Monday, February 20, 2012

Cross Your Fingers Today as Local Students Compete in Culinary Knowledge

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 8:44 AM

Today in Winston-Salem, N.C., the American Culinary Federation kicks off its annual Southeast Regional Conference by holding the Baron H. Galand Culinary Knowledge Bowl. This competitions is a “Jeopardy”-style tournament that tests students’ culinary knowledge on topics ranging from culinary math to sanitation. The competition is open to student teams from ACF chapters, apprenticeship programs and accredited schools. Each team has four players and one alternate. The winning team will advance to the national competition held in Orlando, Fla., in July.

The ACF Middle Tennessee Chapter will be represented by a group of culinary students from The International Culinary School at The Art Institute of Tennessee here in Nashville. The team members are: Frank Horton, Cleophus Jones, Brittany King, Pamela Moore and Annie Soliongco. The team is coached by Lisa Ramsey, certified executive chef.

So send some good vibes their way today as we root for them to bring home the Golden Spork or whatever the grand prize is. Go team!

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'Tennessee Flavors' Salutes Culinary Arts Program and Allan Benton

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 7:00 AM

Allan Benton
  • Allan Benton
Despite the almost annoying level of bacon worship that has become popular of late among the hipster community, most chefs and foodies will agree that properly smoked hams and bacon are part of what makes Southern food unique and delicious. And there's no better representative of that arcane smoky art than Allan Benton of Madisonville, Tenn. Chefs from around the world make the pilgrimage to his small smokehouse to pay homage to artisan products, and now Mr. Benton has been invited to be the guest of honor at a new event that hopes to become one of Nashville’s best food and beverage celebrations.

"Tennessee Flavors" is a benefit for the Culinary Arts Program at Nashville State Community College. It will be held on Thursday March 8, from 5-8 p.m. More than two dozen of the area’s outstanding chefs, wine and beverage producers and food suppliers are joining together to throw a party at the NSCC Student Services Building on White Bridge Road. Nashville restaurateur Randy Rayburn is one of the organizers of the event, and shares some of the details:

“The Nashville food community is always happy to give generously to Nashville’s charities, arts organizations and other worthy causes, but Tennessee Flavors provides a unique chance to support the future of our own profession,” says restaurateur Randy Rayburn. “One hundred percent of the proceeds will go to scholarships for NSCC culinary students — our future colleagues — and to much-needed kitchen equipment.”

The culinary arts program at NSCC was founded in 1997. It enrolls more than 200 students, and in fall 2011 was forced to turn down another 80 applicants for lack of space. During Tennessee Flavors, professional chefs will be paired with students who will help prepare and serve the evening’s cuisine.

What Rayburn is too modest to share in his press release is that the program was recently named the "Randy Rayburn School of Culinary Arts" in recognition of his efforts through the years to help educate and train culinary professionals who now work in many of Nashville's restaurants.

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Our Kids Soup Sunday: Tactical Training Tips

Posted By on Mon, Feb 20, 2012 at 5:51 AM

From the very first Soup Sunday 18 years ago, the event found its market easily: February plus cold calls out for soup.

And not just any soup — 48 beautiful chowders, broths, stews, potages, goulashes, stocks, bisques and salmagundis from some of Nashville's most accomplished restaurant kitchens. This year's event is this Sunday, Feb. 26, at LP Field, and it's good to know some tips before you go.

Realistically, you're not going to be able to eat soup from all these great restaurants. So plan ahead: Print the list, get a floor diagram of the Club Level space at LP Field, if you can find one. (I couldn't.) Arrive early. Review the winners from last year and the last year's event. Keep your ears open for people making especially yummy noises. Ask around. Taste judiciously, discarding any soup that isn't what you hoped for. Don't be tempted by seconds.

Finally, be prepared to skip a soup that doesn't sound good to you, no matter whether others seem to be delirious over it. For me, that's the chicken-cheese-chowder soups, which are so rich and filling they don't leave enough room for tasting as many other soups as possible.

See, now that is strategy. Share your pro tip in the comments. Click here for tickets. Family packages are $40, adult tickets are $20 and children's tickets are $8.

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Friday, February 17, 2012

Koi Sushi & Thai: This Week's Dining Review

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 3:20 PM

The Cherry Blossom Roll at Koi on Franklin Road.
In this week's dining review, Carrington Fox checks out Koi Sushi & Thai on Franklin Road in the Melrose neighborhood. It's the sister restaurant to the original Koi, off Columbia Pike in Franklin. It's owned by restaurateur Hang Bui and her family. Read the full review here.

An interesting aspect of Koi is that the restaurant has three specialties: sushi, Thai curries and Vietnamese pho, "a point that will make the eatery a convenient middle ground for dining groups with varying levels of seafood-friendliness and raw-readiness," Carrington says. Reminds me of Bites' earlier discussion of finding a convenient restaurant to suit all the co-workers at lunch.

Carrington also praises the vast, colorful array of sushi rolls depicted in photographs on the menu:

Rather than agonize over the options, you might as well close your eyes and point to a page, because without exception all our selections were beautifully constructed and arranged, with noticeably fresh ingredients in thoughtful balance of warm and cool, creamy and crisp, savory and sweet.

Wow, the close-your-eyes-and-point method is intriguing. Bites Nation, do you have any tricks for picking out the best stuff on a menu?


Wandering Wino: Really Unfortunate Timing Edition

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 7:57 AM

A notice passed through your Wandering WIno's mailbox this week that probably got him more excited than any other tasting in the past six months. Unfortunately, the event is this Sunday, which is the last day of a three-day juice cleanse that I'm planning so that I can share it with you all. I try these things so you don't have to. (But you might want to try. Stay tuned.) Plus Lent is coming up, and so is my annual physical, so I figured it would be a good time to flush out the old system.

The event that got me so perked up is Vinea's first wine dinner of the new year. In a stroke of brilliance, they are teaming up with their neighbors at Edley's Bar-B-Que and Cliff Creek Cellars from southern Oregon to put on a barbecue wine dinner. Now, barbecue is traditionally difficult to match with wine, but I'm sure that these folks will do a super job at it.

The dinner starts at 5 p.m. on Sunday, Feb. 19, and costs only $30 for five courses and five wines. That looks like an incredible bargain. Check out this amazing menu:

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Watermark Chef TV Show, Brunchlike Action at Wild Hare: All on Open Thread

Posted By on Fri, Feb 17, 2012 at 5:47 AM


Sorry to miss the Feb. 16 Nashville debut of Bob Waggoner's television show, UCook! With Chef Bob, on WNPT-Channel 8.

Watermark's most recent chef, Waggoner brings a distinguished background to both the kitchen and the soundstage. This guy! He's so TV! His televised credits include several Food Network shows and a regional Emmy for Off the Menu.

For his first local show, Waggoner was making chilled carrot and cantaloupe soup and seared pork chops with cipollini onions. Anyone catch it, or DVR it? Or cook it?

Turning westward, Wild Hare is now open Sundays from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., making it a seven-day-a-week option. Given the brunch-friendly hours, the Hare is offering brunch-appropriate specials on Sunday. The inaugural special, last week, was French toast.

What foodaciousness are you watching on television or other broadcast media? Any good tips to share? And where are you having brunch this weekend?

Weekly Open Thread is the place for news, rumor, innuendo, gossip and happy tidings.

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Catbird Seat Scores No. 5 in 'GQ' List of Top 10 New Restaurants in America

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 11:34 AM

More evidence that Nashville eatery The Catbird Seat is earning a prominent place in the national restaurant scene: GQ magazine has ranked it No. 5 in its annual list of Top 10 New Restaurants in America.

The announcement comes just days after Catbird's chefs, Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson, cooked dinner at the James Beard House in New York. The invitation to the dinner, which took place Monday, is considered a prestigious honor.

The Catbird Seat, which features an innovative setup with just 32 seats around a U-shaped chef's bar where Habiger and Anderson directly serve seven or more courses to diners, is the only Southern restaurant on the list. In fact, it's one of only four of the Top 10 not situated on the coasts.

(Next and Ruxbin in Chicago and Barley Swine in Austin, Texas, are the others. Ashley Christensen Restaurants in Raleigh, N.C., got a separate nod as "Mini-Empire of the Year.")

The Catbird Seat is a high-profile flagship of entrepreneur Ben and Max Goldberg's Strategic Hospitality group.

Check out the full GQ release, including all 10 restaurants, after the jump.

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Look Sharp With Edges at Nashville Farmers' Market

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 8:10 AM

Over the years, I've tried every kind of gadget to sharpen and hone my kitchen knives. Whetstones, grinders, even a Rachel Ray banded diamond honer. Mostly all I succeeded in accomplishing was ruining whatever edge was left on my overused and underloved cutlery. I chalk it up to user error more than bad gadgets.

I did take a mess of knives down to Davis Cookware in Hillsboro Village to let their resident "knife whisperer" have a crack at my Wüsthofs. I wasn't that impressed by the edges or how long they they stayed sharp under normal use, plus whatever stone they used scratched the heck out of my blades — but sharp is much better than good-looking. (At least that's what I keep trying to convince my girlfriend.)

Finally last year, the same girlfriend gave me some really nice Shun knives and this slick little whetstone/honer combination. So far so good as the combination of good knives and a fairly foolproof sharpening system has allowed me to get them sharp and keep them sharp for quite a while. But now I may have found an even better solution at the Nashville Farmers' Market.

Cathey Grossman runs a little business she calls "Edges." Every first and second Saturday from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m., Cathey sets up her very professional rotary grinder and whetstone system and will sharpen your cutlery while you shop at the market. I saw the evidence of some of her work, and I must say she does a remarkable job and really understands the art and science of creating and honing an edge. Bandying about terms like "double grinding" and "included angles," Cathey impressed me as she tried to teach me.

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Yasiv Dangles Possibilities in Front of You

Posted By on Thu, Feb 16, 2012 at 5:58 AM

When an Amazon search result says, "You may be interested in ..." or "People who bought this also bought ..." it's the result of an algorithm.

Most algorithm talk is over my head, but I like to look at pictures, so algorithm visualizations work for me.

Yasiv turns your Amazon search into a web of pictures, along with a list. The screen fills with items you can see, much more interesting than a listing of entries.

I typed in the title of a cookbook I authored, The All New Square Foot Gardening Cookbook (Cool Springs Press, 2009) and Yasiv came alive with a tangle of tomes that unwound themselves gradually into a design that reflected their connection to the original title, and to each other. It's like opening a drawer full of electrical cords and watching them spring out.

Each item is clickable, with a full description to help you see why Good Bug, Bad Bug might be related to the square-foot gardening cookbook.

Typing in 660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer's immense volume, gives a triple web: one part comprises Indian cookbooks, another strand is curry cookbooks from other ethnicities and countries. A third connects to the main web by a single book: an Indian slow-cooker book, and comprises only slow-cooker cookbooks.

Books are cool and all, but searching for small kitchen gadgets is more fun. The "silicone whisk" visualization bounces out like the contents of the gadget drawer leaping into space, or a bowl of spaghetti dumped on the floor.

Yasiv, which may be an acronym for "yet another similar items visualization," is a participant in the Amazon LLC Services Associate program.

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Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Bar Louie to Open in Gulch, Murfreesboro, Chattanooga

Posted By on Wed, Feb 15, 2012 at 9:15 AM


Bar Louie, a Chicago-based chain of cocktail-oriented bars, will open three Middle Tennessee locations beginning next month, with a Knoxville location scheduled later this year.

According to a news release, the first to open will be the Murfreesboro site, in The Avenue shopping center in late March. A Chattanooga property in Hamilton Place Mall is expected to open in April, and The Gulch here in Nashville will get a Bar Louie in May.

A press representative did not return calls, but the likeliest Gulch spot seems to be the late Wine Loft space.

Read the full press release (as reprinted in the Sacramento Bee) here.

Bitesters with restaurant careers, the link for employment is here — looks like it might be a sweet gig.


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