by Nicki Wood
The combination of rich, fragrant, tender lamb and the tingly, tangy crunch of pickled onions in a chewy, soft roll was like a one-two punch from a velvet boxing glove.
Culinary inspiration like that isn't an accident, so I contacted Jamie Kiner, the woman who, er, mans the Blackbird Heritage truck.
Livestock farmers Andy and Sherri Roddick (not that Andy Roddick) raise their heritage breeds in College Grove, Tenn, including the Gulf Coast lamb that became my lamb sandwich. They also raise turkeys, cows and Large Black and Red Wattle pigs in small quantities.
To sell more of the meat, Roddick, a former recording engineer and native of Williamson County, originally had a concession stand. He then bought an old laundry delivery truck off Craigslist and overhauled it. "I did it all myself, the paint, the sinks, the whole thing." They hired their old friend Jamie Kiner, also formerly in the recording industry, to manage the food truck.
As a smallish operation, Blackbird utilizes just a few animals at a time. The trio brainstorm ideas for using what's on hand at any given time. Most recently, Blackbird butchered a cow and combined the ground beef with Italian sausage, now being served as a meatball sub with delicate little meatballs in a tangy tomato sauce.
Blackbird's neighbors are Delvin Farms and Hatcher Dairy, and whatever Delvin is growing is what's on the side dish menu. Last week, that was a salad of approximately equal parts crisp steamed asparagus and smoky chopped bacon (from Blackbird's hogs) in a sweet vinaigrette.
When there's cheese on a sandwich, it's usually Kenny's Farmhouse cheese, and for dessert, they offer locally made Chucklet & Honey cookies. Blackbird lives up to its "all local" commitment, because that's just how this food truck rolls. Hatcher Family Farms is another neighbor, and you can sometimes find the chocolate milk among Blackbird's offerings.
"To be honest, it's become much grander than we originally conceived of. None of us went to culinary school or have much restaurant experience besides waiting tables in college," explained Roddick.
(You don't have to have Blackbird's meats as a sandwich — you can buy a half hog or just some of their sausage here.