The second annual East Nashville Tomato Art Festival attracted hundreds to Art & Invention Gallery, headquarters for the extravaganza, which included tomato-inspired art, tomato decorating, a tomato toss, a Bloody Mary contest and a tomato recipe competition. A discerning panel of professional palates judged dozens of entries, and blue ribbons were awarded in six categories, with the best of show taken by Holly Burnett for her delectable tomato tart.
The happiest winner, though, was 9-year-old Olivia Tallent, who with her mother Tammy came up with a dessert recipe that incorporated tomatoes and watermelon. Conditions in the un-air-conditioned staging area weren’t ideal for tomato-watermelon popsicles, but the clean, fresh, compatible flavors of the two fruits, enlivened with slivers of fresh basil, managed to overcome their drippy consistency. One of the judges, Irma Paz-Bernstein, co-owner with her sisters of Las Paletas Mexican popsicles, was so impressed that she asked Olivia to come by the 12 South store and demonstrate her recipe, which follows:
2 frozen tomatoes (peel first, put in baggie and freeze whole)
1-2 cups chopped watermelon
1 cup sparkling wine
¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
Blend first three ingredients until smooth, add chopped basil. Freeze in individual serving sizes.
DiAnne Patrick, who lives close to the Cheatham County line, won two categories, sandwiches and salads, using some of the dozen tomato varieties she grows each summer. The sandwich recipe, for open-faced grilled cheese, segues nicely into the waning days of summer and football season:
Take one large loaf of very good French or Italian bread, slice in half lengthwise and briefly toast. Spread each side with a layer or pesto, then add slices of cheese. (She recommends white cheddar-chipotle.) Put under the broiler just until cheese gets soft, remove and place sliced tomato on top so that it sinks into the cheese. Cut bread into quarters.
Hunter Hodge, whose day job is overseeing print, radio and TV projects for Seigenthaler Public Relations, is a passionate home cook who inherited his love for the kitchen from his mother, Stella Mae Fleming Hodge, of Blackshear, Ga. A resident of Inglewood, he contributed a recipe for chilled green tomato soup with lump crab and avocado, a sophisticated use of that most Southern of delicacies.
2 onions sliced thin
6 Tbs. olive oil
6-8 cloves of garlic
4-8 jalapeño peppers, seeded and finely sliced
4 lbs. green tomatoes, quartered
6 cups chicken stock
3 tsp. ground cumin
Juice of 2 lemons
Salt and pepper to taste
1 lb. lump or backfin crab
4 avocados, diced
Cook onions in large pot over medium heat until soft (about 6-10 minutes). Add garlic and peppers, and cook another five minutes. Add chicken stock and tomatoes; raise the heat and bring to a boil. Once stock has been brought to a rolling boil, lower the heat and simmer another 10 minutes. Add cumin and cook another 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add lemon juice, tasting as you add to ensure the soup isn’t too acidic. Let cool.
Once cool, put soup in food processor a few cups at a time. Chill until cold. Right before serving, cut avocados into small cubes, add crabmeat and toss with fresh lemon juice. Put soup into cups or bowls. Top with crab and avocado, then a dollop of sour cream. Serves eight.
Cook’s note: try the soup in a shot glass with a little vodka, a raw oyster and Tabasco.
Ready to Rul
Layl’a Rul, the Chris Hyndman-conceived and Scott Alderson-cheffed “ultra lounge-boutique restaurant” in the building that briefly housed Chu, is now up and running and ready to admit attractive, stylish, appropriately dressed clients. Dinner patrons can indulge in the exotic cuisines of North Africa and the Mediterranean via the five-course prix fixe menu or the à la carte fare that draws from the same foreign shores. The former, priced from $36-$42 depending on your entrée choice, begins with a spread of Moroccan flat bread, custom-cured olives, hummus with walnut goat cheese, estate olive oil and pomegranate vinegar; proceeds through soup, salad and entrée courses; and concludes with dessert and Moroccan mint tea. The tastings menu will change frequently.
Heading the à la carte menu are Turkish cigars: herbs, feta, pistachios and lemon hand-rolled in a crispy yufka
wrapper with a pomegranate drizzle. Other small plates include an artisan cheese plate, a Marrakesh lamb kabob and a pizza pita with herbed roasted sirloin, Madeira mushrooms, St. Andre cheese and white truffle oil. Heartier appetites can find more substance in the filet, leg of lamb and Chesapeake flounder entrées. Dinner service is currently available Thursday through Saturday, with limited seatings beginning at 6 p.m. Call 620-6015 for more information. Meals are served on the first-floor level; once dining has ended, the nightclub/lounge on the second floor gets the party started.
Expect a stylish though slightly more subdued vibe at The Grape, the new wine bar and restaurant that opened July 19 in Spaces on Highway 100 in Belle Meade. The Grape is a Southern-born concept with other locations in Atlanta and Birmingham; managing partners for the Nashville outpost are Nick Jacobson and Joe Gordy.
The wine bar features more than 120 offerings—by the glass or half-glass—all in The Grape’s copyrighted 10-point classification system, which arranges wines into different categories by color, flavor and body. Glasses range from $5 to $20; bottles range from under $10 to more than $100. The accompanying French and Med-influenced menu of appetizers, spreads, quesadillas, crepes, cheeses, salads, sandwiches and sweets is priced from $5 to $15. Besides wining and dining, there will be live music, wine tastings, a wine club and wine dinners. The Grape, at 6000 Highway 100, is open 11 a.m.-11 p.m. weekdays, until midnight Saturdays, and until 10 p.m. Sundays. Check www.yourgrape.com
for menus and more information; phone: 353-5604.