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.
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.
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
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.
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.