When Joe asked me what I wanted for my 25th birthday this year, I told him that I would love to do one of the special dinners that had been popping up around town. Usually a special prix-fixe type of menu with wine or beer (or even tequila or rum) pairings, they tended to cost a little bit more than we would spend for a normal night out. I said I would keep an eye out for any dinners like that around my birthday weekend. Shortly afterward, this dinner popped up, scheduled for my birthday evening. A special menu prepared by Chef Jeremy Barlow of tayst using local fruits and vegetables, including wine, benefiting Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee, and taking place amidst the pines at Delvin Farms, a local farm just south of town that has a very popular CSA program and large presence on the local food scene.
We arrived, and our car was valet parked while we walked down a dirt path through the pine trees, stopping for a glass of wine at the tent. The weather was absolutely perfect with clear skies and a slight fall chill. When we passed into the pine trees, there was a magical clearing with tables set up. I kept expecting to have woodland creatures come out to serve us.
Fortunately, there were also space heaters, as when the sun went down, it got a little chilly. We stood around and chatted while we drank wine and waited for the passed hors d'oeuvres to come out.
The menu was quintessentially fall food. The roast pig was succulent and moist. The lettuce salad was much loved by everyone at our table for its textural contrasts and the surprisingly creamy sweet potato dressing. I particularly enjoyed the pasta salad with its touch of sweetness from the sorghum and figs. The fall squash napoleon was topped with fresh ricotta and was similar in texture to a savory pumpkin pie. The cornbread was not too sweet or too dry. Everything was just perfect. Unfortunately, it had become quite dark by the time we ate, so I have no pictures of the main dinner food or dessert. Since the dinner, I have dreamed of the caramel from the caramel apples for dessert. I don't usually like caramel as I find it cloyingly sweet, but this caramel was rich and smooth.
Admittedly, the passed bites were my favorite part. Above you see me with a caramel cone full of spicy apple relish. The cone was delicate and sweet without being sticky, and the peppers in the relish contrasted beautifully with the sweetness of the apples.
The smoked trout hush puppies covered in wildflower honey were to die for. I could have made a meal out of them alone. The rich smoky flavor of the trout was juxtaposed with the slightest sweetness of the honey. The white grit cakes were topped with sauteed kale and local goat cheese, and the goat cheese just melted in my mouth.
It was a wonderful birthday and a unique experience that I will treasure for a long time.