From The Kitchen

Sweet and Savory

From the very first bite to the very last, Executive Chef Cassidee Dabney and Pastry Chef Laurence Faber of The Barn at Blackberry Farm® orchestrate every taste and every flavor brought to life in The Barn kitchen. The duo works to craft a sublime menu that showcases Blackberry Farm’s signature Foothills Cuisine® in harmony.

How do you work together to create a menu that is cohesive all the way through the meal?

Laurence Faber: We include each other in the talks about dishes and coming up with new ideas so that we’re on the same page. We do use some vegetables and lots of fruit with dessert, so we talk about the ingredients we each want to use in our dishes to keep things fresh and exciting. We never want a guest eating an ingredient the same way twice during a meal.

Cassidee Dabney: We have both been here a long time, and we know, probably without saying it, where we want to go with the food and with our dishes. When you cook with somebody for a long time, you can move around them on the line in a very graceful, elegant way, like a dance. Having been at the same property for so long, and living, experimenting and really focusing on the ingredients that are in season, how we can preserve them, and what kind of food we want to give our guests, we’ve kind of synced up and it happens naturally.

When you think about the first thing that you’re going to put on the table, how do you want to start a meal? What are you trying to get across with your opening dish?

C: We start the meal with an amuse that highlights something light but interesting – like a spinach leaf paired with wonderful preserved elements. It’s like a little snapshot of what’s happening at the moment in the Garden or the Larder. We like to use something bright and fresh as well as a lot of the cool stuff that we’ve preserved.

We’ll often preserve an ingredient and not have a home for it. Then we’ll be working on a dish and suddenly remember a preserved element that we could use to enhance it. I preserve a lot of flowers that I don’t use, but Laurence ends up finding a great place for them.

L: Sometimes we make syrups as well, and that’s a really fun way to preserve that can be used in so many ways.

Opposite of that, with your seasonal desserts, what are you thinking about for ending someone’s meal? What are you trying to leave on their palate?

L: We like to end the meal on a lighter note, too – for a cohesive feel. After a full meal, we don’t want to overwhelm the dessert course with something too heavy. We have seasonless desserts like our chocolate mousse, but we love creating beautiful, seasonal desserts. Our seasonal selections feature bright notes with less sweetness, more acidity and less fat. In Winter, we highlight things we’ve preserved –like wild ginger, pears and mountain mint. Then in Spring, fruit steals the show.

When you’re creating desserts, is it ever inspired by another dish that’s on the menu? Do you look at a dish and think ‘oh this would be cool to follow that’, or are you really just inspired by what you’re getting on the Farm?

L: There is inspiration from dishes that exist, but it really comes from working with Cassidee on the hot side and knowing what she likes and how she likes to portray stuff. We try to keep things pretty separate so you never eat the same thing.

C: Through the meal you’re having a different experience but a cohesive one. Just like I taste his desserts, when I’m playing around with a dish, I’ll ask Laurence to eat it. We talk about the flavors and change things up in our dish when we need to. I think that communication is really important for working together.

L: There’s never a dish on the menu that either of us hasn’t tried.

Laurence has had experience working on the savory side with you, Cassidee. Have you mastered the quenelle technique?

L: Yes, she has! We do it together all the time.

C: I got to do it on a trip recently. I was one of two people who knew how to make quenelles in that group.

What do you most look forward to in Spring?

C: Anything green!

L: Green stuff, for sure.

C: I’m ready for flowers. I’m ready for brightness again, and I’m ready for sweet acidity and freshness.

L: Strawberries! We’ll get sick of them, but when the season starts, it’s awesome.

What if you both want to use the same ingredient?

C: We will both use it.

L: Sometimes there’s so much of one ingredient at one time that we both incorporate it, but we do it in a different way. The pastry team might make a redbud powder while Cassidee would be using pickled redbuds.

Do you think that you have a similar plating style?

L: I think so.

C: Yes. We do a whole lot of natural plating. We don’t manipulate the food too much in a way that makes it look unlike the food that it is, and we’re both pretty good at the old ‘scoop it into a bowl and add the other stuff’ method.

What is your favorite dessert that Laurence makes?

C: What was that Spring one I liked last year? The carrot and ginger dessert.

L: The wild ginger ice cream.

C: Yeah, I like that! And then I always like the seasonal sorbets with the herb oils. Those are always good.

What is your favorite savory dish from Cassidee?

L: Probably the beef cap with the smoked beet puree and three sauces.

C: Really?

L: I mean, I’ll always eat that. It makes everybody happy, and it’s cool enough to bring to events, so it’s a great dish.

C: And there’s no season to it.

L: Yeah, it’s like a seasonless seasonal dish. Beets feel seasonal, but they span seasons really well. When I think Cassidee, I think that dish.

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