It's springtime, and that means area restaurants are starting to unveil their new seasonal menus. U. City fave Blueberry Hill has announced four new specialty sandwiches, a Western Wagyu Burger, and a Blueberry White Chocolate Cheesecake to its menu; and also has re-introduced its popular Gazpacho. Modesto Tapas Bar & Restaurant has debuted some new items for spring, as well. The menu now has four new small bites, including the Fritada (a fried shrimp and scallop skewer) and the Banderilla (an anchovy, artichoke and olive skewer), as well as the return of the Judias Verdes, sauteed green beans with onions and sherry.
Building on the success of its Panera Cares community cafes that allow patrons to pay what they can for their meal, Panera Bread Co. has launched another social experiment, The Meal of Shared Responsibility. Each of the company's 48 area cafes is now offering a new dish, Turkey Chili in a Sourdough Bowl, at no set price. Customers can either pay the suggested amount, pay more to cover the cost of someone else's meal, or pay what they can. The menu item was designed to be a self-contained meal, and packed with nutrients to keep someone going for long periods when they may not be able to eat regularly.
Hearty congratulations to chef and restaurateur JIM FIALA and ADAM GNAU, executive chef at Fiala's Acero in Maplewood. Both have been included on the new Best Chefs America, a peer-review guide of U.S. chefs just released last month.
In local wine news, ANDREY IVANOV, beverage director and GM at Elaia & Olio, recently won the title of Midwest Regional Winner in the 2013 Best Young Sommelier awards. The national finals will be held in May in Santa Rosa, Calif.
In more wine news, fans of the grape can sample wines from around the world at the Missouri Botanical Garden's Grapes And The Garden event on Friday, May 3, from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. Wine specialists from Schnucks will be on hand to answer questions as you stroll through the Garden's Spoehrer and Linnean plazas. Tickets are $45 ($35 for Garden members), and include tastings, a souvenir wine glass and live entertainment from jazz trio Silk Pajamas. A special $15 designated driver ticket also is available and includes food samplings and non-alcoholic drinks. Call 577-5180 or visit mobot.org/grapes for more info.