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Feb 24, 2018
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What I Do: Joy Grdnic Christensen

Saturday, January 4th, 2014



Back in the day, she was radio personality “Joy in the Morning” on KSHE 95. After she opened The Fountain on Locust nearly six years ago (when Midtown Alley was devoid of restaurants), she became Joy in the afternoon and evening at her eclectic, 1930s-era soda fountain. Here’s what it means to be Joy Grdnic Christensen at any hour.

Describe the day The Fountain opened.
Feb. 19, 2008: There was snow on the ground and three customers. I’d never been in the restaurant business. It’s stupidity that made me go forward. Stupidity is the key to my success.

Did you consult with any restaurateurs?
Kim Tucci [The Pasta House Co. co-founder] took a look around and said, “What don’t you see here? People!” Not people in the seats; he wanted people in photographs on the walls because Italian restaurants have that. Now he’s a big fan.

And the bathrooms are famous.
We won the bathroom contest [Cintas’ America’s Best Restroom contest], which is so silly because we don’t have the best bathroom in America. People would come in, and they’d go, “Oh, I came to see the bathroom.” And then they’d go, “I saw a better bathroom in Albuquerque.”

Who designed the space?
Me. I didn’t design it; I just did it. That was the problem. The idea was: It’s going to be art deco. I saw The Aviator. I’d freeze-frame and look at the Pan Am offices in New York because it was blue and it had stars. I was like, “Ooh, that’s nice for the ’30s. I’m going to do that.” I made the restaurant blue, and blue is the anti-appetite color. I read that the most appetite-inducing colors are orange, yellow and red.

Those are the colors of McDonald’s.
That makes people want to eat. This makes people want to diet.

They could diet if they ordered the world’s smallest ice cream cone. Or the world’s smallest hot fudge sundae.
We actually have healthy food. Everything on this menu is something I would eat every day: Birdseed Salad, the Grilled Golden Cadillac, which is basically spinach with grilled vegetables on top … We have 47 soups in rotation. The idea was to not feel bad because you’re going to a place with ice cream.

You’re really picky about your ice cream.
It’s the only thing we don’t make. We get it from Cedar Crest Dairy in Wisconsin. They are the only dairy in the country that ages their ice cream. That’s why it’s so good. We’ve had every competitor in the world come to us with their ice cream. I usually say to them, “Let me taste your coconut,” because I use that as a barometer. People will come in here with coconut ice cream that is just – you want to spit it out.

The Fountain is the home of the ice cream martini?
I have a confession: I thought I made it up. So much so that I didn’t even know if it would work. Not even thinking there was already a Brandy Alexander and a Grasshopper. My fear was what if the alcohol separates the ice cream and it all turns into a mess? Fortunately, it doesn’t.

Is The Fountain’s burlesque bingo your idea?
No. Again, from The Aviator. They had a scene where the girls were on trapezes. I thought, this is what it has to be! It’s a little burlesque, a little bingo, more of the true burlesque, which is more like the vaudeville comedy version as opposed to Las Vegas. There’s no clever entertainment there.

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Ones to Watch 2013: Food and drink pros with promise

Monday, January 14th, 2013

Every year, we look high and low for the culinary talent who are about to explode onto the local food scene. This year, we found a poissonier with precision, mixologists with mad skills, chefs who hold nothing back and a savory whiz who’s showing his sweet side. They’re young, inspired and just getting started, but don’t underestimate them. The Ones to Watch class of 2013 is going places. Along with our other six picks, click here to read why Andrew Jennrich (pictured), chef de cuisine at Farmhaus, is one of our Ones to Watch.

Find Jennrich’s recipe for Salad of Smoked Chicken Hearts here.

— photo by Carmen Troesser

Scenes From My Life: Ben Poremba

Wednesday, December 26th, 2012

When finding a location for his wine bar Olio and restaurant Elaia, it was imperative for Ben Poremba, also co-owner of Salume Beddu, to stay in the city. Now, a run-down historic home and former gas station have been transformed into what is becoming one of the cornerstones of urban renewal for the once-blighted McRee Town neighborhood. How does Poremba handle a move, a baby boy and two newly opened projects? It’s all in a day’s work.

Click through this slideshow for a snapshot of a day in the life of Ben Poremba.

Elaia & Olio 1634 Tower Grove Ave., St. Louis, 314.932.1088, elaiastl.com

— photo by Greg Rannells

All Your Bread Questions: Answered

Friday, November 2nd, 2012

In The Bread Issue, on newsstands now, we officially declare our love for all things doughy. From garlic knots to pretzel sticks, baguettes to handpies, we revel in every last bite. And because we aren’t alone in our adoration for crusts, heels and yeast, we offered kneaders of all levels tips, tricks, hints and recipes for becoming a better baker in The Wonder of Bread.

But our work isn’t done. That’s the thing about baking bread: There are a million factors that go into perfecting the skill. So we asked two of St. Louis’ most talented bakers to join us for Sound Bites, our monthly show on St. Louis Public Radio, to answer your burning bread questions. Not sure how humidity can affect rising? Wondering if it’s time to buy a stand mixer? Thinking about which flour is best for which type of bread? Just curious as to how long a starter can last? Josh Allen, owner of Companion Baking Co., and Ted Wilson, whose big bakery plans we told you about here, are ready to answer every question you have on the art of bread baking.

How can you ask Allen and Wilson your baking query? It couldn’t be easier. Just post your question in the comments section below, write on our Facebook wall, Tweet us @SAUCEmag or email us by Tuesday, November 6. Then, tune in to St. Louis Public Radio 90.7 KWMU’s Cityscape on Friday, November 9 at 11 a.m. and 10 p.m. to hear these bakers extraordinaire answer all your yeasty questions.

— Photo by Greg Rannells

Chat with Sauce reviewer Michael Renner on tonight’s Stewed podcast

Monday, October 8th, 2012

Ever wish you could chat with Sauce’s New and Notable restaurant reviewer Michael Renner? Well, now you can. No, he won’t be showing his face, but tonight at 7:30 p.m., (after the Cards’ game) he will get Stewed. Stewed STL is a local podcast that puts St. Louis’ chefs, brewers, baristas, sommeliers, farmers, food writers and the like behind the microphone to discuss the good, the bad and the interesting within our area food scene. In what we can only imagine will be a very amusing evening, Renner will join the Stewed crew of Mike Sweeney, Bill Burge, Kelli Best-Oliver and Andrew Mark Veety for a bourbon-filled podcast that you can listen to live. The best part: You can call in to the show to ask Renner all your burning questions at 314.669.4475. For more information, and for the link to listen to the live recording, click here.

Two area chefs to appear in front of big-time TV audiences

Wednesday, May 9th, 2012

Two St. Louis faces will appear on TV screens around the country this month.

First, tonight marks the premiere of Around the World in 80 Plates, Bravo’s newest culinary competition. Clara Moore, executive chef for Local Harvest Cafe and Catering, is among the 12 chef-contestants participating in this international culinary adventure, testing her skills, stamina and knowledge of local food culture. Will Moore come out on top? Tune in tonight at 9 p.m. If you get hooked, well, now you know what you’ll be doing on Wednesday nights this summer.

Another local chef soon to get some big-time TV time is Dave Rook, executive chef at Copia Urban Winery and Market. Rook is headed to New York City this month to compete in the finals of the Walmart Choice Steak Challenge. Rook recently bested his brother Lou Rook, executive chef at Annie Gunn’s, in the local rib-eye grilling showdown. At the NYC finals, slated for May 22, Dave Rook will face off against chefs from seven other cities – Tampa, Miami, Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Nashville and Atlanta – with top honors to be determined by a judging panel that includes champion pit master Chris Lilly. The competition will be televised before a national audience and will also be broadcast on the Sony Jumbo Tron in Times Square. We will provide details on program date and time once Rook receives further information.

— Photo courtesy of Bravo 

Two STL chefs slated to appear on NBC’s Today Show next week

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

Two of the area’s top chefs will appear next week on NBC’s Today Show. Gerard Craft, chef-owner of the Niche family of restaurants – Niche, Brasserie and Taste – is slated to make his appearance cooking on national TV on Monday, Feb. 27, likely in the 9 a.m. hour.

In addition, Wes Johnson, chef-owner of Salt, will also be cooking on the national morning show. Johnson, who opened his first restaurant just last year, informed Sauce that his live studio culinary performance is expected to be on Wednesday, Feb. 29. Johnson is awaiting final confirmation on the date and time for his appearance. Check back here for schedule details.

Watch one NYC food blogger describe what he calls “Modern Midwestern Cuisine”

Thursday, November 3rd, 2011

110311_videoNext Wednesday, Niche‘s Gerard Craft will be joining Justin Aprahamian of Sanford in Milwaukee; Michael Bulkowski of Revolver in Findlay, Ohio; Josh Adams of June in Peoria, Ill.; and Bruce Sherman of North Pond in Chicago; for a farm-to-table dinner at Sherman’s North Pond. While this is a small roll call of renowned regional chefs, the most interesting part of this dinner may not be the meal itself but the meaning behind it. How so? New York blogger and author Steve Plotnicki is offering up an intriguing (if somewhat ambiguous) answer to Grub Street Chicago.

Plotnicki believes these five individuals represent a group of young chefs who are returning to their hometowns after working in some of the best kitchens in America to open up their own farm-to-table restaurants. The result, he said, is dishes that are more “full flavored” and a cuisine that’s less “cheffy” than that found in restaurants on the coasts.

While Craft doesn’t quite fall into the category of those returning to their hometowns to open up restaurants all their own (He grew up in D.C.), it’s still interesting to hear how Plotnicki speaks of this new Midwestern category of cuisine. Want proof? Watch him (somewhat) explain it here.

For the full menu of next week’s dinner, click here. Oh, and just in case you’re inspired enough to take the trip over to The Windy City on a Wednesday and pay $120 per seat, you can make your reservation for the dinner by calling North Pond at 773.477.5845.

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