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Thursday, October 16, 2014

More National Ink for Nashville Restaurants

Posted By on Thu, Oct 16, 2014 at 8:26 AM

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The hits keep coming, and so do food writers from all over the country to Nashville to recognize the stellar dining scene we've got going on right here. Two more respected travel and lifestyle magazines have chosen to feature local eateries — and undoubtedly attract even more gastrotourists to town.

First off is Condé Nast Traveler, which has compiled a list of "The Best New Restaurants of the South." Unlike some other "Best of" lists that appear to have been researched strictly via the Web, Condé Nast's list was written by Hannah Raskin, the food writer and critic for Charleston's Post and Courier. She has previously served as a critic for the Dallas Observer and Seattle Weekly. I know Hannah personally and greatly respect her work, and I appreciate that Condé Nast sought out an expert to compile this list.

Of the eight new Southern restaurants on her list, a quarter of them are here in Nashville. Raskin recognizes the new outpost of Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint on Belmont Boulevard for bringing Pat Martin's brand of whole-hog to the city. While Martin's makes frequent appearances on rosters of the best barbecue joints, it's good to see Pat Martin recognized in a cohort with fine dining destinations.

Her second choice in Nashville is a little more off the national radar, but no less deserving of the recognition. Raskin shines her spotlight upon Thai Esane at the mouth of the Gulch on 12th Avenue South. She was impressed by Nina Sayasack's approach to Thai/Laotian cuisine and recommends the restaurant's soups, sausages and spring rolls. I heartily concur!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New East Nashville Food Tour Is Not Just for Tourists ... and Not Just About Food

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 11:46 AM

Cara Graham whips up cocktails at one food tour stop, Lockeland Table.
  • Cara Graham whips up cocktails at one food tour stop, Lockeland Table.

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  • Tour creator Karen-Lee Ryan at Marché
Shoe leather isn’t on the menu, but Karen-Lee Ryan is about to go through a lot of it.

Ryan, a former Tennessean reporter, launched the Walk Eat Nashville tours this fall as a way to show off the neighborhood she's come to love since first moving here in 2005.

Earlier this year Ryan participated in an entrepreneurship program at The Skillery to hone her business plan, learning that even East Nashvillians who love their 'hood and eating out felt like they couldn’t keep up with all the new restaurants on their side of town. And visitors wanted to uncover the local foodie scene they've heard so much about. So she worked with local restaurants and food-related businesses to create fun, tasty, interesting and time-efficient tours that appeal to both those who live down the street and those who live across the country.

Ryan is offering tours now on Thursdays (1:30 p.m.) and Fridays (11 a.m.), the idea being that if visitors take them early on in a trip to Music City they'll learn about places they want to check out in more depth on their own. Currently Walk Eat Nashville offers two tour routes, each with six eating stops, about 1.5 miles of walking over about two-and-a-half hours. New routes will be added in the future.

Possibilities include a Makers and Bakers route and a vegetarian option (currently vegetarian accommodations can be made with advance notice).

Ryan's ideal mix of tour-goers is one-third East Nashvillians, one-third folks from other parts of town and one-third visitors from elsewhere.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Nashville Predators Open the Season With New Dining Options

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 7:39 AM

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Tonight the puck drops for real for the first time this season at the Bridgestone Arena as the Nashville Predators start their 2014-15 run for the Stanley Cup. Like the team, loaded up with free agent players and only the second new head coach in their history, the dining staff at the 'Stone has also refreshed their menus with some new options.

Probably the most notable change is the departure of the Food Network-branded booth on the main concourse after the venue's contract with the network expired. It has been replaced with a Mexican-themed stand called Ole Mole, which will serve a variety of street-taco styled items including Mole Chicken, Smoked Brisket and Pork Carnitas plus Burrito Bowls and a heaping platter of nachos. The popular buffalo chicken mac 'n' cheese from the FN booth has been replaced (at least calorically) by a decadent Hat Trick Triple Pork Mac 'n' Cheese with barbecue pork shoulder, jalapeño bacon and fried pork rinds. Ay caramba!

Hockey fans who enjoyed the made-to-order burger bar on the Club level will now have the option of ordering a single, double or triple burger made with 4-ounce patties and garnished with a skewer of thick-sliced bacon.

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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Oak Bar at the Hermitage and Whiskey Kitchen Earn Bourbon Recognition

Posted By on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 7:53 AM

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The Bourbon Review, a well-respected journal among whiskey aficionados around the world, is celebrating its sixth anniversary of publication by releasing a list of America's 60 Best Bourbon Bars. Among that celebrated collection are two Nashville establishments, the Oak Bar and Whiskey Kitchen. (Actually, their list specifically mentions The Capitol Grille at the Hermitage, but the bourbon comes out of the Oak Bar.) They were recognized for their longtime excellence through a specific set of criteria.

According to BR editor Justin Thompson, each bar "needed to prominently display bourbon, educate patrons about bourbon and provide a superior selection. The winning bars also have a reputation for creating both unique and traditional bourbon cocktails."

From personal experience, I can confirm that both the Oak Bar and Whiskey Kitchen satisfy those conditions well, but I have to admit that I might not remember every part of the "education" the next morning. Four Roses Bourbon celebrated the winning bars all over the nation by organizing a virtual "toast" via social media, encouraging their fans to take part by tagging their favorite bar from the list with the hashtag #60Toast on Sept. 30.

I would have told you about that part of the celebration earlier, but I cannot go on record as an advocate of drinking and tweeting. Why don't you just drop by the Oak Bar or Whiskey Kitchen sometime this weekend and toast them in person?

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Monday, October 6, 2014

More Big Beer News: Picnic Tap, Beer Pale and Back Forty

Posted By on Mon, Oct 6, 2014 at 9:13 AM

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Covering the beer beat here at Bites has become almost like a job, albeit a job where I can drink while I work. So there's that. ... Two major taproom developments have started to pour in the past week, and a new Alabama brewery is finally bringing their wares to Music CIty. First, the new watering hole news:

After a soft opening last week at the Nashville Farmers' Market, The Picnic Tap is now serving pints and filling growlers from 15 taps situated along the Seventh Avenue side of the Market House. Eric Woodard is the man behind the bar and the whole project, and he's focusing on local and regional craft beers, plus a cider on tap as well. Current hours are 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday-Wednesday and 11 a.m.- 8 p.m. Thursday-Sunday, though The Picnic Tap may have to occasionally close early when special events are being held in the Market House. With the new Sounds ballpark flying up nearby in time for an anticipated April first pitch, The Picnic Tap should be well-positioned as a premier spot for lazy tailgating.

Over on the West Side, The Beer Pale has finally opened after months of anticipation. The taproom and restaurant has been serving lunch for the past week or so at 4109 Charlotte Ave. and plans to start opening for regular hours this week. With both indoor and outdoor seating, The Beer Pale also offers growler fills along with beer on tap and a menu of appetizers, small plates, salads and sandwiches. If you Bitesters make it to either of these two new taprooms before we do, please share your impressions in the comments.

Citywide, there's a new player in the craft beer movement: Back Forty Beer Co. is a brewery based in Gadsden, Ala.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Chef Arnold Myint Moonlights in Chicago

Posted By on Fri, Oct 3, 2014 at 7:31 AM

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Arnold Myint has been racking up the frequent flier miles of late. If you haven't seen him around town much, it's because he's been traveling to the coasts to work on television deals and, most recently, has been spending a lot of time in Chicago helping to revamp the food and drink menu at Taverna 750. The eatery closed for a short period to undergo an almost complete redecoration while Myint developed a menu revolving around his signature style of global tapas dishes and a new brunch offering.

Arnold's alter ego Suzy Wong takes the credit for the new cocktail menu at Taverna 750 with drinks like a Tequilla Spice, the Pistachio Sour and a Cucumber Caipirinha. The bar also serves the latest addition to Myint's expanding empire, his new wine Show Pony. Initial returns from the Windy City seem pretty positive, but it will be good to have Chef Myint back home for a little while.

We know he'll be in town because he is representing the state of California, where he's spent a lot of time lately, as Suzy Wong in the Miss Gay America 2015 pageant, which will be held here in Nashville at the Millennium Maxwell House Oct. 8-12. Here's hoping Arnold/Suzy make the best of the home team advantage.

Arnold and Suzy did make a television appearance recently, although it wasn't on Ru Paul's Drag Race. (Yet?) Erin Grinshpan cooked up some crab Rangoon with Arnold and then served it to Suzy as part of her Cooking Channel show, Log On and Eat. If you missed it, you can find the segment online here.

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Thursday, October 2, 2014

Corsair Hires Boscos' Acclaimed Ex-Brewer, Karen Lassiter

Posted By on Thu, Oct 2, 2014 at 8:04 AM

Karen Lassiter
  • Karen Lassiter
We told you last week that Fresh Hospitality had purchased the brewery equipment left idle after the sudden closing of Boscos, but now Corsair Distillery has picked up the most valuable asset from the shuttered brewpub: their brewer. Karen Lassiter used to visit Boscos as a member of the Music City Homebrew Club, and her brews won praise from other members. When she found herself downsized from a job in the printing business in 2007 and with positions in the industry proving difficult to find, she took that as a sign to pursue her hobby as a vocation.

After taking a correspondence course from the Siebel Institute of Technology in Chicago, Lassiter apprenticed for a few months at Blackstone and then asked Fred Scheer, the head brewer at Boscos if she could learn under his auspices. He said no, but Lassiter was not deterred, and went straight to the owners in Memphis to ask for an apprentice gig. Instead, they offered her a job as assistant brewer under Scheer, and she succeeded him as brewer in 2008 when he left to pursue another opportunity.

In addition to brewing Boscos' flagship products, Lassiter was known for her own creative recipes, experimenting with Old World styles and new American hoppy ales. She even played with some ancient Egyptian styles of beer to the delight of the bar patrons at Boscos.

So when the news of the brewpub's closing hit the street, Lassiter's fans immediately started an outcry to keep her in town. One of those fans was Darek Bell, the owner/distiller at Corsair. And he was just the man to do something about it.

“Whiskey is distilled beer,” says Bell, “and is made or broken as much in the mash tun as the still. Karen’s love of her craft makes her the perfect fit for Corsair.”

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Monday, September 29, 2014

Reverend Mudbone and Mill Creek: More New Brewery News

Posted By on Mon, Sep 29, 2014 at 8:24 AM

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  • RevMudbone.com
Well, that didn't take long.

The seven-barrel brewhouse system from the recently and suddenly shuttered Boscos location in Hillsboro Village has been purchased by Fresh Hospitality for use in their new brewpub concept, Jim Myers at The Tennessean reports. The new pub, we're told, will be called Reverend Mudbone's Homegrown Hopshine.

Myers further reports that the brewpub will be a part of Fresh's new multi-concept development in Germantown, with Cochon Butcher.

Clearly, Fresh has a financial headstart to be able to make this purchase so quickly, but that doesn't stop other brewery start-ups from trying. Down in Nolensville, Chris Going has plans to open Mill Creek Brewing Co.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

What's More Southern Fried Than a Hush Puppy?

Posted By on Thu, Sep 25, 2014 at 7:44 AM

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Columbia, Tenn., is the place to be this Friday and Saturday for a little Southern goodness as the annual Southern Fried Festival comes to town. The town square will be the site of two days of music, arts and crafts, a Kids Zone and plenty of fine food. There will also be a 5K race to burn off a few of those calories and the Bluegrass Bus Museum will be on site Saturday, filled with music memorabilia that date back to the 1930s. And, brace yourself: A Barney Fife impersonator will be performing from noon to 8 p.m. on Saturday to entertain Mayberry devotees.

The festival will also feature a Tennessee product that has been making a new push into the retail market, Savannah Classics Hushpuppies. Savannah? Tennessee? you might be asking. Well, yes, the Savannah in question is actually in the southwest corner of our state near Pickwick Lake. The area is known for its fried fish, specifically at Hagy's Catfish Hotel, a restaurant still owned by the Jim Hagy who also owns Chef's Market in Goodlettsville. The land has been in the Hagy family since 1825, when Henry Hagy and his wife Polly docked their flatboat and settled on several acres of bottom land.

An offshoot of frying up all that catfish was the development of a fine recipe for hush puppies, and patrons began to purchase the little golden morsels by the bagful out of the restaurant. This endeavor expanded into commercial sales to other restaurants and the building of a factory to produce thousands of hush puppies per day.

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Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Chef Carla Hall Working to Launch a Nashville-Style Hot Chicken Joint in New York

Posted By on Tue, Sep 23, 2014 at 8:04 PM

Hot chicken is so hot right now.

Not just hot, but hot-hot. As in everyone wants a little taste of it.

You can find the Nashville-style version on menus from Massachusetts, at State Park in Cambridge, to Australia, where former Husk chef de cuisine Morgan McGlone recently earned praise at Belles Hot Chicken in Melbourne. This past weekend, Andrew Zimmern devoted his Music City Food + Wine fest demo to "Globally Hot Chicken," and a new hot chicken joint called Party Fowl is scheduled to open in the Gulch this Sunday.

But the hottest hot chicken news of the day comes from Carla Hall, a Nashville native and celebrity chef (ABC's The Chew and Top Chef), who launched a Kickstarter campaign this evening to help market a Nashville-style hot chicken restaurant in New York City called Carla Hall's Southern Kitchen.

"It's a nice marriage between the old and the new," she tells Bites, explaining that she grew up on her grandmother's fried chicken and came to appreciate hot chicken later in life.

The idea for hot chicken as a theme for the restaurant evolved from that of meat-and-three. Her business partner had shown her a potential space that reminded her of the plate-lunch restaurants from home. Then she consulted advisers to hone the idea.

"I talked to Mario [Batali], and I really wanted to narrow it down and be very specific," she says, which led to her focus on hot chicken with lots of seasonal sides like collard greens, black-eyed peas, slaw, and carrot-raisin salad.

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