Tuesday, June 14, 2016

John McDougal to Open The Old Gas Station, a Craft Beer Bar, in The Nations

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 12:12 PM

click to enlarge The interior of The Old Gas Station, under construction - PHOTO COURTESY OF JOHN MCDOUGAL
  • Photo courtesy of John McDougal
  • The interior of The Old Gas Station, under construction
John McDougal, a founder of the popular McDougal's Chicken Fingers and Wings in Hillsboro Village, is working to open a new craft beer bar called The Old Gas Station this summer in the booming West Nashville neighborhood The Nations.

The location is 5205 Centennial Blvd., one block west of the intersection of Centennial and 51st Avenue North, my Nashville Post colleague William Williams reports. As the bar's name suggests, the property was formerly a gas station. McDougal, who opened McDougal's Chicken with his brother Tommy way back in 2004, says The Old Gas Station's cuisine will differ significantly from the fryer-centric menu at McDougal's.

“The Old Gas Station will be the opposite of what I’m used to,” he tells the Post. “We will have no fryers, no flat tops and no vent hoods. So the menu will be simple yet effective.” As for the craft beer component, McDougal said he will start with 12 taps but can expand that number as needed.

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It's Hot and You Need a Drink! Try an Adult Slush — a Frosé, Perhaps?

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 9:33 AM

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Back in my younger, though of legal drinking age days, the fun thing to do when attending a summertime outdoor event was to go to the 7-Eleven and get a coke (I mean, cola) Slurpee (aka slush, slushie, or Icee), slurp a little down and add rum or Jack Daniels and mix. Though I'm sure this beverage would still taste delicious, my tastes have refined a bit. My love of a slush continues, though.

I'm not alone. The internet is blowing up with pictures and recipes for frosé, which is just frozen rosé blended with fruit and sugar for a delicious frozen beverage at home. This is, of course, not news to a certain generation of women who drank partially frozen Riunité Lambrusco in the 1970s. But I digress.

A great rosé to try for your first (or next) frosé is Bisol's Jeio Cuvée Rosé. It's made with merlot and pinot nero grapes for a beautiful pink color, and it's not overly sweet, with hints of actual rose (the flower) and cherry. It's great for sipping, but if you perhaps have some left over (it happens!), freezing it with some simple syrup and a flavored liqueur or concentrate (such as what you'd use in a soda machine) would make a nice treat for the next day. There are tons of recipes for ideas; I also like the idea of using frozen strawberries with a touch of lemon juice. 

Another to try is Gancia Prosecco. It's the typical light yellow-green of prosecco, so it would pair nicely with some elderflower liqueur or grenadine to make a great slush. Apple flavoring or a mango-kiwi combo would work, if that's your jam. Again, this is an excellent prosecco to drink on its own or with a light summer meal of pasta and seafood, but if you find yourself with leftovers, slushing it is a great idea. Bubbles don't keep well.

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Take Me Out to the Ballgame With Chef Andy Little of Josephine at The Band Box

Posted By on Tue, Jun 14, 2016 at 8:56 AM

click to enlarge Young chef/phenom Andy Little - FACEBOOK
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  • Young chef/phenom Andy Little
I'm already a big fan of The Band Box, Strategic Hospitality's fun take on ballpark fare at Fist Tennessee Park, the home of the Nashville Sounds, but a recent announcement has raised the bar on stadium food, at least for one night. This Thursday, June 16, chef Andy Little of Josephine will be taking a break from the kitchen at his popular 12South bistro to cook at the ballpark.

He'll be serving a delectable dish of loaded beef cheek tater tots, with horseradish, spring onion and chili oil at The Band Box at a pop-up for the evening. A serving will be $8, and once they're gone, they're gone. But if they're a hit, Little says, “I may even come back again, who knows?”

Thursday's Sounds game versus Round Rock begins at 7:05 p.m., and gates will open one hour prior to the first pitch. Tickets can be purchased ahead of time from the Sounds website or the night of the game. You don't need a special ticket to get into The Band Box. As long as you're in the ballpark, you can join in the fun!

Alternately, if you'd like a slightly elevated version of the dish, you can order a secret off-the-menu item at Josephine.

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Monday, June 13, 2016

Road Trip Monday: Get Thee to Paducah

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 9:49 AM

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Now that the kiddos are out of school for the summer, I'm sure lots of Bitesters are looking for summer road-trip ideas. Since I am sans enfants myself, some of my recommendations tend to trend toward adult destinations, but I'll try to keep you breeders in mind as I make a few Monday Road Trip suggestions over the next couple of months.

My first recommended destination is a town which many Nashvillians have probably only driven through on the way to the closest casino, Paducah, Ky. But let me tell you you're missing out if you barrel through that burg on the way to Harrah's in Metropolis, Il. Like Stacey's mom, Paducah's got it goin' on.

The town of about 25,000 residents has a thriving arts scene, with painters and sculptors working and displaying their wares in galleries all over the Lower Town Arts District. The city is especially known for quilting and fabric arts and hosts an annual festival celebrating these crafts. It has even been named a member of the Unesco Creative Cities list, quite a feat for such a small town.

On the food and drink front, Paducah has plenty to offer, including a noted farm-to-table restaurant named Freight House. Being that it is a Kentucky restaurant, the bar at Freight House also features more than 150 bourbons. There are also spirits being distilled in Paducah in the form of corn likker from The Moonshine Company. As far as flavored moonshines go, this one has one a few awards, so if that's your thing, go for it.

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Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin' Winner Is a Sweet One

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 8:43 AM

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This year's Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin' was once again an ice cream lover's dream, with scoops of frozen treats in just about every flavor imaginable. As in years past, there were several crankers with similar ideas (several pistachio flavors this year, for example, though all very different) along with some truly unique flavors. There were also the old reliable crankers: past years' winners and contestants sampling crowd favorites.

I tasted a lot of great ice creams this year, and among my favorites were a lemon cheesecake, vanilla ginger snap, dulce de leche crunch (I make sure to get this every year), wildflower honey, glazed donut [sic], pistachio, and a pecan praline. I also really liked the Cheerwine ice cream, "Calvin's Key Lime Covenant" (with bonus nonedible portrait of John Calvin himself), "Dipped Chip Hooray" (chocolate-covered potato chips with maraschino cherries), and a root beer float ice cream. My daughter was a big fan of "Halloween in June," which was crammed full of candy as well as a really good lemonade ice cream.

Lemons, peaches, strawberries and blueberries were common ingredients, but there were ice creams made with some unusual flavors, including sassafras, butternut squash, black walnut and sweet potato pie. There were also a number of ice creams that added a bit of heat, with cinnamon and other spice and even sriracha. "Freeze the Bern" made its statement with dark chocolate ice cream filled with red hots.

But ultimately, the prizes were awarded to just a few. No doubt judging was difficult with such a strong group of contenders. Here are the winners, including some familiar names (past winners):

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Sinema Rolls Out Summer Drink Menu

Posted By on Mon, Jun 13, 2016 at 8:11 AM

click to enlarge Mango Unchained
  • Mango Unchained
I first met Sinema beverage director Ryan Yamada when he was behind the stick at Embers. At the time he was a new arrival to Nashville from New Orleans, but it hasn't taken long for him to make an impact on his new town. I dropped by Sinema to sample through a few of his new cocktails on the summer menu, and I'm thinking you might want to do the same thing soon.

"I'm all about fun and accessible cocktails," Yamada said when I asked him about his philosophy. "I'm not into high-brow techniques. I want these drinks to be super refreshing." The first cocktail I sampled was a great representation of this ideal, a shandy made from Chattanooga 1816 Reserve Whiskey and Tennessee Brew Works' Southern Wit beer. The Belgian white beer plays nicely with a housemade lavender syrup, strawberry syrup and lemon juice to create a balanced cocktail that tastes like summer in a glass. He calls this one the Chattanooga Brew Choo.

Yamada also likes experiential cocktails, and his new Those Summer Nights is intended to take you someplace in your mind as you sip on the elegant drink served in a coupe glass. Cathead Honeysuckle Vodka and a splash of jasmine extract added to the surface of the drink, providng the floral characteristics that are evocative of a field of flowers, and jasmine leaves sprinkled on top of the egg white foam contributes a visual representation as well. I'm not always a fan of egg-white drinks, but Yamada dry-shakes this particular cocktail to foam up the egg for a lovely mouthfeel, and the floral elements mask any slight rotten egg aroma that can sometimes be the bane of an egg drink.

My favorite drink of all that I tried was the clever Mango Unchained, and not just because movie puns are always appreciated in a restaurant called Sinema. This particular cocktail is based on Jameson Irish Whiskey, an often overlooked spirit when it comes to cocktails. Mixed with mango puree, Hellfire bitters and a jalapeño simple syrup, this drink is full of delicious contradictions. It was hot and cold at the same time, sweet from mango and tart from lemon juice, and ultimately refreshing, and I enjoyed the ride immensely as the heat built up over time.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Weekly Open Thread: What's Your Favorite Ice Cream Flavor, Homemade or Otherwise?

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 at 9:12 AM

click to enlarge Pints from Jeni's - PHOTO: SINCLAIR KELLY
  • Photo: Sinclair Kelly
  • Pints from Jeni's
As Lesley Lassiter reminds us, this Sunday is the great annual event, Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin' and Summer Social. It's always quite the extravaganza. The competition is fierce, since making homemade ice cream has been a Nashville tradition forever, and the creativity of the scores of entries is impressive.

I haven't made ice cream since childhood, but I sure do love it. When I get the homemade stuff it's a thrill, but I'm also happy to visit my neighborhood Jeni's or Legato Gelato, which is also nearby.

The great thing about the Miss Martha's Crankin' is your 10 bucks (or $13 at the door) not only gets you access to amazing ice cream samples, but it benefits the Martha O'Bryan Center.

In the meantime, Open Thread wants to know: What's your favorite ice cream, whether it's homemade or store-bought? And this is the Open Thread, so what else is on your mind this week?

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Recap: Nashvillians Shine at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 at 8:34 AM

click to enlarge Worley, table for one
  • Worley, table for one
The popular Atlanta Food and Wine Festival was held last weekend (June 2-5) in and around the Loews Atlanta Hotel in Midtown. Unlike some other food festivals that bring in chefs and food celebrities from around the country to cook with local talent, the AFWF concentrates on Southern chefs, so it was an easy reach for them to grab some notable Nashville talent to cook at special dinners around town, present at educational seminars and feature at the popular tasting tents.

I attended two presentations that featured local talent, and they all made our fair city look even fairer.

click to enlarge Charlie and Andy Nelson of Green Brier Distillery
  • Charlie and Andy Nelson of Green Brier Distillery
Charlie and Andy Nelson of Nelson's Green Brier Distillery led a seminar they called "Dissecting a Distillery from A-Z," where they took the audience alphabetically though what it takes to open a spirits manufacturing facility. In addition to sampling their Belle Meade Bourbon as part of a delicious julep, the Nelsons also plied their students with some 15 Hands, a Black Abbey beer aged in Green Brier's whiskey barrels.

Karl Worley, the head dishwasher and co-owner of Biscuit Love, teamed up with Josephine pastry chef for a seminar titled "Biscuits, Donuts and Bourbon." You can guess who was responsible for each part of the title, especially if you know that I was the session moderator and thus responsible for the brown likker. The sold-out seminar taught attendees the ins and out of doughnut making and how to prepare Worley's legendary Family Reserve biscuits and Sharon Benton's famous two ingredient biscuit recipe. There might have been a game of biscuit pong played as well ...

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Thursday, June 9, 2016

New City Winery Chef Unveils His First Menu

Posted By on Thu, Jun 9, 2016 at 8:09 AM

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Last month, the City Winery team announced they had hired experienced Nashville chef Garrett Pittler as their new top toque, replacing Kristin Beringson, who has moved into the kitchen at Silo. Chef Pittler's name might sound familiar to Scene readers, as our own Nicki Pendleton Wood was quite taken by his work back when he opened his own French bistro at Chelsea Bistro. While that restaurant proved to literally be a little bit too far out (in Whites Creek) to attract a sustainable dining crowd from Nashville, the general consensus was that Pittler had nothing to be ashamed of from his efforts to make it work.

So it's exciting that he has moved from his next gig as chef tournant at the Omni Hotel to helming the kitchen at City Winery. Pittler's first new menu at the restaurant/entertainment venue features a few old favorites like the Arancini (fried rice balls containing prosciutto and fontina in an arrabbiata sauce) and a bone marrow dish (because it's apparently now the law to have that on a Nashville menu) plus some nice bistro-style dishes like mussels served with fennel, chardonnay broth and grilled bread and coq au vin with mashed potatoes and wine jus.

There are also several flatbread options and a couple of steaks for heartier appetites. From the shorter event menu, concertgoers can snack on a selection of small plates such as a giardiniera plate and marinated olives or larger plates of charcuterie, flatbreads or salads. Because now that some of us have reached a more ... ahem ... mature age but still want to catch a show every now and then, it's nice to have something healthier than Station Inn popcorn to nosh on. But there's also a pretty respectable burger on the show menu if you need some late-night sustenance.

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Wednesday, June 8, 2016

First Bite: Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge

Posted By on Wed, Jun 8, 2016 at 8:23 AM

click to enlarge A little bit of Mexico in West Nashville
  • A little bit of Mexico in West Nashville
People often ask me what sort of restaurant I'd like to see in Nashville or what I'd do if I had a couple million dollars to spend on a new concept. Those are actually two different questions, because if somebody spotted me that much money to build a new spot, I'd probably put a Chipotle in Germantown and pocket the leftover change instead of building out an architectural marvel in a burgeoning neighborhood. But aside from just trying to guess what might kill as a concept, one thing I've often said I would love to see and that would have a great shot of succeeding would be a real high-end Latin American restaurant like a Rick Bayless concept. ¿Frontera Nashville? ¡Claro que sí!

So I had high hopes when I heard of Jonathan Waxman's latest Nashville project over in West Nashville, Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge. Described as a more elaborate expression of Bajo Sexto's downtown taqueria location, with talented Oaxacan chef Kaelin Trilling at the helm of the kitchen, this new spot is located in the former Batey's Muffler Shop on Charlotte Avenue. 

I had recently donated a package to a St. Jude's Children's Hospital auction that included signed copies of my three books and the chance to come along with me on a First Bite trip, so the opening of BSTL offered the perfect opportunity to try out the new location. After a short delay when the lovely couple accidentally went to the original Bajo Sexto downtown, we met up on a sunny day in front of the attractive new location.

Appropriate to the building's past life as a muffler shop, the large garage doors in the front of the restaurant were opened to an expansive deck with about 20 tables full of buzzing diners. In fact, the whole neighborhood was hopping at lunchtime. With Bajo Sexto situated across the street from Wendell Smith's meat-and-three/liquor/beer/convenience store complex and next store to Hattie B's and Bobbi's Dairy Dip, that particular block of Charlotte should be able to satisfy just about any craving you might have.

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