Bless me, Chef Thomas Keller, for I have sinned.
Heeding your story of slaughtering rabbits in The French Laundry Cookbook, I set out to be more deliberate about my ingredients. Your tale of squealing bunnies spurred me to savor the connections among animals, vegetables, the environment and my own nutrition. I joined a CSA, and things went well. I ate dirt-flavored beets and started growing sweet corn in my back yard. I ordered a grass-fed pasture-raised chicken from Au Naturel Farm in Kentucky (pictured above), which took two weeks to arrive.
With great intentions, I put the long-awaited bird in the refrigerator to thaw, envisioning a meal of locally grown veggies and fresher-than-fresh chemical-free meat. But the next day it was still a bird-cicle, so I begrudgingly drove through Wendy's for nuggets. The next night, it was still icy, so I went to Five Guys. A busy week of swim lessons, birthday parties and babysitters led my family through a nutritional spanking machine of frozen pizza, mac-and-cheese and SpaghettiOs, and every day the bird got pushed farther back on the shelf, behind crumpled Capri Suns and half-eaten Happy Meals.
When I finally got around to the chicken again, it had thawed, but it had also been out of the freezer for a good 12 days. I googled “chicken storage.” The Rachael Ray-loving basement-dwellers who blog about poultry protocol all seem to agree that chicken should not be out of the freezer for more than a day or two.
Grasping at straws, I checked the sell-by date on the package, to see if maybe coddled fowl could linger longer than factory-farm graduates. Jesus! This bird cost $20! Knowing that, I would cook it anyway—possibly test it out on the children.
My husband vetoed.
Surrendering to my sin, I unsheathed the carcass from its clear-plastic body bag and held it over the kitchen sink. As rose-colored chicken juice dripped into the garbage disposal, I gazed at the pimply plucked skin that would have been so delectable broiled and basted in its own juices. Just then, the muscle-bound neck slid out of the body cavity and plonked onto the floor of the sink. I think I heard a rabbit squeal.
I dropped the pale, headless bird and its now-free-range neck into the trash and reached for a can of SpaghettiOs, which I prepared in shame.
I did not recycle the can.
For these and all the sins of my kitchen I am sorry.
Maybe I'm still smarting from last year's Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin' Contest, when my favorite entry finished second place behind a fruity concoction dubbed Mango Madness, but here's what we have to say about the newest flavor:
If the label didn't tell us otherwise, we'd swear it was peach ice cream.
We don't mean to look a gift horse in the mouth. And we certainly don't mean to offend peach ice cream—or the generous folks at Purity Dairies, who dropped off several cartons of new ice cream flavors for us to taste. After all, we love peach ice cream like we love hot cobbler, porch swings, fireflies and the other hallmarks of summer in Nashville. But we were hoping for something a little more exotic.
What we were really hoping for was a carton of Spiced-up Chocolate. The fiery blend of chocolate ice cream, cinnamon and cayenne swept the chocolate category at Miss Martha's last year but failed to take home the overall gold (which isn't gold so much as it is the honor of being made into a Purity specialty ice cream flavor). The panel of expert judges argued the chocolate-pepper combo might not appeal to a wide enough audience, so they went a little more conservative.
We have no doubt that people will like Mango Madness—at least people who like peach ice cream will. We just can't stop thinking about what might have been.
Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin' 2008 cranks up Sunday, Aug. 3, 4 to 6 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church. Spiced-up Chocolate, this could be your year!
You may remember an item from January about speculative plans for a food court near the burgeoning Rutledge Hill area. Peabody Corner, located at the intersection of Peabody Street and Fourth Avenue South, will house Apollo's Grill, Blue Nile Cafe, Hunt Brothers pizza, Quizno's and Sushi Q. The restaurants are slated to open between August and October, with some of them offering delivery service in the downtown area. (Click here to see pictures of the space, including its potty and urinals. Neat.)
When I was getting my tags renewed (belatedly), I was reminded of Macke's, the low-profile but lovely restaurant upstairs in Grace's Plaza, across from the county clerk's office. So my Stepford wife and I recently stopped in for lunch.
Macke's dining room, overlooking the august offices of Tennessee Bank & Trust, was dotted with several quiet pairs of ladies who looked like they nosh on crab cakes and lobster BLTs as a regular ritual—not a deviation from perusing meat-and-three, splat-Mex and pizza restaurants across the Midstate.
I ordered a Tuscan fish sandwich, which piled a fabulous piece of grilled tilapia with remoulade on too-tough slices of bread, which I could not bite through without smushing the fish out the sides. Once I abandoned the bread, the fish was a succulent and light lunch, plated with a bowl of jewel-colored melon and berries.
The Stepford wife (so-called because she and I live a block apart, work in the same office and drive matching minivans filled with equal numbers of children exactly the same ages) ordered the crabcake sandwich. Topped with lettuce, cold roasted red peppers and remoulade and served on a lighter roll than the impenetrable Tuscan loaf, it was a hearty sandwich with bursts of brightness. More remarkable were the thick steak fries, whose paper-thin fried skin gave way to soft, piping-hot potatoes that melted across the tongue.
While lunch and tip set us back about a steep $20 each, it was a luxury to dine in that noontime oasis, sipping mango iced tea from graceful (and bottomless) wine glasses, while the rest of the world went about its business—renewing tags on minivans and other such drudgery.
Located at 2131 Bandywood Dr., Macke's serves lunch daily (brunch on Sunday) and dinner Tuesday through Saturday.
If you are one of the legions of Athens Family Restaurant fans who read this week's dining guide and thought, “What the hell, Fox? That's ancient history!” you were right.
The Scene is undergoing a major website overhaul this week, after which we no longer will we have to inscribe the paper's online content into stone tablets. The good news is that news, event listings, blogs, archived stories and everything else will be a lot easier to access. The bad news, of course, is that overhauling a website is a pain in the ass, and Athens Family Restaurant caught the brunt of it when some out-of-date material surfaced and made it into print.
Our apologies to Adel Elostta and Dina Kazakos-Elostta for this week's antiquated dining guide listing, which failed to reflect the changes they have made to their authentic Greek eatery in the last three years.
For one thing, last year, the tireless couple introduced all-night service Wednesday through Saturday. Now you can get eggs, pancakes, toast, souvlaki, sandwiches and many Greek specialties into the wee hours. Recently, Athens added a 20-seat patio on the north side of the building, bringing a rare outdoor-dining option to the Franklin Road corridor. Now you can enjoy Athens' delicious Greek-style fish with lemon and olive oil, or the recently added lamb chops char-grilled with Greek seasoning, while gazing out at the Acropolis—I mean Eighth Avenue.
We hope there won't be many more mistakes during the conversion, but please let us know if you catch some. We're happy to set the record straight.
Located at 2526 Franklin Pike, Athens Family Restaurant is open 7 a.m. to 8 p.m Monday and Tuesday, all night Wednesday through Saturday, and until 2 p.m. Sunday.
Many thanks to Al at Country Bob's All-Purpose Sauce, who recently sent six bottles of Country Bob Edson's original recipe for us to sample. In the great scientific tradition of Bites, we gathered our team of hungry scribes around the renowned Nashville Scene Taste-Testing File Cabinet. Our goal was to test the alleged versatility of the sauce by pairing it with an array of meat products procured from Krystal.
We slathered the dark-brown elixir on a selection of burgers, Chiks and chicken-finger kebabs (which we did not know existed until today—good to know, as who isn't always looking for more meats on sticks?). The unanimous feedback was that Country Bob's functions a whole lot like A-1 steak sauce, which is also based on a blend of tomato, vinegar and corn syrup.
While A-1 has trace amounts of orange puree and raisin juice, Country Bob's contains tamarind and molasses, two key components in Worcestershire sauce. One ingredient featured prominently on Country Bob's label that is absent (at least to the naked eye) in A-1 is Jesus Christ. In a font often reserved for biblical scriptures emblazoned across sunsets on inspirational calendars, the Country Bob's label declares “Christ is our CEO,” underscored by the Christian fish symbol. (Worcestershire sauce, while not overtly Christian, does contain fish in the form of anchovies.)
In its own right, CBAPS was plenty versatile in that it was absorbed (and overshadowed) just as thoroughly by the bun of a Krystal Chik as it was by the bun of a plain Krystal burger. Furthermore, it provided an adequate dip for the chicken-finger kebabs.
We will have to wait for the Kraft marketing team to fling some product our way before we can offer specific comparisons between A-1 and Country Bob's. Without a simultaneous tasting, it is virtually impossible to tell whether one is sweeter, tangier, tarter or more divine.
To try Country Bob's for yourself, sign up for a free coupon. Then let us know what you think.
In this week's review of Rumba Satay Bar & Grill, I drool over the fresh roster of citrus-infused cocktails that accompanies chef Joseph Rozario's menu of equatorial delights. Not least of these crisp refreshing drinks is the Dark & Stormy.
Popping up lately on bar menus outside of its preppy northeastern stronghold, the retro cocktail is traditionally made with Gosling's Black Seal rum and ginger beer—a non-alcoholic cousin to ginger ale that tempers the heavy flavor of the dark rum. In fact, Gosling's holds the trademark on the name "Dark 'n Stormy."
Rumba's standard Dark & Stormy (note the ampersand in lieu of the 'n) is made with Myer's rum and ginger ale, which has a less root-bound flavor than ginger beer.
If you prefer the zing of ginger beer, ask to substitute house-made ginger-infused lemonade, advises Rumba bar manager Charles Fields. If you want to make your own at home, he suggests boiling 2 oz. of fresh ginger in a liter of lemonade. Cool and mix over ice with dark rum, mint and lime.
If you're not mixing with Gosling's and you're squeamish about intellectual property law infractions, call it an Obscure 'n Inclement. Then close your eyes, sip your non-trademark-infringing cocktail and dream of the open seas—or at least Rumba's patio on the sunny shores of West End Avenue.
Pie in the Sky Pizza is coming to midtown, with plans to renovate the former Longhorn Steakhouse at 110 Lyle Ave.
The store represents a return to Music Row for songwriter Kelly Black. As a former staff writer for Sony, Black used royalties from his songs recorded by Diamond Rio, Joe Diffie and Neal McCoy to open his first family-friendly pizza restaurant in 2001 at 1770 Galleria Blvd. in Cool Springs. He and wife Caroline now have a second store at 6917 Lenox Village Drive.
The Blacks plan to remodel the interior of the former roadhouse-style building and add a patio with garage doors. The third Pie in the Sky will have the signature menu of pizza, wings, sandwiches, pasta and salads and will possibly extend its hours and beer list to accommodate the midtown crowd. The new restaurant is projected to open this fall.
As of Monday, Bound'ry restaurant is open for business as usual. Last week, owner Jay Pennington closed the restaurant temporarily for repairs and cosmetic work. He added that, while there had been problems with the lease, he did not expect them to result in a permanent closure. The lease is still being negotiated.
Located at 911 20th Ave. S., the Bound'ry opens for dinner at 5 p.m. daily. Bar opens at 4 p.m.
In this week's review of Aquarium, the family-friendly edu-eater-tainment spectacle of sea life and seafood at Opry Mills, I mention a beautiful but disappointing entrée of fish tacos. Presented playfully like street food—in festive foil wraps—and garnished with grilled lime and julienned jicama, the tacos made a great first impression, but they sank in the taste department, drowning in a bready tidal wave of batter and thick double-layered tortillas.
While fish tacos have become increasingly popular in our landlocked city, surfacing on menus from Rosario's to Radius10, very few taco traders have found a successful balance of fish and filling.
In my book, Baja Burrito still reigns supreme, with its glorious combination of freshly fried fish, raw cabbage, citrus-tinged creamy sauce and lime slices in warm corn tortillas. In the last few months, La Hacienda has come on strong with the addition of fish tacos to the menu. Just this weekend, on our weekly family Hacienda outing, I realized that fish tacos have replaced beef tacos as my regular lunch order. (Two fish tacos, one tostada ceviche and a Diet Coke, por favor.) The triumph of the Hacienda version is the delicate homemade corn tortillas, which don't overwhelm the small chunks of sweet grilled fish. While there's no creamy sauce, the squeeze bottle of green sauce on the table provides plenty of brightness and moisture.
La Hacienda and Baja Burrito price their fish tacos similarly, with three tacos and chips for $6—and Baja Burrito throws in a drink. Compare that to a platter of fish tacos with rice and beans for $12 at Aquarium.
(Of course, Aquarium offers phenomenal entertainment, with sharks, rays and guitarfish circling in the 200,000-gallon tank at the center of the restaurant. Compare that to Univision at Hacienda and Baja's panoramic view of traffic on Thompson Lane.)
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