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Jul 26, 2014
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Posts Tagged ‘The Scoop’

The Scoop: Café Pintxos at Hotel Ignacio to become sushi lounge BaiKu

Friday, July 25th, 2014


Japanese flavors are coming to Midtown. Sushi lounge BaiKu is slated to open in the former Café Pintxos space at Hotel Ignacio at 3407 Olive St., in early September.

When Café Pintxos opened in 2011, it operated as a soup-salad-sandwich cafe by day and a Spanish tapas bar by night. Neither concept quite caught on, and Café Pintxos has been quiet for some months.

Steve Smith, a partner in Hotel Ignacio and the owner of a trio of businesses in the complex - Triumph Grill, Moto Museum and Moto Europa – looked to reinvigorate the space. Smith tapped as his consultant Brad Beracha, owner of the now-defunct Japanese restaurant Miso on Meramec and Araka. The plan: Japan. “There’s not a lot of sushi for Midtown in this area by Grand (Boulevard),” Beracha said.

BaiKu, which means “motorcycle” in Japanese, will specialize in sushi. It will offer basic rolls, as well as five to seven specialty rolls. “It’s not a big roll menu,” Beracha said. “I want it to be small and done great.” The restaurant will also offer eight to 10 Japanese-inspired appetizers, such as ginger-scallion-sake wings and lobster shumai (steamed dumplings). The dinner menu will be rounded out with a couple Japanese entrees. During lunch hours, BaiKu will also offer Asian noodles with an eye on ramen. Other mid-day meal options will include bahn mi and a few stir-fry items.

BaiKu’s beverage program will focus on sake and wines that pair well with sushi, which will be offered as a special during happy hours. Look also for a small cocktail menu and Japanese brews on the beer list.

Helming the sushi bar will be chef Soung Min Lee, who worked at Miso until it shuttered, and then held the position of executive sushi chef at Central Table Food Hall since it opened last year. Beracha said Lee departed from Central Table a month ago. While the sushi-making action will take place behind the bar at BaiKu, all hot food will be prepared next door in the Triumph kitchen, where chef Josh Norris leads the culinary crew.

Beracha said sushi was a perfect fit for the space’s small bar, and he also hoped that the lighter fare of Japanese cuisine would appeal to ticketholders attending performances in Grand Center. “It’s not heavy,” he said. “When you go to a show, you’re not wanting to take a nap.”

The entire space – bar, dining area, lobby lounge area and patio – will undergo a remodel. Besides new furnishings, look for pieces of a disassembled motorcycle to be a focal point along one of the walls.



The Scoop: Local sushi star Naomi Hamamura joins the culinary team at United Provisions

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


With the opening of United Provisions just weeks away, there’s news that another talented face from the local culinary scene is joining the team at the highly anticipated international grocery store at 6241 Delmar Blvd., in University City.

Naomi “Hama” Hamamura, previously executive chef at the Wasabi location downtown, has been hired as the chef at The Dining District, the prepared foods and dining section inside the grocery store. United Provisions partner Ben Poremba said he hired Hamamura two weeks ago. “He’s the best,” said Poremba, who also owns Elaia and Olio and co-owns La Patisserie Chouquette. “I called him up. He liked the idea of a new place … something a little different from what he’s done so far.”

While Hamamura will be in a new location, he’ll still be the focus of attention as he prepares sushi, ceviche and other raw far at the 16-seat raw bar at United Provisions. The Dining District’s other stations include a grill, a plancha and a deli with cured meats and cheese, according to St. Louis Magazine. Executive chef Jay Stringer will overseeing the entire dining and prepared foods operation. A veteran of the Chicago dining scene, Stringer has worked in the kitchen at Olio since it opened almost two years ago.

Lunch hours at The Dining District will be counter service with dine-in or carryout options, while dinner will be full service at this restaurant within a grocery store. There will also be a coffee shop serving up drip Northwest Coffee and pastries from La Patisserie Chouquette. Poremba said United Provisions is expected to open Aug. 11.

While Hamamura’s career began in Japan, the chef has made a mark on the local food scene since arriving to the U.S. in 1979, including working at now-closed Japanese steakhouse Robata of Japan and Ritz Carlton – St. Louis, and owning and operating the now defunct Sansui and Sansui West. In 2010, when Hamamura sold Sansui West to Wasabi, he stayed on as its corporate chef. After a stint at Prasino, Hamamura returned to Wasabi, where he worked until July 14.

-photo by Greg Rannells

Editor’s Note: This piece originally misstated Naomi Hamamura’s responsibilities at The Dining District. It has been corrected.

The Scoop: Chef Chris Lee leaves Mad Tomato, opens Chef’s Table STL

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014



Chef Chris Lee has parted ways with Mad Tomato chef-owner Vito Racanelli to launch a new venture called Chef’s Table STL, a prepared meal delivery service and catering company. Lee, who joined Racanelli at Mad Tomato just three months ago, decided to launch his own business after friends requested his help creating diet-specific meals, as reported by St. Louis Magazine.

Lee rolled out Chef’s Table STL last week; customers can call or order custom, nutritious meals online, to be delivered twice a week. “The thought was to offer that to people so they can stay home, relax with the family and not have to drive around,” Lee said. The menu, which will change according to ingredient availability, features entrees like seared chicken with Southwest-style quinoa and a gyro salad, small plates like maki rolls and crisp pork meatballs, as well as a selection of sides, soups and salads. Chef’s Table STL currently is using the kitchen at Wild Flower in the Central West End while Lee hunts for a commissary kitchen.

Years of experience with professional kitchens and catering have prepared him for running a one-man catering operation. Prior to teaming up with Racanelli at Mad Tomato, Lee worked as a banquet room chef at River City Casino. For a number of years he was executive chef for In Good Company, which operates Café Ventana, Sanctuaria, Diablitos and Hendricks BBQ. “I took all the things I learned in the past eight or nine years and squeezed it into one thing,” he said. “From a lifestyle choice, I like this much better. Not only am I not using my physical being as much to crank out food for service, I’m running a business … I’m no longer behind the stove. I’m in front.”

He added that Mustard Seed, a joint venture between Racanelli and Lee, had not yet taken off when Lee left Mad Tomato two weeks ago. The concept saw the two chefs visiting and assisting other restaurants, then using some of those consulting fees to help establish small restaurant businesses in developing international communities.

Racanelli said he was surprised at Lee’s departure, but he was confident he could handle any extra workload at his Clayton restaurant. “I’ll get it all done. God gave me some really strong shoulders,” he said. “I always find a way to get it all done.”

Ligaya Figueras contributed to this report.

The Scoop: Local distiller Pinckney Bend wins big at international spirits competition

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


{Ralph Haynes, Pinckney Bend’s vice president of marketing}


Area distillery Pinckney Bend continues to rack up accolades for its spirits. Today, July 23, the International Wine & Spirits Competition announced the results of its 2014 spirits competition held in London, and the New Haven-based distillery was awarded two medals. Pinckney Bend earned a silver medal for its American rested whiskey and a bronze medal for its American gin, the only American gin to win a bronze.

Now in its 45th year, the IWSC promotes the quality and excellence of the world’s best wine, spirits and liqueurs. Competition entries, which hail from nearly 90 countries, undergo a blind tasting by a panel of judges comprised of industry professionals.

“The IWSC in London is like the World Cup of spirits competitions,” said Ralph Haynes, the distillery’s vice president of marketing. “For small craft distillers like Pinckney Bend, winning a medal at this venue gives us a rare chance to position ourselves on a world stage, in the company of the most respected spirit brands on the planet.”

This spring, Pinckney Bend won a double gold for its American rested whiskey at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, where it has earned medals for the last three years. The rest of the world is picking up on the quality of Pinckney Bend spirits, which are now available overseas in Singapore and Italy. In addition, the distillery just picked up a distributor in the Caribbean, Haynes said, with product slated to export to that region this fall.



The Scoop: Tenacious Eats brick-and-mortar plans on hold

Wednesday, July 23rd, 2014


{A classic film screening from a recent Movies for Foodies event, hosted by Tenacious Eats at Meyer’s Grove}


Fans of film-and-dining concept restaurant Tenacious Eats will have to hold on a little longer for its permanent home. Chef-owner Liz Schuster said she will no longer open her brick-and-mortar location at 4195 Hampton Ave., in South City, citing disagreements with the building’s owners.

When Schuster announced the Hampton Avenue location in April, she envisioned a traditional breakfast and lunch spot that would also allow for Tenacious Eats’ current dinner-with-a-show format that Schuster used at her Movies for Foodies events at Meyer’s Grove. However, Schuster said delays in getting the building up to code forced her to move on. Schuster is still on the hunt for another location, with eyes on burgeoning urban neighborhoods like Cherokee Street and Maplewood.

In the meantime, Schuster said she will continue to host film-and-food events, including Harold Ramis classics like Animal House and Caddyshack in August. Keep an eye on Tenacious Eats’ website for more event details.


The Scoop: Cunetto’s Corner Cucina joins Edwardsville’s great leap forward

Tuesday, July 15th, 2014


Know where to track down Italian nachos? The correct, if somewhat unexpected, answer is Cunetto’s Corner Cucina in downtown Edwardsville, now undergoing a renaissance as new restaurants and watering holes emerge up and down Main Street and the surrounding blocks.

There’s Cleveland-Heath, of course, whose meteoric rise to prominence in the area dining scene shows no signs of letting up. But a rapid procession of others have opened their doors, too, including Stur, Uncle Munkey’s, soon-to-open Gulf Shores and the recently opened Cunetto’s, located at 1114 N. Main St. (The restaurant opened quietly on May 11, as first reported by the Edwardsville Intelligencer.)

Those nachos have become a best-selling appetizer there, according to chef and manager Mike Cunetto. He invented the dish: fried lasagna noodles topped with meat sauce, Provel cheese, black olives, pepperoncinis and Parmesan cheese. “People love them,” he said. “It’s a unique item.”

Cunetto, who studied at the Chicago Culinary Institute and has previously owned restaurants in Alhambra, Greenville and Vandalia, Illinois, as well as St. Louis, has labored to create a diverse menu, venturing beyond his background in Italian cuisine to new territory.

“It’s mostly Italian, but there’s something for everybody,” he said.

Twelve sandwiches currently populate the menu, such as the bison burger, Alaskan white fish burger, fish tacos and the popular Italian beef. “I throw a little twist on it and make it Philadelphia style and added cheese, sweet peppers and onions,” Cunetto said.

Traditional fare like steaks and fried chicken are also on the menu, as well as a pomegranate-glazed pork chop. Vegetarian offerings include a portobello mushroom sandwich and the vegan fettuccine. Cunetto said the house-made gooey butter cake is another fan favorite, made by his mother, who also works as a server in the restaurant.

Cunetto’s Corner Cucina is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and 4 to 9 p.m. Saturdays.

The Scoop: Vincent Van Doughnut wins Cooking Channel’s “Donut Showdown”

Monday, July 14th, 2014


{Vincent Van Doughnut co-owner Vincent Brian Marsden}

Local doughnut truck Vincent Van Doughnut made a national splash last Friday, July 11, when owner Vincent Brian Marsden and pastry chef Jamie Hardesty took home first place and $10,000 on the season premiere of Cooking Channel’s “Donut Showdown.” Marsden said this victory places the mobile doughnut shop in the growing circle of other local eateries with national competition chops. “Jilly’s has won (“Cupcake Wars”), Sweet Devine has won and Vincent Van Doughnut has won. It speaks volumes to the talent of St. Louis,” he said. “I’m happy to be included in that realm.”

Marsden and Hardesty survived two rounds against two other competitors, Toronto-based Amazing Donuts and Tucson, Arizona spa Miraval. The first round required the use of a secret ingredient: jelly beans. Vincent Van Doughnut created an anise mascarpone orange-topped doughnut garnished with a melted jellybean glaze. The final round required three Las Vegas-themed entries. Marsden and Hardesty wowed judges with The Bellagio, a doughnut filled with caramel pastry cream, glazed with chocolate ganache and topped with hazelnut-caramel crunch; The Venetian, filled with ricotta pastry cream, glazed with lemon and topped with pistachios and tarragon; and The Flamingo, a cherry cake doughnut topped with a maraschino cherry glaze and silver nonpareils.

Filming took place in February, and the Vincent Van Doughnut team had to keep mum on its victory until after the premiere. Marsden said the prize money will go toward truck improvements, including the purchase of a new fryer, and will come in handy when he starts hunting for Vincent Van Doughnut’s brick-and-mortar home.

Forgot to set your DVR? The season premiere of “Donut Showdown” airs again July 19 at 7 p.m. on Cooking Channel.


The Scoop: Former Cleveland-Heath cook Jimmy Hippchen now executive chef at Ernesto’s Wine Bar

Friday, July 11th, 2014



In 2013, Jimmy Hippchen left his job as the executive chef at The Crow’s Nest to take a position as a line cook at Cleveland-Heath. Now, this member of the Ones to Watch class of 2014 wears the top toque once more as executive chef at Ernesto’s Wine Bar in Benton Park.

Hippchen, who joined Ernesto’s in June, spent the first few weeks adjusting to a new kitchen. Now he’s ready to unveil a new menu Tuesday, July 15, that he hopes is more tightly focused on food that reflects wine regions. “I am trying to develop a menu where the food goes with the wine. It’s a wine bar. I want to marry the two very well,” he said. “I don’t want a show-off menu as opposed to doing well-executed, good food.” Look for dishes like a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with harissa, roasted cauliflower, pickled raisins and feta, as well as his take on shrimp and grits, sauteed shrimp swimming in pool of roasted red pepper polenta, lobster broth and scallions.

Of his nearly seven years spent in restaurant kitchens, Hippchen considers his time at Cleveland-Heath under the leadership of chef-owner Ed Heath, voted Favorite Chef in this year’s Readers’ Choice poll, to be invaluable. “(I learned) what it means to cook for the guest and through the eyes of the guest,” he said. “Eric (Ed Heath) taught me how to clean up my flavors.”

-photo by Carmen Troesser




The Scoop: Kräftig and Morgan Street win big at U.S. Open Beer Championships

Thursday, July 10th, 2014



Cheers to William K Busch Brewing Co., and Morgan Street Brewery for their successes at the U.S. Open Beer Championship earlier this month in Atlanta.

Busch’s Kräftig Lager Light won its third consecutive gold medal in the American light category, while its heartier sibling, Kräftig Lager, brought home the gold for American premium lager. Morgan Street brought home gold for its Black Bear dark lager in the Schwarzbier category, it took silver and bronze, respectively, for its When Helles Freezes Over and Golden Pilsner in the Light Munchner Helles and Bohemian Pilsener categories.

More than 3,000 beers and ciders were entered across 81 categories at the U.S. Open Beer Championship, which is the only beer competition to include both professional breweries and home brewers.

Billy Busch, president and CEO of William K Busch Brewing, said it was an honor to have won the award once again. “In the industry we’re in, there is so much competition against both giants of industry and smaller breweries,” he said. “To win the gold in both categories is a true tribute to our company, our brewmaster Marc Gottfried, and the way we brew our beers. It keeps us going, and we feel very good about what we have offer to St. Louis.”






The Scoop: Unkle Munkey’s arcade, restaurant and bar to open in Edwardsville

Tuesday, July 8th, 2014


Get your quarters ready; Unkle Munkey’s Coin Club opens doors Saturday, July 12 at 1027 Century Drive in Edwardsville. Owner Ryan O’Day renovated the 3,200-square-foot space into a restaurant/bar/arcade just a few doors down from his other restaurant, Wang Gang, which serves Asian fusion cuisine.

O’Day said he was inspired to open an arcade and restaurant about eight months ago after seeing similar venues in Chicago and New York City. “I thought it was pretty interesting with the dynamic of not only are you out with your friends, but you also have a nice and friendly competitive thing going on with the games and the pinball,” he said. “It provides a little more fun stuff to do.”

O’Day hunted down more than 40 classic arcade games such as Ms. Pacman, 1972’s Pong and a Jurassic Park pinball machine now installed at Unkle Munkey’s. With the wide variety of games, he hopes to attract an equally wide range of clients, from gamer teens to baby boomers recalling their Pinball Wizard days. “The overall experience is (meant) to strengthen the bond between people of different generations,” O’Day said.

The restaurant, which seats about 64, will serve up classic bar fare with a twist like hot dogs topped with slaw, pineapple-jalapeno sauce or Korean barbecue; hot and cold sandwiches loaded with meats and cheeses between Companion bread; and sides including the pimento cheese potato salad made with russet potatoes, cheddar cheese, red and green onions and diced pimento.

Unkle Munkey’s beverage menu includes five draft beers, 15 to 20 bottled beers and a small selection of wine. Nine specialty cocktails are also available, including The Superman, a fruity mix of Malibu rum, peach schnapps, triple sec, pineapple juice and grenadine.

Unkle Munkey’s will be open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until midnight Friday and Saturday. After 5 p.m., it’s 18 and older only, but don’t worry, baby gamers – Sunday is Kids’ Day, when everyone can play all day.

Can’t wait until Saturday to get your Pacman on? Unkle Munkey’s hosts a soft opening tomorrow, July 9, from 6 to 10 p.m. All ages are welcome for a $10 buffet of menu items and a cash bar, and proceeds benefit Partners for Pets.

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