Just for fun, how much would you guess you could possibly spend on lunch for two people at the Nashville Farmers' Market? Say, for example, you were thrust into some type of Supermarket Sweep competition in which the contestant who spends the most money wins--where would you go to splurge?
I'd go to Jamaicaway, where Fluffernutter and I recently dropped a cool $46 on lunch. It's not like we went overboard. Our only arguable excess was ordering three juices, because we couldn't pick two from the fascinating array of homemade fruit and nut blends. Other than that, we ordered what we thought were two pretty basic meat-and-two platters from the buffet line.
"You know that's $14, right?" asked owner Ouida Bradshaw when I ordered the red snapper escoveitch. The menu board listed $12, and when I asked about the discrepancy, she explained it was because the snapper was really big today.
Whoa, and was it ever. A sauteed fish the size of a football arrived, head on and plump with sweet flaky white meat. With a side of buttery sweet potatoes and thick tangy greens, the meal would have been considered a bargain in a tablecloth-style eatery.
When Fluffenutter pulled up to the register with her plate of ackee and salt fish--a briny hash of fish and custardy fruit that scrambles to the texture of eggs--Bradshaw rolled her eyes: You know this is $12, right? And the juices? They're expensive?"
Fluffernutter hung her head slightly, as if to acknowledge the wanton excess on a mundane Wednesday. "Yep."
"And the dessert? You ladies pick the most expensive stuff." (You have no idea.)
So our meal clocked in around $40 and we tipped conservatively, since it was counter service. We could have stuck with goat curry or any of the less-expensive chicken dishes, but we couldn't resist the expensive edible exotica. Man, was our lunch worth it.
Especially the juices (pictured here). Admittedly, we left the majority of the cashew-peanut milk, because it was about as rich as a Jif milk shake. And the pineapple ginger juice was a little insipid for $3.50. But the Sorrel...oh. The vibrant purple-red infusion of hibiscus-type flower and ginger was absolutely invigorating, with an unabashed zest that makes my mouth water just thinking about it.
And the trifle--with layers of thick sponge cake, sliced fruits and a creamy custard--was like banana pudding upgraded for a king.
Sensing our curiosity about the many flavors, textures and ingredients on our colorful plates, Bradshaw--a former teacher--stopped by our booth to chat. She brought us a small handful of dried sorrel petals to explain how the juice was made, and she shared a few secrets of where she gets her ingredients. (Many--including the plantains and snapper--come from Atlanta.)
We took a to-go box with enough leftover snapper, rice and peas, sweet potatoes, plantains, greens and johnny cakes (think mildly sweet crullers) to feed a family supper.
Believe me when I say Fluff and I won't be shelling out 20-plus bucks for meat-and-three every day of the week, but for the rare indulgence and a chance to explore an unexpected palette of flavors, our journey down Jamaicaway was well worth the trip.