A Chef’s Table fills the seats of Blue Denim
When you visit Blue Denim, it might be a good idea to wear your stretchy jeans. Located in the heart of downtown Greensboro, lovingly nicknamed “Jeansboro,” as an ode to the city’s textile heritage (particularly to Cone Denim) Blue Denim has established itself as a cozy, modern eatery with a focus on Creole and Cajun fare. Owner Jody Morphis came to Greensboro by way of New Orleans in 2000. His first job in Gate City was at the former Restaurant Pastiche. Five years later, Morphis opened Fincastles Downtown, a beloved burger-centric diner that became a part of Greensboro’s locally owned burger boom. After enjoying 10 years at Fincastles, Morphis sold the diner and stepped away from the kitchen for a brief period. However, the proverbial phrase, “I could not stay away” rings true here. So in 2015, Morphis and his wife opened Blue Denim, right next door to the former Fincastles (now White and Wood).
Opening a Cajun restaurant wasn’t too far a stretch, as Morphis often featured a Mardi Gras menu at Fincastles that was quite popular. Morphis grew up in Meridian, Mississippi, and after college went to culinary school in New Orleans. There he stayed as a chef in New Orleans at Cafe Giovanni, and then at House of Blues.
“I always loved gumbo and étouffées. Growing up in Mississippi, we grew up on that too,” Morphis told me. An eclectic, globally inspired menu with a Cajun and Creole focus takes special attention, and Morphis said he enjoys playing around with flavors and local ingredients.
While many of the featured chefs “surprise” the guests with the multiple courses, some like to present a menu, and Chef Morphis’s menu was presented beautifully with a custom printed napkin tie to mark the occasion. Each course was detailed in such a way to highlight a region or event that is meaningful to Morphis, and we noted that here with each course.
Mobile (Course 1)
Rock Shrimp Zabuton
Marscarpone, rock shrimp, chives, raspberry and mango purée, roasted ginger pepper demi, pea shoot pesto
“Mobile is where the first recorded Mardi Gras took place in the United States,” Morphis said.
This little crepe-like “pillow” was beautifully presented. The creamy filling worked beautifully with the sauces and demi. You know how it’s so yummy to take the last bite and dredge it through all the beautiful glazes? Every bite was like that. Guest Scott Fancett declared, “This sauce is so good, it should’ve come with a spoon.”
Chabaud (Course 2)
Holy Trinity and Friends
Gate City Harvest spring onions, roasted sweet peppers, celery, pork, toasted Gorgonzola, Blue Denim sauce
“Chabaud is the last name of the family that kind of took care of me when I lived in New Orleans,” Morphis described of this course. “They have been family friends since the late ‘80s. I have had many memorable meals and experiences with the Chabaud family, and just wanted to honor them.”
Guest Bill Norman, who owns Fainting Goat Spirits, deemed this dish a favorite. This deconstructed “holy trinity” had the components separately presented, but the magic happened when you combined the flavors get a little bit of everything. The toasted Gorgonzola added a beautiful cheese straw-like texture and flavor.
Bacchus (Course 3)
Duck, Duck, Gumbo
Smoked Joyce Farms duck, Andouille sausage, lemon-grass scented filé gumbo, Louisiana popcorn rice
“Bacchus is another Krewe in New Orleans,” Morphis explained of this dish. “Bacchus was formed in order to include people from outside of New Orleans to revitalize carnival in NOLA. Duck gumbo is revitalizing and a very inclusive dish in itself.”
The gumbo has been a featured item in the past few weeks at Blue Denim, the warmth and spiciness is everything you love in a gumbo. It was a bit heartier thanks to the duck with a great kick of heat.
Zulu (Course 4)
Grits and Daube
Old Mill of Guilford grits, USDA Prime Denver steak, Cabernet beef jus reduction, parsley oil
“Zulu is the first parade to roll on Fat Tuesday, which to me is the meat and potatoes of carnival season.”
A riff on shrimp and grits brings us steak and grits. It was a hearty entrée to cap the evening’s savory courses.
Endymion (Course 5)
Oh My Darlin’ Lemon-Thyme
Lemon-thyme cheesecake, bourbon rosemary blueberry sauce, lemon curd, mint
“Endymion is one of the super Krewes and largest parades that roll during Mardi Gras,” Morphis said. “When I lived in NOLA, the Chabaud family lived on the Endymion parade route. I had some sweet times there, so dessert was named for Endymion.”
The dessert, with its golden, purple and green, which I’m sure was a hat tip to Mardi Gras, was sweet, tart and herbaceous. I absolutely love a lemon dessert with some component of berry. It was absolute perfection for me.
Morphis said when considering what the city needed, he saw a place in the market for great Cajun cuisine.
“I make a concerted effort to do it the right way and with the right ingredients. The bread for our Po’ Boys come from New Orleans,” he said. “We work closely with Gate City Harvest and get with Aubrey to find out what he’s growing, and it’s getting easier to build our menus earlier now and utilize as much locally grown produce as possible. “I also love to read a whole lot and study cookbooks to see what other people are doing…and study what other cultures are doing too so that we might be able to do that here at Blue Denim.”
Morphis said he is happy he has discovered a passion and deliver what he loves to do in Greensboro and now he has regulars that dine at Blue Denim that keeps the drive alive.
“I don’t take loving what I do for granted. I knew I wasn’t going to get rich, but we make a nice living. We also found good people that work with us that share that desire to create a great experience for our guest. I don’t take that lightly.”
Kristi Maier is a food writer, blogger and cheerleader for all things local who even enjoys cooking in her kitchen, though her kidlets seldom appreciate her efforts.