Writing about dining at Blackberry Farm is the most middle finger, highfalutin, blah-blah-you-weren't-there, peacock thing I could do right now. It's a ridiculously papillae-tickling experience, but one reserved for a class other than writer/carpenter/bartenders like myself.
Most folks will never eat or spend a vacation at the resort in the verdant hills of Walland, Tenn. But I have dined at Blackberry Farm twice -- all praises be to Demeter -- both times as part of the Southern Food Writing Conference. This is to say that I feel incredibly fortunate to have been let in the building.
I'm tempted to say, "Screw you and your bad luck, bro, but let me tell you all about this mouth orgasm I had last week." However, as I experienced the grand barn dining hall and the cooking of Cassidee Dabney, who was named the resort's new chef in February replacing award-winning Joseph Lenn, as a non-paying and entirely gracious guest of the conference, I'll temper my gloating. I'll leave the review to the professionals.
A few brief thoughts: I enjoyed it immensely (Dabney's cooking is light and vegetable-focused); the James Beard Award-winning wine program is holy good god damn (!!); when a young waiter placed a course in front of me and a carrot fell from it's tweezed plating, he sighed and apologized; I was served my new favorite wine, a white Burgundy from Marc Moray and Sons; I didn't love dessert or the bitter paste of the spring onion panisse (though I normally love such fried things); and I didn't get to see the truffle-hunting dogs that supposedly roam the grounds.
During my first visit to Blackberry Farm in 2012, just a few months after the birth of my daughter, I met a few writers who would inspire me to make food a central subject in my journalism. I returned this year a bit further along on my journey, and I remembered how tipsy I felt in their presence, and how drunk we all got as the evening progressed. The magic of Blackberry Farm at twilight, in addition to being part of a gathering of colleagues and heroes, is why I hope to make it back to Walland, Knoxville, and the Southern Food Writing Conference next year. I need to meet those dogs.
I'll save you from gluttonous descriptions, but not the following photographs.
Buttermilk Panna Cotta: Charred Asparagus, Paddlefish Roe, and Garden Herbs
Slow Cooked Egg: Sunburst Trout, Crispy Potatoes, and Chives
Spring Garlic Panisse: Carrots, Morel Mushrooms, Hazenuts, and Coriander
Smoked Pork Jowel: Rhubarb and Beets