Friday, December 17, 2010

Pasta with potatoes

Seems sinful, doesn't it? The utter anti-thesis of the no-white diet that I've observed about 75% of the time for the last decade. But sometimes you just have to indulge.

Most recipes for a pasta with potatoes involves a nice linguine, pesto, some sort of bean or pea and peeled red potatoes. But the inspiration for me was this tidy little package of Tasteful Selections Honey Gold potatoes I picked up at Publix last week. These potatoes have a beautiful yellow center and have a delicate texture. I'm not the biggest fan of pesto (and certainly not of the storebought pesto I keep on hand "just in case"), so I didn't want to overpower these potatoes with that flavor. I wanted to highlight it. I also had some conchiglie from Lazzaroli that I thought would be the perfect accompaniment (inspired by an entree I had at City House that was not as good as it could have been). So I decided to experiment, but keep it simple. And it worked!

Pasta with Roasted Potatoes in Truffle Oil
serves 2

1/2 pound of Tasteful Selections Honey Gold potatoes (or baby Yukon Gold or fingerling potatoes)
1/2 pound shaped pasta (conchiglie or orecchiette or another small but sturdy shape)
~4 tbps truffle oil (to taste)
1 tsp minced garlic (fresh or pre-minced)
~a handful of finely grated parmigiano reggiano
sea salt, pepper and herbs de Provence (optional) to taste

Preheat your oven to 400F. Wash and cut the potatoes (skin on) into small, ~1/2 inch cubes. Transfer to a roasting dish and drizzle with ~1 tablespoon or so of truffle oil. Sprinkle with salt and roast for 40 minutes.

When there's about 20 minutes left for roasting, start to boil the pasta. The pasta for this dish should not be al dente but should instead be soft.

Once the potatoes have roasted, remove the pan from the oven and stir in the garlic (it will cook slightly when it meets the roasting dish). When the pasta has finished cooking, drain it and add to the potatoes in the dish. Stir in the cheese and add more truffle oil, salt, pepper and a dash of herbs de Provence.
I think the truffle oil was the perfect complement to the potatoes and the soft pasta provided just enough of a difference in texture to make it interesting. If you have some on hand, roasted or sauteed oyster or shiitake mushrooms would also taste wonderful mixed in with this dish.

This is simple and easy to make, but packed with flavor (particularly when you use good potatoes and good cheese). If you're in Nashville, Tom over at Lazzaroli doesn't always have conchiglie on hand, but call ahead and he may put some back for you. It's really the perfect pasta for this meal.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Egg Nog Cookies

I'm disappointed that this year, Trader Joe's is not carrying the orange cardamom cookies and the fleur de sel caramels. I'm cycling through the stages of grief, actually. However, they do have some delicious egg nog cookies. I don't love egg nog, but these cookies are fantastic.

So I decided to try to make them. Which is odd since I generally don't make anything that someone else can make better and cheaper than I can. Anyhoo, I searched all over the internet and one recipe kept popping up. It seems it is from the Mrs. Fields Cookie Book.

Fun fact: Debbi Fields is now Debbi Fields Rose and lives in Memphis, Tennessee (my hometown). She's married to Mike Rose, former chairman of the Holiday Inn corporation (also born in Memphis!).

The dough for this cookie actually tastes better than the cookie, so I made a couple of changes to make it a bit noggier after baking. And some additional spices to liven them up.

Eggnog Cookies
adapted from Mrs. Fields

2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 heaping tablespoon of chai latte mix*
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup eggnog
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 cup Gosling's black seal rum**
2 egg yolks
additional nutmeg for sprinkling

*if you don't have chai latte mix, add another 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom, 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, and 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
**or bourbon, depending on what you like. Gosling's has a molasses-y flavor that really worked well for this.

Preheat oven to 300F.

In a medium bowl combine flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and chai spices; mix well with a wire whisk and set aside.

In a large bowl, cream sugar and butter with an electric mixer. Add eggnog, vanilla, rum and egg yolks and beat at medium speed until smooth. Add the dry ingredients and beat at low speed just until combined.

Scoop rounded teaspoons and form into balls and place onto ungreased baking sheets, 1″ apart. Press down lightly and sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 23-25 minutes or until bottoms turn light brown.
Transfer to cool, flat surface immediately with spatula.

For icing, melt white chocolate chips in one corner of a plastic sandwich bag. Microwave until melted. Cut a tiny part of the corner off the bag and drizzle chocoate onto the cookies in a Christmas tree shape for a festive look.
The cookie is soft and chewy and tastes very much like egg nog. It does not, however taste like the delicious Trader Joe's egg nog cookie. It's a decent cookie and very easy to make (particularly if you don't bother to ice it) but not one that's going to knock your socks off unless you really, really like egg nog.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cheese Straws

Recently, I had a challenge. The lovely folks over at Love and Olive Oil hosted a holiday party potluck, so I needed to make a cold finger food dish that would impress. I decided to make some egg nog cookies. And they were just not great. Okay, but not great. So I decided I wanted to make something else, too just to prove I could make something really yummy.
So I made cheese straws! I found a recipe that not only looked easy, but the comments indicated it was easy. Score! Right? Riiiight?

Not so much. Technically, they are easy to make. The dough is so very, very easy to make. Rolling out perfect 1/8 inch thick dough and cutting perfect 1/3-ish inch wide, 5 inch long straws was easy, but tedious. And took quite a while. But the hard part was the clean-up. Getting that soft dough out of all the nooks and crannies of my food processor nearly drove me nuts. Of course, this was after meticulously cutting these sraws for what seemed like hours. Maybe you won't have this experience. Maybe you trust the top rack of your dishwasher more than I trust mine.

But it was worth it. The cheese straws were a hit (all gone!).

Cheese Straws
adapted from Gourmet via

1/4 pound (half a block) coarsely grated extra-sharp Cabot Seriously Sharp cheddar cheese (yellow)
1 cup all-purpose flour
3/4 stick cold butter, cut into tablespoons
1/2 teaspoon salt
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1 1/2 tablespoons half and half or milk

Preheat oven to 350°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.

Pulse cheese, flour, butter, salt, and cayenne in a food processor until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add half and half/milk and pulse just until dough forms a ball.
Pinch off 1/4 of the dough and roll out on a lightly floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into a rectangle (1/8 inch thick) that is at least five inches wide (depth). Cut dough with a lightly floured pizza wheel or lightly floured sharp knife into 1/3-inch-wide strips. Carefully transfer to an ungreased baking sheet, arranging strips 1/4 inch apart. (If strips tear, pinch back together.) Shape into straight straws. Repeat until all the dough has been used. Add scraps back to the dough ball.

Bake 15-18 minutes, starting on the top rack and switching to the bottom rack halfway through. Bake until lightly golden.
**Notes** You must use a good cheddar cheese. I like Cabot--tastes good and contains no animal rennet. Also, your butter must be straight from the refrigerator. The softer it is, the more that gets into your nooks and crannies instead of in your mouth. Some reviewers suggested adding dry mustard to the recipe, which I think would be a great addition. I thought I had some, but it was mustard seed I had. D'oh! But it wasn't necessary. Be sure to store these in a paper bag or tin; storing in an airtight container will cause the straws to lose their snap!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Top Chef Mixer at Cha Chah

Mr. Eats and I are huge fans of Top Chef. So of course we were excited when one of our favorite local chefs, Arnold Myint appeared on the show last season. I followed him on Twitter for his colorful commentary each Wednesday night and still follow him to keep up with what's new at his restaurants.

That's how I found out that fellow cheftestant Kenny Gilbert would be visiting last week and would be hanging out at Cha Chah for dinner and drinks and we were welcome to come and meet them. Kenny was a favorite of the husband, so he was particularly excited. I was also happy to get a night out and finally try the falafel that Beth had been raving about.

It was a fun night with Beth, Tabitha, Vivek, Zarna and a few others just chatting and having a good time.

Kenny, me, and Arnold!

The fantastic quinoa falafel with feta, curried vegetable barigoule
 and lotus chips

Thanks so much to Arnold for hosting!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A Venezuelan feast

I love arepas. Whether at Bonnaroo or my favorite little place in NYC. But there's more to Venezuelan food and a lot of it is vegetarian-friendly. I got a crash course in making my own arepas and empanadas as well as a few other dishes from my friend who lived there many years during her childhood. My friend happens to be a wonderful cook, thankfully!

Since then, I've had a Venezuelan feast of my own. Twice! Arepas, empanadas, pigeon peas and rice and plantains. My preparation isn't as authentic or good, but I'm still pretty happy with what I've come up with.

If you're interested in preparing a Venezuelan dinner at home, the first thing you need to do is get Harina P.A.N. flour. Here in Nashville, it's available at the K&S International Markets as well as the Publix on Charlotte Pike (and perhaps at other locations). There are white and yellow versions and just like with cornmeal, the choice should be based on your preference. I like yellow, which is a bit sweeter. Next, learn how to make arepas. Oh, that's why you're reading? Well, there are some nice video tutorials, but here's the short version:
1. Pour some flour into a bowl (start with two cups), add a pinch of salt and then set aside two cups of water.
2. Add the water slowly, mixing briskly with your fingers to get out any lumps and until it feels like the consistency of Play-Doh--it should stick together well, but not to your hands. You may need to add more water as you make the arepas if they start to dry out, so keep it nearby.
3. Next, you pinch off some dough, roll it into a ball and then flatten it into a disk. Fry it on both sides in a well-seasoned skillet or with a tiny bit of oil until it's browned "like the spots of a leopard."
4. Once you have the number you want, put them on a baking sheet in the oven to cook for about 15-20 minutes on 250 degrees (time depends on thickness). When they're cooked through, they'll sound hollow when thumped.

Arepas fried and now baking in the oven

And you're done. THAT'S IT. It's that easy! What to do now? If they're thick enough, cut them in the middle to form a pocket to stuff with cheese (queso fresco) and avocado and cilantro or top them with your favorite things. For breakfast, top them with cheese or a fried egg. Or just eat them plain.

Baby Eats enjoys a mini arepa (plain)

For empanadas, flatten your disc a little thinner, put some cheese and cilantro on it, fold it together side-to-side and cut out a half-moon shape with a small bowl. Cook it until the cheese has melted. THAT'S IT. Really!

Next up, pigeon peas and rice. Both K&S and Publix sells canned peas. I used Mahatma yellow rice, cooked it according to directions, added the peas (drained) and shook in some Jamaican curry powder (a spice blend comprised mostly of turmeric and cumin--also available at both K&S and Publix) and a little salsa. THAT'S IT! (Sensing a theme? Yes, it's really easy to have a good Venezuelan meal with little effort and just a little more time).

And to top it all off, fried plantains. This is the easiest part because both K&S and Publix have frozen plantains ready to just heat in a skillet (THAT'S IT) and they're delicious. Seems like it would be easy to prepare them from a fresh plantain, but it's not. Trust me and Mr. Eats who ate a woody, hollow fried plantain that was terrible. Don't be fancy y'all; use the frozen plantains. Might even be cheaper than buying a fresh one.

If you don't cook the whole meal, do think about adding arepas to your repertoire. They're as impressive to your family/guests as they are easy to make. Really!
The arepas were still baking, so we started with the empanadas--one yellow, one white

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sage at Aria --City Center, Las Vegas

While in Las Vegas, we celebrated our hosts' five-year wedding anniversary at Sage in the Aria hotel at City Center. We had lots of options, but Sage not only had several vegetarian dishes that were tempting, but the omnivores were pretty excited about the menu as well.

A cocktail with so many ingredients that I can't even remember them

Luckily, everyone else decided on the tasting menu, so I was able to have tasting sizes of both entrees as well as a starter and my choice of dessert.

I was excited to begin with the burrata as I haven't really done justice to the burrata I've had at home.

Next up was the risotto...unfortunately, the menu has changed and I don't have the official description, so I'll have to make do with my own. Um, it was delicious.

For the third course, I had the gnocchi. Mr. Eats was quite happy that I ordered the "nyo-kee" and not the "guh-nochee." I love to irritate him by mispronouncing it but I ain't gonna embarrass myself in a nice restaurant just to do so. I am not quite that crazy. This gnocchi is also a bit different from what's listed on the current menu. No surprise, the menu changes frequently based on what's available and what's good.


And then, of course--dessert!

We had a lovely time. It's a large enough space that you don't hear anyone from the neighboring tables, but it doesn't feel cavernous, either. And because it's Las Vegas, the dress code goes from khakis and logo shirts to cocktail attire. A quick look around indicated that at least half the tables were very obviously involved in business dinners. That is, an assortment of mismatched and slightly uncomfortable people who speak with their hands and keep pens in their pockets. I certainly miss visiting on an expense account, but I certainly appreciate being able to eat dinner with friends.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Butternut Squash Risotto

Every year, we're faced with a challenge...what to do with all these winter squashes? Because, really you can have too much soup. So I decided to revisit my pumpkin risotto (that was way too pumpkin-y) and try it with a butternut squash instead.

This recipe requires a bit of planning ahead because of roasting the squash, though you can cheat and peel it, cube it and steam it in the microwave instead. I just prefer the roasted squash. This recipe is also perfect for smaller families. It yields 3 or so nice-sized servings (as a main dish) which means it's enough for two adults and two kids or two adults and a great leftover lunch for one of those two.

Butternut Squash Risotto
1 medium butternut squash
1 cup arborio rice
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup onion, minced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

First, roast the squash. Cut it in half lengthwise and place cut side down in about a 1/4" of water in a glass baking pan. Cook at 450 degrees for 35 minutes or until tender. Set aside and let cool. Once it cools, scoop out the squash and mash in a bowl. Set aside.

In a medium size saucepan, saute the onion and garlic in the butter and olive oil for about 2-3 minutes on medium-high heat. Then stir in the rice and cook until the onion starts to brown (about another 5 minutes).

Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the butternut squash and 1/4 cup of broth. Stir constanly. Once the mixture has absorbed the broth, add another 1/4 cup of broth Repeat until you've used all the borth. The broth is absorbed rather quickly at first, but the last quarter cup is absorbed the slowest and the whole process takes about 25 minutes. Be sure to stir almost constantly so that it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Finally, remove from heat and stir in the cheese and salt and pepper to taste.

Serve this with some roasted broccoli or some crispy turnip greens. Both are in season! For a vegan alternative, use Earth Balance or olive oil instead of butter and flavor the risotto with two-three tablespoons of nutritional yeast.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Blog Spotlight

A lot of people who read my little blog are not vegetarian, but many are trying to cut back on meat consumption for a variety of reasons. And just about everyone is looking for something new and good.

Frequently, I read blogs that have just a single item and the challenge I face each night is getting a good and balanced meal on the table. That's why I like What the Hell Does a Vegan Eat Anyway? Not only does it have great recipes, but it features complete meals.

And if you're a little daunted by the "vegan" term or maybe just a little intimidated by tofu, try this menu right here: Elvis Fried Tofu et al. Or just the tofu. If you think you don't like it, you probably haven't had it fried (like they have at select Whole Foods hot bars). Yummmmmm.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Boozecamp at Amerigo

Nashville friends, if you're not following Boozecamp on Twitter or Facebook, do yourself a favor and do that right now.

What is Boozecamp? Check out the website for all the background, but the important things to know are that it's a wine tasting at Amerigo that features fantastic wines and a special menu designed to pair well with the wines. The most recent Boozecamp featured "Big Italian Reds" (and one lovely white) for four courses. Yes, four courses. For $20 per person. You read that right--four tasting-size dishes and four glasses of wine for just $20. And they graciously make adjustments for special "dietary requirements." In other words, I got special plates made just for me!

In addition to the great food, there are great people. And even if they're not, it doesn't take much past two glasses of wine to put up with just about anyone, right? So check it out. And events often sell out, so make your reservation early.

First course: bruschetta topped with artichoke heart

Second course: parmesan sformatino with dandelion greens

Third course: house-made pici in a vegetable broth with fall squash and flash-fried turnip greens

Fourth course: pistachio torta with chocolate ganache topped with warm cherry compote

Apologies for the low-light photographs. Even the best light could not do justice to these wonderful tastes.  Also, I have a new favorite wine: Masi Costasera Amarone. Though it's a bit pricey, so I may have to put it on my Christmas list!

Monday, October 25, 2010

The Grand Canyon

It's not the easiest thing to do, but we decided to take a side trip to the Grand Canyon while out west in Las Vegas. It's less than 300 miles, but a solid five hours or more of driving due to construction and having to drive over Hoover Dam. But for a couple of native Tennesseans, it's a lovely drive through northern Arizona.

Careful planning put us in Kingman, Arizona around lunch time. Kingman is remarkable for being one of only two places in the country that is home to both an In-N-Out and a Cracker Barrel (the other is a suburb of Salt Lake City). According to Yelp, people from Los Angeles and Las Vegas just to have chicken and dumplings. We, of course, went to In-N-Out where Baby Eats enjoyed the fries.

Instead of staying in Grand Canyon Village or just outside the park in Tusayan, we decided to stay on Route 66 in Williams, Arizona. It's a cute and kitschy town that feels a lot more authentic than your average tourist trap. We stayed at The Lodge on Route 66 where we could easily walk to dinner and to the train station (on our next trip, we'll take the train to Grand Canyon Village at least once).

After watching the sunset in the Grand Canyon at Lipan Point, we came back to Williams for dinner. I thought I'd be nice and let Mr. Eats have a steak, so we went to Rod's Steak House. He ordered fish. I had a baked potato. So I can't tell you much about this restaurant except that I felt like I'd been taken back in time. It's one of the many places in town that has changed little in the last few decades to keep a very authentic feel. It was a nice place, though I'm sure all the European patrons inside were a bit put off by the screaming baby.

The real treat was our second day in the park when we made it over to Grand Canyon Village to have lunch in the El Tovar Dining Room. El Tovar is the original lodge built in 1905 and it is grand and beautiful. And the dining room offers spectacular views of the south rim right from your table. It's a wonderful space and the food and service were excellent. When I ordered fries for Baby Eats the server said, "I'll get those out for you right away, if you like." Why yes, actually, that would be nice. Big tip for you, sir.

We went on a weekday at the end of the busy season, so if you go, you might want to make reservations and be sure to time your drives through the park to get there on time. It's 26 miles one way out to the eastern edge but it's slow driving through there so budget at least three hours out and back, including time to take photos and get stuck behind slowpokes looking for wildlife along the drive. Oh, and ain't easy. We got lucky and got a place right next to El Tovar, but expect to park at one of the outer lots and walk for 10 minutes or so to get into the village.

The view from our table--overlooking the south rim of the canyon

Fettucine Pomodoro

After lunch, we took a walk along the rim where I encountered a tarantula for the first time in my life. Just hanging out on the trail. Not cool. But at least it wasn't a scorpion. And the views were worth it (and now I can say I've seen one in person -- in the wild!).

After taking a few cheesy family photos at the big sign at the entrance of the park, we headed back to Las Vegas in the late afternoon. More good planning meant that we drove into Kingman around dinner time for one more trip to In-N-Out!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Déjà vu Las Vegas

So I wonder what kind of hits I’ll get from this title? No, we didn’t hit up any adult entertainment, but we did go to some of the same places and eat the same food we’ve had before. It’s just that good.

I’ve had a lot of gelato, including Grom, which is said to be the most authentic in the U.S. But my favorite by far is the gelato at the Bellagio. I tried some other flavors, but I got dulce de leche (again). It is so decadent and delicious. So much so that it didn’t even bother me that afterward I had no room to have a treat from the Las Vegas version of Serendipity 3 in front of Caesar’s Palace. Mr. Eats went with an authentic flavor, the stracciatella.

There are dozens of great Asian restaurants to choose from just within Chintatown, but we went back to KungFu Plaza. And I had the tofu with black fungus again. Despite the fact that there is an entire page devoted to vegetarian dishes. Why? It was that good. It’s not the most authentic Chinese food, but I loved it. We also got a vegetarian tom yum soup that was large enough to serve a table of six. The lemongrass and chili brought tears to my eyes, but it was too delicious not to eat.

And the staff there is wonderful. And not just because they oohed and ahhed over Baby Eats, but also because another patron had detailed questions about gluten free options that they were happy to answer (and happy to accommodate).

Bagels and Donuts and Sweets, oh my!
Yeah, we went back to the Bagel Café. That’s a pretty tame name for such a wonderful place. It is the most authentically New York style I’ve seen outside New York. Challah French toast! Bialys! Knishes! Latkes! I carb loaded and then left with $30 of pastries (I so love black and white cookies) and bagels. Yum.

And of course we went back to the Mermaids casino late one night to indulge in a fried Twinkie and some fried oreos. With a spectacular Alice Cooper “tribute artist” performing just outside on Fremont Street, I’d say this was better than going to the fair.

Also, if you’re in Las Vegas and you have the chance, go to Ronald’s Donuts. It was recommended to us by a friend. These donuts are so good that I didn’t even have time to take a photo before a dozen were gone. My favorites were the lemon cream and…heck they were all good. A dozen will cost you less than $10. And they’re vegan. Yes, vegan donuts. I didn’t know that until I read it on yelp. And Mr. Eats didn’t know it, either. They’re wonderful. And the staff there is friendly and helpful. But bring your cash…they don’t accept checks or credit.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Italian cooking classes in Nashville: Cucina Paradiso

I read over on Bites today that Paulette Licitra, editor-in-chief of Alimentum has started offering Italian cooking classes in her home for just $40 per class. AND many of them are vegetarian-friendly, including one dedicated to Italian vegetables.

That's right, vegetarian-friendly Italian cooking classes. Fantastic news! Details here at Bites or at Paulette's blog, Cucina Paradiso.

Friday, October 8, 2010

What's New

Here in Nashville, we’ve got a lively bunch of local food bloggers, many of whom have FANTASTIC sites. That makes the best food blog category in the Nashville Scene’s 2010 Best of Nashville Reader’s Poll a tough one. So congratulations to Beth of Eat.Drink.Smile. for her big win!

What’s great about being part of this group (though my humble little site and awful pictures make me a bit self-conscious around these folks) is that I get a lot of news and invitations from local restaurants. Unfortunately, my job as new mom prevents me from being able to accept many offers. However, here’s some of the news that’s come my way that's worthy of sharing.

First, Porta Via has expanded their menu to include lunch specials and a full bar. They placed in the BON poll for best Italian food (house made pasta!), though I think they should have placed with their pizza as well. Of note is that Porta Via serves a gluten-free pasta option. And I’ve heard very good things about their gelato.

Porta Via
21 White Bridge Road
Nashville, TN 37205

And though the fruits of the sea are not on my personal menu, I have said for quite some time that Nashville lacked a good quality seafood restaurant. Certainly, our landlocked location has not helped, but now there’s Fish & Co. I expect that my husband will soon be interested in going since he loves seafood. There aren’t a lot of options for me, but I do see a couple of salads and sides that may work. I may call ahead and see what they can do for a vegetarian (though it might be nice to see a green plate on there--might help with their “business” business).

Fish & Co.
1922 Adelicia Street
Nashville, TN 37212

And the fro-yo craze in Nashville continues with the arrival of Pinkberry. If I’m not mistaken, Pinkberry is responsible for reviving frozen yogurt and creating the current craze. I say “current,” because I clearly remember the frozen yogurt craze of the 80s. The location is strategically placed by Vanderbilt, so I may wait until break to drop in for a taste. However, you can try it for free next week! On Thursday, October 14, from 6 until 10pm, Pinkberry is giving away free samples.

2306 West End Ave.
Nashville, TN 37212


This reminds me of a favorite line from Office Space..."I wouldn't say I've been missing it..."

Monday, September 20, 2010

How we spent Restaurant Week

This year's Nashville Originals Restaurant Week was looking very promising from the vegetarian perspective. A number of restaurants actually included vegetarian options on their menus. However, with an infant and an omnivore to consider as well, we chose to go out just one time--to Allium.

I started planning way, way too late this year (call at least a week in advance!) but someone cancelled a 7:30pm reservation (made online) and, luckily, the staff at Allium is so wonderful that they actually found that cancelled reservation and called me back when they confirmed.

Also, we'd warned them in advance, so there was already a highchair waiting for us out on the patio. When you have an infant who likes to practice her vocal exercises, it's a relief to be somewhere noise isn't an issue. And fortunately for us, a storm had just passed through so we had the front patio all to ourselves!

We started out with cocktails (gimlet with St. Germain--yes, please!), housemade chips and then I--predictably--ordered the green plate (I'd been thinking about it ever since the first time I had it). We had a lovely dinner on a lovely night. Let's just hope that dining out contines to be this successful!

Baby Eats eyeing the housemade chips. Luckily, Mr. Eats has quick reflexes and saved our chips half a second after I took this photo.

501 Main Street
Nashville, TN 37206

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Can't Miss Meals in Boulder--Chautauqua Dining Hall and Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery

On this return trip to Boulder--after five long years away--I wanted to eat at some different places. But there were definitely places I had to go to again. I already mentioned the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House, but two other places also made it onto this trip's itinerary.

The Chauatauqua Dining Hall

It's not so much the food as it is the experience of dining here. The Chautauqua is one of my very favorite places (peruse the site and photos and it's easy to see why). But the food is wonderful, though I've only ever had breakfast.

The Chautauqua Dining Hall

The view from our table on the veranda

French toast with pecan butter (yum!)

We followed breakfast with a hike up into the Flatirons. Not my best decision though for some people, this "hike" is simply their daily dog-walking route. I stopped off on a rock while Mr. Eats ascended up the rocks and got passed by more than just a couple of little old ladies out for a walk. I tried not to be embarrassed, "Big breakfast, ha ha."

Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery

The other destination was Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery. During my first trip to Boulder, I went to Mountain Sun twice; it was that good. This time, we also went twice, but that's only because our first try was unsuccessful. This place is so popular that there was a crazy wait for a table at 9pm on a Sunday. A Sunday! But we went back on Monday (about 8:30pm) and only waited about 20 minutes. It was worth it.

Mr. Eats had a house-brewed root beer, but I opted for the Jah'Mon Ginger, which was a light lager with a heavy dose of ginger. Which was perfect. Also perfect? You can order beers in eight ounce sizes to experiment or just not get too loaded.
8 ounces of Jah-Mon Ginger Beer!

For dinner, I had the special "Case of the Mondays" wrap: Annapurna amber-baked tempeh, avocado, spinach, and roma tomatoes in a cilantro lime vinaigrette all wrapped up in a tortilla and served with a small salad. This tempeh was so good that it made me wonder why I can't prepare tempeh at home that tastes like this. Actually, I still don't know.

And of course, we had some cheese fries. You can't sit in a room devoted to jam band music drinking beer straight from the brewery without cheese fries, right? Okay, you can maybe, but I can't. I can only imagine what size I'd be if there were a Mountain Sun here in Nashville.

Chautauqua Dining Hall
900 Baseline Rd
Boulder, Colorado 80302

Mountain Sun Pub & Brewery
1535 Pearl street

Boulder, CO 80302

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Fine(-r) Dining in Boulder

“Do you have a dress code?”

“Well, we’d like our guests to dress nicely, but this is Boulder.”

That about sums up finer dining in Boulder. Even though high end dining has become increasingly popular, folks still expect to wander in wearing trail pants, jeans and comfy shoes. Lucky for us as vacationers!

Our first night in town, we tried out Mateo for dinner. We’d walked past earlier in the day and I was tempted by a couple of different items on the menu. It’s also omnivore-friendly. Like many of the restaurants (finer dining and casual, too), Mateo strives to use local produce and meats and the fresh, seasonal tastes were very apparent. One of the specials was this wonderful sweet corn bisque topped with what I believe they called a zucchini beignet. It was sweet and savory at once and a perfect complement to an amazing soup.

For an entrée, I had the gnocchi a la’ parisienne--ricotta dumplings, local mushrooms, sugar snap peas and sweet corn in a shallot-thyme broth. The broth was so good, that I sopped up a bit with bread because I hated to waste it. The astute server discreetly brought me a spoon to help me out. The fresh bread is wonderful, but I was thankful to have the spoon. I hope the chef took that as a compliment.

Dinner was so delicious and filling, that we only had room for cocktails for dessert. The Meyer Lemonade was perfectly light and a wonderful way to end the meal.

A visit to Boulder really isn’t complete without a meal at the Boulder Dushanbe Tea House. It’s a treat just to be inside, but the food also makes it worthwhile. And, of course, the tea. I started dinner with a white peony tea that was very light and delicate. Very little caffeine and wonderfully aromatic.

That was followed by my entrée, oyster mushroom polenta, topped with sundried tomatoes and spinach and served with a basil cream sauce. Oyster mushrooms are one of my favorite mushrooms and this was the perfect dish for them.

I had a difficult time deciding on a dessert, but opted for the chocolate flourless cake topped with Persian spiced dark chocolate ice cream, candied rose petals and rose syrup. The candied rose petals were delicious! And a perfect companion for a fantastic, rich chocolate used in both the cake and the ice cream. A great finish for the dinner.

Our last night in town, we went to the Black Cat Bistro. Black Cat has an organic farm and a booth at the wonderful Boulder Farmers Market in addition to the bistro (which was featured in The Wall Street Journal).

We started out with a wonderful little amuse bouche of cucumber and chopped tart apples. I followed that with a wonderful chilled cucumber soup that had me wondering how I could create it at home. I’m certain I can’t. Nevertheless, I now have two cucumbers languishing in the refrigerator.

For dinner, I had an entrée portion of the house-made orecchiette with grilled rapini and porcini mushrooms in a sage butter sauce. The pasta was rich and pillowy and the sauce was fantastic.

I could’ve ended there happily, but I just had to have the Madeira chocolate terrine. It was served with a vanilla genoise cake, strawberries and a dollop of whipped crème fraiche.

The bistro is a small place, so reservations are recommended. And when I say small, it’s reminiscent of New York as you are probably going to be privy to your neighbors’ conversation. But it’s well worth it and lived up to the hype. Dinner was wonderful and a great way to end our trip in a memorable way.

2019 19th Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302

Boulder Dushanbe Teahouse
1770 13th Street
Boulder, Colorado 80302

Black Cat
1964 13th Street
Boulder, Colorado

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Mark your calendars: Greek Fest and Cupcake-palooza

Nashville friends, this month is just not the month to be on a diet. Next weekend, September 10th, 11th, and 12th, it's Greek Fest time again at the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church on Franklin Road. Tickets are just $2 for lots of entertainment and access to the most amazing food. I don't see it on the menu, but I can't imagine they won't have my favorite, saganaki. And I'm seriously looking forward to more loukoumades. Oh, and tiropita. Oh, and dolmades. Can you tell I'm excited? Just like last year and the year before and the year before that.


And at the end of the month, September 25th from 5:30 to 8pm there's a really cool fundraiser at Fido for the Books from Birth organization of Middle Tennessee, Cupcake-palooza! If you're not familiar with this group, they're associated with Dolly Parton's Imagination Library and they send books to signed-up families with babies/kids under five for FREE. It's a wonderful organization and this event? Holy cow, ALL YOU CAN EAT CUPCAKES. Yuh huh. And not just any cupcakes, but cupcakes from the best cupcakeries in the area. My top two favorites--Cupcake Collection and Cuppycakes (winner, in my opinon, of The Great Cupcake Taste-Off)--are both participating. Sadly, I'm going to be out of town that weekend. But you should go. GO! Because not only does a paltry $10 per adult (just $3 for kids!) go to a fantastic charity, but it's ALL YOU CAN EAT CUPCAKES. !!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

Quick and Easy Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stir Fry

Until last night, I'd never prepared bok choy at home. I certainly don't know why; I love it. And this recipe is so fast and easy. And healthy! It's the perfect amount for two adults with a decent appetite (read: should serve four, but served two of us...)

Quick and Easy Baby Bok Choy and Tofu Stir Fry

1 lb to 1 1/2 lbs fresh baby bok choy
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp grated ginger (it's easier to grate when the root is frozen!)
1 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp water
1 package Trader Joe's baked tofu (savory flavor), cubed
1 package lo mein noodles
2 tbsp toasted sesame oil plus more to taste
salt to taste
sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

First, prepare the bok choy by cutting off the end (but not too much) and pulling apart the leaves. Wash and set aside.

Cook the lo mein noodles according to directions, drain and place into a medium bowl. Toss with sesame oil.

Next, put the vegetable oil, garlic, ginger, sugar and soy sauce in a large frying pan (or wok) and heat on medium high until you can smell the essence of garlic and ginger and it begins to sizzle. Add the bok choy and toss to coat completely in the oil (salad tongs make this easier). Then add the water and cover to steam for about a minute. Turn off the heat and let some of the water burn off. Remove the bok choy to a plate and add the cubed tofu to the pan and cook on medium heat until heated through (add a little more oil if necessary).

Place stir fried bok choy and heated tofu over a plate of noodles and toss with more sesame oil and salt (if necessary). Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
You don't, of course, have to use pre-baked tofu, but it's a lot quicker when you don't have to remember to drain your tofu and marinate and cook it. Dinner was ready to eat in about 20 minutes (including all the washing). And the nice, flavorful ginger garlic sauce was a hit with Mr. Eats. Though he did add sriracha to it.

Monday, August 30, 2010

WaterCourse Foods Denver

A stop in Denver was not originally on the itinerary for our vacation in Boulder, but a friend convinced us that we should not miss the opportunity to go to WaterCourse for breakfast before heading on to Boulder.

WaterCourse is a cute and casual "100% vegetarian comfort food" restaurant. My friend mentioned in particular the biscuits and gravy, tempeh chorizo and seitan strips. Mr. Eats however opted for the Pepe scramble: eggs scramble with roma tomatoes and smoked mozzarella and topped with green chile with a side of refried beans and sweet potato home fries (and his own biscuit, thankfully). I didn't try the scramble, but the home fries were perfect.

I did take our friend's advice and had a biscuit and gravy with seitan strips. It didn't seem like much for the price, but it turned out to be quite a substantial meal. The biscuit was large and had bits of veggies in it which gave it a very savory flavor, some good texture and a bit of oomph. And the gravy was just spicy enough to taste like what I remember of sawmill gravy made from sausage drippings. The side order of seitan strips were fried and very flavorful. And there was definitely enough to share. Why doesn't seitan I make at home this good?

And when I say this meal was substantial, I'm not exaggerating. We finished up around 10:30am and headed to Boulder. Our room wasn't ready, so we walked over to Pearl Street. And walked. And walked some more. Next thing we knew, it was 6pm and we still weren't hungry. I think that might explain why we saw a number of bikers loading up before a day out riding!

WaterCourse Foods
837 E. 17th Ave
Denver, CO 80218
Mon - Thur 7am - 9pm, Fri 7am - 10pm, Sat 8am - 10pm, Sun 8am - 9pm

Friday, August 27, 2010

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Actually, this post will just be about the bad and the ugly. More posts to come will tell of the "good" from our vacation to Boulder, Colorado. Unfortunately, the bad and the ugly came together at the tail end of our trip.

A 2:25pm departure out of the Denver airport yesterday meant an airport lunch. Rarely is an airport meal worth writing about, but this one is truly the worst experience I've ever had.

I almost got pizza. But I didn't want garlic breath, so we went to the Einstein Brothers bagel cafe for a little something different. First thing you notice is the pricing. Holy cow. They only show "combo" pricing which is a sandwich and a drink, most of which are nearing $10 or more.

But they were also promoting "sandwich thins" (on a thinner bagel), including "asparagus, mushroom and swiss." Okay. That sounds good. I didn't notice that it came with an egg white disc on it, too (it was on the breakfast menu). Eh, I can take that off, right? Well, I get the thing and first, it's soggy from being in an insulated wrapper. Then I notice some orange-red sauce on it. Was this mistakenly added? I don't know (it wasn't included in the description) and it was covered in it. And it was bad. The soggy bagel and terrible sauce rendered the sandwich completely inedible. Luckily, Mr. Eats's Tasty Turkey sandwich came without the tasty turkey. So I ate that and he went back for a replacement. To their credit, they let us keep the not-turkey sandwich and cheerfully gave him his original order. Despite the fact that there was a long line and a lot going on at this little bagel place.

So I didn't starve, but man oh man, that was the worst tasting thing I can remember having. Ever. I didn't take a picture, thinking it would be on their website. It's not. Nor should it be. Dearest Einstein Brothers, stick with the bagels, mmkay? You do that well. Leave the sandwich-making to others.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Nuvo Burrito

I first heard about Nuvo Burrito on Twitter from a few friends who are fans. I have to admit, I wasn't very interested; burrito joints are springing up as often as cupcake joints so it's difficult to get excited. But I was in East Nashville on a Monday during lunch (when I discovered that Allium is closed on Mondays) and so my friend and I decided to give it a try.

The first thing I noticed is the lack of Subway-style prep line common at a lot of burrito places. Hrm. Next thing I notice was beer (and cocktails). Hrm. And then I saw the menu. Whoa. Nuvo Burrito is not like the other burrito places at all! Could this be why they call it nuvo?

After reviewing the menu, and reviewing the menu, and reviewing it even more (you can substitute tofu for any meat in the burritos and quesadillas, so I had a lot to choose from), I settled on The Berkeley with the corn relish on the side. My friend, however opted for the 90210 "ques-idea", which was a close runner-up to my pick (it's said to be good with tofu).

As you can see from the picture, this is a substantial burrito and the quesadilla portions are just as generous. I made it through half, but had to take the other half home, thinking it would be good for lunch the next day. But no kidding, I couldn't wait that long. A few hours after lunch, I had a little room in my tummy and I finished it off. It's amazingly tasty for what seems like a fairly healthy burrito. I really enjoyed the cilantro pesto and I used the cumin corn relish as a salsa for the complimentary chips.

It's got a nice, clean interior and during our visit, VH1 Classics was playing a nice assortment of videos from the 80s that kept Baby Eats very entertained. And the service is fast, friendly and helpful (particularly for first-timers surprised by the refreshingly different menu).

Nuvo Burrito is located at 1000 Main Street (Five Points in East Nashville), which is the building that Marche occupies up front; Nuvo Burrito is directly behind Marche.

Friday, July 30, 2010


Thanks to Grammy Eats, Mr. Eats and I got to have another lovely date night out. We decided to join another couple and go to the recently-remodeled Tayst.

My only other trip to Tayst was about three years ago when I had just a mediocre experience; not bad, but not great and not good enough for me to feel the need to go again. However, chef/owner Jeremy Barlow reached out to me several months ago and suggested I try again.

Right away, I noticed a remarkable improvement to the interior. I love red, but the previous red walls were a little suffocating. The updated interior looks a bit more inviting and much less severe. The space is still cozy, which means you may have some traffic by your table but it's not so confined that you feel you are dining with your neighbors.

Tayst is a green-certified restaurant, using local meats and produce as often as possible and operating with care for the environment in mind. It's because of this, that the restaurant gets a pass with me for the foie gras as I typically do not patronize restaurants that offer it. My hope is that it is produced ethically (which is possible). If this is a concern for you, a quick call or email is all it takes; they're very helpful.

The food! I decided to go with the $40 tasting menu option in hopes of getting something special (had I ordered vegetarian items separately, I could have gotten three courses for less than $40) and I was not disappointed. After a teaser of white bean hummus (I believe), I was presented with a "tayst" of the tomato salad--wonderfully ripe cherry tomatoes with goat cheese and basil topped with a fine balsamic vinegar.

Next up was my favorite part of the entire meal--a sheep's milk flan topped with locally-grown roasted artichoke hearts and blackberries. The flan was so rich and savory (and delicious) that I took tiny bites to make it last as long as possible. But even tiny bites filled my mouth with flavor. And the artichoke was roasted perfectly--each bite almost melted in my mouth. The blackberries provided a small sweet oasis. This is not on the menu, but if it's available when you go, I highly recommend it.

For my main "tayst," I had the menu's vegetarian entree of grilled yard beans (long beans) with purple rice, squash, zucchini, roasted beets, and a butter bean puree. I loved the combination of flavors--particularly the long beans and purple rice. Though beets aren't really my thing, so the earthiness of two was about all I could handle (Mr. Eats gladly helped out with the remaining beets).

I finished up with dessert--the Krispy Kreme donut bread pudding. I apologize for the lack of picture, though I assure you it's a lovely presentation. Included is a donut shape, the donut hole and a coffee milkshake. The donut/coffee pairing works well together (and makes sense) according to Mr. Eats, but I'm not a coffee drinker, so I skipped it. So my bread pudding was a tad dry. I would have liked to have a version of the Krispy Kreme glaze on there.

However, my sweet tooth was plenty satisfied with the two cherry limeade cocktails I had from their summer menu. Ohhhh, so good (better that Sonic--and fewer calories, I'm sure). The new summer menu offers fun cocktails as well as small plates that are available only in the bar area. With items priced between $2 and $5, it's a great way to get a small "tayst" of what the restaurant has to offer. I have to say I'm intrigued by the roasted peach and the caramelized cheese. Though apparently, I need to go soon as the bar menu changes frequently. Peaches are almost done for the season!

2100 21st Avenue South
Nashville, TN 37212
5-10PM Tuesday-Thursday
5-11PM Friday & Saturday
Bar opens at 4PM

Friday, July 16, 2010

Villa Cherries Gelato

 As far back as I can remember, every Christmas and Valentine's Day, my mother would buy Brach's Villa Cherries as a gift for me. Villa Cherries were different from the other (inferior) chocolate covered cherries--they had a sugar cream coating around the cherry as well as a super sweet liquid center. Other brands only had liquid filling and the whole experience was overall disappointing in comparison. See, eating a Villa Cherry was a process. I'd bite off part of one end and suck out the liquid. Then I'd lick the chocolate bottom until the inside was exposed. Next I'd scoop out the cherry and slurp off the cream coating. Then I'd eat the cherry. And finally eat the chocolate shell. I had to savor every bit of it because I had to make that box of cherries last as long as possible. Once they were gone, that was it until the next holiday season.

But they were gone for good in 2003. This website not only tells the short and sad story of their end, but includes a large number of comments supporting my assertion that the Brach's Villa Cherry was the best chocolate covered cherry available. No other cherry cordial can compare.

As a tribute, I have created this gelato. The vanilla is really important in the recreation of the Villa Cherry taste. This is a VERY sweet gelato. And, of course, it's not a true gelato because it's made in an ice cream maker (real gelato has less air). It's also not quite as creamy because the crushed cherries contribute quite a bit of liquid. But it's still very good.

First things first: you have to create (unflavored) base. I really like this gelato base from The only variations I have are that I used half and half (because that's what I had on hand, though heavy cream will yield a richer gelato) and that instead of straining the base, I hit it with the stick blender to ensure a smooth consistency. Once you have the base, you can add the ingredients and freeze!
Villa Cherries Gelato
Gelato base
2T vanilla extract
1 1/2c chopped maraschino cherries
2T grenadine
1/3 cup chopped chocolate chips (milk chocolate) or shaved chocolate

Once you have created the base, let it cool in the refrigerator for several hours (until cold). When you're ready to make the gelato, stir in the vanilla, cherries and grenadine. Pour the mix into your ice cream maker and follow the directions for making ice cream. Stir in the chocolate before it completely freezes (depending on your ice cream maker, add the chocolate halfway through mixing or after mixing and before you put it in the freezer for the final freeze).