Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Cantrell's Produce

As the growing season and farmers market move into hibernation for a long winter's nap, I have to mention one of our most faithful and largest suppliers to Evins Mill. Jeff Cantrell and his family would probably correct me on the winter's nap bit, for it is a year long process. I do hope they get to sleep in a little; they deserve it.

On top of being the work horse for Cantrell's Produce, Jeff is also the president of the Dekalb County Farmer's Market. This is the first year that our local market has become officially organized and resided in its newly constructed location. I feel like Jeff and the other officers and farmers have gotten it off to great start and built a solid foundation so that we have a vibrant market for years to come. I was there nearly every Saturday and there were always very excited customers and a nice assortment of vendors with just amazing products. It was hard to not try everything, though some weeks I think I did.
Jeff always has a nice variety of products, but is far and above the best pepper and chili producer around; his bell peppers are the biggest, most beautiful you have ever seen! We also used a lot of his tomatoes, turnips, squash, cucumbers, eggplant, winter squash, turnip greens, and even some sorghum he picked up in Kentucky. Jeff also has quite a following; you better get there early to see all he has to offer.
I am getting a little misty eyed knowing my Saturday morning ritual will not include Jeff and the gang for a several months. I did load up on Jeff's fresh turnips which will keep a little longer. So prepare yourself to find them in something on your next visit to the Mill. They are good!

Monday, August 1, 2011

Purple Maize Farm

Last Winter we received a call from someone wanting to grow organic produce for us. They wanted to grow heirloom as well as interesting vegetables on a sustainable farm within a short drive from Evins Mill. Sound too good to be true? Nope, Karly, with Purple Maize Farm showed up with her seed catalogs and notebook and basically said "what do you want". Well, it was the equivalent of turning my children loose in the candy store with Grandma. A few short months later we began enjoying the fruits of all the hard work that the Purple Maize team of Karly, Kevin, and Marie do with an obvious passion.

Over the course of the growing season we have been serving up lots of colorful veggies including edible flowers, varieties of cool weather greens, baby bok choy, squash, fingerling potatoes, crazy colored heirloom tomatoes, leeks, lettuces, watercress, and many others still to come. The quality, flavors, and colors are all at their peak whether they deliver to us or we pick them up at the DeKalb County Farmers Market.

Purple Maize also has CSA customers that they supply on a weekly basis throughout the growing season as well as other restaurants. You can find out more about these guys on their website where they keep a farm blog or on their Face Book page. Karly and the gang at Purple Maize are a perfect example of the key players ensuring we can produce the quality of food that Evins Mill has become known for. Sustainably Good!

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Evins Mill Garden Update

Summer is back! With the warmer days brings loads of fresh veggies and fruit from the Evins Mill Garden. We are just finishing up our salad green gathering and eagerly watching several varieties try to reseed themselves. I like it when that happens, free seeds! Hopefully they will successfully begin the fall crop all by themselves. We will have a few more pounds here and there but it looks like we will end up having produced around 50 pounds of salad! That is the weight after having removed the cicadas.
We are starting to get a steady supply of cucumbers now so it will not be long before we are back in the pickle business. We served up our first batch of fried green tomatoes this week straight from the garden in the morning to the table that evening; they were a sight for sore Southern eyes. Last but not least are the wild blackberries picked just this morning and for the next couple of weeks! These black beauties will be part of our mixed berry cobbler this weekend for the Bluegrass Cookout. These cobblers are made by your very own scratched up chef!
In the near future, we will have even more straight from the garden delights. All the watermelon, charlyn, cantaloupe and areva melons are starting to bloom. Green beans, okra, butternut squash, bell peppers and of course ripe tomatoes will work their way onto the menu. I must also mention our new feathered friends; we now have half a dozen chickens employed at the Evins Mill Garden. They will eventually feed the chef scrambled eggs for breakfast before work, but for the time being they are making lots...and lots of free fertilizer. That is a good thing, right (as I clean out the coop)?
Chicken jokes aside, the harvest is coming in at Evins Mill! We look forward to sharing it with you soon.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Revolution in Every Mug

That is what the Sergio brothers say about their line of Calfkiller beers. We are proud to say that Evins Mill is suiting up and joining in to fight the good fight, or at least sell a few of their handcrafted brews. Calfkiller Brewing Company is located just outside Sparta, Tennessee in close proximity to the banks of the storied Calfkiller River. Dave and Don Sergio have only been selling their efforts for a couple of years, but you cannot tell by the beer, as they are complex in flavor and a joy to drink.

We are currently carrying their two flagship beers, Grassroots Ale and J. Henry Mild. They make several other seasonal beers as well, incorporating orange zest, local honey and pine needles into their "Christmas Bonus" or oats and chocolate malts into "The Classic Stout". We will be carrying two different beers on draft according to season and whatever wild hair these guys come up with. The Grassroots is the lighter in color of the two with a great hops taste while The J. Henry Mild is a beautiful light to medium brown lager. We have had guests favor both so far, depending on your taste of course.

As with all of our local products, it is an exciting time when we find something new that is produced close to home and with quality fit for a king. Calfkiller is a natural fit at Evins Mill and we are proud to have them on board. Thanks to Dave and Don for all the blood, sweat and tears that went into getting Calfkiller Brewing Company off the ground (not an easy task in small town Tennessee). These guys not only make great beer - they also fashioned us a one-of-a-kind draft beer tower (look above) to draw up your next Calfkiller. Come check it out!

Also keep your Internet eyes peeled for coming announcements about Evins Mill and Calfkiller, as we are in the planning process of the brew masters themselves hosting one of our social hours before dinner to talk about the brews and do a little sampling. A fun evening for sure. Cheers!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Home Grown Salads and More!

Spring is finally in full swing and the menu is starting to show it. After what seems like a long thirty day journey from seed, my salad greens are almost ready to venture from garden to table. I planted more variety this year in hopes of not burning everyone out on arugula and purple mustard, literally. I did not leave them out, but we will have some great colorful lettuces, Asian greens and a few bitter greens too. The green onions are ready and will be in a creamy salad dressing or aoli this weekend. It is so exciting having fresh vegetables out of the garden again after such a long cold winter. Spring is well deserved this year.
We are, again this year, working with other local farmers to procure tasty veggies as well. Tomatoes, believe it or not, are coming in for one of our suppliers already. Food From God has tomatoes that they started very early, then kept plants warm by circulating warm water around the roots. Sounds like a lot of work, but having vine ripened tomatoes this time of the year is such a treat. We will be serving these on salads this weekend and grilling some with asparagus for our Mother's Day Brunch. These are the same folks that make the delicious whole wheat rolls we serve too.
Our new comer this year is Purple Maize Farm. Karly and her crew have already been bringing us watercress, salad greens, baby bok choy, green onion and even edible flowers. They are located here in Dekalb County on Dry Creek. Purple Maize is also operating a CSA and might still be taking customers if you are close enough to pick up in Smithville. They are focusing on sustainably grown heirlooms and hard to find species of fruits and vegetables. I have been very impressed with everything they have produced so far. We are grateful to have them in our family of farms.
I am still trying to get the Evins Mill garden off and running but have not been aided with the timing of the rain or my lack of knowledge in tractor mechanics. As soon as it drys enough to plant, we will be setting organic tomatoes from The Herb Cottage, as well as lots of cucumbers. Due to popular demand, we are going to have to ramp up production of pickles this year, so as soon as they start coming in we will get to pickling. I am also going to try my hand at a more serious melon production; keep your fingers crossed. It will be worth it! We hope to see you soon to help us enjoy our Spring harvest.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Something to Cluck About

One of the most widely used ingredients in every kitchen is also among the hardest to find a reliable, local source for. It has been on my list since we started our "farm to table" journey two years ago, but until recently we have not been able to crack the case. Your average grocery store, factory raised "incredible edible egg" may not be hard to find, but procuring a farm fresh, locally sourced, AWA certified, and delivered egg is a little more work. AWA stands for Animal Welfare Approved and is a hard earned badge for the commitment to the highest standards of caring for farm animals of all kinds. Once again, hard work has paid off and we are excited to announce our newest partner in procuring "Our Table" food!
Folsom Farms in Alexandria, Tennessee is now the exclusive egg supplier for The Inn at Evins Mill. I was fortunate enough to tour the farm with my family and saw first hand where your next omelet at the Inn started. Teresa Folsom shared with us everything about the chickens, from how they determined she really did not need landscaping around her farm house to the different breeds and qualities of each. The Folsom family has been gathering eggs for five years or so now and enjoy it thoroughly. There are currently around 80 laying hens pecking their way around the farm, so we feel pretty good about our need for 15 to 30 dozen eggs per week being met. All of the birds roam free during the day and have a cozy, protective, mobile roost to sleep in at night.
I cannot say enough about how thankful I am to be partnering with Teresa and her family for our egg usage. They are also going to try and raise some broiling chickens for us this year too! I am sure the next time you visit the Inn you will recognize the difference in your breakfast. There really is no comparison between farm fresh and factory eggs - the farm wins every time. Cluck Cluck!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

West Wind Farms

When we began shifting our menu to feature primarily local, organic and sustainable ingredients, it was not clear to me on how many levels this was the right direction to move. It is easy to say we want to help the local farmers and producers, supply our guests with healthier options and take a little better care of our planet. Those are pretty obvious, but it has been so much more beneficial to me as a chef than I could have imagined. Getting to meet and know the wonderful folks that have a passion for producing these "clean" ingredients is a breath of fresh air professionally and personally. Knowing the story of a food when it enters my kitchen causes me to slow down and take that into consideration when preparing it. I want to make sure all that passion it took to make the ingredient does not stop with me.
We began highlighting some of our local partners last year and will continue that this year. There are several new ones that we are very excited about. West Wind Farms has been supplying us with a nice variety of products since last December. Everything from pork loins and tenderloins, whole chickens and breasts, summer sausage and butter. They have a lot more we have not even tried yet! In addition to the excellent quality, this variety has been what I am so excited about. It is helpful to be able to source several of our menu options from one place. In moving to cleaner and greener food, it takes me a great deal more time ordering everything we need and making sure we have a steady supply.
West Wind Farms is located near Deer Lodge, Tennessee. While that may not be close to very many folks, it is the perfect place to raise the certified organic meats and poultry that they are so good at. They have all the delivery and pick up information on their website, as well as who they are and the food philosophy that you get in every bite. They can also be found, as most these days, on Facebook and Twitter too. If you still have not tasted the difference in small farm versus who knows where that came from, then give these guys a try - or come see us!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Evins Mill Garden Review 2010

Burr! It is that time of year again. Why does Winter seem to wrap us so snugly into a time of reflection? The combination of another year coming to a close, the shortage of daylight, the cold temperatures and the absence of color (100% chance of gray, as my wife likes to refer to TN winter) seem to work together and naturally put us in the frame of mind to look back. The gardener in me uses this time to start making a plan for the next growing season, which is really not as far away as it may seem watching the snow fall. A big part of making that plan is looking back at the past year and determining what worked and what definitely did not.

As part of my planning, I thought it might be fun to share a few numbers with you to show what we grew, how much, and what it ended up getting used for. Makes me feel warmer just writing it all down!
  • cucumbers...165lb, lots of pickles, salads, gazpacho
  • tomatoes, ripe...182lb, green salads, salsa, sauces, gazpacho
  • tomatoes, green...89lb, fried green tomatoes
  • tomatoes, grape...65 pints, green salads, pasta salads
  • mixed greens...53lb, green salads, soups (arugula, mustard)
  • green onion...11 bunches, garnish
  • blackberries...7lb, cobblers
  • apples...107lb, baked apples, chutney, salads
  • peppers...15lb, salads, omelets, baked beans
  • watermelons...20 each, breakfast fruit, green salads
  • butternut squash...36lb, soups
  • pears...18lb, green salads

After writing it down, it is easy to see that tomatoes, cucumbers and salad greens were our big crops. It seems that we can utilize those no matter the quanity coming in. The homemade pickles ended up being the crowd favorite this year thanks to a bumper crop of cucumbers. The apples were a nice surprise since we do not get a reliable crop of those every year. As for next year, I will plan on sticking with our big producers, but try a few new veggies and fruit on a smaller scale like heirloom melons, green beans, and a surprise or two. Once I get into the seed ordering there is no telling what I will end up with.

In the four years we have grown the Evins Mill garden, it has been more successful every year, and we are planning on that to continue. It is very satisfying for me to be able to grow some of the food that ends up on your plate, on our table! I look forward to seeing you at the Inn this year.