> There are big things afoot with Chef GERARD CRAFT’S group of restaurants. It’s been announced that Taste by Niche will be moving from its current space adjacent to Niche Restaurant in Benton Park, and taking up residence in the former home of Moxy Bistro, 4584 Laclede Ave., in the CWE, which, coincidentally, is next door to sister restaurant Brasserie by Niche. The new Taste space will have approximately 40 seats and will open sometime in December. Then Niche, Craft’s flagship restaurant, which just celebrated its fifth anniversary, will move into the 12-seat space formerly occupied by Taste and concentrate on 8-and 10-course tasting menus. The former Niche space will then be transformed into Porano, an osteria serving Italian country fare and inspired by a trip Craft took to Umbria, Italy. The new eatery is scheduled to bow in January. Whew!

> As of press time, Clayton neighbors Il Vicino and Sansai are closed after a fire and subsequent water line break. The two restaurants are located next to each other on N. Central Avenue. According to Clayton Fire Chief Mark Thorp, the fire started in the Il Vicino kitchen around 11 a.m. Sept. 27. The fire itself did minimal damage, but the break left five feet or so of water in the basement. No word yet on how long the businesses will be closed.

> The St. Louis foodie contingent turned out in force to support Operation Charcuterie! at Sidney Street Cafe Sept. 28. The six-course pork-centric feast with wine pairings, prepared by 12 of the best area chefs, was a fundraiser for Operation Foodsearch. Though the final tally hasn’t been released yet, the live auction portion of the evening, administered by Ivey Selkirk auctioneer Mark Howald, raised some $15,000 for the cause.

> Chef RUSSELL PING, who recently won the best dessert award at the 2010 St. Louis Art Fair, just got another feather in his culinary cap: his desserts are now available at Busch’s Grove Market. Ping will be on hand to greet customers at the market’s grand re-opening celebration Oct. 9 and 10.

> Clayton favorite Ruth’s Chris Steak House has expanded its service. The restaurant is now offering a Friday Power Lunch, served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. The new lunch menu will feature some favorites from the dinner menu, as well as new offerings, like blackened ahi tuna salad and chilled shellfish salad.

> DR. MATT GERMAN will be hosting his 9th annual Is There A Doctor in the Hyatt? fundraiser benefitting Food Outreach, Oct. 14 from 6 to 10:30 p.m. at The Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch. Plenty of food and fun to benefit a great cause. More info at foodoutreach.org.

> strong>Top Chefs All-American Throwdown, The Search for St. Louis’ Best Burger, will be held Oct. 17 in the CWE and hosted by Chef HUBERT KELLER. Chefs IAN CRAIG, Sub Zero Vodka Bar; JASON TILFORD, Barrister’s; JOSH ROLAND, Wild Flower; CLARA MOORE, Local Harvest; NICK ZOTOS, Mike Shannon’s Steaks & Seafood; and TODD LOUGH, Bixby’s, will square off to see who flips the best burger in the Lou.

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