Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Meet Me In St. Louis

Last weekend, four parents packed two 7 year olds and skedaddled to ol’ St. Louis. Road trips to me usually mean junk food, cramped legs, and a bit of car sickness. I decided that I would do my best to revamp this road trip regime with some preplanning. I stocked the car with homemade vegan goodies, snacks from whole foods, and of course some treats to tame the two trouble makers in the backseat (also known as my son Mitch and his best friend Ben). The menu? Vegan almond chews, roasted chickpeas, WF wild rice sticks, WF low fat cherry granola, Chocolate and peanut butter almonds (husband), and cut fruit. For the kiddos I packed fruit, goldfish, pretzels, and cookies! I needed some bribing materials. The night before we left I made my homemade goodies to gobble as the miles past. One of the other parents is vegan/vegetarian as well so I knew he would appreciate the snacks too!

Six hours later the six of us arrived in St. Louis. A bit delirious and stir crazy we headed off to our daily destinations. Courtney, Ben’s mother, planned our children’s agenda and I planned the restaurants. But I bet you already guessed that I would be designated for that position though right?

Toasted Ravioli (not GF), House Chianti (GF!)
The first night I decided that we had to hit the Italian district aptly named “The Hill”. We couldn’t possibly visit St. Louis and not have our boys try the famous toasted ravioli! I was recommended Rigazzi’s Restaurant from my co-worker Nick, whose father actually lived in the upstairs part of the restaurant before they sold it to two Italian families. I had to find a restaurant that was a) kid friendly, b) casual (all day at city museum would make for a sweaty, and stinky bunch), and c) offered some vegetarian and gluten free options. Rigaizzi’s hit d) all of the above. Oh and their toasted ravioli apparently was pretty addicting as two orders disappeared quickly amoung the motley crew!

As far as gluten free dining is concerned, I would warn you to practice caution as I would any Italian restaurant. I must say they were very accommodating and helpful so I am sure you will have a pleasant and safe experience. If you want specific recommendations you can email me! Their red sauce is amazing and could probably make me eat a flip flop if it was covered in it. My favorite bite there? Ben’s father, Jonathan, ordered the Ziti Pasta Pomodoro and I couldn’t get enough of those garlic coated vegetables! When you head for the hills Hill, head to Rigazzi's!

Rigazzi's Restaurant
4945 Daggett Ave
St. Louis, MO 63110
Fax: 314.772.4902

Saturday morning was my dining jackpot. I wanted to find a local restaurant away from the hustle and bustle of normal tourist foot traffic. My son and I are breakfast monsters, so I had to get this pick right. I dissected all sorts of websites and suggestions and finally stumbled upon Local Harvest Café, a gem in the university district that still has me drooling as I write.

Local Harvest Cafe is a pro-sustainable farming and green restaurant that serves fresh, flavorful, vegan and non-vegan dishes. I knew if their food tasted half as good as it sounded from their online menu we would be in foodie heaven.

About 15 minutes after leaving Union Station hotel where our heads hit the pillow at night, we pulled up to the restaurant. Nestled in a quaint building planked by a sidewalk rooted with age old trees, the café looked peaceful and very inviting. We walked into heavy wafts of sweet maple sugar and baked bread. Ben looked me and said, “this place makes me hungry!”. Music to my ears.

Vegan Chorizo Pot Pie
We sat down at a table with chairs on one side and the other a church-like pew.It almost was hilarious given the glutinous acts we were about to partake in. The waitress brought us coffee with cream (soy milk for Jonathan and I) and we picked up our menus. Of course, I already knew what I would be ordering (you know me with menus). Vegan Chorizo Pot Pie. I couldn’t eat the little pie cup but I could dive into the vegan chorizo and juicy local blackberries and peaches. The chorizo had quite the bite and even made ME sweat a little! It was bursting with complex, layered flavors of spices, meaty textures, onions, and sweet potatoes.

Vegan Stuffed French Toast
Jonathan had another great menu pick with the Vegan Stuffed French Toast, stuffed with vegan cream cheese, local blackberries and peaches…need I elaborate more? They do say a picture says a thousand words and I have many! I’ll say this though, there wasn’t crumb left!

My husband and Ben’s mother Courtney were still stuffed to the brim with Friday’s toasted raviolis so they both ordered parfaits which looked absolutely parfait to me! The boys had huge helpings of eggs, bacon and toast.

The meal was amazing. But what is even more amazing is what they also do for our planet! While they fill our tummies full of wholesome greens, they also have a green mission. How do they make a difference with the food and atmosphere they provide?

They reduce their impact on the environment by:

•Buying locally from small farmers and ranchers and food artisans who practice sustainable farming and production methods. This also reduces the amount of fossil fuels required to bring the food to the table.
•Buying organic ingredients that are free of pesticides and chemicals. They are better for the body and it reduces the amount of chemical run-off into our country's streams and waterways.
•Supporting fair-trade practices and small-scale coffee and tea farmers.
•Using biodegradable plastics and packaging whenever possible. Most of our packaging will completely biodegrade within a few years. Styrofoam and petroleum-based plastics will be around for generations.
•Recycling plastic, aluminum, paper, cardboard, tin, and glass. We reduce our waste by 50% daily through our recycling efforts.
•Installing bamboo flooring, water aerators, efficient HVAC systems, and low-e glass.
•Reducing, Reusing, and Recycling. We preach it, we practice it!

What a wonderful establishment! If I lived in St. Louis I would most definitely be a regular. If you do live in St. Louis, why are you still sitting here reading about this restaurant??

Plug in your GPS and head to:

Local Harvest Cafe & Catering

3137 Morgan Ford Road (Map)
St Louis, MO 63116
fax. 314.480.7119
email. contact@localharvestcafe.com

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