Bourbon And Beef Benefit

Last Thursday evening Acre restaurant in Auburn, Alabama hosted a “Beef and Bourbon Benefit” to help the victims of the March 3rd EF-4 tornadoes that devastated the Beauregard and Smiths Station communities in Lee County, Alabama. The 170 MPH tornadoes took the lives of 23 people in the community and left many others without their homes and their belongings scattered for miles. With the combined efforts of a spectacular team of chefs and their crews, the Beef and Bourbon Benefit was able to raise $34,000 in one evening! These funds will be handed over to the MEND program at the East Alabama Medical Center. This program was established after the storm devastation to help the victims with the challenges they are going to face as they rebuild their lives. As their website states their mission is, “To ensure that all affected by tragedy and disaster are able to fully recover physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually”. The Mend program combines the resources of local service organizations, civic groups, national organizations, and churches to not only allow better communication but also a better allocation of efforts to the victims during times of disaster.

The chefs that graciously donated their time and culinary talents to the evening, were the following: David Bancroft  of Acre, Jeffrey Compton of Acre, Caleb Fischer of Bow & Arrow, Leonardo Maurelli of Ariccia Cucina Italiana, Robby Melvin of Southern Living, Robbie Nicolaisen of The Hound, Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse, and last, but certainly not least, winner of Top Chef Kentucky 2019, Kelsey Barnard Clark of KBC in Dothan, Alabama.  Also contributing to the night’s success was the beef that was featured in all the dishes, Brasstown Beef. Their cattle farm is based out of Franklin, North Carolina, and their motto is that “Extraordinary Care= Extraordinary Beef.” Between the extreme care raising this beef, and extreme care shown in cooking it, it was by far some of the best beef I have ever had in my life. I could cut it all with a fork. Also sponsoring the event was Woodford Reserve of Kentucky and Red Clay Brewing of Opelika. Two of the live auction items during the dinner were two rare bottles of the Master’s Collection of Woodford Reserve. Also, two private wine dinners (one to be hosted in Auburn and another in Dothan) with Iron Chef winner, Chef David Bancroft, and Top Chef  Kentucky winner Chef Kelsey Clark of Dothan cooking, and John Mark Davis of International Wines pairing the wines, were auctioned off at much success! Other sponsors for the evenings’ event were the Auburn/Opelika Tourism Bureau, the Hudson Family Foundation, Southern Living, and the CALIFORNIA Wine Company by Phipps Family of Wines.

As the event started, guests were allowed to order cocktails from the bar, or participate in beer and bourbon tastings in the small private room off the right of the entrance of Acre. Being passed around also during this time were the dill pickle biscuits with a Dijon mustard and crispy piece of ham created by Robby Melvin of Southern Living. Also scattered around the dining area were Mason jars of David’s Beef Jerky. The jerky was delicious, tender, and had the perfect amount of kick. David’s cuisine is known for his signature touch of spice. Once we were all seated more starters came out which included Robbie Nicolaisen’s highly elevated black-eye pea hummus. This was no traditional hummus. In addition to the traditional elements of a hummus, black-eyed peas were used, tender beef cheeks were added, Georgia olive oil was used along with a local goat cheese, green tomato chow-chow, and benne served with za’atar spiced fry bread. This dish was so satisfying. I thought this definitely would be a great addition to a tapas style menu, as this hummus would be the perfect accompaniment to a few beers with friends. Jeff Compton prepared a delicately delectable beef heart tartare that consisted of diced raw beef heart, beef fat fried shallots, caper vinaigrette, topped with a duck egg yolk and black truffle aioli, and was served with benne crackers.

Prior to the start of the remaining dinner, which still consisted of six more sides, three more main dishes, and two desserts, Chef David Bancroft introduced all the participants and the sponsors for the evenings’ event. Each chef was welcomed to the dining room with applause and cheer. There were guests in attendance from as far as a Texas and several had made the trip up from Dothan to see their town favorite, Kelsey Clark.

After the introductions and gracious thanks to all the sponsors, a tsunami of food began flooding our table. The entire dinner was served family-style; meaning that all the separate dishes were on their own plates and were passed around the table and shared. The first shared side to come out to the table was a herb roasted wild mushroom dish comprised of the wild mushrooms, brown butter, Manchego cheese, and beef fat bread crumbs, created by Robby Melvin of Southern Living. Next was a flash fried cauliflower dish created by Leo Maurelli of Ariccia Cucina at The Hotel at Auburn University. I had never had a flash fried cauliflower that I could recall. It was slightly crispy, and the feta aioli along with the capers and mixed herbs, made this a cauliflower dish I would want to see on my plate again. Chef Leo also was responsible for the Extruded Creste de Gallo Mac & Cheese, that was full of savory garlic butter and herbed migas. No sooner had I served myself some of the cauliflower when a small cast iron kettle was placed on the table brimming with Rob McDaniel’s braised butter peas with ham hocks, lemon, and chives. They were incredible! I hope to see many of more of these butter peas in my future visits to SpringHouse on Lake Martin. During the summers, their vegetable plates are to die for. Rob has a spectacular way of making scrumptious vegetables. To round out our already abundant spread, a Sea Island Red Pea gratin with smoked beef belly and cornbread crumble was concocted by Robbie Nicolaisen. Finally, the sixth and final side brought to the table were Jeffrey Compton of Acre’s Roasted Fingerling Sweet Potatoes with an amazing house cultured yogurt and carrot top chimichurri sauce. I had never had sweet potatoes served with any type of sauce. The tanginess of the yogurt, along with the chimichurri, made this a sweet potato dish I hope to see on Acre’s menu soon. It would pair perfectly alongside a filet or other cut of beef.

Even though we all knew that there was going to be an onslaught of food coming at us, it was extremely hard to pace ourselves throughout the dinner. All the dishes were beautiful executed, and all the flavors were on point. Even though we all probably could have left the table at this point due to being full, we still had the main dishes and desserts to come. The first main dish brought out was made by Kelsey Clark, a Lavender Rubbed Brasstown Beef Ribeye served with a cornbread panzanella and an arugula gremolata. Next was Rob McDaniel’s Hickory Grilled Brasstown Beef Filet served with a celery salad and a danish blue cheese vinaigrette. Finally, Caleb Fischer’s smoked brisket with a street corn relish and arepas were served.

For dessert, Kelsey Clark made the most beautiful Georgia Olive Oil and Cornmeal Cake with beef tallow buttercream, whipped corn cream, and bourbon macerated strawberries. It was delightful and made me excited for the pending summer strawberries in my future. Caleb Fischer created a Bone Marrow Chocolate Pudding with a marcona-cocoa nib crumb, preserves, and micro sorrell. It was reminiscent of a pot de creme if you have ever had one of those. Very decadent and rich, and beautifully presented.

By the end of the meal, most of our table was no longer sitting. We physically could not sit any longer. I can only recall one other time in my life when I have felt so full, and that was after days of eating and drinking our way across Napa and Sonoma. What an awesome evening enjoyed by many, that will benefit many in the Lee County community.

Bourbon and Beef Benefit 2019- Helping feed the Lee Co. Tornado Victims.
Dill pickle biscuit with crispy ham and Dijon butter. -Robby Melvin
Black-Eyed Pea Hummus with spiced beef cheeks, green tomato chow chow, goat cheese, Georgia Olive oil, benne, served with za’atar spiced fry bread. – Robbie Nicolaisen
Beef Heart Tartare with duck egg yolk, black truffle aoili, beef fat fried shallots, caper vinagarette, served with benne cracker. – Jeff Compton
Flash Fried Cauliflower with feta aoili, capers, & mixed herbs. – Leo Maurelli
Roasted Fingerling Sweet Potatoes with house cultured yogurt, and carrot top chimichurri. – Jeff Compton
Georgia Olive oil and Cornmeal Cake with beef tallow buttercream, whipped corn cream, and bourbon macerated strawberries. -Kelsey Clark
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From (L-R) Rob McDaniel of Springhouse, David Bancroft of Acre, Leo Maurelli of Arricia, John Mark Davis of Internatioal Wines and Craft Beer, Caleb Fischer of Bow and Arrow, Kelsey Clark of KBC in Dothan, Robby Melvin of Southern Living Magazine, Robbie Nicolaisen of The Hound, Steve Whitmire of Brasstown Beef, and Jeffrey Compton of Acre.

New Mexico

Over the holidays my husband and I were fortunate to spend some much needed time with his mother. We do not get to see her very often, as she lives in a small town near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, called Pinedale. We have been there twice before to visit her and were blown away with the beauty of Wyoming.  Visiting her is always an adventure!

Now that my “mother-in-love” is retired, she and her husband are spending the warmer months in Wyoming, and have become “snow-birds” flocking to their home in Las Cruces, New Mexico, avoiding the feet of snow, and opting for what are typically warmer winter months. We were very surprised that we came all the way to New Mexico to see the first snow of the year. The weather was unusually frigid, even snowing a few inches during our visit.

We spent most of the time being led around like tourists, taking in all the Southwestern sites and tastes. The first restaurant we dined at ended up being my most absolute favorite of the trip, La Posta de La Mesilla in Old Mesilla.  The picturesque adobe building that the restaurant is located in dates back to an estimated 1840s, originally housing a freight and passenger line; the restaurant later occupying the space in 1939. It was easy to determine why this place is ranked as one of the top 10 Mexican restaurants in the United States.

To eat, I had the combination plate #1, which consisted of a tamale, their famous red enchiladas, a rolled taco (a taquito), all served aside rice and beans. There also was a red chile con carne, which was as tender as a pot roast, but with all the loved Mexican spices and flavors. It was one of the most delightful meals I have had in a long time. To drink, I had the “La Patrona” margarita. Not sure if the name was for the Patrón tequila in the margarita, or if it was because this margarita is a BOSS! By far, the best margarita I have ever had. I could have sat there and drank myself silly. No nasty margarita sour mix put in this drink. Pure lime, tequila, and the faintest hint of simple syrup. I want one just thinking about it right now.

For New Year’s day, we stayed around “la casa” and enjoyed Southern holiday traditions, such as no washing clothes or sweeping of any kind. We dined on the traditional New Year’s day foods, ho-cakes, black-eyed peas for luck, collard greens for money, and we threw in pork chops for good measure.  My mother-in-law and I enjoyed a nice walk around their surrounding neighborhood. The views of the surrounding Organ Mountain are breath-taking. I was surprised to discover that New Mexico is a large producer of pecans. The orchards surrounding their neighborhood were large and bare this time of year.

On the last day of our adventure out west, we drove down to Puerto Palomas, Mexico. This was just a short hour drive south of Las Cruces. We chose to go into Mexico via this route versus through Juarez via El Paso, due to proximity, smaller border patrol lines, and safety. Unbelievably, it was snowing as we made the drive from Las Cruces into Mexico. It was a strange feeling having come all the way from Alabama to see snow in the desert.

Puerto Palomas boasts as the location where Pancho Villa launched his attack on New Mexico in 1916; a small border town, adjacent to Columbus, New Mexico. As we approached the border walls, we parked in a make-shift parking lot adjacent to a Dollar General on the American side of the border wall. Nothing says “Welcome to America” like a Dollar General Store. We put on our coats and scarves, and made the quick five-minute walk across the border, passing armed Mexican troops along the way.

The border perimeter is lined with pharmacies, liquor shops, and other novelty shops. One of the favorites frequented by my in-laws, and just a block from the border is the “Pink Store.” My mother-in-law thought we would enjoy shopping here because they serve you margaritas as you shop, which just made us shop more. This was a perfect stop to collect some Mexican folk art and other souvenirs. My husband was able to purchase some Cuban rum we cannot find in the United States, and my in-laws were able to refill their prescriptions for far less than they could in the United States. The store has a restaurant adjacent, and once we all had finished our shopping we enjoyed an authentic Mexican lunch, before crossing back into the United States.

It is always a sad day when we have to part. We had a delightful breakfast before leaving Las Cruces at Mesilla Valley Kitchen. The portions were large, and everything was cooked to order. It was the perfect base for what would be a long travel day home. As we approached El Paso, I asked if we could stop at the Lincoln Park underpass murals. It was just off the freeway and an easy stop coming into El Paso to the airport. Dozens of murals cover the underpass here. We spent a little time leisurely walking around taking photos. I love seeking out murals and other local art when visiting new cities. El Paso has over 100 murals. You could probably spend a week here and not see them all. I think that says volumes about the culture, and appreciation of arts in this community. Also, the art is a magnification of the people from the area producing it. My love for murals is very close to my love for seeking out local food. I love to find and immerse myself in the local environment in which I’m traveling. It makes the experience that much more enriching. I encourage you to do the same when you are traveling. Try something new, experience life.

 

La Patrona margarita from La Posta de Mesilla. The best margarita I’ve ever had!

Combination Plate #1 at La Posta de Mesilla. Tamale, enchiladas, carne rojo, ensalada Méxicana, frijoles, and arroz.
Albertson’s Grocery Store in Las Cruces. Not something you see in Alabama grocery stores, fresh tortillas being made, by the thousands.
The Organ Mountains in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
La Posta de Mesilla. My favorite place to eat near Las Cruces.
The Lodge Resort in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, covered in snow.
Beautiful snowy view. In a distance you can see the desert below the mountains.
Our Lady of Guadalupe in Las Tortugas neighborhood near Las Cruces, NM.

Unknown home. Just loved the colors and architecture. Adobe-style, flat- top homes were abundant in this area.

Armed Mexican officer that you pass when entering Mexico.

My mother-in-love after a few margaritas at the Pink Store in Puerto Palomas, Mexico.

How we felt about White Sands National Park being closed due to the government shutdown.
Murals beneath the “spaghetti bowl” underpass in El Paso, Texas.

Bow & Arrow

We had the exciting experience last night of getting to be some of the first few diners at Auburn’s newest culinary addition, Bow & Arrow.

Upon pulling into the parking lot you could smell the aromatic wonders of the smokers cooking a variety of meats. The design of the restaurant is warm and inviting. The ambiance is that of a hunting lodge, with a woman’s softness added. There are big buck trophy’s adorning the walls, all from local hunters.

When you walk in the front of the restaurant you are greeted by the visual sights of a tortilla machine cranking out freshly made tortillas, and then a feast of meats as far as the eyes can see. The restaurant is counter service in style, and family-style sharing of food is encouraged.

At the beginning of the order line, you will begin by selecting your meats.  There is a butcher that will cut them to order for you. To choose from there were brisket, turkey, pork shoulder,  chicken, ribs, jalapeno cheddar link sausage, and the Bow and Arrow original link, which was my personal favorite. You can order as many things as you want. We were in a group of six people and we chose to order several things and share our trays family style as suggested. We tried an array of the meats, and for the sides, we had the potato salad, mac & cheese, tater tot casserole, creamed corn, camp beans, butter beans, and potlicker greens. I think the only thing we missed was the corn cabbage slaw. Everything was very delicious and flavorful. There was an entire bar of sauces, relishes, and other dressings for the meats that I missed out on. I know several of our friends were raving on the white sauce. There was not anything that we did not enjoy. Standout favorites being the tater tot casserole, and the creamed corn.

We had fun sharing dinner with our group of friends, and the evening temps were mild enough that they were able to open the garage-style doors that line one side of the dining room that led out to a picturesque lit picnic table style seating area.

Listening to David Bancroft share his enthusiasm about the cultivation of this restaurant, and all the care and attention to detail that was paid to every single element, you cannot help share in his excitement. It was a wonderful evening shared with “friends and family” and we cannot be happier for our friends, David & Christin Bancroft and Caleb Fischer on this new venture. I truly felt the presence of Lord throughout the evening, I know they will all be blessed  and will be able to bless many others through your delicious food!

Beautiful iron work done by John Howell.
Hand-crafted bow and arrows. 
The buffet line. All the servers were so friendly and excited to serve.
Big Buck Hunter games will bring out your serious side. 😉
I think he covered all bases with this plate. 
 (L-R) Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse, John Mark Davis of International Wines, and David Bancroft of Acre & Bow and Arrow.
Adorable outdoor seating area that can be opened up to the dining area.

Lucy’s

For our last date during the month of June, we returned to the place where we met. June for us is a month of celebrations. We met on June 8, 2013, and had our first date together at what was Maestro 2300. Three years to the day we married in a wine vineyard in Oregon. My birthday is the following week and it’s the beginning of summer fun. Needless to say, I love June.

In the building where Maestro 2300 used to be located in the Moore’s Mill area of Auburn, Alabama, you will find the newly-opened, completely-renovated, vibrantly-cheerful,  Lucy’s.  Lucy’s is a great addition to the restaurant scene here in our growing community. Classified as a neighborhood eatery, with killer cocktails, shared plates, wine on tap, and good vibes only. During our visit, they lived up to all these things.

Upon entering the restaurant, I believe you will be blown away at the transformation Lisa VanderReijden, one of the owners and interior designer has done with this space. Her design style is impeccably classy and timeless. This space resembles nothing of is predecessor. It’s vibrant white, with black and yellow tastefully accenting the room. It’s no longer a choppy, obstructed dining room, but a beautiful open space that is welcoming and inviting. The beautiful bar, and the locally made metal accents throughout by John Howell add an industrial feel to the space.

We were seated in one of the booths just left of the bar area. It was a perfect spot to view everything going on in the bustling restaurant. As we usually do, we started with cocktails. My husband ordered the Affirmation, which consisted of Redemption Whiskey, Cappelletti, Vermouth, bitters, and Jack Rudy Bourbon Cherry. If you’ve never tried Jack Rudy products, I highly suggest you do. One of my favorites is their classic tonic syrup. It makes the best vodka tonics! I ordered the Habanero Paloma.  This delicious sip consists of Casamigos tequila, grapefruit, habanero simple syrup, sparkling rosé, and a Himalayan salt rim. This was a great kick off to  our dinner.

For starters, we ordered the tuna poke and the truffle fries. The tuna poke was a beautiful and colorful dish, almost too pretty to eat! You have probably seen poke restaurants starting to pop up. Poke originates from Hawaii and refers to the type of preparation of the dish. Poke is a chopped salad consisting of raw tuna (in this case), cucumbers, avocado with a house yuzu dressing. Lucy’s serves theirs with a side of plantain chips for dipping. The tuna was fresh and delicious, and I really enjoyed the plantain chips. The truffle fries were as expected, savory and delicious.

For our entrees, I ordered the Argentinian style New York Strip steak. My steak was cooked perfectly to my desired temp, medium well. I know many would criticize my temp preference on steak, but I like what I like, and that’s what I order. The chimichurri sauce served over-top of the steak was yummy. I almost thought about asking for more. Chimichurri sauce is a raw mix of finely chopped parsley, garlic, oregano with garlic, red wine vinegar, and red pepper flakes, originating from Argentina and Uruguay. The sides were lovely roasted potatoes that had been smashed into a flat disk, blistered tomatoes, and perfectly cooked asparagus. Everything was perfectly season and very tasty.

My husband ordered the garlic and rosemary lamb shank. The presentation was pretty awe-inspiring. The shank was served over McEwen and Son’s polenta, with stewed vegetables and braising jus. The shank peeled off the bone with ease, and all the combined flavors worked really well together. We enjoyed a bottle of a 2015 Jean Louis Chave Offerus Saint Joseph. This wine is comprised of one-hundred percent Syrah, which paired nicely with both of our meals.

Last, but certainly not least, we ended this magnificent feast with attempting to share the dessert board. This astounding board of chocolateness was comprised of ice-cold Blue Ribbon milk out of Tallassee, Alabama, served alongside fried cookie dough balls, and a hot fudge sundae with the cutest tiny milk can full of fudge to pour over ice cream and meringue crisps, and finally a small iron skillet full with monkey bread, served with bourbon butter pecan ice cream.  It was all sinful to the say the least, but was thoroughly enjoyed.

I cannot wait to dine at Lucy’s again! I really want to go back and try their brunch menu they serve on Saturday and Sunday’s. I see many more drinks and dinners here in our future!

Dinner menu.
Cocktail menu.
His and Hers Cocktails. The Affirmation for him, and the Habanero Paloma for her.
Tuna poke and plantain chips.
Truffle Fries.

Argentinian Style New York Strip steak with chimichurri sauce, served with asparagus, blistered tomatoes, and roasted smashed potatoes.
Lamb Shank served over polenta with stewed vegetables.
Dessert Board  (L-R) Ice cold milk from local creamery, fried cookie dough balls, hot fudge sundae with meringue crumbles, and monkey bread with Bourbon butter pecan ice cream.

A SpringHouse Birthday

“We literally ordered one of everything on the menu.”

For my birthday this year, we spent the weekend at a little slice of heaven on earth, Lake Martin, Alabama. We arrived late Friday evening and promptly went to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, SpringHouse. We arrived early in hopes of having time for cocktails and to also catch sunset off the upstairs porch. We arrived just in the nick of time and caught the sun just beginning to set behind the rolling hills and pine trees that color the horizon.

After enjoying our cocktails, we were seated near the chef’s counter in the downstairs dining room. One of our friends attending dinner with us this night was the opening bar manager at SpringHouse, so returning here for him was a very special treat. Before any of us could make an order, he told the waiter that we would just have one of everything on the menu, which is exactly what we proceeded in doing.

Some of the highlights of the starters were the boiled peanuts. You cannot get much more southern than serving boiled peanuts. I love them. They are the perfect southern snack. I enjoy them hot, and I enjoy them cold. I have even had a delicious boiled peanut soup that was simply boiled peanuts pureed into a smooth soup and seasoned to perfection. Another simple delight were the dressed cucumbers. This dish is very reminiscent of a dish my grandmother always has in her refrigerator during the southern summer months, cucumbers dressed in vinegar, salt, pepper, and a little bit of olive oil. When our summer garden produces cucumbers, this is something I love to have on hand to snack on. I like adding a little bit of sugar in some warm vinegar before pouring it over my cucumbers, but they are equally delicious without the added sugars. The final two highlights of the starters we had were the heirloom tomato pie and the grilled chicken sausage served over a delightful warm potato salad. The tomato pie was bright with acidity, and savory full of oozing pimento cheese. I could have eaten the entire pie by myself. The grilled chicken sausage was delightfully smoky, and the bed of potato salad was a southerner’s dream.

Our entrees were equally satisfying. Mr. Jim’s vegetable plate is one of the standout dishes for me. It was one of my favorite things to order at SpringHouse during the summer. I love fresh vegetables, and I love them even more when prepared by Rob McDaniel. The creamed sweet corn is to die for, and really could be your meal or your dessert. The squash gratin on the vegetable plate was also quite yummy. The squash still had a good bit of tooth to it, and you can pretty much put cheese on anything, and I’m going to love it.  For our proteins, we ordered the Tanglewood Farms chicken breast, the Black Angus ribeye, the pompano, and the pork loin. My favorites of this bunch were the ribeye and the pompano. You could not go wrong with any dish, but these two were my standout favorites.

Next time you and a group of friends go to dinner, just order one of everything on the menu and have a family-style dinner. Share laughs, delicious food and wine, and make memories that will last a lifetime!

SpringHouse sunsets cannot be beaten!
June 15, 2018 Menu
Grilled Chicken Sausage on a bed of creamy potato salad.
Dressed cucumbers.
Heirloom tomato pie.
Head-On Gulf Shrimp Cocktail.
Sauteed Squash.

Mr. Jim’s vegetable plate.
Tanglewood Farms Chicken Breast on limas and cornbread with a buttermilk aioli.
Hickory Grilled Pork Loin with balsamic and basil pesto.
Wood Oven Roasted Whole Pompano.
SpringHouse O.G.’s (L-R) Rob McDaniel (chef), John Mark Davis, (opening general manager), Grant Landry (opening bar manager)

Arricia Trattoria

Saturday evening we had the luxury of trying out the new menu at Arricia Trattoria in The Hotel at Auburn University located on College Street in Auburn, Alabama. Several things that I really like about Arricia Trattoria is that they serve dinner seven nights a week. I like not having to plan around a restaurant’s own schedule to accommodate my own dinners and events. Also, they have a Mediterranean style menu. I lived abroad for some time during college and really fell in love with the style of food and the pace of life found in many of the countries along the Mediterranean. Being able to have an experience and a little taste of that culture is always delightful to me, especially when executed accordingly. Lastly, the ambiance of the restaurant can suit any occasion. You can enjoy casual attire and a more casual dining experience, but you can also dress to the nines, and enjoy an exquisite, bougie date night here.

Upon entering the restaurant you are greeted by an open style kitchen. I love being able to see into the kitchen in which my meals are going to be prepared. We stopped and spoke briefly with the executive chef, Leo Maurelli III. Leo and my husband have been friends for many years, both graduating from the Hotel and Restaurant Management program at Auburn University. We have followed Leo’s culinary adventure from Central in Montgomery to here locally at the hotel. We have been blown away many times by his culinary skills and we were excited to see his new menu rolled out at Arricia.

We ordered a mixture of smaller plates and shared them together. We often opt for this style of eating when we go out. We like to try a variety of things, and often times I do not want or cannot eat an entire portion myself. The new menu here is perfect for that style of eating, but you definitely could enjoy the portions on your own too if you do not like to share.

For starters, we began with Leo’s choice, which consisted of the cillengini with sweetie peppers, basil, and balsamic. The sweetie pepper was something new to me. They originate from the Peruvian Amazon, and although they look tiny and fierce, they are sweet and delightful. I loved getting to try a new take on a classic dish (Caprese salad). We also tried the grilled octopus that was served with fingerling potatoes and a delicious, spicy romesco sauce. My husband about devoured this entire dish by himself. The third dish chef had us try was the Ahí tuna crudo. It was the standout dish for the evening. The tuna was light and refreshing, and the garnishes of lemon oil, citrus, shallots, and fennel made this my absolute favorite dish. It was delicate, yet very layered with flavors, and was a combination that I had never tried before. I thoroughly enjoyed the citrus pairing with the tuna.

We were enjoying our shared style supper so much we continued on our dinner throughout the evening in this style. Next up, we ordered the roasted beets, the heirloom polenta, and the burrata salad. The roasted beets stole my heart. I am a huge fan of beets, especially when they are cooked in a creative and delicious manner. The roasted beets had been tossed lightly in lemon oil and had a sprinkling of crushed pecans and blue cheese on top. It was absolutely scrumptious and another standout dish this particular evening. The burrata was also simple and delightful. The polenta was a huge hit with my husband. Polenta has a similar taste and consistency to grits, but they are different in that grits are typically made from white cornmeal and are ground finer, and polenta is made from ground yellow corn and is much coarser. It was creamy, and oh so good.

Even as we were getting full, we found ourselves unable to stop eating. We wanted to try one of the fresh plates of pasta they were making that evening so we ordered our favorite to share, the carbonara. It was delicious! The entire meal reminded me of being at a grandmother’s house in Italy; more food than you could ever possibly eat, and everything reminded you of home and comfort.

We had any bits of food we had leftover boxed up so we could finish enjoying them at home. This food was so incredibly good that we could not dare let even a scrap go to waste. We wanted dessert but were too full to continue eating. We ordered the tiramisu to go so that we could enjoy it later at home.

We highly recommend that you check out A.T. on your next date night! They often also have jazz in their lounge area, so follow them on their social media outlets for updates on their events and happenings!

New menu for Arricia Trattoria.
Ahí Tuna Crudo
Grilled octopus with fingerling potatoes and romesco.
Cillengini with sweetie peppers, basil and balsamic.
His and Hers Cocktails (L-R) Shaken, not stirred and Bellini
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Oh so good heirloom polenta. 
Roasted beets with lemon oil, toasted pecans, and blue cheese.
Carbonara.
2016 Cakebread Cellars Chardonnay
Tiramisu to go!

Blackberry Farm Dinner At SpringHouse

Last night we had the pleasure of attending the first beer dinner held at SpringHouse on Lake Martin. The beers featured for this special event were from Blackberry Farm out of Walland, Tennessee, about thirty minutes south of Knoxville. Blackberry Farm has been on my dream destination list for a while, so I was excited to at least get a little taste of their experience through this evening’s dinner.

Blackberry Farm is nestled on 4,200 acres of the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains of East Tennessee. This luxury hotel will transport you into an idyllic farm experience, with “out of this world” amenities, food, and service. It is one of the most celebrated small luxury resorts in the world due to their impeccable attention to detail and superb cuisines. Tonight we were able to try a variety of the beers curated at the farm, alongside Chef Rob McDaniel’s awe-inspiring culinary skills. Matty Hargrove of Blackberry Farm Brewery was also in attendance, and enthusiastically walked us all through the beer pairings for the evening.

As we walked into SpringHouse we were greeted immediately with our first tasting of the Classic Saison by Blackberry Farms. This beer had a medium body and a refreshing effervescence that paired nicely with a Smoked West Indies Salad on a house-made cracker and crispy thin catfish with fermented rutabaga tartar.  If you have not ever tried West Indies Salad, I highly suggest you do. It is a dish that has origins in Mobile, Alabama, and can be characterized as a crab meat ceviche. However, Rob’s version for this bite was prepared using wreckfish. The catfish was also sensational. I do not consider myself a fan of catfish, but the thin, crispiness of this dish with the unique rutabaga tartar sauce was a delightful bite. They also had the Wild Saison available for tasting during the cocktail hour. It was nice to try the Classic Saison next to the Wild Saison and make comparisons. I found that I enjoyed the floral and slight fruitiness of the Wild Saison.  The Wild Saison is made with a native yeast found on the farm, which really adds to the uniqueness of these craft beers. We were also offered the Barrel Series Brett Saison and the 18 Month Brett Saison from behind the bar. These two additional saisons were very interesting tried side by side and were paired with a hickory grilled chicken oyster coated with a mustard barbecue sauce. All hor devours were butler passed on some of Tena Payne’s beautiful pottery from Earthborn Studios in Leeds, Alabama.

Daniel Goslin, SpringHouse general manager, welcomed everyone to take their seats by ringing the large dinner bell on the impressive hearth in the heart of the restaurant. The entire restaurant and surrounding property is truly breath-taking. We had lots of friends attending this event, so we ended up with a pretty fun dinner table. The conversations were flowing, just as easily as the drinks.

The first dish brought to the table was a Chilton County Peach focaccia. I loved the sweetness of the peaches contrasted with the funkiness of the Asher blue cheese by Sweet Grass Dairy in Thomasville, Georgia. I love ALL cheeses, but I especially enjoy testing out unimaginable cheese pairings and being delightfully surprised by them. This course was paired with a Barrel Series Brett Belgo IPA.

This dish was followed up by the smoked Manchester Farm quail, which was served with baby carrots cooked in hay and glazed with Poirier’s Cane Syrup.  This was paired with the Native Series Sorghum Saison. The quail was markedly tender, and the carrots were equally sweet and savory. It was an overall nice dish and pairing.

We were then poured a very nice intermezzo in the form of the Sensibility Farmhouse Ale, a collaboration brew between Blackberry Farm Brewery and Stillwater Artisanal out of Baltimore. This farmhouse ale was aged in French oak barrels. There was a lot going on in this glass, and it’s depth and character were perfect to reset our palates for the next two courses.

The third course was my favorite of the night, a hickory grilled scamp with seasonal marinated vegetables, ramps, and corn. I thoroughly enjoyed the white, flakiness of the scamp, and the nice sweetness and texture brought to the dish by the corn. This course was paired with a Native Series Tennessee Cream Ale.

The fourth and final course of the evening was a delightful dessert of Chilton County Strawberry cobbler with sassafras syrup and a sweet cream ice cream. This sweet treat was paired with the Abbey Quad Belgian Ale. This beer that comes in at over 8% ABV was robust and malty with beautiful notes of berriesan outstanding way to cap off another truly memorable evening doing what we love.

Front of SpringHouse restaurant.
Exquisite dinner menu featuring Black Berry Farm beers.
Hickory grilled chicken oysters with mustard sauce.
Crispy catfish with rutabaga tartar sauce.
Chilton County Peach Foccacia with Asher blue cheese and black walnuts.
Smoked Manchester Farm Quail with baby carrots and Poirier’s sorghum syrup.
Hickory grilled scamp with early summer vegetables, ramps, and corn.
Chilton County Strawberry Cobbler with sassafras syrup and sweet cream ice cream.
(L-R) John Mark Davis of International Wines and Beer, Rob McDaniel executive chef at SpringHouse, and Matty Hargrove of Blackberry Farm Brewery.