As Nashville begins to dry out, many are looking for ways that they can help. Some of you may not be physically able to lend a hand in the clean up efforts, but a week from today an event will take place that should be easy for anyone and everyone to participate in, because all you have to do is eat!
Nashville restaurants and food media are pulling together to organize “Eat Out for Nashville”, a charity event that will benefit the flood victims of Middle Tennessee. On Monday, May 17th, participating restaurants will donate 50% of their proceeds* to the Tennessee Emergency Response Fund of the Community Fund of Middle Tennessee. Doug Hogrefe, owner of Amerigo, is the one responsible for this brilliant (and generous) idea, and was the first one to add his restaurants to the list.
Now the word is starting to spread and others are coming on board, including one restaurant that has barely been in business for a week! Here’s who we’ve got so far:
Qdoba- 3 locations:Nashville: 2019 West End Ave (by Vandy)
Brentwood: 782 Old Hickory Blvd (by Target)
Hendersonville: 300 Indian Lake Blvd (by Regal Cinemas)
9 Fruits Smoothies (50 percent of sales on all “Muddy River” Chocolate Peanut Butter Smoothies)
And last but certainly not least, my absolute favorite watering hole, The Patterson House
, will be closed on Monday, but is still doing their part by donating 50% of their Tuesday, 5/18 business to the cause!
(List Updated 5/16)
To keep up-to-date on participating restaurants as the list grows, follow @EatOutForNash on Twitter or on Facebook.
All of you Middle Tennessee restaurant owners out there- please email EatOutForNashville@gmail.com or call Chris Chamberlain at (615) 852-7675 for more information on your participation!
NOTE: Most restaurants are donating for dinner only or for specific meals, although some are participating all day. It’s a good idea to call the restaurant in advance to confirm.
*In addition to particpating in Monday’s Eat Out for Nashville fundraiser, Menchie’s Yogurt will also be hosting a Flood Benefit Weekend on Friday 5/14 & Saturday 5/15, giving 10% of their sales to help flood victims. Customers are also encouraged to make additional monetary donations to the fund at the Menchie’s store, and as added incentive, dollar for dollar will be matched (up to $2,000). Each contributing customer will receive a Menchie’s T-shirt (while supplies last).
Between the flooding of Nashville
, my jet lag, and the sickness I picked up on my travels home, this week has definitely been tough. But today is a new day! Last night I got a full 7 hours of sleep (finally
), and the stuffiness in my head is beginning to clear so I can actually taste food. Happiness!Now that I can taste food, I’m a little more enthusiastic about sharing the details of my final Hong Kong meals with you. These two meals were absolutely two of the best of the entire trip. If I were choosing a Top 5, they would be in it. First their was Dim Sum
Crispy Roasted Pork-I’ve learned that the Chinese like their pork, and they do it well!
Jelly Fish– chewy texture, not much flavor
Cha Siu Baau (Barbecue Pork Buns)
served 2 ways:
Baked with Crunchy Top
Steamed, fluffy bun
Fried Tofu with sweet dipping sauce – actually couldn’t stop eating these little nuggets!
Noodles with Beef in Dark Bean Sauce
–again, had to pull myself away
Perhaps not a delicacy to me, but yet, they’re not as bad as they look.
“Cake” (actually not a carrot cake at all, it’s made with radish. Click here to learn more)
Abalone Pastry –this was incredible.
the crust tasted like a sweet corn muffin…oh so good!
Bok Choy with Tomato
Sesame Balls (no filling)
Shumai –pork & mushroom dumpling topped with roe (pic below)
That meal could have been my last impression of Hong Kong cuisine, and it would have been a great one. But Samuel knew of my weakness for Thai food, so he made sure my very last meal was at the best Thai restaurant in town – Wong Chun Chun. Mmmm, mmmm, mmmm. Written words cannot possibly express the sheer joy I experienced as all of these flavors danced on my palate.
Thailand Pomelo with Prawns Salad
Oh my goodness. This salad will forever
be etched in my memory! Made up of the Pomelo fruit, peanuts, green onion, red onion, sprouts, a dab of fish sauce, and a dash of dried shrimp for seasoning, there is no doubt that I am going to try to recreate this dish very, very soon. The main problem will be the lack of Pomelo fruit
, but I think substituting grapefruit might work if I adjust the other ingredients to make up for the added bitterness.
(UPDATE: I just found Pomelo at Publix!! Yippee!)
Pork, Beef, and Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce
Fried Morning Glory with Balachan
(also know as “hollow vegetable” with spicy sauce)
Red Curry with Scallops
Prawn Sashimi with spicy, spicy sauce!
And then there was my drink. I’d already had a few of these on the trip and couldn’t resist one more fattening glass of it:
Iced Coconut Milk
And that’s where my journey ends. I hope that you’ve enjoyed following along and I’ve inspired you to be a little adventurous in your eating. Try something new and foreign–you never know what new love you might find!
(In case you missed out on earlier posts, just click here, here, here, here, and here!)
The next stop on my journey Guangzhou, China’s third largest city, is known as the food haven of the Republic of China. Eating is a big part of Chinese culture, but for this particular area, that doesn’t really adequately describe their way of life. These people are known not just for eating, but for eating everything! In fact, it is often said that Cantonese people “eat everything that swims except a submarine, everything that flies except an airplane, and everything with four legs except a table”. Almost five days in the area not only allowed for some free time to explore, but also meant plenty of food adventures, so settle in and prepare yourself for a long post….
The first night we arrived, two of the local guys from the Guangzhou sourcing office picked us up at the airport and became our unofficial tour guides for the rest of the stay. Sensing that I might be in need of a break from the heavy, multi-course Chinese meals we’d been having, Samuel had them arrange something a little different for our dinner. With approximately 1000 tables, Japan Fusion is touted as being the largest Japanese restaurant in Asia. You can’t imagine the size of this place! I was scared to go to the bathroom by myself for fear of getting lost. Seriously.
Dinner was definitely lighter than the fare we’d been consuming, and a nice break before the multi-course Cantonese meals that lie ahead. Our Japanese menu: assorted sushi and sashimi, two mushroom dishes, cheese smothered tofu, snapper sashimi and fried snapper (the fish was brought to the table live on a skewer for presentation before taking back to the kitchen to fry. I thought I would spare you that sight), and spicy mussels.
The next day we had lunch with a local factory contact at Jumbo Pearl restaurant. As a whole, this was definitely one of the better meals of the trip. The menu:
Spicy Beef with Peppers
Freshwater Fish with Yellow Bean Sauce (shown below- delectable!)
Pork with Peppers, Ginkgo, Mushrooms and Onion (or “Spicy Pig Twice Cooked Pork” as the menu stated)
Fish cooked in Cabbage
Alligator with Garlic, Mushrooms and Broccoli (shown below)
This was delicious, so I inquired about the ingredients used in the preparation- the alligator was fried then added to a mixture of oyster sauce, dark soy sauce, sugar, salt, ginger, and garlic
Fried Mushrooms with Walnuts and Ginkgo (shown below)
Wow! I couldn’t quit eating this. The mushrooms were not fried like what we think of when we say fried mushrooms. There was no batter on them, the ‘fried’ just referred to the style of cooking, pan-frying.
Pork Broth Soup (All the guys loved this and even had second helpings. Gray and almost tasteless, I personally thought it was the worst soup of the whole trip. )
“Snails“- at least that’s what they were calling them, but I don’t really think that’s their proper name. They’re pictured below in the red sauce. Anyone have any idea what they are?
Served piping hot with toothpicks to dig out the wormy creature inside, they were -believe it or not- quite good!
That was lunch! So, so, so much food, but of course we had another big dinner ahead that night at Bing Sheng Restaurant. On the menu there:
Pork 3 ways– Crispy Barbecued Roast Pork, Fried Pork Belly (thick layer of fat, but quite tasty), and Thinly Sliced Barbecue Pork Belly (paper thin & very good!)
Water Spinach with Beans in Vinegar (this vegetable they just refer to as “hollow” vegetable was served at many meals)
Whole Fish served various ways:
1) Fried Fish Head and Tail – way too bony for me to deal with
2) Sashimi with bowls of various toppings including shredded ginger, spring onions, herbs, and crunchies to create your own tasting spoon (pictured above) so wonderful that I lost count of how many I ate!
3) Fish Skin – very strange rubbery texture (shown in pic below)
4) Egg with Fish “insides” – they don’t let anything go to waste!
The next day we lunched at Mao Jing restaurant, (named for Chairman Mao) a restaurant known for their spicy food. You know I love some spiciness!
Greeters at Mao Jing restaurant (note the statue of Mao to the far left)
On the menu:
Fava Beans again (I love these things!)
These beans were listed on the menu as Sha Guo Can Dou, which Eric said translates to Frosted Pan No Sauce- so basically just describing the cooking method.
Duck, Yellow Eel, and Cow insides (???) – yeah, not my favorite
Frog – listed on the menu as Gan Guao Tian Ji (translates to Dry Pan Frog)
Glass Noodles with Spicy Sauce
Whole Chicken in a Pot –great flavors, tender & juicy
Pork with Peppers
Steamed Cabbage with Garlic Sauce (pictured below) – Scrumptious!
Pork Soup- and this is where things got really interesting……
Can you tell what I am holding in my hand? Perhaps not. That would be a pig hoof. The pork flavored soup arrived with a piece of leg bone protruding from the bowl, a set of plastic gloves and a straw. Anyone want to guess what you do with the straw? Why, you insert it into the leg bone and suck out the marrow! Not exactly my cup of tea, but at least I can say I did it.
That night we dined at Shui He Tian Restaurant in the Panyu district of Guangzhou. It was explained to me that this was a “locals only” place. Tucked back behind several buildings, it was difficult even for the local with us to find after a couple of phone calls, so I’m pretty sure no tourists ever stumble upon it!
Appetizers of pickled green papaya and boiled peanuts started us off and were followed by:
Scallops with Black Bean Sauce –a bite of perfection (pictured above)
Fish head and 1,000 year old egg with ginger- the egg isn’t really 1,000 years old, but the dark color made it a little scary. As I had discovered with other dishes, it wasn’t as bad as it looked. Not great, but not bad.
Sweet Potato Leaf cooked with Pork and Garlic
Assorted Mushrooms with Carrots and Green Onion
Spicy Fried Shrimp with Peanuts (yes, yes, yes!)
Crispy Skin Barbecue Pork
Steamed Fish with Ginger, Spring Onion, and Mushrooms (very clean, fresh flavors)
Crispy Noodles with Mushrooms and Onions in Oyster Sauce (like Ramen)
Warm Almond Milk– served in a bowl like soup, this was very soothing
After dinner we decided to burn off some calories with a hike to the local mall. Okay, so we weren’t really looking to burn calories, that was just an added bonus. We were actually in search of dessert, specifically Ginger Milk. Samuel knew this place served the best ginger milk around, and in his opinion, my trip would not be complete without trying it.
Ginger Milk Curd, or simply Ginger Milk as they called it, is a warm Chinese dessert that originated in this very district of Guangdong- Panyu. Ingredients include sugar, ginger, and milk, with the key to this particular recipe being water buffalo milk. The preparation takes some skill to make sure it gets hot but not too hot. The photo below show the two girls preparing our bowls (note the action shot of the milk in the air as she stirs it just so).
Once the mixture is poured into a bowl and allowed to cool for two to three minutes, it solidifies into a custard. Perfectly yummy, warm, and comforting, this was definitely one of the high points of the entire trip.
Ginger Milk in Panyu
At this point of my journey, I’d had 6 very full work days. I’ve only been sharing the fun food stuff with you, not the hours I’ve spent touring factories and traveling between cities. Every day I’d been averaging 12-14 hours of almost non-stop work or travel with little time for anything else other than eating. After 2 days of walking the floor of the Canton Import and Export fair, I was a little burnt out. Fortunately, we made it through the show in less time than we thought it would take, leaving us about 5 extra hours to explore and shop before hitting the road again! On this particular day, we were also joined by Fanny, one of my contacts in the Guangzhou area. As much as I enjoyed traveling with the guys, it was nice to have another female around for a little while.
Fanny, Me, and Eric at The Chen Family Temple
After sightseeing, we had lunch at a beautiful restaurant on a lake with lush landscaping. The food here was just adequate, but that’s okay, because the surroundings made up for it. The table was filled with BBQ Goose; Mushrooms, Scallops, Peppers, Garlic & Greens; Fish Soup; Traditional Bok Choy; Pork with Ginkgo and Peppers; Steamed Fish with Green Onions; and Pork Bun with Mushrooms & Spring Onions.
At this meal, the guys also ordered Apple Cider Vinegar to drink. When they informed me of this, I was a little bewildered considering the only apple cider vinegar I knew of was to cook with, not to drink. When it arrived in a wine bucket, on ice, in a bottle just like you’d be served white wine, I was a little less fearful. Turns out it was quite refreshing. Oh, the many delightful discoveries you can make when you’re willing to try new things!
The desserts here were better than the lunch dishes: Egg Cups (pictured below)- little tarts that reminded me of mini chess pies; Coconut Gelatin– even though I was fairly stuffed I ate more than one serving; Ginger Milk– this was not nearly as good as what we had the night before at the mall. Samuel explained that it was because the milk was not as pure. Instead they used 2 kinds of milk blended together, not just the water buffalo milk.
Egg Cups – the Chinese version of Chess Pie
After lunch it was time to hit the road again, traveling to Pattra Resort, high in the mountains of Zengcheng, another city in Guangzhou. This stop of the trip is a story in itself, so it will have to wait until next week. I hope that you guys are still enjoying following the details of my trek through China. I promise only a couple more posts and we’ll be at the end of the trip. Some of the best parts are still to come!!
West Lake, Hangzhou
I’m torn between sharing with you a detailed report of every single thing I ate while in China or only sharing the high (or at least very interesting ) points. A full listing would be a nice reference for me to look back upon one day, but the volume is so great that I think I’ll probably bore you to tears. For instance, there are some meals where I tasted at least 15 dishes, but maybe only 2 really stood out. My meals in Ningbo are an example. Although many items were good, the only things that stood out were the fava beans that I ate with abandon and an Australian Lobster.
Have you ever eaten a fava bean
? They are somewhat similar to a lima bean, but bigger and creamier. I hope I can find them back in Nashville because they are incredible!! The lobster was probably the best I’ve ever had– sweet, buttery and melt-in-your mouth good. A quick listing of other foods I encountered during my 2 meals in Ningbo: Grouper, Shrimp, Bamboo, local greens, seaweed salad, beef & peppers (spicy!),
thinly sliced beef in vinegar, fish soup, shrimp fried rice, boiled shrimp, fried shrimp, white vegetable (? this is the only way they could explain it*- see pic below)
, egg whites with asparagus & red pepper, abalone, white fish, crab, dried fish, peanuts, and fresh dates.
After Ningbo we moved on to Hangzhou, which was one of the nicest places I visited. Patrick, our local factory contact, treated us to an afternoon boat ride on the beautiful West Lake (see pic below of Eric, Patrick and me).
After some relaxing time on the calm waters, Patrick took us to dinner at a fantastic restaurant nearby. The guys pored over the menu for several minutes, carefully choosing each dish. I was fascinated by the time they took in ordering. This wasn’t just for this meal, but almost every meal! I love that they care so much.
All of their concentration paid off. Here’s a look at dinner:
Mushrooms with onions and peppers– so, so good
Bamboo shoot with sweet sauce– we had these in Ningbo too, but I wasn’t crazy about the tart vinegar used in the dish there. This, on the other hand, was delicious!
Hot & Spicy soup with bean curds
Mushrooms with Goose Liver Sauce –interesting flavors. From the sound of it, I didn’t think I would like it, but I did. Enough to have a third helping!
Slow Braised Pork
Carrots with Sweet Sauce (pic below)-gorgeous, crisp, and definitely one of the top 10 dishes of the trip
After dinner we checked into our beautiful hotel in Haining where the following day, after a tour of the factory, had lunch with the owner and Patrick. This is a good time to mention one item that became a recurring favorite dish of mine throughout the trip: Mushrooms! The mushrooms at both my Hangzhou and Haining meals were incredible. I was in heaven with the many exotic varieties to try in China. I probably could have subsisted on mushroom dishes alone for the entire stay and been satisfied!
Case in point below:
beautiful black mushrooms with the most amazing texture
Lunch in Haining:
Black Mushrooms (pictured above)-LOVE!
Fried Yellow Eel with Sweet Sauce
Shrimp with Gingko
Cooked Local Lettuce
Boiled Sea Cucumber (jelly-like in texture, I could only do a couple bites. And to think I loved it raw!)
Lobster in broth
Chopped Hot peppers with Pine Nuts–spicy, spicy!
Chicken (the whole thing — head and all)
And then there was dessert. If you know much about Chinese food, you might know that they typically finish their meals with fresh fruit, not baked goods like we normally do. Most of the non-fruit dessert offerings they do have are a litte strange to my Western taste buds (see this recap from Hong Kong)
. However, we capped off this meal with a doozie of a dessert. Can you guess what these circles might be?
Fried Ice Cream!!!
A slightly crunchy outer shell gave way to a cool, extremely creamy ice cream.
And I mean extremely creamy. Fabulous. I’m getting fatter just thinking about it.
That’s it for the Zhejiang Province. Next up I’m off to Guangzhou for a few days. Stay tuned for even more interesting eats!
*I really wish that I could offer you the English translations of many of the foods I ate, but can’t, because in most cases, everything was listed in Chinese characters! The guys were as helpful as they could be, but some things just didn’t translate.
It goes without saying that Hong Kong is quite different than Nashville. They drive on the opposite side of the road, there are 7 million people within a fairly small space (& 95% of those people are Chinese) and there are lots of foods I’ve never seen before. But for the most part, I didn’t feel completely out of place. Mainly because there are plenty of other people wondering around that don’t look so different than me, signage is in English, and most of the hotel staff speak at least some English.
You could say I had a fairly smooth transition in my first 24 hours. Then I boarded a plane to Wenzhou, China. For the next 8 days I was in another world –sights, sounds, experiences and flavors that I won’t soon forget.
I don’t have time right now to explain all of it, so I’ll just focus on the food-related experiences because that’s what most of you are here for anyway!
Words cannot adequately describe what I felt upon entering my first restaurant in Wenzhou. I had never seen anything like it. Anything. The long room was filled with rows and rows of plated food on display, fish tanks with live fish, squid, snails and eels, and a dozen restaurant staff members that were watching my every move. Not knowing where to begin or what to do, with no less than 15 sets of eyes upon me, it was all a bit disconcerting to say the least.
Our hosts for the evening were two of our factory contacts, one of whom spoke no English (a sign of my week ahead) and the other that spoke very little. Samuel and Eric did their best to explain the foods to me, but since they didn’t know the English word for many items and most foods were so completely foreign to me, I eventually just gave up and let them choose everything.
And this is how it works: a member of the staff follows you around with a notepad, marking down your choices as you peruse all of the items on display. That includes your own, very fresh, very live, seafood. Then you are led to a private dining room where your will be fed between 10-15 (!) dishes. I really don’t know how these people stay so thin. Every day I’ve been here this has been our lunch and dinner routine and I am now pleasantly plump.
Factory contact, me, and Samuel at our dining table, complete with “lazy susan” (as is standard)
Our menu at Cagnan Hotel in Wenzhou:
Sweet Potatoes (pictured below. yes, purple!)
Rice Patty with brown sugar (I really have no idea what this was or even how to describe it. See yellow discs on the table above)
Soft Shell Crab in Rice Wine
Spicy Beef with Bean Sprouts
And last, but certainly not least, Raw Sea Cucumber (suprisingly one of the highlights of the entire trip). Served chilled, it had a chewy texture that I found delightful. The flavors of rice wine, wasabi and ginger in the soupy mixture were delicious.
Have you seen a sea cucumber before? Not exactly what I would call appetizing:
Actually it’s downright gross looking and if I had been asked if it’s something I wanted to try, I would have politely declined. This goes to show that looks can truly be deceiving!
Some other highlights of Wenzhou were my breakfast discovery of warm soybean milk, unlike any soy milk I’ve tried before, and “Dragon Eyes“, the Longan fruit. So very sweet and juicy, I wish I could transport some back to Nashville with me.
Oh, and I also tried pig ear and pig tail for lunch, but I can’t say those were really highlights!