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Sep 28, 2016
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Drinking

Guide to Drinking 2016: 6 Best Bitter Bottles to Buy

Tuesday, September 20th, 2016

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Sweet-toothed Americans are increasingly embracing bitter flavors at the bar. Aperol spritzes are everywhere, and according to Randolfi’s head barman Jeffrey Moll, “No respectable home bar should be without Campari.” The pretty pink amaro and its compatriots are for more than your nightly Negroni. Bitter liqueurs and aromatized wines can be enjoyed simply poured over ice with a citrus twist or neat at room temp. We asked Moll, Planter’s House’s Ted Kilgore and Retreat Gastropub’s Tim Wiggins to tell us which bottles best bring out the bitter.

1. Amaro Sibilla is sweetened with honey but tastes boldly bitter and herbal – a siren song for the experienced amaro enthusiast. It’s great in complex cocktails. $54

2. Amaro Sibona boasts a sweet, baking spice-laced start with a smooth, slightly bitter, chocolate finish. Substitute it for Campari or sweet vermouth in your next Negroni. $30

3. Contratto Aperitif is easy to drink with prominent orange notes, like a more complex Aperol. Try mixing equal parts with a dry, sparkling white wine. $30

4. Amaro Nonino’s bittersweet caramel and baking spice notes are best on their own, rather than in a cocktail. Try as an aperitif over ice, or sip it neat after dinner. $50

5. Amaro di Angostura rolls around the palate with the spiced flavors of the classic Angostura bitters. Use in place of vermouth for an amped-up Manhattan. $22

6. Byrrh is a lightly bitter blend of young red wine and quinine. With an approachable flavor profile and price tag, it’s a safe start on your bitter journey. $18

All available at The Wine and Cheese Place in Clayton, wineandcheeseplace.com

Photo by Jonathan Gayman 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Nuclear Sky Sno-cone at BBQ Saloon

Friday, September 16th, 2016

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When I heard The BBQ Saloon in the Central West End was making sno-cones with Leopold Bros. natural liqueurs, I had to try them. Adult sno-cones don’t usually come in grown-up flavors, but Leopold Bros. liqueurs have the deep, rich taste of real fruit and a sophisticated sweetness. BBQ Saloon offers the Leopold Bros. Michigan Tart Cherry Liqueur, New York Sour Apple and Rocky Mountain Peach, but owner Phil Czarnec said any classic cocktail can be made into a sno-cone.

I opted for Czarnec’s favorite, the Nuclear Sky. Made with Reyka Vodka, Pinckney Bend tonic syrup, crème de violette and Leopold Bros. peach liqueur, complex fruit and floral notes dance on the palate, leaving you with the expected sweetness of a sno-cone, matured. It’s not too late to live your best summer life.

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: 3 wines for sauvignon blanc lovers

Friday, September 2nd, 2016

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Sauvignon blanc is the ultimate summer wine: crisp and grassy with melon and mineral notes and easy, bright drinkability. However, after months spent quaffing this lovely wine, it’s time to close out the season with something different. Here, three bottles perfect for sauvignon blanc lovers seeking something new:
1. The Easy Transition: Domaine Du Bagnol Cassis Blanc
This is a great French wine from the Provence region. It’s sophisticated and enjoyable with notes of pear, quince and minerals, and offers a clean freshness characteristic of sauvignon blancs. Enjoy on its own or pair with shellfish, sushi or salads.
$23. The Wine & Cheese Place in Clayton

2. The Change Up: Domaine Du Gros ‘Noré Bandol Rosé
I know, I know, another summer rosé – but trust me on this. Bandols are the Teslas of rosés. This crisp, clean wine offers hints of melon, grass and perfect minerality, making it a perfect match for fans of sauvignon blanc. This beauty is perfect for sipping and pairs well with anything grilled.
$32. Veritas Gateway to Food & Wine in Ellisville

3. The Challenge: El Maestro Sierra Fino
This option might be a stretch, but still, a winery that’s been around since 1832 is surely worth a try. Fino sherry has an unmatched, almost saline minerality. For Sancerre fans (France’s most famous sauvignon blanc), a sip of this crisp, dry sherry is like turning up the volume on your favorite song. It’s best served fresh and cold with oysters, almonds or olives.
$15. Starrs in Richmond Heights

 

Ben Wood has more than 10 years experience in the wine industry. He currently works as a sommelier at Reeds American Table. 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Pomegranate-Coffee Tonic Shrub Cocktail at Sump

Friday, August 26th, 2016

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There’s no guilt in a (nonalcoholic) morning cocktail, especially when Retreat Gastropub’s Tim Wiggins teams up with Sump Coffee for a Pomegranate-Coffee Tonic. The third coffee cocktail collaboration Wiggins has developed for the coffee shop this summer, this juicy, sweet-tart treat is made with fresh pomegranate juice, pomegranate syrup, dried hibiscus and Sump cold brew, served over Fever Tree tonic.

It’s a great introduction to the bold flavors of a coffee shrub cocktail, with a little less vinegar intensity than the previous two drinks (a Cascara Fizz and Honey Burundi Julep), and more refreshing sparkle from the tonic. Marrying the bright, floral sweetness of hibiscus-inflected pomegranate with the earthy, caramel depth of Sump coffee, each sip will call for another to figure out how this unlikely couple can work so well. Sump barista Connor Usry said it best: “It tastes like a chocolate covered pomegranate seed.”

Drink This Weekend Edition: Class of 2011 Collaboration Beers

Thursday, July 28th, 2016

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St. Louis Craft Beer Week kicks off tomorrow, July 29, and there is an abundance of beer-related events around the city that boast what we brew best.

This year’s highlight is the fifth-anniversary celebration of the four breweries that opened in 2011: 4 Hands Brewing Co., The Civil Life Brewing Co., Perennial Artisan Ales and Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. The Class of 2011 has marked the milestone with a major collaboration effort that involved ingredient sharing, recipe building and brew days with representatives from each brewery. The result: a beer from each member of the Class of 2011 that’s slightly outside of its wheelhouse and showcases the diversity of our beer scene.

All four collaboration beers debut tomorrow from 5 to 9 p.m. at the St. Louis Brewers’ Picnic, a free STLCBW kickoff event hosted by Baileys’ Restaurants. You can also join the Class of 2011 Collaboration Tour on Aug. 3 from 5 to 9 p.m. with free shuttle service between the four breweries, and the beers will be on draft in the breweries’ tasting rooms throughout STLCBW.

Ever the diligent drink writer, I ran around the city sampling these beautiful beers and gathering tasting notes for you eager imbibers. Here’s a taste of what’s to come from the Class of 2011:

1. 4 Hands Brewing Co. brewed an incredibly satiating and mildly bitter Pilsner with UCBC’s house lager yeast. Notes of biscuit, grass, lemon and pepper dominate the nose, while soft floral and pepper notes complement bright citrus and soft stone fruit on the palate. You won’t stop at just one.

2. Perennial Artisan Ales brewed a dry-hopped Kölsch with Galaxy hops from 4 Hands and Mandarina Bavaria hops from UCBC. It has massive hop aroma, juicy tropical fruit and grass on the palate with a mild grain presence and medium body. Session IPA drinkers, get ready – this is right up your alley.

3. The Civil Life Brewing Co. made an American IPA complete with a fantastic caramel malt backbone, clean bitterness, strong notes of pineapple and mango on the nose, and juicy tropical flavors paired with bright citrus round out the palate. By far, the most assertively hoppy beer to come out of Civil Life’s brewhouse and so worth the try.

4. Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. brewed an India Brown Ale fermented with house ale yeast from Civil Life, El Dorado and Galaxy hops from 4 Hands and flaked oats and chocolate spelt from Perennial. This medium-full bodied, dark ruby colored brew is full of flavor. Herbal and spicy notes dominate the aroma, while stone fruit, toffee and light nutty notes complement the seemingly bitter palate.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Underrated wines

Thursday, July 14th, 2016

 

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Pick up any wine magazine, and you’re bound to find wines ranked on a 100-point scale. Unfortunately, it’s really hard to get below a certain score, and as with any subjective topic, the numbers are somewhat arbitrary – there is no standardized method for ranking. Some critics describe the process as 10 points for nose, 10 for color, 10 for palate, 10 for finish, 10 for overall impression and the remaining 50 simply for existing.

I find this degrading to vintners and winery teams. Most wines depend on weather, luck, timing, hard work and perseverance. They should be enjoyed as a moment in time, appreciating the product and its complement to your meal or your experience. I love a serious, complex bottle paired with an amazing meal, but I equally love an easy-drinking, quaffable wine on the patio with friends.

I taste quite a bit of wine, and I’m not sure I can tell you if any wine has a score able number for any ‘characteristic.’ Characteristics are subjective; a cloudy wine might upset you, but excite me. I’ve sold 100-point bottles to happy clients, and other underrated bottles that resulted in the same level of enjoyment. The only opinion that matters is the one belonging to the person who paid for it.

When hunting for an underrated bottle, look for wines made in a little known area where real estate is cheaper. It’s hard to find underrated wine from Napa Valley, California, but some Missouri wines or wines from lesser known regions of France’s Loire Valley are well worth the effort to find. Here are two such hidden gems:

1. Claverach Farm Pét-Nat sparkling rosé: Made by Claverach Farm’s Sam Hilmer, this wine is fizzy and wild with a beautiful nose of flowers and bright berries. It is dry and complex on the palate with refreshing bubbles.
$25, available at Starrs

2. Champalou Vouvray chenin blanc: This is a fine example of what the Loire Valley can do. Minerals, dry hay and apricot notes are followed by a hint of floral and matchstick. It is dry, rich and enjoyable on the palate.
$18, The Wine and Cheese Place

Drink This Weekend Edition: 2 picks from Firestone Walker

Friday, June 17th, 2016

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The Side Project Cellar team just returned from Paso Robles, California after attending the fantastic Firestone Walker Invitational Beer Fest. What a weekend! (A quick humblebrag for our team and the St. Louis beer scene: Side Project Brewing won the People’s Choice Award for best in show!)

California is crawling with amazing beer up and down the coast, but there is something special about Firestone Walker. They excel at nearly everything; great barrel program featuring complex high gravity beers (Look for some fun ones at a Firestone Walker tap takeover at Soha Bar & Grill on Tuesday, June 21 at 6 p.m.) and sours, ridiculous West Coast IPAs, and a pretty rad hoppy Pilsner.

If you have yet to visit California’s Central Coast, I strongly suggest putting that on your to-do list. But in the meantime, go out and find some Firestone Walker canned freshies for your weekend enjoyment.

1. Luponic Distortion No. 001 is Firestone Walker’s revolving IPA series in which they experiment by showcasing different hops. The first in this series is ripe with notes of tropical fruit, West Coast dankness and vibrant citrus, all while boasting a clean and dry finish. Look for No. 002, with it’s a new hop profile, to hit stores early July.

2. Pivo Pilsner is Firestone Walker’s nod to European Pilsner tradition. This dry-hopped beer is beaming with floral notes, a little herbal spiciness and a classic Pilsner malt finish. Clean and refreshing, this beer goes perfectly with just about anything.

 

Katie Herrera is co-founder of Femme Ferment and manager of The Side Project Cellar.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Schlafly 1616 at Shakespeare in the Park

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

 

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If it were up to me, I’d have called it Shakes-beer. But was up to the mindful brewers at Schlafly, who dubbed their Shakespeare Festival St. Louis beer 1616 in honor of the 400th anniversary of The Bard’s death.

You won’t find this Schlafly creation in stores or at bars. Instead, its available on draft at select Shakespeare Festival events like Shakespeare in the Park, which debuts A Midsummer Night’s Dream tonight, June 3, at Shakespeare Glen in Forest Park.

Schlafly set out to create an easy-drinking, 5.5-percent ABV beer perfect for picnicking prior to the show. The crisp, unfiltered lager is brewed with bright Mandarina Bavaria hops. 1616 starts fresh and hoppy, but finishes smooth and malty with just the right amount of citrus complexity. It clocks in at a food-friendly 25 IBU, equally suited to be sipped with fried chicken or a light salad.

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: 4 botanical beers to sip in May

Friday, May 20th, 2016

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Now that we’re spending every available moment outdoors, reach for less assertive, more refreshing beer styles brewed with botanical ingredients like flowers and herbs.

Botanicals can be added to beer through a variety of methods before and after fermentation. Some brewers like to add botanicals toward the end of the boil during the brew, while others prefer to steep them like tea, post-fermentation in the bright tank. Botanicals can add color to beer (i.e. see beers brewed with hibiscus flowers) and accentuate the fruit, herb and grass notes of hop and yeast expression.

(Looking to fire up your taste buds instead? Click here to check out Herrera’s 4 chile beer picks.) 

The local brewery scene has played with botanicals for years. You may be familiar with Perennial Artisan Ales flagship Saison de Lis (Belgian-style saison with chamomile flowers), 4 Hands Brewing Co.’s flagship Single Speed (American blonde ale with jasmine flowers) and 2nd Shift Brewing’s seasonal Hibiscus Wit (Belgian-style wit with hibiscus flowers). These are all beautiful, easy-drinking beers complete with thirst-quenching characteristics to rejuvenate your senses. Acquaint yourself with these local, botanical-driven favorites and then find these fun seasonal releases from some of my favorite breweries.

1. Boulevard Hibiscus Gose is a tart, zesty German-style wheat beer. Brewed with salt and coriander and then steeped on dried hibiscus flowers, this beer presents itself with bright acidity, mellow sweetness, and a crisp finish.

2. Jolly Pumpkin Baudelaire Beer iO Saison, brewed with a bouquet of rose hips, rose petals, and hibiscus, is the definition of delicate. Beautiful, soft floral notes are the highlight of this incredibly light, soft farmhouse ale.

3. Perennial Hopfentea pairs rose hips, hibiscus, and lemon grass with mango, papaya and orange peel for a satiating and tart German-style Berlinerweiss. Juicy tropical fruit is balanced by vibrant floral notes on the palate and is sure to make your taste buds dance.

4. New Belgium/Hof Ten Dormaal Collaboration Lips of Faith – Golden Ale is a light-bodied, yeast-forward and refreshing beer brewed with wild carrot herbs. A touch of banana on the nose accentuates the soft fruit notes and mild grassiness on the palate.

 

The Weekend Project: Dark & Stormy, two ways

Friday, May 13th, 2016

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After a busy day of spring cleaning and yard work and the warm air begins to settle in, we find ourselves daydreaming of summer vacation. And while the dog days of summer and a Caribbean cruise are still a long way off, we can find some consolation in the cool refreshment of a Dark & Stormy made with homemade ginger beer. And don’t sweat the DIY; the effort required to make ginger beer is about as taxing as a lazy afternoon on the beach.

Nonalcoholic ginger beer can be made in two ways. First, you can make a sugary solution to feed yeast, which provides natural carbonation for your sparkling beverage. Second, you can make an intense ginger simple syrup that is finished with a splash of soda water.

 

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The first method isn’t complicated, but it does require 24 to 72 hours and a little space in the refrigerator. You also need to be around every 12 hours or so to gently loosen the lid and allow some of the gas to release, otherwise your science project will explode and the clean up will be a very different sort of weekend project. The ginger syrup takes less time and can be refrigerated several months and added to almost any iced tea or summery beverage for a little extra sparkle in your summer.

The Gameplan
Day 1: Make the ginger beer or make the ginger syrup.
Day 2: Refrigerate the ginger beer or make a Dark & Stormy with ginger syrup.
Day 3: Make a Dark & Stormy with ginger beer.

 

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Ginger Beer
2 quarts

8 cups water, divided
Juice of 2 lemons
1 lemon peel
1 cup ice
¼ cup fresh grated ginger
1 star anise
¼ tsp. ground white pepper
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. Champagne yeast*

• Day 1: In a medium stockpot, bring 4 cups water, the lemon juice, lemon peel, ginger, star anise and pepper to a boil over high heat. Add the sugar, stir until it is dissolved and remove from heat. Add the remaining 4 cups water and ice and allow it to cool until it warm to the touch, about 110 degrees.
• Stir in the the yeast and place in a cool, dark place at least 3 hours or overnight.
• Strain the liquid through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl; discard the solids. Funnel the liquid a clean plastic 2-liter bottle and cap.
• Ferment the ginger beer 12 to 24 hours, carefully opening the bottle every 12 hours to release pressure.
• Day 2: Pour the ginger beer into glass bottles with swing stoppers attached or growlers and refrigerate. Ferment another 24 hours, carefully opening the bottles every 12 hours to release pressure. (Note: Continue to open the bottles at least once a day as long as the ginger beer remains in the refrigerator to avoid a build up a pressure and potential explosions.)

Dark & Stormy (with ginger beer)
1 serving

3 oz. homemade ginger beer
2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum or another dark rum
¼ oz. lime juice
Lime wheel, star anise and white pepper to garnish

• Day 3: Pour the ginger beer, rum and lime juice into a rocks or highball glass. Add ice to fill, then gently stir to combine. Garnish with the lime wheel, star anise and white pepper.

 

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Ginger Syrup
Adapted from a recipe by Planter’s House’s Jamie Kilgore
3 cups

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
Juice of 3 lemons
2 lemon peels
½ cup grated fresh ginger
¼ tsp. white pepper
2 star anise

• Day 1: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan or pot, stir all the ingredients to a simmer over medium heat, until the sugar has dissolved and the ingredients have had a chance to steep, about 10 minutes.
• Remove from heat and allow the syrup to cool and the aromatics and ginger to infuse for 1 to 3 hours.
• Strain through a fine mesh sieve or cheesecloth; discard the solids. Pour into an airtight container and store, refrigerated, up to 3 months.

Dark & Stormy (with ginger syrup)
1 serving

2 oz. Gosling’s Black Seal Rum or another dark rum
½ oz. ginger syrup
¼ oz. lime juice
Splash of soda water
Lime wheel, star anise and white pepper to garnish

• Day 2: Pour the rum, ginger syrup and lime juice into a rocks or highball glass. Add ice to fill, then top with soda and gently stir to combine. Garnish with the lime wheel, star anise and white pepper.

*Champagne yeast can be found at most homebrewing supply stores.

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