|The Barn at Blackberry Farm|
|The Horse Barn|
Blackberry Farm is no ordinary farm. It is a luxury resort and a member of the prestigious Relais & Chateaux affiliated properties. We first discovered that name in Provence on our honeymoon and it has never led us astray since. The resort is set on 9,200 acres of rolling hills. It is like staying at your incredibly wealthy friends sprawling gentleman farmer estate. There is a main farmhouse, a guest house and many other structures scattered around this estate. Nothing is as simple as it seems. It is very Walt Disney in its perfection. From the picnic shelters to the garden shed and fly fishing shack, every single detail is perfect. There are only 68 rooms in the entire resort ranging from hotel style rooms to cottages. The primary attraction here is the food. Blackberry Farm has long been on our wish list. After dining at French Laundry in California and more recently at the Inn at Little Washington, Blackberry Farm was the final stop on the holy trinity tour of luxurious dining for us.
Blackberry Farm was never a secret to us. It was always either too expensive or impractical to leave our kids. With the assistance of our family, Melizza and I escaped for a quick romantic adventure in Tennessee. Melizza loves country sophistication so I knew this would be special. We went in February when the rates came down to earth between a visit from Rick Bayless to sample their craft beer and Valentine's Day weekend. Some weekends, Emmylou Harris stops by for a concert. There is always magic in the air at Blackberry Farm.
|The Garden Shed|
|Inside the Barn for dinner|
In the final analysis, this place was worth the hype although the rack rates are crazy expensive. The staff treated us like royalty. They were mostly younger on our visit and to our surprise the place lacked pretension. The meals were exquisite and almost overwhelming. The evening meals were formal in the Barn which like everything else at Blackberry Farm was much more than meets the eye. The Barn boasts an open kitchen and a stunning chandelier with a large scale National Park hotel style fireplace burning as the centerpiece. The meals were always changing and this place is truly farm to table. The breakfasts and lunches were excellent and less formal. I took no pictures of the food for fear of being exposed as for the twit that I am. I never brought up the Airstream to anyone although I would really like to boondock here. Everything here is gourmet. They might serve something pedestrian for lunch like chili but it will be made of beef brisket and will probably be the best you have ever had. They have a card for recipe requests. I think they get more than an occasional request.
With all of this eating, Melizza and I spent a good deal of our time hiking around this magnificent property. Most of the time, you feel like you have the whole place to yourself. If you had a rich uncle who bought 10,000 acres and made his own private version of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, that is how this place felt. It is owned by the Beall family who started the Ruby Tuesday chain. The food here is a bit better.
Sam Beall, the proprietor grew up on Blackberry Farm and fell in love with the land. After college and culinary school, he apprenticed at the French Laundry in California. He also worked at the Ritz-Carlton, Cowgirl Creamery and California Wineries. He clearly picked up that California love of heirloom ingredients, artisanal products and wine. He brought this knowledge and passion and applied it to the bounty that is available in East Tennessee. Blackberry Farm boasts heirloom gardens, a dairy, creamery, salumeria, honey house and a preservation kitchen. They are attempting to create the conditions to harvest french Periford truffles that were first produced by Dr. Tom Michaels. He cracked the code and is harvesting them in Tennessee. They have Italian truffle dogs, heirloom gardeners, preservationists and many other experts on site. This is truly a farm to table and a foodie geeks paradise.
Melizza and I spent this rare weekend away from the kids enjoying each other and great food. You can spend as much money as you want here. You can rent a mountain bike for a couple hundred dollars. They have an on site spa, an Orvis fly fishing school. They also offer skeet shooting and even provide guests with a complimentary fleet of Lexus vehicles to drive. Melizza and I opted for some quiet time together in front of the fire between hiking and eating. Our only escape was a quick drive on the nearby Foothills Parkway. If you ever find yourself in need of a romantic escape or a culinary destination you could do a lot worse than Blackberry Farm. This place is a gem and we will sure to be back although it will be on coupon day again.