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.
Flip through the January issue of Food & Wine and you'll find a piece called "Nashville In 10 Plates," by Catbird Seat's Erik Anderson, as told to F&W's Kate Krader.
There's a lot of good stuff in there — octopus at City House, the chicken salad sandwich at Coffee, Lunch, Sarah Gavigan's ramen pop-ups — but first on the list is the chicken liver pâté at Lockeland Table.
Now I don't know if Anderson gave them in order or was just listing off 10 things (my guess is the latter), but it was numbered 1 through 10, and that pate was first, and HOLY CRAP DO I AGREE WITH THAT AT NO. 1.
The pâté — $9 on the starters menu — comes in a small mason jar under a layer of Benton's bacon fat with smoked peach preserves and toast.
I tried it for the first time last week, having been tipped off by someone to make sure and order it. I'll go ahead and confess that I might not have ordered it otherwise, because my first reaction to chicken livers is not usually, "Wow, that sounds fantastic." It spread so smoothly on the toast, and I lopped a bit of the preserves on top and took a bite. It's just the textbook definition of umami. (Yes, I know. I used the "u" word. I should go to foodie jail. Sue me.) I might have even elbowed someone out of the way to scrape the last bit out. If we hadn't been in polite company, I would have licked the jar.
The entire list, in a slightly altered (and annoying) slideshow version, can be found here.
That's why this cool idea from Knob Creek is still in play, despite the fact that they can't help you (us) procrastinators out for Xmas. If you head over to Knob Creek's Facebook page, you can fill out a short form and they will print and send you as many personalized labels as you you'd like. For free even. The distillery even suggests some hokey epigrams for you to inscribe, but don't limit yourself. Tap into your inner Ben Franklin for a creative bon mot.
Once you receive your labels in the mail, all you have to do is drop by your favorite liquor store and buy some 750 ml bottles of that fine Knob Creek Kentucky bourbon. This whiskey is really a prototypical example of good bourbon. Aged nine years in oak and a beautiful amber in color, Knob Creek is a crowd-pleaser that would be appreciated by just about any bourbon enthusiast.
Nutty on the nose with a long finish of oak, smoke and fruit, Knob Creek also plays well with other ingredients in cocktail recipes. So whether your intended gift recipient prefers their whiskey straight up or mixed in a drink, Knob Creek is a very safe choice. Plus when you personalize it, they'll remember where that bottle came from and think of you every time they crack it open.
Get Sweet. Give a little taste of the sweeter parts of Nashville, why don’t ya? Not even Scrooge would be unhappy about getting and of these treats.
Goo Goo Cluster. Buy the candy and get the gear.
Walker Creek Toffee and Nashville Toffee Co. Two different brands of toffee both made right here in middle Tennessee. And both very good.
Bang Candy Company marshmallows. I’m not sure there’s anything more luxe than a handmade, artisanal marshmallow.
Olive and Sinclair chocolate. Perhaps it goes without saying, but just in case. ... Special note: O&S chocolate is vegan, dairy-free, and soy-free. A rarity and a sign of well-made chocolate.
Colt’s Bolts. Another Nashville institution. They make pies and cakes, too!
Gift tin from The Peanut Shop. The butter toffee cashews are my favorite.
Pralines by Leon. I only recently found out about these pralines, which I’ve been told are authentic New Orleans-style. I plan to visit soon to find out for myself.
Brittle Brothers. Brittle, too? Yes.
Christie Cookies. I’ve been sending Christie Cookies (made right here in Nashville) for years. They are the best. It’s also great to be able to click and have everything else taken care of for you.
Tender Loving Cake. TLC is new to Middle Tennessee, but the concept is that you buy a delicious cake (sour cream blueberry or cinnamon pecan) and they send the cake to your gift recipient and a cake to the food bank of your choice (as in, Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee). Pretty nifty. Once again, all you do is click and everything else is taken care of for you. With a bonus of being able to give to Second Harvest at the same time.
Jam on. Spread the love with jams, jellies, marmalades, and more.
Perl Catering. The jams and mustards are fantastic. Word to the wise: get the balsamic onion marmalade and get it early. And get one for yourself.
Bathtub Gin. These fruit spreads aren’t cheap, but they are worth every penny. The recipient of one of these jams will feel properly loved. I wonder if anyone loves me enough to buy that Limoncello Strawberry?
Perk up. Get the coffee-lover on your list some locally roasted coffee from Drew’s Brews, Just Love Coffee Roasters, Roast, Inc., Crema or Bongo Java Coffee. (So many roasters these days — hope we didn't leave anybody out!)
Dine out. For the past couple of years, we’ve given my in-laws gift certificates to restaurants where they may not typically go. Date night places. We’ve previously given gift cards to Watermark and Kayne Prime, but I’m undecided so far this year. However, Flyte is currently running a gift card promotion where you get a bonus 20% on any purchase $99 and less, and a 25% bonus on $100 or more. A $125 gift card for $100 is a fantastic deal and will definitely pay for a memorable dinner at Flyte.
Porta Via also has a gift card promotion where you get a $10 gift card for every $100 you spend (available at the Nashville and Cool Springs locations). Give it with the gift or keep it for yourself. Amerigo and Etch are both offering bonus deals with gift cards; 10% back for gift card orders worth over $100, 15% on orders over $500, and 20% back on orders over $1,000.
Read all about it. Several local authors have released books this year that would be great gifts.
The Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook: Cookies, Cakes, Candies, and More by Lindsay Landis
The Southern Foodie: 100 Places to Eat in the South Before You Die (and the Recipes That Made Them Famous) by Chris Chamberlain
Food Lovers' Guide to Nashville: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings by Jennifer Justus
Farm Fresh Southern Cooking: Straight from the Garden to Your Dinner Table by Tammy Algood
You Be Sweet: Sharing Your Heart One Down-Home Dessert at a Time by Patsy Caldwell and Amy Lyles Wilson
Chefs Can Save the World by Jeremy Barlow
Push-Up Pops by Courtney Whitmore
And only semi-local—but part of my vegetarian agenda—don’t forget Cookin’ Crunk: Eatin’ Vegan in the Dirty South by Bianca Phillips
Get it. Many of these gifts are available online, but it’s just as easy and a lot more fun to browse the selections at several local stores.
Lazzaroli’s Pasta Shop and The Turnip Truck both carry a number of the local jams, candies, and cheeses. Lazzaroli also has an excellent collection of salts and other fine ingredients such as vanilla beans, olive oils, and balsamic vinegars.
If you’re down in Franklin, Olivia Olive Oil in Cool Springs has a wonderful selection of olive oils and related gifts (including dipping spices). The Nashville Farmers Market is also a great resource for local jams and other treats such as locally-made salsa. Or if you want to make your own culinary gifts, sign up for Laura Wilson’s class this Thursday night in NFM's Grow Local Kitchen inside the market house. Chef Wilson will teach students to make infused oils, biscotti and other great gifts inspired by Italy.
More places to check for tasty gifts include The Bloomy Rind, The Green Wagon, Whole Foods (a number of local products are available) and Green Door Gourmet, which has an extensive selection of preserved goods from the farm as well as a gourmet market.
Books are available through the authors’ websites, at bookstores, and/or on Amazon.com.
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