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Jul 24, 2014
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Archive for January, 2009

The Scoop: Fu Manchu to become Franklin’s

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Yes, ’tis true: Mike Johnson is shuttering Fu Manchu. Johnson is selling the downtown Maplewood restaurant to Scott Lapp and Tony Vrooman, co-founders of the local networking group River City Professionals. The pair plans to retool the space and the concept before reopening in mid-March as Franklin’s, a burger joint with a twist. The menu will offer multiple variations on the classic, including a pizza burger, a brunch burger –  complete with a fried egg and hash browns, a French bistro version with Brie, and several takes on a veggie burger. “We’re trying to get innovative with an American classic,” Lapp explained. Other pub food staples and a few health-conscious selections will round out the offerings; an extensive wine and beer list will complement the whole shebang.

New winery and brewery takes flight

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Another reason Grafton has it going on: a big new winery and microbrewery. Last weekend saw the grand opening of Grafton Winery & Brewhaus. “It was nuts, luckily – we’re not complaining!” said Mike Nikonovich, who co-owns the $2.5 million facility with his wife, Lori.

Seven Grafton Winery wines are on the menu, including blends and a Cabernet Sauvignon, made with grapes from upstate New York and Miramont Estate Vineyards in Linden, Calif. Three of Grafton’s wines are being finished at Les Bourgeois Winery in Rocheport, Mo., by winemaker Cory Bomgaars.

Nikonovich, who runs the wine operations at Grafton, said he’s also working on wines made with local fruit, including apple and cranberry wines that should be available in about three weeks and a blackberry wine ready in six.

Grafton’s brewer is Nikonovich’s son Mike Jr., who plans to start with an ale, a pilsner and two seasonal beers when the brewhouse opens in early spring.

Till then, the 10,500-square-foot winery (with an additional 5,700 square feet of patio space) is open seven days a week for food, drink and incredible eagle-watching through walls made of clear glass garage doors.

Sweet and savory (and veg-friendly)

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

My latest stop at SweetArt, the new pastry shop-cum-art gallery in the Shaw neighborhood, turned up savory fare, too. SweetArt is already making waves with its decadent cookies and cupcakes, and just last Saturday, Reine and Cbabi Bayoc’s storefront debuted a small-but-tasty menu of vegetarian sandwiches. SweetArt was already offering incredibly good quiche and savory turnovers, but now it has more traditional lunch fare. Look for sun-dried tomato-artichoke hummus on thick white bread (vegan if you omit the feta); a tofu salad sandwich with carrots, scallions, celery and basil; a thick, warmly spiced veggie burger; and a PB&J that’s steps above the norm. So now when you stop in for a carrot cake cupcake with fluffy cream cheese buttercream, you can temper any sugar guilt by eating a healthy lunch before you start licking all that icing off.

Brussels sprouts are not a nose-turner

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Any home cook who’s entertained has worried whether the menu would please all the guests. Just so this past weekend, when I served Brussels sprouts as part of a multicourse vegetarian meal.

Winter squash was part of the theme. Butternut and acorn squashes appeared in a chestnut soup garnished with sautéed chestnuts and mushrooms in a white-wine reduction, and again in ricotta-and-tofu-stuffed shells baked in a pumpkin sauce. What to serve alongside those hearty shells? Green beans amandine? Steamed broccoli? Brussels sprouts, with their slight bitterness and cruciferous crunch, contrast perfectly with squash’s smoothness and hint of sweetness; the orange-green color palette would be especially brightening on a drab, wintry evening. I’d roast them with a splash of balsamic and a sprinkle of salt and freshly ground pepper. I opted, with great hesitancy, to go for it, hoping that my guests would not have childhood flashbacks of eating soggy sprouts and make an early exit.

Au contraire
. I instead received remarks like, “I just love Brussels sprouts!”

Maybe more cooks and chefs will take a chance and put Brussels sprouts on the menu. (No mush, mind you.) They might be surprised to find that people actually eat them. I know I was.

Ligaya Figueras

Smokin’

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Congratulations to O’Fallon Brewery, whose Whiskey Barrel Smoked Porter was just named one of the top 25 beers of 2008 by Draft Magazine, a national pub for beer enthusiasts. “Is that not the most awesome thing in the world?” said O’Fallon co-owner Fran Caradonna. We’d go so far as to say it’s sawesome.

Drink your bacon

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

Recently, my saint of a cousin presented me with my very own jar of bacon-infused vodka, and I knew immediately what needed to happen. I had to uncover the perfect way to honor and enjoy this liquid gold, then share this critical knowledge with everyone I could.

So, here are my findings in order from worst to hands-down best:

Mixed with Red Bull: Ewwww.
Straight:
You should probably really like bacon if you are going to try this.
In a Bloody Mary:
It does add an overall richness but couldn’t fight through all the spice of a good Bloody.
Mixed with tonic:
Nice for cocktailing, the pale gold vodka looked good on the rocks and the bacon was subdued and fizzy. Using bacon as a swizzle stick, though, resulted in a chunky, floating mess.
Mixed with O.J.: We have a winner! Fresh-squeezed is probably best, but Minute Maid Kids Plus is more than sufficient in a pinch. The bacon is powerful, but the sweetness and citric acid held their own against the richness and salt. This is brunch in a glass.

Dennis Lowery
Photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Passing the torch

Tuesday, January 27th, 2009

We’ve heard the whispers for months now, but 33 Wine Shop and Tasting Bar owner Jake Hafner confirmed the news today that he is selling the Lafayette Square spot. New owner Jeff Stettner is in the process of obtaining a liqour license and will take the reins once that process is complete. While Hafner says that much of 33′s relaxed vibe will stay the same, he also notes that Stettner has a few changes planned, including an expansion that will provide room for a small retail shop.

In an e-mail announcing the news, Hafner thanked the shop’s customers: “I sincerely thank you for letting me serve you at 33, for making it part of your life. For showing up when you desired a drink and when you were celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, solemn when you remembered friends passing and all those places in between. For letting me provide a place to share your life.”

The ownership transition is expected to occur with little fanfare, and Hafner’s fans will have the chance to say farewell: He will remain behind the bar for some time to help the new ownership learn the ropes.

The Scoop: Ciao, Parker’s Table

Monday, January 26th, 2009

Jonathan Parker has announced the sad news that he’s shuttering his Parker’s Table wine shop in the coming weeks. The building, at 8137 Maryland Ave., that houses the Clayton shop has been sold, and Parker said he must vacate as a result. The silver lining? One heckuva sale: All wine is currently 20 percent off, and food items are discounted by 30 percent; the savings increase after the 31st in order to make for a lighter load on moving day. Fans of the shop and its keeper are invited to stop by on Sat., Jan. 31 for a farewell toast.

Route du Brew

Friday, January 23rd, 2009

Ste. Genevieve is officially wine and beer country. Not only is the region home to the acclaimed beers of Charleville Vineyard & Microbrewery, but it now boasts Crown Valley Brewing & Distilling Co., too.

Currently available at Spokes Pub & Grill in Farmington are six Crown Valley drafts: Sleighbell Spiced Ale, Barnwood Blonde Ale, Old School Pilsner, Big Bison Ale (dubbel), Crown Valley Raspberry Wheat and Worktruck Wheat (hefeweizen). Crown Valley beers are also on tap at Tiger Ridge Restaurant in Ste. Gen, Tanglefoot Steak House in Festus and Club Moxy in Cape Girardeau, among other establishments. Crown Valley’s bottling line is being installed now, said brewmaster Mark Walters, so look for distribution to explode in the coming months. Also in the works: brandy, vodka, tequila, bourbon and other high-end spirits.

And early this spring, Crown Valley Brewing & Distilling is set to open a 120-seat taproom with a 150-seat beer garden. “It’s definitely going to be something unique,” Walters said. Meantime, Crown Valley pours are $2 starting at 4 p.m. every Tuesday at Spokes, 1627 W. Columbia St., 573.756.6220. Walters also will be at Spokes Jan. 24 and 31 from 1 to 5 p.m. to talk about the brewing process. More info about Crown Valley Brewing & Distilling is at 573.756.9700.

More Adventures in Soy Milk

Wednesday, January 21st, 2009

I couldn’t stop coming up with soy-milk creations while researching Adventures in Soy Milk for the January issue. Here’s an extra that deserves recognition – PBJ Polenta for breakfast – using cornmeal, nut butter, jelly or jam, and of course, soy milk:

• Cook cornmeal just like you would for polenta, except in soy milk rather than water. (Add a couple of spoonfuls of wheat germ or uncooked old-fashioned oats for more texture and whole grain.)
• Once cooked, spoon the polenta into ramekins and place them in the refrigerator. After the polenta is set, invert each serving onto a separate plate and reheat in the microwave.
• My take on the PBJ part: Add a tablespoon of freshly ground nut butter plus a heaping tablespoon of homemade jam. (If you have an automatic soy-milk maker, you may be able to make your own nut butters.)
• Garnish with toasted black walnuts or fresh berries, admire, dig in.

Ligaya Figueras
Photo by Carmen Troesser

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