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Jul 25, 2017
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Intelligent Content For The Food Fascinated
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Posts Tagged ‘Olio’

Trendwatch: 7 trends on the plate, in the glass and atop our wish list now

Friday, January 13th, 2017

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1. Smash and Grab
St. Louisans don’t have to wait until Shake Shack opens later this year to get their griddle burger fix of thin patties smashed on a flattop. Get a taste at Reeds American Table, where two patties are smothered with Swiss cheese and tallow aioli, or head to Olive & Oak in Webster Groves, where the kitchen keeps it classic with American cheese and dill pickles. The smashed Farmhouse Burger has been a fixture at Retreat Gastropub since it opened in October 2015, and The Dam in Tower Grove South does smashed patties – though the burgers are stacked so high with fixins, it’s hard to tell. Find griddled burgers at Brasserie, Local Chef Kitchen and Baileys’ Range, too.

2. Drinking like a Vegan
Aquafaba, aka the cloudy liquid in a can of chickpeas that usually goes down the drain, has seen new life as a vegan egg replacer in baked goods. Now it’s found its way behind the bar and into Pisco Sours at Los Angeles establishments like Birch and Gracias Madre. Small Batch pulled a similar move in its Cicer Sour with aquafaba, smoked almond Pisco and dry curacao. Bengelina Hospitality bar manager Drew Lucido shakes it with Old Tom Gin, Becherovka and lemon juice in The Walden at Olio, while the team across the street at Nixta uses a cream whipper to add a foamy, egg-free head to the No. 3.

3. Kung Pao That
The Chinese staple is popping up outside the takeout box these days at restaurants like Mission Chinese in San Francisco, which has a kung pao pastrami we hope someone in town will replicate. Chefs at Cleveland-Heath were inspired by a celery dish at Mission’s NYC location to create a shaved raw beef and celery kung pao special for St. Louisans to enjoy last summer. The Preston swaps in calamari for a sophisticated take on the dish, and the pop-up and future restaurant Good Fortune is crazy about kung pao. It incorporated the flavors into a bratwurst made for a collaboration with Brasserie, and made a kung pao pizza for an event with Delicious Pizza in Los Angeles.

 

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4. Rise and Shine
The Egg McMuffin will always hold a special greasy place in our hearts, but area restaurants are taking breakfast more seriously these days. Whole concepts, like Egg on Gravois Avenue and Yolklore in Crestwood, are devoted to breakfast beyond the standard flapjacks, eggs and bacon. Quick counter-service options at newly opened eateries like Sardella and The Garden on Grand mean we’re setting our weekday alarms a few minutes earlier. Even pop-up eateries are getting in on the action: Revel Kitchen chef-owner Simon Lusky and chef Adam Altnether recently hosted the breakfast-themed Waffle Nut Pop-up, serving sweet and savory waffle combos and cereal milk coffee beverages.

5. Lightning in a Mug
Loaded with antioxidants, vitamins and a large dose of caffeine, yerba mate is a light, herbaceous tea that’s creeping its way into local spots like SweetArt, where it’s served hot, and Comet Coffee, where it’s found in two forms: as hot tea and as a mocha-nut mate made with toasted mate leaves, chocolate, hazelnut and marigold flowers for a sweet treat. Pick up some of the loose-leaf tea to brew at home from international grocers like Global Foods Market or United Provisions.

6. Meat Lollipops
Some St. Louis chefs are frenching chicken drumettes, trimming classic wings into little meat lollipops. The trend has a confusing extra-work-for-less-meat quality, but we’ve bought jeans with holes in the knees, so we’re not here to judge. Try the lollies at Mona’s, where they’re smoked and served with a creamy giardiniera sauce and salsa verde, or at Copper Pig with a Vietnamese fish sauce caramel or a sweet chile basil sauce. Scapegoat offers a more traditional Buffalo version.

7. Taste the Magic
Magic Shell is making appearances outside grandma’s sundae bar these days. We noticed it with caramelized honey and honeycomb candy on soft serve at The Honey Paw in Portland, Maine, and over caramel corn and vanilla malted milk balls at Girl & the Goat in Chicago. But Peacemaker Lobster & Crab Co. has offered the topping on soft serve since it opened in 2014, and our favorite matcha-chocolate cookie gelato pop from Porano this summer was dipped in Magic Shell. Taste’s new brownie dessert with candy cap ice cream and toffee sauce lives in a Magic Shell house, too.

 

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Ones to Watch 2017: Jen Epley of Vicia

Sunday, January 1st, 2017

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Title: Assistant general manager, Vicia
Age: 31
Why watch her: She knows what you need before you do.

Jen Epley has her eye on you. Where did you sit, what did you order and what was your favorite dish? If you don’t like cilantro, you won’t see it – now or the next time you dine with her.

For Epley, successful service means everything appears effortless. Wine keys, pens, lighters and birthday candles are accounted for before the night begins. Guests are greeted warmly, treated with friendly respect and watched carefully from the moment they’re seated until the last glass of wine is consumed.

“You have to know something about them. They are there for that experience of connecting with the food, the servers, the beverages. They want to feel everything that you put into that restaurant,” Epley said. “You have to be part of it. … If you don’t love it, you shouldn’t be there because that resonates with all the guests that walk in.”

This is something she’s learned from hospitality pros in some of the best restaurants in the city, starting at Five Bistro five years ago.

“She’s really one of the unsung heroes of service in St. Louis,” said advanced sommelier Andrey Ivanov. He trained Epley on Mediterranean and Middle Eastern wine when they worked at Olio and Elaia. “She’s so technically sound that she can do everything better than most people on autopilot, and meanwhile … look around the room and anticipate what’s next.”

“So many people treat serving as ‘Same job, different apron,’” said Sardella general manager Chris Kelling, who worked with Epley at Niche. “She has goals to ascend in the industry and be amongst the best. That is something I’ve only recently seen in St. Louis, that people are taking hospitality as a career.”

It seems only natural that Epley’s next step is to help open Vicia under co-owner and general manager Tara Gallina, who was service captain at Blue Hill at Stone Barns – a restaurant lauded as much for service as culinary talent. Before a recent wine tasting meeting, Epley pulled out a tote bag filled with polished stemware and ever-present spiral-bound notebooks.

“When I write things down, it’s easier to remember than typing,” she explained, rifling through pages filled with impeccably written wine tasting notes and potential front-of-house hires. Epley loves the puzzle of it all, carefully sorting each detail into its proper column. “It’s a fun game of Tetris,” she said.

“She’s always two steps ahead, which is what you have to be, and seeing the big picture at all times,” Gallina said. “She really just gets it.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

The Scoop: Ben Poremba to open Mexican restaurant, Nixta, in former Old Standard space

Wednesday, October 26th, 2016

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Three months after closing Old Standard Fried Chicken, Ben Poremba has a new concept ready to debut: Nixta, a Mexican restaurant at 1621 Tower Grove Ave. A soft opening is slated for Nov. 11. “I’ve opened many restaurants in the past five years,” Poremba said. “This one is as exciting as Olio.”

Don’t expect endless bowls of chips and salsa or a long list of tacos. Nixta’s menu will focus on the complex styles and techniques found in traditional Mexican cooking. “It’s a Mexican restaurant, but not in the traditional American sense of the word,” Poremba said. “It’s mostly inspired by street food, but it’s also inspired by my partner chef Tello Carreon’s grandmother’s cooking.”

Carreon spent the past two years as chef de cuisine at Elaia, and the previous year and a half between Elaia and Olio’s kitchens. “Tello appeals to me. I’ve been working side by side with him. We’ve been toying with ideas to showcase his cuisine,” Poremba said.

Dishes will also see some South American and Spanish influences, which Poremba said run parallel to the Mediterranean and North African influences he’s known for at Olio. Dishes include pepita guacamole, grilled octopus with mole, roasted pork shoulder, braised beef cheek mole and more. The bar program will focus on pisco drinks.

 

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{Bengelina Hospitality Group owner Ben Poremba}

 

The Mexican restaurant is only one project in the works for Bengelina Hospitality Group, which has had an eventful year. In June, Poremba passed the top toque of Elaia and Olio to chef Ben Grupe, shifting his focus to that of restaurateur for the group’s Botanical Heights establishments and newest restaurant, Parigi in Clayton.

Now more details have emerged about Poremba’s Jewish deli project, which The Scoop reported in June 2015. AO&CO is slated to open next year, in a location yet to be determined (Clayton, the Central West End and University City are all contenders, Poremba said.), but customers can get a sneak peek of what’s to come at brunch popups beginning next month at Parigi.

Poremba said he wants to bring a contemporary Jewish deli to the St. Louis area in the vein of Russ & Daughters Cafe. To that end, menu items for the first popup include house-made bagels, cured fish, chicken soup, beef tongue tartine and other traditional deli items with a Poremba twist. “I want to make it feel sort of traditional and true to the spirit of a Jewish deli,” he said.

Though the first popup on Nov. 20 has already sold out, Poremba said there will be some walk-in seating available, and he hopes to host the next at the beginning of December.

 

Trendwatch: Guide to Drinking Edition (Part 1)

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

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{Ben Bauer sips on the She’s Standing Right Behind You cocktail at The Libertine.} 

 

1. Taste of The Alps
Think of this French Alpine liqueur as Green Chartreuse’s little brother. With more floral notes, a lower ABV and a lower price tag, St. Louis bartenders are falling in love with Génépy. Drink it on its own as an aperitif or look for cocktails where it plays well with others: Try it paired with the gin-like Bols Genever, Yellow Chartreuse and lime in the Vivre Sa Vie from Olio’s summer menu, or sip an intense lineup of hibiscus, pomegranate and baking spices in the Heatsource cocktail at Retreat Gastropub. The bar at Público lends a Latin vibe with mezcal and lime, along with Licor 43 and Averna in Wee Willy’s Whiskers. Or visit The Whiskey Ring when winter hits for its take on a hot toddy: The Green Lantern made with Génépy, Green Chartreuse and lemon simple syrup.

2. Lager Love
Once the watery antithesis of the craft beer movement, a new wave of crisp, full-flavored lagers are making a comeback. Brewers are turning to the old-school Eastern European Czech Pilsner to create these low-ABV brews with a characteristic Saaz hop. Look for 2nd Shift’s Technical Ecstasy, Stubborn German Brewing Co.’s recently added Hip Czech Pilsner and seasonally available versions from Square One, Schlafly and The Civil Life.

3. Red Wine Float Trip
Bartenders are layering on the flavor with red wine floats atop new cocktails. Try it at The Libertine, where a mineral red tops a mixture of rye, lemon juice and lemon verbena-sweet tea in She’s Standing Right Behind You. Order the Full Sneak at The Fortune Teller Bar and watch as ruby port is floated over a blend of whiskey, ginger liqueur, lemon and ginger ale. Red also wine crowns The Juice at Scapegoat Tavern & Courtyard, which shakes up Orangecello (a house-made lemoncello that swaps the citrus), pomegranate vodka, muddled oranges and ginger beer.

4. As American as Applejack
Look for this potent fruit-based hooch cropping up by the bushel-full. Eclipse combines applejack with tequila, gin, rum and Benedictine in the 3 Mile Long Island, while The Royale keeps it simple in its Apple Buck, a mix of applejack, lemon juice and ginger beer. Scapegoat Tavern & Courtyard puts a twist on the whiskey sour, adding applejack to brandy and sour mix in The Monica.

 

Still thirsty? Click here for more of what’s trending in the STL beverage scene. 

-photo by David Kovaluk

Trendwatch: What’s trending now in the STL dining scene (Part 2)

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Miss Part 1? Click here to see even more of what’s trending now in STL.

 

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5. Puttin’ on the Spritz
Located at the intersection of low ABV, amaro and great-sounding names is the spritz cocktail. Traditionally made with bitter liqueur, wine and soda, this versatile Italian aperitif is bubbling up everywhere. Olio has seven varieties, a Spritz Hour and the summer motto: “Yes We Spritz.” Vista Ramen also has a whole spritz section on its drink menu. Order a clementine spritz at Eclipse or ask to create your own at Randolfi’s, with one of the largest amari selections in town.

6. ¡Poz-olé!
Traditional pozole has long held a place on weekend special boards at Mexican restaurants like Lily’s, Taqueria El Bronco and Taqueria Durango. Cleveland-Heath has had pozole on its menu for years, and Kitchen Kulture kept us warm this winter with a pozole verde. Chef Chris Bork at Vista Ramen crossed Japanese and Mexican cultures with a pozole-style ramen full of pulled chicken, hominy and springy ramen noodles. Sidney Street Cafe switched the protein, setting octopus confit swimming in a pozole broth with some chile oil. Meanwhile, Juniper chef-owner John Perkins added a taste of the South with his loose interpretation featuring a country ham consommé with charred tomatoes, black radish, zephyr squash and country ham at a recent pop-up at The Bhive in the Central West End.

7. Krispies Treats
Shelve that crisp rice cereal and taste a different take on the childhood classic. Treat House in New York City has put creative spins on the stuff since 2013, and STL is coming around. Chef-owner Kevin Nashan was an early adopter, classing up the snack by incorporating the fat from cooked foie gras and garnishing with slices of the delicacy at Sidney Street Cafe. Shift, Test Kitchen & Takeout offers a rotating selection of nontraditional squares, including flavors like caramel and Sriracha. Newly opened Start Bar ditches crispies altogether, swapping Cheetos for cereal in its treats, and will rotate other versions like Oreo, granola and Cap’n Crunch.

 

 

The Scoop: Old Standard Fried Chicken to close

Tuesday, July 26th, 2016

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Nearly two years after first flipping on the fryers, Old Standard Fried Chicken will shutter its doors after brunch service on Sunday, July 31. Owner Ben Poremba announced the closure today, July 26.

“It is a business decision,” Poremba said. “It wasn’t doing what we wanted it to do or fitting in with our general strategy.”

Poremba opened the fried chicken restaurant in Botanical Heights across the street from his two flagship restaurants, Elaia and Olio, in October 2014. Sauce reviewed the restaurant in March 2015.

Poremba, who also owns Parigi and co-owns La Patisserie Chouquette, said the space at 1621 Tower Grove Ave., will not sit idle long. He will announce a new concept, as well as any personnel changes or transitions, in the next week or so.

It’s been a busy year for Poremba. He opened his Italian concept, Parigi, in Clayton in February, and in June, he handed the executive chef role at Elaia and Olio to Ben Grupe in order to shift his focus from chef to restaurateur.

 

-photo by Michelle Volansky 

 

 

Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, June 12th, 2016

It’s been a busy week in the St. Louis food scene. Here’s what went down last week, in case you missed it…

 

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1. Chef-owner Ben Poremba announced on June 7  that he has passed the toque at Elaia and Olio to Ben Grupe, who took over as executive chef of the Botanical Heights restaurants on June 1.

2. Tropical Liqueurs has found a new home for its grown-up boozy slushies at 4104 Manchester Ave., in The Grove, and the owners hope to have the lease signed shortly.

 

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3. Trading breakfast for cocktails and light eats, Koplar Properties has opened Scapegoat Tavern & Courtyard at 52 Maryland Plaza.

4. The newest entrant in the Edwardsville food scene has taken up residence at 126 N. Main St. Foundry Public House opens Tuesday, June 14, in the former Robust Wine Bar space.

 

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5. Tucked into a University City neighborhood, PerJax Americana Kitchen opened at 7401 Pershing Ave., in late May. PerJax’s Cajun- and Creole-inspired menu offers starters, salads, entrees and sandwiches with nods to both the surf and the turf.

6. Restaurateurs and brothers Derek and Lucas Gamlin announced that they will open a third establishment in the Central West End. While the name and exact concept are still being finalized, a lease has been signed for the space in the lower level of The Residences at the Forest Park Hotel, located at 4910 W. Pine Blvd.

 

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7. Ballwin will get a taste of Eastern Europe when St. Louis Kolache opens at 14786 Manchester Road in early- to mid-July.

8. Take craft beer and a casual setting, put it in a chop house, and you have Cork & Barrel Chop House and Spirits. With the building at 7337 Mexico Road in St. Peters under construction, general manager Greg Tournillon hopes to open Cork & Barrel sometime this fall.

 

The Scoop: Ben Grupe named executive chef at Elaia and Olio

Tuesday, June 7th, 2016

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{Ben Grupe, Elaia and Olio’s new executive chef}

 

Chef-owner Ben Poremba announced today, June 7, that he has passed the toque at Elaia and Olio to Ben Grupe, who took over as executive chef of the Botanical Heights restaurants on June 1. Poremba said he needed to shift his role from one of chef to one of restaurateur, and so he tapped Grupe, whom he knew professionally but began speaking with in earnest in the last few months.

“I have five restaurants and a 4-year-old and a newborn,” said Poremba, whose company Bengelina Hospitality Group also owns Old Standard Fried Chicken, La Patisserie Chouquette and recently opened Parigi. “My workload needed to change, but I wanted to make sure the new chef would uphold our standards, continue what I started and improve on it.”

Most recently, Grupe helmed the kitchen at Meadowbrook Country Club before he struck out on his own, hosting monthly pop-up dinners out of the space that formerly housed Stellina. His five-course meals focused on regional ingredients and flavors. He also serves as the team captain for the American Culinary Federation Culinary Olympic Team, which competes in October.

 

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{Olio}

Poremba said Elaia and Olio’s menus will change regularly, as they did under Poremba, incorporating more and more of Grupe’s dishes. “He’s not making my food,” Poremba said. “He is introducing new techniques and ideas and making it his own. He’s paying attention to the progression and nuances of the meal.”

Don’t expect to find Poremba kicking back on his front porch in a rocking chair. Although the transition will allow him to spend more time with his family, he said he also looks forward to being more present in his other restaurants and focusing on other projects. “I’m looking forward to being seen in my other restaurants and going where I’m needed most,” Poremba said.

Grupe was not immediately available for comment.

 

-Olio photo by Carmen Troesser

Budget Crunch: 10 delicious dishes and sweet deals to try now

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

It’s time for Budget Crunch, wherein intrepid reporter Holly Fann offers 10 tips on delicious menu items and sweet deals happening now. Got $10 and some change? Grab a friend and sample, split and stuff yourselves with these steals.

 

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1. Take your lunch cravings to Salume Beddu for The Beast, a beautiful mess of a sandwich featuring house-made fiama salsiccia, peporanata and grain mustard on crusty bread. Savory, rich and loaded with tender sweet peppers, this sammy will only set you back $8.50, leaving you enough cash to add a San Pellegrino to wash it all down.

2. Don’t let U City Grill’s gruff appearance keep you from ordering a primo bowl of bimbimbap. A Korean dish literally meaning “mixed rice,” it is a bowl filed with bulgogi beef, vegetables, hot sauce and topped with a fried egg. For only $6, you’ll get to enjoy some of the tastiest Korean fare in St. Louis.

 

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3. Cleveland-Heath offers its full menu at lunch and dinner, allowing you to order the Okonomiyake or Japanese Pancake whenever your heart desires. The traditional Japanese street food receives a lavish upgrade, topped with wild Gulf shrimp, bacon, cabbage, Kewpie mayo, barbecue sauce and bonito flakes for $9.

4. The gelato pops at the new fast-casual Italian eatery Porano Pasta are not the dull popsicles of your youth. These velvety pops come in flavors like mango, vanilla bean, Askinosie chocolate and salted caramel. At only $3 a pop(!), these fun treats are a steal.

 

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5. Vegetarians can feast on the Mediterranean Grain Salad at Winslow’s Home completely guilt free. The satisfying salad is chock-full of bulghur, farro, cucumber, peppers, olives, capers, feta, parsley, lemon, hummus and topped with a crispy falafel. The half size is generous and runs $7, but you can order an even heartier full order for $10.

6. At Bar Les Freres you can dine on four warm potato blinis dressed with creme fraiche and a handsome portion of caviar, all served on fine bone china for a mere $10. Surrounded by the dim glow of candles, attentive staff and overstuffed settees, you’ll feel like royalty.

 

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7. The first thing you see when you enter Royal Chinese BBQ is the open kitchen window displaying golden, crisp-skinned ducks and hunks of glistening cherry-red pork. Order the Honey Roasted Pork and a cook will go to the window, retrieve the slow-cooked and lacquered pork from the hook and slice up a portion for you. The caramelized, sticky goodness is served with steamed white rice for just $9.50 an order.

8. Sometimes over-the-top flavor and a little indulgence is exactly what you need. Fulfill both with the Pat Say Jack Burger from The Kitchen Sink. Grilled andouille, roasted pork loin, jalapeno bacon, Swiss and pepper jack cheese, fried pickles and fried banana peppers struggle to stay atop the toasty bun. Served with house chips, this mega meal will set you back an even ten spot.

 

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9. Cocktails at Water Street Cafe are intriguing combinations of liquors, spirits, fruits and sometimes, vegetables. The $10 Sweet Pea Cocktail uses green tea-infused vodka, local Lion’s Tooth dandelion liquor, lemon and muddled snap peas and mint for a refreshing, vegetal sipper.

10. For a great happy hour snack for two, try the Imam Baylidi at Olio. A Middle Eastern dish of charred eggplant, yogurt and pomegranate molasses, the creamy dip is served with slices of crusty bread. At $10, its bright, vibrant flavor will satiate and satisfy early evening munchies.

 

-photos by Holly Fann 

 

Drink This Weekend Edition: A taste of the Big Apple – and home

Friday, August 14th, 2015

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I just returned from a trip to New York City, a place I love for its crazy crowds, the rattle of the subway and really good bagels. I also had the chance to compare our wine scene to this bustling city and came away with a few observations:

1. St. Louis is home to more wine and spirits talent per capita. Our wine pros take training and certification very seriously, and they work very hard to earn titles. In my opinion, NYC has a lot of wine talent, yet some do not work toward certification as diligently as our hometown team.

2. NYC is home to more products. Every importer has a presence, and you can get pretty much any wine you desire (though it often costs more). While St. Louis has access to a lot of wine, I think we lack options when it comes to sherry, organic and kosher choices.

3. New York City has some amazing wine lists, especially in Brooklyn and lower Manhattan, though STL is rapidly stepping up its game. Places like Elaia, Olio, Bar Italia and Bar Les Freres all pour some phenomenal wines (and I’ve got my eye on Reeds American Table, which has sommelier Andrey Ivanov overseeing the wine list). My wish: I’d love to see a wine bar like The Ten Bells in St. Louis – a loud, rambunctious atmosphere serving only hardcore natural wines and basic bar snacks.

Here, my two picks for this weekend – one from New York and the other, a hometown spirit:

2013 Fox Run Dry Riesling
This wine from New York’s Finger Lakes region is crisp and beautifully aromatic with notes of crushed lemon, apricot and stone. $20, available at Starrs

Lion’s Tooth Dandelion Liqueur
This local liqueur makes for incredible spritzes. Mix 1 ounce Lion’s Tooth with 2 ounces cranberry juice and 2 ounces seltzer, then pour over ice. $30, available at The Wine and Cheese Place

 

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