On a clear night in St. Louis, I can count the stars in the sky. On a recent visit to Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, I quickly gave up.
My star-struck trance was only broken when one of the property dogs stopped by to snuggle. He didn’t answer when I asked his name, but another dog I met was appropriately named Norton.
My day had started early with a drive through twisty farm roads to meet chef Adam Lambay of Chaumette’s Grapevine Grill. Before I had even unpacked our car, Lambay and I and our spouses and children jumped into Chaumette’s farm truck and headed to the greenhouses. There, Lambay proudly pointed out the more than 100 varieties of plants growing, most of them edible. I sampled a stevia leaf, smelled curry (the plant, not the spice mixture or sauce) and took a moment to share in Lambay’s excitement about a heritage pepper plant he had purchased from Monticello that dates back to Thomas Jefferson.
What Lambay can’t source on Chaumette’s farm, he purchases locally. As he taught me how to make printanière, his spring vegetable salad, he rattled off the sources of his ingredients as quickly as I might name my best college buddies:
- asparagus from Flieg's farm
- spring onion from Dempsey Farm
- fennel from Chaumette
- spinach from Ladd Farm
- watercress from the Farmington Farmer's Market
- endive from Dierberg’s (because he wasn’t able to find local endive that week)
Lambay didn’t have to tell me anything about the parsley’s source: I helped him cut the parsley minutes before it found its way into our salad dressing.
When a salad is as fresh as this one, dressing has to be approached cautiously. Applying too heavy of a dressing is akin to city stargazing: the flavors of the vegetables would be muted by a haze of dressing. Lambay created a light, vibrant verjus dressing. Verjus, available for purchase at Chaumette, is a juice they produce on-site by pressing unripe grapes - in this particular case, Chardonel grapes. (Read more about verjus in our Mystery Shopper section.) If you didn’t know you were tasting a verjus dressing, you might mistake it for lemon vinaigrette and leave wondering what made it so special.
As I sat on Chaumette’s stunning patio eating the salad with Lambay, the printanière seemed an extension of the vibrant green in the vineyard below. I know that when I prepare it at home, I will feel alive, rooted to the earth and eager to return to the place I learned to make it.
Chaumette Vineyards & Winery, 24345 State Route WW, Ste. Genevieve, 573.747.1000, chaumette.com
Read more of Stefani Pollack's work at A Cupcake Project.
Printanière Salad with Housemade Verjus Dressing
Yield | 4 robust or 6 appetizer portions |
- ½ bunch (4 oz) asparagus, grilled, blanched or lightly sautéed
- ½ endive with the heart removed, julienned
- 4 oz fresh spinach
- 2 oz watercress
- ¼ bulb fennel, shaved
- 1 small spring onion, sliced thin
- 1 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 cups verjus
- 3 Tbsp sugar
- ½ tsp salt
- pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley or chervil
| Preparation | Toss all salad ingredients in a large bowl. In separate bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients until they emulsify and have the texture of a watered-down mayonnaise (if you kept whisking, or used a blender, the dressing would end up as thick as mayonnaise). Just before serving the salad, whisk the dressing one more time to re-emulsify. Drizzle over salad and gently fold in.