It’s all a bit confusing. This piece from The New York Times sums it up nicely, though.
Whatever side you’re on, I think we can all agree that even saturated fats are okay in moderation, right? (Right.) So I was eager to check out this sample of extra-virgin (unrefined) coconut oil that the folks at Carrington Farms sent me a couple of weeks ago. But other than this this recipe for homemade Magic Shell (thanks again, Chubby Vegetarian!), I really didn’t know what else to do with it. Make popcorn? And then suddenly last week, Twitter and Instagram were blowing up with people who love coconut oil. For roasting vegetables, for baking (it's a dairy-free replacement for butter) and, interestingly, blended into coffee.
Coffee? As in, put a tablespoon of semi-solid oil in your coffee? I was dubious. But what the hell, right? My husband had some coffee that was past its prime and on the bitter side, so we brewed some, added the coconut oil, zapped it with the stick blender and tested it out.
Wow. It was good. Really good. I don’t even like coffee and I thought it was good. Blending it in made it frothy like a coffee shop latte (high-powered blending is crucial). And the coconut oil completely counteracted the bitterness. It was smooth and delicious. It wasn't oily at all and had just the faintest hint of coconut (enough to make it smell amazing). The basis for this little test, “bulletproof coffee” as they call it, calls for butter and some other stuff, too, but it’s totally unnecessary. Sure, I could definitely see adding a tiny bit of cinnamon and cardamom to this for a real treat, but for your everyday drinker, the coconut oil is all you need. If you are one who suffers with office coffee, do yourself a favor and get this coconut oil and a stick blender and you'll be set. No more worrying about someone swiping your fancy flavored creamer out of the office fridge.
Note, though, that I didn’t try the coffee with refined coconut oil, which is flavorless. The Carrington Farms coconut oil is unrefined, which means it’s got a more of a coconut flavor to it (though it is mild). I could eat it straight (like a creamy version of the inside of a Mounds bar). When I tried that with the refined coconut oil (which came from Whole Foods), I just felt like I was eating congealed oil (which I was). Not good. Go for the good stuff instead. Save the other stuff for your Magic Shell or muffins.
Another advantage of the Carrington Farms coconut oil is that it comes in a tub rather than a jar, so it’s easier to scoop out. The pleasant, lightly coconutty flavor is perfect for those who like coconut, but not the texture of some forms of coconut. It's like coconut butter, I'd say. It's yummy.
Locally, you should be able to find Carrington Farms organic extra virgin coconut oil at Publix and Whole Foods. You can also buy it online.
Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar on West End is currently offering a pretty darned moo-worthy deal right now with their "Small Plates and Big Pours" promotion. For $24.95 you can pick from a list of filling, but less than meal-sized, plates, which include sliced filet mignon, shrimp skewers, lamb chops, short ribs, ahi tuna, scallops or lobster tempura. Each dish is paired with an oversized pour of a wine specifically chosen from their "Fleming's 100" list that pairs well with each dish.
The short ribs are accompanied by a big California cabernet from B.R. Cohn which is already a favorite of mine. For lighter fare on a hot summer day, the scallops are paired with a nice grassy Russian River Valley sauvignon blanc from Hanna which I have enjoyed on more than one occasion, so I know it will be nice with seafood.
These deals are available at the Fleming's bar, which is usually a pretty hoppin' spot and which doesn't require reservations. As the weather encourages people to get out and about more, and the kiddies are out of school and clogging up some of the tables at our favorite restaurants, this might be a nice way to treat yourself to a nice meal for about the same price as a trip to Logan O'Charleybees.
Go ahead and treat yourself. You deserve it! Moo.
But man, it is hard. I decided one day to try it and only made it until noon. I had oatmeal for breakfast instead of my usual toast, but I caved and had a veggie burger on a wheat bun for lunch. I was lamenting the lack of gluten-free bun options on Twitter when Twin Forks Farm alerted me to this post on Bon Appetit’s The Feed blog about one of the theories on why gluten intolerance is on the rise.
One theory about gluten intolerance focuses on the type of wheat used to make the flour for the bread products we eat these days. Most wheat that’s grown now has been hybridized to get a grain that’s heartier and easier to grow. It’s also got more gluten in it as well; gluten helps dough rise and gives it texture. The theory — which is related, really — in the blog post has to do with most commercial breads being quick-rise. That is, they’re ready to go in three hours or less rather than fermenting for 18 hours or more. The longer fermentation with the yeast yields a more easily digestible bread. Sourdoughs are even easier to digest. These breads still aren’t suitable for people who are completely intolerant, but these breads may be a better choice for those who are just sensitive to gluten.
I also thought about the scientist who said that years of eating these overly processed breads may be causing our guts to reject them. I grew up eating mostly white bread and don’t have a sensitivity to it now (I don’t think), but it does give me some pause when considering what I feed my daughter. The kid loves bread. I figure, the least I could do is give her bread that’s not bad for her and instead, give her bread that’s actually good for her. So I took a look at Twin Forks.
I was already familiar with Twin Forks Farm bread, actually. Several years ago, Carrington Fox wrote about it here on Bites. I’ve tried it and bought it at the farmers market. But I hadn’t given it much thought for a while. A look at their website intrigued me now, though. They use heirloom organic grains (no Frankengrains) as well as slow fermentation methods for their breads. It’s clear from the descriptions of their breads that they’ve put a lot of thought and energy into these recipes.
So I headed over to The Produce Place to pick up a loaf. It was the end of the day, so only the Pain au Levain and the Expedition were left on the shelf, so I chose the Expedition. At $5 per loaf, it’s not cheap, but it sure is good. So good, in fact that the kid and I both devoured a piece cut right off the loaf without toasting or topping. And though the loaf is small, it’s hearty, so it doesn’t take much of it to satisfy. I’ve started putting it in her lunch for school instead of the crackers I used to send, and she really enjoys it. I hope she remembers this many years from now when she is (I hope) still able to eat wheat … and is the one making the decisions about what I’m eating.
When they saw a copy of Farm Fresh North Carolina, the Memphians knew that our state was ripe (heh) for the same sort of survey of local farmers markets, U-Picks, wineries, distilleries and food festivals. The result is a very useful 236-page guide to agricultural tourism in the Volunteer State. The book is divided into the three Grand Divisions of Tennessee: West, Middle and East. (Middle School Trivia: those three creatively named regions are represented by the three stars on the state flag. And the blue stripe is rumored to stand for the Mississippi River, but it's on the wrong end, so who knows?)
Within each division, the Knipples did a lot of Internet research and then traveled to document scores of farms, farm stands and markets, Christmas tree farms, U-Pick markets, country stores and alcohol manufacturers. They also share a calendar of major special events and festivals and a few recipes featuring regional chefs who emphasize farm-to-table concepts.
Some surprising finds that they discovered from the road include cranberry bogs in Northeast Tennessee and the freshwater pearl museum whose billboard you pass crossing the Tennessee River on the way to Memphis. The authors also include interesting sidebars about particular farms and products as well as profiles of some of the personalities who love to share stories of their agricultural pursuits.
Contact info is included for each attraction, including website, Twitter and Facebook addresses where available. So when you plan your next road trip, give yourself a little extra time to add a foodie component to your travels and consider carrying a copy of Farm Fresh Tennessee along with you as a guide.
You may not have noticed last week thanks to the continued volume of restaurant news that continues to flow from my keyboard, but I was on spring break in Blue Mountain Beach in Florida all last week. Since it was the first week of Metro schools' 14-day break, we recognized plenty of license plates and the reservation lists were full of 615 area code cellphone numbers. We ate at many of the most popular places along 30A, and really didn't have any bad dining experiences, so I thought it would be appropriate to share our tips for eating (mostly) on the cheap on the Panhandle.
First of all, if you're crowd-averse, stay the hell away from Watercolor and Seaside. These two Truman Show-esque resorts are packed with multitudes of people with more money than you riding around in golf carts and on rental bicycles as the coltish teenage girls begin their complicated courtship dances with Bieber-do bedecked boys which will not culminate until after their mutual graduations from Auburn. These groups of percolating hormones tend to move in packs and will usually congregate on the main drag between Pickle's Beachside Grill and the new row of permanent food trucks housed in precious little Airstream trailers. Just work your way through these entangled masses either on foot, by bike or by car, and they probably won't bother you.
But now I've found that Panera has a secret they've been holding out on us. Like other restaurants that have covert menu items that you have to be in the know to order, Panera has recently rolled out a "hidden menu." But don't expect over the top options like the "Animal Fries" at In-N-Out Burger served with cheese, a Thousand Island-type spread, grilled onions and pickles as toppings or a "McKinley Mac," which is a Big Mac made with Quarter Pounder patties.
At Panera, even the secret menu is sort of dull. They offer six "Power" options, with two earmarked for each major meal of the day. The "Power Breakfasts" feature an egg white scramble in a bowl with spinach and turkey as well as a dish of two fried eggs with sliced sirloin and avocado. Behold the "Power!" Lunch doesn't get much more exciting with two "secret" Mediterranean salads topped with chicken or turkey. I'm starting to nod off as I type the dinner options of a "Power Chicken Hummus Bowl" and some steak lettuce wraps, although the combination of chick peas and chicks as a power dish is mildly amusing.
So really, Table 3 in Green Hills was reaching out to somebody like me when they recently introduced their new Weeknight Family Meals for pickup. They've always had some nice grab-and-go options in the small market side of the restaurant, because who really has duck confit lying around the house when they need it? But these extra offerings are packed family-style in whatever quantity your request, and are priced by the number of people you intend to feed.
Just place your order by 11 a.m., and you can pick up a prepared ready-to-heat weeknight dinner on your way home from work with entrees rotating on a weekly calendar. The price for a main and side is just $8. per person. Here's the rotating roster:
Table 3 Weeknight Family Meals Weekly Calendar
Monday...Roast Pork with Apples and New Potatoes
Tuesday...Rotating Chef's Choice (please call the market at 712-8182)
Wednesday...Chicken & Dumplings
Thursday...Red Beans & Rice with Braised Pork and Andouille Sausage
Friday...Fried Chicken With Mashed Potatoes
Some “date night” restaurants may still have reservations available. Last week, I saw a tweet that The Catbird Seat had an opening for up to six people, but I’m certain that that was filled pretty quickly (check anyway!). You may have better luck “outside the loop” such as in Belle Meade (Sperry’s, Whitfield’s), Green Hills (Firefly Grille, Table 3) or Berry Hill/Brentwood (Mack and Kate's Cafe, Yellow Porch). Or perhaps something a little more casual: Both locations of Porta Via (White Bridge Road and Cool Springs) have availability and a special Valentine’s Day menu (which includes both vegetarian and gluten-free options for each of the three courses).
But if you prefer to dine in for the evening — and still want something nice but without a lot of work or a trip to the grocery with a long list — don’t forget you have really good take-out options. Something Special, The Picnic Cafe, The Food Company, Corner Market Catering, McCabe Pub, and Perl Cafe all have fantastic options for a quiet dinner at home. Many of them will even prepare the food in your own cookware with advance notice (for those of you trying to really impress someone). Though much of it is easy to transfer. Pro tip: Order one of McCabe's strawberry cakes.
And yet the competition is still wide open — at least until midnight Friday, the deadline for submissions. Did you capture a show, a city landmark or a local character in a never-to-be duplicated moment? Did you catch something on film that basically serves as a visual punch line to the "You Are So Nashville If ..." contest? Did you photograph something that sums up the city in a single image? Did you snap a shot and think, "I love this dirty town"? Those are images we want to see.
You have until Friday to submit up to five entries, at $5 entry fee apiece. Click here for more information. We can't wait to see what you come up with.
And while I love to get out of the house and spend a little time amongst other humans during the lunch hour, sometimes I just don't have the luxury of whiling away an hour in the middle of the work day. So I'm a big fan of carryout, where I can check my own order for correctness and rush it back to my house to eat it off of a real plate with a fork that won't snap under the slightest pressure. Other times, it's nice to pick up dinner and bring it home to share with my girlfriend after she's had a long day at work and neither one of us feels like cooking.
Now a new service called ToGoOrder.com has come along to help automate the process. With franchises in Nashville, Bowling Green, Portland, Ore., and Philadelphia, ToGoOrder.com has integrated the technological side of many of your favorite restaurants to allow a one-stop carryout portal for ordering. With a simple single registration, diners can see what restaurants are open, how long a wait there is in the kitchen before pick up, and actually facilitate the ordering and payment process.
In Nashville, restaurants offered range from neighborhood favorites like Vittles, Noshville, The Perch and McDougal's to higher-end establishments like Cabana and Amerigo. When you click through to a particular restaurant, their menu is displayed for easy ordering. You must give up your cellphone number, but this is not for marketing purposes. If there are any difficulties with your order, the restaurant will call you directly to clarify. Since you prepay as part of the service, all you have to do is grab your meal and go.
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