Cafe Osage

Nestled within inner blocks of Central West End and built in a 1920 building, as a part of urban renewal of the City of St. Louis, is the garden center of Bowood Farms. The location may be unusual for a farm; but it is everything that any urban garden center can be. They grow everything, from perennials, to annuals, to shrubs, to trees, to seasonal vegetables and herbs. And inside this farm is Cafe Osage, owned and operated by Bowood Farms.

We had found out about Cafe Osage on the internet, while looking for breakfast places near us and thought of trying it for the next Sunday brunch. When we walked in, we were surprised by how a 1920’s deserted auto repair workshop can be transformed into a garden goods, and gifts shopping space. The shopping space leads into the cafe and we found that weekend mornings are very busy at Cafe Osage, and usually there is quite a bit of wait time before you are seated. We did not mind the wait, though, as it gave us plenty time to look around rest of the establishment. At the back of the cafe is their herbs and perennial garden. The plots surrounding the building are also part of the farm, and are used to grow vegetables. Most of the other plants they have on sale at the garden center, are grown at their Clarksville, MO farm though.

After a wait of about 20 minutes it was our turn to get a table in the cafe. The food menu is not very large, they have very limited and traditional breakfast items. We were a little disappointed to find that they lacked a decent amount of vegetarian options. We still were hopeful of liking the food considering their use of local and organic ingredients would compensate for their limited vegetarian options. My husband and I ordered cranberry pancake and vegetarian breakfast wrap to share.  With topping of ripe organic cranberries compote, the pancakes were delicious and had the goodness of fresh fruits! The breakfast wrap came with the side of rice and beans. As mentioned earlier, it seems while designing the menu, Cafe Osage hadn’t put much focus on the vegetarian customer base, and this again was confirmed when our order of the breakfast wrap arrived. It mostly had eggs and the only vegetable in it was onions - quite disappointing. We regretted not ordering the roasted vegetable sandwich instead from their lunch menu.

We liked the concept of an organic cafe using locally and in-house grown ingredients, however we were not impressed by the menu. For the non-vegetarians though, who are on a lookout for organic eateries, Cafe Osage seems very promising.

There are many reasons to love Forest Park and one of them is the annual Outdoor Film Series organized by the Saint Louis Art Museum. Every Friday in the month of July, after the sun has set, movies are screened on the Art Hill, right in front of the Grand Basin. And movies isn’t all. The evenings are packed with a variety of entertainment; for music lovers, live musical performances begin when the sun is still out; for food lovers, various food trucks line up the Art Drive. Above are a few shots from this year’s series.

One of the biggest perks of living in the city is there are always new food places coming up within walkable distance. The one that we most recently discovered is in the Clayton downtown and is called as Crushed Red.

Crushed Red describe themselves as fast-casual restaurant and urban bake and chop shop. Fast-casual because even though the dining experience is of a typical restaurant, yet the food ordering is quick and over the counter. They have a huge variety of chop-to-order salads, made-to-order pizzas, hearty soups and savory shareable. Wine and drinks ordering is over the counter too. They prepare food behind the counters, so you can see how your food is being made. We had ordered Urban Zest (shareable made of sun-dried tomatoes and fresh herbs and served with lavash), Mona Lisa Pizza, and Blistered Corn, Asparagus & Pesto Pizza. All the three dishes were delicious.

They have been open since February this year, and their unique concept is well received both by Clayton downtown office goers and by weekend crowd.

Near to us on the intersection of North and South and Delmar Blvd, there is a particular commercial space where many shops and businesses have come and gone in last couple of years. A few weeks back, we noticed a new business was getting ready to set its feet in the same space. This one, though, seemed to be in luck right from the get-go. Every day on our way to work, we would witness the progress; and the fast paced project made us even more curious of what’s in the store for the neighborhood.

This post is about 'Tutti Frutti' —the largest  international brand of frozen yogurt — and University City franchise is their first one in the Midwest! Right from their opening day, its rare to see the place empty; and their customer base includes people from all age groups (though adorably cute toddlers do make up a huge chunk of that customer base). Being close to Dewey’s Pizza and Momos Greek Tavern is also an advantage, both for Tutti Frutii and for food connoisseurs.

They offer some of the very unique flavors - our favorites are Lychee and Pistachio. My another favorite thing about Tutti Frutti is that along with fruits they also have Ghirardelli sauces that you can dress up your yogurt with; the flavors are - Chocolate, Caramel, and Classic White. And with their soy yogurt they are one of the very few vegan friendly frozen yogurt places - they might be the only such place in town!

Tutti Frutti truly is the new ‘sweet spot’ in the neighborhood and in no time the University City community is addicted to it!

Shakespeare in the park

We love Forest Park, Shakespeare, and live theater. And Shakespeare Festival St. Louis along with Forest Park Forever brings all of this together in an annual event which is called Shakespeare In The Park. This is a free, open for all festival that has been entertaining St. Louisians every summer since 2000. Whether you go with family, or with a group of friends, or just by yourselves, the atmosphere and experience is absolutely beautiful.

Here are a few shots from Othello.

Manhattan Express

The weekend had arrived and it was time to explore another eatery that we had meant to visit for a while — Manhattan Express. It is a small food joint serving Italian fast food Manhattan style.

Since its located in our neighboring Clayton area, we chose to walk to it. Upon getting there, we found that from the inside it looked more like what people describe as a hole in the wall restaurant. Usually such places don’t have much seating capacity; but, including the patio space, Manhattan express had plenty.

Food ordering process was much like at any other fast food place; however, the menu was much more versatile. With choices of salads, appetizers, pasta, lasagnas, and pizzas, it would easily compare well with offerings of any small scale restaurant. We had read that people come back to Manhattan Express for its pizza, and the pizza choices on the menu did look promising. Whole wheat crust and New York Pie were some of the options that caught our attention. They also let you make your own pizza. And that is not all, you also have an option of ordering pizza by slice! They have specials of the day too, that you can pick from.

While I was going through the menu and placing our order, my husband got us a table at the patio — which overlooks the intersection of Hanley and Wydown. Our food arrived soon, we had ordered vegetable lasagna and pizza by the slice.

The vegetable lasagna came in oven-hot and was served with bread. Between the pasta layers were spinach and shredded carrots. Even though we liked how it tasted, we think it could have been prepared with more vegetables. I have my own lasagna recipe with these vegetables — bell peppers, mushroom, onions, basil, and olives. I don’t bake often; still, I have to admit, this one didn’t even come close to how my recipe turns out. Also it was topped with a lot of cheese, which was little heavy for our taste. But the fact that we had walked to get here and we would also walk back home, made us feel better about the extra cheese.

Pizza, on the other hand, was just as delicious as we had hoped for it to be! We had ordered a slice of their New York Pie and picked our toppings — fresh spinach, basil, olives, and garlic. The crust was thin and was spread with marinara sauce before topping it off with fresh and delicious vegetables. We loved the pizza and it would certainly be on top of our list when we need a quick pizza dinner or a carry-out for a movie night at home!

After finishing our dinner, we stayed for a little longer and enjoyed sitting outside. It was quite breezy and the wind was carrying an earthy smell which was a sign that it has rained in some parts of the city. After a fulfilling dinner, and some relaxing, it was time to hit the streets again. The route we took on our way back were quiet inroads of the neighborhood. All we could hear was sound of summer-dried leaves drifting and gushing on the road, as if announcing of the oncoming rain. Just when we reached home it had started pouring.

This sight is by far the noblest astronomy affords
-Dr. Edmond Halley

Earlier this week, happened a rare astronomical event - Transit  of Venus - which repeats in pairs every two and half centuries later. Venus passed between the Sun and Earth, becoming visible as a passing disc across the face of the sun. St. Louis Astronomical Society sponsored an event at the World’s Fair Pavilion in Forest Park. Here are some shots of the event.

Deliciously Green

This week we discovered a modern, organic, vegan friendly, and most importantly — green — eatery. Recently opened in the Central West End, Green Bean is a healthy alternative to fast-food. The concept is simple and very well executed, you either choose a salad or a wrap. Apart from the menu, you may also design your own order by picking the greens, vegetables, protein, cheese, nuts, and dressings. With the variety of fresh and healthy ingredients to choose from, the possibilities are limitless! They also serve some of local micro-brewed beers.

Noticeably enough, the cups, utensils, napkins, carry out boxes, all are made from 100% recycled material. With the recycle bins placed on the way out,  Green Bean encourages its customers to be green as well!

'The Great River Road'

These pictures were taken on our drive alongside the mighty Mississippi. The Great River Road, a historic byway of the Mississippi river, stretches across ten states. The bit closest to us is a small stretch between two Illinois small towns, Alton and Grafton.  With cool waters of Mississippi on one side and age old high rocks and trees on the other side, the drive is perfectly scenic.

Alleys of Art

These pictures are from the 2012 Art on the Square, Belleville IL. The fair is held annually and this year original works of over 100 artists — painters, photographers, sculptors, potters, to jewelry artisans — were featured.  All of the 4 streets merging on to the downtown plaza were blocked and attracted many loyal art enthusiasts.

While the artists and galleries put on their best shows, there was something for the music lovers as well; with live musical performances happening and plenty of seating available by the fountain we enjoyed both, the art and music.