Staying True to the Vision
All the Indigo Roads lead to unique tasting experiences at Highlands Food and Wine, November 11-14. For more information, go to highlandsfoodandwine.com.
After a year of pandemic-mandated hiatus, the “elevated” experience known as Highlands Food and Wine returns to our town November 11–14. Among the extraordinary roster of talent – from the worlds of exalted chefs, acclaimed wineries, and talented musicians, are personalities and culinarians from the Indigo Road Hospitality Group.
Perhaps better known by the names of the individual concepts than their corporate title, Indigo Road is a major force in the hospitality industry. Started in 2009 by Managing Partner Steve Palmer and the man the New York Times dubbed a “food visionary,” Indigo Road employs more than 1,000 workers across 24 business locations. Their best-known restaurants – Oku, Indaco, Brasserie La Banque, and Oak Steakhouse (with a newly opened branch at Skyline Lodge) are featured participants in the upcoming festival.
Palmer has long had a love affair with Highlands, including partnering with Highlands Food & Wine, Bear Shadow, and as one of the hosts at the October 2018 Tribute to Louis Osteen at The Farm at Old Edwards. As a restaurant operator in Atlanta, Palmer felt that he understood the Highlands’ visitor, and there existed a need for a “smaller, personalized hotel” at a mid-price point. Initially, Indigo Road sought only to install Oak restaurant in the Lodge, which was then under contract. But when the planned sale fell through, Palmer and his team jumped on the chance to acquire the property.
Though the company’s portfolio is primarily made up of restaurants, two months before Covid hit, they had started a new division focused on hotel management and ownership. Palmer was intrigued by the hotel’s history – its design by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright, that it had come into prominence in two critical periods – during the Great Recession and again in the ‘50s and ‘60s.
He noted that, “As with any restoration project, we wanted to respect the history, so we determined on a mid-century feel. Construction started in February. It has been a whirlwind, and although we found some surprises along the way, it has also been a joy. We stayed true to the vision of the restoration as we imagined it, and I couldn’t be happier.”
Though there are still rooms to renovate, the hotel opened in time for the July 4 weekend. The response has been so enthusiastic that plans are underway to commence construction on an event barn and catering kitchen designed to accommodate special events.
Palmer told me that he is “super excited to be part of Highlands Food & Wine,” and plans to present and sign his best-selling book, Say Grace, about his journey through addiction and how the restaurant business saved his life.
Also, on stage and at the table at Food & Wine are Indigo Road’s maverick chefs. At the Trucking event, Mark Bolchoz will offer tastes of the deeply flavorful, rustic fare he is known for at Charleston’s Indaco Restaurant. Eric Hill of Nashville’s Oku Restaurant will be at the Main Event with his refined Japanese dishes. Participants at The Grand Tasting can look forward to samples of mouth-watering morsels from Chef Kelly Vogelheim’s menu at Oak Steakhouse. Featured at Sunday’s Shindig, and not to be missed, are authentic French Brasseries treats from Jeb Aldrich of Charleston’s Brasserie La Banque.
You’ll find more information at highlandsfoodandwine.com.