Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Blackstone, Abita and Shiner Release Great New Summer Brews

Posted By on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 8:46 AM

Hot summer days call for cold beers, and fortunately many of your favorite breweries put out special seasonal releases just in time for pool and lake season. Instead of the traditional hefeweizen or a Blue Moon with a slice of orange, check out some of these new classics.

Local favorite Blackstone doesn't release a lot of varieties just to expand their product line. Brewmaster Kent Taylor aims to share only the kinds of beer that he likes to drink, so when he's expands his repertoire, it's a pretty big deal. His latest creation is Picnic, an English-style summer ale that is reminiscent of a British Pale Ale in its hoppy and malty aromas, but with a much lighter body for hot weather drinking.

Taylor employs a significant portion of wheat in his recipe to offer this lighter body and to contribute a crisp finish. The resulting brew is eminently drinkable with just a hint of hoppy bitterness to separate it from fruitier summer beers. It is available across the Midstate area in bars and a few grocery stores. Or you can drink it almost straight from the barrel at Blackstone's flagship restaurant.

Another great summer beer, which I first sampled at the East Nashville Beer Festival, is Abita Strawberry Harvest Lager. Another wheat-based beer, Strawberry Harvest is made with Louisiana strawberries picked at the height of their ripeness. The berries are definitely noticeable on the nose of the beer, but not overpowering upon tasting. The relatively high carbonation levels also perk up the flavors quite a bit and make this a very refreshing treat. If you're a fan of Abita's Purple Haze, which is their raspberry wheat product, you'll probably really like this one. I am, and I do!

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Nashville Is the New Bacon — What's Your Favorite Slice of Restaurant Goodness?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 26, 2012 at 5:44 AM

While we were all whinging and whining over our portrayal as Jack White-chasing hipsters last week, several more outlets published their recommendations for visiting Nashville. Laura Hutson noted over at Country Life that GQ picked us up and The Guardian in the U.K. also listed "Top 10 Budget Restaurants." All this attention prompted Morgan Levy of Nashvillest to tweet, "Nashville is the new bacon." Indeed.

With a couple of exceptions (like The Guardian, which included Tavern, Puckett's and Monell's), we're seeing the same names over and over. I fear that Mas Tacos will soon suffer the fate of being the tourist-only destination that the Loveless Cafe has been for years. Though I spotted a something a bit refreshing in last week's issue of The Memphis Flyer. It seems our friends in Memphis were able to make some recommendations for their fellow Memphians headed to Nashville that were actually different. Writer John Branston recommends Noshville over Pancake Pantry as well as Gerst Haus, Caffe Nonna and Sylvan Park restaurant. And for barbecue, Jim 'N Nick's over Martin's. Writer and vegan food blogger Bianca Phillips suggests going south of Nashville to The Farm in Summertown for a vegan retreat.

While I appreciate their efforts to mention something other than The Catbird Seat, City House and any number of bars, I wish they would have asked me (and not wasted a recommendation on barbecue). We're all friends here in Tennessee, right? Memphians will tell you to go to Central BBQ instead of Rendezvous, Pirtle's instead of Gus's, and also to get some Chinese food while you're in town, so we can share our favorites with them, right?

To our intrastate friends, I'd recommend enjoying the wonderful Middle Eastern food first and foremost and base recommendations on where they're staying (though I favor Anatolia). Then I'd tell them to visit Smiling Elephant for Thai. Also on the list would be Suzy Wong's House of Yum and/or Cha Chah, Rumba, Tayst, The Silly Goose, The Wild Cow (for veg*n friends), and Fido/Hot & Cold. And then, of course, to hit up Trader Joe's on the way out of town.

Friends don't let friends fall into tourist traps, right? What do you recommend to friends? No, really.


Monday, June 25, 2012

Need Help Devising Your Last-Minute YASNI Entry?

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 2:00 PM

If you haven't turned in your YASNI entry (or entries) yet, the time to do so is becoming scarcer than ink in Bill Haslam's veto pen. The deadline is tomorrow for you to complete this sentence: "You are so Nashville if ... " Enter here or, heck, tweet at us with the hashtag #YASNI if you prefer. If chosen, your entry could appear in the July 19 issue. Maybe even on the cover. Some topics to jostle your memory-cage:

Curry Todd
John Arriola
James Franklin's assistant coaches' wives
gateway sexual activity
Julia Hurley
Stacey Campfield
Third Man Records
Bill Haslam
Islamic Center of Murfreesboro
Richard "Stomp a Mudhole" Floyd
foot-sucking via Craigslist
Mae Beavers
Belle Meade Country Club
food tax cut
Mayor Dean's budget
"License to Bully"
state laws about teaching science
all the "hipsters" in East Nashville

Topics to avoid: traffic, the fact that Latinos live here and redneckedness generally. Now, get on it!

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Legato Gelato Brings Made-From-Scratch Ice Cream Flavors to Edgehill Village

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 1:23 PM

Terri-Ann and Berchaun Nicholls.
Legato Gelato, a new spot serving gelato (Italian-style ice cream) made from scratch with local milk and other fresh ingredients, opened 10 days ago in a cheerful storefront on Villa Place in Edgehill Village.

Terri-Ann Nicholls is the energetic entrepreneur behind the business, which she opened with her husband Berchaun Nicholls, who also has a full-time job as an ER physician at Centennial Medical Center.

Born in Jamaica, Terri-Ann Nicholls said she’s been obsessed with ice cream her entire life. A favorite family outing was to the legendary ice cream shop at historic Devon House in Kingston.

Her family eventually moved to New York, where she developed a childhood crush on Carvel ice cream cakes. After college at Fordham University, she took a trip to Italy, where she discovered gelato.

“I said, ‘This is it. This is what I’ve been waiting for all my life,’ ” she recalled, laughing.

Later she worked in finance in New York, where she met her husband while hosting Thanksgiving dinner at her apartment. (A friend asked to bring along a young medical resident who didn’t have anywhere to go for the holiday. Destiny.)

Eventually the couple moved to Nashville, Berchaun Nicholls’ hometown. (He attended Brentwood High School, Sewanee and Meharry Medical College.) They live not far from the shop.

For the past two years, the couple has been working to open Legato Gelato, with Terri-Ann in the lead. She said she uses local ingredients whenever she can, like the Gammon Family Dairy’s Tennessee Real Milk from Orlinda, Tenn.

Other ingredients, like hazelnuts and pistachios, she imports from Italy. (In fact, Sicilian pistachio and hazelnut are two signature flavors, along with chocolate.)

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Bella Napoli Kicks Off a Kick-Ass Contest for Summer

Posted By on Mon, Jun 25, 2012 at 5:36 AM

Everybody loves a good contest. Heck, when we gave away free salad coupons here on Bites, my email box runnethed over within scant minutes. But Bella Napoli Pizzeria is really putting their money where the pie goes with their "Ciao Italia Sweepstakes." For all of June, July and August, every $20 you spend toward a meal at the Nashville or Cool Springs locations of Bella Napoli will earn you one entry in a drawing for airfare for two to Italy.

Once you get there, you're on your own. But with the way the Italian economy is going, I'm betting you can get some pretty good deals. "200 Euros? But Perluigi, I just want to rent your villa for two weeks. Not buy it."

The winner will be drawn live on Sunday, Sept. 9, but don't expect to win. I intend to cater a tailgater for a high school football team with Bella Napoli pizza, so that should swing the odds in my favor.

Buona fortuna!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

Puckett's Team Celebrates Seafood at Boat House in Franklin

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 12:27 PM

From my Food Biz column in this week's print edition of The City Paper and online at the Nashville Post:

The people at Puckett’s always seem to have something new going on. Earlier this year it was the Puckett’s Trolley, a complete mobile-kitchen extension of the two Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant locations, one in Franklin and one in downtown Nashville. Both restaurants are popular spots serving up Southern food, barbecue and live music.

Just a couple of months ago, Puckett’s owner Andy Marshall told me he was working on opening a Puckett’s in Columbia, as well as a new concept, Gray’s on Main, to fill the old Gray’s Drugstore building in downtown Franklin.

Those two projects are still in the works, but in the interim Marshall has opened yet another restaurant, Puckett’s Boat House, on Main Street at the edge of downtown Franklin. It takes over the space held by Route 31 Cafe and Marcia’s Patisserie.

“This was a really quick turnaround,” Marshall said of the new place, “because the site was a currently operating restaurant.”

The owners of Route 31 and the bakery, Jay and Marcia Franks, approached Marshall about reworking the business Puckett’s-style.

Marshall said he and the team didn’t want to simply replicate Puckett’s. “We decided to think about other kinds of comfort food,” he said. What they hit upon was seafood, especially apt since the restaurant site is near the Harpeth River and used to be known as the Boat Locker.

Gulf seafood, Mississippi catfish, fresh shrimp and oysters — “it just seemed like a perfect match with this location,” Marshall said.

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Wandering Wino: Cozu-Mailing It in Edition

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 8:03 AM

View from the rooftop bar at the Aura Cozumel. You really should go there.
  • View from the rooftop bar at the Aura Cozumel. You really should go there.
Thanks again to the wonders of blog post scheduling software, by the time you read this, your Wandering Wino will be back here with his toes in the water and his ass in the sand. Actually, the Weather Channel says 1 to 3 inches of rain each day we'll be there, so maybe all of me will be in the water. Or more likely in the bar enjoying the all inclusiveness of the resort...

But I won't leave you hanging with nothing to do. So here's muchos oportunidades para beber while I'm in Mexico:

Grand Cru is offering a special Saturday Double Tasting tomorrow featuring Bloody Marys and Margaritas. Here's the description:

The classic cocktail Bloody Mary was invented in 1921 at the legendary Harry's New York Bar in Paris. There are many versions, with different ingredient profiles to satisfy myriad tastes. However if you are like me and want an easy answer to a Bloody Mary jumpstart early in the day and still bleary-eyed, the answer lies with a quality mix to do the job, it's just easy. We will be mixing some great Bloody Marys and using a unique new mix ... Irish Dog! One of the cool things about Irish Dog is that they donate a portion of profits from each bottle sold to The Brown Dog Foundation.

So come by and let us help you get things revved up Saturday morning.

Next do your errands, cut the grass, take the kids to soccer, play nine, grab a bite of lunch and reconvene with "The Cru" for the second round of our Saturday Soiree featuring Tres Agaves Tequila. Meet Eric Rubin, owner of Tres Agaves and taste his new Tequilas.

I've been meaning to write about that Irish Dog mix for a while since I first tasted it. Watch this space for a full review soon. Grand Cru didn't list any specific times for when the Bloody Marys started or ended or when it would be Tequila time, so call the shop at (615) 627-3900 before you leave to nail down the details.

Over in Cookeville, they want to get in on the wine tasting fun as well with their second annual Wine on the West Side tomorrow, June 23, 3 to 8 p.m.:

Eighteen Tennessee wineries from around the state of Tennessee will come together at this festival. Nine food vendors, art exhibits, artsy goods for sale, Riedel stemware, cigars, seminars, all-day jazz music pull this festival together on Cookeville's West Broad Street. Five hours of fun, food, wine, and jazz -= all for an admission price of $25.00 if ticket is purchased in advance (before midnight June 22).

Lipman Brothers will be introducing some new Riedel stemware, and they will be selling cigars at their exhibit booth.

One great afternoon — and you can purchase wines from the wineries to take home and enjoy later!

Advance tickets at wineonthewestside.com. Call 931-260-1597 with any additional questions.

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The Weekly Open Thread Thinks You're Loading the Dishwasher Wrong ...

Posted By on Fri, Jun 22, 2012 at 5:41 AM

Some call it a lifesaver. Others, a relationship killer. I just call it Skippy.
  • Some call it a lifesaver. Others, a relationship killer. I just call it Skippy.
... and the Weekly Open Thread isn't going to shut up about it. Because it's important. After all, that big salad bowl would take you 30 seconds to wash by hand, and it takes up half of the bottom level, for chrissakes! Do you give a damn about the environment?

And the spoons! How could you put them in like that? Criminy! Alternate them, or use those little slot tops on the silverware basket! Spooning is great for humans in bed at night, but when spoons spoon in the dishwasher, it's not going to end well.

A few months ago on NPR, I heard some revered comedy writer — and I can't for the life of me remember who it was — discuss how the only real conflict he had with his wife after decades of marriage was how to load the dishwasher. Apparently, it's a fairly common source of relationship strife and turmoil.

And I relate. My girlfriend and I have totally different dishwasher philosophies.

Hers: Cram everything in there, any which way. She would prefer never to wash a single dish, fork or glass by hand if possible.

Mine: Being a bleeding-heart, tree-hugging liberal, I want to maximize every inch of space, cut down on water use, end climate change, save the world — and most of all, drive her (and myself) batshit crazy.

Now, when one of us is loading the dishwasher, we just sort of look at each other and giggle sheepishly. I guess that's the sign of a good relationship, right?

Any thoughts on the great dishwasher divide? Any other restaurant news, gossip, or invaluable housecleaning (and relationship-maintaining) tips?

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The Southern Steak & Oyster: This Week's Dining Review

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 5:41 PM

The decadent Southern burger, topped with pimiento cheese and jalapeno-tinged bacon.
  • Photo: Eric England
  • "The decadent Southern burger, topped with pimiento cheese and jalapeno-tinged bacon."
In this week's Dining column in the Scene, restaurant critic Carrington Fox visits The Southern Steak & Oyster, the new downtown spot from Tom Morales, the longtime restaurateur behind Saffire and TomKats movie catering.

Morales says the menu draws from everything he's learned traveling to world to feed crew and cast members on movie and TV shoots. But as the name suggests, The Southern is at heart an homage to the foodways of the South, something Morales and his general manager, daughter Kendall, have the bona fides to deliver.

And after all, the food of our region has surged in popularity in points far north. "Southern food is hot," Fox notes. "And not just in a cayenne-crusted, cast-iron kind of way."

But what's especially unique about The Southern is its location:

Housed in the ground floor of the gleaming Pinnacle building, in a sunlit room adorned with dark woods, tiny tiles, architectural salvage and black-and-white photos of the city's recent and distant history, The Southern needs little embellishment to convey its sense of place. It is, after all, located at the crossroads where the Country Music Hall of Fame meets Schermerhorn Symphony Center, down the street from the sprawling Music City Center. Surely no address in town more picturesquely embodies the merger of Nashville's musical past and present and its significance as a center of commerce, entertainment and tourism.

In the shadow of almost a billion dollars of recent capital improvement, Morales & Co. provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to the cast of characters — locals and tourists alike — filtering through the city's newest civic landmarks.

As befits the name, The Southern serves a bounty of oysters from different regions, and locally sourced grass-fed beef:

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The Road, No. 3: Mixed Grill Cafe [Eating Our Way Down Nolensville Pike]

Posted By on Thu, Jun 21, 2012 at 2:36 PM

James K. Polk, Nashville's OG hipster.
  • James K. Polk, Nashville's OG hipster.
Welcome to The Road, my column in which I'm going to attempt — key word: attempt — to eat at every non-chain restaurant on Nolensville Pike between I-440 and the county line. I'll readily admit that even though I live right off Nolensville — Paragon Mills represent! — and revel in the diversity and quantity of its eateries, I have barely scratched the surface of what the strip has to offer. But now I'm going to rectify that, and hopefully you'll join for what's likely to be a wild ride.

Episode 3: Mixed Grill Cafe
Address: 2600 Grandview Ave.
Phone: 615-736-5350

“I have no idea. It doesn't seem like there's ever anyone there. And you know how that goes ...”

Or something to that effect. I'm not really sure what I said about Mixed Grill Cafe but I know that I said it on the radio, during the morning drive*, and it was entirely cagey. I may have also said something about James K.Polk-style muttonchops being the next big thing in facial hair. James K. Polk didn't rock muttonchops. Total presidential-hipster fail. I don't spend a lot of time talking into a microphone while people are expecting me to make sense — gibberish and Glenn Frey jokes are more my deal. So I'd like to apologize in advance to anybody who took my grooming advice or got scared off from Mixed Grill Cafe by my super-noncommittal preview. There's a reason the dining room always looks empty: Mixed Grill Cafe delivers. And their food is good, which is awesome in a neighborhood where most delivery is either corporate pizza or iffy Chinese.

It's weird to say, so early in this column that is ostensibly about discovering food from other cultures in my own backyard, that it's nice to find some American food on The Road, but there it is. There are Mediterranean, Mexican and 'Murican options in case you can't decide between, oh, gyros and ribs or salads and fajitas, all cooked by folks who are from, um, somewhere. I didn't ask, but I'd wager that the owners didn't grow up in Cookeville. Mixed Grill is basically a flattop-and-a-fryer outfit, the decor is spartan and efficient, the kitchen setup minimal. As a dude who spent a good portion of college in the flattop-and-a-fryer game, I'd wager it's a really quick kitchen to scrub down and clean up. That makes happy cooks, and happy cooks make good sandwiches. It's no “fixed-gear bike shop,” and it won't be nominated for a Beard Award any time soon, but you can tell the folks at Mixed Grill Cafe have put a lot of thought — and heart — into their restaurant.

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