Element Bests Juniper in Clash of the Cocktails

Categories: Last Night

Compressed beet carpaccio with house-made goat cheese,and a preserved lemon vinaigrette. | Nancy Stiles

Cielo (999 North Second Street; 314-881-5759) holds many events on its famous outdoor terrace, but this was the first Clash of the Cocktails, in partnership with Randall's Wines & Spirits. The dinner pitted bartenders Meghan French and Joe Duepner, of Element and Juniper, respectively, against each other. In three rounds, the mixologists had to feature a certain ingredient and the crowd cheered for its selection.

See also: Pastries and Cocktails Work Together at Cielo's A Taste of Summer [PHOTOS]

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What the Bands Ate at LouFest [UPDATED]

Categories: Last Night

Festival food doesn't have to suck. | Bryan Sutter

We're familiar with the restaurants featured in this year's LouFest concession stand, a.k.a. the Nosh Pit. But out-of-town bands are just looking for a quick bite, and they still loved what St. Louis had to offer. Restaurants like Pappy's, Strange Donuts and Sugarfire Smokehouse had brushes with fame this weekend, both at the music festival and around town.

See also: The Best Food From LouFest's Nosh Pit 2014

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Sidney Street Cafe's Kevin Nashan Takes Barbecue Honors

Categories: Last Night, Meat

Oink, oink. | Cheryl Baehr

Last night marked the first time that the traveling porcine pleasure palace known as Cochon555 oinked its way into St. Louis. Founded by man-on-a-mission Brady Lowe, Cochon is a celebration of the heritage breed pig, local farmers, humane and sustainable agriculture, and the potential of barbecue in local restaurants. The event travels to Memphis for the next leg of the 2013 tour.

Kevin Nashan of Sidney Street Café took top honors at yesterday's Cochon Heritage Barbecue extravaganza, held at the Four Seasons Hotel (999 North Second Street; 314-881-5800).

See also:
-Best Chef Local 2010 Kevin Nashan

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Pastries and Cocktails Work Together at Cielo's A Taste of Summer [PHOTOS]

       Don't mind if we do. | Nancy Stiles

As you know, Gut Check loves desserts, booze and rooftops -- so we couldn't miss Cielo's (999 North Second Street; 314-881-5800) A Taste of Summer event Thursday night. The restaurant on the eighth floor of the Four Seasons Hotel hosted four of the city's top pastry chefs (plus its own), and we couldn't have asked for better weather (seriously, is it August?). Don't worry, we documented the sweets thoroughly for your enjoyment.

See also:
- Cielo Hosts Dessert & Cocktail Tasting to Benefit St. Louis Children's Hospital
- The Five Best (Not Cheap) Italian Restaurants in St. Louis
- The Ten Best Outdoor Dining Spots in St. Louis

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APA Beer Dinner Highlights Flavor and Nuance with Neil Witte

Categories: Beer, Last Night

        A beer dinner is the best kind of dinner. | Pat Kohm

After attending the American Protective Association's (APA) 90th anniversary beer dinner this past Thursday (August 8), Gut Check walked away perfectly sated but also educated: It turns out beer is far more complicated than we ever imagined -- and that's a good thing.

See also:
- Scape's APA Benefit Dinner Shows Beer Can Be Just As Classy As Wine
- Llywelyn's in Webster Groves Joins Craft Beer Week with Annual Dinner
- Schlafly's Bourbon Barrel Ale Available in St. Louis for the First Time Ever

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What It's Like to Bartend in Dogtown on St. Patrick's Day [PHOTOS]

Liz Miller
The view from inside Nora's in Dogtown.
Gut Check enjoys the drinking and general debauchery that descends on Dogtown on St. Patrick's Day in St. Louis as much as the next functionally alcoholic food blog, but until this year, our experience was simply as another soused, green-clad reveler trying not to hurl in the streets. When we learned a friend would be bartending and serving food at the Dogtown sandwich shop Nora's (1136 Tamm Avenue; 314-645-2706), though, we were intrigued to see the spectacle from a different viewpoint -- and lucky for us, the polite team at Nora's indulged our folly.

See also:
-The 10 Best Irish Pubs in St. Louis
-Downtown vs. Dogtown Neighborhood Restaurant Guide and St. Patrick's Day Poll
-Hibernians, Dogtown to Paradegoers: No Coolers for You

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Scenes From the Nosh Pit: LouFest's Most Interesting Eats

Categories: Last Night

Even Gut Check is limited on how much we can eat in one weekend, so we had to plan our attack on the Nosh Pit at LouFest with much precision and thought. Some vendors - Pi, Mangia Mobile, Nora's, Pappy's Smokehouse - had great food, but nothing too different from their usual offerings. Hopefully festival-goers who haven't tried their wares were introduced to some of St. Louis' best food offerings.

Hard as it was, we avoided our beloved favorites and went in search of LouFest-only treats and debuts.

Buck's Good Eats, a food stand that sets up on the corner of Forest Park Parkway and Vandeventer, had the best surprise with their family-size bacon cheese fries.

bucks good eats bacon cheese fries-0000.jpg
Robin Wheeler
Buck's Good Eats bacon cheese fries

The crinkle-cut fries weren't unusual, but they were fresh and crispy. The cheese? Spicy standard nacho cheese. But the bacon - that was the thrill. They kept a pan of it, also fresh and crispy, on the grill. When crumbled on top of the fries and cheese, it was still warm and crisp.

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Entre Sucre Debuts Underground Dessert Dinner

Categories: Last Night

Robin Wheeler
Passion fruit tartlet with toasted marshmallows, blackberries and basil
"It's sort of like being kids, staying up past your bedtime and eating dessert for dinner," chef Steven Caravelli told members of his first sold-out Entre Underground crowd as they finished his four-course, all-dessert menu. And he was right. Workday be damned, the Thursday-night dinner focused on grown-up desserts and beverages.

Robin Wheeler
As with all of Entre's underground dinners, guests learned the location -- an event space on Boyle -- that morning. The menu gave hints of what was to come.

The night began with a bubble tea amusé, with caviar-sized peach bubbles in a tall shot glass, topped with aerated black tea.

The first course featured thin wedges of pineapple infused with hot sauce, topped with spiced walnuts and thyme, and beside an Asian soup spoon filled with mild, creamy goat cheese, topped with a crisp burnt sugar layer.

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Riding Out the Rapture at Taste of Maplewood

schlafly tent
Holly Fann
There was plenty of Schlafly on ice at Taste of Maplewood

The Rapture didn't happen, and it's a good thing. When the festivities and food officially started on Saturday at noon, Taste of Maplewood was already bustling. White tents lined both sides of Sutton Boulevard; a few were manned by vendors offering services (Edward Jones, for instance, and Hatch), but food was the focus -- that, and an array of beer and boozy drinks.
maya cafe brisket
Holly Fann
Maya Cafe brought the beef -- brisket and empanadas.

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Adventures in Butter-Churning, Courtesy of The Wilder Life

Categories: Books, Last Night

Two iconic symbols of Little House on the Prairie: A sunbonnet (worn by Pudd'nhead Books children's buyer Melissa Posten) and a butter churn.
If you've ever read any of the Little House on the Prairie books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, even if it was more than a quarter-century ago, some things stick with you. Maybe it's just Gut Check, but for us, most of these things are related to food: pouring molasses on a pan of snow to make candy, butchering a pig and savoring the crisp-roasted tail, apple pie for breakfast, a doughnut jar in the kitchen, vanity cakes at a party, one piece of candy to be savored every Christmas.

Most of all there is butter churning. When Wendy McClure started writing The Wilder Life, her memoir about her travels through what she calls "Laura World," one of the first things she did was purchase a butter churn via eBay, which, as she informed a crowd of about 35 Little House fans Monday night at the Schlafly branch of the St. Louis Public Library, is harder than one might think. Particularly if you want a crock-and-dash churn like the kind Laura Ingalls used as a girl.

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