Labor of Love

Summerland farm, the Cartersville, Georgia, home of Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison, yields enviable bounty each summer. The crisp colors and intense flavors of freshly plucked ingredients prove a thrillingly tangible reward for the patient restaurateurs, whose passion for preparation is the key to industry longevity.

It’s a humid, midsummer’s night at Summerland Farm, the 60-acre family property of culinary queen Anne Quatrano and husband/business partner Clifford Harrison, but it feels a few degrees cooler than Atlanta, thanks to both the farm’s elevation and its proximity to the Etowah River in the foothills of northern Georgia.

Suited just as well to a picturesque trail ride as it is to harvesting a year-round abundance of ingredients, the grounds— and its menagerie of animals, including horses, pigs, goats, chickens, dogs and roosters—are quintessentially “Annie.” The farm may have been in her family for five generations, but the refined-rustic farmhouse she and Harrison have built for themselves is a testament to their deep-rooted love of the land.

And, just like the earthy, eye-catching displays Quatrano cultivates at her Westside market, Star Provisions, the intimate setting she’s designed inside her greenhouse for 10 (a rare dinner at which she will also be a seated guest), there’s a palpable artist’s eye evident at every turn. Commanding but informal pottery from Heath Ceramics, placed on top of burlap linens, are complemented by a varied collection heirloom silverware and individual menus printed on crisp-white baguette bags. Potted succulents, ferns and plants dot the farm table’s center, while terrariums hang above from braided ropes with tassels. Wicker chairs provide a touch of home.

It’s the type of dimension Quatrano is famous for creating in her restaurants, yet a look that’s so relaxed as to feel gloriously effortless—no easy feat considering the celebrated grand dame of Atlanta’s farm-to-table movement will also serve as the gracious hostess this evening, fostering intimate conversation among a group of Atlanta interior designers eager to hear her perspective.    

The compelling atmosphere Quatrano has cultivated on their behalf is complemented, of course, by a seasonally influenced menu, one which also serves as dry run for the tasting menu that will appear at Floataway Cafe this month. Harrison has been enlisted to complement each course with wines from his cellar, and the results are unerring. The first course: oyster on the half-shell with strawberry mignonette, garnished with a Summerland nasturtium and paired with a Champagne Aubry Brut Rosé. An aromatic stew, a whole black bass bourride follows, the happy result of young leeks and small potatoes plucked from Summerland. A 2006 Peter Michael chardonnay is its weighty counterpart. The composition of the main course—a pot-roasted hen served with a savory panzanella and floral flourishes from her garden—is classic Annie, a dish that eloquently espouses her ingredients-driven philosophy.

The final two courses, a Capriole Farm goat cheese with Summerland blackberry preserve and toasted brioche, and a wood-roasted Georgia peach with chamomile ice milk and shortbread crumble, are the proverbial cherry on top. Paired with a fragrant Alvear Pedro Ximenez, it’s clear as this blue Summerland sky as to why Quatrano’s restaurants are bastions for special occasion celebrations.

And, as Quatrano unearths the stories behind her family’s acreage, her penchant for hiring talents who become part of their family, and the couple’s unending battle with Georgia’s red-clay soil, we learn from her as well: “work” should never be a chore; and pragmatism can usher in delightful abundance.

Annie’s Summerland menu will be offered at Floataway Café on select dates in July. For reservations, call (404) 892-1414.