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Archive for September, 2010

The Scoop: Big changes at Niche restaurants

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

093010_tasteRumors had been swirling for some time that Taste by Niche was going to move to the Central West End into the space vacated by chef Eric Brenner’s now defunct Moxy Bistro. Today, chef-owner Gerard Craft made the news official. However, Craft has been holding back since there were many more pieces to the puzzle than simply relocating mixologist Ted Kilgore and his crew next door to Craft’s French bistro Brasserie by Niche.

Apart from moving the popular cocktail bar to 4584 Laclede Ave., Craft will move his flagship restaurant Niche next door into the tiny Taste by Niche space, and will only serve 12 patrons at a time with exclusive focus on 8- and 12-course tasting menus. The space now housed by Niche will become Porano, an osteria serving Italian country cuisine that is set to open in January.

Why Italian? “Italy is a place that I love,” said Craft. “Especially Umbria and moving on up from there to Piedmonte and the region around there. It’s very soulful, very rustic cooking – like a grandmother would make. The dining in Italy is so communal – sitting around a table with good wine and pasta and roasted meat. It’s simple, but ingredient-driven. Yet if you look at Niche’s food, Niche’s pastas have always been a big part of that.” Craft mentioned that pistachio ravioli has been in the Niche repertoire for some time and that one of the longest-standing dishes on the menu was adapted from a dish he tasted in Porano, Italy: smoked pork shank papperdelle. The restaurant’s name, Porano, is a town in Umbria where Craft says that he had “the best meal of my life.”

As far as Niche goes, Craft said that the smaller space will allow him to control the Niche concept and continue to exceed expectations via creative tasting menus. “One thing that people have at Niche is high expectations. It has driven us up the ladder. We want that and this is my way of doing it. It’s good for me and my cooks.”

And moving Taste by Niche next to Brasserie? “Proximity has something to do to it. It made sense. We don’t want Taste to ever be overwhelmingly big. That space still feels cozy.” You can feel the coziness when Taste by Niche opens in December.

All of our coverage on the Niche family of restaurants

The Scoop: Shula’s 347 Grill runs option play for St. Louis market

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

093010_shulasFamed NFL coach Don Shula will soon be opening Shula’s 347 Grill in the Roberts Tower, the new 25-story luxe condo development that sits adjacent to the Roberts Mayfair Hotel downtown. Shula owns a portfolio of 31 dining establishments that include five different brands and 10 Shula’s 347 Grill locations around the county, so Sauce was curious to hear whether the restaurant at 411 N. Eighth Street might be different from Shula’s other restaurants.

Kenny Storie, the food and beverage director at the Mayfair who will be charged with overseeing operations at the restaurant, tells Sauce that the St. Louis establishment will be distinct from the chains’ other locations. For one thing, he said, the restaurant will not be as heavily driven with sports paraphernalia. “It’s got a sleek, contemporary design. It’s not so sports-intensive,” said Storie. The menu, which will feature salads, fish, burgers, sandwiches and steaks, will see the addition of a few extra “Shula Cut” steaks to cater to the St. Louis market. The beer list will also have a regional focus, carrying locally brewed Schlafly beers.

The restaurant, which serves lunch and dinner, will quietly open its doors on Dec. 9, with a grand opening to follow in late December or early January.

UPDATE 1.6.11: Management confirmed that the restaurant is now set to open by the end of March. The setback, he said, is due to delays in construction.

Flapjack fun this Friday

Thursday, September 30th, 2010

093010_pancakesRight now, the young ladies of The Rotary Club of Webster Groves are primping and preening before their mirrors, practicing their speeches and covering themselves in authentic maple syrup. That’s what it takes to become a pancake queen.

Okay, maybe it’s just a few dabs of syrup behind the ears and on the pulse points, but still, this is the 50th anniversary of The Webster Groves Rotary Club All You Can Eat Pancake Festival, and folks are getting into it.

The rotary club muckety-mucks will choose one enthusiastic young gal from their burg to wear the sash and tiara. While there aren’t quite specific qualifications for being named queen (just a little luck and lots of syrup), the lucky lady will get to carry a unique “bejeweled, majestic-looking spatula,” explained club president Dick Sant.

You can see the newly anointed Pancake Queen at the rotary club’s festival this Friday. The club will serve up pancakes, sausage, eggs and applesauce for lunch from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and for dinner from 4 to 8 p.m. Meals are served at the Webster Hills United Methodist Church Christian Life Center at 1333 W. Lockwood Ave.

The money collected will fund local scholarships and charities. You can be a part of the pancake-eating fun for just eight bucks for adults, four bucks for kids. For tickets, call Sant at 314.800.8169.

Stocking Up: Sunchokes shine by any name

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

092910_sunchokesWelcome to Stocking Up, a new online column in which we reveal which products you should be looking for at the market right now. From fresh fruits and veggies to olive oils and sodas, we’ll tell you where to get them and how to pick out the best ones – we even suggest ways to add them to your cooking repertoire.

The beige tubes resting in a basket at the Biver Farms stand may look like fresh gingerroot but these gnarled knobs are in fact, sunchokes. Or Jerusalem artichokes. Or even sunroots. Whatever name you use, you’ll certainly find these roots of a particular sunflower species to be delicious.

Brett Palmier of Biver Farms advised that the sunchokes have a taste and texture similar to that of a potato. “They’re about as natural as you can get,” he said, noting that sunchokes are one of the few edible plants actually indigenous to the Northern Plains. They can be eaten raw in salads or, when roasted and blended with a little cream, make an unusual and tasty soup.

Palmier’s sunchokes are harvested in the early fall, before they have a chance to develop a thick skin. So if you pick some up from him at the Maplewood, Goshen or Tower Grove markets, you won’t need to peel them. Buy at the grocery store, however, and you’d best have your peeler handy. “Bigger farms harvest them in the spring, which means they probably need peeling,” he noted. Although there’s not a lot of taste difference between the bigger and smaller sunchokes, the larger ones tend to be slightly easier to scrub.

Sunchokes should be available, by whatever name, until the end of the market season in October.

- Shannon Parker

The Scoop: Morfogen moves to Mosaic Bistro Market, Maher takes over at Webster Farmers’ Market

Wednesday, September 29th, 2010

092910_mosaicChef Gretchen Morfogen has left her position as market master of the Webster Groves Farmers’ Market to head the kitchen at the recently opened Mosaic Bistro Market in Clayton, the newest addition to the Schmitz family of restaurants that currently includes Mosaic downtown and Barcelona in Clayton. A trio of restaurants will soon be added to the group including Prime 1000, a downtown steakhouse; an express version of Mosaic at the airport; and a Mosaic spin located in the Des Peres neighborhood.

A graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, Morfogen holds 30 years in the food and beverage industry, including a position as the charcuterie and cheese manager for Dean & Deluca and another as the culinary director for Straub’s Fine Grocers.

Morfogen is excited to helm the kitchen at the breakfast, lunch and dinner spot on Central Avenue and is happy that the clientele and volume at Mosaic Bistro will permit her to handle a host of special requests. After all, Morfogen understands preferences. As her Facebook page lays bare, it’s hands-down “Martha over Rachel, Bourdain over Flay … cabernet over merlot.”

Taking over at the Webster Groves Farmers’ Market is Ryan Maher, along with Angela Foley. Maher, an avid forager, owns Missouri Wild Edibles, a purveyor of wild mushrooms and prepared products made from wild edibles. The Webster Groves Farmers’ Market operates on Thursdays from 3 to 7 p.m. in the Old Orchard Shopping Center off Big Bend Boulevard near Lockwood Avenue. The venue will stay open until mid-October.

Teetotaler: A virgin cocktail to be proud of

Monday, September 27th, 2010

092710_sagedrinkWelcome to Teetotaler, a new online column geared at showing you the amazing non-alcoholic drink options around the city. You’ve seen our recommendations for where to get the best brews, booze and bubbly around town. Now it’s time to show you that you don’t have to get tipsy to taste the best this city has to offer. Here’s to the teetotalers in all of us.

For those who don’t wish to imbibe but long to be part of the social atmosphere that so often revolves around telling the bartender to “give me another,” one overlooked option is the virgin cocktail. While people often neglect these drinks fearing they’ll end up sipping on a Shirley Temple (and that, god forbid, someone will notice), one local bartender is making virgin cocktails anyone would  be proud to order.

When I asked Franco bar manager T.J. Vytlacil for some recommendations on a virgin cocktail, I asked for something sweet but not too tart. He threw together some lime juice, simple syrup, a few dashes of bitters (Angostura and Molé), and an ounce of grapefruit. He garnished it with a sage leaf and topped it with just a splash of club soda. While the bitters do contain alcohol, the level is so low it’s nearly undetectable. The lime and grapefruit make for a tart combination, while the sage creates a potency that’s both subtle and unique.

All of our coverage on T.J. Vytlacil

Drink This Weekend Edition: Gateway to the Zest

Friday, September 24th, 2010

092410_ChrisChris Muether has only been working behind a bar for a year and a half. Yet the bartender at Danno’s American Pub is already going places – literally. This August, Muether was one of three area bartenders to represent St. Louis in the Greater Kansas City Bartending Competition, shaking up a cocktail that he dubbed “Gateway to the Zest.”

Muether describes the drink as having three main flavor profiles: “There are botanicals from the gin, lemongrass and Fernet; citrus from the lemongrass and citrus juice; and dark fruit flavors from the muddled blackberries.” He was inspired to create the cocktail after tasting a mint- and lemon-infused blackberry jam that a friend made at Eckert’s Farm. “I broke down the flavor profiles in the jam and built a drink around it,” he explained.

Don’t have the time or ingredients to shake this drink at home? Head this weekend to Danno’s American Pub at 7895 Watson Road, near Laclede Station Road, where Muether will be serving this zesty cocktail.

Gateway to the Zest
Courtesy of Danno’s American Pub’s Chris Muether
Serves 1

4 large fresh blackberries, divided
3 to 4 2-inch long cuttings lemongrass
1 oz. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 oz. simple syrup
2 oz. Hendrick’s Gin
2 dashes Fernet Branca
Small portion absinthe
Fresh mint sprig
Fresh lemon peel

• Add 3 blackberries, lemongrass, lemon juice and simple syrup to a mixing glass. Muddle until blackberries are fully macerated.
• Add gin and Fernet Branca to the glass.
• In a pre-chilled cocktail glass, add a wash of Absinthe to coat the glass; remove excess.
• Shake ingredients in a Boston shaker.
• Double-strain through a fine strainer into a cocktail glass.
• Garnish with a blackberry on the side of the glass and a sprig of mint.
• Float a small lemon peel on the top of the drink.

– Photo by Eric Bowers Photo

Tweet Beat: This week’s best tweets from STL foodies

Friday, September 24th, 2010

080610_twittericonWelcome to Tweet Beat, a new online column in which we run down the list of our favorite tweets from foodies around the city. Some funny, some strange and a few just delicious, here’s what you missed on Twitter this week:

Are you following us on Twitter? Come on, get Saucy @saucemagazine

Kind of annoyed at everyone who thinks we Midwesterners are stupid. Losing my virginity to my cousin doesn’t make me less of a person.

Today’s Special | Green Tomato Blini w/ BLis cavier, pickled chipollines, & creme fraiche | View Our Menu: http://ow.ly/2HCY0 | #foodie #stl

…I kid. My cousin is gay.

If so inclined, rub a clove of garlic on your skin – it will be detected on your breath in less than an hour #whoknew?

Wow… speaking of Glee. Check out these Glee cookies. So awesome! http://bit.ly/95Mvxu

Swedish Fish vodka and Swedish fish/champagne ice cubes http://twitpic.com/2qygzb http://twitter.com/farmhausstl/status/25240439845

Cabbage turned into sauerkraut again. Feels a little like magic every time. http://yfrog.com/n5coiij

Coming back to #stl tired, fat, and inspired. And with cookies from momofuku milk bar. Starchefs was awesome!

Think you should be on this list? Follow us and let us know @saucemagazine

The Scoop: Three local cocktailians break out a classic for a night of old school drinks

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

092310_savoyArea bartenders Chad George, Matt Obermark and Matt Seiter have cracked open the (cocktail) history book to bring St. Louis tipplers an adventure in lost and forgotten libations. The revival starts at 6 p.m. next Monday at Atomic Cowboy in The Grove neighborhood, where this talented group will be serving up five different recipes from The Savoy Cocktail Book. Originally published in 1930, this title features recipes from London’s glitzy Savoy Hotel, the birthplace of some of the most famous cocktails in the world.

To make drinks such as the Havana, Jabberwock and Filmograph, you need archaic ingredients like kola tonic (made from the kola nut) and Caperitif (a South African white wine aperitif). The trio of cocktailians has done their homework and will have these homemade items ready for stirring and shaking.

Thanks to its great balance, George expects the Havana to be the most popular drink of the evening. “It’s a balance of dry and sweet, herbaceous and fruity with a hint of citrus.” He deems the Jabberwock, which features dry sherry, Caperitif and gin, the most interesting. “It looks and smells like a martini but it’s a good mingling of flavors,” he said. Other cocktails on the menu include Modern Cocktail No. 2, for which they will use The Bitter Truth’s new sloe gin; and the Kingston, a rum-based drink that calls for, kummel, a caraway-flavored liqueur, among other things.

It wouldn’t be an old school night without period costume. Look for the gents donning arm garters, vests, suspenders, bow ties, aprons and even facial hair to match the times. Then place your order with one of them.

Savoy Night is the third in a series called Drink Lab, nights of themed cocktails crafted by local bartenders. For more information, visit their web page.

Get your barbecue fill this weekend

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

092310_bbqribsIn the world of competitive barbecuing, the public rarely gets to taste the good stuff. The cooks grill and smoke the ribs and steaks, the judges offer their sanctified opinions of same, and the hungry mob is often not even invited.

Not so at the St. Louis Home Fires BBQ Bash. The sixth annual event, held in Wildwood, has become noted for feeding serious grill fare to die-hard lovers of ‘cue. That’s largely because the bash is sponsored by the St. Louis Barbeque Society and because more than 100 amateur and professional teams will crowd the Wildwood Towne Center parking lot this Saturday and Sunday for the chance to win hardware and an invite to a prestigious national cook-off.

That’s what motivates Mary Randall of Always Smoked Absolutely Perfect BBQ. Randall, her sister, and their families – together known as ASAP BBQ – won the Brisket Championship at the Smoke on the Water USA Barbecue Championship in Little Rock, Ark., in 2009. This weekend, ASAP will plate up chili, pork steak, chicken, ribs, brisket, pulled pork and even dessert. Randall is an experienced competitor who “used to spend every weekend practicing” for events like this, she said. “The first year we competed we set up nine Weber grills. Now we use three Backwoods Smokers with water pans; cherry, hickory and apple wood; some grills; and some other appliances, too.”

More than 22,000 people are expected to throng this year’s bash, which benefits Friends of the Saint Louis University Liver Center. Look for an Iron Chef-style competition and a chicken wing-eating contest, too. Shuttle parking is available at St. Louis Community College’s Wildwood campus and at the Schnucks in Wildwood at 16580 Manchester Road.

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