For nearly a decade, chef Michael Foust has been among the most dedicated practitioners of the farm-to-table philosophy in Kansas City.
The Farmhouse in the River Market features menus based on ingredients grown and raised by local farmers. In the fall of 2018, Foust added a new concept designed to take the practice of local and sustainable sourcing to a mass audience.
Black Sheep + Market at 1815 W. 39th Street is an American diner focusing on locally sourced artisan ingredients prepared in less labor-intensive ways. Think good-for-the-planet, good-for-you food, but at a more affordable price point (everything on the menu is under $20).
“Take meatloaf,” Foust says, showing off a pan containing a Paul Bunyan-size log of ground Italian pork sausage, mushrooms and cheese curds. “Why does it just have to be ground beef with ketchup? Don’t get me wrong, I love that! But here we treat meatloaf almost like a large terrine. It’s the same idea (as you might find at The Farmhouse), but more approachable.”
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The menu includes familiar comfort foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner, such as fried chicken, buttermilk pancakes, meatloaf, hamburgers, pot roast, pork tenderloin, macaroni and cheese and KC strip Salisbury steak, with a la carte sides of mashed potatoes, grits, onion rings and collard greens, plus fresh-baked pies and cakes.
The success of the trailblazing farm-to-table diner serving fast-casual meals remains rooted in Foust’s ongoing relationships with local farmers. Consider this recent daily special: the sweet potato was grown by Thane Palmberg Farm, the Mexican-style chorizo ground at Bichelmeyer Meats, the fresh cheese (he uses quark, a spreadable German cheese) made by Hemme Brothers Creamery and the honey and garlic buds (you can substitute capers) produced at Prairie Birthday Farm.
Breaking the mold with farm-to-table Salisbury Steak
Do you have fond memories of the Hungry Man Salisbury Steak frozen TV dinner?
Chef Michael Foust does. And, apparently, he’s not alone: There are plenty of copy-cat recipes out there for the broiled ground beef patty smothered in a gravy made from pan drippings, a dish that has waxed and waned in popularity over the years.
The “steak” was supposedly named for Civil War physician James Henry Salisbury, who recommended the troops eat Salisbury steak three times a day. Several decades later Salisbury was an early proponent of low-carb diets for weight loss. The dish eventually made its way onto school lunch rotations and starred in frozen TV dinners.
“Now I realize why (Salisbury steak) got to be a frozen dinner,” Foust says of one of his favorite comfort foods, when it’s done right. “But unfortunately, it’s the frozen dinner that probably killed it.”
Black Sheep + Market’s $18 menu item is pricier than the TV dinner variety. And that’s the point: Foust’s version contains sustainably produced whole, unprocessed ingredients. The Salisbury steak is made from locally raised KC strip steak and comes with fresh mashed potatoes and onion-mushroom gravy. Even the beef stock, Worcestershire sauce and mustard are made in-house.
“We don’t have to be a diner like anybody else,” Foust says. “We want to show transparency in where our food comes from, and how proud we are to serve it.”
Sweet Potato with Chorizo, Fresh Cheese, Garlic Honey and Herb Drizzle
Makes 1 serving
1 medium sweet potato
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
4 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
4 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
4 tablespoons chopped fresh sage
1 cup chopped fresh parsley
Zest of 1 orange
1 tablespoon fermented garlic buds or capers
½ cup local honey
2 cloves garlic, sliced
4 ounces Mexican chorizo
4 ounces fresh spreadable cheese, such as quark or a fresh goat cheese
Salt and pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rub sweet potato with olive oil. Place sweet potato on sheet tray and roast until soft all the way through, about 30 minutes.
In a mixing bowl, combine oregano, rosemary, sage and parsley. Add a dash of extra-virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Stir in orange zest and capers. Set mixture aside.
In a small saucepan over medium-low heat, combine honey and garlic and bring to a simmer; allow to cook for 5 minutes. Remove garlic and set aside.
In a skillet over medium-high heat, cook chorizo until browned through, about 5 minutes; drain and reserve the fat. Stir 1 tablespoon of reserved fat into the honey-garlic mixture.
To serve: Peel and slice sweet potato and place on a plate. Season with salt and pepper. Drizzle honey mixture over top. Top with chorizo and fresh cheese. Garnish with herb mixture.