Food Fight

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Capitol Grille's Tyler Brown and Cole Ellis Engage in a Country Fried Challenge

Posted By on Thu, Jan 12, 2012 at 8:12 AM

Recently Southern Living magazine launched a Comfort Food Cook-Off, asking 10 Southern chefs to come up with recipes for classic comfort foods to share with their readers. Then they matched up the chefs and their recipes against another regional restaurant and challenged both to actually put the item on their menu, to the delight of their patrons. Finally, the two versions of the same dish were matched up online in a sort of Southern Smackdown.

Locally, Chef Tyler Brown of the Capitol Grille was asked to challenge Chef David Bull of Second Bar + Kitchen in Austin, Texas. Brown's Country Fried Steak and Uncle Ellis Cornmeal Gravy (pictured right) are competing against Bull's Chicken Fried Steak and Red Eye Gravy. But really, where's the competition in that? Tyler's steak and his sous chef Cole Ellis' family recipe for white gravy — versus some Texan trying to pour old coffee on a rib-eye? Pshaw.

Plus, Chef Bull's version takes more than twice as long to prepare. You could have made Tyler's dish, eaten it, done the dishes and be a quarter of the way through watching the Texas Longhorns lose another college football game by the time that Texas shoe leather was ready to gnaw.

So if you want to see the winning recipe (IMHO), visit the Southern Living website here for the steak and here for Cole's gravy recipe. If you must attempt to compare Chef Bull's his valiant effort is here.

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Tuesday, January 3, 2012

The Great Fish and Chip-off of 2012

Posted By on Tue, Jan 3, 2012 at 6:15 AM

I have a regular "lunch bunch" of four or five people, including some Bites commenters. A couple times a week, one of us will send up the Bat Signal on Twitter or via text message to see who's up for a midday meal. And then the bickering begins as we try to decide on a place that fits within our respective lunch specials and is at least marginally interesting. Unless somebody plays the Smiling Elephant card — we're all always up for a trip to the Happy Pachyderm.

Recently, one of our ringleaders expressed a craving for some good fish and chips. That started quite a debate as to whether such a thing actually exists in our fair burg and where we should go in our attempt to find some. Each of us had our own opinion, so we agreed to add a regular fish and chip trial to our lunch rotation. The initial recommendations are McNamara's, Batter'd and Fried, Dan McGuinness, Fleet Street and Whiskey Kitchen.

Of course, not only can we not agree on who has the best fish and chips in town, we also can't even agree on the criteria to judge them by. Do they have to be authentically British? Should hot fish be considered? With or without malt vinegar?

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Monday, December 5, 2011

No-Mato: the Winter-Tomato Boycott

Posted By on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 5:36 AM

If you want vibrant tomato flavor in the winter, can tomatoes in the summer.
  • If you want vibrant tomato flavor in the winter, can tomatoes in the summer.
You probably walk right past the tomatoes in the supermarket this time of year, and if you think of them at all, it's likely to wonder who buys tomatoes this time of year.

The answer is "the restaurant industry." That's one of the important points of Tomatoland, an informative and somewhat distressing book on industrial tomato production that Bites reported on this summer.

The sub-optimal tomatoes grown in unsustainable ways detailed in the book are knee-jerk year-round additions to burgers and sandwiches, on salad bars, and as garnishes. While tomatoes are integral to some foods (like tabouli), in others, the tomato is there as a spot of red and a touch of sweet-tart.

I asked some local chefs to reimagine winter alternatives to the out-of-season tomato for garnishes sandwiches, burgers and salads.

Martha Stamps of "I stopped serving 'fresh' tomatoes out of season when I was at The Corner Market. Any tender veggies, like cucumber, squash, avocado, jicama, radishes — are good. Also pickles — okra, peppers, beets, turnips. Lastly, fruit (tomatoes are one, you know!) — sliced mango, pineapple, under-ripe papaya, apples, pears.

Laura WIlson of Nashville Farmers' Market Grow Local Kitchen, formerly of Ombi and The Turnip Truck: "I used to put up a tomato conserve in the fall with bumper crop tomatoes and serve them on Ombi burgers in the winter."

And Brandon Frohne, formerly chef and urban gardener at Park Manor, now packed off to Atlanta and working at West Egg worked up a cherry-infused black raspberry ketchup for burgers.

Pickled vegetables, relishes, tangy fruit, cranberry ketchup. Seriously, who needs "fresh" tomatoes this time of year?

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Monday, November 21, 2011

New Winner in the Cornbread Brackets

Posted By on Mon, Nov 21, 2011 at 5:44 AM

The soft, sweet corn muffin at B&C
  • The soft, sweet corn muffin at B&C
There are seven ingredients in the perfect cornbread recipe and none of them is sugar.

We've had this discussion before — in this part of the South, cornbread is hot, salty and greasy.

I've defended that principle for years, but last week, a cold, sweet, fluffy muffin was just the thing at B&C Market BBQ inside the Nashville Farmers' Market house.

Lunch was B&C beef brisket, cut into both thin and thick slices. Each slice had crusty bark outside and a smoke ring inside. Long past the lunch rush, the beef was still admirably moist, which isn't always the case with brisket, even when it's fresh off the fire.

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Tuesday, October 4, 2011

The Music City Chili Cook-Off — Who's In?

Posted By on Tue, Oct 4, 2011 at 5:41 AM

Teams are still forming, and conjuring their stewing skills, for the second annual Music City Chili Cook-Off on Oct. 15.

Bites frequenters Erin of Erins Food Files and Vivek Surti of Vivek's Epicurean Adventures are both entering as competitors. (Erin's got a secret ingredient.) Vegetarian restaurant The Wild Cow is a competitor, too.

Judging is by popular vote — your paid entry fee buys you five voting chits. Spread your votes around or be strategic and just chuck them into your buddy's tin.

Vietti Chili, our homegrown, longtime local chili, is a sponsor — nice to see them in that role. Ole Smoky Tennessee Whiskey, the first legal moonshine distiller int he state, is also sponsoring. They'll be serving shots of their Apple Pie moonshine in the beer garden, with Yazoo providing the beer.

Brother Z's Wangs will be serving wings and hot dogs, and Maggie Moo's mobile slab will sell ice cream. And for something completely different, The Breakfast Truck will be peddling its fare.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Toffee Talk: Walker Creek vs. The Greatest of All Time

Posted By on Tue, Sep 27, 2011 at 8:32 AM

The other day, a fellow walked into the Scene offices wielding a shrink-wrapped 8-ounce slab of Walker Creek Toffee and introduced himself as Bruce Mott, one of the people who make the stuff by hand out in Alexandria, Tenn., for a few months a year. It didn't take him long to throw down the gauntlet — two of them, actually.

First, Mott said he was itching for a "toffee smack-down" pitting the Nashville area's top toffee-makers against each other to determine sweet, salty supremacy. Second — implying that he felt pretty good about Walker Creek's chances should such a buttery, crunchy battle royale materialize — he said, indicating the aforementioned 8-ounce slab with a subtle nod of his head, "I think it's the best in the world."

We don't hear the phrase "best in the world" thrown around too often — at least not in the confections department — but not wanting to let that kind of assertion go uneaten, I gathered up the Scene staff and asked them to taste-test Mott's claim. Here are some of the notes I was able to write down between breaking off more pieces for myself:

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Wednesday, September 21, 2011

'Washington Post' Blog Gets Sarcastic About Nashville Restaurants

Posted By on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 at 5:39 AM

A new Travel + Leisure readers' poll of the best cities in America for foodies — which ranked Nashville at No. 16 and Washington, D.C., at No. 18 — seems to have irked the Washington Post's Going Out Guide blog.

Under its Feeds and Reeds tag, the Post blog reported the Travel + Leisure poll with this headline: "The restaurants in Nashville are so much better."

Read literally, that would indicate praise for Nashville's evolving restaurant scene. But I suspect sarcasm was intended.

And I get that. I used to live in Washington, and on the basis of ethnic diversity alone, the restaurant scene in D.C. and its suburbs probably surpasses Nashville's. But come on, WaPost, get creative in your barbs. At the very least, throw in a hint of eye-rolling — or italics at least, the universal typography of sarcasm: "Nashville restaurants are so much better than ours."

Meanwhile, here's what Travel + Leisure said about Nashville's restaurant scene (note the misspelling of Burger Up):

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Thursday, August 11, 2011

Best of Nashville Ballot Time!

Posted By on Thu, Aug 11, 2011 at 6:23 AM

So you've got the inside track on the city's best Thai, the city's best breakfast, the city's best burgers and fries. You've got a favorite place you want others to discover, or a new joint that's made your life a lot happier in the past year.

Don't keep that info to yourself — stand up and be counted! Today marks the first day of voting for the Scene's 22nd "Best of Nashville" issue, our annual salute to the people, places and things that give Music City its essence.

Built around the theme of "Heroes and 'Villians," the issue doesn't run until Oct. 13. But the heavy lifting has already started, as last year's 188-page beast was the largest single issue in Scene history. (Here's a reminder of last year's winners.) And this year's looms even larger.

You can find your online ballot here. (Make sure you vote in the other categories tabbed across the top of the ballot also.) And feel free to stump in the comments section below for any chef, restaurant or specialty you think deserves votes.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bring Your "A" Game to Fair Baking Contests

Posted By on Wed, Jul 27, 2011 at 5:50 AM

  • Fleischmann's Yeast
The Wilson County Fair this year has landed some premium baking contests, the kind that pay real money. Now's the time to start thinking about what you might bake to take the prizes from Pillsbury and Fleishmann's at the fair, which runs Aug. 12-20.

Who doesn't love pie? No one, judging from your blogs and Twitter feeds. Entries are judged in part on creativity, of which there's an abundance among Bites readers. In fact, I'd be willing to bet a latte that a blogger is going to win this year's Wilson County fair. The publicity for your blog would be great, and first place wins a $200 cash prize and a commemorative gift. Second place scores $100; third place $50.

Fleischmann's Yeast is the best-known way to raise bread, and now they're raising something else: awareness of breast cancer. This year, Fleischmann's Yeast "Bake for the Cure" contest is giving out $425 in cash prizes plus $3,000 in national grand prizes, and the parent company donates $10 for each entry nationwide.

Any flavor or shape of baked good using any type of Fleischmann's Yeast can be an entry. Themes and decorative presentations are encouraged. There's a main category (calling for any yeast bread) and a second "Whole Grain Bread" category. The main category awards $150 for first place, $75 for second and $50 for third. The "Whole Grain" category has a $100 top prize and a new $50 runner-up prize. Bread is judged on flavor (40 percent), texture (20 percent), appearance (20 percent) and creativity (20 percent).

No pre-registration is required for either contest, and judging for both events is on Aug. 13. There are other details, though, so before you just show up with Mango Passion & Bourbon-Bacon Three-Layer Loaf, contact the Wilson County Fair entry office at 615-443-2626 or visit Under Competitions and then Food Contests click on Bake for the Cure and Pillsbury Pet-Ritz Pie Baking for contest rules and details.

To get you in the zone creatively, check out a previous winning recipe for Pesto Swirl Bread after the jump.

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Monday, February 28, 2011

BiteDown! Whiskey Kitchen vs. At The Table in Chicken and Mac-n-Cheese Face-Off

Posted By on Mon, Feb 28, 2011 at 5:44 AM

Whiskey Kitchen hot chicken and chipotle mac-n-cheese
  • Whiskey Kitchen hot chicken and chipotle mac-n-cheese
The hot chicken and mac-and-cheese called directly to me from the "Chef's Specialties" section of Whiskey Kitchen's menu.

"Southern-style iron skillet fried chicken breast, local market veggies and creamy chipotle mac & cheese," it read. I know, right? Worth $13, probably.

And behold how lovely. Crisp, rugged panko-crumb crust and a promising deep-red hue.

The way home goes right past At The Table, the cheap, cheerful and competent spot on 12th Avenue, so I stopped there for ... chicken and macaroni-and-cheese.

Fried chicken and mac-n-cheese from At The Table on 12th Avenue South
  • Fried chicken and mac-n-cheese from At The Table on 12th Avenue South
At The Table's chicken is traditional meat-and-three style: coated and deep-fried. Dark meat or light, and I prefer dark. The mac and cheese is the fluffy-baked rather than creamy-sauced variety. You supply your own heat with a pepper grinder or hot sauce from the table. There was also a hotwater corn pone. Yes, there was. The bill: $6.

Both kitchens turns out perfectly cooked food. Both places put a lot of thought into the recipes. Value matters a lot, and so does choice. WK's hot chicken was undeniable moist, crunchy and pleasantly warm in the spice department.

I split the decision, tilting toward At The Table. At The Table's mac-n-cheese has better texture, is more challenging to make, and has a more traditional, more Southern and less cheese-intensive character. On the other hand, if Whiskey Kitchen offered a hot thigh, it might have won.

On the third hand, there's no denying the power of a corncake to sway a judge.

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