On my most recent trip to Chicago, I had some of the best meals I’ve encountered there in quite some time. Every meal was excellent and each very different from the other. I would highly recommend any/all of these for your next visit to the Windy City!

For those of you that may not have been following my blog for long, here’s a little background on me and Chicago: I love this city. One of my very best friends lives here. I’ve visited Chicago at least once every year since 1996. In recent years, my visits have become more frequent, and now I typically come at least 2-3 times a year.

So that’s that.

My friend Libby loves food as much as I do, so I never have to worry about doing too much (if any) research beforehand on where to go; I just put my trust in her, and she never steers me wrong.

 

bottlefork-gnocchi

Gnocchi at Bottlefork Chicago

Bottlefork

River North

441 N Clark St
Chicago, IL 60654
(312) 955-1900

This time my only request was that we didn’t do all American-type food, as I was craving some ethnic eats that I can’t really get much of in Nashville. That said, she’d really been wanting to take me to Bottlefork, which serves “New American” cuisine, and I was happy to go along knowing that we’d get a little more adventurous the next couple of nights.

bottlefork-foodPork belly, cocktail and octopus & spam at Bottlefork

 

Well, once again, Lib knew what she was doing. This meal was so delicious, hearty, and satisfying. The Potato gnocchi with butternut squash, wild mushrooms and fresh goat cheese was out of this world!

Oh, and the cider braised pork belly on mustard greens and sweet potato puree? I would like to eat it at least once a week. The pork belly was perfection. Fatty, but not too fatty. Incredible. Then there was the grilled octopus and house made spam with brussels sprout kimchee and sugar snap peas. Brussels sprout kimchee is my new favorite. For real.

After that, we were completely stuffed, but of course had to order some ridiculous (in a good way) soft serve sundae with pretzel crumbs, caramel, chocolate fudge and a sweet stout to finish off the evening. I mean, how could we not?

 

Tanta

River North

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

Peruvian!!!  I was so excited about this meal. Described as being influenced by the Incas as well as Chinese, German, Italian, Japanese and Spanish immigrants, Peruvian food is a cuisine I rarely eat, but always love when I do.

tanta-octopus

Tanta’s Pulpo

You know a meal is going to be great when the free bites they give you to start are out-of-this-world. I went a little nuts and ate WAY too many of the plantain chips  that are served with a creamy aji amarillo (bright orange Peruvian chile) dip. They were just so addictive I could. not. stop.

Anyway, despite eating too many of those, I made room for everything else that was put in front of me. The Pulpo Anticucho, a traditional Peruvian street-food skewer made up of tender octopus that’s marinated in olive oil and garlic, was perhaps my favorite dish of the night. Served over potatoes, sprinkled with fried garlic chips, then drizzled with olive sauce, it was one of the best octopus preparations I’ve ever had.

 

tanta-food

Nekei, Chi Jau Kay Marino, and cocktail at Tanta Chicago

From the Tiraditos* section of the menu (*peruvian style sashimi) we ordered the “Nekei”: ahi tuna, passion fruit leche de tigre, and honey with chifa sauce. The flavors were so vibrant, and it was a nice light dish in the middle of our meal since, as I’ve already divulged, I ate WAY too many plantain chips.

On our server’s suggestion, from the Del Chifa* section of the menu (*Chifa refers to Chinese cooking, in which Peruvian and Chinese ingredients are fused to cantonese culinary tradition. Source: Wikipedia) we ordered the Chi Jau Kay Marino, a shrimp crusted mahi with soybean & sesame sauce over vegetable fried rice. I can’t say this is something I probably would have chosen from the menu by the description alone, but OMG. I am sooooo happy he suggested it.

We were completely blown away by this dish. It’s too bad that it didn’t photograph well, because I need you to understand how amazing it was, and my sad little picture doesn’t reflect that!

Momotaro

Fulton Market

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

Momotaro is the newest restaurant from The Boka Restaurant Group which also has a couple of my other Chicago favorites, Girl & the Goat and GT Fish & Oyster. In fact, the new Japanese restaurant was only 1 day old when I visited, which makes my experience even more impressive.

momotaro-food

We ordered so much food at this meal that I can’t even begin to go into it all – partly because I can’t remember what everything was called! But, I can tell you what my absolute favorites were.

First, the Hamachi Tuna Roll (seen in upper left corner) – tuna, satsuma orange ponzu, serrano chili, and shallot all stuffed inside of a crispy wonton wrapper. This was so good that we ended up getting three (yes 3!) orders.

momtaro-tuna

Toro Tartare at Momotaro Chicago

The dish that was mind blowing in its presentation was the Toro Tartare: beautiful red bits of tuna and  sweet red onion garnished with a ginger blossom and wasabi sauce, served atop a slab of ice. Again, I wish my photos did it justice.

momotaro-toro-tartare-sushi

Toro Tartare and sushi at Momotaro Chicago

 

momotaro-food-dessert

A couple of other standouts were the Smoked Bacon and Eggs – soy marinated quail eggs, bliss maple syrup (photo upper left corner) and the Kurunchi Wasabi Salad – tempura flakes, pickled beets, creamy wasabi dressing (photo upper right corner). That salad. There are no words. I am determined to recreate it at home. How had I never thought to make wasabi dressing?? Genius.

For dessert, they all sounded so unique that we couldn’t choose just one, and it was my last night in town, so why not go all out, right? The Waka Momo was baby green peaches served on a bed of whipped tofu with almond pralines. While it didn’t blow me away, it certainly was interesting and I’m glad we got to try it. On the other hand, the Soy Milk Custard with huckleberry jam and brown butter financier was definitely one of the best parts of the entire meal! I think Libby and I are probably both still dreaming of it.

 

tasteofnashville-Banner-with-sponsor2

 

Taste of Nashville

Friday, November 7th, 2014
7 pm – 1 am

Rocketown
601 4th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37203

Cost: $65 general admission; $100 VIP

There are so many food events and festivals these days that it’s hard to decide which ones to go to. Personally, I think this one should be on your “must” list!

Taste of Nashville, hosted by the The Phoenix Club and benefiting the Boys & Girls Club of Middle Tennessee and Junior Achievement of Middle Tennessee, is a gathering of some of the best restaurants, food purveyors, bars and beverage creators that our fine city has to offer.

 

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Seriously, when I see names like Etch, Sinema, Biscuit Love, Moto, Union Common, Acme Feed & Seed, Silo, Treehouse, and Martin’s BBQ on the list, I have no doubt that it’s going to be good! And that’s not even a fraction of the vendors that will be in attendance. To see the full list, click here.

To purchase tickets, visit the Evenbrite ticketing page. But before you go and do that, perhaps you’d like to try your luck at winning a pair of tickets to the event?

I’ve got not just one, but two sets of tickets to give away to next week’s Taste of Nashville!

Giveaway

~ Contest Closed ~

And the winners are…..

#65 Sarah Woodruff

#11 Kristen

 

To enter, all you have to do is this:

Mandatory

1. Leave a comment telling me which of the restaurants/bars you’re most excited to try at the event.

For an additional entry, you can do the following. Note: You must leave a separate comment for this entry.

2. Follow me on Twitter (@betheats) and tweet “Next Friday is @TasteofNash and @betheats has tickets to give away! http://bit.ly/1zEDvoz ”, then leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.

Contest ends on Saturday, November 1st at noon CDT. Once the winners are chosen, I’ll make contact via email and post the names here on the blog. If they don’t respond within 48 hours, I’ll be forced to choose others, so be sure to check your email!

 

 mediterranean paleo cooking2

As many of you know, we’ve got a pretty active food blogger community here in Nashville. When my friends Lindsay, Leah and I decided to create an organized group a few years ago, there were only about 20 of us that we knew of. Since Nashville Food Bloggers was born, we’ve grown to over 100 members! It has been such a great experience getting to know many of the bloggers, and I’m continually impressed with how talented many of them are.

Which leads me here. There is one newer member of our group that I haven’t had a chance to meet personally yet, but I’m certainly looking forward to the day I do. Caitlin Weeks, aka Grass Fed Girl, is a native of Nashville, and currently splits her time between here and San Francisco. She and her husband (who is a professional chef), just wrote a cookbook with Certified Nutrition Consultant and New York Times bestelling author Diane Sanfilippo.

They will be discussing and signing Mediterranean Paleo Cooking in Cool Springs tomorrow, which is also the first day the book is available for purchase!

Who:

Authors Caitlin Weeks, Nabil Boumrar, and Diane Sanfilippo

What:

Discussion and Signing of Mediterranean Paleo Cooking

When:

Tuesday, October 28th at 7 pm

Where:

Barnes and Noble – Cool Springs
1701 Mallory Ln, Brentwood, TN 37027

Caitlin sent me a review copy, so I’ve been devouring the book for the past few days. As you can see from the photo below, I’ve already marked several recipes that I can’t wait to try!

While I don’t follow a paleo diet*, I do like the concept. Personally, I feel better when I eliminate processed foods, grains and refined sweeteners from my diet, so even if I don’t go at it hard core, I do like to eat that way as much as possible. After seeing all of these interesting recipes, who knows? Maybe I will go all in! Do any of you follow a Paleo plan? Would love to know your thoughts if you’re tried it.

 

mediterranean paleo cooking3

For more information on the signing, click here. To see a preview of the book, click here

*Paleo Diet: a diet based on the types of foods presumed to have been eaten by early humans, consisting chiefly of meat, fish, vegetables, and fruit, and excluding dairy or grain products and processed food.

GC14_logo

 

We all know that Nashville’s culinary scene is exploding, and I’m thrilled that my favorite food magazine, Bon Appétit, has noticed too!

This year Bon Appétit is bringing their very popular Grub Crawl to our fair city… and it’s happening THIS weekend! Tickets to the crawl have been sold out for months, but guess who has a pair of them to give away!?!?!

That’s right. I was able to get my hands on 2 tickets that one of you lovely people get to use for the first crawl of the day that begins at 11 a.m. on Saturday. (pssst, I’ll be on this crawl too!)

You’ll have the opportunity to stop at several restaurants, meet the chefs and masterminds behind the food & beverages at each of the stops, and of course, eat and drink along the way. The tickets grant you access to the Closing Party at 9pm at Rosewall as well.

The stops for this particular crawl include (if you want more details, click here)-

11 a.m. – 3:30 p.m.

11 a.m. – begin at Pinewood Social
Merchants
Robert’s Western World
Etch

9 p.m. Closing party at Rosewall

At the closing party, you’ll enjoy live music + food & drinks by Kayne Prime, The Rosewall, Virago, 404 Kitchen, The Sutler, and Urban Grub.

 

~ Contest Closed ~

And the winner is…..

#13 Miranda

Giveaway

To enter, all you have to do is this:

Mandatory

1. Leave a comment telling me which of the restaurants/bars on the crawl you’re most excited to visit and learn more about.

For an additional entry, you can do the following. Note: You must leave a separate comment for this entry.

2. Follow me on Twitter and tweet “The Nashville @bonappetit grub crawl is this Saturday & @betheats has tickets to give away! http://bit.ly/1uG44l6 ”, then leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.

There’s a short entry window for this one, so hurry and get your comment in. Contest ends on Thursday, October 23rd at 5 p.m. CDT. Once the winner is chosen, I’ll make contact via email and post the name here on the blog. If they don’t respond within 24 hours, I’ll be forced to choose another, so be sure to check your email!

 

The-Sutler-Nashville-Boot-Wall1

Yep, that’s a boot wall.

There are so many new spots opening in Nashville these days, it’s hard to keep up, isn’t it? Slowly but surely I’m attempting to visit all of the best ones so I can report back on my favorites.

One that I wasn’t so slow to check out for the first time was The Sutler. In fact, I was there having a cocktail on the very first day, at the very first minute their doors opened to the public in early September. Yep, I was a little excited about it.

 

The-Sutler-Nashville-Cocktail1

 

Years ago I frequented The Sutler when it was what I considered a dive bar on 8th Avenue. Originally opened in 1976 (I may be old, but that definitely wasn’t the year I was hanging out there), the spot was a music venue/restaurant/bar, and a beloved hangout for local musicians. When it closed in 2005, many mourned. I’m sure they’re now doing a happy dance since owners Austin Ray (ML Rose) and Joe Parkes Jr have resurrected a re-imagined version of the original.

With more than 8,000 square feet of space on two levels in the historic Melrose theater building, there’s a little something for everyone.

A dark, cozy space with a multitude of seating areas – there’s even one with a fireplace! – their “cellar” is likely where you’ll often find me holed up sipping cocktails this winter.

The-Sutler-Nashville-Cellar3

The Cellar at The Sutler

The upstairs bar is brighter, louder (in a good way) and livelier. With a stage at the front of the room, and roomful of tables, it’s a prime spot for not only drinking and socializing, but also dining.

Chef Nick Seabergh has built a fantastic menu around a hickory smoker and wood-fired grill. There are a lot of decadent items great for soaking up all the booze, but there are also a few lighter options if you’re not in the mood to indulge. Or you can do what I did on a recent visit and create a perfectly balanced meal of spicy fried chicken and healthy veggies.

 The-Sutler-Nashville-Food-Overhead

The Sutler’s Veggies Grilled, Veggies Raw, and Nashville Hot Nuggets

The “Nashville Hot Nuggets” are buttermilk battered chicken thighs, livers, and gizzards served on texas toast with Alabama white sauce. This girl LOVES chicken gizzards and AL white sauce, so when I saw those listed, I certainly couldn’t pass it up. Add to that a plate of the “Veggies Grilled” with a pimento-thyme gastrique, and “Veggies Raw” with whipped herb chevre, and the meal was complete.

I absolutely adore the raw vegetable preparation- probably one of the most impressive vegetable dishes I’ve had. Will certainly be ordering it again and again.

~UPDATE 2/21/15~ As I’ve now had a few months to eat my way through almost the entire menu at The Sutler, I wanted to offer up an update to you, listing my absolute favorite dishes. Some of these have been surprises to me, so I definitely want to steer you toward them to ensure you don’t miss out!

Fried Pickle Bashspicy kosher dill pickle chips, green tomatoes and lemon slices (yes, lemon slices! These aren’t mentioned on the menu, but I’ve encountered them more than once, so I don’t know if they always put them in there, but if/when they do, they’re amazing!) with tabasco remoulade

Sweet Potato Hummus – sweet potato tahini, pecan sage pesto, marinated cotija, grilled tortillas. Please don’t pass this one up like I did so many times early on. It is delicious!!!

Bob Hitt Grilled Cheese – 5 Tennessee cheeeses, broadbent’s bacon, tomato raspberry dunk. Decadent. Fun fact: I worked at Broadbent’s as a teenager, and Mrs. Broadbent was my home room teacher in middle school!

Brussels Sprouts Hash – crispy leaves, creme fraiche whipped yukons, crunchy cheddar-jack crumbles, shallot chips. Sooooo good I can hardly stand it!

Veggies Raw - shaved market vegetables, whipped herbed belle chevre, citrus, texas olive oil. I know I mentioned this one in my original post, but I love it so much I need to mention it again. I will always order these when I go to The Sutler. Always.

 

 

The-Sutler-Nashville-Raw-Veggies

Veggies Raw at The Sutler

In addition to the regular menu, just this weekend The Sutler introduced “Grass Fed Sundays”. Each Sunday from 4:30 to 10:00 p.m., there will be family-style rotating dinner with drink specials and live bluegrass music. Designed to feed four to six people, each supper will feature a main dish and three sides for a set price.

The-Sutler-Nashville-Sunday-Supper

This past Sunday, my little family and some friends feasted on Tennessee Hickory Smoked “Beast” Loaf (fresh ground pork shoulder and beef wrapped in bacon), caramelized brussels sprouts, loaded mac & cheese, and pork fat fries. Yes, I know. I definitely was not counting calories at that meal.

If you’ve got young ones, you know it’s not easy to go out often, so this Sunday supper is a great option that the whole family can enjoy. As you can see, the kiddos (and the adults) were pretty impressed with the action on the stage!

The-Sutler-Nashville-Bluegrass

~Giveaway~

Contest Closed

The Winner is….

#51 Allison

 

Tired of hearing me ramble on about it and just want to go try it for yourself? Well, here’s your chance to do so for free! I’ve got a Sutler dinner for TWO* to give away!
To enter, all you have to do is this:

Mandatory

1. Leave a comment telling me if you’d ever been to the old Sutler, and a memory from those days – OR – if you’ve recently checked out the new Suttler, what you love most about. Haven’t been to the old or the new? No problem. Just let me know how much you really want to go!

For up to 2 additional entries, you can do either or both of the following. Note: You must leave a separate comment for each optional entry.

2. Follow The Sutler on Twitter (@thesutler) and tweet “I want to win dinner for 2 at @thesutler from @betheats! Don’t you? http://bit.ly/1vw0cZn”, then leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.

3. Like The Sutler on Facebook and come back and tell me you did so (or just tell me you already do if that’s the case!)

Contest ends on Sunday, October 19th at noon CDT. Once the winner is chosen, I’ll make contact via email and post the name here on the blog. If they don’t respond within 48 hours, I’ll be forced to choose another, so be sure to check your email!

*Gift card, $75 value

 

The Sutler Saloon

2600 Franklin Pike #109
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 840-6124

Open Daily 4:30 pm – Late

Twitter @thesutler
Instagram thesutler
Facebook

 

 

Juice-Bar

 

Some of you may already be familiar with Juice Bar in Brentwood. I know I’d heard great things for a few months before I actually had a chance to get down there and check it out for myself.

Back in the summer when I was traveling a lot and eating rather poorly, I started to feel really run down. I knew it was time to do something to gain back a little energy, so when they offered to let me try their 3-day cleanse, I jumped at the chance. It was just what I needed to reboot!

Since Brentwood is a bit of a haul for me, I was pretty excited to learn that they would soon be opening a new location in Berry Hill, much closer to my own neck of the woods. It took longer than planned (what construction doesn’t?), but I’m happy to announce that Juice Bar Berry Hill is now open for business.

 

Juice-Bar-Juices

 

While I love a good juice cleanse, I know it’s not for everyone, so I want to make sure to point out that Juice Bar offers much more than juice cleanses (but if you’re interested in learning more on those, this link will provide the what’s and how’s).

Last week when I visited the new Berry Hill shop, I got to sample lots of goodies including a quinoa salad, kale chips, spring rolls, ginger shots, and smoothies. A couple of my favorite smoothies were the Mint to Be (mint, mango, pineapple, coconut milk, apple juice) and the Smooth Beet (beets, carrots, apples, pineapple, lemon, ginger, mint). I’ve actually been craving a Mint to Be for two days now, so I need to get back over there soon to satisfy this craving!

 

Juice-Bar-Berry-Hill

 

Considered an “express” location, there isn’t a lot of seating, but it’s perfect for grabbing a healthy bite to eat on the run. Which, if you’re anything like me, is awesome because rarely do I have time to sit down and eat a real meal in the middle of the day. Sadly, I often skip lunch altogether, which I know is a terrible thing to do. I’m looking forward to changing that bad habit by stopping into Juice Bar and filling my body full of nutrients in just a few short minutes.

For those of you not near Brentwood or Berry Hill, keep your ears open, as more Juice Bar locations are coming soon… Germantown and Franklin on the horizon!

 

Juice-Bar-Berry-Hill-Beet

 

Juice Bar Berry Hill

522 Heather Place
Nashville, TN 37204
M-F – 7:30 am – 5:30 pm
Sat – 8:30 am – 4:30 pm
Sun – closed

 MCFW14-Erin-Amanda-Beth-Charmaine

 

I could spend days writing this blog post. Not kidding. DAYS. Our town’s 2nd Music City Food + Wine Festival has come and gone, and it was a doozy.

As I sat here going through all of my photos, it hit me hard how much I love Nashville and more specifically, our food community. This past weekend was absolutely incredible. My heart and my belly were filled as I got to eat delicious things, listen to incredible music, meet interesting new people, and spend quality time with dear friends I don’t get to see nearly enough of.

I love my life. And I love this festival.

Unfortunately, I don’t have days to spend writing, so while I can’t explain every single thing that made this weekend amazing, I’m giving you my thoughts on what was the best of the best – the food, the drink, the moments.

Day 1 – Grand Taste

MCFW14-Otaku-South-Tantan-Mazeman

One of the first bites I had when I came through the entrance was from Otaku South. That dish stayed on my mind all day long. Okay, who am I kidding? I’m still thinking about it! Tantan Mazeman – thick style noodle, sesame, chili sauce, dashi, chili oil and cured egg yolk – absolutely one of my top 3 favorites of the day.

MCFW14-Moto-Sinema

The other two dishes that made up my Top 3?

Moto’s Housemade Burrata and heirloom tomato panzanella and Sinema’s Duck, Duck, Dumpling – frisee, butternut squash, whipped goat cheese, duck confit, and curried French style gnocchi. Both amazing.

MCFW14-Biscuit-Love

Those may have been my Top 3, but there were a few others that I loved as well.

Biscuit Love’s 3-year-aged country ham with beaten biscuits and jam. As you can see, the ham was cut from a leg right there on the table. I may have gone by a couple of times (3, 4, 5 – who’s counting?) to nibble on the ham remnants. Hey, I love country ham. I grew up in a town that hosts the Country Ham Festival every year. It’s in my DNA.

MCFW14-Erin-Beth-Charmaine

Just in case you’re wondering, I did more than just eat at the festival. I learned to play harmonica too!

MCFW14-Lisa-Donovan-Dessert

Moving on to the sweet side of things, Lisa Donovan’s (Husk) Bourbon Butterscotch Pudding with Smoked Cocoa Nib Brittle was absolutely delicious.

MCFW14-Catbird-Seat-Potato-Pastry

And this one? Well, it was pure insanity. My mind was blown and I deemed the Catbird Seat contribution to the event the ‘Best in Show’. What looked like a wheelbarrow full of potatoes and dirt turned out to be an amazing cream filled pastry with cocoa nibs (dirt)!

Craziness.

 

Harvest Night

MCFW14-Harvest-Night

The Grand Taste tents at Public Square Park during the day is where the Nashville chefs show off their culinary skills, but Saturday night’s Harvest Dinner is where the out of town chefs have a chance to shine.

Held at the Walk of Fame Park behind the downtown Hilton, the lawn was set with 15 individual sampling stations for each chef, which meant lining up for each taste. A couple of the lines were so long, I just wasn’t willing to wait (sorry Tyler Florence & Morimoto), but for the most part they moved fairly quickly.

My favorites from Harvest Night (I’d definitely be willing to wait in line for a second helping of these!):

Amanda Freitag’s Falafel

Ashley Christensen’s Pimento Cheese grits, succotash, and fried okra

Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman’s Porchetta with Brussels Sprouts

Levon Wallace’s BBQ Manchester Farms Quail, Berbere, Watermelon Confit, Cruze Buttermilk

Mike Lata’s braised grilled squid, burnt eggplant puree and paprika

 

MCFW14-Harvest-Night-Favorites

 

After eating my way through most of the stations, I was exhausted and starting to lose steam, so I plopped myself on the grass to listen to the entertainment. Just a few of the performers for the evening: Kings of Leon, Michael McDonald, Charles Kelley, Hunter Hayes, Ashley Monroe, Moon Taxi…

Sitting in the cool grass with the lights of the city and good friends around me, I had another “I love Nashville. I love my life.” moment. Happy times.

Day 2 – Grand Taste

MCFW14-Switters-Iced-Coffee

First thing on the agenda for Day 2 of the festival was to get caffeinated. Day 1 was a long day, and we needed a boost! Luckily, Switter’s bottled iced coffee was there, so I pretty much guzzled it* for the first couple of hours. Let me tell you,  this stuff is really, really fantastic!

Made with 8th and Roast beans, it’s currently sold at Whole Foods, Produce Place, Mitchell Delicatessen and a few other local markets, as well as on tap at some restaurants (and more to come soon).  Search it out!

*there may have also been a little Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream added….

 

MCFW14-Hattie-B-Hot-Chicken-Skin

Caffeine secured, so naturally, hot chicken was our next stop. While Hattie B’s had a table full of mini hot chicken sandwiches, I wasn’t really in the mood for a sandwich, so I asked the chef if I could just get a piece of chicken sans bread. His response was to pull out a giant ziploc bag full of hot chicken skins.

How did he know the way to my heart???  After multiple trips back to that table throughout the day to secure more, I finally suggested that they start selling them by the bag in the restaurant. It would certainly be my new #1 snack food.

MCFW14-Day2-Favorites

Other top picks for Day 2:

Sinema’s Cardamom Sugar Crusted French Toast with mulled wine poached pear, and whipped farm cheese.  (Wow. Fingers crossed that this or at least something very similar will be on their new brunch menu when it launches!)

404 Kitchen’s cornbread with pickled cherries, trampetti olive oil and Hungarian white honey truffles

Mangia’s Porchetta on Focaccia

Well, there you have it. My “best of the best” list for Music City Food + Wine 2014. For those of you that were there, I’d love to hear what your favorites were! And for those that didn’t attend, start saving your change now, because you need to be there next year!

 

Thai-Esane-Sausage

Esane Sausgae at Thai Esane

There aren’t many restaurants that I visit on a regular basis these days because, well, there are so many new restaurants to try in Nashville. But, Thai Esane is an exception. I’ve been there more than any other dining spot in the past couple of months because it’s too good not to go back to.

Opened in June at the far end of 12 South almost to the Gulch, Thai Esane has become a popular lunch spot for many of my food blogger/writer and social media friends. In fact, it’s rare that a day goes by that I don’t see someone posting on Twitter or Instagram about their meal there. And it’s all praise!

 

Thai-Esane-Nashville-Steam-Dumplings

Thai Esane’s Steamed Dumplings

 
Nina Sayasack, the proprietor, was already known to fans of the popular King Market in Antioch, her family’s Thai Laotian cafe. When word began to spread that she was opening a place on 12 South, excitement commenced, and for good reason.

The menu at Thai Esane is huge, so it’s going to take a while to eat my way through it. Luckily I have a couple of friends that have done a great job of pointing out the best of the best. Vivek and Tabitha have both been dining partners of mine at the restaurant, and they’ve both eaten there much more than I even have, so they’re experts on the offerings. Be sure to check out their posts found here and here. (Vivek’s write up includes several ethnic eateries in Nashville. You’ll find Thai Esane if you scroll down a bit)

Thai-Esane-Papaya-Salad

Papaya Salad at Thai Esane

 

That said, I’m sharing some pics of what I’ve found to be a few of my personal favorites so far. I love dumplings, and so I often like to start the meal with an order of the steamed dumplings, a wonton stuffed full of chicken, mushrooms, celery, carrots, cabbage and onions. The Papaya salad is also a great, light, refreshing starter to share.

Vivek turned me on to the Esane sausage, which is made with ground pork, lemongrass, onions, and ginger. Served with rice and sauce for dipping, I suggest getting an order to split with the rest of your table.

 

Thai-Esane-Tiger-Tear-Salad

Thai Esane’s Tiger Tear Salad

My favorite dish, probably partly because it has been so darn hot lately, is the Tiger Tear salad. Made up of thin sliced beef in lime juice, fish sauce, onions, jalapenos, peppers, carrots and herbs, it’s perfectly refreshing and light (though filling!) on a warm day.

The larb (no photo of this one) is also another cold salad that’s great. It’s minced meat (I prefer pork) mixed with red onion, cilantro, green onions, chiles, lime juice and rice powder. (Side note: I order “medium” on all of my dishes at Thai Esane. I love spicy food, but their “hot” is a bit too much for me. Medium gives a pleasing heat that doesn’t overwhelm any of the flavors of the dishes.)

 

Thai-Esane-Nashville-Kao-Soy

Thai Esane’s Kao Soi: flat thick rice noodles in tomato base with lettuce, beansprouts, cilantro and green onion (add your choice of meat)

 

Now, the opposite of the cooler, light options on the menu — the bowls of steaming hot soups. The last time I ate here I was with both Tabitha and Vivek. It was 90+ degrees outside, but they both ordered soup! Before then, I hadn’t tried any soups because that’s not really something I think about eating in the summer. When they both did this, I knew there must be something really special about these soups!

I got to sample Tabitha’s chicken noodle (WAY beyond typical chicken noodle) and Vivek’s kao soi, and I’ll say, I cannot wait for it to get colder because these soups will be a staple in my winter diet!

 

 

Thai-Esane-Table

 

When I was leaving Thai Esane on my last visit, I was thrilled to hear Nina say they were starting delivery service. Deliveries are now up and running, so if you live within a 3 mile radius of their location, you can have all of this deliciousness delivered right to your front door. There is a minimum purchase of $25 and a $5 delivery charge, but I promise, it’s totally worth it!

 

Thai Esane

907 12th Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 454-5373

M – Thurs 11 – 9
Fri – Sat 11 – 10:30
Sunday – closed

Twitter: @ThaiEsane
Instagram: thaiesane