by Julia M. Johnson
Imagine you’re a meeting planner with dreams of “living off the land,” delighting event guests with home-grown foods that showcase area flavors at their richest. You’re doing your part to boost the local economy, and offering meeting-goers a fresh, nutritious and delicious experience – a recipe for good business from all angles.
If this description fits you, then hospitality entrepreneur Nathalie Pettus has what you seek – an inn and farm business that puts local foods on local plates, including those in her own St. Louis restaurant. It’s a match made in the field for those who care about memorable events paired with local food sustainability.
Pettus is the owner of Overlook Farm, a 327-acre farming and bed-and-breakfast establishment about an hour and a half northwest of St. Louis, along the Mississippi River in picturesque Clarksville. She also owns Nathalie’s, a restaurant located near Saint Louis University on Lindell Boulevard. Together, the two businesses offer a flavorful menu of options for planners in search of innovative space and palate-inspiring fare.
Two historic inns, Meadow House, Avalon House, a bridal cottage and a number of meeting spaces await your guests at Overlook Farm. They’re consistently popular with hospital groups, local businesses, weddings, reunion parties and a host of other event clients, according to Pettus.
The older of the two inns, Cedarcrest Manor, was built in 1842 as a plantation home by riverboat captain Benjamin Clifford. Pettus bought the property in 2005 and renovated it to feature a charming neoclassical interior with antique furnishings and in-room fireplaces.
Cedarcrest is appropriately situated beneath commanding cedar trees, and a heated Romanesque pool is chief among its attractions. The property’s excellent views of the Mississippi are certain to captivate guests. When visitors are not relaxing in the pool or strolling the grounds, they’ll enjoy a host of other amenities – full breakfasts, outdoor fireplace and game tables, a formal
garden and walking trails, library, romantic verandas and lush bathrooms. There’s even a catering kitchen for groups holding private parties and special events at the manor.
Six guest suites are available at Cedarcrest, including a spacious accessible suite adjacent to the inn’s outdoor terrace. The suite features an in-room fireplace, luxurious bathroom, and oversized, roll-in shower. The second inn, Rackheath House, features equally plush accommodations and inspiring luxuries. An 18th-century garden will delight your attendees’ senses in warmer months, and there’s an oversized, outdoor chessboard to get their competitive juices flowing. An enclosed greenhouse hot tub offers guests a chance to fully relax, and a catering kitchen features granite counters, high-end appliances, and entertaining space.
Rackheath also offers full breakfasts, a sitting room, stroll-worthy veranda, fire pit, walking trails, dining room with banquet facilities, and luxurious bathrooms. There are three attractive and spacious guest rooms under the roof at Rackheath.
More options down on the farm If it’s meeting or wedding space you need, ask about the farm’s
capacious Avalon Hall. “It’s such a spectacular building,” Pettus says of the facility. “I originally had it built as a pole barn by Amish craftsmen, but decided I wanted something more long-lasting.”
She then had it converted to a full-scale event structure with hand-lacquered beam ceilings and beautiful beautiful sapele mahogany throughout. “We expect to use Avalon in the off season for dinner and dancing events on holidays,” Pettus says.
There also are plans to add a spa house to the farm property for the use of guests and wedding parties. And Pettus is currently rebuilding at the farm’s old Clarksville Station Restaurant site, which recently suffered a disastrous fire. The space soon will house a pavilion with chandeliers and ceiling fans, “an ideal spot for good music and great meals,” she says.
Foods, glorious foods
Whenever you visit Overlook, you literally experience the full continuum of farm-to-table food. Pettus says there’s very little that Overlook’s green acreage doesn’t supply for its kitchens, and for Nathalie’s. “We produce grass-fed beef, hogs, lamb, chickens, eggs – even raise our own tilapia,” she notes.
The farm also is bursting with myriad fruits and vegetables. Blueberries, black and red raspberries, blackberries, apples, cherries, plums, peaches, pears and rhubarb round out the fruit selection.
And as far as veggies are concerned, “we have almost anything you can imagine,” Pettus says. “We grow nearly all the vegetables and herbs for Nathalie’s at the farm. You can’t beat their freshness.
“We are not chef-driven here—we are farm-driven,” she says of Overlook and Nathalie’s. “Our superheroes are the farmers. They are out in the elements every day, raising the produce and
taking care of the animals. When other restaurants buy food that’s been trucked in, how do they know who else has touched it? What happened to it in transit – was it cleanly handled? They don’t know the provenance like we do. I think that’s huge.”
Pettus says that when it comes to raising food for her businesses, she doesn’t just think about what’s on the earth, she also considers what goes into it. “We’re always ‘renovating’ the soil, and that ultimately means a rejuvenating experience for our guests’ palates,” she says. For example, Pettus uses dried distiller’s grains to supplement her animals’ feed. That helps build good, rich soil, which results in better plantings. The distiller’s grain also can be used to raise mushrooms and other products, she says.
The Overlook Farm and Nathalie’s staffs use all these wonderful foods to craft ever-changing culinary delights at both sites. “Our dishes are driven by the farm and what we bring in that
day,” Pettus says. “That said, there’s really nothing we can’t create for a meeting or event client. We’re not restricted by certain set menus here.”
And for the food products she does bring in from outside, Pettus insists on careful vetting for safety and freshness. “We use good, safe foods like shrimp from South Carolina,” she says. “If I wouldn’t eat it, I won’t serve it. The extra effort is important these days.”
Pettus’ St. Louis restaurant, Nathalie’s, opened in late 2013 and is nestled in the Central West End neighborhood in a mansion that formerly housed a funeral home. The building is now full of life as a dining and meeting spot, graced with chandeliers, crisp linens and memorable interior spaces. Sauce Magazine reviewer
Michael Renner recently penned, “I recommend booking a table on the second floor for the sole purpose of sauntering down the magnificent staircase in the front parlor.”
“It’s a house that happens to have a restaurant in it,” Pettus says of Nathalie’s. She has spent a good deal of time and money refurbishing and decorating the facility, considering it an extension of her own life and personality. “I believe the building is happy to be prettily dressed again,” she says.
The restaurant houses a number of different gathering spaces, ranging from divisible eight- to 18-person rooms up to a second-floor theater equipped with audio-visual components. “It has theater-style seating, with three levels of tables and chairs,” Pettus says of the second-floor space. “It can seat 45 to 50 people, and has good sound quality. We have many musical events there – we even won a 2014 award for ‘Best Intimate Music Venue’ from St. Louis Magazine.”
Nathalie’s also features an outdoor courtyard, which seats up to 28 people. It has been used by not-for-profit organizations and other groups for fund raisers and professional dinners, al fresco.
Currently the restaurant serves weekend brunches and dinner, and Pettus has plans to expand to lunch hours soon. Event clients have included Webster University, nonprofits such as Prisoners for the Performing Arts, and Saint Louis Symphony groups.
Pettus has dedicated staffs of event coordinators who handle each detail of a group’s gathering with ease and professionalism, turning every outing into a deliciously lasting memory – at either
“I wanted to have it all – my city life and my country life,” Pettus says of her dual efforts in Missouri hospitality. “We have been changing a lot, but my teams are very creative. We tailor everything to the individual; our food quality is superior; our staff is great; and the farm and restaurant spaces are wonderful. They create very special experiences.”
901 South Hwy 79
Clarksville, MO 63336
Phone (573) 242-3838
4356 Lindell Blvd.
St. Louis MO 63108
Julia M. Johnson is a contributing writer and editor from St. Louis.