Graveyard Shift: Supper at Oakland Cemetery
by Amanda Trevelino of Full Dishclosure
A chilly October mist settles over us the minute we step
into the graveyard, making us a little unsure about having
agreed to dine with the dead, but Esther Andrew and
Chef Evan Cordes are about to shift our way of thinking.
Photos by Kitty Ray Swain.
In the three years since Andrew founded For Foods Sake supper club she’s treated invitation-only members to culinary experiences at secret locations from rooftops to farms; private homes to hidden gardens. But her October destination redefined underground eateries, considering many of the hosts had been dead and buried at Atlanta’s Oakland Cemetery since the 1800′s. What could entice us here on a cold dreary night? Only the wizardry of Chef Evan Cordes of nearby H. Harper Station, paired with the promise of end-of-season organic produce from D&A Farms.
Garden and Gun Magazine singles out Cordes (a North Carolina native who formerly brought acclaim to Cakes & Ale and Serpas True Food) for his creative revival of classic southern cocktails. So we were sure he’d bring similar creativity to a meal in an historically significant location. After all, we were surrounded by Gone With the Wind author Margaret Mitchell, golf great Bobby Jones, former mayors and dignitaries and no less than 40,000 civil war soldiers.
In town less than 24-hours after his honeymoon, Cordes put together a layered menu that incorporated summer-time veggies we’d given up hope of enjoying until next year: roast okra to start, and sweet corn to finish, thanks to D&A’s hoop tunnel farming system that enables soil to maintain warmth.
Nestled under ancient oaks and magnolias, an appreciative audience of 50 foodies and friends felt quite alive savoring the first and second courses. Most seemed to agree the olive oil poached turnips paired with smoked trout couldn’t be topped. But when the entree was passed family style, the warm field peas and butter beans proved to be the perfect comfort food. There was a poignant awareness of past, present and future as we honored those no longer with us and focused on For Foods Sake’s mission of supporting 180 Degree Kitchen, a project of City of Refuge. Executive Director Bruce Deel reminded us of the extraordinary crime rate in a particular part of our city where the 180 Degree Kitchen offers a potential culinary arts solution to 18 to 25-year-olds. By learning the building blocks of a culinary career, students can find work with participating restaurants, meanwhile the food they prepare goes to feed the hungry and homeless, and money earned through the Kitchen’s outside catering services helps fund the program.
Amuse-pork rillette with espillette-cocoa mustard and pickled mushroom toasts Wine: MontAsolo Merlot, Veneto
1st salad of pea shoots, broccoli and sunflower sprouts, D & A greens and okra with spiced pomegranate kernels and roast okra. pumpkinseed viniagrette.
2nd pickled shrimp and smoked trout on olive oil poached turnips with carrot gribiche and wood roast mussels Wine: Tiamo Chianti, Tuscany
3rd roast pork shoulder served family style with warm field peas, butterbeans, and roast pepper creme fraiche; butternut squash salad with proscuitto and cranberries; collard greens with sticky farro Wine: Pietra Majella, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo
4th fig sorghum buchon with sweet corn and local honey
Family owned an operated by Dave and Alan Bentoski, D&A grows more than 80 varieties of certified organic fruits, vegetables, melons, and vegetable transplants. The produce is raised on roughly 15 acres of cultivated ground which counts 1 heated greenhouse and 9 unheated high tunnels used for season extension. Certified organic since 2007, D&A’s premium produce is available direct to consumers through its CSA program and at Morningside Farmers Market.
Historic Oakland Cemetery:
This garden cemetery, founded in 1850, is the final resting place of many of Atlanta’s settlers, builders, and most noted citizens like Bobby Jones, Margaret Mitchell, and Maynard Jackson. It is also a showplace of sculpture and architecture, and a botanical preserve. Cemetery photo by Joel Silverman 2008.