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Summer Better than Others 

The pleasures of warm-weather eating and drinking

Here's a variety of totally random openings and other food-and-wine activities for your summer-distraction pleasure, culled from several weeks of press releases and simply driving around town:

Cajun-food fans will get a spicy kick out of Miz T's, a little carryout hole-in-the-wall recently opened at 3173 Morganford Rd. (314-776-4337), a couple of blocks south of Tower Grove Park. First-class red beans and rice ($4.50 for a 24-ounce portion that can serve as a full meal for two light eaters on a budget); also gumbo, jambalaya and Louisiana catfish, as well as several Texas-tinged specialties like husk-wrapped minitamales by the half-dozen.

The location that Pho Grand vacated at 3191 S. Grand Blvd. when it moved a few doors south has received a facelift and is about to open as the Gulf Coast Café (314-664-3940), with any luck filling the city niche for midpriced seafood that's been shrinking ever since the departure of Sliders on Hampton Avenue a couple years ago and the recent defection of R.L. Steamers from Dogtown to Chesterfield. We drove by the new Steamers, not yet open as of the end of June, which is in a newly built strip center at the stretch of Olive Blvd. known as Hog Hollow, about a mile west of Highway 141); it looks a bit more upscale than the original and will also have a "seafood market" attached.

If you've always wanted to build a basic foundation of wine knowledge, several local wine stores offer a bunch of great tastings and classes over the next few weeks, and many of them are even free. The Wine Merchant's Clayton location (20 S. Hanley Rd., 314-863-6282) features tastings of French wines on Friday, July 7; Chardonnays on Friday, July 14; and California reds on Friday, July 21. All tastings are from 5-8 p.m. The Creve Coeur location (12669 Olive, 314-469-4500) features Italian wines on Saturday, July 8, and wines from Remulac and elsewhere in the South of France on Saturday, July 22, each day from noon-5 p.m. All tastings are free.

Corkdork University at the Vintage Room (4736 McPherson Ave., 314-367-9463) charges for its courses, but you can bet Ed Deutch will populate them with some truly excellent bottles. He'll serve up six American "meritage" blends -- made in the style of many of the finest Bordeaux -- on July 15 ($35), and he's introducing a course on Spanish wines called "Quixotic Quickies" on July 26 ($35).

And although Terra Nova Wines in St. Peters near Mid-Rivers Mall (3929 Mid Rivers Mall Dr., 636-477-1610) still charges a nominal fee for some of its classes (20 bucks for the "Holy Zinfandel Worship Hour" on Thursday, July 6), its extremely popular Intro to Wine 101 will be free starting with the next session, Wednesday, Aug. 2. Classes start at 7 p.m.

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