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Cafe

JAMBALAYA(Comprising a random

collection of ingredients from St. Louis food and wine) WINGING IT: The folks at the Boone Center, a sheltered workshop serving the disabled community in St. Charles, were nice enough to invite me to judge their "Wing Ding" tastiest-chicken-wings competition a couple weeks ago, and although I shy away from public appearances, I've worked with sheltered workshops around the area for many years and have tremendous respect for the tireless folks who run them.

For this, the inaugural Wing Ding, a perpetual-motion machine named Aleece Vogt, development director of the Boone Center, gathered 10 wing purveyors from both sides of the Missouri and offered their wares at buffet tables to the general public. Wings were prepared to order for us "experts," including a couple of other food writers and some of St. Charles' political honchos and honchettes. Banquet Center of the Little Hills, located at the north end of town, provided the facilities, and several hundred people showed up.

This year's winner was T.G.I. Friday's, although my scorecard (which also placed Friday's first) was awfully tightly bunched, and the allocation of extra points for "uniqueness" might have slightly biased the voting against the best-represented style, Buffalo hot wings. Anyway, it was a heck of a promotional idea and a wonderful cause, not to mention a lot of fun for the judges, even if our taste buds started to melt together after the fourth or fifth dose of cayenne. Look for the "second annual" version of the event to be bigger and better next year.

TIDBITS: The revolving-door space at the base of 101 S. Hanley in Clayton's Interco Tower (which has housed, let's see, two incarnations of Dierdorf & Hart's Grill, including one run by the Andujars of Le Bistro and Malmaison fame; Girarrosto, part of Bernard Douteau's empire and briefly known as Fish; and, most recently, the relocated and subsequently sold Nantucket Cove) is now morphing into J. Buck's, named for a relatively obscure St. Louis media family that is in no way related to the world-renowned Dan Buck of Show Me St. Louis fame. Look for "high-end American food at moderate prices" toward the end of summer, according to Ted Geiger, who, along with partner John Whicker, owns soon-to-be-eight Chevy's in the region and is the restaurant brains behind the operation. Former Californian Tony Gomes will run day-to-day operations, and Geiger says that they've hired a couple of local restaurant veterans to supervise the kitchen.... Call 800-419-2245 to get on the mailing list of Blumenhof Vineyards, whose quick-read newsletter gets a little feisty this month, naming a number of high-profile Missouri wineries for producing wines whose content isn't exactly all Missouri grapes. (Hey, a little competition will ultimately be a good thing for Missouri's ever-improving wine industry.)... And although I always hold in mind that I'm dealing with many people's livelihoods when writing about a restaurant, I have to urge Cynthia Sensabaugh at Romo's, whose letter to the editor/ad feminem attack on Jill Posey-Smith was published last week, to do a little more evaluating and managing and a little less writing. My wife (who also has two last names but doesn't hyphenate them, as if that makes a difference) and I also visited Romo's and, for the first time in my memory, actually walked out of a place, not because the food was bad but because we were neither greeted nor seated — nor even approached by a waitress, bartender or anyone else. There was only one other table occupied, early on a Saturday night, and we gave it 10 full minutes before we split. I'm a big fan of Soulard and the city, but nobody's doing the neighborhood or the city any favors with hospitality that makes at least two different dining parties feel about as welcome as a didn't-go-to-high-school-here chief executive at a local country club.

— Joe Bonwich

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