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Feb 19, 2018
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SERVING SAINT LOUIS SINCE 1999
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Archive for February, 2018

6 STL-area chefs, restaurants earn James Beard nominations

Thursday, February 15th, 2018

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{ Vicia }

 

It’s that time of year again. The James Beard Foundation announced its list of semifinalists for its annual awards recognizing chefs and restaurants today, Feb. 15, and once again, St. Louis’ food scene was well represented with six nominations, including some first-timers.

Vicia was nominated for Best New Restaurant. “It’s a huge honor. It was something we hoped to achieve,” said co-owner Tara Gallina. “When we opened – you know, you always set goals for yourself – this was certainly a high goal, so nothing we would be heartbroken if we didn’t get. But we’ve been really pushing ourselves and our team.”

This is the latest in a slew of local and national honors for the Central West End restaurant, which opened in March 2017. Gallina said she’s aware of what this recognition can do for Vicia’s business, since James Beard nominations are something people look at for ideas while traveling.

“I’m the same way when I go to a new city,” she said. “It’s wonderful to be able to attract people from all over. These types of things are amazing for your business … and will also help attract amazing talent.”

Longtime St. Louis fine-dining standby Tony’s made the semifinalist list for Outstanding Service.

 

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{ Privado chef-owner Mike Randolph }

 

The foundation also singled out four area nominees for Best Chef: Midwest: Elaia executive chef Ben Grupe, Sardella executive chef Ashley Shelton, Privado chef-owner Mike Randolph and Lona’s Lil’ Eats chef-owner Lona Luo. This is the first such nomination for Grupe, Luo and Shelton and No. 3 for Randolph.

“It’s a great and humbling experience,” said Randolph, who was a semifinalist in 2016 and 2017. “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t weird to see Privado on there instead of Público, because we’ve done such good work there. But Privado has been a really special project for me. You never know who’s going to be sitting at the table.” He added that it’s satisfying to see the unique weekend-only concept recognized. “It definitely puts a pep in our step.”

 

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{ at left, Lona Lil’ Eats chef owner Lona Luo } 

 

Luo said she found out about the honor when people starting congratulating her this morning.  The fast-casual Fox Park eatery specializes in fare from Xishuangbanna in China’s Yunnan province, where Luo grew up. She prides herself on making every sauce and marinade from scratch without MSG or preservatives. “If people are happy, their body is happy and it’s making me happy” she said.

Luo credits her front of house and kitchen staff, particularly chef Jason Hummel, with the success of her restaurant. “My team is absolutely awesome,” she said. “I really love them. Without them I cannot make that happen. … They are my right hands and my left hands.”

 

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{ Sardella executive chef Ashley Shelton }

 

This is the second time the James Beard Foundation recognized Shelton; in 2017, she was a semifinalist for Rising Star Chef of the Year, which recognizes promising chefs younger than 30. Shelton, who was a 2016 One to Watch, said the nomination validated her growth in the kitchen. “I’m actually doing good at this,” she said. “It’s not just about being young anymore – it’s about being a talented chef.”

Shelton credited her Sardella team for helping her reach this point. “It’s awesome. I think it’s going to be a huge lift for everybody at Sardella,” she said. “It’s going to fuel them and push us to keep working even harder than we already are.”

Sardella owner Gerard Craft said Shelton earned the honor. “We’re super excited for her, and this is very well deserved,” he said. “She works her tail off everyday, and this is the result.”

 

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{ Elaia executive chef Ben Grupe }

 

Grupe said he appreciated the recognition of his team’s hard work. “It’s a great honor. It’s referred to as the Oscars of the culinary world, so just being nominated is a great achievement,” he said. “We’ll see where we fall when they make the next announcement in March.”

Elaia owner Ben Poremba said the honor further proves that Grupe is doing something special at the Botanical Heights fine dining restaurant.

“It wasn’t easy for me to leave my position and trust my restaurant to someone,” said Poremba, himself a three-time James Beard Best Chef: Midwest nominee. “But Ben came in and took it to new heights. I’m proud of him, proud of his work and proud of our restaurant group. It takes a lot of work, focus and resilience.”

Tony’s and Luo didn’t immediately return requests for comment.

The finalists for each category will be announced at 8:30 a.m. March 14, and the annual James Beard Awards will take place May 7 in Chicago.

Editor’s note: This article was updated at 11:20 a.m. Feb. 15 to include comments from Ben Grupe. it was updated again at 1:40 p.m. to include comments from Lona Luo. 

 

Ashley Shelton photo by Carmen Troesser, Ben Grupe photo courtesy of Grupe, Lona Luo photo by Elizabeth Maxson, Mike Randolph photo by Greg Rannells, Vicia photo by Michelle Volansky

Heather Hughes, Catherine Klene and Matt Sorrell contributed to this report. 

Related Content
• Sidney Street Cafe’s Kevin Nashan wins James Beard Award

• St. Louis food community reacts to James Beard wins

• James Beard Foundation names Kevin Nashan, Kevin Willmann Best Chef: Midwest finalists

Recipe: Steak with Compound Butter Pan Sauce

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

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When our non-carnivorous daughter comes home from college, it evens the household omnivore-to-vegetarian ratio to 2-to-2. There’s a lot more plant-based “steak” on our table during school breaks, but sometimes you just need to dig into a nice steak with compound butter. Combine it with white wine and Dijon mustard for a great – and absurdly easy – French-inspired pan sauce.

 

Strip Steaks with Compound Butter Pan Sauce
2 to 3 servings

2 1½-inch thick strip steaks
2 to 4 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 Tbsp. room-temperature butter
1 Tbsp. minced shallot
1 tsp. herbes de Provence
1 Tbsp. canola or grapeseed oil
1 cup dry white wine or broth
2 Tbsp. Dijon mustard

• Liberally season each steak with salt and pepper and let rest at room temperature 30 minutes.
• Meanwhile make the compound butter by combining the butter, shallot and herbes de Provence in a small bowl. Set aside.
• Preheat a heavy stainless steel or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add the oil and sear the steaks 3 to 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Remove to a plate and let rest.
• Remove the skillet from the heat and add the white wine to deglaze, then return the pan to the stove over medium-low heat. Scrape up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet, then add the mustard and compound butter, whisking constantly.
• Return the steaks and any juices back to the skillet. Turn the steaks to coat them in the pan sauce. Plate the steaks and spoon more sauce over the top.

Photo: Stock 

Dee Ryan is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine who regularly pens Just Five. 

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Budget Crunch: 8 delicious deals for (almost) $10 or less

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018

Got $10 and a friend? Then contributor Kevin Korinek has 8 tasty deals you must have now.

 

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1. Out-of-this-world Southtown barbecue joint The Stellar Hog has a new dessert on the menu that should become a staple – $7 S’mores Bread Pudding. Sugar, milk, eggs and custard soak into stale bread all day before its topped with graham cracker crumble and house-made marshmallow fluff. It has luxurious, campfire flavor and is seriously crave-worthy.

2. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop will make it rain tacos on its three-year anniversary, Monday Feb. 19. Dine in at the Maryland Heights location and get $1 tacos all day. The deal excludes options like the shrimp, Cali Heat and fajita tacos, but there are so many more to try, like shredded brisket, fish tempura, grilled veggie and more. Take your pick and chow down.

 

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3. This Valentine’s Day deal at Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream is slightly above our normal limit, so make sure your special someone can chip in. Get a $15 ice-cream bouquet of chocolate for two today, Feb, 14. The bouquet includes two waffle cones topped with three scoops: Darkest Chocolate, cookies and cream and dark chocolate truffle. Wash it down with two bottles of Boylan’s Classic Seltzer. Nothing says I love you like six scoops of ice cream.

4. Another call for tacos – this time at Southtown Pub in Tower Grove South, an upscale, neighborhood dive, perfect for fans of hockey and barbecue. Every Tuesday, enjoy $2 off craft margaritas and $3 tacos. My favorite is the tender beef brisket topped with pico de gallo and sour cream. It might still be too cold for patio seating and the free washer pit, but there are plenty of seats and TVs at the bar to catch a Blues game.

 

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5. 4 Hands Brewing Co. and The Sweet Divine might have the most budget-friendly Valentine’s Day deal in town. Today, Feb. 14., enjoy three 5-ounce pours paired with three mini cupcakes for $10. Try the Cherry Chocolate Milk Stout with a Cherry Chocolate Milk stout cupcake, the Strawberry Chocolate Milk Stout with a chocolate-covered strawberry cupcake and Pineapple City Wide with a pineapple upside-down cupcake. Pineapple City Wide? Sign me up.

6. Urban Chestnut Brewing Co. is celebrating three breweries, seven years of craft beer and you. February is Customer Appreciation Month at all three UCBC locations, and the entire month is filled with Instagram contests, discounted drafts and cool, collectible glassware. For you Budget Crunchers, enjoy $5 pretzel plates served with Obatzda cheese, Bavarian mustard and whipped butter.

 

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7. If you haven’t tried it yet, it’s a good time to stop by the Pig & Pickle in Debaliviere Place. The southern-style restaurant serves small plates big on flavor, and now it’s updated the happy hour menu for spring. In addition to half-priced draft beer and $4 glasses of Scarpetta Frico Rosso from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, snack on $8 pretzel-covered cheese curds or $10 chicken wings tossed with soy-based sauce and chili honey.

8. Not enough money to travel? Broaden your palate at The Palm Trees Restaurant on Cherokee Street, which features authentic Saudi and Middle Eastern food. This month, get any lunch sandwich with a side salad for $7. I dig the shish tawook with grilled chicken breast marinated in garlic and lemon juice, or go for the Special Falafel sandwich stuffed with fried eggplant, mashed potato and tossed with tahini.

Photos courtesy of The Stellar Hog, Pig & Pickle, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams and 4 Hands Brewing Co.

Kevin Korinek is a freelance writer and photographer with a passion for making homemade pie.

Related Content
Budget Crunch: 8 delicious deals for $10 or less

First Look: Pig & Pickle in DeBaliviere

The Stellar Hog to trot into South City

 

 

 

Vernon’s BBQ closes for good in U. City

Monday, February 12th, 2018

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Vernon’s BBQ & Catering at 6707 Vernon Ave., in University City, has closed for business. The barbecue joint, which opened in 2012, had its last day of service Tuesday, Feb. 6.

“Basically, our lease came to term, and we decided not to renew,” said co-owner Matt Stiffelman said. “We just didn’t like the terms.”

Vernon’s was known for its traditional barbecue offerings and more unconventional items like smoked tofu and a barbecue slinger, which was featured on Food Network’s “Eat, Sleep, BBQ” last year.

Stiffelman said he and co-owner Tim Zolman have no immediate plans to reopen the restaurant, but they are weighing their options. “We want to sit back and think it through,” he said.

Photo courtesy of Vernon’s 

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

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Recipe: Strawberry-Filled Hostess Cupcakes

Monday, February 12th, 2018

 

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Hostess CupCakes are a source of nostalgia for many, and I’m sure purists won’t appreciate my messing with a classic. Still, I’ve always wondered what I could do with different flavors of filling, so I infused the sugary marshmallow with pulverized Trader Joe’s freeze-dried strawberries. These are extremely potent – the flavor is just as strong as fresh strawberries. I also added a tiny drop of lavender extract to give the filling a rounded floral note, but it’s not necessary if you don’t have lavender at hand.

These moist, super soft cupcakes contain a gooey, sticky filling that smells and tastes like fresh strawberries, all topped with a thick, fudgy chocolate ganache. It’s a pleasant twist on a classic, minus all the preservatives and transfats. Happy Valentine’s Day – and happy baking!

 

Strawberry-Filled Chocolate Cupcakes
Adapted from recipes from Cook’s Illustrated and My Baking Addiction
24 cupcakes

1½ cup hot coffee
6 oz. bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
⅔ cup cocoa powder
¾ cup canola or vegetable oil
4 eggs
4 tsp. distilled white vinegar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1½ cups bread flour
2 cups sugar, divided
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. plus a pinch of kosher salt, divided
¼ cup light corn syrup
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp. water
¼ tsp. lavender extract (optional)
1 1.2-ounce bag Trader Joe’s freeze-dried strawberries, pulverized to a powder
½ cup heavy whipping cream
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
2 Tbsp. butter

• Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 12-cup muffin tins with cupcake liners.
• In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the coffee, bittersweet chocolate and cocoa powder until the chocolate melts completely. Refrigerate or let rest until it comes to room temperature.
• Whisk in the oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla, then use a spatula to fold in the flour, 1½ cups sugar, baking soda and 1 teaspoon salt.
• Evenly divide the batter between the cupcake liners. Bake about 17 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center of a cupcake comes out clean. Let cool completely.
• Use a knife or a cupcake corer to make ½-inch wide-wells in the top of each cupcake, being careful not to go through the bottom. Reserve the removed pieces of cake. Set aside.
• In a saucepan over medium heat, bring a few inches of water to a simmer. Place the remaining ½ cup sugar, corn syrup, egg whites, water, the remaining pinch of salt and lavender, if using, in a small stainless-steel bowl, then place the bowl over the saucepan to create a double boiler. Use a spatula to mix the ingredients constantly until it reaches 175 degrees, about 8 minutes. Remove from heat.
• Use an electric beater on high speed to whip the mixture until it becomes soft and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add the strawberry powder and beat again until combined.
• Reserve 2 tablespoons of the marshmallow filling to decorate the cupcakes. Use a spoon to fill the holes in each cupcake with around 1 tablespoon filling, but don’t fill completely. Cover each hole with the reserved pieces of cake. The marshmallow should be completely encased inside the cupcake. Set aside.
• In a small saucepan over medium to low heat, warm the cream until it reaches a simmer. Remove from heat and stir in the semisweet chocolate and the butter until just submerged. Let rest 2 minutes, then whisk gently until the chocolate melts. Let cool until it’s warm to the touch.
• Use a spoon to spread about 2 tablespoons on top of each cupcake. Let rest 30 minutes to cool and firm up.
• Place the remaining 2 tablespoons marshmallow filling in a small zip-top bag. Snip 1 corner and use to pipe loops or other designs on the cupcakes.

Photo by Amrita Song 

Amrita Song is a longtime contributor to Sauce Magazine who blogs at A Song in Motion

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Extra Sauce: In case you missed it…

Sunday, February 11th, 2018

From a first look at at St. Louis’ first cidery to the opening of the new DelPietro’s, here’s what went down last week in the STL, ICYMI.

 

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1. Brick River Cider Co., the first cider works in the St. Louis area, is set to open on Fri., Feb. 16, at 2000 Washington Ave. downtown.

 

 

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2. Del Pietro’s, the latest from restaurateur Michael Del Pietro, opened on Wed., Jan. 31, at 1059 S. Big Bend Blvd., in Richmond Heights.

 

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3. Urban Harvest STL and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation have partnered to develop a new rooftop garden atop the KAF’s newest venue, the .ZACK building at 3224 Locust St., in Midtown.

 

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4. When it’s spitting ice outside or you just don’t want to talk to another human being, these 9 apps let you order your favorite warm (or cold) dishes at the tap of a button.

Don’t miss out! Follow Sauce on Facebook and Twitter for the latest Scoops in the St. Louis restaurant scene.

 

4 must-try beer and chocolate pairings

Friday, February 9th, 2018

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I’m not one for hallmark holidays, but I am one for beer with chocolate. Table for two? No, thanks. I’ll take my couch for two (three, if you count the dog), Netflix and a properly coursed beer and chocolate pairing.
1. With intense roasted malt notes driving lovely aromatics and flavors of baker’s chocolate, coffee and licorice, The Civil Life Export Stout is one of the dreamiest beers to come out of its brewhouse. Try Kakao Chocolate milk chocolate-covered sea salt caramels to enhance the sweetness the 7-percent ABV promotes. Though this treat is rich, it perfectly cuts through the assertive malt bill.
Growler fills only, The Civil Life Brewing Co., thecivillife.com

2. VB Chocolate’s Bean-to-Bar Special Release – with 75-percent Madagascar dark chocolate and Coma Coffee beans from Nyeri, Kenya – is decadent. Pair it with something super acidic and bright, like Bruery Terreux Goses Are Red. Brewed with salt and coriander, this effervescent, 5.3-percent wheat beer sits on grapes for an added layer of fruity undertones that complement blueberry notes in the chocolate and coffee.
750-milliliter bottle: $8. Fields Foods, fieldsfoods.com

3. Chocolate-covered pretzels from Chocolate Chocolate Chocolate play nicely with the simple, clean, 5.5-percent Sierra Nevada Experimental Hop Pilsner (part of the experimental hop 12-pack). The beautiful floral nose has just a hint of fruitiness and cereal, and grain, honey and citrus embrace the palate. The pretzel’s salty crispness provides a highly satisfying duo.
12-pack: $21.25. Craft Beer Cellar, clayton.craftbeercellar.com

4. Raspberry on the nose gives way to bready, malty goodness in 5.7-percent Santa Fe Lustgarten. Toasted malt, chocolate undertones and soft, yeast-driven fruit notes embody this dark lager base. This beer finishes on the drier side with a lovely lingering berry note. Try it with the chocolate-covered marshmallows from Russell’s on Macklind. Better yet, head to The Monocle on Valentine’s Day for a pairing of this beer and a mallow covered with almonds and a raspberry-mint chutney.
Six-pack: $9. Friar Tuck, friartuck.com

Stock photo

Katie Herrera is a longtime Sauce contributor and account manager at Craft Republic. 

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First Look: Brick River Cider in downtown St. Louis

Friday, February 9th, 2018

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Brick River Cider Co., the first cider works in the St. Louis area, is set to open on Friday, Feb. 16, at 2000 Washington Ave. downtown.

As The Scoop reported in April, owner Russ John renovated a former firehouse downtown to launch the cidery. The facility currently produces four ciders in its six 60-barrel fermenters: Cornerstone, Firehouse Rosé, Homestead and Brewer’s Choice. Ciders are available onsite, and head cider maker Evan Hiatt said that the company will soon be self-distributing to select local retailers.

Brick River also has a full compliment of food to pair with its cider. The cuisine is a collaboration between executive chef Carlos Hernandez and consulting chef Christopher Lee. Described as “classic country cooking from England and France,” the menu features sharable plates and flatbreads, salads and soups, sandwiches and entrees like house trout and pork Normandy.

In addition to cider, the bar pours a trio of cocktails made with Brick River offerings: the Irish Winter Cider made with Cornerstone cider, Jameson Irish whisky and lemon; the Firehouse Martini with Firehouse Rosé cider, Big O ginger liqueur and Absolut vodka; and the White Cider Sangria with Cornerstone, pinot grigio, brandy and fruit.

The building dates back to 1892 and still retains many of the interior appointments from years past, including a functional overhead door on the first floor and some of the original wall tiles. The first floor seats 50 with a few flat-screens above the bar and in the dining room are available for those who want to keep track of the score. The second floor dining room, originally the firemen’s bunk area, now seats almost 120 and features a soaring ceiling and large windows overlooking Washington Avenue.

Brick River Cider Co. will be open Tuesday through Thursday from 5 to 11 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Here’s a first look at St. Louis’ first cider works:

 

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Photos by Michelle Volansky 

Matt Sorrell is staff writer at Sauce Magazine. 

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9 Mardi Gras recipes perfect for partying all weekend

Thursday, February 8th, 2018

We all love Mardi Gras, from the beads to the booze to the food. This year, get a little closer to New Orleans with nine recipes inspired by the city’s rich culinary traditions. With food this good, it’s easy to let the good times roll.

 

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1. Recipe: Josh Galliano’s Crawfish Bread

2. Recipe: Crawfish Lasagna

3. Recipe: Everything-in-the-Crisper Jambalaya

 

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4. Recipe: Cajun Pasta

5. Recipe: Shrimp and Grits

6. Recipe: Chicken and Andouille Gumbo

 

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7. Recipe: Beignets

8. Recipe: Sazerac 

9. Recipe: Hurricane

 

Crawfish bread photo by Ashley Gieseking; pasta photo by Greg Rannells; beignet photo by Amrita Song

Claire Ma is an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine. 

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Urban Harvest STL announces plans for third rooftop garden

Tuesday, February 6th, 2018

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Urban Harvest STL and the Kranzberg Arts Foundation have partnered to develop a new rooftop garden atop the KAF’s newest venue, the .ZACK building at 3224 Locust St., in Midtown. Urban Harvest executive director Mary Ostafi said construction will begin March 24 and the first seeds planted by mid-April.

Ostafi said the collaboration furthers Urban Harvest’s mission to distribute fresh produce throughout food-insecure neighborhoods and the KAF’s long-term plan to increase the sustainability of their arts programs. “The opportunity just came to us,” she said. “Once we saw what they were doing and learned about their mission, we started this great collaboration.”

Ostafi said the Grand Center location of the .ZACK building is useful for Urban Harvest because of its close proximity to its other farms and the neighborhoods they serve. From this site, Ostafi plans to engage with local schools and community members to expand awareness about urban agriculture, food insecurity and food justice. 

The .ZACK building will be Urban Harvest’s third rooftop garden, but despite years of practice, Ostafi said they are still learning: this new rooftop garden will employ a modular system of growing crates that maximizes the farm’s water efficiency. “We like to try new methods,” she said. “It’s a great opportunity to create living laboratories for urban agriculture across the city.”

Even after the completion of the rooftop garden at .ZACK, Ostafi said that Urban Harvest has no plans to slow down. “We envision continuing to expand a network of urban farms in St. Louis,” she said. “The more farms, the better.”

Photo courtesy of Urban Harvest STL 

Laura Kern is an editorial intern at Sauce Magazine. 

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