There’s an oddball in every family, and chef Jason McConnell claims the position by virtue of his position. “Everyone in my family is in the Tennessee walking horse business but me,” he admits. Considering the problems that have recently wracked that industry, he may have no problem finding help for his just-opened restaurant, Red Pony. Located in a century-old building on historic Main Street in downtown Franklin, the two-story restaurant has the original hardwood floors, exposed brick and high ceilings that mark structures of that era, though, he says, the second floor will have a more contemporary cast than the first. There will be bars on both levels.
McConnell high-stepped out of Tennessee to Hyde Park, N.Y., to attend the Culinary Institute of America. After graduation, he eventually made his way back home and took a position under chef Margot McCormack, who was then running the kitchen at F. Scott’s. After she left to open Margot Café in East Nashville, McConnell worked his way up to executive chef at the Green Hills restaurant, then briefly ran an 11,000-square-foot microbrewery in Arkansas. Neither the work nor the location agreed with him, and he came back, settling in Franklin with his wife and toddler son. “Nashville has so many new restaurants opening right now that it made more sense to do something in Franklin, especially since we live there. I think there is a need in Williamson County for more independent restaurants.”
McConnell worked for a few months in one of those new Nashville restaurants, Watermark, before taking possession of the building at 408 Main St. in late winter. He recruited Carl Schultheis, another graduate of the F. Scott’s kitchen, to come on board as his chef de cuisine. The food, he says with a laugh, will be “ecelectic,” referring to one of President Bush’s recent word mangles. “It will be Southern-based, straightforward, with lots of seafood; ethnic influences will be primarily Latin, with some Asian as well.” Expect appetizers to be in the $8 to $13 range, with entrées priced from $16 to $29. Red Pony opened on Labor Day for dinner, which will be the only meal it serves, at least for now. For reservations, call 595-5669.
Hit the bottle
On Sept. 14, Tayst restaurant will uncork a selection of premium and unique wines on their list to accompany a five-course meal prepared by chef Jeremy Barlow. Wine Hedonism 2006 is also a preview of the autumnal menus on the way. Tuscan Wabbit Fricassee is paired with Rocca Guicciarda Chinti Riserva ’99, followed by bacon-wrapped veal rack accompanied by Jim Barry McRea Wood Shiraz ’99. There will be no instructors or sales reps on hand, and the sommelier promises not to bludgeon guests with insufferable wine-speak. Dinner begins at 7 p.m. and costs $85 per person; call 383-1953 for reservations.
Tayst has also completed the construction of a new patio to the right of the entrance on 21st Avenue South just in time for cooler temperatures. Wrought-iron tables can be reserved for after-work cocktails, dinner or a late-night glass of wine; smoking will be permitted on the patio. Tayst is at 2100 21st Ave. S.
In Metro Council’s oft-painful, sometimes amusing history of nutty ideas, few have been more out there than erstwhile councilman George Darden’s proposal that the city attempt to welcome beings from Out There by constructing a landing pad for space visitors, because naturally, if aliens were to come to Earth, Nashville is where they would want to be. (I am not making this up.) The mammoth round, white structure that covers the park across Fourth Avenue South from the Schermerhorn Symphony Hall almost seemed to vindicate Wallace, until inquiries revealed that it is not a spaceship, but Elton John’s tent, apparently the only one in the South (it resides in Atlanta) large enough to seat 1,000 people. It has been rented to serve as the dining room for the white-tie, $2,500-per-person Symphony Gala chaired by Julie Boehm and Ellen Martin on Saturday, Sept. 9, the grand opening of the multimillion-dollar showplace.
Randy Rayburn headed the food committee, and recruited three Nashville culinary maestros to orchestrate the three-course menu: Deb Paquette, Willy Thomas and Brian Uhl. Caterer Charlie Kates will conduct the staff for the dinner, which has a shopping list that requires 100 pounds of jumbo lump crabmeat, 200 pounds of fresh Hawaiian tuna flown in from Honolulu, 100 pounds of goat cheese, 700 pounds of Snake River Farms beef tenderloin ($40 per pound), 200 pounds of Maine lobster meat, 300 racks of lamb, 900 jumbo prawns and 25 bushels of English peas.
The dinner will follow the Inaugural Concert; Gala guests will return to the Hall for dancing on the convertible flat-floor system, desserts and champagne.
If barbecue and blues are more your speed, head to Cookeville Sept. 8 and 9 for the annual Cookeville Cookoff, where 30 barbecue teams will compete for the title of Tennessee State Champion in four categories: chicken, pork ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket. First place in each category wins $500, and the Reserve Grand Champion pockets $750, as well as an automatic entry in the Kansas City Barbecue Society National Invitational and eligibility for the Jack Daniel’s Invitational Drawing. The champion will be crowned on stage Saturday at 3 p.m., after which patrons can purchase barbecue from the teams. The KCBS trailer will sell grilling supplies, sauces and other barbecue accoutrements. For more information on the pig-out, go to www.fallfunfest.com.
Liver, let live
On Monday, Sept. 25, the Country Music Hall of Fame will host a culinary hall of fame of sorts when 14 local independent restaurants participate in the American Liver Foundation Mid-South Chapter 2006 fundraiser. Flavors of Nashville assigns to each table of 10 a chef responsible for designing and preparing a five-course dinner on site. Capitol Grille executive chef Tyler Brown will serve as top toque. Others packing their knives for a night at the Hall include Bound’ry’s Ted Prater, Sambuca’s Stephen Shires, Mambu’s Corey Griffith, Watermark’s Joe Shaw, Radius10’s Jason Brumm and Mad Platter’s Craig Jervis.
The evening begins at 6 with a cocktail reception and silent auction; dinner will commence at 7:30. For more information, go to www.liverfoundation.org
, click on Chapters, then go to Mid-South Chapter.