For one thing, I love the ocean — the sounds, the views, the smells, the mystique. And for another, I love seafood.
Obviously, my dedication to the cause of coastal living waned: For the last 15 years, I've lived in landlocked Nashville. Frankly, I love it here, and have no plans of leaving. But I do miss all the fresh seafood I used to eat.
So I ask you, hallowed readers of the Bites, where do you get your seafood? I realize a lot of stuff sold here has been frozen somewhere in the process. But where in (or near) Nashville have you had the best luck? I have a couple of regular spots, but I'm not thrilled with any of them, and I'm not going to name names because I want you to consider my query untainted by suggestion. Perhaps there's a source I haven't tried!
And what else is happenin', folks?
I present to you, via Nicki P. Wood, some good advice about cooking corn on the cob.
Short version: cook your fresh (as in, right off the back of the truck) corn in the cob whilst still in the husk. No more shucking. It works. Though, because I have a very powerful microwave and didn't want to waste an ear that might turn to popcorn, I cooked one ear at three minutes and then two ears for five minutes. Both times, the silks came off cleanly, though I was not able to just shake the corn out of the husk. The important thing is that I had perfectly cooked corn that was completely free of silks and I spent very little energy getting them that way.
A few notes for those of you who plan to try this at home (and you should). First, check for worms. Organic corn, in particular will usually have a worm inside munching away at the top of the cob. I think it's best to remove him before microwaving. And wash off any of his leavings. Second, if your corn is a few days off the farm, go ahead and wrap a wet paper towel around it for a little added moisture. Again, you want delicious corn on the cob, not popcorn.
The theme for this year’s competition is bruschetta. Technically, bruschetta (brew-SKEH-tuh) is grilled bread rubbed with garlic and olive oil. A tomato salad is a popular topping for bruschetta, but those of us who’ve entered the contest before know that creativity counts (and creative license is allowed). Frankly, I’ve never had a bruschetta I didn’t like, but plopping tomatoes on some toast ain’t gonna win you a prize.
And that’s all I’m going to tell you to help win this contest, other than you better bring your best. Competition is fierce, and judges will be tasting up to 25 different recipes to choose a winner. I thought my toasted couscous and tomato salad was a winner two years ago, but it made little impression. Last year’s sandwich entry was a disaster; the tomato-mango salsa that I thought would set it apart ended up making for a soggy mess. I’ve already said too much. You're on your own from here.
If you think you’re up for the challenge, you can find important details about the recipe contest on this page of the Tomato Art Fest website. But hurry — only the first 25 who email to enter will be accepted.
But I can't remember anything like the current pizza boom going on now in the Midtown neighborhood. Starting at the original stalwart Pizza Perfect across from Vanderbilt on 21st Avenue, here's the list of a half-dozen Midtown pizza joints that I can think of off the top of my head that we have covered here on Bites in the past few years:
Even with the closing of Pie in the Sky around the corner from Soulshine and Two Boots, there are a whole lot of new pizza choices for Midtown diners. But Keith Hayman, the owner of 12th & Porter, isn't scared about oversaturation. He has announced plans to open Music City Pizza in the lounge side of the 12th & Porter bar and music club before the summer is over.
Sure, there are pies for sale around Nashville. Papa C makes a good pie. So does Geraldine. There’s The Pie Wagon (which isn’t quite as pie-centric as one would expect). And I’ve heard about a place in Berry Hill, The Loving Pie Company that sells pie. But we need places (plural) you can go for pie. Like you go for cupcakes, ice cream, yogurt, coffee. Pie by the slice, available in a mind-boggling number of flavors. As in, “Hey, let’s meet for pie somewhere.”
Because I like pie, but I don’t make pie. Why? Because pie requires skill to make, friends. There’s a science and technique to it. That is, to make your own perfect pie crust. Heck, I can’t even make a decent cookie crust. Do I ever plan to attempt a real crust? I … don’t know. If you watched the first episode of The American Baking Competition, you know that even experienced bakers can fail at pie.
However, I will say I’m tempted to try, now that I’m armed with Crazy About Pies, a new book by Krystina Castella. There are over 150 pie recipes in this lovely book, including a fair number of savory pies. Aside from the fillings, there are detailed instructions on making a variety of crusts — flaky, fluffy, cornmeal, oatmeal, pretzel and more — and measurements for making them in a variety of sizes. Also included are the essential techniques as well as a guide for troubleshooting less-than-perfect outcomes. The author leaves nothing to question, including portions devoted to the equipment and ingredients as well as decorative crusts and even transporting your pies.
And once you start looking at the recipes, you’ll want to get in the kitchen. Truffle pie, cashew custard tart, pineapple and mango empanadas, plum crostata, salted caramel ice cream pie … hungry yet? I am. There’s even a recipe for buttermilk pie, which I’m curious to know if it will yield a pie like the ones prepared by Lisa Donovan at Husk Nashville. And there are recipes for knishes and pasties, hand pies, shepherd’s pies, pot pies and quiches tucked into chapters among the many sweet pies. But this isn’t just a book for novices; the author has helpfully separated the more basic technique portions of the book into a sort of reference section so that experienced pie-makers can get right to the good stuff.
So, if you’re looking to challenge yourself with pie and/or expand your repertoire, this is the book for you. And I will happily serve as your taste-tester.
They promise plenty of AC, since after all, there's ice under that floor ... plus no portable bathrooms! Included in the festival ticket purchase will be a ticket to a future Preds hockey game, and every attendee will have the chance to vote for their favorite brewery. The winning brewery will win the opportunity to have their beer poured at three home Preds games in November.
Here's the skinny on the ticket options:
Tickets are just $50 for general admission and include entry into the beer festival, a souvenir glass, unlimited tastings and a voucher for an Upper Bowl ticket to a Monday-Thursday Predators pre-season or regular season home game in September or October (excludes Opening Night).
Purchase a VIP ticket for $100, which includes all the perks of general admission, plus a VIP checkin area, a VIP tasting area — which includes food and special craft brewed beer — and free parking in the 6th Avenue garage, and a voucher for a Lower Level ticket to a Monday-Thursday Predators pre-season or regular season home game in September or October (excludes Opening Night).
The $30 Designated Driver ticket includes entry into the festival, complimentary soda and water and a voucher for an Upper Bowl ticket to a Monday-Thursday Predators home game in September or October (excludes Opening Night.)
Proceeds benefit the Nashville Predators Foundation. Attendees must be 21 years of age or older to attend. Call (615) 770-2328 or visit www.nashvillepredators.com/beer for more information and to purchase your tickets.
A lot of Tales revolves around awards and recognitions for bartenders, and unfortunately none of our local talent won any of the big awards. But next month, some of Nashville's best bartenders will gather at the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel to compete for the title of top dog. From 6 to 8 p.m. Aug. 22, guest judges will select the winner of "Best Belvedere Martini" and "Most Creative Cocktail." Attendees will get to sample all the competing creations and help choose the "People’s Choice Award" while enjoying hors d’oeuvres from Mason’s restaurant.
If you'd like to be a part of the event, it'll cost you $30 in advance and $40 at the door if any tickets remain. Visit the event website to buy your tickets.
At post time, there were 11 announced competitors. Check the list below to see if any of your favorites will be showing off their chops, and go root them on:
On Sunday, Aug. 4, from 7 to 10 p.m., Grays on Main will host its introductory event, "Taste of Grays," an open house with tours, free tastes from the menu, and live entertainment. During the event, Main Street in front of the restaurant will be closed so that revelers can celebrate the relighting of the historic Gray’s Drugstore sign at dusk. The restaurant is scheduled to open for business at 11 a.m. the following day.
(The party was originally set for this Sunday, but a water line collapsed this week in downtown Franklin; the restaurant temporarily lost its water supply, setting back training and other preparations.)
The restaurant's owners, Michael and Joni Cole, and chef Kenneth Jenkins aim to offer “modern emphasis on Southern culinary traditions through clean, complex profiles.” The menu will be driven by what’s available locally and seasonally. Additionally, the owners selected Jon Yeager of Pour Taste as beverage director. He'll run the bar program, heavily influenced by the “brandy culture of the late 19th century.” Cocktails will be available for purchase during the celebration.
Along with the restaurant and bar, Grays has a music hall for live entertainment on the second floor. The third floor will be home to Society at Grays, a members-only supper club. For more information and to see all the progress made over the last few months, visit the restaurant's page on Facebook.
"Taste of Grays"
Sunday, Aug. 4, 7 to 10 p.m.
Grays on Main
332 Main St., Franklin
A city-owned facility, the market issued an official Metro government help-wanted release last week.
The salary is listed at $68,000 to $78,000 per year, with this job description: "This position directs and performs administrative and supervisory duties involved in overseeing all administrative activities of the Farmers’ Market. Works under the direction of the Farmers’ Market Board. Performs related duties as required. Requires some work on nights and weekends. This is a Metro Non Civil Service position."
The Nashville Farmers' Market has lacked a manager in the top spot for more than a year. The last director, Jeff Themm, announced his retirement from the job in April 2012, shortly after a Metro review found “management and financial deficiencies” at the market.
The facility is a diverse operation, with both indoor and outdoor spaces that are rented out to farmers, produce resellers, artisan food purveyors, craftspeople, flea market vendors, restaurants and small shops.
The critical financial report cited as a key concern the rental rates the market charged to vendors, including a lack of consistency in rents. "Management did not monitor its costs of operations and thereby failed to adjust and distribute shared costs to vendors equitably,” the review found.
Since Themm's departure, there has been much operational soul-searching at the deficit-plagued market. Nancy Whittemore, director of Metro General Services, has served as interim director for more than a year.
For tomato consumers like I am this year (see squirrel frustrations above), it's great to see restaurants like F. Scott's featuring the solanum lycopersicum. For all of July, F. Scott's has had a weekly rotating "Tomato Extravaganza" menu with three courses for $31. Every Monday they release the new offering on their website, so there's still a chance to get in on the deal. The earlier menus in July looked amazing, so I'm sure they'll finish with a bang.
Even more ambitious is F. Scott's plan for their third annual Locally Grown Farm-to-Table Dinner honoring local farmers, distillers, brewers and winemakers, which will be held Aug. 12. Other restaurants have featured maybe one or two of their purveyors on a semi-monthly basis, but this extravaganza will showcase many of F. Scott's favorite suppliers at one time, including Allan Benton of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams, Karen Overton of Wedge Oak Farms, Scott Witherow of Olive & Sinclair Chocolate Co., Dustin Noble of Noble Springs Dairy, Samuel Yoder of Jolly Barnyard Farm, Farmer Dave and Hap Heilman.
Chef Kevin Ramquist will prepare a four-course family style dinner, but most importantly diners will have the opportunity to interact with the people who actually produce many of the items featured in the restaurant and at the dinner. The evening kicks off with a reception at 6 followed by dinner at 7. The event is $85 per guest and will include handcrafted cocktails from Corsair, Jack Daniel's and Prichard's distilleries, plus wines from Arrington Vineyards, and Yazoo beers. Tax and gratuity are not included. Full wine list and additional beers and cocktails are available a la carte.
Reservations are required and may be made by calling 269-5861. A credit card is required to hold your reservation.
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