Daffodils, buttercups and rhododendrons line the winding road to Tennessee’s most exclusive mountain retreat. At Blackberry Mountain, food is fuel for outdoor adventures like hiking, bouldering and mountain biking, and healthy is just as important as delicious.
With fewer guests and a more intimate setting in the Great Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Mountain is the new sister property to popular Blackberry Farm below, with a similarly high-quality culinary program but a more holistic approach. Debuting last spring, the resort’s 18 spacious stone cottages boast private patios, wood-burning fireplaces and soaking tubs, while six studio-style reclaimed-wood cabins have wood-burning stoves. There are also private homes in the Blackberry Mountain rental pool, ideal for larger groups.
The all-inclusive rate covers breakfast, dinner, and morning activities like meditation and spin class. It’s worth waking up for the sunrise at this 5,200-acre property, and on a clear night, you can see thousands of stars. Consider hiking the steep 1.4-mile trail up to the Firetower, where housemade horchata and a sunny-side egg bowl with sweet potato hash or avocado toast await. Lunch is offered à la carte, but opt instead to take a picnic basket or some of the complimentary snacks from the minibar (replenished daily) out on a long hike. Big Spoon Roasters nut butter bars, Ritual Chocolate bean-to-bar dark chocolate, dried mango and popcorn will tide you over. Plus saving your appetite for the spectacular multi-course dinner at Three Sisters in the main lodge is not a bad idea.
The eatery’s menu changes nightly, with several options for each course. Blackberry Mountain’s cuisine has a more worldly touch than the southern Appalachian fare served at its sister property. Sous vide roasted cabbage is seasoned with dukka, while yellowfin tuna crudo is dressed with pomegranate and pickled hearts of palm. There’s tandoori-glazed Texas quail with foie gras and pan-seared Joyce Farms chicken with Lebanese garlic sauce. Sommelier/mixologist Matthew Poli has created an impressive wine and cocktail program to accompany, including inventive nonalcoholic concoctions. He was previously the beverage director at Nashville’s Catbird Seat, where he crafted nonalcoholic pairings for his brother’s avant-garde tasting menu. At Three Sisters, he marries blood orange juice with apple cider vinegar and mixes matcha with butterfly pea tea and lemonade. There’s even kombucha from Frog Juice in nearby Knoxville.
Ingredients like milk, eggs, chicken, mushrooms, beans and groats are sourced locally, and chefs frequently go foraging for morels, chanterelles, hemlock, purslane, sumac and other wild greens in the surrounding forests. The foraging hike and cooking demo with culinary educator Jeff Ross is a favorite among hardcore enthusiasts. “I’m a gardener who cooks,” he says. “I’m not a chef, just a total nerd about plants.” Previously Blackberry Farm’s garden manager, he hosts regular cooking classes at the Hub, the center of all wellness activities here. His passion and knowledge may inspire you to start your own garden and begin foraging back home.
Blackberry Mountain’s naturopathic doctor, Jill Beasley, sometimes joins Ross to teach guests about herbal medicine. Her role is a unique addition to the spa, where clean skincare lines like Kindred, Luzern and Among the Flowers harness the power of plants to heal and nurture. Book an herbal remedies session, and Beasley will create custom salves, teas, tinctures and bath salts to boost immunity, ease anxiety or soothe pain.
Wellness also means enjoying life with balance, which includes ordering dessert. Executive Pastry Chef April Franqueza does a remarkable job of offering both health-conscious and indulgent options on her menu, like a vegan espresso sorbet with a coconut milk base. Chamomile honey is another signature treat, with tart sheep’s milk frozen yogurt melting into chamomile honey cream and studded with shards of housemade honeycomb candy.
Blackberry Farm’s award-winning cheese and charcuterie are available on the mountain, too. Order a board to enjoy with one of the property’s own beers on your porch while taking in the sunset. Several of the brand’s farmstead products won Good Food Awards this year, including the Brebis fresh sheep’s milk cheese, Hawkins Haze ash-ripened sheep’s milk cheese and sobrasada, a spreadable cured Spanish sausage.
Throughout the year, Blackberry Mountain hosts themed events, inviting industry experts for workshops and intimate fireside chats. Award-winning New York City chef Seamus Mullen teaches from personal experience about the healing power of food. Wine weekends feature rare cellar pours like 2001 Williams Selyem pinot noir and magnums of Châteauneuf-du-Pape. And in October, you can feast with husband-and-wife duo Will Guidara (of Eleven Madison Park and NoMad fame) and Christina Tosi (of Milk Bar stardom) when they host a four-day house party with some of their favorite foodie friends. Whenever you choose to visit Blackberry Mountain, the culinary offerings will certainly be a highlight of your stay. Savor each nourishing bite while reconnecting with loved ones and Mother Nature.