In a whirlwind of just five short years—and four locations—business partners Maddie Earnest and Patrick Horine have made their mark on the St. Louis food scene. Open daily, their Local Harvest Grocery, Cafe and Catering has made regional crops and goods grown and produced in rural Missouri and Illinois readily available on a consistent basis in this big city, starting with their first location in the Tower Grove neighborhood in 2007. But Earnest remembers that it was soon after volunteering to help Horine and his wife, Jenny Ryan, to start the Tower Grove Farmers’ Market in 2005 when the idea actually came to her.
“I had read an article in The New York Times about a store in Portland, Ore., that got about 20 percent of its inventory from local farmers and producers,” Earnest recalls. “So I sent Patrick that article and said, We should do this in St. Louis! Well, he was very receptive, saying he had been thinking about this very same thing. What I didn't know at the time was that he had grown up in the grocery business.”
That first store on Morgan Ford Road, which included a sandwich counter, was only 650 square feet, so it wasn’t too long before they realized they needed more space. About a year later, Earnest and Horine opened their first café across the street, and then moved the grocery store into a larger space. “We literally had a box-and-bag brigade as we moved, with people stretching from the old space to the new store about 400 feet away!” Earnest laughs.
Then in 2012, they opened two new locations: a cafe in The Old Post Office building downtown in June and a grocery and cafe in Kirkwood, which opened in October. Although each of the cafes serve breakfast and lunch, Earnest says each location is unique for its offerings, with the Morgan Ford cafe providing full dinner service and the Kirkwood cafe serving a limiteddinner menu, including Meatless Mondays featuring a seasonal vegan entree and sides, Braised Grass-Fed brisket with OnionConfit, Mac N Cheese and Steamed Broccoli (Thursdays) and Stuffed Poached Missouri Trout, Mostaccioli, with Red Sauce and Spinach Gratin (Fridays).
And with even more square footage in the Kirkwood grocery store, the selection is even greater, and features relatively unusual items like sustainable wines and beers, green coffee beans in bulk to roast at home, as well as cheese-making supplies. In addition, there’s a large selection of local meats, Earnest notes. “We have an area that I call our ‘tip-to-tail’ section for those who are interested in using the whole animal—for our more adventurous cooks, you might say.”
On Dec. 8, Local Harvest is hosting holiday tasting fairs at the Tower Grove and Kirkwood stores. “It's going to be really fun and a great way for people come in and learn a little bit more about us,” Earnest says. “And we will have our holiday baskets out, as well, with themes including Local Sweets, Winter in St. Louis and Kids Stuff.” Other special holiday stock will include turkeys, ducks, geese, pheasants, Cornish hens, chestnuts “and as much local produce as we can get, like tomatoes, turnips, lots of squash, sweet potatoes, pie pumpkins and greens,” she adds.
“One thing that I'm super-excited about is some purple cauliflower that we have now. Don't get me wrong—my son, who is 5, is not a perfect eater. But we recently went to a potluck on our street, and it was the purple cauliflower that he went for first!” she laughs. “You know, we tend to think of produce as being one way: there's one type of carrot, one type of celery. But really, there are myriad varieties out there—we’re just not used to seeing them. It's fun to be able to expose people to that! And we've had customers who just did not believe they were real.”
Among Earnest’s personal, seasonal favorites are kale, collard greens and Brussels sprouts, including a recipe for Sautéed Brussels Sprouts that is certain to be on her holiday table.
With more than 100 products from local vendors, Local Harvest continues to see growing sales each year, according to Earnest. “Buying local means that we are supporting and buying from farms that are using sustainable farming methods and growing practices, and that’s important,” she says. “These are practices that work with the earth, instead of just taking from the earth. And the more you can buy from local producers and farmers, the more money you keep in the region, which translates to a stronger region. People can directly impact their area by just buying local.”
Sautéed Brussels Sprouts
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, sliced thin
2 to 3 garlic cloves
3 T olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 apple, diced
3/4 c heavy cream
3/4 c walnuts, chopped
3 to 4 strips of cooked bacon, crumbled
Heat the oil in a large skillet. Sauté the garlic and onion until tender, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add the sprouts and sauté for 3 to 4 more minutes, and then add the apple and sauté for a minute or two more. Stir in the cream and walnuts, continuing to stir for two to three minutes longer. Plate, sprinkle the bacon over the top and serve.