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Mar 24, 2018
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6 STL-area chefs, restaurants earn James Beard nominations

Thursday, February 15th, 2018


{ Vicia }


It’s that time of year again. The James Beard Foundation announced its list of semifinalists for its annual awards recognizing chefs and restaurants today, Feb. 15, and once again, St. Louis’ food scene was well represented with six nominations, including some first-timers.

Vicia was nominated for Best New Restaurant. “It’s a huge honor. It was something we hoped to achieve,” said co-owner Tara Gallina. “When we opened – you know, you always set goals for yourself – this was certainly a high goal, so nothing we would be heartbroken if we didn’t get. But we’ve been really pushing ourselves and our team.”

This is the latest in a slew of local and national honors for the Central West End restaurant, which opened in March 2017. Gallina said she’s aware of what this recognition can do for Vicia’s business, since James Beard nominations are something people look at for ideas while traveling.

“I’m the same way when I go to a new city,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be able to attract people from all over. These types of things are amazing for your business … and will also help attract amazing talent.”

Longtime St. Louis fine-dining standby Tony’s made the semifinalist list for Outstanding Service, which recognizes restaurants in business at least five years that demonstrate high standards of hospitality and service.

Chef Vincent P. Bommarito Jr. said it was Tony’s first Beard nomination. “We are so excited about it. We didn’t know anything about it until it came out in the news,” he said. 

Bommarito Jr. said the recognition will spur his front-of-house team to even greater levels of hospitality. “I have to tell you, we’re not taking this lightly,” he said. “Service is going to be better now than ever.”



{ Privado chef-owner Mike Randolph }


The foundation also singled out four area nominees for Best Chef: Midwest: Elaia executive chef Ben Grupe, Sardella executive chef Ashley Shelton, Privado chef-owner Mike Randolph and Lona’s Lil’ Eats chef-owner Lona Luo. This is the first such nomination for Grupe, Luo and Shelton and No. 3 for Randolph.

“It’s a great and humbling experience,” said Randolph, who was a semifinalist in 2016 and 2017. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t weird to see Privado on there instead of Público, because we’ve done such good work there. But Privado has been a really special project for me. You never know who’s going to be sitting at the table.” He added that it’s satisfying to see the unique weekend-only concept recognized. “It definitely puts a pep in our step.”



{ at left, Lona Lil’ Eats chef owner Lona Luo } 


Luo said she found out about the honor when people starting congratulating her this morning.  The fast-casual Fox Park eatery specializes in fare from Xishuangbanna in China’s Yunnan province, where Luo grew up. She prides herself on making every sauce and marinade from scratch without MSG or preservatives. “If people are happy, their body is happy and it’s making me happy” she said.

Luo credits her front of house and kitchen staff, particularly chef Jason Hummel, with the success of her restaurant. “My team is absolutely awesome,” she said. “I really love them. Without them I cannot make that happen. … They are my right hands and my left hands.”



{ Sardella executive chef Ashley Shelton }


This is the second time the James Beard Foundation recognized Shelton; in 2017, she was a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, which recognizes promising chefs younger than 30. Shelton, who was a 2016 One to Watch, said the nomination validated her growth in the kitchen. “I’m actually doing good at this,” she said. “It’s not just about being young anymore – it’s about being a talented chef.”

Shelton credited her Sardella team for helping her reach this point. “It’s awesome. I think it’s going to be a huge lift for everybody at Sardella,” she said. “It’s going to fuel them and push us to keep working even harder than we already are.”

Sardella owner Gerard Craft said Shelton earned the honor. “We’re super excited for her, and this is very well deserved,” he said. “She works her tail off everyday, and this is the result.”



{ Elaia executive chef Ben Grupe }


Grupe said he appreciated the recognition of his team’s hard work. “It’s a great honor. It’s referred to as the Oscars of the culinary world, so just being nominated is a great achievement,” he said. “We’ll see where we fall when they make the next announcement in March.”

Elaia owner Ben Poremba said the honor further proves that Grupe is doing something special at the Botanical Heights fine dining restaurant.

“It wasn’t easy for me to leave my position and trust my restaurant to someone,” said Poremba, himself a three-time James Beard Best Chef: Midwest nominee. “But Ben came in and took it to new heights. I’m proud of him, proud of his work and proud of our restaurant group. It takes a lot of work, focus and resilience.”

Tony’s and Luo didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

The finalists for each category will be announced at 8:30 a.m. March 14, and the annual James Beard Awards will take place May 7 in Chicago.

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 11:20 a.m. Feb. 15 to include comments from Ben Grupe. it was updated again at 1:40 p.m. to include comments from Lona Luo. It was updated again at 3:30 p.m Feb. 23 to include comments from Vincent P. Bommarito Jr. 


Ashley Shelton photo by Carmen Troesser, Ben Grupe photo courtesy of Grupe, Lona Luo photo by Elizabeth Maxson, Mike Randolph photo by Greg Rannells, Vicia photo by Michelle Volansky

Heather Hughes, Catherine Klene and Matt Sorrell contributed to this report. 

Related Content
• Sidney Street Cafe’s Kevin Nashan wins James Beard Award

• St. Louis food community reacts to James Beard wins

• James Beard Foundation names Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann Best Chef: Midwest finalists

Four St. Louis-area businesses win Good Food Awards

Friday, January 26th, 2018


The winners of the 2018 Good Food Awards, which honors businesses committed to socially and environmentally conscious food, were announced on Jan. 19. This year, four local purveyors took home awards, proving that St. Louis is more than just good at good food.

Blueprint Coffee, Larder & Cupboard, Perennial Artisan Ales and Still 630 Distillery all received awards. They were chosen from among 2,000 entrants in 15 different categories, including coffee, preserves and beer.

Larder & Cupboard won in the preserve category for its Strawberry Lemon preserves and its Apricot-Lemon Thyme preserves, and Blueprint Coffee earned an award for its Ethiopian Hambela. Blueprint Coffee co-owner Mike Marquard said this award is a great honor, not just for the local roaster but also for the Hambela Estate, which produced coffee.

“We partnered with them originally because of their quality, but their social and environmental programs are great,” he said. “They are doing outgrower programs for things like better education and better farming practices. It’s a great honor to have our African company recognized.”

Perennial Artisan Ales was recognized for two beers: Savant Beersel, which uses grapes from Charleville Vineyards in Ste. Genevieve, and Glitter & Gold. Perennial on-premise operations and event manager Katie Godoy said this award highlighted the importance of social and environmental responsibility. “It’s really nice to be recognized for the efforts we are doing, but a lot of people may not know about,” Godoy said.

Still 630 Distillery earned an award in the spirits category for its Expedition Rum. Owner David Weglarz said the award validated his hard work. “It’s a recognition of all the things we’ve done and our attention to quality and to detail,” he said.

Larder & Cupboard owner Cindy Higgerson did not return requests for comment.

Editor’s Note: This article incorrectly attributed a quote to Perennial owner Emily Wymore. It was updated at 7:40 p.m. Jan. 26 to correct the error.

Photo courtesy of Blueprint Coffee

Claire Ma is an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine. 

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• St. Louis-area breweries clean up at RateBeer Best Awards

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• Nixta earns spot on Bon Appétit’s top 10 new restaurants list

Nixta earns spot on Bon Appétit’s top 10 new restaurants list

Tuesday, August 15th, 2017


{ from left, Nixta executive chef Tello Carreón and owner Ben Poremba} 

The hits just keep on coming for the St. Louis restaurant scene.

As The Scoop reported earlier this month, Nixta and Vicia earned slots on Bon Appétit’s Top 50 Best New Restaurants in America list. Today, Bon Appétit announced  Nixta had earned the No. 9 spot on its coveted Top 10 Best New Restaurants in America list.

“I’m shocked,” said Nixta owner Ben Poremba. “I did not see that one coming. In my mind I knew we were top 10 quality, I won’t deny that. I knew we were doing something unique and special.”

Poremba, who also owns Elaia, Olio and Parigi, said Nixta executive chef Tello Carreón was also excited about the accolade, but typically humble in his response.

“I called him, and in typical Tello fashion, he was excited, but he was grocery shopping, and said ‘I have a 100 people to feed tonight, so…’”

Carreón could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bon Appétit senior editor Julia Kramer lauded Nixta’s popular octopus dish, the space’s fun vibe and heralded Carreón’s knack for creative flavor combinations in his Mexican fare. “They could easily have used this fun, colorful space as home to a crowd-pleasing, money-printing taco bar,” Kramer wrote. “Instead, Carreón turns out an ambitious menu that doesn’t limit itself to any particular region of Mexico.”

Poremba said his team will put together some sort of celebratory event to commemorate the honor in the near future.

It’s the latest in a slew of national honors for St. Louis restaurants and chefs. In May, Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan brought home a James Beard Foundation award for Best Chef: Midwest, and in July, Eater listed Vicia among its top 12 best new restaurants in St. Louis.

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine.

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Nixta, Vicia make Bon Appetit’s top 50 new restaurants list

Best New Restaurants 2016: No. 5 – Nixta

Review: Nixta 

Eater names Vicia one of the country’s Best New Restaurants

Thursday, July 27th, 2017



Vicia has made a splash on the local and national dining scenes even before its highly anticipated opening in March, and now, the Central West End restaurant has just been named one of Eater’s 12 Best New Restaurants In America.

Eater restaurant editor Bill Addison wrote that each year, he has two goals when identifying the top new eateries: “Identifying the essential modern classics for our Best Restaurants in America list, and seeking out the new paragons — the restaurants that energize their communities and will come to define national excellence.”

Addison lauded owners Tara and Michael Gallina for their use of seasonal procduce and no-waste philosophy, as well as Vicia’s price-conscious lunch service and tasting menu. “Tara and Michael Gallina’s remarkable debut restaurant … aims for out-and-out usefulness to its community,” he wrote.

General mangaer Tara Gallina said they were excited to receive the news.

“We’re very proud and honored to represent the city of St. Louis on a national scale,” she said. “We’ve been working really hard since before we opened and pushing everyone to do their absolute best, so it’s awesome for the entire team to be recognized,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Vicia

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

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Review: Vicia

Waste Not: The case for eating ugly carrots, beef neck and beetle-bitten cros

Sneak Peek: Vicia in the Central West End

Ones to Watch 2017: Jen Epley of Vicia

The Scoop: James Beard Foundation names Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann Best Chef: Midwest finalists

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017


{ from left, Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan, Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann } 


The St. Louis restaurant scene experienced a bit of déjà vu when the finalists for the James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today, March 15. Two St. Louis chefs moved on as finalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category: Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan and Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann. Both chefs were finalists in this category last year.

“I’m so grateful,” Nashan said. “You never know if you’re going to on the list again – it’s torturous! I’m just so grateful and really excited for the team. I just found out and I’m really blown away.”

Willmann found out about the news when Sauce called for comment. “Oh, no shit? Hell yeah!” he said. “I’m really proud of my team this year, we have an awesome groove going, and the sky’s the limit. “

As The Scoop reported in February, the James Beard Foundation named four St. Louis-area chefs as semifinalists in the Best Chef: Midwest category. Olive & Oak executive chef Jessie Mendica and Público chef-owner Mike Randolph did not make it to the final round. Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton, a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, also didn’t advance to the final round.

Winners of the chef and restaurant awards will be announced at a ceremony in Chicago on May 1. Local eatery Gioia’s Deli will also be honored at the gala; the Beard Foundation honored The Hill sandwich shop with an America’s Classic award in January.


Related Content
• The Scoop: 5 St. Louis chefs earn James Beard Foundation semifinalist honors

The Scoop: James Beard Foundation declares Gioia’s Deli an American Classic

The Scoop: James Beard award eludes Willmann and Nashan

The Scoop: St. Louis-area breweries clean up at RateBeer Best Awards

Friday, February 3rd, 2017



Once again, St. Louis-area breweries, taprooms, bars and retailers were well represented at the annual RateBeer Best Awards. Side Project Brewing, Perennial Artisan Ales and Saint Louis Brewery were all named among the Top 100 Best Brewers in the world.

This is the third time both Side Project and Perennial have made the Top 100 list. “In the U.S. there are more than 4,000 breweries, and this is worldwide,” said Perennial co-owner Phil Wymore. “This is pretty exclusive company and we’re honored to be a part of it.”

The RateBeer awards are based on user reviews of beer and breweries around the world.

“It’s always an honor,” said brewer and co-owner Cory King. “We try really hard to make great beer, and it’s good to know that as small as we are, we can still make waves.”

This is the first year the Saint Louis Brewery, which brews Schlafly Beer, has made the list. “We’re absolutely flattered and grateful to all those who made it happen,” said Schlafly founding brewer Stephen Hale. “It’s a really special thing to get this kind of recognition.”

Side Project took home an armload of awards in the regional and style. In the statewide categories, it took home Top Beer in Missouri for Anabasis, as well as Top Brewery and Best Brewery Tap Room in the state.

Three Side Project beers were named among the Best New Beers out of more than 60,000 worldwide: Pulling Nails No. 4, Bleuet du Fermier and Saison du Fermier from Pinot Noir Puncheons.

The Pulling Nails was also named one of the 100 Best Beers in the World and earned a bronze medal for Best Belgian Style Sour Ale, while the Saison du Fermier won a silver for Best Belgian Style Ale and Side Project’s Biere du Pays earned a bronze for Best Belgian Session.

New brewery Narrow Gauge Brewing Co. also received recognition, earning Best New Brewer in Missouri. Owner-brewer Jeff Hardesty said he found out about the honor when someone tweeted him congratulations.

“Anytime something like that comes up, it’s surreal,” Hardesty said. “The amount of recognition we’ve received in the community, it kind of blows my mind every day.”

Other statewide RateBeer awards include Best Brewpub for Schlafly Tap Room, Best Restaurant for Baileys Range, Best Grocery for Wine & Cheese Place and Best Bar for Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar.


Editor’s note: This piece was updated at 4:35 p.m. Feb. 3 to include an additional from Phil Wymore.  


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The Scoop: Local breweries take top RateBeer awards

Drink This Weekend Edition: 3 GABF-worthy beers

The Scoop: Kakao wins third Good Food Award

The Scoop: Kakao wins third Good Food Award

Tuesday, January 24th, 2017



The annual Good Food Awards were announced Jan. 20, and area chocolatier Kakao Chocolate has earned top honors in the confections category with its Norton Pâtés du Vin, a fruit gel made with Augusta Winery’s Norton.

The Good Food Awards are given each year to producers who “push their industries towards craftsmanship and sustainability while enhancing our agricultural landscape and building strong communities,” according to the nonprofit’s website.

Owner Brian Pelletier said this award, Kakao’s third in four years, is especially meaningful. “That was really important to me, personally, because it told everyone that this isn’t a cake walk, that every year it gets tougher, that we have to keep our game up,” he said.

Pelletier said he was also proud to win with a Missouri Norton. “We do everything we can do locally to support the economy, but also because there’s great stuff around here,” he said. “I’m in California right now for the award in the middle of wine country, and to be able to say there’s a lot of great wine in Missouri is really fun.”

Other Missouri winners include Patric Chocolate of Columbia, Springfield’s Askinosie Chocolate and Kansas City Canning Co.


Related Content
The Scoop: Two specialty food businesses launch in St. Louis area

Big Kids in a Candy Shop: How St. Louis chocolatiers are raising the bar


Drink This Weekend Edition: 3 GABF-worthy beers

Friday, October 14th, 2016



Last weekend, I attended the Great American Beer Festival in Denver, a three-day national beer festival and competition attended by thousands each year. Though the festival itself can be over-stimulating at times, Denver is full of fantastic beer, beer people and beer events throughout the week.

Several St. Louis-area breweries poured at GABF, and even more entered the competition in hopes of procuring more medals for this wonderful beer town. While listening to the results, I realized just how rapidly breweries and beer culture are expanding – there were many I’d never heard of before. More beer for the people! Three St. Louis-area breweries medaled this year; head to Perennial or across the Mississippi this weekend to check out these nationally notable beers:

Perennial Artisan Ales Meriwether took silver for classic saison
Excel Brewing Flash Bang took bronze for American-style wheat beer
Scratch Brewing Oyster Weiss* took bronze for experimental beer

Some of my favorite nonlocal beers also medaled last weekend and are available in St. Louis throughout the year. Keep your eyes open for Bells Expedition Stout (silver in aged beer), Firestone Walker Double Barrel Ale (gold in ordinary or special bitter) and Left Hand Fade to Black, Volume 1 (silver in export stout).


*Editor’s note: Oyster Weiss is not currently available. 

Katie Herrera is tasting room manager at Side Project Cellar and co-founder of Femme Ferment.

The Scoop: St. James Winery takes the Missouri Governor’s Cup again

Wednesday, July 27th, 2016



Raise a glass to St. James Winery – bringing home the Missouri Governor’s Cup for the second year in a row. The winery was awarded the 2016 prize for its semi-dry white vignoles. St. James’ vignoles took the prize out of more than 308 wines submitted from other state vineyards.

“We didn’t feel much pressure to win this year after winning last year,” said Peter Hofherr, St. James Winery chairman and CEO. “We’ve had a three-year run that have been pretty good. We’ve won five international wine contests in the last two years.”

The competition took place in Columbia, Missouri on July 19 and 20. The Missouri Wine Competition is judged by the top wine and beverage experts from around the nation. Only Missouri wines are judged in this competition – those that received best-in-class honors were considered for Governor’s Cup.

“For our family and for the winery, this win means a lot,” said Hofherr. “We’re trying to push Missouri grapes and wines in a direction of high quality.”

The award for the best Norton varietals, the C.V. Riley Award, went to Noboleis Vineyards in Augusta for their 2014 Norton. Other wineries that took home best-in-class awards include:

• Edg-Clif Farms & Vineyard for rosé
• Stone Hill Winery for dry white and dessert/fortified wine
• Montelle Winery for grappa
• Noboleis Vineyards for a dry red
• Pirtle Winery for sparkling

A complete list of all medalists can be found here.


Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, February 7th, 2016

From sneak peeks of new restaurants to hometown beer victories to a mouth-watering new issue, here’s everything that went down in the STL culinary scene last week, in case you missed it.


1. Our February issue hit stands Monday, featuring everything we love right now from bread to Scandinavian spirits to a swoon-worthy triple-chocolate croissant from La Patisserie Chouquette. Click above to read online for free now.




2. We shared 4 new restaurants you absolutely must try this month, including Porano Pasta, Moya Grill, Nami Ramen and Midtown Sushi & Ramen. Check out the Sauce Hit List.




3. Companion has invited the public into its baking process on Feb. 2, when doors opened at its new Maryland Heights campus.

4. A taste of China, India and the Mediterranean is slated to open at the end of March when first-time restaurant owner Venkatesh Sattaru welcomes diners to Absolute BBQ – Indian Wish Grill.




5. After four months of renovation, the space in The Chase Park Plaza that formerly housed Eau Bistro, which closed on Nov. 3, 2015, has been transformed into The Preston.

6. Meat lovers in Mehlville and beyond have a new place to get their fix. Co-owners Wes Smith, CJ Baerman and Shawn Orloski opened Ol’ School Smokehouse at 7565 S. Lindbergh Blvd., on Monday, Jan. 25.




7.  True, St. Louis isn’t exactly in love with the NFL at the moment, but we’ll take any excuse to slather wings in hot sauce and eat with reckless, sloppy abandon. Here, 4 chicken wing recipes to win the Super Bowl spread.

8. McArthur’s Bakery Café will whip up a lot more frosting next month. The 60-year-old St. Louis institution announced Feb. 4 that it will add another bakery and cafe at 6630 Delmar Blvd., in The Loop.





9. Meet Patrick Devine, assistant pastry chef of Simone Faure’s La Patisserie Chouquette in Botanical Heights and learn about his love of challenging technique and crowd-pleasing sweets.

10. It was a good start to February for the St. Louis beer scene as several breweries, restaurants and retailers took home RateBeer awards at the website’s annual festival and awards show last weekend, Jan. 30 and 31.


-Porano photo by Greg Rannells, Patrick Devine photo by Carmen Troesser, Companion photo by Meera Nagarajan, The Preston photo by Michelle Volansky 

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