordinary fried bologna sandwich with house-made, smoked, thick-cut bologna plus cheddar mornay and a farm egg on a Companion brioche. At Annie Gunn’s, diners dug into a hearty lunch of fried bologna with Comté on brioche served with heirloom tomato soup. It’s left the menu, but fear not; it’ll be back come June when tomatoes begin to ripen. And when Michon’s Smokehouse opens downtown on Washington Avenue in May, you can get a smoked bologna sandwich there, too.



The List: The Petite Bar at Bar Les Frères

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014

Welcome to The List, our annual homage to the people, places, dishes and drinks we love in St. Louis. Don’t miss a single pick; click here to read the whole List and share your thoughts on Twitter with #thesaucelist.



As if we needed another reason to frequent Bar Les Frères, restaurateur Zoë Robinson handed us one on a silver platter this winter when she turned the storefront adjacent to her petite bar into a space reminiscent of a French hotel lobby. Regal texture is everywhere: a polished wooden dining table surrounded by gilded antique chairs with original needlepoint, a plush velvet settee, and a tall, graceful pier mirror leaning against the wall. Add to that accoutrements like silver candelabras holding court on a sideboard and chartreuse walls adorned with game trophies and paintings. Bar Les Frères brings new meaning to the term “well-appointed” and makes us pine for eras of old.

7637 Wydown Blvd., Clayton, 314.725.8880, barlesfreres.com

-photo by Laura Miller

The Scoop: Pinckney Bend earns double gold medal at San Francisco World Spirits Competition

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014



Missouri distillery Pinckney Bend has earned a coveted double gold medal at this year’s San Francisco World Spirits Competition. The New Haven-based company was awarded the medal for its American Rested Whiskey. Pinckney Bend is the only Missouri distillery to earn an award at the competition, which took place in late March. Results of the 2014 medal winners were announced today.

“We were kind of blown away,” said Ralph Haynes (pictured), Pinckney Bend Vice President of Marketing and Sales. “As important as getting the double gold is, if you took a look at who we beat, it was some of the biggest names in the business.” Pinckney Bend American Rested Whiskey is aged for one year in 15-gallon No. 3 charred Missouri white oak barrels.

This is the third time in as many years that Pinckney Bend has earned recognition at the reputed spirits competition, now in its fourteenth year. 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 1,474 and hailed from 41 states and 64 countries in 89 different classifications. The entries were evaluated by a panel of 39 judges of journalists, distillers, beverage directors, mixologists, restaurateurs, Master Sommeliers, hoteliers, consultants and educators from the beverage community. Complete results of 2014 medal winners are posted here.

The Scoop: Nico in The Loop to become Salt + Smoke BBQ

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014



The word of the day is certainly barbecue! In addition to Wild Flower’s plans for Majestic in the Central West End and Dave Bailey’s announcement about a new restaurant downtown, Tom Schmidt also announced that he is changing the concept and name of his restaurant Nico (pictured), located at 6525 Delmar Blvd., in The Loop. Instead of Mediterranean-inspired cuisine, patrons will be able to fill up on, you guessed it, slow-smoked barbecue. The new concept will be called Salt + Smoke BBQ and, while Schmidt has targeted an early summer opening, he stated that the restaurant may open as early as the last week in May.

“This is a great time for this concept to come to The Loop,” said Schmidt regarding the switch from Mediterranean fare to barbecue. “We’ve been smoking and curing meat in-house for years,” he said about the culinary program at his other restaurant, Franco. “Chef is excited to expand that passion into the barbecue world,” he elaborated, adding that while the menu will be barbecue-focused, “sides won’t be an afterthought.”

John Dreja will take on the role of pitmaster for Salt + Smoke. Helming the kitchen will be Haley Riley, who assumed the executive chef position at Nico last week, replacing chef Grace Dinsmoor. Dinsmoor’s last day at Nico was March 31. While she has accepted a position with a different employer, when The Scoop spoke with her, she was not at liberty to disclose such information.

Nico remains open but will close for a brief period in late May or early June so that the interior can be remodeled and the kitchen outfitted to accommodate the new menu.

– photo by Jonathan Gayman

The Scoop: Dave Bailey to open barbecue restaurant and rooftop bar downtown

Wednesday, April 9th, 2014



Restaurateur Dave Bailey has announced plans to open a barbecue restaurant and rooftop bar downtown. Both venues will be located at 1011 Olive St., in the building that Bailey purchased last fall. The restaurant is slated to open in January 2015; the rooftop bar will debut in the spring of 2015.

The restaurant, whose name has yet to be disclosed, will focus on barbecue. “It’s something I wanted to do for quite a while,” said Bailey. He hopes to distinguish his concept from other barbecue joints in town by offering full service instead of counter service and plated entrees that feature locally-sourced, whole hog barbecue. The kitchen will be helmed by Peter Clark and Stephen Trouvere, executive chefs for Bailey’s growing family of restaurants, which include Baileys’ Range, Baileys’ Chocolate Bar, Bridge, Rooster and Small Batch. “Range has been doing awesome downtown. The synergy working between Range, Rooster and Bridge will only be improved,” said Bailey of his newest project.

A 200-seat dining room and bar will be located on the street level of the building. After the century-old building undergoes extensive rehab, the basement level will house an open kitchen as well as spillover seating. The second floor will hold a banquet room for private events.

Distinct in concept and name from the restaurant will be a 45-seat rooftop bar. The bar will have its own entrance. Bailey has not announced the name for the bar. For more information, check out Bailey’s company website.

— photo by Jonathan S. Pollack

In This Issue: Trendwatch – Part 1

Tuesday, April 8th, 2014


1. Fernet, round two: As we enjoy a pint of Odell Brewing Co.’s new Fernet-Aged Porter, we’re scrolling through Twitter to find fernet aflutter. The herbacious liqueur, popular among the restaurant-industry crowd, is trending in everything from Fernet-spiked hot chocolate to a minty sipper (and Italian-American marriage) of equal parts Fernet-Branca and Colorado-made Leopold Fernet to fernet vinaigrette. We simply must #fernetaboutit.

2. Cheesy Bar Snacks: Gougeres, aka French cheese puffs, have been on Brasserie’s menu since day one. Now you can find these airy, cheesy poppers at wine bar and photo gallery The Dark Room, newly opened in Grand Center. For a meat-flavored, Southern spin, munch on spicy cheddar cracklins at Juniper.



3. New waves of grain: Quinoa is so 2013. This is farro’s year. At Elaia, the ancient grain lived in modern comfort for a time with sausage, charred eggplant and kefir. It’s still making waves at Taste, where it offers nutty flavor and satisfying chew in risotto. They went far(ro) out with ragout at Sidney Street Café, and Planter’s House served it up in a hearty vegetarian farro pilaf during this long winter.

4. Cauliflower gets the leading role: Move over kale. Cauliflower is the veggie of the hour, so much so that those white florets are pushing proteins aside to star in main plates. In NYC, it was in a veg version of chicken and waffles at Dirt Candy, and it’s taco filling at Salvation Taco. In STL, it was the principal character in the cauliflower “lasagna” at Niche. Although that show is now over, you can still catch it at The Precinct in a grilled cheese ‘wich, at Athlete Eats as the rice base in a protein-packed bibimbap bowl and at Central Table Food Hall, where a thick-cut cauliflower steak rests on a bed of warm hummus, sauteed chickpeas and kale. And you thought cauliflower was just for ranch dressing.

Check back tomorrow for Trendwatch – Part 2 for more trends on STL plates, in glasses and atop our wish list right now.





By the Book: Dixie Grimes’ Roasted Pear and Zucchini Soup

Tuesday, April 1st, 2014



“Little House on the Prairie” was one of my favorite TV shows as a kid. Even though I always rooted for little Laura Ingalls to best her nemesis, richy-poo Nellie Olsen, I had a soft spot for Nellie’s dad. Poor Mr. Olsen! Despite marrying a pushy wife who spoiled their daughter rotten, he was just a nice guy trying to run a general mercantile in a tiny town. God, how I love general mercantiles in tiny towns! That’s why I snatched The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook as soon as it arrived at the Sauce HQ.

Released just two weeks ago, The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook tells the feel-good story of how a small Mississippi grocery store/cafe has played a part in the revival of a small community since opening in 2010. B.T.C. owner and now author Alexe Van Beuren shares the ups and downs of operating her store and eatery, including the lucky hiring of B.T.C. chef Dixie Grimes, whose 120 down-home recipes and the story behind each span the pages of this fun cookbook.

I chose to prepare Roasted Pear and Zucchini Soup. According to Van Beuren, it is B.T.C.’s most celebrated soup “mostly because it’s the most esoteric and was featured in the New York Times. It’s also really, really good.”




Most of the active time for this easy recipe will be spent peeling and slicing pears. The recipe calls for Bosc pears, but Van Beuren never explains why. If you don’t have Bosc, Anjou should be fine.




Once the pears have roasted in the oven, they go in the stockpot with an onion, shallots, garlic and lots and lots of zucchini.




While the ingredient list for this soup is long, don’t let that stop you. A good half of the ingredients are kitchen staples, mainly spices. If you keep a well-stocked kitchen, all you’ll really need to purchase is the produce: pears, zucchini and spinach.

After the ingredients marry after an hour in the stockpot, the soup is puréed, then cream is added. The recipe calls for a stick of butter at the finish, but honestly, it didn’t need a thing at that point – except a few slices of chunky, hearty bread on the side. The dish is tasty, and I especially enjoyed the licorice undertones imparted by Pernod (a brand of absinthe) and ground anise. It was the perfect choice for a soup in early spring.




Dixie Grimes’ Roasted Pear and Zucchini Soup
6 to 8 servings

8 ripe yet firm Bosc pears, peeled, cored and cut in 1-inch slices
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium Vidalia onion, chopped
2 shallots, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
6 to 7 medium zucchini, diced (8 cups)
2 Tbsp. Pernod
8 cups chicken stock, homemade or store-bought, or vegetable stock
2 cups apple juice
1 Tbsp. honey
2 cups fresh spinach
¼ cup pear or apple butter
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. ground anise or ground fennel
1 tsp. granulated garlic
1 tsp. granulated onion
½ tsp. dry mustard
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground ginger
1/8 tsp. white pepper
4 cups heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold and cut into pieces

• Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
• Spray a baking sheet with nonstick cooking spray. Toss the pears in 4 tablespoons of the oil and spread them out flat on the baking sheet. Roast until caramelized, about 20 minutes. Set aside to let cool.
• In an 8-quart stockpot set over medium heat, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil. Add the pears, onions and shallots and cook, stirring, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 5 more minutes. Add the zucchini and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the Pernod and stir, scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the stock and apple juice and bring to a simmer. Add the honey, spinach, pear butter, lemon juice, Worcestershire sauce, anise, granulated garlic, granulated onion, mustard, cinnamon, allspice, ginger and white pepper. Simmer for 1 hour.
• Remove the pan from the heat, and using an immersion blender or working in batches with a regular blender, purée until smooth. Add the cream and bring the soup back to a low simmer. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Remove the pot from the heat and whisk in the cold butter.
• Serve hot. The soup can be store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 7 days.

Thanks to Planter’s House for supplying the absinthe used in this recipe.

Reprinted with permission from Running Press

What is the most esoteric soup you’ve ever eaten? Tell us about it in the comments section below for a chance to win a copy of The B.T.C. Old-Fashioned Grocery Cookbook. We’ll announce the winner in next week’s By the Book column.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Steve, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Come In, We’re Closed. Steve, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.


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