The countdown has begun to the April 30 debut of Iron Fork, the Scene's culinary death match among kitchen titans Deb Paquette, Will Uhlhorn, Bobby Benjamin, Sean Norton and Clay Greenberg.
Event sponsor Whole Foods Market has the honor of selecting The Secret Ingredient, and knowing the Earth-lovers over at the Green Hills temple of all things organic, sustainable and fully priced, TSI will no doubt be a hard cheese aged in the cave of endangered bats or a non-genetically modified citrus fruit bearing an uncanny resemblance to a character from the bar in Star Wars.
But just imagine if Iron Fork were orchestrated by anti-foodie trans-fat lovers like Tobin the Gnome, or brand-extension junkies like Mr. Pink, or drive-through addicts like yours truly? (Yes, Claudia, I was in the Wendy's line when you called. What of it?) We could pick a Secret Ingredient that would need no further embellishment. Like, for example, a No. 6 combo. Or Bugles.
So in the spirit of keeping things real, I am hereby offering a pair of free tickets to Iron Fork to the best suggestion for a Secret Ingredient that Whole Foods would never pick.
To win, you must include your email address. The winner will be announced later. As soon as we choose one. Or you can just purchase your tickets here.
No, chef Bobby Benjamin and the crew at Flyte World Dining & Wine are not smoking in the kitchen. That's the vapor coming off their stores of liquid nitrogen. I stopped by the Eighth Avenue restaurant last week to find Benjamin & Co. dabbling in a little mad science, making frozen milk balloons and what can only be described as Dippin' Dots—of course, they would NEVER misuse that trademarked name—out of roasted parsnip puree.
Late Friday afternoon, they were still working the kinks out of a dessert homage to General Mills' Cookie Crisp cereal. (I'm sure they would NEVER misuse that trademarked name either.) Using a hypodermic syringe, Benjamin injected a balloon with milk, tied the balloon closed and bobbed it around in a bath of liquid nitrogen. When the über-cold liquid had frozen the milk to the interior of the balloon, he peeled the balloon skin away to reveal a pristine white orb, about the size of an ostrich egg.
He cut the egg in half to yield two marble-white bowls. Benjamin placed a pile of toasted oats on the bottom of a plate and balanced one of the bowls on the cereal. He then filled the bowl with crumbs from chocolate chip cookies from Sweet 16th bakery in East Nashville. As the milk bowl warmed, it began to soften and ultimately melt, producing a medley of cereal and cookies in milk. All that was missing was the erstwhile Cookie Jarvis. With a few more details, the dessert will be ready for prime time this week, when Benjamin plans to add it to the menu.
The tiny frozen parsnip BBs—not to be confused with the trademarked Dippin' Dots—debuted this weekend, atop blue marlin seared in a cast iron skillet, and presented with caramelized orange skin. A word of warning: make sure your Not Dots have warmed before you bite into them. For one thing, the flavor of the roasted parsnip comes out as the beads rise toward room temperature. But more importantly, you don't want to rip the skin off your tongue.
According to Benjamin, there were no nitrogen-based injuries at Flyte this weekend.
For a bargain-hunting, eBay-shopping, estate-sale junkie like me, it's frustrating that, as a rule, the restaurant industry doesn’t have sales. (Please, don’t come at me with your dollar-menu meal deals. You know what I mean. And we both know that the daily special is not a sale. I'm talking shameless retail seductions like BOGO, blue-light specials and two-for-the-price-of-one-plus-a-dollar.)
But now we discount divas have the Nashville Originals’ quarterly gift certificate sales to look forward to, and the next one is Wednesday, April 23. I don’t know which member of the independent-restaurant co-op is tasked with posting the sale on the Originals website, but that person must wake up earlier than a Saturday morning yard-sale stalker. The certificates—which sell at up to 40 percent off—hit the web early and sell out fast. If you snooze, you lose.
So set your alarm clocks and log on for discounted eats at your favorite independent restaurants. Until T.J. Maxx opens a restaurant, this is the best meal deal you’re going to find.
Speaking of Judge Bean's, as if the barbecue joint weren't contending with enough balls in its new home at Greer Stadium, its Lascassas outpost down Murfreesboro way will host its third annual Testicle Festival this Saturday starting at 2 p.m. There'll be fine country music from Judge Bean's mainstays Wade Hayes and Trent Willmon, but the big attraction (I suppose that's the word) will be untold quantities of rooster fries, lamb fries and the gonads of any other poor critter too slow to dodge the knife. Hell, there won't be a squirrel left in Rutherford County with any nuts.
Judge Bean's Lascassas is at 6605 Lascassas Highway. For further directions and info, call 615-273-2215. An all-day pass is $10. Think of it—all the balls you can eat. (At least I'm guessing the "BYOB" on Judge Bean's calendar is for something else.) Just a question: Why would you eat animal balls, and if you do, are they any good?
I finally stopped by Judge Bean's Bar-B-Que in its new digs—or dugout—at Greer Stadium. It was a beautiful spring afternoon, and the Sounds were suiting up to stomp Omaha. With the brilliant green field and blue seats below, Judge Bean's new fourth-floor space (around the side, up the steps, take the elevator) has the feel of a giant skybox. Cold beer, hot wings, killer view—how better to spend a Thirsty Thursday?
Unfortunately, I must've hit the place on a Weird Wednesday. Granted, I went late in the afternoon, after the traditional lunch crowd but before the game and dinner rush. But the meat in my brisket tacos was ash-grey and mushy—fatty beyond even the comical warning on the menu. And while the Judge's famous Shrimp Diablo (jalapenos stuffed with cheese and shrimp, wrapped in bacon, toothpicked and smoked) had its usual kick, the inside was only lukewarm, down to the unmelted white rectangles of cheese. It wasn't cheap, either. Even with no drink, three uneaten tacos (plated with good slaw and fries) plus three Diablos plus a modest tip came to $27.
On the way out, I ran into a friend, a barbecue-savvy mofo who swears by their brisket and loves the place. So it's entirely possible I just hit them at a bad time. I'll withhold judgment on Judge Bean's until another visit—one where the Sounds are swatting flies over the far wall, a summer breeze tickles the kids' hair, and you can smell the smoker all the way in the outfield. Play ball!
Judge Bean's Bar-B-Que is located at 534 Chestnut Street, open 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday and Tuesday and 11 a.m.-10 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday.
Since you’re no doubt planning to attend Iron Fork, the Scene’s culinary showdown in which we pit kitchen gladiators from five of Nashville’s best restaurants against each other, you may as well try to get in for free. I have no idea how she got hold of them (we gave them to her), but Claudia over at CookeatFret.com is giving away five pairs of tickets to the April 30 event at LP Field.
Log onto CeF and tell Claudia why you want to go to Iron Fork, and she just might bestow some free passes on you.
(Hint: Claudia really likes bacon, blogging, Michael Rulhman, stinky cheese, cupcakes, Per Se, New York, architects and cats. So, if you can work those things into your response, you just might have better odds than you had in Claudia’s recent mole giveaway. Claudia, who ended up with all that crap, anyway?)
If you’d rather shell out cash for your tickets ($20 to $30, depending on when you buy them) and know that your money is going to help St. Luke’s Community House, you can purchase them online here.
After promising big changes at Tayst restaurant for months, chef Jeremy Barlow has just received certification from the Green Restaurant Association. Tayst is the first Nashville restaurant to earn the designation.
To earn GRA certification, Barlow implemented a recycling program, removed of all Styrofoam products, brought in biodegradable takeout containers, installed faucet aerators that reduce the amount of water used, replaced paraffin candles with all-natural beeswax and soy, and began printing menus on paper made of 100 percent post-consumer waste.
Having long used local and sustainable foods whenever possible, Barlow began using fish exclusively from sustainable sources early this year.
“The last three months of my life was turning green,” says Barlow, who recently became the restaurant's sole proprietor when he bought co-founder Dan Morrissey's stake. As part of the GRA's certification, Barlow is already working on more greening steps for next year, which are likely to include adding a water filtration system that would allow Tayst to have filtered water—bubbly and still—without bottles.
To celebrate the GRA certification, Tayst will host a wine dinner with all local cuisine and biodynamic wines on May 1.
In a Bites post last week, I mentioned in passing the long-awaited Allium restaurant, the second project by Germantown Cafe team Jay Luther and Chris Lowry. Located in the ground level of the 5th & Main development in East Nashville, Allium is on track to open late this summer or in the fall, according to Lowry. The 5th & Main development, including lofts, flats and town homes at the corner of Fifth and Main streets, is currently under construction.
Named for the family of flowering plants that includes garlic, onions, shallots and chives, Allium will deliver a menu inspired by the cuisine of France, Italy and Spain. For the anchor restaurant in the environmentally green 5th & Main development, Lowry and Luther are planning a sleek, contemporary aesthetic similar to that of the four-year-old Germantown Cafe.
After months of speculation about Provence Breads & Cafe taking a space in Green Hills, Terry Carr-Hall has inked a lease for the 1,750-square-foot space between Anthropologie and California Pizza Kitchen.
The seventh store in the Provence chain, the Hill Center location will offer breakfast, lunch and dinner as well as wine by the glass. What makes this development especially interesting is that Carr-Hall will be going mano-a-pano with the solidly entrenched Green Hills location of Bread & Company, with whom he worked early on before launching his own whole-grain empire.
Carr-Hall is in the early stages of planning construction on the store, which will include an ADA-compliant patio on the sidewalk facing Hillsboro Road. He hopes to open the store sometime mid-summer.
Side note: Provence recently introduced frozen yogurt in the store on Vanderbilt's Peabody campus. The Hill Center store also will have the specialized equipment to serve tangy frozen yogurt in the style of the popular Pinkberry chain. Carr-Hall says he plans ultimately to introduce frozen yogurt to all the stores.
Every day as I drive through the Charlie Foxtrot of construction that is The Gulch, I look up to see if I am in the direct gravity path of the cranes rotating around The Terrazzo. The next time I pass by, instead of wondering if an errant wrench is about to plummet through my windshield, I'll think about this.
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