Gut Check: Winners and bloggers

May 13, 2009 at 4:00 am

Chef Gerard Craft of Niche fell short in his bid to become the first St. Louis chef named "Best Chef — Midwest" at the annual James Beard Foundation Awards, widely viewed as the Oscars of the food biz. Craft, who last year was named one of the nation's "Best New Chefs" by Food & Wine magazine, was one of five finalists (and the first-ever St. Louis finalist) for "Best Chef — Midwest." Tim McKee of the Minneapolis restaurant La Belle Vie snagged the honor at a black-tie ceremony in New York City on Monday, May 4.

As promised last week, here's a look at three more of the new columns at Gut Check, the Riverfront Times food blog:

Throwback of the House: Robin Wheeler, author of the blog Poppy Mom, makes recipes from her impressive collection of vintage cookbooks, with entertaining results, every Monday: "The sauce is pretty stellar. It's no small feat to be bland enough to drown out the taste of asparagus that's already been cooked down to the asparagus essence usually only available in urine. It also softens the blow of pasta that's turned into rubber. In other words, it's a big rectangle of dry, chewy, overcooked macaroni that tastes the way pee smells after you've eaten asparagus."

The Dive Bomber: Robin also has a love for dive bars and files a weekly report every Friday: "The top of the bar at Screamer's is covered with pennies, epoxied long ago. Some have been chipped away. One of the patrons kept asking if anyone had change for a one hundred dollar bill. No one did, but if he had a putty knife, he could have made change from the bar. A man named Grandma often hangs out at Screamer's, I was told. No one knows why he's called Grandma. One of the bartenders sometimes brings her tap-dancing daughter to visit. She used to dance on the pennies as a toddler."

A Table for How Many? Stefani Pollack, author of the blog the Cupcake Project, addresses the unique situations large parties encounter at restaurants: "If you're going to have two servers working a large group, it would be nice if one of them has been working at the restaurant for more than three weeks.... I wanted to give them hugs as they ran around our table trying to figure things out and dealt with a kitchen haphazardly sending out — or forgetting to send out — our dishes. To their credit, they kept our water glasses full at all times."

Are you opening a new restaurant? Know of a place that has closed? Something else for Ian to chew on? E-mail [email protected]. And check out this column's virtual doppelganger at http://blogs/