Niche/Taste Bar closed for vacation this week!


FYI:  If you were planning on a trip down to Niche or the new TasteBar….there is a kink.  Gerard and staff are on summer holiday for the week!  You can catch up with them next week!!

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Niche TasteBar


you should go there.  the drinks are amazing…the food spectacular.  Ted Kilgore is a mad scientist and booze genius…pair with Gerard Crafts inventive and satisfying food….it’s a win-win.   they also stay open late…where else can you get a great cheese plate at midnight, hmm?  need i say more?

it is really, really good…and fun…and just all around a nice place to sit for an hour or so……plus the music didn’t suck.

there…that is my review…done and done.

Wine Dinner at Niche


Niche

and

Classique Wines

Present

An Australian Food & Wine Experience

Featuring the Wines of

Gemtree Vineyards, McLaren Vale

Michael Crosby, North American Sales Manager

Thursday, May 7th at 7:00 pm

First Course

Scharff Farm Asparagus with Crab, Ramp Vinaigrette,

Claverach Farm Poached Egg and Parmesan

Moonstone Albarino

Second Course

Pea Soup with Farrar Out Farm Pork Belly,

Morels and Preserved Lemon

Tadpole Shiraz

Intermezzo

Fourth Course

Fruitland Farm Organic Ribeye, Cauliflower & Potato Purée,

Fava Beans, Roasted Garlic, Claverach Farm Red Verjus

Cadenzia Red Blend

60% Grenache, 20% Tempranillo, 20% Shiraz

Fifth Course

Dark Chocolate Pots de Crème

Uncut Shiraz

$75.00 per Person

excluding tax and tip

1831 Sidney Street

For Reservations or Questions Please Call:

314-773-7755

Space is limited, credit card required for reservations.

Cancellation deadline – Tuesday, May 5th.

To learn more about these wines visit:

www.gemtreevineyards.com.au

Three of St. Louis’ Finest are in the running for a James Beard nod…


The James Beard Foundation announced the semifinalists for its restaurant and chef awards. Three St. Louis chefs made the cut in the “Best Chef: Midwest” category: Gerard Craft of Niche, Josh Galliano of Monarch and Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Cafe.

Five finalists will be announced on March 23rd….keep your fingers crossed.

Veruca Bakeshop closing to make way for Niche Taste Bar


That’s right folks….what once was a bright bubbly bakeshop during the day will now transform into a sleek new lounge featuring cocktails and a menu of small plates .  Wine tastings may be in the future as well.

As sad as I am to see Veruca Bakeshop go dark, I am excited for the new concept to take form!  Mathew Rice and Gerard Craft do amazing things together and I’m sure I’ll fall in love with Niche Taste Bar the minute I take my first bite.

Don’t fret though….Mathew will still be doing his famous wedding cakes, confections and cakes.  They will need to be pre-ordered through Niche!  I am very excited to see the new desserts that come from Mathew in the months to come!  Here’s a little scoop:  one of Mathew’s fabulous wedding cakes will be shown in a summer issue of Martha Stewart Weddings!!

Mathew will also be piloting a new bread program for the restaurant.  Now, all the breads will be made in house!  I can’t wait to get my chubby little fingers on some of that!

Look for Niche Taste Bar to debut this Spring!

More press for Gerard Craft


Recieved an email this evening from a reader who picked up a copy of Inc.com Magazine October issue in his MD office’s waiting room…and what do you know!?!…..Gerard Craft was touted as Cool, Determined and Under 30! 

Gerard Craft

Current Venture: Niche, a St. Louis restaurant that will gross $2.6 million this year

Why He’s One to Watch: Craft’s penchant for experimentation can be seen in the menu, which features fried pig’s head and lamb with white chocolate hummus. “He’s a pioneer in terms of both food and location,” says Dana Cowin, editor of Food & Wine magazine. “Niche has a minimal, modern feel, which might have been a risk in a historic St. Louis neighborhood. Its success is a tribute to how good the food is.”

The Backstory: Craft dropped out of culinary school (“I never did well in the classroom — I got bored”) to work at a car wash and a pool hall. He eventually returned to the kitchen, first working a series of restaurant jobs and then raising Niche’s seed money from his brother and parents.

Employees: 36

What’s Next: Craft, 29, recently opened Veruca, a café and bakeshop, as a creative outlet for his pastry chef. He hopes to expand the business further: “I would love to see a brand of Niche with talented chefs that put out good food and make fine dining more approachable.”

A Confession: “I’m dying to be on Iron Chef.”

I know I would love to see Gerard and Mathew go against an Iron Chef!

some of my favorite people got gold stars……


The RFT just announced thier “Best Of” (for you PHX/Scottsdale Folks is the equivalent of our PHX New TImes).  I am proud to announce that Kevin Willmann (of Erato on Main….oh how we dearly miss it) was named BEST NEW CHEF!  Go Kevin!!!!  This is what they said about Kevin:

What do you need to be a topnotch chef? A fancy, cutting-edge kitchen? A corps of a dozen line cooks at your beck and call? Prime real estate in a major metropolitan area? None of the above, if you’re Kevin Willmann. In a kitchen that makes a freshman dorm room look expansive, in a restaurant a half-hour’s drive from downtown St. Louis, Willmann takes ingredients from local producers and fashions them into dishes that are playful in conception, beautiful on the plate and, above all else, delicious. The menu changes frequently, but you’re certain to encounter unusual combinations — peach and prosciutto, scallops and truffled whipped cream — and contemporary spins on good ol’ fashioned home cookin’. (If a dish includes spoon bread, order it.) Willmann was born in Greenville, Illinois. After making his bones along the Gulf Coast in Florida, he worked at several St. Louis restaurants: Big Sky Café, Lucas Park Grille and Mosaic. But it’s at Erato in downtown Edwardsville that he has found the perfect outlet for his talent. Yes, the kitchen is small, but it hardly matters when the talent is so great.

Ugh..I’m so happy that he was recognized. It’s the least he deserves…I’m dying for Kevin and his sous chef, Jon to trek out here and stage with Kevin Binkley…it would be AWESOME!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Up next for Best New Restaurant:  Pappy’s. If you have read this blog at all….you know that I LOVE PAPPY’S.  I love it so much that since moving out to the desert, I’ve dreamed about eating ribs at Pappy’s three times…and dreamt about the brisket twice…..So, when I read that Mike Emerson and his crew got the nod for best new restaurant….I did a little happy dance….Here is what the RFT has to say bout Pappy’s:

Winning sports teams often cite “chemistry” among the players as a reason for their success. The metaphor works for restaurants, too. In fact, Pappy’s Smokehouse can credit actual chemistry — you know, the subject you slept through in high school — for being named Best New Restaurant. After all, what is barbecue but the most delicious and, in its own way, elegant chemistry of all? Tough cuts of meat, cooked long and low over apple and cherry wood, become Pappy’s indescribably delicious pulled pork, pork ribs and beef brisket. Chemistry also imbues all that meat with a gorgeous dark pink smoke ring, the telltale tattoo of great ‘cue. Now add to that the other chemistry: Owner Mike Emerson works the floor as if the success of his midtown restaurant depended on that very moment. He greets regulars and newcomers alike waiting in the long line with a hearty handshake; he clears tables and serves food. When Pappy’s runs out of meat, that’s it: Emerson would rather close his doors than serve yesterday’s reheated goods. To those who seek greatness in multimillion-dollar build-outs and fancy cuisine, however soulless, Pappy’s might seem like just another barbecue joint. But to those who appreciate the rare chemistry of great food, great people and a passion for serving the best possible product — well, Pappy’s ain’t rocket science. It’s a bona fide miracle.

And best of all, my dear, dear friend Mathew Rice was given praise for his delectible treats at both Veruca and Niche.  I am soooooooooooo proud of him.  I know how many hours he toils over his creations…he puts his heart and soul into his work and it shows.  I’ve yet to find better anywhere in the US…and I’ve eaten at some pretty fancy places…nothing compares to Matty’s goods…nothing.  It’s one of the things that almost brings me to tears when I think of home…..now, who else’s red velvet cake can do that….right, NOBODY’S.  Here is what they said about my friend:

“Pastry chef” seems an inadequate title for Mathew Rice, who masterminds the desserts at the Benton Park restaurant Niche and its new, adjacent bakeshop, Veruca. “Mastermind” works — though that too seems to miss something essential about Rice’s baking. His desserts plug into someplace deep in the unconscious, where the simple pleasures of our childhood reside: tollhouse cookies, Hostess snack cakes, s’mores. Rice interprets each in a way that brings both a smile of recognition and the thrill of the new. Those s’mores, for instance, are toasted-marshmallow semifreddo with salted caramel and a graham cracker. Not that all of Rice’s ideas are rooted in the past. Sometimes it’s a combination of cleverness and convenience, like his slices of red velvet cake served to look like a small sandwich wrapped in wax paper. And sometimes it’s working with something no one else does, like the South Asian dish kulfi, a dense frozen dessert so good it might supplant ice cream as your favorite summer treat.

A nod also went out for the best beer selection in a restuarant and rightly so, it was given to the Shaved Duck. Good job, Pat…..we really miss you guys.  We really do.

Best Cheesesteak went to 9th Street Deli….I told you that a looonnngg time ago…but congrats to Mike Risk (a nice Lebanese boy, by the way!….we have to support our own, ya know!)

Best Bakery:  222 in Edwardsville…duh.  I’d kill for a bear claw right now….really…I would…seriously.

Last year, Simon won for best cheese counter at the Merch….DiGrigorio’s won it this year….which I guess is okay if you want to limit yourself to Italian cheese…they’d be the folks to ask.

I know this is a goofy post….I’m just so damned happy for these guys that won “Best Of’.  They are my friends and I’m not ashamed to say it.  Call me a braggart, name dropper or whatever….they just rock and it’s nice to see that they are getting recognized for the great work they do.

**Last but not least by any means is 33 Wine Bar in Lafayette Square!  Jake and his boys got the nod for best wine bar….and it is the best.  1. because he has bubbles hanging from his ceiling.  2.  a GREAT patio 3.  knowledgeable staff and some amazing selections of both wine AND beer. 4.  it’s smoke free and you don’t leave smelling like the inside of an ashtray.  Good job Jake!

Who made the grade in St. Louis??


Last evening I had the opportunity to attend St. Louis Magazine’s A List Awards Party at Lumen (it is a gorgeous event space…wow). It is not an event I would normally attend. Mind you, at one point in my life, it would have been on the radar. Many of you may not know this, but St. Louis Magazine crowned me one of St. Louis’ Top Singles back in the day….not shabby for a kid from downtown. But, as time passed….I grew tired of the scene….fell in love with the Cheesemonger and left that life behind.

Alas, my buddy Mathew Rice was being honored for Niche’s desserts and we set up a table to hand out the goodies. Much to my surprise we were put in the best spot in the house: center balcony over looking the crowd (and was there ever a crowd! Whoa). To our left, Eric Brenner, A List Chef winner…and to our right Ricardo’s Italian Cafe…A list winner for casual Italian food. ***Sidenote on Ricardo’s: My very first job as a bus-girl was at Ricardo’s over 15 years ago…yep. I have known Mark and Michelle Adams for years and started out babysitting their two little boys…who now help run the restaurant. Good people, that Adams family. If you have not had the chance to go to Ricardo’s in Lafayette Square…make a point to get over there. They are even open for lunch.***

So, with being flanked by two tables of pals…the night was sure to be fun. And lucky for us the open bar sat directly across from our table. Nice perk.

Along comes Mike Emerson owner of Pappy’s Smokehouse! Mike and I have been chummy since he has opened his doors. We were one of his first customers and I was sure to tell him how much we loved his BBQ. After some more chit chat at the awards event…turns out Mike and I go way back and didn’t even know it. I’ve known his brother Danny my entire life and he grew up with some older members of my family. Pappy’s was being honored for best BBQ in St. Louis….what an honor….open not even ONE YEAR and they are picked for the A List. That was a no-brainer, though. Pappy’s by far is the BEST BBQ in St. Louis….hands down. Don’t fight me on it…you won’t win. And Pappy’s is another place to rush to…..amazing. And before you all shout out ‘favoritism’…..please know that I was singing this joint’s praises long before I actually met Mike and realized his family and mine were close. So zip it.

It was a great time.  Kevin Willmann, chef at Erato on Main was being honored as well.  It was great to see him outside the kitchen!  City Hall was representin’ with Mike McMillen and his crew.  All the pretty people were out in droves….dressed to kill….and packed in Lumen like little sardines sweating.  I was so happy when we ran out of food and could head outside to hang at the Pappy’s table.  (they were outside)  It was a great night to be outside with a cocktail.

Good party St. Louis Magazine….and even better choices for your A-List winners.

Food and Wine: June Issue


**Photo by Jonathan Swegle

Be on the lookout for St. Louis’ favorite new pastry chef in the upcoming issue of F&W. That’s right, Mathew Rice will be the featured pastry chef for The Last Bite. Wonder what they will feature….some would say red velvet cake….some would say the kulfi….what dessert do you think they will feature?

Whatever it is, it will be delicious. Be sure to pick up June’s issue of Food and Wine and support our local chefs!!

do you know whats good?


salt cod…that’s what. especially when you put it with some regular cod, some cream and other stuff I didn’t ask about and make it into a brandade like Gerard Craft does…then put some sauteed ramp on it and top it with a big fat farm-fresh fried egg….with some lemmony butter sauce….and wash it down with a sav blanc…

thats whats good. period.

Gerard Craft: Best New Chef 2008


Gerard Craft Wins BEST CHEF 2008!!!!!!!

niche.jpg

Gerard Craft, Niche (St. Louis, MO)
The chef and owner of Niche and the adjoining Veruca Bakeshop & Café, Gerard Craft, 28, began his career washing dishes in a pool hall in Salt Lake City. His love of cooking led him to take a job at Bistro Toujours, one of the city’s top restaurants, under Bryan Moscatello (a Best New Chef 2005). Craft held positions at Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles under Mohammad Islam and the Metropolitan in Salt Lake City under Perry Hendrix. He moved to St. Louis in 2005 to open Niche, which is in a converted warehouse in the Benton Park area. Menu standouts are a “Bacon and Eggs” sandwich of braised pork belly, buttery brioche and an oozing poached egg.

yes!

Mushrooms and Truffles


If I had to pick one of my favorite winter dishes…and by winter I mean that goofy season in St. Louis falling in the months of February, March and the first part of April….I pick mushrooms with truffles. Yes, yes…truffles are spendy…but worth every shiny nickel. My two favorite truffle mushroom dishes are from right here in St. Louis. The first being at Moxy. Chef Brenner did this amazing starter with polenta, various types of mushrooms and truffles. Geez…it was good and rich enough to have as a main course. Sadly, I haven’t seen it on the menu in a while. It was great with a glass of Malbec (or two). Triangles of grilled polenta made with a rich meaty mushroom stock covered in a fantastic mound of perfectly sauteed wild mushrooms spiked with truffle oil. Made for some good eats.

Last night, we didn’t feel like cooking. And lucky for us our favorite restaurant is in walking distance…almost in our driveway. So, we braved the unploughed back alley of Benton Park and moseyed on over to Niche for dinner. We were the only ones in the joint. Lucky for us. (eventually 2 more tables arrived). Given the state of our fair city, servers were unable to make it in. Lo and behold, Brian the bartender. Brian stepped up to the plate and not only worked the bar but served all the tables…and he did it amazingly well!!! It was a great night to dine at Niche. Quiet, relaxed and terribly fun.

Simon had the tasting menu and I had the prie fixe. The chef’s tasting menu is just too much for me on a Tuesday night. Si is a big boy and can handle it! We both started with the cauliflower soup-served two ways. I had the traditional soup, served with warm apples and walnuts. It had a deep earthy curry undertone. Rich and velvety. I could have just had that for dinner. Satiating and scrumptious. Simon was served the soup aerated with crispy bacon and apples. It was just as good. Anything with bacon, right?

I can go through the tasting menu, but I’m not. See Bill Burge’s review at STLBites . Spot on as usual.

What I want to talk about was my dinner. The tarragon gnocchi with wild mushrooms, truffled, greens, parsnips and sweet potatoes. oh.my.god.

First off, if you have never had gnocchi at Niche, do your self a favor and go. The very first time I went to Niche was within the first few days Gerard opened the door. I hadn’t even met Simon yet. I just finished a gut rehab at our Benton Park house and G had finished the restaurant. I remember being so excited when I went looking at the house, seeing the posted occupancy permit and liquor license in what is now Niche. I didn’t know what or who was going in there at the time. All I knew is that having a restaurant/wine bar in my back yard was a plus…signed on the house that day. A dear friend and I stopped in for a light dinner. He had the gnocchi. He is just about a finicky as they come with regards to food. He knows what’s good and what he likes. Niche gnocchi was put on that list that evening. Never had he tasted gnocchi so light and tender…full of flavor. Little puffs of amazing-ness.

Last night, I ordered the gnocchi thinking I would re-live that night. I didn’t. What I was served was a gastronomic wonder in it’s own right. (too strong of words???…nah) The gnocchi were made with a bit of chickpea flour and had a golden brown crust. They were studded with fragrant tarragon, served with a medley of wild mushrooms (morels, trumpets, oyster, hen of the woods were some I think i recognized in between shoveling it in), truffles and a rich truffled oil sauce. Jumbled up in the mix were some greens and tiny diced parsnips…maybe a turnip…I can’t remember. All I know is that those gnocchi and mushrooms made the favorite dish list at Niche.

I ordered the chocolate cake with Tahitian vanilla ice cream and Simon got the coconut kulfi. Lucky for me Simon doesn’t like tropical flavors and I do…so we did the old switch-a-roo and everyone went home happy.