Thursday, October 27, 2011

Porta Via Poised To Open Its Cool Springs Outpost

Posted By on Thu, Oct 27, 2011 at 5:41 AM

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Bites announced the news this summer: Porta Via Italian Kitchen on White Bridge Road was cloning itself for a Cool Springs location.

And now that the sacks of double zero caputo flour and blast furnace ovens are in place, and a ribbon-cutting— yes, really — is scheduled for the Nov. 14 opening of the Williamson County location at 3301 Aspen Grove.

Expect a beautiful interior with a fountain and a pergola ceiling. Included in the seating for 125 are a patio and a pizza bar, for people who want to scarf down a quick slice.

It's no secret that Bites loves Porta Via — but it's not just us. Just about everyone admires the VPN pizza, homemade pasta, gelato in 18 flavors each day, and that broiled rosemary-and-garlic T-bone steak.

And when I say everyone, I mean that the 11 a.m. ribbon cutting will be attended by the mayors of both Williamson County and the city of Franklin. The restaurant will open for service immediately following.

That's about as grand a grand opening as you could hope for. Speaking of opening, the Cool Springs Porta Via will be open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday. (Closed Sundays.)

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Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Halloween Party Dishes: There's Gotta Be More Than Kitty Litter Cake

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 3:14 PM

So is anyone cooking any thematic Halloween dishes this weekend? My friend is having her annual shindig and I think I have talked her into making chili dogs. I'm not sure why that came to mind, but she wanted something that wouldn't require utensils, bowls, or make lots of trash. I can't believe I actually heard myself say, "Just boil a big bag of hot dogs from Costco and put them on a plate!" It will at least be memorable, right?

She asked me to bring a dish, so I have been browsing a few sites looking for inspiration. I ran across this horrific recipe for kitty litter cake, complete with a pooper-scooper, and have been too repulsed to look much further.

Here are some round-ups with classier options. Those at The Kitchn appear to be aimed more at kids' parties (e.g., the Halloween milk shooters), but Serious Eats has some drink and pumpkin recipes (along with a monster candy bark that looks enticing).

We are also considering some sort of spooky cocktail (but will probably end up just making sangria). Any ideas for more mature, delicious Halloween party recipes? (Thanks, but we'll pass on the puff-pastry guts.)

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Nashville Tops List of Best NHL Arenas for Food and Drink

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 12:10 PM

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Our sister publication, Nashville Post, notes something interesting today: The Food Republic blog, which annually ranks the best food cities for NHL hockey fans, has put Nashville at the top of the list.

Why did Bridgestone Arena get named No. 1? It seems to have as much to do with its neighborhood — the bars, restaurants and honky-tonks of Lower Broadway — as the food served up inside the venue.

Food Republic's Nina Mandel writes: "The arena, unlike many sports arenas, is in a prime neighborhood, right near Nashville's Music City waterfront."

I'm not sure how much our almost-universally-ignored Cumberland River has to do with it, but Mandel is right about Nashville's wisdom in locating the arena downtown in a pre-existing entertainment district.

Hot on Nashville's heels (or hockey skates) is New York. The Rangers play in Madison Square Garden, one of the most famous venues of all time, located in one of the world's greatest food cities. But unfortunately, Mandel says, "The area surrounding the stadium is a plethora of gross chains and fast food." She recommends dining from food trucks parked nearby or trekking a few blocks to Koreatown.

But New York is poised to get a big boost in NHL arena-area food, Mandel writes:

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First Sip: Bootleggers Inn Opens on Lower Broad

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 8:13 AM

Legal moonshine is a hot commodity in the spirit world. Nascar legend Junior Johnson's Moonlight Moon and Catdaddy shine have been featured products at both this year and last year's Tales of the Cocktail conference, and Nashville is now host to our own white whiskey still up in Marathon Village. Popcorn Sutton's Tennessee White Whiskey is a joint venture between entrepreneur Jamey Grosser, Hank Williams Jr. (I swear I'm not making this up) and the widow of Popcorn Sutton, a famous Appalachian moonshiner who killed himself in 2009 rather than serve a sentence for making illegal untaxed alcohol.

Out of this legend has been born a surprisingly smooth version of Popcorn's original moonshine. Of course, this shine is made in a sterilized manufacturing plant and has a proof of only 93, so the lower alcohol number and lack of impurities ensure a better product for sipping.

A new bar on Lower Broadway has just opened with Popcorn's pride as the feature product. Bootleggers Inn is located at 207 Broadway in the space that formerly housed Decades nightclub. The downstairs has been converted into a woodsy shotgun shack of a saloon with overhead lamps made from mason jars and a long bar running the length of the room. Live music is played from noon until 3 in the morning just about every day. Check the website for the music lineup.

Bootleggers offers a full bar, but they definitely want to push the moonshine, which is available straight or mixed in a cocktail. They are particularly proud of their infusions. While the exact recipe is a secret, they look like mason jars full of snow-cone syrup, which is not unusual if you've ever had traditional flavored shine where the distillers try to cut the burn with sweet flavorings.

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Busy Carpenters Move Porter Road Butcher Toward December Opening

Posted By on Wed, Oct 26, 2011 at 5:58 AM

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A lot of folks are eager for artisan meat shop Porter Road Butcher to open at 501 Gallatin Ave. in East Nashville — and their anticipation is even more keen after hearing that cheese purveyor The Bloomy Rind also plans to operate out of the space.

But Porter Road Butcher chef-owners Chris Carter and James Peisker are keeping us all in the loop, sharing updates on the store's Facebook page, including the news that they expect to open sometime in December. A new Porter Road Butcher website is up, with expected hours, a phone number and most intriguing, a menu prototype for future online ordering of their meats. Check it out.

Meanwhile, Drew McDaniel and Carolyn Manney, the husband-and-wife team behind carpentry and remodeling company Space Lift, have used their blog to post some pictures of their work on the Porter Road Butcher project, including the one-of-a-kind 16-foot wooden counter topped with maple butcher block from John Boos & Co.

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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Happy Life of the Retired Bourbon Barrel

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 12:42 PM

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On our visit to Prichard's Distillery, we learned that each aging barrel is only good for aging a single batch of bourbon. They'd make excellent wood chips for barbecue, I thought, angling to buy one.

Other cooks' imaginations have also been captivated by the rich combination of wood and liquor as a flavoring agent.

From Tasting Table comes this chatty map that reveals the destiny of lucky barrels that have done their duty in service to flavoring alcohol. Most cross the Mason-Dixon line, but at least a few end up in the kitchen of Husk restaurant in Charleston, S.C., in the hands of onetime Nashvillian Sean Brock, a man who knows how to coax the astonishing from the unexpected.

At Grant Achatz's cocktail palace The Aviary in Chicago, cocktails are aged in various barrels. (Eater Chicago has a video showing Josh Habiger, now co-chef at Nashville's Catbird Seat, helping taste-test the results with chef Craig Schoettler at The Aviary last fall. Habiger says one elixir tastes like "adult candy.")

See the chart online here for as big an image as you could wish.

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Late Bite: Vito's Ristorante and Wine Bar at 1812

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 8:50 AM

Even though it's been open for a few months, I'm just now getting around to visiting an old favorite in a new spot. (Or a new favorite in an old spot, depending how you look at it.) Vito's Ristorante and Wine Bar, located in the former location of DaVinci's Pizza at 1812 Hayes St. in Midtown, hopes to offer a new dining experience for Nashville that draws from elements of the city's past. They promise quality food at reasonable prices, a similar attitude as that which made chef Vito Randazzo and his father successful for years at Caesar's in Lion's Head Village on White Bridge Road. Despite the confusion of the names, this venture is in no way related to the new Caesar's downtown or the former employees of the White Bridge Road restaurant that took the name with them.

Vito's is owned by the chef and his two partners, Bill Hockridge and retired dentist Dr. Jerry Klein. Just about any time you visit the restaurant you can expect to find Vito in the kitchen cooking up every dish "a la minute" and at least one of the other owners greeting customers at the front door or at the bar. That bar is a highlight of the remodeled interior and turns what was once a fairly sterile dining space into a clubby wine bar with the muted strains of opera wafting from the speakers to offer even more atmosphere.

Since Chef Vito cooks every single diner's meal at the time of order, service is a little more leisurely than you might expect from your everyday pizza joint. The quality is worth the wait rather than having to endure pasta scooped from a communal pot and slathered in sauce that was made who knows when. If you're in more of a hurry, consider the pizza/pasta and salad buffet Monday through Friday from 11 a.m. until 2 p.m. It's only $7 and the dishes are made in smaller batches and rotated frequently to ensure that they are still hot and fresh when you go back for seconds. (Or thirds.)

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Roast Inc. Celebrates Its Birthday With One Fancy Cup of Coffee

Posted By on Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 5:45 AM

For this week's Food Biz column in The City Paper, I checked in with Brad Wood, who along with his wife, Lesa, owns Roast Inc. coffeehouse. It's in a little shopping strip on Trousdale south of Harding Place near the Crieve Hall neighborhood.

As I wrote before its opening last year, the retail shop was created to brew and serve the exotic coffees Brad had been acquiring and roasting in small batches, first as a hobby and then to sell at farmers’ markets. Roast Inc. focuses exclusively on single-cup brewing. (No lukewarm coffee urns allowed.) Every cup is brewed individually, using a variety of gourmet methods, like the siphon pot.

The coffeehouse has a low profile compared to many java joints in town, but it has built a loyal following. Customers are so loyal, in fact, that they chipped in with elbow grease when the Woods decided it was time to renovate the space to make it more convivial. Brad called it the "28-Hour Makeover" — it started at 3 p.m. on a recent Saturday and ended at 6 p.m. Sunday. Then everybody shared a family-style barbecue.

To celebrate, Roast Inc. will hold a grand reopening 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. this Saturday, Oct. 29. Brad is bringing out a very special lot from Hawaii, the only U.S. coffee honored by the Specialty Coffee Association of America as one of its 10 international Cups of the Year.

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Monday, October 24, 2011

Carbon Footprint on Meatless Monday

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2011 at 11:20 AM

Chickens carbon footprint, by category

The Environmental Working Group released a study last week on the carbon footprint of 20 different foods' life cycles, including energy used and methane gas produced. Everything from lamb to turkey to rice to tomatoes was included. Emissions were classified as those created during food production and those created post-farmgate, i.e. in processing, retail, cooking, transportation, storage and disposal.

The results were a little surprising. The meat with the smallest carbon footprint was ... canned tuna. The meat with the biggest was lamb, then beef, then ... cheese, which created more overall emissions than pork.

Lentils had the greenest carbon footprint, with tomatoes running a close second and 2 percent milk third-to-greenest.

The study gets to a pretty granular level, and there were more surprises there. Forty-four percent of farmed salmon is thrown away, accounting for its high post-farmgate carbon footprint. Five percent of meat is thrown out by retailers. Composting meat at home doesn't significantly reduce its carbon footprint. Less dense cheeses like cottage cheese have less impact because they require less milk.

There are even more micro details, and if you want to read the results, go here.

The takeaway was this: Meatless Monday is good for reducing carbon footprint. A four-person family skipping meat and cheese one day a week is the environmental equivalent of not driving for five weeks. Or skip a single burger each week and that's like line-drying your laundry half the time, or driving 320 fewer miles.

Almost as important as doing without was the way you can shop: buying only what you need prevents loss to "plate waste" and spoilage. So if turkey lunch meat, pork chops, or even peanut butter and yogurt, just sit in the fridge or cabinet until they spoil, you and the environment are better off leaving them with the retailer.

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Turnip Truck Turns 10, and You're Invited to the Birthday Party

Posted By on Mon, Oct 24, 2011 at 8:57 AM

It's hard to believe that the Turnip Truck Natural Market has been open at 970 Woodland St. for over ten years now. The Five Points area of East Nashville was a very different place a decade ago when owner John Dyke made the commitment to establish an all-natural foods store to provide fresh produce and organic products to a neighborhood that was just starting to become the progressive area that we see today.

Not that there was necessarily anything wrong with East Nashville ten years ago, but I think we can agree that it was a risky move to establish a retail store that dealt in $6 gallons of organic milk and local pollen honey products before the demographics suggested that there was the available purchasing power to support it.

But The Turnip Truck persevered, and the neighborhood did rise up to support it. Since the day that they opened, the store has maintained an inventory of 100 percent natural products (at least 95 percent of the produce is organically grown). Almost 50 vendors provide seasonal products to the store, and The Turnip Truck even offers a special order service if your favorite product isn't readily available on their shelves.

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