Thursday, August 28, 2014

Corsair's Darek Bell Releases Second Book, Fire Water: Experimental Smoked Malts and Whiskeys

Posted By on Thu, Aug 28, 2014 at 8:34 AM

Whenever I get the chance to sit down and speak with Darek Bell, the owner/distiller of Nashville's Corsair Distillery, I am impressed with his passion and creativity toward his craft. In the midst of a global bourbon boom, Bell and Corsair have set their sails (and sales) in a very different direction. Not that they don't make very good whiskey, but they are determined to push the envelope of craft distilling and advise anyone else entering the market to avoid the trap of chasing the "me-too" temptation of trying to replicate the perfectly fine bourbons that have been coming out of Kentucky for generations.

Instead, Corsair prefers to experiment with novel grains in their mash bills and innovative finishing techniques, including experimental smoking of malts and grains and adding hops to their whiskeys. Bell is also more than willing to share the exact details and results of his experiments and has released a follow-up to his first book with Fire Water: Experimental Smoked Malts and Whiskeys. While the previous work, Alt Whiskeys, sought to share recipes for some admittedly wacky fermented and distilled grain products like triticale and sorghum, Fire Water sets out to do no less than establish an entirely new category of spirits, American smoked whiskey.

Bell experimented with more than 80 different sources of smoke to flavor his whiskeys. Traditional wood sources like pecan and mesquite were augmented with herbs, roots, barks and old barrel staves to create the smoke to add character to the spirits. Like any good scientist, Bell maintained a control recipe for his base spirit and then altered and measured the effects of variables such as different malting techniques, smoke sources and time of exposure to the smoke. Corsair's multiple award-winning Triple Smoke Whiskey should be proof enough that he knows what he is doing, but a course of study at the distilling academy at Bruichladdich in Islay, Scotland, also establishes some pretty serious bona fides.

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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Paula Deen Talks Sweetbreads, Butter and Why She and Dolly Should Totally Be Friends

Posted By on Tue, Aug 26, 2014 at 8:51 AM


I don’t cook, so I don’t really know much about Paula Deen, other than that she really likes butter, and that her pants fell down on live TV one time. So, when presented with the opportunity to interview her for her Aug. 27 appearance at TPAC, I thought, hey, I just might learn something!

When corresponding with her people, they initially requested an email interview, which I politely declined, because those are no fun. As Deen’s people are clearly accustomed to putting out fires that happen outside the kitchen, they are now on in full fire prevention mode. They acquiesced to a phoner if I presented the questions in advance. Now, that's not so out-of-the-ordinary with interviews; I understand a subject wanting to know what ground will be covered so he or she is adequately prepared, but it was the following caveat that made me a little wary:

"We do kindly request that you keep all questions focused on Paula Deen Live! and the Paula Deen Network — nothing about the past."

This incited a flashback to my senior year in high school, when the principal asked to see my graduation speech a week before the ceremony.

“If you even stray one word from this speech,” she warned me, looking me dead in the eye, “I will cut the microphone. No funny business, Abby.”

I had recently been nearly arrested for underage drinking in one of Peoria’s fine public parks and was at risk of losing a college scholarship, so I wasn’t about to rock the boat. But nearly 20 years later, I still bristle when someone tells me I can’t talk about something. That being said, I must still fear the wrath of my high school principal — or maybe Paula Deen's people — because I decided not to talk about Anthony Bourdain, diabetes or Southern plantation-style weddings. Besides, there is plenty of other stuff to chat about with the Queen of Butter, right?

Paula called me from her home in Savannah, and throughout our brief convo, I did manage to learn something quite scandalous without having to approach any of the aforementioned subjects. Nashville, Paula Deen has NEVER tried hot chicken. Not only that, it didn't even sound like she'd heard of it. Friends, we cannot let this slide. When she's in town, can somebody please stage a hot chickenvention?

We also chatted about her new digital network that's launching this fall, how she and Dolly should be friends, why potatoes are awesome, and the time she thought sweetbreads were cinnamon rolls, after the jump.

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Incredible Dave's is Gone, But You Can Now Build the Ultimate Man Cave

Posted By on Mon, Aug 25, 2014 at 10:36 AM

Nemo is sad.
  • Nemo is sad.
I know, I know ... Incredible Dave's was open? Yes, the Dave and Buster's clone did actually exist near Rivergate for several years, but has given up the ghost leaving thousands of unredeemed skeeball tickets and unclaimed Chinese fingercuffs left behind.

But thanks to a liquidation auction by McClemore Auction Co., anybody can now purchase all the makings of a restaurant, arcade or badass man cave. In addition to items like pizza ovens, industrial ranges and real imitation leather sofas, there are 60 high-definition televisions for sale, many for less than a hundred bucks.

I'm thinking of buying a pay-to-play pool table just to make a little extra change off of my friends. Then I'll use that money to buy a bouncy house or some bumper cars.

The auction closes tomorrow, so if you want to furnish your own fun emporium, get to bidding!

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Friday, August 22, 2014

Try Out the Sunday Special at Josephine

Posted By on Fri, Aug 22, 2014 at 8:07 AM

My girlfriend is a kindergarten teacher, so it can get a little hectic around our household in the weeks leading up to and after the start of a new school year. She told me, "To a kindergarten teacher, every day in August is a Sunday." Y'know, days heralding that uncomfortable feeling of dread knowing how much you have to get done before the next day begins and sucks up all your free time.

So Sundays are the prefect time to let somebody else do the cooking for you. The kitchen at Josephine at 2316 12th Ave. S. wants to take at least one task off your to-do list with their new Sunday chicken special. Taking advantage of the influx of great tomatoes at this time of year, Josephine is offering a tomato salad with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, basil, grilled bread and vinaigrette plus two pieces of expertly fried chicken and a beer for a flat rate of $15.

The deal is available only at the bar on Sundays starting at 5 p.m. until they run out of chicken. if you're looking for a way to finish off the weekend with some great comfort food, give it a try.

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Thursday, August 14, 2014

Josephine Recruits Pastry Chef Kayla May, Veteran of Capitol Grille

Posted By on Thu, Aug 14, 2014 at 6:50 AM

Kayla May
  • Kayla May
Josephine, restaurateur Miranda Whitcomb Pontes' fine dining spot, which opened late last year in 12South, has named a pastry chef. It's Kayla May, who's most recent job was working alongside chef Tyler Brown as pastry chef at the Capitol Grille in the Hermitage Hotel.

If you follow chef rosters in Nashville, you may know her as Kayla Swartout — she recently got married and goes by her new name, Kayla May.

Inspired by memorable visits to the patisseries of Paris, May graduated from the French Culinary Institute in New York.

"Her French-inspired training and modernist techniques combined with an understanding and respect for the region will complement Josephine’s refined American farmhouse cuisine," said today's announcement from Josephine.

She joins Josephine's top chef and general manager Andy Little, who combines his background growing up in Pennsylvania Dutch country with the influences of Nashville and Southern cuisine.

Mays says one of her pastimes is tracking down grandmothers' recipes she hears about from friends and working to re-create dishes lost to time. She starts work at Josephine this Saturday, Aug. 16.

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Spirited Professionals Work to Launch Nashville Chapter of U.S. Bartenders' Guild

Posted By on Wed, Aug 13, 2014 at 6:54 AM

Along with Nashville's rise as a restaurant town, our fair city has also experienced a boom in the craft cocktail culture. We have many talented bartenders working all over the city, and at the yearly Tales of the Cocktail in New Orleans, Nashville is always well represented. In fact, there is a Facebook group dedicated to those mixologists who attend the event, where plans are made, fuzzy memories are straightened out and the general discussion about cocktails offers some fascinating insight to the bartender community.

Out of that group has arisen an effort to establish an official Nashville chapter of the United States Bartenders' Guild. A local USBG is more than just a sign that a community has made it big in the spirits world. Membership yields benefits like access to health insurance, participation in official USBG events and competitions, and access to online forums where professional bartenders exchange information about recipes and the industry.

And it's simply time for Nashville to be recognized for our prominence in the cocktail community. Heck, Chattanooga and Lincoln, Neb., already have applications for guild membership pending, so you know Nashville deserves a chapter.

The effort has been spearheaded by Alan Kennedy, the managing director at Cask Strength Consulting. He has done the initial organizing of a group of 50 bar professionals who have committed to membership. With the initial application submitted, the next step is to organize even more potential members. If you might be interested or know of a talented bartender who should be a part of this group, Kennedy invites you to email him at for more information.

Let's make this happen!

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Two Ten Jack's Patrick Burke Takes a Japanese Odyssey and Invites You to Ride Along Via Cyberspace

Posted By on Mon, Aug 11, 2014 at 6:57 AM

Last spring, this website and the pages of the paper edition of the Scene were the scene of a lively debate over the concept of "authenticity" when it comes to ethnic restaurants. My colleague Steve Haruch offered his take on the idea, which provoked a discussion in the comments here on an Open Thread and a response from Two Ten Jack owner Patrick Burke. While I don't intend to rehash the argument here, I thought an update might be in order.

One of Burke's points was that while he realizes that he is neither Japanese or the one who cooks the food at Two Ten Jack, he has spent years learning about the cuisine through restaurant jobs and trips to Japan. A 2007 visit inspired him to start planning the concept that would eventually become Two Ten Jack, and which will soon be replicated at a new location in Chattanooga. Burke is particularly proud that when the kitchen staff first fired up the expensive grill that he had purchased to make yakitori, the meat coming off the griddle tasted almost exactly like he remembered.

That's an interesting point to me, personally. Is there a role in restaurant development for someone who has the palate and vision to replicate food that most folks haven't had the opportunity to experience in person, and then turn the execution over to talented chefs like Jason McConnell and Jess Benefield to replicate the flavors? I think there might be. I would liken it to the role of a creative director at an ad agency who might not be the most talented designer, but thanks to years of experience can recognize good work when he or she sees it.

Burke respects his role as what he calls "the head curator of Seed Hospitality." He is also fascinated with Japanese culture and strives to continue his education. He told me that the back and forth with Steve Haruch and the online community motivated him, and that his pursuit of knowledge comes from an honest place. To further his exposure to Japanese design and food trends, Burke has planned a 10-day trip to the island to experience the wide array of flavor profiles that Japanese food showcases.

His friends at Sun Noodle, who have provided the ramen for Two Ten and Otaku South, gave him recommendations for his aggressive itinerary which will include five days in Tokyo, two days each in Kyoto and Hiroshima and one day in Mijayama. Hiroshima is known for their Okonomiyaki, savory pancakes that might be featured on Seed Hospitality menus upon Burke's return. In Tokyo, he plans to stay in the same hotel where he originally discovered yakitori in a little eatery around the corner. If the restaurant is still there, Burke hopes to recalibrate his taste memories with a return visit.

He also plans to visit the sushi restuarant run by the youngest son of Jiro Ono, made famous in the fascinating movie Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Takashi Ono practices his fare in Roppongi Hills, and a visit to his place is said to be as close as most mere mortals can get to a meal with the master.

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Friday, August 8, 2014

24-Hour Diner or Food Truck Park Coming to SoBro? — UPDATE

Posted By on Fri, Aug 8, 2014 at 11:47 AM

Steve Smith, who owns Tootsie's and two other businesses on Lower Broadway, has been working to build a 24-hour diner at Third Avenue and Demonbreun in the SoBro neighborhood downtown. Construction is currently stalled over zoning approval for the restaurant's design.

But as my Nashville Post colleague William Williams reports, Smith says that if the current Avenue Diner plan dies, he's considering simply making the site into a food-truck park.

Instead of building a new structure, he would just pave over the current construction site, fence it and rent space to food trucks. Smith held a press conference on Thursday to discuss Avenue Diner, which he still hopes to develop, but also his Plan B, the food truck park.

From the Post:

Smith, who co-owns Lower Broadway fixture Tootsie's as well as nearby Rippy's and Honky Tonk Central, said he has long had a good working relationship with Metro officials and would solicit their feedback regarding having food trucks on the smallish site.

“I’ve had some people approach me about a food truck park,” he said, adding the site could accommodate six to eight food trucks and generate, via rents, more than $35,000 a month.

The fate of the Avenue Diner project, which Smith says is inspired by the venerable Junior's restaurant in Brooklyn, may be sealed next month if the Metro Board of Zoning Appeals votes to prohibit the project from restarting construction.

Dallas Shaw, president of the Nashville Food Truck Association, who spoke to the Nashville Post on Thursday after Smith's press conference Thursday, said he is "intrigued" by Smith's idea of a food truck park but wonders if the leases and rents Smith has tentatively mentioned would work for truck operators.

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Monday, August 4, 2014

Tennessee Brew Works Releases 'Tennessee Sessions' Line of Quaffable Beers

Posted By on Mon, Aug 4, 2014 at 6:38 AM

Tennessee Brew Works owners Garr Schwartz and Christian Spears are a dangerous combination of crazy-smart businessmen and talented brewers. Their marketing strategy from the very beginning was rooted in clever decisions. They consciously chose to emphasize "Tennessee" rather than "Nashville" in their name to claim status as a regional player instead of just a local brewery. Instead of going with puerile puns for the names of their beers, they pay homage to Music City's talented musical heritage with names like Country Roots and Cutaway IPA. Their tap handles at bars are even shaped like guitar headstocks.

Early on, they recognized the possibility of presenting a goof on the concept of "sessionable" beers with a nod to Nashville's legendary session musicians. They have just released the first in their "Tennessee Sessions" series of lower-alcohol brews with another already in the tanks and ready for release soon.

So what's a "sessionable beer?" According to the Brewers' Association, "Any style of beer can be made lower in strength than described in the classic style guidelines. The goal should be to reach a balance between the style’s character and the lower alcohol content. Drinkability is a character in the overall balance of these beers. Beers in this category must not exceed 4.1% alcohol by weight (5.1% alcohol by volume)."

What this means is that you can now enjoy more than one glass of their citrusy American Pale Session Ale without worrying about putting on your knee pads to crawl home. A sessionable version of their Blonde is also just about ready to go, so your easy-drinking options will soon double. Another bonus is that they are also lower in calories.

So head on down to their taproom at 809 Ewing Ave. between 4 and 8 p.m. on Thursday or Friday, 2 to 8 on Saturday or 2 to 6 on Sunday to enjoy a few of these tasty brews. Use the money you'll save on a cab home to buy yourself an extra pint!

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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Midtown Cafe Salutes Julia Child With Special Menus at Lunch and Dinner

Posted By on Wed, Jul 30, 2014 at 6:41 AM

With the influx of celebrity chefs and television personalities visiting Nashville to open restaurants or cook in local kitchens, it's important to take time remember the precursors who made culinary television possible and popular. And perched on top of that particular cake is the inimitable (well, not completely) Julia Child.

In honor of Child's upcoming birthday on Aug. 15, Midtown Cafe will recognize her with a special "Salute to Julia Child" menu. Diners can order French dishes such as vichyssoise, canard a l’orange, salade Niçoise and sole meunière for lunch and dinner from now through Sunday, Aug. 17, and a portion of the proceeds will benefit a scholarship fund at Nashville State Community College’s Randy Rayburn School of Culinary Arts.

Click here to view the Salute lunch menu and here to see the dinner menu.

For reservations, call 615-320-7176 or go to

"Save the liver!"

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