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I love Food. Cooking it. Eating it. Experiencing it. As a result, that's what this blog has evolved into: A journal of my gastronomical journeys abroad, as well as my culinary creativity at home. I hope you enjoy what I have to say, and I'd love to hear your comments... Cheers!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Paper Menus & Chalk Boards, Part III: Serenbe

Tucked away in the bucolic Chattahoochee Hills, but just a par-5 away from the bustle of the nation's busiest airport, Serenbe is an oasis southwest of Atlanta created from one couple's desire to restore an old country farmhouse as a getaway for their young family of five.  It just so happens, that young couple was Steve & Marie Nygren, no ordinary pair of Atlantans.
Steve is the former head of a major restaurant group, and Marie is the progeny of one of the bastions of the Atlanta food scene.  Her mom is Margaret Lupo, famous for the enduring Mary Mac's Tea Room .  They bought that dilapidated farmhouse and the acreage around it in 1991... and through equal parts inspiration and perspiration, the seeds of an idea began to grow.  Their home transformed into a B&B, and, using the trend of New Urbanism, combined with a passion for the arts and culture, the Nygrens teamed with experts in the field with a shared vision focusing on land preservation, and a planned walking community was born...

Happily, with the Nygrens collective culinary background, food is a centerpiece of the Inn at Serenbe, and the connected community as a whole.  Befitting the name of this collection of blog posts, the Farmhouse (once the Nygrens home; now, the restaurant) continually generates new menus (yes, printed on paper!), based on Marie's seasonal findings.  Appropriately, there is a chalk board that welcomes you when you enter the main dining room.  Being there on a Thursday night is especially rewarding, because that is when Marie delivers her weekly inspirations, and the buzz and whir of creativity in the kitchen begins anew, featuring balanced dishes based on the organic bounty offered by the farm and its surroundings.
On this night's prix fixe tableau, I started with a Blueberry Lemonade cocktail (blueberry vodka, blueberry schnapps, muddled blueberries, lemonade) that was super fun and refreshing, the berries so ripe and plump it became a personal challenge (and quite a tease) to release them from their ice cube entrapment into my mouth.  My meal was a 3-course symphony of Southern heart and soul.  Chilled Serenbe Farm Cucumber Soup with Mint came straight from the farm outside my window.  Cool and peppery, with the crunch of bright green cukes, and the mellow finish of fresh mint.  Next, the entree.  Baked Chicken with Farmhouse Red Pepper Jelly & Goat Cheese, Serenbe Farm Roasted Garlic Potatoes, & Hennessey Farm Italian Green Beans.  The chicken was moist inside, glistening outside.  The combo of creamy, smooth cheese, and slightly spicy jelly was a perfect pairing of flavor and texture.  And, as you'd imagine, the two sides were vintage South compliments.  Paired with a bottle of New Zealand Sauv Blanc (Matua Valley), the entire meal flowed effortlessly, fulfilling without being heavy.  My wife and I shared the two dessert selections:  Georgia Peach & Boe's Blueberry Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream & Wildflower Honey, and a Dark Chocolate Brownie with Vanilla Bean Ice Cream.  They were equally sinful, but in the obviously disparate ways.  Still, both were happy endings, the homemade aspects shining through, especially the fruit pie creation, which Marie informed us was brand new, taking a cue from classic Southern fried pies, this one being baked, so its half-moon crust was extra moist and flaky.  Judges ruling:  Success!...

Our other two meals took place "in town," just a 1 mile stroll from the Inn.  Lunch at Blue Eyed Daisy was quaint and tasty.  I had a simple turkey, bacon, & avocado wrap, with fresh sprouts and chipotle mayo.  This bakery and cafe is the heart of Serenbe community, serving breakfast and lunch, pastries and salads, cupcakes and cookies.  I was duly impressed with the sheer volume of varied items you could order from such a small space.  And the fun part of being here is that you run into the same familiar faces, lending to the communal feel.
Lunch on our departing day was at the other main restaurant in the area, The Hil.  The name is a double entandre, named eponymously for Chef/Owner Hilary White and for the fact that it sits perched on "the Hill" on Selborne Lane.  It is such an inviting space, with warmth and muted colors, and ample windows to survey the surrounding beauty outside.  I had the lunch special, a crispy, fried eggplant "sandwich," with the eggplant serving as the bread, framing mozzarella cheese, tomatoes, and balsamic dressing.  Chef White is an accomplished technician, with an impressive background from New York City and Atlanta, but it's her creativity, dedication to adhering to what's local, and Southern sensibilities that informs her food.

In fact, this is what makes all of Serenbe special.  The food, the people, the buidlings.  There's a tangible sense that something bigger than you is going on here, something you are drawn to, something you want to be a part of.
Sign me up for next summer, kids and all this time.  I have a feeling Serenbe will be part of my life for a long time to come...

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad you had the full Serenbe experience! You definitely tapped into the intangible sense that Serenbe imparts to those who are still enough to receive it. Next time bring the entire family! Your children will show you new things about Serenbe. I look forward to seeing you again! - Karen Reed