A lot of St. Louis area restaurants take delivery of locally grown and produced foods. At Café Osage, the staff picks fresh greens and vegetables from a garden across the street, and herbs are harvested from the roof garden above the restaurant. Now, that's local.
A lot of St. Louis area restaurants take delivery of locally grown and produced foods. At Café Osage, the staff picks fresh greens and vegetables from a garden across the street, and herbs are harvested from the roof garden above the restaurant.
Now, that's local.
Café Osage shares a building with Bowood Farms at 4605 Olive Street in the Central West End. John and Connie McPheeters, who have owned Bowood Farms in Clarksville for 20 years, own and operate the restaurant along with family members. Since Café Osage opened in May 2008, the emphasis has been on seasonal, organic and locally produced ingredients.
David Guempel has served as chef since the restaurant opened. The former owner of Zinnia in Shrewsbury, Guempel started his career at Duff's in 1976, and then moved to Balaban's before buying the now defunct Zinnia. The garden at Café Osage impresses Guempel.
"You would not believe how much produce comes out of that garden," says Guempel. "We grow 23 different kinds of tomatoes, six different melons, five kinds of peppers, three kinds of cucumbers, several kinds of beans and lots of garlic. The list takes up double columns on two sheets of a legal pad." In addition to produce from the 120-by-80-foot garden, some greens and root vegetables are grown all year.
"Last year, we had more produce than we could use, sell in the garden center or give to employees to take home," adds Guempel. "It was amazing."
Also amazing is the level of versatility exhibited by Chef Guempel. "It is always interesting to have the gardener walk in the kitchen with a basket of green beans or radishes or cucumbers or massive quantities of some other vegetable that is suddenly ready," he says. "That does tax one's creativity and spontaneity."
Guempel notes that he always tries to think ahead about what's coming from the garden. "You hope some vegetables will come in simultaneously so you can use them in unison," he says, "but you are always at the mercy of Mother Nature."
Café Osage is open for breakfast, lunch and afternoon tea. For details, see www.bowoodfarms.com and click on Café Osage.
Fast food may always have an audience, but the Slow Food movement, founded in 1989, continues to gain ground. Some 200 chapters in this country alone - including one in St. Louis - promote consumption of fresh, local, and sustainably produced food. Local chefs are among those embracing the cause.
"Our customers understand and appreciate the freshness of locally grown food. There is just nothing else like it," says Lou Rook III, chef at Annie Gunn's Restaurant, 16806 Chesterfield Airport Road in Chesterfield.
On his menu, Rook lists the farmers who supply the restaurant with fresh ingredients. As early as mid-March, Rook was cooking with fresh spinach and mustard greens, and he used locally grown pecans and maple syrup from a farm in Illinois to embellish a fish dish. "Fresh flavors are so pure," he says.
Rook has been dealing with local farmers since March of 1994. "Back then, it was harder to get delivery, but over the years, things have blossomed. The number of small farms all across the country has been growing about 10 percent per year," says Rook. He attributes that to the growth of farmers' markets and also to the Slow Food movement. (See www.slowfoodstl.org/)
"It's how to eat," says Rook, "and it's definitely the direction everybody wants to go."
Clara Anne Louise Moore, the chef and general manager of Local Harvest Café & Catering, agrees. Moore feeds customers at her neighborhood café at 3137 Morganford Road with locally grown and produced foods as much as possible.
"I've been making lots of orange soups lately with seasonal ingredients - squash soup, sweet potato soup and pumpkin soup," says Moore, laughing. She adds that she spreads Ah! Zeefa lentil dip, which is produced in St. Louis, on her popular Mediterranean vegetarian sandwich. (You can buy the dip across the street, at Local Harvest Grocery.) Moore also serves sandwiches made with chicken and brisket that are smoked in-house.
"And at brunch on Saturday and Sunday, we offer smoked salmon on a bagel," says Moore. "Of course, the salmon is not caught here, but a local man goes up north during salmon season and fishes his heart out."
Moore notes that eating locally grown and produced foods is important on many levels. "It keeps the money within our community, and with fewer middlemen it gives money back to the community more quickly. Nutritionally, there is nothing better for your body than eating food grown in season, in your climate," she says. "Besides, fresh food tastes better."
Moore teaches cooking classes, holds a "farmers' dinner" every month and also offers a "yoga for foodies" class, which includes a meal after the yoga session. For details, see www.localharvestcafe.com.
Anthony Devoti is another chef who embraces the philosophy of eating locally. His Five Bistro, at 5100 Daggett on The Hill, specializes in bringing in meat, poultry, eggs and produce from farmers within 150 miles of the metropolitan area.
"This is the way people in Europe eat, and this is the way grandma and grandpa used to cook," says Devoti. "Fresh food is better food - you can taste it. Besides, it's nice looking a farmer in the eye, knowing they are raising beautiful products. Then, it's personal."
Devoti looks forward to fresh asparagus this month, along with several types of lettuces. "In May, we should have some locally grown cherry tomatoes," he says. "Each year, it starts slow - and then when summer hits, it's madness."
How much madness? Every year, Devoti buys 900 pounds of potatoes and 300 pounds of beets, which he stores in a cellar for use all year ‘round. He notes that everything at Five Bistro and also at his Newstead Tower Public House at 4353 Manchester Road is from local vendors with the exception of olive oil, cheese and butter. Bread is baked in-house.
Devoti says his customers know his support for the Slow Food movement. "We preached it when we started and we still follow it," he says. "I think that's why people seek us out."
In 2006, before Devoti opened the first incarnation of Five Bistro, he attended a wine and beer tasting with Andy Ayers, who was then owner of Riddles Penultimate Café at 6307 Delmar Boulevard in The Loop neighborhood. (Ayers' daughter now owns the restaurant, which still specializes in locally produced foods.) Ayers told Devoti to go to local farmers' markets and talk to farmers about what he needed for the restaurant.
Today, Ayers serves as a liaison between farmers and chefs. Two years ago, Ayers started Eat Here St. Louis. His slogan is "Good Politics & Good Eatin', too." Strengthening the local agricultural economy is his goal. "I can add value to both halves of the equation - help chefs and help growers at the same time," says Ayers.
Some of the restaurants in the metropolitan area emphasizing locally grown and produced food: Acero in Maplewood, BC's Kitchen in Lake St. Louis, Brasserie by Niche in the Central West End, Cardwell's at the Plaza at Plaza Frontenac, the Crossing in Clayton, the Delmar Restaurant in University City, the Dubliner downtown, Liluma in the Central West End, Niche in Benton Park, and the Terrace View downtown.
With a change in the weather and a change in the season, change also comes to local restaurants as chefs freshen up menus for fall dining. Plenty of local eateries now feature locally grown and produced food, and St. Louis is fortunate that about 60 percent of restaurants in the metropolitan area are independently owned.
In addition to enjoying hearty soups, root vegetables and meaty entrees in town this time of year, if you drive just a bit, you can feast on the brilliant fall colors on the way to lunch or dinner. Here are notes about what's on the menu at seven local restaurants and also three suggestions for dining a little farther from home.
A word to the wise: Always call ahead to check on a restaurant's hours and whether you need a reservation.
Close to Home
"We change our menu with the seasons and availability of local produce," says Adam Karl Gnau, the chef at Acero. Gnau's fall menu features a different seasonal soup every day, ragu on polenta and grass-fed flank steak served with spinach, roasted garlic and lemon. 7266 Manchester Road in Maplewood.
Visit www.fialafood.com or call 314-644-1790.
At Cardwell's at the Plaza, general manager Toni Collins is excited about the autumn pear salad. She also recommends the fall soup made with squash, sweet potato and apple. "Mike Farrell, our executive chef, makes changes on our menu every day, according to what's in season," says Collins. 97 Plaza Frontenac in Frontenac.
Visit www.cardwellsattheplaza.com or call 314-997-8885.
New "Autumn Leaves Lunch Specials" are now available at Duff's Restaurant from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. Diners may choose from chicken and dumplings, whole wheat pasta with vegetables or a bravo burger, which sports green chili mayo. General manager Brendan Kirby reports that fall dinner specials are also available. 392 N. Euclid Avenue in the Central West End.
Visit www.dineatduffs.com or call 314-361-0522.
Nick Miller, the chef at Harvest, offers hearty dishes this time of year, including soup made with lamb sausage and Israeli couscous, a vegetarian multigrain risotto and a grilled Angus hanger steak served with a horseradish and Yukon potato gratin and creamed spinach. You can also warm up with a Kaldi's espresso martini. 1059 S. Big Bend Boulevard. in Richmond Heights.
Visit www.harveststlouis.com or call 314-645-3522.
Soups figure prominently on the fall menu at Herky Js Café at the Jewish Community Center. "We're doing leek and potato soup, pumpkin bisque, squash potato soup, lentil mushroom, carrot ginger soup and a fall vegetable soup," says Charles Detmering, the chef. "We also are offering some special pasta dishes for fall." Staenberg Family Complex, 2 Millstone Drive in Creve Coeur.
Visit www.jccstl.com or call 314-432-5700.
"Right now, I'm concentrating on potato pancakes," says Tom Coghill, the chef at Iron Barley. "As the month goes on, I'll see what's available." Coghill's menu also features barley paella and schnitzel served with spaetzle. 5510 Virginia Avenue in south St. Louis.
Visit www.ironbarley.com or call 314-351-4500.
Roasted eggplant soup and avgolomeno (chicken broth with orzo and lemon) take the chill off a blustery day at Momos Ouzaria Taverna, where other fall favorites include the lamb gyro, lemon-oregano roasted potatoes and meatballs served in a compote of rosemary, orange, tomato and peppers. 630 North and South Road in University City.
Visit www.saucecafe.com/momos or call 314-863-3511.
Worth the Drive
American Bounty, just across the street from the Missouri River, serves hearth-baked pizzas and sandwiches in the wine bar, with more formal dining available downstairs. Chef Brian Manhardt is now offering baked onion soup with cracked pepper, tomato bisque with pesto, penne jambalaya and beef tenderloin medallions with a port wine reduction. 430 Front Street in Washington.
Call 636-390-2150 or visit www. bountyrestaurantandwinebar.com.
Another stunning view of the Missouri can be found at Les Bourgeois Vineyards, where the Blufftop Bistro is known for its gorgonzola cheesecake with polenta crust and housemade pesto. Other fall favorites include corn chowder, sautéed trout, pappardelle pasta and an artisanal cheese plate. 14020 W. Highway BB in Rocheport.
Visit www.missouriwine.com or call call 573-698-2133.
If you are a fan of the pizza at Balducci's Winefest in Maryland Heights, you can enjoy the same hearty pies - and see some fall foliage along the way - at Louis P. Balducci Vineyard and Winery. The menu also includes appetizers, salads, a couple of sandwiches and several dinner entrees. 6601 Highway 94 in Augusta.
Visit www.balduccivineyards.com or call 636-482-8466.
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