Saturday, August 30, 2008

Show 'Em What You Got

Posted by on Sat, Aug 30, 2008 at 5:00 AM

We've said it before: Bites has the funniest readers around. Here’s a creative exercise to keep your chops up, so to speak. Write a caption for this cake, featured at the uproarious site Cake Wrecks. Your humor will be admired by all, and perhaps we can find some crap to foist off on a worthy prize to award to the most creative entry.


When you’re done, swallow your coffee first, then go read the real caption to indulge in a gut-shaking laugh.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

T.G.I. Kalamata's

Posted by on Fri, Aug 29, 2008 at 9:05 AM


There's something about dining out on Friday that's absent on other nights. It's as if the collective exhale of TGIF propels people into their seats with a sympathetic understanding of “Me too. It was a hell of a week.”

At Kalamata's, the twee Mediterranean eatery in Green Hills, even owner Maher Fawaz seems more relaxed on Friday. That's when he brings in small live music ensembles—usually a classical guitar and some drums—and the restaurant turns into a bustling early-bird outtake from Vicky Cristina Barcelona, with diners leaning between tables to chat and wave at friends who are stopping in for takeout.

Of course, this isn't Spain—and Kalamata's is not a Spanish restaurant—so it's BYOB and dinner's over by 9 p.m. But the casual supper—with an eclectic crowd, seared tuna over Greek salad and some of the best baklava in town—is one of the cheeriest ways we've found to put the whole PC Load Letter work week behind us.

Tonight, Kalamata's hosts Roger and Kyle on classical guitar and drums. On Saturday, the dinner special is lamb filet, and the musical group is TBA. There is a $5 corking fee, which goes to a local charity. Kalamata's is located at 3764 Hillsboro Road.

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Snack Tray: French Fries And Hummus Had A Baby, and The World's Best Award-Winning (Fake) Restaurant

Posted by on Fri, Aug 29, 2008 at 7:35 AM


"Imagine the three-way love child of polenta, french fries and hummus and meditate on that for a moment…." Oh, I am, believe me, and not just because I haven't eaten breakfast or lunch. That bit of triple-X food porn (along with the accompanying photo) comes from cook eat FRET, where Claudia trawls through Lidia Bastianich's cookbook Lidia's Italy to find this recipe for panelle. Made with chickpea flour, the panelle is cooked, cooled on a sheet and cut, then pan-fried in olive oil to produce the puffy little triangles above. Thanks, CEF, for the tip that our local Whole Foods carries the necessary garbanzo flour.

• Ready for the latest menu updates from Milan's hottest restaurant of the moment, Osteria L'Intrepido? Too bad: the joint doesn't exist—although that didn't keep it from winning an Award of Excellence from Wine Spectator magazine. In a culinary scandal that has apparently just reached the tipping point, author Robin Goldstein submitted for consideration the bogus restaurant, a bogus menu, and a bogus wine list stocked with wines the magazine had earlier judged as sub-par, accompanied by a $250 entrance fee. Lo and behold, the fake food won a real award. The best account I've read is at The Epi-Log on, where Michael Y. Park weighs both Goldstein's ruse and the magazine's rebuttal. Most curious, though, is this question near the conclusion: "Should [Wine Spectator] only hand out awards to restaurants staff have personally visited, even though that involves an incredible number of practical issues?" Um, let's put it another way: Should a critic hand out an award to a place whose food he's never tasted? If so, Carrington, Little Miss Martha Stewart Living Radio Return Guest, your job just got a hell of a lot easier.

• How's it hanging over at the Frist Center Café? A little askew, if you ask Melissa at Strawberry Beret and Frank at Nashville Eats Its ABCs. Frank doesn't care for the Caribbean barbecue sauce on his grilled pork chop ("Nasty is what it is") but has high marks for the homemade potato chips (what I've always ordered, and liked). Melissa—well, for some reason after reading her post, I've got "Let's Call The Whole Thing Off" stuck in my head.

• At Fixin' Supper, another Nashville vegetarian falls off the wagon and lands in a skillet of ground beef. Her flesh-deprived taste buds must have mistaken it for bacon.

• Scott and Erin at Hungry Times Two leave today for England and Scotland. God knows why, but they plan to eat there. "Foodwise, we're very interested in searching out authentic pubs, fish 'n chip shops, and Indian food," they write. "Our itinerary is: London, Bath, maybe Canterbury, Ayr, Isle of Arran, Glasgow, Loch Lomond, and Edinburgh." Wish I knew someone close at hand with some knowledge of British food...say, someone who recently became a regular contributor to Bites....

• Speaking of whom, a laurel and hearty handshake to Jim Myers, a food writer with few peers, whose entry "Bravo Fluffernutter" was the 5,000th comment posted to Bites. He truly could not have done it without you. And neither could we.

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Zola: Brisket Ascendant With Virgo Rising

Posted by on Fri, Aug 29, 2008 at 5:00 AM


Fall’s a-brewin’ at Zola: Deb Paquette was recently ensconced on her home sofa, browsing cookbooks working up the autumn menu, just as Emile Zola is doing in this Manet portrait at the Musee d'Orsay. And she just slipped a braised dish in among the current offerings. “Chefs love autumn,” she says.

In Paquette’s meticulous hands (“lots of restaurateurs are Virgos; it’s that perfectionism”), brisket is braised for eight hours in Rioja wine with vegetables, ancho chiles and raisins, for a flavor profile she calls “sort of a middle Spain.” It’s served with a ravioli of Idiazabal (a smoked Basque cheese) and topped with corn romesco.

All together now: Mmmmmmmm.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Impulse Buy: Pringles Baked Wheat Stix

Posted by on Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 3:05 PM


Having managed to convert the sliced potato into a vaguely recognizable artificial facsimile, Pringles has now turned its sculptural capabilities to the wheat stalk. Into the Pringles matter transporter goes wheat flour, margarine, palm oil, sugar and other sundry ingredients. A pushed button later, the result is Pringles Baked Wheat Stix, sturdy little broomstraws that come 10 packets to a box for your lunching/snacking convenience.

Visually and texturally, Pringles Baked Wheat Stix are appealing. The slender breadsticks have a golden toasted color and subtle cross-hatch marks like the indentations on a pretzel. The taste, though, is a bit odd. We bought the Crunchy Wheat variety expecting the unadorned taste of grain. Instead, we got a strong up-front tang most Bites tasters compared to Cheese Nips.

This wouldn't have been so disconcerting if the cheese taste (or any other) had been advertised. A glance at the ingredients provided a list of potential suspects, including "2 percent or less of" garlic, celery, pepper, egg, dried potatoes, and concentrated chicken stock. Among those, the taste none of us could single out was wheat. Maybe it's so superconcentrated and steroidal that it's hard to recognize—like the bulked-up potato taste that permeates a Pringle.

Random comments from our tasters:

Steve (munching thoughtfully): "It tastes like a Ritz cracker pounded out flat, then rubbed with Rold Gold."

Lee: "I can't get past that canned-butter taste."

Tracy: "It tastes like Cheese Nips, only blander."

(Thanks to Rob Williams for the scan.)

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Urine Good Company...

Posted by on Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 5:04 AM


...when you pee at the Hermitage Hotel. The green-and-black Art Deco men's room just outside the Capitol Grille (featured above in a photo shoot for NFocus magazine) is the best restroom in America, according to a poll by restroom hygiene suppliers Cintas Corporation.

If you're looking for some good bathroom reading, click here for the full details.

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It's the Sign for 'Medium Rare'

Posted by on Thu, Aug 28, 2008 at 5:00 AM

Hey kids, were you disappointed on Memorial Day that the pork chops were chewy and the steak was dry? Here’s a tip for you to pass along to the Chief Grilling Person at your Labor Day gathering (after you’ve taught him how to program the TiVo).

For tender, moist steaks and chops, here’s what Handy Mom Catherine Mayhew recommends: Touch the tip of your thumb to the tip of your middle finger.


This action flexes the palm muscle next to your thumb. Now press that fleshy part of your palm. That's the texture that Chief Grilling Person wants to achieve for medium-rare beef and for pork that's medium–done but rosy, as Mayhew says. Let’s call it 150 degrees for beef, maybe 155 for pork. Safe but still succulent.

Got that, young people? Great! Now please go download the digital photos from Memorial Day so we can shoot the Labor Day festivities.


Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Dawn Of The Dog: Second Dog Outpost in Hillsboro Village

Posted by on Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 12:06 PM


The strip of Belcourt Avenue that connects 21st Avenue to the Dragon Park has beefed up its dining options. Just a few doors down from McDougal's Chicken Fingers & Wings and Savarino's Cucina, The Dog of Nashville has opened a second location. It's only been open less than two weeks, and yet already we ran (literally) into a Vanderbilt resident in scrubs picking up lunch to go.

Standard Dog chow includes Vienna beef wieners served a dozen different ways, from Chicago and chili dogs to specialties such as the Oye Vey (dog with cream cheese and a pickle spear) and the Fiery Redneck (essentially a bacon-wrapped chili dog). There's also a veggie-dog option, but if you can't handle even fake tubular meat, The Dog offers an Italian beef sammy on French bread.

The Dog of Nashville is located at 2127 Belcourt Avenue, 292-2204. Hours are Monday-Friday 10:30 a.m.-3 p.m., Saturday 11 a.m.-7 p.m. The Dog will also keep open its storefront location at 3302-A Nolensville Road.

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It's A City! It's A Food!

Posted by on Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 6:17 AM


It’s called: Yuba

Found at: Some Asian markets

The package says: Dried Bean Curd

The form it takes: Sticks and sheets

WTF: Dried tofu skin.

Tofu has skin? It does seem curious, doesn’t it.

That’s dry? Again with the questions.

WTF do you do with it? Soak both in water. Use sheets for rolling vegan sushi and other rolled foods. Sticks are sliced or chopped and cooked in a sauce, like chicken.


Where can you buy it? K&S World Market at 5871 Charlotte Pike.

What Nashville eatery serves it? Golden Coast weekend buffet, in a delicious sauce that makes it taste like chicken. 1722 West End Ave., Saturday and Sunday 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

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Everything I Really Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten Lunch

Posted by on Wed, Aug 27, 2008 at 5:00 AM


Before I began feeding toddlers, I would never have considered grapes a pernicious food. But as a parent, I would sooner pack cobras in my kids’ lunchboxes than send them off with unsliced grapes—which, I know from years of Reefer Madness-pitched propaganda, are the perfect size to plug up a small child's esophagus.

After many late evenings and early mornings of trying to bisect venal Concords and deadly red seedlesses into non-choking components of a school lunch, I finally renounced grapes in favor of less baneful foods. Goodbye, Perlettes and Niabells; hello Pepperidge Farm goldfish—which, any parent knows, are the central source of juvenile nutrition.

“Why can’t we have grapes for lunch, Mommy,” my brood often pleads.

“Because they can kill you,” I say, hearing my parental credibility wane with every syllable. It'll be hard to scare my children properly about cigarettes, drugs, or unprotected teenage sex if I'm already telling them the humble grape is really a bullet in Smuckers camouflage.

So picture my delight when I was dining with my kindergartner in the school cafeteria and looked over to see a child snacking on a bunch of purple grapes the size of Skittles. The next time I saw the child’s parent, I asked about the twee fruits. His response was helpful: He buys the so-called miniature currant grapes—a.k.a. champagne grapes, because they are used to garnish flutes of bubbly—at K&S World Market on Nolensville Road. You can also order them here.

That wasn't the only comforting thing about his response. When I asked, the forthright dad said he buys them because he is deathly afraid of standard trachea-sized grapes. Problem solved! When the time comes, I now know whom to call about the dangers of sex, drugs and Marlboros.

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