• Well, it didn’t take long for Busch’s Grove to find a new buyer. Local mogul CHARLES CELLA has reportedly purchased the spot (next door to his Truffles restaurant) and will turn it into a gourmet grocery, complete with high-style carryout foods.
• In a surprise upset, Monarch uber chef BRIAN HALE has jumped ship to become executive chef at the Chase Park Plaza. He must have gotten a pretty sweet deal to leave the popular Maplewood hang-out.
• Put Chandler Hill Vineyards at the top of your Missouri Wine Country ‘go-to’ list. The new full-service winery opened late last month in Defiance, Mo., about 15 minutes from Chesterfield Valley. The spectacular views from its 4,500-square-foot deck and the tasting room alone are worth the trip. Operations manager STEPHANIE MILLER hopes Chandler Hill becomes a destination lunch spot for those working in the area. Steven Becker Fine Dining has created the menu for the tasting room and is the exclusive caterer for special events there, which can accommodate 150 guests inside and another 150 out.
• One of the most delectable food events of the year was held at the Mad Art Gallery July 26, when the St. Louis Chapter of Slow Food USA held its third annual Art of Food fund-raiser. This year, Fair Shares, A combined CSA was also a beneficiary. Local ingredients took center stage as a dozen chefs from the city’s top restaurants prepared the provisions. Sidney Street Cafe’s KEVIN NASHAN dished up Hinkebein Hills Farm smoked pork butt with cornmeal toast, Eilerman Brothers peach barbecue glaze, Claverach Farm greens and pickled peaches, and On the Wind Farms watermelon gazpacho with jumbo lump crab. Mmmm…
• Expansion news in the CWE: Banh Mi Boba Tea and Creperie has more than doubled its space. Soon it will debut a longer menu with more rice dishes. And the paper is still up on the corner windows next door to the The Cupcakery. Having celebrated its first anniversary, the cupcake baking operations are being moved from Dogtown to the Maryland Plaza space. The pick-up cafe will move into the corner space.
• The hip bike lane parking at 3919 West Pine Blvd. makes Cafe Ventana a great gathering spot for SLU students, but it’s worth the drive by the rest of us to have the signature Ventana beignets. The freshly made ‘French Donuts’ were mentioned as specialties by chef/owner CHRISTOPHER LEE, along with the bagel bar at breakfast, muffelatas and other sandwiches at lunch, and decadent elegant desserts late into the night. GM/barista JAMES HATCH has developed an extensive ‘spirited’ coffee list and said they are going to offer the best Bloody Mary in the city. The New Orleans-style gathering place will celebrate its grand opening Aug. 21 (but the soft opening has already begun).
Got something for Spicy Bits? Write to Amy Peck Abraham at firstname.lastname@example.org.
P.S. Do you have reservations for Downtown Restaurant Week? The fourth annual event begins Monday, Aug. 11. Yours Truly has booked space at Lucas Park Grille the first night and at Top of the Riverfront for the last, Aug. 16. Go to www.downtownrestaurantweek.net to see menus for the three-course, $25 meals.