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Sep 23, 2017
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Posts Tagged ‘Taste’

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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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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The Scoop: Anne Croy leaves Pastaria, to focus on Banner Road

Tuesday, September 6th, 2016

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After four years at Niche Restaurant Group, Anne Croy has left her position as Pastaria’s executive pastry chef. Her last day was Thursday, Sept. 1, as reported by Feast.

Croy said she intends to focus on her business, Banner Road Baking Co. “Banner road is a wholesales specialty food business,” she said. Currently, she sells four varieties of granola under the Banner Road name. She hopes to expand her distribution throughout the Midwest and add more flavors and products like energy bars, granola bars, cookies and crackers.

“Anne makes some of the best granola in the world, and we’re proud to still serve her recipe at Pastaria,” said Niche Food Group owner Gerard Craft.

 

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Croy worked at Pastaria’s since it opened in 2012. “I’ve been able to work with some of the finest chefs in the city,” she said. “I just had an amazing team, and I’m really excited about what (executive chef Ashley Shelton) is doing with the restaurant.”

Craft said Sardella executive pastry chef Sarah Osborn has taken over pastry operations and will develop desserts for Pastaria and Taste. She will also have a hand in developing gelato pop flavors for Porano.

Pastaria Nashville executive pastry chef Mathew Rice has been named Niche Food Group executive pastry chef and will work with Osborn to develop the gelato programs at Pastaria and Porano, as well as the overall dessert programs at Pastaria and Taste.

Rice said he looks forward to the added responsibilities, as well as more frequent trips back to St. Louis. “This will keep me involved in the St. Louis food scene, so that’s something I’m excited about,” Rice said.

 

Catherine Klene contributed to this report. 

 

What I Do: Nick Blue of Sardella

Tuesday, August 2nd, 2016

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Gerard Craft’s text message asked for a vegetarian dish, done Niche-style. Unbeknownst to Nick Blue, he was in the preliminary stages of a job interview for executive chef of Sardella, the concept that will replace Niche, Craft’s first restaurant and the one that earned him St. Louis’ first James Beard Foundation Award. Blue certainly has the resume to head up Sardella when it opens later this month. He began working with Craft in 2009, bouncing around between Brasserie, Niche and Taste before working his way up to executive chef of Brasserie. Here, Blue shares what he’s learned so far in the Niche Food Group.
 

First week on 
the job
“I was walking through the (old Niche) dining room carrying two cases of eggs by the handles and … one bottom fell out and the whole case just breaks in the middle of the dining room. … I was like, ‘Oh God, this is my first true professional kitchen.’”

From-scratch kitchen
“(Brasserie) was a well-oiled machine already. … To start over from scratch – it’s been a little nerve-wracking, to say the least. I’ve never done this before. I don’t know what to do every single time, but I try to make that call and ask for forgiveness later.”

Attitude adjustment
“The whole kitchen culture (at Sardella) is changing. … We can go back to having fun and start cooking the food that’s why we started cooking. It’s going to be a little more casual (than Niche).”

Most important meal of the day
“I’m a breakfast fan, but not at breakfast hours. Recently the Sardella kitchen management team has been hooked on Original Pancake House in Ladue. We get the breakfast sandwiches to go. It’s on sourdough with egg, ham and I add American cheese.”

His sweeter half
“When (my wife, Sardella pastry chef Sarah Osborn and I) cook (at home), we both do it. I’ll do something savory, and she’ll do something pastry. … I have a huge sweet tooth. The two things I usually ask for are tres leches cake or a strawberry-rhubarb pie.”

Retirement plans
“My dream retirement job is to have a taco stand on the beach – somewhere in Key West probably. … I came up with that big plan after a few drinks at Big Star (in Chicago). I was eating their fish tacos and I was like, You know what? I’m going to live on a beach one day and retire and make fish tacos. And Sarah wants to do adult popsicles.”

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Readers’ Choice 2016: Favorite Restaurateurs

Thursday, July 7th, 2016

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{Clockwise from bottom, Gerard Craft, Dave Bailey, Kevin Nashan, Nick Luedde}

The menus have been printed, revised, reprinted, revised … and reprinted again. The staff has been trained forward and backward. The silverware has been polished until it’s too shiny to behold. Friends and family have flown in for the soft opening with compliments fit for the pope/Shakespeare/Beyoncé of restaurant owners. But when the restaurant finally opens to the public, what’s going through a restaurateur’s mind?

 

Winner: Gerard Craft
Owner, Niche Food Group (Brasserie by Niche, Pastaria, Porano Pasta, Sardella, Taste)

“I think my opening of Niche was way different from any opening you will see today. In 2005, social media wasn’t really a thing. People finding out about new things were not overnight happenings. Now you open a restaurant and a million people line up out your door — definitely not with Niche. No one knew who we were. It was me, one other cook and my pastry chef who I basically kidnapped. We opened to 12 customers, and I think six of those were from the bar across the street, who I think I convinced to come over if I would feed them for free. …

“I was 25. My wife was pregnant. I was doing something a little bit different, which certainly didn’t make it easier. I would work from 8 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. every day. It was intense – a lot of anxiety, a lot of stress. … It was this dream, but also so much reality. And I physically remember when we finally got reviewed — (former St. Louis Post-Dispatch critic) Joe Bonwich just gave us this love letter. After, I looked up and … there were so many people, we didn’t know what to do. I almost threw up. I was like, ‘Oh shit, I have to cook for all these people!’”

 

2nd: Nick Luedde
Co-owner, The Libertine

“We had been in the press and had such a highly anticipated opening. … Ten minutes prior to opening — the staff looks great, and we had 200 people on the books — but I’m looking at my wife (Audra Luedde), afraid no one was going to show up. We had so much money invested. This was everything. … It all comes down to whom you’ve hired. If those people are people you actually want to have a drink with, the rest takes care of itself.”

 

3rd: Kevin Nashan
Chef-owner, Peacemaker Lobster & Crab and Sidney Street Cafe

“Obviously you want to throw up in your mouth. It’s such a big rollercoaster. You just hope people come and are so grateful when they do. It takes a village — everyone contributes to your success. … There are so many variables on opening day. The system you have sometimes completely changes during service, after service.”

 

Honorable mention: Dave Bailey
Owner, Baileys’ Restaurants (Baileys’ Chocolate Bar; Baileys’ Range; Bridge Tap House & Wine Bar; Rooster; Shift, Test Kitchen & Takeout; Small Batch; The Fifth Wheel)

“My seven stages of opening a restaurant for the first time:

Electric shock: Woke up early that sunny morning with no alarm clock with a surge through my body and the immediate thought, ‘I am opening a restaurant today! You’ve been working on this day and night, sleeping two hours at a time on top of the bar. It’s actually real now. Go go go!’

A burning sensation in the back of the head and neck: Is there enough time to get everything done? … What did I forget? Will anyone come? Will too many people come? Why am I doing this on a Friday? Why didn’t I do a soft opening?

Accelerated breathing and hypersensitivity to sound and touch: Almost there; we’re looking pretty good; it’s all about to happen; this is going to be amazing!

Calmness and solidarity of purpose: Ready. Everything looks right; everything feels right; everyone is in position.

Panic and self doubt: Why wasn’t there a line at the door? Is anyone going to come? Was this a terrible idea in the first place? I can’t afford for this not to work.

Total absorption in work and an extremely narrowed focus: Wow, it’s really busy. Everyone seems happy. We are almost keeping up; we need to go faster; we need to go much faster. Touch more tables … make them happy no matter what.

Complete relief and a feeling of having learned and grown more in hours than in the past several years: It worked. We built it, and they came. We are going to do an even better job tomorrow.”

-photo by Ashley Gieseking

Drink This Weekend Edition: Gertrude Pine at Taste

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

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With spring cocktail menus popping up like the weeds in my garden, there’s plenty of incentive to put on your good shoes and get out there. Although Taste’s spring menu will be fully unveiled in the coming weeks, stop in this weekend for a sneak peek and order the Gertrude Pine. This shaken concoction features a base of Wild Turkey 101 and Camus VS Cognac, but this is no winter holdover. The addition of velvet falernum and Don’s Mix (simple syrup infused with grapefruit juice and cinnamon) sweeten the pot just right, while lime juice gives balance.

The depth of flavor in this spring sipper comes from the Alps. Zirbenz pine liqueur has a deceivingly nondescript nose, but packs a piney punch by itself. In the capable hands of the crew at Taste, the pine liqueur gives a subtle botanical depth that rounds out the cocktail. With a light, citrusy nose, the Gertrude Pine starts a touch tart but finishes pleasantly – but not overly – sweet and spicy.

 

 

Trendwatch: A look at what’s on our plate, in the glass and atop our wish list right now (Part 2)

Thursday, April 7th, 2016

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4. So Fresh and So Clean: We’ve had our eyes peeled for earthy, peppery turmeric, a rhizome or root-like stem that’s a relative of ginger, often found in Indian food. While we’re used to seeing turmeric in its powdered form, fresh turmeric is where it’s at. We’re seeing this antioxidant powerhouse root at newly opened Source Juicery in Edwardsville, in its Up Beet juice with beets, orange, carrot, apple, ginger and turmeric. It’s also found in Scratch Brewing Co.‘s Turmeric Braggot, a honey ale with a bright finish. Fresh turmeric was also spotted at Boundary, in a roasted leek and butternut squash curry. Local farmers are trying their hand at growing it, too: Gateway Garlic Urban Farm in St. Louis and River to River Farm in southern Illinois are both raising turmeric this year.

5. OK Poke: This cold, Hawaiian tuna dish is catching fire on the coasts and popping up here, too. Raw tuna is cut into chunks, then marinated in sauces like soy and ginger and served uncooked. Look for cool poke starters at the newly opened Boundary and both The Tavern Kitchen & Bar locations.

6. Romesco Renaissance: Romesco, a classic Spanish sauce made with almonds and red bell peppers, is traditionally served with seafood, but area chefs are slathering veggies with it, too. At Retreat Gastropub, the vibrant sauce adds brightness to Brussels sprouts, and it serves as a bed for bright roasted beets topped with pine nuts and cucumbers at Element. Over at The Preston, romesco sees its familiar fishy counterpoint (roasted bronzino here), but adds ancho chiles to the red bell peppers for a smokier take on the classic.

7. Torched: From trendy New Orleans watering holes like Compère Lapin to our hometown institutions, charred rosemary is the garnish of the moment. It made an appearance in the tequila-based Who is Dañejo Parseliti? at Randolfi’s, and it’s perched on The Muddled Pig’s namesake cocktail, which features an absinthe rinse and bacon-washed bourbon. You can also catch the torched branch stretched atop the Far and Away with apple-infused gin at Taste.

(Don’t miss Part 1 of Trendwatch here.)

Best New Restaurants: No. 5 – Reeds American Table

Tuesday, December 22nd, 2015

Opening a restaurant isn’t easy. Each year, hundreds give it a shot – and not everyone succeeds. Some, however, aren’t just surviving; they’re killing it. In the last year, we ate our way through newly opened restaurants from Alton to Ballwin, compiling a list of places that serve the food and drinks we can’t get out of our heads. They bring something different and exciting to the scene – and they do it damn well. While technical excellence was a must, the service and ambiance also had to win us over. Office debates nearly came to fisticuffs, but at last we agreed on St. Louis’ 11 best new restaurants of 2015. Clear your schedule and book your reservations; you’ve got a lot of eating to do.

 

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Unfold the menu at Reeds American Table, and you see names before you see dishes. These are the people chef-owner Matthew Daughaday wants you to know before digging in – the ones who braise that succulent beef cheek, concoct house tinctures and know exactly how long the kitchen worked to perfect the lamb sugo.

Traditional restaurants operate under a relatively strict hierarchy: An executive chef directs a staff that operates in descending order from sous chef on down to line cook and dishwasher. The bar may have some interaction with the kitchen, but not much. Servers live at the front of the house, balancing trays and scribbling orders. It’s a time-honored method that’s produced top-notch results – but Daughaday is doing things a bit differently.

The former executive chef of Taste announced he was leaving the swanky CWE cocktail bar last December. Public anticipation built over the following months as Daughaday assembled a crack team to aid his first solo enterprise: sommelier Andrey Ivanov as beverage director, Summer Wright as executive pastry chef, Nicki Ball as general manager and Andrew Moore as office manager.

“We all try to be people who are very open about the learning process,” Daughaday said. “(We’re) creating a mentoring environment where you’re teaching people things and pushing them to be better, but not in an overbearing, demanding (manner).” The result is a delightfully collaborative and approachable menu, resulting in dishes like the decadent chicken potpie and silky panna cotta. Pastry chefs craft syrups and tonics for the bar team. Extensive beer and wine lists include charts, maps and graphs; the house coffee program details brewing methods.

Most important, Daughday said, is that everyone from the executive sous chef to the busser to the bartender feels a sense of ownership. “I always use the analogy of a baseball team,” he said. “Everybody has their positions and the expectation is that you play your position, but we all know that it supports the greater goal.”

-photo by Jonathan Gayman

Readers’ Choice 2015: Bartender of the Year – Ted Kilgore

Thursday, July 23rd, 2015

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{From left, Kyle Mathis, Seth Wahlman and Bess Kretsinger with Bartender of the Year Ted Kilgore}

Whether it’s serving up seasonal cocktails, perfecting the classics or putting new twists on old favorites, this year’s top bartenders won you over with their creativity and craftsmanship. Here’s what they want to mix most when you see them behind the stick this summer.

Bartender of the Year: Ted Kilgore at Planter’s House
The Drink: Gin Soaked Boy
What’s in it: Citadelle gin, Ransom Old Tom gin, Nolet’s gin, sloe gin, fino sherry, cinnamon syrup and lemon juice
Why it’s great: “It’s super refreshing, beautiful and quite boozy. Our bartender Mandi Kowalski actually came up with it, and I love the whole package. The name is also the name of a Tom Waits song, and I love Tom Waits. It also includes my favorite gins and looks phenomenal when you’re drinking it. It’s aromatic, beautiful and nostalgic.”

Second Place: Kyle Mathis at Taste
The Drink: Walla Walla Bing Bang
What’s in it: El Dorado spiced rum, North Shore Mighty gin, Smith & Cross Jamaica rum, passion fruit, cinnamon syrup, grapefruit and lime juices
Why it’s great: “It’s sweet and fruit-forward from passion fruit and house-made cinnamon syrup. I loved the challenge of putting gin and rum together – the botanical nature of gin and sweetness of rum are polar opposites.”

Third Place: Bess Kretsinger at Olio 
The Drink: Ramos Gin Fizz
What’s in it: Boodles gin, fresh squeezed lemon and lime juices, orange blossom water, egg whites, cream and sugar
Why it’s great: “This drink is in honor of Tennessee Williams. He was fond of the (Ramos) Gin Fizz. It’s not a super esoteric drink, but it’s based on his roots. It’s a simple but obscure cocktail.”

Honorable Mention: Seth Wahlman at Eclipse Restaurant
The Drink: Year Old Manhattan
What’s in it: Rittenhouse rye, Cocchi vermouth di Torino, Pierre Ferrand Dry curaçao and Angostura bitters
Why it’s great: “I started this project about four years ago. I batch a full glass bottle of Manhattans and rest them in our storage cellar for at least a year. The cocktail begins to take on sherry- and Madeira-like qualities. … I’m always surprised by flavors I hadn’t picked up in previous tastings.”

-photo by Emily Suzanne

Happy Hour Like a Boss – Part 1

Wednesday, July 8th, 2015

When the whistle blows at 5 p.m., there’s nothing like a strong drink to wash away the pains of the workday. You can find happy hours at any neighborhood bar and at watering holes near office buildings and factories. All of them will settle your fix for a cheap drink just fine, but a few get high marks – whether for the top-shelf drink selection, awesome food options or the duration of the deal. Our July issue features 22 places to unwind after work, whatever your reason for grabbing a seat at the bar.

 

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{From left, De La Louisiane, mint julep and gin fizz at Taste}

 

For the cocktailian: Taste
Happy hour: Sun. and Mon. – 5 p.m. to 12:15 a.m., Tue. to Fri.  – 5 to 7 p.m.

If you’re a bit like Professor Snape regarding the nuances of your cocktails (he taught potions, people) but don’t have gaelleons to spend on well-crafted drinks, steer yourself to Taste for happy hour. Taste discounts its entire selection of classic cocktails ($6) while taking them to new, labor-intensive heights. With cocktails listed chronologically, one can travel through time, starting with the mint julep in 1790 and eventually ending in the 1980s with the cosmo. Try the De La Louisiane, a bourbon Manhattan with Benedictine that relies on bitters and absinthe for some kick or a perfectly executed sloe gin fizz, frothy and light. Best of all, anyone behind the bar is happy to talk tasting notes and mixing techniques with an eager early-evening drinker.  – M.P.

 

For the beer lover: Three Kings Public House
Happy hour: Mon. to Fri. – 4 to 6 p.m

In a happy-hour world of discounted domestics and longneck buckets, Three Kings Public House offers respite for the weary craft beer nerd. All draft beer is half price during happy hour. Sidle up to the bar and order from one of the 23 rotating drafts perfect for any beer lover’s palate. You could go light and sessionable with something like an easy-drinking Schlafly Hefeweizen or double-down on a bad day with a heavy hitter like a 9.5 percent Double Jack IPA from Firestone Walker. Dig into eight pub grub apps ($5) while you imbibe; we paired our brew with spicy chicken toasted ravioli, which adds a Sriracha kick to an STL classic.  – C.K.

 

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{Hand-rolled gnocchi at YaYa’s Euro Bistro}

 

For the hungry foodie: YaYa’s Euro Bistro
Happy hour: Mon. to Fri. – 4 to 6:30 p.m

Really good, varied food is rare at happy hour. At YaYa’s Euro Bistro, the experience is a prelude to dinner – the service is pleasantly attentive, and the menu is solid from smoked trout to beef carpaccio to mussels. Grab a well cocktail ($3) or glass of wine ($5) and turn your attention to the real deal is easy: Buy one app, get a second app of equal or lesser value for free. Try the hand-rolled gnocchi ($10), pillowy and comforting, served in a gorgonzola cream sauce with roasted chicken, sauteed spinach and spiced walnuts. Next, go for the shrimp a la plancha ($15). Seared shrimp arrive still sizzling on a cast-iron skillet with garlic, a glug of sherry and red chile butter. To top it off, your server will hit this steaming plate with a squeeze of fresh lemon tableside. Now that’s what we call a strong finish.  – M.N.

 

For the broke and unemployed: 5 Star Burgers
Happy hour: Daily – 4 to 6 p.m.

Get a lot for a little at 5 Star Burgers. You will leave feeling full and so will your wallet. Take a seat anywhere and start with a glass of pinot noir; all four house wines ($3.50) are discounted during this window, and a pint of local craft on draft is half price ($2.50). Sliders ($1.50 – insert bugged-out emoji eyes here) are the food to order. We recommend mixing it up with a trio of sliders: the veggie burger with roasted red pepper mayonnaise, the Little 5 Star and the fried chicken slider. And remember to order a basket of fried cheese curds ($2). These little cheese grenades add a burst of salty richness to go with your vino, and if you’re looking to upgrade your slider, pop one on for the perfect bite. Wine, three sliders and a side add up to ten bucks. Time to ask your bartender for another round – you can afford it.  – M.N.

-Taste photo by Emily Suzanne, YaYa’s photo by Elizabeth Maxson

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