Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Martha's at the Plantation Hosts James Beard Dinner

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 5:20 AM

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On Sept. 4, the James Beard Foundation, the august keepers of culinary tradition, will arrive in Nashville for a six-course dinner prepared by some of the best chefs in the South. Chef Martha Stamps of Martha’s at the Plantation, along with Karla Ruiz and Garrett Wallace, will host the six-course dinner in the carriage house at Belle Meade Plantation.

Check your store-bought mayonnaise at the door, because this is a group that does things the old-fashioned way. Joe Shaw from The Standard will kick off the evening with passed hors d’oeuvres including open-faced BLTs with candied hog-jowl bacon and heirloom tomatoes. City House’s Tandy Wilson will chime in with house-cured salami and lima beans sott’ olio.

Donald Link of Herbsaint in New Orleans, named best chef in the South by the Beard folks last year, will prepare Louisiana shrimp brandade with thyme-roasted trumpet mushrooms, and Mike Lata of FIG (Food Is Good) in Charleston is kicking in an over-easy raviolo with Sea Island pullet egg, brown butter, Kabocha squash and chanterelles.

John Fleer, formerly of Blackberry Farm and now at Sunburst Trout Co. in Canton, N.C., will deliver black-eyed pea-dusted Sunburst trout with Benton’s Country Ham and field pea ragoût.

Hostess Martha & Co. are already prepping for the feast, putting up jars of peaches for the entrée of collard-wrapped lamb barbacoa with spiced peach compote. For dessert, the home team will serve a peanut-crusted sweet potato pudding pie with sky-high meringue and Jack Daniel’s.

The dinner, which marks the JBF’s first official trip to Nashville, will benefit an oral history project that seeks to preserve the lore and techniques of classic American cooking traditions. No doubt, this group of culinary luminaries could tell some stories of their own. (“Remember that time you spilled black-eyed pea dust all over that pullet egg you got in Sea Island? Man, that was messed up.”)

Dinner starts at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public. Admission is $150 for JBF members and $175 for non-members. Call 353-2828 for reservations.

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Stuffed Animals

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 5:12 AM

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Not since Czech author Bohumil Hrabal narrated a feast of layered

roasted animals (think zebra stuffed with deer stuffed with birds

stuffed with rabbits and so forth) in his novel I Served the King of

England—or at least not since the Turducken—have I come across a more

redundant layering of flesh on flesh than this specimen pictured above.

Sorry, Lesley.

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Slow Food, Fast Company: Chew This Over Carefully

Posted By on Wed, Aug 20, 2008 at 5:05 AM

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Slow Food Nashville is hosting a Farm-to-Table Dinner next Tuesday, Aug. 26, at Whole Foods' Discovery Kitchen in Cool Springs. What this means is, you have about a week to strike the phrase "Is it ready yet?" from your vocabulary. We sent a query to Robin Riddell, leader of Slow Food's Nashville Convivium—you may remember her giving Bobby Flay a palm-open paleta pimp-smacking last week on the Food Network—and received this response:

Join us for a fabulous evening of flavorful local food, family style in

our Discovery Kitchen. Local growers Cindy and Hank Delvin from Delvin Farms will be on hand to discuss how organic farming has shaped their lives and community and how it will affect our future. Charlie Hatcher from Hatcher Diary will talk about his cows, what they eat and why it makes a difference. We will also be featuring organic produce from Arugula’s Star Farm and regional grass feed beef from Will Harris. Organic wine will be supplied by Mallory Lane Wines and Spirits.

Riddell will not be there, alas, but she says Joy Ramirez from Joy of Cooking will serve as her Slow Food proxy. If you've never been to a Slow Food dinner before, here are a few etiquette tips:

• Don't drum your fingers on the table and say, "Hello? I got my AARP card before the salad."

• Enquiring about the chef's age, health and vigor is unseemly.

• It is considered impolite to check your watch between bites, or to greet each course with a loud sigh and "About time."

• "Tastes just like Sonic!" is not considered a compliment.

The meal is $45 and begins at 6 p.m. For reservations, email michael.r.martin (at) wholefoods.com or call 778-1910.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Red, Hot and Bothered: Italian Buffet Tonight

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2008 at 9:09 AM

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No local restaurant makes the connection between food and sex more cheekily than Red, the restaurant neighbor of Tribe Nashville on Church Street's bumpin' dance-club district. The menu practically does the seducing for you, starting with "Foreplay" (chicken "teasers") and a "Toss It Up" salad roster that's not averse to tossing yours. From there, the petting gets heavier and heavier, depending on your level of commitment: "Meat in the Middle" (a grilled pimento-cheese BLT), "Casual Encounters" (home-style meat loaf), or a "Main Squeeze" (chicken mushroom merlot served over garlic mashed potatoes). Your check ought to come with cigarettes and awkward goodbyes.

I'm not sure how you make a buffet sound seductive—any tips, Biters?—but Red is skipping the sweet nothings and whipping out the sausage and meatballs on Tuesday nights. For the restaurant's new weekly Italian buffet, chef Missy Simon offers staples such as lasagna, fettuccine, and chicken marsala, along with Red favorites such as vodka pasta with grilled chicken and a baked mac-and-cheese made with penne, bacon and chicken. The $12.95 buffet also includes salad and dessert. Anything extra is strictly between consenting adults.

Now in its sixth year, with a new restaurant manager and a popular Sunday brunch, Red is located at 1515 Church Street, serving dinner from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Tonight also features a reception for artist Ronald Baldwin at Tribe from 6 to 8 p.m. Call 329-2913 for more information.

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Curtain Going Up on The Underworld

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2008 at 5:10 AM

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Kazu “Kaz” Hishida is building his restaurant/bar universe from the underground up. On Saturday, he plans to launch The Underworld bar in the basement of the building at 2817 West End Ave. Later this fall, he will debut Globe Bar International on the building's main floor.

After four years at Kazu, an Asian fusion restaurant in Cummins Station started by his father Kazuhira Hishida, Kaz is flying solo in the Vanderbilt corridor. Since closing Kazu this year, his dad has joined the kitchen team at Fuse, the über-glam Vegas-style club at Gaylord Opryland Resort.

Located in the basement of the stately building that once housed The Hanger boutique, The Underworld will take its design cues from the playfully dark drawings of author Maurice Sendak’s Where the Wild Things Are, and will offer a light bar menu of sandwiches, paninis, pizzas and salads. (Hishida expects to have a beer license by the weekend, but The Underworld will not have a liquor permit by Saturday's soft opening.)

When it debuts in late September or October, Globe will offer an international menu with a more refined lounge atmosphere than the “glorified dive bar” downstairs, Hishida said.

Both The Underworld and Globe will serve lunch and dinner seven days a week and will be open to guests 21-and-older in the evenings.

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The Viking Invasion of India

Posted By on Tue, Aug 19, 2008 at 4:58 AM

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For my birthday one year, my wife surprised me with a cooking class at the Viking Cooking School, located at The Viking Store in Franklin. I know what you're thinking: why, what possible room could you have for improvement? (Especially since my prowess with grilling is so well documented.) But I humored her and went, and I had a ball. The class in question showed how to grill the perfect steak, from creating those nifty crosshatch patterns to not cutting into the meat to test its doneness. If I forgot much of what I learned, I retained enough that I now remove the plastic wrap before the meat is placed over coals.

Viking now offers a variety of classes for students age 16 and older, and the one that currently has my (stovetop) eye is "Indian Feast," to be held 6 to 9 p.m. next Thursday, Aug. 28. Using Viking's high-end kitchen gadgetry—think Goldfinger's lair with a stockpile of cilantro—students will prepare and devour a multi-course meal of vegetable samosas, raita (cucumber yogurt dip), basmati rice, dhal (split pea curry), and dakshini murgh (chicken with roasted coriander in coconut curry sauce). According to Viking's site, the slots for the class are almost filled, but a few are still available for $79.

Several courses are already sold out, but among the enticing classes still open are "Foods of Italy" (6 p.m. Aug. 19), "Date Night: Candlelight Dinner" (6 p.m. Aug. 29) and "Thai Dinner Party" (10 a.m. Aug. 30). The Viking Store is located in The Factory at Franklin, 230 Franklin Road, Building 13. Call 599-9617 for more information.

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Monday, August 18, 2008

Kicked in the Cup

Posted By on Mon, Aug 18, 2008 at 9:42 AM

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What I am about to say will most likely alienate about half the people—which, let's face it, is the full-time risk of any food critic. But after witnessing a shocking amount of expensive and beautiful dessert being thrown away this weekend, when people realized its beauty was only icing deep, I'd like to offer up one of our culinary sacred cows for Monday morning slaughter:

Cupcakes.

Blech.

Of course, nothing screams “Happy birthday, princess!” louder than an overpriced, over-iced batch of swirly jewel-toned confections. But the brutal truth is that all too often, the tiny cakes dry out, relying on the alluring plug of buttercream icing for a decadent finish. Simultaneously precise and lush, those flirty pink, brown and glittery clouds of icing seduce me to taste each one, until only a dozen rings of butter-stain remain on the bottom of the cardboard bakery box and I am left—bloated and slightly jumpy from the sugar—trying to lick a greasy, flavorless sheen from my teeth and wondering if this unrewarding cycle of binging and regretting is what it feels like to date someone who is extremely beautiful and stupid.

I have had my dalliance with tiny, shallow cakes, and now I'm ready for a dessert more substantial. I want a cake big enough to be a little gooey in the center or have different flavored layers. I want a return to cake served with a plate and spoon, so you can mush it up with ice cream into a cold and crumbly swirl. I want a cake big enough for my whole name to be written across the top.

(Then again, that might just mean I'm looking for a really, really big cup cake.)

What kind of cake do you want?

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Friday, August 15, 2008

Global Stir Fry Sunday, Aug. 17

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 9:23 AM

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EarthMatters Tennessee hosts its annual Global Stir Fry, so called because, in the words of director Sizwe Herring, “We're all coming together and frying in the summer heat.” Held at the George W. Carver Food Park, the Stir Fry includes music, dancing, greenhouse tours, poetry readings, children's activities, tours of the Deford Bailey rose garden and samples of food grown on the premises. (This time of year, expect lots of Brussels sprouts, okra and zucchini.)

In its 17th year of operation, EarthMatters works to provide healthy, fresh food for neighbors, volunteers and local food programs. The Carver park generates fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers, as well as 30,000 pounds of organic compost a year, which it distributes throughout the community.

The Stir Fry is a free, family-friendly event, but donations are welcome and will support the new Secret Life greenhouse, a nursery that will allow the park to expand its growing season and ultimately feed more people in the community.

Global Stir Fry takes place 3 to 8 p.m. Sunday at 1001 Gale Lane, between Leland and Granny White.

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Snack Tray: Ugly Mugs and a Death Rain Monsoon

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 6:00 AM

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Thanks to Rebekka at The Sugar Bar (where we stole this photo) for the heads-up that Ugly Mugs Coffee & Tea is finally open in the Walden building at 1888 Eastland Ave., across from the East Nashville Portland Brew. The official grand opening is tomorrow, Saturday, Aug. 16, and owners Jarod and Courtney Delozier promise giveaways, free samples of Sugar Bar goodies, and live music starting at 5 p.m. Hours are Monday-Saturday 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., Sunday 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.

• Uh-oh. Looks like Blair's Death Rain Chips nearly claimed another victim at East Nashville's Mitchell Deli, where Diana from Tempus Est Nunc had to save her husband from a bag of Satan's own buffalo-wing spuds. The problem wasn't the heat—her husband is allergic to the chicken fat in the chips—but leave it to Blair to incorporate new methods of attempted homicide in every bite. If you really want to cauterize your sphincter, try Cosmic Chile's recipe for Habanero Death Rain Burgers. Care to guess the secret ingredient?

• I am loving the Olympics, but I join the international chorus asking what happened to the national sport of Spain and Finland. I refer, of course, to vegan hunting.

• Ever stood by and fumed as an officious restaurant manager busted an employee's chops for some minute transgression? The Boredest Girl in Nashville has a sweet and remarkably satisfying little tale that I'll file away for future use. It beats the time in high school I spat in a pitcher of Coke and gave it to some idiot frat kids who were harassing the waitress at Sir Pizza.

• Speaking of Sir Pizza, a tip of the lance to Joltin' Django at another favorite blog, A Man's Gotta Eat, for his fine appreciation of one of Middle Tennessee's most underrated pies. Square slices, square cubes of pepperoni, squarest damn jukebox I've ever seen in my life—but I love that toothsome crust with the crunchy edges and the bits of burned flour on the bottom. And I can't get enough of those juicy little chunks of pepperoni, which have spoiled me for the crimson poker chips that dot most pizzas. (Bonus points at the Bell Road location for that sweet-ass commando video game that dates back roughly to perestroika.) My oath of fealty is to you, Sir Pizza!

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Harold and Kumar and Fried Okra

Posted By on Fri, Aug 15, 2008 at 5:00 AM

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A few weeks ago, we had an office discussion about places to consistently get good fried okra. It's such a simple food—cut okra, bread it, fry it—but surprisingly hard to make just right. Southerners expect it to be as good as their grandmother's (or, bless her heart, even better). While a great meat-and-three is your best bet for finding the wonderful and lightly cornmeal-breaded okra with bits of almost-burned pod pieces poking out, many only offer it on specific days or even just randomly. So what about chains?

Continue reading »

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