Conversation Bites

Monday, March 25, 2013

25 Great Nashville Sandwiches: The City Paper List

Posted By on Mon, Mar 25, 2013 at 3:49 PM

The Corned Dog Reuben, Etch
  • The "Corned Dog" Reuben, Etch
Over at The City Paper, this week's cover story looks for all the news that's fit to put between two slices of bread.

Titled "25 Great Sandwiches," the story reports the results when 10 intrepid City Paper and Scene writers hit the streets of Nashville to find a couple dozen superior sandwiches. Here's how Cavendish explains it:

I love a good sandwich, and I’m always looking for another one.

With that in mind, I asked some of the finest eaters I know to give me what they think are some of Nashville’s best sandwiches. The rules are simple: No burgers, no barbecue, no wraps and no tacos. Stay in Nashville (with one detour to Franklin). Take a picture.

What came back was probably the next month of lunches for me, and hopefully you, too. There are some classics in here (a great chicken salad from The Picnic) and some interesting new ones that people swear by (BBQ Asian Tofu from Mitchell’s).

By narrowing the list down — and there were some great sandwiches left on the cutting-room floor — we have surely created arguments for favorites we left out or overlooked. Believe me, I’d love to know what they are. Send us an email about your favorites to If you’ve got a picture, even better. We’ll fan out and try them for a future issue.

Tough work, this hunting for tasty sandwiches, but somebody's gotta do it. Even with 25 entries, a lot of good stuff got left out of the list. How about you, Bites folks? Have you checked out the list? Any agreements or disagreement? What got left out? We'd love to hear from you.

BBQ Braised Jackfruit Sliders, The Stone Fox
  • BBQ Braised Jackfruit Sliders, The Stone Fox

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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Tennessee-Made Five Star Ranges: For a Forever Home or Any Home?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 at 7:03 AM

I would be this excited about a Five Star range, too.
  • I would be this excited about a Five Star range, too.
In the most recent installment of her column in The City Paper, The Eating Life, Nicki Wood tells us the story of Brown Stove Works of Cleveland, Tenn., and their Five Star ranges. The other day, she and I were discussing them over lunch; I didn’t realize they are a rather "boutique" brand because it seemed to me that they were taking over Viking as the stove to have. And, heck, I remember when Viking ousted Jenn-Air as the stove to have.

As recounted in the story, Brown Stove Works introduced the Five Star 22 years ago; the product filled a niche between the basic home range and the bulky commercial ranges that were becoming status symbols in yuppie kitchens.

Five Star ranges soon began winning awards, and sales are good, even though Brown doesn't advertise much. "We’re just a really small, privately owned company without the resources to put into the big-budget advertising campaigns that some of our competitors do," company spokeswoman Jenny Cooper Rumble says. "We’d rather put those resources into building a quality product than a lot of advertising."

And they're considered something of a bargain, Nicki says in the story: "The fully loaded 48-inch model sells for up to $5,000 less than a comparable Viking. A basic 30-inch all-gas Five Star is priced about $1,400 lower than other brands, or around $3,500." She continues:

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Monday, February 25, 2013

ICYMI: Stephen Colbert on the Horse Meat Scandal

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2013 at 7:53 AM

Though it’s rather old news now, I just saw The Colbert Report's assessment of the horsemeat scandal in Europe. And it’s hilarious. In case you missed it, watch now:

I’ve already weighed in on the topic on my own blog (where I’ve included the expected vegetarian propaganda). But it’s refreshing to hear this thought spoken by someone outside herbivore circles: “We don’t feel guilty when we happily consume the rest of Noah’s Ark.” Although, admittedly funnier was “Fast food should be made of fast animals.”

My own husband asserts that he’d eat anything as long as it tasted good. The requirement is that I have to find proof that cockroaches, wasp larvae, bushmeat (read: other primates), dogs and other meats(?) that are objectionable to the delicate Anglo-American palate are actually good before he’ll taste any. That is, it’ll probably have to be served in a restaurant with a respectable health inspection score.

But I’m curious about the thoughts of other omnivores on this issue. Why rabbits but not most other rodents (farm-raised rodents, that is)? Why cows and sheep but not horses? And though we eat what seems to be most water-dwelling creatures, we draw the line at dolphins. I’m just curious as to where these seemingly-arbitrary lines were drawn, other than in the Bible, which included many dietary guidelines that were mostly meant to avoid poisoning, it seems.

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Where do You Get Your Lenten Fish?

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2013 at 5:54 AM

I'm not Catholic; heck, I'm barely Episcopalian. But since I was baptized as an infant by my own grandfather who was an Episcopal minister, I figure that one was probably good for life. I still like to practice some sort of Lenten ritual of self-denial every year, mainly as an attempt at character building.

Some years I make bad jokes about giving up my New Year's resolutions for Lent or to stop throwing rocks at whales, but this year I'm really trying to do some things that would be good for me. First of all, I gave up swearing. That's a tough one, and I have slipped up more than once. But at least being cognizant of it means I try to pay more attention to what I say. Gosh darn it.

I'm also doing Meatless Monday and Fish on Friday, with the caveat that next Friday I'll be at the Charleston Wine + Food Festival, so that one goes right out the window for one night. I enjoy the minor challenge of menu planning and restaurant selection to fall under these two criteria, and it's nice to cook new dishes and try out some dining spots that I don't frequent.

Surprisingly, not many local restaurants are making a big deal about Friday fish specials. In the areas of the country where Catholicism is more prevalent, you can't swing Benedict's hat without hitting a sign for a Friday parish fish fry. It's a bad time to be a walleye in Wisconsin. ... Does anybody know of any Friday fries in the Nashville area? I'd love to check one out.

The restaurants that are plugging fish deals lately are mainly the national fast food chains. Bites reader Love and Nachos née HungryHippo reports that she has seen McDonald’s, Arby’s, Backyard Burgers, Captain D’s, etc. all boasting about serving "real" fish sandwiches. I'll admit I hadn't noticed this trend, since I rarely pay much attention to that list of fast food joints, two of which I have been boycotting for more than a decade for personal reasons I won't bore you with here.

One place that is pushing some Friday fish deals (actually all week long) is McCabe Pub. They were nice enough to share that their kitchen in Sylvan Park is pumping out quite a roster of fish dishes including:

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Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Otaku South's Sarah Gavigan: Why I Make a $13 Bowl of Ramen

Posted By on Tue, Feb 19, 2013 at 12:14 PM

The issue of pricing at Otaku South's gourmet ramen popup events bubbled into a pretty lively conversation on Bites this week. Some folks said the $40 tab for a ramen dinner at Silo was way too high for a meal whose centerpiece is a bowl of noodles. Others noted the high quality and local sourcing of the ingredients that Sarah Gavigan, Otaku South's cook and owner, uses (among other points).

Taking a brief breather this morning between last night's Silo event and next week's Cooking With Yazoo ramen dinner at the Yazoo taproom ($50 for three courses and beer pairings for each), Gavigan gave a thoughtful explanation of what she does. Whether or not you're sold on the Otaku South concept (and full disclosure: we on Bites are fans), you have to give Gavigan credit for wading into the conversation.

Check out her comment, reproduced below:

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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Who Serves the Best Shrimp and Grits in Nashville?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 12:24 PM

A reader named Lauren has asked for a question to be tossed out to the entire Bites community: What restaurant has the best shrimp and grits in the Nashville area?

I'm at a bit of a disadvantage on this topic. My husband is allergic to shrimp, which doesn't prevent me from eating them, of course, but makes shrimp less of a destination food in our household.

Coincidentally, I actually floated this question among friends over the summer when trying to plan a shrimp-and-grits fan's birthday festivities. As a result of that research, we went to Fish & Co., which worked out pretty well, but that option doesn't exist anymore.

So what are your thoughts, Bites Nation. Who has the best shrimp and grits in town?


Would Japan's School Lunch Program Work in the U.S.?

Posted By on Wed, Jan 30, 2013 at 5:58 AM

A typical Japanese school lunch. Every child eats the same lunch (with some exceptions for dietary restrictions).
Chef Jeremy Barlow (of Sloco) retweeted a link to this very interesting article from The Washington Post about school lunches in Japan. The article has been making the rounds on the Twitterscape of chefs, nutritionists and others concerned about the health and welfare of school-age children.

At schools in Japan, the Post's Chico Harlan reports, "The meals are often made from scratch. They’re balanced but hearty, heavy on rice and vegetables, fish and soups." All the kids get identical meals, and if they don't eat their lunch, there are no vending machines providing snacks. And most younger kids aren't even allowed to bring lunch from home.

If the topic of school lunches interests you, note that childhood obesity — a related concern — is the focus of tonight’s A Place at the Table. The special guest, Dr. Greg Plemmons, director of the Pediatric Weight Management Clinic at Monroe Carell Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt, will be speaking and answering questions. Dinner starts at 5 p.m. and both omnivore and vegan meals — with a Cajun flavor — are available.

Th school lunch issue is of particular interest to me, because kindergarten is in the near future for my daughter — though I have plans to send lunch to school with her so I can feel good about what she’s (supposed to be) eating.

And the article really made me think about school lunches when I was a kid. I ate the cafeteria food for just a few years in elementary school before switching to bagged lunch. I waited in long lines for terrible food and usually had only the time and interest to eat some of the fruit and vegetables (as in, applesauce and overcooked green beans). Unless it was pizza day. The other entrees didn’t just disinterest me, they disgusted me. I never did take even one bite of beefaroni.

High school was worse; the lines for hot lunch were so long that if you were unfortunate enough to be on the top floor of the school in the period before lunch (served in the basement), you had no time to eat after standing in line. Assuming there was even any palatable food left.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Is Your Diet Ethical If It Risks the Food Security of Others?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 21, 2013 at 7:42 AM

In Bolivia and Peru, quinoa growers prefer to sell their crop for increasing rates rather than eat it.
  • Laurent Giraudou/Corbis via Guardian UK
  • In Bolivia and Peru, quinoa growers prefer to sell their crop for increasing rates rather than eat it.
The headline caught my attention right away: “Can vegans stomach the unpalatable truth about quinoa?” Oh, no. Though I’m relatively new to quinoa (and still haven’t mastered it), I wasn’t sure I wanted to read. But I did. And now my mind won’t stop spinning; it churns just thinking about the implications of the large selection of foods I eat in order to have a varied diet based primarily on plants (and, OK, cheese).

In short, the problem with quinoa is that the conditions necessary to grow it don’t naturally exist in many places. But the high deserts of Peru and Bolivia are the perfect environment, and that's where it has grown for thousands of years — and been the staple of the indigenous peoples’ diets. The governments of those countries have been heavily promoting the export of quinoa with such success that it has now become too valuable not to export. As a result, the poorest of those populations can no longer afford to eat it; rice and even chicken is cheaper to buy. But nowhere near as nutritious.

And that’s a problem for those of us who want to eat healthily and ethically (and also critter-free, as I recognize that many people do not consider ethical eating as strictly vegan). Quinoa is a nearly perfect food, containing all 10 essential amino acids, a variety of vitamins and minerals, and is an excellent substitute for animal protein (though veg*ns are probably getting enough protein without it). But it apparently comes at a cost to those who’ve long depended on it, since growers prefer the money they make from selling it over eating it themselves. Clearing lands and starving the native people of their most nutritious food just to feed the middle class around the world isn’t particularly ethical (nor sustainable, most likely).

For me, the news makes me look at my dietary choices a lot more closely.

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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Happily Never After: Divorce Cakes Are a Thing

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2013 at 4:57 AM

One of the milder sentiments on divorce as expressed in confection.
  • One of the milder sentiments on divorce as expressed in confection.
Recently, a friend of mine gave a shout-out to her husband via Facebook status update to thank him for helping her move. I checked and didn’t see anything about a “relationship status” change, so I commented, “Well, this is a pretty efficient way to make an announcement! Did you see this on Pinterest? But I have to say ‘divorce-reveal cupcakes’ are tastier!” Turns out, they are splitting up. And fortunately for me, my friend has the same sense of humor I do.

But little did I know (and really, I should have known), that divorce cakes are real. Because divorce parties are real (and divorce registries to refill empty cabinets, one would assume) — and you can’t have a proper party without a cake. Mental Floss, the Huffington Post and, of course Pinterest all have some interesting galleries of cakes to peruse if you're looking for a chuckle (or some ideas).

But I find a lot of them to be a bit more macabre than celebratory. Then again, I’ve never been divorced, so perhaps the headless spouses aren’t so off-base after all.

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Monday, January 14, 2013

Kowabunga! Have You Eaten 'Artificial Calamari,' aka Swine Rectum?

Posted By on Mon, Jan 14, 2013 at 9:59 AM

Its a trap!
  • It's a trap!
If you listened to This American Life over the weekend — theme: doppelgangers — you heard the somewhat amazing story (act one) that details the very real, if unsubstantiated, possibility of pork bungs being used as a substitute for calamari. To wit, from the TAL precis:

A while ago, a farmer walked through a pork processing plant in Oklahoma with a friend who managed it. He came across boxes stacked on the floor with labels that said "artificial calamari." So he asked his friend "What’s artificial calamari?" "Bung," his friend replied. "Hog rectum." Have you or I eaten bung dressed up as seafood?

Of course, by "dressed up," they mean "breaded and fried," and there is a great line in the piece about how the deep fryer is the great American equalizer. While I'm sure there are those of you Bitesters who find both options equally tempting/revolting, the real zinger in the story is that in a blind taste test, people couldn't really tell which was which.

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