Terrene, 34 North Sarah Street, 314-535-5100.


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At bars, salty snacks rule the roost. Seldom will you get a bowlful of Skittles to nibble on while drinking your pints. They want you parched. At movie theaters, the popcorn is oversalted because they want you to order a quenching Coke, thereby doubling their profits. At a Cardinals game, it's pretzels and peanuts to accompany the Bud.

So maybe Terrene makes their crab fritters so salty because they want you to order a Moscow Mule? Perhaps the sirloin seems a couple sodium-shakes too heavy because they're proud of their Sortilège and want you to pound a couple after dinner? We don't know. All we know is that some very nice food was compromised by a chef with a heavy hand, which is too bad, because Terrene has really cool salt shakers on their tables. Alas, they weren't necessary. But the salt made the drinks taste really good.

Then again, we write a drink column. Who are we to criticize the food?

Well, we do eat out a lot. We read books about food and how to cook it. And when we're not dining out, we're in the kitchen, making a mess. Rule number one about salt is: Go easy on it; you can always add it later, using really cool salt shakers.

That out of the way, Terrene is a beautiful place at the eastern edge of the Central West End. The bar area is separate from the dining room, so patrons can drink without fear of sneers from uppity diners. Terrene has created a fantastic drink menu to augment the room. Their Sortilège is an odd but wonderful concoction that riffs on a classic drink consisting of Canadian rye whiskey, maple syrup and a cherry dropped to the bottom. Terrene substitutes Knob Creek bourbon for the Canadian rye, adds the syrup and the cherry, and offers it in a cocktail glass.

Terrene's Moscow Mule also varies a bit from tradition. Rather than combining three ingredients — vodka, ginger beer and lime juice — the bartenders use two ingredients: Hangar One kaffir lime vodka and Schlafly's ginger beer. Then they toss in a lemon spiral. It's a complex drink, with the sharpness of the ginger beer competing for attention with the tang of kaffir lime vodka. Be careful: It's tempting to guzzle the whole thing in one fell swoop.

Terrene's Tuaca toddy is also aces. It's a riff on a hot toddy (whiskey, lemon, water and honey), but goes in a different direction altogether. The drink mixes steamed apple cider with Tuaca liqueur, an Italian brandy-based creation with hints of citrus, vanilla and hazelnut. Served in a mug, the Tuaca toddy tastes like fermented cider dosed with vanilla and cinnamon, and is the perfect nightcap.

And the salt? Maybe it was an aberration. Lord knows with all of the locally grown produce on the menu, the ingredients are capable of doing the heavy lifting. But the extra pinches of salt sure made us thirsty, and the drinks quenched our thirst, so it all worked out in the end.

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