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.
Amanda was so moved by the experience that she wanted to share the story with Bites:
I read a story to my children every night before bedtime. A recent hit with the kids contained the nursery rhyme “The House That Jack Built,” which teaches memory through repetition. I daresay the method is effective, as I’ve been reciting something like the following in my mind for days now:
This is the cookie that love baked.
This is the person who purchased the cookie that love baked.
This is the money given by the person who purchased the cookie that love baked.
This is the food that was bought with the money given by the person who purchased the cookie that love baked.
This is the stranger whose belly is full from the food that was bought with the money given by the person who purchased the cookie that love baked.
Fortunately, pumpkin is a pretty forgiving foodstuff to work with. Since it tastes good al dente or baked to a mushy consistency or pureed into a soup, pumpkin is an extremely versatile ingredient. I recently got a helpful email from Ryan Fichter, the executive chef of Thunder Burger in Washington, D.C., which offered lots of good advice and a recipe that I thought I'd share with you. Follow along and learn:
Season: Pumpkins are in their ripe season during October and November. This is the best time to get the freshest pumpkins. If you find them a couple of months past that, they may still be fresh, but they are not a product of the main peak season.
Selection: When selecting your pumpkin, opt for one that is completely orange. Avoid any that have spots that are not ripe, as they may not ripen more after purchasing. Also, avoid pumpkins that have soft spots, bruises, or little holes. Small holes can be an indicator of insects. Try to find one that looks the best, with a nice color and very few to no blemishes.
Cutting: Before cutting your pumpkin, wash it thoroughly first. Choose a nice big knife for the job, then proceed to cut the pumpkin in half, splitting it open evenly.
Preparing: Once your pumpkin is split open, remove the seeds and strings. You can cook and eat the pumpkin seeds, as well. These can be baked or roasted, and they make a tasty treat. Then, choose your favorite recipe to use the flesh of the pumpkin. However, note that some recipes call for leaving the pumpkin whole. In that case, you would cut the top off and remove the seeds and strings, rather than cutting it open.
Ask questions. If you are unsure as to which pumpkin will be best for what you are preparing, ask questions. Those selling the pumpkins can usually point you in the direction of the best pumpkins for pies, soups, etc.
“Using pumpkin in your cooking or for one of your meals is a great way to add a fall flavor for your family,” added Fichter. “Once you try cooking with pumpkin, there is a good chance you will be picking up more than one, every year after that, to cook with.”
If you want to help guide ungrateful lummoxes like me into more appropriate gift-giving, West Meade Wine and Liquor Mart has come up with a solution for you with their new gift registry. If you're planning a wedding shower or stock the bar party, all you have to do is email WMWLM at email@example.com to get the process started.
You'll then get to take a magical shopping trip to the wine store where you can pick out your favorite wines, spirits and high-gravity beers with the assistance of a store employee. Then your invited guests can visit the same website and pick out a present for the event. What could be simpler?
When I shop at an online wedding registry, I try to choose something unique rather than just the fifth dinner plate of a set of a couple of hand towels. I like to pick kitchen utensils so that we can share a mutual interest to celebrate the occasion. Once I picked a toilet paper roll holder off of the gift list so that the bride and groom would be reminded of me at least once a day. Ewwww. But they were the ones who added it to the registry.
In the end, I think wine and booze make a lot more sense for a celebratory gift, so why not take advantage of this new service from West Meade?
Last week, The City Paper rolled out a new Culture section in its print edition as part of a redesign. Two of the pillars of that section will be familiar to Bites readers: Dana Kopp Franklin's Food Biz column will continue to appear weekly, and to that we're pretty thrilled to add Nicki Pendleton Wood's Eating Life column in the first issue of every month.
(Side note: If you have three names in your byline, you may be eligible to write about food for the CP.)
Why add a food column? There are a couple of reasons beyond the fact that we just like Nicki. First, if you're thinking about cultural coverage in a publication, you have to think about food. Dana's column covers the dining scene for us very well, but I wanted to add something for the home cook. Second, I've had a soft spot for Nicki's enthusiasm towards being in the kitchen ever since her time as food editor at the late great daily paper the Nashville Banner. I've always had the sense that she's excited about the process of making really tasty food, and that comes through in her column:
The eating lifer refuses to be an observer at the feast. If there’s good chocolate, we’ll eat three pieces. If Leland Riggan baked the cake, we’ll have a bit, thanks. If someone’s gone to the trouble to make jam, debone duck or section grapefruits, we dive in and enjoy.
The eating life is a highly malleable environment — if you don’t like a food, you select a different one. If nothing on the menu appeals to you, you go somewhere else. And recipes? They’re not writ on stone. You’re supposed to tinker with them.
With this month's piece are two pretty killer chicken recipes — one for curry roast chicken and another for chicken sliders.
Let us know what you think.
For the most part, Nashville wine and spirits enthusiasts are a respectful lot. In fact, at last month's Nashville Whiskey Festival, more than one producer commented about how respectful the tasters were and how at many events like that one, they could expect several patrons to be hauled out knee-walking drunk within the first couple of hours.
At the majority of in-store tastings and restaurant events I attend, tasters are polite and listen to whoever is doing the educating about the various varietals and wines. But there are a few events in town that you can depend on becoming a swillfest with attendees throwing elbows to get to the front of the line and chug a glass of the best hooch without learning a darned thing about the winemaker's portfolio.
So here are The Daily Sip's tips along with some of my real-world experiences:
With a couple of exceptions (like The Guardian, which included Tavern, Puckett's and Monell's), we're seeing the same names over and over. I fear that Mas Tacos will soon suffer the fate of being the tourist-only destination that the Loveless Cafe has been for years. Though I spotted a something a bit refreshing in last week's issue of The Memphis Flyer. It seems our friends in Memphis were able to make some recommendations for their fellow Memphians headed to Nashville that were actually different. Writer John Branston recommends Noshville over Pancake Pantry as well as Gerst Haus, Caffe Nonna and Sylvan Park restaurant. And for barbecue, Jim 'N Nick's over Martin's. Writer and vegan food blogger Bianca Phillips suggests going south of Nashville to The Farm in Summertown for a vegan retreat.
While I appreciate their efforts to mention something other than The Catbird Seat, City House and any number of bars, I wish they would have asked me (and not wasted a recommendation on barbecue). We're all friends here in Tennessee, right? Memphians will tell you to go to Central BBQ instead of Rendezvous, Pirtle's instead of Gus's, and also to get some Chinese food while you're in town, so we can share our favorites with them, right?
To our intrastate friends, I'd recommend enjoying the wonderful Middle Eastern food first and foremost and base recommendations on where they're staying (though I favor Anatolia). Then I'd tell them to visit Smiling Elephant for Thai. Also on the list would be Suzy Wong's House of Yum and/or Cha Chah, Rumba, Tayst, The Silly Goose, The Wild Cow (for veg*n friends), and Fido/Hot & Cold. And then, of course, to hit up Trader Joe's on the way out of town.
Friends don't let friends fall into tourist traps, right? What do you recommend to friends? No, really.
Roberts is a partner in a popular chain of tavern/bowling alleys in San Diego (too bad he hasn't opened one here), so he has a lot of experience making crowd-pleasing wings. So much so that Frank's RedHot Sauce has signed him up as their national spokesman and brand ambassador. He is also the official wing consultant for Yankee Stadium. Now that's a position I was unaware was available.
I spoke with Roberts about grilling and winging it for about an hour last week while attending the Memphis in May World BBQ Championship, where he was presiding over the Frank's Hot Wing Eating competitions that took place next to the main stage every couple of hours. As a representative of Frank's, which is a member of the French's family of products, Roberts naturally prefers some of their other wares like Cattleman's BBQ Sauce and French's mustard when he is grilling.
This isn't as much of a pander as you might think, as many of the winning competitors at Memphis in May endorsed Cattleman's, and Frank's is the original buffalo wing sauce. When Roberts makes ribs, he slathers his ribs in French's to add just a little tang to them, but more importantly to keep them moist while they cook. Most of the mustard burns off anyway, so you'd probably only notice a slight nuance in the flavors afterwards. For his wet rib sauce, he mixes Frank's and Cattleman's to make what he calls his "Tavern-style" sauce.
For wings, he suggests boiling them in your favorite craft beer for about 10 minutes until the wings are cooked through and really tender. Since nobody likes soggy wings, you need to crisp them up somehow, so he recommends either flash-frying them or grilling them until the skin is crispy before tossing them in the Tavern-style sauce.
I tried some of his wings, and I have to admit that for ease of preparation and the sweet/hot flavor that I usually prefer, they were spot on. I have generally preferred Alton Brown's preparation in the past, but dang, those things take two hours to make. I can use that extra time to eat more wings.
Roberts shared his easy recipe with Bites readers:
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