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!


St Cecilia

3455 Peachtree Rd NE
Atlanta, GA 30326
(404) 554-9995



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.



King + Duke

3060 Peachtree Rd NW W Paces Ferry Rd
Atlanta, GA 30305
(404) 477-3500


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
(312) 526-3385


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

Jackalope Brewery
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)

East Park
700 Woodland St
Nashville, TN 37206

Cost: FREE

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

Sevier Park
3021 Lealand Lane
Nashville, TN 37212

Cost: $35/person

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…..

#5 Michelle

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!”, 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
Suite 102
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…..

#54 Traci


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!”, 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



Caffeine Water! — Yes, there really is such a thing.

In the interest of full disclosure, my initial introduction to Avitae (pronounced “uh-vee-tay”) was through a press release and offer to sample the product. As I’ve told you before, I get quite a lot of these types of emails, so it takes a special one to really grab my attention. In this case, the promise of “Zero calories, zero sugars, zero artificial ingredients and no aftertaste”, but plenty of kick (my own words), definitely piqued my interest.

You see, I don’t particularly like sodas, and I hate energy drinks (blech!) but I do feel like I sometimes need caffeine, and I don’t always want a cup of coffee to give me that boost I’m looking for. After having a child 2.5 years ago, morning coffee became a new part of my daily routine out of necessity. Running on little sleep most of the time, it was not only a wake-me-up, be essential for helping me focus.

However, in recent months I’ve gone back to early morning workouts (my pre-baby morning ritual), and I don’t like drinking a hot cup of coffee before, during, or immediately following my workout. But I do need to drink lots of water, so Avitae sounded like just the type of drink that would be a perfect kick off to my day!

So I said yes to the samples, and I became a fan. Unlike sugar-filled sodas and energy drinks, Avitae Caffeine Water contains natural caffeine derived from green coffee beans, so it helps you stay hydrated and energized without all the added calories and sugar high spike.

There are 3 strengths of Avitae available:

45 mg of natural caffeine (equivalent to 1/2 cup of coffee)
90 mg of natural caffeine (equivalent to 1 cup of coffee)
125-milligram level (equivalent to 1 1/2 cups of coffee)

After sampling, I knew I wanted to keep drinking these, so I ordered a case of 45 and 90 from Amazon. I wish they were sold at retail in the Nashville area, but currently they aren’t, so for now, I’ll just use my Amazon Prime account to stock up. For those of you living in other areas, be sure to visit visit to see if there is a retailer near you. If not, just use Amazon or check Office Depot’s online store.


Disclosure: I received 3 free samples of Avitae caffeine water but I was not compensated for this post and opinions are solely mine. The link provided to Amazon is to my Amazon store, where I can earn a small percentage on purchases I refer using that link.


Another year, another Atlanta Food & Wine Festival in the books! This was my third year participating in the festival, and each year really has been a different experience than the last. As I think most of you know, I am the Director of Marketing for Goo Goo Cluster, and we’ve been participating as one of the Tasting Tent vendors since the inaugural festival in 2012.

Since then, I’ve learned how to dress for maximum comfort and utility, what necessities to bring, and how to organize myself so I can get the absolute most out of the 90 hours I’m in Atlanta. After I got that first festival under my belt, I realized that I should really be doing double duty while there, which means simultaneously working as a representative of Goo Goo but also participating as a media member.


So yes, while it looks like it’s all fun and games, it’s actually a lot of hard work too! Taking classes, eating and drinking for hours upon hours, educating people on a brand, running to and fro to replenish product, and doing most of that in near 90 degree heat is exhausting. Honestly.

Okay, I know I’m not going to get any sympathy.  It’s nice that my hobby of writing about food overlaps with my real life career, and I’m definitely thankful for that!

Now on to what I ate, drank, and learned ~

Revolution Donuts of Decatur, GA served up peach donut sliders as well as several other insane flavors like coconut creme brulee and maple bourbon buttermilk donuts.



The first class I took was a Technique Lab for “Cocktail Kegging” taught by Taylor Huber and Brooks Reitz of Jack Rudy Cocktail Co. Not only was it a fun and informative class, but they served the best Gin and Tonic I’ve ever had. Definitely check out their website to learn more about their products.


Some of my favorite savory bites of the weekend were the Smoked Fried Chicken with Sriracha Drizzle and Bacon Cornbread from One Hot Mama’s in Hilton Head, SC, and the Korean BBQ Pork with Kimchi on Sesame Leaf from Simply Seoul Kitchen.


And the Pork Belly on Grits with Smoked Peaches from Nashville’s own Farm House restaurant, a yummy Edamame Salad from Atlanta’s Tabla, and a crostini with Whipped Pork Butter and Meyer Lemon Sea Salt from Cured in San Antonio, TX. It might not sound like much, but man, oh man, was it delicious!


Really, the tasting tents are pretty much one blissful bite after another. There were a few things that I forgot to write down descriptions for, which is what happened in the case of Auburn, AL’s Acre restaurant. They had one of the cutest setups of all, and one of our favorite dishes served in little Chinese takeout boxes. For the life of me I can’t remember exactly what it was, but I know I went back on the second day to get it again!

The quick downpour that trapped us under a tent in front of Eden Roc Miami Beach‘s table was a blessing in disguise as we were able enjoy a few of their incredible Poached Wahoo with Avocado Mousse, soy vin and shaved Georgia peach samplers.

I will admit that Buttermilk Kitchen’s Korean BBQ Omelet sounded a little strange to me, but I tried it anyway and am I so glad I did! Definitely a favorite of the weekend.


One of the first things we saw when we arrived on that first day to set up was the Whisper Creek Whisper Wagon with some of our Nashville buddies inside. I’ll admit that we dropped by more than a few times over the course of the 3 day weekend to enjoy a Whisper Whacker or some of their new Pennington’s Strawberry Rye Whiskey. We had to beat the heat, you know.

So much more to say about these guys and their delicious concoctions, but I’m saving that for a longer post, so stay tuned!


I can’t think of a more perfect way to start the final day of Atlanta Food & Wine Festival than taking a class called “Sipping Chocolate” with Dan and Jael Rattigan, the owners of French Broad Chocolate. Not only is their chocolate incredible, but they are such a cute, interesting couple. If you’ve never heard their story or tried their chocolates, you really should check it out.


After a chocolate filled breakfast, the next stop was the 21C lounge where I was hoping to run into Chef Levon Wallace of Louisville’s Proof on Main. As luck would have it, he was there, and after chatting for a bit he directed our attention to their bar. I mean, it was almost noon after all. It was certainly time for a pre-lunch cocktail! Or, um, maybe three. Jasmine Cilantro Lemonade, Mango Cayenne Vanilla Shrub, Grapefruit Cardamom Thyme Shrub. I mean, c’mon, how could we have just one?

So there you have it. Just a quick look at what I consider the best of the best I discovered at the 2014 festival. As you can probably tell, I had a great time and am already looking forward to next year!