As I cozied up to the fireplace on a damp, overcast day at Blackberry Farm, I recalled a similar day two decades earlier. I was at Chateau d’Esclimont outside Paris. That day I watched gentle rain falling onto the mirror-like pond as I savored the most wonderful mushroom dish of my life.
This past week, after flying into Knoxville and making the half-hour drive to Blackberry Farm, I was again watching a slow falling rain. This time as I lunched I was looking out onto a soft mist hovering about the Great Smoky Mountains in southeast Tennessee.
Spring Had Arrived
The Legacy Continues
It all started in 1976 with Samuel “Sandy” Beall III and his wife, Kreis, founders of the Ruby Tuesday chain. Later son Sam and his wife Mary Celeste took over the management and expansion of the resort. But two years ago Sam was killed in a tragic ski accident. Today Mary Celeste manages the property and she and the 5 children still live there.
The resort that started with six guest rooms has grown to 68 rooms. Barns, cottages, houses, gardens, woodland trails, mountains, lakes, a brewery, spa and gift shops define the 4,200-acre spread adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains national park.
The modern guest cottages and houses include a wood-burning fireplace, veranda, vaulted ceilings, large bathroom, colorful rockers and wingback chairs. I learned that Sen. and Mrs. Lamar Alexander have a private residence at the farm, as does the current governor of the state.
Now let’s take a photo tour of the place starting with these cute puppies and farm animals:
A Rare Breed
The farm kennel is noted for its rare Italian breed: Lagotto Romagnolos. They are truffle dogs trained to sniff out the fungi that grows just beneath the surface of the ground. Now I’ve heard of truffle pigs, but never a canine truffler. The breed is kin to the French poodle and the dogs have the same curly fur coat that doesn’t shed. I was told they sell for about $7,500 (basic training included) and there’s a waiting list of several years.
Hiking and “Hunting”
A Warm Fire and a Good Book
As soon as we arrived at the farm, my cohorts in this mountain escapade—Robin, Tom and Lisa—took off alone on an exploratory hike despite the drizzle. I chose a book by the fireplace. They returned with wet feet and a hatful of oyster mushrooms, which they dropped off in the kitchen. At dinner, the chef served them to us roasted and invigorated with sherry vinegar. Really, really good! I need to try that at the farm when our mushrooms begin to emerge.
Now that I’m home, I’m overwhelmed with photos to download and label. More on the meals and cooking demonstration in my next post. Stay tuned to this space.