Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fire Up the Big Green Egg for Hearth and Grill's Backyard Challenge

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2012 at 7:37 AM

As the weather warms up, it's definitely grilling season around these parts. After years of turning up my nose at friends who had joined the cult of kamado cooking with their Big Green Eggs and Primo ceramic grills, I finally gave in and bought one of each of those brands. I must admit that I'm an immediate convert, because of the amazing temperature control and ability to grill or smoke meat quickly and efficiently.

If you're a grill pro, you might want to try to grab one of the last remaining entry spots for the Hearth and Grill Shop's Backyard Challenge BBQ Cook-Off on June 2. The entry fee is $75 and there are both gas and charcoal divisions, and chicken, rib and dessert categories. Grillers will compete for more than $7,000 in cash and prizes with judging starting at noon.

Here's the rest of the information on the event:

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Roast Inc. Closes Coffeehouse But Rolls Out New Product: Bottled Cold-Brewed Coffee

Posted By on Tue, May 22, 2012 at 5:57 AM

Here's some news from my Food Biz column this week (in the print edition of The City Paper and online in the Nashville Post):

Roast Inc., the family-owned coffee roasting company on Trousdale Lane in the Crieve Hall neighborhood, has closed the retail coffeehouse side of the operation to concentrate on catering and wholesale. At the same time, the company is introducing a unique new local product: cold-brewed coffee in a bottle, which will be sold at Whole Foods and three local farmers’ markets.

Lesa and Brad Wood opened the cafe in 2010 to showcase their beans, which Brad purchases from “microlots” produced by single small estates in Central and South America, Indonesia and Africa. Lesa handles the craft of roasting, and she’s the one who ran the coffeehouse, specializing in brewing by the cup using artisan methods. (The coffeehouse celebrated its one-year anniversary with a renovation that made it an even nicer spot to sip a well-sourced, well-roasted coffee brewed by the cup.)

But the success of the wholesale and catering side of the business far outpaced the retail, Lesa told me. For one thing, Roast Inc. secured a deal in late 2011 to supply coffee beans to both local Whole Foods stores. To accommodate the demand, Lesa opened a separate roasting facility in February, a few doors down from the cafe in the same strip on Trousdale.

A couple weeks ago, Wood simply shut down the coffeehouse so she could concentrate on the other aspects of the business, working out of the roastery alone. The lease on the store space was up, she says, and the neighborhood is a bit too isolated to generate the retail traffic to support a coffeehouse.

“But we didn’t want to leave the Crieve Hall customers high and dry,” she says. So every Friday from noon to 5 p.m. she and a barista open up the roasting facility to customers so people can sip free samples of the different coffees and buy beans.

And now, customers can also pick up chilled bottles of Roast Inc. Cold-Filtered Coffee. She said it comes in two varieties: black coffee and a Vietnamese-style version made with sweetened milk. The bottled coffee will soon be sold at Whole Foods, too.

The roastery is at 4825 Trousdale Drive, suite 218. Roast Inc. also sells at the 12South Farmers Market (3:30-6:30 p.m. Tuesdays), the East Nashville Farmers’ Market (3:30-6:30 p.m. Wednesdays) and the Franklin Farmers Market (8 to 1 p.m. Saturdays).

For updates, follow Roast Inc. on Facebook or Twitter, or email lesa(at)roastinc.com to sign up for the weekly newsletter.

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Monday, May 21, 2012

Savor Nashville Recap: Amazing Food From Local Chefs and Visitors Alike

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2012 at 4:11 PM

Chef Kevin Ramquists winning dishes.
  • Chef Kevin Ramquist's winning dishes.
Earlier this month, I gave you the heads up about the second annual Savor Nashville weekend. Now that the event has come and gone, if you missed it, well ... you really missed it!

Kudos to 1808 Grille chef Charles Phillips — who followed up cooking dinner at the James Beard House in New York on Wednesday with cooking and hosting the Savor Nashville Celebrity Chef Dinner on Saturday. And congratulations to chef Kevin Ramquist of F. Scott's, who won the Savor Nashville Chef Challenge on Sunday. (More on that later.)

Saturday night's dinner at the tony Hutton Hotel kicked off with a cocktail hour featuring Cultivate Wines, which were also served along with the courses of the dinner. There were some bargains to be had at the silent auction table, since most attendees were more interested in socializing than bidding.

Once we were seated, Chef Phillips kicked off the proceedings with a nice small plate of a perfectly fried quail egg, carnitas and some really flavorful gigante beans. Phillips barely had time to rest between the Savor dinner and cooking at the James Beard House, so you know he's on top of his game.

For the second and third courses, chef Bruce Moffett of Barrington's in Charlotte, N.C., took control of the kitchen. Chef Moffett told me that since his restaurant seats only 40 people, he'd never served a ballroom full of people before. The largest number of plates he'd previously made at one time was 10. Despite his inexperience in a big kitchen, his food came to the table beautifully composed and at a perfect temperature. His dish of English pea soup with ham and cheese croutons and smoked olive oil was a bowl that even pea soup haters could love. (I only made one Exorcist joke to my table-mates who claimed they didn't want to try it.) The olive oil was smoked with pine cones to give it a really nice evergreen note.

Moffett's next dish of roasted halibut with potato pave served with wilted greens, a green garlic soubise and caramelized shallot vinaigrette was even more anticipated by the table and did not disappoint. While we wish we'd had a botanist on hand to identify which greens that were so flavorful, we were still blissful in our ignorance.

Next the chef's toque was turned over to chef James Boyce of Cotton Row in Huntsville, Ala.. His main course of beef short ribs grits, balsamic portobello mushroom, herb salad and Provencal tomato was probably the highlight of the evening. Among all the empty wine glasses and preset silverware for every course, one of my dining companions had lost her knife by the time this course was served. No matter, the meat was so tender you could cut it with a fork and was perfectly braised bistro-style.

Knowing that I had the Savor Nashville Chefs Challenge to judge the next morning, I had only a small bite of dessert, which was peanut butter and jelly in phyllo strawberry compote, milk chocolate ice cream and salty peanuts. Although it was total overkill at this point in the gluttonous evening, the dessert was quite nice. We're talking about wants, not needs. ...

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Bonnaroo Taps Local, Regional Food Trucks and Vendors

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2012 at 11:22 AM

Hi! You've reached Nicki. Thanks for checking in, but I'm not here this week.
but I do have this important food news from the folks at Bonnaroo to pass along. Talk amongst yourselves, and I'll return your comment as soon as I can. The release:

Seven trucks from the Southeast will roll into Manchester to create the Food Truck Oasis. Guests will find everything from grilled arepas to Korean tacos to curried vegetables and farm-to-truck bites with Gastropod (Miami, Fla.), Petro’s Chili & Chips (Knoxville, Tenn.), Roti Rolls (Charleston, South Carolina), Pot Kettle Black (Charleston, South Carolina), eatbox (Ashville, North Carolina), Savory and Sweet (Knoxville, Tenn.), Blackbird Heritage Farms (College Grove, Tenn.) and Good You (Kansas City, Missouri).

For bites true to Tennessee, fans can look for returning favorites like Prater's BBQ, a state-wide favorite, which will be smoking meats on-site and enhancing them with specialty home-made sauces, and sides like Fried Dill Pickles and Fried Green Tomatoes, and Bear Creek Farm, a family farm just 50 miles from Manchester, and renowned for its Angus burgers.

The health- and eco-conscious will gravitate toward Planet Roo Cafe, a 100% waste-free cafe featuring fresh local produce and a menu with bites like Pan Seared Trout with wilted fresh baby spinach, Pecan Southern Stir Fry, Sesame Asparagus, and Grilled Sweet Potatoes. Planet Roo will also be home to the Bonnaroo Victory Garden where guests can learn about sustainable eating and how to grow their own garden.

At the Broo’ers Festival this year, 21 breweries join forces to create the ultimate beer experience. Under one tent with hay barrels and picnic tables setting the ambiance, guests find microbreweries from around the country offering up hearty bocks, revitalizing pilsners, crisp pale ales.

A full listing of eateries and breweries follows. Some names are familiar (Nashville's TomKats Catering, Blackbird Heritage Farm). Many are more enigmatic.

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Chef Fleer and Friends Cooking Dinner to Benefit Nashville Food Project

Posted By on Mon, May 21, 2012 at 5:54 AM

In July 2010, local real estate agent and hub of the Southern food community Thomas Williams hastily organized a spectacular benefit dinner featuring a who's who of Southern chefs. Cooking for an overflow house at the Cannery Ballroom, they raised money for Nashville charities Mobile Loaves and Fishes and the Community Resource Center, which helped sustain victims and volunteers after the devastating May flood.

In addition to an incredible meal, Thomas also tapped his foodie and chef friends for a silent and a live auction filled with one-of-a-kind dining experiences. The event raised a boatload of money for Nashville at exactly the time when boats and money were needed. The final tally was near $72,000.

Now Mobile Loaves and Fishes has morphed into the Nashville Food Project, an organization that I was lucky enough to spend an afternoon in the kitchen with earlier this spring. Williams is on the board of the Nashville Food Project and has agreed to work his networking magic to put together another fundraising event for the organization, which will be called Nourish.

The dinner will be held at the Nashville Farmers' Market on June 19 starting at 6 p.m. and ending whenever the last biscuit has been buttered. Then you need to seek out the after-party. John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, N.C. will return to work his magic in the kitchen for Nourish. I still dream about the buttermilk-glazed Sunburst Trout that Chef Fleer served at Thomas' first dinner.

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Friday, May 18, 2012

Flyte Trumpets Its New Chef, Matthew Lackey

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 6:16 PM

Creative fine-dining spot Flyte World Dining and Wine announced this afternoon that they have a new executive chef: Matthew Lackey, who's worked for former Nashville chef Sean Brock at his nationally acclaimed restaurants in Charleston, S.C., including the James Beard-nominated Husk.

We'd heard that Lackey was cooking at Flyte following the departure of chef Ashley Quick, but now it's official. The Flyte folks said in their announcement that Lackey joined the team in September and got promoted to top toque in late February.

The chef has created new menus for dinner and the bar at Flyte. This weekend the restaurant is offering customers 20 percent off their dinner check.

(Here's their disclaimer: Alcohol is not discounted. Discount not applicable with other discounts, certificates or coupons, however gift cards are welcome.)

The complete announcement:

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Volunteers Harvest 42 Pounds of Berries From LP Field Shrubs To Feed the Needy

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 5:50 PM

Until a few days ago, I had never heard of a serviceberry. But apparently this is a very tasty red berry native to North America (including Tennessee), and the bush that yields the berries is a popular landscaping plant.

In fact, a bunch of serviceberry shrubs are part of the landscaping outside LP Field. A couple weeks ago, Lynette Johnson, director of the Tennessee office of the hunger-fighting agency the Society of St. Andrew, noticed ripe berries on the bushes while attending Mayor Karl Dean's Field Day on May 5 at the stadium.

They were berries ripe for gleaning, you see. And that's what the Society of St. Andrew does. Here's how they describe their work as a nonprofit:

"Since 1983, the Society of St. Andrew has salvaged fresh, nutritious produce from American farms — produce that otherwise would be left to rot — and delivered it to agencies across the nation that serve the poor."

Basically, wherever there are fresh fruits and vegetables going to waste, the group tries to swoop in and rescue the food, giving it to organizations that feed the needy. It's called the gleaning network. Tomorrow, in fact Nashville volunteers will receive a donation of 40,000 pounds of sweet potatoes. And you can help! But more on that later.

So Johnson spotted the serviceberries, contacted the general manager of LP Field on Monday, and by Tuesday morning volunteers were harvesting ripe, juicy berries. (Also known as shadberries, they supposedly taste a bit like blueberries. But better, according to Johnson. And richer in minerals and antioxidants. And the edible seed has an almond aftertaste.)

The volunteers scored 42 pounds of the little red orbs before departing, hoping to return later. Alas, the birds took the rest. I guess it's their due.

But nonetheless, two agencies got bucketloads of berries: The Nashville Food Project got 30 pounds, and the Community Care Fellowship got 12 pounds.

The Nashville Food Project's Tallu Schuyler Quinn told me they took the berries, combined them with free peaches gleaned at the Nashville Farmers' Market, eggs donated by Willow Farm and other donated or purchased ingredients and served peach-berry crumble to 115 people who live in weekly-rate motels at the intersection of Dickerson Pike and Trinity Lane.

The cost of the ingredients to feed 115 people dessert: just $3.24, which works out to about $0.03 per serving. (The folks were also served a full, healthy meal, with chicken, rosemary mashed potatoes, collards, chard and cornbread, according to Ann Sale, the Nashville Food Project's meal coordinator. Total meal cost was $36.32, or 32 cents per meal.)

Gleaning works. Johnson, her office's program coordinator Linda Tozer and other volunteers continually visit the Nashville Farmers' Market and pick up what sometimes amounts to hundreds of pounds of excess produce a week that the farmers can't sell for cosmetic reasons. The fruits and veggies then go to soup kitchens and other agencies that feed the poor.

But the motherlode of national donations is a 6.3 million pounds of sweet potatoes from a farmer in North Carolina. And a bunch of those taters are headed here.

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Belcourt Taps and Tapas Reboots as Taps — With Stuffed Burgers

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 10:40 AM

After a couple of years of operating as Belcourt Taps and Tapas, owners Rose Melillo and Chris Lynch decided it was time to do a little refresh on the restaurant's gestalt and menu. They teamed up with friends Terry Hudson and Shaun Bertrand to rebrand the restaurant as simply "Taps," and change the focus of the menu from small plates to huge stuffed burgers and live music.

Focusing on local farms to source their meat, the restaurant team has revamped the menu around six signature burgers, which include: The Sunday Brunch, The Balboa, Hell's Kitchen, Juicy Lucy, P.E.T.A (Vegetarian) and The Black & Bleu. Patrons will also be welcome to build their own stuffed burgers from a long list of ingredients. Taps will also serve a selection of gourmet fries including fresh-cut Truffle Fries, Spicy Fries, Stadium Fries, BBQ Fries, Jerk Sweet Potato Fries and Garlic Parmesan Fries. You had me at "Truffle Fries."

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Wandering Wino: 'Boro and Vino Edition

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 8:30 AM

Yeah, this is the Nashville Scene after all, but the Wandering Wino isn't averse to gallivanting down Interstate 24 when there's some good wine at the end of the journey. The trip home might be a little problematic, but moderation fixes many problems. Tomorrow offers one of those opportunities.

Borovino starts at 3 p.m. Saturday, May 19, and runs until 7 p.m., at The Avenue Murfreesboro, 2615 Medical Center Parkway. Tickets are $40 in advance and $50 at the door and will entitle you to taste many great vintages at the inaugural Borovino wine festival. Food and non-alcoholic beverages will be available for purchase during the event, and there will be live music from the San Rafael Band.

A portion of the proceeds goes to benefit The Power of Pink, a breast cancer awareness foundation. Tickets are available at the event website.

Also beyond the county line is Red Dog Wine & Spirits in Franklin. Today from 4 to 7 p.m. and tomorrow afternoon from 2 to 6, they'll be uncorking some wines from Columbia Crest in Washington state, specifically their H3 series. H3 stands for the region where these grapes were grown, Horse Heaven Hills.

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F. Scott's and Other BFFs at Weekly Open Thread

Posted By on Fri, May 18, 2012 at 5:55 AM

Pan-seared halibut
In this week's Dining column, Carrington Fox revisits one of most venerable fine-dining restaurants in town: F. Scott's Restaurant and Jazz Bar.

The Green Hills grande dame has been around forever, or as Carrington puts it, it's been "a dining landmark in Nashville for the last quarter-century."

Chef Kevin Ramquist has just introduced his spring menu, and that, along with F. Scott's milestone birthday, prompted her to stop by for a dinner she pronounced memorable.

A series of beautiful, colorful plates landed on the table, often shattering our expectation of what the item, as described in simplest terms on the menu, might look like. For example, salad of watercress and duck confit was strewn down the length of a narrow rectangle, with plump al dente peas dotted across the bed like a playful ellipsis and buttery hunks of rich meat camouflaged among greenery tinged with cactus-pear vinaigrette. At first glance, it resembled an elaborate tray of sushi. Perhaps the singular most memorable bite of the evening was a shard of duck cracklin' hidden among the greens. The unctuous, deep-fried skin shattered with a salty satisfaction that would make a plain-old crouton cringe with shame.

How was your week, Bites Nation? Reconnect with any longtime restaurant faves? Did you eat anything utterly unctuous? What does your weekend hold? Share questions and tips and tender springtime tendrils of thought at the Weekly Open Thread.

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