Matt Gallaher, chef owner of Knox Mason, was one of the three chefs at the latest Trust Fall dinner.
“Make your choice, adventurous stranger,
Strike the bell and bide the danger,
Or wonder, till it drives you mad,
What would have followed if you had.”
Yep. It was time for another of the increasingly famous Trust Fall dinners. And this one — featuring three highly regarded local chefs and 60 guests — was the most adventurous one of all.
Trust Fall dinners are, in fact, a secret supper club. A group of friends from very diverse backgrounds puts them together. Regular folks like me buy the tickets, which sell out literally in a matter of minutes, and then wait until the appointed day to get an email with a cute little poem revealing clues about where the secret location is.
And, much like the team-building game of the same name, you literally let go and put your trust in the chef to prepare a great meal. You don’t get to choose what you will eat. No substitutions are allowed. The purpose is to give the chefs a chance to stretch their culinary muscles and the eaters a chance to expand their boundaries. Believe me, you won’t find some of these courses in any restaurant around here.
“We hope you see something on the menu that makes your skin crawl and makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up,” said one of our hosts upon welcoming us.
“The chefs have to appeal to the masses daily. This is a chance for them to get out of their comfort zone and for you to get out of your comfort zone.”
He wasn’t kidding.
What secrets remain — Oh, the suspense.
Your clandestine affair is set to commence.
But how will you find us? We’re hidden too well.
There are those in the know, but they’ll never tell.
We followed the clues — and a Google map link — and wound up in Happy Holler at sculptor Preston Farabow‘s Ironwood Studios at 119 Jennings Ave.
The welcoming cocktail was a Aperol spritz. It was bitter, but uniquely refreshing. Here’s my hubby, Alan Carmichael, with ours.
Trust Fall dinners usually only accommodate about 20 folks. But this one — because there were three chefs — had 60 guests. We had our cocktails outside as we waited for everyone to arrive.
Platters of charcuterie were put out to tide us over until dinner.
Here’s the beautifully set table inside the studio.
How often do you get to eat a gourmet meal in a working blacksmith shop? Love the chandelier.
Here’s Chef Matt Gallaher again with Caroline Farris.
Simple elegance was the design theme.
Here’s our host, Preston Farabow, left, with Gary and Bernadette Doyle. Gary’s the general manager of RT Lodge.
Michael Higdon, left, and Scott Bird.
Soon it was time to take our seats.
Mark and Mary Lynn Bellott sat across from us. He gave her the dinner as a Mother’s Day gift.
First course was “California Gold” sea urchin and Wedge Oak Farm Mangalitsa lardo on Knox Mason brioche with fresh hearts of palm and Circle V Farm chicken egg “bottarga.”
“Sea urchin tastes like seawater and butter,” Chef Gallaher said by way of introduction. It was served with a 2011 Verdicchio di Matelica from Capestrano. “It’s minerally,” explained Keith Kirk, the sommelier at Blackberry Farm who selected wine pairings for the dinner. “It is traditionally just served with seafood.”
Next course was a “safe” one, which I welcomed after the mild shock of the sea urchin. Spring vegetables and preserved winter vegetables.
The wine was a non-vintage Lelarge Pugeot champagne. “Champagne is very versatile,” Kirk said. “You can pour it with almost anything. It’s bubbly, it’s frothy and it pairs beautifully with vegetables.”
Amy and John Candy drove over from Memphis to attend this dinner! (And to visit their daughter, who lives in Knoxville.)
David and Nicole Lipsey were among the guests.
Mary Constantine, the food editor of the News Sentinel, right, and Shelley Kimel of the paper’s business staff.
Chelsea and Nathan Osborne.
Dave Kuczmarski, a sous chef at RT Lodge, was helping out with the next course for his buddy Trevor Stockton, who was one of the featured chefs. Stockton is the executive chef at RT Lodge.
It’s beautiful. But it’s sweetbreads!
Crispy Ellensburg lamb sweetbreads with grilled Crooked Road Farm romaine, green chickpeas, preserved lemon and squid ink aioli.
My comment to Alan: “I tasted it. I liked it. But I ain’t eating it.” I just couldn’t. (If you don’t know what sweetbreads are, just click here and let Wikipedia tell you — because I don’t want to get into it!)
Wine was a 2012 Radio-Coteau Platt Vineyard dry riesling from Sonoma Coast.
Garrett Painter and Lindsey Collins.
Here’s Keith Kirk doing the honors with the riesling.
Because these dinners are pretty lengthy, the hosts have gotten into the habit of telling everyone to pick up their things and go outside for a few minutes in the middle of the soiree. The sky was beautiful.
Here are Deborah and Larry Fauver enjoying the break.
And Ned and Claire DeLozier.
Back inside, everyone sat with someone new for the second half. Here are Amber Rountree, left, and Cari Gervin.
Roasted duck breast with melted spring onions and duck tongues with foie gras and confit mushrooms.
This was paired with a 2012 Damilano Barbera d’Asti. “Most people think pinot noir has to be paired with duck,” Kirk said. “But that’s not so. Barbera can be, too — and it will make you look like a wine geek!”
Beef cheek, tongue and marrow with strawberry, ramps and grilled sourdough was served with a 2007 Dehesa La Granja from Bodegas Fernandez Rivera.
Of the wine, Kirk said, “It’s an earthy red wine from Spain. It’s beefy, leathery. I think you will like it with the beef.” He was right.
A word about the dishware. It was handcrafted by Leanne Moe-McQueen of McQueen Pottery. Some of it came out of the kiln just hours prior to the Trust Fall dinner. I think it’s beautiful. And the folks at Blackberry Farm apparently agree. They have quite a bit of it.
Desserts for the men were caramelized wheat cake with Cruze Farm fromage blanc and strawberries.
The women got a variety of chocolate items. Yum.
It’s traditional to sign the chargers at the conclusion of these meals. Here’s Cari Gervin doing that.
Here are the three chefs taking a bow. From left, Matt Gallaher, Dustin Busby and Trevor Stockton. Great job, guys. The event was called “Triumvirate.”
If you want to get in on one of the upcoming Trust Fall dinners, click here to go to a special website. There you can sign up to be notified of the next one and how to buy tickets.