Responsible Epicurean and Agricultural Leadership (REAL) is a growing national program that helps combat diet-related disease by recognizing food-service operators committed to holistic nutrition and environmental stewardship. Tennessee’s inaugural class of REAL Certified foodservice establishments includes many of my favorite restaurants: 1808 Grille, The Barn and Main House at Blackberry Farm, Frothy Monkey, The Garden Brunch Cafe, Joe Natural’s Cafe, Juice Bar, My Veggie Chef, Sky Blue Cafe, Sloco, Sunflower Cafe, The Wild Cow and the new Music City Center. “We’re pleased to recognize these leaders who are providing food that is not only good for business, but also good for Tennesseans,” said Eat REAL Project Manager Kristen Korzenowski. “These operators are contributing to a culture where the healthy choice is the easy choice.”
Eat REAL Tennessee reached out to local restaurants to educate them about the new program and encourage them to apply for certification. Utilizing the points-based REAL Index, independent registered dietitians conduct an assessment of menu offerings and overall nutrition and sustainability practices.
From 5 to 7 p.m. tomorrow, Hard Rock Cafe at 100 Broadway will be hosting their “Sing for Your Supper” event. As a way to promote their new menu, Hard Rock is offering a free entrée from the new menu tonight to anyone who performs a complete song on the live music stage. The restaurant says the new menu is a result of extensive customer research that resulted in the addition of 30 new items and modifications to 28 other items for a completely revamped menu.
Out in Bellevue, Domino’s Pizza has informed us (actually, they informed SouthComm staffer J.R. Lind, who can’t figure out how he got on the Domino’s media contact list) that they will be serving free pizza and their new “Specialty Chicken” to folks waiting in line at the post office at 7619 Highway 70 S. That’s the location in the strip mall across from the old Bellevue Mall. Domino’s will be handing out the free food from 2 to 4 p.m. to anyone waiting in line to mail their tax returns at the Bellevue post office. If, like I do, you file electronically, you may be able to snag a slice if you stop in to buy stamps or just to say hello.
And in Green Hills, one of Nashville’s newest food trucks — excuse me, “Chinese Bao Bus,” Bao Down will be serving up bao (buns) at Kohana Japanese restaurant at 2002 Richard Jones Road for Bao Day Happy Hour from 5 until 7:30 p.m.
Chef Donnie Counts came on board earlier this year after opening chef Kenneth Jenkins had a medical issue and decided to step down. The Gray's folks sought to find another chef who shared their vision for what the restaurant should be. Counts had approached Gray’s owners, Michael and Joni Cole and Andy Marshall, when he wanted to relocate to the area. Since Chef Counts has worked all over the middle, deep and coastal South, his background perfectly suited Gray’s mission of serving traditional yet eclectic food from all over the South. According to Marshall, “Donnie's experience — and grasp of flavors he brought from the coastal Carolinas — paired well with our original vision for Gray’s.”
One of the new menu items — the Jack and Coke Bread Pudding — was actually what sealed the deal for the new chef during the interview process. I tried it at the end of my visit, and it is truly fantastic, though I couldn’t help but think that a few chunks of Olive and Sinclair chocolate would take it to the next level. (Though what doesn’t benefit from the addition of chocolate?) Among the other items I tried was the new Grilled Pear Pizza, which pairs the pears with arugula, mozzarella and cambozola, which is a cheese that’s essentially a combination of gorgonzola and brie. These flavors blend together incredibly well and are served on a perfect thin and crisp crust.
Levitski shot to fame as a runner-up on season three of Top Chef and parlayed that success into Sprout, a well-received 35-seat new-American-style restaurant in the Windy City. More recently, Levitski opened Frog 'n Snail, but both closed last fall after he left to take a hiatus.
Bites talked briefly with Levitski last week as he was weighing Nashville and a few other cities. He liked his experience and wondered if his style would fly here.
In a statement today, Levitski confirmed the move.
“I am thrilled to be joining one of the hottest food scenes in the country,” said Levitski. “While Chicago will always be my beloved hometown, what really excites me about Nashville is the energy and support for the culinary scene. More specifically, the team behind this project, the space in which it will grow, and the high quality of service are all in line with my goals, and I know it’s going to be a fantastic result.”
Colin Reed, partner/owner in the as yet unnamed project, was very high on Levitski's ability.
“Levitski will instantly elevate and add to the Nashville dining scene, which continues to enjoy the national spotlight,” said Reed. “It was very quickly evident that he was the ideal talent for this project. When he began discussing his vision for the food, it was as if he had a script of conversations we’d had internally.”
While chef at Sprout, Levitski was semifinalist for a 2011 James Beard award in the ultra-competitive Great Lakes region. He and his restaurants have received numerous honors.
Bites had a few chances to eat there in 2010 and 2011 and loved it. Levitski married technical excellence with creative dishes for a pretty unique experience. Tribune critic Phil Vittel gave it three stars.
Just listing a single dish's components takes almost as much space as the preamble to the Constitution.
"My goal," Levitski joked to me, "is to give you carpal tunnel."
He treats his menu engraver more kindly. Every single dish, desserts included, is described by a single word. "Bitters rabbit chocolate" isn't an Easter confection; it's a three-course dinner.
"Rabbit," however, turns out to be pan-seared loin pieces draped over Levitski's ethereal truffled gnocchi, along with peas, asparagus, hazelnuts and dribbles of lemon-scented jus. "Artichoke" is a light, clean, breath-of-spring salad with tatsoi (a cabbage-y Asian green), hearts of palm and watermelon radish. "Beef" does, in fact, contain beef, but it's a thin, carpaccio-like ribbon encircling a smoked-trout salad (the true star of the dish, sez me), a surf-and-turf for the 21st century.
And then there is the veal loin, a sensational, crispy-skinned loin stuffed with a forcemeat of veal sausage and porcini mushrooms. Next to the thick-sliced veal are planks of crisped polenta, huckleberry-braised cippolini onions and a slightly tart sauce of veal stock and braising liquid. For a cutting-edge chef, Levitski enjoys a good meat-and-starch dish.
Desserts are equally whimsical. There's a textural thrill ride in the corn and black-truffle bread pudding, with sweet-corn gelato, popcorn and caramel-dipped corn kernels. Syrup-poached rhubarb and strawberries with sugar-dusted beignets and marcona-almond gelato is like gussied-up county-fair fare. My favorite might be the deconstructed lemon tart, which features scoops of lemon curd and whipped cream atop overlapping pieces of tart-cherry pound cake. Wisps of cardamom and pink peppercorn add a touch of the exotic.
While it's a little old, this 2009 profile of Levitski from when he began at Sprout is well worth reading.
For example, I absolutely love the biscuit bar that’s available for breakfast, lunch,and dinner (as it should be). I tend to have low expectations for a hotel restaurant’s biscuits, but these are truly fantastic. And lard-free. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a better biscuit, save for my great-grandmother's.
Anyway, once in a while the chefs get to stretch their legs a bit to feature cuisine from beyond the Mason-Dixon line. Omni Hotels & Resorts has partnered with the wineries of Washington State to create a limited-time promotion they call Taste Washington. So in addition its regular menu, Kitchen Notes is offering a dinner menu based on Washington state specialties, including a cheese plate, Dungeness crab fritters and a Dungeness crab and snap-pea soup, a salad and dessert featuring Washington apples, and roasted salmon.
But don't just go for the entertainment; the menu is great, too. There are some Asian fusion specialties such as a fried rice skillet with a fried egg on top and panko-crusted fried chicken and waffles (topped with bacon) and brunch standards such as a sweet waffle, California BLT, omelette and a variety of breakfast and brunch items (eggs, bacon, fruit) a la carte.
The team's mission to provide the east side with fresh and affordable options extends to hosting both a new farmers market each Monday from 4 to 7 p.m., and a series of pop-up restaurants in partnership with other folks who share the same culinary goals.
The first of these pop-up restaurants starts this Friday with Deli House, a Chicago-style deli set up by Caroline and Tony Galzin of Sycamore Nashville. They’re ex-pat Chicagoans who wanted to bring some of their favorites to Nashville.
Deli House Chicago-Style Pop-Up Deli
Fridays, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.
Boone and Sons Neighborhood Market
1201 Porter Road
Two Nashville restaurants which were named semifinalists for Best New Restaurant — The 404 Kitchen and Pinewood Social — failed to make the short list as Beard judges selected three New York City places, one from San Francisco and one from New Orleans to advance.
In a ceremony held at Publican in Chicago, the list of 20 semifinalists was cut down to five finalists for Best Chef- Southeast. This will be Wilson's second straight trip to New York as a finalist. Other chefs nominated from the region include Kathy Cary (Lilly's, Louisville, Ky.), Ashley Christensen (Poole's Diner, Raleigh, N.C.), Edward Lee (610 Magnolia, Louisville) and Steven Satterfield (Miller Union, Atlanta).
The awards ceremony will be held in New York City on May 5.
The only other nominee from Tennessee is The Barn at Blackberry Farm in Walland, which was selected as a finalist for Outstanding Wine Program.
Two chefs with Nashville ties were also named finalists. Jonathan Waxman, who announced a new restaurant coming to the Gulch last week, was shortlisted for Best Chef-New York, while Husk's Sean Brock made the final list for Oustanding Chef, considered the biggest of the chef awards. He was nominated for his work at McCready's in Charleston, S.C.
Last week, the Scene sat down with the three Beard seminfinalists from Nashville — Wilson, Matt Bolus of The 404 Kitchen and Josh Habiger of Pinewood Social — to talk about the process and what Beard awards can mean for a restaurant.
In a lunch interview at Fido, we sat down with Tandy Wilson of City House, Josh Habiger of Pinewood Social and Matt Bolus of The 404 Kitchen — this year's Beard award nominees from Nashville — to talk about awards, how they affect a restaurant and other things. It's in the print edition.
But there were a few things that didn't fit in the space that were worth sharing ...
So, what are you looking at for feedback on your work?
Habiger: As a cook, I would imagine we're all going to be like this: We're our toughest critics. I mean, I hate everything I do.
Bolus: You're the most mad when you know you've done something wrong and somebody says it's not good. You always do what you think is the right thing to do. If somebody says they don't like it, what do you do? I get it. It's like the guy who ordered the radish banh mi and said, "It's got an anchovy taste to it. I hate it" All right. He didn't understand what it was and sent it back. I didn't take it personally.
Habiger: Yeah, we have the audacity to put anchovies on our Caesar salad. And people freak the fuck out.
Wilson: Do they really?
Habiger: Oh yeah.
Wilson: We go through record numbers of anchovies now.
Bolus: I used to get that complaint all the time in Charleston. "Can I get that Caesar with no anchovies?" You KNOW that's in the dressing, right?
Habiger: They're like "I know it's in the dressing, but I don't want to see it on the plate."
Bolus: They've been told not to like it.
Wilson + Habiger: Exactly.
Bolus: They probably don't realize that we're not using the shitty, canned, dried out, nasty ones. They're these nice, white ones that have a different flavor.
The Jonathan Waxman restaurant we told you about a few weeks ago has a name: Adele's.
The announcement came via press release this morning:
The 1210 McGavock Street Hospitality Partners’ Ken Levitan, Jonathan Waxman and Howard Greenstone are pleased to announce they have signed a lease to open Adele’s by Jonathan Waxman. Scheduled to open summer 2014 in a 1950s automotive garage at 1210 McGavock Street in Nashville’s Gulch neighborhood, Adele’s — named after chef Waxman’s mother — will feature a wood-burning grill, open kitchen with chef’s counter, and outdoor patio, with a rustic and seasonal menu of locally sourced ingredients.
Levitan, Waxman and Greenstone plan to restore the building to its original condition, keeping the bowstring ceilings, large multi-paned windows and five rolling garage doors. Adele’s by Jonathan Waxman will offer an 80-seat dining room, 35-seat private dining room and a bar and outdoor patio accommodating approximately 100 guests.
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