On my latest trip to the farmers’ market, I picked up a butternut squash thinking I would make a soup this week, but when I saw this recipe on the Whole Foods website, I just had to try it. If you’re a blue cheese fan like me, then this dish may become a fall dinner favorite. Serve it as a side dish, or even as a first course instead of salad.

In order to make the featured recipe, you first need to roast a butternut squash, so I’m also including the instructions for that. Even though it doesn’t have a lot of ingredients, it easily stands on it’s own as a yummy side dish as well. I actually couldn’t resist taking a few nibbles of the little caramelized bites while I prepped the main dish!

Roasted Butternut Squash
adapted from Whole Foods

Ingredients:

1 medium butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F. Halve the squash lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out and discard seeds.
Cut into big chunks and keep steady on the cutting board while cutting off the peel with a knife.
Cut into 1-inch cubes. Transfer to a large, rimmed baking sheet. Toss with oil, salt and pepper and spread out in a single layer. Roast, tossing occasionally, until just tender and golden brown, about 40 minutes.

(Serves 4 )

Print

Butternut Squash with Wilted Spinach and Blue Cheese

Serves 4. Recipe from Whole Foods.

Ingredients:

1/4 cup blue cheese crumbles
3 Tbsp lemon juice
Salt and ground black pepper to taste
1 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
1 (5 oz) package baby spinach
4 cups cubed and roasted butternut squash, warmed

Directions:

Use a fork to mash together blue cheese and lemon juice in a large bowl to make a thick smooth dressing. Season with salt and pepper; set aside. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add spinach and cook, tossing often, until slightly wilted and warm, 1 to 2 minutes more. Transfer contents of skillet to bowl with dressing, add squash, salt and pepper and toss to combine.


Butternut Squash on Foodista

Photo credits: Butternut Squash by levork
Butternut Squash with Wilted Spinach and Blue Cheese by Whole Foods


A few weeks back I was hanging on the patio at tayst drinking wine with friends, when the man of the house, Chef Jeremy Barlow, mentioned that he would be having his first Chef’s Table of the fall season on October 7th. The tayst Chef’s Table is a very special event–”a multi-course extravaganza” with wine pairings — offered only a few times a year for two people in the tayst kitchen.

Immediately a light bulb went on in my head. We hadn’t yet come up with a special anniversary dinner plan, so this could be the perfect way to celebrate our first year of married bliss! With not a moment’s hesitation, I told Jeremy to put us on the reservation book.

And celebrate we did. Thoughtful as can be, Jeremy even had a couple of surprises in store for me that evening. He knew of my recently discovered love of gnudi, and my jealousy over some tempura peanut butter cups he recently tweeted about eating in Chicago, so he incorporated those into our meal. Heaven.

Here is a look at our amazing feast:

Amuse
Honeycrisp Apple, Berry Gastrique, Lavender Sea Salt
Moet & Chandon White Star Champagne

Course One
Halibut, Braised Celery, Orange Verjus Reduction
’07 La Sirena Moscato Azul

Course Two
“Biscuits & Gravy”
Pork Sausage Gravy, Proscuitto, Puff Pastry, Herbs
’05 Galil Yiron Cabernet Sauvignon

Course Three
Foie Gras Two Ways
Foie Gras Torchan with Pear Relish, Local Seared Foie Gras over Wild Mushrooms, Truffle Aoili
Oriel “Ondine” Sauternes

Course Four
Arugula, Cinnamon Vinaigrette, Sunchokes
’06 La Luna Malvasia

Course Five
Wild Alaskan Salmon, Greens, Tomato Cherry Sauce, Lemon Confit
’06 Next Pinot Noir

Course Six
Gnudi, Duck Confit, Spaghetti Squash, Onions
’05 Casa de la Ermita Crianza

Course Seven
Risotto with Apples, Pistachios, Apple Cider Glaze
’07 Sierra Virgen Airen

Course Eight

Poussin, Sasparilla, Paprika, Pumpkin Stout Glaze, Field peas, Carrots
’05 M. Cosentino “Med”

Course Nine
Grass Fed Ribeye, Mint Couscous, Fennel, Shallots, Jus
’06 Peltier Station Petit Syrah

Course Ten

Local Bison, Vanilla, Cayenne, Cocoa, Tobacco Potatoes
Gabrielle Vertex “Just Red”

Course Eleven
Tempura Peanut Butter Cups, Chocolate Mousse
Peltier Station “USB” Port

Course Twelve
Creme Brulee
Rowan’s Creek Bourbon

I can’t even begin to choose a favorite from this list, but I did offer Jeremy some unsolicited advice: put that pumpkin stout glaze on the regular menu! It was lick-worthy. Hubs really enjoyed both the halibut and the salmon, and we both mmm’d over the biscuits & gravy. It goes without saying that I was giddy over the risotto, the gnudi, and the peanut butter cups. Okay, now that I’ve name almost everything, I want to point out that there was nothing we didn’t delight in. Each plate was empty as it was taken from us -all the way through to plate #13!

We loved being in the kitchen amidst all the action, asking a million questions about ingredients, and eyeing the drool-inducing parade of dishes going out into the dining room. It was truly a unique experience.

Special occasion coming up soon? Or just adventurous and want to try something new and different? Then the chef’s table is for you. The remaining dates for fall are October 28th and November 18th, so call the restaurant to book your reservation now!

tayst

2100 21st Ave S
Nashville, TN 37212
(615) 383-1953


Photo credit: Image respectfully borrowed from Nashville Lifestyles


This post is long delayed…
Remember that trip to Pittsburgh my friend Melissa and I took back in September to visit our friend Rachel? We had so much fun and I had really good intentions to blog all about it, but then life got in the way.

Considering that it was a trip for pleasure and my highest priority was spending time with my friends, I wasn’t my typical crazy note-taking, camera-happy self. So I can’t be quite as detailed about all of our food adventures as I normally would be, but I’m definitely going to do my best to describe the fun tour that kicked off our weekend.

I found out about the ‘Burgh Bits & Bites Food Tour after a fellow Fido Wine Class graduate (and Pittsburgh native) suggested that we check out the Strip District during our visit. I went home, googled, and found the Neighbors in the Strip District website. And what do I see on the home page? These words: Food. Tasting. Adventure. Walking Tour. Could I get more excited? I think not.

A little research led to the discovery that the tours are offered twice a day on Thursdays and Fridays for $35/person and feature a behind the scenes look at a variety of eateries in the historic Strip District, tastings included! With Rachel and Melissa’s blessing, I booked us 3 spots on the tour for that Friday afternoon.

Upon arrival to the Strip District, we made our way through the crowds to the historic Old St. Patrick’s Church courtyard to meet up with our guide and the rest of the group. Let the fun begin!

Parma Sausage
(Tasting: Meats)

For over 50 years, in their manufacturing plant on Penn Avenue, the Spinabelli family has been making fresh sausages from family recipes that have been passed down through the generations.


This was our first stop of the tour, and it was my favorite. I’m not sure if it was because the guys were so nice or I was insanely hungry since it was after 2 p.m. and we hadn’t eaten lunch yet. No, really, the meats we sampled were so ridiculously good that I would have loved them even if I wasn’t ready to gnaw off my own hand. Samples included: Proscuitto, Hot Sopressata, Salami Rustico, Peppered Salami, Pepperoni, Pancetta, and Coppa Secca. I even brought home some of their dried chorizo as a souvenir!

Penn Mac
(Tasting: Cheese)


Wow. This was a pretty amazing place. It’s like stepping into an old-world Italian grocery store. They have a full line of grocery items including loaves of fresh breads, huge vats of olives from all over Italy, sausages, pastas, the list goes on and on. But what impressed me the most was the biggest room full of cheese I’ve ever seen in my life. Oh what I wouldn’t give to have this in Nashville.

Other stops on the tour included*:
Mancini’s for a pepperoni roll
Labad’s for hummus
Enrico Biscotti for biscotti
Pittsburgh Popcorn Company for gourmet popcorn
Colangelo’s for a Mele (this puffed pastry was huge and addictive)
Bella Notte for pizza

*The stops on the tour vary based on the day and time.

If you take a trip to Pittsburgh, you MUST add the ‘Burgh Bits & Bites tour to your itinerary!

Without going into a full review, here are a couple of other spots we hit while in Pittsburgh that I highly recommend:

Square Café
1137 South Braddock Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15218
(412) 244-8002

Green Eggs & Ham
Ham, Fruit, and Eggs scrambled with fresh basil pesto and cherry tomatoes, topped with melted provolone
Not pictured: a Gingersnap Latte that almost made me shed a tear it was so good


Buckwheat pancake special with apples, whipped cream, and butter with a side of chicken sausage

Café Du Jour
1107 E Carson St
Pittsburgh, PA 15203-1153
(412) 488-9695
BYOB
(cash only)

This cozy little spot is a place that I would go back to again and again and again if it were here in Nashville. The kitchen is part of the dining room, so the smell of all the delicious food cooking envelopes you (and makes choosing just one dish incredibly tough). The food was absolutely incredible, and very reasonably priced. And you can bring your own wine, which made our meal a total bargain!


Exactly a year ago, this was my view. Oh, if only I could be magically transported back there….
I reeaaallly need a vacation.

Let me apologize for the shortage of food-related posts this week. I promise to get back to it soon. I’ve actually had quite a hectic schedule lately and absolutely no time to write, but thought I could at least share where I’ve been keeping myself since I often get asked what places I frequent. So here you go, a sampling of the places I’ve been hanging for the past week or so:

Suzy Wong’s House of Yum (twice!)
Whiskey Kitchen (twice!)
Crema
Watermark
Amerigo
Rumba (twice!)
Athens Family Restaurant
Whole Foods (for lunch more than I can count)
and then tonight, Tayst!

Now can you see why I’ve had no time to write??

Photo Credit: Curacao Sunset by Me


The arrival of the crisp cool October air flips a switch in my brain causing me to crave totally different foods than I’ve been eating the past few months. It’s now time for pumpkins, butternut squash, apples, pears, sweet potatoes and maple syrup, to name few.

This salad was served to me a couple of years ago at a friend’s dinner party and I was blown away by it. It was a simple, first course of a fabulous multi-course meal, but it’s the dish that I couldn’t get off my mind. Last week when my seasonal cravings kicked into high gear, with pears and maple syrup on my mind, I turned to this and the “sweet & heat” totally satisfied….

Print

Spiced Pecan Pear Salad with Maple Vinaigrette

Serves 6

Ingredients:

Spiced Pecans:
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon Cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 cup pecan halves

Maple Mustard Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp maple syrup
1 small shallot, minced
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp Dijon mustard

Salad:
8 cups Mixed Salad Greens
6 oz Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled
2 Bartlett Pears, cut into 1/4" slices
Black pepper, to taste

Directions:

Spiced Pecans:
Combine first 4 ingredients in a medium bowl; add oil, and stir. Add pecans and toss until well coated. Bake at 350 on a sheet for 12-15 minutes. (You might want to stir/toss them at the half way point.) Remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Maple Vinaigrette
Whisk all ingredients in a medium bowl, set aside.

Assembly:
Combine salad greens and dressing in a large bowl and toss. Divide salad evenly among 6 plates. Sprinkle each with cheese, pecans, and black pepper. Top with pear slices and serve.

*slice pears as close to serving time as possible and to further prevent browning, put in a bath of lemon water (1/2 lemon in one medium bowl of cold water)




Photo Credit: Delicious Pear by cwbuecheler

As they say, location is everything, and in the case of our wedding it was no different. The space would set the mood for the evening, and considering we didn’t want the typical wedding, we needed something unique. Something unlike anything we’d ever personally experienced in our many years of attending and being a part of weddings.

As I mentioned earlier in the week, our caterer gets all the credit for finding our hidden gem, Aerial. As soon as the elevator doors opened, I was sold. Literally. One of the requirements during our hunt was some type of outdoor patio space, and not only did this have an outdoor area–but it was a rooftop with sweeping views of The Ryman, the Broadway honky tonks, the bat building, the symphony, and the bridges crossing the river. Nothing could beat this space.

I realize it isn’t perfect for all weddings- but it fit the urban chic theme I was going for to a T. The layout easily morphed from ceremony to reception in a blink of an eye, which was important to me. I didn’t want any down time between sealing the deal and starting the party!

 

I think you get the point that the “look” of the venue is awesome, but I must make sure to note that the service was incredible as well. All of the staff members were so incredibly nice and accommodating, even going way beyond the norm to make sure that we were happy. You see, we had a slight mishap with the transportation service we hired to pick up our families and out of town guests at Hotel Indigo. Without going into the full dramatic details, suffice it to say that they screwed up big time and our guests were stranded with the ceremony set to begin in just minutes. Max, one of the Aerial owners, came to the rescue. He grabbed his doorman and together the two of them took their own SUVs to the hotel and transported our guests to Aerial. How’s that for service?

 

 

It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that I wholeheartedly recommend Aerial for any sort of event you may be planning. Corporate events, birthday parties, anniversary parties, rehearsal dinners, receptions, baby showers- you name it. You might recall that they recently hosted the Bacon Takedown when it came to town. Sadly I couldn’t attend, but I heard it was a lot of porkalicious fun. (Click here for the full report and some pics)



Yep, that’s The Ryman in the background. What better backdrop for a Nashville wedding?


The Schermerhorn Symphony Center all aglow

Our beloved “bat” building shines above all of the honky tonks on Broadway

Recently I’ve gotten to know Deanna Bruton, the new Director of Sales for Aerial. We had drinks together last week at my other Nashville love, The Patterson House (that just so happens to be owned by the same folks as Aerial), and she almost had me wishing I was planning a wedding all over again as I listened to all of the fabulous things she has in mind for Aerial. Deanna is a total foodie, and for the past few years worked exclusively with Virago and Lime doing their catering. Now she’s focused on expanding Aerial’s catering options which includes working with some amazing Nashville chefs.

Her vision is to create custom menus for each client based on their personality and budget. For those that really want to go over the top, she’ll be enlisting the help of Chef Josh Habiger, one of the creative geniuses behind The Patterson House. In addition to the extra catering options they’ll be offering, she’s also working on revamping the venue and making updates to the facility as far as rental options and sound. Can I say jealous??? Those of you that are just now starting to plan will have an even more fabulous experience than I did!

Dancing on a rooftop in the middle of downtown Nashville on a perfect October night.
Can it get any better?




So there you have it. My wedding recap is complete and now I’m off to spend a fabulous anniversary weekend with my honey. Tonight we’ll be heading to The Ryman to see Snow Patrol. Did I mention that I walked down the aisle to Snow Patrol’s “Chasing Cars”? Pretty nice coincidence that a year later I’ll be listening to them in person right across the street from where I said “I do”.

Aerial
411 Broadway
Nashville, TN 37203
Deanna Bruton, Director of Sales
615-251-9882
http://www.aerialnashville.com/

P.S. For more info on our other vendors and details, check out the feature on ashleysbrideguide.com


From the start, I knew we weren’t going to have a wedding cake. Instead I wanted something really special made with lots of love- desserts from family. Since our families don’t live nearby, it’s rare that we get their good home cooking and I miss it. A lot.

There are a handful of incredible sweets floating around my family that I would choose over the fancy schmanciest cake any day. Desserts that have been around on holidays and special occasions for a big part of my life and just make me really, really happy.

Although every confection has a story, I don’t have time to tell them all, and you probably don’t have time to read them all, so instead, here’s the background on a few, eye candy for all, and recipes for three.

First up is my Aunt Gay’s Rum Cake. Every year, a few weeks before Christmas, she makes a boat load of them for everyone in our family. (We’re talking a really large family here, so it’s no easy task). Every year I eagerly await the arrival of mine on my doorstep (yes, she ships them if we’re far from home and can’t hand deliver. She even sent them to San Diego when I lived there!). In recent years, Ravi has started anticipating its arrival even before I do. The holidays just wouldn’t be the same without it, and I didn’t feel my family favorites dessert table would be the same without it either! Thankfully my sweet aunt was kind enough to grant my wish of having it as part of our big day.

Aunt Gay’s Rum Cake
Cake Ingredients:
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 box (18 1/2 oz) butter golden cake mix
1 instant vanilla pudding (3 3/4 oz)
1/2 cup light rum
1/2 cup water
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable cooking oilRum Glaze Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 stick butter
1/4 cup light rum
1/4 cup water

Rum Glaze Directions:
Place all ingredients in small saucepan and boil for 2-3 minutes.

Cake Directions:
Place cake and pudding mixes in large mixing bowl. Add rum, water, oil and
eggs; mix for 2 minutes. Grease and flour a bundt pan or a tube pan.
Pour chopped nuts in pan first and then pour batter into cake pan and bake at 325
degrees for 50-60 minutes.

Remove from oven and poke small holes in cake and start to pour some of the warm Rum Glaze on it. After a few minutes turn cake out of pan onto cake plate and poke more small holes around the top of cake and gradually pour the rest of the Rum Glaze over cake.

Best if made a few days ahead of time and let cake set in a cool place.
It gets better and better with time (if you’re able to refrain from eating immediately, that is!)

Chocolate peanut butter balls (also known as Buckeyes) were also a holiday staple in our house. If my mom didn’t make them, then at least one of my aunts would. I can only hope that tradition continues for the rest of my life because creamy peanut butter awesomeness combined with chocolaty goodness really can’t be beat!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Balls
2 sticks butter
1 lb peanut butter
1 1/2 lbs powdered sugar
1 large bag chocolate chips
1 bar paraffinMelt butter and add peanut butter and powdered sugar. Make into 1-inch balls. Melt 1 bar paraffin and 1 large bag chocolate chips over low heat, stirring to prevent sticking. With toothpicks in balls, dip into hot chocolate mixture. Place on waxed paper until chocolate hardens.
Coconut Cake
Chess Squares

Date Ball Cookies
2 cups sugar
2 sticks butter
1 lb of dates (chopped)
1 cup nuts (chopped)
2 tsp vanilla
4 cups Rice Crispies
Powdered sugar

Melt butter in pan. Add sugar and dates. Mix and bring to a boil.
Reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes, stirring so it doesn’t burn.
Remove from heat and add in nuts, vanilla, and Rice Crispies.
Allow to cool slightly then shape into small balls and roll in powdered sugar.

Magic 7 Layer Bars

These bars weren’t something I grew up with, instead this was a favorite from Ravi’s family, so appropriately his sis and I made these together the day before the wedding.


Dark Chocolate Cake with Whipped Cream Filling
made with lots and lots of love by my mom

And last, but certainly not least, our “Wedding Cake”. This cake is hands down my favorite cake on the face of the earth. I’m not exaggerating. It won my sister a blue ribbon in the late 70′s. I’ve requested my mom make it for more birthdays than I can count, so of course it would be the star of the family dessert table.

Sorry that I won’t be sharing the recipe for this one.
There’s good reason. Actually a very selfish reason. I don’t want to know what’s in it because I know it’s very, very bad. Maybe one day I’ll get up the nerve to look at the ingredients…..

Photo credit: Inara Studios

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and I couldn’t let this week go by without highlighting the talents of our incredible photographers, Marcia and Cade of Inara Studios. So today, nothing to do with food or planning an event, just our wordless story….

Inara Studios
615-828-0003
marcia@inarastudios.com
www.inarastudios.com