December 2016, Brandt and I will have been together nineteen years. We both agree it’s only been in the past ten months a honeymoon became part of our thought process. We are deeply grateful for the forward thinking judges that allowed our relationship to be solemnized and are especially grateful for friends that gifted us a weekend at Blackberry Farms that we will always remember as our HONEYMOON!!!
FRIDAY CHECK IN
Upon arrival we were instantly whisked away to our cottage nestled deep in the lush Spring flora and fauna of the mountainside. The Bluebird would be our home for what we now know as a Blackberry VIP weekend.
Brandt called The Bluebird a “treehouse”. The only thing touching firmament was the front edge of the porch.
Brandt immediately made himself at home!
FRIDAY NIGHT DINNER
So, all the good things you’ve heard about the food and beverage programs at Blackberry…multiply it by an infinite number. Food, service and decor are over and beyond any Zagat or Michelin scale. All the finest chef’s in the world come to Blackberry to cook and luxuriate. WARNING…the following photos depict fresh, healthy food…but are not necessarily low cal…exercise might be required after viewing.
We began dinner at The James Beard Award Winning Barn at Blackberry Farms with a beautiful Champagne provided by the most amazing Dining Captain ever. Nicole could run her own training school for servers. She will forever be our gold standard for dining service.
Amuse Bouche…Guinea Hen Croquettes
First Course…Crispy Pig Ear and Grapes…Pea and Ham Salad
Second Course…Wild Burgundy Snails…Slow Cooked Farm Egg and the first of many treats from Nicole…Hearth Roasted Shrimp
We both had the Painted Hills Strip Loin with Roasted Asparagus, Grilled Mushrooms, Shallots and Green Garlic Bernaise
It seemed all 500 Blackberry employees knew it was our honeymoon…another unexpected treat.
Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Parfait…Blackberry Farm Hawkens Haze with Strawberry Jam
And I didn’t photograph it but Nicole also brought the Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Tart
This would have been plenty for a really special celebration…but we have another two and a half days!!!
when we returned to the cottage we were surprised with The Blackberry Farms Rose Petal Turndown. You all know I believe “it’s not done ’til it’s over done”. Well, it took 15 minutes to blow out the votives. There were rose petals and votives on every flat surface in every room. Plus, a bottle of champagne. After almost nineteen years it was still very romantic.
It was a gray day with sporadic rain showers but that didn’t hinder us.
Fried Eggs with rice and chicken…Grits with brebis, fried mushrooms and pork belly
Most might have taken a run, jog or at least a stroll but no…with golf carts always available for our pleasure we took a riding tour.
The photos speak for themselves…the gardens and grounds are the foundation of the Blackberry Farms magic.
Admit it…a tour of that magnitude could make one a bit peckish.
The Dogwood provided what they called “The Saturday Spread”
…again, the photos alone provide description.
Now, in all fairness Brandt did take a long walk after lunch followed by a soak in our private hot tub and a nap. While, I on the other hand chose to luxuriate in the Wellhouse. Jim is worth the drive for a massage and Erin gave me a youthful glow that made everyone take notice. I barely made it back to the Bluebird in time to dress for dinner!!!
Dinner II at The Barn
We began the evening with a private tour of the wine cellar at The Barn. The cellar, nestled in the mountainside under The Barn is home to at least one bottle of everything in the collection of over 170,000. Andy Chabot is the consummate gentleman. His professionalism was at the forefront while guiding and educating us about the Blackberry Wine experience. That blended with his commitment to oenology and viticulture is captivating. Yet again, an added perk that took our visit over the top. Andy and his staff take the Blackberry guest dining adventure to heights shared by very few U.S. fine dining establishments. Thus, the Wine Spectator and James Beard Awards.
Of course, we asked to be seated in Nicole’s section and were immediately greeted with fresh bread, mushroom spread and salted butter. As well as, Snap Peas, Chicken Butter and Pickled Onion…yes, I said Chicken Butter. It was this that made me tell Andy that the kitchen was out-of-control. The innovation is truly unbelievable.
First Course…Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio…Sweet Onion Soup
Another Treat from the kitchen…Hoecakes with Creme Fraiche and Caviar…on A HOE!!!
Second Course…Bacon Wrapped Quail…Hearth Fried Eggs…and Nicole thought we needed the Shelton Farms Grits, as well.
We challenged Andy as Brandt ordered lamb and I chose fish. Of course, it was actually no challenge for him. He brought us the 2004 M. Chapoutier Chateauneuf-du-Pape Croix de Bois…a full-bodied, rich and voluptuously textured Grenache…the earthy notes made this a perfect selection for both our entrees.
Third Course…Hearth Roasted Red Drum…Elysian Fields Lamb
Yet another treat from the kitchen…Rice Pudding
Fourth Course…Georgia Olive Oil Ice Cream…South Carolina Strawberries…and yes, Nicole brought the cheese course because she thought we would enjoy it. Yet, I was so overwhelmed; no photo.
Another gift from Nicole…the current Blackberry Farms cookbook…The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farms
We luxuriated in the cottage and watched our favorite television program, CBS Sunday Morning. Appropriately enough, it was their annual design episode. We lounged and watched from an environment that’s designed to the infinite detail. I’ve never been to any resort where the “mini bar” is complimentary. Okay, the alcohol was extra but all the sodas, juices, water and snacks were complimentary. There’s a Keurig with an array of choices. And, a refrigerator/freezer with an ice maker and Hagen Daz ice cream bars. No detail is omitted!!!
Now on to brunch…
Smoked Trout with Avocado wrapped with Watermelon Radish in a puddle of Beet Gastrique
This dish could arguably win for aesthetics and would absolutely be in the top three for flavor profile. Mind you, Brandt does eat radishes or beets at our house…I should’ve taken a photo of his plate that looked like Toby cleaned it.
This is one of my Deviled Eggs and a bite of the best Sausage Gravy and Biscuit on the planet. I now know their secret and I’m not telling…but I promise, you want to go to Blackberry or come to my house just for this gravy magic. Brandt had an omelette that would feed a family of four but I was too overwhelmed with the gravy to take a photo.
We would never do dessert at brunch…unless, we’re at BF…where you never turn down anything…life is too short. Of course, with the amount of food we consumed in three days, life could be really short…but it was all fresh ingredients so it was totally healthy!!!
It was a gorgeous day…perfect for a carriage ride.
Our Belgian was named “Too Big”. Our carriage was built by the Pennsylvania Amish. And Mary, was an amazing driver and historian.
We began in the garden.
We rode by The Barn at Blackberry Farms which is also of Pennsylvania heritage. It was disassembled piece by piece and reassembled at Blackberry to become the home of one of the best fine dining establishments in the world.
Then “Too Big” led us on an hour ride around the 4,700 acre estate complete with a trout pond, outdoor pavilion and cemetery dating back to the late 1700’s.
I tried to make another Wellhouse appointment to no avail. So, with yet another dinner looming we decided to enjoy the outdoors as long as possible.
We took a golf cart to a quaint chapel resting deep in the peaceful woods. The chapel and its locale is a “quiet place of peace and rest”. Blackberry proprietor Sam Beall felt this was the perfect place for his family burial plot and applied to the state of Tennessee for permission to create such a plot adjacent to the chapel. With both sets of his grandparents in their twilight years he was preparing a beautiful place for them to rest. A few short weeks after receiving approval Sam had a fatal skiing accident. Now, his remains rest on the property he loved. The setting is beautiful but I have to say upon learning this was his resting place it made it hauntingly beautiful. I know he realized a lot of his dreams but to die at 40 just seems too soon. For someone who accomplished what he did in such a short time the place that marks his resting place is simplistically minimal. Therefore, he rests there but the focus is not him or his accomplishments. It remains the beauty of the land he treasured. Job well done, Sam…rest in peace.
Brandt said let’s drive up to the trailheads. We had already discussed the prolific amount of Poison Ivy on the property and how I would not be able to be near it. However, when we drove up to the trailheads we saw the trail was wide and clear of any vegetation. Brandt noted on the map that the shortest trail was simply a short hike in a circle.
Nature called us and we answered.
And, let me just tell you right here…that map is the only thing at Blackberry that is inaccurate. LORD HAVE MERCY!!! SWEET BABY JESUS!!! We crossed over that beautiful babbling brook and immediately went straight to the top of the mountain. Oh, it was correct on distance but you would think it might tell you something about the incline…but NO!!!! STRAIGHT UP to the top of the mountain.
We made it and truth be known had the map mentioned the incline we would’ve been back at the hot tub and never had this incredible experience. Brandt is posing (remember this pose in Umbria) on a platform perched on top of the mountain for what they call Deep Woods Yoga.
Yet another magical Blackberry experience.
THE LAST SUPPER
To get the full experience we went early and had a cocktail. I asked Dalton to make us something light and refreshing. Brandt wanted to give him parameters and I said just let him have a good time. Brandt doesn’t like cucumbers and we never drink gin. So, Dalton made us a beautifully refreshing Lime and Cucumber Gin Spritzer, of course!!! WE loved it…the perfect start to our last supper.
We were a bit hesitant as Nicole and Andy were both off on Sunday night. However, Nicole had made our reservation and chose Dane as our server. He did not disappoint!!!!
Amuse Bouche…Garlic Toast with Ramp Aioli and Wild Mushroom
A gift from the chef…Delicious Virginia Oysters with Onion Mignonette…Brandt was so sweet and gave me his because I wanted a dozen.
Andy chose Jason to step in for us as sommelier and he didn’t disappoint. He found us the perfect wine to compliment our duck. The 1992 Domaine Charles Joguet Chinon Clos de la Dioterie offered the most amazing color and a slight herbaceous note to compliment the richness of the duck…actually the meal.
First Course…Chicken Liver Mousse…Marinated Scallop Salad
We both had Chilled Pea Soup for our second course but I think the cocktail and wine hindered my memory to take a photo.
Third course…Pekin Duck Breast with Roasted Spring Vegetables, Sweet Tea Gastrique and Foie Gras…while everything was amazing…this was absolutely our favorite dish of the weekend…Classic French and FABULOUS!!!
Then, one more gift from the kitchen. The perfect latte. And Lemon Mousse…oh, my goodness!!!
And, finally, the final gift. We made mention to Dane that we have a collection of “travel” plates displayed in our kitchen at the farmhouse. So, as we were saying our good-byes he presented us with this Bernardaud of France charger. The Barn uses them as art for the table. They’re at your seat upon arrival and taken away before dinner service begins. The art is by Blackberry’s master gardener, John Coykendall. What an amazing climax to an unforgettable honeymoon. As is true with any business but especially Blackberry Farms…it’s the customer service that motivates customers/guests to return time after time. Nicole, Andy, Dane, Jason, Julia, Chase, Zach, Jim, Erin et al…all textbook definitions of what customer service is all about.
I know this was a long post but if you’ve stayed with me to this point you must realize this experience is second only to our love for each other. And, surely you’ll agree, the house was lovely and a good time was had by all!!!