> Congrats to Mike Marquard of Kaldi’s Coffee for being named champion at this year’s Midwest Regional Barista Competition held at the Soulard Preservation Hall. In 2008, Marquard placed second at the Midwest competition and went on to place sixth in the nation at the U.S. Barista Competition. Two other Kaldi’s baristas, Joe Marrocco and Micah Svejda, both made it to the Midwest finals this year. The Kaldi’s trio will compete in the national competition next April.

> Mathew Rice, consultant pastry chef for Pi restaurants and formerly of Niche, auditioned for the TV show ‘Top Chef: Just Desserts.’ In the inaugural season of the dessert spin-off series, pastry chefs will face-off against each other in a series of challenges. Stay tuned for the final casting announcement.

> 33 Wine Shop and Tasting Bar downtown has been the site of many spirited events of late. At the cocktail event Blood and Sands, Ted and Jamie Kilgore, T.J. Vytlacil, Chad George, Michelle Bildner and other top STL mixologists were on hand to mix their signature drinks and mark the launch of the new St. Louis Chapter of the U.S. Bartenders Guild. The shop/restaurant also offers monthly dinner parties in which area chefs make multi-course dinners without standard kitchen appliances. For November, Wes Johnson and Brendan Noonan from Eclipse used a coffee pot to prep tomato soup and an ironing board to make rich ‘n creamy rosemary grilled cheese! Meals are the third Monday of the month.

> Brasserie by Niche, Gerard Craft’s casual French bistro in the CWE, has officially opened. The plat du jour on opening night, Nov. 17: Freshwater Pike Quenelles with Lobster and Sauce Americaine. We’re partial to the brandade, a house-salted cod with potato puree and arugula. And we can’t say enough about chef Perry Hendrix’s pommes frites with fresh rosemary.

> As if we need any more reasons to eat out—from Nov. 29 through Dec. 5, Harvest offers three courses for $25, four for $30, as part of its Highway Reopening Celebration. The Sheraton St. Louis City Center is hosting a holiday luncheon and toy drive Dec. 11 and 18 to benefit St. Patrick Center. Bring an unwrapped toy and enjoy a festive buffet-style meal for $19.95, which includes tax, gratuity and parking. For reservations, call 613-6416.

> Sammy Scott’s Sandwiches and More has just opened at Olive and Mason in Creve Coeur and features made-from-scratch comfort food. CEO DAVID MILLER, grandson of LESTER MILLER, helped reopen Busch’s Grove after the Ladue landmark underwent a $10 million renovation in 2005 and is involved in Lester’s Sports Bar and Grill in Ladue and Chesterfield.

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