St. Louis restaurants were well represented on the Opinionated About Dining's Top 25 Midwest Restaurants list that was recently released. Niche took the No. 2 slot; Sidney Street Cafe was No. 8; Stone Soup Cottage was No. 11; Brasserie by Niche came in at No. 12; Farmhaus garnered No. 13; and Tony's landed at No. 20; and Harvest rounded out the list at 22. Well done!

Hot on the heels of its big win at last month's Pacific Rim Competition in California, Augusta Wine Company, which owns Augusta and Montelle wineries, has taken top honors at the Riverside International Wine Competition, also held last month in the Golden State. The company received a total of 11 awards, including the Terroir Award for Augusta Winery, which was awarded for best representation of regional character in its wine. Congrats!

ANDY BROWN of Lucas Park Grille was the ultimate winner of Salute American Vodka's Battle of the Bartenders. The finals were held Monday, May 21, at Three Sixty downtown, and Brown triumphed with his custom cocktail creation, On Military Thyme, which featured a house-made watermelon/cucumber/mint simple syrup, as well as homemade orange-peel bitters. In addition to bragging rights, Brown took home a cool $1,000 for his efforts.

There’s more news coming out of Jilly's Cupcake Bar & Cafe. You may recall we recently told you about chefs CASEY SHILLER and DANA HOLLAND’s triumph on Food Network's Cupcake Wars, the second time the duo has taken home a win on the show. Now we’re told Jilly's will be debuting its own line of ice cream soon. We’ll have the details as soon as they become available.

Lots of stuff happening to the east. Robust has announced a new location, this time on the other side of the river. The popular wine bar and restaurant, which already has locations in Webster Groves and downtown, will be bowing space No. 3 in Edwardsville sometime later this summer in the former home of Erato on Main at 126 N. Main Street. And Peel Wood Fired Pizza, which has proved to be a hot commodity in Edwardsville, will be bowing restaurant No. 2 in O'Fallon, Ill. later this year.

In other 'Best Of' news, Mango Peruvian Cuisine downtown was recently awarded Trip Advisor's Certificate of Excellence based on excellent traveler's reviews.

More openings to report: Fizzy's Soda Fountain & Grill is now open for business at 29 N. Gore Ave. in Webster Groves, in the space formerly occupied by Dr. Jazz. And Annie Moons Bakery is currently turning out treats at 4001 Utah St. in Tower Grove South, the former home of St. Louis Tea Room.




This summer, the Missouri Botanical Garden is going all out for food! From celebrity chef demonstrations to the edible garden in the Doris I. Schnuck Children’s Garden, MOBOT is serving up something food-related every day of the week, and it's all included with regular Garden admission. Some of the activities and events include:

Mondays: Each Monday from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m., an accomplished local chef will take the helm of the Kemper Center kitchen, whipping up a unique culinary demonstration and serving up samples and expert tips. All those in attendance will receive a recipe card of the dish prepared that day and be entered in a drawing to win a gift certificate to the featured chef’s restaurant. Celebrity chefs include VINCE BOMMARITO Jr. from Tony’s Restaurant;NICK MILLER from Harvest; CASSY VIRES from Home Wine Kitchen; JOSH ALLEN from Companion; CLARA MOORE, formerly of Local Harvest; WAYNE PRITCHARD from Chipotle Mexican Grill; CARL MCCONNELL from Stone Soup Cottage; LOU ROOK III from Annie Gunn’s; JOSH GALLIANO from The Libertine,; BRYAN CARR from Pomme Restaurant; KEVIN NASHAN from Sidney Street Café; and ANTHONY DEVOTI from Five Bistro.

Tuesdays: Celebrate ‘Herbs & Heirlooms’ with presentations in the Garden’s famed Victorian District. The St. Louis Herb Society and Garden staff will co-host a special presentation every Tuesday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Wednesdays: Join the fun in the Kemper Garden from 10 a.m. to noon for ‘Backyard Kitchen Wednesdays’ and explore how to make your garden an extension of your kitchen. Each Wednesday, a selection of three unusual edible plants will be available for visitors to taste with expert tips on how to grow, harvest and prepare these unusual fruits and vegetables.

Thursdays: During ‘Food-for-all-Thursdays,’ the Garden, in partnership with St. Louis Area Food Bank, will collect food donations. Visitors who donate five nonperishable food items will receive free admission from 1 to 5 p.m. on Thursdays.

Fridays: Trek into the Garden and learn more about plants of global significance during ‘Food of Our Roots Fridays’ at 11 a.m. each week. Guides will provide information about popular foods such as chocolate and coffee, and explore how the plants of the world feed people across the globe.

Saturdays: On ‘Family Food Saturdays,’ participants will literally ‘dig in’ the soil in the Children’s Garden Edible Garden with games and taste tests. The first 200 children will pot a vegetable plant to take home and plant in their own gardens. Visitors also can participate in the ‘Family Food Challenge’ and answer questions after exploring the Brookings Interpretive Center.

Sundays: ‘Spicy Sundays’ will feature edible delights highlighting common and unique spices from across the globe. Visitors will have the chance to savor the unusual spice in drinks and snacks available for purchase at stations in the Garden from 1 to 3 p.m.

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