Thursday, February 18, 2010

Peychaud's a Drink Pinkener

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 7:36 AM

We should all take a lesson in business from the guy who bought the Angostura bitters brand. He widened the slot that shakes out the bitters, and sales doubled.

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Bitters business is big business. At one time, there were loads of them on the market, but attrition has brought down the numbers to two: Peychaud's and Angostura. You could call them The Bitter End.

Experimentation with Old Fashioneds led from Angostura to Peychaud's. Peychaud's flavor is more delicate than Angostura, good if you're heavy-handed. In the "festivity" department, Peychaud's has the edge: They tint a drink pink.

This high-brow bar fellow says, down in this fascinating post about bitters, that the Sazerac, and its revival in the cocktail-o-sphere, is Peychaud's only remaining reason for being. Peychaud are underused.

To remedy that, which of Nashville's gifted mixologists can imagine new ways to drink Peychaud's?

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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Old Familiars at Gerst Haus

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 1:07 PM

Missing the funeral service for Bob Battle, a colleague from the late Nashville Banner newspaper, we had a private remembrance for him by visiting Gerst Haus, the east-side German restaurant once listed on the Banner phone list as "East Bureau."

That was the old location, favored by smoking, sausage-eating, simpatico East Nashvillians, old Nashvillians, hipsters, barflies and families. Even in its newer location, it was a Bob kind of place: a friendly watering hole full of regulars with abundant beer and pretty good food.

Bavarian Pizza
  • Bavarian Pizza

I'm always drawn to the schnitzels, but in an old familiar place, the old standbys are so easy. Instead of the smoked double chop and jagerschnitzel, it was Bavarian Pizza, a cobbled-together appetizer of rye bread, pizza sauce, kraut and sausage. It shouldn't be as good as it is, but it is. The oyster roll is an old familiar, too, but this last time, it was perfectly spherical, doughy in the middle, and virtually oyster free.

I left thinking, "I should have had the chop. Or the jagerschnitzel." Anyone had either of these in the last few months?

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Wine Wednesday: Bonaccorsi Wine Company

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 10:49 AM

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While attending a tasting last week at Bistro 360 hosted by West Meade Wine and Liquor Mart and ably emceed by Tom Black, I got to thinking about how lucky we wine lovers are to live in Nashville. Not only were the Bonaccorsi wines universally excellent, but the very fact that they are exported here and the winemaker herself was willing to fly across the country to share her knowledge with us is a testament to the oenophile community in this town.

Jenny Lee Bonaccorsi only makes 3,000 cases per year, but she has committed up to 10 percent of her production to resale in the Middle Tennessee area. A boutique cult winery known for making some of the most elegant Pinot Noirs in the New World, Bonaccorsi's product was previously only available to locals if they were willing to buy it in California and then figure out their own method of getting it home in carry-on luggage or in the hollowed-out quarter panels of a rental car. (Just kidding about that part ...)

Luckily, through the efforts of people like Tom Black and the Boones of Boonedocks Distribution, Bonaccorsi recognized the vibrancy of the Nashville market and that there is a critical mass of consumers willing to pay $50-plus for bottles of exceptional wine. Look around at the number of excellent small to mid-size wine shops there are in town and you'll start to realize the level of support there should be for this sort of effort.

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Sagging Hooters' Huge Assets Up for Grabs

Posted By on Wed, Feb 17, 2010 at 8:31 AM

The player that can see the $250 million asking price and raise it above the private investment firm that's got first right of refusal, well that lucky playah could be the next to cradle the Hooters empire in his hands. And by "his" I mean "his."

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The "breast-aurant," founded in 1983, is courting buyers, as reported by the New York Post.

Despite 450 locations worldwide that did about $1 billion 2008, the chain, known for hot wings and top-heavy babes, sales have sagged in the soft dining-out sector.

Speculation is that ill-advised brand extensions such as Hooters Air and the Hooters Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas milked the capital from the Atlanta-based business. Hooters Air collapsed in 2006 and Hooters Hotel is in default on $144 million in long-term debt.

The Post points out that the good news is that the sale indicates the restaurant market may have found its bottom.

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Tuesday, February 16, 2010

l'Eté du Vin $29 & Under Tasting Coming Soon to Cabana

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 10:22 AM

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There's a common misconception that wine auctions are only for the rich and snooty. There are plenty of younger, more frugal wine drinkers out there who would love the opportunity to clink glasses for a good cause and maybe discover some new affordable wine finds in the process.

Nashville's premier wine auction l'Eté du Vin recognized this three years ago and started their $29 & Under event as a chance for the rest of us to contribute to the over $15 million that has been raised by the organization over the past 30 years to help fight cancer. Featuring over 100 wines priced at less than the price of an IMAX date, $29 & Under has already grown to a sellout event, so you might want to point your browser here soon to save your space at the wine bar.

Long-time l'Eté du Vin supporter Randy Rayburn has donated Cabana as the venue again this year, so come prepared to enjoy fabulous finger food and some great wines.

$29 & Under

Thursday, Feb. 25

Cabana Restaurant

1910 Belcourt Ave.

5-8 p.m.

All reservations are per person. Reservations will be made in your name, and through Feb. 24 the price is $40. The price goes up to $50 on Feb. 25. Of the amount paid, $25 is a tax-deductible contribution to l'Eté du Vin.

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Elliston Place Restaurant Twinsies

Posted By on Tue, Feb 16, 2010 at 9:17 AM

In England, retail tends to cluster by type. Take London for an example: Tailors are on Savile Row, Indian grocers cluster around Brick Lane, two streets in Marylebone have the bridal shops, high-end consignment places gravitate to Knightsbridge, while Bloomsbury has the antiquarians.

In Nashville the opposite is true: The services are sprinkled evenly through the city, with exceptions like the Eighth Avenue antique district and the Avenue of the Arts.

The O'Sake sushi clown car, tricked out for Valentine's Day, with New York Cafe & Pizza and Obie's in the distance.
  • The O'Sake sushi clown car, tricked out for Valentine's Day, with New York Cafe & Pizza and Obie's in the distance.
And Elliston Place, which these days is looking more English. It has two of everything that you normally just need one of. Two pizza places right next to each other with a third across the street. Two sushi places across the street. Two rock clubs across the street. Two venerated meat-and-threes three blocks apart.

And with La Paz's move to the Rock Block, now there are two Mexican places, one on either side of Louise Avenue.

Since all the Elliston Place parcels are individually owned, I guess overall planning is out of the question. But really. What else does the block need more than another sushi, pizza or Mexican place?

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Monday, February 15, 2010

Calling All Valentine's Dinner Reports

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 2:22 PM

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Dining out has been part of my job for almost 10 years, so I don't normally rush to book Valentine's Day reservations. Feb. 14 is to restaurants what Dec. 31 is to nightclubs: Amateurs' Night.

But around 6 o'clock on Sunday, I suddenly didn't feel like cooking or having my kitchen-savvy husband cook for me. (Whole Foods' special on lobster tails be damned.)

I noticed that Chef Arnold Myint's delightful Suzy Wong's House of Yum on Church Street was offering a special three-course Valentine's Day menu for just $25 per person. And since Suzy's is fairly new, and the Church Street crowd tends to party later in the evening, I decided to see if we could snag a reservation. Happily, a table was available at 7:30. (The server said the place had been a madhouse earlier in the evening, presumably the dinner-then-a-movie-or-Rick-Springfield-at-the-Wildhorse crowd.)

The meal was terrific. The three shared appetizers included an Asian shrimp cocktail that blew my mind. Who knew that what shrimp cocktail has always needed is a generous helping of fresh bean sprouts, edamame and pickled ginger along with the cocktail sauce?

Check out a PDF of the menu here. Meanwhile, what about you, Bitesters? Did anybody else venture out on Valentine's weekend? Any meals worth noting?

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Unexpected Lunches Volume 1: Scarritt-Bennett

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 12:34 PM

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I've been hunting secret affordable lunch spots for a while, and I thought it was time to share one of my fun finds with you. Did you know that there is a place where you can get a buffet prepared by one of Nashville's favorite executive chefs and enjoy it in a Gothic dining hall reminiscent of Hogwarts? I'm talking about the Susie Gray Dining Hall at the Scarritt-Bennett Center on 19th Avenue South. Once a school for female missionaries, SBC was reorganized in 1988 as a nonprofit conference, retreat and educational center.

As part of the regular offering of catered and special meals for conference attendees, the center serves lunch whenever a group is using the facility. In addition to several public luncheons periodically through the year, you are invited to join them for lunch whenever they are serving. All you need to do is call 340-7508 to check if soup's on and let them know you're coming.

And it is much more than the expected boneless chicken hotel luncheon food you would expect. Scarritt-Bennett's secret weapon is their executive chef, Jennifer Wood. If that name sounds familiar, it is because Jennifer was originally the executive chef at South Street and at several other places around town. Her playful take on banquet food emphasizes fresh local ingredients and a fearless dedication to flavor.

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The Wild Cow Review: A Response From Owner Melanie Cochran

Posted By on Mon, Feb 15, 2010 at 10:56 AM

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This week's dining review features The Wild Cow in East Nashville, where owners Melanie and John Cochran have put forth the best vegetarian effort we've seen locally. While there was a lot we liked about about the restaurant, there was a lot the owners didn't like about the review. Thanks to Melanie for her passionate response, which is reprinted below:

This is Melanie Cochran, co-owner of The Wild Cow. First of all, thank you for taking the time to review our restaurant. I appreciate the positive comments and tidbits of constructive criticism. I'm emailing you now, not because I'm upset about the negative things you wrote about us, but rather because I'm offended by some of the assumptions you made about us and vegetarians in general.

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Friday, February 12, 2010

The Greening of Nashville Takeout Boxes

Posted By on Fri, Feb 12, 2010 at 1:41 PM

Ashley Currie, a Nashville entrepreneur, wants to help the planet by making takeout containers more green.

Currie has started a business offering eco-friendly food containers and other disposable foodware for restaurants, caterers and anyone planning a party.

Ashley Currie
  • Ashley Currie
Formerly a sales rep at the Scarritt-Bennett conference and retreat center, Currie has planned special events for years, and she noticed that customers are increasingly distressed by the amount of Styrofoam and plastic waste generated by even a simple party, what with all the cups, plates, flatware, napkins and such.

Seizing upon a niche, she started iHospitality. Her inventory includes plates, bowls, cups, to-go boxes, cutlery, napkins, lunch trays, bakeware and bags. All are either recyclable or designed to break down into compost, even in a home compost bin. They are also biodegradable in a landfill.

The products are made from various materials such a bagasse (the pulpy material that remains after sugar cane juice is extracted). "Throw it in a landfill or compost it, and it will decompose and actually enrich the soil," Currie says. Bagasse is oilproof (neither butter nor olive oil nor down-home pork drippings will make it too soggy) and microwavable.

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