Usually when I head down I-44 toward a farm, it’s the family farm in Rolla. But not this time. It was Mother’s Day weekend and I was in a van with my three grown kids and their spouses. We were headed for a farm 20 miles outside St. Louis—Claverach Farm. I had long wanted to dine in the charming, 100-year-old barn near Eureka. At last it was happening. I was excited!
As we drove along, I had a flashback of other van rides with four kids and a dog in the 70s. I remember well the sparring for window seats and the crazy comments coming from the back seat: “Mom, he’s standing on my hair”. . . “Move over, your feet smell”. . . “Yours smell worse.”
But now they’re grown and married with kids of their own. As adult siblings, they have new ways of taunting each other, but mostly they enjoy each others company. Being packed into a van must have stirred memories for them as well, because we spent much of the time recounting stories of past road trips.
Over the River and Through the Woods
Like the road to our farm, this one eventually turned into a gravel entrance. As we crossed a narrow bridge, we could see the gardens, greenhouse, orchard, and vineyards along the side of the road. At the edge of the woodland glen was the up-dated barn yard, that now included a gravel courtyard and stone fire pit. When we arrived for dinner on Saturday night, all was sunny and serene. That was hardly the case weeks earlier when the Meramec River flooded, covering new plants and the orchard with 15 feet of water. (See photo in slide show below.)
The Shortened Distance From Farm to Table
The Hilmer family has owned the 300-acre spread for generations. Since refurbishing the barn 20 years ago, co-owners and chefs Sam Hilmer and Joanna Duley have kept looking for ways to showcase their fresh produce. Nearly all the fruits, vegetables and micro-greens grown today are used in cooking the weekly farm dinners. The meals highlight seasonal foods and are served from communal tables on Saturdays between March and December.
Hilmer and Duley say that the Claverach dining experience “will bring you closer to nature than most restaurants.” I have no argument with that. The location and menus are uniquely designed for a back-to-nature evening in a rustic setting, with fine food and wine, and a background of pleasant bluegrass music.
Let the Feast Begin
We started our four-course meal (plus appetizers and dessert) with a “knock-your-socks-off” flatbread cooked before our eyes in the large, indoor pizza-oven. Over the next two hours, we were treated to a broccoli miso soup with lime crème fraîche and shallots. Next came chicken sausage pot stickers with ginger sauce and pickled butternut squash (a beautiful sum of color and flavors). The salad of baby bibb, frisée, and asparagus blossomed under the influence of the green goddess dressing.
The main course tantalized with a pesto-stuffed pork loin, creamy polenta, and new potatoes. The dessert—a buttermilk panna cotta with peach sauce and almond shortbread cookie—held its place among a lot of competitors on the menu. From beginning to end, it was a splendidly prepared meal, served with a wine matching for each course. I stuck with the French-style rosé from their vineyard, made from grapes not usually grown in these parts.
Slide Show of the Farm Dinner
The menu changes throughout the summer to reflect the harvest at the time. If you haven’t treated yourself to this outing, find a special occasion and make it happen.
Reservations required. It’s best to sign up for their email announcements of times and menus. Seats for about 90 people at communal tables. Private events available, but not weddings. The website alerts diners to follow only their directions, not those of Google. Phone: 636-938-7353.