Saturday, August 2, 2008

Busch's Grove

I suppose the 8 million bucks that Lester Miller sank into what was once the crown jewell of Ladue, Busches Grove restaurant, has been whittled down to that of "an nondisclosure" on the amount of purchase. Stltoday reports that the shuttered restaurant was recently purchased by Southwestern Enterprises and will convert it into a another high end gourmet grocery with an emphasis on high end prepared foods. Just what Ladue needs, really.

To recap the evolution of said building, below is a quick review on the design of the restaurant upon its completion by writer unknown. I couldn't agree more with the reference to pretentiousness, this is really quite precious:

...The end result is definitely a smack in the face that doesn't fall short in illustrating how much money went into the place, offering St. Louis a very rare design of Metro chique with all the pretentiousness that follows; like "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy"'s first season pretentious; Pan Asian pretentious (which happens to also be their new menu); "Japanese decorator did the ceiling" pretentious; so pretentious I saw some of the supposed Ladue elite dining with this "WTF" look on their face. And it doesn't pull any punches to let you know straight up when you walk into the door that this is EXACTLY the kind of message they want to broadcast about dining at "Busch's Grove"...

So it should have come as no surprise that the revised restuarant concept coughed, sputtered and fell to the floor. This high end full service dining hall will now find its way as yet another Home Meal Replacement version ala Ladue. The Market Place at Busch's Grove.

I recently did a piece on the new Whole Foods in Town and Country, pleased with the array of fresh foods and attitude of the crunchy revolution. I like that place, but oh my gad, the prices? A lot has changed since the neighborhood grocery's gave in to the larger mega market concepts with all the prepared foods. The Market at Busches Grove will surely fulfil the needs of the affluent Ladue area. These people have no time to cook.

I can see it now, students from John Boroughs being skedaddled off the front porch of the Grove after filling their pockets with canapes and ganache, after unknowingly being spied upon by the shop owner with a broom in his hand. Those little rascals with their Saabs and Mini Coopers causing such a...ruckas. I can also see the pandemonium of the women folk arriving in their cars, muscling to get a space in line for the valet parking. I wonder what the cost of a box of broasted chicken with some of those fried potato wedges will be? the kind I used to get at Piggly Wiggly on Thursdays--chicken night.

Nope, considering the fact that Ladue is starved for just the right store to take the burden off the backs off of their domestics --being forced to travel to Schnucks or Dierbergs on either end of town is just too damn much. I am thinking paying 12 dollars a pound for chicken salad will make for a good trade off. I hope to heaven they have a good cheese selection if I am going to make a trip in from the County. Cause I am all about that smelly Danish Blue, ifyouknowwhatimtalkinbout?

I find Ladue to be that which resonates the true culture of the "haves". I am serious. And gosh darn it, they deserve to have that which parallels the true meaning of the lifestyle. That was why Lester didn't bat an eye when forking out all that dough on reserecting the original mecca. Lester has big money, money to lose. I find it quite honerable what he did for the institution.
Speaking of Lester Miller, I used to do catering at his house a long while ago. My buddy Pedro Baltrenena was a caterer to Lester and his buddies. We used to call them the bratpack of Ladue and Clayton and Lester was his client. We cut our teeth doing dinners and such for the upper ilk. We both worked in the industry, me at country clubs, Pedro at Cardwells.
Once we did a party for the Crown Prince of Luxumborg who was in town visiting Lester at his Ladue Road manse. I remember this party well as I was the bartender and pretty much saw to the imbibing. Lester had all of the St. Louis elitists there, some politicians, other heavy hitters. The house was fabulous, a crystal eagle sculpture likely worth the price of my home stood in a nook just inside the entry. I think it was baccarat crystal. I remember seeing a domestic standing near it the whole time during the party. Ready to push people away, if they got too close.

Anyway. Freeman Bosely Jr. was there. The Mayor of St. Louis at the time. He sat at the bar the during the entire party talkin smack with me, so I got to know him a bit. Lester had only the finest selections of booze and Boz liked Cognac. Yes, Louis XIII. He drained the first bottle and I had no other alternative but to ask Lester if he had another. And, if you don't know this already, the stuff is like pouring gold into your neck. I couldn't tell Boz that it ain't too awful hip to take the last shot of Louie, because the bottle is also crystal and worth a couple tanks of gas. Whomever gets the last shot keeps the bottle. Sometimes.

I remember Lester looking at me like I was the village idiot. So I tossed my chin over my shoulder in the direction of Boz. He snapped at a domestic who bore a striking resemblance to Sammy Davis Jr., and before you know it, I was pouring Boz his fifth shot of Louie out of a freshly cracked crystal decanter. Now I remember selling Louie for 113 bucks a shot at the country club up the street. Boz was sipping the stuff with a stir stick, just awful. Buzz Westfall was there too. Rest his soul. So were a bunch of pretty Jewish princesses that I entertained along with Boz, who had gotten quite giddy. I won't forget that experience. I have been a caterer since.
So this is an exciting time for Ladue, finally getting on track with what has been missing. Nobody wanted Busch's Grove to close. The town gasped when hearing of the closing, like they did when the word got out that there was no outdoor gazebo dining, the backbone of the place. But I for one am happy that the space will be put to good use--that I will have another place to go and spy culinary talent, for recruitment. I think the place is going to be "fabulous". And let's face it also, fabulous is what Lester is too. Thanks Lester, for help making Ladue, stay Ladue.

1 comment:

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