Sunday evening’s Scenic City Supper Club was another triumph for the creative team that continues to bring delightfully unique dining experiences to Chattanoogans in the form of pop-up dinners.
After debuting in the spring with the goal of shining a spotlight on our local dining scene, this third SCSC iteration focused attention on the local creatives and producers who supply Chattanooga with sustainable food and inspiration to prepare it in innovative ways.
For this dinner, SCSC founders Erik and Amanda Niel of Easy Bistro & Bar worked with Local Milk blogger Beth Kirby to plan and style a meal-sponsored by Nooga.com and Harvested Here, featuring Field & Flora Design Co., Southern Sqweeze, Brash Coffee and Sequatchie Cove Creamery-all served while watching a lovely sunset over a beautiful setting at Cloudcrest Farm in Rossville.
The food and drink pairings were prepared by Niel and fellow chefs Peter Barlow, also of Easy Bistro, and Josh Bonee of Main Street Meats; and mixologist Alex Jump of Easy Bistro and Main Street Meats. It was a crisp autumn day and we arrived just as the sun was starting to redden the sky above the trees. A gorgeous farmhouse grew out of a clearing where a long table was set in the grass at the top of a hill, with lovely arrangements from Field & Flora.
Arriving diners sipped on Southern Sqweeze hot cider with apple, ginger, lemon and mulling spices, and a cocktail created by Jump that included Germain-Robin brandy, Tempus Fugit Kina and a mushroom-infused Lustau Amontillado sherry. The setting, which was surrounded by the farm’s cows, a very impressive pig and a friendly dog, offered a terrific view of the sunset. Guests mingled over their beverages in the midst of open fires that had potatoes poaching over a grill and a huge caldron of pink-eyed peas simmering, as much of the meal was being prepared out in the open.
Hors d’oeuvres featuring the local harvest included a smoked beef croquette topped with an arugula puree, wild cress and pickles; and a benne cracker topped with Bellamy blue cheese mousse and warm apple butter. Servers and hosts not only provided the appetizers, but also encouraged us to visit with the animals; one danced through the grass to introduce us to the pig, and even got it to snort a few times.
We also toured the farmhouse and climbed up to a balcony that provided us with a great bird’s-eye view of the kitchen as the staff scrambled to bring the final details of the meal together. As we sat down to dinner at the long, family-style dining table circled by fires and heaters that pushed the evening’s chill into the background, we became acquainted with our dining companions, while being closely attended by enthusiastic servers.
Our first course was a plating of poached tiny potatoes and Main Street Meats city ham with bitter greens, roasted peppers, and a cured and smoked egg yolk. This was served with a huge warmed wheel of Sequatchie Cove Coppinger cheese that was perfectly softened for drizzling. Next was a dramatic serving of sour turnips, kale, skillet cornbread and whipped lardo in a bowl with fresh pink-eyed peas poured over the top to form a stew (these were the beans that Niel tended as the sun set).
After the first two plates, we cleansed our palates with a cool and crisp juice from Southern Sqweeze featuring a mix of beet, apple, greens and ginger. This provided a nice sweet-astringent transition to the main course, which featured Broken Arrow Ranch venison prepared with a crust of Brash coffee and juniper, and served with wild mushrooms. Sides included pumpkins stuffed with kale, chard and pumpkin seeds; and roasted Brussels sprouts with a light warm vinaigrette. Beverage pairings offered a red wine blend from Michel Chapoutier‘s Domaine Bila-Haut in Lanquedoc and Fat Bottom Brewing‘s Ruby American red ale.
The meal concluded with a cup of “Brash & Birch” (Brash coffee, brown butter-washed bourbon, Amaro Sibilia, pecan syrup and Birch whipped cream) and buttermilk pie with Bellamy blue cheese and fig preserves. We lingered over dessert-and I enjoyed a special caffeine-free version of the dessert cocktail that was kindly prepared just for me-while we marveled at the incredible farm-to-table experience. To enjoy such fine fare after getting to interact with the animals, while also watching our dinner come together over fire pits tended by skilled chefs, was a rare treat. It accomplished exactly what the organizers set out to do, which was to bring local farms together with talented Chattanooga artisans to create a one-of-a-kind dining experience that highlights our city’s increasingly exciting restaurant culture.
Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.