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Oct 17, 2017
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Posts Tagged ‘Olive & Oak’

Trendwatch: What’s on the plate, in the glass and atop our wish list right now

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

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1. Proof in the Pudding
We’ve come a long way since Snack Packs – like the butterscotch pot de crème at Olive & Oak, a rich caramel pudding capped with salted caramel and whipped cream. At Pint Size Bakery, occasionally available Yum Cups are filled with rotating pudding flavors. But we all know chocolate reigns supreme, like the blend of milk and dark chocolate pudding with a black cocoa brownie, Thai basil ice cream and fresh blackberries currently on the menu at Taste. Retreat Gastropub recently offered an orange- and lemon-scented chocolate pudding served with toasted marshmallows and almond biscotti, while ClevelandHeath serves its version with Chantilly whipped cream and chocolate-dipped puffed rice.

 

2. Activate
Charcoal has made the move from face masks to the table. Gaining popularity as a detox ingredient at California juice shops like Pressed Juicery and Juice Served Here in recent years, activated charcoal has been making an appearance in cocktails like the inky mezcal-based Moonwalk at New York’s Mission Chinese Food. Closer to home, the black-hearted ingredient showed up for brunch in a chocolate-charcoal waffle at Hiro Asian Kitchen. Try a taste of the darkness at Clementine’s Creamery, where the black cherry ice cream is made with activated charcoal.

 

3. Bring in the Funk
Savory caramels are currently lending a sweet, funky accent to all manner of cuisine in St. Louis. The Copper Pig and Juniper have both combined fish sauce and caramel to great effect – the former on chicken wings and the latter on chicken and waffles. At Vista Ramen, crab caramel brings subtle sweetness and an unctuous umami pop to a tender pork rib dish. A little funk works just as well in cocktails, like The Sound of One Hand Clapping recently at Planter’s House, which combined tequila and mezcal with a miso-caramel syrup. On a more vegetal note, a beet caramel adds earthy sweetness to roasted beets, charred carrots and whipped herbed goat cheese at Boundary, while Vicia recently offered hazelnut financiers with an onion caramel sauce.

 

4. Get Crackin’
Pistachios have been lending their mild, nutty flavor to a variety of cocktail menus around town. The Lights Down, Music Up at ClevelandHeath uses Dumante Verdenoce, an Italian pistachio liqueur, to complement apricot and lemon in the rum-based drink. At The Preston, The Lady of Kildare, a unique tiki cocktail with Irish whiskey instead of the usual rum, includes a house-made pistachio syrup that plays well with tropical flavors like coconut and pineapple. And the Garden of Forking Paths at Taste utilizes the nut itself – ground and rimming a Collins glass.

 

5. The Big Cheese
Grilled cheese sandwiches have been subbing in for buns lately. Take The Big Lou special at The Corner Butcher in Fenton, where two of the sandwiches held two patties topped with nacho cheese. The Libertine appended GC to a classic BLT for a brunch special, and the ever-fluctuating menu at Shift: Test Kitchen recently experimented with The Sasquatch, pulled pork and cole slaw between two gooey sammies. Head to Festus for a Fatty Melt at Main & Mill Brewing Co., a classic patty melt with two grilled cheese sandwiches. And of course, Sugarfire Smoke House and Hi-Pointe Drive-In get in on the action with the Sweet Baby Cheesus special.

 

6. The Spice Route
Area bartenders are reaching into the spice cabinet for a taste of India on their cocktail menus. Retreat Gastropub mixes gin with coconut milk, turmeric and ginger in the curry leaf-topped Golden State, and combines rum, mango, vermouth and chai in its Cash Me Outside cocktail. Reeds American Table opts for yellow curry and coriander mixed with coconut milk in the Philosophical Zombie, while Planter’s House recently featured a chai five-spice syrup with bourbon, tequila and amaro in the Exit Stage Left. Polite Society’s arsenal of house-made tinctures and infusions includes a blood orange and cardamom gastrique featured in the Sanguine cocktail, made with vodka and coconut water. Frazer’s makes use of Desipop, a masala-cumin soda, in its rum-based Kama Sutra. Over at Eclipse, they’re shaking cardamom bitters into the Effervescent Love Machine, while just down the street, the team at Randolfi’s also added cardamom bitters to Advice from a Fortune Cookie and curry bitters to A Rule of Plumb.

 

Photo by Carmen Troesser

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Readers’ Choice Favorite New Restaurant: Olive & Oak

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

oliveandoak

{ clockwise from top, mixed green salad, Cuban sweet potatoes, O&O Burger, The Dip, blue crab gratin at Olive & Oak }

 

If you could actually snag a standing reservation at the wildly popular Olive & Oak in Webster Groves, you’d find a different menu each time. Executive chef Jesse Mendica tweaks vegetable preparations or swaps a protein in her playful twists on classics nearly every day.

“Just trust us,” she said. “I won’t lead you into something you don’t want.” Here, Mendica shared her go-to salad, staff obsessions and the handful of constants on the flexible menu of your Favorite New Restaurant.

Mixed Green Salad
“It’s over grilled, awesome potato bread – that’s a sleeper hit. To call it a potato bread is a shame because its half mashed potatoes-half bread, so it’s dense and thick and gooey.”

Cuban Sweet Potatoes
“When you make people happy with vegetables, that’s a real feat. Steak is easy, a fatty burger is easy – vegetables take a little more effort and risk. When people dig on the vegetables, I’m so excited.”

O & O Burger
“We have to plead with [employees] to eat something other than a burger. We’re worried about you. You’re going to become a burger.”

The Dip
“It’s roasted leg of lamb with drunken goat cheese and lamb jus. Don’t miss it. We did a veggie dip and a ham dip and a pork dip, but nothing compares to this. I’m head over heels for it.”

Blue Crab Gratin
“It’s total comfort food. It’s just a cheesy crab dip – spicy and warm and sharable.”

Photo by Carmen Troesser

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Sauce Magazine: Readers’ Choice 2017

Best New Restaurants 2016: Olive & Oak

Review: Olive & Oak

The Scoop: Olive & Oak owners to open cafe in Webster Groves

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

Wednesday, March 15th, 2017

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{ 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: 5 St. Louis chefs earn James Beard Foundation semifinalist honors

Wednesday, February 15th, 2017

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{ Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton } 

 

The James Beard Foundation announced its 2017 restaurant and chef award semifinalists today, Feb. 15. St. Louis’s recent run of recognition from the foundation continues, as five St. Louis chefs earned nominations for the esteemed culinary awards.

Pastaria executive chef Ashley Shelton was named a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year. This award recognizes “a chef age 30 or younger who displays impressive talent and is likely to make a significant impact on the industry in years to come.”

“It’s pretty much every chef’s dream come true to be recognized in that way,” Shelton said.

The JBFA nod is the latest in a growing list of recognition for Shelton. She is a member of the Sauce Ones to Watch Class of 2016, and Eater named her a Young Gun of 2016. Shelton said the honors validate her leadership style in the kitchen. “For me, it keeps pushing me and telling that the path I’m on is the right path,” she said. “We’re trying to do something different in our restaurants – not screaming and yelling.”

Pastaria owner Gerard Craft, who won Best Chef: Midwest in 2015, said Shelton’s culinary future is bright, and not just because she’s a talented cook.

“Being a chef is being a chief. It’s being a leader. It’s one of the hardest parts of the job,” Craft said. “For somebody her age to lead a team the size that she leads and operation the size that she leads, I can’t imagine anybody doing it better. What she’s going to do in the future is sure to be amazing.”

 

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{ from left, Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica, Perennial Artisan Ales’ Phil Wymore and Olive & Oak owner Mark Hinkle }

 

JBF also named four area chefs as semifinalists in the Best Chef: Midwest region: Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica, Público chef-owner Mike Randolph, Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan and Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann. This category acknowledges “chefs who have set new or consistent standards of excellence in their respective regions.”

This is the first Beard Foundation honor for Mendica. Neither she nor Olive & Oak owner Mark Hinkle could immediately be reached for comment.

 

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{ Público chef-owner Mike Randolph }

 

This is the second semifinalist nod for Randolph, whose restaurant Público was named a finalist for Best New Restaurant 2016.

“Going into last year I had put so much emphasis on the restaurant getting the Best New nomination because I felt like that was kind of a loftier goal, to be honest,” Randolph said, crediting his team with the restaurant’s success. “But that being said, I look at this list – these are people that I admire and that I respect. Any time you get a chance to see your name thrown in that hat, it’s humbling. It makes me want to work harder – and go in and hug everyone at Público.”

 

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 { Farmhaus chef-owner Kevin Willmann }

Nashan and Willmann are no strangers to this prestigious honor. Willmann earned his first finalist nod last year. “It’s always an honor and always exciting, especially for the crew,” he said. “They go so hard to keep our standards up.”

 

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 { Sidney Street Cafe chef-owner Kevin Nashan }

 

Nashan has twice made it to the finalist round of this category. “It’s awesome and amazing,” he said. “I literally just found out. It’s an honor any time you’re mentioned — it’s just great to be on the bus.”

Finalists will be announced March 15, and the winners will be named May 1 in Chicago. A full list of the winners is available online.

 

Editor’s note: This post was updated Wednesday, Feb. 15 at noon to add comments from Kevin Willmann. 

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

Ashley Shelton and Kevin Willmann photos by Carmen Troesser; Kevin Nashan photo by Greg Rannells; Mike Randolph photo courtesy of Público by Greg Rannells; Jesse Mendica photo courtesy of Olive & Oak Facebook

 

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

The Scoop: James Beard award eludes Willmann and Nashan

The Scoop: Chefs Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann earn finalist nods for JBFA Best Chef: Midwest

The Scoop: 5 STL-area chefs, The Side Project Cellar, Stone Soup Cottage all earn JBFA nods

The Scoop: Gerard Craft wins James Beard award

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.

 

Egg_04

 

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.

 

Related Content
Sauce Magazine: January 2017

Trendwatch: Guide to Drinking 2016

Sauce Magazine’s Best New Restaurants of 2016

The Scoop: Olive & Oak owners to open cafe in Webster Groves

Thursday, January 5th, 2017

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Webster Groves is getting another restaurant from the owners of Olive & Oak, and it’s right next door. As reported by St. Louis Magazine, the restaurant will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner at 100 W. Lockwood Ave., in the former Webster Groves Bookstore space.

The team chose to stay in the same neighborhood for their second concept because, “the neighborhood needed it,” said co-owner Mark Hinkle. “They were asking for something like this, and I think we can give it to them in a fun way.”

The menu will keep with Olive & Oak’s classic American cuisine in a fast casual format. Expect cafe standards like coffee and pastries, soups, salads and sandwiches, all with Olive & Oak executive chef Jesse Mendica’s special spin.

Hinkle hopes the 2,200-square-foot space will open in the early summer.

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Dishes of 2016

Thursday, December 29th, 2016

Sauce restaurant critic Michael Renner has tasted his fair share of St. Louis cuisine. All year, he shared his thoughts on New and Notable restaurants. Here, he shares his top five dishes of 2016:

 

5. Hakka Stir Fry at Tai Ke
In a single mouthful, this Taiwanese dish, consisting of matchstick slivers of pork, squid and dried tofu tossed with celery and garlic, managed to defy simplicity with a brilliant concatenation of complex flavors and textures.

 

122916_Renner_Parigi

 

4. Brodetto at Parigi
This tomato-based fish stew was a picture-perfect bowl of snow-white fish, clams, mussels and head-on shrimp in a broth redolent with red wine vinegar and lemon zest. I did not come up for air until each shell was picked clean and every drop of intoxicating broth was sopped up with yeasty, crusty bread.

3. Potpie at Olive & Oak
Puncturing the buttery, flakey robe of crust revealed a treasure of mushrooms, kale, butternut squash and cauliflower through puffs of fragrant steam. The earthy roasted leek gravy proved that not every potpie requires chicken or beef.

 

122916_Renner_Vista

 

2. Vegetable Ramen at Vista Ramen
My veggie ramen at Vista was chock-full of cauliflower, shiitake mushrooms and carrots, though yours may vary. What won’t change is the broth’s deep, funky umami, so rich it seems like a liqueur.

 

122916_Renner_KounterKulture

 

And the No. 1 Dish of the Year…
Catfish Po’ Boy Steamed Bun at Kounter Kulture
A dark-hued, crackling fried coating framed the natural succulence and fresh taste of catfish, all topped with an unforgettable sprinkle of spicy togarashi and douse of creamy shishito pepper-cherry tomato remoulade.

Parigi and Vista Ramen photos by Jonathan Gayman

Related Content
10 Best New Restaurants of 2016

New & Notable: Kounter Kulture

Extra Sauce: Top 5 Dishes of 2015

 

 

Best New Restaurants: No. 3 – Olive & Oak

Thursday, December 1st, 2016

To be the best, everything matters – atmosphere, service and food. Here, the places that dazzled us from the moment they opened: St. Louis’ 10 Best New Restaurants of 2016.

 

120116_oliveandoak

 { flank steak }

 

Since Olive & Oak opened to great acclaim in January, eager customers have had to book reservations well in advance. Determined walk-ins order cocktails and prowl the bar, waiting to pounce on a vacant seat. Webster Groves residents who used to drive 20 minutes for a night out now have a dining destination in their own backyard.

Despite the hustle, you’ll rarely see disgruntled or discontented staff at Olive & Oak. In fact, servers look downright cheerful as they weave through standing-room only crowds carrying trays piled with food. After more than a decade in the hospitality industry, owner Mark Hinkle found that poor service was often due to an overwhelmed wait staff, not bad attitudes. “If you never staff to be busy, you’ll never be busy, ” he said.

Hinkle wants his staff to be professional, but relaxed. If they aren’t enjoying their night, neither will the guest. “I look around and they all seem to be having fun … [There’s] a good vibe and a comfortable feel,” Hinkle said.

Dining at the bar best exemplifies this superior hospitality. These multitasking masters are servers, bartenders, bar backs and your best friend. Settle in to an open seat and order a drink from the surprising, well-balanced menu that can hold its own in a city obsessed with craft cocktails. Try the No. 78, made with pear, lime, sherry, Scotch, gin and umami bitters for an unusual concoction with savory notes that you can only find at Olive & Oak. Your bartender will happily chat and simultaneously take an order from the patron standing behind you as she mixes your drink.

While you ponder the menu that entices such a crowd, another bartender sets down The Dip sandwich piled high with shaved leg of lamb, served with a cup of rich jus and fries so crisp, you may be tempted to steal them from your neighbor’s plate (Don’t – that’s rude.). If you can’t decide whether to get the starter of bubbling blue crab gratin, thick and cheesy with a kiss of Calabrian chile oil, or jump straight to the perfectly charred, medium-rare flank steak you just saw flying past on its way to another table, the solution is simple: get both.

Order another round. Take your time. You’re a guest at this classy yet laid-back dinner party.

 

More about Olive & Oak

Top Shelf: 5 bartenders you should know

New and Notable: Olive & Oak

• Sneak Peek: Olive & Oak in Webster Groves

• The Scoop: New American eatery Olive & Oak to open in Webster Groves historic building

Photo by Carmen Troesser

Trendwatch: Guide to Drinking Edition (Part 2)

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

090716_trendwatch1

 

{Vista Ramen’s Matcha Gonna Do For Me? cocktail} 

1. Go Green
Teatime and happy hour combine in green tea cocktails. Matcha is found in Retreat Gastropub’s Brainfreeze Culprit, which combines the vibrant green tea powder with rum, sherry, pineapple juice, cacao and coconut. We also spied it at Hiro Asian Kitchen, in a matcha mint julep. Green tea-infused vodka gets fresh at Rooster with apple, lime, pineapple and cucumber in the Green With Envy, while Water Street uses it in its Sweet Pea along with snap peas, dandelion liqueur, mint and lemon. Meanwhile, the drink team at Vista Ramen doubles down, using matcha and cold-brewed green tea stems in the gin-based Matcha Gonna Do For Me?

2. East-Coast Vibes
If intensely hopped IPAs blow your palate, head east. The East Coast IPA is a gentler, juicier IPA best identified by its murky, unfiltered appearance. Eastern breweries like Alchemist, Trillium and Tree House are known for these less bitter, slightly resinous beers, and up-and-coming hometown brewers are taking notice. Narrow Gauge Brewing, which recently opened inside Cugino’s in Florissant, is making waves with its cloudy, dry-hopped IPAs like Fallen Flag, and forthcoming Rockwell Beer Co. shared a taste of what’s to come at Heritage Festival with Major Key, an 8.5-percent East Coast-West Coast hybrid double IPA.

3. Concept Menus
Themed drink menus may seem like a marketing gimmick, but one sip of these exclusive cocktails will sell you. Pouring Ribbons in New York has been traveling with a themed menu series, hitting Route 66 and the Silk Road. Closer to home, Olive & Oak’s Gilligan’s Island-themed menu is a boozy voyage that includes a Three-Hour Tour, while sophisticated takes on college drinks were the star on Planter’s House’s spring break menu earlier this year. Recent menus at Blood & Sand have been based off everything from ninth-century Viking trade routes to popular music, and dedicated tiki menus have been found on bar menus from The Libertine to Taste to Retreat Gastropub.

4. Taste the Rainbow
Brewers are getting experimental, fermenting some of their classic base beers with fresh fruit. Side Project Brewing Co. has released raspberry, peach, blueberry and, most recently, apricot versions of its flagship Saison du Fermier. Over at Perennial Artisan Ales, Funky Wit has seen raspberry-rhubarb, raspberry, apricot and melon varieties, while fans of 2nd Shift Brewing’s Katy can try a veritable fruit salad of blackberry, peach, cherry and raspberry varieties. Looking for an insider taste? Rumor has it that 4 Hands Brewing Co. has quietly released infrequently available strawberry- and blueberry-inflected kegs of City Wide at its tasting room.

5. Basque Wine
Txakoli, a super dry, acidic white from Spain’s Basque region, has popped up on menus and in shops all summer. Union Loafers Café and Bread Bakery offered the crisp 2014 Xarmant Txakolina with barely-there bubbles on its summer wine list, while Reeds American Table still has two Txakolis to try. 33 Wine Bar has three of these Basque beauties on its September wine list, including Gorrondona Txakolina.

Miss Part 1? Click here to find out what else in trending in the STL beverage scene. 

-photo by Jonathan Gayman

Trendwatch: What’s trending now in the STL dining scene (Part 1)

Friday, August 5th, 2016

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1. A Better Swiss Cheese
You may not recognize the name, but you’ve probably seen raclette (a funky, nutty Swiss-French cow’s milk cheese that melts like a dream) on a BuzzFeed list or foodie Instagram account. You don’t have to go to Raclette NYC (Yes, a whole restaurant is named for the cheese.) to get it. Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. has topped winter veggies with the stuff on seasonal menus since it opened in The Grove. Larder & Cupboard has held fondue and raclette classes, and chef-owner Jim Fiala currently melts this gooey goodness over beef tenderloin at The Crossing. Chef-owner Bill Cawthon purchases whole wheels of the stuff and broils until molten, then scrapes it to order over a basket of fries at Frankly Sausages food truck.

2. Fit to Be Fried
It’s never too early for Chinese food – or completely bastardized, completely delicious American-Asian fusion. Places like The Rice House start mornings off with breakfast fried rice (fried rice with the addition of eggs and a breakfast meat). Half & Half offers a spicy version with scrambled eggs, sausage, jalapeno and grilled onion, while Cleveland-Heath goes with green onion, bacon, peas and sesame seeds topped with eggs any style.

 

080216_trendwatch1

 

3. Get Lit
Neon isn’t just for dive bars anymore. The beer sign classic has a fancy new job as a fun design element lighting up a number of restaurants around town. It’s the red pulsing heart behind the bar at Olive & Oak. See neon inside Friendship Brewing Co. telling guests where to eat with bright pink letters. Vista Ramen took its name from the massive vintage sign that now glows green in its small Cherokee space.

4. Spotlight on Sambal
First there was Sriracha, then pungent gochujang. Now sambal is heating up plates around town. Planter’s House uses the spicy Southeast Asian chile paste to add heat to pickled eggs, as well as the cornbread crumbs scattered atop its summer salad. Seafood got sauced with the condiment at Hiro Asian Kitchen, where it graced the grilled whole squid, and at Guerrilla Street Food, where it livened up a recent pan-roasted salmon special. The Crossing drops the temp a few degrees, mixing sambal into a cooling aioli for its Maryland blue crabcake sandwich, and a house-made version snuck in with strawberries atop ricotta and fresh snap peas at a recent Sardella pop-up.

 

Ready for more? Click here for Part 2 of Trendwatch.  

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