Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Tips for All You Gourdophiles Out There

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 8:45 AM

In early October, you can palpably sense a change in the air. The leaves start to turn, the morning light is a little softer, there's a little chill in the air and people start to go absolutely bonkers for the Pumpkin Spice Lattes at Starbucks! And really just pumpkin in general ... you start to see it everywhere. Folks bake the delicious gourds into muffins and stir it into risotto with wild abandon.

Fortunately, pumpkin is a pretty forgiving foodstuff to work with. Since it tastes good al dente or baked to a mushy consistency or pureed into a soup, pumpkin is an extremely versatile ingredient. I recently got a helpful email from Ryan Fichter, the executive chef of Thunder Burger in Washington, D.C., which offered lots of good advice and a recipe that I thought I'd share with you. Follow along and learn:

Season: Pumpkins are in their ripe season during October and November. This is the best time to get the freshest pumpkins. If you find them a couple of months past that, they may still be fresh, but they are not a product of the main peak season.

When selecting your pumpkin, opt for one that is completely orange. Avoid any that have spots that are not ripe, as they may not ripen more after purchasing. Also, avoid pumpkins that have soft spots, bruises, or little holes. Small holes can be an indicator of insects. Try to find one that looks the best, with a nice color and very few to no blemishes.

Cutting: Before cutting your pumpkin, wash it thoroughly first. Choose a nice big knife for the job, then proceed to cut the pumpkin in half, splitting it open evenly.

Once your pumpkin is split open, remove the seeds and strings. You can cook and eat the pumpkin seeds, as well. These can be baked or roasted, and they make a tasty treat. Then, choose your favorite recipe to use the flesh of the pumpkin. However, note that some recipes call for leaving the pumpkin whole. In that case, you would cut the top off and remove the seeds and strings, rather than cutting it open.

Ask questions. If you are unsure as to which pumpkin will be best for what you are preparing, ask questions. Those selling the pumpkins can usually point you in the direction of the best pumpkins for pies, soups, etc.

“Using pumpkin in your cooking or for one of your meals is a great way to add a fall flavor for your family,” added Fichter. “Once you try cooking with pumpkin, there is a good chance you will be picking up more than one, every year after that, to cook with.”

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Why Care About Local Food? Tennessee Local Food Summit Explores That Question

Posted By on Tue, Nov 20, 2012 at 5:47 AM

A new vegetarian farm-to-table restaurant has recently opened at 2834 Azalea Place in Berry Hill in the former location of Cocina Mexican. The Sunflower Cafe serves a menu featuring natural whole foods with a variety of options including vegan, gluten free, soy free, nut-free and dairy-free selections. So it seems like a logical place to host the opening reception for the second Tennessee Local Food Summit on Friday, Nov. 30 at 6 p.m. The menu for the reception will also include dishes prepared by other Nashville restaurants that have a local food focus. Dinner will be followed by a panel discussion: "Why Care About Local Food?"

Tickets for Friday night activities are $20 or are included with a full conference registration to the summit, which includes a full day of workshops, two meals and an evening barn dance the following day, Saturday, Dec. 1, at Green Door Gourmet Meeting House, 7011 River Road Pike. Here are more details about the event:

The summit will once again be geared to home gardeners, farmers, students, consumers, and anyone interested in learning about local food and our local food system.

The Turnip Truck Natural Food Markets and the Nashville Scene are sponsors for the weekend of events.

Additional speakers include: Adam Turtle, gardener and renowned bamboo expert from Earth Advocates Research Farm; Susana Lein, permaculturalist of Salamander Springs Farm; John Patrick, adjunct professor at Lipscomb University; and Daron Joffe ("Farmer D"), eco-entrepreneur and biodynamic farmer. Previously announced speakers include author and speaker Hugh Lovel; Sandor Katz, author of The Art of Fermentation; Birke Baehr, internationally acclaimed youth advocate for local food and farming; Dodd Galbreath, executive director of Lipscomb University's Institute for Sustainable Practice; and Jeff Poppen, aka The Barefoot Farmer.

Workshops on Saturday will include tracks on Building Healthy Soil, Organic Farming/Gardening, Marketing/Distribution, Cooking/Preservation featuring local chef demos. Plenty of time will be available for one-on-one discussions with the speakers and exhibitors.

Dinner and a barn dance will be held on-site beginning at 6:00 p.m. on Saturday night.

The conference fee includes locally grown and homemade meals. Each portion of the conference can be purchased separately or the entire conference as a package.

Tickets range from $20-$100 and are available at the official conference website.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Having a Vegetarian for Thanksgiving? Here's What to Do

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 7:27 AM

  • utepprospector.com
So. You just found out a veg*n is coming to Thanksgiving dinner. What do you do? Don’t panic. Many of us pack our own protein bar of choice for these situations, so your guest will not starve. I have survived on fruit salad and brown-n-serve rolls myself. But if you want to be a good host, your veg*n guest(s) will appreciate any effort you make to be accommodating.

One of the nicest things you can do is leave the dead bird in the kitchen and just have a plate of meat on the table. Also, leave the gelatin out of your cranberry sauce and the marshmallows off the sweet potato casserole. Flavor your green beans with Liquid Smoke instead of ham. Use cream of mushroom/broccoli/asparagus for your casseroles and dressing/stuffing instead of cream of chicken. You won’t miss the chicken; I promise.

If you’re wanting to go a step further, a Tofurky is nice, but isn’t necessary. I actually like the Tofurky roast, but I’m just as happy with macaroni-and-cheese as my entrée. I’m not a vegan, though (I eat dairy, eggs, and honey, so I'm just a standard vegetarian). If you want a nice entrée that’s vegan, I humbly recommend this pumpkin risotto. At the end of that post, I also include links to a variety of other veg*n options for entrees and side dishes. But if you just really want your vegan friend to have a turkey of some sort on their plate, there’s always the option to make a turkey from fruit. That's pretty darn cute.

All that said, you don’t really have to do anything special. We’ll be fine, really. However, a little effort may preclude any mention of PETA and the recent allegations of cruelty at Butterball turkey farms. I’m just sayin’.

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Chef Thomas Keller to Visit Nashville in December

Posted By on Mon, Nov 19, 2012 at 5:50 AM

On the heels of Anthony Bourdain's rollocking tour stop last month in Nashville, where several lady Bitesters may very well have stalked out the Oak Bar for a glimpse of Tony, Music City welcomes another celebrichef next month.

Chef Thomas Keller will be holding a Bouchon Bakery book signing party at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 4 at the Hutton Hotel. Keller and his co-author Sebastien Rouxel will be returning to the city where Keller got an early boost to his career as one of the last chefs at The Wild Boar.

Local chefs who will be returning the favor by cooking for Keller and the assembled masses include Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson of The Catbird Seat, Tyler Brown from the Capitol Grille and host chef Charles Phillips from 1808 Grill in the Hutton. Etch's Megan Williams will be handling the pastry duties, and Chris Carter and James Peisker from Porter Road Butcher are sure to be pitching in something cool as well. Other participants are Matt Bolus, Bart Pickens and Alisa Huntsman of Loveless Cafe, Rebekah Turshen of City House and in a really cool development Lisa Donovan of Buttermilk Road Supper Club.

The chefs will be preparing dishes that draw inspiration from some of Keller's other works like Ad Hoc at Home, The French Laundry Cookbook and his latest, Bouchon Bakery. Tickets are pretty steep at $250 apiece, but how many chances are you going to get to meet THE MAN and eat the wares of all these great chefs? You can buy your tickets here.

Now if we can only get Guy Fieri to come back and visit again...

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Friday, November 16, 2012

The Road, No. 17: Shish Kabob [Eating Our Way Down Nolensville Pike]

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 2:47 PM

Honestly, an entree is more like meals than one.
  • Honestly, an entree is more like two meals than one.
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 17: Shish Kabob
Address: 4651 Nolensville Pike
Phone: 833-1113

How have I been sleeping on Shish Kabob for so long? If it weren't for you wonderful readers voting for Shish Kabob in Best of Nashville, I may have pushed this review back indefinitely, and that would have been a shame. Granted the name is almost too descriptive and the store front is the exact opposite, so it's an easy spot to skip, but Shish Kabob is a spot that you definitely should not skip for any reason. There's a lot of Middle Eastern food on The Road and SK is — by both popular demand and critical decree — the best option going.

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8th and Roast Holds Cupping Open House This Afternoon

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 7:14 AM

Coffee to spare
  • Coffee to spare
If you need a little pick-me-up after lunch today to bridge the gap between your morning cuppa and Friday happy hour, head on down to 2108A Eighth Ave. S. today between 1 and 6 p.m. to welcome the newest coffee stop in town. The folks behind Roast, Inc. are just about to open their new retail shop, called 8th and Roast in the Douglas Corner area of Eighth Avenue across the street from Zanies.

The owners are seeking to re-create the feeling of the 1930s in their space, when Douglas Corner was the terminus of the mule trolley that brought people downtown from the outskirts of Nashville. The baristas will be dressed in black aprons and ties to add a little class to the joint, and the furnishings seek to be both comfortable and formal at the same time.

In a story that you couldn't make up, the two long communal tables are constructed from maple planks that were milled for a bowling alley in China during the middle of the century. They then became the lanes at Haywood Lanes, until that alley was torn down. Now they have been repurposed into a place for coffee lovers to share the great roasts at Roast. If only that wood could talk, it would probably say "我们在哪里?"

The new 8th and Roast will sell beans and grind to go, as well as offering a single-brew service. The "self-pour" station employs an old lunch counter that was part of the Commerce Street bus station back in the '70s. The vibe in this new coffee shop should be really interesting.

If you want to see it before it officially opens sometime in the next few weeks, drop in this afternoon, when they'll be cupping some of their various roasts and brewing methods for free tastings and to introduce themselves to the neighborhood. They'll also be selling bags of beans to go for that perfect cup to wash down the pumpkin pie after your Thanksgiving dinner next week.

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Open Thread, Open Call: Bakers, Where Ya At? CBS Wants You!

Posted By on Fri, Nov 16, 2012 at 5:45 AM

Click to enlarge
  • Click to enlarge
Attention, Nashville amateur bakers! I know you're out there. In fact, I'm betting there are a few of you who think you've got the goods to turn pro, if you had the inclination. I've seen you struttin' your stuff at the Whitland Avenue Fourth of July celebration, competing for those ribbons. I've smelled your wares wafting out of your kitchens as I walk my dogs.

It's time for your coming-out party. On national TV, no less!

We've received word that the folks behind a new televised amateur baking competition on CBS are headed to Nashville in a couple of weeks, and they're looking for you! There will be an open casting call on Saturday, Dec. 8, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Market Street Emporium, 112 Second Ave. N. Click on the thumbnail for details.

Here's their come-on, from the website:


Are you a passionate amateur baker? Can you whip up an impressive cake, tart, or loaf of bread?

You may be the perfect candidate for an exciting new competition baking series on CBS!

Amateur skilled bakers will compete against one another in baking challenges that will test every aspect of their baking skills. At the end of the competition, one baker will ultimately be crowned the winner. The series follows the trials and tribulations of the competitors — young, old, from every background and every corner of the United States — as they attempt to prove their baking prowess.

Seeking all types of non-professional bakers from across the country. Whether you’re an athlete, teacher, truck driver or retiree, as long as you have the zest for baking, we want to hear from you!

Any other news? Anyone excited about Rolf and Daughters, which opened Wednesday? Anyone been yet?

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Thursday, November 15, 2012

There Will Be Blood (for Dinner) in Atlanta Tonight

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 11:16 AM

In an event that may be about a month late on the calendar but which might very well inspire some locals, four of Atlanta's most talented chefs are banding together for a Blood Dinner at the Livingston Restaurant + Bar, which is in the Georgian Terrace Hotel at 659 Peachtree St.

The whole idea started when chef Zeb Stevenson of the Livingston tweeted, "Is Atlanta ready for blood?" Apparently, the response from local chefs and diners was a resounding yes, and Stevenson began to recruit co-conspirators in this sanguine enterprise.

Chefs Tyler Williams of Abattoir, Ryan Smith of Empire State South and Josh Hopkins of STG Trattoria will join Stevenson for the dinner. I've had both Smith and Chef Williams' food on several occasions and can attest that they are very talented and creative. And if they invited Hopkins to join them, I'm sure he's got the chops.

Here's how the event organizers describe the premise of the dinner: "The Atlanta Blood Dinner will feature a variety of courses that explore the boundaries of blood as food. Beyond the established uses of blood in sausage and soup, chefs Stevenson, Williams, Hopkins and Smith will examine texture, temperature and flavor in their collaborative menu. They will seek to honor the traditional use of blood in various cultures, while updating those traditions to create an elevated dining experience for the discerning modern palate."

The menu looks, how should I put this ... challenging. There is the expected blood sausage, but also more creative ideas, like the bloodline of a Hamachi fish served with satsuma and white soy and an oxblood strozapretti with rabbit sugo. Since the name of the pasta literally means "priest strangler" in Italian, it seems somehow appropriate for a Blood Dinner. Dexter would be proud.

I doubt anyone will jump in their car right away and beat it down I-24 for the event tonight, but perhaps this can inspire some of Nashville's talented charcuterie experts to attempt something similarly challenging. I'm looking at you, PRB.

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Get Your Shoes Repaired at Aura ... No Wait, That's Not Right.

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 7:06 AM

There's going to be cobbler at Aura this Saturday, Nov. 17, but don't expect to see Christian Louboutin in the restaurant. Monchita's Homemade Cobblers is celebrating its anniversary with a free tasting event at Aura World Fusion Cuisine Restaurant at 1811 Division St. from 11 a.m. until 4 p.m.

Monchita Davis is a native Nashvillian who had always intended to enter the nursing profession until she had an epiphany. She felt a genuine calling to cook homemade cobblers from scratch and sell them to the public. She now makes 14 different flavors, including peach, blackberry, apple-cinnamon and strawberry-rhubarb. At the tasting event, Monchita will be giving out free samples of all of her flavors to encourage visitors to pick some up for their Thanksgiving dinners or holiday gifts.

She is selling 9-inch round cobblers for $15, and larger sheet pans are available for $25 and $55. There's no need to RSVP for the tasting, so just bring your appetite and your wallet to check out some of her homemade goodness!

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The Last (Vegan) Supper Tonight at Tayst

Posted By on Thu, Nov 15, 2012 at 6:00 AM

Enjoy the last vegan supper at Tayst before the restaurant becomes extinct
  • pulpfactor.com
  • Enjoy the last vegan supper at Tayst before the restaurant becomes extinct

As the clock ticks down to Tayst’s final dinner on New Year’s Eve, chef Jeremy Barlow is offering the last of the special themed dinners. On Tuesday, Nov. 20, the restaurant is hosting the final “Surprise Dinner” — pick a protein and the chefs will take care of the rest — and on Thursdays Nov. 29, Dec. 6, and Dec. 13, there will be “staff dinners” where select members of the Tayst team join up for fixed courses paired with wine. More details (and menus) are available on the Tayst website.

But the big news is that tonight, Tayst will host the very last vegan dinner. Chef Barlow knows his way around seasonal vegetables and critterless proteins, so this is a dinner that is certain to statisfy herbivores and carnivores alike. A five-course meal is just $55 ($70 with wine pairings).

To make (required) reservations, call the restaurant at 383-1953. Dinner is at 6:30 p.m. On the menu:

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