Celebrity Chef Tour 2012, The Palisades

I know I say this every year, but I had the best meal of my life a few weeks ago.

For the past 3 years, the tiny town of Eggleston has been one of the hottest stops on the Celebrity Chef Tour and this year was no different.

This is one of the few places on the tour that they have 2 nights – back to back – and The Palisades has sold out every night since the first dinner.

Nick and I were lucky enough to be able to sit and eat the first night of the tour this year, and I stretched my culinary limits in more than one way this year.

Chef Mike Isabella and Chef Jen Carroll, from Top Chef, were two of the chefs on this stop of the tour – I was so nervous to meet them, but they were both incredibly friendly and funny.

I tried raw oysters for the first time ever! Mike made a curried grape soup oyster shooter as one of the appetizers – it was cool and spicy and salty. I loved it.

Other appetizers included oysters with sausage and cilantro oil, carpaccio with turnip, and – my favorite – the pea, ricotta, and pistachio toast.

One of my favorite things about these dinners is that I get the chance to watch the chefs work: plating, running around the kitchen, telling stories about their dishes, and then finally relaxing at the end of the meal.

The prep room was crazy the entire time, and the food just kept coming.

Jeff, from the Celebrity Chef Tour, and Shaena, owner of The Palisades, gave a warm welcome to everyone once the appetizer hour was over. Hearing more about why this tour started and the James Beard Foundation really makes me wish I was more involved.

The dinner Friday night was a tiny bit different from Saturday’s because one chef couldn’t be there both nights. I ate the entire meal on Friday, so there were 2 dishes I didn’t get to try on Saturday but our meal was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had. And I tried more new foods!

The first course of our meal was a sweet and spicy beef cheek, cooked to perfection.

Next up was Jen Carroll’s dish, which was definitely something I had never eaten before.

Duck heart – yup, heart – with grilled ramps, fennel, and uni tapioca (also my first time to try uni).

I’ll admit. I was scared to try this, but it was so well balanced. I absolutely loved the bites with the grilled ramps and fennel.

Mike’s dish may have been my favorite of the night. I couldn’t find anything that I didn’t love about this plate.

He made olive oil poached lamb with fava beans, ramps, and pistachios, plus this little fried egg roll on the side.

Next was the salad. Chef Barton flew in from Norway, I think, that day, so he showed up just in time to get his dish ready and tell us all about it. He prepared a shaved spring vegetable and herb salad with smoked trout and a touch of nutmeg that was light and refreshing.

I would have never put nutmeg with smoked trout, but I would gladly eat 10 of these plates.

The second night, Chef Aaron Deal (from Roanoke!) made lamb loin with beans and sweetbreads. This is one dish I did not get to try – I’m hoping he has something on the menu like this when he opens his restaurant next month.

And dessert.

The best part of every meal, right?

We were in for a treat. The pastry chef for the dinners was Chef Dana Herbert and he made a bacon and almond tuille cup with bacon ice cream with a side of french toast topped with sauteed apples.

It was a whirlwind weekend. I basically sat and ate for 4 hours on Friday night, then stood and took pictures for 6 hours on Saturday. But I wouldn’t have changed a thing.

I got to meet some incredible people, make new connections, and share food with hundreds of other people that feel the same way I do about a great meal.

Thanks again for an amazing experience! The Celebrity Chef Tour next year, I’m sure, will top this one – somehow.

It always does.

See the recaps from 2011 and 2010 and visit the Celebrity Chef Tour website to see if they’re stopping at a town near you!


  1. What an amazing meal! That lamb dish of Mike’s looks absolutely wonderful and your photos do such a great job at capturing the atmosphere.

  2. What an awesome experience! I loved watching them on their top chef seasons

  3. such an awesome event!! making me hungry :)

  4. I wish the tour came close to me! Andy would love it, he is super into Top Chef. And eating delicious food too,of course.

  5. This sounds like such a fun event! I love Top Chef and Mike was always one of my favorites! Everything sounds so unusual and gourmet! I have to admit that I’m not sure I’ve had MOST of what was served but it sounds like a good time to try that stuff!

  6. Great write up! The lamb dish you missed with the beans and sweetbreads was outstandingly delicious! We were there last year and this! Fantastic experience and food!

  7. So awesome that you got to meet Jen and Mike! What an amazing experience. The food looks delicious. I would have loved that dessert!

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