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Romance in St. Louis: Gayot’s Top Ten Romantic Restaurants in St. Louis

Sometimes we all need a little help when it comes time to impress a date. Certain restaurants may please the tongue and fill the belly but don’t tug on our emotions. The selections we have gathered here have that certain something—perhaps a light-speckled patio, or a roving musician, or inspirational garden—that can really impress a date. Presented in alphabetical order, here are the top ten romantic restaurants in St. Louis.

1. Annie Gunn’s: The vast network of local farmers and quality international suppliers chef Lou Rook III has assembled makes every dish a feast. An example is the toasted cheese sandwich, which oozes melty goodness from Hungary, Denmark and Wisconsin, and it’s served with tomato jam from a producer just down the road. Serious steak eaters can’t do better than the giant, hand-cut rib-eye, whether it’s plain or smoked. It’s a good idea to call ahead — even for lunch. And if you’re lucky you may snag one of the walled-off, private alcoves where you can indulge in highly addictive potato chips or house-smoked shrimp. For dessert, try the ever-changing sorbets or a cheese plate with a little more wine; the list is expensive but wide-ranging, with a penchant for top California and European labels. For those interested in something different, experiment with cellar master Glenn Bardgett’s Missouri offerings.

2. Aya Sofia: The warm, red-accented dining room and gauzily draped booths may not have been designed with engagements in mind, but they do make the perfect backdrop for the most romantic of evenings. And the mezze platters — hummus and tabbouleh, stuffed grape leaves and fried feta — are ideal for intimate sharing, topped off with baklava for dessert. Or, if a ring isn’t in the works, they’re all good for enjoying with the happy hour crew from work. A more than acceptable beef-and-lamb döner appears across the menu, from salads to platters. The iskender, döner on a bed of pita with tomato and yogurt sauces, is better now that the authentic touch of a butter sauce has been added. Other Turkish classics — dolma, imam bayildi (baked eggplant), whole roasted lamb — are likewise authentically cooked and served. This is a family operation, with the husband-and-wife team of chef Mehmet Yildiz and general manager Alicia Aboussie plus sommelier Jill Aboussie overseeing the wine list.

3. Brasserie: Brunch may be an American institution, but it’s the perfect meal to show off the French touches at Gerard Craft’s Brasserie by Niche — expect the likes of such classics as beignets, quiche and eggs en cocotte. Meanwhile, the dinner menu offers spot-on renditions of bistro-style steak frites, onion soup and croque madame. The menus stays approachable by avoiding French terms unless there’s not an English translation (for example, in the case of cassoulet with duck confit, tomato, sausage and white beans) or the French name just sounds better (tender, wild Burgundy escargots). Early diners sometimes snap up all the day’s specials on the menu du jour, which is where the kitchen’s creativity edges out the traditional approach. Not that there’s anything wrong with tradition, as the dessert menu proves with its profiteroles and crème brûlée. Wines tend to be French, though North American selections that pair well with the cuisine are available, too. The European-influenced cocktails include seasonal specials well worth sampling.

4. Cielo: Perched eight floors over the riverfront, Cielo isn’t the highest restaurant in St. Louis, but the wide-open feel created by the floor-to-ceiling windows and expansive rooftop deck certainly gives diners the sense of having transcended the earth for awhile. The fare is Mediterranean on the Mississippi, with Italian-trained chef Fabrizio Schenardi incorporating pastas and a selection of shellfish into the menu. Step back from the truffle-Parmesan chips and the sautéed rapini, however, and the dishes—anchored by a massive rib-eye—adhere less strictly to Italian interpretation. Eager, attentive servers look to please, though on busy nights they may be swamped. Although Cielo is in a hotel, it draws plenty of local curiosity seekers for the view over the Gateway Arch, especially after dark. The wine list has evolved in the right direction, though a few service glitches remain.

5. The Crossing: French and Italian influences are trending upward, and The Crossing is poised to capitalize — just as it was back in 1998 when owner Jim Fiala opened this mainstay of the Clayton dining scene. You may well see limos parked out front and the city’s movers and shakers tucked into the creamy dining room. Despite that, service is unpretentious and friendly. Beware the blue cheese soufflé placed on your table shortly after arrival; it’s addictive and filling. Start with amberjack crudo with caviar, pan-seared foie gras with greens and berries, or lamb sweetbreads. Then discover egg raviolo, a farm-fresh egg inside a ricotta ravioli. Beef tenderloin and bison loin are both local and grass-fed. All three tasting menus are a steal, and happily they all include the signature warm chocolate torte. An expansive, European-leaning wine list offers a good number of quartinos, perfect for discovering new styles and regions.

6. Dominic’s Restaurant: From the tenderloin carpaccio to the double pork chop with caramelized onions, osso buco and veal saltimbocca, Dominic’s classic Italian dishes provide a culinary tour with little bursts of innovation. Between the pastas and the entrées, it’s tough to save room for dessert, but the tiramisu, flambés and wedding cake are too good to pass up. The strong wine list is regularly revised but always heavy with Italian labels. Dominic’s is upscale not only in terms of price and décor (flattering lighting from chandeliers, brocaded walls, gilt-framed landscapes), but in the way the staff handles customers. Dominic Galati himself, elegant and reserved, takes his job seriously and makes sure his employees do, too.

7. Elaia: St. Louis is fertile ground for rising culinary talent, and Ben Poremba, chef/proprietor at Elaia (and its sister wine bar Olio), has tossed his hat into the ring with an ambitious first restaurant. In a rehabbed house seating only about 30 patrons, he enthusiastically offers the tried and true — namely, charcuterie from his other business, artisanal meat curer Salume Beddu — alongside experimental dishes like charred thumb-size octopi, ceviche of opah (moonfish), spaghetti with pig ear, and pickled herring with apples, beets, blackberries and buckwheat. Keep an eye out for playful interpretations of Mediterranean classics and for vegetables that pop up in unexpected preparations. Impressively, the wine list holds its own with the unique food, thanks to general manager Andrey Ivanov, a certified advanced sommelier. Desserts, including the cloud-like chouquette from the bakery across the street, are not to be missed.

8. Giovanni’s on the Hill: Dishes like farfalline del Presidente Reagan and pappardelle alla Bella Oprah are the first clue that you’ll be in illustrious company while dining here. The clientele, largely professionals and folks celebrating special occasions, tends to dress and act the part. But underneath the chandeliers and paintings, there’s an undercurrent of welcome simplicity. Plump mussels with tomato, wine and basil, for example, evoke a seaside café in Palermo. Capellini luxuriates in only olive oil, garlic and Parmesan. Of several veal entrées, our favorite is the house specialty, with a rich white wine sauce plus Fontina and prosciutto. The traditional end to an Italian meal on the hill, tiramisu, rises above the rest. Wines are high-caliber without seeming exorbitant. Black-tie waiters can be slightly overwhelmed at times, but no one can fault owner Giovanni Gabriele as host of the elegant space or his son, Frank, in the kitchen.

9. Sidney Street Cafe: Co-owner/chef Kevin Nashan walks a well-balanced line between pleasing his longtime customers — those who come to celebrate anniversaries, get engaged and impress colleagues — and wowing foodies. His restaurant remains a fine place for steak, whether prepared traditionally, paired with egg pasta or graced with wasabi. Nashan doesn’t limit himself to any one region or cuisine, so you can find chicken-fried rabbit legs with sourdough waffles alongside a trio of Missouri lamb with lemon aïoli. Desserts take classics in new directions. Carrot cake features crispy ginger meringue, passion fruit gel, golden raisins, lemon curd and butternut squash sorbet. A distinguished wine list and well-trained servers enhance the experience.

10. Tony’s: Tony’s continues to provide the most attentive service in town, and it’s the only restaurant that finishes the meals tableside; for example, the signature dish, lobster albanello, with the chunks of sautéed shellfish heated in the creamy sauce with wine and mushrooms. The deboning of the Dover sole is still more dramatic, but it’s nothing compared to the dessert flambés. Alternatively, we can also recommend the steaks, osso buco, rack of lamb and veal trio. There’s a chef’s tasting menu for two worth mentioning, too, for its beef tenderloin with foie gras. If none of that matches your mood, order something not on the menu, and no one will bat an eye. Elegant and austere décor includes neutral walls and statues throughout the larger dining room. The dress code has relaxed a bit (though jackets are still required on Saturdays). The wine list is enviably long and broad, and it’s quite reasonably priced for the setting.

For more information on more Romantic Restaurants in St. Louis, please visit Gayot.com.

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5 Key Considerations For Planning a Winter Event

The winter season presents a unique opportunity for planning a winter event. Think snow, think festivities and think stunning winter-themed decoration – the possibilities to shine are limitless.

All it takes is a little imagination and a few good ideas to get the creative juices flowing and for you to create an amazing winter wonderland for your guests.

But, before you start planning a winter event, there are a few key considerations to take into account.

Planning a Winter Event

  1. Location

If you’re near a ski resort why not consider using it as the venue for your winter event? With winter snow falling you’ll have an amazing backdrop with endless photo opportunities. Guests can be snapped sitting on ski lifts, walking in the snow or even atop a horse-drawn sleigh. Careful choice of venue gives you the opportunity to put on something truly different and memorable for your guests.

If your event is of an appropriate size, try to hunt down a venue with a huge open fireplace. It’s a fantastic way to add a cozy atmosphere to the event and is really in keeping with the winter theme.

  1. Decorate, Decorate, Decorate.

A winter theme is a great event planning opportunity and an open invitation to have fun with decorations. Adorn chairs with covers inspired by the season. Festive is the way to go if the event is appropriate for this particular theme. Think holly, berries, and snow – all the decorative items associated with the festive season can come into play.

Why not decorate the venue to look like a magical snow-covered forest in keeping with the winter theme? You can achieve this look by using indoor trees, cotton wool, trimmings, glitter, and beads. You’re only limited by your imagination.

Remember to make a special effort with menus, programs, and other table items.

Enhance your winter theme by using crystals that are reminiscent of snow or ice or show off an impressive ice sculpture with the company logo embossed into the ice.

  1. Guest Comfort

Naturally, at a winter event, you need to take guest comfort into consideration more so than on a warm summer’s evening. Think about laying out blankets, check the availability of additional heating and make sure guests’ rooms are warm and cozy. Nothing is more certain to spoil your guests’ happy memories of your winter event more quickly than having to spend the evening in a cold room.

  1. Stay in Control

Keep yourself updated on weather forecasts and advise your guests accordingly. It may be that you have to do some contingency planning (always have a back-up plan) if the weather doesn’t work in your favor.

Make sure to talk to the venue management because they have the experience to advise you on how to handle inclement weather.

  1. Special Winter Venue Considerations

Make sure whatever venue you choose is going to be accessible to your guests in the event of heavy snow. If you use a ski resort, for example, it’s a good idea to check how accessible the venue has been in previous years and what equipment the resort has to keep the venue open should a heavy fall of snow occur. Accessibility is key to a ski resort’s success so, once again, management should be able to arm you with all the information you could possibly need to make an informed decision.

Finally, make certain that the venue itself caters for the proper clearing of localized snow and ice as well as the salting of their outdoor areas. You don’t want your amazing winter event to be spoiled by slipping accidents that could have been avoided with a bit of foresight.

For more information on planning a winter event, plesae visit TheBalance.com.

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20 Simple Tips For Planning A Winter Wedding

© Lauren Hammond

A winter wedding can be utterly magical and romantic, but there are a few inevitable issues that go hand in hand with weddings held during the darker months. If you’re having a winter wedding, don’t panic; all these problems are really small and totally avoidable with some preparations beforehand. Today we’ve gathered 20 simple tips and tricks to ensure your winter wedding goes off without a hitch. Pens and paper at the ready…

Winter Wedding Style Tips

1. Invest in Winter Accessories

It will be cold so accessories will be important to keep warm. A faux fur stole, a veil, a cape or a chic cardie are all good options. Alternatively opt for a long sleeve wedding dress.

2. Velvet Chic for the Guys

For grooms and groomsmen a velvet blazer is ideal. It’s a nice thick fabric which will keep the guys warm, plus is perfectly on-trend.

3. Don’t Forget Beauty Prep.

Chapped lips and dry skin are inevitable come winter. Keep your lips moisturised in the run up to the wedding (I highly recommend Elizabeth Arden’s 8 Hour Cream) use a good face moisturiser and have a chapstick in your clutch on the day.

4. Under Your Dress

If it’s very cold you can always wear thick tights under your wedding dress (as long as it’s long) – nobody will know! This goes for your bridesmaids too.

5. Consider Stylish Winter Footwear

Boots can be a stylish (and practical) bridal shoe option for winter weddings, especially if it rains.

6. Indulge in Some Glitter

You can’t get more festive than bridesmaids in glitter. Sequin or glitter dresses are always easy to find come winter, plus they look wonderful in photos.

7. Keep Your Bridesmaids Warm

Don’t forget your bridesmaids will be cold too! Make sure to have bridesmaid cover ups ready on the day.

Winter Wedding Venue Tips

8. Extra Travel Time

Bad weather means bad traffic, so give extra time for travel to your ceremony – no matter how near or far you are going.

9. Have Just One Venue

If possible have your ceremony & reception in the one venue, or venues very near to each other. This will make transport easier in case of bad weather.

10. Add Romance With Candles

It will be dark quite early. Embrace it with lots of romantic candle light in both your ceremony and reception space.

11. Winter Wedding Colours

Decorate in rich, warm tones of berry red, burgundy, black and gold. Add extra wintry romance with lots of natural greenery, or even a hint of tartan.

12. Coat Check

Make sure someone is in charge of taking coats at your reception and making sure they’re kept safe.

13. Keep Guests Warm

Consider making an effort to ensure your guests are kept warm and cheery once they arrive. A hot drink on arrival is a nice and simple idea.

14. Wintry Wedding Favours

Choose winter wedding favours. Blankets or pashminas, sparklers, cookies, mulled wine spices, candy canes or little bottles of Baileys are all cute and doable winter wedding favour options.

15. Winter Cake Toppers

For a subtle winter wedding touch get yourself a cute winter cake topper. For some ideas have a look at our Simple and Inexpensive Winter Wedding Decor Ideas post.

16. Venue Décor Check

Check if your venue has Christmas decorations in the room where your wedding will be. Have they photographs of them from last year? Is it ok for them to take these down if they’re not to your taste?

Winter Wedding Photography Tips

17. All About the Timing

It gets dark much earlier in the winter so adjust your photo schedule for more light. Taking portraits before your ceremony is often a good idea. If you’re not sure how to go about this, just chat to your photographer. They should have a good idea of what will work.

18. Brollies for Rain

Have nice umbrellas on stand by for outdoor wedding photographs. These don’t have to be fancy – simple and black can often do the job, or check out Butterslip for some chic wedding options.

19. Don’t Ruin Your Heels

If you’re wearing heels, have another shoe option for your outdoor pics. You don’t want to be sinking into mud or snow in your Jimmy Choos or Valentinos!

20. Keep Hands Toasty

Ice cold blue hands are not a good look in winter wedding pictures, this is where hand warmers come in. Tiger, Urban Outfitters and Avoca usually have pretty options throughout winter. Alternatively get crafty with some DIY hand warmers.

For more information about planning a winter wedding, click here.

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Why You Should Hire a Limo Driver to the Airport During Winter

© imageegami

You have an early morning flight for a very important business trip, but the winter weather forecast says that the commute to the airport is going to be miserable. What do you do?

To drive or not drive is the question that many people face when preparing for a business trip. Aside from the weather and traffic, which can cause you mental anxiety, you have to hunt for parking, cart your luggage and pay for expensive car fees. Taking your car to the airport during winter can take a toll on your nerves. You may be faced with black ice, white-out conditions, and accidents that raise your blood to a boiling point, but you can eliminate the unnecessary stress this winter by hiring a professional limo service. Why not avoid all of this aggravation and let someone else worry about the driving? Renting a limo is a great way to avoid hazardous winter driving condition and enjoy the commute to the airport and your next event in a relaxed manner.

Time is a precious commodity, and your piece of mind is at stake. By hiring a limo service during the winter months, you save the frustration of the dreaded commute and relax while someone else navigates through the traffic. You can concentrate on attending the upcoming meeting and do any last minute work in the comfort of a luxurious town car or sedan. Limo drivers are timely, organized and know what routes to take during the winter months to get you to the airport on time.

If you a business traveler heading to a destination that suffers from severe winter weather conditions and you’re unfamiliar with the surroundings, hiring a professional limousine service is the trusted way to go. Forget about the rental car and drudging yourself around the unfamiliar streets hunting for a parking garage in the vicinity of your meeting. Instead, arrange for a professional limo service to pick you at the airport and take you door to door to your destination. Your business associates will not only be impressed, but you’re boiling point will be reduced significantly due to inclement weather.

For clients arriving in town for a meeting with you, make arrangements for them to be picked at the airport, so they don’t have to suffer the harsh winter weather conditions. They will appreciate your courtesy and recognize your seriousness regarding your upcoming get-together. A limo is also an ideal spot to break the ice with a client and develop a better relationship in the quiet and relaxed surrounding.

Business owners often plan a winter gateway for their top employees. Hiring a limo service is just another way that companies express their gratitude to their executives for a job well done. Offering their employees a means of transportation to a luxurious destination during inclement winter weathers conditions not only shows their appreciation to their staff but a commitment to keeping them safe in hazardous conditions.
For more information on why you should hire a limo to the airport, please click here.

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Baby, It’s Cold Outside, So Listen to This Winter Wedding Playlist!

© sh/anna0999

There’s nothing quite as romantic as a wedding glistened with softly falling snow and guests bundled blissfully with hot toddies in hand. A winter wedding can be a warm and inviting gathering of friends and loved ones during those colder months, perfectly complemented by the perfect soundtrack.

The pitfall to avoid is an event that feels “themey”. A seasonal winterscape wedding can be achieved with the right vibe, the right music, and the right wedding DJ who can seamlessly mix genres and styles. Clever music selections with a hint of winter chill will do the trick, as well as love songs to keep you toasty while you dance the night away.

“Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Zooey Deschanel and Leon Redbone

A classic ballad, perfect for a lip-synching duet with you and your date during the dinner portion of the evening.

“The Snow It Melts The Soonest” by Sting

Great background music for cocktail hour as you catch up with old friends.

“Let It Snow” by Boyz II Men and Brian McKnight

A quintessential love ballad. The light touches of background instrumentation capture the true sound of Christmas and it’s just upbeat enough to make you subconsciously nod your head. You’ll find yourself out of your seat and two-stepping

“I’ve Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” by Billie Holiday

Her legendary voice sounds amazing over this jazz track that captures the essence of dinner music for a winter wedding.

“Colder Weather” by Zac Brown Band

A love song that is great to play as you socialize during dinner.

“Wintertime Love” by The Doors

Great for a first dance or background music during the dinner portion of the evening.

“Hazy Shade Of Winter” by Bangles

A fun, celebratory, and high-energy song to get everyone on the dance floor, and keep them there.

“First Snowfall/Let It Snow” by The Carpenters

Although it starts slow, this upbeat tune is sure to have everyone dancing and singing along in no time. The lyrics are classic and easy to learn on the fly.

“California Dreamin'” by The Mamas & The Papas

This song will ward off the cold weather blues and have you dreaming of warm California days.

“Wizards Of Winter” by Tran-Siberian Orchestra

A dance song that will make you nostalgic for old school Christmas commercials.

“A Marshmallow World” by Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra

A great dance song that will have you doing your best Frank Sinatra & Dean Martin impression on the dance floor.

For more information regarding this winter wedding playlist, please visit The Huffington Post.

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4 Reasons to Hire a Thanksgiving Limo

Driver waiting and standing next to the white limousine

Limo service on Thanksgiving, you ask? That’s right, and luxury transportation service has become more and more popular each year. The long Thanksgiving holiday weekend is packed with events and traditions that can all be greatly enhanced when you take a limousine. Here are just a few of our favorites:

The Night Before Thanksgiving
You don’t need any reminders that Thanksgiving Eve has evolved into one of the biggest party nights of the year. Aside from the increased police force, you don’t want to put the lives of others at risk. Hiring a limo the night before Turkey day is perfect for hitting the bars safely and in style.

Family & Friends are in Town
When you’re the one entertaining friends and family during holiday visits, keeping them entertained can be a real challenge. One idea would be to hire a limousine and take them on a local wine tour or brewery tour. It’s a great way to catch up, bond and enjoy some of the area’s tastiest libations.

Black Friday Shopping
Black Friday is pure insanity on the roads, and it can end up ruining any shopping fun you might have had. Many shoppers are finding that it’s fun to rent a limousine for their Black Friday adventures. You don’t have to stress over traffic, there are no parking woes to deal with, and you get dropped off right at the front door. Plus, all the envious stares from jealous shoppers.

Thanksgiving Airport Transportation
Anyone who has ever driven to the airport during Thanksgiving weekend will attest to how un-fun it can actually be. Few will argue that getting to and from the airport is way more fun when you’re in a luxury vehicle. If your family is traveling, or if you’re hosting a large group for the weekend, airport limo transportation offers ample space and takes your mind off the road.

Thinking that this just might be a great idea? Check out our full limousine fleet.

For more information on hiring a limo for Thanksgiving, please click here.

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