"I'm hosting a dinner at my house during the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, why don't you come?"
When Danielle Rollins, author of the upcoming Soiree: Entertaining With Style extended this lovely invitation, there was simply no way to refuse. I booked my ticket to Atlanta, not knowing what to expect, but trusting that this gracious and charming Southern hostess would throw an exquisite party.
The event was billed as Blackberry Farm: An Inaugural Tribute Dinner To Southern Farmers, featuring cuisine from the award winning farm-to-table restaurant outside of Knoxville, Tennessee. The Blackberry Farm staff, including chef Joseph Lenn, was on hand, including a shepherd who brought along a herd of live sheep, penned in for the evening in Rollins' front yard.
Ever the perfect hostess, Rollins greeted us in a white knit Roberto Cavalli.
Rollins' exquisitely manicured gardens were the backdrop for cocktails. Guests enjoyed pimiento cheese hors-d'oeuvres, mint juleps, and wine donated by Cultivate, a wonderful vintner that gives ten percent of every dollar back to charities in communities across the globe.
"I'm a relaxed hostess" she said. "I get in the mood the second I wake up. I get excited about putting everything together, and by the time the party comes I've had such a good time setting up, thinking about the details that everybody's going to like, that I'm in a great mood. And I have a glass of wine an hour before anybody shows up," she added with a smile.
Two long tables covered in white with burlap runners, candles, flower and herb arrangements under a sublime white tent awaited 150 guests for the five course dinner, each paired with a different wine. By 12:30 it was time to go, though several lingered after I did.
Tough to leave such a magical evening.
Photos: Top, chef Joseph Lenn (left) and Danielle Rollins (right); bottom, an atmosphere shot from the dinner