Last year was the year of Jeni's, as the artisan ice cream maker out of Ohio chose Nashville as the place to open its first retail shop outside the Buckeye State. (Local joint Hot & Cold had already started serving Jeni's, along with delectable ice pops from Las Paletas and Bongo Java coffee.) Also from Ohio, the 140-year-old Cincinnati company Graeter's arrived in Nashville-area grocery stores last year.
This summer, we welcome a new mom-and-pop gelato shop, Legato Gelato. We've written about it here on Bites, and in this week's issue of the Scene, restaurant critic Carrington Fox tackles the enviable job of reviewing the impressive new gelato outlet.
Legato Gelato is the brainchild of local ice cream enthusiast Terri-Ann Nicholls. (It's a true family operation, Fox writes. Nicholls' physician husband, Berchaun, helped launched the business, and her mom, Esmin Miller, works behind the counter sometimes.)
And Nicholls' philosophy of simple, made-from-scratch gelato goodness is wildly successful, Fox says:
The beautiful intelligence of her 600-square-foot jewel box of a store has as much to do with what's not in the mix, so to speak, as what's in it. In Legato's mix, for example, there is nothing artificial. There are no dyes or hormones. There's no egg. (Much of Legato's sorbetto repertoire is vegan-friendly.) In fact, there's not even much cream to speak of.
This is after all, gelato, not ice cream. The traditional Italian frozen confection differs from ice cream in that it is made predominantly of milk and served at a comparatively warm temperature, where the dessert achieves the custardy consistency that you can usually only get by putting ice cream into the microwave for just the right amount of time. Meanwhile, without all the butterfat to coat your tongue, the flavors of the add-ins really pop.
Morales says the menu draws from everything he's learned traveling to world to feed crew and cast members on movie and TV shoots. But as the name suggests, The Southern is at heart an homage to the foodways of the South, something Morales and his general manager, daughter Kendall, have the bona fides to deliver.
And after all, the food of our region has surged in popularity in points far north. "Southern food is hot," Fox notes. "And not just in a cayenne-crusted, cast-iron kind of way."
But what's especially unique about The Southern is its location:
Housed in the ground floor of the gleaming Pinnacle building, in a sunlit room adorned with dark woods, tiny tiles, architectural salvage and black-and-white photos of the city's recent and distant history, The Southern needs little embellishment to convey its sense of place. It is, after all, located at the crossroads where the Country Music Hall of Fame meets Schermerhorn Symphony Center, down the street from the sprawling Music City Center. Surely no address in town more picturesquely embodies the merger of Nashville's musical past and present and its significance as a center of commerce, entertainment and tourism.
In the shadow of almost a billion dollars of recent capital improvement, Morales & Co. provide breakfast, lunch and dinner to the cast of characters — locals and tourists alike — filtering through the city's newest civic landmarks.
As befits the name, The Southern serves a bounty of oysters from different regions, and locally sourced grass-fed beef:
But oh, what a brunch. Chef-entrepreneurs Rachel Hinson and Mike Moranski, who both work at Flyte World Dining and Wine, have taken advantage of the Farmers' Market's business incubator, the Grow Local Kitchen inside the Market House. As Fox explains, GLK "offers entrepreneurs a certified professional kitchen, without the high overhead costs of a stand-alone restaurant."
"Guests order at the counter, pay via iPhone, dine in the communal seating area of the market hall, and bus their own dishes back to the counter."
Fox was very impressed by the small but excellent roster of made-from-scratch brunch fare. As befits a restaurant inside the market, the menu is deeply entwined with the bounty of fresh produce available locally:
"While the chalkboard menu of a half-dozen dishes is short by restaurant standards, the printed roster of farmers who provide Speckled Hen's ingredients is remarkably long. On our visit, that list included Rosson Orchards peaches, Bells Bend garlic scapes and Noble Springs goat cheese, among other locally sourced elements."
Fox adds: "Headlining the ever-evolving brunch menu was an omelet with Windy Acres eggs swaddling molten white cheddar from Kenny's Farmhouse and smoky hunks of Walnut Hills bacon. A meatless alternative traded salty pork for cubed turnip tops and tangy garlic scapes, laced with creamy Noble Springs goat cheese. Omelets came with a side of sautéed cubed sweet potatoes and two slices of sourdough toast, which Moranski makes from scratch."
Hey, enough said, as far as I'm concerned. I can't wait to check it out myself. If any of you are going there or have gone, feel free to tell us about it in the comments. For more info, read Fox's full review and visit The Speckled Hen on Facebook.
Also, see more of Michael W. Bunch's photos after the jump.
Its official designation is The Oasis Inn, 5th SFG(A) Dining Facility, BLDG 2991 at Fort Campbell — better-known as the DFAC.
The facility feeds the elite cadre of soldiers known as the 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne). As Fox points out, their missions are cloaked in secrecy, but their dining habits speak volumes:
One thing is clear, simply from looking at this disproportionately good-looking group of muscle-bound athletes with enviable cheekbones and lunch trays of apples and steamed broccoli: Elite troops don't feed their bodies a bunch of crap. So, if you're Sgt. 1st Class Brandon Windes, the DFAC manager tasked with feeding the 5th SFG(A) when they're not deployed, you better figure out what they do like to eat.
As it turns out, people who treat their bodies like precision weapons don't want to take in a lot of fried foods. They can tear through a salad bar like Grant marching through Richmond. And if the offerings at the fountain-drink line are any indication, they really like Gatorade. Accordingly, the DFAC delivers a remarkably healthy repertoire in what is possibly the most spanking-clean environment I have ever visited.
Check out Fox's full story, and if you're really curious, you can visit the mess hall yourself. The Oasis serves breakfast and lunch Monday-Friday. The DFAC is open to the public, but guests must obtain a pass to get on the post.
But word is getting out, and perhaps that obscurity will become a thing of the past. Bites' own Nicki P. Wood has written up Soy Teriyaki Bistro as this week's Dining review in the Scene.
"Like its hybrid name, the menu at Soy Teriyaki Bistro brings together elements from all over — a bit of Japanese, a hint of Singaporean, a lot of Korean — and seasons it with fusion to yield a menu that's brief but inexhaustible," Wood says.
She praises not just the food, but also the friendly atmosphere created by the owners: "Hanna and Chris Lee greet one and all as friends — and often they are. Soy has a lot of regulars, and the Lees are very outgoing. 'It's the environment we wanted. And Chris loves to talk,' said Hanna Lee, who developed the menu and does the cooking."
Hey, I want this place in my neighborhood! As Nicki concludes, "For a lucky part of Brentwood, it's their neighborhood spot — a continent-spanning sampler of delights that renders the global irresistibly local."
Fox clearly enjoyed herself at Bean's "new beery, beefy barbecue joint." Fans of his barbecue, particularly the beef brisket that Texas expats crave, have followed him at various locations over the past decade. His latest restaurant on Church Street in midtown, titled The Judge's Vinegarroon, retains the familiar smoky scent, and as Carrington notes:
"The rugged Lone Star patina is still enough to make babies wanna grow up to be cowboys, especially if it means they can eat the kind of grub that Bean & Co. are churning out. Fans of the Judge's earlier eateries will recognize a lot of familiar fare; meanwhile, there's a new addition of several steaks, all priced under $20."
She praises the signature Scorpion Shrimp Diablos (the titular Vinegarroon is a variety of scorpion, along with the name of old-time Texas "hanging judge" Roy Bean's saloon) before she rhapsodizes on the ribs, which are "smoked until warm spices are candied onto the bark and the meat is purple with smoke and clinging to the bone with a tenacity you'd expect in a room steeped with so much Hook-'Em-Horns vim and vinegar."
The Judge's Vinegarroon is at 1805 Church St., 678-7116. Check them out on Facebook here.
An interesting aspect of Koi is that the restaurant has three specialties: sushi, Thai curries and Vietnamese pho, "a point that will make the eatery a convenient middle ground for dining groups with varying levels of seafood-friendliness and raw-readiness," Carrington says. Reminds me of Bites' earlier discussion of finding a convenient restaurant to suit all the co-workers at lunch.
Carrington also praises the vast, colorful array of sushi rolls depicted in photographs on the menu:
Rather than agonize over the options, you might as well close your eyes and point to a page, because without exception all our selections were beautifully constructed and arranged, with noticeably fresh ingredients in thoughtful balance of warm and cool, creamy and crisp, savory and sweet.
Wow, the close-your-eyes-and-point method is intriguing. Bites Nation, do you have any tricks for picking out the best stuff on a menu?
She notes that restaurateurs Terrell Raley and Cees Brinkman (Holland House) have crafted a dual identity for their new place. It's "a modernization of an old-timey malt shop. Or is it a modernization of an old-timey beer garden? After all, the tightly edited menu is almost equal parts burgers-soda-malt and wurst-bier-kraut, as the expanded name — Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden — suggests."
She concludes, "Whether you approach from the all-American angle of burgers and shakes or look through a beery lens of sausage and suds, Pharmacy Burger Parlor & Beer Garden is the latest success in a thoroughly modern trend of hyper-focused menus offering very short rosters of extremely good items."
it's rare that a restaurant hangs its identity on four different hooks: well-crafted burgers, house-made sausages, a gourmet take on old-fashioned shakes and phosphates, and a carefully curated slate of imported and American artisan beers.
Oh yeah, and out back there's a German-style beer garden with imported tables and benches that is "bound to evolve into an imbibing institution when the weather turns." (Yeah, the garden isn't open yet, but if this winter does turn out to be eerily short, at least we'll have that to look forward to.)
Bites Nation, who's gotten a taste of Pharmacy's fare? Which of the elements do you prefer?
In this week's dining review, the Scene's Carrington Fox checked out the menu of classic American sandwiches, deli favorites like matzo ball soup, and comfort-food-inspired entrees.
Is anybody on this blog interested in fish and chips? Carrington reports: "We particularly enjoyed the fish-and-chips plate with three planks of flaky white fish, dipped in ale batter and fried into puffy golden mittens. While the shoestring "chips" were excellent, we couldn't resist trading them out for a precious little fryer basket of sweet potato fries — like glassy straps of crisp candy — with bright cilantro lime sauce for dipping."
Read the full review to learn why Carrington found Sixth & Pine to be a pretty good refuge amidst the hectic environs of the mall.
Also distinguishing new barbecue places are the side dishes. No more straight-from-the-food-supply-truck slaw, beans, greens and salads. These sides are updated, like the cheese grits at B&C, the exceptional baked beans at Martin's, and the creamed spinach at Jim 'N Nick's.
And Carrington was very happy with the sides at Stone House Q:
"Kudos to Stone House Q for elevating the traditional barbecue add-ons. In addition to hand-cut fries, there's Brunswick stew; creamed corn with white and yellow niblets; turnip and mustard greens with a hint of cider vinegar; potato salad made with baked spuds, sour cream and chives; and a smoked stew of navy and red beans strewn heavily with pulled pork."
I second the vote for Stone House Q's potato salad. Instead of the standard boiled eggs and a mayo-and-mustard dressing, Stone House's sour cream and chive version delivers the effect of a baked potato, but with a cooling effect that complements the 'cue.
Of course, the barbecue is the main thing. And Carrington was impressed there, too. The owners of Stone House Q traveled to Texas to research methods. They even imported a smoker from the Lone Star State.
Side dishes may be merely the halo to the barbecue's glory — but they give that plate an extra glow.
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