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Apr 02, 2015
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Drinking

Drink This Weekend Edition: 4 steps to ordering the perfect glass of wine

Friday, March 6th, 2015

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Everyone should be able to peruse a restaurant wine list with confidence. Personally, I love when someone hands me a heavy leather-bound wine bible, but I realize that even a simple one-page list can be daunting for some. Here, how to order your perfect glass of wine in four simple steps:

Step 1: Order a glass of bubbly. Look for something from one of the traditional European sparkling wine regions: Spanish cava, Italian prosecco and French Champagne. The crisp, dry flavors in a sparkling wine whet your appetite, and bubbles always make the evening a celebration. Choosing one will be easy, as most wine lists only include one or two options. The budget-conscious can sip a cava or a fruity prosecco, while those looking to indulge can try a slightly more expensive glass of Champagne.

Step 2: Now that those bubbles have boosted your confidence a bit, turn your attention to the rest of the list and decide how much you are willing to spend on a glass (or bottle). Don’t be swayed by the first bottle of cabernet sauvignon you see; they can often be pricier, while more unfamiliar wines are often better values.

Step 3: Go outside your comfort zone. Order something outside of your usual repertoire. If you’re enjoying a steak, skip the cabernet or Bordeaux and instead try a red from South American or France’s Cahors region. The more obscure picks are often gems on wine lists, with a little more age and a much better quality for the price ratio.

Step 4: Still confused? Ask for help. Servers at quality establishments are trained to guide you toward a great wine pick. Ask for something special and out of the ordinary, then enjoy what comes.

Put your newfound skills to the test this weekend at Bar Italia in Central West End or Truffles in Ladue; both establishments have amazing by the glass and full wine lists – and attentive staff in case you get stuck. Choosing a wine should be fun; don’t let it stress you out.

 

Ben Wood has more than 10 years experience in the wine industry. He currently works as a sales representative for St. Louis-based wine importer Terra Firma.

Guide to Beer 2015: Spring Forecast

Tuesday, March 3rd, 2015

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Springtime in St. Louis: the harbinger of regrowth, renewal and, of course, good beer. Here are some new local releases to awaken your taste buds this spring.

March 11: O’Fallon Brewing Co.’s Imperial Stout
The O’Fallon crew nailed its Imperial Pumpkin, so expect nothing less of this limited, draft-only, bold brew.

March 15: Urban Chestnut Brewing Co.’s Apotheosis
Bright citrus and floral hop notes round out this farmhouse ale, soon making a reappearance at both UCBC locations.

March 28: 4 Hands Brewing Co.’s War Hammer Imperial IPA
Its delicious hops complexity is so anticipated, the brewery is throwing its fourth annual Lupulin Carnival to celebrate it.

April 1: Morgan Street Brewery’s When Helles Freezes Over
This easy-drinking, well-balanced lager is sure to quench your thirst through spring cleaning.

Early April: Perennial Artisan Ales’ Hopfentea
Hopfentea is a tart, refreshing, complex seasonal Berliner Weisse – a sure sign spring is here.

May 8: Schlafly Beer – Femme Ferment’s Collaboration Elderflower Maibock
Debuting in time for Mother’s Day is a sweet, herbaceous elderflower maibock that marks Femme Ferment’s first anniversary.

Drink This Weekend Edition: The Will

Friday, February 27th, 2015

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Every year, I struggle with the same concept: the winter cocktail. There are plenty of drinks that feature egg whites and cream, but they can end up with a thin texture or a chalky mouth feel. And what about that pesky leftover yolk? This decadent tipple delivers creaminess and punch, while also using up all those egg yolks I inevitably collect over time.

The Will
1 serving

1½ oz. Blanton’s bourbon
¾ oz. rich Demerara syrup (a 2:1 ratio)
½ oz. lemon juice
1 egg yolk
Cinnamon for garnish

• Combine the bourbon, Demerara syrup, lemon juice and egg yolk in a cocktail shaker and dry shake 15 seconds. Fill the shaker with ice and shake another 30 seconds. Double strain into a chilled cocktail glass and garnish with cinnamon.

 

Ben Bauer is a member of USBG St. Louis and a bartender at The Libertine.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Heavy Riff and Excel Brewing’s Two Frenchmen

Thursday, February 19th, 2015

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Even a brew-savvy city like St. Louis can overlook a beer style every now and then. Heavy Riff Brewing Co. in Dogtown and Illinois-based Excel Brewing set out to change that with their bière de mars Two Frenchmen, debuting Saturday, Feb. 21 at 5 p.m.

Bière de mars, or “March beer,” is related to the more common saison and bière de garde. This classic French style is often floral, slightly fruity and was traditionally made in late winter or early spring for quick consumption. Two Frenchmen is brewed with orange peel and a touch of elderflower for added complexity. This amber beer is mildly malty with a slightly dry finish. The French farmhouse ale yeast strain gives the beer an added spicy character. The restrained hop character puts the focus on the fermentation characteristics and the subtle spice additions.

If you haven’t been to Heavy Riff lately, this is a perfect opportunity for a visit. The brewery, which celebrated its first anniversary last fall, now regularly has eight to 10 of its beers on tap. In addition to the bière de mars, Heavy Riff will also feature a cask of its new IPA Left Coast Envy and its Dark Days American rye stout. Excel is bringing its new double IPA, Plague Bringer.

If you miss the party, you’re in luck – Two Frenchmen will soon be on tap at better craft beer establishments around town.

Eric Hildebrandt is the moderator and ambassador for STL Hops. Find him on Twitter at @EricSTL6.

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Get schooled on sherry

Thursday, February 5th, 2015

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Sherry is one of the greatest values in the wine world right now, but there’s still a lot of confusion surrounding these fortified Spanish wines. Here, a crash course on three types of sherry – and why you should drink them:

1. Fino: These sherries are not oxidized, which makes them crisp, clean and beautiful. They are a perfect start to a meal with olives and charcuterie or even a more substantial fish course. A fino labeled “Manzanilla” means that sherry was created exclusively in the costal town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda.

2. Oloroso: The aging process for this sherry allows for plenty of oxidation. This means they are rich, complex and often some of the oldest wines you can get for the money. Olorosos are aged in a solera system, a series of barrels that contain different ages of wine. The average oloroso solera is well over 30 years old. Some date back to the 1800s; this means that some portion of every bottle in that solera is that old. At least 17 percent ABV, oloroso is one of my favorite wines to enjoy with cheese plates loaded with strong varieties, honey, nuts and quince paste.

3. Pedro Ximénez: Got a sweet tooth? This classic dessert wine is the one sherry made with the Pedro Ximénez grape instead of the palamino. So dark they appear brown or almost black, these are amazingly sweet wines. My favorite way to enjoy PX is poured over vanilla ice cream (just like grandma used to!), but it’s quite good with honeyed desserts like baklava or halvah.

The Wine and Cheese Place in Creve Coeur and Starrs both have excellent sherry selections. Ready to try a bottle? Look for Valdespino Fino Inocente, an excellent start for sherry novices.

Prefer to shake that sherry instead? Try our recipe for a Tongue & Cheek cocktail featuring fino sherry and click here to learn more about this resurgent wine.

 

Ben Wood has more than 10 years experience in the wine industry. He currently works as a sales representative for St. Louis-based wine importer Terra Firma.

Drink This Weekend Edition: Vesper Martini

Thursday, January 29th, 2015

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The martini is best known as the 007 or the official drink of James Bond – though any bartender will tell you it should definitely be stirred, not shaken. This Vesper martini combines both vodka and gin and requires a little finesse to perfect.

The ratio of vodka to gin varies, but most classic Vesper recipes have a 1-to-1 ratio. I prefer a stronger gin pour, particularly a stronger pine-forward gin like St. George Terrior. Sipped straight, it tastes like running through a pine forest with an open mouth. Stir it with vodka, which cuts through the gin botanicals, and Lillet, a French aperitif that balances this simple cocktail the way vermouth does in a classic martini. (Prefer a classic gin martini? Click here.)

 

Vesper Martini
1 serving

1½ oz. St. George Terroir gin
1 oz. Purus vodka
½ oz. Lillet Blanc
Lemon twist for garnish

• In a pint glass or shaker filled with ice, combine all ingredients. Stir to combine and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a lemon twist.

Natasha Bahrami is a member of USBG St. Louis and co-owner of Natasha’s Cafe and The Gin Room.

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Charlie Chaplin and tea cocktails at Blank Space

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

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{The Charlie Chaplin at Blank Space}

If you dig the inside baseball of the drinking industry, chances are you’ve made your way over to Motown Mondays at Cherokee Street’s Blank Space. The slow-jam sesh at the visual and performing arts venue, according to owner Kaveh Razani, is a confab of the city’s drink-mixing minds and fertile ground for collusion, invention and hip-gyrating fun.

Seeking reinvention, Razani (whose brother Mazi Razani is a partner at Blueprint Coffee) recently called in an industry favor and consulted with cocktail guru Joel Clark at The Purple Martin nearby. The idea was to wed Blank Space’s estimable tea program and its liquor selection, the bottles of which have been gathering dust on a shelf.

“I’ve always wanted to do tea before I wanted to do liquor,” Razani said, explaining that whatever Blank Space is, its customers seldom view it as a drinking destination. He and Clark set out to change that.

“(Kaveh) said, ‘I want to make hot tea cocktails,’” Clark said. “I said, ‘I’ve never seen anybody do that. Let’s do it.’”

The result is a six-item roster of cocktails of a type you won’t find elsewhere in St. Louis, all of them are available hot or cold. Clark described the 20 hours of R&D that went into perfecting what essentially amounts to an ice-less, shaken cocktail. The necessary dilution that comes from ice now is provided by tea.

Clark had help from others – he lost his sense of smell after a seizure – and mixes drinks now using second opinions and a finely tuned sense of dead reckoning.

The spirits are mixed, shaken and strained before fresh hot tea is poured over the top. (Razani sources from the local ReTrailer mobile teamaker and San Francisco importer Vital Tea Leaf.) I tried the Charlie Chaplin – named for a tattoo on Clark’s forearm – a mix of apricot brandy, sloe gin, lime juice and sweet Drop It Like Its Hot hibiscus tea. Garnished with a floating lime wheel, the cocktail is a lovely shade of magenta, bracingly tart and warm all the way down. Also available is the toddy-like Brooklyn Cocktail, made with rye, dry vermouth, Maraschino liqueur, Fernet and mint tea.

You don’t have to wait until Motown Monday to drink the fruits of industry collaboration, mind you. Just be sure to get there this weekend, before the next great idea is conceived.

 

 

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: The Woodsman at 4 Hands’ Anniversary Party

Thursday, January 15th, 2015

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Beer lovers don’t necessarily need a special occasion to try a new beer, but sometimes a celebration just presents itself. Case in point: 4 Hands Brewing Co. celebrates its third anniversary tomorrow, Jan. 16 with a party kicking off at noon and rolling all night long. 4 Hands will feature several draft selections of its limited-release beers, including Volume No. 1, Volume No. 2, Ill Repute, Beyond the Bricks, Madagascar and the very last keg of Blackberry Chocolate Milk Stout.

And that new beer? Presenting 4 Hands’ newest addition to its bottle and draft lineup, The Woodsman. This brew is a 50-50 blend of Imperial oatmeal stout in stainless steel and Imperial milk stout aged in bourbon barrels. The result is a jet-black pour with a mocha head that lends itself to a moderate mouth feel. While there is plenty of chocolate going on, there are also some subtle fruity esters akin to dried cherries and raisins that really make this beer pop. While dessert is the obvious pairing, try this one with a juicy burger with goat cheese and caramelized onions.

Bottles and draft will see limited distribution across the metro area, but if you want a guaranteed taste, head to 4 Hands Friday to celebrate three years in the St. Louis craft beer scene – and purchase up to three bottles of The Woodsman to keep the party going at home, too.

Eric Hildebrandt is the moderator and ambassador with STL Hops. Follow him on Twitter at @EricSTL6.

 

 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: 2015 wine trends with Jon Dickinson at Parker’s Table

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

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{From left, Parker’s Table manager Jon Dickinson and Jon Parker}

 

The new year brings new talk of trends throughout the food and beverage scene, from those we eagerly anticipate to those we wish would just disappear already. I recently popped by Parker’s Table to chat with manager Jon Dickinson about what’s up next for the St. Louis wine scene – and picked up a few bottles for myself.

What trends did you see here in 2014?
We found an acceptance with consumers of wines outside the areas they were used to … wines from Hungary, Turkey, Greece … wines that are excellent, unique, historical, Old World, really cool wines that just (didn’t) have the exposure before.

Why were St. Louisans interested in these more obscure wines?
A new crop of younger sommeliers (is) getting really excited about obscure wines and actually putting them on restaurant wine lists … It’s a lot easier to get someone to try a cool glass of wine in a cool restaurant than it is to get them to invest in a full bottle. Having cooler glass-pour programs around town has been great in increasing consumer education, getting customers to … open their minds a little bit about wine regions St. Louis has not really seen before.

What can we expect in 2015?
People are getting more acclimated to high-acid wines, more food-friendly wines, understanding that wines and foods go together. The two can play off each other and create really unique flavor combinations.

Why are people interested in higher-acid wines?
People are just getting tired of the big, overdone style with high alcohol and massive oak flavors. They seem to be looking for wines that are more refreshing.

What wine resolutions did you make this year?
I’ve resolved to drink even crazier! Trying new things I haven’t tried before, new grapes, wines from new places, and wines made in unique ways.

Can you share a trade secret for choosing good wines?
Even if you don’t know the wine, pick an importer or two you like, and check the back label for that importer… (I like) Rosenthal Wine Merchant, Louis/Dressner Selections and Rare Wine Company.

Here, my two picks to get into Dickinson’s 2015 trends, both from a suggested importer:

1. Chateau Soucherie Anjou Rouge is a Loire Valley blend of cabernet franc and grolleau grapes that’s earthy and spicy, yet approachable and refreshing.

2. Kiràlyudvar Tokaj Furmint Sec is a delicious dry white from Hungary’s famed Tokaji region. It’s bright and crisp with a high level of acidity balanced by melon and lemon.

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: Holiday Flip

Thursday, December 25th, 2014

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Instead of ladling spiked box nog from a punch bowl, wow your guests with customized holiday flips. Traditionally made with liquor, sugar and eggs, a flip is a single-serve cocktail shaken until frothy and is the precursor to modern eggnog. In fact, flips were one of the first cocktails defined by Jerry Thomas’ A Bon Vivant’s Companion, the first bar guide published in 1862.

For this version, I used bourbon and Spirits of St. Louis’ Vermont Night, a whiskey-based spirit infused with winter spices, vanilla, citrus and maple syrup. This liqueur adds sweetness and spice, but if you don’t have a bottle handy, feel free to swap in whatever is available at your home bar. Flips required very fresh eggs for the richest, creamiest texture. If you’re worried about contamination, you can substitute in-shell pasteurized eggs with minimal loss of texture.

 

Holiday Flip
1 serving

1 cup light brown sugar
1 cup water
1.5 oz. Knob Creek or other quality bourbon
1 oz. Vermont Night liqueur
1 oz. half and half
¼ tsp. vanilla extract
1 whole egg
Cinnamon or fresh grated nutmeg, for garnish

• In a small saucepot, bring the brown sugar and water to a simmer over medium-high until the sugar is dissolved. Let cool and refrigerate until ready to use.
• Stack 1 ounce of the brown sugar syrup, bourbon, Vermont Night, half and half, vanilla extract and egg in a cocktail shaker and shake dry (without ice) 20 seconds to mix the egg and create a small froth. Add ice and shake wet 20 to 30 seconds to chill and add more froth. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into a martini glass, Old-Fashioned glass or goblet. Garnish with a pinch of cinnamon or grated nutmeg.

 

Justin Cardwell is a member of USBG St. Louis and general manager at BC’s Kitchen.

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