Andy Ayers has long been one of my favorite characters on the St. Louis restaurant scene, ever since we first visited his tiny original (prepenultimate?) Riddle's Cafe up on Natural Bridge something like 20 years ago. Countercultural entrepreneur, culinary innovator, grapevine musketeer ("Wine for all, all for wine") -- all honorable qualities, but what I think I like best about Andy is that he's able to simultaneously, seemingly perpetually keep his nose in a glass and his tongue in his cheek.
Therefore I'm succumbing to the shameless anti-plug he sent me recently: Andy is pleased to host no special events during the summer. In addition, he proudly announces that he is not moving to West County.
OK, now that that's out of the way, it really should be noted that Andy may just be the most diverse resource in town for restaurant food prepared with locally, primarily organically grown produce. The summer menu features beets from St. Isadore Organic Farm in Moscow Mills, Mo., shiitake mushrooms from Bald Eagle Farm in Shannon County, Mo., corn from Rombach Farm in St. Louis County and tomatoes from Biver Organic Farms in Edwardsville, Ill.
And I'm proud to have done my own very small part by teaching him how to spell "prosciutto" correctly.
One final note: Several years ago, we bestowed on Riddle's the coveted (and never-again-bestowed) title of Best Place to Learn about Wine. That honor is still in force, with nine reds and eight whites available at the table or in the bar "by the glass," which in Riddle's case means it's served in a carafe that holds slightly less than two full glasses' worth. The tasting notes on the wine menu are equal to an introductory class in virtually every major wine varietal.
Be sure to drop by before or after shopping, clubbing or moviegoing in the University City Loop, or just make a trip out of it all by itself.