Fans of Jason McConnell's two restaurants in downtown Franklin, Red Pony and Sol, rave about his fresh guacamole. Just in time for holiday parties, McConnell has launched a product he claims will give home cooks similar results.
Jason's Guac Starter come in jars and contains tomatillo, lime juice, serrano peppers and spices. The idea is that all the customer has to do is mash two ripe avocados, combine a half-cup of the starter, and holy guacamole, there's a bowl of fresh, festive dip for holiday guests.
I love me some Mexican food, but I never thought I could eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Turns out that on a recent weekend, I did. Three old favorites -- Lime, Local Taco and La Paz (in its new Elliston location) -- had new offerings I wanted to check out, and apparently I have very little willpower when it comes to spicy foods.
First off was a Friday lunch at Lime. They have just recently started to serve a midday meal and have totally revamped their menu in the past month. Our meal started with a delightful amuse bouche of cut melons served in a margarita broth topped with spicy red salt. For an appetizer we ordered their "Rock Guac" and Chips, a chunky guacamole served with rock shrimp. In deference to a shellfish allergy at our table (poor bastard), we had the shrimp on the side. After tasting the zesty dip, one of my lunchmates leaned back in his chair, sighed contentedly and commented, "Cantina Laredo is dead to me!"
This year's crop of plums from our tree was smallish -- just about 15 plums. A quick flip through Martha Stewart turned up Plum Brandy! It was a strange technique, with those extra steps that always seem to be in her recipes. Instead of simple syrup and plums, there was a proper 234-degree sugar candy syrup poured into the jar, where it immediately turned into hard candy at the bottom of the jar. The brandy was poured over it, then topped with plums.
It lingered at the back of the fridge all summer, all autumn. Like Tom Petty said: The waiting is the hardest part. At last, it was ready to drink a couple of weeks ago.
Drumroll please. Meh. It tastes like cough medicine. So I called Stephanie M., the erstwhile bartender at Mirror, a master mixologist and concocter of concoctions. She took on the task and concocted three suggestions.
The Wino will not be wandering far from his couch today, but if you're feeling more ambitious there will be a few opportunities to get into the holiday spirits next week.
Amerigo-Cool Springs will be hosting a tasting next Tuesday, Dec. 1, to introduce some of the completely affordable new additions to their wine list. They will be tasting four new wines, along with your choice of one small plate for just $13.50 per person. The wines they will be pouring are:
Open Thread comments usually stick close to our favorite topics: restaurants. But in honor of Thanksgiving, the least commercial of American holidays (well, besides Columbus Day and Arbor Day), we'll take on home cooking, in-laws and travel arrangements.
I'll start. This was the first Thanksgiving ever that I was assigned a dish. And it was deviled eggs. I have a near-Hitchcockian loathing for boiled eggs. Loathsome, stinky, slippery, rubbery. We boiled 18 of them and the house smelled like the diaper pail. The whole effort was saved by a recipe from Being Dead is No Excuse: mix the yolks with homemade mayo, anchovy paste, minced onion, freshly ground mustard seed and dill mustard, plus capers for the top.
Thank you. That's all for me.
You probably have a Thanksgiving story, maybe better than boiled eggs. Certainly better than the reader who called last night with a desperate request for ideas on where to eat local on Thanksgiving.
What's your Thanksgiving story?
Mother Nature Network (mnn.com) is just the latest organization to note the accomplishments of Jeremy Barlow and his tayst restaurant. Barlow made its "40 chefs under 40," in company with other "rising young culinary stars" forging links between farm and fork, the health of the planet and its people.
You can read the entries here. Three other chefs with Tennessee connections made the list: Sean Brock, now at McCrady's Restaurant in Charleston, Adam Cooke of the Barn at Blackberry Farm, and Marisa Baggett of Tsunami in Memphis.
With all due respect to a certain Bitester who starts her macaroni-and-cheese recipe by whipping up an easy béchamel sauce, I must point you to a post at sardonic blog The Awl titled Fundamentalist Macaroni and Cheese.
The title refers not to the kind of cheesy pasta that fundamentalists eat, but to the only righteous recipe for mac-and-cheese, with all others being an abomination.
No pressure, but Thanksgiving is one of the biggest wine-drinking holidays of the year. And with the astounding amount of flavors from the array of side dishes and desserts on the typical holiday table, pairing wines to your meal can be difficult. Add to that the fact that turkey doesn't really have that much intrinsic flavor to hang your hat on and you could find yourself in a (cranberry) jam.
Traditionally, spicy Zinfandels and fruity Syrahs are the recommended reds to accompany your cornucopia, and bolder whites like Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Viognier are the go-to choices if you want to avoid the need for Crest Whitening Strips. But what if you want to go a little deeper in the cellar for some more interesting varietals? Never fear, intrepid Bitesters. Wine merchants also appreciate your predicament, and several have offered helpful suggestions for you.
This week's dining review features Flyte World Dining & Wine, which, like a fine wine, appears to be improving with age.
Of all the flights of fancy on my recent visit, one soared above the rest: Hot Smoked Cocoa. Pastry chef Erica Waksmunski smokes the cocoa powder, which infuses the thick warm drink with the woodsy smell of a campfire among the pines. Served with a bruleed fluff of housemade marshmallow and housemade Graham crackers, the s'mores-inspired dessert is my idea of roughing it.
Meanwhile, homemade marshmallows are popping up everywhere, from the pink marshmallow on the beet salad at Flyte to the sweet potato ice cream dessert at Five Senses. (By the way, that Murfreesboro restaurant is the subject of the upcoming dining review.) Where else have you found homemade marshmallows worth talking about?
Spooning up a helping of homemade paella, the waft of saffron hit my nose and I made an involuntary "yuck" face.
The inescapable conclusion is that saffron, the pricey golden stamens of the crocus, is something I could do without. The warm golden color is beautiful, but the metallic/medicinal flavor taints everything it touches.
There's not a widespread popular movement for a saffron avoidance lifestyle, but at least a few other people agree. One says it tastes like Bactine (I never actually tasted Bactine, but can agree in principle) and gasoline in a monkey's butt. Can't really say that way either, but it can't be good.
Maybe everyone hates something -- a friend and I were cooking a pot of Moroccan stew and she asked to omit the cardamom. "I think I must be the only person in the world who doesn't like it, but it really makes me feel ill," she said, apologetically.
Cardamom, saffron, cilantro, tarragon -- what's the herb or spice that's a culinary dealbreaker for you?
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