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..."