Rachel volunteered at one of our very first Eat Boutique Holiday Markets, and has returned to every single event since. That’s five big markets, people, so she’s worked herself into my life such that my Mom now asks, “How’s Rachel?” every single month. Eat Boutique adores you, Rachel, and I’m even more delighted to congratulate you on your new baby girl! Rachel celebrated her baby-moon at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee – the spot for food fan pilgrimages. Thanks for sharing your food trip, Rachel! -Maggie
While I welcome autumn, I’m so sad to say goodbye to the plump berries, peas and tomatoes of the warmer seasons. This year, I am especially sad to see the seasons pass, as my husband and I enjoyed these flavors at one of the country’s top culinary destinations. We didn’t choose to travel to Napa Valley or New York City, but instead to Walland, Tennesee, the home of Blackberry Farm.
Blackberry Farm is located in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains, and shortly after our visit, Bon Appetit magazine named it the #1 Hotel for Food Lovers in America. The food is indeed exceptional. Breakfast options included a poached egg over fresh asparagus with bacon sauce; the Farm’s famous grain griddle cakes; and seasonal berries with granola, elevated with the addition of freshly made yogurt from Cruze Farm, located just down the road. For lunch, guests can choose to eat in the main house, take a boxed lunch on one of the Farm’s hiking trails, or attend a cooking demonstration led by Farm chefs.
On our second day at Blackberry Farm, my husband and I chose this last option, and were shown some traditional Appalachian dishes by Shannon Walker, the Farm’s preservationist. Shannon began the demonstration with dessert, pouring a cobbler batter covered with strawberries into a cast iron skillet (the famous Lodge Company began in South Pittsburg, Tennessee). This Skillet Cobbler baked while Shannon moved on to the rest of the meal.
The next course featured the ramp, a true star of spring. He mixed up a traditional hoecake batter – so named because farmers used to place the cake on the blade of their hoes to cook over a fire – and added chopped ramps before frying the cakes in another cast iron skillet. Alongside the hoecakes, Shannon served braised beef shanks over white beans, which had been cooked with bacon and thyme. Our first course, was a simple salad of tender greens, dressed with Georgia olive oil and Spanish sherry vinegar and topped with the Farm’s Honey Pickled Turnips. Shannon expertly finds ways to enjoy produce outside their growing seasons, allowing us to have pickled turnips and ramps or strawberry jam anytime of year!
Dinner at Blackberry Farm is the main attraction, and you don’t have to be a guest to enjoy a meal there – reservations are open to everyone. The menu changes daily to feature the freshest ingredients, and diners may choose the three course prix-fixe menu or the seven course tasting menu.
My husband and I sprung for the tasting menu. Standout courses included: a hearth fried farm egg with watercress, garlic confit, chili oil and chicken cracklins; roasted Carolina squab with the most delicious onion puree, oyster mushrooms, farro verde, and charred spring onions; blue cheese ice cream with cabernet cherries and baked streusel; and corn flour doughnuts with strawberries, crème fraiche and pink peppercorns.
My husband chose the wine pairings, but as I was pregnant at the time, Farm Mixologist Graham Case prepared a special “mocktail” pairing for each of my dishes. My favorite featured Blackberry Farm’s Apple Butter, and Graham was kind enough to share the recipe with Eat Boutique!
Apple Butter Mocktail
Makes 1 cocktail
- 3 spoonfuls of Blackberry Farm Apple Butter
- 2 lemons, juiced (about 3 tbsp, reserve the peel)
- 4 ounces sparkling water
- 1 ½ ounces alcohol of your choice (optional)
- Combine Apple Butter, lemon juice, and ice in a mixing tin.
- Shake until cold, and strain into a glass filled with ice.
- Add sparkling water and garnish with a thick lemon peel.
- Optional: Add the alcohol of your choice!
Photos courtesy of Blackberry Farm (first six) and Rachel Wilson (last two).
Eat Boutique discovers the best small batch foods by boutique food makers. We share recipes, maker stories and city guides to eating boutique. We host tasting events and markets for food makers, cookbook authors and food fans. We craft seasonal, regional gift and tasting boxes and sell individual items that you can order in the Eat Boutique Shop. You can also follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest.