Inside John Fleer's Canyon Kitchen

It’s been seven years since Chef John Fleer left Blackberry Farm, leaving behind a legacy of farm-to-table fare that helped spark a new movement in food. And although he has laid relatively low during that time while enjoying other pursuits with his family, his colleagues have continued to sing his praises in the hopes that he would one day return. Now, John stands at the helm of his own establishment, Canyon Kitchen, in Lonesome Valley. John’s creations once again include fresh produce and organic selections from community gardens and the surrounding area. As he explains, “The food is conceived in the spirit of the original vision of Lonesome Valley—to reconnect with nature, family, friends, and self.”


Canyon Kitchen received a 2014 Diner’s Choice Award from OpenTable diners for Top 100 Scenic View Restaurants in America.

From the Bar….

- Sponsors -

The Modern (a twist on an Old Fashioned)

4 dashes Fee Brothers Whiskey Barrel Aged Bitters
½  teaspoon Citrus Sugar (recipe below)
2 ounces Templeton Small Batch Rye Whiskey
splash of Fever Tree Club Soda or Mountain Valley Spring Water (personal preference)
orange wedge

1. Put bitters and Citrus Sugar into rocks glass and muddle. Add whiskey, and mix with spoon; fill glass with ice. Top with splash of club soda or spring water. Squeeze orange wedge (pith facing out so oils spray over drink) over glass, and use torch to ignite the oils squeezed from the rind. Drop orange wedge into drink.

2. To make Citrus Sugar: Cut peels from orange and lemon. No pith should be present. Put in food processor with raw sugar and blend until smooth.  Let sit, covered, at least one day before use. Quanitites of both ingredients can be varied for a sweeter or more citrusy flavor.

Tip: Using good club soda or spring water makes a huge difference. If you can’t get Fever Tree or Mountain Valley, just find a brand that you like. Seagram’s also makes a good club soda.

From the Kitchen…

Roasted Local Beets with Arugula, Pickled Rhubarb,  Sumac-Toasted Pine Nuts, and LG Goat Cheese-Cruze Buttermilk Dressing

For the pickled rhubarb:
1 cup sugar
2½ cups water
2 cups cane vinegar
¼ cup chopped red onion
1½ tablespoons salt
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons coriander
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
6 cardamom pods (or ½ teaspoon ground cardamom)
¼ teaspoon sumac
2 bunches rhubarb

Mix all ingredients, except rhubarb, together. Bring pickling solution to a boil. Pour over rhubarb, and let sit until for 1 minute or until rhubarb just starts to soften. Strain, reserving
liquid. Cool pickling liquid and pour back over rhubarb. Pour into storage containers. Let sit for at least 4-5 days. This recipe will make enough pickled rhubarb for several rounds of salad. It is also tasty with cured meats.

For the dressing:
1 cup mayonnaise
1 cup buttermilk
¾ cup fresh goat cheese
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon,  lightly chopped
½ tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, lightly chopped
1½ teaspoons kosher salt
freshly cracked black pepper

Whisk together mayonnaise, buttermilk, goat cheese, champagne vinegar, and lemon juice. Stir in fresh herbs and salt and pepper.

For the roasted beets:
1 pound small-medium beets (greens trimmed and rinsed to remove dirt)
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
sea salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
8 ounces (about 2 quarts medium packed) clean arugula or watercress
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted and sprinkled with sumac and lightly drizzled with honey
2 ounces (about ½ cup) pickled rhubarb, cut into thin matchsticks.

1. To roast the beets, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Toss beets with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Place beets into a roasting pan and cover with foil. Roast the beets until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from the oven, remove the foil covering, and allow to slightly cool.

2. While beets are still slightly warm, rub off skins with a clean towel. Cut beets into large bite-sized pieces. In a medium-sized bowl, season the peeled and cut beets with sea salt, lemon juice, and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil. Allow beets to come to room temperature.

3. Add arugula, toasted pine nuts, and pickled rhubarb, and gently toss together. The ingredients should seem slightly underdressed. The goat cheese dressing will be pooled on the bottom of the plate that the food will be served on and will compensate for this. Spoon the dressing down on the plate or serving platter. Arrange the salad ingredients over the dressing and serve. Finish with sea salt and additional olive oil, if desired. Serves 6.

text by Paige Townley

author avatar
Paige Townley

Get the best of Birmingham delivered to your inbox

Stunning local homes, inspiring before & after projects, southern-style recipes, entertaining ideas and more!