With apologies to Charles, an interesting preamble to our meal at Stone Soup Cottage with FOJTE and wife:
We have some good friends who now dwell on the left coast, however he was originally from St. Louis, and worked at McDonnell. They recently planned a brief trip from that other coast to the STL area and consulted the Feeder as to what restaurants they might visit (discerning palates, interested in fine dining). I suggested Tony’s and Stone Soup Cottage (which wasn’t in existence when I left here in ‘96). So they made reservations at both, and then their schedule changed such that they had to choose between the two. They ended up selecting Tony’s and their experience there (on that particular evening) was not exactly what I hoped for (the hazard of recommendations). Anyway, they have yet to get to SSC, hopefully they can on a future visit.
After finally personally experiencing SSC (have not been to Tony’s for years) and faced with a similar dilemma, it would be a choice not based on quality of food, but rather what type of experience you want. Tony’s is a classic old world formal restaurant with teams of tuxedoed front and back waiters, classic (Italian) dishes arrive at the table with silver domes, and “voila” unveiling type of thing. Stone Soup, on the other hand is a new age (sorry), modern, restaurant featuring discerning multi courses, all Prix Fixe with no “side” menu. It changes monthly, all locally sourced if possible, etc.
So, with high expectations we arrived at the Stone Soup Cottleville, which is indeed a cottage, some 30 miles west of St. Louis in a lovely wooded setting.
After weeks of sweltering weather, our dining evening started with a rain shower so FOJTE ferried us to the front door
The restaurant is fashioned from an old 1930’s barn, and is a lovely quiet rural setting. There are two main dining spaces, one room with two tops
and the other room with tables for larger parties which has an exposed brick wall from the place’s previous existence
We were seated at a corner table near a window which looked out on the trees and flowers
And while setting does not a meal make, it certainly displayed a sense of care for the meal and the diner
Utensils set with utmost precision
Dessert spoons formed part of the center piece, and there were clever little crystal devices to keep knife blades from the cloth
And all of this before even considering food (first we dine with the eyes). We sat and chatted while the rest of the tables filled, and when all were in place (within minutes of the single seating time of 6:30) a server approached the table and asked if we’d care for a beverage before starting dinner. Yes, indeed. Both ladies had a sparkling Grenache garnished with fresh raspberries (as memory serves) and FOJTE had a (classic) Negroni. And lest I be accused of being mindlessly gushing praise of everything (pretty much warranted), the only gins available were the holy trinity and Hendrick’s. Since everybody was there for the food, a limited bar might be warranted. It did result in a very nice drink however.
An Amuse Bouche arrived shortly after the drinks did, a great bit of pork belly topped with a dab of sweet berry coulis.
One of the nice things of the evening was that besides settling on what drink you wished before the meal, the only “decisions” to be made were: if you did or did not want the wine flights (highly recommended by the Feeder); and maybe, or maybe not, finishing off the meal with a cappuccino. No waffling whether you wanted the fish or poultry, salad and dressings, and so forth. Set back and let your plate arrive from the kitchen. And while we’re on that subject, by and large, Chef Carl accompanied dishes from the kitchen and explained each one to each table. Busy man.
Which leads us around to the food. As you might have noted in the table image above, there were two cards at each place setting: one for food, and the other for the wine pairings.
Each described each of the seven courses and description of the wine that would accompany them. I don’t expect you to read it, but here’s a more eye friendly (at the price of fuzziness) sample of the Zucchini Blossom fifth course:
And, okay I will forgive them the winespeak, but the detailed descriptions of the provenance of each are nice to have.
There is no sense to go through the dinner course by course, each was delivered to the table at the correct temperature and degree of doneness (where applicable) with no stray drips of sauce, nor smears of same, perfectly positioned on the plate. After the food arrived, the wine was poured (at a respectable level, I might add) with a brief description, leaving those more interested to read the one on the card.
Each course was delicious and I thought the (third course of) Halibut en Papillote
once again two dimensional images of three dimensional items belies the beauty of the dish
rivaled the same preparation with Sea Bass we had on one of our barge cruises in France which I place as one of the(sorry) “best” dishes I’ve ever experienced.
On the way out Chef Carl thanked us for coming (FOJTE is nearly a regular) and gave MFO a hug and a cookbook. So while there are many wonderful dining options in St. Louis (including the venerable Tony’s) I can pretty much guarantee you would never regret visiting Stone Soup Cottage
For which you better damn well be