Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Tayst Chef Barlow and Catering Veteran Woodard Merge Ventures

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2011 at 5:27 AM

Back in 2009, Jeremy Barlow, the chef-owner of Tayst (Nashville’s first certified green restaurant), spun his restaurant’s local-seasonal-sustainable food philosophy into a complementary venture called Local Kitchen Catering.

Now he and another prominent caterer, Erika Woodard of Cater to You, have decided to combine their businesses, operating out of Tayst and under the Local Kitchen Catering name. Woodard will be the catering manager.

Check out the announcement after the jump.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Back to Back to Cuba for the Sides

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 10:35 AM

Plantains at Back to Cuba Cafe
  • Plantains at Back to Cuba Cafe
Since the Scene offices moved back into Midtown from Trousdale Drive, I don't visit Back to Cuba Cafe, at the corner of Harding Place and Trousdale, as often.

I ate my way through the menu several times, and on a good day, it's seriously good. Last week, BtC was running on all cylinders. The employees were raving about the chicken fricassee (except that I wish they'd used hen rather than pullet for a stronger, richer flavor). Lechon was right on the money, but it was the side dishes that were utterly captivating.

The sticky rice cooked in chicken broth was good enough to eat on its own. Black beans were richly seasoned and cooked tender but not mushy. Add the chewy fried plantains and the tender stewed yuca with browned onions on top, and honestly, a vegetable plate would have been just as satisfying and maybe more inventive.

Stewed yuca at Back to Cuba Cafe
  • Stewed yuca at Back to Cuba Cafe

Next trip to Back to Cuba, I plan on an all-side-dish meal.

Back to Cuba, 4683 Trousdale Drive, 837-6711

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Learn Coffee Expertise at Crema/Beve Brewing Class

Posted By on Tue, Mar 22, 2011 at 5:32 AM

Not only does Crema make great coffee, but they are willing to share some of their secrets with you. As part of their partnership with the coffee catering and education team Beve, they offer monthly classes to help you master various brewing technologies.

Next up is the Aeropress brewing process, which they recommend for making the perfect cuppa at home. This little plunger-operated coffeemaker may look like a glorified turkey injector, but the science behind it comes from the same people who invented the Aerobie, the flying disc that holds the Guinness World Record for "longest throw of an object without any velocity-aiding feature." If they can invent something that a human can fling a quarter mile, then mixing water and beans shouldn't be rocket science.

The class is 2-4 p.m. Sunday, March 27. From the official class syllabus:

The CREMA \\ Beve Brew Methods classes are an ongoing series of classes designed to help you achieve great coffee at home. We’ll cut through the confusion and provide you with the tools and the know-how to replicate what we’re doing in the shop. You’ll be surprised at how easy it is! View class schedule here and register today.

Classes are $25 and include a bag of coffee. Gear for the featured method will also be available for purchase. Class sizes are limited so register today!

Just don't try to see how far you can chuck your favorite coffee mug.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

First Bite: Chago's Cantina on Belmont Boulevard

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 10:58 AM

As a Belmont-Hillsboro resident, I've had my eye on the space where Tabouli's used to be, through the years and in several incarnations, hoping against hope that a decent restaurant would finally locate there. I know it's probably not on the first page of the food writer's journalistic policies, but as my girlfriend sat down to try the place out after it had been open a week, we were muttering under our breath "PleasebegoodPleasebegood!" It's still early, but I am happy to relate that at least initially, to quote my Magic Eight Ball, signs point to yes.

First, the interior makeover is striking. The walls are painted in bright colors with a few kitschy accents like lamps made from acoustic guitars and some beer signs. Not over-the-top like Chuy's, but still interesting to the eye. With a covered patio, open garage-door walls and a couple of tables right on the sidewalk of Belmont Boulevard, Chago's should prove to be an excellent spot for people-watching.

The menu extends beyond the usual offerings of meat, chicken, rice and beans combined in 50 variations in a flour or corn tortilla. Owner Chad Head has run the Corky's BBQ in Brentwood for a few years but has always had this restaurant concept in the back of his mind. On his travels through Central and South America he discovered some menu items that make their appearance as Especialidades de la Casa.

We didn't get a chance to try the mofongo, a spicy Puerto Rican dish of plantains and creole shrimp, but our server said it's quite popular. Even more exotic was my plate of pupusas con curtido, an El Salvadoran dish served with a tangy cabbage slaw. The rest of the menu is filled with more traditional standards, but special attention is paid to vegetarian and vegan options, though vegans are limited mainly to side dishes.

Everything is made from scratch in house with local ingredients sourced whenever possible, and we particularly enjoyed the smoky salsa, creamy guacamole and salsa verde that we sampled with tortilla chips. The verde isn't normally part of their dip sampler, but they had run out of hummus. I'm not sure why you'd serve hummus in a cantina anyway, so we were happy to enjoy the substitution.

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As If You Needed Another Reason to Attend Sunday Supper at City House: Guest Chef Ashley Christensen

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 8:59 AM

When I die, please let it be on a Monday so I can enjoy one last Sunday Supper in the cozy environs of City House. It's hard to beat the convivial atmosphere of diners sharing platters and conversation around tight tables covered with the delightful results of Chef Tandy Wilson's weekly "Fun with Pork" experiments. But on April 3, Tandy is handing off the apron to a guest chef for the evening so that he can share in the good times from the other side of the kitchen counter for a change.

The special guest chef will be James Beard Award nominee Ashley Christensen of Poole's Downtown Diner in Raleigh, N.C. Chef Christensen took an old 1940s-era diner and refurbed it as a retro-chic dining establishment with a menu of upscale Southern classics that critics and diners alike have raved about since she opened the restaurant in 2007.

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Whatever Happened to Whataburger?

Posted By on Mon, Mar 21, 2011 at 5:36 AM

What? A burger?
  • What? A burger?
Last week for spring break, the Wood family made its way through Alabama, eating peaches and pecans and local strawberries and barbecue along the way. Pretty wonderful.

It was a budget trip, so we stayed in a cheap hotel in Clanton, Ala., where we could get two rooms for what a single hotel room costs in Nashville. It was a Scottish Inn, across from Peach Park and a Whataburger. It was as if our trip had been back to the '70s, instead of just south through Alabama.

Well, when in Clanton, eat Clantonesque. Considering the reasonably not-inadequate experience we had at Dairy Queen last month, we decided to take a flyer on the Whataburger, because, who knows? My motto is that I'll try anything once. (Within reason. Results may vary. See rules for details. Subject to change.)

It was terrible. The meat left absolutely no impression except that it was protein, with a touch of gristle, the bun was sweet, like Hawaiian bread, and there were raw chopped onions and a schmear of mustard twice too big.

A food adventurer always, but I'm checking that little curiosity off the list.

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Friday, March 18, 2011

The Pie Wagon Gets New Owner, Bringing Back Breakfast

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 4:43 PM

Historic meat-and-three The Pie Wagon, which has been serving up lunch since 1922, has a new owner.

Carol Babb, who's owned the cafe for 20 years, is retiring and has sold the business to veteran restaurateur David Biggs. He plans to make only a few changes, including adding breakfast service.

Biggs is probably best-known as one of the owners of Mac's, a longtime lunch spot that used to be on Broadway near Vanderbilt, where Ken's Sushi is today. Later he owned Diamond in the Rough, a restaurant and music venue on Lower Broadway.

(In the interim he co-owned a fabric company in Georgia that makes country-chic Western shirts for retailers and country-defending body armor for the Army and Marines. Now he plans to run The Pie Wagon full time.)

Today was the last day for the longtime owners Babb and her son Jason. Lunch included lots of shared memories and hugs. Biggs, meanwhile, is closing the restaurant for a few days to spruce it up. He plans to reopen on Monday, March 28.

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Open Thread is Thinking Big Picture

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 9:11 AM

But I feel OK and I look great. I just cant grind pepper.
  • "But I feel OK and I look great. I just can't grind pepper."
I was scheduled to meet someone downtown for coffee a couple weeks back — but Dunn Bros was closed, and I was disappointed. I went to the downtown library instead, and checked out Outliers, by Malcolm Gladwell, about people who succeed because they are odd, rather than in spite of it.

Now Carrington reports on hordes of happy eaters enjoying Puckett's downtown, and I can only sense a confluence. After all the old talk about downtown's inability to draw residents without amenities, it's a coffeehouse and an eatery that make the difference and turn downtown into a destination? That seems odd, but apparently it's the odd that's successful.

How will new downtown residents feel about Dick's Last Resort? And other such establishments? And will tourists ever find Puckett's and Dunn Bros?

In the 'burbs, we're watching 12South's various restaurants, and new places on all sides, especially the ones with patios. In The Golden Triangle™ (as I call it) I offered some restaurant consulting between the lines earlier this week — you're welcome.

In my kitchen, gear is conspiring against me — another device has stopped doing its job. The pepper grinder has coaxed its last sneeze, a victim of a snapped blade.

In your quadrant, 'burb and kitchen, what's the news?


Wandering Wino: Spring Break Edition

Posted By on Fri, Mar 18, 2011 at 8:36 AM

Leading off this week's news about all things alcoholic, one of our favorite mixologists in town just got a shout-out from ertswhile Nashvillian Gwyneth Paltrow in her GOOP online newsletter. James Hensley of Patterson House leads off her recap of alternatives to the traditional green beer and "Irish Car Bomb" shots on St. Patrick's Day. James offers a recipe for a Maloney Park Swizzle, but if you can't remember the name the next time you're in Patterson House, just ask for "Gwynnie's Favorite."

If you want to try out some other inventive cocktails, then you should definitely mark Friday, March 25, on your calendar for the big Mixology party. The event is subtitled "Mixing Music, Art, Fashion, Cocktails and Cuisine" and will be held 6 to 10 p.m. at the Country Music Hall of Fame.

Food will be provided by some of Nashville's best restaurants including: Boscos, Cabana, Commerce Street Grille, Hard Rock Cafe, Mafiaoza's, Royal Icing Custom Cakes, Rumba, Two Twenty Two Grill, Wild Ginger and Wildhorse Saloon. In an interesting twist, a portion of each $45 ticket price will be donated to the charity you choose from this list of worthy recipients. For tickets and more information, visit

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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Celebrate St. Patty's With a Wee Dram and Good Eats

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 9:21 AM

We all know that St. Patrick's Day is one of those holidays that has been co-opted by the masses as another excuse to party on a weeknight. But don't forget to at least get something in your belly first at one of your favorite haunts.

Jimmy Kelly's Steakhouse invites you to their 77th (!) annual St. Patty's party, where they proudly proclaim "any time three or four Irishmen get together, there's bound to be a fifth." They'll be serving corned beef and cabbage along with their regular menu from 5:00 until the last revelers get chased out the door like snakes before the Saint.

At Randy O'Rayburn's family of restaurants, if you wear anything green on St. Patrick's Day, there will be a free dessert at the end of the rainbow for you. Just order an regular entrée or special at Sunset Grill, Midtown Cafe or Cabana and show them an article of clothing in the PMS 360 range and you'll receive your free treat. Click on the restaurant names in the last sentence for a peek at their special St. Patrick's menus.

Farther north up in Goodlettsville, Chef Kathy Doak at Chef's Market has put together a special menu for the holiday, which will be available from Thursday, March 17, through the weekend. They will be featuring many wonderful Irish favorites including Corned Beef and Cabbage and Fish and Chips. Chef Doak was even kind enough to share her recipe for CB&C incase you can't make it up I-65 this weekend and want to stink up, err, introduce new aromatics to your home kitchen:

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