With the Harvest Festival now in full swing, fresh food and fine produce is in abundance throughout Dollywood and Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa. Limited-edition cinnamon breads are now available, Thanksgiving staples such as apple-glazed carved ham, bacon-wrapped meatloaf and sweet potato casserole are being served at Aunt Granny’s Restaurant and festival food booths are jam-packed with seasonal goodies. As a huge foodie and an advocate for ethically sourced produce, I wanted to get the inside scoop of how Dollywood keeps things local, ethical and delicious. Let’s get going!
Any eagle-eyed visitor will notice there is a subtle, symbiotic relationship between the resort and parks. With the start of each new season and festival, everything from décor to dinners are perfectly paired up to ensure that no matter where you are, you feel connected to the holiday or festival theme. This fall, with the heralding of cooler weather and those beautiful patchwork, autumnal colors in the trees, the synergy is palpable. A Song & Hearth: Southern Eatery staple – fried green tomatoes – is now part of the Harvest Festival menu in the form of a super tasty fried green tomato BLT. You will also find them in Front Porch Café at the park year-round, too. This famous Dollywood dish is made even tastier when we explore the sourcing of the produce. Proud “locavores,” the Dollywood Culinary Team works closely with a select number of local farmers and suppliers to bring high-quality fruits and vegetables to guests every year. A great many of the meals you enjoy at the resort or park feature products that have been sourced within 90 miles of Dollywood. How tasty is that?!
The collaboration with local farmers is not limited to fruit and veggies. There is a wealth of food items that are carefully considered (and taste-tested!) prior to the start of each season, and local and national vendors and artisans are highly vetted when piecing together new dishes and menus. Noble Springs Dairy (Franklin, TN) produces some of the finest goat cheese ever and is regularly featured on Song & Hearth menus. So is Kentucky-based dairy Kenny’s Farmhouse. Being able to celebrate and feature local produce is a spectacular feat by Dollywood, and as more and more people are becoming conscious of their food footprint and the environmental impact mass-farming has, it is wonderful to see an internationally renowned park such as Dollywood lead the charge when it comes to reducing food miles.
I love staying at Dollywood’s DreamMore Resort and Spa, it is so magical and there are new discoveries around every corner. So, imagine my joy when I discovered that some food items are grown right here at Dollywood’s resort. Hidden in the beautifully landscaped gardens of the resort is a chef’s garden full of herbs and flowers. Maintained by the chefs themselves, this darling little slice of land boasts all the herbs needed for the incredible cocktails (and mocktails) available at The Lounge, only a few yards away. Step outside and onto the porch any given day you will catch the scents of mint and rosemary. In the coming months you might even pick out some sage, spearmint or even chocolate mint, thyme and basil.
Dollywood is forever challenging themselves by stepping up their food experiences. Recent events have included the Netflix premier of Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings series where ethically farm-raised Verlasso Salmon (from Chile’s Patagonian coastline) highlighted a menu that wowed guests, press and celebrities alike. Noted as the “cleanest salmon ever” by Dollywood’s Director of Food and Beverage Experiences, Shane Bruns, it proves that high quality can be highly ethical, too. “Cocktail and Dessert Pairings” is another one-of-a-kind experience that is available to guests at the resort – enjoy a leisurely evening of fine dining in the shadows of Dollywood’s resort, mere inches from the chef’s herb garden.
So where does Dollywood go from here? Just like the menus they develop, there have been discussions around the resort chefs plan on introducing more artisan pieces to their garden. There are hopes of building an apiary, introducing bees and flowers to the resort gardens so the culinary team has immediate access to very locally-sourced honey. More exciting culinary adventures await guests with current Harvest Festival items now available in the park, and the menus for Dollywood’s Smoky Mountain Christmas are already planned and perfected. Later this month, a partnership with Biltmore Wines takes place in the form of a winemaker’s dinner at Song & Hearth, showcasing the power of collaborative dining, with an award-winning vintner. Next time you’re tucking into a meal at Dollywood, you may be enjoying something sourced from just around the corner. Bon Appétit!