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Nocello, Neat 

Harvest, 1059 Big Bend Boulevard, 314-645-3522

And what about the squirrels? Do they have enough nuts for the next four months? Blankets? Chai? And those still scurrying around desperately on December off-days? Are they the procrastinator squirrels, the laziest of the breed, who should be stocked up by now, who, come February, will be nudging in on neighbors' nut loot, begging on paws and knees for a couple borrowed balls of fat?

Look! If you gaze into the branches, you can see one superior-looking specimen standing on hind legs near its nest! Cute, but muscular, tiny binoculars pressed to its furrowed brow, it scours the area, spying sturdy leaves and branches to secure its shelter, scanning the land for secret nut storage plots (squirrels bury their nuts, and, because of their amazing olfactory abilities, simply sniff them out during the winter). This squirrel, the king of the tribe, the highest order of the lowly rodent family, struggles to find amid the mushy leaves and melting shells, as fall closes, its comfort: walnuts, acorns, peanuts, hazelnuts, cashews, macadamia nuts, all the nuts of any sort that can be had, before it's too late.

And after midnight, in one of the most impressive nests in the biggest sugar maple in Tower Grove Park, this genius squirrel works by candlelight, mashing walnuts, concocting a sweet elixir out of the collected bounty it has, quite literally, been squirreling away since September. A bounty that, once mashed, soaked with alcohol, aged and tended to with utmost care, the squirrel will transform into Nocello walnut liqueur, one of the most exquisite creations known to both homo sapiens and sciurus carolinensis alike. The master squirrel will bottle, cap and then, employing the enormous strength of its jaws, grasp the bottle neck in its maw and drag it to Harvest, which, even St. Louis rodents know, is one of the best restaurants in St. Louis. The squirrel will set it by the back door, and then vanish.

Which brings it to you, sitting at a table in Harvest's calm, exquisite dining room, just finishing your salad and your sturgeon, staring at a flourless chocolate cake that's so rich it's nearly pudding. You will enjoy this Nocello with said cake, because chocolate and walnut taste good together, especially when this walnut is Nocello liqueur and suggests not only walnut, but, joy of joys, also the glorious Nutella brand chocolate/hazelnut spread. And anyone who knows Nutella can imagine the glory of a liquid version of said spread. A liquid version of Nutella! It'll drive your she-squirrel crazy! She will sneak into your nest, cup her paws in the overflowing oak barrel and draw a sip to her mouth. Then another. Then another, until she collapses on the soft pine pillow behind her. Half-drunk, ready to sleep, she will whisper, in a series of rodent mumbles, "Oh, Nocello. I've found a new best friend."

(Apologies to Ben Greenman, who originated squirrel-POV literature in "Reeling," from his book, Superbad.)

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