St. Louis’ Ultimate Farm-To-Table Restaurant
Central West End-based eatery Cafe Osage in St. Louis sources much of its produce from its own garden, the neighboring Bowood Farms—and believe us, you can taste the difference. The venue’s vegetable-forward dishes allows the earth-grown ingredients to be the stars of the show, like the sweet potato, rutabaga and tomato you’ll find in the delightful garden sandwich and the green vegetables in the smoked turkey-salad sandwich.
You’ll also find Bowood’s cauliflower and greens in the cauliflower Benedict (pictured above) and the garden salad with salmon, made with mixed greens, radish, turnip, dill, parsley, mint, chives, carrot and onion, all grown at Bowood. Classic breakfast comfort food and a non-stop flow of morning coffee also warms diners’ hearts, like the sourdough pancakes with cherry compote and maple syrup.
The cafe’s chef, Scott Davis—who has worked with the local Three Flags Tavern and Rise Coffee House—worked closely with Bowood Farms head grower David Rickard, who has been experimenting with growing produce for more than a decade. Through a unique process of collaboration, these culinary aficionados work together to create the many beloved seasonal menu items you’ll find on the Cafe Osage menu.
Davis and Rickard begin planning the menu for upcoming seasons well in advance, identifying new trends and vegetables they’d like to try, developing dishes around the best seasonal produce. Rickard makes use of their hoop house throughout the cooler months so they can grow produce that complements the traditional winter crops, like root vegetables, kale, chard and collard greens. When warmer months come around the garden expands to the adjacent property, keeping Rickard busy harvesting an abundance of summer crops.
They plan out a mix of new vegetables they’d like to try out, as well as the classic, tried-and-true tomatoes, eggplant, greens and herbs, always thinking at least one season ahead. “We always like to grow something different to keep it interesting—it gets boring growing the same old tomatoes every year,” says Rickard, while Davis confirms it is the produce that drives the menu, and not the other way around.
“Chefs like to enhance the skill of growers,” says Davis. “It’s a vital step for what we do when cooking. The higher your quality of ingredients, the higher your quality of finished product. At the restaurant, we get to go one extra step, where we actually take part in the growing.”
Davis gathers inspiration for new dishes from the garden, often journeying across the street from Cafe Osage to Bowood to see what’s growing, constantly trying to evolve the menu to keep up with what Rickard plans. Davis has been working in kitchens throughout the majority of his life, and for him, food always was associated with time spent with family while growing up.
Rickard began gardening as a child with his grandparents in Michigan, and has now been a professional grower for 11 years. “It’s like a giant science project,” he says. “I’m self-taught, and I read a lot of books.” Cafe Osage fans can actually tour Bowood Farms to see Rickard’s creations, and then taste how Davis utilizes them on the menu.
“We’re not a vegetarian restaurant, but the menu is definitely driven by the vegetables we grow. That’s really unique for St. Louis: a vegetable-driven brunch restaurant,” says Davis.
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All images courtesy of Cafe Osage/Bowood Farms.