While wandering around the Soulard Market on August 13, during my last hour in St. Louis, I stopped by the Baetje Farms stall to sample (and purchase) a bit of their divinely-inspired, award-winning goat cheese. I bought the last package of their Bavarian Lemon Creme. As we chatted, I mentioned that I was driving south on I-55 and wanted to stop for a late lunch around Sainte Genevieve. And I asked: “Do you know of any farm-to-table restaurants near Sainte Genevieve?”
Without hesitation, she (Veronica Baetje, I presume, based on the Baetje Farms website) said one word: “Chaumette.” The description made it sound just like the place I wanted for a late lunch or very early dinner. I got confirmed the exit number and set off on my way home, with the words, “Tell Chef Adam hello.”
I stopped at the Phillips 66 station at the exit and asked how to get to Chaumette. I was told it was about 14 miles away. I learned Chaumette was a vineyard and winery. The locals at the store didn’t seem to know anything about the restaurant. Back in my car, I did a quick (well, slow, due to connection speed) search via my Droid and found out the restaurant is The Grapevine Grill at Chaumette. I wanted to stop by the Ste. Genevieve festival underway that afternoon and Chaumette was in the opposite direction. So, instead of heading off to Chaumette, I decided to check out the Ste. Genevieve festival first and make my decision based on what I saw in the historic downtown.
Ste. Genevieve is the oldest permanent European settlement west of the Mississippi River. The town is about 5 miles east of the interstate (farther than I’d expected). When I arrived in the vicinity of the downtown, I discovered it would be a challenge to find parking without having to pay $5 or $10. I was very hungry and didn’t know where I was going, so at 2:10 p.m. I turned around and set off for Chaumette. I hoped I could make it by 3 p.m., the cutoff for lunch. I knew I couldn’t stay around for dinner, because I had a 6 hour drive ahead of me.
The countryside was beautiful but the road was nothing but hills and curves. At times, even 45 m.p.h. seemed excessive. Needless to say, I was getting concerned that I would make it in time for lunch.
I made it about 2:50 and found the parking lot packed with cars. Lunch would be “no problem.” Despite the packed-out parking lot it appeared that the lunchtime dining crowd was thinning. Most of those around seemed to be interested in the tasting room and an outside deck area, where a cover-artist was singing wedding-party favorites (he was actually pretty good).
It was a warm afternoon (and I’m maxed out on summer, by this point), so I opted for the inside dining room.
I was finally seated (but given the heads-up that it would be a couple of minutes). It took forever and a day to place my order and another long wait for my food to arrive. But the wait was worth it.
I had a BLT and side romaine lettuce salad. Everything was locally-grown and the bread was made on site.
I opted to go with the spiced peach cobbler for dessert, as it was almost dinnertime and I hadn’t had any lunch.
As I drove away, I began to plan a long weekend getaway at the Spa at Chaumette, in part so I could try more of Chef Adam Lambey’s delicious menu using the best local ingredients from Central Missouri farmers and ranchers.
Alas, a mere 8 days later my transmission went out. $3200 later means I won’t be enjoying any long weekend getaways (or restaurant meals) for a long, long time.
As I left, I spotted the most enormous butterfly I’ve ever seen fluttering about a lavender bush. For a moment, I was transported to the day in March 2011 when passed through the French countryside. I can’t wait to return to Chaumette. It will tide me over until I can return to the rural France.
Chaumette Vineyards & Winery
Baetje Farms—Award-winning Goat Cheese (it’s divine!)