The mind works in amazing ways. Every now and then, the down-the-rabbit hole thoughts that run through our heads as we’re doing our daily work end up leading to a great idea. Such is the case with the chefs at Southall, and it all started with steak trimming in a…Read More
Down a grassy slope off of Carters Creek Pike in Franklin, a pair of conservatory-style windowed greenhouses and a slate blue barn mark the destination. You’ll know you’ve arrived when you see Chef Tyler Brown greeting guests with a bite of just-cut aged country ham. Welcome to The Rambling.
A series of family-style dining events hosted by Chef Tyler, The Rambling is a culinary experience unlike any other. Set alongside a special piece of land marked by working gardens, farm fields, greenhouses, and a trellised apple orchard, the meal is meant to gather the community in celebration of Tennessee’s rich agricultural offerings. Chef Tyler’s own curiosity has shaped the experience so that the entire multi-course feast takes inspiration and ingredients from the land and people right around him.
Surrounded by sloping hills, The Rambling takes place beside a courtyard landscaped with edible herbs and plants. Upon a graveled terrace, communal tables are set for the feast and small flames shoot from decorative metal fire pits. In the distance, you can see a kitchen garden studded with small hoop houses.
The country ham Chef Tyler is serving is just the start—a tasty welcome to savor, and a signal of the rustic hospitality you’ll experience throughout the night. The menu is listed on a chalkboard and nearby a mobile food trailer acts as the kitchen. But it’s a custom-designed hearth created by Grills by Demant that is the heart of the meal. The multi-layered, wood-burning grill infuses every dish with its aromatic smoke.
First, guests settle in with a beverage provided by The Phantom, a 1940s antique vehicle that’s been fabricated into a bar, complete with beer taps pouring Tennessee craft beers and wine. On a lawn to the side, cornhole and bocce matches are going on, and peppered throughout, you’ll find Adirondack chairs, custom made out of Tennessee sassafras by Franklin local Paul Egbert. The thrum of country blues being strummed by local musicians fills the air.
“This is a time to slow down, to take the time to break bread,” Chef Tyler says. Not just a meal, the event is an exchange of energy and thoughts, a way to share the work that’s happening on the property, and also share in the experience of being outside together. “You can look around and see where the eggs are coming from, and where some of the vegetables are being grown,” he says. “This is an opportunity for us to share our progress, share how this is all coming together, and to share our vulnerabilities.”
It also connects guests with the food community that Chef Tyler has cultivated and connected with over the course of his career. The meals are made up of ingredients procured either from the property, or from right around the region. There might be pork or beef from Bill and LeeAnn Cherry of Bear Creek Farms or Karen Overton at Wedge Oak Farms, lettuces grown in the greenhouse next door by Jeffrey Orkin of Greener Roots, and other vegetables grown by Farmer Dave. Even the breads, made from heritage grains sourced through Anson Mills, are baked by local accessories designer and burgeoning baker Ceri Hoover.
All of these elements lend themselves to an unforgettable and filling feast. Once guests are seated, platters of canapes arrive—barbecue shrimp on toast points, or an everything bagel bite with slivers of smoked trout. Charcuterie might be next. Depending on the season, the accompaniments could be pickled vegetables or sweet, ripe melons. Each meal and menu changes depending on what vegetables, fruits, and proteins are available in that very moment. Nearly every dish involves an ingredient that’s been grown or foraged on the property. Going beyond farm-to-table, this meal is a study of what the land right around us can provide. “We rely heavily on the community right around us, leaning on their skill, their craft, and their sensibilities, and highlighting those at the table,” Chef Tyler says.
Salads come next, with a base of Greener Roots lettuces, which can be spotted growing through the windows of the greenhouse nearby. And then, platters of entrees, all passed family style down the table. There might be one loaded with slices of roasted pork loin slick with a black garlic glaze and another with side dish of beets spiced with a curry-like vadouvan. With so many vegetable and protein resources close by, Chef Tyler and his team honor each ingredient, treating them simply and letting the hearth do most of the work.
Dessert, of course, is a special treat. Thanks to a 1910 hit-and-miss engine, there’s freshly churned ice cream flavored with what’s in season: strawberry, chocolate banana, bourbon.
A joy to produce, it’s also a thoughtful and pointed finale that sums up the entire Rambling experience. A reminder to savor the flavors of the moment, before they melt away.