Dining on pinto beans at Blackberry Farm. No kidding.

Mintha Roach enjoys the beet and ham salad. It was the course before the pinto beans and cabbage!

Blackberry Farm, of course, is the elegantly rustic Relais & Chateaux property located on 4,200 acres in Walland adjacent to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. A 45-minute drive from downtown Knoxville, it features gourmet dining as well as rooms that rent for thousands of dollars per night.

Most of the time, the food is delicious, refined — and very beautiful. It is what many of us call “tweezer food,” because the presentation is quite literally assembled with tweezers — or at least chop sticks. Every plate is a work of art.

That’s why I was a little surprised to see that one of the courses on the $500-per-plate dinner we had there recently was — wait for it — pinto beans and cabbage! (I do have to admit they were the best darn pinto beans and cabbage I’ve ever put in my mouth!)

All joking aside, the event was the annual Blackberry Farm fundraiser for the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. It’s always on a Sunday and features a cocktail hour with passed appetizers, a four-course dinner and a 30-minute concert by the Knoxville Symphony Chamber Orchestra. It is a true delight and has been dubbed by community leader Jim Haslam as “the best fundraiser of the year.” (Believe me, he’s been to more than his share of fundraisers!)

The dinner was held in the new-ish venue, Bramble Hall.

From left, Alan Carmichael, Dee Dee Brownlee, Meg Sprouse and Mary Ellen Brewington during what one of my friends calls “the standing around time.”

The Knoxville Symphony Youth Orchestra’s principal harpist, Korenna Hodge, provided lovely music during the standing around.

The most decadent of the passed appetizers, barbecued pork rinds topped with pimento cheese. Wow.

From left, Bill and Barbara Arant, Natalie Haslam, Annie Colquitt and Jim Haslam.

Knoxville City Councilman Andrew Roberto, right, with his wife, Sarah, and parents, Jim and Jane Roberto.

Sasha Wright was passing confit of guinea hen croquettes with mustard aioli.

They were amazing.

Rachel Ford, left, executive director of the Knoxville Symphony, with Patricia Bible, center, a new KSO board member, and Tanya Feilke, whom Patricia said is her “soon to be daughter-in-law.”

Speaking of romance, check out Billie Shelby and Joseph Stair. They have been dating for four years. Their first date was to a University of Tennessee basketball game when they were caught on the “Kiss Cam!”

Roy Cockrum, left, and Ted Smith standing around.

From left, KSO Development Director Mary Sue Greiner, Marylees Miller, Knoxville Museum of Art Executive Director David Butler and Mark Grayson.

From left, Libby Lewis, Kellie Calloway and Bill Riley, who is president-elect of the KSO board.

Naomi Mihm was offering delicious vegetable tartlets.

I had two. Couldn’t help myself.

Bruce and Monique Anderson, left, with Mintha and Jon Roach.

Matt and Stephanie Coleman, left, with David and Annie Colquitt.

Rachel Ford, left, with Holly and Russ Watkins. He’s currently president of the KSO board.

Just a little touch of elegance in the center of the room.

Time to sit. From left, Charley Bible, Jamie Stribling, Leslie Fowler and Robert Fowler.

Here’s that first course you saw Mintha digging in to. It’s a beet and ham salad with smoked mushroom oil, yogurt and chives. It was paired with a 2017 Heitz Cellars sauvignon blanc from Napa Valley. It was a wonderful pairing and a very creative dish.

Anna and Frank Gray, a former KSO board president.

Marga and Jay McBride seemed to be having fun! He’s a member of the KSO board.

OK! Here are those pinto beans and charred cabbage. But, lest you think they were not fancied up, the dish also contained foie gras, smoked chicken broth and roasted onions. Paired with a 2016 Au Bon Climat pinot noir from Santa Barbara County, the course was a home run.

Michell Witt and Jim Clayton, another former KSO board chair.

From left, Paula Chesworth, Patricia Bible and Sherri Lee.

Sandy and Hank Bertelkamp.

This is the entree: Painted Hills beef ribeye cap with smoked beet puree, watercress and horseradish bearnaise. Wine was a 2017 cabernet sauvignon from California’s The Seventy-Five Wine Company. Delish, but everyone is getting full!

Here’s a fun table! Seated, from left: Craig Shelton, Dr. Martha Buchanan and Mark Grayson. Standing, from left: Susan Brown, Steve and Mary Ellen Brewington.

More fun folks! Seated, from left: David Butler, Robbie Arrington, Travis Vickery, Jarrod Blue and John Law. Standing, from left: Ted Smith, John Winemiller, R.J. Hinde, Zack Plaster, and Roy Cockrum.

Dessert was chocolate hazelnut tart with Mountain Mint ice cream and creme fraiche. Crazy good.

Symphony time!

Sande MacMorran, a University of Tennessee music instructor and KSO brass player, stood in as conductor.

It was a beautiful end to a beautiful evening.

Barbara Arant congratulating Sande MacMorran after the performance.

Natalie and Jim Haslam with Concertmaster William Shaub, center.

The two hardest-working women in showbiz schlepping music stands and chairs. KSO Director of Operations Rose Sampley, left, and Sara Deatherage, KSO operations assistant.

Don’t miss this fun evening when it rolls around next year! You’ll never look at pinto beans the same way again!

The KSO in a sweet rendition of “Danny Boy.”



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6 Responses to Dining on pinto beans at Blackberry Farm. No kidding.

  1. Alan Carmichael, on April 2nd, 2019 at 5:44 pm said:

    My Mother’s pinto beans were pretty good, and so were these. My Mom didn’t use foie gras in hers, however. And we usually had cornbread as a side dish. Instead of Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir, our beans were paired with sweet iced tea. Lord, I am beginning to sound like Burchett.

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on April 2nd, 2019 at 5:55 pm said:

    Alan: You are cracking me up! (I did like your mom’s pinto beans, though!) And, yes, you are starting to sound like our Congressman!

  3. Monique Anderson, on April 2nd, 2019 at 9:12 pm said:

    Those beans were good. Everything was great. Wonderful evening with great friends and music.

  4. Cynthia Moxley, on April 2nd, 2019 at 10:55 pm said:

    Monique: Agree! Love that Blackberry Farm keeps us on our toes by always doing the unexpected! Thanks for joining us!

  5. Monique Anderson, on April 3rd, 2019 at 7:56 am said:

    We always have such a great time with you!

  6. Sam Beall ||, on April 4th, 2019 at 1:20 pm said:

    Thank you Cynthia for your special Coverage of this special event. And bless Natalie and Jim Haslam for sponsoring it. Look forward to next year!

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