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Dec 21, 2014
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The Scoop

The Scoop: Alaska-themed restaurant True Sites to open in Maplewood

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014



Michael True is a prospector of sorts. The current general manager of City Coffeehouse & Creperie is setting out for new culinary territory by opening an Alaska-themed restaurant in Maplewood, and he’s hoping to strike gold by pairing the unique menu with a dinner-theater experience.

As reported by St. Louis Magazine, True’s restaurant, True Sites, will open doors in February at 7376 Manchester Road, the space formerly occupied by Blind Tiger. “I’ve always had a love for Alaska ever since I was a little kid, ever since Northern Exposure was on TV,” True said.

After spending a couple of weeks last summer in the Land of the Midnight Sun, True knew he had to bring a piece of Alaska back to St. Louis. His menu will feature seasonal Alaskan fare such as wild game, including elk meat and reindeer sausage, plus salmon and crab legs.

The restaurant, decorated to feel like a northern camp or lodge, will have a full bar, and True hopes to serve Alaskan beer and cocktails that fit the frontier theme, as well as drinks designed to coordinate with whatever dinner theater show is currently running.

True plans to produce – although not necessarily direct – all of the performances, which will run Wednesdays through Sundays for two or three weeks. Each production will have its ownmultiple-course menu. On those nights, regular walk-in service will continue in a separate dining area.

Theater has been a love of True’s since high school, and he has done backstage work for local productions. “If I could live on theater alone I would,” True said. “I know it’s not a money-maker, especially in St. Louis. I knew I was going to have to open up a restaurant to go along with it. The restaurant is hopefully going to pay for my theater hobby.”

True selected Maplewood for his new venture because of its central location, and the space already has a stage for his dinner theater productions. “Maplewood is so up and coming, it’s going through a renaissance right now,” he said. “I think I’m going to get a good mix of clientele by being in Maplewood.”

After the holidays, True said, he’ll be on the lookout for staff members to join his team.



The Scoop: Andrew Jennrich departs from Butchery, joins Annie Gunn’s

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014


{From left, Butchery’s former head butcher Andrew Jennrich and Truffles executive chef Brandon Benack}


Andrew Jennrich has left his post as head butcher at Butchery, the butcher shop and food emporium at 9202 Clayton Road in Ladue. Jennrich said he is now reporting for work at Annie Gunn’s, where’s he’s doing a little bit of everything at the Chesterfield restaurant and its smokehouse next door, he said.

Aleksander “Alex” Jovanovic, general manager at Truffles (which is under the same ownership as Butchery), said he appreciated Jennrich’s contribution to the fledgling butcher shop that opened in late summer. “He helped us get our feet off the ground,” Jovanovic said. “I was hoping he would have stayed longer.” However, he noted the unexpected split was still amicable.

Jennrich said his decision to leave came down to a difference of opinion regarding Butchery’s direction. “We saw things differently,” Jennrich said. “I had a great time being with Brandon (Benack, Truffles’ executive chef) and Alex. I miss being with those guys. Other aspects – (It) just wasn’t going to work out.”

Taking the head butcher slot is Ryan McDonald, who joined the team at Truffles and Butchery as executive sous chef in late October. Jovanovic said that despite the unanticipated change, the transition has been seamless since the Jennrich and McDonald had many weeks to work together prior to his departure. McDonald’s primary role at the shop is butchering; two line cooks from Truffles are now responsible for charcuterie.

Jennrich said his move to Annie Gunn’s has been an educational one, noting the restaurant’s quality and talented staff, particularly executive chef Lou Rook. “Lou Rook, Steve Gontram, Vince Bommarito, Bill Cardwell – they laid the track for all of us. It’s cool to work with someone who set the groundwork,” Jennrich said. “They were all the guys doing farm-to-table before it was cool.” Jennrich’s official title at Annie Gunn’s is still to be determined, but he anticipates it will be settled in January after the holiday season.


-photo by Meera Nagarajan

The Scoop: Home Wine Kitchen to close by end of year

Monday, December 15th, 2014



Chef Cassy Vires and husband and business partner Josh Renbarger are closing Home Wine Kitchen, their co-owned restaurant and “home away from home.” The couple made the announcement in a press release this weekend. The restaurant will hold its final dinner service on Dec. 31.

The popular Maplewood eatery saw success in its brunch, lunch and dinner menus, offering a variety of specials such as No-Menu Mondays and Burger Night. Vires, who was nominated for Food & Wine Magazine’s Best New Chef: Midwest this year, and Renbarger said in the release that they were “extremely disappointed” by the decision to close.

Vires did not immediately return calls for comment, though the release stated that “circumstances outside their control” led to the closure. However, Renbarger added in the release that, “not everyone gets to go out on their own terms, so we are grateful for that.”

It’s been a rough year for Vires and Renbarger, who closed their second restaurant, Table, in March, just nine months after opening.


The Scoop: Wine director Andrey Ivanov, bar manager John Fausz to leave Elaia and Olio

Monday, December 15th, 2014


{From left, John Fausz and Andrey Ivanov}


Things are shaking up behind the bars at Elaia and Olio. Wine director Andrey Ivanov and Olio bar manager John Fausz are leaving the sister restaurants in the next month, as reported by Feast.

Fausz, a member of the Ones to Watch class of 2011, said that after more than two years behind the bar at Olio, he was ready for a break. His last day is Dec. 31. “I don’t have anything solid planned,” Fausz said, “mostly just going to focus on taking some time off … do some traveling.”

Chef-owner Ben Poremba said Fausz has been training bartender Bess Kretsinger to fill the bar manager role. “Bess came along and they struck a great dynamic between the two of them,” Poremba said.

Fausz said while he doesn’t yet know what bar he will land behind, Poremba and Ivanov’s passion and knowledge have forever altered his work as a barman. “I feel like now for the first time I have a base in the culinary field and the drinking community,” he said. “Working with Ben was a huge honor. He has a really unique capacity to inspire a lot of hard work and creative work from people.” Fausz credits Ivanov for helping to channel his enthusiasm for spirits into the world of wine. “I was all about beer and cocktails and whiskey,” he said. “(Ivanov) sort of knew that he could unlock even more nerdy passion.”

Poremba said Ivanov would remain at the restaurants to help train staff through the last week of January, before he moves on to his next project: working with soon-to-be former Taste executive chef Matt Daughaday on his upcoming restaurant. Poremba does not know if he will replace Ivanov with another wine director. With a few other sommeliers on staff and the front of house at both Olio and Elaia under the direction of general manager Kara Flaherty, Poremba said that he will not rush into any decision yet. “The wine cellar is full, so I don’t have to hurry I can make smart decisions,” he said. “Whoever (it is) has some big shoes to fill.”

“It’s still going to be exciting,” said Poremba of the beverage programs at Elaia and Olio, which have been widely lauded for their eclectic and unique style. He envisions the programs to be “less idiosyncratic, probably a little more approachable, things anyone on my staff can understand.”

Ivanov and Daughaday did not immediately return requests for comment.

-Fausz photo by Carmen Troesser, Ivanov photo by Ashley Gieseking

The Scoop: Chef Nick Martinkovic heads to Palm Beach

Monday, December 15th, 2014



Nick Martinkovic, former executive chef of Blood & Sand and sister restaurant Death in the Afternoon is on the move again, this time headed south for a fresh start at an art gallery in West Palm Beach, Florida.

Martinkovic will join the team at Emko, a gallery that showcases all styles of art, including culinary. He said the concept combines several artists’ work into one collaborative piece. “When a print artist is showcasing his work, we plan to have him design the background of my menu, for example,” he said, “or a sculptor might sculpt a plate for me to dish on.”

As his time in St. Louis nears its end, Martinkovic said the friendships and insights gained during his time here will stick with him. “I ignorantly thought I’d come to St. Louis and run back to New York in a year,” he said. “I fell in love with St. Louis, though, and stayed as long as I could. But I have this incredible opportunity, and I just need to take it.”

Want to get a taste of Martinkovic’s work before he leaves town? He’s currently lending a hand in the Juniper kitchen through Dec. 31.

The Scoop: The Southerner food truck gets ready to roll

Thursday, December 11th, 2014



Natasha Creel and Emily Matthes are ready to bring their brand of Southern soul to the streets as they prepare to roll out their new food truck, The Southerner.

Both Creel and Matthes grew up eating hearty, comforting soul food, and many Southern-inspired dishes appeared on the menu for years at their previous restaurant, Roxane. When they closed doors at that Clayton nightspot in September, Creel and Matthes initially intended to open another brick-and-mortar restaurant, but they couldn’t find a suitable location, so Creel said they opted to go mobile.

“Emily and I are big RV-ers,” Creel said. “We truly enjoyed the restaurant and the customers, but there was something about being on the road that intrigued us. When you go to food truck events, everyone is in a good mood and having fun.”

The Southerner’s menu will feature some of the well-received menu items from Roxane, like shrimp and grits and Matthes’ fried potato salad. There will be pulled smoked meats like turkey and pork, as well as sandwiches like a ‘Bama roll (smoked beef brisket, cheddar cheese, smoked poblano peppers on a bed of arugula with an Alabama white sauce) and a Boss Hog (pulled pork and smoked sausage, bacon, a sweet Carolina sauce and a scoop of coleslaw). Creel and Matthes will also serve a street food-style chicken and waffles: skewered chicken dipped in a sweet waffle batter and deep fried, then drizzled with maple syrup and hot sauce. Those searching for lighter fare can choose from chopped salads with kale and other greens, smoked turkey and a house-made roasted Vidalia onion dressing among other healthier options.

The Southerner’s final inspection is scheduled for Monday, Dec. 15 and if all goes well, Creel said the truck should be on the road soon thereafter.

“We’re excited,” Creel said. “We went back to our roots, and the food that gives you a warm and cozy feeling on the inside.”

The Scoop: Chef Matt Daughaday to leave Taste, Heather Stone will step up

Thursday, December 11th, 2014


{From left, Matt Daughaday and Heather Stone}

Editor’s Note: This Scoop has been updated to include comments from Matt Daughaday.

There’s a change in the top toque at Taste. Executive chef Matt Daughaday is leaving the cocktail bar and lounge at 4584 Laclede Ave., in the Central West End to open his own restaurant, as reported by Feast. Daughaday’s replacement is Heather Stone, who will step up from her current position as the restaurant’s sous chef.

While the news may come as a surprise to some, owner Gerard Craft and the team at Taste have had months to plan for the transition, which will officially occur Jan. 1.

“This has been a few month’s now that we’ve been working on the transition, so it’s not like a sudden departure,” said Craft, who added that he and Daughaday have been talking about his potential departure for the past year. “I said, ‘If there’s a time you want to go, tell me. I’ll help you in any way possible.’ He’s given a chunk of his life to the Craft team in multiple ways. We’re excited for him. I find it extremely exciting to have a young chef find his voice. That’s awesome. It doesn’t happen all the time.” Daughaday, a member of Sauce’s Ones to Watch class of 2013, has worked for the Craft family of restaurants for more than five years.

Daughaday said the transition to leave Taste is the first step toward opening his own restaurant in the course of a year. He is currently looking for a location, possible in the St. Louis Hills area, and considering concept options. If all goes according to plan, Daughaday said he could open doors as early as August 2015.

Daughaday said he learned valuable lessons under Craft’s guidance, including keeping both customers and employees happy. “Watching his growth and how he’s had to deal with a staff of maybe 20 people to over 100 … It’s a difficult thing, and I think he’s done a really good job with that,” he said. “It’s why I stayed with him for six-and-a-half years.”

Stone came aboard Taste two years ago, having previously worked at One Sixtyblue in Chicago. “I think Heather’s style fits into what we’re doing,” he said. “Heather is very farm-to-table and very ingredient-driven, so if nobody’s noticed a difference now, they won’t notice a difference then. Her food is phenomenal.” Craft said Stone created more than half of the dishes on the current Taste menu. “The team at Taste loves her,” Craft said. “She’s a great presence, a great leader. She brings a lot to the table, more so than just the food.”

Daughaday said he was more than confident in Stone’s ability to run Taste’s kitchen. “There’s no way I could have left taste unless I thought there was someone who could do a job equal to what I’ve been doing,” he said. “I definitely think she has that potential. In my eyes and Gerard’s, she’s more than capable of stepping up.”


-photo courtesy @chefh88 Instagram

The Scoop: Alcohol delivery service Drizly arrives in St. Louis

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014



Remember those nights you wished booze could be delivered to your doorstep like pizza or Chinese food? Dreams are about to be fulfilled when Drizly, an alcohol delivery service company, launches its smartphone app and website in St. Louis tomorrow, Dec. 11.

The Boston-based company has partnered with St. Louis liquor retailer Randall’s Wines and Spirits to bring beer, wine and liquor delivery to customers and businesses. To shop, users download the free Drizly app on their iPhone or Android device or order on Drizly’s website. Once the beverage selection is submitted and paid for online, the order is fulfilled and delivered by a Randall’s employee in 40 minutes or less. Delivery drivers authenticate and validate IDs upon arrival.

Customers can choose from a wide selection of beer, wine and spirits, as well as mixers, bitters, juice and even ice. Everything costs the same as Randall’s in-store prices with an added $5 delivery fee. Delivery hours are the same as Randall’s store hours of operation.

Drizly will be available throughout St. Louis city and the surrounding communities, including: Ballwin, Boulevard Heights, Brentwood, Clayton, Creve Coeur, Frontenac, Kirkwood, Ladue, Manchester, Maplewood, Olivette, Princeton Heights, Richmond Heights, Rock Hill, Town & Country, University City and Webster Groves. Drizly founder and CEO Nick Rellas said he hopes to add more communities in the area. “As awareness grows, we’ll bring on more new retailers in suburban areas,” he said.

Rellas said he introduced Drizly to St. Louis after studying our city’s food and drinking culture, consumer use of technology and our sports culture. “It makes for a really great market,” Rellas said. “Randall’s is a fantastic retailer. You won’t find one as sophisticated as Randall’s. An overwhelming majority of their products are online. Randall’s is so tech-savvy that we’re able to do that.”

Drizly launched in Boston in early spring 2013. This year has seen expansions into New York, Chicago, Austin, several cities in Colorado, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Seattle and Washington DC. “We went from one to 12 this year,” Rellas said. “You’ll see us in quite a few more cities by the end of next year.”



The Scoop: Half & Half to add dinner service

Monday, December 8th, 2014



Fans of Mike Randolph’s daytime eatery Half & Half can soon sate their bacon-and-egg cravings in the evening, too. The popular Clayton breakfast spot will add dinner service beginning Dec. 16.

Shortly after it opened in July 2011, the space at 8135 Maryland Ave., operated as Half & Half during the day, then transformed into avant garde Mexican restaurant Medianoche. That dinner concept later became Little Country Gentleman, which ended its service in December 2013. Since then, Randolph did not sit idle, relaunching popular Neapolitan pizzeria The Good Pie in The Loop and working on his next concept, Mexican gastropub Público. While Half & Half continued to flourish, it remained empty in the evening hours, and many pondered what Randolph would do next.

“That was a missed opportunity, business-wise, for me,” Randolph said. “It won’t be an outlet to experiment like Little Country Gentleman or Medianoche were. Customers have been asking for it.”

Half & Half will continue its regular morning-to-midday operating schedule, then reopen its doors from 5 to 9 p.m. Customers can expect their usual Half & Half favorites, as well as the addition of a few new dinner items like pot roast, fish and chips, mashed potatoes and fried chicken. Wines by the glass and classic cocktails like Old-Fashioneds and gin martinis will be added to the beverage list. Randolph will helm the kitchen with new chef de cuisine Nathan Donsky, former Prasino chef de cuisine, at his side.

The addition of Half & Half’s dinner service comes on the heels of Death in the Afternoon’s announcement that it, too, would serve nighttime fare beginning February 2015 and as Kevin Nashan’s Peacemaker Lobster and Crab Co. adds lunch service today, Dec. 8.


-photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Chef Eric Brenner races to the finish on Food Network’s “Guy’s Grocery Games”

Monday, December 8th, 2014



St. Louis chef Eric Brenner shopped – and cooked –  ’til he dropped during his appearance last night, Dec. 7, on “Guy’s Grocery Games,” a culinary competition hosted by Food Network personality Guy Fieri. Brenner beat out a three other chefs from across the country and won an $18,000 grand prize.

Brenner, who will serve as executive chef and general manager of upcoming Lascelles Tap & Grill  in Granite City, Illinois, competed in three elimination challenges, preparing dishes such as French toast without bread (he substituted with a frozen English muffin) and a steak dinner prepared with only canned goods.

“That was tough. I had to find a meat product that I could wipe the goo off and get a nice sear,” Brenner said. “With no herbs, no aromatics, it’s hard to know where to go with that. But your creative skills as a chef kick in, and I just went to work, thinking and tasting.”

In the final round, Brenner turned to his hometown favorite, grilled cheese and tomato bisque. “When I got that challenge, I just thought about how everyone in St. Louis loves that dish, so I went for it,” he said.

As the victor, Brenner competed in the final Shopping Spree competition, during which he had to find 10 grocery store items in 2 minutes. For each item he snagged, he earned $2,000; he grabbed all but one. Brenner said he will put his winnings toward home improvement at his house in the Central West End.

Brenner joins a growing list of area chefs who emerged victorious on competitive cooking programs, including Vincent Van Doughnut’s Brian Marsden and Al Watson and Lia Weber on “The Next Great Baker.”

Forgot to set your DVR? You can catch Brenner in action when the episode airs again at 6 p.m. Dec. 15 on the Food Network.




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