Farm-to-table fare doesnt get any more direct than this.
TO UNDERSTAND HOW SERIOUSLY Nathalie Pettus takes her restaurant’s ingredients, start with dessert. Specifically, the sorbets. The cherries come from Pettus’ orchard at Overlook Farm in Clarksville, MO; the peaches grew on a neighboring farm. The same goes for the rest of the menu. The lamb comes from the Overlook Farm, as does the tilapia. And the early spring vegetables thrive in its 26 hoop houses.
Implicit in every dish Nathalie’s has served since opening late last year in the Central West End is Pettus’ belief that food feeds the soul as well as the stomach. Whether it’s a grass-fed beef steak from Overlook or a trout from Rockbridge Trout Ranch, each ingredient is chosen with that belief in mind.
ON THE TABLE Heading up the kitchen at Nathalie’s is Executive Chef Jimmy Voss, formerly of Duff ‘s. Pettus says his warmth and dedication to understanding the provenance of everything on the menu make him “a perfect leader for the culinary team.” Even the breads, too often an afterthought, are either baked on-site—like the cornbread muffins and crispy, salt-strewn lavash—or brought in from local suppliers like Companion.
Vegetables are headliners here, even when proteins have top billing. The lamb chops, for example, come with kale in a triple-greens mix, along with steamed seasonal veggies like broccolini, crowned with a side of moussaka. Add in pomegranate seeds, and “it’s like Christmas on a plate,” Pettus says. A quiche with bleu cheese underneath a layer of delicate, creamy baked eggs balances the sweetness of pears atop a bed of greens with the savory-tart flavor of pickled cranberries. And the Rockbridge trout nestles into a plate of potato wedges in creamy mustard sauce with a tasty side of wilted greens.
FROM THE FARM Pettus’ passion for highquality sourcing isn’t limited to her great-greatgrandfather’s farm; she’s an equally strong advocate for ecosystems everywhere, from nearby ranches to far-flung coastal environments threatened by oil spills or nuclear accidents. But at Overlook, she controls the inputs. Over the past several years, her interest in permaculture, alternative fuels and innovative ways to use agricultural waste products like dried distillers’ grains, has convinced her that sustainable isn’t enough. “I don’t want things to stay the same,” she explains. “I want to make things better.”
While Pettus is big on family heritage—the artwork at Nathalie’s, for example, features her grandparents and their legacy—she’s also a pragmatic business owner. Her farm’s staff of more than 100 maintains the orchards, berry patches and gardens for utmost productivity so they can supply the St. Louis restaurant.
Pettus’ intimate knowledge of Overlook Farm gives her insights into the season’s planting decisions as well as the livestock breeds. The cows, for instance, are Hereford-Angus; the Red Wattle heritage hogs are known for lean meat that Voss cuts thick for the pretzel-crusted pork chops with sweet potato-cornbread stuffing.
Nathalie’s setting in a three-story, richly decorated mansion, previously home to wellregarded restaurants Savor and Salt, may seem a far cry from the fields of Clarksville. But think of it as a place to join in Pettus’ celebration of what’s right with agriculture—and toast it with a classic cocktail.
Photo credit: Jennifer Silverberg