Tuesday, March 31, 2009

In Dyer Need Closing

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 1:48 PM

In Dyer Need, the friendly cafe in the ground floor of the Roundabout Plaza, is closing its doors on Friday. Owner Racquel Dyer will continue to operate her catering business from 1700 Church St. (phone: 419-6160).

The space, which was originally occupied by Provence Breads & Cafe, is currently available for sublease.

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Pursuing An Elusive Mango, Finding A Worthy Substitute

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 11:00 AM

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We went in search of Alphonse mangoes this weekend, the legendary mango of India. You can always buy the canned pulp at Indian groceries, and it is intoxicatingly sweet and perfumey in smoothies and ice cream.

The last few years, Apna Bazaar on Nolensville Road has received shipments of Alphonse mangoes. At $40 per case, they better be good. We made the trip and asked the proprietor, who explained that he wouldn't be getting Alphonse mangoes this year. The air freight is about $13 per case, and there's a further markup for irradiation and steam sterilization required by the USDA. That steam treatment put little tiny black spots under the skins of the fruit, so people didn't want them, especially at $40 case. Apparently it's different in Canada.

Whole Foods has Champagne Mangoes, which also get a lot of chatter among mango lovers. We bought a couple to test against Mexican-grown mangoes with an ordinary and forgettable varietal name. Let's call them "

Champagne versus Herman. The Champagne mango is homely and yellow. Herman is plump and red. Champagne mango is silky in texture, with no fibers. Herman mangoes have firm flesh with fibers that will necessitate eventual flossing. Champagne mangoes have a concentrated, complex perfume. Herman mango -- watery.

The Champagne mango really is better, and at two for $1 at Whole Foods, they're about the same price as Herman mangoes found any number of places.

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Culinary Dispatch from Asheville: Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 6:41 AM

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As part of the recent Fox family tour of Asheville, we stopped at Asheville Pizza and Brewing Company. In addition to homemade pizza and beer, the restaurant, which has two stores, offers movies. On the night we were dining, Milk was screening in the large indoor/outdoor room pictured above, so we kept our G-rated audience in the beery, wood-paneled main dining room.

We were tempted by the punny list of movie-themed items, including Luca Brasi's lasagna, Homer's Garlic D'oh Knots, the Paul Reuben, Men in Black Beans & Rice and the Royale with Cheese, but we went straight for the pepperoni 'za. Since my friend Yvonne Smith, the Traveling Vegetarian, introduced me to Asheville Pizza and Brewing via her vlog in the first place, I'll rely on her very thorough accounting of the omnivorous but very veggie-friendly restaurant.

Meanwhile, Yvonne recently made her way down under for a veggie's eye view of Australia. She always goes to the best places.

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Skip Lunch: Put Your Money Where Your Mouth is Not on April 7

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 6:10 AM

On April 7, Second Harvest Food Bank invites you to leave your brown bag at home, cancel your lunch date and count the money you save by skipping the midday the meal. Then, while you're griping about the nuisance of being a little peckish, take that cash and give it to Skip Lunch Feed a Bunch. The Second Harvest fundraiser will get your money to people who are far too familiar with the feeling of being hungry.

Let's say you cut out your regular Chicago dog and fries, the fiver you save will purchase 25 pounds of food and provide 20 meals to hungry children, seniors and families. Skip your $10 kabob platter, and you're feeding 50. A $15 scallop salad will provide food for 75.

Second Harvest will provide a desk clock to remind you when not to eat and a sticker to wear as a badge of honor as you fast. For more information and a fasting kit, call Jenny Vazquez at Second Harvest at 627-1571 or email jenny.vazquez (at) secondharvestmidtn (dot) org.

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A Contest for Fun Guys, Like Us

Posted By on Tue, Mar 31, 2009 at 6:04 AM

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OK, maybe you weren't up for creating your own doughnut recipe, but what about mushrooms? The Mushroom Council will award $1,000 to the person who submits the best recipe in each of the following categories:

  • Happily Veggie After: Using mushrooms as a substitute for meat (e.g. Portabella burger)
  • Mushroom Main Event: Using mushrooms as an important part of a main dish or dinner recipe (e.g. Cranberry-Mushroom Beef Brisket)
  • Inspiring Appetizers: Using different types of mushroom varieties (e.g. Bacon-and-Shiitake Stuffed Mushrooms)
  • Fun Fungi: Using mushrooms in an unusual way (e.g. Mushroom Ice Cream)
  • Bites team, we've been training for this last category all year. How about Mushmallows? Mushed Potatoes? 'Roommates? The grand prize winner gets an additional $1,000. This is our chance to monetize the madness. Let's get to work.

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    Monday, March 30, 2009

    Fingernails on the Chalkboard: Call for Annoying Food Words

    Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 1:14 PM

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    Finding the right words to convey sublime deliciosity is the constant challenge of food writing. There are only so many words. It's tempting to fall back on "yummy."

    But that would be lazy, so onward and upward in the quest for better food words. It can lead to dangerous places. Like "unctuous" and "gooey" territory, and the stomach-churning "-gasm," construction, like "choco-gasm_" or "mouth-gasm," that are as likely to send people rushing for the stalls as they are to send them rushing for a reservation.

    We all have our own gag-meters. Mine is "tongue tingling." It isn't just the fatuous alliteration or the double-barreled stupidity. It's the plain inaccuracy. Besides pop rocks and soft drinks, I can't think of a substance that causes tingling on the tongue that doesn't also require medical attention.

    There, I feel better. But what about you: what food-related word is your tipping point?

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    Brewhouse 100 Opens in Bellevue

    Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 12:28 PM

    The masterminds behind Broadway Brewhouse have launched a fourth Brewhouse nameplate in the Shops on the Harpeth. Housed in the new building to the left of the bygone One Hundred West restaurant, Brewhouse 100 serves the same Mojo Grill repertoire of spicy Cajun cuisine as the Charlotte Pike, midtown and downtown Brewhouses, with 31 beers on tap and numerous brews available in the bottle.

    Located at 8098 Highway 100, Brewhouse 100 is open 11 to 3 a.m daily.

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    First Timers: Pied Piper Eatery

    Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 10:17 AM

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    We've been trying to expand our brunch repertoire of late, first checking out Sky Blue in Edgefield and then, this weekend, trekking over to Riverside Drive for a meal at Pied Piper Eatery.

    For the second time in a month, we walked into a place we'd never been and found it packed (though our waiter did comment that this was one of the busiest days he'd seen). With no two-tops, we took over a large table and surveyed the pun-happy menu. I was craving breakfast, so I ordered the breakfast with two eggs, toast, sausage or bacon and grits or home fries, all for under five bucks) and couldn't resist adding on one pancake a la carte ($1.50)--someone was eating them near the door when we walked in, and I couldn't shake the sensual smell of syrup. My man went with one of his favorite things: a buffalo chicken sandwich. This one was done with exquisitely crisp chicken fingers and homemade blue cheese. It was crazy good. Next time I think I'll hit up the lunch menu as it offered a much broader range of delights--and gets extra points for a turkey reuben named after David Hasselhof.

    Overall, we had a good experience. The room still feels a bit haphazard--it would be awesome if they could get some cozy booths in there someday--but the service was efficient and friendly. There were also lots of kids up in that piece (if you're into that kind of thing) so it might not be the best choice for those prone to hangovers and throbbing heads.

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    Urban Farming, Chapter 1: The Site Evaluation

    Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 6:40 AM

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    Welcome to what is intended to be the first installment of a feature chronicling the transformation of my small urban property into a farm-let. Our story begins in my practically non-existent backyard, where precious little sun pierces the canopy of my neighbors' trees, where the soil can best be described as construction fill, and where I am determined to grow food.

    After last year's failed attempt to nurture corn on my shady quarter-acre, I decided to call in professionals. Enter Marcus Kerske and Peter Anderson of Gardens of Babylon and the Personal Farmer.

    Peter and Marcus (pictured above) approached the project as if transforming a postage stamp of property into a haven of agricultural activity were the most natural thing in the world. Armed with a compass and an uncanny grasp of the sun's patterns, they paced the yard front and back and asked what I wanted out of a garden. In the process, Peter, who just moved here from Colorado, caught a snake.

    Primarily, I want to teach my kids that vegetables come from the earth. I'd like to grow food to cook and share with our neighbors and possibly even save a little money along the way, at least in the longer term. Off the top of their heads, Peter and Marcus suggested we start with a "pizza garden," with onions, garlic, chives and scallions and a patch of salad greens. We also considered a sunny patch of blueberry bushes and herbs. We're going to replace hanging petunias with hanging tomato plants and possibly trade a spirea for a blueberry bush. In a useless strip of grass that runs under a bay window, we're considering a tiny hoop house, where I could grow greens in the winter.

    The most intriguing part of the plan is the proposed cornfield in the planting strip between the sidewalk and the street, which is the sunniest real estate we've got. I don't know how my neighbors are going to like that, much less my husband. One friend has advised me that "corn is for the back 80." Unfortunately, my back 80 is in the middle of 440.

    Continue reading »

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    At the Table: A Dining Oasis in a Food Desert

    Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2009 at 6:39 AM

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    When I joined Cassi Johnson of the Food Security Partners of Middle Tennessee and Marne Duke of the Nashville Farmers' Market (both pictured above) to discuss efforts to improve access to local, healthy food, you would never have known we were dining in the heart of one of Nashville's most egregious food deserts.

    In our booth at At the Table restaurant, Cassi, Marne and I tucked into heaping servings of decadent home-cooked veggies, including mashed sweet potatoes, green beans and cabbage, as well as plump hot-water corn cakes. Robert Hudson's meat-and-three, which opened last year, seems to get better and better, and the lunch crowd is catching on. The clean, sunny room, adorned sparely with a steam table and a handful of booths and tables, was buzzing with a diverse crowd of folks who know how to find good Southern cooking.

    But just outside the big plate-glass windows, the gritty strip of 12th Avenue between Wedgewood and The Gulch is a notoriously barren strip--nutritionally speaking--where it's easier to find a pack of cigarettes and a forty than a head of broccoli and an apple.

    That's one of the problems the Food Security Partners are working to solve with a grant from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. As Johnson and the other members of the organization embark on the ReStoring Nashville campaign, one of the first steps is to raise awareness of so-called food deserts and to elevate the issue to a matter of social justice.

    If you've never thought about it before, consider this: If you're standing at the corner of Edgehill and 12th and you have no access to a car, where would you find ingredients for a healthy dinner? Harris Teeter on 21st Avenue? Kroger in Melrose? Either one is a long way away, and what if you have kids in tow? That's the dire situation for a lot of people in the neighborhood, where it's hard to make healthy choices when you can't get to them.

    Over the next few months, Food Security Partners will roll out some initiatives related to ReStoring Nashville--which also focuses on neighborhoods in East and North Nashville--and we'll keep you posted. In the meantime, if you've got any ideas for improving access to nutritional food across Nashville, please share them here.

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