When word came that beloved local hotel and Augusta landmark The Partridge Inn was to join The Hilton’s Curio family of hotels, many agreed new management and an extensive $6 million renovation had made a difference. Despite its timeless appeal, the inn certainly needed a facelift, but it also needed something to draw folks to its restaurant, the P.I. Bar & Grill.
That “something” is a new team in the kitchen — a change to the Bar & Grill equally as refreshing as the new-look bar and revamped décor. Leading the way is Chef Robert Plouffe, a Quebec native and experienced executive chef who promises to deliver an array of unique dining experiences that complement the inn’s history and tradition, and appeal to the regional palate.
During a recent dinner hosted by Northpointe Hospitality Management, LLC., guests were treated to a generous sample of the chef’s new menu. The tasting included 17 small plates and appetizers, drinks and entrées, all selected to showcase the artistry and talent of the chef and his team.
Indeed, from the choice of ingredients, to the plating, the entire event was visually delightful and immensely delicious. We enjoyed cheese plates (the goat cheese with tomato jam is intense comfort food dressed up like a canape), melt-in-your-mouth duck prosciutto with a black-eyed pea caviar, smothered catfish and more.
Speaking with Plouffe, it is clear he is looking forward to creating memories for food lovers. Chef’s resume comprises many locales and countries known to be passionate about enjoying time together, especially while dining. Among others, Plouffe has absorbed some culinary magic in New Orleans, Puerto Rico, France and the Cayman Islands.
“People love to eat here in Georgia,” Plouffe said, reflecting on his plans for the P.I. Grill. “And I know people have to come to trust me. That’s what it is about food — I prepare my food for my clients, and then we build a relationship when they eat it and enjoy it. That way, when they are with their friends and they see some dish that is new, or to them is strange, they will encourage one another to try it.”
The menu features a refreshing selection of dishes that appeal to local taste buds, but offer a twist, such as the Georgia stout beer bacon-wrapped BBQ shrimp served on cheddar grits. Innovative pairings and experiments are encouraged by the chef, and the results almost render language inept. The intention is to involve as many senses as possible to create an interactive, engaging dining experience from the kitchen to the diner, something he refers to as “almost like a communion.”
Another Southern-inspired dish is the BLT on brioche. This beast features Benton’s bacon jam, fried green tomatoes and shrimp salad remoulade on fresh brioche; a combination of textures and flavors that undeniably unite in harmony, yet with distinct notes that each reflect elements of Augusta’s Southern heritage.
“With the food, we are trying to do many things,” Plouffe said. “We are offering our take on Southern food using local ingredients, when or if we can. And we are showcasing the team we have, and what they do together. I learn from those people and they learn from me — someone comes to me with their idea and I can show them how to make that idea a reality.”
The chef likes to play with his food. From edible flowers and popcorn-infused rum and coke to rock candy topping a lemon curd tart, the chef’s playfulness is a pleasure to experience.
“People say that’s crazy!” Plouffe laughed. “But I like when people come find something new and different. Otherwise, everybody can cook a chicken, you know? Everybody can cook a filet mignon. But for us to bring something that makes people say, ‘Wow!’ Make people’s eyes open wide with a new experience. I love that.”
Get a taste of Chef Plouffe’s creativity Valentine’s Day when the P.I. Bar & Grill will recreate a menu served at The Partridge Inn on February 14, 1926. The menu includes a la carte options, as well as a three-course and four-course setting. More information — including the menu — is available on the Partridge Inn Facebook page, and online at partridgeinn.com.
Photos provided by Alexa Lampasona from Pineapple Public Relations