Au revoir Like Home (Comme a la Maison)

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Like Home Comme a la Maison Clemence Pereur

Nicki's Central West End Guide Food and Drink Shop News  Like Home Comme a la Maison Clemence Pereur

We were charmed when a young chef from Condé Sainte Libiaire in northern France chose to open a café at 3855 Lindell. Clemence Pereur, standing left, and her mother Christine, right (a pastry chef who moved here to help her daughter), delighted patrons with delicious homemade pastries—macrons and almond croissants, etc.—and dishes such as croque madame which drew French expats, who pronounced them “trés délicieux.” Two and 1/2 years later, Like Home, aka Comme à la Maison, has closed.

The unlikely, but nevertheless true, story of how Clemence found herself in  St. Louis in the first place has everything to do with the restaurant culture in France. Female chefs are not as valued as their male counterparts, so when Clemence was offered a job at the St. Louis Club in Clayton she accepted. Because she had never been to the States before, her father traveled with her to make sure the offer was on the up and up. She was lonely in the beginning, but by the time the job ended Clemence had fallen in love with St. Louis, and returned home to raise money to return to open a café of her own at Lindell and Vandeventer near the SLU campus and Grand Center.

Regrettably, Clemence and her mother packed up the end of July and sold the furniture and fixtures to someone who’s opening a restaurant in Ferguson. Word is that the Pereur family plans to open a cafe in a coastal town south of Paris.

There is a lot we will miss about Like Home—including the melodic “bonjour” when you walked in the door and, of course, those scrumptious pastries.

Join in Clean up/Green up of Hodiamont Tracks

The following post describes an opportunity for community involvement that I thought readers should know about. Next Saturday, August 10, from 9 to noon, volunteers are needed to help “Clean up and Green Up the Hodiamont Tracks.”

The purpose of the event is to stimulate interest in the development of the abandoned Metro (Bi-State) right-of-way as part of Great Rivers Greenway’s network of trails throughout the region.

From the Great Rivers Greenway website:

“The Hodiamont Tracks are an inactive space that have the potential to become a greenway where people could walk, jog, ride a bicycle, push a stroller, use a wheelchair or have a picnic.”

Next Saturday’s community-wide effort is spearheaded by Judith Arnold, a resident of the Vandeventer neighborhood, who initially gathered a group of about 20 women from the 7 neighborhoods that border the Tracks to get the effort going. Since that first meeting in early July, the group has expanded to include an additional 20 or so organizers.

So far, about 160 volunteers have signed up for the project. Arnold is hoping for a total of 200 people to volunteer and register. See more information at end of the post on how to participate.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

I am on the organizing committee and have driven the length of the 3.5 mile Tracks, which were originally a trolley line and later a bus route, and taken pictures to give you an idea of what current conditions look like. It’s a mixed bag, ranging from surprisingly green and quiet sections to littered/overgrown dumping grounds.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

Committee members who live adjacent to the Tracks lament that illegal dumping of trash in their backyards is a common occurrence.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

The City of St. Louis Forestry and Refuse Divisions have been providing preliminary services in advance of the cleanup day, and will be out in force to assist on August 10. The task that day will be to put the finishing touches on the cleanup effort and to demonstrate that there is broad community support for the development of a new greenway along the abandoned route.

“One of the major concerns is ongoing maintenance,” said Judith Arnold. “We’re beginning to tackle this issue with a cleanup day in hopes that residents living near the Tracks will continue to maintain what will become a greenway.”Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

The Tracks begin just west of Vandeventer Ave. in the Covenant Blu-Grand neighborhood, and continue westward through the Vandeventer, Lewis Place, Fountain Park, Academy/Sherman, Visitation Park and the West End neighborhoods, terminating at Gwen Giles Park near the city limits. (see map here)Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

The photo above shows new buildings under construction on the Ranken Technical College campus, which also borders the Hodiamont Tracks.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway

Close to Skinker Blvd., near the western terminus of the Tracks, there’s a charming neighborhood in the City’s 26th Ward that was a total surprise to me. Gardens and manicured lawns occupy common areas adjacent to the tracks, and many of the houses and surrounding yards look like they could be on a country lane.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Events, Sightings Services Urban Gardens  Operation Brightside Judith Arnold Hodiamont Tracks Great Rivers Greenway   The Ruth Porter Mall, which starts at DeBaliviere and Delmar, intersects the Hodiamont Tracks several blocks north and offers an example of what the Tracks could become.

Though 95% of residents who participated in an engagement study conducted by Great Rivers Greenway say they want a greenway along the Hodiamont Tracks, the decision to include the 3.5 mile stretch as part of the Greenway system is not a done deal. If the decision is made to proceed, residents see the potential for increased property values, enhanced safety, and beautification.

Arnold is joined in leadership efforts by Tom Schweiss (Great Rivers Greenway), Constance Siu (North Newstead Association), Todd Martin (Mission STL) and others.

Volunteers are scheduled to meet at Lane Tabernacle CME Church, 910 N. Newstead, Saturday, August 10 at 9 a.m. to get their assignments. Gloves, rakes, shovels etc. will be provided by Operation Brightside. All participants are invited to return to the church at noon for a picnic lunch and celebration of a job well done.

To volunteer, or for more information and to register, visit Clean Up & Green Up on Facebook, or an eventbrite page (here).

New City School: The ABCs of creating a community garden

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Earlier this summer I found CWEnd-based illustrator Maggie Pearson (see 2013 post here) picking juneberries, aka service berries, on Euclid. She was a little sheepish about getting “caught,” as she wasn’t sure that picking berries off city trees was legal (she later found out that it’s ok).

It seems that birds had devoured berries from 15 juneberry trees on New City School’s campus at Lake and Waterman, and Maggie was scrambling to gather enough fruit to make jam for the school’s Farmer’s Market. That’s when I first learned that Maggie and another parent, Julie Lazaroff, had started a community garden at New City School the previous summer.

Their game plan, including information regarding grants they received, may offer a blueprint for others thinking of organizing a community garden at their own children’s school.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

When I followed up with a visit at the end of June, the women said this project had been on their radar for a long time. Maggie was largely responsible the garden’s design—”she has a beautiful aesthetic,” Julie said.  Julie, a dietician and yoga teacher, credits an apprenticeship at EarthDance Organic Farms with adding to her knowledge of soil preparation and plant materials.Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Last July the “partners in crime,” as Maggie, left, and Julie, right, identify themselves, started work with encouragement from New City’s Head of School Alexis Wright and advice from Matt Lebon of Custom Foodscaping. They removed a tether ball and digging area to make room for the new garden.  The school’s groundskeeper Bill Sprung built the arbor, trellis, and planting beds. A group of 20 volunteers had the garden up and running by the start of the 2018/2019 school year.

The area is designated as additional classroom space for 1st through 6th graders. “We are teaching our kids to be Stewards of the Earth,” said Maggie. “In addition to learning how to grow food, they’re using math skills when they plant seeds, and learning lessons in environmental science as well.”

Last spring, 3rd graders planted radish seeds, then harvested and tasted them 30 days later.  Julie took the radish greens home and made pesto and quiche for the kids to sample. New City is in the process of raising funds for a maker space that would include a kitchen so that the kids can learn to cook what they grow at school.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

Photographs above: Parent volunteers at work in the garden, and snapshots of the Garden Club’s Farmer’s Markets (there were 2 last year). Proceeds from sales are used to purchase seeds and other supplies for the garden.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The pair was able to secure two grants for their project. A grant from the Whole Kids Foundation (Whole Foods) was used for the garden’s infrastructure, and a second, awarded by Missouri Wild Ones, was used for a pollinator garden which they planted alongside the school, shown above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The pollinator garden at work, above.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright   Left above: New City offers outdoor classroom experiences for pre-schoolers as well. Just outside the entry to the 3-to-4 year old classrooms there are a few vegetable beds which are tended by pre-school teachers during the school year, and the garden committee in the summer. Right: Last February there was a “Chicken Arrival Party” for chickens rented from locally-owned The Easy Chicken. Fuego & Ginger (names chosen by the students) were cared for by a different grade each week. The chickens were sent home for r & r this summer, and will return in the fall.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

After all the rain we’ve had this summer, the kale and Swiss chard were flourishing when I visited. Bottom photo left: Felt “smart pots” are filled with herbs for a sensory experience. Bottom right: The committee planted strawberries as “eye candy” for the kids, hardy kiwi, blackberries, and a fig tree.Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright   Grape vines are growing on a new fence built by Julie and Maggie’s husbands at the east edge of the garden.

Over the summer vacation, committee members stop by twice a week to weed and harvest. There are three other community gardens on Waterman between Kingshighway and New City School. The granddaddy of them all is the CWE Farm which was started 10 years ago by Arthur Culbert (and which I have posted about many times). There is also a garden at Central Reform Congregation and at First Unitarian Church.

The organizers of New City’s community garden thank Arthur Culbert for his contribution of advice, plant materials, and herbs he’s brought to their garden.  Most importantly though, Culbert created a citizenship curriculum for New City 4th graders, and the food the students help plant is donated to food pantries at Trinity Episcopal Church and Second Presbyterian Church. His initiative became the catalyst for Central Reform and First Unitarian, some Westminster Place neighbors and now New City to join in the effort to feed those less fortunate in the neighborhood.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Education Food and Drink For kids Urban Gardens  New City School Matt Lebon Maggie Pearson Julie Lazaroff CWE Farm Arthur Culbert Alexis Wright

The photo above shows New City’s soccer field with a section of the garden in the foreground.

Julie and Maggie are mindful of the fact that there has to be a plan of succession when their children graduate from New City. They have begun working on a long-term integrated program with Head of School Alexis Wright.

The women are visibly proud of what they have created and excited that the garden has become a learning experience for the parents who volunteer as well.  Many have taken what they’ve learned home to start vegetable gardens of their own. That, plus seeing reluctant eaters at least taste a radish, makes it all worthwhile. “My 5-year-old, Auggie, really disliked salad until we started growing our own lettuce,” Maggie said. “Now he loves it.”

New City School, 5209 Waterman (at Lake).