Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Sweet Spot: I Drank a Gas Station Milkshake

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2015 at 1:00 PM

Thanks for the milkshake, robot.
  • Thanks for the milkshake, robot.
The Sweet Spot is a weekly Bites feature where sugar addict Megan Seling reviews some of the best, worst and weirdest sweet treats sold here in Nashville.

What it is: f'real Mint Chip Milkshake

Where I found it: Exxon Tiger Market at 1111 Broadway.

What it tastes like: I know, I know — a milkshake at a gas station? Made by a robot? Who would drink that?

Well, I would.

And it was not bad!

The f'real milkshake (the company insists on lowercase — who do they think they are, fun.?) wasn't nearly as chemical-filled and weird as you'd think, despite the fact it's sitting amongst a the landscape of other highly processed gas station foods, like glistening meat rods that spin on heated rollers all day. The f'real milkshake is simply a cup with some ice cream in it.

You choose your desired flavor from the freezer — they have mint chip, s'mores, cookies-and-cream, coffee and various fruit smoothies — and put the cup in the machine's cup holder. You push a few buttons and the machine lifts the ice-cream-filled cup up to the blending mechanism, squirts in some milk and whips the ice cream into a thick, creamy shake. Easy peasy. You have a milkshake in under a minute. You can even control how thick you'd like it. It's as good as any shake you'd make at home if you just blended some ice cream and milk, so it's not so much the product that leaves me filled with questions, it's the invention itself.

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Monday, April 13, 2015

What'd You Eat This Weekend? Amazing Nachos, Grilled Corn on the Cob, and Cheerwine and Jack Daniel's

Posted By on Mon, Apr 13, 2015 at 4:56 PM

Andreas new Weber grill.
  • Andrea's new Weber grill.
J.R. Lind: "I made a great Thai chicken salad last night: mixed greens, shredded carrots, bell peppers, mango, avocado, chicken and cilantro. I whipped up a great peanut dressing (I didn't have fish sauce or soy sauce, so I figured Worcestershire has anchovies in it, so it was a good mix of the two ... and I was right! The toddler wanted to eat the dressing in a bowl as a "treat").

I also drank Cheerwine and Jack Daniel's. Don't judge me."

Andrea Zelinski: "I cooked on my brand-spanking new Weber grill. The 22-inch original kettle charcoal grill is an early birthday present for yours truly. We like to kick it old school — and I think my husband is secretly afraid he'll singe his eyebrows off with a gas one. Whatever. Gas is for wimps. So, we fired up this bad boy last night for Sunday dinner with my sister, her husband and their family of munchkins for their last night of their weekend in town. We grilled corn on the cob (a Zelinski family staple) covered in butter and seasoned with salt, pepper and garlic and wrapped in foil. Next came the veggies: a pile of green and yellow peppers, yellow onion and wedge tomatoes in the center, cooked atop of a sheet of foil. Then the main course, steak and chicken breasts sprinkled with Montreal steak seasoning seared with those unmistakable charred lines that scream that you made them with something as primitive as fire. Next question: Do I need a digital thermometer?"

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Monday, March 30, 2015

What'd You Eat This Weekend? Incredible Lentils, Smoked Orange Lattes and 30 Pounds of Crawfish

Posted By on Mon, Mar 30, 2015 at 3:14 PM

Thirty pounds of crawfish!
  • Thirty pounds of crawfish!
Andrea Zelinski: "We were up to our elbows in crawfish this weekend at a friend's backyard party. He got 30 pounds' worth shipped to us from Louisiana Crawfish Co. — which was far too much for our meager crowd of five adults cracking tail (and three adults refusing to eat things that are looking at them). Our friend added lemon and garlic to our little stew, along with corn on the cob, potatoes and spices. I ate my fair share, slurping the juice from the heads and all that. Couldn't really get the hang of sucking the meat out of the tail with any ease (I should have YouTubed it before I went, but I was, frankly, afraid of what might have popped up on my browser), so it took me a while to brush aside legs and crack through shells to get to the good stuff. All and all, not a bad way to work for what you eat."

Steve Cavendish: Ate at a place in D.C. called Daikaya, a fantastic izakaya-style bar near the Verizon Center (where the Preds were clinching a playoff berth against the Caps on Saturday). The best thing there was grilled octopus over "Robo-Chan" potatoes, a clever play on the Joel Robuchon classic that is essentially half butter and half potatoes. These had a little less butter and added dashi in its place, to otherworldly effect.

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Monday, March 23, 2015

What'd You Eat This Weekend? Oysters, Pimento Cheese and Cotton Candy Ice Cream

Posted By on Mon, Mar 23, 2015 at 2:03 PM

Oysters from Rudies Seafood and Sausage.
  • Oysters from Rudie's Seafood and Sausage.
Andrea Zelinski: "I ate at the Farmers' Market TWICE this weekend, which never happens. Of course, I didn't opt for the healthy stuff. First round: Swagruha Indian Restaurant. I went with the old standby of butter chicken and chicken tikka masala with chicken rice, which always leaves me full and warm to the belly. The second time, slightly healthier. I hit up Chicago Style Gyro and had them cover a plate full of tabouli salad (instead of rice) and pile it high with gyro meat, topped with cucumber sauce. I felt slightly better about myself after that."

Laura Hutson: "I love oysters, but they're a kind of rare treat for me these days, and the past few times I've ordered them have been while I was out of town. But now that I know how good the oysters at Rudie's Seafood and Sausage are, I'm going to start getting them all the time. These were Blue Point oysters, and it was $14 for a half-dozen. I also got a small salad that was mainly arugula with a sprinkling of corn, goat's cheese, roasted tomatoes and spiced pecans — yum."

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Monday, March 16, 2015

What'd You Eat This Weekend? Brisket Tacos, Andouille Sausage and Oranges That Didn't Suck

Posted By on Mon, Mar 16, 2015 at 6:39 PM

Butchertown Halls carnitas taco and brisket taco.
  • Butchertown Hall's carnitas taco and brisket taco.
D. Patrick Rodgers: "On Sunday, I had a late lunch at Butchertown Hall (see contributor Ellen Margulies' recent First Bite on that one if you haven't yet). I had a carnitas taco and a brisket taco, with a side of hominy grits. Everything was wonderfully flavorful. The tacos were just a touch spicy, which was great. I also had some bites of my companion's side, the borracho beans, which were perfectly slow-cooked and probably the best thing I tasted. Only bummer: Everything I was served was pretty close to room temperature. Otherwise, I dug my experience."

Stephen Trageser: "We’re still in the off-season for most local produce (see the handy growing season chart at, so the large quantities of fruit I consume are coming from faraway places. Grocery store oranges have especially been a crapshoot this winter. I usually get burned buying anything fresh in bulk, but the oranges in the 4-pound sack at my corner store have consistently been better than ones I picked from the bin. They’re smaller, but more flavorful, and fewer of them have been dried out inside."

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Thursday, March 5, 2015

Eat the Snow: Here are Some Delicious Ways to Enjoy the Weather

Posted By on Thu, Mar 5, 2015 at 1:00 PM

I know, I know, we're not supposed to eat snow. But look how pretty and fluffy and pure it is! Of course we're gonna eat it!

As a kid my favorite thing to do on snow days was make frozen honey gummy snacks. Just drop a small puddle of honey into the snow, let it firm up for a minute or two and then dig it out for a chewy sweet treat.

Today, though, I took one look at the snow and realized how much I missed RetroSno and their awesome snowcones that come topped with homemade syrups, sweetened condensed milk, whipped cream, sprinkles and more. So in honor of them, I made a snowcone/snowcream sundae.

It's easy! Just place a few snowballs (or one giant snowball) in a bowl. Drizzle on some sweetened condensed milk and whatever other toppings you'd like. I used a strawberry-flavored concentrate that I usually squirt into soda water, and it was great. You can also use caramel, chocolate sauce, maple syrup or whatever other delicious things you have on hand. Fluff it all up with a spoon or a fork so most of the snow is combined with the ingredients and eat! It was delicious. I couldn't even taste the acid rain.

If you want to make a more traditional snowcream, Bites blogger Lesley Lassiter shares her mom's easy-peasy recipe here.

Happy snow day! (And blah blah blah, insert joke about yellow snow here.)

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Tuesday, March 3, 2015

The Sweet Spot: Dear Gigi's Cupcakes, You Have WAY Too Much Frosting

Posted By on Tue, Mar 3, 2015 at 3:40 PM

Gigis on the left, Cupcake Collection on the right
  • Gigi's on the left, Cupcake Collection on the right
The Sweet Spot is a weekly Bites feature where sugar addict Megan Seling reviews some of the best, worst and weirdest sweet treats sold here in Nashville.

What it is: Gigi's Cupcakes vs. Cupcake Collection

Where I found it: Gigi's Cupcakes in Midtown, Cupcake Collection in Germantown

What it tastes like: I've eaten just one Gigi's cupcake in my life — it was years ago, long before I moved to Nashville. They looked cute, like real-life cartoon desserts. All I remember from the experience was the frosting — it was sugary, way too sugary, and there was a LOT of it. As I walked in slow circles around the lake at Centennial Park, I felt increasingly shaky and sick. My husband did, too. We were getting hit with a sugar overdose, and we were getting hit hard. I am not a sugar amateur, either — sugar and I have a long, sordid relationship, and my tolerance is embarrassingly high. But not high enough for Gigi's, it seems. The sight of cupcakes sickened me for days and I haven't been brave enough to attempt climbing their frosting mountain since.

After discussing my displeasure with Gigi's Cupcakes dozens of times, only to be met with total agreement again and again, I wanted to get scientific. I wanted to see exactly how overboard Gigi's goes with their frosting. Of course it's a personal preference — some people like a lot of frosting, some people like a little — but I chose Germantown's Cupcake Collection as the control cupcake, as it has long been voted Best Cupcake by Scene readers.

Cupcake Collection's product is delicious — the cake is so fluffy and the frosting is soft and light. And they don't skimp, either. While the cupcakes are compact enough to be easily consumed by hand, there's enough frosting swirled on top that you still make a bit of a mess while you eat it. Gigi's, on the other hand, should never be attempted without a plate and fork.

We used a food scale to measure the weight of the frosting on each cupcake in grams. So how did the two cupcakes stand up? Even though Gigi's cupcakes aren't all that much bigger than Cupcake Collection's, Gigi's still, in one case, had packed nearly twice as much frosting on top. Here are the numbers:

Gigi's Pink Birthday: 87 grams
Cupcake Collection's Pink Strawberry: 53 grams

Gigi's Lemon: 96 grams
Cupcake Collection's Lemon: 60 grams

Gigi's Chocolate: 91 grams
Cupcake Collection's Chocolate: 46 grams

You're seeing that right. Ninety-six grams of lemon frosting. That's 3.4 ounces! Of just frosting! That's about the same weight as a whole Cupcake Collection cupcake, including frosting! WHAT?

You know what else weighs 3.4 ounces? The average human pancreas. You're eating a pancreas of frosting.

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Monday, March 2, 2015

What'd You Eat This Weekend? Homemade Red Velvet Oreos, Grits and Breakfast Tacos

Posted By on Mon, Mar 2, 2015 at 1:39 PM

The Local Tacos breakfast tacos, cheesy grits and chips with corn and black bean salsa.
  • The Local Taco's breakfast tacos, cheesy grits and chips with corn and black bean salsa.
Laura Hutson: "NFocus editor Nancy Floyd makes a killer homemade Oreo. These were based on the less-than-appetizing red velvet-style Oreos that were getting a lot of attention around Valentine's Day — red velvet cookies with a cream cheese middle — and they brought me back to eating those double-decker cookies from the mall when I was in junior high."

Megan Seling: "Saturday was the laziest day I've had all year. It was glorious. And it all started with the most perfect breakfast tacos from The Local Taco in Sylvan Park. I forget the names of the tacos I ordered — I was in a too-much-sleep/not-enough-coffee stupor, but they were the only two vegetarian options on their brunch menu. My favorite taco was packed with fried potatoes, eggs, peppers, cheese, crushed tortilla chips and this wonderful, sweet vegetable puree that tasted like sweet potato and/or carrots or something. The other taco was filled with eggs and some kind of zucchini mixture. It was good, but not quite as flavorful as the first and a little soggy because of the squash. The grits were also great — cheesy but not gummy and on just the right side of the 'too much cracked black pepper' line. I was so full that I didn't have to eat for the rest of the day."

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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

The Sweet Spot: Parliament Chocolate Bars

Posted By on Wed, Feb 25, 2015 at 12:24 PM

Quite possibly the best chocolate bar label ever.
  • Quite possibly the best chocolate bar label ever.
The Sweet Spot is a weekly Bites feature where sugar addict Megan Seling reviews some of the best, worst and weirdest sweet treats sold here in Nashville.

What it is: Parliament Chocolate Bars

Where I found it: Dose Coffee & Tea on Murphy Road, about $5 each

What it tastes like: Of course I had to buy these chocolate bars. Look at the sophisticated-looking owls on the labels! I feel like the one with the top hat and monocle has a British accent and says things like " 'Ello, guv'nah!" and "Pip pip, old bean!"

Though these small-batch bars come from different origins (Bolivia and the Dominican Republic), they both have 70 percent cacao and only two ingredients — cacao and cane sugar — so I didn't expect to taste much of a difference between the two. But holy wow, I was wrong. They taste like two completely different pieces of candy! (I mean, they are, but I foolishly assumed the difference would be much more subtle instead of obvious and immediate.)

The Bolivia Alto Beni bar, with the monocle-wearing owl on the front, was the most surprising. With notes of "black truffle, umami and mild oak finish" described on the label, I prepared myself for the possibility that it would taste dusty or fungusy, but again, I assumed wrong. I am a fool. It was delightfully creamy (though not overwhelmingly so) and it actually tasted savory. The truffle finish is really strong, too — it'd be a good match for someone who likes their chocolate with less sugary bells and whistles.

The Dominican Republic Öko Caribe bar tasted more familiar — it's sweeter and, as the label says, contains notes of "red grapes, prune, honey, hibiscus and pomegranate." I couldn't differentiate the prune from the grapes from the pomegranate — it just had a nice, recognizable but general fruit flavor — but when fellow candy fanatic Steve Cavendish took a bite he exclaimed, "Oh yeah, you can definitely taste the raisins." I guess I'm just going to have to eat more chocolate to practice developing my palate.

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Monday, February 23, 2015

What'd You Eat This Weekend? Pork Shoulder, Candy Necklaces and No-Pudge Fudge Brownies

Posted By on Mon, Feb 23, 2015 at 2:38 PM

Laura Hutson: "Buying 'No Pudge! Fudge Brownie Mix' is like the grocery store equivalent of ordering an Oreo mudslide at the bar. There's just no dignity in it. But if you ignore the terrible branding and the cartoon pig measuring its waist, it's actually pretty good stuff and one of my favorite quick desserts. No fake sugar or chemical additives — just cane sugar, wheat flour, egg whites and cocoa — and it's pretty easy to make. You just mix in a cup of yogurt and stick it in the oven."

Steve Cavendish: "For the Oscars, I did a small pork shoulder in the oven and then made a really interesting barbecue sauce from Edward Lee’s cookbook Smoke & Pickles. Lee does a masterful job of blending Southern and Korean flavors, and his “Black BBQ Sauce” is a great example. He starts with a fairly typical tomato-based sauce and then adds black bean paste and a couple of other Asian influences. The result? A smoky, spicy sauce that’s outstanding. Serve the whole thing over sticky rice."

Abby White: "Let's just start this by pointing out that I spent Saturday night on a Glow Party Bus, which is exactly what it sounds like. In lieu of dinner, I ate candy necklaces (fun idea for drunk adults) and gummy bracelets (terrible idea for everybody — what a sticky mess) whilst drinking shots out of waterguns. With all of that information, you should not be surprised to learn that I got engaged with a heart-shaped ring pop at some point that night. But if you ate your engagement ring, that's like calling the whole thing off, right?"

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