Friday, July 26, 2013

The Weekly Open Thread: Where's the Best Place in Nashville to Buy Seafood?

Posted by on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 7:50 AM

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I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio, but I spent 10 years living on the East Coast, in Rhode Island and New York City, and I recall a time when I had made up my mind that I would never again live somewhere that wasn't on a coast. Whether it was the Atlantic, Pacific or Gulf of Mexico, I always wanted major water nearby.

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?

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Corn on the Cob Just Got Even Easier

Posted by on Fri, Jul 26, 2013 at 7:27 AM

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.

Enjoy.

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Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Tomato Recipe Contest and More at the 10th Anniversary Tomato Art Fest

Posted by on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 3:18 PM

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Can you believe it? The Tomato Art Fest is celebrating 10 on the 10th this year on Saturday, Aug. 10, in the Five Points neighborhood of East Nashville. Each year, this festival gets bigger and better, all in celebration of the great tomato. And once again, there’s an opportunity for you to show your love of the fruit of the Solanum lycopersicum plant by entering the tomato recipe contest, sponsored by the Nashville Farmers' Market.

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.

There are a number of other contests you can enter as well, including the Bloody Mary competition; haiku contest; littlest, biggest and/or ugliest tomatoes; and the Tomato King and Queen.

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Even More Pizza Coming to Midtown: Music City Pizza at 12th & Porter

Posted by on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 2:50 PM

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I'm generally of the opinion that there is no such thing as too many options when it comes to pizza. I grew up in the pre-Dominos era when Shakey's, Carmen's, Fletcher's and Obie's were pretty much it for most Nashvillians. There was a Sir Pizza here and there, but I always thought that they used bacon bits instead of pepperoni. After the first (dozen) Domino's opened in town, suddenly there was a boom of chains and local options like Michaelangelo's, DaVinci's and several other Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

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:

Mellow Mushroom
Bella Napoli
DeSano Pizza Bakery
Soulshine Pizza Factory
Two Boots

(And not that far from Midtown are Porta Via Italian Kitchen, Five Points Pizza and two chef-driven dining spots that feature wood-fired pizza ovens — City House and Lockeland Table.)

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.

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I Was Told There'd Be Pie

Posted by on Thu, Jul 25, 2013 at 2:09 PM

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I guess it was about a year ago — maybe two, three? — that I read that pie was the new cupcake. I keep hearing it, actually. The promise of pie. But, do I have pie? No, I do not have pie.

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.

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Brand-New Beer Festivals Abound!

Posted by on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 9:48 AM

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If you like drinking beer in public places, well you're in luck, my tippling exhibitionist friend, because there are some great opportunities coming up. Unlike this weekend's upcoming Music City Brew Fest which has a reputation of being a bit of a drunk fest where partiers pass out in the hot sun of August after filling up on PBR and Mike's Hard Lemonade, the Nashville Predators want to give you a nice, cool place to sample over 40 craft brewers at their inaugural Nashville Predators Craft Beer Festival, coming up on Saturday, Aug. 10, from 1-6 p.m. at Bridgestone Arena.

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.

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Get Ready for the Eighth Annual Bartender Bash

Posted by on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 7:43 AM

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I just got back from five days in New Orleans at Tales of the Cocktail, where I saw some of the best mixologists in the world practicing their craft. In attendance was a fairly large contingent of Nashville bartenders and other local members of the spirits industry. As best as I can tell, everybody made it back to town somehow with most extremities intact.

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:

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Grays on Main Opens Soon in Downtown Franklin

Posted by on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 5:56 AM

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  • facebook.com/graysfranklin
Last spring, Dana Kopp Franklin wrote about Andy Marshall’s purchase and plans to renovate the old Gray’s Drugstore in downtown Franklin. It was originally intended to open in the fall of 2012, but the 19th century building required extensive work, and there were delays in getting it just right. But the time has now come, and we’re all invited to help celebrate their grand opening.

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

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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Nashville Farmers' Market Launches Search for New Director — Maybe It's You

Posted by on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 1:31 PM

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  • Nashville Farmers' Market on Facebook
The Nashville Farmers' Market, an active hub in the city's burgeoning food scene, has officially kicked off the search for an executive director.

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.

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Down on the Farm With F. Scott's

Posted by on Tue, Jul 23, 2013 at 7:36 AM

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It's that wonderful time of year when you really find out who your friends are. If you're a tomato grower, your friends are the ones who will take all those lovely heirlooms off your hands before the squirrels get to them. (And take just one bite out of each one, those little ingrate sumbitches!) Even better friends might preserve some of your lovely red and orange orbs and return them to you in the form of sauces or tomato gravy.

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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