Posts Tagged ‘Barnsley Resort’

Cocktails honor the Barnsley spirits

Jpn Mattson sets up cocktail bar in the woods at Barnsley Resort

Jon Mattson, dining manager at Barnsley Resort (597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, Georgia, 877-773-2447,, has good advice for mixing cocktails. “One ingredient is the star,” he says. “Others should make that ingredient shine.” From that starting point, Mattson experiments until he “finds the ratios that really work.” A student of American cocktail history, he also delights in showcasing high-quality Southern products whenever possible.

Dugan's Tavern at Barnsley Resort“I like to keep things simple and balanced,” he explains. He generally limits his cocktails to three ingredients. Even within that limited framework, he creates libations that nod to cocktail history as well as to the drinking habits of the Barnsley estate’s late 19th century heyday. Estate founder Godfrey Barnsley originally called his property Woodlands and the name survives in the Woodlands Grill, the resort’s main dining room. The attached tavern is named for prizefighter K.O. Dugan, one of Barnsley’s most colorful descendants.

Mixing it up

Makings for Godfrey Reserve cocktail Mattson has also honored each man with a cocktail. For his Godfrey Reserve, Mattson combines 1 1/2 ounces of Fiddler bourbon from American Spirit Works in Atlanta with 3/4 ounce of Sfumato (a rhubarb-based amaro) and 1 ounce of Madeira. In a nod to regional history, Mattson uses the Rare Wine Co.’s historic Savannah-style Madeira. “It’s my riff on a Manhattan,” he says, although he serves it over ice in a lowball glass with an orange slice.

Mattson also creates a version of an Old Fashioned that he calls Dugan’s Dram. It consists of 1 1/2 ounces of Irish whiskey, 1/4 ounce simple Demerara syrup flavored with baking spices, and 1/2 ounce Amaro Cannella, an American-made bitter herbal liqueur in the tradition of an Italian amaro. He stirs with ice to mix without diluting and strains into a coupe garnished with an orange peel.

When he’s not advising diners on wine pairings in the Woodlands Grill, Mattson might be behind the bar at Dugan’s Tavern, perhaps offering samples of the resort’s seasonal beer that he creates in consultation with master brewers in Woodstock, Georgia. For a special occasion, he might even set up a rustic bar on a woodsy slope overlooking the mansion ruins (at top of post). There’s no better spot to toast Godfrey Barnsley.


12 2017

Barnsley’s Rice House cooking exalts Southern tradition

About 30 years ago, a farmhouse from the Rice Plantation in nearby Rome, Georgia, was dismantled and moved to the Barnsley estate. Carefully rebuilt and restored, the Rice House is now the setting for Friday and Saturday night dinners at the Barnsley Resort (597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, Georgia, 877-773-2447, The meals celebrate the rich tradition of Southern cooking. “Southern cuisine is much more than fried chicken and lots of butter,” says Aaron Stiles, the resort’s director of food and beverage. “You never hear people brag about discovering this really great Northern restaurant.”

With its stone fireplace big enough for some hearth cooking, the Rice House feels a little bit like stepping back into a Southern grandmother’s kitchen. And that’s just as it should be. “We consider our food modern farmhouse,” Stiles says. “We pay homage to our Southern roots, but use modern technique.”

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a taste is worth even more. A meal served in the Rice House by chef Evan Babb and sous chef Hugo Cifuentes (above) told a rich tale in three courses. The dishes, by the way, may have started in a modern kitchen, but they were finished in a big cast iron skillet in the fireplace.

Cornbread, first and foremost

Hugo Cifuentes at Rice House at Barnsley ResortWe began with cornbread and peas, a dish that many Southern grandmothers probably do have in their repertoire. But Babb and Cifuentes elevated the homey staple. They first cooked red peas from South Carolina’s sea islands (sourced from Anson Mills in Columbia, South Carolina) in a smoked hamhock broth. Then they made a soupy potage with the peas and “preacher ham,” a smoked country ham with a lower salt content because it wasn’t hung to age. The peas and ham “gravy” was spooned over an all-cornmeal cornbread cooked in a small cast iron skillet.

laquered duck breast at Rice House at Barnsley ResortMost grandmothers probably don’t have the second course in their recipe files, but it was nonetheless a taste of the South. Sliced sorghum-lacquered duck breast spiced with cardamom and cinnamon was served with a roasted winter vegetable salad with a warm duck vinaigrette. Babb and Cifuentes treated crisp morsels of butternut squash and white yams as croutons.

Evan Babb clips pansies for salad at Rice House at Barnsley ResortBabb (right) loves to forage on the 3,300-acre Barnsley estate. Even in early winter he found dandelion greens and wild onion to add to the salad, along with pansies harvested from the decorative border at the Rice House. Cifuentes, who is also an organic and biodynamic farmer, grew the lettuce. He will also be tending the kitchen garden under construction.

Another taste of sorghum

Apple crumble at Rice House at Barnsley ResortThe meal concluded with Appalachia Apple Crumble, a twist on apple crisp, one of my favorite New England desserts. But I’m quite certain no chef in New England would think to top the dish with burnt sugar bourbon ice cream and salted sorghum caramel. As a Yankee raised on maple syrup, I was pleasantly surprised by the slight sourness that sorghum syrup gave the dish. Sweet, sour, and salt—how could you go wrong!

“It’s all about region and simplicity,” said Cifuentes, “getting back to the roots of old Southern cooking.” Babb and Cifuentes generously shared the recipe for Cornbread and Peas.


Cornbread and red pea gravy at Rice House at Barnsley ResortSea Island red peas are a diminutive, ruddy strain of field peas that originates in Africa but is still grown as a heritage crop by the Gullah inhabitants of the Carolina and Georgia Sea Islands. For an authentic flavor, order them from Anson Mills. Preacher ham is hard to find outside the South, but a nice corncob-smoked Vermont ham makes a good substitute.

Serves 2

Preacher ham skillet cornbread


12 oz. (2 1/2 cups) Anson Mills yellow cornmeal
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 oz. (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups whole milk, room temp
1 large egg, beaten, room temp
1/2 cup chopped BBQ “preacher” ham (andouille sausage is another great substitute)
4 tablespoons local raw honey
2 teaspoons butter, bacon fat, or duck fat for skillet


Set oven to 425°F. Heat a seasoned 8-inch cast iron skillet over medium heat. While skillet heats, whisk together cornmeal, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl.

Melt butter in a medium saucepan; add milk and warm slightly. Remove pan from heat. Ladle some of the milk mixture into the beaten egg and whisk to combine. Pour egg mixture into saucepan and whisk to combine.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and whisk lightly until smooth. The batter will be fairly thin. Fold in ham and honey. Add butter or fat to skillet then pour in batter, which should sizzle. Bake in oven for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in middle comes out clean.

Sea island pea gravy


3 smoked ham hocks
Half bunch celery, washed and trimmed
2-3 +1 large carrots, peeled
3 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered
3 bay leaves
2-3 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
2 cups Anson Mills Sea Island red peas
Salt, pepper and vinegar (white wine, apple cider or pepper) to taste


Make ham broth by simmering ham hocks, celery, 2-3 carrots cut into 4 large pieces, quartered onions, bay leaves, thyme, and peppercorns for an hour.

While the broth simmers, cut remaining carrot into small dice and set aside.

Remove vegetables and continue simmering ham hocks for another hour or two.

Strain stock and add peas. Return to heat. After 15 minutes, add the diced carrots. Simmer peas until soft but not falling apart—20-30 minutes. Strain and cool.

Reduce pea cooking liquid (potlicker) by a quarter.

Place a quarter of the peas and blend in a blender with enough cooking liquid to create a “gravy.” Place strained peas and pea “gravy” into a medium saucepan. Adjust consistency with cooking liquid and season to taste with salt, pepper, and vinegar.

Invert corn bread onto cutting board and cut into wedges. Place a wedge of cornbread on plate and spoon pea gravy over it.


12 2017

Barnsley lights up a Southern Christmas

Barnsley ruins with Christmas decorations

What’s better than an atmospheric ruin with a romantic backstory? An atmospheric ruin with a romantic backstory festooned with holiday lights.

Barnsley ruins by daylightThat’s exactly what I discovered at Barnsley Resort (597 Barnsley Gardens Road, Adairsville, Georgia, 877-773-2447,, about 60 miles northwest of Atlanta. Godfrey Barnsley was only a teenager when he left England in 1824 to seek his fortune in the American South. He settled in Savannah and established himself in shipping and the cotton trade. In 1828, he married Julia Scarborough, the daughter of a wealthy merchant and shipbuilder.

In the early 1840s, Barnsley purchased 4,000 acres of former Cherokee land in North Georgia. Because Julia suffered from a lung ailment, Godfrey wanted to build her a home in the more favorable upcountry climate. Inspired by architect and garden designer Andrew Jackson Downing, Barnsley envisioned an Italianate mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens. With bricks made on site and local timber, the mansion began to rise. But Julia died in 1845 before she could see it completed. Eventually Barnsley overcame his grief and resolved to move forward with construction. The property was completed in 1848 and remains a touchstone of Barnsley’s lost love.

Barnsley historian Clent CokerIt was also a standout among stately Southern homes. “It was the first house in Georgia to have modern plumbing before the Civil War,” resident historian Clent Coker told me. “In the 1800s it was also the rose showcase of the South, but wars, storms, and depressions took their toll over the years.” Coker oversees a small museum on the site and can tell a thousand stories about the often colorful Barnsley family members (including a heavyweight boxer and a purported model for Scarlett O’Hara).

It’s beginning to look a lot like…

Barnsley front door at ChristmasThe estate remained in family hands until 1942. It wasn’t until 1988 that the neglected property was literally saved by a prince. That’s the year it was purchased by Prince Hubertus Fugger of Bavaria. He restored the mansion ruins and brought the gardens back to life. Barnsley opened as a full-fledged resort with Andrew Jackson Downing-inspired cottages and a host of amenities about a decade later.

The old mansion remains the heart of the property. The roof was torn off by a tornado more than a century ago, but the property still has a stately grace. Visitors approach it through a formal garden of boxwoods that have been standing since before the Civil War.

Barnsley ruins with Christmas treesLocal families and couples make pilgrimages to the property throughout the year. But it may be at its best for the holidays. The folks at Barnsley estimate that they string more than a million lights throughout the property. Many of those bulbs illuminate the garden and trace the outlines of the mansion. In total disregard of the roofless open air, Christmas trees and other decorations fill the rooms of the once beautifully furnished home as a reminder of holidays past.

Guests at Barnsley can wander at their leisure and then warm up before a roaring fire pit (below) before heading to dinner at the Woodlands Grill. There will probably still be time to sit by the fire again after dinner and roast a few marshmallows.

Bonfire at Barnsley


12 2017