Thursday, November 19, 2009

Mirror Plans to Hang It Up by Next Year

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 8:14 PM

click to enlarge Michael and Colleen DeGregory
  • Michael and Colleen DeGregory

Mirror, one of the pioneering restaurants of the boom in the 12South neighborhood, is up for sale, says Rick Bolsom, who owns the restaurant with Michael and Colleen DeGregory. The restaurant's lease is up next year, and the three hope to sell the business by sometime in 2010.

The DeGregory family is planning to move back to South Florida, where Colleen grew up. "Mike and Colleen are at the time of life that they want to get back home," Bolsom says. "They miss the ocean."

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Holiday Bread Sampling at Provence Hillsboro Village

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 10:15 AM

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Provence will be sampling holiday breads on Saturday. Drift in for lunch and try chocolate cranberry bread, sweet potato pecan bread and oatmeal apple cider bread, along with pear cranberry tarts and pumpkin tarts. Order your pastries for pickup on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday and get a free bag of bread you can use to make an uncommon stuffing (that's dressing to you Nashvillians). Saturday, 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Provence Breads & Cafe, Hillsboro Village, 21st Avenue South.

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No Coke, Pepsi!

Posted By on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 at 5:49 AM

I usually order Diet Coke when I'm out for lunch. Possibly my generation is influenced by the John Belushi sketch on Saturday Night Live, but personal experience confirms that places owned by Middle Eastern people seem to offer Pepsi more frequently. Or anyway it happened when Chris and I went to Fat Mo's for a burger.

I'd be interested in how other people receive the news that Pepsi is your option. Do your shoulders drop in disappointment? Do you switch to Sprite? I feel a slight thrill, actually, because I prefer Pepsi. True, it lacks the strong vanilla waft of Coke that goes so well with Jack Daniel's fine Tennessee-made bourbon. But it's lunchtime, and the slight bitterness from the cola nut has more personality, the slightly less sweet flavor profile and the carbonation level go better with food.

Now if Snapple or Jones sodas were available, this discussion would be moot.

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Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Wine Wednesday: Waaaaaay Down South

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 1:22 PM

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No, that's not the YMCA flag. It's from South Africa, and so are some really interesting wines that I had the opportunity to taste last week. The Mad Platter Restaurant created a fascinating menu of South African specialties to accompany the wines from Robertson Winery. Chef Shane Autrey showed a playful facility working with ostrich, beef, lamb and oxtail and also deconstructed a traditional Chakala sauce into a wonderful salad of pickled vegetables and pancetta.

But we were there for the wines. South Africa's wine regions tend to have a Mediterranean climate with occasional temperature spikes over a hundred degrees. The terroir is rocky with many vineyards actually planted in granite at high altitude. It's hard out there for a grape.

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Deep-Fried Amish Turkey Just Not Like Mom Used to Make

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 9:07 AM

The Thanksgiving yum factor would be much higher if it were treated more like a gourmet meal rather than a symbolic dinner. Martha Stamps' catering is one of many area caterers and restaurants offering innovations on the tradition, but the difference is that Stamps' menu offers items you'd never typically find outside a home kitchen, including cheese straws, butternut squash biscuits and an inspired alternative to cranberry sauce: spiced pear chutney. Add these to a deep-fried turkey and her broccoli-and-cauliflower gratin and you've got a recognizable but different feast.

For more info call, 615-353-2828 or email

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The Food Network Should Just Move Their Headquarters Here

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 8:23 AM

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Following in the footsteps of Alton Brown, The Neelys and the Deen Boys, The Queen Deen is on her way to Nashville to help kick off the holidays. That's right, Ms. Paula will be joining Montgomery Gentry, Louise Mandrell, Jeannie and Craig Schulz (wife and son of the late, legendary Peanuts cartoonist Charles Schulz),The Radio City Rockettes and the TSU Marching Band to flip the switch at the Gaylord Opryland Resort to illuminate their 2 million-plus holiday lights.

Now I know that lineup sounds like it was put together by the same people who developed the Jack in the Box menu, but it's not as incongruous as it first appears. Louise Mandrell will be the host of Gaylord's "Joy to the World" Christmas dinner and show and the Schulzes will be there to kick off the opening of the Peanuts "Ice" exhibit at the resort. TSU's band and The Rockettes are always worth traveling to see, and Montgomery Gentry...well, maybe they're just there to eat whatever Paula cooks.

If you're an avid celebrity-watcher and have properly steeled yourself for the onrushing holidays, point your car in the direction of Gaylord on Thursday, Nov. 19 in time to get there by 5:30. On second thought, maybe you'd better just leave your car in the driveway. That may be as close as you can park.

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Kidding Around with Julia Child, 1992 and 2004

Posted By on Wed, Nov 18, 2009 at 7:24 AM

Commenter Mimi was asking about a couple of encounters I had with Julia Child back in the day, so I went in search of an interview I did with her for the old Nashville Banner newspaper. It was a fun interview, if not brilliant, and a fun-to-write article.

I called the legendary television chef on her 80th birthday and asked her some rookie questions about food and cooking, what it's like to be a legend, and nutrition. She was extremely chatty, and over the course of a wonderful conversation, we discovered that we both habitually burned toast, that she felt optimistic about the comeback of home cooking (she was right), and she was not a fan of food fads.

Four or five years later, she was a guest at a professional food writers conference I attended at the Greenbrier resort. She was a great companion, though by then very old, with limited mobility. Still, she stayed up late with all of us, and after an epic night drinking free champagne and wine, she and cookbook author Ann Willan fixed breakfast the next day for the 35 writers. And she burned the toast.

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I finally found a hard copy of the original interview in my files, and by "files" I mean plastic tubs in the cricket cavern basement. The original interview is not online.

Time for a tiny innernetz rant: The story ran in the Banner in 1992, and online aggregators don't usually offer content from before 1995. Through a flukey series of coincidences, tragedies and bad luck, no print or microfilm copies reside in the newspaper archives at the public library. Part of the reason I post it here is to make sure it exists somewhere.

To be bluntly honest, you've read shorter, tighter stories. It helps to recall that in 1992, food sections were vast oceans of space, and long stories were encouraged. All that said, here it is in PDF form.

For a slightly better crafted piece, you can read the remembrance of her I wrote for this paper in 2004.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Can You Identify Why Fiesta Mexicana Gets Extra Credit in This Picture?

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 1:36 PM

From a beautiful Saturday afternoon on their deck on Fourth Avenue South overlooking downtown:

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1. Small, individual ramekins of salsa. In this age of Hamthrax and other communicable diseases, cleanliness is next to healthiness. Plus you're free to double dip.

2. When you order a pitcher of margaritas, they deliver it full along with two already filled glasses. Bonus `Rita!

However, Fiesta Mexicana loses points for:

1. Not bringing extra plates along with the queso. Combine sloppy salsa/queso and an outdoor wrought iron table with no tablecloth and you're pretty much assured of a messy lap.

2. Including a picture of the "Casa Mixed Vegetable Plate" on their menu that shows a dish covered with shrimp.

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Luckily, we grade on a curve here at Bites and it was a damned fine way to soak up the last rays of the season.

Fiesta Mexicana

416 Fourth Ave. S.

Nashville, TN 37201

(615) 259-0110

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Fried Pies Thrive In the Little Yellow Drive-Thru

Posted By on Tue, Nov 17, 2009 at 6:54 AM

click to enlarge A portion of the posted menu at Mayo's and Mahalia Jackson's on Jefferson Street
  • A portion of the posted menu at Mayo's and Mahalia Jackson's on Jefferson Street

The little yellow single-wide that houses Mayo's and Mahalia Jackson's on Jefferson Street near the I-40 exit is keeper of the flame for a Tennessee tradition already on the wane 40 years ago and now positively endangered: the fried pie.

Don't be fooled by the simplicity -- getting a fried pie right is tricky because of the simplicity. With so few ingredients, the technique has to be expert. It's tempting to use canned filling, but proprietor Erika White doesn't, and it shows. The oil has to be hot enough to blister the outside into crunchy pockets but leave the inside tender. To see how perfectly fried the pies are at Mayo's, click here for a very large photo of one of her pies.

Another item getting the neighborhood's attention these days is the cheese steak, a marvel of soft cheese on a chewy roll topped with pickled jalapenos and thinly sliced beef. Every bite combines spicy and creamy with salty and beefy. Glorious together and priced right at $5, you got to love the discount for no table service.

Mayo's and Mahalia's is slow fast food. You order, drive around and wait 10 minutes while it cooks, so take a friend or a magazine. On reflection, take a friend so you can share the wonder of how good a pie and a sandwich can be.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Greet a Fajita Burrito at Chipotle

Posted By on Mon, Nov 16, 2009 at 3:19 PM

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The national quick-serve chain Chipotle Mexican Grill opened its first Tennessee location Friday in a strip along West End. In terms of customers, it's hotter than a pepper sprout, as Johnny and June would say.

There are some 900 Chipotles around the country, so plenty of Nashvillians have learned about it during visits to other cities. Expect to stand in a long line if you visit anytime soon, at least during prime lunch hours.

The menu is extremely simple: build-your-own burritos and tacos.

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