Tuesday, March 17, 2015

nashville - some thoughts and a guide.

Nashville.  Nashville is a funny little city.  I would actually go so far as to say it's a tale of two cities with two distinct personalities.  On the one hand you have the history of country music and a lot of old Southern money and on the other hand you have a lot of flannel, craft beer shops, and hipsters galore.  It is very old-world meets new world.  

I like to play a game when I visit a new city and ask myself if I could live there.  Nashville I hate to say failed that test.  The driving (SO MUCH DRIVING to get anywhere), the heat (it was 75 and sunny on Monday I can't even imagine what it's like in August), and the plethora of cowboy boots just didn't win me over (though their housing prices, coffee shops, cheap craft beers, and large number of parks did score it points).  Nashville is a city that doesn't feel like a city.  It's charming in many ways but everything is so spread out that some of that charm get's lost.  

And then there is the food.  We ate some good things, we ate some REALLY good things, and then we ate some meh things.  My thoughts on southern food is that southern food feels heavy.  I don't know if it's the portion sizes or that they love butter but some of it just felt so overly indulgent.   We even ordered a plate of southern vegetables one night and couldn't finish it for the life of us.  You should always be able to finish your vegetables.

But we are here to talk about the best of the best and below is my list of Nashville favorites.  The things I would return for and the things I will try and re-create.

1 - Baked Beans at Martin's BBQ. I know you are probably wondering how baked beans could make the list and not pork or brisket but the beans stole the show.  Baked beans can be awful - cloyingly sweet, mushy, and so many other things.  These beans were smoky and meaty with a touch of (molasses-esq) sweetness.  They are everything a bowl of baked beans should be and what I will be using as my bean bench mark going forward. 

2 - Black Eyed Pea Salad at Hattie B's Hot Chicken.  Look, I went to Nashville thinking hot chicken was going to be one of the greatest things I have ever eaten.  It is spicy fried chicken, how can it not by dynamite?   But it fell short.  It wasn't bad (it was good fried chicken) but it lacked the the heat that I was expecting (and yes, we ordered hot).  But! the black eyed pea salad I could have eaten a quart of.  It was tart and acidic with some nice crunch from the peppers,  I found it to be the perfect counterpart to all that fried chicken and I plan on making bowls of it this summer to serve with all our BBQ.   Oh the banana pudding wasn't bad either.   

3 - Sorghum Pie at Husk.  Husk may be one of the most charming restaurants I've ever eaten in.  It's an old home that they converted into a restaurant and it's just beautiful.  High ceilings, fancy chandeliers, the whole shebang oh! and the food is all sourced from local farms which is why I love it so. Everything we ate was very good (the homemade charcuterie plate was particularly memorable) but the best of the best was the pie. Sorghum tastes like a cross between molasses and honey and it makes for one killer pie filling (kind of like the inside of a pecan pie but not nearly as sweet and without pecans).  Said slice was served with orange sorbet and grilled pecans making for one of the best desserts I've had in a long time.  

4 - Coconut Cookie at Barista Parlor.  Barista Parlor is one of those gorgeous coffee shops.  All open space and charming baristas in chambray aprons.  It almost feels like a coffee cliche but it's so beautiful that I couldn't bring myself to find it pretentious.  It just kind of works.  We didn't drink coffee (it was too late in the day for me) but we did get some cookies for the plane ride home.  The coconut one was thin and chewy (how they did that I do not know) with a whole lot of butter and a bit of chocolate for good measure.  I already know what I will be making this weekend.   

5 - Pretty much everything at Rolf and Daughters.  The consensus between Tyler and I was that our meal at Rolf and Daughters was one of the best we've had in a long time.  It. Was. So. Good.  It felt fresh and modern and it was how we like to eat - small plates with a little bit of everything.  The standout dishes were broccoli the crostini (to be recreated this weekend), a sweet potato dish with lime and yogurt (also to be recreated), and the chicken liver pate with currant mostarda.   I will continue to dream about all of it.  

Other things to note - 8th and Roast for good coffee, Craft Brewed for good beers, Belle Meade Plantation for an awesome tour of a Southern home, White's Merchantile for shopping (it's like an old fashioned general store), and Nelson's Green Briar Distillery for a super whiskey tour.   

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