Catalpa: Fine Dining in Arrow Rock, MO

On Monday, I wrote about the Oregon Trail emigrants choosing their leaders on the Kansas and Nebraska prairies. This post back-tracks to Arrow Rock, Missouri, where my first Oregon Trail novel begins. And today’s post is about a superb meal I had in Arrow Rock in 2012 – 165 years after my novel takes place.

Arrow Rock is a small town on the Missouri River about two hours east of Kansas City and three hours west of St. Louis.  It is well worth a day or weekend trip from either city, or as a stop if you are driving I-70 across country.

Arrow Rock is an old Indian site, and developed into a frontier town on the Santa Fe Trail. Today, it is a National Historic Landmark, where many of the buildings depict life in the 1830s and 1840s.  Some of the buildings are original and have been carefully restored; others are replicas.  The Lyceum Theatre operates in the summer to produce Broadway quality productions.

My husband, mother-in-law and I ate at Catalpa Restaurant in Arrow Rock last Saturday to celebrate Mother’s Day.  Chef Liz Huff has created a fine dining experience to rival any restaurant in the nation.   Liz trained at the New England Culinary Institute in Montpelier, Vermont, and has worked in a number of restaurants and other food service positions, including a stint at the butcher shop where Julia Child placed her orders.

We started our meal by sharing a spanakopita, which was plenty large enough for the three of us. The spanakopita was served on a bed of fresh spinach and topped with homemade Greek vinaigrette and feta cheese. (The table behind us each ordered their own spanakopita, and they had a pile of leftover boxes when they left.)

Our appetizer was followed by a house salad of spinach tossed with strawberries and blueberries and a creamy sweet dressing.

My husband and I ordered duckling as the entrée, which was roasted in a ginger-teriyaki glaze and served on Thai-like rice noodles in a peanut sauce.  Al ate all his, but I took half mine home, and it was almost as good leftover for lunch on Monday. Al’s mother had red snapper steamed in parchment with herbs and peppers and served with orzo.  Her meal looked as wonderful as our duckling tasted.

By the time we had finished the entrées, we didn’t have room for much dessert (though I was sorry not to have tried the lemon pound cake). But we stuck to homemade ice cream – lemon sorbet, cappuccino, and the best chocolate custard I have ever had (more precisely, it was “Belgian Chocolate Spiced Rum Chocolate Chip” custard). I could have dined on the ice cream alone, and I am not an ice cream fan.

To be sure, the emigrants to Oregon did not eat as well as we ate at Catalpa last Saturday night. But don’t take my word for it; see other reviews of Catalpa at TripAdvisor.

You can find out more about Catalpa on their website, on their Facebook page, or by calling them at 660-837-3324. Catalpa is small and their hours vary with the Lyceum schedule, so be sure to call ahead for reservations.

Other restaurants in Arrow  Rock include J. Huston Tavern and Arrow Rock Station. These establishments are also worthy of a meal.

For more about what to see and do in Arrow Rock, see the town’s website.

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