One autumn day, 13-year-old Shanita McAfee wandered through her local apple orchard, plucking the ripest, plumpest apples. She had done this for years with her dad and siblings, but this year was different. Instead of giving the apples to her mom for apple pies, Shanita decided to take on the challenge herself. She loved her mom's pies, but didn't understand why her mom would use a store-bought crust if she was going to put in the effort to make everything else from scratch. So, Shanita started experimenting with various homemade-crust recipes, and her passion for cooking was born.
Though Shanita?s repertoire has expanded to include savory dishes, such as New Orleans?style shrimp and pan-seared seafood, her cooking philosophy remains the same: fresh, seasonal ingredients prepared with love. Magnolia?s chef has also made it her mission to challenge people to "experience traditional Southern ingredients and food in a different way." That's why she creates things such as braised oxtail lasagna and Grown Up grilled cheese?toasted farm-to-market challah bread with smoked gouda and Tillamook cheddar served with bacon horseradish dip and a 401K pamphlet.
In his 2010 review, Riverfront Times reporter Ian Froeb revealed the origin of Ernesto's Winebar?s distinctive name. Instead of honoring a chef or long-lost relative, the name pays homage to the owners' love for Ernest Hemingway's simplistic style. Chef Stephanie Hay has risen to the challenge, translating the clean complexity of The Sun Also Rises or the masculine energy of Green Hills of Africa into a menu of tapas and hearty entrees. Diverse flavor profiles mimic Papa Hemingway?s wanderlust, corralling global flavors including chili lime, wasabi tobiko, and even red pepper sauce to create festive tapas such as the truffle-infused grilled cheese, which was named the best grilled cheese of 2010 by Riverfront Times.
The cheese-and-charcuterie menu details hearty repasts from all corners of the globe, with plates of smoky blue cheese from Oregon and salchich?n white pork from Spain joining notes of green peppercorn, tomatillo, and even brown sugar for nods to Latin America and the Mediterranean. Ernesto's has also gone to great lengths to locate wine varietals from France, Germany, and Spain for pairing with large steaks and seafood entrees delicately saut?ed in a wide array of wine sauces.
Ernesto's butter-hued walls appear to melt in the light from wall sconces and flickering red candles. Above lush hardwood paneling, several framed photographs offer a glimpse of Hemingway at his most virile??aggressively writing at his desk, and using a large steak as a body pillow. For a touch of warmth during fall weather, patrons can also retreat outdoors, where a mammoth brick fireplace casts rich glow on Ernesto's sleek cobblestone patio.
Across Cork and Barrel’s shelves, cubbies, and barrels repurposed into tabletops sprawl bottles of all kinds. Labels hint at the European and American provenance of a huge selection of wines. Notes of red peppers, chocolate, or fruit wait to leap from adventurous small-batch craft brews, from saisons—light Belgian ales—to potently hopped double india pale ales. Beer-brewing classes introduce the art of combining barley, hops, water, and yeast, and guests in art classes sip wine while swirling blues and greens for landscapes or portraits of Gumby weeping.
The Cooper’s Oak Winery is located on the premises of A&K Cooperage, proprietor of fine American and French oak barrels. This isn't a coincidence—the winery uses those high-quality barrels as vessels for its blended and specialty varietals. The barrels' contribution is clear in sips of the Toasted Oak, a cabernet sauvignon mixed with merlot and aged in heavily toasted oak, and the Triple Oak Bliss, a dark and bold red blend of three domestic grapes, aged in American oak emblazoned with tasty smiley faces. Cooper’s also crafts sweet blush wine, a vidal ice wine, and a French hybrid vignoles.
The old mulberry tree at the top of Noboleis Vineyards—the same creature that graces the estate's wine labels—symbolizes the endurance of Robert and Lou Ann Nolan in pursuing their dream to own a vineyard. After purchasing a 74-acre expanse of Augusta farmland in 2005, the Nolans planted their first grapes: chambourcin, traminette, norton, and vignoles. Initial growth indicated high yields, but a late frost in 2007 claimed most of the chambourcin crop. Adversity struck again in 2011, when a tornado tore through part of the vineyards and lifted sections of roof off of the winery.
But between these setbacks, the Nolans built a steady string of accomplishments. Their first vintages claimed multiple awards at the 2010 Missouri Governor's Cup, and what had started as plain farmland grew into an estate encompassing an onsite winery, tasting room, cafe, and wine shop. The Nolans now lead tours and host tastings so that visitors can get an up-close look at how Noboleis's wines—such as the barrel-fermented vidal blanc—are produced without tickling the grapes. The indoor and outdoor grounds also regularly host events that range from weddings to live music performances.