Upscale dining in the Smokies: Dancing Bear Lodge [classic article]

There’s a whole romantic image surrounding the dining and ambiance of a mountain lodge and Tennessee’s Dancing Bear Lodge doesn’t disappoint. Nestled in the Smokies, the lodge gets some of its comestibles from the nearby world-famous culinary resort Blackberry Farm. Dancing Bear Lodge is in Blount County (pronounced “blunt”), which is part of what is called “The Peaceful Side of the Smokies.” I was very happy to be hosted to be able to experience it!

With the triple high ceilings, fireplaces, mounted and stuffed game, as well as natural materials from nearby such as stone and wood, the place definitely says, “elegant lodge”. The lunch lived up to the setting.

I started my meal out with a Fall seasonal salad: nicely seasoned spinach with dried cranberries and a noisette of goat cheese.

Then, came biscuits. In the South, you’re gonna get biscuits! They make their with locally sourced Sweet Water Valley cheese and garden chives.

One of the chef’s self challenges is to create a different version of the Southern staple, red beans and rice, daily. Different beans from Trillium Farm go into the various creations. I had them with a tender grilled chicken from Springer Mountain, a local purveyor. The meal was comfort food, sure, but with the attention to detail and perfection that differentiates the top-level restaurant from the rest.

Bread pudding with freshly whipped cream rounded off things on a sweet note.

Here are some of the things that might appear on the chef’s tasting menu, which changes daily:

Fried okra, tomato and goat cheese salad with mixed greens and basil vinaigrette buttermilk herb dressing

Rainbow trout with shrimp and grits — cornmeal dusted trout, local Andouille sausage, Falls Mill grits and tomato vinaigrette

Local Ambrosia cantaloupe and Benton’s (the most revered in the South!) year old ham with arugula, ricotta cheese and sherry vinaigrette

Sichuan dusted Moulard duck breast with sweet potato puree, apple cider braised red cabbage and apple-onion sauce

Sweet tea brined pork tenderloin with corn Maque Choux, country ham, Brussel sprout leaves, DBL chow chow.

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