The Scenic City Supper Club moved from the natural wonders of late summer to a midwinter urban landscape for its 11th celebration of fine dining experiences in Chattanooga.
August’s Lula Lake Summer Social had been set among the wild ferns and waterfalls on the mountainside at Lula Lake Land Trust. Sunday evening’s A Winter’s Tale at Turnbull brought diners together in downtown’s newest event venue, The Turnbull, thanks to the continuing innovation and dedication of Supper Club founders Erik and Amanda Niel of Easy Bistro & Bar and Main Street Meats.
As guests arrived, the sun was just starting to set, and the top floor of The Turnbull offered a lovely view of the dusky sky around Lookout Mountain. As a result, while the carefully restored architecture of the historical building connected past with present, the scenery did so as well, serving as a reminder of the previous summer night’s natural magic while the light gradually faded from bright to night. The welcome cocktail also harked back to Lula Lake—called “To the Woods,” it featured Cathead honeysuckle vodka, Grande de Sapins and celery bitters. It was the first of three cocktail pairings by The Fix Lounge’s Wes Black.
Seating for 150 guests at two tables swept from the east entrance to the cocktail bar at the far end of the room. The last of the afternoon sun streamed through 12-paned lookout windows and a long overhead band of monitor windows onto glossy hardwood floors, exposed brick and wood beams. The elegant table settings featured floral arrangements designed by Sarah Ervin of Southerly Flower Farm, along with still and sparkling waters from San Pellegrino. As the natural light faded, the room continued to sparkle, thanks to lighting from Solid Rock Live.
In addition to the welcome cocktails, guests sipped on offerings from Good People Brewing, including an IPA and their brown ale. Servers slipped through the room with trays of hors d’oeuvres to whet the appetites of the assembling diners. The featured talent, chef Rob McDaniel of SpringHouse on Lake Martin in Alexander City, Alabama, contributed an appetizer of 18-month Benton’s ham and whipped radish butter on sourdough bread. Eric Fulkerson of Bald Headed Bistro created an aromatic tidbit with sorghum pork belly and smoked cheddar pimento cheese on a disc of cheddar shortbread.
The first two appetizers were balanced by a very bright and refreshing labneh with small cubes of beet, a Parmesan chip and honey from Brennan McKay of Easy Bistro & Bar; and a lush beef tenderloin roulade with Gorgonzola, arugula and balsamic vinegar created by Bruce Weiss of River Street Deli. These treats paired nicely with the featured wine of the evening, a grenache-syrah red blend from the Côtes du Rhône region in France, which made an appearance as people began to make their way to their seats.
Erik greeted diners, introduced the evening’s talent and highlighted event sponsors, including Nooga.com, Our Ampersand Photography, Hand Family Cos., Rent All Store, Evans Meats & Seafood and the Westin Chattanooga. He gave credit to his wife and partner, highlighting her talent for finding a fantastic variety of novel venues for the SCSC series.
The opening course was a succulent smoked quail with local mushroom stuffing, rye berry and farro pilaf, baby beets, and a poultry jus from Eric Fulkerson. It was served family-style and followed with a glass of Good People Brewing’s Mumbai rye, a hop-forward IPA that provided a delightful transition from the earthy game bird to a curried butternut squash soup from Weiss. It featured warm spices, a smear of cream and a hearty slice of toasted brown bread.
Black’s next cocktail of the evening was titled “Old Milford,” and it combined Bristow gin, J.W. Kelly bourbon and Amaro Lucano bitter. It was served in a glass that had been washed with mezcal. It was beautifully balanced and smoky, with a lovely weight and color. This segued into the main course from McDaniel: confit strip loin, celery salad, frisee and potato sticks with an Asher Blue vinaigrette. Also served family-style, this was a juicy and tender cut with a bold, flavorful salad that was perfectly portioned.
To cap off the evening, the dessert pairing featured Brennan McKay’s tres leches panna cotta with spices, chocolate pears, hazelnut milk crumble, coffee meringue, candied cara cara, charred brioche puree and a cinnamon tuile. Its combination of textures, from crunchy to smooth to pearls and petals, paired with a concoction from Michael Rice: Mad Priest’s “Dust of Snow,” which had Panama Geisha espresso cascara syrup, grapefruit juice, heavy cream and candied ginger.
It’s hard to comprehend how the Scenic City Supper Club team continues to take this series in new directions every time they host a dinner. Each meal is a new adventure that brings surprises and delights at every turn. For behind-the-scenes details and news of upcoming events, subscribe to the Facebook feed and stay tuned for news of the next gathering.
Alice O’Dea has lived in Chattanooga for over 20 years, but was raised among the mucks and dairy farms in rural western New York. She didn’t really learn to cook until midlife. When she’s not puttering around in the kitchen, she enjoys running, cycling, traveling, photography and trying to get food to grow in the backyard of her Highland Park home. You can email her with questions, suggestions or comments at [email protected]. The opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author, not Nooga.com or its employees.