Last Thursday, the idyllic Joseph Decuis Farm in Roanoke played host to a Celebrity Chef Tour benefiting the James Beard Foundation. The tour travels the United States, replicating the once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at the historic James Beard House in Manhattan. The farm's gorgeous spread, located six miles from the restaurant, offered the kind of perfect backdrop that made you wonder when the Saveur photo shoot would begin. In fact, before guests were seated at a sprawling white-clothed barn table decked out in vases of fresh flowers, visiting James Beard rep Jeff Black, owner of the series, hailed the Indiana venue as the third most beautiful site the series had ever visited, Number One and Number Two being Hawaii and Napa Valley. According to Pete and Alice Eshelman, the owners of Joseph Decuis (that’s pronounced day-QUEEZ, by the way) and gracious hosts for the evening, the 130 guests came from as far as Texas, Boston, and North Carolina to partake in the festivities.
The lineup of featured chefs, all local James Beard Award nominees, included Greg Hardesty of Recess and Room Four (4907 N. College Ave., 317-925-7529), Regina Mehallick of R Bistro (888 Massachusetts Ave., 317- 423-0312), David and Krissy Tallent of Restaurant Tallent (208 N. Walnut St., Bloomington, 812-330-9801), Neal Brown of The Libertine (38 E. Washington St., 317-631-3333) and Pizzology (13190 Hazel Dell Pkwy., Carmel, 317-844-2554), Tom Sheridan of LaSalle Grill (115 W. Colfax Ave., South Bend, 574-288-1155), and host chef Aaron Butts of Joseph Decuis (191 N. Main St., Roanoke, 260-672-1715). Here’s a course-by-course replay of the dinner, and a video courtesy of Joseph Decuis.
Course 1: Jumbo Lump Crab, Golden Beets, Toasted Sunflower Seeds, Blueberry-Honey Gastrique
Chef: Tom Sheridan of LaSalle Grill
Tasting Notes: A colorful, candied prelude atop discs of beets.
Course 2: Slow-roasted Loch Etive Sea Trout with Farmers Market Nicoise Potato Salad
Chef: Greg Hardesty of Recess and Room Four
Tasting Notes: The colors were stunning. The potatoes tasted sweet and fresh, and the trout exquisitely tender.
Course 3: Duck Confit, Chopped Kale, Peach Salad
Chef: Regina Mehallick of R Bistro
Tasting Notes: Featuring Maple Leaf Farms duck set off by just the right amount of juicy peaches. Mehallick resisted the temptation to put too much fat and flavor next to the kale, using lean duck to remain true to the greens.
Course 4: Rock Shrimp Remoulade, Fried Zucchini, Grilled Corn, Cherry Tomatoes
Chef: David Tallent of Restaurant Tallent
Tasting Notes: We loved the creative presentation on a thin strip of fried zucchini cut lengthwise.
Course 5: Crispy Pork Belly, Chilled Tomato Soup, Parsnip Chips
Chef: Neal Brown of The Libertine and Pizzology
Tasting Notes: The tomato was more a braising liquid than a soup in one of the meal’s more straightforward presentations. Eyes rolled back as diners savored the pork belly’s layers of char and melting fat.
Course 6: Joseph Decuis Farm Wagyu Ribeye, Charred Eggplant Puree, Sweet Corn-Summer Squash Hash, Bone Marrow Bordelaise
Chef: Aaron Butts of Joseph Decuis
Tasting Notes: Perfectly prepared steak (not easy for 130 people), sliced rare and plated with rich-flavored accompaniments.
Course 7: Traders Point Yogurt Tart, Pistachio Crust, Local Blackberries, Oregano, and Honey
Chef: Krissy Tallent of Restaurant Tallent
Tasting Notes: Like a silky cheesecake with sweet and savory notes.