Friday, March 29, 2013

The Road, Episode 28: Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 12:11 PM

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 28: Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet
Address: 3804 Nolensville Pike
Phone: 678-8183

OK folks, serious question: Where do frog legs fall on that pesky pescetarian scale? Do they count as fish (food-wise, not biology-wise of course) or do they fall into the “meat” category with the rest of the surface dwelling food stuffs? I didn't think about this at all before tucking into 'em at Hibachi Grill & Supreme Buffet. I'm currently trying to reduce the meat in my diet, and I've never had to consider where and how amphibians fit into the scheme. (I'm usually not on a special diet, and I usually don't encounter steam pans full of frog legs.)

Not that I care at this point, the frog legs are eaten, and the diet is pretty much shot for the day. I mean a “cleansing diet” is no match for a supreme buffet.

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Wandering Wino: Grand Cru Edition

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 8:14 AM

There aren't a lot of in-store tastings on the docket this week, but there are some really impressive charity wine events coming up soon. So much so that they deserve their own post, so grab your calendar and watch this space on Monday for big news.

In the meantime, your friends at Grand Cru on Murphy Road have not left you hanging with nowhere to taste this weekend. In fact, they've got two events planned. This evening March 29 from 5 to 6:30, they'll be offering a nice California Cab from Edge and a very food-friendly and affordable Pinot Noir from Acrobat.

Tomorrow, March 30, they're cracking the top on two slightly more exotic wines from 3 to 4:30 p.m. First is the delightful Villa Des Anges OV Rosé. Rosés are hot right now, and a nice dry one matches with just about any food you want to pair it with. For something a little jammier and fruit forward, try out the Syrousse Red, a blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan that hails from the villages of Roussillon. Carignan used to be a hugely popular grape in France, but we normally just see it as a blending varietal. It plays particularly well with Grenache and Syrah to produce a soft perfumey wine.

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Another New 'Cue Review (Part 2): Slow and Low BBQ Bistro

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 6:50 AM

I first encountered the smoky goodness of Slow and Low BBQ Bistro last summer when I wrote about their quasi-permanent location near LP Field. Back then, I marveled at their excellent pulled pork and smoked chicken coming out of a trailer, and wished that they had a permanent location so that I wouldn't have to eat in my car.

My prayers have been answered since they took over the previous location of Stone House Q at the corner of Charlotte and 54th. When I first visited Stone House Q, I was definitely impressed by the equipment that they had purchased and installed in the kitchen. This was clearly a first-class operation from a team of longtime Nashville restaurant veterans. But subsequent visits indicated that perhaps a little more pit experience and some funky soul would have produced better barbecue. I had hoped that a little more time working with their impressive equipment would begin to pay off, and I certainly wasn't happy to hear about their closing.

On the flip side, I was excited to hear that Herman and Trey Sutherland and Burke Mahling were going to have a chance to expand their operation and offer a bricks-and-mortar location to enjoy their 'cue. While they still intend to keep their original location and catering business going, the vast majority of their production will now come from the 54th Avenue kitchen.

They are still in a soft opening phase since taking over the building in February. They haven't done much to change the interior of the previous establishment, but it is still bright and cheery. On my first visit I ordered my default, a pulled shoulder sandwich.

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The Weekly Open Thread: Who Has the Best Fries in Nashville?

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 5:25 AM

I've been involved in a lengthy Facebook thread the last couple of days, all started by just six words:

"Nashville: best place for french fries?"

This seemingly innocuous query triggered an onslaught of responses, disagreements, accusations, recriminations and conspiracy theories like you wouldn't believe. (OK, I'm exaggerating just a tad, though one commenter — who may or may not frequent this blog — accused everyone of having terrible taste for not agreeing with him.)

Contenders included:

Hot Diggity Dogs
Fat Mo's
The Pharmacy
Batter'd & Fried
Burger Up
Five Guys
12South Taproom

And it was just three weeks ago that we were discussing the relative merits of our city's potato wedges, so it only makes sense that we would tackle the wedge's more popular cousin.

Personally, I'm partial to Hot Diggity Dog's, not to mention the truffle-oil fries at both Burger Up and blvd.

So, Bites readers, who has the best fries? For the sake of this discussion, let's exclude sweet-potato fries.

And what else ya got?

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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Salsa Puerto Rican and Latin Cuisine: This Week's Dining Review

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 4:21 PM

Carne Frita (fried pork with sautéed onions)
In this week's Dining review, Scene restaurant critic Carrington Fox checks out Salsa Puerto Rican and Latin Cuisine, a new cafe on Palmer Place in SoBro.

Though in most Nashvillians minds, the word "salsa" automatically conjures images of tortilla chips, Fox learned that's not the relevant association here:

Founded by Puerto Rico natives Marcos Cruz and Juan Reyes, Salsa draws on the culinary traditions of the Antilles, where the island geography and related weather patterns make cultivation of corn difficult. Accordingly, Salsa leans more heavily on rice, yuca, beans, potatoes and plantains than on the ubiquitous maize of Mexican cuisine.

Just blocks from the soon-to-open Music City Center, Salsa is positioned to take advantage of that proximity, with a glass exterior, a colorful and welcoming interior, and a patio that will debut soon.

Eating through the menu, Fox found some mediocre efforts (seared tuna, churrasco steak) but also some stunning triumphs, including a gigantic center-cut pork chop:

Chuleta Can Can was like a cross-section of a pig, all the way out to the skin. Reyes rubbed that brontosaurus-sized rib with lemon pepper, garlic, vinegar and red-orange spices, then scored the bumper of skin and fat around the whole thing so that it buckled in the heating process and took on the beautiful scalloped appearance of a seashell — like a caramelized chicharrón-style carapace over tender juicy meat. It was a giant buttery, spicy, unctuous, pork-rind-encrusted thing of beauty that fed my entire party of five and reduced the gray tuna and tough steak to pale distant memories.

How about you, Bites compadres? Anybody been to Salsa? Anybody familiar with Puerto Rican cuisine, a rarity on the Nashville food scene? Oh, and the dish her family nicknamed "banana lasagna." I want that.

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Canton Dinner Series Showcases Ginger Liqueur

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 9:05 AM

Ginger is hot. Literally, the spicy root seems to have been riding a culinary wave for the past few years, and nowhere is it better featured than in Domaine de Canton super-premium ginger liqueur. Forget about those cheap sweet hot infusions or flavored vodkas that seem to be taking over the top shelves at so many bars. Canton is a delicate spirit created by hand-peeling and cutting the freshest baby Vietnamese ginger and then blending it with with VSOP and XO Grande Champagne Cognacs, Provençal honey, Tunisian ginseng and fresh vanilla beans.

The resulting liqueur is made in small batches without the addition of artificial additives or colorants, and it tastes fresh and complex either straight up chilled or as an ingredient in creative cocktails. The small team behind Domaine de Canton has been showcasing their product through a dinner series that moves across the country introducing new fans to cocktails and food made using their ginger spirit.

Nashville was lucky enough to be the first stop on this year's 12-city tour, with chef Thomas Cook of Prime 108 at Union Station Hotel creating an inventive menu to match with Canton cocktails. In general, cocktail suppers are harder to plan than wine or beer dinners because the complex flavors and tongue-anesthetizing characteristics of spirits can interfere with the enjoyment of food.

Chef Cook did an admirable job incorporating Canton's flavors into his menu of sweet tempura lobster rolls, scallops, Peking duck and a delightful dessert of blood orange financier, candied orange zest, Champagne-ginger sorbet and ginger gelee.

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Parents Behaving Badly: Sweet CeCe's Edition

Posted By on Thu, Mar 28, 2013 at 8:49 AM

Sweet CeCes Belle Meade: not equipped for diaper changes
  • Sweet CeCe's Belle Meade: not equipped for diaper changes
There’re a lot of things that change within a person once they become a parent. Those of you who are parents or who have friends who have become parents know this well. Sometimes, though, we parents don’t realize what’s happened to us. We do…things. Things that may make sense to us or we may not have even considered long enough to determine their appropriateness.

Take, for example, Nashville-area mom, Taylor. Taylor visited the Sweet CeCe’s location in Belle Meade recently and was, apparently, dismayed to find that there was no changing table inside the restroom at the yogurt place. So Taylor decided it was perfectly fine to change her son’s diaper on a chair in the restaurant’s (very small) dining room. This act prompted a “teenage blonde bimbo” employed by Sweet CeCe’s to request that she take a chair into the restroom to do the dirty work so that other patrons would not be subjected to her son’s personal business.

Now, I’m all for forgiving the occasional error in judgment from parents. I’m sure I’ve been there. Once you become a parent, things change in your brain. Just take a look at any Honda Odyssey on the road. Find one that's got no body damage. But, as the source of my story, STFU, Parents (a blog dedicated to parents’ overshares on social media) indicates, Taylor did not take this request with aplomb; instead she posted a nasty status update on her Facebook page, blaming the restaurant's lack of changing table in the restroom for her misdeed. Last I checked, Sweet CeCe's was not the kind of place that you linger in for hours on end. I'm having a hard time believing that the little darling couldn't wait until getting out to the car or until you've made it home. And if it's a diaper that simply won't wait, you damn sure don't have any business changing it in an area where the public eats.

Anyway, if you were the employee at Sweet CeCe’s, what would you have done? I think I would have done the same thing, though perhaps leaving out any reference to specific genitalia. And if I’d been the mom, I would have been horrified that I was committing such a terrible faux pas. It’s not quite like setting up a potty chair in the middle of a restaurant, but it’s still quite unsanitary, not to mention unappetizing.

So next time you hear some kid wailing at the top of its lungs, just know that it could be worse.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Miel Offers Two Special Chocolate Tastings With Shawn Askinosie

Posted By on Wed, Mar 27, 2013 at 5:55 AM

As we try to ride out the difficult jittery period between two of the best candy holidays of Valentine's Day and Easter (Halloween's for drinking now, apparently), our friends at Miel have come to the rescue with two special events this week. Both tastings feature Shawn Askinosie, an award-winning chocolatier from Springfield, Mo., where he makes artisan sweets in a 120-year-old building.

Askinosie will be conducting two very different chocolate tastings in the new private dining space at Miel, The Barn. The attractive interior features barnwood, planked walnut tables and burlap, and seats up to 30 guests. It should make a great venue for the events.

The first tasting is on Friday night, March 29, from 7 to 9 p.m. Miel bartender Adrien Matthews (ex-of tayst and one of my personal favorites) will be pairing chocolates with beer, wine and spirits. The event is $55 per person plus tax and gratuity, but I doubt you'll go home hungry.

To recover on Saturday morning, March 30, you can return from 11 a.m. until 1 p.m. for coffee pairings by Dose Coffee and Tea. They'll be emphasizing the fruity and nutty components of both coffee and chocolate in what should prove to be a delicious caffeine-laden brunch. The fare is $40 per person plus tax and gratuity.

Seating is limited, so call (615) 298-3663 to purchase your tickets.

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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Eats at the Beach: Spring Breaker Advice From Someone Other Than Harmony Korine

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 12:35 PM

Not that there's anything wrong with a drug-addled, booze-fueled Spring Break extravaganza, but some of us of a certain age are more interested in the food than in the drink when we head south for vacation.

You may not have noticed last week thanks to the continued volume of restaurant news that continues to flow from my keyboard, but I was on spring break in Blue Mountain Beach in Florida all last week. Since it was the first week of Metro schools' 14-day break, we recognized plenty of license plates and the reservation lists were full of 615 area code cellphone numbers. We ate at many of the most popular places along 30A, and really didn't have any bad dining experiences, so I thought it would be appropriate to share our tips for eating (mostly) on the cheap on the Panhandle.

First of all, if you're crowd-averse, stay the hell away from Watercolor and Seaside. These two Truman Show-esque resorts are packed with multitudes of people with more money than you riding around in golf carts and on rental bicycles as the coltish teenage girls begin their complicated courtship dances with Bieber-do bedecked boys which will not culminate until after their mutual graduations from Auburn. These groups of percolating hormones tend to move in packs and will usually congregate on the main drag between Pickle's Beachside Grill and the new row of permanent food trucks housed in precious little Airstream trailers. Just work your way through these entangled masses either on foot, by bike or by car, and they probably won't bother you.

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What Does a Chocolate Egg-Laying Bunny Have to Do with Easter?

Posted By on Tue, Mar 26, 2013 at 7:18 AM

So, I can accept candy from this creepy bunny, but not strangers, is that correct? That seems legit.
  • "So, I can accept candy from this creepy bunny, but not strangers, is that correct? OK."
It never fails that every year around this time, some curmudgeon “doesn’t understand what chocolate-egg-laying bunnies have to do with Easter.” Frankly, I’m OK with any reason to have fun and eat candy, but this year, I thought I’d be prepared with retorts and actually investigate a few of the Easter traditions.

Easter Eggs
The tradition of having eggs in the spring pre-dates Christianity quite a bit. Ancient history indicates that eggs have long been a symbol of rebirth or new life and, as with many fun pagan traditions, Christians decided to adopt the egg as a symbol of the resurrection. Some religions long ago forbade the consumption of eggs during Lent, so they were boiled for preservation, decorated, and celebrated at Easter (the end of the Lenten season).

The Easter Bunny (and its treats)
The Easter Bunny was originally a hare (there’s a difference!). Though the bunny rabbit and hare are both symbols of fertility, it was the hare that was linked to Easter due to an ancient theory that hares were hermaphrodites capable of virgin births. Europeans started the tradition of a hare that brings colored eggs to good boys and girls, leaving the gifts in “nests” made from their caps and bonnets. Eventually, the tradition switched to nests in baskets appropriate to use for Easter egg hunting (this is why we put plastic grass in our baskets). There’s a bit more to this, but I already wasted too much time falling down the rabbit hole (hurr hurr) of Wikipedia.

Naturally, the addition of chocolate eggs was initiated by enterprising chocolatiers and confectioners in Europe in the 1800s to encourage sales. As chocolate became easier to make and more affordable, the tradition spread. Believed to be the descendent of Turkish delight, the jelly bean became associated with Easter simply due to its ovoid nature. As for Peeps, I can’t find any documented reason the marshmallow chicks became one of the most popular Easter treats. Though they now make bunnies as well as a variety of other shapes.

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