Thursday, December 23, 2010

News Flash! Food Photography Workshops Coming to Fido

Posted By on Thu, Dec 23, 2010 at 7:15 AM

It seems like you can hardly go out to a meal anymore without somebody pulling a digital camera out of their purse or firing up the old iPhone to take a picture of their food. While some people consider this an annoyance, as their fellow diners attempt to art-direct the tablescape and blind them with flashes reflected off saucers held at arm's length (sorry about that one), food photography has become an amateur hobby for a lot of budding gastropornographers. The ability to make plates look good is often the difference between a successful food blog and well, ... the rest of us.

Some of Nashville's most avid food bloggers have come together at a community blog called, wait for it, "Nashville Food Bloggers." That blog broke the news about an opportunity to improve your shutterbug skills in a series of classes to be held over the next few months at Fido in Hillsboro Village. Local food stylist and photographer Kyle Dreier will be teaching a series of workshops named "Shoot Eat Learn."

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Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Steakhouses Unite for a Five-Day Benefit With Plenty of Sizzle

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 2010 at 4:03 PM

Looking for something delicious and festive to get excited about during the upcoming post-holiday doldrums? Think steak. And philanthropy. Six of Nashville’s top steakhouses are kicking off a new fundraiser immediately after the holidays: Jan. 2 through 6.

It’s called Raise the Steaks. Diners get to enjoy a juicy meal at any of the participating steakhouses, with a chunk of the proceeds going to worthy nonprofits. Participants include Fleming's, Morton’s, Old Hickory Steakhouse, Ruth’s Chris Steak House, Sperry’s Restaurant and Stoney River Legendary Steaks.

Each night will be devoted to a different charity, and each restaurant is putting together its own version of the deal, with guests enjoying selections from either a prix-fixe or standard menu. Because of the variation, organizers aren’t naming a specific percentage of the proceeds that will be donated. But Amanda Butler, who’s helping publicize the event, says a ballpark figure might be around 10 percent — and guests, of course, are welcome to chip in a little more.

The charities are Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee, Make-A-Wish Foundation Middle Tennessee Chapter, Alive Hospice and Happy Tales Humane. Proceeds from the final night, Jan. 6, will be divided among all the charities.

Building awareness of the organizations’ good works is another aspect of the event. Representatives from the nonprofit groups will be on hand to talk about their work, hand out information (and to collect any additional donations diners might want to offer).

After the jump, read the Raise the Steaks schedule along with a description of the nonprofit organizations’ missions and accomplishments.

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Turnip Truck Comes to the Rescue of Procrastinators with Gift Baskets

Posted By on Wed, Dec 22, 2010 at 6:38 AM

I've joked with friends that one year I want to try to buy all my holiday gifts at the TravelCenter truck stop at I-24 and Old Hickory Boulevard. Have you been in there? They sell everything! It looks like a Service Merchandise store in 1987. Hope you enjoy that Jeff Foxworthy cassette.

Luckily, this year terminal laggards like myself have a better option. The Turnip Truck locations in East Nashville and The Gulch are offering a great selection of gift baskets that go well beyond your typical fruit and caramel popcorn version. Ranging in price from $24 to $69.99, they are arranged around clever themes like "Felici Vacanze" (Happy Holidays in Italian), "Bathed in Luxury," "Chocolate Bomb" and "Locals Only." The baskets are filled with local gourmet food items and pure, organic health and beauty products,

With 24-hour notice, they will also put together a custom basket based on whatever theme and price level you suggest. Some creative ideas they offer include "The Dog's Best Friend," "The Cat's Meow," "All Natural Baby," "Baker's Delight" and "Clean Home for the Holidays."

Let The Turnip Truck help you look more creative than you really are and delight your holiday gift recipients!

Turnip Natural Market
970 Woodland St. in East Nashville

Turnip Truck Urban Fare
321 12th Ave. S. in the Gulch

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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Wine Wednesday — Cruvinet: It's Like Wine on Tap

Posted By on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 at 11:34 AM

Editor's note: Obviously we jumped the gun on Wine Wednesday and published it on Tuesday. (See below.) And no, it wasn't because we were dipping into the holiday wassail bowl. Wine Wednesday will return next week at its regularly scheduled time.

Everybody knows that restaurants charge a substantial markup on wine. In some cases, the price you pay for a glass at a restaurant would almost buy a bottle of the same wine at a retail store. You have to remember that the expense of creating a good wine list, maintaining inventory with proper storage conditions, providing and cleaning stemware and giving good advice on which wine to pair with your meal warrants a premium for the restaurateur. If you don't like it, BYOB (and pay the appropriate corkage fee) where available or do your drinking at home.

Luckily, some restaurants see the value of being able to provide higher-end wines as part of a by-the-glass program. BTG sales allow diners to try out a glass of an unfamiliar vintage before investing in a whole bottle, or to pair different wines with different courses.

Usually BTG wines are at the lower end of the wine list's price range, so that if a bottle isn't finished at the end of the evening there isn't as much risk of the house taking a loss. Even if the restaurant uses an argon-gas system to reseal an open bottle, it's very difficult to prevent that wine from losing its flavor after two or three days. If you're the unlucky soul who happens to order a $14 glass without knowing that it's the dregs of last week's bottle, you'll probably have a less than satisfying experience.

But some restaurants that offer extensive BTG programs — like Red Pony, Watermark and Flyte — invest in wine bar systems that allow them to keep multiple bottles open in a closed system that is maintained at the appropriate temperature to preserve freshness. Amerigo in Brentwood recently invested in a six-bottle Cruvinet system that general manager Doug Hogrefe says has revolutionized their BTG program.

They are taking advantage of the system to offer a rotating selection of fine wines that you would almost never see sold by the individual pour.

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Book by Nashville Kids Looks at the Issue of Eating Local

Posted By on Tue, Dec 21, 2010 at 9:39 AM

A book of food photos by a local middle school is helping students and their classmates learn the role of locally produced food in a sustainable future for the planet. Middle school photography students at University School of Nashville took a field trip to shoot both local and supermarket produce. Their pictures are compiled in Why Buy Local?

The group published the book on, a micro publishing site. See the cover, and get inspired — or inspire your own group of photographers — at this link.

The synopsis from the site: "Why Buy Local? is a look at the importance of purchasing more of our food from local growers. Middle school photography students from University School of Nashville visited the Nashville Farmers' Market to document the lush visual array of fruits and vegetables available on a crisp fall day, interview the farmers and vendors, and learn more about the Local Food movement."

Instructor Mary Entrekin Agee's introduction is a snapshot of the locavore's dilemma, posing, but also answering, some of the questions.

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Monday, December 20, 2010

Merry Monday at The Acorn — And Two Great Deals

Posted By on Mon, Dec 20, 2010 at 9:23 AM

To celebrate the solstice, The Acorn has rolled out a new winter menu that focuses on the same fresh ingredients as always, but now at lower prices. Management recognizes that some diners' habits have changed, and they want more people to be able to experience The Acorn's food and service at a more affordable price point.

Highlights of the new menu include appetizers such as Benton’s Country Ham and House-Made Ricotta Ravioli, Kenny’s Farmhouse Mac and Cheese, and Down Home Chicken N’ Waffles, as well as entrees like Chorizo Crusted Grouper, Portabella Mushroom Stack and Braised Lamb Shank. Save room for a variety of tortes, tarts and sorbets for dessert.

If you go tonight, you can take advantage of Merry Mondays and their half-price bottles of wine. Finally, if you need even more enticement, The Acorn has teamed up with one of our favorite local food bloggers and Bites commenters, Beth Sachan from Eat, Drink, Smile to offer $10 of your bill to get you to come in and try the new winter menu between now and this Wednesday, Dec. 29.

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I'm Sick of Cooking — What's for Dinner?

Posted By on Mon, Dec 20, 2010 at 9:18 AM

If I could see into all of your kitchens this week, I bet I'd see the some of you caught in the same frenzy of cooking and baking that's going on in mine.

And yet, despite the flour-filled atmosphere, the roasting meats, the tubs of dip, the molded salmon spread — despite the crowded fridge and cabinet, there's nothing for dinner. What what? You know it's true, so confess — you cook for two hours and then eat a can of ravioli for dinner.

That's the back story for our call to Jet's Pizza for its special deal of a small thin-crust cheese pizza and a large thin-crust Italian sausage and olive pizza for about $18. I've blogged before about Jet's — it's hands-down my favorite chain pizza, and not so far from the true greats, like Mafiaoza's and Porta Via. That's high praise from me — I don't naturally love pizza.

But when the pizza boxes were opened, the large turned out to be someone else's deep dish pepperoni. Day of sadness! Where will the tragedy end? The store felt badly about the mix-up, so the proper pizza was baked and shipped via delivery. The store probably also had to do the same for the family that got a thin-crust Italian sausage and olive pizza instead of the thick-crust pepperoni that was currently on our counter. That, plus the special deal, probably erased any profit they made from the two transactions.

After dinner, we had a lot of rearranging to do to fit all that leftover pizza into the fridge. It provided enough leftovers that I was able to spend the next two nights baking and fixing party food without having to stop and cook dinner. Happy ending after all!


Friday, December 17, 2010

Mad Donna's Files Bankruptcy But Remains Open

Posted By on Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 4:27 PM

Mad Donna's the East Nashville neighborhood bar, cafe and entertainment space, has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. But owner Rachel Fontenot says it will be business as usual during the reorganization, and she has no plans to close down the restaurant.

After a year of renovating the former Radio Cafe space at 1313 Woodland St., Fontenot and business partner Neil Clark opened Mad Donna's in the spring of 2008. The result was an interesting hybrid: a family-friendly restaurant up front, a sleek bar in the back, and another bar and a stage upstairs. Eventually, they opened a casual patio as well.

Mad Donna's serves lunch, dinner and weekend brunch. The upstairs becomes a nightclub in the evenings, called MD Loft, with unique weekly events like Drag Queen Bingo.

I've always had good experiences at Mad Donna's, and I'm sorry they're having financial troubles. (I wonder if they started out on a difficult footing with the cost of the renovating the building, which turned out to require more work than expected.) In a release today, Fontenot says she and her team are looking to refinance the mortgage on the building and would welcome a new investor.

“It’s business as usual at Mad Donna’s,” Fontenot adds. “Management and staff will remain a part of the Mad Donna’s family and we’ll continue to maintain an excellent relationship with our vendors. “

In the meantime, she's introduced a bunch of new specials and menu items. Check out the list after the jump:

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City House: Because Celebrity Chefs Gotta Eat, Too

Posted By on Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 11:29 AM

Chef-owner Tandy Wilson of City House
This week's dining column features an unforgettable meal at City House, where I was fortunate enough to dine with James Beard Award-winners John Currence from City Grocery in Oxford, Miss.; Michael Schwartz from Michael's Genuine Food & Drink in Miami; and R.J. Cooper from Rogue 24 in Washington, D.C.

The chefs were in town to cook for the inaugural CMT Artists of the Year Awards, and I was tagging along as a stringer for Esquire magazine's food blog, Eat Like a Man. Our feast at City House on the eve of the CMT gala was phenomenal, loaded with rustic delicacies such as house-cured sausages, slow-cooked pig tail and pan-fried pig ear. Needless to say, City House chef-owner Tandy Wilson impressed his esteemed visitors.

The next night, the trio of Beard laureates impressed a dining audience of their own. Currence, Schwartz and Cooper fêted CMT honorees Taylor Swift, Jason Aldean, Zac Brown Band, Carrie Underwood and Lady Antebellum with a three-course supper that was well worth singing for.

For a blow-by-blow and bite-by-bite account of that all-star meal, check out Esquire's Eat Like a Man blog.

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Wandering Wino: Have a Ball This Weekend

Posted By on Fri, Dec 17, 2010 at 7:34 AM

Tonights Night Market at the Nashville Farmers Market will include Fleur de Lis famous frozen Boozeballs
  • Tonight's Night Market at the Nashville Farmers' Market will include Fleur de Lis' famous frozen Boozeballs
Happy holidays, Wino fans. There's not a lot going on this week with regards to drinking in public, but we imagine that you'll enjoy plenty of merriment in front of your own yule log. But all is not lost for those of you seeking communal wine tasting activities.

Vinea in 12South is holding their final Saturday tasting of the year this weekend from 3 to 5 p.m. They'll be pouring Champagne and port (most of the major houses will be represented: Taylor, Fonseca, Croft, Nova). They didn't really mention where the tasting will be in their email, but knowing our arcane state liquor laws, it won't be in the wine store. That means probably either at neighbors Mafiaoza's or Corrieri's Formaggeria. (Which are both dastardly venues to attempt to spell. Thanks a lot, Vinea.) In the spirit of holiday charity, I'll forgive them and maybe even drop by for a snort.

While it's not exactly a wine tasting, there will be wine and beer and Boozeballs available at tonight's third Night Market at the Nashville Farmers' Market. Finally giving in to the weather, they have moved all the vendors inside and some of the restaurants in the Market House will be staying open late for your dining pleasure. The event runs from 6 until 8 p.m.

I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the Boozeballs from Fleur de Lis, a spiked version of their New Orleans-style Snow Balls. Pick your favorite flavor and then pick your poison. Then pick your favorite taxi company for a ride home.

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