We decided to pause long enough from sharing our retirement road trip through the Heartland with Easin’ Along readers to share a wonderful experience in food and fun on our recent visit to a luxury resort nestled in the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. Opportunities like this don’t happen often, so I wanted to get this one up while the taste buds were still filled with flavor.
Helen (adorable wife) and I were privileged to be asked to join a group of very dear friends on a weekend outing at a charming cabin on the property of Blackberry Farm. We didn’t have to be asked twice. It is still the Fall season here in East Tennessee and the conditions are perfect for gathering in the mountains. Temperatures are in the low 70’s, and a lot of color remains on the trees. We were looking forward to some hiking, a few good meals, and a lot of laughter with a great group of people. These are the events that make retirement the great gig that it is.
We made it to the cabin on Friday afternoon. Our friends were already well into weekend mode and met us at the car to help us unload. That was accomplished quickly because everyone was ready to take that first hike before ringing the Happy Hour bell. We changed our shoes and took off on a delightful excursion that began by following a pristine creek before hiking into the foothills draped in fall colors. We emerged from the woods into a clearing where we paused for pictures. We had fun, we were refreshed, and ready for some fun in front of the fire on a crisp fall afternoon. Great start to the weekend.
Our group slept late on Saturday morning so that we could be ready to cheer on our Tennessee Volunteers that afternoon. We still had plenty of time for an awesome breakfast casserole and an unveiling of the weekend jigsaw puzzle by the puzzle brigade. After a few pieces were locked together, a decision was made to take a longer hike…then do lunch. Yes, we love to eat, and a huge pot of vegetable soup was simmering on the stove for later. We knew we had better start walking.
This hike took us on a circuitous route that ultimately led to an unfinished cabin deep in the woods. We made ourselves right at home in the cabin as we took a break from the mile hike that was behind us, and before we started on the mile hike back to our weekend lodge. One hiker in our group was wearing a Fitbit bracelet which showed that we had already logged 4000 steps. That only encouraged me to think a little more favorably about a second helping of soup at lunch…and my brunch at Blackberry Farm the next day. The hike back gave us a total of over 7000 steps. Bring on dessert.
The afternoon was filled with football (Tennessee wins!), and the puzzle was completely sorted, but still not solved. Dinner was served late in the evening due to the fact that daylight savings time was ending and we put the extra hour to good use by extending cocktail time. A good time was had by all.
On Sunday morning we spent some time in casual conversation and coffee. Some small breakfast snacks were around, but most of us were saving room for brunch. After everyone was dressed, we gathered for a group photo which is shown here. Man, we look good!
Although I had been on the Blackberry property several times, I had never had the privilege of dining there. Needless, to say I was pumped up and looking forward to it with great anticipation.
Blackberry Farm is known the world over for its luxury accommodations, incredible scenery, and gourmet food prepared by world class chefs. As we were driving in, we couldn’t help but be impressed by inviting appearance of the entrance to the Lodge. The pastures surrounding the property were well maintained, the buildings were in great repair and landscaped to perfection with trees and plants native to the region. We were met by some polite young men assigned to park our vehicles.
Once seated, we were greeted by Nathaniel, an energetic young man who told us he would be there to serve us and help with anything we needed. He was accompanied by Juliette, a very courteous and attractive young lady, who was equally eager to please. We later learned that Nathaniel was from the area around Blackberry Farm, and that he planned to stay there forever. Juliette, on the other hand, was from St. Petersburg, Russia. She had done some traveling in her past, but once she reached East Tennessee she fell in love with it and had made it her home. Prior to being handed menus, we decided that Bloody Marys were in order.
The menu was a challenge…it all looked so good. Helen decided on the Country Ham and Cheese Beignet for a starter followed by an entrée of a Fennel Rubbed North Carolina Flounder. This delectable dish had a roasted turnip puree and was accompanied by roasted Brussels sprouts. The meal was as pretty as it was awesome. Not one crumb was left.
I chose the Cured North Carolina Trout for a starter. This appetizer was small bits of trout and avocado wrapped in razor thin slices of garden radishes and placed on a large dollop of roasted beet puree. This delicious appetizer also had a small serving of caviar on top and contained a wonderful mix of flavors. My entrée was Eggs Appalachia which included two poached eggs placed on fresh cornbread and served with Andouille sausage and kale. A crawfish Hollandaise was used to smother the meal with great flavor. This was both an imaginative and fantastic creation.
I wanted to share one other meal that was served to one member of our group. This dish deserved a picture because of the beautiful presentation. The meal was a Cheshire Farm Pork Chop with tomato braised greens and covered with shoe string potatoes. My friend ate every bite so I’m glad that I was able to share it here.
We lingered long in the dining room, but all good things have to end. After brunch we had the opportunity to visit the vegetable gardens where many of the vegetables for Blackberry Farm are grown. This was a bunch of fun and gave us a chance to walk and enjoy each other’s company in this beautiful setting.
Thanks to our generous hosts, we had a wonderful, memorable experience sharing good times, great food and great friendships…another example of what retirement is supposed to be.
Come back later this week when we will resume the stories of our visits through the Heartland and the Great Lakes region, but for now, we’re fat and happy…and Easin’ Along.