Friday, January 30, 2009

For Those About to Rock Some Blowfish Bollocks ...

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 11:44 AM


Three diners in Japan remain hospitalized after eating blowfish baubles, known as fugu, prepared by an unauthorized chef in Tsuruoka city, on the northwest coast of Japan about 85 miles northwest of Tokyo.

Seven men reportedly ordered sashimi and grilled blowfish 'nads at a chef-owned eatery Monday night. Though fugu is poisonous, it's safe if properly prepared by a trained, licensed handler. Fugu's hint-o-death raises its excitement profile, and the maritime knapsacks to the hereafter are sought out by culinary thrill-seekers.

Shortly after eating the fugu, the patrons developed paralysis in the limbs and difficulty breathing, possible signs that something was amiss.

They were beginning to lose consciousness when they were taken to the hospital, which treated them for tetrodotoxin poisoning. Three of them, a 55-year-old, 68-year-old and 69-year-old, remain hospitalized, one in critical condition.

The owner was unable to produce a license to handle toxic knackers.

Aaand I'm all done.

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The Chinese Dumpling Gang

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 11:19 AM


Having just returned from a Chinese New Year party in my child's Chinese classroom, I now know three things I didn't know before:

1. Today is Day 5 of the 15-day Chinese New Year celebration.

2. You are supposed to eat jiao zi (dumplings) at midnight as the New Year dawns, for good luck.

3. Jiao zi are the same thing as gyoza, having spread from China to Japan.

A mother in the classroom made jiao zi for the class. Her homemade dumplings filled with pork were splendid, with a soft but toothsome texture and crisp brown edges from pan-frying. I contributed a bag of fortune cookies from Publix, which the kindergartners, at least, found impressive.

As a devout black-eyed pea eater every Jan. 1, I was distraught to learn that I had skipped the critical jiao zi at the recent dawning of the Year of the Ox. This is not the year to take luck lightly. Fortunately, however, I remembered that on Tuesday the little Foxes and I knocked back a bag of excellent and deliciously affordable gyoza from the freezer section at Trader Joe's, so maybe we're covered?

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Girl Scout Cookie Quiz

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 7:45 AM


In order of popularity, guess which Girl Scout Cookies sell the most. The answers are after the jump.

But before we go there, let me ask: What kind of Girl Scout Cookie person are you? I'm Samoas all the way. I can see breaking from the gluttonous ring of coconut, caramel and chocolate every now and then to cleanse my palate or freshen my breath with a Thin Mint. Or possibly using a Tagalong or Do-Si-Do as a nutritional supplement in lieu of peanut butter and jelly.

But for the love of Juliette Gordon Lowe, who orders Trefoils? And these new Lemon Chalet Cremes? Seriously? Can anyone make a case for these?

Meanwhile, if you don't have your own Girl Scout Cookie connection, click here to locate one in your area.

And now for the results...

Continue reading »

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Short and Sweet: The Melrose Keeps Its Menu Simple

Posted By on Fri, Jan 30, 2009 at 6:17 AM


This week's dining review features the short and sweet menu at The Melrose, the low-brow pub project of Bar Twenty3 founder Austin Ray. Located on Franklin Pike across from the bygone Melrose Lanes bowling alley, The Melrose offers an everybody-knows-your-name ambiance--complete with pool tables, Super Shot basketball game and Ms. Pac-Man table.

Kudos to Ray for keeping it simple as far as the food goes. The chalkboard above the bar lists a succint roster, including chili, nachos, quesadillas and wings, which means you can save your decision-making energy for the array of 75 beers.

Here's the question: If you could build your own short menu of bar fare--desert island dive dishes, if you will--what would be your top choices for pub grub?

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Clearing Up Some Points about My Behavior at the Grace's Plaza Wine & Spirits Opening

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 3:23 PM


To begin with, I did NOT "crash" the Rob Bironas Fund/Grace's Wine Store grand opening event last night. I was invited. To go with my husband. Who just happened not to want to go. Also, people my age do not "crash" -- we simply attend unofficially.

Also, I CATEGORICALLY DID NOT "sneak" my friend Kriste into the party. I merely put a camera around her neck and stood next to her with a reporter notebook. There were other media there, too, with white hair and a name that sounds like "leather." They got all the attention, while we kept a lower profile and tried not to stick out too much.

Also, I did NOT "steal" the snacks. I just put aside a few of the

Macke's tidbits (okay, they were in my pocket) when it became apparent

that Kriste wouldn't arrive in time to get any. Hey, it was a big crowd.

Also, I did NOT get "drunk" on the sip-at-a-time wines. I simply "sampled" about a dozen of them. Okay, more than that. But it was less than 20, and it gave me a new list of "go-to" wines when I need to take a bottle somewhere. l enjoyed nearly everything I tried. Except for a couple. When I shut one eye, I could still read the names of them so I wouldn't accidentally try those again.

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ALDI Rage: East Nashville, Meet Trader Joe's Thrifty Cousin!

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 11:00 AM


East Nashville may be petitioning to get its own Trader Joe's, but on Feb. 9, at 615 Gallatin Rd., it gets the next best thing: ALDI.

That sound you just heard like a whale spouting was the 37205 zipcode spitting its Starbucks in unison. ALDI? The grocery too cheap to provide complimentary shopping carts or baggers? The grocery shopped by retirees and folks on fixed incomes? The grocery stocked full of obscure brand names you'll never see at Kroger? That ALDI?

Aye, that's the one. Our own Cleveland Pete, a man who can stretch a dollar until Washington's chin and forehead meet, hails it as "the peasant's grocery." It's a place where a fella can walk in with a $10 bill, buy a tub of crab clawmeat, a head of lettuce and several cans of veggies, and leave with change. As it turns out, ALDI, like Trader Joe's, is a subsidiary of German food conglomerate Albrecht Discounts.

Laugh all you want, Green Hills, but once you look past the superficial niceties (as Slashfood noted) the similarities between the two stores outweigh the differences. Sure, ALDI is functional where Trader Joe's is whimsical--in place of Trader Giotto vodka sauce, you're more likely to encounter Millville-brand cereal flakes. But the emphasis on exclusive, low-cost in-house brands is the same. The store limits its selection to some 1,400 household staples, using high-volume buying to keep the price low.

The similarities don't stop there. No-frills decor? Check. A store philosophy/personality defined by odd procedural quirks? Check. (At ALDI, shopping carts are famously provided for a quarter deposit, which you get back as you leave; bags cost a nickel extra, a quiet, unfussy bit of conservation.) If Trader Joe's has built a kind of cargo-cult narrative around itself, ALDI presents itself as the store for people too busy and cash-strapped to fool around--get in, get out, and nobody gets overcharged.

If none of this lights up the switchboards across the river, I imagine the specials will. Yesterday at the Nolensville Road ALDI outpost, I stumbled upon a huge dump bin where a woman was fishing out avocados. The price: 49 cents apiece--half what I paid at Kroger not long ago, and a sixth of what they were running the last time I was in Whole Foods. I got eight. They're hard as knots, but they can spend some time cozying up in a paper sack. Thanks to the peasant's grocer, I'll be eating like a king.

Guacamole, anyway.

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Put Another Frog on the Fire: Amphibian Consumption Jumps

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 9:25 AM


Perhaps as many as a billion wild frogs are caught each year, largely for consumption, according to an Australian-led study in the journal Conservation Biology.

Indonesia exports and consumes the largest amount of frogs--some 5,000 metric tons. France and the United States import the most frogs' legs.

"Amphibians are already the most threatened animal group...because of disease, habitat loss and climate change--man's massive appetite for their legs is not helping," researcher Corey Bradshaw of Adelaide University in Australia told an interviewer.

That 1 billion figure was arrived at by studying United Nations trade data, which Bradshaw admits still leaves a great deal of uncertainty about the figure.

Not included in the study were amphibians that are farmed for food.

Next time you see a school-age child turn up his nose at a perfectly acceptable meal, remind him that, according to Bradshaw, frog legs "are on the menu at school cafeterias in Europe ... and dinner tables across Asia." Makes fish sticks look better and better.

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You Don't Know Pho Until You Know Pho Yen Hoa

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 9:17 AM

This cold and dreary weather had me hankering for a big,

tasty bowl of Vietnamese pho. For those who don't know pho (pronounced "fuh",)

it's a clear beef broth, generally served in a big bowl with noodles, thinly sliced

beef, meatballs and onions, with garnishes of fresh basil, cilantro, bean

sprouts and a lime wedge.

I've always thought that Miss Saigon on Charlotte had the best pho in town, followed

closely by Kien Giang, which is located in the same strip mall.

When I cruised out to Miss Saigon with my pal Brantley

Hargrove, I was disappointed to find the place closed for lunch, and then

doubly disappointed to find Kien Giang similarly shuttered. (A sign on the door

of Kien Giang said they were remodeling and wouldn't be open till mid-February.)

I was experiencing that special kind of unhappiness that

comes from a food wish unfulfilled, when, as we pulled onto Charlotte, I

noticed a small restaurant called Pho Yen Hoa, located at

the bottom of the little hill that Miss Saigon and Kien Giang sit atop.

Brantley and I decided to give the place a shot and I'm very

glad we did. I think I've found my new favorite Vietnamese in Nashville.

Continue reading »

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Hey, Food Network! Do You Know Jack?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 6:22 AM

The man in the big hat is trying to lure the Food Network to Nashville. Jack Cawthon, the good guy in the black hat behind Jack's Bar-B-Que, says he has been going to the Apple store to learn to use iMovie, and he's gotten "good enough" to launch a few clips on YouTube. This winter he posted an 8-minute travelogue (complete with bloopers), of himself cruising Lower Broad, the Times Square of Music City. In the intro, Cawthon makes a hospitable shout-out to the Food Network, inviting them to Nashville.

"What you got cookin', Food Network? How 'bout cooking something up with me down here in Nashville, TN, on Lower Broad at Jack's Bar-B-Que," Cawthon drawls in the opening lines of the video.

A longtime downtown tourism booster who recently headed up the downtown holiday decoration contest, Cawthon says he just threw the video out there for the heck of it. Ideally, he says, Food Network will pick up the challenge and send someone to check out his 15-year-old landmark restaurant with neon pigs flying over Lower Broad--maybe Bobby Flay or "that real cool guy with the punked-out hair." So far he hasn't received an R.S.V.P.

"If they ever do come," Cawthon says, "I've got an ideal kitchen upstairs in my store that backs up to the Ryman. I've always envisioned if they come we could cook around the pit. It would make a real good scene."

In the current spirit of petitioning, if you want to second Jack's invitation to the Food Network, chime in below. Better yet, if you have a direct line to Bob Tuschman, senior vice president of programming at the Food Network--where employee email addresses follow the formula of first initial plus last name at foodnetwork dot com--you might put a bug in his ear.

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Cuckoo for Cocoa Tree

Posted By on Thu, Jan 29, 2009 at 5:40 AM


Scene intern Angela Suico contributed this post.

Dried raspberries, orange zest, grated coconut and chili flakes adorn the dainty confections in the cases of chocolatier Bethany Thouin's Cocoa Tree, a tiny Germantown shop that is just as pretty as its inventory of chocolate truffles, cakes and pies. Appointed in a stylish combo of blue and brown tones, with a couch and a cozy shag carpet, Cocoa Tree reflects the fusion of business and residential life that makes Germantown such an inviting and up-and-coming district.

The hot chocolate was wonderfully thick and the chocolate peanut butter pie was sweet and filling. But we wouldn't expect anything less of Thouin. The author of Chocolate Covered Friendship, Thouin has earned acclaim for her truffles across national media, appeared on the Food Network Chocolate Landmarks Challenge and once showcased a chocolate dress in the New York City Chocolate Show.

Located at 1200 Fifth Ave. N., Suite 104 (phone: 255-5060), Cocoa Tree is open 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.

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