Jilly�s owner Jill Segal (center) with chefs Dana Holland and Casey Shiller

◆ Chef BRIAN HARDESTY, who took over the kitchen at Nosh a few weeks ago, has announced he’s dropping the Nosh name in favor of Root. The name is reflective of the new culinary direction Hardesty is pursuing: original takes on classic American cuisine that span the years from the founding of the country until roughly the Great Depression era. Hardesty says to expect lots of game, roasted meat and whole fish preparations. The restaurant (co-located with Starr’s in Richmond Heights) is closed during the transformation, and is scheduled to open for business on Tuesday, Jan. 10.

◆Popular local chain San Sai Japanese Grill is undergoing a transformation of sorts. The restaurant is changing its concept locally at two locations, which will be evolving into Nigori by San Sai. The eateries will feature Japanese/Mexican fusion cuisine, as well as sushi and tempura, an artisan sake list, a cocktail list and an impressive array of wine and beer. During the day the restaurant will feature the regular San Sai menu, and change over to full-service fusion fare at night. The downtown and Webster locations will make the transition in January, while the Maplewood location will remain a traditional San Sai.

◆Shula’s 347 Grill, located downtown in the Roberts Tower, has closed. So far, our calls to the corporate offices for details have not been returned. We’ll keep you posted.

◆ Bixby’s, located in the Missouri History Museum, has put some Civil War-inspired dishes on its winter menu to tie in with the museum’s current Civil War exhibit. Chef de cuisine TODD LOUGH has created a savory Southern chicken pot pie and a hearty Northern beef stew, each served with a hardtack biscuit.

◆ Perennial Artisan Ales is reaching out a hand to local nonprofits. According to co-owner EMILY WYMORE, each Wednesday, the tasting room is hosting a different group and will donate a portion of the beer sales for that evening to the group. Anyone interested in having their group represented can contact Wymore at the brewery, 631-7300.

◆A big congratulations to Taste in the CWE for being named one of the 50 best bars in America by Food & Wine magazine. In other mixology news, Sanctuaria has debuted a new, seven-page drink menu. Combined with its current Cocktail Club menu, the Grove favorite now has 197 cocktails in print to choose from. And the folks behind Sanctuaria have just opened yet another restaurant concept. Diablitos, at 3761 Laclede Ave., features unique takes on Mexican street food as well as a selection of mezcals and tequilas.

◆Beer lovers in St. Louis are about to have a new way to enjoy fresh draft beer in the comfort of their own home. Anheuser-Busch had unveiled a new home draft system called Draftmark, a tap system that fits neatly into refrigerator shelves. Draftmark beer refills (sold separately) will be available for Budweiser, Shock Top Belgian White and Bass Pale Ale. This year has been an eventful one for the St. Louis culinary scene.

With 2011 almost over, we picked out some highlights:

◆Our local culinary talent made a big splash on the national stage this year. Chefs GERARD CRAFT of Niche, KEVIN NASHAN of Sidney Street Cafe and KEVIN WILLMAN of Farmhaus Restaurant were chosen as semifinalists for Best Chef: Midwest, and sommelier GLENN BARDGETT of Annie Gunn’s was named a semifinalist for Outstanding Wine Service for The James Beard Foundation’s awards this year. Willmann also was selected as one of Food & Wine magazine’s 10 Best New Chefs 2011. Annie Gunn’s also made the Wine Enthusiast magazine’s list of America’s 100 Best Wine Restaurants of 2011, and the popular Chesterfield eatery, along with Gerard’s Restaurant, Monarch Restaurant and Truffles all were awarded the Best of Award Of Excellence from Wine Spectator.

◆ Wine Spectator also honored Balaban's Wine Cellar and Tapas Bar, Cardwell’s At The Plaza; Charlie Gitto’s On The Hill; Eleven Eleven Mississippi; Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine War; Lucas Park Grille; Mike Shannon’s Steaks & Seafood; The Melting Pot; Tony’s; and Vin De Set with the magazine’s Award of Excellence.

◆ Sanctuaria Wild Tapas and Lola made the list of Open Table Diner’s Choice Awards Top 50 Late Night Dining Restaurants in the U.S. And Kaldi’s was named one of the 17 best small coffee makers in the country by Fortune magazine.

◆Some of our best culinarians also showed up on the small screen. Chefs CASEY SHILLER and DANA HOLLAND of Jilly’s Cupcake Bar & Cafe took home the $10,000 grand prize in Food Network’s popular show Cupcake Wars. Soul food maven ROBBIE MONTGOMERY and her crew at Sweetie Pie’s got their own reality show, Welcome To Sweetie Pie’s, on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network. And food truck favorite Cha Cha Chow is currently in the running to be on the next season of Food Network’s The Great Food Truck Race.

◆ St. Louis mixologists also made waves this year. T.J. VYTLACIL of Blood & Sand won the 2011 Ultimate MixOff Challenge, held at the Manhattan Cocktail Classic in NYC in May. And Grove favorite Sanctuaria Wild Tapas‘ Cocktail Club menu was nominated in the World’s Best Cocktail Menu category of the Spirited Awards at the annual NOLA cocktail extravaganza Tales of the Cocktail.

◆The craft beer movement in the Lou continued to boom. New breweries that opened their doors in 2011 included 4 Hands Brewing Company, Perennial Artisan Ales, Urban Chestnut Brewing Company, The Civil Life Brewing Company and Exit 6 Brewery.

◆The food truck phenomenon proved to be more than just a passing fad. Guerilla Street Food, Sicily Streat, Chop Shop, The Sweet Divine and Zia’s were just some of the mobile restaurants to roll out in 2011.

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