The kids are back in school, and your vacation time is likely not what it was three months ago. But summer's not quite over yet (according to the mercury). There's still plenty of sunshine and hours in the day left to visit destination restaurants in the St. Louis area. They're all just a mini-road trip away and worth every mile. Here are our ten favorites.
Claverach Farm (570 Lewis Road, Eureka; 636-938-7353)
Twenty miles outside of St. Louis, the 300-acre Claverach Farm got its start by growing specialty produce and microgreens and selling to local restaurants, such as Sidney Street Cafe, Stellina, Oceano Bistro and Farmhaus, and at farmers' markets. Today owners and chefs Joanna Duley and Sam Hilmer share their passion of producing farm-to-table meals for the community in their 100-year-old refurbished barn with Saturday "farm dinners" featuring fruits and vegetables from their farm. Four courses, drinks and hors d'oeuvres are served at long community tables. Before and between courses, guests may wander through the property's gardens, orchards and vineyards.
Stone Soup Cottage (5809 State Highway N, Cottleville; 636-244-2233)
Chef Carl McConnell and his wife Nancy offer reservation-only "farm to fork" dinners Thursday through Saturday in historic Cottleville. The six-course, prix-fixe French and Italian tasting menu features seasonal, intricate dishes paired with complementary wines. The rustically elegant restaurant is located on a six-and-a-half-acre farm that produces the majority of the produce for the kitchen. The building is constructed of wood from the farm's original 1930s barn and overlooks the farm's fields and ponds. All of this earned Stone Soup Cottage a spot on the top five regional restaurants in the United States list in 2010 by the Week magazine, and there's often a six-month waiting list for reservations.
Cleveland-Heath (106 North Main Street, Edwardsville, Illinois; 618-307-4830)
The culinary resume of Cleveland-Heath's owners, Jennifer Cleveland and Eric Heath, is impressive to say the least, and includes stints at national hot spots such as Jole, Ad Hoc, Farmstead and the French Laundry. The couple met in a kitchen, attended the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley together and are now united in their passion -- nay, obsession -- for cooking. The gourmet comfort-food menu focuses on contemporary American cuisine and offers simple dishes prepared with extreme attention to detail, using fresh, quality ingredients. The kitchen sources much of its meats, seafood, produce and bread from local farms and producers.
Montelle Winery (201 Montelle Drive, Augusta; 888-595-9463)
A gorgeous wine-country retreat any day at 400 feet above the Missouri River, Montelle Winery hosts sunset dinners every Friday and Saturday, spring through fall, in view of the surrounding farmland and vineyards covering the rolling hills of Osage Ridge. A three-course dinner includes an entrée, sides and dessert and is served at 7 p.m., and comes complete with white linens, chilled ice buckets and attentive waiters. Each course is paired, of course, with Montelle's award-winning wine. Wine tastings are available for guests who arrive early.
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