Dining Under the Pines: The Blackberry Harvest Dinner

A curious stillness rests between the shadows and light filtering through the pine and oak trees in the heart of Whispering Pines Resort. Just beyond the banner reading “Blackberry Harvest Dinner,” rest two set rows of tables set with linen tablecloths with fresh flowers from Bell Haven Flower Farm perched on them. Pine and oak branches stretch across the open spaces on this breezeless night. Lights reach between them, setting the evening’s delicate mood. The fading day reflects the last effervescent hues of sunlight. It’s almost a fairytale image: pixies could emerge from the surrounding forest any minute. It’s a magical night worth celebrating. Tomorrow marks the Second Annual Blackberry Cobbler Festival, postponed for two years due to Covid. The anticipation is overwhelmingly joyful in the faces of tonight’s guests. 

Stopping at the Friends of Boggs Mountain table for a bottle of wine is the best way to start a perfect evening among local friends and neighbors. All the wine’s been donated by local wineries in support of building back Boggs Mountain’s Bike Trails. Next to their booth, two tables serve locally grown vegetables, freshly made hummus on ciabatta, and homemade blackberry lemonade–quite possibly the perfect thirst quencher. The dinner reads like a list of local farms, farmers, and bakers. Goddess of the Mountain provided the sourdough rolls, veggies provided by the Bearded Nut, and local families picked the blackberries. To top it off, Renee Chastain of Fire and Feast catered the meal. “I’m so glad I went to all local farms,” Renee says. “I loved touring the county seeing all the farms, and all the food is so flavorful.” 

Renee Chastain of Fire and Feast

The dinner is certainly special: Local greens accented with BBQ’d watermelon and topped with blackberry vinaigrette, followed by a medley of summer vegetables, herbed potato salad, and perfectly seasoned and prepared tri-tip and chicken. Of course, it comes with a side of homemade blackberry BBQ sauce. 

The evening pauses for a moment, allowing the servers to collect the platters, and the stillness fills with the easy groove of the Mile Saliani Band. Then dessert is served. Another local treasure, Wild Hope Bakery provides a duo of delights: Chocolate mousse with layers of fresh blackberry and cream topped with blackberries and a tart key lime custard with layers of graham cookie crumble, blackberries, and toasted meringue. 

“I couldn’t decide which to choose, Abby Leutholdt, the event’s planner and owner of Abby Leu Presents, says. “So I chose both!” It’s a wise decision; both are spectacular. 

Even though the dinner’s done, the music and laughter continue into the evening. It’s the perfect start to a perfect weekend. Tomorrow morning, as the sun rises and shines across the slopes of Cobb Mountain, the Blackberry Cobbler Festival begins.

Trudy Wakefield

Trudy and David Wakefield started The Bloom in 2018 to showcase the best parts of Lake County and to provide a local outlet for community events, arts, music, and writing.

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