"We say it's everything for the table," says Stephanie Stitt, explaining Veritas Gateway to Food and Wine. "It's about being at the table with really good friends and everything you need for that experience." Not a restaurant, not a wine store, not a cooking conservatory, Stitt's Veritas is actually all of those and more. Stitt and her husband, David (brother to Birmingham, Alabama's legendary chef, Frank Stitt), opened the place in fall 2004 after deciding they didn't want to relocate again with David's then-employer. They thought the restaurant industry here especially in St. Louis County was too much of a gamble, so they designed a concept that would introduce folks to local, regional, national and international arts of the table. How so? First, by serving lunch crafted from local ingredients and hosting Tables of Eight: themed dinners the last Friday of every month that diners book in groups of eight. Second, by selling interesting wines and beautiful table linens and kitchen gadgets. Third, by hosting wine classes, knife demonstrations, cooking lessons and many other introductions to gastronomy. Fourth, by offering "al fresco dinners," in which diners can choose to have packed in a cooling/warming tote anything they would like, based on the day's roster of ingredients. And last, by hosting Gateway Dinners, during which chefs from local restaurants take over the stovetop and serve selections from their own menus. "The people out here tend to be transient, and very busy, and they don't always have time to learn about the fabulous opportunities for eating in the city of St. Louis," Stephanie Stitt explains. "We're giving them a place where they can belly up to the bar, ask a local chef, How are you going to chop that chicken?' and then enjoy the meal with a great glass of wine: a real casual pace where people can talk about everything culinary." The key to the Veritas concept (besides the super-friendly and passionate Stitts) is its open-kitchen layout, allowing shoppers and diners to interact with the chef and his ingredients.