Thursday, May 31, 2012

Hotel Monaco in Old Town Alexandria

Mr. RTH and I helped our daughter, Julie, move to Alexandria, Va. this weekend.  Very sad and  almost bittersweet for me, as she just accepted a  job promotion in the very state where her father and I were born and raised.  While it is very sad to let your children leave, it is also very exciting.  You get to visit and learn about new places.  I grew up in southwestern Virginia and later moved to Richmond, where I met my husband.  But one part of the state never ventured into was the DC area, too congested for us !  But do I love it now!  I can't wait go back and explore this delightful area of the country. Built in the 1700's,  Old Town Alexandria is an historic charming  part of the city, full of charming stores, restaurants, and hotels.  We had dinner in the restaurant of this delightful boutique hotel, the Hotel Monaco.   I love the turquoise walls, red leather and green combinations.  In the center of the back to back sofas was a bubbling confection of blown art glass in a glass vase -  too too cool!  A little bit of Asian, a little bit antique and a lot of wonderful !  The faux painted fireplace in a leopard motif stood out beautifully on the painted turquoise paneling- divine inspiration!  Notice the crazy light fixture in the center of room - really ties the space together.   I can't wait to go back and explore the area more.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Blackberry Farm's Mr. John Coykendall

Mr. John Coykendall drawing a sketch for me to take home.


Drawing by John Coykendall

Mr. John Coykendall made a lasting impression on me.  He is the master gardener at Blackberry and I had the great privilege of spending quality time with him last week in the gardens at Blackberry Farm.  But what is far more interesting about him- he is an artist and his drawings have been the inspiration for the dinner china used at the resort.  His drawings were reproduced on the dinnerware plates for the inn .   Not only is it used for serving dinner, it graces the wall on the main house dining room.  I love the orange chargers with the barn drawing in the center.  All of this dinnerware is available for purchase on line from the Blackberry Farm gift shop. We will be joining for Tablescape Thursday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Blackberry Farm - Lessons Learned

 Chef Busby in the Demonstration kitchen at Blackberry Farm

 Freshly made Ricotta Cheese drizzled on fresh garden greens, served with a potato rosti wedge.

One of the fun things about going to Blackberry Farm is taking a cooking class.Ingredients are simple, fresh and organic.   Chef Dustin Busby taught us how to make fresh ricotta cheese and serve it on a bed of greens, accompanied by  Potato Rosti .  Last night I decided to try the meal at home and the potato cake came out perfect.  Using a  mandolin fitted with a fine tooth attachment, slice 2 Idaho potatoes into match sticks.  Place in a bowl and cover with water.  Drain well,  using a towel to get out as much moisture as possible. Heat a black iron skillet to hot and pour  1 tablespoon grapeseed  oil on the bottom to coat pan.  When oil is hot - turns a shimmery tone - add the potatoes. Completely cover the bottom of the pan and gently flatten center with a spatula to form the sides.  Cook for 5 minutes- do not disturb.  When brown on bottom, flip over and cook the other side for 5 minutes or until brown.  Remove from black iron skillet and place on a baking rack.  Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Serve immediately, by slicing into wedges and drizzling with your favorite cheese.  In class we used the fresh made ricotta, but last night I smeared it with a soft ripened French cheese.  It's a yummy alternative to bread as an accompaniment to a salad and adds a crunchy, satisfying taste to the meal.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Blackberry Farm - Surely Heaven on Earth

 The Main House used for breakfast and lunch service

Veranda off the Main House- love that table built around the trees.

 Morning Mist

Boat House- perfect for reading a book or enjoying a cocktail. 

 One of many bridges on the 4200 acres.

Main House Sitting Room - dressed as an old country manor home with fabulous antiques.

Main House Dining Room used for breakfast and lunch

The Barn - used for dinner and houses the wine cellar and demonstration kitchen.

Blackberry Farm's picture of the Barn's main dining room.

Dining room china designed from drawings by John Coykendall,
the Blackberry Farm master gardener.

Sitting area in the demonstration kitchen in the barn.

Demonstration and teaching kitchen in the Barn.

Love this sitting area in the Barn.

Entrance to the Barn dining room - simple and elegant.

Miniature strawberries being grown for desserts and garnishing.  Lovely!

Mr. John Coykendall, grinding corn for cornmeal.

The Garden Shed- so quaint!

Reverend Taylor Heirloom butter beans

Hollyhocks, typically grown in the old south to identify and hide  the outhouse!

Flats of basil and mizuna microgreens being ground for the kitchen.

Wild ramps being prepared for pickling

Blackberry Farm Cheese Cave- their blue cheese is divine. 
 You can order their food products on line.

Chef Dustin Busby, the Larder House manager.

Lunch that Chef Busby prepared for us.- poached farm egg on a bed of caramelized onion and carrot puree, with quinoa cooked in ham hock liquid, sauteed wild greens and country ham.

A sampling of entrees for the evening meal.

 Blackberry Farm cocktail in process being developed for the summer months.
I just happened to be on the veranda during the photo shoot!

Shaved cucumber strips around a seared tuna salad- absolutely divine!
Notice those herbs on top - mizuna - purple mustard greens in micro green stage- peppery taste and very very good!  I will definitely grow some!

Eggs gathered from the free range chickens on the farm.

Breakfast offering at Blackberry Farm.

Italian Truffle Dogs-Lagotto Romagnolos- used to sniff for truffles on the property.-
They raise and sell these gorgeous dogs.

The Fly Fishing Shop - how cute is that!!

Inside the fly shop- ready for lunch with a Blackberry Farm boxed gourmet lunch.

Mr. RTH fly fished every day - all day! His version of heaven on earth!

One of many places to relax. Love those burlap monogrammed pillows.

 On the front porch of our Holly Glade Cottage.

Just relax!
We are just returning from Blackberry Farm, a glorious place in the foothills of the Smokey Mountains in east Tennessee. Southern hospitality at its finest - Blackberry Farms employees are the nicest group of people, so accommodating to every little request.  The views were intoxicating and the food was habit forming - you just could not get enough. Every course was a work of art served in an old barn that was found in Pennsylvania and re-assembled here.  Suzanne Kasler, an Atlanta designer, magically transformed the space into an inspirational masterpiece.   4200 acres are at your finger tips to explore, hike, fly fish, horseback ride or just simply rock away your time on the Main House's veranda. My favorite time was spent with John Curkendall, the farm's master gardener and the Larder House manager, Dustin Busby.  After spending time with Mr. Curkendall in the garden and learning about how to grow and harvest basil and mizuna microgreens, lamb's quarter,  heirloom tomatoes and butter beans, we joined Dustin in the demonstration kitchen to prepare our lunch with vegetables just harvested from the garden.  Dustin taught us to proper cook and season quinoa, caramelize onions and carrots, make fresh ricotta cheese, and properly poach an egg.  We were able to tour the larder house and see local wild ramps being prepared for pickling. As the larder manager, Dustin also is in charge of the sheep and free range chickens that roam on the property.  After lunch we went back to the garden for more local stories and information of the life of a master gardener with Mr.Coykendall.   This magical place makes you reflect on life and realize that it is the simple things that matter most. I guess I really am a county girl!  If you ever get the chance, this is a dream place to visit.