Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Memo to Memphis: All Your Barbecue Are Belong to Us

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 5:33 PM

Dear Memphis,

You had a good run. We know you like to think of yourselves as a little bit of a barbecue town, something we troglodytes back east supposedly don't know squat about. [Waits for Memphis to look up "troglodytes" ... oh, hell, here's the link.] You brag about your dry-rub this and your Rendezvous that.

Well apparently, you've never heard of a barbecue mecca we like to call NASHVILLE.

The fine folks over at Travel + Leisure — that's pronounced "Travel AND Leisure" not "Travel Plus Leisure" (it's not a Pictogram, Memphis; we're gonna need you to move a little faster than that) — have declared It City THE TOP BARBECUE CITY IN AMERICA:

It’s a Tennessee takedown: with its ever-expanding foodie scene, Music City won for compiling a greatest-hits collection of barbecue styles — from the whole-hog approach of rural Tennessee, the tomatoey sauces of Memphis, and even the mayo-and-vinegar white sauces typical of Alabama — with southern-style catfish, fried okra, and banana pudding thrown in. Alongside traditional platters, the best places in Nashville offer some cheeky twists: Martin’s Bar-B-Que has Redneck Tacos (filled with brisket or pulled pork), while Peg Leg Porker in The Gulch offers an appetizer of Memphis Sushi (cheese and sausage on saltines). At Edley’s Bar-B-Que, both in East Nashville and 12South, the Tuck Special is a brisket sandwich topped with house-made pimento cheese, an over-easy egg, red and white sauce, and pickles. In a perhaps related note, Nashville also scored near the top for its civic pride.

(Apparently we love our city more than you, too. That's the power of It Citydom right there)

So yes, while you like to think you have your own special brand of barbecue, it turns out that our own Barbecue Melting Pot approach is superior. We will take your barbecue and make it better. Oh, wait, we already did.

Just to show you we're not sore winners, you're invited to the Nashville In May celebration next year where we will crown a new World Barbecue Champion.

Roll on, Mighty Cumberland River. Roll on.


Steve Cavendish
Nashville Exceptionalist

P.S. We have pitched Travel + Leisure on a number of lists for which Nashville is surely No. 1 as well, including "Best Blues Town," "Best Jewish Delis," "Best Spring Break Destination" and "Best NBA City"

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Tennessee Fire in the Hole

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 9:44 AM

It's difficult to appreciate what a bunch of Fireball fans that Nashvillians are. Since the cinnamon-flavored whiskey was introduced in Music City, we have become Fireball's No. 1 market by far, as brahs and bachelorettes indulge in glass after glass of the fiery elixir. I love the fact that the official designation of this spirit category (which also includes Jägermeister and Rumple Minze) is "challenge shots."

Apparently, the big boys have taken notice of (y)our insatiable thirst for Fireball, because Jack Daniel's has rolled out a new brand extension called Tennessee Fire. The 70-proof liqueur is priced in line with their most recent line addition, Tennessee Honey, and is made by infusing Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey with a proprietary red-hot cinnamon liqueur.

Initially, the product is being rolled out only in Tennessee, Oregon and Pennsylvania. (Y'know ... our sister states.) However, if Tennessee Fire spreads like wildfire, expect to see it available nationally soon. Having tried it myself (strictly as a journalistic exercise, of course), I have to say Tennessee Fire is a bit mellower than Fireball. The sweetness of the whiskey comes through a little better, even if it is masked by the cloying syrupy Red Hots candy overtones. If that's what you're going for, more power to you, buddy. It'll definitely get you where you want to go.

Flavored whiskeys are experiencing explosive growth, partly as a gateway spirit for new whiskey drinkers and also as a way to stretch the dwindling supplies of precious brown liquor.

Continue reading »

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Global Inspiration Spices Up the Vegan Kitchen in Two New Cookbooks

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 8:32 AM

Something I’ve noticed in the last 15 years of having a mostly plant-based diet is that aside from a good Southern vegetable plate, it’s usually easier and tastier to eat vegetarian and vegan foods within Asian, African or Caribbean cuisine. For example, Woodlands, Jamaicaway and Calypso Cafe have some wonderful vegan foods. Much of the menu at The Wild Cow and Sunflower Café is inspired by world cuisine, and Gojo Ethiopian Café and Restaurant is a very popular destination for veg*ns.

But if you’re looking for inspiration in your home kitchen, there are two recently published cookbooks that can help.

Vegan Beans from Around the World by Kelsey Kinser seeks to put a little oomph on your plate if, like me, you have a tendency to serve plain beans. Among the 100 recipes, there are main dishes that include Ful Medames, a Middle Eastern recipe for fava beans; a cassoulet; peas-and-rice (though I use pigeon peas when I make this dish, instead of their suggested kidney or red beans); and Jamaican Peanut Porridge. The recipes for side dishes from around the globe could serve as a base for a more exciting vegetable plate or accompany your favorite meat dish.

There are also recipes for soup and salads, and of course, no bean book would be complete without some recipes for sweets, too. Beans are common ingredients in sweets throughout Asia, Africa and the Middle East, and a few choice recipes, such as red bean ice cream and chickpea cupcakes are included. Each recipe is accompanied by helpful information about the beans, the inspiration and origin of the recipe, and suggestions for companion dishes and serving. Along with recipes, there are some bean basics, such as choosing canned versus dried and pre-preparation of beans for recipes.

Another book that will help take your home vegan cooking to the next level is Fusion Food in the Vegan Kitchen by Joni Marie Newman. Not content to rely on the dishes of just one country, Newman presents recipes that combine flavors and styles of two or three different countries or cultures.

Continue reading »

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Pie Five Pizza Coming to Donelson and Cool Springs

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 6:54 AM

Pie Five Pizza, a pizza chain that started in Dallas in 2011, announced a few months ago that it planned to expand to the Nashville area, aiming to open 10 franchises here. Now we have word of the first of those Pie Five Pizza locations: Donelson and Cool Springs.

A company spokesman says Pie Five Pizza is preparing to open at 2280 Lebanon Pike in The Crossings retail strip in Donelson, and at 401B Cool Springs Blvd, Suite 220, in Thoroughbred Village in Cool Springs.

No opening dates have been set, but both locations are expected to launch sometime this summer.

Pie Five Pizza is "a trend-setting, fast-casual concept offering individual handcrafted pizzas with fresh ingredients made-to-order and prepared in less than five minutes," according to the website.

A subsidiary of Pizza Inn Holdings, Pie Five Pizza touts its menu of "more than 20 fresh toppings, seven savory sauces and four made-from-scratch crusts," from which the diner creates his or her mix-and-match custom pizza. The lineup includes a gluten-free crust.

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Bella Nashville Expands Retail Presence, With Breads at Turnip Truck and Porter Road Butcher

Posted By on Tue, May 20, 2014 at 6:09 AM

Last month, Steve Cavendish dished on the new Bella Nashville bakery on Fatherland Street, and I certainly suggest dropping by for one of their customized sandwiches or a fresh-baked loaf of bread. But the Bellalistas are expanding their retail empire around town with new outposts in various stores.

They have recently begun to sell their loaves and baguettes at both locations of The Turnip Truck and Porter Road Butcher, as well as at their original pizza shop in the Nashville Farmers' Market. At least at The Turnip Truck, Bella Nashville is delivering baguettes only on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, since the small loaves tend to harden into dangerous batons after a day or so.

But if you somehow can't finish the baguette within a day of purchase, fret not. Cut them up into delicious croutons and use them to dress a salad made from fresh Turnip Truck vegetables. At least that's what I did recently to great acclaim.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

If Your Burger Is the Boss or Your 'Tater Salad is Tops, Vegas Could Be in Your Future

Posted By on Mon, May 19, 2014 at 8:15 AM

In addition to capturing that nifty trophy (that weighs about 20 pounds!), when Chef Hal Holden-Bache won this year's Iron Fork competition, he also received another little lagniappe of a prize. Make that a big lagniappe, because World Food Championships organizer Mike McCloud happened to be in attendance at the event and spontaneously offered Holden-Bache an entry into the World Chef Challenge at the WFC in November in Las Vegas.

Holden-Bache will compete against other notable chefs from around the country for the chance to win some serious scratch; last year's winner took home $5,000 and a Southern Pride commercial smoker. (That smoker is pretty tough to fit in the overhead compartment.) If the format is the same as the last two years, Holden-Bache will compete in a round of hand skills (start practicing your potato tourne technique, Hal!) and then several rounds of cooking, which culminate in an ultimate dish evaluated by celebrity judges.

If mere mortals like us would like to be a part of the World Food Championships, there are plenty of opportunities. Two that are coming up soon don't even require you to cook anything under pressure situations, just submit a recipe. The first is the Kenmore Burger Challenge. Get cracking because you only have until midnight on May 20 to send them your recipe for the most bodacious burger. A panel of judges will consider all the entries and select four winners who will gain entry into the Burger Division of the World Food Championships. Kenmore is even kicking in $500 and a free trip to the competition for the grand prize winner. Start grinding, Bitesters!

For less carni-centric chefs, Reser's Potato Salad is searching for America's best recipe for that picnic staple. You've got until July 16 to get that one in, and they'll choose 20 semifinalists. These lucky 20 will be winnowed down by a vote of Reser's Facebook fans and will all win a trip and entry in the World Food Championships' Potato Salad division. The ultimate winner gets 10 grand, so that's not small potatoes!

As another nice touch, Reser's will donate on case of their potato salad for every recipe entered to food banks and hunger organizations in the name of the eventual winner. So put your thinking caps on and dig your old recipes out of that box of index cards. Let's see a Nashville winner!

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New Spring Menu at The 404 Kitchen, a Discussion About Ramps, and a Recipe From Chef Matt Bolus

Posted By on Mon, May 19, 2014 at 6:20 AM

Spring Allium Soup at The 404 Kitchen
  • Spring Allium Soup at The 404 Kitchen
A couple of weeks ago, chef Matt Bolus introduced a new late spring menu highlighting all the goodness that this time of year brings to our tables. I stopped in at The 404 Kitchen — one of this year’s semifinalists for Best New Restaurant at the James Beard Awards — last week during a photo shoot to check out what’s new, including the Spring Allium Soup. The restaurant’s PR folks forwarded a recipe to me, so as I looked through it, I knew I wanted to talk about ramps.

Ramps — also known as wild leeks — have long been a celebrated delicacy that heralds the beginning of spring, though it's also noted as one of the most pungent of all the allium species. Ramps' popularity in the past 15 years has led to overharvesting, followed by bans on foraging ramps in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Quebec. Unscrupulous harvesters have made it difficult for the ramps to remain plentiful.

This led to a discussion of growing your own ramps, something I have contemplated since allium species are the only thing I can successfully grow in my own garden. Chef Bolus had the same idea and eagerly found a book about growing ramps, purchased seeds, and sought advice from friends at Bear Creek Farms. He then learned that in addition to needing the perfect growing conditions (a wooded, northern-facing hill), he’d also need lots of time and patience. The seeds require 18 months to germinate and then another seven years to mature for culinary use. Though Chef Bolus noted that he has foraged for himself (ostensibly while awaiting the maturity of his cultivated ramps), he relies on commercial suppliers for the restaurant.

Ramp greens are currently featured in the Spring Allium Soup — which is fantastic, by the way; rich and creamy and deep with flavor — as well as in the risotto on the new menu. The spring menu also includes a number of other springtime favorites, such as asparagus served with a Wedge Oak Farm poached egg, petite kale and rhubarb in the Insalata Langhe, Jerusalem artichoke (also known as sunchoke) and broccolini, pea tendrils, pickled strawberries, and French breakfast radishes. The menu evolves as available ingredients change, so look for other delicacies such as morel mushrooms to pop up on the menu, as well as early heirloom tomatoes and field peas.

Chef Bolus was kind enough to share the recipe for his soup. I spoke with him about it, and I’ve made some notes at the end for sourcing ingredients and substitutions for the home cook.

Continue reading »

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Friday, May 16, 2014

The Weekly Open Thread: What Nashville Specialties Do You Miss? (Part Two)

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2014 at 10:00 AM

Alexia Humphrey, serving up a chivito at Nolas in 2006
  • Alexia Humphrey, serving up a chivito at Nola's in 2006
A little over a year ago, Jim Ridley started an interesting conversation on the open thread about your favorite Nashville dishes that are no longer available, and that you'd like to see return.

One of the items on Jim's list: The chivito sandwich from Nola's — a marinated steak on crusty French bread topped with sauteed onions, mushrooms and green peppers, roasted red peppers, mayonnaise, bacon and a fried egg, and served with chimichurri sauce on the side. Yes, it's every bit as outrageous (and wonderful) as it sounds.

I'm not much for quoting the Bible — Old Testament or New — but if I'm not mistaken, there's something in there along the lines of "Ask and you shall receive." (As that great biblical scholar, the honorable Rev. Internet, informed me, I think the exact words are, "Ask and it shall be given to you.")

Anyway, theological implications aside, the point is this: The chivito sandwich has, in fact, returned! A week ago today, Nola's proprietor Alexia Humphrey unveiled her new restaurant, Tango Grill, at 4930 Linbar Drive. And not only is the chivito sandwich on the menu, but there's a chivito plate option, along with all sorts of intriguing specialties from Humphrey's homeland, Uruguay. You can read a lot more about Tango Grill here. We haven't been yet, but we will check it out soon and report back.

The lesson here is that we put our wish out into the universe, and it was granted! I know what you're thinking: The other 143 dishes mentioned in that nostalgic open thread have yet to be reborn. But maybe this is a start!

So let's walk down Memory Lane once more. Here are my questions:

* What gustatory wish do you want to put out in the universe? What one dish would you like to see the food gods return to our fair city? (For me, the answer is simple: Parco Cafe's veggie burger.)

* Does my invocation of both monotheism (the Bible) and polytheism (the food gods) in this thread suggest that I am experiencing cognitive dissonance? Should I consult my spiritual adviser, who in my case is my butcher?

* Has anyone tried Tango Grill yet? Any other new places? What else ya got?

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It's Shortcake Making Time — Learn How at Nashville Farmers' Market

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2014 at 6:15 AM

As berries and peaches come into season at the Nashville Farmers' Market, it's time to start thinking about jams and preserves. Local culinarians RB Quinn and Mindy Merrell of the Cheater Chef site are experts at creating palates for those lovely compotes to sit upon. They have previously taught classes on cornbread and biscuits at the market, and now they are turning their talents to shortcakes.

They'll be sharing their wealth of information at a hands-on seminar this Sunday, May 18, from 5 to 7 p.m. For $35 per person, you'll learn just about everything you need to know about these sweet biscuits. Here's the course description from their syllabus:

Come see how different combinations of a few everyday ingredients makes great styles of shortcake. In two fast-paced hours, with the help of our lab partners (that's you), we'll whip up all kinds of shortcake and experiment with self-rising and all-purpose flours, leavening, buttermilk vs. sweet milk, dough handling, and fat choices. Find out what you like and why you like it.

Come hungry and ready to roll up your sleeves. Class includes our Cheater Chef Shortcake Lab Manual with lots of recipes.

If you've got a hankerin' for sweet biscuits, buy your tickets here.

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Sloco to Open New Cafe in the Nashville Farmers' Market

Posted By on Thu, May 15, 2014 at 3:50 PM

Ever since he opened he opened Sloco on in the 12South neighborhood three years ago, chef Jeremy Barlow has been talking about expanding the concept — quick, healthy sandwiches created and served with eco-friendly methods — to new locations.

Now we've learned he plans to open a second Sloco in the market house at the Nashville Farmers' Market. My colleague Chris Chamberlain talked to Barlow today, and the chef confirmed that he is taking over the Farmers' Market space recently vacated by chef Arnold Myint's takeaway spot AM@FM.

Barlow — author of a book on improving sustainability in the food-service world called Chefs Can Save the World — plans to officially announce the new project tonight at the Generous Helpings event.

The chef, previously known for the late, lamented fine-dining spot Tayst, opened Sloco in 2011, taking pains to not only use local ingredients, but to minimize waste and keep the restaurant's carbon footprint slim.

And Scene restaurant critic Carrington Fox was immediately impressed. "While Barlow and the Sloco team go out of their way to reduce, reuse and recycle, they simultaneously manage to inspire and elevate the classic deli menu," she wrote in her 2011 review.

Continue reading »

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