In many Louisiana households, after the Thanksgiving meal is eaten, along comes the moment when a crucial decision must be made: whether to make the gumbo. I can remember my brother, Chuck, some six or seven years ago, holding a bird carcass over a big boiling pot of water, and saying to no one in particular: "See you in three days." (This is the same brother who often says, "Some people's body is a temple; mine is a carnival.")
Properly executed, a gumbo takes time. First, it's very labor intensive. And second, the pieces just need hours and hours to come together. It's nothing short of a mystery, to be honest, how the disparate parts produce the final taste. Sure, any gumbo recipe can show you the "how," but it sure can't explain the "why."
When I see people take their carved-up Thanksgiving turkey and throw it in the trash, I want to shake them hard, convert them, explain the gumbo that awaits if they only take the time. And so, herewith, the map down Gumbo Road. ...
Read the rest for step-by-step instructions, some of which leave us more than mildly apprehensive (microwave roux?).
• At the other end of the dining spectrum — my end — Cracker Barrel serves up Thanksgiving dinner for $8.99 per person ($4.49 for kids) starting at 11 a.m. Choose from baked ham, sweet potato casserole, cranberry relish, your choice of vegetable, a beverage and made-from-scratch biscuits or corn muffins, with pumpkin-pecan streusel pie for dessert. Or serve up to six with Thanksgiving takeout for $49.99 — just make sure you give 24 hours' notice.
• Ellendale's (2739 Old Elm Hill Pike, 884-0171) will be taking reservations for its Thanksgiving buffet through 8:30 p.m. Featured items include honey roasted turkey, Granny Smith apple dressing, chicken piccata, baked ham with pineapple brandy and brown sugar glaze, almond green beans, buttered baby carrots, creamed peas, maple corn squash and garlic mashed potatoes. Cost is $32 plus beverage.
• The downtown Hilton (121 Fourth Ave. N., 620-2178) provides a buffet of roasted turkey with cornbread dressing, a carving station with baked ham, prime rib and pork tenderloin, a seafood station with smoked salmon and jumbo shrimp, and a "special children's buffet." Adults $37, children 7-12 $9.95; children under 6 eat free. Reservations recommended.
Even though I'm sure it tastes fine — OK, maybe it tastes fine — the idea of baking any kind of meat into a cake, drizzling it with gravy and calling it "Thanksgiving" is completely repulsive to me. Plus I'm pretty sure that my brain would do the water-Sprite mix-up, expect a sweet cake and get TURKEY CAKE instead. Cue histrionic retching.
Is this appetizing to anyone? Would anyone consider serving this? If so, I'd love to hear the reactions of your loved ones on Thursday. Here are some hilarious dessert-ish Thanksgiving cake wrecks for your consideration as well. I'm planning on bringing this much more palatable dessert to Thanksgiving dinner this year.
First off will be a screening of GROW! the Movie, a documentary about a group of sustainable farmers in Georgia that recently screened in town as part of a fundraiser for Community Food Advocates. This showing will be in the lot behind Imogene and Willie on 12th Avenue South starting up around 6:30 p.m. Dec. 6. Admission is free, but donations to to UA will be appreciatively accepted.
They plan to have door prizes, Yazoo beer and at least one food truck to keep you happy, and fire pits to keep you warm, but bring a blanket to snuggle under. Jeremy Barlow of tayst and Sloco and Noel Glasgow of UA will both be giving short remarks about the importance of sustainable farming within a food community, and I guarantee those two walk the walk in their daily lives.
An even bigger event will be held 7 p.m. Dec. 8 at Frothy Monkey to raise funds for their community garden and speak about the partnership between the UA Movement and the restaurant. Tickets are limited, so please don't wait to RSVP to Noel Glasgow at firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds from this event will go toward the Frothy/UA Garden, and each attendee will receive a complimentary copy of The Urban Agrarian by Michael Gregory, the founder of the UA Movement.
Vinea will provide wines for the five-course tasting menu, which will also showcase items off of Frothy Monkey's new dinner menu. There will also be beer available as well as a raffle and giveaways. The event is limited to 60 people, and it sounds like fabulous fun for $50 toward a great cause.
1. Conveyor-belt sushi — I enjoyed this style of dining immensely in Japan because you can eat as much or as little as you like. You can get this in Cool Springs at Bodeli Sushi, but how about one in Davidson County?
2. A rooftop beer garden — preferably with real Belgian beer on tap, preferably downtown. On that note ...
3. A casual place to eat downtown with great food — must be walking distance to the Ryman/Bridgestone Arena. Come to think of it, how about in that long-abandoned Seanachie space? I understand that it's tourist country down there, but I frequently find myself coming up short trying to find or recommend a good bite to eat downtown. Merchants and The Palm are great, but I'm usually not looking for anything that fancy before a concert/sporting event. I usually default to Broadway Brewhouse for something simple like a quesadilla and a pint, but I think we could do better than a quesadilla. In fairness, I haven't tried Puckett's new downtown location, The National Underground, Rippy's or Past Perfect. Any fans of those want to advise?
4. A crêpe stand/food truck — do we really not have one?
5. A place to get real hoagies, including a hot meatball parm and a lobster roll.
7. A casual fresh seafood place with raw oysters, po boys, hush puppies and lots of Old Bay. 55 South in downtown Franklin comes close to what I'm looking for, but I'd like a place that's a little more casual, a little cheaper, and not a half-hour-plus drive away.
9. A swimming pool club with a bar for 20-somethings without kids. Granted, this isn't a food/restaurant request — just something I've been wishing for and thought I'd throw it out there.
Owner Eleanor Clay confirmed that she hopes to open by early December. The restaurant is one of several under the Sylvan Park name, including the original on Murphy Road in Sylvan Park and locations on Nolensville Road and in Melrose.
The Donelson building was in good shape, so the Sylvan crew just gave it a good cleaning and a fresh coat of paint, plus some Sylvan decor and equipment. Sylvan Park Donelson will seat 94 and be open to serve during lunch and dinner until 8 p.m.
The menu will be largely the same as other Sylvan Park locations, but Clay says she's also working with a few new items, including broccoli cheese casserole.
This is Sylvan Park's second expansion into Donelson — Clay opened a Sylvan Park on Lebanon Road near Fletcher's Pizza. She sold the restaurant, and it operated as Donelson Park Cafe for a while before closing.
I'm pretty sure I've mentioned several times here on Bites that I have a real affection for the bourbons of Four Roses. Bang for buck, barrel for barrel, I think their small-batch bourbon is one of the best values on the market, and it is a constant fixture in my home bar setup. But when the holidays roll around, sometimes it's worth it to look beyond the most economical option.
This year Jim Rutledge, the master distiller at Four Roses, created only 3,600 bottles of Four Roses’ 2011 Limited Edition Single Barrel Bourbon. Uncut and non-chill filtered at barrel-strength, it is a real palate pleaser, exhibiting a floral aroma and notes of light rye, pear and raspberry, finished off with a rich, creamy maple syrup mellowness. I've been lucky enough to taste a sip or two of this year's batch of Single Barrel, but apparently I've been too naughty for any of my loved ones to give me a bottle ... yet. At a retail of about $80, I guess I know exactly what I'm worth.
Fortunately, I've been on a Vinho Verde kick lately, which means that you can make me very happy with a bottle of this extraordinarily reasonably-priced wine.
Apparently I'm not alone either, since the U.S. has become the No. 2 importer of Vinho Verdes with over 300,000 cases coming over from Portugal last year.
It's Gifty Giveaway Tuesday on Bites, where you can win a cookbook for giving or keeping.
Robin Takes 5 by Robin Miller is a great fit for that new cook, or the cook with the micro kitchen. Also an ideal book for people with zero patience for grocery shopping. With five ingredients or fewer, it's still possible to make Salmon with Sriracha Mayo, Warm Cabbage and Apple salad and Caribbean Roast Chicken with Allspice and Hot Peppers — the book has 500 recipes, plenty of territory for discovering a new and simple favorite. And all the recipes have 500 calories or fewer.
The winner of the book will be the best holiday food haiku. If you recall from middle school, a haiku has three lines; the first has five syllables, the second has seven syllables, the third has five syllables. Bites
flings out the first metric feet to get you into a creative mindspace.
Craisins' sour newness
turns up where it shouldn't
until the year's end
Post your sweet, sassy, sentimental or funny haikus in the comments to enter.
The Loveless Cafe and their Hams and Jams catalog have always been a go-to source for giving a little taste of Nashville to friends and family around the country. People who I have sent Loveless gift packs to have been almost universally grateful with the one exception of a certain Yankee friend of mine who threw away the country ham claiming that it had "gone bad" because it was so salty. Dude!
To celebrate their 60th birthday, Loveless has been popping up around town giving away free biscuits. Most recently they were set up in front of the Bridgestone Arena to feed hungry hockey fans on Saturday night. They have two more stops on their magical mystery tour, including one today somewhere and another in Franklin on Saturday, Nov. 26. For hints as to exactly where they'll show up, check out their Facebook page.
For that relative who may not like their ham deliciously salty, there's always Honeybaked Ham. For the holidays, they've released two new intriguing products, a sweet and spicy smoked bacon and an intriguing pretzel bread. Put those together and I'll bet they make a heckuva sandwich. Their hams and turkeys are also a favorite contribution to any holiday table.
The Hamery has developed their version of prosciutto which they cheekily call "Tennshoeto," a thinly sliced ham that is smoked with apple and hickory wood and then cured for eighteen months. Usually it is only available around the holidays, and it is so popular that online orders are limited to two packages per person. With more smoke than its Italian cousin, Tennshoetoe makes an excellent appetizer wrapped around asparagus and roasted in the oven or a truly decadent sandwich meat. Buy a package for yourself and give another to a friend. Y'know, like maybe the food blogger who pointed you in the right direction occasionally.Schmaltz's Deli out of Illinois. I recently received a care package of products from these folks that included a 1-pound package of some of the most delicious pastrami I've ever eaten. This perfectly smoked thinly sliced stack of brisket is spiced with salt, garlic, cloves and black pepper and makes a very comforting meal with some rye bread and spicy mustard.
I also received two potato knishes, a tub of smoked whitefish spread and the uniter of the confectionery world, a black and white cookie.
We've had this discussion before — in this part of the South, cornbread is hot, salty and greasy.
I've defended that principle for years, but last week, a cold, sweet, fluffy muffin was just the thing at B&C Market BBQ inside the Nashville Farmers' Market house.
Lunch was B&C beef brisket, cut into both thin and thick slices. Each slice had crusty bark outside and a smoke ring inside. Long past the lunch rush, the beef was still admirably moist, which isn't always the case with brisket, even when it's fresh off the fire.
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