InterNASHional Food Crawl
Saturday, September 3rd, 2015
12 – 4 pm
3955 Nolensville Road
Nashville, TN 37211
Cost: $15 General admission
$55 for Curated Food Tour
The 4th annual InterNASHional food crawl is coming up soon, and I can personally attest that it’s a fun and delicious way to spend a Saturday afternoon! The crawl explores a 5‐mile stretch of Nolensville Road, where participants are able to try incredible foods from around the world– Mexico, India, Thailand, the Middle East and many more.
General event tickets include a map for you to drive your own car to at least five participating restaurants and markets where you can sample food at your own pace. Note: When you purchase your ticket, you’ll receive a confirmation email with a pdf ticket attached. On the day of the tour, you take that ticket to Plaza Mariachi between noon-4 pm. In exchange for that ticket, you’ll be provided with a wristband and a map of the restaurants you can visit for food and drink samples.
If you’d rather not drive yourself, but instead be transported around and imbibe a bit during your travel, then the Curated Food Tour is for you. Added last year, my BFFs and I went on this tour and had a blast! You ride a charter bus from site to site, are provided adult beverages, and have a group tour guide to tell you stories of the restaurants and owners while you travel. Note: the Curated Food Tours begin at noon and 2 pm.
For more information on the event and to purchase tickets, visit the event website.
2nd Annual Empanada Tasting
Wednesday, September 7th, 2016
5:30 – 8:30 pm
Tennessee Performing Arts Center
Andrew Jackson Hall Lobby
505 Deaderick St.
Nashville, TN 37219
This event somehow slipped right past my radar last year. I’m pretty certain I would have been all over the prospect of an empanada tasting!
Tennessee Latin American Chamber of Commerce (TLACC) and the Tennessee Performing Arts Center (TPAC) will host their 2nd Annual Empanada Tasting Event in the main lobby space at TPAC on September 7th. Attendees will get to try five empanadas and be provided with a soft drink or water with the purchase of a ticket. Additional food and drinks will be available from the vendors and TPAC concessions if that’s not enough to fill you up.
This year, the event will also feature a special presentation from Studio Tenn Theatre Company, whose original production of “Evita” opens the 2016-17 Broadway at TPAC season on September 9th-18th. For more information, visit the event website.
Grand Tasting and Chef Showcase
Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th, 2016
11 am – 4 pm
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park
Saturday, September 17th
7 – 11 pm
Walk of Fame Park
Cost: 1-day Pass $150
All-in 2 day Pass $500
Harvest Night Only $275
Summer has flown by and I can’t believe Music City Food + Wine is less than a month away!!! This will be the fourth year for the event, and I’ve had the pleasure of attending every year. Check out my experiences from 2013 here , 2014 here and 2015 here. The change of venue last year to Bicentennial Park was awesome, so I was thrilled to see that it would be happening there again this year.
For this year’s full schedule, click here and to take a gander at the talent, click here. Celebrity chef demos and panel discussions run simultaneously with Grand Taste, so you can flit back and forth between food stations and tents, and never feel like you’re missing out on anything. I’ve been asked by many people if I think this event is worth the price tag. As far as the 1-day passes go, I absolutely, without a doubt, do. I’ve been to many food festivals over the years, and in comparison to the ticket cost on some of them, I truly think that the 5 hours of food, drink, education and entertainment this one offers blows others away.
To purchase tickets, or for more detailed information, visit the Music City Food + Wine website. Can’t wait to see some of you there!
Sunday, September 25th, 2016
4 – 8 pm
Green Door Gourmet
7011 River Road Pike
Nashville, TN 37209
I love that Autumn is almost upon us. Sorry Summer, but you are definitely not my favorite season. What better way to kick off Fall than with a farm-to- table event at Green Door Gourmet’s Grand Barn? Fall Crush will feature Nashville Chefs Trey Cioccia of The Farm House, Pastry Chef Rachel De Jong of 5th & Taylor, Hal Holden-Bache of Lockeland Table, Travis McShane of Adele’s and Eric Zizka of Oak Steakhouse
A celebration of wine and food benefiting the Mid South Chapter of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, the event will consist of a locally sourced dinner, exclusive wines, silent and live auctions, and great music (because it’s Nashville!). Tickets can be purchased at www.fallcrushms.org.
Sorry Sylvan Park, your loss is my gain. Well, really Green Hills’ gain. Not that I want to rub it in, but I’m pretty dang excited about it. Last year, Deb Paquette and partners walked away from their Truss restaurant concept in the Sylvan Park neighborhood after a development dispute. Months later, they announced they would be opening etc. in Green Hills. My neighborhood.
And it’s only a little over a mile from my house. Score!
Even better, etc. is tucked away in the Bedford Commons development back behind Green Hills mall, so I don’t even have to get on the nightmare that is Hillsboro Road- all back roads for me, baby! Oops, I’m sounding a bit selfish aren’t I? Seriously though, my happiness level with my neighborhood has increased tenfold with today’s opening of etc.
scallop crudo with roasted poblano pepper orange oil, black lava salt, orange segments, watermelon radish, red curry mustard seeds, watercress tempura
I’ve been a big fan of Deb Paquette’s for years….long before I even created this blog. But when I did start blogging, she was one of my first topics. I was devastated when she closed her restaurant Zola, and then ecstatic when she decided not to move away from Nashville and opened Etch. There’s just no one in town that creates dishes like she does. No one. Her style is fun and flavorful…and completely unique.
panko crusted fried duck gizzards with sambal peach jam, lavender beet smear, sesame onions, berries
I was super fortunate to be invited in to etc. over the weekend for an advance taste, and was happy to find that Deb is being as creative and quirky as ever with this menu. Gizzards and grasshoppers? Yes, please.
I’ve had a thing for gizzards since I was a young girl and ate them almost every Sunday afternoon at my grandmother’s house. Those were Southern fried chicken gizzards, but etc.‘s are confit and fried duck gizzards served with a peach jam and pickled onions. Different, but just as delicious as those I loved as a child.
Etc’s fowl trio: cinnamon sesame duck breast, ancho cherry jam, confit chicken, chili aderezo, date foie gras brûlée, grasshopper crumble, pumpkin seed masa grits
My favorite part of our meal was my entree though – the ‘fowl trio’. I ate every single bite, and it was a lot of food: Cinnamon sesame duck breast on pumpkin seed masa grits, confit chicken with pepitas, and a foie gras brulee topped with grasshopper pecan crumble. I will admit that much of the reason I settled on this particular dish was because of the grasshoppers. How could I not try it? I mean, I’ve eaten chocolate covered bugs (including grasshoppers) before, so I wasn’t scared, just intrigued.
My husband swears they tasted like grasshoppers to him (what does that even mean??) but I tasted the pecans more than anything. The grasshoppers just gave the topping a nice crunch.
Etc’s grilled tuna with raisin pasilla sweet potato, peanut pepper butter, pork black bean sauce, Caribbean spiced greens, poblano verde, okra
While we dined at dinner time, etc. will also offer lunch Monday – Friday and plan to add Sunday brunch in the future. You can peruse the lunch and dinner menus on their website.
As for drinks, there are lots of great wines and beers to choose from, including some high gravity. Named simply for the spirit they contain, we had the Vodka, Rum and Aged Gin cocktails from their short list of signature drinks, and enjoyed all of them.
Of course, no dinner is complete (at least in my book) without a little bite (or five in this case) of something sweet. Pastry Chef extraordinaire Megan Williams will be splitting her time now between Etch and etc., and believe me, that is a very good thing.
Chocolate Panna Cotta at Etc
3790 Bedford Avenue
Nashville, TN 37215
It’s here. Voting for this year’s Nashville Scene “Best of Nashville” just kicked off a few days ago! Last year you guys were SO AWESOME and took the time to vote, pushing this little blog of mine to be named the #1 Best Food Blog in Nashville! Truly, a huge, huge thanks for that.
No pressure at all, but if you have a sec to type Eat. Drink. Smile. in that blank space next to “Best Food Blog” in the Media section again this year, it would be greatly appreciated :-)
Click here to start working on your ballot now…with over 200 categories, it might take a while to get through them all. Don’t fret- thankfully you can save your ballot and come back to it later. No need to choose all of your favorites in one sitting. And you also don’t have to vote on 200+! Just be sure to enter at least 20 categories for your vote to count.
Have a great week!
A year ago Ravi and I were adventuring through Paris, France with a little side jaunt to Verdun before making our way down to Barcelona, Spain. And yes, it has taken me an entire 12 months to finally get around to this blog post!
While on vacation, I told myself that I’d have our trip recapped here on the blog by no later than end of August—2015. Which turned into September. Then I promised a couple of people that were heading to Paris and Barcelona that I’d share everything before their trips rolled around….in October and November. Oops. A conversation would have to do.
By the end of the year, so much time had passed, that I started thinking a post on the one year anniversary of the trip would certainly take the pressure off, so here we are!
There aren’t really words to express how wonderful this vacation was. It was definitely the life refresh I needed at the time (and could really use again!).
We spent 5 days in France, hitting a few of the big attractions, but were careful to not over schedule ourselves so we had plenty of time to wonder the streets, relax, and – of course – eat lots of food. For the purposes of keeping this post to a manageable length, I’m just going to include some of our favorite discoveries and a few important tips/recommendations that might help one of you in planning your own trip one day.
First things first. Before leaving the U.S. I created a map of all the possible places we might dine and visit in Paris so even if we didn’t have a set plan, we’d have something to reference no matter what part of town we ended up in for any given day. I also downloaded Patricia Wells’ app, The Food Lover’s Guide to Paris, and highly recommend it. It’s $4.99 well spent.
Our hotel was in the 7th Arrondissement near the Eiffel Tower, so I plotted based on that location as our starting point. Note: we loved that neighborhood as our home base, as there was so much to do nearby and the view of the Eiffel Tower from our balcony wasn’t too shabby either! Worth checking out if you’re in that area: Rue Cler was a lovely pedestrian street nearby that had lots of little shops, bistros, bakeries and open air produce markets.
Pastries on Rue Cler
Since we were staying so nearby, the first thing we did upon arrival to Paris was go on a tour of the Eiffel Tower. If I was a better planner, I would have attempted to get advance tickets to save a little money. You see, you can book official tickets directly, but in order to do so, you have to stay up late exactly 3 months before your desired date in order to snag the precious few they release.
Alas, I didn’t think that far ahead, so a couple of weeks before we left, I booked a ‘skip the line’ tour instead through Fat Tire Tours and while we paid a bit more by doing this, it was totally worth it. I am not one for waiting in lines for 2 hours. Nope.
Berthillon Ice Cream in Paris
Many say that a visit to Berthillon is an absolute must when in Paris. And that you should visit the original location. So I did. Was the wait in line worth it? Oh, it was delicious. Did I see stars? Hear angels? No, I wouldn’t go that far. But if you’re in the area, it’s definitely a delicious treat on a hot summer day.
Berthillon Ice Cream, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 75004 Paris, France
Experiment Cocktail Club, Paris
When you envision yourself drinking in Paris, you probably have a glass of wine in hand. While I was able to drink some red wine for the first time in 4 years (yay for organic, all natural French red wine!) without having an allergy attack, we also searched out really great cocktails. Because, as you probably know, cocktails are my jam.
The Experimental Cocktail Club was perfection. Definitely a must for all cocktail lovers visiting Paris.
Gregory Renard’s Cacao et Macarons at 35 rue Daubenton (no website)
By far, one of the best things we did during our time in the City of Lights was the Paris By Mouth walking food tour. The ‘Taste of the Latin Quarter‘ included tastings at six spots and took a little over three hours. These small group tours can accommodate a maximum of seven people (probably because some of the establishments you visit are pretty small), but there was only one other couple on our tour, so just a total of 5 counting our guide, Emma.
Gregory Renard’s Cacao et Macarons
Our first stop, Gregory Renard Macarons, was a life altering experience for me. Okay, so maybe that’s a little strong, but it certainly changed my opinion of macarons. In all honesty, I’ve never cared much for them and have been a bit baffled by their popularity. Sure, they’re cute and come in lots of fun colors, but in my opinion, there are dozens of sweets I’d rather eat.
But that day, as the salted butter caramel macaron melted in my mouth, I got it. Guess I just needed to eat real French Macarons for that to happen!
Carl Marletti pastries
And it wasn’t just French Macarons that opened my eyes, but basically every Parisian pastry I sampled. Man, these people know their baked goods. At Carl Marletti it was a taste of their tarte au citron (lemon tart) and a chocolate éclair that did me in.
Then it was on to chocolate- specifically chocolates from Meilleur Ouvrier de France (MOF – the highest rank for French chocolatiers) at Mococha. These cases at this little shop were full of gorgeous truffles almost too beautiful to eat. Almost.
Our Paris By Mouth guide, Emma, and pastries galore at Carl Marletti
We may have started the morning with sweets, but pretty soon we were moving on to more savory territory, including my favorite stop of the tour, this incredible little cheese shop. The building, the street, the cheese… I loved everything about it!
Androuet Cheese Shop, Paris
At Androuet we picked up a plethora of cheeses to sample for later when we would be able to sit for a while with a bottle of wine.
Check out this spread. Yes, this is what heaven is made of…
- Chavignol – ash-covered goat cheese from the Loire Valley
- Brillat Savarin – a triple cream cow cheese made in Normandy
- Camembert – 6 week old, blooming rind cow cheese from Normandy – this particular one aged with cider
- Munster – washed-rind cow cheese, from Lorraine
- Comté – cooked pressed cheese, 18 months old, from the Franche-Comté region
- Ossau Iraty – a 17 month old, pressed cheese made from ewe milk from the Pyranees Mountains
- Roquefort – blue (sheep) cheese, made by artisanal producer Mr Carles
Cheeses at Androuet, Paris
Across the way, we popped into La Boucherie Saint Médard (at 119 rue Mouffetard) and picked up Saucisson de Montagne (air-dried, cured ham “from the mountains”), rillettes a l’oie (goose meat butter), and the mousse de canard (duck mousse), to eat alongside our cheese spread.
By this point, it was around noon and time to rest our weary feet (I wasn’t actually tired, just dying to dig into all of that CHEESE!). At Maison Claudel Vin & Whisky , our final stop, we were able to kick back, enjoy our decadent spread and get a little loopy on a few bottles of wine. Exactly what you should be doing at lunch in Paris, right?
Both a shop and tasting space, the business was started by a couple with dual obsessions, wine and whiskey. The walls are lined with hundreds of bottles of each, and they have dozens of wines and whiskeys by the glass that you can choose to sip on the spot.
Proper Lunch in Paris: Triple Cream Cheese and Wine.
You’ll probably notice that I haven’t mentioned any real “meals” that we had at specific restaurants. While most of the lunches and dinners we had were good, nothing was absolutely amazing, so I’d rather let you discover your own places if you travel to Paris.
But, there was one spot that we completely stumbled upon by accident that turned out to be our best meal of the trip, so you get to see and hear about it~
Le Christine, 1 Rue Christine, 75006 Paris, France
It was the end of a very long day of sightseeing, and we were both tired, grumpy and starving. I didn’t have a plan, and my app wasn’t coming up with anything interesting for the area we were in. I’ll be honest – we fought. We stopped speaking. Hey, I was hangry. Here in the most romantic city in the world, I was feeling anything but romantic.
We zig zag’d in and out of side streets and alleys, making our way in the direction of our hotel, just hoping we’d spot something along the way.
And then Le Christine appeared – a lovely, bright orange beacon.
I’ll admit, the cute exterior is totally what got me. I barely glanced at the menu posted outside the door. All I knew was that this place looked happy and at the moment, I wasn’t, and I desperately wanted to be.
So in we went!
Hallelujah. This is just what we needed. We settled into a table next to a big wall of windows that looked out on the quaintest little courtyard I’d seen since our arrival in Paris. Pretty soon there was a bottle of wine chilling next to me, and all was well with the world again.
Funny how good food, good wine and a change of scenery can lift your mood in no time flat.
Lamb at Le Christine, Paris
Happy again, I didn’t think the night could get any better. But it did. Dessert arrived and like, whoah. Absolute best dessert of our trip: Ginger & green tea ice cream on top of milk chocolate mousse on top of dark chocolate mousse on top of sponge cake with roasted plums. Angels were definitely singing.
Best dessert of the trip at Le Christine
Perfectly content and once again feeling romantic, we left the restaurant and started to make our way to the Seine for the cruise we’d booked. We picked up a bottle of wine and some plastic cups along the way- best decision ever.
I highly, highly recommend doing a Vedettes du Pont Neuf nighttime river cruise. We absolutely loved it– in fact, it might have been the highlight of our entire stay in Paris. Perhaps it’s because we saved it for our final night there and I’d had quite a bit of wine, but all I know was that it was lovely.
I researched several cruise companies before settling on Vedettes because it had really great reviews and seemed more the kind of vibe we were going for. Tickets are $14 if you purchase in person, but only $10 if you purchase online in advance (which is what we did). The boats leave every half hour, and the ride is 1 hour long. We opted for the 9:30 pm cruise because this was at sunset and when all the lights would start coming on…and it was magical.
The perfect last night in Paris.
I know that was a lot of words and a lot of photos of Paris (even though it didn’t even cover a fraction of our time there!), but don’t worry, I’m not going to write that much about Verdun.
First, most of you are probably like- what is Verdun? Yeah, that’s what I said when we started planning this trip and my husband told me he wanted to travel there while we were in France. Huh? I’ve never even heard of this place, and why would I want to waste a day of my time there?? I’ll admit I didn’t have the best attitude about it.
BUT – I knew I was going to get several days to focus on my love of food (which he sometimes doesn’t care a thing about), so I needed to give him at least a day to do something he really wanted to do.
So that’s how we ended up traveling by train from Paris to Verdun, a small city in northeast France, on the banks of the Meuse River.
Whereas Paris has a population of over 2 million people, Verdun has only around 18,000 residents, which is larger than my own Kentucky hometown, but certainly small by most people’s standards.
The entire reason Ravi wanted to come here is because it’s known as the site of the WWI Battle of Verdun. Yes, he’s a history buff. (Guess what? I’m not.)
We spent the day touring battlefields, museums and memorials. Not typically my scene, but it actually turned out to be a lot more interesting than I expected it to be.
But the best part for me was just wondering the streets of this little town. The change of scenery from the big city was quite refreshing. There were so many lovely architectural details around every corner that I found myself snapping pics constantly – doors, windows, bridges, gates, storefronts.
Bunker in Verdun, France
While almost every building here seemed to be very, very old, there were definitely modern touches too….like the Pizza ATM.
Yes, Nashville may have a cupcake ATM, but Verdun has us beat with their Pizza ATM!
Pizza ATM in Verdun, France
While I originally may not have been fully on board with taking this little side jaunt out of the city, it unexpectedly turned out to be a great day, so I’m really glad we did it. And between all the history and sightseeing, I still managed to search out the best mussels and frites in town. Because, you know, that’s what I do. The food is what vacation is all about, right?
Mussels and frites in Verdun, France
“Found in print for the first time in 1867 and then again in 1872, the magnolia blossom was used as an aromatic and flavoring agent in bitters, with the intention of medicinal purposes. Eventually, the light and floral trademark of the south fell to the wayside in the 20th century…until now.” Earlier this month, Nashville residents Jon and Lindsay Yeager of PourTaste released the first commercial magnolia bitters seen since the 19th century under their brand E Harlow. (Which is named after their cutie pie daughter, Emerson Harlow)
It began in 2013 when Jon and Lindsay created The Anthym Spirit for Gray’s on Main in Franklin. The signature cocktail contained magnolia bitters, which started as just a DIY backyard experiment for them. Garden and Gun took notice of the unique bitters and shared the recipe on their website in 2014.
Since then, Jon and Lindsay have been working hard to perfect their creation, and on July 1st, they released the final product, E Harlow Magnolia Bitters. The bad news (for us, not them), is that they have already completely sold out of the first run! However, there is good news too… they are now taking pre orders for the second run. You can order yours at PourTaste.com.
If you’d like to try it in a drink before purchasing your own, head on over to The Treehouse in East Nashville for the “She Went to Oxford” cocktail or the Vanderbilt Marriott in Midtown for The Chancellor made with Belle Meade bourbon, Cardenal Mendoza brandy, Clement Vieux rhum agricole, and E Harlow magnolia bitters.
The Hook on 8th Ave S opened a few months back, and right out of the gate had me hooked on their cocktails. They were interesting, delicious, and STRONG. And they were reasonably priced. $6, $7, $8 drinks – good drinks that is – are almost unheard of in this town these days!
So, right off the bat I was singing their praises and spreading the word to all my friends that they should check this place out for drinks. Just imagine how happy I was when I heard they were expanding their Happy Hour menu to offer drink specials all day long every day!?!
That’s right. From 11 a.m. – 10 p.m. daily you can go and take advantage of special pricing. Check out those specials here.
The Hook’s Frosty Pimm’s Cup (photo by my fab friend Kristin Luna)
Personally, I’m more of a Wednesday or Thursday Happy Hour kind of girl. By that time of the week I’m usually stressed enough that I need a little break from the daily grind, and The Hook’s offerings seem to be created just for me (for the record, they didn’t consult me, but they might as well have). On Wednesdays their Smashed Cocktails are $2 off and on Thursdays their draft cocktail pints are $6. Guess what? The smashed cocktails are my fave, followed closely by the draft cocktails.
Eight times out of ten, the first drink I order when I walk in the door is the Lemon Basil & Vodka Smash. From time to time, I might throw in a Honey Sage & Tequila to switch things up. But other times, one of those draft cocktails catches my eye so I get a little crazy and veer from the norm.
Lemon Basil Vodka Smash at The Hook (photo courtesy of Kristin Luna)
Of course, there are also the frosty drinks, which I can’t knock. Usually I prefer non-frosty things, but will say, the Frosty Pimm’s Cup is awesome. Also, it seems to be an overwhelming crowd favorite (at least with in my crowd and from pics I’ve seen on Instagram). Made up of ginger, citrus, cucumber and mint, it’s definitely the perfect summertime drink in this obnoxious heat we’re experiencing.
Oh, and there’s also plenty of craft beer and wines if you choose to go that route. If you’ve been hanging around here long, you know cocktails are more my thing (dang pesky wine allergy!) so I haven’t actually ordered any of them, but from what I can tell there’s a great selection.
The Hook Nashville
In addition to the great drinks, The Hook has plenty more to offer – a great patio with lots of outdoor seating, cornhole, and fun specials:
- Every Monday at 7 p.m. is Trivia Night
- Every Sunday is Yazoo Sunday Funday with $3 rotating Yazoo pints
- Fresh seafood special every Sunday. Currently and through August, it’s the New England Clam Bake: clams, mussels, shrimp, crab legs & corn in a white wine garlic sauce with crusty bread ($30; feeds two)
- Two frozen drink flavors run all the time – the Pimm’s Cup and Whiskey Sour – but they also have special flavors from time to time. Recent flavors have been vodka lemonade and spicy watermelon margarita.
- Every Saturday, 12-2, is Family Day with rotating entertainers for kids… think balloon artists & magicians! Have I mentioned that I love places that provide entertainment for my child??
And of course I wouldn’t be a responsible blogger if I suggested you drink all of this alcohol without also noshing a bit, right?
My favorite dishes on The Hook menu just happen to also be some of the lightest offerings: Habanero Shrimp Tacos, Ahi Tuna Poke, and Salmon Ceviche.
The Hook’s Ahi Tuna Poke – Sesame Soy, Ginger, Scallions, Wontons
When I’m interested in a full meal, I like to order “Caught Naked”, which is their daily preparation of a seasonal catch, served with a side. The Mixed Grains salads (not pictured) is also a great choice. Made up of Quinoa, Farro, Cucumbers, Edamame, Roasted Vegetables and an Herbed Cava Vinaigrette, it’s flavorful and healthy. Oh, and I usually add grilled chicken or grilled shrimp to make it even heartier.
Of course, there are plenty of other food options to explore, and you can check out their full menu here.
So there you go… a few tips on one of my favorite new spots in Nashville. See you on the patio soon with frosty beverage in hand?
“Caught Naked” & Salmon Ceviche
(Citrus, Jalapeno, & Wontons) at The Hook
2222 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37204
Open 7 days a week, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Chicago. I have some serious love for that city. Perhaps it’s because I travel there pretty often and have become comfortable with it… it’s easy to get around, the shopping is awesome, and of course, the food options are dizzying. There’s always an internal battle in my head as I attempt to make dining decisions for each visit, but this last trip was even more difficult because it was my BIRTHDAY week!
Instead of trying a bunch of new places like I normally would, I decided a mix of new and tried and true would be the best balance. Because it was such a special week, I wanted to be sure there was little room for error and all meals would be fabulous.
Over a year ago I ate at Tanta for the first time and fell in love. Even the free plantain chips they serve at the start of the meal have been stuck in my mind all this time. In fact, I’ve even tried to recreate the aji amarillo dipping sauce at home, though I haven’t quite perfected it to Tanta’s level. So when I realized the hotel I’d booked for this trip was just a hop, skip and jump away from Tanta, and I’d be arriving into town just in time for lunch, AND Tanta was launching a brand new al fresco lunch program on the day of my arrival…well, that’s fate, right?
If you’ve never tried Peruvian food, you seriously do not know what you’re missing out on, and I must insist that you eat here when you visit Chicago. I really don’t think I can step foot in that city again without eating there. It’s that good.
Tanta’s Caprese Salad
As for this latest meal, we (my co-worker and I) started with cebiche – the Cebiche Nikei with ahi tuna, tamarind-sesame oil leche de tigre, cilantro, habanero, cucumber, avocado, and nori. Perfectly light and refreshing for a hot day, particularly when dining on a rooftop. Then we followed with the Caprese Salad. I’m pretty certain this is nothing like any caprese you’ve had before. Made up of quinoa, burrata, basil, arugula, and an aji amarillo dressing, I swear I thought I’d died and gone to caprese salad heaven.
For the entree, we chose the Salmon Anticuchero – grilled salmon, roasted fingerling y choclo, and avocado chalaca with huacatay sauce. Yeah, I know that probably needs a little translation. It did for me! Choclo is a large kernel Peruvian corn. Huacatay is a mint-like herb, and I think (if I understood correctly), Chalaca describes the lime juice, onions and tomato mixture served on the fish. Even if my translation is a little off, my taste buds aren’t, and the food here is A+++++!
118 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
Sushi at Momataro, Chicago
When it came to picking the spot for my *actual* birthday dinner, I wanted it to be something special — not too fancy, but definitely not casual. Like Tanta, I’d also been to Momotaro on a previous Chicago trip, and I was completely dazzled by the space and the food. It definitely warranted a return visit.
Plus I haven’t had nearly enough sushi in Nashville lately, and I had a mad craving that needed to be satisfied. Momotaro certainly delivered.
A word of advice — do not be afraid or embarrassed to ask for help with the menu here. It’s large and is best navigated with professional assistance, namely, your server.
The service staff is great, and very knowledgeable. If you’re willing to letting them guide you a bit, I guarantee you’ll be happy. As for our dinner, I couldn’t even begin to tell you half of what we ate, partly due to the complex menu and partly due to the rounds of sake I consumed. It was my birthday after all!
My Birthday Dessert at Momotaro, Chicago
820 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607
sweetbread pastrami, haricot vert, hazelnut, lemon balm, cilantro at Blackbird, Chicago
My meal at Blackbird was completely unplanned, and actually a bit of an accident. But what a happy accident it turned out to be! You see, I was dying to try Rick Bayless’ new restaurant, Lena Brava but couldn’t secure a reservation. After finding out that they’ll take some walk-ins each night, we decided we’d chance it, just show up at the door and hope they’d give us a table.
Negative. They were packed when we got there, and they said they don’t take any new walk ins after 8 pm. We arrived at 8:10. Oh well. I had a fail-safe backup plan! Or at least I thought it was fail-safe. Avec, another old favorite of mine, was just down the street, so we headed that way. Avec doesn’t take reservations anyway, so even if we’d planned to go there, we would have just been walking in.
Unfortunately, when we got to the door there was a sign posted announcing that they were closed for a private party. ACK. I didn’t have a third option in mind. Lucky for us, Blackbird is right next door. And while I had the fleeting thought that we may have been a bit under dressed for the sleek, white tablecloth space, I was undeterred.
Man, I seriously cannot believe I had never been to Blackbird before this experience. It was absolutely fantastic. I guess all those James Beard awards really do mean something.
suckling pig pavé and tenderloin, roasted sunchoke, almond, sunflower seed, lime, sport pepper at Blackbird, Chicago
619 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
I’m currently in the midst of one of the best parts of my job – preparing for the launch of our Goo Goo Summer Chef Series! I’ve been working for a few weeks to pull together a great list of chefs to participate, and I’m so excited about the lineup! (see above)
Last year was our first series, and it was such a hit that before the end of it rolled around, we’d already decided we’d be making it an annual thing. Not familiar with the series? Basically we invite some of Nashville’s best chefs to tell us what their “dream” Goo Goo would contain, then our pastry chef starts playing around in the kitchen to perfect the chef’s vision. You can see all of last year’s very creative Goo Goos here.
Every other week between July 15h and end of September, we’ll introduce a new chef’s Premium. First up on 7/15 will be “The Margoo”, Margot McCormack’s delicious creation made up of salted caramel, candied hazelnuts, hazelnut butter caramel ganache, and Willa’s Classic Shortbread, all covered in dark chocolate. Swoon.
So how can you try all of the chefs’ Premiums as they roll out? For the locals, all you have to do is head down to the Goo Goo Shop (116 3rd Ave S) to purchase. For those of you outside of Nashville, this time around, we’re also going to make these creations available online! You can check Goo Goo’s social media accounts (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) for the announcement of each new flavor.
I’ve even set up a discount code for my readers that will be good on any purchase from the Goo Goo online store from now through end of October. All you have to do is type in code EDS16 at checkout, and you’ll get 20% off your purchase! If you’re local, just print this blog post or keep it on your phone and show it to the retail associate when making a purchase at the Goo Goo Shop and they’ll give you 20% off your purchase* too!
*Offer expires 10-31-16. 20% discount applies to total purchase, but purchase must include at least 1 Premium Goo Goo to be valid.