Behind the Scenes

Blackberry Farm – My Version of Heaven!

If you’ll remember, back in May I spent a few days in Knoxville at the Southern Food Writing Conference, which you can read all about here. While I enjoyed getting to spend some time learning from the best of the best in the food writing world, I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that my favorite part was getting to tour Blackberry Farm.

While I had been to Blackberry Farm the night before for the most amazing dinner, I had only gotten a chance to see the Barn so I was extremely excited to see everything else the farm had to offer. Nothing could have prepared me for the awesomeness that I was about to experience.

From the moment we pulled up at the farm, I was in awe. We stepped off the bus and were personally welcomed by the proprietor of the inn, Mr. Sam Beall himself. It was southern hospitality at it finest as he welcomed us to the farm that he has called home since childhood.

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After a quick welcome and history lesson from Mr. Beall, we were invited to begin our tour of the property. Our first stop would be to meet Tom and Jim. I’ll tell you all about them in just a minute, but for now I want you to see some of the beauty that Blackberry Farm has to offer.

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The house pictured is the Guest House that was the original home on the property and is currently host to 11 cozy guest rooms. Standing at that hill top where the house sits, we looked over the peaceful waters and rounded a corner to find the beautiful horses grazing in the pasture. And I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity to snap a picture of the lovely barn when I had dined the night before.

Finally we arrived to meet Tom and his trainer Jim. Tom is a Lagotto Romagnolos, an extremely rare breed of dog trained to hunt the Black Perigord Truffle. Jim explained to us that Tom was personally responsible for hunting and retrieving several hundred pounds of the black truffle on a recent hunt. He is kind of a big deal and the most loving little dog. Thanks to the efforts of those at Blackberry Farm, the Black Perigord Truffle is now being cultivated in Tennessee. If you visit the farm during truffle season, there is a good possibility it might just end up on your plate.

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Our next stop on our tour was over to the gardens where all of the produce grown is used by Chef Joseph Lenn and his team of culinary professionals in The Barn. While in the garden we had the pleasure of meeting the Garden Manager, Mr. Jeff Ross and Mr. John Coykendall, Master Gardner. In addition to being extremely knowledgeable about his craft, Mr. Coykendall is also one talented artist. His sketches actually adorn the beautiful charger plates used for dinner at The Barn.

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As I was standing in the garden shed having a chat with Mr. Coykendall about heirloom seeds, I turned around to find Executive Chef Joseph Lenn and his Sous Chef taking a stroll through the gardens. When I inquired about what they were doing I was told they had made a trip down to the garden in search of a plant or flower to use for garnishing dinner that evening. It is truly farm-to-table at it finest and every chef’s dream to be able to pick your own fresh ingredients.

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Our last stop on the tour was perhaps my favorite spot of the day. We took a stroll over to the Larder where all manner of animal and vegetable products are preserved. It is home to the preservation kitchen, the creamery, and the butcher. Everything that is harvested from the gardens and not used in meal prep for dinner is sent into the preservation kitchen. There is it turned into all sorts of jams, jellies, pickled vegetables and other goods available for purchase here. I can personally recommend the Pumpkin & Pear Butter. It is incredibly yummy.

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The Larder is also where the master cheese maker is responsible for making the most delicious cheeses. I had the opportunity to personally try Under The Pines, a raw cows milk cheese aged in pine needles and the Magnolia, an aged soft ripened sheep’s milk cheese. Both were superb and available for purchase in their online store.

In addition to the creamery and preservation kitchen, the Larder is also home to the butcher shop. All of the animals purchased from local farms are sent to the butcher shop to be processed for dinner. We had the opportunity to taste the various cured meats that are produced on the grounds and much like everything else, they did not disappoint.

I was so sad to see our time at Blackberry Farm come to an end. It was like saying goodbye to a family friend. I am counting down the days to my next visit but until that day comes, I’ll just have to stroll down memory lane with my pictures.

I hope you’ve enjoyed my stroll around the Farm and I hope you’ll make time to go expereice life on the farm for yourself. I gurantee you, you will not be sorry!

I’m a Little Starstruck

In May, I had the absolute pleasure of attending the Southern Food Writing Conference in Knoxville, TN. Y’all let me tell you, this conference is the place to be if you’re at all interested in writing about Southern food or just shaking the hands of the movers and shakers of the Southern food writing world.

According to the Southern Foodways Alliance, this conference is the gathering place for Southern food-writing icons to discuss what makes our food and culture worth writing about. I have to say I couldn’t agree more. I looked around the room at one point and found myself surrounded by the likes of established cookbook authors, James Beard award recipients, contributors to magazines such as Garden & Gun, Southern Living and The Local Palate and people who have made food blogging their life’s passion. I have to admit, I was star struck.

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Left Middle: Linda Carman, Test Kitchen Director of White Lily and Martha White with Robyn Stone, Publisher of Add a Pinch; Bottom Left: Chef Edward Lee, James Beard award Nominee, Author of “Smoke and Pickles” and a fan favorite on Top Chef Texas; Right: Jessica Mischner, Senior Editor at Garden & Gun, John T. Edge, Director of The Southern Foodways Alliance and Hunter Lewis, Executive Editor of Southern Living. Wow! All of these people, all of this talent, all together in one room?! Oh my sweet goodness!

After a fun-filled day of soaking in all of the knowledge passed down from the experienced food writing professionals, it was time to venture out for dinner at Blackberry Farm in Walland, TN. On the bus ride over I was fortunate enough to get to enjoy a lovely chat with Jessica Mischner, Senior Editor of Garden & Gun. She had such wonderful things to say about Blackberry Farm, I found myself growing more and more excited about arriving. I certainly did not expect it to be this beautiful!

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After enjoying some social time on the grounds, we were invited into the barn for dinner. Not just any ‘ole dinner, y’all, I’m talking 5 courses of melt in your mouth, died and gone to Foodie Heaven kind of good. The kind of good that would earn someone a nomination for a  James Beard award for being the best chef in the Southeast. Oh, wait, that is exactly how good it was because it was actually prepared by the Barn’s Executive Chef Joseph Lenn, and his team of culinary professionals.

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Bottom Left: Joseph Lenn running his kitchen like clockwork.

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Everything about this dinner was absolute perfection, from the Chicken Liver Pate to the Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Mousse, but I have to say that the Benton’s Bacon Wrapped Rabbit was the winner for me. If you’re not familiar with Benton’s Bacon, you should look into fixing that. You haven’t had bacon until you’ve had Benton’s!

After a fun-filled day of learning, networking, and most importantly EATING, I was absolutely exhausted. I couldn’t wait to get back to my room and fall into a foodie coma. 😉 While I had no problem sleeping like a baby, I was like a kid waiting on Christmas morning looking forward to what was to come the next day. The following afternoon, I was going back to Blackberry Farm to go on a private tour of their grounds. From the moment I stepped off the bus, I was in love, but you’ll have to come back later to find out all about my adventures there!

Bon Appétit

I get so tickled when people say things to me like “your husband must eat GOOD at home!” or “I bet you have the best dinners at your house!” I think people assume that since I’m a caterer, I must whip up all these lavish meals for dinner every night.

The truth of the matter is that I’m usually so busy cooking for other people, that I rarely get the chance to cook for fun. It’s kinda like how the shoe maker’s kids never have shoes, I guess. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I can’t whip up lavish meals at home, I just don’t get the opportunity to do so often.

In an effort to stop eating out so much, my husband and I made a commitment to start trying to cook more at home. I couldn’t commit whole hog unless we did something to make it more fun, so we came up with this idea to have monthly date nights where we would pick a country and plan a menu based on that region’s cuisine. We call them our “Cultural Date Nights.”

I look forward to them each month, but our most recent was my favorite so far! We decided to reminisce about our trips to France and prepared a few French inspired dishes.

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Amazingly yummy fruit and cheese that we snacked on while we cooked.

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Garlic and Herb Crusted Lamb with a Balsamic Red Wine Reduction and Sautéed Vegetables

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Hubby took over the crepe making and made up his own dessert with Nutella, Whipped Cream and Strawberry Syrup.

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Since I don’t love crepes, I just couldn’t miss an opportunity to make my favorite White Chocolate Creme Brûlées.

With my sweet hubby by my side in our kitchen at home, we whipped up a French meal that was almost as good as some we’ve had in Paris…almost. 😉 But we’ve decided that good meals or bad, we don’t care as long as we’re spending time together. We’re just having fun making memories together and memories with food are always my favorite.

Messy hair, post workout clothes, and creme brûlée, oh my! 😉

New Year, New Site, New Goals

Hey, Y’all! We all know that with every new year comes new goals. One of my goals for this year is to keep you guys more informed of the awesomeness happening at Ashley’s Creative Catering. What better way to do that than with my very own blog?! 🙂

This year is sure to hold some pretty great things, I just know it. For starters, it holds a pretty awesome deal for YOU! If you come see us at the Celebrations Bridal Show, you could be one of the 5 lucky people to snag our deal of the year.

What’s the deal, you ask? Just a little something I call “The Super Fantastic Catering Special of the Year.”

BS Special

I’ll only have 5 certificates available for purchase on Sunday, so if you’ve been considering Ashley’s Creative Catering for your wedding, come snag one before it is too late.

See y’all there!