Paris 2015 Beth Eiffel

Paris, France

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!

 

Paris-Streetscape

 

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.

 

Paris-Architecture

 

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.

 

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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.

 

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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.

 

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Berthillon Ice Cream, 29-31 Rue Saint-Louis en l’Île, 75004 Paris, France

 

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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.

 

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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.

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 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!
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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.

 

paris-pastriesOur 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!

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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

 

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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.

 

Paris-By-Mouth-Cheese-Shop-interior

 

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?

 

 

Paris-By-Mouth-Vin-Whisky

 

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.

 

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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~

 

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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.

 

Paris-Le-Christine-Table

 

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.

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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.

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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.

 

Paris-Eiffel-Tower-NIght

 

Verdun, France

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.
Paris-Verdun-Businesses

 

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.

 

Paris-Verdun-Car-and-Building

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.

Paris-Verdun-Door

Verdun, France

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.
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Verdun, France

 

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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!

 

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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?

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Mussels and frites in Verdun, France

 

EHarlow-MagnoliaBitters

 

“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.

 

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The-Hook-Nashville-Smash

 

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.

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

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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??

 

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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.

 

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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?

 

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“Caught Naked” & Salmon Ceviche
(Citrus, Jalapeno, & Wontons) at The Hook

 

The Hook

2222 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37204
615-840-7144

Open 7 days a week, 11 a.m. – 10 p.m.

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Tanta Chicago 

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.

 

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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+++++!

Tanta

River North

118 W Grand Ave
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 222-9700

 

 

Momotaro-Sushi

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.

 

Momotaro-2016

 

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!

 

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My Birthday Dessert at Momotaro, Chicago

Momotaro

Fulton Market

820 W Lake St
Chicago, IL 60607
(312) 733-4818

 

 

Blackbird-Chicago-Sweetbreads

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.

 

Blackbird-chicago-pork

suckling pig pavé and tenderloin, roasted sunchoke, almond, sunflower seed, lime, sport pepper at Blackbird, Chicago

 

Blackbird

West Loop

619 W Randolph St
Chicago, IL 60661
312-715-0708

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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.

 

 

Gunshow-Asaparagus-Cocktail

 

Since Gunshow opened in 2013, it had been on my short list of restaurants to eat at while in Atlanta. Unfortunately I hadn’t been able to secure a reservation on any of my visits in 2013, 2014, or 2015. However, 2016 proved that the fourth time is a charm!

If you have ever been a fan of Bravo’s Top Chef, you may remember Chef Kevin Gillespie from Season 6. Way back in 2010, my sister and I dined at Woodfire Grill, where Kevin was at that time the Executive Chef. While I was already a big fan of Kevin’s TV persona, that incredible meal confirmed to me that he was the real deal.

I continued to follow his career, so the announcement of his unique new restaurant concept, inspired by dim sum and churrascaria dining, definitely had me intrigued.

 

The above pic features the following from Gunshow:

Seasonal Tonic- Asparagus gin, dill genepy, lemon + caraway tonic, malic, soda

chicken paillard, pistachio, kohlrabi, local lettuce, blue grit croutons

beef short rib marmalade, sweet corn, blueberry cornbread

 

Gunshow-Peaches-Fennel

local peaches, buttermilk marinated fennel, jalapeno, ginger, feta at Gunshow Atlanta

 

I loved the idea of being able to see my dinner before selecting it, and as I’ve said many times before, my favorite way to dine is by sharing a bunch of small dishes with friends.

So basically, in a nutshell, this experience was pretty close to perfection for me. My only gripe is that the space is very noisy (am I showing my age here?) and it was hard for my friends and I to hear each other talking.  It was also a lot more casual than I expected, but really no complaints there. I like that it’s not pretentious in the least.

 

 

Gunshow-Crudo

Gunshow’s cobia crudo, kaffir lime, cucumber, serrano chile, orange, yuzu

 

So how does the service work? Upon arrival, you’re given a menu with with descriptions of the evening’s offerings. Drinks are ordered – beer, wine, or cocktails. (note: the cocktail I got was AMAZING. Typically I would probably try a couple of different drinks over the course of dinner, but on this night I stuck with only this one. See pic & description at top of page).

Throughout the evening, a flurry of trays and carts come by with various dishes, and the staff entices you with descriptions and stories of the particular dish they’re showcasing. If you want it, you just say yes, and it’s yours right then. If it’s not calling your name, you simply pass and wait for the next dish to come by.

 

 

Gunshow-Grouper-Asparagus

roasted grouper, asparagus gazpacho, shishito, crispy garlic, marcona at Gunshow Atlanta

 

We did a pretty good job tasting almost the entire nights’ menu. In fact, there were only 4 out of 15 dishes we didn’t try! I didn’t include every photo here, but as you can see, many of the dishes were visually stunning.

 

 

Gunshow-Corn-Soup

Gunshow’s chilled corn soup, diver scallop, sea beans, dill, radish, ramps

 

The beef short rib, the grouper and the vegetables with microwave carrot cake may have been my favorites, but there was really nothing that I didn’t enjoy.

 

 

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spring vegetables, microwave carrot cake, confit morel mushrooms at Gunshow Atlanta

 

When it was time for dessert we all thought we were going to pass on the chocolate cake because it sounded the least interesting, but then our server dissuaded us. Thank goodness he did, because this was one of the best desserts I’ve eaten in a long time!

 

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Dessert at Gunshow: chocolate, olive oil, fennel, almond

If you’re planning a visit to Atlanta, be sure to think ahead and try to secure a reservation at Gunshow at least 3-4 weeks in advance. For other Atlanta recommendations, visit these links:

Atlanta: Cooks & Soldiers

Atlanta: St Cecelia and King + Duke

Atlanta: The Optimist and Empire State South

Gunshow

924 Garrett St
Atlanta, GA 30316

HOURS Tuesday–Saturday 6–9 pm

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Sorry I’ve been MIA lately. These last couple of months have been insanely busy and between travel, family time, and work, I simply haven’t had a second to pull my thoughts together and write!

That said I have SO MUCH to write about. Trips to Charleston, Chicago, and Atlanta made for some incredible dining experiences, so even though it might take me a while to get them all posted, you better believe I will share. I’m going to work my way backwards by starting with Atlanta. Earlier this month, I attended my fifth Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, and appropriately, probably put on 5 pounds.

 

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As most of you that have been reading my blog know, I do double duty for many events, including AF&WF. While my career with Goo Goo has me working hard at the tasting tents and spreading the Goo Goo Gospel all weekend, I also try to fit in as many educational classes as I can in the hours the tents aren’t open. This year there were a couple of classes that were favorites.

First, Southern Living’s “Test Kitchen Secrets” demo where I got to chow down on an Open Faced Tomato Sandwich with Creamy Cucumber Spread and Smashed Fried Okra. Gah, I really think I could live on fresh tomatoes. Can’t wait until our famers’ markets here in Nashville are brimming full of them!

My other favorite class was “Forgotten Ingredients” on the grilling deck with Steve McHugh of TX and Travis Milton of VA.

 

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These guys did a great job giving us all a history lesson on regional cuisines and ingredients that have been forgotten over time. We were reminded that Native Americans were the original chefs, and played a significant role in shaping Southern food, particularly in Appalachia and the Ozarks. They cooked Trout with sumac and black locust vinegar (sooo good!) and a Prickly pear mesquite cobbler, both on a Big Green Egg.

 

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The 2016 Goo Goo Girls

 

Then, of course, there were the tasting tents. Three days of so much food & drink — it was impossible to try it all! As always, I had to be strategic and keep the belly space available for dishes that either sounded super interesting or just really decadent. Then there were also the surprises that perhaps I bypassed initially because I thought they were too basic, but then heard from others were awesome. Of course, then I was forced to hunt them down. Because that’s my job, ya know?

 

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On Friday, the first day of the tasting tents, this Brisket on mac & cheese from Grand Champion BBQ (GA) was the surprise dish of the day. I mean, I like brisket, but it’s one of those things I felt like I could eat on any given day, so I passed it by. That was, until I heard from one of my co-workers how delicious it was.

Actually, it was beyond delicious…definitely my favorite bite of the first day. And yes, I went back a second time. And maybe a third. Shhhh.

 

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Just across the aisle in the Southern Road Trip tent I found a much lighter bite – Meyer Lemon Mousse with saltine cracker streussel and sea salt made by City Grocery (MS). I could have eaten about 10 of these spoons, but alas, I practiced self control and only ate two.

 

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If there is a chicken skin anywhere in sight, I’m eating it. And I definitely was not disappointed with these Crispy chicken skins with whipped feta and spicy honey by Parish (GA). Whipped feta and honey, people. It’s all the rage. (as I learned at Butcher & Bee Nashville)

 

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The most beautiful dish I encountered was PintPoint Restaurant’s (NC) Smoked black grouper cheeks wrapped in shiso pickled sea bean and radish, cucumbers, preserved lemon and local mullet roe bottarga. Yeah, I don’t even know what all that stuff is either, but it was certainly interesting!

 

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Other standouts over the weekend were (clockwise from upper left):

Porter Road Butcher (TN) steak with chimichurri

chilled zellwood corn soup with local shrimp, hearts of palm, coconut, peach, and chili from Amelia Island’s (FL) table

5Church (GA) cheddar cheese angioletti with spring peas

Two Ten Jack (TN) ahi tuna poke with apple, radish, chili oil

 

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One of the best simple dishes I encountered was the Bulls Bay Sea Salt (SC) Tomato & Corn Salad with red mash sea salt. Super light and cool, it was refreshing in the heat, particularly after a few days of tasting some heavier dishes.

 

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In addition to all the food, there is always an abundance of great drinking options at Atlanta Food & Wine. In fact, there may be more “drinks” than there are “eats”, and while most are alcoholic, there are still some great non-alcoholic products to be discovered too. I was happy to stumble upon Slingshot Coffee Co’s Cold Brew, and also thrilled to hear the story from the owner about how she just won Entrepreneur of the Year 2016 from Southern Living magazine! Even more exciting – we can purchase it here in Nashville at Whole Foods!

 

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And now for my favorite two dishes of the entire weekend…

At Eat Local Starkville (MS), Ty Thames was serving up a molasses braised pork cheek on bone marrow grits with herb cream, curry fried raisins and apple dust. Holy schmoly you guys. I mean, I can’t even tell you how great this was. The pics definitely don’t do it justice.

 

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I still haven’t stopped thinking about it, and definitely want to try to recreate it some day for friends.

 

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Last but certainly not least, Hattie B’s (TN) hot chicken bite actually won “Best of the Fest”. Over the 3 day festival, attendees voted with wooden tokens for their favorite dishes, and Hattie B’s racked up the most tokens, earning them a $1,000 prize from PNC Bank.

Talk about some hometown pride. While I eat Hattie B’s hot chicken on the regular here in Nashville, there was certainly something special about that little piece they were serving up at Atlanta Food & Wine.

So there you go. A little glimpse into my experience at this year’s festival. If you haven’t had the opportunity to attend, and live within driving distance of Atlanta, I really encourage you to make plans to go next year. Every year has gotten better and better, and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings!

 

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Yum!East

Thursday, June 2, 2016
6 – 9 pm

Pavilion East
1006 Fatherland St
Nashville, TN 37206

Cost: $45/person (purchase tickets here)

21+ event

We all know that some of the best food in Nashville is found in East Nashville, so what could be better than an event bringing together over 30 of those restaurants, chefs, food artisans, and specialty purveyors? The 4th annual Yum!East benefits Fannie Battle Day Home for Children, and this year marks the 125th anniversary of this wonderful organization.

Admission to the event includes unlimited tastings from East Nashville eateries, souvenir glass, open bar with craft beer and wine, and live music.

For more information and a list of participating restaurants, visit www.yumeast.com.

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Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

Thursday, June 2nd – Sunday, June 5th, 2016
Midtown Atlanta

Cost: Various pricing levels

This is one event happening outside of Nashville that I always like to highlight because it is an incredible one, and it’s a relatively easy drive from here. This will be my 5th Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, and every year has been better than the last! I’ll be pulling double duty as an ambassador for Goo Goo and as media, so it’s both work and play for me.

If you take a look back at my experiences here, here , here. and here, I think you’ll see that even the “work” is fun!

Making the trip to Atlanta to partake in all of the deliciousness? Be sure to visit the Goo Goo table in the tasting tents and say hi to me!

 

 

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Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’

Sunday, June 12th, 2016
3 – 5 pm

Front Lawn of First Presbyterian Church
4815 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37220

Cost: $10 for adults (advance)
$8 for children (advance)

One of the best family friendly activities of the summer is happening in just a couple of weeks– Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’!

While the nearly 3,000 attendees stroll the lawn tasting, there will be judges hard at work finding winners for 3 categories: chocolate base, vanilla base and “other.” The winner from each category then vies for the “best of show,” which will be produced next year into a new Purity ice cream flavor. How cool is that?

I’ve had the pleasure of judging this event in the past, and believe me, there are some delicious flavors being served up!

For more information on the event, details on how to enter the contest, or to purchase tickets, click here.

 

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TailGate Beer Candemonium!

Sunday, June 12th, 2016
2 – 5 pm

TailGate Beer
7300 Charlotte Pike
Nashville TN, 37209

Cost: Free, all ages, and open to the public

If ice cream isn’t your thing, then maybe you should grab the family and head over to TailGate brewery & tasting room as they throw a party to celebrate the release of three new cans– Grapefruit IPA, Peanut Butter Milk Stout, and Watermelon Wheat. There will be plenty of  activities on the huge 7.5 acre property, including live music by the Dharmabillies, tastings, and a full specialty pizza menu.

I personally haven’t yet tried the Grapefruit IPA or the Watermelon Wheat, but I have had the pleasure of drinking the Peanut Butter Milk Stout and it is ridiculously good!

 

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FoodBank:Throwdown

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
5:30 – 9 pm

Martha O’Bryan Center
711 South 7th St
Nashville, TN 37201

Cost: $60

This year I will once again be judging a cooking competition for a great cause, FoodBank:Throwdown for the Martha O’Bryan Center. This fundraiser is a friendly competition with a twist- the chefs are challenged to create a winning dish using items typically donated to local food banks. We’re talking canned vegetables, fruits and soups, boxed starches and grains, white bread, and a few proteins.

Your ticket cost covers sample plates from the 8 chefs involved in the Throwdown, adult refreshments from Jackalope Brewing,  and coffee from Frothy Monkey.

I’m excited to see what creative dishes the chefs come up with this year. If they’re half as good as last year’s winning dish, Spam Boudin Balls from Trey Cioccia, we’re in for a treat! For ticket information, visit their Eventbrite page.

 

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Pints + Puppies

Thursday, June 23rd, 2016
7 – 10 pm

The Hook
2222 8th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

Cost: $15

While I’m judging Foodbank: Throwdown, across town The Hook will play host to Pints+Puppies on their awesome patio. Have a pup or just love pups? Then this event is for you.

While you’re enjoying some great food and beer with your friends, you can watch the pups compete in skills & trick competitions as well as a tail wagging contest! The winning doggies will be treated to organic locally-made treats as prizes.

For more information and updates on the event, visit the event FB page or CitySocial.