I did it. This post officially gets me caught up on the tales of my summer travel eats!
Before this latest trip, it had been 3 years since my last visit to Washington D.C. Hard to believe that much time has passed because I feel like it was just yesterday that I was enjoying some amazing meals at Rasika and Zatinya. Oh, and of course that insane chocolate-laden brunch at Co Co. Sala! Certainly can’t forget that one.
This time around I was traveling for work, and because I had a seminar that would keep me busy for much of it, I didn’t really make a plan for my first night in town. Instead I figured if I felt like eating something when I was done working, I’d just grab a quick bite from a bar near my hotel. Well, turns out I didn’t have to actually go anywhere. Instead, food came to me!
When I returned to my room from my class (that was also being held in my hotel, the Loews Madison), there was a charcuterie board, crepes, and a note waiting for me on my desk. The note? An invitation to come dine at the hotel’s newly opened restaurant, Rural Society.
Now, do you think I’m going to pass up that offer? Of course not!
From the moment I walked in, I was thoroughly impressed. The decor definitely makes you forget that you are in a hotel restaurant. My favorite part of the design are the private dining nooks with vintage bars. If I was dining with a couple of friends, that’s definitely where I’d want to sit. But, I wasn’t, I was alone. Since I was solo, the perfect spot for me was obviously the Chef’s Counter, where I was front and center for all the action happening at the expansive wood burning grill.
Why the large grill? Well, Rural Society is a contemporary Argentine steakhouse. The smells wafting from that kitchen had my stomach rumbling and before long I was devouring one plate after another. Even though grilled meats are their specialty, I absolutely loved the Carpaccio de Pulpo: braised octopus, tomatao escabeche, and malbec chips. Another favorite was the braised Wagyu beef belly empanadas. And remember those crepes that were sent up to my room earlier in the evening? They were divine. As in, the best crepes I’ve ever had. Dulce de Leche crepes with blackberry gastrique and wood roasted pecans. Enough said.
1177 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
Where do I even begin when it comes to Little Serow? Plain and simple: I’m in love.
There are so many little things that I am enamored with about this entire concept. From the no frills basement location to the service staff’s clothes to the spicy hot, tear-inducing cuisine to their playlist, I can’t quit thinking about how much I want a place just like this in Nashville.
It’s a little different than your average restaurant concept, so here are some bullet points:
- They serve a set, family-style Thai dinner on a first-come, first-served walk in basis. No advance reservations. They don’t even have a phone!
- Cost is $45 per person (plus a little extra if you’re partaking in booze) for 7 courses
- They update the menu each Tuesday afternoon for that particular week. Changes or substitutions are not possible.
- They can only accommodate groups of 4 or less and there are only seats for 28 people.
- As I mentioned, it’s in a basement and there is no signage, so look for the line. Chances are there will be one unless you arrive by say, 4 pm for the first 5:30 pm seating. You may actually claim the first spot in the line if you’re willing to wait that long!
My very good friend Kandace works just a block away from Little Serow, so after my conference ended at 4 pm, I walked to her office from my hotel, grabbed her, and then we walked over to claim our place in line. Yes, I waited for 45 minutes. In the rain. And yes, it was completely worth it.
I don’t want to give away too many details, because for those of you that may actually go there yourself, I want you to feel the same way I did as I soaked it all in for the first time. All I will say is that I felt like the $45 spent on this meal was a screaming value for what I experienced.
Word of warning: the cuisine is not for anyone that doesn’t enjoy spicy food. Some are milder than others, but ALL bring some heat. Kandace and I were a little shocked at how combustible a couple of the dishes were, but thanks to the bowl of sticky rice and cold vegetables they provide at the beginning of the meal, we were able to calm down our tongue’s reaction!
I’ve eaten foods before that are so hot you can’t even taste the flavors, but that is definitely not the case with these dishes. They are SO flavorful and complex and delicious that even when my eyes were watering and my nose was running, I kept reaching for more.
Lapp pla duk chiang mai: Catfish, shallots, lanna spices
Tow hu thouk: tofu, cilantro root, peanut
si krong muu: pork ribs, mekhong whiskey, dill
If you are a fan of Thai cuisine and can handle some heat, you simply must visit Little Serow if you find yourself in D.C.!
1511 17th St NW
Washington, DC 20036
One of the questions I get asked most often is “Where should I go for dessert?” Sometimes it’s from out-of-towners, sometimes it’s from locals. Usually people are looking for a place to go for a special dessert. Maybe they have an anniversary, or have a hot date with plans to go see a show but want to finish off the evening with a nice glass of wine and a little something sweet.
Of course I have a few suggestions, but I know I’m probably missing some places, so that’s what this post is all about.
I’ve got a project in mind, and I need your help! I need to know where your favorite desserts are. Not just where, but also, what are they? What are the best of the best here in Nashville?
Even if you think I probably already know about a certain place or specific dessert, go ahead and leave a comment about it. I would love for my fondness for a certain confection be validated by your approval of it!
Then stay tuned…I’ll be back soon with a very sweet Nashville post once I’m done researching!
I told you I am determined to catch up on my travel eating adventures! Back in late May/early June, I headed down to Atlanta for the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival. While my days were work (which actually did involve lots of eating as you can see from my post on the event), my nights were free to hit the town and check out some newer Atlanta restaurants that had opened up in the past year or so.
My friend Lisa, who traveled with me to AF&WF last year, was also with me again this year. If you were reading my blog back then, then you know that we absolutely loved our visit to The Optimist on that trip. In fact, I’ve been known to say that it was perhaps the best meal I ate in 2013! So, when I saw that Ford Fry, the owner of The Optimist, had opened a restaurant called St. Cecilia in Buckhead, I felt like we had no choice but to make a reservation there.
At St. Cecilia: Hamachi, coriander, celery hearts, lemon; Charred octopus, cured tomato, Italian bean salad, oregano; Gnudi, house ricotta, basil, brown butter
From start to finish, the meal was amazing. The decor, the service (INCREDIBLE), and of course, the food. I convinced Lisa that we should get the octopus, and she doesn’t even like octopus. Well, I’ve now made her a believer. Or, I guess I should say – St. Cecilia made her a believer. She could not get over how much she loved that dish. And then there was the gnudi — also a dish she had never tried. My first experience with gnudi was at The Spotted Pig in New York, and while I’ve never found one quite as good as that one, this one was certainly a close second.
All in all, I would highly recommend you visit St. Cecilia if you find yourself in the Buckhead area of Atlanta any time soon!
3455 Peachtree Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30326
Okay, this may make it seem like I’m a Ford Fry groupie, but I promise, I’m not! It just so happens that I read a couple of articles on the opening of King + Duke last year, and I had it on my short list of Atlanta restaurants to check out. It really had nothing to do with the fact that he owns this one too. (of course, I have yet to have a bad experience at one of his spots, so….)
The focus of their menu is locally sourced ingredients and hearth cooking. Yes, cooking on a hearth, old school. Through slower cooking and the use of wood fire smoke, they bring out natural flavors in the food without fussing it up.
At King + Duke: Yorkshire pudding style popovers with butter; Pork Chop with sauerkraut, turnips, local beans, pork jus; Candied Lamb Belly, sheep’s milk feta, marinated cucumbers, warm flat breads
While the food is always the most important part of my dining experiences, the atmosphere plays a big part in drawing me back again and again. And I absolutely love the atmosphere here. From the outdoor bar area, to the lovely patio dining area where we dined, to the warm interior space, every square inch is inviting.
That said, I’d go back again just to sit outside and have a cocktail at their bar. Of course, I’d also have to order what was my favorite dish of this meal: wood roasted farm carrots & beets with whipped feta and harissa vinaigrette (photo below). Love on a platter right there.
3060 Peachtree Rd NW W Paces Ferry Rd
Atlanta, GA 30305
Crispy pig ears at Nightwood in Chicago
Over the next couple of weeks, I’m determined to catch up on blogging about all of the fantastic food and drink I encountered while traveling this summer. I already recapped Charleston, and my experience at Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, but between those two trips, I also had a visit to Chicago. I can’t believe that almost 2 months has passed since I was there!
While I had an enjoyable meal at Balena and had fun exploring Eataly, the standout meal on this visit to the Windy City was at Nightwood. Located in Plisen, in the lower west side, about 3 miles southwest of the Loop, it is definitely a bit off the beaten path if you’re staying in the heart of the city. But if you happen to be in Chicago for a trade show or conference being held at McCormick, and staying in the attached Hyatt, it’s super close – only 1.5 miles.
That’s part of the reason I ended up there in the first place. I was dining with a friend who was staying at that Hyatt, and it was easier for me to get closer to her than her come closer to me. Nightwood had been on my list of places to try for a while, so it was the perfect time to do it.
We immediately loved the vibe of the place – open kitchen, wine room, and a great patio to enjoy our dinner al fresco on a beautiful night. We started with incredible handcrafted cocktails (really, I’d go here for the drinks alone) before diving into the menu, which is written by hand each day after they shop the market to purchase the freshest local ingredients.
And when I say we dove into the menu, we really did. We ordered so much food!
Crispy pig ears, house cultured butter, maple, habanero, and cilantro.
Fried squid with peanut, cucumber, yogurt, chili arisol.
Hand pulled mozzarella, kilgus cream, rich olive oil, balsamic, grilled toast.
Green garlic agnolotti, PQM lonza (Publican Quality Meats cured pork loin), Wisconsin parmesan, pickled mustard seed.
Tagliatelle, smoked spring lamb, asparagus, green garlic, mint.
Flourless chocolate cake topped with potato chips, bittersweet chocolate sauce, cherries and malted vanilla ice cream.
All delicious and so fresh. No matter what part of Chicago you’re staying in, Nightwood is definitely worth the trek. And if you happen to be staying near McCormick, then it’s a MUST!
2119 South Halsted Street
Chicago, IL 60608
Seems like every summer I get to a point that I’m asking myself, “What do I do with all this squash?”
Actually it’s not just squash. It’s both squash and zucchini – and don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. It’s just, well, a lot.
My parents always have some to give me when I go home for a visit, and I’m fortunate to have other friends here in Nashville that bestow their harvests on me too. While I love to slice it up, toss with a little olive oil, salt and pepper then top with parmesan cheese before roasting in the oven, my husband isn’t such a big fan of that simple preparation. So, I’m always on the hunt for delicious new dishes to try that contain a few more ingredients (and distract him from the fact that he’s eating zucchini).
This weekend we had a family dinner for 12 at my in-laws, and I’d volunteered to bring a side dish, so it was the perfect opportunity to test out a casserole recipe I’d clipped from Southern Living last year but hadn’t yet experimented with yet. The recipe said it contained 8-10 servings, but when looking at the measurements I thought it should be able to feed more than that since it was being served alongside a few other dishes. Turns out I was right. Even with some going back for second helpings, there was still a tiny bit leftover, so I think you could feed up to 15-16 people.
I will say, this may very well be my new favorite way to use up all that summer squash and zucchini! It garnered praise from others too, so I know it’s not just me. If you find that you have a bounty of zucchini and/or squash on your hands in the next few weeks, be sure to give this a go. You won’t be disappointed!
Squash, Zucchini, and Corn Casserole with Cheddar and Asiago
Makes 10-15 servings. Slightly adapted from Southern Living
1.5 lbs yellow squash, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1.5 lbs zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1/4 cup butter, divided
2 cups diced sweet onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups fresh corn kernels
1.5 cups (6 oz.) freshly shredded white Cheddar cheese
1/2 cup light sour cream
1/2 cup light mayonnaise
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp table salt
1.5 cups soft, fresh breadcrumbs, divided
1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese, divided
Preheat oven to 350°. Bring first 2 ingredients and water to cover to a boil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat, and boil 5 minutes or until crisp-tender. Drain; gently press between paper towels.
Melt 2 Tbsp butter in a skillet over medium-high heat; add onion, and sauté 10 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 2 minutes.
Stir together squash, onion mixture, corn, next 6 ingredients, and 1/2 cup each breadcrumbs and Asiago cheese just until blended. Spoon mixture into a lightly greased 13- x 9-inch baking dish.
Melt remaining 2 Tbsp butter. Stir in remaining 1 cup breadcrumbs and 1/2 cup Asiago cheese. Sprinkle over casserole.
Bake at 350° for 45-50 minutes or until golden brown and set. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.
Stop by either M.L. Rose (or The Melrose as I will always call it) location this Friday the 4th and get a FREE 3oz burger with a craft beer purchase. No limits!
2535 Franklin Pike
Nashville TN, 37204
4408 Charlotte Ave
Nashville, TN 37209
Thirsty Third: Ditch Day
Thursday, July 3rd, 2014
2 – 4 pm
701 8th Ave. S.
Nashville, TN 37203
Cost: $15 in advance, $20 at the door
This Thursday, Sycamore‘s Chef Tony Galzin & his wife Caroline are throwing a kick-off party for the July 4th weekend called “Thirsty Third: Ditch Day” at Jackalope Brewery.”Ditch Day?” you say? Yes, that means you need to skip out of work early and get the long weekend started with some Hattie B’s hot chicken, Tony’s waffles, and Jackalope Brews. I really can’t think of a more Nashville way to show your patriotism!
In addition to the beer and chicken & waffles, Zolli Koffee, which adjoins the Jackalope taproom, will also be open and offering coffee & specialty drinks. Oh, and there will even be a Giant Jenga competition! Signup for the competition will take place on the day of the event and is limited to ten teams of two, so be sure to get there early if you want to get your Jenga on.
The entry fee gives you 3 food & drink tickets which can be redeemed for any combination of food and beer (additional tickets will be available at the event for $5 each). If you’d like to save a little dough, be sure to purchase in advance through this link.
*****But HOLD TIGHT before purchasing because I’ve got tickets to give away! Scroll down to the very bottom of this post for details on how to enter!*****
Music City Hot Chicken Festival
Friday, July 4th, 2014
11 am – 3 pm (Parade begins at 10:30 am)
700 Woodland St
Nashville, TN 37206
I doubt you really need a reminder about this event, but just in case there’s one reader out there that doesn’t know that 4th of July in Nashville is always (well at least for the last several years) the Music City Hot Chicken Festival, here’s the info!
In the past couple of years, a Hot Chicken Festival parade has been added to the festivities. Starting at 8th and Woodland heading west and ending at East Park Community Center, the parade will feature festival founder and former mayor Bill Purcell followed by antique fire trucks, an old hearse, beads and Yazoo Brew.
Free hot chicken samples will be given to the first 500 people in line at the festival, provided by Prince’s Hot Chicken Shack, Bolton’s Spicy Chicken and Fish, 400 Degrees, Pepperfire, Hot Stuff, Hattie B’s and the Chicken Shack. If you’re not into hot chicken, don’t worry, there will be other vendors there with other good stuff to eat. Check out the full list at the official website.
FREE PARKING: East Nashville Self Storage is donating free parking for the Festival at their 800 Main Street location. You can enter this lot all day off from Main Street or after 11 a.m. from Woodland Street.
Red, White and Brew
Saturday, July 12th, 2014
3 – 6 pm
3021 Lealand Lane
Nashville, TN 37212
A mid-summer festival with red and white wine, local brews, delicious food, music and carnival games sounds like the perfect Saturday afternoon family outing to me! Benefiting the Tomorrow Fund, Red, White and Brew will feature samples from: ACME Feed & Seed Food Trailer, Chago’s Cantina, Crepe a Diem, Commerce Street Grill, Edley’s Bar-B-Que, The Loving Pie Company, Mafioza’s, Mere Bulles, Music City Pie Company, Nashville Sweets, Noelle, Nothing Bundt Cakes and Urban Grub.
Tickets can be purchased by clicking here
and include food samples and two drink vouchers.
Giveaway for Thirsty Third: Ditch Day
~ Contest Closed ~
And the winner is…..
The nice folks of Sycamore have offered up free tickets for this Thursday’s Ditch Day at Jackalope! One winning reader and their guest will get 3 tickets each that can be exchanged for beer and/or food at the event.
To enter, all you have to do is this:
1. Leave a comment telling me what’s on the menu of your long holiday weekend ~ OR ~ if you’re not sure yet, then just tell me what your favorite 4th of July celebration food or drink typically is. Is it hot chicken? Homemade ice cream? Spiked watermelon?
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 Sycamore on Twitter (@SycamoreNash) and tweet “Win tickets to the @SycamoreNash Thirsty Third Ditch Day from @betheats! http://bit.ly/1iMyuTn”, then leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.
3. Like Sycamore on Facebook and come back and tell me you did so (or just tell me you already do if that’s the case!)
Hurry, because the contest ends on Tuesday, July 1st at 10 pm CDT (yes, that’s tomorrow!). 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!
Where do I even begin? There is no way that my words or photographs will even begin to do this restaurant justice, but I hope that what I share with you will prompt you to make a reservation so you can see for yourself why I’ve fallen in love.
Last week I got to experience Sinema, the new restaurant in the historic Melrose theater building on 8th Avenue/Franklin Road that officially opens to the public this Friday, June 27th. And that experience left me breathless.
When I first heard that the theater was being converted into a restaurant, I was immediately excited. And the more I read about it, hopeful. Hopeful that finally Nashville was getting something new and different on our culinary scene. Don’t get me wrong- I think we have some fantastic restaurants in this city, but many of them have started to feel the same to me. Feel the same, look the same, taste the same.
But not this.
From the moment I opened that front door and stepped inside, I knew this was special.
Truly, there are no words that can explain my first glimpse of the grand entryway, and I didn’t take a photo of it because I want you to have that same feeling that I had. But I did take a photo of the curved staircase because I couldn’t help myself. It is stunning. Leading up to the second level lounge and private dining space, it is an architectural detail that was kept from the original 1942 theater.
And speaking of the upstairs lounge, I want to move into it. Of course, I don’t think they’ll allow that, but you can be certain that I will be there often. With so many nooks and crannies and cool little areas to lounge with a friend, or a group of friends, this is the bar I’ve been waiting for.
Before you start thinking that all I care about is how absolutely gorgeous this space is, I guess I should tell you a little about the food and of course, the man behind the food. Chef Dale Levitski, an alumni of Top Chef (runner up in Season 3) and a James Beard Award nominee, moved here from Chicago a few months ago to take the helm of this new kitchen.
Personally, I was a big fan of his when he was on Top Chef, so it comes as no shock to me that I love the eclectic menu he has created at Sinema.
Sinema Nashville’s Bread n Butter
Sweet Corn Bacon Butter, White Bean Butter, Caviar Butter, Bella Bakery Bread
We ate a lot of food during our visit, but for the sake of space, the photos I’m sharing are of the dishes I considered to be the best of the best of this particular meal. I’ve seen rave reviews of other dishes pop up on Instagram from people that have also been fortunate enough to get an early taste of Sinema, so I’ve already started compiling my list for the next visit!
Foie Gras at Sinema
Zucchini Bread, Foie Gras Mousse, Curry Cashew Butter
We chose the foie gras as our appetizer, but honestly, I could have eaten it as dessert. It was sweet, but not in a bad way. My gosh, it was incredible. Next appetizers on my list to try: the Octopus (which a trusted source said is phenomenal) and the “Pig and Peach”, a bacon and ham pierogi with mushrooms, stone fruit, and porcini mushroom sauce.
As for entrees, I ordered the double cut pork chop and my husband ordered the lamb, but I probably ended up stealing about half of his. My goodness, it is incredible.
Since there doesn’t yet seem to be a menu posted online, I’ll share with you that prices for appetizers range from $10 – $16. For entrees, you’re looking at $22 – $42, with most prices being right in the middle of that range. The portions are very substantial, so you certainly don’t have to worry about leaving hungry. In fact, we had to take leftovers home because we couldn’t eat it all!
Sinema’s Colorado Lamb
Duck Fat Poached Rack, Lucknow Spiced Lamb Sausage, Pearled Barley Risotto, Anchovy Sauce Vert
The Melrose Theater Building
2600 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37204
Mon – Thurs 4 – 11 pm
Fri and Sat – 4 pm to 12 am
(Sundays brunch will be added soon)
Interior details of the gorgeous new Sinema restaurant
~ Contest Closed ~
And the winner is…..
Now the best part — I’ve got a Sinema 3 course dinner for TWO* to give away!
To enter, all you have to do is this:
1. Leave a comment telling me what you’ve read or heard about Sinema that excites you the most.
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 Sinema on Twitter (@sinemanashville) and tweet “Win a 3-course dinner for 2 at the incredible new @sinemanashville from @betheats! http://bit.ly/T2XlWy”, then leave a comment telling me you’ve done so.
3. Like Sinema 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 Friday, June 27th 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!
*Dinner does not include alcohol or gratuity