We had a nice time exploring the country outside of Atlanta this weekend, first at Etowah Mounds State Historic Site and Red Top State Park, both near Cartersville. Then on Sunday, we checked out the LEED Platinum visitor’s center at Sweetwater Creek State Conservation Park, before taking back roads to the outer reaches of Fulton County, where the people of Serenbe Inn–a beautiful organic farm off Hutcheson Ferry Road–welcomed us in.
When it was time for dinner, we strolled through the farm, passing donkeys, goats, llamas, sheep, rabbits and chickens before coming to an expansive wildflower meadow. The sun was beating down as we emerged from the shaded woods into the open expanse. On the other side we entered the Hamlet, a new urbanism project rising from the ground half a mile from The Inn. We strolled by retail shops and sharp looking homes, before reaching The Hil. Named for chef, Hillary White, who runs the restaurant with her husband Jim, The Hil is a refined, yet informal, neighborhood restaurant, with a dedication to serving simple, farm-fresh cuisine.
I ordered Pan-Roasted All Natural Chicken with Smashed Potatoes and Shiitake Mushroom Gravy. Every bite was delicious. Darby had Wood Grilled Harris Ranch Hangar Steak with Sernebe Farm Crispy Onions. I ordered a side of Serenbe Farm Broccoli and was glad I did. We started out in the bar with Hornitos Margs on the rocks, no salt and an order of Carmelized Vidalia Onion Dip with Potato Chips. For dessertâ€”Riccotta Fritters with Strawberry Jam.
In our bathroom at Magnolia Cottage I found the Nov. 2007 issue of Atlanta Magazine, wherein a feature on nearby community, Rico, describes Serenbe as irrelevant to members of the local community.
â€œIâ€™m not sure if I can say this right,â€ Donna Bailey, a pastor at the United Methodist Church in Rico said, â€œbut people with large or unlimited incomes envision community different than the rest of us. For the people whoâ€™ve lived here a long time, they donâ€™t have much of an interest in living in condos, or eating fancy desserts. Thatâ€™s not community to them. [Serenbe] is an urban concept brought to the country. Thereâ€™s no question, what you have here is tasteful, itâ€™s sculpted, and in places itâ€™s even beautiful. But somehow it seems irrelevant.â€
I find it interesting that this is bathroom reading the The Inn. I love the concept of new urbanism on paper, but I have to admit seeing it up close as I’ve done at Serenbe Hamlet and also closer to home at Palmetto Bluff and Habersham, I do tend to stand back a little, pause and ask, “Is this some kind of Stepford?” These places do have a dreamy quality to them.
Serenbe, though, strikes a unique balance thanks to being grounded by the historic farmhouse and the animal husbandry and food production that makes for a real farm. Maybe not as real as some, but real in its own right.