Simplicity and Table finalists for Best Dish
Two of the top 10 "Best Dish" finalists for "The Best Dish in North Carolina 2010" are based in the High Country: Simplicity at the Mast Farm Inn and the Table at the Inn at Crestwood.
"By just being a finalist ... we consider we've already won," Simplicity's Henri Deschamps said.
Simplicity sets itself apart in many ways, perhaps most notably in that's it's family run, just like the inn.
"My wife, Marie Deschamps is executive chef," he said.
And diners are part of that family.
"It's a very small, very private little restaurant, and it's very much like people coming to a wedding on a Sunday kind of thing," Deschamps said. "It's very personal."
And the food, well...
"It's very rare and complex but feels like home cooking," Deschamps said.
The inn grows its own organic produce and works with farmers in the area, following an Alice Waters model by advocating eating local in-season foods.
"It's a philosophy of cooking," Deschamps said, a philosophy that's working.
Since the Deschamps family purchased the inn five years ago, it has emerged into an organic mecca of community dining.
The all-North Carolina-based menu submitted by the Deschamps continues the trend, and, in Henri's opinion, is worth a trip to Valle Crucis.
The main dish, the "Downright Criminal Champagne Chestnut Chicken," complete with chestnuts, Shady Grove mushrooms, Watauga River Farm thyme, Rose Mountain Farm Pearl Onions and other accoutrements, is sure to hit judge's taste buds in a delightful way.
Fellow High Country finalists, the folks at the Table at the Inn at Crestwood, are elated to make the cut.
"It's really fantastic ... last year we placed third in the state," co-owner Tammy Moberg said. "This year we're a finalist again."
Last year's Cheerwine ice cream (an executive chef Chuck Nelson creation) caused such a splash it was featured in Our State magazine.
The Table, open under one name or another since 2004, sets itself apart in its versatility.
"We have a lot of different places ... sort of for different dining experiences," Moberg said.
Along with the main dining room ("kind of like a main ball room ... with amazing views of Grandfather Mountain"), the Table has a casual lounge area, the Dawg Star Bar.
As for Chef Nelson, his creations are touted as "absolutely amazing" by Moberg.
The Cordon Bleu-educated chef worked at the Ritz-Carlton and Storie Street Grill before settling in at the Table.
"He's got a lot of experience, and it's wonderful because he can produce wonderful dinners ... but he can also produce a buffet for a wedding reception," Moberg said.
This year's North Carolina inspired menu submission included a main course of a grilled ribeye steak from Hickory Nut Gap Farms' natural grass-fed cattle, with summer squash fries and "Ripshin Dairy" goat cheese whipped potatoes.
The "Best Dish" contest was created in 2006 to bring awareness to restaurants and chefs who feature local cuisine on their menus, and is the official restaurant contest of the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services and its Goodness Grows in North Carolina marketing program. This year's fine dining finalists include, along with Simplicity and the Table, Il Palio at the Siena Hotel in Chapel Hill, Deluxe in Wilmington, The Blue Ridge Dining Room at the Grove Park Inn in Asheville, Carolina Cross Roads at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, Ashten's in Southern Pines, The Beaufort Grocery Company in Beaufort, the Red Stag Grill in Asheville and the Gallery Restaurant at Ballantyne Hotel and Resort.
For more information, check out http://www.bestdishnc.com. Finalist dishes will be served at participating restaurants through the month of July.
Got restaurant news? E-mail editor Frank Ruggiero at (firstname.lastname@example.org) , snail mail Mountain Times Publications, Attn: Frank Ruggiero, 474 Industrial Park Drive, Boone, N.C. 28607, or call (828) 264-NEWS and ask for Frank.