fiddlehead definition

fid·dle·head [ fídd'l hèd ] (plural fid·dle·heads) noun
Definition: edible fern shoot: the coiled frond of a young fern, often cooked and eaten as a delicacy

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

The Blood Dinner

When I first saw the question posed on twitter- Is Atlanta ready for blood?- I was a first responder with "yes." My thoughts not only flooded with the organoleptic properties of blood but of the cultural significance and religious implications the consumption of blood carries. I was intrigued, to say the least. Besides being an experiment with an underutilized/taboo ingredient, the dinner would be crafted by a collection of some of Atlanta's best chefs, including Zeb Stevenson of The Livingston and Proof & Provision, Tyler Williams of Abattoir, Ryan Smith of Empire State South, and Josh Hopkins of STG Trattoria.

Blood is an ingredient infused in the eating habits and cultures around the world yet held as an aversion by Americans. It's confounding, especially with the American obsession with all things vampire. As pop culture overflows with the vampire genre, we neglect and abhor a ready made, nutrient rich, liquid meal. Do we put it in disfavor because it makes us squeamish or because of its supposed sanctity?

Blood sausage is probably the form blood takes on most plates around the world- black pudding in Ireland and the UK, blutwurst in Germany, moronga in Mexico,  morcilla in Spain, and boudin noir in France are all very similar preparations. Soup is also a great way to utilize blood. Besides being a great thickener, it can also be the main component of the dish, like in swartsoppa (duck blood soup) in Sweden and czernina (duck blood and poultry broth) in Poland. In Taiwan there is a special soup with "dark tofu," which is actually cubes of congealed duck blood. Sangre frita in Spain is a dish of cubes of coagulated blood boiled then pan fried with onions.

Some cultures even drink blood,  not a practice of hematophagy (subsisting on blood) , but more for rituals and medicinal benefits. Mesoamericans drank human blood to appease the gods. The Masai of Kenya and Tanzania drink blood on special occasions like circumcisions, birth, or to help the sick. The Mursi of Ethiopia mix blood with milk as a drink. In Nepal there is even a blood drinking festival where the Nepalese trek up a mountain for a yak. The yak is not killed, but its throat is cut. After a drink of hot yak blood, thought to have medicinal qualities, they set the yak free. In Mongolia, shaman drink a mixture of sheep blood and vodka in hopes of connecting them with the souls of their ancestors. Eskimos drink seal blood for nourishment and also in an effort to honor the seal and waste nothing.

Nose to tail eating hearkens back to early times, but apparently not as early as biblical times. Inside the bible can be found many passages strictly prohibiting the eating of blood.  "Only be sure that you do not eat the blood, for the blood is the life, and you shall not eat the life with the flesh. " (Deut. 12:23) "But you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood." (Gen. 9:4) Not only are we no supposed to consume it, we should "take heed not to eat their blood, but pour it out on the earth as water." (Deut. 15:23) Commingled with the prohibition of all things blood are rituals that mimic hematophagy. “…eat my flesh and drink my blood….” (John 6:53-56) Transubstantiation of wine as the blood of Jesus during the Christian Eucharist quickly comes to mind. And yet we sat anxious for our first course of blood.

The evening began with drinks in the bar area of The Livingston with a Blood and Sand cocktail- one of few classic cocktails made with scotch. Blood and Sand, named/created for the bullfight movie of the same name with Rudolph Valentino, is a delicious concoction of scotch, blood orange, vermouth, and Cherry Heering. Chef Zeb Stevenson welcomed us, ushered us into the dining room, and assured us that we would be enchanted with the dishes and the chef ensemble. His hope was that dinners like this could enlighten us and remind us of our connection to food. I was enchanted from the start with the introduction of currant bread mixed with bacon and pork blood and served with bone marrow butter. Hot damn.
Hamachi Bloodline

The blood line (chiai)  is a streak of dark meat running the length of the fish near the spine. It is very dark red when fresh, has a stronger taste, and even a different consistency. Sushi tsu have a penchant for it. I have always thought it was a piece to avoid because of the strong flavor it produces. Enter the first dish of the night (also my favorite) with a brief cure on the hamachi, satsuma, crisp lardo, radishes, white soy, and cured blood frozen with liquid nitrogen that was dusted onto the plate. Bright, unctious, and memorable.
Pairing: Piper Heidsieck cuvee 1785 Brut, France. Fresh, with citrus notes.  

Coddle Egg
The coddled egg course, prettiest dish of the evening, included beets, puffed farro, foie gras & pork blood torchon, and bits of white chocolate. Individually, the ingredients were pretty spectacular and became more so when combining the elements. The table was pretty quiet while we tasted and though about these flavors.
Pairing: Loimer 'Lois" Gruner Veltliner, Austria 2010. Pale yellow in color, crisp, lemony. Great food wine.
Eel blood on rim before dashi was poured
Eel Dashi

 Inside this bowl rimmed with eel blood was a delicate broth, smoked eel, mushrooms, a quail egg, and pickled lotus root. It was perfect- savory, umami, tangy, light yet rich. It had depth, complexity, and balance. I would love this to be on a menu somewhere in Atlanta, sans the blood rim.
Pairing: Glen Carlou Chardonney, South Africa 2009. Fruity, oaky, rich.

Ox Blood Strozzapretti

Pastas and the way they are named for the objects they resemble make me happily don my etymology hat. This shape is a favorite; "Strozzapretti" means "priest strangler" in Italian. Not only did we have priest stranglers on our dishes, but they were made from ox blood and accompanied by rabbit sugo. Not strangling on my end, just smiling as they slipped down my throat.
Pairing: Solena Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley 2010. Spicy notes.
Blood Sausage
Our table was very chatty and giggly at this point. All preconceived notions of a blood dinner were put to ease with the dishes we had tasted so far. I loved the simplicity of this one- blood sausage, glazed radishes, and barrel cured apples. My favorite moment of the night happened while eating this dish when a table mate wondered aloud "these are so apple-y; I wonder what they are." Apples.
Pairing: Felino Malbec, Argentina 2010. Deep red, peppery, berries, spice aromas.
Pressed Squab
 This dish was also a performance in that diners watched as the squab was pressed in a meat press. The blood gravy was stirred next to it and eventually poured onto our plates. Roasted carrots and stewed prunes were served family style. 
Pairing: Charles & Charles Cabernet-Syrah blend, Walla Walla Valley 2010. Inky with dark cherry flavors.

Bloody Pebbles
A special pre-dessert interlude of bloody pebbles-pork blood creme anglaise drizzled into liquid nitrogen then mixed with pomegranate seeds was paired with a piece of blood styrofoam. Yep. Blood styrofoam. The pebbles were interesting in a super cold, iron-like, slippery mouth-feel, afraid to bite into them kind of way. I liked the inclusion of pomegranate seeds. It was kind of tasty. Weird, but tasty. The styrofoam tasted like, well, blood.
Flaming Crepes
Resplendent blood orange crepes arrived with beef blood ganache. Before I read the menu, I predicted a chocolate dessert with blood as a thickener. I had read about the tradition of making sanguinaccio, a chocolate pudding made with pigs blood, during the time of pig slaughter in Italy. Descriptions of it were just as the ganache tasted, just like dark chocolate only richer.  The pairing with this last dish was my favorite of the evening, L'Arco Pario Veneto 2004. It was succulent, rich, and velvety with a lingering finish. I enjoyed my glass (or two) with fellow diners and the chefs as we discussed our favorite bites of the evening. Enchantment, check. By the way, enchantment is also prohibited in the bible (Lev. 19:26).

Both my palate and my mind were heightened by this experience. It wasn't merely the food or the inventiveness of the chefs, but also the conversation a meal like this evoked. Dialogue stemming from a taboo topic and listening to different worldviews created an evening of intellectual growth. And that brings me back to blood. Said Rilke: "...if you set this brain of mine on fire, then on my blood I yet will carry you." The night set me afire and I will carry it with me.

Blood Dinner Menu

Monday, October 1, 2012

100 Mile Dinner Garden Party

Even if only symbolically and in the form of a pop-up dinner, there is a need to reexamine the way we are sourcing our food in America.  Our global food system diminishes our sense of connection to our food, our landscape, and our food culture. 1500 miles is the figure often thrown around in the media to describe the average distance food travels to reach our plate in the U.S. Numerous research studies can be found to substantiate as well as discredit the number of “food miles” products have attached to them, but what holds true is our food generally travels far and with this comes consequences. Food grown closer to home tastes fresher, is more nutritious, and supports local growers. As the distance decreases, so does the need for preservation and processing not to mention fewer transportation emissions associated with it. We can add to this the bidirectional connection between consumer and producer that is created when we know the source of the product we seek. A trip to a farmers’ market can bridge the gap between rural and urban locales. Besides strengthening the regional economy, it can make a small town out of a big one. The simple act of picking fresh, local, and seasonal food stuffs from the producers is an act of reconnection to the land, to community, and to traditions of the past. 
Nick Melvin and Rusty Bowers greeting guests

Labeling food as “local” seems to coalesce around the 100 mile limit. Enter Rusty Bowers of Pine Street Market and Nick Melvin of the upcoming Garden District. Together they created The 100 Mile Dinner, a series of pop-up dinners in Avondale Estates where partnering with chefs, farmers, and friends from the local community, they collaborate on a menu utilizing ingredients farmed entirely within 100 miles of the neighborhood. Some featured items may even be grown or raised exclusively for the events.
151 Locust in Avondale Estates

 I attended the 100 Mile Dinner Garden Party on a stormy September night at one of Avondale's oldest buildings, 151 Locust. The rain was not a factor; in fact, it seemed to bring us together. We huddled as a mass of like minded diners under twinkling lights that occasionally went out with the storm.  The background bluegrass enriched the stories being told of the tent we sat underneath and its most recent journey from Burning Man. We ate, talked, shared twitter accounts, and discussed our relationships with the dinner. I sat near a woman who is a vegetarian, unless the meat is locally sourced from a butcher she knows, like Pine Street Market. I also had the pleasure of Alicia Searcy’s company. She and her husband Tommy run Gum Creek Farms, the source of our lamb for this dinner (as well as the source of Pine Street's award winning Coppa). We left full of food as well as the notion of how we could carry this meal into the rest of our lives. At least I did.
Rustic yet elegant. Silver meets burlap.
The evening began with passed tastes and cocktails inside the house. This deviled "potato salad" was completely enchanting and unexpected. I loved the smoked Blue Ridge trout roe as a topper.
Another taste, Pine Street Market applewood bacon on Heirloom Garden's greens and preserved cherry tomato with cracked pepper aioli. This smoky-sweet bacon is always in my fridge and should be in yours. The greens were good too but I was really making the bacon face while I ate this dish. Oh my goodness, this bacon.
High Strung String Band were the the perfect musical accompaniment to this meal- a taste of traditional bluegrass mixed with a bit of folk but played with an edge. The music was much like the food: comfort laden with one foot in the past and a modern twist.
From the top, clockwise: North Georgia apples with Pine Street lardo, young arugula, & candied local nuts, roasted pumpkin, apple, and Flat Creek Lodge Natural Cheddar soup with creme fraiche & spicy pumpkin cheese straw, Deviled potato salad, Local cheese & honey. Along with these "Crostini ala Cachinni," a mini meat ball with sweet pimiento jelly. Jason Kemp of The Family Dog served a Flor Rose Brut with fresh grapefruit, thyme, and rosemary. It was a lovely beginning.
Appetizer from Terry Koval of Wrecking Bar Brew Pub and Rusty Bowers of Pine Street Market: Darby Farm's duck rillette with pickled peppers and chopped salad with Green Goddess dressing. The level of delicious was high and this plate was empty in a few seconds. Such great textures together, the smooth, luscious duck with the brightness of the dressed greens.

Duck Rillette pairing

Braised Gum Creek Farm's Lamb Farotto with grilled lamb sausage, mushroom conserva, and roasted local pumpkin. All I can say is suddenly I knew it was fall. This dish by Kyle Griffith of Pine Street Market and Andy Gonzales of Steinbeck's Pub was rich and hearty, yet the lamb was delicate. The  lamb was clean and herbaceous tasting, indicative of grass pasturing.  Pairing the lamb with a Highland Oatmeal Porter was perfect.
Serious fun while the rain was spilling through the branches of the surrounding trees.
"Derby Cocktail" from Jason Kemp of The Family Dog: 4 Roses bourbon and a champagne shrub.
Even before dessert arrived, I was sweetly enchanted with this drink and this evening.

Spiced Pecan Panna Cotta with mulled cranberry, preserved peaches, and pralines from Nick Melvin of Garden District and Layne Lee of Sweet N' Sinful Bakery. First there was a sound of spoons clinking on porcelain, then silence as fellow diners disappeared into this dessert. I took delicate, tiny bites of each flavor then bigger bites with one or two. The panna cotta appeared simple, but was anything but with the emanations within the bowl. First, a forward sweetness then smoky-spiced mulled cranberry arose from the depths to mingle with the tangy Georgia peaches canned at the peak of ripeness. The peaches managed to place both summer and autumn on my palate.
Rusty and Nick thank their guests.
Left to right: Jason Kemp, Kyle Griffith, Andy Gonzales, Nick Melvin, and Rusty Bowers
Far right: Terry Koval
It was at this moment I remembered a passage from Jack Kerouac's The Dharma Bums, which I had recently re-read: "...and he's going into the city to get drunk with the butchers, enlightened." I was full, a little tipsy, hanging with the butchers, and enlightened.
The next 100 Mile Dinner is in November I won't hesitate to purchase a seat. I cannot wait for Nick Melvin's Garden District. Follow his progress to the restaurant here.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Field of Greens 2012

Field of Greens is Atlanta's greatest effort in showcasing the importance of traceability, the supply chain from farm to fork. I cannot wait to slip on my boots and head to Whipporwill Hollow Farm this Sunday, September 30 for Field of Greens. This has consistently been my favorite festival for years because it is laid back (yet well organized) on a working farm with some of my favorite chefs and local artisans. The farm is gorgeous and fun to tour. The food is outstanding. Last year Linton Hopkins’ hot chicken blew me away, literally and figuratively. I came away with bags full of local products and a bevy of silent auction winnings with Slow Food Atlanta as the recipient of the dollars spent.

Foraging pig apron from here
This year Todd Mussman of Muss and Turner's, Local Three, and Eleanor's will host a pig roast at 4 p.m. Fresh off his win at the inaugural  Heritage Cochon BBQ Competition (along with Nick Melvin, Jay Swift, and Tommy Searcy), Todd is masterful at this process.
After I peruse the market including some of my favorites (Emily G's Jams/sauces, Pine Street Market meats, Phickle Pickles, Decimal Place goat cheese, Garlic Clove Foods quinoa, Beautiful Briny Sea Salts, King of Pops), I will head to the tasting tent to be dazzled by small bits. The vendor area is the perfect place to purchase items for the holiday baskets I am planning. I have seen mention of many specials. Here is blurb about my favorite local things.

The restaurant line-up for the tasting tent which opens at 12:30:

Ron Eyester - Rosebud, The Family Dog (last year, the chicken and biscuits were like no other dish served. Amazing comfort food)

Robert Phalen - One Eared Stag, Holy Taco (The trotter terrine was my favorite dish last year. I hovered over this table)

Dave Larkworthy - 5 Seasons Brewing Company

Eric Ottensmeyer - LEON's Full Service

Linda Harrell - Cibo E Beve

Justin Keith - Food 101

Lance Gummere - Bantam+Biddy

Asha Gomez - Cardamom Hill

Shane Devereux - The Lawrence

Stephen Herman - Haven

Matt Swickerath - Valenza

Todd Mussman - Muss & Turner's, Local Three (the meatballs last year!)

Marc Taft - Chicken & The Egg

Chad Clevenger & Jeffrey Gardner - Alma Cocina

Craig Richards - Ecco

Cathy Conway - Avalon Catering

Eddie Hernandez - Taqueria del Sol (my first taste of Huitlacoche ever last festival)

Edward Russell - PARISH (last year’s pork pate’ was a favorite)

Billy Allin - Cakes & Ale

Dan Latham - Farm Burger

Whitney Otawka - Farm 255

Jay Swift - 4th & Swift

Todd Ginsberg - Bocado

Duane Nutter - One Flew South (his lamb sausage with blueberry pickled onions last year…holler)

Megan McCarthy - Healthy Eating 101

Nick Oltarsh - ONE. midtown kitchen

Ryan Smith - Empire State South (his deviled ham roulade last year!)

Alison Leuker - Sun in My Belly

Marc Sommers - Parsley's Catering

Todd Richards - The Shed at Glenwood

Britt Cloud - Sprig (I tasted their offering already. So, so good.)

Keith Schroeder - High Road Craft Ice Cream (last year it tasted like bourbon!)

Brian Horn & Joe Schafer - JCT Kitchen

Suzanne Vizethann - The Hungry Peach, Buttermilk Kitchen

EJ Hodgkinson - Woodfire Grill
Get your tickets here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Wish: My favorite local things

Someone on twitter mentioned that there were only 104 days until Christmas today. I wasn’t ready to entertain the thought until I thought of Wish parties. Each year during the holiday season a group of girlfriends and I gather for a fun night out and exchange gifts. Sometimes we set a limit and sometimes there is a theme. My favorite evening was when the gift to bring was a re-gift of a piece of jewelry or accessory that you just didn’t wear but loved. I came home with a gorgeous scarf that came with a story. I gifted a necklace that was so pretty but had never been worn.For years it sat lonesome in a box in my bathroom drawer. Now I get to see it regularly on a friend who adores it. Besides giving a loving home to things we couldn’t let go of otherwise, the narrative behind each gift was the best part of the evening. When I host a Wish party this year, I am going to combine the stories with a basket much like Oprah’s favorite things episode she used to produce. Each guest will bring a number (depending on the number of guests) of their locally made favorite item. Everyone gets one of each and goes home with a basket full of goodies. My ideal basket:

Sweet Grass Dairy Green Hill Cheese
This creamy, buttery, and smooth cheese with a thin bloomy rind and golden color is similar to Camembert. Jersey cow’s milk gives it the gorgeous color and I am convinced being made with love gives it its taste. Sweet Grass Dairy is a family owned and operated farm in Thomasville where the cows live as cows should and cheese making grew out of new found joy at a cheese-making class. It’s delicious, local, and sustainable.


French Broad Chocolates Vanilla Bourbon Caramel
True perfection. They had me as a loyal customer at our first meeting a couple of years ago but my intense love for Jael and Dan Rattigan stems from their business plan: "To explore our perpetual lust for culinary creativity through the medium of chocolate. To create a beautiful space and a beautiful menu; to witness the emotional impact of our creations on our patrons; to further hone our place in the community and lighten our environmental impact, all the while living as decent human beings." Many business owners say things like this this, but Jael and Dan actually have achieved their objectives. I love everything about French Broad Chocolates, from their meticulous sourcing, their Willy Wonkaesque factory harnessing the sun to roast the beans, to the lovely packaging. My friends know of my great love and make sure to stop for me each time one of them is in Asheville. My favorite confection right now is the Vanilla Bourbon Caramel filled with Knob Creek bourbon. Sweet, rich and at the same time a lil smoky from the bourbon. Runner up: Lavender & Honey truffle with local lavender & wildflower honey and  Peruvian dark chocolate. It is layered bits of the Blue Ridge Mountains wrapped up inside of exotic dark chocolate. You can smell, taste, and feel the lavender bits and the honey. Pretty sure it tastes like sunshine and bluegrass too.

Emily G’s Berbere Sauce

Inspired by a spice mixture that is the flavor foundation for Ethiopian cooking, Emily G’s Berbere Sauce makes grilling or crock pot dinners easily exotic. Super inspired by the spice combination, Emily woke with the flavor in her head and worked all day crafting a batch that eventually became this sauce. The “love” that is printed on her jars can be tasted. She tries to create jams, sauces and relishes simply, naturally, and with the best ingredients available. I can’t wait to get my hands on a jar of pear honey which came about after she tasted an amazing pear from South Georgia and dreamt up a slow cooked, thickened version of it with just a hint of honey. It’s much like how her Emily G’s story began- a mom (who also happens to be a classically trained chef) on a strawberry picking play date in Lawrenceville with buckets full of fresh berries. The play date turned into a jam making day. This is how Emily’s grandmother from Alabama did things. When you have a fresh ingredient in excess, you put-up. Friends and family loved what they tasted, wanted more, and Jams of Love was born.

If her curry ketchup collaboration with Rosebud is ready by the holidays, I might put it in my wish bag too.


Southern Gal Bath and Body
These are luscious lip balms that I use every day. I have one in my purse, one in my car, one in the kitchen, and one right next to me at my computer. It began with a crafting whim at making soap and has grown into a full bath and body line. Tricia’s soaps are beautiful, creamy, and have lasting scents. Making them allows her to be an amazing mom at home. For the holidays this past year I bought soaps, candles, scrubs, and lotions for everyone from Southern Gal Soaps/ Bath and Body.

Beautiful Briny Sea Salts
Beautiful Briny Sea Salts are made here in Atlanta. I especially love the truffle salt and the lavender salt. The blends are made with hand harvested salts from around the world and certified organic herbs. All ingredients are sourced from the growers with sustainability as a focus.  More importantly, they are incredible delicious.

Garlic Clove Foods: Gluten Free Garden Pilaf
The D’Angelos make delicious, healthy, and quick cooking foods a family affair with Garlic Clove Foods. Everyone pitches in to produce blends made with a combination of 100% Whole Grains (Quinoa, Bulgur & Millet), Vegetables, Legumes and natural herbs and spices.  The Gluten free Garden Pilaf is a mixture of organic millet and organic quinoa with vegetables, herbs, and spices. I love being able to gift something made near my home by a family trying to bring better food to everyone's table. My gluten free friends will love it!

Phickles Pickles: Rasta Beans
Phickles Pickles began in 2009 in Angie Tillman’s home kitchen and has since moved to a facility in Athens. The entire family pitches in from the filling of the jars, sticking on the labels, and delivering the boxes. Each jar is hand packed with locally sourced veggies and fruit. I love all of the pickles but Rasta Beans are my favorite of the bunch. Rasta Beans came about as a gift to a local Athens restaurant that served a few dishes with jerk seasoning. They now have quite a cult following. Rasta Beans are not always available but she will make them to order. Look for Angie and her sweet booth adorned with heirloom linens at farmer's markets and local shops.

H & F Bottle Shop Bloody Mary Mix
It’s not a spicy mix but that is easily remedied with the addition of hot sauce and a few of those Rasta beans mentioned above. I love the mix’s  brightness and thickness. The mix begins with hand-milled tomatoes, not juice, but tomatoes and includes hand-squeezed lime juice, Worcestershire, horseradish, Trappey’s hot sauce, celery seed, and cream Sherry. The bottle encourages you to add to it what will make your bloody Mary best for you. I absolutely love the handwritten batch date on the label.

Pine Street Market Cured Meats
Pine Street Market meats begin with local pork from Berkshire hogs from Gum Creek Farms in Georgia. Humanely raised pigs forage off the land using a rotational grazing method without antibiotics, pesticides, or herbicides. CIA trained Rusty Bowers is a skilled craftsman in the art of salumi. His house-cured meats made on site in Avondale Estates and aged in custom-built, climate controlled curing caves. My favorites are the speck and the applewood smoked bacon. My kids call it the “good bacon” when they are asking for it.
NaturAlmond Almond Butter

When Jamie Foster couldn't find almond butter in stores that could compare to her grandfather's, she began making her own. With the enlivening support of friends and family, NaturAlmond was born and continues to grow in Chamblee, Georgia. Handcrafted using just two ingredients, roasted almonds and sea salt, it is both delicious and nutritious.
photo from

Jack Rudy Tonic
This small batch cocktail syrup made in Charleston is gorgeous in apothecary bottles with letterpress labels. Besides quinine, the tonic is composed of a blend of lemongrass, orange peel, sugar, and citric acid. It is concentrated and can be used as a sweetening agent for a cocktail or traditionally as “tonic water” with the addition of fizzy water. I confess that I have yet to try it but I have had stellar cocktails from Brooks Reitz at Fig Restaurant in Charleston. What’s not to love about a handcrafted tonic from a southern gentleman who named his product for his grandfather?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Sprig Mountain Dinner

It was one of those astonishingly beautiful days in the north Georgia mountains- brilliant sunshine, blue sky, slight breeze, and the scent of wild flowers blooming. I stood under the low branches of a tree listening to the rushing Toccoa river, thinking how this day could inspire a thank you poem from e.e. cummings. I was so grateful to be included on the list of guests for this coming evening.

Bottles were already being opened to celebrate this inaugural seasonal dinner by Sprig Restaurant. I grabbed a glass of Albarino (a good day drinking wine) and joined designer Kim Smith Fong of Studio Song for a hike to find table scape materials. She has such a discerning eye for natural beauty.
Kim spotted things most of us walked past. She collected curled roots that resembled driftwood, spongy moss, and rhododendron growing along the banks of the river to mingle with the slate rocks she pulled from the water.
river rocks
scenery on our walk

White table cloths were placed on the rustic tables in the gazebo by the water and then magic was created.
Leftover Mason jars from put-ups from country put-ups were filled with candles and strung from the rafters.
twinkling lights

 Serious prep work was going on inside with Executive Chef, Britt Cloud, as well as periodic cork popping sounds. The freshness of the Georgia mountain trout really had me anticipating dinner.
Thank goodness our chef came prepared with the trout from Inland Seafood because our fly fisherman came in empty-handed. In their defense, it is difficult to fish with a cocktail in your hand.
Peeling the free range, local eggs which were soaked in a colorful natural tea
Cutting lardons from the smoked Riverview Farms  grass fed Berkshire pork belly

salad plating

Guests began to arrive. We nibbled on Georgia pecans from a family farm of Kim's, roasted both sweet and savory. We tried cheese from Udderly Cool Dairy- a smooth and creamy Cool Creek cheddar and a velvety, mild blue. I loved the spicy pickled carrots and beets from Hillcrest orchards. Sourwood honey from Wally's Bees was the perfect local accompaniment to the cheese but also very good with our homemade biscuits in the morning. 
The group sauntered down to the gorgeous tables and settled in for a memorable meal. The temperature was perfect, the company was a mix of people from Atlanta and north Georgia. We had much to talk about and many bottles of wine to share. Anthony Tiberia, co-owner of Sprig with Jennifer Tiberia, welcomed us to dinner and toasted the night.

 First course: Soft boiled egg (see the lovely crackle finish?), local pea shoots & radishes, smoked pork belly, and red wine reduction. Every egg on every plate was cooked perfectly. I watched as each guest cut into it and the creamy yolk poured around the crispy pork belly. It was a dish both decadent and light, creamy and crunchy.

Darkness was falling and the evening became ever so convivial. We were laughing, sharing stories, and appreciating the company of new found friends. We talked a lot about local, sustainable food and how this was important in our lives. Everyone had a story and a favorite. French Broad Chocolates, Spotted Trotter charcuterie, Emily G's Jams, Phickles Pickles, The Turnip Truck, Spinning Spider Creamery, Highland Brewery, Farm Mobile, Mercier Orchards, Burge Farm... I could go on and on
2nd Course: Seared mountain trout with Anson Mills Carolina Gold rice grits cooked with saffron threads and braised baby artichokes. It was really a tremendous experience to taste this trout next to the water it once may have swam in. It was so fresh and delicate that a guest near me, who swore she did not like fish, commented on its tastiness. The aromatic saffron grits were hearty and homey seeming but actually quite light in preparation. Carolina Gold has such a great mouthfeel.
Dessert Course: Rustic Georgia peach tart with lavender scented cream. I am having difficulty writing about it because I miss it so much. It was warm and flaky with gooey, hot, fresh, Georgia peaches. I ate the lavender cream separately because lavender is one of my favorite flavors. My seatmate and I finished the bowl leftover cream.
40 year Taylor Fladgate Tawny port--so mellow. What a treat to enjoy such an aged port. It was rich in color, mellow and hazelnutty. The night had cooled down quite a bit and this really warmed me from the inside.

There was much applause for chef Britt Cloud and he was finally able to settle in with us and enjoy the night. We talked for hours about how important the heritage of southern food is to him. He loves to present the authentic flavors of food to his diners. Simple, fresh, seasonal, and local are words that echoed all evening. I am so looking forward to another dinner like this. Perhaps this fall we can also forage on site for a few ingredients.