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Apr 24, 2014
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Posts Tagged ‘Gerard Craft’

The Scoop: Gerard Craft and Kevin Nashan named finalists for 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014


{From left, Gerard Craft and Kevin Nashan}

The finalists for the 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards were announced today, and St. Louis continues to be represented. Gerard Craft, chef-owner of the Craft family of restaurants and Kevin Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe, have made the short list in the Best Chef: Midwest category.

Three other St. Louis chefs were semifinalists in that category: Josh Galliano, chef-owner of The Libertine; Kevin Willmann, chef-owner of Farmhaus; and Ben Poremba, chef-owner of Elaia and Olio.

Among national awards, Rick Lewis of Quincy Street Bistro was in the running with other promising young chefs around the nation in the Rising Star category, while Taste looked to remain in contention for Outstanding Bar Program. Neither advanced to the final round.

Winners of the chef and restaurant awards will be announced at a ceremony in New York City May 5. A full list of nominees is available here.


A look at St. Louis’ lineup of 2014 James Beard Award semifinalists

Monday, March 17th, 2014

In February, the St. Louis culinary scene was buzzing with the news that six of its chefs and one of its bars were named semifinalists for a prestigious James Beard Foundation award. Now, one long month later, the finalists for 2014 awards will be announced tomorrow, March 18.

Our fingers are crossed in hopes that The Gateway City garners well-deserved representation in the next round. Follow @SauceMag on Twitter tomorrow at 9:30 a.m. as we live-tweet results and look for a full report on The Scoop.

In the meantime, let’s celebrate those semifinalists who make St. Louis such a tasty place to eat and drink.

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Eat This: Niche’s Lemon-Maple Custard

Monday, March 17th, 2014


The signature Lemon-Maple Custard at Niche is what happens when chef-owner Gerard Craft takes liberties with chawan mushi, a savory Japanese custard. Presented in a Double Star Farms eggshell with the top cut off, bonito caviar garnishes a nest of roasted shiitake mushrooms. Hidden underneath these earthy, salty layers is a silky, citrusy custard with a sweet touch of local maple syrup. Don’t worry if this divine starter has you scraping the sides of the shell with your little spoon. Everybody does it.

-photo by Greg Rannells

The Scoop: St. Louis is well-represented among 2014 James Beard Foundation Awards semifinalists

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014



The James Beard Foundation has announced this year’s restaurant and chef award semifinalists, and St. Louis is well-represented in among 2014 nominees.

Rick Lewis of Quincy Street Bistro was announced as a semifinalist in the Rising Star category, which recognizes chefs 30 years old or younger who “display an impressive talent and who is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”

In another national category, Taste was nominated for Outstanding Bar Program.

In the category of Best Chef: Midwest five area chefs made the list: Gerard Craft, chef-owner of the Niche family of restaurants; Nashan, chef-owner of Sidney Street Cafe; Kevin Willmann, chef-owner of Farmhaus; Josh Galliano, executive chef at The Libertine; and Ben Poremba, chef-owner of Elaia and Olio.

While Nashan, Craft, Willmann and Galliano have all garnered James Beard Foundation award nominations before, this is Poremba’s first. We had the honor of sharing the good news with Ben Poremba (and possibly waking him up). “Dang!,” he said. “I’m very excited. It’s a big deal for me. What else do you say about something like that? I’m very honored.”

Finalists for the 2014 awards will be announced March 18; winners will be announced at a gala ceremony in New York on May 5.  See a full list of restaurant and chef semifinalists here.

High on the Hog & Hominy at Pastaria Pizza Takeover

Thursday, January 16th, 2014

In November, Pastaria held its first Pizza Takeover when guest chef Michael Paley of Garage Bar showcased the fare from his restaurant in Louisville, Ken. Last night, the Pizza Takeover series resumed with the arrival of chefs Michael Hudman and Andy Ticer from Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Tenn. The pair prepared a three-course Italian menu of antipasti, pizza and dessert that also reflected their southern roots.

We heeded the advice we gave to our Edible Weekend subscribers earlier this week and headed to the Clayton restaurant to encounter a packed house of diners eager to try the lauded fare of Hog & Hominy. Was dinner worth the wait? You bet. Here are some highlights:


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-photos by Greg Rannells

The Scoop: Pizza takeover brings Garage Bar chef Michael Paley to Pastaria

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

112013_pastaria{Pastaria chef Gerard Craft, Garage Bar chef Michael Paley}


Acclaimed chef Michael Paley of Garage Bar in Louisville, Ken., and Metropole in Cincinnati, Ohio, is in town today. That’s because tonight, Nov. 20, Pastaria chef-owner Gerard Craft will hand the reins to Paley for the restaurant’s first pizza takeover.

At this one-night-only chef switch, guests can experience Paley’s three-course menu of antipasti, pizza and gelato. “I’m doing three appetizers, three pizzas and three ice creams,” Paley said. “I provided the recipes, and I’ll be there to run the staff through each dish.” Look for Paley to work the line and also walk the floor and chat with guests.

Paley explained that the antipasti and pizzas are ones served at Garage Bar, a pizzeria where he tries “to reinterpret Louisville staples or southern specialties.” Rolled oysters, one of the apps available this evening, is “a classic Louisville dish” made famous at a now defunct restaurant in that city, Paley said.

Although the pizzas will be made with Pastaria’s dough recipe, toppings are all Paley’s creations. White Pie & Greens is “my attempt at a salad in a pizza,” said Paley of the combination of mixed greens tossed in a lemon vinaigrette, plus fresh ricotta, fior di latte and Parmigiano. Pumpkin Pie, with its roasted butternut squash purée topped with cheeses, pickled onion, chopped pecans and fried sage, boasts the flavors of fall. Finally, the Sausage Pie features Paley’s house-made bison fennel sausage.

The selection of ice creams for the event – bittersweet chocolate and sea salt sorbet, vanilla rosemary orange, and walnut espresso – gets inspiration not from Garage Bar (where soft serve is dished out) but from Metropole.

Craft noted one reason he organized the pizza takeover is that it allows his cooks “to work through [Paley’s] recipes and learn in the process.” He hopes Paley’s takeover will be the first in a bimonthly guest-chef series and said he was in the midst of organizing visits from Lachlan Patterson of Pizzeria Locale in Boulder, Colo., and chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman of Hog & Hominy in Memphis, Tenn. “I’m trying to get it off the ground so that in the future, it’s happening pretty regularly,” Craft said.

This is Paley’s first pizza takeover. He noted that while he hasn’t hosted one at Garage Bar, “I would love to have Gerard come and do the same thing I’m doing here.” No reservations are accepted for this three-course meal, priced at $28 per person, and Pastaria’s standard menu also will be available this evening.



The Scoop: A la carte is back at Niche

Friday, September 13th, 2013

062013_niche{Niche’s barrel-aged ricotta with radishes, rhubarb, sorrel and crispy rye}

A la carte offerings have returned to Niche. The restaurant changed to a prix fixe menu when it moved to its new space in Clayton last year. However, a la carte is back – with three different options for first, second and third courses and dessert – now available as part of a $55 four-course dinner or individually.

“I have heard from too many of my regulars that they were upset with the mandatory prix fixe,” said chef-owner Gerard Craft. “We don’t want people focusing on the negative the second they come in. At the end of the day, it is all about our customers.”

The current a la carte menu features items such as broccoli soup, watermelon salad, farro pasta and caviar, Gulf red snapper and a pear-centric dessert complemented with the flavors of sassafras, Meyer lemon and pecans. Sauce reviewed Niche in May 2013.

-Photo by Greg Rannells





The Scoop: Get a taste of R&D at Niche via test-kitchen menu Mondays

Thursday, June 20th, 2013


Niche has gained a reputation as a restaurant that pushes food boundaries. Evidence comes as recently as the June issue of Sauce featuring chef Adam Altnether’s barrel-aged milk transformed into ricotta for use in a light, springtime dish (pictured). Wish you could see the research and development for dishes like this up close and personal? Now you can.

Beginning July 1, Altnether will offer a five-course, Italian-focused test kitchen menu at Niche each Monday. The dinner series, called Pastaria R&D, includes a selection of imaginative antipasti dishes, three pasta courses and dessert, for $45.

“Our philosophy at Niche is to take a simple ingredient, such as pasta, and think outside the box to make it creative,” said Althether. “With Pastaria R&D, we want to bring people in with something that’s approachable, and then push them to the edge with really interesting dishes.”

White bean purée with pepperoni fat and grilled Italian bread, smoked carrot agnolotti with edible flowers, a spin on a sardella (a fermented anchovy-tomato sauce) and a twist on a ragù bianco made with chicken liver are examples of dishes that diners might encounter. All pasta dishes will be intricately stuffed or hand-rolled variations.

Pastaria R&D will be the only prix fixe menu offered at Niche on Monday evenings. Reservations, though not required, are accepted.

-Photo by Greg Rannells


The Scoop: James Beard award escapes Craft, but NYC gets a taste of St. Louis

Monday, May 6th, 2013

The 2013 James Beard Foundation Awards gala was held this evening. Gerard Craft, chef-owner of Niche, Pastaria, Brasserie and Taste, was in the running for the title of Best Chef: Midwest; however, the four-time finalist did not win this year. The honor went instead to Colby Garrelts of Bluestem in Kansas City, Mo.

Craft (pictured at right) won’t return to St. Louis with a James Beard award in hand, yet he can come home satisfied at having given NYC a great taste of St. Louis. On Thursday, he and Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan, who was named a semi-finalist for a Beard Award in the same category as Craft this year, hosted a Spirit of St. Louis dinner at City Grit. City Grit is a culinary salon that serves as a space for chefs from around the world to showcase their culinary talents. Craft and Nashan teamed up to prepare a six-course tasting menu that highlighted modern Midwest cuisine. They also presented guests with goodie bags containing foodstuffs from local artisan purveyors Pint Size Bakery & Coffee, Salume Beddu, Sump Coffee and YellowTree Farm. 

See all our coverage of Gerard Craft here, and read Michael Renner’s New and Notable review of Niche, published in the May issue of Sauce, here.


— photo by Carmen Troesser

The Ultimate Margherita Pizza

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Crust. Tomatoes. Mozzarella. Basil. The queen of Neopolitan pizza is understated in her simplicity, yet efforts to achieve this crowning beauty have caused countless headaches in the kitchen. Finally, area experts reveal their essential tricks to making the ultimate Margherita pizza at home.

“Pizza is the most easiest, complicated thing to make. I know people who have been trying to make the perfect pizza for 20 years!” – Vito Racanelli, chef-owner, Mad Tomato

The Tools: You don’t have to have a wood-fired oven to get the thin, crispy crust and great chew of a Neopolitan pizza (See the heat trick below.). But a tricked-out pizza peel and stone will elevate your pie to new heights.

G.I. Metal Perforated Aluminum Pizza Peel
Aluminum peels are durable, flexible and don’t dry out like wooden ones. The perforation lets you shake off excess flour before sliding the pizza onto the stone to avoid burning, and the rectangular shape gives you more surface area, making it easier to lift, slide and adjust the pizza. $96. (model A-45RF/50) gimetalusa.com

Emile Henry Ceramic Baking Stone
This rectangular, heat-tempered, scratch-proof, chip-proof, coated stone won’t crack in your oven and has more surface area than round versions, a crucial factor in achieving that crisp crust. $40 to 60. Kitchen Conservatory, 8021 Clayton Road, 314.862.2665, kitchenconservatory.com 

The Ingredients: We queried quite a few chefs about the brands they’ll bet the house on. Bonus: These high-quality products are all made in the USA.

Hodgson Mills Unbleached, All-Purpose Flour
You don’t have to spend extra dough to make great dough. Unbleached, all-purpose flour is fine. This near-local company offers a high-quality product that’s available at most supermarkets.

Stanislas Alta Cucina “Naturale” Style Plum Tomatoes
“We tried every single Italian one,” said Gerard Craft, owner of Pastaria, who settled on this domestically grown tomato because it offers “a nice bite of acidity” and “the right consistency, just crushed on its own.” For a fresh sauce, simply crush the whole, peeled tomatoes in your hand and season with salt. A couple ladles is all you need; you should be able to see the dough through the sauce. No. 10 Can, 6 lbs. 7 oz.: $4.89. DiGregorio’s Market, 5200 Daggett Ave., St. Louis, 314.776.1062, digregoriofoods.com

Calabro Fior di Latte Cheese
Buffalo mozzarella? Not so fast. Cow’s milk can produce a cheese with fabulous flavor. This fior di latte has a lovely creaminess, mild saltiness and melts beautifully into the sauce. Cut it into slightly larger chunks (4 ounces cut into 6 slices for a 12-inch pizza); the cheese will take longer to melt, so it won’t burn by the time the crust is done. ½ lb.:$6. Pastaria, 7734 Forsyth Blvd., Clayton, 314.862.6603, pastariastl.com

Fresh basil
Some chefs add the leaves before popping the pizza in the oven; others wait until after. Place the outer, shiny side of the leaves up. If you add prior to baking, when drizzling olive oil over the pizza, drizzle some on the leaves to keep them from burning and discoloring.

The Technique: Creating a great pizza at home is all about technique. Let Ted Wilson, who trained under pizza god Jim Lahey, take you through it.

Find Wilson’s recipe for The Ultimate Pizza Dough, here.

Cover the dough with just enough flour so it doesn’t stick to your hands or the lightly floured work surface. Use the pads of your fingertips to gently push on the center of the dough until you feel the work surface but don’t break through the dough. Flatten and stretch the dough by pushing from the center of the dough and moving outwards until you get within 1 inch of the rim of the circle that’s taking shape. Give dough a quarter turn and repeat. Continue until a round disk forms. While stretching and shaping, place a hand under the dough to ensure it isn’t sticking. If so, toss a little flour onto the work surface. Gently guide dough outward from its underside as it rests on your fingers to stretch it further.

Ready the toppings before shaping the dough. Once the dough is shaped, quickly add the toppings in this order: sauce, cheese, basil (optional), drizzle of 1¼ to 1½ tablespoon of olive oil and a 4-fingered pinch of kosher salt. Leave the outer rim of the pizza untouched.

To get your home oven to reach restaurant-high temps, toggle between the bake and broil functions. Place the stone in the oven on a rack set in the topmost position with enough room for the pizza. Preheat the oven to its highest baking temperature for 30 to 45 minutes. Just before shaping the dough, switch to broil. Shape the dough, add the toppings, then use the peel to slide the pizza onto the hot stone. Switch the oven back to its highest bake temperature for 2 to 3 minutes, then back to broil. The pizza is done when the cheese is bubbling, the crust is charred but not burnt, and the underside is golden, about 3 more minutes (5 to 6 minutes total).

Pictured: Margherita pizza from The Good Pie, 3137 Olive St., St. Louis, 314.289.9391, thegoodpie.com

— photo by Greg Rannells

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