A Taysty Surprise

I like to have fun. I especially like to have fun with food. I’m usually up for just about anything- so I seek out chefs that embrace that same philosophy. Enter Jeremy Barlow, the chef/owner of tayst on West End.

He’s intense in his commitment to source local, high quality ingredients, and in doing his part to make this world a better place, which is exhibited by tayst being the first and only certified “green” restaurant in Nashville. To some, that may sound staid and serious, but with him, you’ll quickly see that’s definitely not the case, as he serves up whimsical dishes that force even the most sullen of patrons to grin.

Even though I’ve dined at tayst through the years, I didn’t meet Jeremy until just a couple of months ago at the Nashville Farmers’ Market when I shopped with him before his cooking demo. I was immediately drawn to his charming personality and his passion for sourcing locally.

A few days later my friends and I watched as he competed in Nashville Scene’s 2nd annual chef competition, taking home the top prize, the coveted Iron Fork. Shortly after that, while attending Generous Helpings, we reconnected at the tayst table, where he was serving up the creation that turned out to be my favorite dish of the evening: a Root Beer Braised Pork Bread Pudding with Sarsaparilla Creme and Sea Salt. As the night drew to a close, my friends and I gravitated back to the tayst table for seconds and more friendly bantering with Jeremy. At some point my friend Cathy confessed to him that she had never been to his restaurant. How could this be? As should be expected, he gave her a hard time, so before saying goodnight, we had a plan. A girls night at tayst was in order!

Flash forward to the night we paid Jeremy a visit. Before I go nuts talking about the food, first I must mention the staff at this relaxed, intimate restaurant . They are friendly and knowledgeable without being pretentious, which should be a given at any restaurant, but sadly isn’t. But most importantly, they are completely on top of their game, with dishes and drinks seamlessly appearing before us like magic throughout the evening.

Now, on to the fun part- the cuisine! The menu is set up in “First taysts”, “Second taysts” and “Main taysts”, each with a suggested wine pairing. I really appreciate this added touch, but what I love most is that in addition to the normal 6 oz pour, you can order 2, 3, or 4 oz pours, enabling you to choose a different wine to match with each course, bringing out the hidden flavors in all the foods you’re eating.

As we awaited our “first taysts”, the first surprise of the evening was delivered to our table- an amuse bouche. And what an amusement this was….a bacon toothpick? More specifically a black raspberry bacon skewer with a touch of port syrup (pictured above). We weren’t 5 minutes into the meal and already we couldn’t stop smiling!

Then our first taysts arrived:

Hapuku (Hawaiian Sea Bass)
with squash, baby leeks, cherry tomatoes, garlic, and tomato froth

Wild Boar Osso Bucco
with snow peas & spring onions

Followed by another unexpected treat:

A snack of squash and zucchini cooked in foie gras butter on a cucumber ribbon with chervil, dehydrated strawberry, and rose gastrique

This refreshing delight was paired with our favorite wine of the evening, the ’07 La Sirena Moscato Azul from Napa, CA. We found it unusual because normally the word Muscat brings to mind a sweet dessert wine, and this was nothing like that. Instead it was very light and crisp with a beautiful perfumey, floral character.

Second tayst: the Chef’s Signature Salad (sorry no photo!)
Baby greens, sun dried cherry vinaigrette, goat cheese and toasted walnuts
paired with my next favorite wine of the evening, the ’08 Antica Catina Ceci Lambrusco Amabile from Torriel, Italy. A refreshing, sparkling red that really enhanced the cherry vinaigrette.

And then, you guessed it- another surprise!
Jeremy’s take on “Spaghetti & Meatballs”
Lamb meatball served atop spaghetti that is rolled and then deep fried, with tomato and balsamic reduction

When it came time to choose my “main tayst”, once I noticed that the Bison was served with a roasted garlic bread pudding, mint & peas, I could look no further. Jeremy’s pork bread pudding at Generous Helpings and Tom Colicchio’s Wagyu Beef with peas in NYC came to mind, and since both were divine, the thought of combining the two got me all hot and bothered.

Mmmm, I was not disappointed. Seriously, I want it again. Now.

I must also mention my friend Cathy’s meal since she was the tayst virgin. As soon as she saw rhubarb listed as an ingredient in the menu’s veggie dish, she was sold. Fond childhood memories combined with a complete fascination of rhubarb being used for anything other than a pie, she made her choice. That is, until our server suggested the Chef’s Surprise – a creative concoction thought up by the chef spur-of-the-moment. With no idea what she was getting, Cathy was brave and took the plunge. Her only request? That rhubarb be a component. Ask and ye shall receive.

Chef’s Veggie Surprise

Grilled squash around truffles, quinoa, cherry tomato relish, rhubarb, with rhubarb coulis, olive puree, and port syrup

Cathy was extremely happy that her “first time” was so glorious, since oftentimes it can be a complete letdown.

Satiated, we passed on ordering dessert, but then Jeremy came to join us after dinner, bringing along a couple of sweet treats- a chocolate terrine and rich creme brulee. He obviously knows the way to a woman’s heart! We enjoyed ourselves so much that we completely lost track of time. Three hours had passed and we weren’t ready to leave, but alas, all good things must come to an end. Only temporarily of course- we look forward to being surprised at tayst again and again!

2100 21st Ave S
Nashville, TN 37246
Tue-Thu. 5:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Fri-Sat. 5:00 p.m. – 11:00 p.m.

For more details on on tayst’s “green” certification and Jeremy’s commitment to local farmers, read this great feature by Kay West in Nashville Lifestyles.