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.