This past Saturday night, I attended a special benefit for the Cooper Young Farmers Market here in Memphis. Whole Foods in Memphis celebrated the grand opening of their new Salud cooking school with this event presented by Blackberry Farm.
Blackberry Farm cookbooks
Salud at Whole Foods
If you’ve never heard of Blackberry Farm, it is one of the nation’s best luxury hotels and is a working farm in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. I had the pleasure of staying there several years ago and found it to be the most glorious place on earth I’ve ever experienced.
The dinner was done as a demonstration where the chefs prepare the meal in front of you and you eat what they have prepared. I knew because it was Blackberry Farm it was going to be special so I was so excited to attend. I arrived about 15 minutes early since I really didn’t know what to expect. I saw chefs in the room making lots of preparations for us but we weren’t allowed in just yet.
Let me in!
After most people had arrived, they invited us over to a section they had blocked off with tables for a sort of cocktail party type experience. We had our choice of Chardonnay or Merlot, which they explained were available at the store. Wait! What? Wine available at a grocery store? In Tennessee? Yep! They sell it through their Cork and Carry program, a loophole to the Tennessee liquor laws making wine sales in grocery stores illegal. Because they have the BBQ Shack restaurant in the store, they can sell wine by the bottle, but you have to drink some of it before you can take it home with you. Sounds logical! (insert sarcasm)
Wine at Whole Foods
Along with the wine, passed appetizers were available. My favorite was the grilled cheese made with Benton’s bacon, Blackberry Farm Magnolia cheese, and Blackberry Farm apple and onion jam.
It may not look like much but this Blackberry Farm Grilled Cheese was a fave!
It was delish! I was also happy to know many of the Blackberry Farm products are available at Whole Foods so I can make this sandwich at home if I want.
Blackberry Farm’s line of products is available at Whole Foods.
I also enjoyed the Blackberry Farm deep-fried bread and butter pickles with their J & S sauce as well as their buckwheat pancake with fried sunny side up quail egg and their own salami.
Deep fried bread and butter pickles with J & S Sauce
Buckwheat pancake with sunny side up quail egg and salami
After we had all had our fill of the appetizers, we were invited into Salud for the remainder of the meal. At each place setting was a nice take-away for us, a jar of one of Blackberry Farm’s delectable spreads and a measuring spoon from Salud.
Gift for me
Our chefs for the evening were Josh Feathers, one of the head chefs at the farm, Ryan Burger, the cheesemaker at the farm, and Cameron Roszkowski, also a chef at the farm.
Cameron Roszkowski, Josh Feathers, and Ryan Burger, all chefs at Blackberry Farm
Most of the cooking demos I’ve been to involve the presenter showing a few steps of the dish while servers bring out pre-made and pre-plated versions of the dish. So, you are never really sure who made it. Not here! The chefs actually cooked and plated the courses right in front of us so we knew we were eating their food.
Chefs plating one of our courses
These were highly talented, well-educated, well established chefs, and they were right in front of me, cooking for ME! The food geek in me was elated!
The first course was a vegetable “pasta”, in quotes because the “noodles” were actually strips of veggies.
Vegetable “pasta” in cheese broth with mushroom spread on toast
They were presented with a cheese broth, which was surprisingly not cheesy at all, just very flavorful, and a toast with their mushroom spread. It was so delicious! This course was paired with a Pinot Grigio. Next was the fish course. Baked salmon rubbed with kale pesto, raw kale mixed with a lemon olive oil, carrot puree, and salmon caviar was presented.
Kale pesto rubbed salmon
As you can see, I hated it!
What was left of the salmon. All of my plates looked like this.
The salmon was paired with the Chardonnay. Up next was braised short ribs with a fried fingerling potato, tomato relish, sautéed kale and a balsamic reduction.
Beef Short Rib
The chef spent a great deal of time explaining how the tomato relish is made. Their treatment of the most simple foods, their respect for food, and their passion for it really turns it into something special. It was insanely delicious! This was paired with a red blend. Finally, dessert was presented. A ball of their own soft brebis cheese rolled in candied pecans, served with a berry consomme and figs ended the meal perfectly.
A perfect fruit and cheese dessert
The candied pecans were the star! They prepared them by boiling raw pecans first, then mixing one part powdered sugar with 2 parts pecans, THEN deep-frying them for about 5 minutes. I could have eaten an entire bowl of the pecans themselves.
Sadly, all good things must come to an end and with that, the night was over. But not before I snagged a few pics with the chefs!
Me with the chefs
The women in their lives are some lucky ladies!
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