Luxury in St. Lou
A couple lives it up and enjoys an elegant night on the town
100 Carondelet Plaza
St. Louis, MO 63105
By Francesca Burkett
Twenty years of marriage is no small feat. As our anniversary approached, Jeff and I struggled to figure out a celebration worthy of the occasion. Fly here? Fly there? Then, Jeff came up with a brilliant idea.
“Let’s be tourists in our own hometown and plan an extravagant night out in St. Louis,” he proposed. “There are dozens of fabulous places we’ve never experienced. Let’s live it up and indulge ourselves.”
He was right. Often, I opted against costly restaurants and cultural attractions because I preferred to watch our budget. The truth was, I was dying to try some hotspots that we had never quite gotten to. Even better, we now had the means with the money we had planned to spend on flights.
“Great idea,” I told him. “Sounds like a plan.”
Living luxuriously for an evening
We began our upscale celebration a bit early, checking into the Ritz-Carlton in downtown Clayton, one of the city’s most luxurious hotels, as soon as we could. After marveling at our spacious room, with its Juliet balcony, stunning city views and sleek marble bathroom, we headed to the hotel’s new spa to enjoy some well-deserved pampering.
Jeff, complaining of a stiff neck and hamstrings, opted for the Missouri Black Walnut Massage. Thick, wooden sticks carved from gorgeous black walnut wood are warmed, then rolled over muscles to knead knots and release pressure. I went for more of a relaxing, therapeutic massage that used warm stones to help soothe my aching back. The stones left me feeling totally restored and ready for our big night ahead.
Crossing into greatness
7823 Forsyth Blvd
Clayton, MO 63105
For years, we had wanted to try The Crossing, one of the city’s most celebrated eateries, also located in Clayton. Now, we finally had an excuse to go. It’s owned by restaurateur Jim Fiala, who has a reputation for “crossing” Italian and French influences with farm-to-table ingredients to create imaginatively prepared food that not only tastes delicious, but is also artfully presented.
Although The Crossing has been around for nearly two decades, reservations are highly recommended, especially on weekends. The place seats only 70 or so, and exudes a contemporary elegance with dark wood interiors, modern paintings, starched white tablecloths and sparkling crystal.
The staff was attentive and knowledgeable without being overbearing. Unsure of what we should order, we asked for guidance and our server suggested choosing from one of two four-course tasting menus that change nightly. An eight-course tasting menu was another splurge-worthy choice, one that can include wine pairings for the ultimate in dining elegance.
As tempted as we were to try the latter, we had a show to get to that evening. So we decided on the four-course tasting meal, which proved to be incredible.
I didn’t think I liked beets, but The Crossing’s Roasted Beet Salad is famous in this city—I had to try it for my first course. The dish featured a tower of red beets with a creamy goat-cheese-and-pine-nut mix in the middle, topped with more red beets and a heap of pea sprouts. It was heavenly.
Other menu highlights included tender octopus braised in a red-wine reduction, pan-seared scallops atop a bed of grilled romaine with smashed Yukon gold potatoes and possibly the best dessert ever—fried strawberry-rhubarb pie. Reminiscent of an empanada, the pie was served with melt-in-your-mouth buttermilk gelato. I hoped it wouldn’t be another 20 years before we came back.
Reveling in this impeccable meal, we headed toward our next destination: Opera Theatre of Saint Louis in nearby Webster Groves.
A night at the opera
Opera Theatre of Saint Louis
210 Hazel Ave
St. Louis, MO 63119
St. Louis has an abundance of cultural attractions, from a world-class symphony to a stellar art museum to dozens of theatre companies offering top-notch productions. Among these is OTSL, Opera Theatre of Saint Louis, one of the best summer opera festivals in the country. It typically performs four operas in rotating repertory, each of which is accompanied by members of the St. Louis Symphony.
Admittedly, Jeff and I aren’t opera buffs. In fact, we had never been to one before. Nevertheless, we managed to secure prime orchestra seats at the 1,000-seat Loretto-Hilton Center for the Performing Arts to see Puccini’s La bohème. Since all of OTSL’s operas are sung in English—with projected supertitles to boot—we could easily follow the story as we got swept up in the music.
Before the performance, we noticed many operagoers enjoying picnic suppers on the grassy lawn in front of the theatre. We later found out that a variety of basket options can be ordered from a local catering company in advance, or you can bring your own for a charming al fresco meal. Drinks, snacks and desserts are also available at the pavilion tent before and after the opera, as well as during intermission, so we made sure to enjoy a drink after the show.
As we drove back to the hotel, Jeff and I couldn’t stop raving about the night we had celebrating our 20 years of marriage. Going away is fine, but what we realized after our St. Louis luxury adventure is that there’s no place like home.