Fresh-from-Earth Fare Meets Heavenly Art: Artist Nancy Noël Serves Up Farm-to-Table
Elegance at Colours
Jul 03, 2013 11:17PM
● By Tammy LeRoy
If you’ve never visited Hoosier artist Nancy Noël’s celebrated gallery, The Sanctuary—a must-see destination in Indiana—you now have double the incentive. The Zionsville gallery that houses the artist’s well-loved paintings currently hosts a unique dining concept, as well. Colours Restaurant offers farm-fresh meals tastefully prepared by a master chef in a setting where guests are surrounded by masterworks of art. It’s an experience diners simply can’t get anywhere else.
“Healthy, edgy and upscale” are words Noël uses to describe the restaurant she set out to create. Her commitment to healthful, responsibly produced food sent her on a quest to learn all she could about the quality, nutrition and production of meats and produce. She began a search for local sources, visiting each farm and witnessing firsthand the conditions under which the food is grown and harvested.
One reason Noël has been resolute about sources for both the food she eats and that is used in the restaurant is that she doesn’t believe irresponsible producers should be rewarded. “I don’t want to support these people who are trying to kill us,” she says, adding that much of the food now available is more or less programmed to make us sick.
After finding good sources for locally grown, humanely produced food, she embarked on a $175,000 renovation that included a kitchen overhaul and the addition of a private dining area on the lower level, bringing her investment in the property—a 135-year-old Victorian church— to close to $1 million.
To complete the project, Noël searched for an outstanding chef who could prepare nutritious food in creative ways. She didn’t want to settle for less than a top-tier chef for Colours, but no one she interviewed was making the grade. Then, a cancelled flight and a six-hour delay in Miami landed Noël in the right place at the right Fresh-from-Earth Fare Meets Heavenly Art by Tammy LeRoy Photo provided by Tell the Story Photography time. She found herself seated next to a man who was connected with a great European chef as particular about fresh, organic food as Noël was. Even more remarkable, she says, is that she was able to convince the young chef to relocate to Indiana.
Fresh produce that’s authentically organic and meat that’s raised and processed humanely are imperative to Noël, as well as to her staff. “We get all of our food from local growers and local breeders. All of our eggs come from chickens we know,” she smiles. But Noël is adamant that taste need not be sacrificed for healthiness. “Our chef makes fabulous sauces from vegetable purees, and you’d think you’re eating a rich cream sauce,” she says.
The contemporary menu at Colours offers an innovative assortment of seasonally inspired dishes. Entrees include flavorsome choices such as poached, roasted chicken served with barbequed sweet corn, pickled red onions and charred leeks. For a starter, confit and charred Alaskan salmon with pearl barley, wasabi, yogurt and cucumber is a favorite. Colours also offers a creative assortment of desserts, including goat cheese ice cream with hazelnuts and candied lemon. Diners can refresh themselves with a sparkling glass of dry cucumber soda, and Noël and her team have also searched for the finest vineyards worldwide to offer a unique selection of wines.
Although outstanding cuisine is reason enough to visit Colours at The Sanctuary, food is only part of the experience. Noël’s celebrated gallery is worth a trip on its own. Her work has been commissioned to represent some of the world’s most recognized organizations and her iconic paintings of children are treasured worldwide.
In the tradition of American oil painting, portraiture and artistic studies of children, Noël is considered a modern master. Her patrons include such notables as Oprah Winfrey, Maya Angelou, Jane Seymour and Robert Redford. Buyers frequently report having a specific spiritual connection with the painting’s subject, although Noël has never seen the child she has painted. She rarely uses models; instead, Noël says she just begins painting and the faces reveal themselves.
“I realized a long time ago that most of my paintings are inspired by the Divine, rather than by my own choices,” she says. “It’s just as amazing to me as it is to everyone else when people show me photographs of lost loved ones who are not only the same child, but are in the same pose as the one I painted. It’s happened so many times that I’m not even surprised by it anymore. I just accept it.”
The 19th-century building that houses The Sanctuary offers ceiling heights soaring 24 feet in the main gallery. Visitors comment frequently on the gallery’s peaceful, transcendent ambiance. More than 100 original works grace the gallery’s walls, some as large as nine-by-nine feet.
Colours’ dining room is off the main gallery and features a carved Victorian bar rescued from the former Claypool Hotel in downtown Indianapolis. For special events, guests can be served in a cozy new dining area on the lower level, outdoors on a Victorian porch, or in a private area situated in an upstairs loft that features a fireplace and grand views of the gallery.
With great acoustics, The Sanctuary hosts special concerts as well as weddings and other events. Wherever visitors are entertained, they are surrounded by Noël’s magnificent paintings.
“I want The Sanctuary to be the whole experience,” Noël says. “I want the atmosphere, I want the art, I want the music and I want the food.” Overall, Noël says she has tried to create what she herself would want to experience. “I always ask myself, ‘What would I want?’” she says.
Interestingly, Noël says the creation of her much-loved prints began the same way, when she couldn’t find the type of paintings she wanted to display in her own home. “I started painting what I wanted hanging on my own walls,” Noël says. “It’s worked out pretty well.” With sales of her prints now numbering over 1 million, one would have to agree.
Those that crave organic food that’s deliciously prepared should find the new restaurant a welcome addition to the Indianapolis area. The fact that it’s housed in the splendid gallery of one of Indiana’s most-loved artists will put Colours high up on the must-see lists of out-of-state visitors and local residents.