Thursday, October 2, 2008

The South

Good sports

We arrived in Athens in the early evening to find vast numbers of football fans (250,000 was one estimate) swarming the streets. Alabama vs Georgia is pretty important around here and EVERYBODY was out. Somehow Caleb found a good parking spot for the bus and we were off to explore. We stopped by our favorite Athens restaurant Farm 255 and chatted with Olivia Sargeant who participated in the Athens Outstanding dinner a few years ago at Full Moon Farms.

Next day: Game Day!! Jim found some black and red Georgia hats and t-shirts and we soon joined the black and red throngs in bar hopping. Between hops we stopped into Farm 255 for dinner. Farm 255 has a charming chalkboard posted on the wall that lists all the local sources of ingredients. Dinner was super good and the restaurant was nice and quiet as all were elsewhere watching the game. Georgia was soundly trounced by 'Bama and we soon joined the masses in post game revelry, finally stumbling to our 'home' on the bus late in the night.

We groggily awoke the next day much much too early and slowly made our way to Atlanta and the next dinner.

A History Theme

At the Atlanta History Center we set our long table on historic Tullie Smith Farm. Our site, located in the Buckhead neighborhood of Atlanta, was a mix of big city and historic farm. Guest chef Chef Scott Peacock of Watershed Restaurant is well known for his active interest in food history and Southern cooking. Scott even went so far as to get permission to cook with historic cast iron cooking pots. Scott is a charmer and our guests loved the farm, the incredible food and the atmosphere, but they especially loved Scott.

Our new friend Niki, the private events manager from Watershed, took us in that night and Adam and Caleb stayed up late with her playing the old classic video game Shark! Shark! The rest of us experienced a detailed recounting of the activities the next day as we enjoyed lunch at Watershed. Thanks Niki!

With lots of laughs Jim and Leah quickly finished lunch and rushed to make a flight to Miami and the next dinner. The plan was that Caleb and Adam would drive the bus and truck and trailer on to New Orleans because Miami was just too far a drive for the rolling culinary circus. Leah and Jim would then be joined by Jim's art assistant Mali Mrozinski and the three of them would put on the Miami event.

Miami Vice

The three of us found a nice hotel on the beach (much cheaper in the off season) and set out to take in the sights and sounds of Miami. Miami is typically hot and humid in late September. It also rains a lot. We were advised against putting on a farm dinner event in South Florida during this time of year. Fortunately the weather gods were with us once again and the very rainy hot days on arrival gave way to a short window of clear and less hot weather.

Gabriele Marewski of Paradise Farms had contacted us four years ago asking if we might add Miami and South Florida to our tour. Miami seemed a little too far to go so we never quite got it together. Meanwhile Gabriele has started her own successful farm dinner series ''Dinners in Paradise'' which is now going into it's second season. With Gabriele's experience and the great on site equipment and set up we were able to put on a Florida event with less traveling staff than usual. Gabriele's partner at the farm, Christopher Siragusa, was an amazing help, along with the rest of the Paradise Farms crew. With our visit to Florida it was interesting to see a dinner series inspired by our example and how they might differ in approach. Michael Schwartz of Michael's Genuine Food and Drink was our guest chef.

Among the many wonders of the evening were the variety of exotic tropical fruits incorporated into the dinner. A memorable course was the homemade organic ricotta with the farm's honeycomb, toasted hazelnuts and walnut raisin crisps, paired with the local Schnebly Mango Wine. The Schneblys are doing some interesting and tasty wines with local Florida fruits, right around the corner from Paradise Farms. Executive pastry chef Hedy Goldsmith put together a killer collection of desserts featuring delicious bittersweet chocolate cookies, jellies and Paradise Farms jackfruit- a spectacle in itself!

The next day we enjoyed a lunch visit to Michael's very cool restaurant in the Miami design district before jetting off to New Orleans.

No comments: