Eschelon Experiences President Gaurav “G” Patel believes in the positive nature of hospitality, from the way his staff treats guests to the way his chefs interact with each other. Simply, he wants everyone at his growing group, which has five restaurants and an event space in North Carolina’s Triangle region, to get along.
With that in mind, it made sense that all of his executive chefs received an invite to the first birthday party of Eschelon’s concept Faire—a steak and seafood restaurant in Raleigh.
The six-course collaboration dinner featured an offering from each of his unit’s executive chefs, with Faire’s lead Steve Zanini doubling up on the entrée and desert.
In addition to wanting to showcase Eschelon’s culinary diversity and cooperation, the menu paid homage to fall flavors with some interesting twists. And, all along, Michael Tinley, the manager and sommelier, showcased the knowledge that earned the restaurant an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator in its first year.
The meal began with a starter from Chef Toshio Sakamaki, of Basan in Durham. The Japanese-born sushi chef presented a Shichimi Crusted Seared Tuna Sashimi with grated daikon radish and Garlic Ponzu, Kaiware, fried garlic chips, chopped chive, and curled beets. The first course was paired with a Domaine Chandon Blanc de Noir NV.
The salad course followed, crafted by Chef Matt Lowery, of the Japanese restaurant Mura in North Hill’s. A Calamari Salad, with grilled calamari, picked carrot and fennel, beet carpaccio, frisee, sesame tuile, and with a white shoyu soy sauce, which involves more wheat and has a lighter color and sweeter flavor, vinaigrette. The pairing: The 2013 vintage of Bodegas Terras Gauda ‘Abadia de San Campio’ Albariño.
Seafood stayed the theme as Chef John Ford, from Cameron Bar and Grill in Cameron Village, offered a Diver Scallop over Sweet Potato and Cornbread Grit Cake Parsnip Purée, with a Cabernet and beet glaze, topped with crispy parsnips and smoked porcini pork belly. A 2013 vintage Chateau du Basty ‘Regnie’ Beaujolais complemented the course.
Fall flavors went into full effect in the fourth dish, presented by Chef Taion McElveen, of the The Oxford, an English pub restaurant in downtown Raleigh.
The complex soup was a Chai Spiced Fall Harvest Soup [puréed fall root vegetables], with cinnamon crème fraiche, pumpernickel crostini, pomegranate, and roasted peanut gremolata. He kept the dish on the healthy, fresh side with some apple juice as well. Sticking to 2013 vintages, a MacMurray Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir Reserve was featured.
When it came time for the host executive chef to enter the spotlight, Chef Zanini did so with an ingredient he doesn’t typically feature on his menu—elk—and one he thought was as fitting as it was unique—salsify.
Salsify, known by some as the “oyster plant” is typically a winter vegetable that belongs to the dandelion family and resembles a long, thin parsnip. It has creamy, white flesh and a thick, dark skin.
In Zanini’s course, he made a salsify purée, set it across the plate from a red wine pan jus, and placed Peppered Elk, sourced from New Zealand, in between, adding crispy kale and squash bread pudding to the presentation. The salsify introduction continued into desert, where Zanini offered a take on an Ice Cream Sandwich—vanilla and port salsify ice cream with a buckwheat [gluten free] sugar cookie and cocoa nibs. The final two wine pairings were a 2008 vintage Clarendon Hills ‘Piggot Range’ Syrah and a Quinto do Infantado Ruby Port NV, respectively.