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).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

First Taste: Bagelface Bakery

I discovered the new Bagelface Bakery in East Nashville from reading this post over at the Nashville Scene's Bites blog. I was dubious; a bagel in Nashville as good as you get in New York City? Can it be? I've always heard that it's the water in New York that is the key ingredient in the bagels and pizza crust, but that concern was addressed in the comments on that post. A commenter I trust, mIKES assured me that the bagels were comparable.

The bakery has had limited hours while testing the recipe and process and officially opened this morning at 7am (with plans to stay open until 2pm). I wasn't taking any chances. Though I intended to be there much sooner, I got there around 9am, unshowered and wearing yesterday's clothes (which may or may not have had some remnants of baby food on them). Right behind me were Jim Ridley of the Scene as well as friend/commenter Laura. Always the way, isn't it? But it's a good thing I didn't take the time to get all done up; a post on the Bagelface Facebook page indicated they ran out of bagels shortly after my visit. Apologies to those of you who showed up after 10am and left empty-handed.

Anyhoo, out in the parking lot, the tasting began with the plain bagel. Crispy outside? Check. Chewy, soft inside? Check. And what's that? A hint of butter and sea salt? Oh, yes. This, my friends is an excellent bagel. Not quite the same as Times Square bagel, but excellent in its own right. Definitely the best bagel in Nashville. And it really doesn't even need butter and cream cheese. It's good enough to eat all by itself, the way God and New York City intended.

It's quite a haul from West Nashville to Riverside Village, but it's well worth it. Besides, hitting the open (and quiet) road on a Sunday morning, baby-free was kind of fun. Driving as fast as I want the speed limit...testing the Lesbaru's all wheel drive at full speed at the recommended speed on the exit at full blast at a responsible and mature volume level...not a bad trip. And you may have guessed that one of the bagels did not make it all the way back home with me.

Bagelface Bakery is located in Riverside Village. From Ellington Parkway, exit Trinity Lane east to Gallatin and dog leg left, then right onto McGavock. Once you reach Riverside, turn right and then left into the back/lower level parking lot. Bagelface is actually underneath Sip, Mitchell's and Castrillo's. The store will be open daily from 7am until 2pm and Kristen Skrube, the proprietor hopes to get everything on track so that she will not run out again. But for at least a few weeks, you might want to call ahead first if you plan to arrive later than 10am.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Taste Test: Pacific Sun Extra Virgin Olive Oil

A few weeks ago, a tidy little package arrived at my door. A bottle of Pacific Sun Extra Virgin Olive Oil! It was the Tehama County Blend, an award-winning olive oil (most recently at the Los Angeles Inernational Extra Virgin Olive Oil Competition) made in Northern California.

Typically, Mr. Eats and I prefer the smooth and mild flavor of Spanish olive oils, but I was certainly willing to give this a try. The Tehama County blend has a stronger olive taste; the acid really comes through but very pleasantly (not bitter at all). It's still quite smooth and has a peppery finish.

We tried it a number of ways and discovered that a good, stout bread is best for dipping; it didn't go so well with a sourdough, but that was not a surprise. Perfect with a crispy Tuscan loaf as well as some local "salt-rising bread" from the Mennonites. It was also a great oil for a caprese salad (which I will be eating a lot now that I can get excellent fresh mozzarella from Lazzaroli, local tomatoes, and basil from garden).

Pacific Sun isn't available in stores, but is available to buy online. Luckily, the prices are quite reasonable. And it may be worth it to go ahead and buy plenty (gifts!) to get the free shipping because I think we're hooked now!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Voo-doo Men-oo

My friends and I gathered for some otherworldly shenanigans, and I challenged myself to come up with an appropriate menu. I decided on a voodoo theme, which (to me) means New Orleans. Okay, okay, kind of a stretch...really I was just looking for a reason to make some olive dressing for some meatless muffalettas.

New Orleans cuisine is not vegetarian friendly. They don’t even pretend. Only the French and Siberians consume less vegetation. I did, however, find a recipe for Creole tomato salad. Though it turns out that the Creole tomato is one that is indigenous to the region. As in, I can’t get it in Nashville. So I created a variation using local Bradley and Pineapple tomatoes--both of which are meaty (not juicy) tomatoes (essential for a good tomato salad).
Voodoo Tomato Salad
2 medium Bradley tomatoes
2 medium Pineapple tomatoes
¼ Vidalia onion, diced
Salt and pepper

Vinaigrette Dressing
2 T olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
1 t hot Chinese mustard
½ t minced garlic

Combine tomatoes and onions in a bowl and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

To prepare the vinaigrette, combine oil, vinegar, mustard, and garlic in a sealable container. Cover tightly and shake vigorously. Drizzle over the salad and serve at room temperature.
I served this salad with a variation of this couscous salad (changes: fried chickpeas, no red pepper, Italian parsley) and mini meatless muffalettas. I prepared the muffalettas on some hearty rolls and with my own olive dressing. There are hundreds of recipes for olive dressing and no two are alike. So I just dumped some pimiento stuffed green olives, some kalamata olives, a couple of cauliflower florets, shredded carrots, olive oil and some of the olive brine in the food processor and hit “pulse” a few times and that was it. I sliced some rolls, stuffed in some provolone and cheddar cheese, heated them until melted and then topped them with the olive dressing and viola, mini meatless muffalettas.

I was pretty proud of the tomato salad and the muffalettas, but the couscous salad got the most comments. And of course it's from Paula Deen. Damn you Paula Deen! Oh well. It really was good. But so was that tomato salad!