Every now and then you have a day that is just glorious. A day that makes the rest of the days of the year pale in comparison. For me, this was one of those days. Not because it was a perfect sunny day, and everything went as planned. In fact, the day began with a series of mishaps and very uncooperative weather.
A few weeks ago I received an email from Brasstown Farm in North Carolina asking if I would like to come to their “Poorhouse Mountain Picnic” event and a tour of their farm. Not just any picnic.
A five-course picnic with four of the Georgia and Carolina chefs making each meal finished off with my favorite gelato.
To say that I was giddy is an understatement. Brasstown Farm is a beef and pork farm just outside the Georgia border. I buy their beef to make meatballs and burgers all the time. In fact, I actually drive by two grocery stores just to buy their beef. They sell it Whole Foods.
The flavor is that good. I am a big fan of the dry-aged. And the beef is pasture-centered, which is really important to me.
The day started with the worst weather that you could ask for with a picnic. Rain. Rain. And more rain.
We arrived at the farm in the morning only to a very wet, muddy scene.
Not ideal for outdoor tour. Or cute wedge sandals that my friend, Min, decided to wear along with her sundress.
After I vainly primped in the car for 15 minutes before stepping out into make-up melting, hair frizzing weather, I walked up to guest check-in.
As my friend, Min said “this is the best we are gonna look all day, so we better take a picture now.”
She was definitely right.
But I was prepared.
Comfie clothes that will expand while I eat copious amounts of food, check.
Pony tail holder for the point when my hair reaches maximum frizz, check.
My friend and assistant photographer, Min, wearing Whit’s rattlesnake boots that he so graciously lent to her.
I was greeted by this face with a huge smile. Meet Whit Whitmire.
Brasstown is his family’s business and farm that has been passed down from generation to generation. They make excellent beef.
After a short while the rain stopped, and the sun began to peek out. The tour was starting and the first stop was … well, cows, of course.
This farm does something that is very unique. Now this is not for the squeemish, so if you are thinking that the path to being a vegetarian is where you want to go, it’s best to stop reading now and just stick to the pictures.
So this is an ultrasound machine.
Yes, that’s right an ultrasound. This machine actually measures how much fat each cow has in certain areas and maps out exactly where your strip of steak will come from.
How’s that for revolutionary technology?
I’ve never even heard of this, and I am pretty sure that most of my friends haven’t either.
I actually started feeling a bit sad for the cow and wondering if I was going to leave the farm a vegetarian.
That later changed.
On to the pig tour!
Everything was in red. Covered in mud.
The ground. The pigs. The pig pens.
The walls around the pig pens.
Big mama! Really. There are no words.
Now this is a mud bath.
After the tour, we began the trip to the mountain top, site of the picnic.
Traveling like the resident animal guests in a trailer with seats made of hay.
Now this was fun!
Alex from “Gather”.
The must have boots.
A cow’s view.
Finally we had arrived.
Wet hair and all.
There was music.
And lovely picnic table.
And of course, a stunning mountain view.
Green rolling hills.
A canopy of trees.
Never-ending sky and a quaint church hidden in the trees.
The meal started with a giant wood board layered with soppressata, salami and various meats from Spotted Trotter.
While we were getting settled in and enjoying the view, the chefs were hard at work.
The kitchen for the day.
A smoker and adjacent outdoor grill.
First up was chef Adam Hayes from Grand Bohemian in Asheville, North Carolina. He will be representing North Carolina and cooking at the James Beard House in New York next….
James Beard translation: He’s a rock star.
Summer tomatoes grilled over a thyme-scented fire.
His dish….Fire roasted coulotte with heirloom tomatoes, olive oil, sea salt, Balsamic steak sauce, cave aged gorgonzola, micro arugula and basil
The most tender and flavor-filled piece of grilled beef that I think I have ever had.
One bite of this and my earlier thoughts of becoming a vegetarian had completely faded.
Second course was the grilled pork by Chef William Dissen.
Tender wood-grilled pork in kale and butter bean ragout, blackberry and peach relish, soft herbs.
At this point, I was starting to get full but trying to pace myself and go the distance.
If there is one dish that is very hard for me to turn down it is short rib.
3rd course. Chef Matthew Richardson prepared a maple-smoked short rib with corn pudding.
I love short rib. Oh sorry, I said that already. And the corn pudding was beyond delicious.
I wasn’t the only one.
4th course. From Chef Craig Richards, Pork belly with pickled nectarines and smoked eggplant.
Fancy bacon for lunch? Yes, please.
Fantastic flavor. Fantastic crunch.
Loved the grilled nectarines.
Despite the fact that I had eaten enough for two teenage boys, I can always find room for dessert. And did.
Pie, pie and more pie.
Strawberry Rhubarb pie.
And my favorite, mixed berry pie. Translated in Italian – “Frutti di Bosco”. This was outstanding. Actually that doesn’t even do it justice.
Best. Pie. Ever.
Thank you, Local Pie.
And the meal ended with my favorite gelato.
This is Wes. He makes the best gelato this side of the Atlantic. I heart him for that.
Sea-Salted Caramel, Honey Fig and Blueberry Lemon. Yes, yes and yes.
I chose the berry pie with a scoop of the sea-salted caramel. Heaven.
I would relive this day all over again.
Thank you, Brasstown.
For giving me an understanding of how much hard work goes behind the simplest of meals.
For reminding me how beautiful the world is.
For spreading your generosity of spirit and making the world a better place.
And before I left, I was given the opportunity to do something that I never imagined doing.
Steve Whitmire routinely goes out to pet one of his three bulls, Ulysses. Yes, pet the bull. I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to witness this.
So out I went.
Stepping onto a muddy, open field bordered with and electric fence with Steve Whitmire being the only thing between me and a 2,500 lb bull.
He gave me strict instructions.
“Don’t act scared”.
“Don’t make any abrupt motions. One turn of Ulysses 500lb neck in the wrong direction, and you could be toast.”
Or dinner, I thought.
I followed his lead and soon found myself standing behind this gentle giant stroking his back.
I was in awe.
But not for long, because the bull next door was now standing at the fence and letting us know that he was quite jealous and not happy.
I spoke to him and felt somehow as if we understood each other.
At that point, I noticed that Whit, who was standing back observing, was quickly starting to back up towards the gate. I was quickly reminded that this was not a simple petting of an animal and to stay alert. We walked towards the gate but Ulyssses kept following! Steve quickly yelled to his son “Close the gate! Close the gate!”
The entire experience was one that I will never forget and always cherish.
Thank you to Steve Whitmire. And of course, Whit, his son, who organized this incredible day.
Steve with Atlanta foodie and writer, Angela Hansberger.
Bruce the banker.
Hope you enjoyed.