Monday, June 16, 2014

Farm Fresh Country Breakfast

Tucked up in the hills and hollers of western NC, I enjoyed one of the most all-around satisfying breakfasts I've ever had. Let me tell you about it.

I just wrapped up a five-day visit to Asheville NC where I was seeing friends and doing some marketing while I was on the East Coast. I stayed with long-time friend, Terry O'Keefe, with whom I'm cooking up a business plan for a partnership to assist community businesses and economic development.

On Saturday Terry O'Keefe and I got together with his friend, Jim, (who owns a trailer park just down the road from where Terry used to live in Weaverville, on the north side of town) and we had breakfast up valley from there near the thriving rural metropolis of Barnardsville (pop 1700).

Here's what stood out about my experience:

o  Locavore heaven
The menu featured fresh, organic, local ingredients—just like home! Portions were generous, but not gargantuan. At the end customers were satisfied, not stuffed. This can be a fine line, but they hit it right.

o  Conversationally appropriate
There was a guy with a guitar singing original songs right next to the coffee bar. Though he had an amplifier, but he didn't play so loudly that it interfered with conversation (there are any number of dining venues I know that could stand to absorb that lesson in acoustical moderation).

o  Simple but good
The food was cooked to order from a menu of four options (the operational principle here is: keep it simple and do it well). I chose French toast with a side of pork sausage, but I don't think you could go wrong—everyone was loving their selections. The coffee was excellent. (While that may seem a minor achievement, it absolutely amazes me how many dining establishments serve stale, burnt, or weak coffee. What are they thinking?)

o  Simple technology
The whole operation was contained in an uninsulated three-sided outbuilding with a dirt floor. The "bathroom" was a one-holer next to the parking lot. After placing your order, the cashier carefully writes your first name and order on a slip of paper attached to a clothes pin. Customers were then instructed to walk their order over to the grill (15 feet away) where you placed it next in line on a table so the cook wouldn't get confused. When your order was up someone would holler out your name and you'd come collect your plate. An elegant system that kept extraneous wait staff to a minimum.

o  Environmental sensitivity
While we didn't eat on china, orders arrived on sturdy, unbleached, compostable paper plates, and we were given real silverware, not plastics spoons and forks. Wooden tables were protected with sheets of butcher paper, and "air conditioning" came from not having a door.

o  Wonderful conversation
We happened to sit outside at a picnic table with Anthony and his father Ralph. Anthony (in his 20s) works for Navitat, a nearby venue for zipline adventures, and Ralph is a thoughtful retiree, enjoying quality time with his son on a lovely weekend morning in early summer. We chatted amiably about shoes, and ships, and ceiling wax for about 90 minutes, occasionally delving into the meaning of life and the questionable trends of modern society.

o  Community connections
Bob, the guy manning the coffee station, is just about to move to Earthaven—the 19-year-old ecovillage outside Black Mountain—where he intends to grow shittake mushrooms and produce food via aquaponics. Who knew we'd run into community folks outside Barnardsville?

o  Ephemeral experience
You can enjoy this breakfast any day of the week… as long as it's Saturday. As near as I can tell advertising is solely word of mouth (their website doesn't even hint at it) and they're content to keep it low key and only once a week. Having dropped in on a perfect June morning, with a gentle breeze flowing by the grill, it felt like I'd stumbled onto Brigadoon—the mythical Scottish village that appears only one day every 100 years. Driving away I wondered if I could find my way back without Jim.

• • •
To be sure, an excellent breakfast is a treasure wherever you encounter one, but this was an above and beyond experience in the land above the interstate and beyond the internet. I'm already looking forward to my next visit to western NC where I now know at least one place where I can reliably sit down with real people to enjoy real food and real conversation—at least on Saturday mornings.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wanted to let you know that this breakfast is on the "down low"...please do not advertise it. The owners do not want the authorities to know about it. The customers are asked not to post photos on Facebook or social media, or to talk about it on social media. Please, if you want to respect their wishes, delete the name of the farm on this website. Thanks!!