Photo courtesy of Grove Park Inn
Sumac-dusted bison incorporating Benton’s country ham was among the courses served at a special dinner honoring the man behind East Tennessee’s prized pork products.
It was a meal the fortunate diners won’t soon forget. A six-course haute cuisine feast with down-home country cooking flavors prepared by the Smoky Mountain region’s most distinguished chefs including the Grove Park Inn’s Denny Trantham and Duane Fernandes, Blackberry Farm’s Joseph Lenn, and Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley’s John Fleer. Every course prominently featured a Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams product. Feast your imagination on this:
• Pan Seared Diver Scallop, house smoked lardo and herb salad and Tahitian vanilla bean and sweet potato puree with Four Roses Niagara Bourbon Cocktail• Benton’s Country Ham Wrapped Rabbit, braised cabbage, scallions and mustard jus with Sparkman This Old Porch Rosé • Blackberry Farm Grits and Benton’s Sausage, sorghum, pickled ramps and hollandaise with Sparkman Lumiére Chardonnay• Poussin Saltimbocca, sage bread pudding and sherry roasted shallot sauce with Sparkman Ruby Leigh Merlot• Sumac Dusted Carolina Bison, bacon and shitake hash, bacon black walnut sauce with Sparkman Darkness Syrah• Candied Ginger Carrot Cake with mascarpone icing, bourbon maple syrup and date puree with Four Roses Bourbon
And that’s an abbreviated version.
Knowing that all these food and beverage connoisseurs preparing this magnificent meal have deep North Carolina or Tennessee roots (with one exception but, hey, when a Kentuckian wields world-class bourbon like Four Roses, he’s granted honorary Smoky Mountain status) makes it taste even better.
The occasion was “A Tribute to Allan Benton” and the first dinner of the Grove Park Inn’s 2011 Culinary Getaway Series. Benton, featured in the January/February issue of Smoky Mountain Living, is the Madisonville, Tenn., ham curer extraordinaire and proprietor of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams.
“I was honored they felt I deserved a tribute and that they asked us to participate in the event,” Benton said. “But what an incredible event! I thought it went fabulously well.”
Haywood County native and Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa Executive Chef Denny Trantham was instrumental in bringing the Benton’s dinner to the GPI as part of the resort’s special culinary series. “Allan and Sharon Benton are good folks. He’s a humble man but he’s a giant in the industry in my opinion,” Trantham said. “Benton’s bacon and ham have become staples in a lot of upscale restaurants. A lot of chefs, some of them James Beard-award-winning chefs, insist on Benton’s products. We use it in our Horizon’s restaurant. We use some of his 14-month-old ham to make a Shaved Benton’s Prosciutto di Parma with lavender compressed melon, candied walnut crumble and elixir vinegar. And his product is in our Sunburst Farms Smoked Mountain Trout Salad with Benton’s bacon fritters and horseradish crème fraiche. And any time we’re preparing soup beans, collard greens—anything with that true Southern origin has to have a Benton’s component to it.”
Not all of the Culinary Getaway Series are tributes to particular individuals like the Benton’s dinner, but they all have a similar style—chefs from all over the Southeast come to Asheville and collaborate with Grove Park Inn chefs for a six- or seven-course meal paired with wines and other spirits. The specific restaurants and menus change but not the good taste. The Grove Park Inn has several restaurants and each is featured in the series. The Blue Ridge Dining Room, which typically serves meals a la carte during the week but is well known for its seafood and prime rib weekend buffets and Sunday brunch, is up next on the roster.
The Grove Park Inn Culinary Getaway Series offers special quarterly dinners that feature exquisite wine-paired multi-course dining prepared by Grove Park Inn’s award-winning chefs as well as some of the most celebrated chefs in the South who come in to participate in the weekend feast. One or two of the region’s top winemakers and distillers of other spirits also share their expertise and products. Dinner guests have the opportunity to meet and interact with the featured chefs. Check www.groveparkinn.com for additional information.