Clearly, the master plan is working: this morning brings the news that Elizabeth Spiers is returning to personal blogging. As the founding editor of Gawker, Elizabeth was pretty much the first person to link regularly to this here blog, so things really are coming full circle. She’s going to try to do the one-post-a-day thing, so we can hold each other accountable for that. As she likes to say, “Muahahahahaha.”
The two one-post-a-day bloggers that I based my goal on are, of course, Joanne Wilson and Fred Wilson. It’s their practice of daily blogging that I’m looking to emulate here. And one type of post that I intend to steal from Joanne is the travel post. If you’re not a regular GothamGal reader, Joanne is the master of a certain style of travelogue-slash-photoblogging, whether she’s chronicling a day in Berlin or a meal at Alinea. I don’t expect to match Joanne when it comes to recording every detail of a day or a meal, but I do like travelblogging. So in this mellow last week of August, before fall really starts, I’m going to blog about some of my summer travel.
I’d never been to Nashville before, so when Pando asked me to speak at the Southland conference in early June, I immediately said yes. All one needs do is study the photograph above that I took of the burger at Husk Nashville to know it was the right call.
Nashville blew me away. I was blessed with the guidance of Eater Nashville editor Matt Rogers in navigating the city’s food scene. Where we ate: Rolf & Daughters (solo dinner at the bar my first night in town, fantastic); Husk for lunch the next day (didn’t love the vibe as much as Husk Charleston, but the food is just as good); then an aggressive second-night crawl of new places; capped by a final day lunch at Arnold’s Country Kitchen for traditional Meat+3.
The second night crawl started at Pinewood Social, a combination hipster coffee shop, sprawling bar, restaurant, and bowling alley. (That’s my wife, Matt, and Eater’s Amanda Kludt in the bar-ish portion of the place, above.) Holy hell. We didn’t get to taste the food, which is overseen by former Catbird Seat chef Josh Habiger, but the cocktails were great. (We also didn’t get to Catbird Seat itself on this trip because the place is closed Mondays and Tuesdays.) From there it was on to The 404 Kitchen, a restaurant attached to a new hotel and itself housed in a re-purposed storage container, and then to Josephine, a New American newcomer. All fantastic. Nashville!
Southland, by the way, turned out to be the best conference-type-thing I’ve ever attended. Sarah Lacy did a string of great on-stage interviews, and there was the standard start-up competition, but where the event really excelled was in all the ways a normal conference doesn’t. Amazing Nashville BBQ for lunch. A giant dance party after the day’s programming ended. And, for those who could extend their trip, VIP passes and transport to Bonnaroo. If you’re looking for an excuse to go to Nashville, come to Southland next June.
As happy as I would have been to hop on to Bonnaroo after Nashville, Amanda and I had other ideas. Namely, a three-hour drive east into the Great Smoky Mountains, destination Blackberry Farm.
About half an hour outside of Knoxville, Blackberry Farm is on the list of food-lover destinations that you gotta hit up at least once. (Joanne beat me to it.) It’s a sprawling property with a lodge, private cabins, a giant converted barn for dining, lakeside gazebos, and all the attendant activities: horseback riding, hiking, fly fishing, and, natch, eating. When I first stepped out of the lodge, the above view greeted me. “So it’s going to be like that,” I instagrammed.
Here’s my cottage, tucked into the forest below the ridgeline.
And here’s me on the golf cart they gave us to get around.
Amanda and I had a bit of business to conduct at the farm: an interview with Eater Young Guns semi-finalist Liz Williams, Blackberry Farm’s pastry supervisor, which included a pastry tasting. Which followed a tasting of cheese made on the farm. Which preceded the tasting menu dinner, which might have been the only letdown of the trip — an oversauced, overly heavy meal that felt like a tasting menu straight out of 1996. Turns out the dinner at Blackberry Farm isn’t the reason to go.
But, still go.