Franco in Soulard has announced that JOHN DREJA, late of Vin De Set, is the new executive chef, taking over for chef KRIS JANIK.

The Organic Cave Paleo Bakery opened its doors earlier this month in New Town at St. Charles. The bakery boasts a full line of gluten-free, grain-free, casein-free, soy-free and dairy-free baked goods with no processed sugar. Their wares also are available at O'Fallon Nutrition and Local Harvest Grocery. We highly recommend their lemon vanilla poppy seed muffins!

For those who get stressed out planning holiday get-togethers, here are few ways to make the process a whole lot easier: Hollyberry Catering is now offering Partyfood To Go, a selection of its most-requested appetizers, dips, spreads and sweets, for pick up at its Webster Groves location. We're told some items may be available for delivery as well.

Want to get out of the house and take the family out for Christmas dinner? Eclipse Restaurant (at the Moonrise Hotel in the Loop) is offering a holiday dinner special on Christmas Day, from 11 a.m and 10 p.m. For $45, guests get a choice of Beef Wellington or Sugarcane Baked Ham and a plethora of tasty sides. Reservations are recommended. Claverach Farms is hosting one of its popular Sunday Suppers on Dec. 23, featuring wine made on-site, as well as a multi-course family-style dinner featuring produce from the fields. The dinner is held in a gorgeous converted barn, with radiant heat in the floors to keep the winter chill at bay. Cost is $60 and reservations can be made at

Looking for something out of the norm to ring in the New Year? The Fountain on Locust is hosting a New Year's Eve Speakeasy Spectacular on Monday, Dec. 31, from 9 p.m. until 1 a.m. The Prohibition-themed party will feature live music, retro libations, a fortune-teller and a dance contest, among other NYE activities. There are $35 and $50 ticket options, and they can be purchased at

Through December, Bixby's is serving up some special persimmon dishes to take advantage of the bounty of this seasonal fruit. The menu includes delicacies such as Ludwig Farms cheese grit cake with spicy blackened shrimp garnished with a house-made persimmon barbecue sauce and grilled onions, and a persimmon and Missouri black walnut chicken salad served on a Companion ciabatta.

St. Louis-based Pure Holdings LLC, makers of Purus Vodka, is getting into the burgeoning flavored spirits market with POMACAI, a vodka featuring pomegranate and acai berry. The spirit is available currently only in Missouri and North Carolina.

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