Nashville is So Hot Right Now

November 13, 2012 § Leave a comment

Nashville is in the national press again. After moving here, I kept trying to figure out if all the articles and snapshots of Nashville that kept popping up were always there or if I was just more aware now since I lived here. I think it is undeniable though– with GQ renaming the city Nowville, a restaurant topping everybody’s list across the country and now it’s own hit TV show–it’s official, Nashville is a hot spot.

That’s why I wasn’t surprised to come across another article in NY Mag about the city last week, The Urbanist’s Guide to Nashville. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. With four friends coming in from out of town this weekend, I was searching for the best itinerary to show off the many facets of Nashville and wanted to fit in the best of food, bars and unique things to do here. Things just got a lot easier. Enjoy the spotlight, Nashville!

Top Chef Season 10 Premiere

November 8, 2012 § 1 Comment

I am so excited to the see the return of  one of my favorite shows, Top Chef. If you are as big a fan as I am, I hope you’ll be happy to hear that I’ll be recapping each episode here this season so you don’t miss a thing.

Last night’s Season 10 Premiere feels more like a pre-episode since we see the judges whittling down competing chefs to see who actually will go to Seattle. The judges who include Tom Colichio, Hugh Acheson and (newly added!) Wolfgang Puck, each have their own test for the cheftestants.

First, we’re at Craft with Tom and his hopefuls who he has working on different tasks in the kitchen. We meet John Tesar who we learn was voted “most hated chef in Dallas”-a title he wears with pride. There is Lizze Binder hailing form South Africa who immediately (in magical TV editing time) comments on Tom’s lovely baby blues. There is Micah Fields from the Standard who is seriously sweating as Tom peers over him working, Jorel Pierce who has the first crazy mustache of the night and Anthony Gray who seems like that inevitable co-worker who sort of sits back and eyes everyone else and never seems to be doing any work. We learn they’ll all be in the kitchen for REAL dinner service that night. Yikes.

Next we see Emeril and his hopefuls who he has challenged with making soup. Josh Valentine presents us with the second crazy mustache of the night. Jeffrey Jew who settles on a gazpacho despite the limited time, manages to pull it off, and is the first chef we see told to pick up a chef jacket and head to Seattle. There are friends Stephanie Cmar and Kristen Kish who cook together, live in the same building and have matching spoon tats. When we find that only former model Kristen Kish makes it through, it seems like the set-up was kind of cruel. Also asked to leave is Tina Borbeau whose seafood and chorizo soup didn’t make the cut.

Then we’re sent to Wolfy’s kitchen where he’s looking for omelets. There is the boisterous Carla Pellegrino who cracks her omelet and tries to cover it up with mushrooms and other toppings. CAUGHT. Despite Wolfgang declaring it “like a woman with too much make-up on” she is safe. While Eliza Gavin is cooking, Wolfgang casually drops that she should serve steak which she smartly obeys and she puts out a monster steak on top of her omelet. “Complicated’ but good enough to get her through to Seattle. Chrissy Camba assesses the situation, “He holds my future in his Austrian hands” and brings some of her heritage to the omelet.  We learn Kunio Yagi is new to the States from Tokyo who came to America on her own to further her career. You can’t help but root for her. Tyler Wiard seems like he needs a little confidence boost as he faces his omelet and Daniel O’Brien rattles off his rankings on Yelp, etc. Yet after serving too much grease, he’s the only one of the bunch asked to leave. He has a bad attitude about it and you let out a sigh of relief. Dodged a bullet with that one.

I have a deep love for Hugh Acheson. To me he has that subtle, dry humor that is just absolutely hsyterical. And it’s nice to see the South have a representative up there! He asks his cheftestants for a “beautiful salad.” Brook Williamson serves up fried kale (the second time we’ve seen that tonight) which is the big winner of the group. We also meet Bart Vandaele who is actually knighted. Sir Chef. The group, which also includes Sheldon Simeon and Danyele McPherson, on the whole performs well. Only Community Food Program Founder Gina Keatley falls short.

We finish up back at Craft in LA where no one seems to be completing their butchering/scaling up to par so you don’t know who is making it through. But during dinner service that night, John proves his skills quickly and is asked to continue to Seattle. Micah’s positive energy in the kitchen seems to be the determining factor that gets him through. Lizzie is also safe but Jorel and Anthony are sent packing. Two crazy mustaches is too much for this season.

 

No Bake Peanut Butter Energy Balls

November 7, 2012 § Leave a comment

I’ve been holding out on you. For weeks now I’ve been popping these addictive little balls and never managed to share here. They are the perfect antidote to the post-work yet pre-workout time when you’re famished from lunch but know if you reach for the Tostito’s that gym class is a goner. They’re delicious in the morning when you’re running out the door and can manage to grab a banana and one of these. Oh, and did I mention there is one step? Mix. I guess if you really wanted to spell it out you could stretch it to three steps: mix, wait, roll but that could be overkill. We all have Amy from Fearless Homemaker to thank for these genius little Bites!

Ingredients
1 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup peanut butter (or any other nut butter)
1/3 cup honey
1 cup coconut flakes (I used unsweetened)
1/2 cup flaxseed (the recipe originally calls for ground but I like a little bit of the grainy texture)
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips
1 tsp vanilla

Mix all ingredients together until well-blended

Allow the mixture to chill in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes. This will make it easier to roll into balls. To roll into balls, gather a very heaping tablespoon and shape the heaping mixture into ball while still in the spoon.

Enjoy!

Marché Artisan Foods, East Nashville

November 6, 2012 § Leave a comment

We finished the trip with brunch at Marché Artisan Foods in historic East Nashville. I’d heard wonderful things and when we showed up to a packed house at 9:10 when they opened at 9:00, I knew this was going to be good. This place was BUSTLING this early, I couldn’t believe it. Lots of kids/families and a really friendly energy fill the place. There is a bakery/coffee area if you want to purchase some baked goods or specialty breads while you wait for your table (which we did) and watch all the food get carried out by the waiters so you can drool over what you want.

We were seated after the first wave left, about 20 minutes.  The menu changes daily but I’m sure there are always fresh, great choices.

I know it seems simple but the eggs just looked so fresh and fluffy, I couldn’t resist a basic: scrambled eggs, sausage and grits.

This french toast was nice and light with the right amount of sweetness and no overwhelming stuffing (not that I don’t like a good cream-cheese stuffed french toast every once in a while)

Oooh these roasted potatoes are so, so good. Buttery and soft, why don’t mine turn out the same? Either way, I still went out and bought some red potatoes tonight; must’ve been on the brain

I can’t personally attest to this Meatloaf sandwich since I didn’t try but if it’s line with the rest of the menu, I’m sure to the meatloaf-lover this is delicious.

Going to Marche is a really nice way to start the day and I will definitely be coming back for breakfasts to come!

A Very Special Weekend Roundup

November 5, 2012 § 3 Comments

This past weekend was one that I had been looking forward to for a long time. Not one, not two, but three very special events were colliding and I couldn’t wait to get the weekend started.

We kicked it off Nashville style with the 46th Annual CMA Awards. This event was so much fun and I am so glad it’s home is in Nashville! Not only was it one star-studded performance after another, but the fans and the energy in the crowd had a contagious,  anything-goes kind of feel- from cut-offs to ball gowns.

Next, my mom and my sister came into town for a visit and some wedding planning. Of course we had to show off our favorite joint, Patrick Martin’s, so they could taste what real bbq is.

We definitely do not have this at Philly “barbecues” when we grill hot dogs and hamburgers. It’s very impressive to a Northerner

We also wanted to bring them to what just might be our favorite date spot in Nashville, City House. Our waiter even let it slip that they were catering to Anthony Bourdain after his show. I love the wine in the picture below, Glornata Gemellaia, Sangiovese, Merlot, Paso Verdot, Paso Robles, CA 2010 which I’ve ordered at two different dinners now and it’s paired with everything.

Pre-Tony

And then I came face to face with my long-time celebrity personality crush, Anthony Bourdain. I spent many a lazy college afternoon watching No Reservations, devoured Kitchen Confidential (and the not quite-as-good Medium Raw) and stood in a jam-packed Barnes & Noble in NY to hear him speak with David Chang.

Up close & personal in the front row. I have the best fiance in the world.

My answer to the “what’s your dream job?” question was always the same, “Anthony Bourdain’s sidekick.” Listening to him speak Saturday at TPAC, I got to hear the inside scoop of just what it would take to be on his team–namely, humiliation, exhaustion, lots of strange food, too much liquor and a dash of skirting the law. Maybe I should just enjoy getting my fix from his upcoming CNN show.

Halloween Spread

October 30, 2012 § 1 Comment

Entertaining tomorrow night? Here is a last minute solution for what to serve. The sake needs to be done the night before but everything else can come together just a few hours before people arrive. So even if you didn’t have plans, why not throw something together last minute? Menu taken care of.

Clockwise from top left: Pumpkin cupcakes with cream cheese icing, Spider Web Fiesta dip with chips, more cupcakes, Devils on Horseback, Pita chips with cheese and apple, Veggies with Greek yogurt dill dip

I would start with the cupcakes first (of course). I used the recipe here and they were delicious. The batter even started tasting like pumpkin before I even added the pumpkin (yes, I tried the batter).

Cream Cheese Icing (Pre-food dye)

An easy way to dress these up is to add food dye halfway through icing the cupcakes. Add diverse toppings like chocolate sprinkles on some, crushed pecans on others, some plain and some with candy corn for a really decorative look that let’s your guests choose what tempts them most!

This fiesta dip was sort of inspired by a few different versions of 7 layer dip and other Mexican dips. I just tried to simplify the best I could. I think one version that is topped with shredded lettuce, diced tomato and cilantro could be delicious.

Layer 1- 1 can refried black beans mixed with 1 package taco seasoning
Layer 2 – 1 can Rotel Tomatoes mixed with 1 package cream cheese
Layer 3 – Guacamole. The top it all of with a sour cream spiderweb by piping the sour cream through a small hole cut into a zip-loc bag.

I used the Devils on Horseback recipe here. Mine turned out a little more well done than I would have preferred but I am always someone who would take my bacon overcooked rather than undercooked. The grease from this bacon gets your oven really hot so keep an eye on them.

Slice pitted prunes in half without going all the way through. Stuff with blue cheese. Wrap half of a strip of bacon in half and secure with a tooth pick. Voila easy as 1,2,3

Slightly well done

The rest of the apps are just slicing and dicing! If you don’t have a full bar already stocked, a good way to cut down is by serving a signature drink. Then have a few standard options like beer, wine and whiskey.

After a delicious cocktail in California last weekend, I scoured the internet to find how it was made–turns out it was infused sake. In a glass, air-tight container, pile in any fruit of your choice (we chose watermelon and pineapple). Make sure it is cut and cored with no bruised spots/blemishes. Mix in 1.5 L Sake and .5 L Pear Vodka and let sit for 24 hours

The Ultimate Homemade Pizza Crust

October 26, 2012 § 8 Comments

In this case “ultimate” means easy, quick, and extra thin and crispy. If you are looking for deep dish, be gone with you, call Jet’s. I came across the goodness that is the recipe whilst browsing Lesley Eats who in turn learned of it from Fearless Homemaker who adapted it from The Kitchn (so goes the blogosphere), so this thing is tried and true. I followed the original instructions here which were simple and produced great results (no equipment other than a rolling pin needed). And now I pass this wisdom on to you!

Ingredients
3/4 cups (6 ounces) lukewarm water
1 teaspoon active-dry or instant yeast
2 cups (10 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
 

Preheat oven to 500°F or as hot as it will go and let stand for a half hour. If you have a pizza stone, put it in the lower-middle part of the oven now. Combine the water and yeast in a mixing bowl, and stir to dissolve the yeast.

Looks like miso soup

Add the flour and salt to the bowl and mix until you’ve formed a shaggy dough.

Shaggy Dough

Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface along with any loose flour still in the bowl. Knead until all the flour is incorporated, and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. The dough should still feel moist and slightly tacky. If it’s sticking to your hands and counter-top like bubble gum, work in more flour one tablespoon at a time until it is smooth.

Dough ball

If you have time at this point, you can let the dough rise until you need it or until doubled in bulk (about an hour and a half). After rising, you can use the dough or refrigerate it for up to three days.

Cover the dough with the upside-down mixing bowl or a clean kitchen towel while you prepare the pizza toppings.

When ready to make the pizza, tear off two pieces of parchment paper roughly 12-inches wide. Divide the dough in two. Working with one piece of the dough at a time, form it into a large disk  and lay it on the parchment paper. Gently press and stretch the dough until it’s about 1/4 of an inch thick or less. For an extra-thin crust, roll it with a rolling pin. If the dough starts to shrink back, let it rest for five minutes and then continue rolling.

Now here come the toppings. Use the back of a spoon to spread your sauce out to the edges, then add the rest of your goodies.

Slide your pizza (still on the parchment) onto the baking stone in the oven. If you don’t have a baking stone, bake the pizza on the back side of a baking sheet. Bake for about 5 minutes and then rotate the pizza, removing the parchment from under the pizza as you do so. Bake for another 3 to 5 minutes until the crust is golden-brown and the cheese looks toasty.

Remove the pizza and let it cool about five minutes before slicing on a wire rack. Repeat with the second pizza.

Ours was a little different from the original magarhita style since I had been eyeing this recipe on the back of Chobani’s Greek Yogurt for a few weeks now. It combines sauteed onions and garlic with a mix of greek yogurt and ricotta cheese topped off with cherry tomatoes and fresh basil. Delizioso!

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