A Weekend in Rocheport, Missouri

This past weekend, we headed to Rocheport, Mo., a very small, rustic town two hours east of Kansas City.

Despite the bitter wind, we prevailed, stopping in at Les Bourgeois Vineyards for lunch. This winery is located just outside of Rocheport and primarily focuses on blended wines, utilizing Missouri grapes as well as imported grapes. (or something like that!)

I am not a fan of Missouri wine. I'm sure many wine enthusiasts would beg to differ, and considering that I really like wine, yet know so little about it, I would fail in any argument about the finer points on what makes wine good, etc. However ... any winery that produces a wine called "Riverboat Red" ... well, need I say more? I think not.

All this said, Les Bourgeois Blufftop Bistro was a very pretty space. Sitting on a bluff overlooking a valley of sorts, the restaurant has a post and beam construction and offers nearly floor to ceiling windows throughout. I'd heard great things about the lunch menu, so I was excited to see for myself what was offered on the menu.

We started with Bruschetta w/prosciutto, a mild melted cheese, and a really, really fabulous apple-pear-cranberry chutney. For my main entree, I had the Quiche of the Day (tasty chunks of ham and cheese) with the Soup of the Day (cauliflower & scallops--tasted a lot like lobster bisque!). Owen had a Panini filled with roasted red peppers, sauteed onions, artichokes, portabella mushrooms, and a pesto coulis spread, along with the butternut squash soup. Hours later, he was still talking about how the panini was the best and most perfectly made panini he'd had in a very long time.

We each had a glass of wine: Fleur du Vin and the Collector's Series Syrah. Owen liked them both, I didn't really care for either of them. I think I just have a mental block against Missouri wine. It probably doesn't help that when I think of Missouri wine, I think of the few annual trips with friends many years back to Hermann, Mo., for Oktoberfest. It's one of those you go, you see, you get sh*tfaced, and drink many bottles of really bad wine, with names like "Pink Lady" weekends. For example, here is a perfect example of what it's like (snagged from flickr!). Can you say CLASSY? See that little slope there? I've seen many a high-heeled lady roll down that baby.

Following lunch, we headed into Rocheport. It's a really, really small town. Like, five blocks by five blocks. Like five small blocks by five small blocks. Okay, maybe I'm making it sound too big, because I definitely do not want to give you that impression! So, it's actually five very small blocks by five very small blocks. We spent the first minute and 30 seconds canvassing all the streets, eager to see what cool shops we could visit. Once that was done, we settled on checking out the "main drag" Central Street. Here you will find the post office, the General Store, Granny's Antiques, and Abigail's Restaurant.

Hhmm, which one to visit, decisions, decisions. While the post office seemed fascinating (wow, they, like, sell stamps here and deliver mail), we chose to be adventurous and stop in at Granny's Antiques. Filled with a nice mix of antique tables, sideboards, and knick-knacks of all kinds, Granny's cutest and most desirable item, sadly, was not something we could purchase: Ginger, a miniature dachshund, who greeted guests at the door, ready to play ball. Diane, the shopowner, filled us in on which additional stores we could expect to find open, encouraging us to make another trip to Rocheport when the town is in full swing. She also showed us a stack of large photographs of the Katy Trail, claiming that many people stay in Rocheport and spend the day riding the portion of the Katy around Rocheport -- supposedly it's some of the most scenic miles of the 225-mile long stretch that crosses nearly half of Missouri!

As Diane was the first person we met in Rocheport, she really put the town's hospitality on display with her warm welcome. I think it didn't hurt that we were there in the off-season, allowing for plenty of time to chat up the store owners and local residents of the area.

As we were leaving the store, we told Diane that we had dinner reservations for the restaurant a few doors down, Abigail's. She said that after dinner, we should definitely stop in at the General Store, because a few of the Rocheport men were going to be playing music. We thought, "Ah, how quaint." Little did we know!

We left Granny's and again drove around the tiny town.

"What do you want to do now?"
"I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"Hey, let's look at the town map again. Maybe we missed something."

We stopped in at two more antiques stores. Richard Saunders, Inc. is located in a nearly 200-year old building, and you can walk all throughout the first floor and look at really lovely antiques and more. The only thing that made the experience less enjoyable was that I could not afford the $3,000 dining room table ... the fact that a giant dining room table will not fit in our dining room is, of course, beside the point.

The last place we stopped in was White Horse Antiques. Apparently, Rocheport is the home of "store pets," as there seems to be at least one resident pet at each place. At White Horse, there was a big, burly cat and a very large dog. The best part, is that he will "lead" you from the main house to the little garage in back which contains more antiques. You open the back door of the house, and follow him to the garage. He'll stop every few feet and turn around to make sure you are following him. Reason enough to check out White Horse Antiques. But don't buy anything there, because frankly, they're crazy if they think they can sell an old ratty teddy bear for $85. I can't believe I threw out all my crummy stuffed animals ... I'd be rich by now. (Not only do I know nothing about wine, I also know nothing about antiques aside from mid-century Heywood Wakefield, so for all I know, this bear is a priceless gem. There. I'm trying to be nice.)

After leaving White Horse, I had the oddest feeling of deja vu. Hadn't I just gone through this not more than 30 minutes earlier? ----- "What do you want to do now?"
"I don't know. What do you want to do?"
"Hey, let's look at the town map again. Maybe we missed something."
We scrutinized the town map again, willing there to be one more place we could stop in to. Keep in mind, we hit a quaint tourist town in the off season! Thankfully, it was 4:00p on the dot and we could check in to the B&B.

The School House Bed & Breakfast is considered one of best B&Bs in Missouri and for good reason. Located in an old brick schoolhouse, the School House B&B is really charming, really comfortable, and there are no scary porcelain dolls anywhere to be found. Trust me, I checked out all of the guest rooms to verify!

Check-in was a breeze. We were warmly greeted with homemade chocolate chip cookies and a toasty little electric fire in our room "The Schoolmaster," named as such because there is still an old chalkboard on one of the walls. The tall plantation bed gently called my name and within 20 minutes we were napping away.

The only thing that gave us motivation to wake up was our reservations at Abigail's Restaurant, which was briefly mentioned in Coolest Small Towns in the U.S.A.

Dining at Abigail's is nearly reason enough to drive to Rocheport, Mo. Run by a husband and wife team, and named after their daughter, Abigail, this small, eclectically decorated restaurant is a truly delicious dining experience. The daily menu is written out on a large board and is placed table side so that you have a bit of time to peruse the menu. There are several fish entrees, but with a sprinkling of pork and beef filet dishes as well. I went for the lobster ravioli, while Owen selected the Salmon en Papilotte (salmon in parchment). Dinner entrees include bread and salad. Our salad was mixed greens with toasted almonds, strawberries, and a wine-based cream dressing. The ravioli was filled with large chucks of lobster and a bit of creamy white cheese, and the salmon was really unbelievable! It was marinated in brown sugar and crystallized ginger then wrapped and cooked in parchment paper, allowing all the flavor to seep into the fish. Taking a bite of the salmon you received a satisfying sweet flavor with a mild spicy tingle at the end that only ginger can deliver.

The wine selection was great, as it offered a nice variety in different price ranges. Dessert was pecan pie with a twist. Abigail's offers a Pecan Toffee Chocolate Chip pie. I don't think I need bother describing the glory that was this dessert, as this photo says it all. Guess how much all of this cost? $60 ... that's with tip included.

We decided to follow up dinner with a stop in to the General Store to listen to the music, as recommended by Diane. I peeked through the glass-plate windows, fully expecting there to be a small smattering of locals, sitting around drinking Budweiser. Quite the contrary, as the place was standing room only, filled with locals and visitors alike.

The band, made up of 4-5 community members was really good, incorporating a lot of the steel guitar sound and great vocal arrangements. Everyone was friendly, ready to have a good time, or already in the midst of a good time, with wine and beer flowing all around. After a glass or two of wine, your toes start tapping along with the music!

We'll definitely be back to Rocheport ... when it's warm and sunny! Understandably, the busy season runs from late spring through fall, and we're eager to check out the different vibe of the town at that time. We'll try out some portion of the Katy Trail, unless I can talk Owen out of it. Just kidding!! I'm in, I'm in!

I'm already thinking about the soft bed and warm welcome of the School House, seeing if Ginger is decked out in a summer doggy-shirt, and wondering what will be on the menu at Abigail's.


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Dale Palmer said...

Hey! That was OUR little band that was playing that night! We are Dale Palmer and the Mystery Men, and play at the Rocheport General Store about once a month. We released a CD on March 3, 2007, and copies are available by emailing me at djpalmerhouse@aol.com. They are $15 each, plus $2 shipping and handling. How many thousand may I send you? :o)) Dale Palmer