Thursday, June 30, 2011

Hot Chicken Fest Cooking Contest: Watch Our Boss Get Hot Under the Collar on July 4

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 12:24 PM

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No, Chris Ferrell hasn't finally discovered Mr. Pink's cache of receipts from the Great Escape that he turned in for reimbursement labeled "research." Nor has he discovered that Nicki and I are still working here after lo, all these many years, despite the fact that we try to keep our profile in the Gulch office as low as possible.

Nope, our fearless leader is going to get red-faced for another reason this Monday, July 4, as a volunteer judge for The City Paper and Nashville Scene Amateur Cooking Contest, as part of the annual Music City Hot Chicken Festival. Chris will be joined by Hizzonor Mayor Karl Dean, Hizzformerhonor Mayor Bill Purcell, the “Spice Dude” Charlie Tambellini of Further Foods and Talk of the Town’s brave stalwarts Meryll Rose and Lelan Statom.

As co-founder of the festival and the most noted evangelist of hot chicken before a certain rail-thin blond actress had one of her assistants taste a bite and describe it to her, Mayor Purcell is quite the get as a judge and should inspire the same beads of forehead sweat on the contestants as their chicken had better create on his dome.

Six teams will compete to win this year's coveted title of Hot Chicken Kitchen King (or Queen) and the accompanying bad-ass plastic trophy. This year’s competitors include:

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Hot Dog Contests Are for Wusses — Try the All-American Burger Eating Competition at Melrose Pub

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 8:46 AM

A burger at the Melrose Pub
Everybody knows about the gastronomic grudge matches between Joey Chestnut and Takeru Kobayashi as they power down frankfurter after frankfurter at the annual Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest held every year on the corner of Surf and Stillwell avenues in Coney Island, N.Y. But this year for the Fourth, you can keep it local in more ways than one.

First of all, frankfurter? That doesn't sound American to me at all. Frankfurt is in goldurned Germany. Now a hamburger, now that's all-American. No, wait ...

Anyhoo, if you're going to competitively force-feed yourself some meat to celebrate the anniversary of our independence, why not make it some locally sourced Hillview Farm beef from Franklin that has been lovingly prepared by your friends at the Melrose Pub? Instead of gagging on a hot dog/tube of meat of indeterminate origin, I'd much prefer to gorge myself on a burger that is already acknowledged as one of the best in town. Well, actually five burgers.

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Banh Mi, the New New Thing

Posted By on Thu, Jun 30, 2011 at 5:44 AM

Banh mi sandwich from Riffs Truck, mid-June
  • Banh mi sandwich from Riffs Truck, mid-June
Banh mi as the day's star sandwich offering at Riffs Truck AND on a menu in Sewanee, Tenn., (population 4,200)?

That can only mean that banh mi is having its moment as the "it" sandwich.

This archetypal Franco-Vietnamese food, banh mi combines a baguette with fillings of Vietnamese roast pork, sliced jalapeno, cilantro springs, shredded carrot and daikon radish. Beyond that it's endlessly customizable with onions, cucumber, fish sauce, pork pate, ham, aioli, chicken.

For years, the only reliable local source for banh mi was Lao Trading on Eighth Avenue. It was an obvious gap in Nashville cuisine, particularly considering the many midstate residents of Vietnamese and Laotian heritage. At last, it's popping up here and there, at Miss Saigon and Viet Noodle House.

What's next for banh mi? It would be a natural starting point for Arnold Myint's experimentations, or as an extension of Far East's menu. It'd be great to have enough clever, expert and innovative banh mi in town to make this list, or even begin to have this many options.

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Water and Whiskey: Friend or Foe? Whiskey Disks to the Rescue

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 8:36 AM

Whiskey Disks. Don't try to say that three times fast. Especially after you've been drinking whiskey. Actually Whiskey Disks are a new product designed to give spirits fans the best possible sipping experience ever.

I first heard about them on one of my favorite local food/drink blogs, Erin's Food Files, where Erin and her husband Nathan often share their favorite drinks and meals from around town. Not only are they both fun, engaging young people, but I find we tend to share similar tastes in food and drink. And I seem to run into them frequently in restaurants and liquor stores.

When I saw their review of Whiskey Disks, I immediately reached out the the manufacturers to see if I could try some out for myself. Luckily, they quickly obliged, since I usually enjoy at least one glass of bourbon every night after dinner to take the edge off a hard day of eating and writing about it. I normally enjoy my brown liquors on the rocks with a splash of water, but this can be problematic.

Why drink whiskey on the rocks? And why the splash? Most scotches and whiskeys benefit from being served slightly chilled, but not to the same degree as vodka or gin, which many people store in their freezers. Straight up is certainly an option, and it certainly avoids the possibility of melting ice diluting your Pappy Van Winkle. Alcohol melts ice quickly, so it's a given that mixing them will eventually lower the proof of the contents of your glass. But if you're going to drink whiskey at room temperature, you might as well serve it in a shot glass. Around 50 degrees Fahrenheit is about right if you're looking to maximize your drinking pleasure.

Many people think the reason you add a splash of water is to dilute the drink and ease the burn of the alcohol, but distillers already add water to their barrel-strength spirits to achieve the proof level they find most desirable. I trust their titration skills more than mine.

— Alcohol molecules have a tendency to clump together due to hydrogen bonds that form between charged hydrogen and oxygen atoms. These clumps can actually contain the esters that represent the aromas and flavors of whiskey or scotch. Adding just a splash of water can serve to break these bonds and release the wonderful flavor esters. The result is you can better enjoy the smell and taste of your highball.

So the best of both worlds is to find a solution that cools your alcohol without ice, allowing you to add only a small splash of H2O to open up the flavors, thus limiting dilution. That's where Whiskey Disks come in.

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Learn to Sling a Boning Knife in Pork Processing Class at Miel

Posted By on Wed, Jun 29, 2011 at 5:46 AM

You've heard about it, others have raved, now learn for yourself how to cut and trim pork from a hog at home at a Miel processing class on July 11.

Steve Johnson of Johnson's Meat Market is the instructor. He'll teach a small group using heritage breed raised by Sequatchie Cove Farm in Sequatchie County in southeast Tennessee. Johnson's was located more or less where Miel now stands and had some of the finest steaks in the city, so you know the instruction will be top quality.

You'll get two hours of how-to, then dinner and wine (for a total of about three hours), and you'll go home with some of the meat you butchered. It'll be a great way to supply yourself with some very nice meat and learn more about the cuts you buy and eat.

Cost is $150 per person, and the class is limited to eight students. Miel is located at 343 53rd Ave. N. Call 298-3663 for a reservation.

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Adventures in Fleet Street: Watch a Nashville Pub Come to Life

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 8:21 AM

Anyone who has ever wanted to open a pub probably has a million questions for someone who's done it, from the equipment to the location to staffing and all the details that go into it.


It's a Pub is a blog chronicling the efforts of software engineer (and onetime reporter) Glenn Henderson and his buddy Ed as they embark on their adventure in opening a pub in Nashville. They're calling it Fleet Street Pub, and promising "Great food -— from lunch through late-night —- along with the finest pub games and fun."

They began their quest by touring Mulligan's Pub on Second Avenue, in which I had plenty of fun pints over the years, and which was named Best Place to Throw Darts just last fall in this very publication, but alas, closed in December due to circumstances beyond the owners' control.

Between the landlord and conditions at the site, it just wouldn't work. But they've found a fantastic spot they like just as much — the old Parco Cafe in Printers Alley. And now they have set a tentative menu of basic English-inspired pub eats. Henderson's first employee is a chef, as he wanted to serve real, homemade food.

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I Have Tasted the Future, and It Is Smoky!

Posted By on Tue, Jun 28, 2011 at 5:47 AM

No, not that UT fleabag hound of a mascot named Smokey, I'm talking about the wonderful sweet brown-sugary, slightly acrid tang that can only be achieved by the exposure to smoldering wood. And nobody is more of a master at infusing smoke into food than the master himself, Allan Benton. Allan has been known for years for producing some of the best artisan hams and bacon in the country out of his small wood smokehouse in Madisonville, Tenn. Most of the best chefs in the South hold him up with reverential awe as they mete out morsels of his smoky goodness into their finest dishes. Lucky Nashvillians can pick up Benton's bacon at a few retail locations like Lazzaroli's and Mitchell Delicatessen, or there's always the mail-order option.

But gentle readers, I am here to tell you a delicious secret that will revolutionize your ability to enjoy the fruits of Allan's efforts and may possibly be the best single food item ever to come out of Nashville. How does Olive and Sinclair Smoked Nib Brittle sound to you? I'll give you a moment to get back in your chair and ponder this wonderful development. Now a little background. ...

Last month at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival, I was lucky enough to sneak into one of the most popular seminars of the entire weekend, titled "Booze and Chocolate."

James Hensley, the general manager and mixologist at Patterson House, moderated a discussion and made cocktails featuring the products of two other Nashville favorites, Corsair Artisan Distillery and Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Co. We also sampled a few beta test products from both Corsair and Olive and Sinclair, including a chocolate-infused whiskey and something else that proved to be the show stopper. Before I tell you what it is, you have to picture that people were flipping over chairs to get to the front of the room for extra samples when it was offered. Now a little background. ...

Scott Witherow, the founder of Olive & Sinclair got to talking with Allan Benton a few months ago about a way to capitalize on the bacon craze that continues to sweep across many aspects of creative food development and the rest of the zeitgeist as well.

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Monday, June 27, 2011

Schlafly Teams With Blackstone To Brew in Nashville

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 1:30 PM

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If you're a fan of Schlafly beer from St. Louis, you'll be pleased to know it soon will be brewed locally. The Saint Louis Brewing Co., which produces Schlafly, has forged a partnership with Nashville's Blackstone Brewery to start making some of Schlafly's product at Blackstone's new brewing and bottling facility off Charlotte Avenue, Walker Duncan reports on Nashville Post.

Schlafly says on its blog that it's running out of capacity at its two breweries, so it reached out to former employee Dave Miller, who's now at Blackstone. They put together an agreement to devote some of Blackstone's capacity to producing Schlafly.

Schlafly reports that 80 percent of its beer is consumed in St. Louis, but the company is growing in other regions, including Tennessee.

Meanwhile, Schlafly has posted a job opening for a new position in Nashville: "This person will be responsible for account level sales in Tennessee and will work with our Quality Team to manage production of Schlafly Beers with our local partner at a recently constructed brewery in Nashville." Interested? Closing date for applications is July 15.

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Eat Your Books: The Likeliest Online Cookbook Organizer Yet

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 8:20 AM

Eat Your Books is the latest and likeliest candidate for cookbook organizing, a great idea for people with big libraries or lots of books on a single subject. EYB works like this: you sign up, populate your bookshelf from their selection of 2,000 indexed and 85,000 unindexed books and counting, and then those books are yours to search. The idea behind EYB is that it helps you search all your books at once.

I went to my EYB bookshelf looking for a green tomato marmalade recipe that I couldn't locate and wa-hey! There it was in Putting Food By, by Janet Green. So I just walked to my bookshelf and pulled out the book. Beats the heck out of a Post-It note.

Because of copyright issues, you don't see the whole recipe, just the ingredients. What it does is help you find recipes in your library, and it's great if you have a big cookbook library.

EYB's roster of cookbooks is super-impressive. It includes plenty of trusted brands like Moosewood and Williams Sonoma, The Beautiful Cookbook series, and the Good Cook series from Time Life (but I doubt the fabulous Kodachrome photos are reproduced. ...)

It includes classics too good to be forgotten, like Giuliano Bugialli's Classic Techniques of Italian Cooking, The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook, Recipes 1-2-3 by Rozanne Gold, Lorna Sass' Cooking Under Pressure and The Supper Book by Marion Cunningham, which I loaned out a decade ago, never to see again.

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My New Chef Crush: My Drunk Kitchen

Posted By on Mon, Jun 27, 2011 at 5:23 AM

I'll bet that many Bites readers have celebrity chef crushes. Some people like Giada De Laurentiis, who I personally think looks like a candy apple trying to shoplift two feather pillows out of a Bed, Bath and Beyond. Other folks find Bobby Flay's charming New Yorker schtick and boyish good looks to be very attractive. There are even huge fans of Rachael Ray, who I imagine must be watching with the sound turned down on their televisions.

My latest crush is not on a big Food Network celebrichef with a snazzy kitchen/studio loaded down with the latest in culinary toys. I have just discovered a 24-year-old New Yorker transplant from San Francisco who is so darned cute and incredibly funny in her tiny apartment kitchen, that I can't stop watching her YouTube videos over and over. Her name is Hannah Hart, and her online cooking show is titled "My Drunk Kitchen."

So far, Hannah has eight episodes of her single static camera series in the can, ranging from her premiere where she drunkenly attempts to make a grilled cheese sandwich (she realizes halfway through that she doesn't have any cheese) to her latest attempt to make ice cream by shaking a snack-size bag full of milk and vanilla inside another sandwich size plastic bag. Her Ben and Jerry efforts are seriously impaired by her consumption of two bottles of Rose ("it tastes like white wine, but pink") and a couple of falls from the counter as she attempts kitchen parkour.

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