Here's a pleasant time-suck activity for a lazy Friday. Over at the blog for Ugly Mugs, the East Nashville coffee house that should be opening any day now across Eastland from Portland Brew, the proprietors are asking customers to help them select the joint's music library. Specifically, they want suggestions of one album (or more) that is a must-have for any self-respecting java emporium.
You can guess the usual suspects: John Mayer, Jack Johnson, Norah Jones, Feist—the capo di tutti capi of the Starbucks Mafia. But Derek Webb gets as many votes as Nick Drake. Sufjan Stevens, Sigur Ros and D'Angelo rub shoulders with Prince, Gillian Welch and Bob Marley.
So: what music would you want to accompany that first steaming sip of Sumatran gold? Or does the music you generally hear in coffee houses make you want to grate your eardrums with an emery board?
A couple of years ago, when I was relatively new at the Scene and still discovering the perks of employment, I was invited along on a mission to decide who had the best wings in town. I'll never forget the trip out to Clarksville Highway and Nuttin' But Wings. Their famous "Honey Hot" sauce had a stong impact on my young and impressionable mind--it was sweet, then hot, then sweet again. Magic.
So, imagine my delight when I spotted a "Coming Soon" sign for the wing joint on Charlotte Pike, just a few short blocks from the Scene's offices. I'm pretty sure the cross street was 15th; I do know that it was before the Jiffy Lube.
Check out Jim's 2006 Best of Nashville write-up after the jump.
In this week's review of Wild Ginger in Cool Springs, I rave about the colorful, inventive sushi and the overall gorgeousness of the building at the corner of Bakers Bridge and Market Exchange Court. The owners, working with H. Michael Hindman Architects, clearly went to a lot of expense to build a consistent identity that is reflected in the clean flavors and contemporary, organic design of their independent restaurant.
Seems to me that's exactly what you'd need to do if you wanted to replicate your restaurant concept in a few—or a few hundred—other places. Assuming Wild Ginger can deliver a consistently delicious and elegant experience, the brand could find success beyond the sprawling asphalt pastures of Cool Springs.
Coincidentally, Wild Ginger is located just a few blocks down the road from another independent restaurant that we think could have legs for branding: Basil Asian Bistro. A much smaller concept, based on Thai and Laotian cuisine, Basil's simple, sultry décor and exquisite menu—think banana leaf wraps stuffed with salmon and banana spring rolls drizzled with honey and sesame for dessert—could be shoehorned into virtually any strip mall in the country, upping the ante for Asian food in almost any neighborhood.
For now, let's see if Wild Ginger can live up to its early promise. If you get there, please report back on your experience. In the meantime, what other local independent brands would you like to see expand their reach? If the world is doomed to be paved with chains, at least they could be our own homegrown businesses.
The rumor is true: The year-old Ouyang House recently introduced dim sum. With a roster of Cantonese specialties, including steamed shrimp dumplings, pork shu mai, pan-fried turnip cake with spicy sauce, steamed bean curd skin roll and sweet rice wraps with chicken, dim sum is available daily. On weekends, traditional carts circulate the dining room for guests to pick and choose from the steam baskets.
Named for owner Mike Ouyang, a native of China's Fuzhou province, the restaurant hosts an extensive daily lunch buffet, with items such as jalapeno chicken, fried frog legs and stuffed crab shells. Chef David Qian, an alumnus of the bygone Shanghai Cafe and a native of Shanghai, recently joined Ouyang House. In addition to the lunch buffet, Chef Qian prepares a menu of traditional Chinese items including Shanghai-style duck, stir-fried rice cake and a seafood hot pot.
Located at 4523 Nolensville Road (Phone: 834-9989), Ouyang House is open 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekends.
As always, if you get there before we do, please report back on Bites.
Anyone who has driven the four miles from the long-shuttered Edgehill Piggly Wiggly to the gleaming Whole Foods in Green Hills knows what Mark Winne is talking about when he chronicles the divide between the nutritional haves and have-nots. A journalist and food activist for 30 years, Winne traces the modern history of eating and farming that has led to a two-tiered food-supply system in the U.S. Closing the Food Gap: Resetting the Table in the Land of Plenty (2008) explores the intertwined issues of welfare, farm subsidies, supermarket deserts, food banks, obesity, diabetes, community gardens and CSAs. Drawing from experience leading the Hartford Food Service in Connecticut, Winne focuses on expanding access to healthy foods for all income levels.
Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee hosts a free talk and signing 6 p.m. at Second Presbyterian Church, 3511 Belmont Blvd.
After last week’s discussion on Bites about peach ice cream, we loaded up the kids and headed to Breeden’s Orchard to pick our own peaches. The plan was to two-fold. First, we would explain to our citified offspring that peaches actually come from trees. Then we would set the tiny Foxes to work foraging.
As we pulled into the farm in Wilson County, the perfect rows of low trees laden with fruit were almost enough to break the spell of the Disney movie playing in the minivan. Unfortunately, it didn’t matter. Children are not allowed in the orchards during peach season. The delicate trees can’t hold their own against so many kids. (Sometimes I know how those trees feel.)
In any case, we perused the country store and bought a half-peck of peaches for $9, a jar of Breeden’s Orchard creamy Vidalia onion honey mustard, which I haven’t figured out how to use yet, and three fried peach pies, which were still warm in their wax-paper pouches. A smiling lady sitting behind the counter said she had been making them all day.
As the kids were piling back into the car—we promised them dinner at Cracker Barrel as a consolation prize—I bit into one of the pies. Two thin layers of crust melted across my tongue to reveal the center of sweet, smooth stewed peaches. No sickly gooey syrup, just flaky crust and fresh warm fruit that were worth the trip to Wilson County.
Next time we go to Breeden’s, we’ll tell the kids we’re going to pick peach pies. Or we’ll wait till fall, when kids are welcome in the apple orchards.
Breeden's Orchard & Country Store is located at 631 Beckwith Road, Mt. Juliet, (Phone: 449-2880). From Nashville, take I-40E to exit 226 B, which merges onto Mt. Juliet Road North. At Highway 70, turn right and go 2½ miles to Beckwith Road.
This delicious love story comes to us via Gwinnett Daily Post in Lawrenceville, Ga. Don't miss the slideshow at the bottom of the page.
When I stopped at Dee's Q the other day for a shoulder sandwich, I noticed a sign that said they'd be closed on Sundays until further notice. I asked the girl at the counter about it, and she said that owner Reggie Crowder and his daughter, restaurant namesake Dee, were recovering from "a minor heart ailment" and "minor surgery," respectively. She stressed that both are fine and just need some time to heal up. Here's wishing them both a speedy recovery, and not just because I get hungry for Dee's smoky goodness every day of the week (and twice on Sunday).
By this time next Monday, you may be sipping an açaí smoothie, fresh-squeezed carrot juice, or a Sunny Side Up breakfast cocktail of pineapple, mango, banana, oatmeal, OJ and honey. The sign and a few more finishing touches are the only things holding back the opening of Fresh Blends, East Nashville's new juice and smoothie bar, which is joining the new Ugly Mugs coffeehouse in the Walden space on Eastland Avenue across from the Eastside Portland Brew.
Co-owner/operator Tony Reall, who runs Fresh Blends with partner David Edwards, says a soft opening is tentatively scheduled for next Monday, July 28. If all goes according to plan, a grand opening will follow that Saturday, replete with giveaways, free T-shirts, gift cards, and special prizes for the very first customers to walk through the doors.
But as Reall admits, "according to plan" doesn't describe the effort that beset him and Edwards as they set out to open their first food venture.
"It was a much different process from what we imagined," says Reall, a familiar face to neighborhood residents from his work at the East Nashville YMCA. From scouring other juice bars for ideas on pricing and procedure to lining up a location and finishing the interior, two years of work have gone into Fresh Blends before the first grapefruit has even been squished.
When it opens, though, Reall says that customers can expect an assortment of juices and smoothies derived from fresh or individually quick frozen (IQF) fruits and vegetables, including locally grown organic wheatgrass. The menu promises health-nut staples such as pomegranate, green tea and açaí. (I've been meaning to ask Claudia if she's noticed any benefits from the açaí, or if the Brazilian berry is all hype—pulp fiction, as it were.)
So why is East Nashville hopping with restaurant activity while numerous places have closed across the river in recent months? Don't know, but Reall and Edwards both say that their fellow East Nashville restaurateurs and small-business owners have been generous with time and advice. Perhaps a rising tide of juice and coffee raises all boats.
Fresh Blends is located at 1888 Eastland Ave. If you want a peek at the location, an exterior photo of Reall, his dog Macey and Edwards follows after the jump.
In a comment posted today on our July 3 entry about Nashville's second Music City Hot Chicken Festival, held July 4 at East Nashville's East Park, reader S L asked today for some kind of recap: winners, turnout, etc. I'll be happy to oblige—and to pose some questions about the future of this (paradoxically) cool event.
The big winner this year was Justin Jones, whose bright cartoon "Soda Pong" used to run in the Scene. It was great to finally meet him and shake his (rubber-gloved, cayenne-scented) hand. I did not get to sample Team Soda Pong's bird, but the remains had vestiges of pitch-black, pepper-scorched crust that looked mighty tempting. Justin said he would send us the recipe, stressing that he was not an expert, and that lots of trial and error had gone into it. But he also said it was every Nashvillian's duty to try and propagate the hot-chicken mythos by at least giving the fiery fowl a whirl.
The event looked like a huge success, with big happy (if hungry) crowds, more activities, and the welcome addition of a Yazoo beer tent. Better still, there were at least double the number of food booths, with newcomers such as Dee's Q, Otter's and Murfreesboro's The Chicken Shack alongside Prince's, Bolton's and 400 Degrees. A booth dispensing watermelon was a nice Independence Day touch. (A nice report can be found at Nashville Restaurants, where we stole the image above.)
The insurmountable problem, though, is that the slow cooking hot chicken requires puts it completely at odds with the nature of a festival. The lines at the food booths move at a crawl; replenishment takes forever. But who wants to rush chicken?
The other major problem, ironically enough, is the heat. I know logistically (and philosophically) that the Fourth of July makes sense, but summer temperatures keep a lot of folks even from going to Prince's in months without an "R." One humble suggestion: move the festivities to LP Field. Not only does it have ample parking, it can accommodate thousands of people and a large-scale cooking event indoors, as Iron Fork proved.
Obviously, the visible boost in attendance this year and the growth of the event showed that the Hot Chicken Festival is becoming, er, a feather in the city's cap. But how to serve more people without ruining the chicken's unique properties—the whole reason for the festival, after all—and how to make it more comfortable? These conundrums require the full power of the Bites brain trust.
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