MARC AT CHÂTEAU ÉLAN
written by JENNIFER COLOSIMO | photography courtesy of CHÂTEAU ÉLAN
THE DRIVE UP THE MUSCADINE VINEYARD LINED DRIVEWAY AT CHÂTEAU ÉLAN can make you slip into an altered state of being – one that takes you back in time a bit, envisioning that you’re riding top-down in an early-era convertible with a scarf tied over your hair or a cigar in your hand. It’s a serene landscape, beckoning a simpler, wineglass-immersed schedule, but what lies beyond the curtain at the resort’s newest renovated dining space isn’t reminiscent of the olden days. In fact, it’s a step toward modern dining that’s both sophisticated and supremely unique, yet still manages to reflect the resort’s healthy dose of nostalgia.
It’s also French, and in true romance language form the word märc gives name to a fiery spirit from within the heart of the grape. Frankly, it’s the grape skins and residue left over in a wine press after the juices have been squeezed, but it’s not just scraps. In fact, the French use it to make brandy. Farmers and cellar hands would drink it to celebrate the end of their day in the field. At Château Élan, the team behind marc expounds this definition through their menu, celebrating all things from the land — be it pasture or crop.
Some of that is local, like the hearty Brasstown Beef filet and ribeye. Pair either with the house-made pink peppercorn Béarnaise for a plate I dare you to leave clean. Also from local farms are the garlic Swiss chard and sweet corn succotash, both perfect complements to the Niman Ranch bone-in pork chop, which comes sizzling and impossibly tender, perfect with a fork-swipe through the sweet and savory apple chutney.
Another element Winery Chef Cameron Udick’s menu brings to the modern eating experience is a slew of unique picks from the garden you don’t often see plated together on southern menus. Think kumquats and Georgia grown olive oil served with diver scallops, lotus root and benne seed with tuna tartare and succulent honeycomb meant to nibble alongside handcrafted charcuterie. Heading into fall, Udick also treats weekend diners to his personalized menu, presenting a tasty tour through his creative culinary mind including an appetizer, entrée and dessert with suggested wine pairings.
And speaking of dessert, Udick’s pastry chef Arnasha Hudda is young, talented and exquisitely personable, so if you can pull her tableside to present your treat, be ready to experience it on an emotional level as well. The way she reveres Chef’s grandmother’s classic buttermilk pie is enough to know that she has a tender touch in the kitchen, baking in as much respect for traditional family recipes as she does creative flair that makes it her own – in the case of the pie, that’s the addition of cactus pear glee and candied citrus peel.
I’d be shortchanging your expectations if I didn’t say that one of the best parts about enjoying the fruits of the earth and its farmers at marc is listening to manager Clement Nouzies deliver each dish’s culinary potential tableside. In fact, it’s almost worth calling after hours just to hear him add romance to the hours of operation on the restaurant’s voicemail. Nouzies grew up in the south of France and speaks inherently to the richness of spirit within both the food and beverages at marc. So, if you’re in for the full experience — and have a taste for brandy — stay a while longer for an after-dinner sip of the restaurant’s namesake liquor, ending your meal on a particularly high note.