Tucked away in the heart of an apple orchard in Rogersville, Missouri, Harvest Restaurant is an invigorating culinary destination for discerning Ozarks residents. With its tasteful, stripped-down interior and perfectly executed, ever-changing menus, Harvest is widely recognized as a farm-to-table trailblazer – a major feat in a region that, despite its rich agricultural heritage, has only just entered the farm-to-table movement. A lot of the restaurant’s success is due to chef and co-owner Craig von Foerster’s mastery in the kitchen; he spent nearly two decades as the executive chef at the acclaimed Sierra Mar in Big Sur, California. However, it’s the agricultural know-how and impeccable taste of his wife and co-owner, Tamara von Foerster, that truly sets Harvest apart as a farm-to-table landmark.
Craig and Tamara opened Harvest in the fall of 2015, three years after the couple left California to take over the 65-acre farm Tamara’s grandparents started in 1932. While Craig leads the kitchen at Harvest, Tamara spends her days harvesting crops, pulling weeds and tending to the farm’s herd of cattle – all while overseeing Harvest’s beverage program and administrative tasks. She explains that her role in the restaurant is a way to share the passion she cultivated growing up on the family farm. “Being brought up on a farm where everything was really fresh and seasonally driven – that sticks in your palate,” she says. “It informs your idea of what food should taste like when it’s freshly prepared.”
For Tamara, sharing her passion for fresh flavors also involves organizing restaurant events – including an upcoming female winemaker-centric dinner series. Every Thursday during the month of September, the Harvest team will highlight a variety of female winemakers with an outdoor dining series in the middle of the 95-acre orchard. Tickets to the dinner are $75, and guests must purchase an additional $30 ticket to enjoy the wine pairings. Tickets are currently on sale at harvestmo.com.
What's your perfect day of eating in Springfield? I’m not a big breakfast person; I’ll usually just have a smoothie at home. If I’m feeling really wild, I’ll get a chocolate cake donut from St. George’s. For lunch, if we’re at the farm and I don’t feel like going into town, we’ll usually head over to Skinner’s for a pulled pork sandwich. We’ll sit outside, enjoy the sandwich and then get right back to work. If I’m already in town, I’ll definitely go to Derby Deli inside Brown Derby [International Wine Center]. They have a sandwich called The Parisian with rosemary ham and sweet cream butter on a baguette. If we’re in a time crunch, we might head over to Craft Sushi – I get their veggie bowl and Craig gets the pork bowl. I don’t eat a lot of dessert, but if we’re going out for dessert, I have to have the Milk and Honey at Progress. It’s incredible.
How has the local food and drink scene evolved over the past year? First, there are more and more locally owned restaurants and artisanal products popping up, which is really nice to see. We moved here in 2013, and there were a handful of local restaurants that had stood the test of time, but there seemed to be a big infiltration of chain restaurants. We see that changing a bit each year. We also have people eating cleaner and healthier. Consumers are really giving serious attention to fresh ingredients and demanding quality from a local source. That parlays into more and more locals feeling inspired to open their own [restaurants]. There’s a real need for it.
Who are Springfield chefs or bartenders you admire at the moment? I’d be lying if I didn’t say my husband. I admire him because I get a closer look at how hard he works and how passionate he is. In general, you really have to admire all creative souls who open a restaurant because it is a labor of love. I admire Craig because I know firsthand how hard it is. I was also recently at The Finley in Ozark, and the dish I had was perfectly prepared. The sauce and risotto was on point, the proteins were cooked properly – overall very good attention to detail and flavor. For me, it’s all about execution and flavor. It doesn’t have to be the latest, greatest trendy item to make an impact.
What's your go-to beverage at home or on your day off? It depends on the kind of day I’ve had. [Laughs] A go-to cocktail is a great Martini. For me, that means a gin Martini, shaken, ice cold with a twist. That’s a pretty good situation. If I’m not in the mood for a Martini, I’ll do a Campari and soda. If it’s a wine day, I’ll usually go with something from the Loire Valley. I love a Sauv Blanc, but I don’t like wines that are too grassy or minerally.
What’s your favorite comfort food? Ice cream or a milkshake that’s made from real milk. Growing up on a dairy farm, we made shakes at home, which got me set up for a lifelong obsession. Honestly, I’ll also go to Steak & Shake. They’re hand-dipped and made to order, just the way I like it.
What is your first food memory? My granny’s green beans. She pulled them from the garden and threw in bacon from a hog she had butchered on the farm. Then she added some potatoes from the garden and a little bit of onion. We’d have it for lunch, and then we’d finish it off for dinner.
What inspires the drink list at Harvest? On the wine selection side, we have a consultant who actually worked as a sommelier with Craig in the past. He has this unbelievably vast wine knowledge, and he really knows Craig’s palate. We like the obscure and the unusual on our wine list. As far as cocktails go, I’m kind of a purist, so I wanted a basic, classic cocktail list – neat, shaken and stirred. We’re never going to be into mixology; we see our list as more of an amenity for our guests who want a really great Manhattan or Martini. We’ve recently expanded on that based on an opportunity to acquire some really excellent scotch. Most recently, we’ve added a non-alcoholic cocktail list inspired by a company called Seedlip, which is based out of a family farming operation in England. It’s a non-alcoholic spirit that’s really thirst-quenching and not overly sweet.
What are your future plans? We’re looking for opportunities to provide more raw product from our farm for the restaurant. The farm is at the forefront of Harvest, so we’re looking into some opportunities there. We want to figure out how to incorporate our farm product into beverages and food that people can pick up and take home. The possibilities are endless.
Harvest Restaurant, 8011 E. State Hwy AD, Rogersville, Missouri, 417.830.3656, harvestmo.com