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If, when 2013 comes to an end, I name The Optimist as the place I had the best meal of the year, don’t be surprised. Everything about this meal was just incredible. Absolutely, positively incredible.

Maybe part of the reason I was blown away was because I didn’t go in with such high expectations as I have to some places. Sure, I’d heard some good things, but just hadn’t heard a whole lot. Or maybe it had something to do with it being called a “fish camp”. Not exactly the sexiest of terms, and doesn’t really conjure up a picture in my mind the type of spot I want to go for a girls’ night out on the town.

In fact, up until just a few days before leaving for Atlanta, I was on the fence about switching our reservation to another place.

Man, oh man. What I would’ve missed out on if I had done that.

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When I say everything was incredible, I do mean everything. From the moment I stepped out of the car, I was completely enamored with this space.

While every inch of the interior of the restaurant is beautifully designed and so well thought out, it’s the exterior that had me at hello. Putt-putt golf on the front yard? Adirondack chairs, a guy strumming his guitar and little lights sparkling overhead? Yes, I could settle in and stay here for a spell.

 

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Green Curry Mussels at The Optimist

Basically The Optimist experience already had my heart going pitter-patter even before any food touched my lips. But then, the food touched my lips and it just kept getting better and better.

I wish my photos did this meal justice, but they don’t. For once I decided to leave my nicer camera at home and only had my iphone on me. Remember – I went into this meal with not such high expectations, so I thought I’d snap a couple of pics, maybe put them on Instagram and be done. Oh well. Hopefully you can still appreciate the beauty of this meal even if my photos aren’t so beautiful!

After a round of cocktails at the bar, we began our dining experience with seared and chilled scallops with grapefruit, coriander and cilantro. A lovely light start. Then came The Mussels. Oh my gosh, the mussels. With green curry broth, chile and herbs, they were the best mussels I’ve had in my life, hands down. No competition. If they were here in Nashville, it would be hard for me to resist eating them at least once a week. Oh, mussels, I miss you. Sigh.

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Charred Octopus at The Optimist

Even though I was lost in love with the mussels and focused on trying to soak up every single ounce of that green curry broth, I finally tore my attention away and moved on to the charred Spanish octopus. Can I say this might have been the best octopus I’ve ever had? Okay, now I’ll try to stop saying everything is the best ever. (But I’ll still be thinking it!)

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Even the freaking sugar snap peas were ridiculously good!

Without going through every single thing we ordered – because I’d surely run out of descriptive adjectives – just know that it was all delicious. Fish is usually the dish I’m drawn to at restaurants because I don’t cook it that often at home, but the preparations on all of these seafood dishes was above and beyond almost any other I’ve had before.

For instance: Duck Fat Poached Swordfish. Yes, you read that correctly.

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Duck fat poached swordfish with creme fraiche and garlic chile relish at The Optimist

Apparently we couldn’t even be bothered to pause and take a photo of this dish before devouring it. Words can’t even begin….

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The Optimist Hushpuppies

And then there were the hushpuppies. Two orders of them to be exact. The corn milk hushpuppies at The Optimist are served “beignet style” with cane sugar butter. Yep. That. I do believe I died and went to heaven.

The Optimist

914 Howell Mill Road
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 477-6260

 

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Cardamom Hill’s Pork Vindaloo

For an entire year I’ve been looking forward to a meal at Cardamom Hill. In my look back at Atlanta Food & Wine 2012, I named their Indian spiced fried chicken breast the Best Bite I Didn’t Eat. After everyone and their brother was overheard at the festival talking about how to-die-for it was, I knew I HAD to have it.

So it might have be a full year later, but I finally had it- plus several other incredible dishes from Chef Asha Gomez.

From the vindaloo, a pork shoulder slow cooked in a vinegar sauce and served with appam, to the curry chicken puffs (we may have waved the server down to request a 2nd order after just one bite…), to the famous fried chicken, it was an amazing Indian feast.

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Curry Chicken Puffs at Cardamom Hill – empanada style with curry chicken filling served with spicy mango sauce

So you’re probably wondering what makes the fried chicken here so special? A dish of South India, it’s served over rice and vegetable pilau and finished with a drizzle of coconut oil, then topped with a spicy mango sauce. Definitely not your grandma’s fried chicken– unless, of course, your grandma hails from South India!

 

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Cardamom Hill’s Kerala Style Fried Chicken

 

Actually, there wasn’t much on our table that I’ve ever eaten before, even at Indian restaurants in Nashville and other cities. Each dish was unique and interesting. Even something that sounded so simple when reading it on the menu – Beef Curry- wasn’t simple at all. Served with a cooling yogurt rice and served on a banana leaf, it was completely unlike any curry I’d had in the past.

And then there was the goat. Yes, goat. Specifically, a rice biryani with boneless goat simmered in mint, cilantro, and green chili masala.  Garnished with cashews, raisins, and fresh cilantro, the biryani was delicious, and possibly my favorite dish of the entire meal.

That is, if you don’t count my dessert… a cocktail called Lord Brown’s Estate: Bulleit bourbon, amaretto, coconut milk, allspice dram, and cinnamon syrup. Definitely the perfect ending!

Cardamom Hill

1700 Northside Dr Northwest
Atlanta, GA 30318
(404) 549-7012

 

 

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Empire State South’s Georgia Coffee served in the coolest koozie I’ve ever seen

On our last day in Atlanta, we brunched at Empire State South, and what a brunch it was! It was a beautiful day for the short walk down the street from our hotel, and when we arrived at the restaurant, we were thrilled to see that we’d have the option to dine al fresco.

Which leads me to a question I’d been asking ever since our visit to The Optimist on that Friday night.  Why aren’t there more cute outdoor dining spaces like this in Nashville???

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Yes, that is a bocce ball court and adirondack chairs you can see in the window reflection of Empire State South. A bocce ball court, on the lawn, right next to the outdoor dining area. I want this. Are you listening Nashville restaurant owners? Oh wait. Maybe at least someone is…. sort of? Maybe? I guess we’ll see…

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Empire State South’s Pimento Cheese with Bacon Marmalade

Alright, alright. Enough about aesthetics. (Except I’ve got to mention those koozies shown in the first photo- how cute are they??)

Honestly, I probably don’t even need to say much, as I think all of these photos paint a pretty vivid picture of the best brunch I’ve had in a long, long time.

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Ham Biscuit – ESS sambal, peach butter, cilantro, brown sugar

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Hanger Steak with creamed English peas, radish, fine herbs, hot sauce

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Farm Egg – crisp carolina gold rice, onion puree, bologna, shiitake, green onion

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English Muffin – chicken and pork sausage, arugula, candied bacon, egg, pepper jelly

Isn’t it great dining with friends and sharing food? Looking at this spread again, I’m both hungry and stuffed at the same time. Of course, I could definitely go for some of that pimento cheese with bacon marmalade right now. I don’t think there will ever be a time in life that I’m too stuffed to eat it!

Suffice it to say, if you go to Atlanta for the weekend and eat at any of these 3 restaurants mentioned here, you’d be a very happy camper. So go. Do it. You can thank me later.

Empire State South

999 Peachtree St NE #140
Atlanta, GA 30309
(404) 541-1105

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One of the many trips I’ve taken in the last few weeks included a drive down to Atlanta for the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival. You may recall that I had a great time working the tasting tents for Goo Goo last year. And while it was a blast, this time around I did things a bit differently.

Last year my kiddo was only 4 months old at the time of this event, and I had just left him at home to attend another show in Chicago earlier that week, so I hated to leave him again. When my sister volunteered to come with me to babysit while I worked, I jumped at the offer. In my off hours, we were able to go on walks, do some shopping, and enjoy a couple of good meals outside of the festival.

Of course, having a wee one in tow was definitely a little restricting. (No one under 21 is allowed in the tasting tents, so don’t start envisioning me pushing around a stroller while sipping wine. That was definitely not the case!) There was so much happening all around us that I couldn’t participate in, and yes, I’ll admit — a part of me felt like I was missing out. But this time, baby was back at home in Nashville, and my options were wide open!

 

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Which means I woke up Friday morning and immediately began drinking champagne in the hotel lobby at the kickoff reception. Note: when your day starts this close to John Besh it’s not a bad thing.

Now, I don’t want to sound like a lush, so let me be clear- I didn’t continue to drink champagne all day. We just started with a couple of celebratory glasses (Ok, three. Four? Who was counting?), then it was time to check out some of the classes and demonstrations being offered.

 

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View of  “Give a Man an Egg” from my room at the Loews Atlanta

Classes with names like “Southern Sippers”, “This Little Piggy Got Spicy”, “Shucked Over”, “Makin’ Bacon”, “Foods of the Southern Tailgate” and “The Bourbon Show” made it extremely hard to decide what to attend.

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“Butcher Renaissance” with Porter Road Butcher

One of my favorites of the weekend was “Butcher Renaissance” from the always entertaining Porter Road Butcher guys. If you’ve never been to their shop in East Nashville, you need to go. Buy some meat from them and pick up some cheese from my friend Kathleen, whose Bloomy Rind business shares their space. (If you live on the West side of town and crossing the river seems like another planet to you, just sit tight. They’ll be opening a shop on Charlotte pretty soon!)

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The Goo Goo Girls!

While I told you already that I didn’t bring the little guy with me on this trip, what I haven’t yet mentioned was that I did have some other passengers on the ride down from Nashville.

You see, I needed workers to help at the Goo Goo table in the tasting tents. Last year I hired marketing reps from an agency in Atlanta. This year, my brain had an epiphany.Why not see if some of my best girl friends wanted to go and help out? From being around me all the time, they already know a lot about the product, and in various ways already promote it (both Amanda and Sherri give Goo Goos out to their clients!). Plus, the best part of the deal would be that we could have an honest-to-goodness girls weekend that we haven’t had in ages.

So that’s how I got my Goo Goo girls this year. Amanda, Sherri, and Lisa were the best helpers I could ask for. Thanks girls!

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Proof on Main‘s salmon with bourbon barrel soy, radish, and ramp kimchee

To explain a little further how Atlanta Food & Wine weekend is set up, there are 3 days’ worth of activities. Starting on Friday and ending on Sunday, each day has different classes offered and each day has a 3-hour tasting tent session. Ticket options range from a “connoisseur” pass that gives you access to everything (plus some) for the entire weekend, down to a more budget friendly one day pass to a tasting tent session. You really can’t go wrong with any of the options!

Within the tents, most of the vendors stay the same from day to day, but a few swap out. Of those that are there every day, some serve the same items each day, and some have a different dish each time. What you don’t have to worry about is not having enough to eat or drink. There is SO MUCH amazing food and beverage every day!

Here I’ll share with you just a few pics of my favorites from the weekend, starting with Proof on Main Chef Levon Wallace’s delicious salmon dish above. Now I want to take a trip to Louisville just to go to this restaurant.

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Ole Smoky Moonshine out of Gatlinburg – this stuff is incredible!

 

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 Lockeland Table‘s colossal shrimp

 

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Smoked Beef Tongue Taco with Pickled Watermelon Rind, Chile-Lime Crema by American Grocery Restaurant

 

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Beet deliciousness from Cakes & Ale – another restaurant I’m dying to visit the next time I’m in the Atlanta area

 

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Phillip Ashley Chocolates from Memphis

We loved meeting the creator of these truffles, and we love how creative they were! He had his “Night on Beale Street” Collection which included:

The Memphis:  a bbq truffle that captured the flavor of BBQ

The Mama Jean: sweet potato blended with milk chocolate ganache

Mirror Mirror: Prichard’s double barreled bourbon with dark chocolate

Coco Loco (pictured above) : coconut, pineapple, meyer lemon blended with white chocolate. Inspired by coconut pies, lemon ice box pies, and pineapple upside down cakes that can be found in BBQ or soul food joints in Memphis

 

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And one of my favorites from last year back again: French Broad Chocolates from Asheville, NC

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Spotted Trotter‘s palate cleanser – arugula cucumber custard with lemon pulp pate & peach granita

The award for the coolest display of the entire 3 days in the tasting tents goes to Spotted Trotter. (please note: this is not an official award. just my humble opinion)

 

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Push pops with compressed brandy apple, blue cheese mousse and candied tasso by Spotted Trotter

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Spotted Trotter’s meat cones!

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Bettola‘s whole pig drew a crowd

 

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All in all, an amazing weekend of food and fun. If you live anywhere within driving distance of Atlanta, you really should consider making the trip next year for this event. I know I can’t wait to go back again!

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I don’t know about you, but I’ve never really liked fruit salad. Of course, the kind I’m talking about is the sickeningly sweet stuff that comes from a can that they served in the school cafeteria. Or the one that would show up on the church potluck buffet that contained mushy bananas– and was again way too sweet. I would never touch the stuff, and I’m surely not going to expect my kid to either.

But I do LOVE fruit, especially this time of year when the temps crank up a notch or two, and my appetite for warm foods goes down a few notches.

Sure, I’m happy to eat all sorts of fruit without any adornment, but there are times when the occasion calls for jazzing it up a bit- a brunch for friends, a bridal shower, or maybe even taking a meal to new parents (which just happens to be my reason).

The Peach Truck was on my street last week, so I scored a big bag of peaches, and that was my starting point for this salad. The kiddo is basically addicted to blueberries, so they were a must, and well, strawberries are both yummy AND pretty, so I needed to get those in there! You can really use any fruit that you love (as long as it’s not too mushy. Blech).

Next time around I’m thinking of adding some kiwi, and maybe even a little basil. If you experiment and find a great combo, be sure to report back!

Print

Fruit Salad with Lime Mint Dressing

Yields 10 1/2-cup servings; Adapted from Giada

Ingredients:

1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 pint blueberries
2 large peaches, peeled and cubed
1/8 cup simple syrup*
1/4 cup lime juice (2-3 limes)
1/2 cup fresh mint, chopped
1/8 tsp almond extract

Directions:

Wash, peel, and chop fruit as desired. Place into large bowl.
In a blender, combine simple syrup, lime juice, chopped mint, and almond extract.
Toss syrup over fruit. Chill and serve.

*Simple syrup = 1 part sugar to 1 part water. Bring water to a boil, stir in sugar until dissolved completely. Remove from heat and allow to cool.

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“Green” course at May’s Relish Epicurea Supper Club

First things first: I must apologize for being an absentee blogger recently. May was an insanely busy month for me both professionally and personally, and I really just had NO time to write.

The good news is — even though there was no time for writing, there was still a whole lot of eating going on. Sooooo I’ve got lots of great meals to share with you over the next couple of weeks!

Today’s story begins with my Mother’s Day Brunch. There is no way that any of you had a meal as great as I did on Mother’s Day unless you were sitting in the same dining room I was sitting in on May 12th. I’m serious. For less than $30, I ate this plate of food at Chef Carlos Davis’ brunch:

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 Mother’s Day brunch at Casa Azafran (taken with my iphone)

PLUS a second plate that looked fairly similar. Filled with blue cheese biscuits and sorghum butter, cinnamon and coconut dusted fried plantains, shrimp & grits, sourdough french toast, buttermilk chicken with tarragon-cider hollandaise, vegetable hash, mac & cheese, and chorizo sausage, this was definitely a massive quantity, but it was quality through and through! I’m still dreaming of those blue cheese biscuits and sorghum butter.

Oh, and did I mention that the chef sent us home with caramelized banana bread pudding? Yep. Happy Mother’s Day to me.

This experience provides a little background for my next amazing May dining experience: My Birthday.

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Dining al fresco in the courtyard of Casa Azafran for Relish Epicurea Supper Club

By early May, my husband had already asked me several times what I wanted to do for my birthday – because:

(a) I like to celebrate my birthday. A lot. And he knows it.

(b) I’m a planner, so I like to have input on my own birthday celebration.

(c) I don’t like surprises.

But for once I really truly had no idea what I wanted to do! Luckily, on Mother’s Day it all came together. After partaking in that incredible brunch, Carlos dropped by our table to say hello and while chatting, mentioned that he was hosting his second supper club dinner on my actual birthday of May 24th.

The food was a no-brainer. I knew it would be amazing. The drinks? BYOB. Who doesn’t love that?

Then there was the setting. That’s what sealed the deal. 99% of the time, the weather is fabulous for my birthday. I’ve been fortunate enough to have many outdoor celebrations, and I was hoping to continue that tradition. However, May weather can also be unpredictable and this year, rain was in the forecast (yes, I was already looking at the forecast 3 weeks prior).

The beauty of the space that Carlos uses for his supper clubs, Casa Azafran, is that it has both indoor and outdoor dining areas, and we wouldn’t have to choose beforehand. We could see what Mother Nature was giving us on that day and then roll with it. Perfect!

 

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 ”Yellow” course at Relish Epicurea Supper Club in May

And you know what else was perfect? The food!

Carlos had a unique concept for May’s supper club, which was to create monochromatic dishes. He went with the color palate of green, yellow, orange, purple and black. Not only did it make for some visually stunning plates, but it was definitely some delicious eating too!

The first plate pictured at the top of the post was possibly my favorite, the Green course: pickled cucumber, grilled nopales, fennel slaw, peas, and pistachio pesto.

Then there was the Yellow course – Shelton Farms stone mill grits, corn and heirloom tomato salsa, and toasted brioche with saffron paint. Did I say the first course was may favorite? Hmmm, maybe I’m leaning toward this one instead…so hard to decide!

 

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Chef Carlos chatting with the diners at Relish Epicurea Supper Club

While I did get a photo of the next course – the Orange: Sous Vide Caribe Capon with sweet potato hay, carrot soufflé, and blood orange gastrique – my pics of the last two courses were too dark to use, even with a little photoshop wizardry.

By the time those plates were served, it was dark out, the items on the plate were dark (purple and black, remember?) and I may have been several glasses of wine deep. Of course, I’m placing all of the blame on the darkness factor.

The Purple course consisted of Huachinango, fingerling potato salad, crispy radicchio rolls and beet syrup. The Black was braised oxtail, a black wild rice waffle with blackberry mole, figs, Hawaiian charcoal salt and cacao. What a birthday meal!

 

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The “Orange” course at May’s Relish Epicurea Supper Club

 

The Supper Club is monthly, so go ahead and check your calendars now to see if you can make it to any of the upcoming dates listed on the Now Playing Nashville site. That’s where you’ll find ticketing information too.

If you’d like to get a taste of Carlos’ food even sooner, you’re in luck, as he’s doing a special Father’s Day meal this Sunday, June 16th. If it’s even half as good as that Mother’s Day brunch we had, you’re getting a steal on this meal!! Click here for all the details and to buy tickets.

 

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 Celebrating my birthday with good food, good wine and good friends at Relish Epicurea Supper Club in the Casa Azafran courtyard!

 

 

 

 

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Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

May 30th – June 2nd, 2013
Midtown Atlanta

Okay, so it’s not a Nashville food happening… but several of us from here in town are heading south for it tomorrow! The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival begins this Friday, and I’m so excited. Even though I’ll be working, I’ll be surrounded by fantastic food & drink in the Tasting Tents, and I’ll have good helpers, so there will be plenty of opportunities to take a break and do a little nibbling.

The Goo Goo table will be in the Sweets section of the tents, so if you’re attending, stop by and say hello!

 

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Eat, Drink and Be Merry

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

On June 4th, several restaurants and food purveyors in Nashville will be donating a % of their sales to The Land Trust of Tennessee to help support their work protecting farms across our great state.

The current list of participants includes: The Capitol Grille, M. Restaurant and Bar, Miel, Provence Bakery (all locations), Rolf & Daughters, Sunset Grill, Burger Up, SLOCO, The Mad Platter, Lockeland Table, Marche, Paradise Park, Pharmacy Burger, Porter Road Butchers, The Bloomy Rind, Café Fundamental, Más Tacos, Chago’s Cantina, Las Paletas, Pub5, Fat Bottom Brewery, The Stone Fox, Bagel Face Bakery, Joe Natural’s Farm Store and Café, and Lisa Donovan’s Buttermilk Road Supper Club at Arnold’s Country Kitchen.

Mark your calendar now so you don’t forget to go out to eat at/shop at one of these awesome businesses next Tuesday!

For more info, visit www.eatgreentennessee.com

 

 

 

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Miss Martha’s Ice Cream Crankin’

Sunday, June 9th, 2013
3 – 5 pm

Front Lawn of First Presbyterian Church
4815 Franklin Pike

$10 for adults ($13 after June 7th)
$8 for children ($10 after June 7th)
children under 2 are free

Unless you’re lactose intolerant, vegan or just plain crazy, you don’t want to miss this ice cream extravaganza! Dozens and dozens (perhaps hundreds?) of amateur ice cream makers submit a quart of homemade ice cream in three categories: chocolate base, vanilla base and “other.” The winner from each category vies for the “best of show,” which will be produced next year into a new Purity ice cream flavor, available wherever Purity ice cream is sold.

In addition to stuffing yourself silly full of ice cream, there will be live music and children’s activities, so the event is fun for the entire family.

To purchase tickets, visit the event page. Interested in competing? Find the rules and entry form here.

 

Yum!East

YUM! East

Thursday, June 13th, 2013

5- 10  pm

East-Centric Pavilion
1006 Fatherland Street
Nashville, TN 37206

$40/person

Note: This is a 21+ event.

I love that we seem to have some sort of food tasting event on the calendar almost every month of the entire year! Yum East is a new one for 2013, and it looks to be pretty promising.

In case you guys aren’t already aware, East Nashville is home to some of the very best food in Nashville, and this is their chance to really show off.

Take a gander at who has committed to participate so far: Cafe Fundamental, Eastland Café, Eastside Fish, Eat Well Market, Eastland Cafe, Edley’s Barb-B-Que, Fat Bottom Brewing, Five Points Pizza, Holland House Bar & Refuge, Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream, Lockeland Table, Lucky Belly, Mad Donna’s, Margot, Marche Artisan Foods, Nuvo Burrito, Olive and Sinclair, The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden, Pied Piper Eatery, Pomodoro East, Porter Road Butcher, Rumours East, Silly Goose, The Wild Cow, and Yeast Nashville. For the ever growing list, click on the Food section here.

Admission to the event includes a full-tasting, souvenir glass and open bar. Tickets can be purchased at www.yumeast.com.

“Yum!East benefits Fannie Battle Day Home for Children in its mission to teach children, empower families and strengthen the community. Since 1891, the Day Home has served the East Nashville community by providing high-quality, affordable childcare to at-risk children and their families.”

 

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UPDATE:

The Sugar Coma event has been CANCELLED. Stay tuned for a rescheduled date later in the year!

Sugar Coma

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013
2 – 6 pm

Marathon Village
165 Clinton Street
Nashville, TN

$25/person

Earlier this month I was on Jekyll Island attending the Southern C Summit, where I met the lovely Broke Socialite, creator of Sugar Coma. Originally Atlanta-based, the dessert tasting event is now on the road, and lucky for us, it’s heading to Nashville in a few short weeks!

Early bird tickets are on sale now for a discounted price of $20, so hurry and get them by June 5th if you want to save a few bucks! Click here to purchase.

 

 

 

 

masons lima bean hummus

 

A while back I gave you the heads up about the Loews Vanderbilt Hotel renovation and the new Southern brasserie-style restaurant and bar that were to come. Well, now Mason’s Restaurant and Mason Bar are open for business, and last week I had the pleasure of sampling a bit of the menu. My thoughts? Let’s just say I’m already planning my next visit and you all should put it on your short list of things to do!

For years my husband and I have had a recurring conversation so many times… there are no good hotel bars in Nashville. We travel from city to city and have hung out in some really cool hotel bars – San Francisco, Chicago, L.A., NYC, Minneapolis, etc, etc. Why does Nashville not have a single one? Sure, I like to visit the Oak Bar at the Hermitage from time to time. But that’s not the kind of space I’m talking about. When the Hutton Hotel opening was on the horizon, I thought for sure that would be the new cool bar. Nope. I mean, the bar is nice enough, but it’s tiny. Not the kind of place I’d been waiting for.

With the opening of Mason Bar, it has finally happened! Nashville now has a hip hotel bar with incredible cocktails. And plenty of space for mingling. It’s big. It’s cool. It’s a place I, as a local, want to go hang out. Not only are the drinks amazing, but the food is fantastic as well.

 

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Mason’s Fried Green Tomatoes
crab, field peas, feta, smoked pepper aioli

Months ago, when I first heard of the restaurant concept the hotel was working on, and that they were looking for a chef, Brandon Frohne is the person that immediately popped into my head. Brandon is a chef whose food has wowed me at many local competitions and events through the years. He’s bold. He’s competitive. He puts himself out there. I knew he would be perfect for what they were trying to accomplish.

Lo and behold, a few weeks later, the announcement was made – Brandon had been hired as Executive Chef!

I’m excited for him, I’m excited for the hotel and I’m excited for us. Mason’s is a great addition to the culinary scene here in Nashville and (being a little selfish here) it’s fairly close to my house, so an added plus! I foresee many dates nights/girls nights/happy hours/business meetings there in my future.

 

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A Devil of an Egg at Mason’s Bar
bacon jam, mustard seed caviar

 The Food

During my visit last week, dish after dish was served and none disappointed. The “Jars” – small jars of pimento cheese, lima bean hummus and pepper jelly served with olive oil crackers- were a perfect starter for the evening. The fried green tomatoes were some of the best I’ve ever had. The crab corn dogs were delicious. The beef tartare on dill pollen chips were unique and interesting – in a good way!

But the “Devil of an Egg” was probably my favorite bite – or shall I say bites? Yeah, I ate at least 6. And I’m not ashamed.

 

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Mason’s Crab Corn Dogs
with Mississippi Comeback Sauce

The Drinks

I’ve admitted before here on the blog that I’m a bit of a cocktail snob, and I’m happy to report that Mason’s has passed my libations test with flying colors. Favorites of the night included the Red Zone – a concoction of hot pepper infused Souza, Monin Habanero Lime, Aperol and lime juice – and the Front Porch – Ketel One vodka with house made watermelon soda. So refreshing. In fact, I’m looking forward to enjoying many of those this summer!

Mason’s Restaurant and Mason Bar

Loews Vanderbilt Hotel
2100 West End Ave
Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 321-1990
Mon – Sun: 6:30 am – 10:00 pm

Mason’s on Twitter
Mason’s on Facebook

 kings of leon music city eats

Kings of Leon announce Music City Eats coming in September 2013

 

So I went to a press conference at City House just a couple of hours ago….

What I knew going in: it was an announcement for a food festival coming in September, the “brain child of the Kings of Leon and Chef Jonathan Waxman”, I’d been told. Hey, sounds good to me.

What I didn’t realize was really how BIG a deal this is going to be! Food & Wine is one of the sponsors. There are amazing chefs involved. Holy smokes. I am beyond excited. All I can say is – you better go buy tickets as soon as these suckers go on sale this Friday because it is gonna be the best food festival you’ve ever been too. Guaranteed. SERIOUSLY.

 

music city eats logo

What:

Music City Eats

When:

September 21st and 22nd, 2013

Where:

Public Square, downtown Nashville

Who:

More Awesomeness Than I Can Handle.

Tom Colicchio (have I ever mentioned I love him?)

Giada (like Madonna, she only needs one name)

Michael Symon (maybe a little crush)

Jonathon Waxman

John Besh

Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo (the Animal guys!)

plus many, many more national names plus some of my local loves…

Pat Martin of Martin’s BBQ

Cary Bringle aka Peg Leg Porker

Josh and Erik of the Catbird Seat

Deb Paquette of Etch

and more!

Go here to see a full list of the talent committed so far and to get more details.

Tickets on sale 5/17 at 10 a.m. CDT, click here to purchase

Mark your calendar. Buy your tickets. Like Music City Eats Facebook Page and/or Follow along on Twitter to keep up to date on all the news and happenings. Then go buy a couple pairs of stretchy pants (fashionable stretchy pants of course), and I’ll see you there!

 

8th and Roast

 

8th and Roast “Try Our Food”

Saturday, May 11th
9 am – 1 pm

2108 8th Ave S
Nashville, TN 37204

$5/person

Eighth and Roast, opened last November by Lesa and Brad Wood of wholesaler Roast Inc., has become a much frequented spot for me. I often have meetings there, usually early morning, and I’m pretty much always hungry when I go (because I never seem to have much time to actually eat in the morning any more. That’s what having a kid does to you. Feed him, think about yourself later).

They’ve had a small selection of baked goods and quiches being brought in (the bacon cheddar scone -I think made by Dozen – is delicious), but sometimes I’d get there too late and my favorites would already be sold out. So when I heard the news that Chef Sam Tucker (previously of Watermark) had come on board and they are now serving breakfast and lunch seven days a week, I was pretty excited!

The seasonal, regularly changing menu is predominantly comprised of items made from locally sourced products, and includes pastries, breakfast sandwiches, quiches, salads and soups.

To kick things off, this Saturday they’re holding a “Try Our Food” Open House where we’ll all be able to enjoy a plate of four large samples of new menu items for just $5. See you there?

 

carlos

Mother’s Day Brunch by Carlos of Riffs

Sunday, May 12th
10:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Casa Azafran
2195 Nolensville Pike
Nashville, TN 37211

$26.50 adults
$12.50 children 10 and under
(gratuity not included)

30% of the ticket price goes to support the work of Conexión Américas

As soon as I saw the menu for Chef Carlos Davis’ special Mother’s Day brunch buffet, there was no doubt in my mind where this mom was going to be dining on Sunday morning!

He had me at Bleu Cheese Biscuits with Sorghum Butter. Okay, so it was really the Gulf Shrimp, Pork Belly and Smoked Tomato Grits. Then the Caramelized Banana Bread Pudding just took me over the edge. And that doesn’t even cover half of what he’ll be serving up! Check out the full menu here (and prepare to drool).

In case you’re not familiar with Carlos, he is one of the talented chefs behind Riffs Fine Street Food, a favorite food truck of mine. And FYI: in 2011, his shrimp and grits played a big role in Riffs being named on my Best Of list. They are seriously, seriously incredible.

Pre-purchase your tickets in advance here (I did!) to reserve your seat.

 

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Generous Helpings

Thursday, May 16th
5:30 – 8:30 p.m.

Nashville Farmers’ Market
900 Rosa L Parks Boulevard
Nashville, TN

Cost:
$40 Advanced Ticket
$50 At-the-Door

I say it every year and I’ll say it again – Generous Helpings is one of my favorite food tasting events in Nashville. In 2009, it’s where I met Chef Jeremy Barlow for the first time and discovered the beauty of his food, specifically a Root Beer Braised Pork Bread Pudding with Sarsaparilla Creme and Sea Salt.

A friendship began and in 2010, I even volunteered to help him work behind the tayst table, serving up lamb nachos to attendees. In 2011, I was back on the other side of things, once again enjoying myself with friends and stuffing my face with good food. Sadly there was one amazing dish I missed out on that night though because they’d run out before I got around to their table: Stuffed Squash Blossoms from F. Scott’s.

I tell you this so you don’t make the same mistake I did. If others at an event tell you a dish is amazing, run – do not walk – straight to that spot and get it. Also, get there early. Be on a mission to eat. You can chat with friends later. Conquer food first!

(side note: I did eventually get to try those Squash Blossoms and they were every bit as fantastic as people said)

Head over to the Second Harvest website to see a full listing of this year’s participating restaurants and purchase tickets for the event.

If you’d like to try your luck at winning some FREE tickets, head over to my friends’ blogs: Lesley Eats and So How’s It Taste. Hurry though because their giveaways end later today (Lesley) and tomorrow (Leah/So How’s)!