Warm memories of last dinner at Blackberry Farm

Blackberry Farm’s Bramble Hall, which opened in 2016, was inspired by the timber-framed barns and rural halls that once dotted rural Tennessee and hosted everything from harvests to meetings, dances and weddings. That’s where a few hundred of us last month had our last dinner at Blackberry Farm prior to the coronavirus.

When news came yesterday that Blackberry Farm and Blackberry Mountain will reopen on May 14, it made me wistful for the last dinner we had there. It was for the sponsors of the Knoxville Museum of Art’s annual L’Amour du Vin fundraiser. L’Amour du Vin means “for the love of wine,” so it was appropriate that this year’s featured vintner was in attendance, as you will see from these photos. The featured winery was Arista in California’s Russian River Valley.

The tony Blackberry properties, which encompass 10,000 acres in Blount County, are in a better position than most to provide social distancing for their guests. Still, I was impressed with some of the extra precautions that will be put in place and think that others may take a lesson from them.

There will be hand sanitizing stations throughout the properties and disposable masks upon request. Employees are offered paid time off if they feel like they have the symptoms of COVID-19 or the flu. Guest check-ins will be spaced out by prearrangement and final invoices will be emailed to guests, eliminating the need for them to visit Guest Services prior to leaving. Overnight guests may choose whether they desire housekeeping to visit their rooms twice a day, as usual; once a day; or if they’d rather not have anyone in their room and just want supplies to be dropped off outside their doors.

Dining at Blackberry will be different, as well. Tables have been spaced out to leave 6 feet between them. Guests will be seated at every other booth to allow for the recommended distancing. Staff will wear masks. Instead of regular babysitting services provided during meal times, children will be treated to complimentary in-room dining while their parents visit the dining rooms.

All-in-all, very good plans. But, I’m glad I have these photos from last month before such plans were necessary. Hope you enjoy them, too.

A beautiful table set for the L’Amour du Vin Sponsors’ Dinner at Blackberry Farm’s Bramble Hall. It was a much less stressful time in East Tennessee — and the world. And just look at all those wine glasses!

Chef Tory McPhail, left, of Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, was guest chef at L’Amour du Vin this year. Here he is with his wife, Britt, and Knoxville’s Steve Bailey.

Mike Strickland and Allison Burchett during the cocktail gathering.

From left, Knoxville Museum of Art Executive Director David Butler, Ted Smith, John Winemiller and Carla Pare, the museum’s director of fundraising events and special projects.

Holy cow! Best pimento cheese in the world, topped with a homemade gherkin.

Mimi and Milton Turner.

Ron and Melissa Feinbaum with Stacey Turley, center. (Love, love Melissa’s dress!)

Elaine and Eric Zeanah.

From left, Joe and Sharon Pryse, Lindsay and Ross Cates and Annie and David Colquitt.

These confit of guinea hen croquettes with mustard aioli were fantastic.

April and Stephen Harris.

From left, Dr. Kimbro Maguire, Ann and Steve Bailey, and Dr. Penny Lynch.

John Trotter and Mollie Turner.

Ruth and Joe Fielden.

From left, Ann Bailey, Dr. Steve and Mary Ellen Brewington, and Ted Smith.

Three great guys! From left, my husband Alan Carmichael; sommelier Jason Drotar and David Colquitt.

Wanna see some more of the fantastic food? (Served at tables that were not 6 feet apart and had more than six people at them!)

Cauliflower salad with Green Goddess dressing, croutons and dilly beans.

It was paired with a 2014 Arista Banfield Vineyard chardonnay. And, even though I’m not a big chardonnay fan, it was pretty darn good together.

David Butler making welcoming comments.

This is Andy Chabot, Blackberry’s food and beverage director (and an award-winning sommelier).

Vintner Ben McWilliams of Arista Winery.

Roasted golden beets with hen of the wood mushrooms, black truffle and pine syrup. It was paired with a 2015 Arista Ferrington Vineyard pinot noir from Anderson Valley.

Jeannie Bennett and Robert Shipley from Bennett Galleries.

Here’s the weekend’s featured artist, Denise Stewart-Sanabria, left, with Wendy Seaward.

My favorite course! Slow-cooked farm egg with smoked chicken broth, grits, radishes and peanuts. It was paired with a 2015 Arista Mononi Vineyard pinot noir from Russian River Valley.

Melissa and Doug White seemed to be enjoying themselves.

Sindhu and Thomas Zacharia.

Creekstone beef tenderloin with smoked cream, mizuna and mushrooms. (Mizuna is Japanese mustard greens!)

Jason Drotar presenting the pairing: a 2014 Arista Harper’s Rest estate grown pinot noir from Russian River Valley.

Paula Chesworth and Dr. Karthik Krishnan.

Debbie and Bucky Sizemore.

Final course: a deconstructed peanut butter cheesecake. Yum!

This picture sums up what a fun evening of eating, drinking and being up-close-and-personal it was! Can’t wait to do it again! From left, Mary Ellen Brewington, Steve Bailey, Steve Brewington and Amy Skalet. With no social distancing!



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7 Responses to Warm memories of last dinner at Blackberry Farm

  1. Carole Martin, on April 30th, 2020 at 5:26 pm said:

    Ah, those were the good ole days!!

  2. Cynthia Moxley, on April 30th, 2020 at 5:27 pm said:

    Carole: Yes, indeed. What’s your guess on when they can happen again?

  3. Monique Anderson, on April 30th, 2020 at 5:41 pm said:

    Wow. That looked fabulous. We all need times like those.

  4. carolyn jensen, on May 1st, 2020 at 10:19 am said:

    Can’t wait till we can do this again. Miss the fellowship and good times. You always capture the spirit of the event and the food and decorations so well.

  5. Rusha Sams, on May 2nd, 2020 at 6:43 am said:

    The hospitality and travel industry have been hit hard by this pandemic, so it’s great to read of the re-opening of one of our premier venues in our area doing so much to take precautions yet ensure a most positive experience for guests. I wish Blackberry the best!

  6. Mimi Turner, on May 2nd, 2020 at 9:04 am said:

    Wonderful coverage of a wonderful pre-corona evening!

  7. Cynthia Moxley, on May 2nd, 2020 at 9:39 am said:

    Monique, Carolyn and Mimi: Thanks for reading. I hope to see you all at the next big shindig we are allowed to attend!

    Rusha: Agree about Blackberry. I think everyone else in the hospitality industry can learn from them. Can’t wait to get back there.

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