Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Cookbook Review: Health on Your Plate (Plus a Giveaway)

Posted by on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 3:08 PM

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A few weeks ago, I received a copy of Health on Your Plate by Yara Shoemaker. Shoemaker is a former model and aesthetician who’s studied a variety of diets and health programs — ostensibly to maintain her health and appearance — and combined that with the practical knowledge she gleaned from older, healthier members of her grandmother’s Syrian community. For the book, she’s assembled a wealth of what should be common sense to serve as a road map toward a healthier lifestyle. This is not a diet book at all; more like a lifestyle guide.

She starts with the basics, even including guides to choosing cookware, appliances, and pantry items. She also includes information on how to best shop for food. For example, she’s got a great section on oils — which to use for what type of cooking and which to avoid (and why). Shoemaker is not a vegetarian, but notes that the common denominator in the healthiest of diets in the world is an emphasis on whole grains and vegetables. Other food groups can be included, but in moderation and prepared in a healthy way.

And though it’s not explicitly a beauty book, Shoemaker does include tips in various sections on how to maintain your appearance and how what you eat affects your appearance. She notes, “ 'You are what you eat,' so imagine what you would look like on the doughnut diet” as opposed to a diet of the slender carrot. But she doesn’t condescend to readers at all, and every claim is backed up by a thorough set of references included at the end of the book.

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Learn How to Win Culinary Contests and Try It Out With Kettle Chips

Posted by on Tue, Apr 30, 2013 at 5:53 AM

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It seems like every day we hear news about another culinary contest or cooking show that is looking for contestants. While that's never been my favorite way to work out my competitive urges, I know that there are some Bitesters out there who have entered some of these contests with varying levels of success, so more power to y'all.

Now there is a website dedicated to informing potential competitors about all the various opportunities and also give hints and tips to better your chances at winning. Cooking Contest Central aims to provide all the info you need to turn your talents in the kitchen into real money.

Here's the skinny direct from the CEO:

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Monday, April 29, 2013

In Defense of Chains: Jim 'N Nick's Bar-B-Q

Posted by on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 8:05 AM

Worth waiting for!
  • Worth waiting for!
More than once here at Bites, I believe that I've come across as a bit of a chain apologist when it comes to new restaurants. Now, I hate soulless commissary food as much as anybody, but I just don't abandon a favorite restaurant because they are part of a series of locations. For example, I love Martin's Bar-B-Q Joint for many reasons. Pat Martin is a good friend of mine, but if I didn't like his food, I would just hang out and drink beer with him closer to town instead of shlepping all the way out to Nolensville for a redneck taco. But now that he has expanded with a new franchise location in Morgantown, W.V., and will soon open an outpost in Mt. Juliet, should I stop patronizing his establishment because it is now part of a "chain"?

Edley's is also a great place to enjoy a creative sandwich or some brisket on one of the best decks in my neighborhood, but now that they are sharing their food with East Nashvillians, should 12South denizens turn their collective noses up on them? Personally, I hope that many locally owned restaurants make good enough food to expand and become successful chains at a regional or national level. And I understand the argument that chains supposedly funnel profits out of our local market back to corporate headquarters somewhere, but when you consider the low return on investment that most restaurants operate at and the large initial investment required to open, the vast majority of restaurant revenue stays in the market in the form of employee wages, rent or construction costs, food and supply purchases and taxes. So while it's even better if the corporate headquarters are located in the state, the main economic impact flows through to the local economy no matter what.

On the flip side, I really don't like Whitts Barbecue, but not because they are a chain (which they are) or despite the fact that they are locally based (which they also are.) I just don't like the choices they make in how they cook their pork and the sauces they offer. That's totally my opinion, and good for you if you love them. If Whitts caters your wedding reception, I will smile politely as I thank you for the meal and try to construct a palatable sandwich (IMHO) using their rib sauce on top of the squishy pulled pork.

Now some "chain" barbecue that I do enjoy is Jim `N Nick's out of Birmingham, Ala. Even though there are more than 30 locations of this restaurant across the Southeast, their growth has been organic and measured since the first Jim N' Nick's was opened in Birmingham in 1985 by Nick Pihakis, who has been nominated several times by the James Beard Foundation as outstanding restaurateurs for his commitment to made-from-scratch Southern food and their contributions to the local communities around their restaurants.

This dedication to the use of fresh ingredients actually extends higher than JNN to an affiliated company which shares some of the same partners as JNN, Fresh Hospitality. All of their brands share a commitment to common values of freshly prepared foods and local ownership. If you look at the roster of restaurants under the Fresh Hospitality flag you'll see local fast-casual Mediterranean favorite Taziki's and the aforementioned Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint. Fresh Hospitality encourages local partnerships, and Molly James is a co-owner of all three Jim 'N Nick's in West Nashville, Cool Springs and Smyrna. In fact, the investment group behind Fresh Hospitality has recently purchased a building in downtown Nashville and will be bringing part of their operations here, so you can now count them as a local company if that makes you feel even better.

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Two Events Certain to Provoke Thoughts About Hunger

Posted by on Mon, Apr 29, 2013 at 5:47 AM

Hunger is still a problem today.
  • Hunger is still a problem today.
A couple of weeks ago, I told you about Food Bloggers Against Hunger and another local screening of A Place at the Table. The screening is being held tonight at Downtown Presbyterian Church. As part of the event, there will be a food advocacy fair to learn ways to get involved with local organizations that work to fight hunger issues as well as dinner.

And not just any dinner; the meal will be provided a roster of talented chefs and cooks. Brett Swayn of The Cookery and his staff will create a dish featuring Delvin Farms produce. Nancy Vienneau, food writer and chef/teacher at Second Harvest Food Bank's Culinary Arts Center, and Anne Sale of The Nashville Food Project also will provide a part of the meal. And bread freshly baked by Lisa Donovan of Buttermilk Road Sunday Suppers and (soon) Husk Restaurant will also be available. Tickets are just $12 and include the movie as well as dinner and can be purchased here.

Dinner and a Movie: A Place at the Table

Downtown Presbyterian Church — Fellowship Hall
154 5th Avenue North
Monday, April 29 6 p.m. — 9 p.m.
$12

If you’re already booked tonight, no worries; check out the Oxfam America Hunger Banquet tomorrow night, April 30, at Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee’s facility in Metro Center. Tickets to the event are free, but limited to the first 100 who request one. But you may or may not eat:

Participants in Nashville’s Hunger Banquet will be randomly assigned to groups reflecting how worldwide resources are distributed. Following a brief presentation, each group will experience a meal according to their status as wealthy, middle/working class or poor, followed by a discussion. This should prove to be an eye-opening experience for those who have never experienced long-term hunger, such as that suffered by 85 percent of the world’s population.

The Hunger Banquet
Second Harvest Food Bank
331 Great Circle Road
Tuesday, April 30, 5:30-8 p.m.
Free, but tickets are required (adults only)

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Friday, April 26, 2013

Prominent TV Chef Maneet Chauhan Opening Her First Restaurant: A Gastropub in Nashville

Posted by on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 2:44 PM

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Maneet Chauhan, who has become a popular figure on the Food Network after serving as an executive chef in Chicago and New York, is opening her first restaurant, and she has chosen to launch it in Nashville.

I spoke with her Wednesday evening after she spent the day scouting restaurant locations and working on plans with her Nashville business partners — Moni Advani, London Parfitt and Austin Ratliff, three entrepreneurs who co-own Anthem and Revelry.

“Moni approached me, and first I thought, ‘Nashville?’ But I never shut doors, I never don’t look,” Chauhan said. “I’d never been to Nashville, and now I love it.”

She added, “Opening my first place has to be with people I like, where it’s a passion, where the people really love food.”

The nightclub Anthem, and Revelry, a smaller restaurant within it, are located on 12th Avenue just north of Broadway in the Gulch, but Chauhan hasn’t yet finalized the neighborhood where her restaurant will be located.

Chauhan is from India originally, and attended culinary school there and later at the Culinary Institute of America. She was executive chef at Rohini Dey's Vermilion in Chicago and New York.

As for her approach, Chauhan is known for her omnivorous love of dishes from a variety of cultures, putting her own spin on recipes using her knowledge of Indian spices. A former Next Iron Chef competitor, she’s now judge on the Food Network’s Chopped.

The working title of her restaurant is Chauhan Ale & Masala House. She said it will be a microbrewery and gastropub, with Indian-inspired cuisine.

“Nashville is such a fun-loving city,” Chauhan said, adding that she was impressed by Nashville’s embrace of beer culture. She figures a “beautifully executed” gastropub could be a “big, big selling point” for Nashvillians.

Chauhan is having an incredibly busy spring. She just published her first cookbook, Flavors of My World: A Culinary Tour Through 25 Countries, co-written with her business manager Doug Singer and published by Favorite Recipes Press, an imprint of Nashville-based Southwestern Publishing Group. She’s in the midst of a 21-city bus tour across the U.S. to promote the book. She’s also being followed by a camera crew for a future reality TV series.

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The Road, Episode 30: El Pollon Crazy Grill [Eating Our Way Down Nolensville Pike]

Posted by on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 12:53 PM

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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 30: El Pollon Crazy Grill
Address: 20 Harding Mall Drive
Phone: 678-8154

This is not a sentence that I want to write, but I am obligated to write: El Pollon Crazy Grill is not very good. It's not terrible, but if my experience tells me anything, it's that this place will be gone in a couple of months. Which sucks because I don't want to shit all over somebody's American dream, but it also seems that somebody's American dream wasn't really thought all the way through. Regular readers know that I'll suffer through a lot of trangressions — slow service, language difficulties, weird vibes — if the food is really good, but based on my experience there, El Pollon Crazy Grill's food is not good. At all. If I were going to be generous I would say it's average, run-of-the mill Mexican food in a neighborhood where that just doesn't fly. I don't know how generous I am feeling.

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Wandering Wino: Better Find a DD Edition

Posted by on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 9:28 AM

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It's a busy couple of weeks coming up on the wine tasting front, so now's the time to team up with a friend to trade off the post-tasting driving responsibilities. Or memorize this important number: 1 (800) TAXICAB. Even I can remember that after a few glasses.

The Nashville Wine Auction does a whole lot more than just putting on some of the grandest wine tasting/fund raising events of the year. They also occasionally organize smaller tastings of some of their favorite winemakers to introduce them in a personal way to Nashville wine lovers. Next month, they’ve invited Thomas Duroux, the CEO and winemaker of Château Palmer for an afternoon tasting at F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar on Friday, May 17, from 4 to 5:30 p.m.

Five Château Palmer wines to be tasted:
Alter Ego 2008, Château Palmer 2008, Alter Ego 2004, Château Palmer 2004 and
Historical XIX Century Wine L.20.07

Château Palmer is regarded by wine lovers all over the world as one of the best estates in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux. "Vintage after vintage, the wines of Château Palmer express our vision of an exceptional wine," says Thomas Duroux, CEO of Château Palmer. "We believe Palmer is born of a mysterious trilogy: terroir, history, memory. All of our efforts are concentrated on bringing this unique combination to life vintage after vintage."

Join us for this rare opportunity with Thomas Duroux, Winemaker and CEO of Château Palmer to taste Château Palmer wines. Chef Kevin Ramquist of F. Scott's Restaurant and Jazz Bar will offer tasting portions with the wines. Stay for dinner at F. Scott's and enjoy a 20% discount on dinner.

Limited space is available. Call the Nashville Wine Auction at (615) 329-1760 or email Kristin Sebastian at Kristin@NashvilleWineAuction.com to make your reservation.

Village Wines is taking over 360 Bistro in West Nashville on Tuesday, May 7, at 6:30 p.m. for a tasting of the wonderful Napa Valley wines of Krupp Brothers and Veraison. While you may not have heard much about this winery, the experts love it, and here’s your chance to taste through their selection of fine reds and whites. The event is just $15 per person plus tax and gratuity, so call Hoyt Hill at (615) 383-2102 for more information and reservations.

Grand Cru on Murphy Road has tastings both this afternoon and tomorrow if you happen to be in the neighborhood. Today they’re throwing a Bordeaux vintage throwdown between wines form 2009 and 2010. They’ll be tasting a 2009 Chateau Haut Pommarede and a 2010 Chateau Patache d' Aux, so drop by between 5 and 6:30 p.m. to pick your favorite.

Tomorrow is Tequila Saturday at Grand Cru, so take the edge of the afternoon with sips of Gran Centenario Tequila and Maestro Dobel Diamond Tequila from 3 to 4:30 p.m.

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First Bite: The New Listening Room Cafe

Posted by on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 7:56 AM

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  • The Listening Room on Facebook
There are plenty of places on Lower Broad to listen to some good music and eat some nice food ... but rarely both in the same building. More prevalent are places with great food and no music (Merchants) or great music and decent bar food (Robert's Western World) or more along the lower end of both scales (Honky Tonk Tequila Beaver Speakeasy Inn.) This is why it would certainly be worth an extra block or so of walking to find a good listening room with better food.

And now we have one called...well, The Listening Room Cafe. You may remember the original incarnation of singer-songwriter Chris Blair's restaurant when it was located on the south end of the ground floor at Cummins Station. That location was best known for good burgers, great pickles and crappy sight lines for watching a band, though not as bad as Mercy Lounge before their notable pole removal.

So Blair packed up and moved his operation from one cursed room to another. You can just review the past decade of police blotters to remember the infamous names of the various residents of 217 Second Ave. S. (An interesting note: You can search the restaurant's entire website and not find the address anywhere. Maybe they are trying to hide from the previous fans of infamous late-night troublemaker bars like The Place, Luau Louie's Hula Hut, Have a Nice Day Cafe, Bluesboro, Lotus Ultralounge and a few others that came and left before the name on the sign was burned into the collective conscious.)

Blair aims to rehabilitate the building's location by considerably classing up the joint. First off, he offers 30 spots of free parking (yay!) behind the building, so early birds are rewarded with a precious 60 square feet of downtown real estate. He has installed a great sound system and a very attractive stage area backed with a large brick wall that reminds me of the long-missed Cafe Milano, which was my favorite downtown jazz venue before Gibson bought it and closed it. Grr ...

The Listening Room Cafe is family-friendly and smoke-free, but still has a nice little bar scene thanks to 14 craft beers on tap, plenty of canned beers and a full cocktail and wine menu. Since the venue is equally focused on music as well as food, they've developed an interesting hybrid system of reservations through Open Table. Instead of a cover charge, they require a $7 food and drink minimum, and patrons make reservations for two-hour blocks at a table, although if you decide to linger for the music and continue to eat and drink, they'll do their best to accomodate you.

Blair has already booked some fantastic bands and songwriters into The Listening Room Cafe, and they were one of the major venues at the recent Tin Pan South songwriters' festival despite the fact that the restaurant has only been open since January. If you'd visited earlier in the month, you could have seen your favorite Nashville characters, Lennon and Maisy Stella. Unlike other songwriter performance spaces in town, there is definitely not a "no talking" policy at The Listening Room, so you can enjoy a meal, a show and some quiet conversation without worrying about being shuuusssshed.

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The Weekly Open Thread: Ramen Rage Edition

Posted by on Fri, Apr 26, 2013 at 5:51 AM

I know, I know. You're thinking, "Another ramen post?"

But wait. There's a reason. As the comment thread on this post about an Otaku South ramen dinner made clear, a lot of folks think ramen is ramen. Period. "It's just noodles and broth" seemed to be a pervading sentiment among the detractors — none of whom, naturally, had actually tried Otaku South's ramen.

The thread led Otaku South's Sarah Gavigan to explain exactly why she charges what she charges for her ramen, which we turned into a thread of its own. And of course, the debate continued.

Now don't get us wrong — we love a good debate. But as proof that all ramen is not created equal, I offer you Exhibit A, from RocketNews24, "Bringing you yesterday's news from Japan and Asia, today":

Over the weekend, a Korean businessman got into hot water when he complained about his in-flight meal on a trip to the United States. Apparently, he wasn’t satisfied with the taste of his ramen or with the service, and expressed his displeasure by assaulting one of the cabin crew. As a result, he was turned over to the FBI and prevented from entering the country. ...

He reportedly yelled, “Too salty and the noodles are half-cooked!” Then he struck the crew member across the face with a magazine.


Discussion topics:
• Does this in any way change your thoughts about ramen?
• Is this guy just a shmuck, bad ramen or not, and am I exploiting his tantrum for my own sinister ends?
• Have you ever had an airline experience so bad you went into a rage so extreme you were nearly arrested? (Disclosure: I have.)
• Has anyone actually eaten anything decent served on a airline flight?
• Did anyone check out the Otaku South Extra Large event at Marathon Music Works last weekend? (I did. Thumbs up for my experience.)
• What else is on your mind?

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Thursday, April 25, 2013

First Bite: The Urban Juicer

Posted by on Thu, Apr 25, 2013 at 4:05 PM

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You know what is still popular as shit? Juices. And juices with extra stuff in them, like chia seeds (that's the trend now, guys), are even better. So naturally, when I thought about how I was having pizza for dinner — and despite the fact that I already ate lunch — I thought I'd do my body a solid and get some vitamins, aka fresh juice.

The Urban Juicer opened a couple weeks ago, and it already has a following. When we were there at 2 p.m. on a Thursday, there were easily 10 other people who stopped by within 10 minutes. It has a small parking lot in front, right off Eighth Avenue, about a block south of 8th & Roast. It looked like there might be more parking in the back, but it's pretty much a grab 'n' go place. There are three nice wood tables inside and a couple outdoors for those who want to linger.

Inside is mostly black with bright pops of color everywhere — most obviously accented with with barrels and barrels of fruits and vegetables. There were a bunch of young and energetic worker bees making the juices, and service was very speedy.

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