• For the season premiere of Hell’s Kitchen, Rich Machamer rolled out the red carpet for 75 guests at his Chesterfield home last week. His daughter, CHRISTINA MACHAMER, is one of the competing chefs on the FOX TV program! From mini Maryland crab cakes to mini cupcakes, the menu was catered by Christina and her beau, fellow CIA grad Cory Lemieux. Since Christina was practicing her sabering skills, several bottles of Veuve Clicquot were enjoyed.

• Twelve years ago, BEN STRATTON opened his first cafe in Webster Groves, and this week he opened his second Stratton’s Cafe in Clayton’s toney Ritz/Plaza cul de sac. In the 115-seat cafe, a fast and fresh approach to preparing paninis, salads, burgers and breakfasts is assured by a linear kitchen prep area. Customers will be dazzled by the gelato display case (made in Italy) and the two dozen flavors in it. Open seven days a week from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. at 190 Carondelet Plaza.

• Chef/owner JIM FIALA is throwing a month-long anniversary party for The Crossing. To celebrate 10 years of wonderful French and Italian cuisine, the menu during April has some very attractive specials. Diners can select two signature appetizers for $10 (think beet and goat cheese salad and crab cake) and move on to a two-for-$10 pasta course…or go straight to a $10 entree of barramundi, tilapia, salmon or other meat dishes.

• Porcini risotto with white truffle oil was my stand-out favorite dish at the opening party for House of Savoy, the seventh dining option at Lumiere Place. The all-Tuscan menu was developed by executive chef ROBERT FLOWERS, who came to St. Louis six months ago from the famed Bellagio Casino in Las Vegas. Flowers has put his own twist on toasted ravioli: He’s using multiple cheeses in the filling and lining them elegantly in a row atop a prosciutto and pomodoro sauce.

• St. Louis foodies were abuzz on April 3 when they heard GERARD CRAFT had been named one of 10 Food and Wine Best New Chefs for 2008! It is huge honor for the 28-year-old chef/owner of Niche restaurant. On June 14, this year’s winners will prepare a Grand Tasting Dinner at the 26th annual F&W Classic in Aspen, Colo. Food and Wine is considered America’s talent-seeking epicurean magazine; profiles of the other nine 2008 Best New Chefs can be found at www.foodandwine.com.

)Alas, one of the most knowledgeable sommeliers in St. Louis is headed to California. CHRISTOPHER HOEL, founder of St. Louis Wine Clinic, wrote in his announcement to oenophiles…“to work at The French Laundry is a dream come true.” Yes, Hoel is going to be a sommelier at one of the best restaurants in the world. Awesome!

• A new-generation General Store is set to open in mid-April in U City. The family crest for Winslow’s Home, a crossed fork and hammer, captures the edible and hardware sides of the charming store. Fresh flowers, fruits, veggies and herbs will be for sale alongside garden hoses, buckets and paint brushes in the beautifully restored space. All the produce and herbs will be grown on the Augusta farm of Winslow’s Home owner ANN LIPTON. Manager MARK THOMPSON will stock the store with local products like Serendipity Homemade Ice Cream and Kaldi’s Coffee, as well as wonderful wines from California and around the world. And chef BEN POREMBA will prepare fabulous grab-and-go fare. The huge patio and 17 parking spaces will make it easy to linger at Winslow’s at 7213 Delmar from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.

Got something for Spicy Bits? Write to Amy Peck Abraham at spicybits@laduenews.com.

More Diversions articles.