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Sep 28, 2016
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Readers’ Choice 2016: Favorite Restaurateurs

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

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{Clockwise from bottom, Gerard Craft, Dave Bailey, Kevin Nashan, Nick Luedde}

The menus have been printed, revised, reprinted, revised … and reprinted again. The staff has been trained forward and backward. The silverware has been polished until it’s too shiny to behold. Friends and family have flown in for the soft opening with compliments fit for the pope/Shakespeare/Beyoncé of restaurant owners. But when the restaurant finally opens to the public, what’s going through a restaurateur’s mind?

 

Winner: Gerard Craft
Owner, Niche Food Group (Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria, Porano Pasta, Sardella, Taste)

“I think my opening of Niche was way different from any opening you will see today. In 2005, social media wasn’t really a thing. People finding out about new things were not overnight happenings. Now you open a restaurant and a million people line up out your door — definitely not with Niche. No one knew who we were. It was me, one other cook and my pastry chef who I basically kidnapped. We opened to 12 customers, and I think six of those were from the bar across the street, who I think I convinced to come over if I would feed them for free. …

“I was 25. My wife was pregnant. I was doing something a little bit different, which certainly didn’t make it easier. I would work from 8 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. every day. It was intense – a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress. … It was this dream, but also so much reality. And I physically remember when we finally got reviewed — (former St. Louis Post-Dispatch critic) Joe Bonwich just gave us this love letter. After, I looked up and … there were so many people, we didn’t know what to do. I almost threw up. I was like, ‘Oh shit, I have to cook for all these people!’”

 

2nd: Nick Luedde
Co-owner, The Libertine

“We had been in the press and had such a highly anticipated opening. … Ten minutes prior to opening — the staff looks great, and we had 200 people on the books — but I’m looking at my wife (Audra Luedde), afraid no one was going to show up. We had so much money invested. This was everything. … It all comes down to whom you’ve hired. If those people are people you actually want to have a drink with, the rest takes care of itself.”

 

3rd: Kevin Nashan
Chef-owner, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab and Sidney Street Cafe

“Obviously you want to throw up in your mouth. It’s such a big rollercoaster. You just hope people come and are so grateful when they do. It takes a village — everyone contributes to your success. … There are so many variables on opening day. The system you have sometimes completely changes during service, after service.”

 

Honorable mention: Dave Bailey
Owner, Baileys’ Restaurants (Baileys’ Chocolate Bar; Baileys’ Range; Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar; Rooster; Shift, Test Kitchen & Takeout; Small Batch; The Fifth Wheel)

“My seven stages of opening a restaurant for the first time:

Electric shock: Woke up early that sunny morning with no alarm clock with a surge through my body and the immediate thought, ‘I am opening a restaurant today! You’ve been working on this day and night, sleeping two hours at a time on top of the bar. It’s actually real now. Go go go!’

A burning sensation in the back of the head and neck: Is there enough time to get everything done? … What did I forget? Will anyone come? Will too many people come? Why am I doing this on a Friday? Why didn’t I do a soft opening?

Accelerated breathing and hypersensitivity to sound and touch: Almost there; we’re looking pretty good; it’s all about to happen; this is going to be amazing!

Calmness and solidarity of purpose: Ready. Everything looks right; everything feels right; everyone is in position.

Panic and self doubt: Why wasn’t there a line at the door? Is anyone going to come? Was this a terrible idea in the first place? I can’t afford for this not to work.

Total absorption in work and an extremely narrowed focus: Wow, it’s really busy. Everyone seems happy. We are almost keeping up; we need to go faster; we need to go much faster. Touch more tables … make them happy no matter what.

Complete relief and a feeling of having learned and grown more in hours than in the past several years: It worked. We built it, and they came. We are going to do an even better job tomorrow.”

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Drink This Weekend Edition: Local spirits shine at Three Flags Tavern

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

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At newly-opened bar and restaurant Three Flags Tavern, located in the heart of Southwest Garden neighborhood, local spirits are taking center stage.

We recommend trying the whole cocktail menu, but if you must be responsible, start with the 314, an unaged Manhattan featuring Pinckney Bend white corn whiskey, Mad Buffalo Thunderbeast Storm Moonshine, Benedictine, Dolin Blanc and Boston Bittahs. Three Flags bar manager Nicholas Crow, creator of the 314, loves that Mad Buffalo Distillery, located in Union, Missouri, makes its own mash for its moonshine, which he thinks sets the liquor apart.

For your second drink, look no further than Chouteau’s Funeral. We loved this light but not too-sweet-whiskey drink so much that we begged Crow for his recipe.

Chouteau’s Funeral
Recipe courtesy of Three Flags Tavern’s Nicholas Crow
1 Serving

1¾ oz. Still 630 Rally Point Rye Whiskey
¾ oz. Yellow Chartreuse
¼ oz. lemon juice
¼ oz. St. Elizabeth’s allspice dram
Luxardo cherry to garnish

• In a cocktail shaker, build the whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse, lemon juice and allspice dram over ice and shake 8 seconds. Fine strain into a coupe or fluted chalice, garnish with the cherry and serve.

 

Where to Explore Next: Ballpark Village

Wednesday, April 30th, 2014

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While the Cardinals have proven it doesn’t take a village to create a winning team, Ballpark Village at 601 Clark Ave., is certainly playing a great game. With five distinct venues at which to eat lunch and dinner (with more on the way), and even more places to grab a drink, this truly impressive space beckons for many visits to come.

 

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In the middle of the 120,000-square-foot entertainment district, feast on a juicy Bacon Three Way Burger (pictured) at Fox Sports Midwest Live!, while you watch the ballgame on a 40-foot wide TV. If the weather cooperates, you might just get a tan when the glass atrium’s roof retracts.

 

 

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The village has quite a few bars. (See the full listing here.) But when the temperature really heats up, nothing beats a margarita. Choose from the margarita menu at Tengo Sed, or take your poison straight with one of the bar’s nine tequilas.

 

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At the Budweiser Brew House, find more food and a whole lot of beer (239 taps throughout). Between a swanky rooftop deck and a biergarten complete with fireplace, communal tables and Adirondack chairs, there are plenty of fun spaces to explore in this 26,000-square-foot venue.

 

 

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We recommend washing down the Brew House’s fish and chips with a Goose Island Honker’s Ale or the chicken apple blue cheese salad paired with a Stella Artois Cidre. For a more fine-dining experience, check out Cardinals Nation. For quick eats, head to Tengo Hambre, or on the outside of the village, find Drunken Fish.

 

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{Pictured from front: Starburst roll, White Tiger roll}

 -photos by Julie Cohen

Drink This Weekend Edition: Wine your night away at St. Louis’ ultimate bodega

Friday, April 25th, 2014

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Whether you stay in or go out tonight (or you go for a run through Tower Grove Park and happen to veer off for a drink – true story, don’t judge), a stop at one of Gustine Market’s free wine samplings is never a bad idea.

Join co-owner Vicky Cumminskey (pictured) tonight from 5:30 to 8 p.m. to sample from eight different wines like the Clos Du Bois 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, La Crema 2012 Chardonnay and Wairau River 2012 Sauvignon Blanc. Afterwards, buy a bottle or two of your favorites, or grab some brew from Gustine’s great beer selection, like Abita’s newly released Spring IPA, 4 Hands Contact High and Lagunitas Undercover Investigation Shut-Down.

If all the drinking makes you hungry, do some grocery shopping while you’re there. This tiny, unassuming Tower Grove South bodega is packed with tons of foodie finds, like Baileys’ Range ice cream available by the half pint, sweets from Kakao Chocolate and frozen pies from Dogtown Pizza.

Can’t make it to tonight’s tasting? There will another one Thursday, May 8 – a perfect opportunity to buy some extra wine to bring to Sauce’s first Food Truck Friday of the season the next night.

The List: March of the Merrymaker in Ste. Genevieve

Thursday, April 24th, 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.

 

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Secluded and serene, the tree-lined hiking trail between Chaumette Vineyards & Winery and Charleville Vineyard Winery & Microbrewery in Ste. Genevieve is the perfect activity for those who love the outdoors but prefer to save their energy for wine and beer rather than endure sweat and tears. Start at Chaumette’s Tasting Room and order six wine samples for $5, including its must-try unoaked chardonel. Lounge on the outdoor terrace as you gaze over rolling hills and 32 acres of grapevines. When you’re ready to move on, ask your bartender to point you to the trailhead. Enjoy your brief woodland escape as you hear the crunch of leaves under your feet and breathe in the crisp, piney air because in less than a half-hour, your ramble on this former logging trail will be rewarded with more wine and craft beer. After sampling a flight of Charleville’s bold and inventive craft beers like its Hoptimistic IPA and Tornado Alley amber ale, trek back to Chaumette’s Grapevine Grill for dinner. You earned it, sort of.

Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, 24345 State Route WW, Ste. Genevieve, 573.747.1000, chaumette.com; Charleville Vineyard Winery & Microbrewery, 16937 Boyd Road, Ste. Genevieve, 573.756.4537, charlevillevineyard.com

-photo courtesy of Chaumette Vineyards & Winery

The Scoop: Sauce on the Side adds second location

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

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Sauce on the Side recently announced plans to add a second location at 7810 Forsyth Ave., via its Facebook page. The popular downtown eatery, specializing in calzones and salads, has been open for two years. Brendan Maciariello, one of three owners of Sauce on the Side, said that the trio hopes to open their new Clayton location by mid-June.

“We are looking to keep it as much the same as possible, but we would like to expand the wine program,” Maciariello said. Right now, in the beer department, Sauce on the Side has 73 different bottles. Maciariello said the new location will have the same amount but hopes that the new space will allow for a draft system. Owner Ryan Mangialardo will head up the Clayton location, and the hiring process for both front and back of the house will start next month.

-image from Sauce on the Side’s Facebook page

 

By the Book: Lisa Fain’s Sopa de Lima

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

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I was curious about Lisa Fain’s second cookbook The Homesick Texan’s Family Table: Lone Star Cooking from My Kitchen to Yours because the same week it landed on Sauce’s bookshelf, Fain’s blog Homesick Texan was nominated for a James Beard Foundation Award for individual food blog. Fain’s blog is reminiscent of Deb Perelman’s The Smitten Kitchen: recipes and anecdotes written by a likeable-sounding lady who lives in New York City, cooks in a small kitchen and takes impressive pictures of her creations.

But mostly I chose Fain’s new cookbook because I’m moving to Texas in about a month, and while I’m sure the Lone Star state is just great, I need a little persuasion regarding the move. Reading about the state from someone who makes a living out of her homesickness for the place seemed like a good start in the pro-Texas propaganda department.

The 125-recipe book is organized by breakfast and breads, starters and snacks, salads and sides, and so on and so forth. Between the sections are full-spread, beautiful scenic photographs of an almost mythical version of Texas: fields of bluebonnets, never-ending blue skies, grassy plains and so many cows. The recipes are all supposed to be Texas comfort food – the type of food a Texan grows up eating at a big family potluck.

Since April has decided to truly become the cruelest month with this week’s freezing temperatures, instead of fun outdoor barbecue fair, I flipped to the chilis, soups and stews section. I decided on this Mexican lime soup because in Fain’s introduction to the recipe, she writes that her friend from San Antonio (where I’m headed) grew up eating this dish.

 

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I was also attracted to the soup because it looked easy and featured tons of fun spices and my favorite green ingredients: avocados, limes and cilantro.

 

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I was slightly intimidated making the tortilla strips because I create a huge mess whenever I fry anything, but these turned out to be simple and fairly mess-free. I was too hungry to roast a chicken and then pull it, so I cooked some chicken breasts in my Dutch oven with a little water and olive oil, and they turned out great. If you’re feeling extra pressed for time, just buy a roasted bird at the store, but get an unseasoned one so as to not mess with the other flavors … and Texas.

 

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In total, this took less than 20 minutes, including cooking the chicken. The resulting soup was bright, refreshing and simply divine. In cold April weather, it’s actually the perfect dish. While the soup is still warm and comforting, it’s not a heavy stew that you’re probably bored with after our epic winter. In short, while I’m not yet sold on Texas, I’m certainly sold on this soup.

 

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Sopa de Lima (Mexican Lime Soup)

Oil, for frying
6 corn tortillas, preferably stale
1 yellow onion, quartered
10 gloves garlic
8 cups chicken broth
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. ground allspice
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsp. lime zest
2 cups shredded cooked chicken
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¼ cup fresh lime juice

Garnishes
½ cup (2 oz.) shredded Monterey Jack cheese
2 jalapenos, stemmed, seeded and diced
½ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 avocado, pitted, peeled and cubed
1 lime, cut into slices

• Heat ½ cup of the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium heat until a candy thermometer reads 350 degrees.
• Line a baking sheet with paper towels.
• Slice the tortillas into strips ¼ inch thick. Add the tortilla strips to the hot oil and cook until crisp, about 1 minute. Drain on the paper towels.
• Place the quartered onion and garlic under the broiler. Cook until blackened, about 10 minutes, turning once.
• Combine the onion and garlic in a blender or food processor along with 1 cup of the broth. Purée until smooth, then pour into a large pot.
• Add the remaining 7 cups of chicken broth to the pot, and stir in the oregano, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, cayenne, cilantro and lime zest.
• Bring to a boil, turn down the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the shredded chicken and cook for 5 more minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste. Adjust the seasonings, then stir in the lime juice.
• Garnish each bowl with tortilla chips, Monterey Jack, jalapenos, cilantro, avocado and lime slices.

Reprinted with permission from Ten Speed Press.

What’s your favorite dish that one of your family members is the only one who can make just right? Tell us about it in the comments below for a chance to win a copy of The Homesick Texan’s Family Table.

And now, we’d like to congratulate Dan, whose comment on last week’s By the Book column has won a copy of Down South: Bourbon, Pork & Gulf Shrimp and Second Helpings of Everything. Dan, keep an eye out for an email from the Sauce crew.

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Three cocktails with a new view

Friday, April 11th, 2014

Like everyone else in town, we’ve caught a strong strain of the patio bug. This weekend when the weather is beckoning you to sip a fruity drink al fresco, look no further than Herbie’s Vintage ’72. Along with a new spring food and cocktail menu, this weekend the restaurant will have patio seating for the first time.

According to Amanda Wilgus, Herbie’s beverage director and floor manager, whenever the restaurant changes its cocktail menu, the whole staff participates. Each bartender comes up with an original concoction, and then with the help of friends and Herbie’s regulars, everyone blindly tastes the cocktails and decides on the best. This year, seven signature cocktails made the spring menu. While patio drinking calls for many adult beverages between friends, to start you off, here are three of our favorites.

 

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1. To truly invoke some easy living, warm weather vibes, start with the Kentucky Tropic. With Basil Hayden’s bourbon, lemon juice, mango purée and simple syrup, this martini goes down sweet and smooth but packs a punch. If you like your drinks with a bit more acid, a squeeze from the lemon wedge garnish does the trick.

 

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2. Not to be missed is this week’s featured sangria. Red wine, orange liquor, brandy and fruit juices combine for a wonderfully balanced Spanish sipper. Not too sweet and with notes of nutmeg and cinnamon, we recommend ordering this one by the pitcher.

 

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3. Yes, we know, Summertime Blues looks like something your mother or 21-year-old niece orders on vacation in Florida. But despite its neon blue color, this drink is really great. With Don Q rum, simple syrup, Yellow Chartreuse, citrus, mint and blue curaçao, this tart, floral cocktail has subtle hints of anise and a flavor that is entirely fresh.

Not a booze drinker? Herbie’s new menu also features two carefully crafted mocktails. After all, when it comes to patio drinking, alcohol or not, everyone needs something cold and delicious.

 

 

The List: Mike Miller at Dressel’s Public House

Wednesday, April 2nd, 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.

 

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When Mike Miller took the executive chef position at Dressel’s Public House three years ago, he faced the challenge of aligning his food with a much-loved public house steeped in decades of tradition, while staying true to his own experimental, from-scratch cooking philosophy. Miller explained how he managed to find that elusive, delicious and very fine line.

“This place has been open for 30 years, so you don’t want to scare away people that come in two or three times a week because they like certain things. You know, we have an amazing rotation of soups. We probably sell just as much soup in the summertime as the winter. People associate this place with good soup. We probably wouldn’t have taken soup away, but that is something we put a lot of emphasis on making exceptional – the little things.

“But it really was flipping over the from-scratch attitude. It was building a really good staff and a respect for the ingredients, and in the process, creating really good food in a pub environment. It took a while to instill a culture in the kitchen, but it was a lot of fun. It’s still a lot of fun.

“We are constantly trying to push on ourselves internally. Right now, my biggest project is making bread in-house. In the back of my pickup truck, there are 16 loaves of bread in dough form that I actually had to take home with me because it requires some series of folds. I couldn’t just leave them unattended. When I dropped my son off to school this morning, they were sliding around. I was worried about them flying out the back, but we got here safe. That’s just one thing. We want people to always be guessing, what are those guys going to do next at Dressel’s?” – J.C.

419 N. Euclid Ave., St. Louis, 314.361.1060, dresselspublichouse.com

-photo by Elizabeth Jochum

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: A hopped-up cocktail

Friday, March 28th, 2014

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This March, in honor of Sauce’s Guide to Beer, our focus has been on all beer everything – how to cook with beer, what brews are best for aging, where every brewery in town is located and distributed, and more.

With the end of March approaching, I wasn’t quite ready to break up with beer, but I was certainly ready for something new – something that didn’t come from a bottle, can or tap handle. I found what might be the perfect compromise: Tony’s 29 Hour IPA.

Created by Eclipse bar manager Tony Saputo, this cocktail involves Espolón Blanco tequila, Cocchi Americano Rosso, a cordial made from citra hops, lime juice, celery bitters and house-made ginger beer made with a touch of the wild yeast Brettanomyces. “If we added whiskey to it [to add barley], it would have the same ingredients as a beer,” Saputo said. “It’s a deconstructed, reconstructed beer.”

Why call it a 29-hour IPA? To make the citra hop cordial, Saputo infuses dried hops with Everclear and water for 29 hours. Once infused, he adds more water and sugar to make it a cordial. On its own, the cordial smells and tastes like an IPA reduction … in a this-taste-will-never-leave-my-mouth way. Combined with the rest of the ingredients, though? Just right.

 

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Tony’s 29 Hour IPA’s looks are deceiving. At first glace, the light pink drink garnished with a cucumber and a lime wheel looks like some sort of gin or Pimm’s Cup summer sipper. Yet it smells a little bit like a beer. Initially, it tastes like a margarita because of the first hits of tequila and the brightness and acid from the vermouth and lime juice. Yet, a second later, there is a subtle spice from the ginger and just a bit of funk from the Brett. If I didn’t know better, I never have guessed the drink including Brett, but it adds another layer to this rich, refreshing (and strong) springtime drink.

Cheers to beer, cocktails and spring!

 

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