Thursday, May 26, 2011

I'm moving!

It's not all pretty yet, but I'm moving to! I'm saying goodbye to the bunny and the lettuce, but I'll still be eating plenty of rabbit food. So please update your feeds, bookmarks, and whatever else and join me over there.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Vegan dining in Memphis

The Memphis Commercial Appeal has a nice feature on vegan dining options in Memphis. Be sure to read not just the article, but the comments as well. Certainly, some comments--like those on just about every newspaper site--are, um, unhelpful but a number offer a couple of other options.

I grew up in Memphis, so I'm happy to see that not only are vegetarian options expanding (I had some difficulty when I moved back in 2000 as a new vegetarian) but that there are vegan options, too. I'm disappointed that Imagine Cafe has chosen primarily to make vegan versions of traditionally critter-centric foods, but I suppose that's either what they like to eat or they think it will be the best way to get non-vegans in the door. But my experience has been that non-veg*ns are best converted with foods that really taste great but are also (hey!) veg*n. Prime example: Pure Food & Wine in New York City. Y'know, except without the hefty price tag.

But I'm really glad to see Fuel Cafe getting some love. I've mentioned before that I'm a fan. So if you're in Memphis or are going for a visit, try to give some of these guys a try.

UPDATE: Many thanks to Morgan of Nashvillest for noting that I Love Memphis blog just posted "11 Ways To Eat Meat-Free in Memphis" yesterday. I missed that and it is a fantastic list. It's got a list of vegan and vegetarian (often shortened to "veg*n," if you've ever wondered what that means). Though I'd like to note a few vegetarian favorites of mine that didn't get mentioned:

1. Panda Garden--fantastic vegetable soup and you can get spring rolls vegetarian if you request them. It's nice that they're made to order. And they're baby-friendly.

2. Raffe's Deli--the Veggie Delight is my favorite; it's just a muffuletta without the meat and a few things added. Their falafel is wonderful, too.

3. The Majestic Grille--several veg*n-friendly items and adding more all the time. Their french fries are small, crisp and delicious. Be sure to get them. Also, this place is baby-friendly.

4. Memphis Pizza Cafe--one of the places I miss most.

5. Okay, there are just too many to list and so many new places! Coming soon, I hope: a review of Three Angels Diner. In short: Memphis is getting more veg-friendly, despite being the barbecue capital of the world. And despite what you read in the comments section of

Monday, May 16, 2011

New Whole Foods Market in Franklin--Grand Opening May 18th

Yesterday, I took a tour of the new Whole Foods Market in Franklin, Tennessee with the Nashville Food Bloggers. The new store is a significant upgrade over the old one with more floor space expanded offerings, and most importantly for local lunchers, a much larger hot/cold bar and prepared foods area.

Along with the usual sections you'd expect in a new Whole Foods (cheese, sustainable seafood, bulk foods, grind-your-own nut butters), it's got something I've never seen before--bulk herbs, spices, and seasonings that you can buy in any amount. As in, if you only need a teaspoon of, say, kelp granules or juniper berries for a special recipe (and you don't want to buy a lot), you can! I haven't seen this at the Green Hills Whole Foods, but I'll look closer next time since it's more convenient to where I live. Because that is a really neat concept.

Bulk seasonings
Another feature is their Health Starts Here section that employs "Healthy Eating Specialists" to help customers make informed choices and will highlight dishes and meals made with the Health Starts Here principles, one of which is that each meal should have a majority of plant-based foods. I definitely support that.

And yet another great convenience for those who work or live in the Cool Springs area is that the store will be hosting the Franklin Farmers Market on Tuesdays throughout the summer from 3pm until 6:30pm. Additionally, WFM carries a number of items and food from local sources so if you have a product you'd like to sell, just contact the department manager who will direct you on the way to get your product in the store.

The old WFM in Cool Springs closes at the end of the day today and the new store at 1566 West McEwen Drive (on the southwest corner with Mallory Lane) opens at 7:30am Wednesday morning with free breakfast and a grand opening at 9am.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Generous Helpings May 19th

Friends, if you missed Iron Fork last month (and if you did, I'm sure you're regretting it), don't despair! You have another chance to attend a great food event, benefitting a great cause.

Generous Helpings--a wonderful event benefitting the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee--is coming up next week and you can still get tickets for just $40 each here. Or buy them for $50 each at the door the night of the event at the Nashville Farmers Market.

Once again, many of the city's restaurants will be serving tastings including one of my favorites from Iron Fork, Perl Catering, plus Holland House, Miel, Watermark, tayst, Amerigo, Park Cafe, Porta Via and many, many more.

It's going to be a great event. Don't miss it!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

A tale of two failures

A Tale of Kale

I'd read several posts about kale chips and how wonderful they are, so when I saw some nice-looking kale at the farmers market, I bought a bag.

I was a bit apprehensive; I don't like cooked greens much at all. I'll eat chard if someone more qualified than I am prepares it, but even slightly warm spinach makes me gag. But the raves!

So I washed it, tore it into bite-size chunks and towel-dried each individual piece (note: would have been easier to dry and then tear apart). I tossed it with a little olive oil and placed a baking sheet full of it in my 350° oven. I checked it at 12 minutes. Not crispy yet. And at 14 minutes. Nope. And then at 16 minutes. Crispy! So I pulled it out salted it lightly and waited a minute for it to cool. I was going to eat healthy cooked greens that taste good!

Ha ha, no. After all that, I discovered that these cooked dark greens still tasted like cooked dark greens even when they're crispy and salty. In other words, yuck. If you like kale or if you have a lot of it you just really need to use and eat, then by all means, go on ahead and make you some kale chips. But I don't. This batch of kale chips when right into the compost. Not even Mr. Eats--who is not terribly picky--didn't care for them.

A Tale of Bread
In preparation for a trip back home to Memphis, I started the dough for some no-knead bread to take to my mother (she loves it). I know the recipe by heart. I made it up and the following day, poured it out on my generously-floured towel to fold a couple of times. But it was a wet, soggy mess. Huh? Did I forget the third cup of flour? I kept adding more flour and kneading the dough in hopes of salvaging it. I got it to the consistency I was familiar with and set it aside to rise again. Two hours later, no. So I made a new batch. The following day, it looked great, but I poured it out and it was again a soggy mess.

Have I forgotten how to read? Count? Sure, we were in the midst of several days of nasty, relentless rain, but I'd never read any notes about this dough being picky about humidity. But it was if the water was multiplying in the mix instead of the air. I tried my best with it but again, it would not rise an appreciable amount on the second rise. I cooked it anyway and it came out like a giant, hard focaccia (which I have unintentionally made before). The yeast is not bad. I can only assume that this bread is just not meant to be made when the air is thick with water. Which--here in Nashville--means I may not be making this bread again until October.

And so today, as I look outside at yet another day of rain I wonder what to make in my kitchen. Something that is supposed to be wet, that's for sure. Soup.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Iron Fork Nashville

Last week, I attended my third (of four) Iron Fork Nashville events! It's such a wonderful event--your ticket gets you a ton of food samples from the area's finest restaurants and caterers plus three drinks from the bar. However, the bartender was generous with the ThreeFour Roses bourbon, so I actually only used just one of my drink tickets!

There were a lot of new faces this year; not just among the restaurants, but among the contestants as well. A new addition this year, Perl Catering actually served one of my favorite dishes--a caramelized onion bisque. And there were lots of other great vegetarian options: Finezza, Urban Flats, Wild Iris, Mambu, Provence, and Rumba as well as desserts from Hot & Cold (Mexican caramel paleta dipped in chocolate!) and Cupcake Collection (the city's best cupcakes). I left quite satisfied.

This year's mystery ingredient was green almonds, which a lot of us had mis-heard as green olives. Certainly, the competition was harder with the former rather than the latter. Chris Chamberlain--one of the judges--gives a great description of all the competitors' dishes on the Nashville Scene's BITES blog. I was too busy sampling and socializing to pay much attention to the competition! But I did get a few pictures:

The contestants right in the middle of the action

The wonderful ladies at Finezza serving vegetarian pasta salad and tiramisu--yum!

Me and my new best friend, Tiffany Derry from Top Chef/Top Chef Masters and blogger Beth of Eat.Drink.Smile and her friend, Leslie
The event is a lot of fun and proceeds benefit the Martha O'Bryan Center. Well worth the $40 per ticket. If you're sorry you missed this, then you should definitely think about going to one or both of two more great food events coming up: Generous Helpings on Thursday, May 19, 2011 at the Farmers Market (again--tickets are just $40 per person and will include more food than you can ever hope to eat from the city's best restaurants--buy tickets here) which benefits the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee and then  Taste of Music City on Saturday June 4, 2011 (buy tasting tickets for each booth for as little as $1 each in advance) which benefits (hey, whaddyaknow) the Martha O'Bryan Center.

Whew, that's a lot of great food. I'm glad to know that all of these events are vegetarian-friendly, too.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Chewy Lemon Cookies

I love lemons and lemon flavor. Just about anything lemon--lemon pound cake, lemon squares, lemon cookies, lemonade. You name it--if it's lemon, I probably love it. So I was looking for a lemon cookie to make and this recipe popped up. I've made a few changes, most notably the name. Yes, they are zesty, but the thing I love most about these cookies is that they are chewy! And very sweet and tart and lemony all at once. Like a little drink of lemonade in a cookie. Or a drink of sunshine. I absolutely love this cookie and if you like sweet and dainty lemon cookies, you will too.

Chewy Lemon Cookies
adapted from Zesty Lemon Cookies by Lesli Neilson of the Salt Lake Tribune via Real Mom Kitchen
• 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
• 1 1/2 cups sugar
• 2 eggs
• The zest of one fresh lemon (~1 teaspoon but more is good)
• The juice of one fresh lemon (~1/4 cup)
• 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
• 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
• Powdered sugar for dusting

Cream butter and sugar with your mixer on medium speed until well blended. Add eggs one at a time, mixing well on low speed after each. Add in lemon juice and zest and blend again. Add baking powder and flour and mix well. Set dough in the refrigerator to chill for about 15 minutes or so.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake until edges are firm with no color, 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to cooling racks and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar.

Yields about 3 dozen standard-size cookies, but I made about six dozen silver dollar size cookies.
• Zest your lemon before you juice it.
• If you want perfectly round cookies, chill your dough well so that you can shape your dough into balls. Use a melon baller if you have one.
• You don't have to line your baking sheets, but the bottoms will be much prettier and they're a lot easier to remove!
• I have a lovely German teaspoon (for loose tea) that I used to dust the cookies, but you can use a sifter or a fine strainer. Be sure the cookies have cooled or the powdered sugar will melt.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Product Review: Tandoor Chef Vegetable Pad Thai

Recently, I was contacted by a representative of Tandoor Chef to see if I'd like to try out some of their line of frozen appetizers, naans and entrees. Of course I would! I love Indian food so I was eager to give some a try. I was particularly interested in the frozen dosas, naans and paneer tikka masala.

Unfortunately, my local grocery carries exactly one vegetarian product from their vast line of offerings: vegetable pad thai. Which is not only not a dosa (what I really wanted), but not even Indian.

Nevertheless, I picked it up and brought it home for a try.

I really like Thai food, too though I rarely opt for the pad thai (it usually comes with egg) but this pad thai is egg-free and suitable for vegans. However, I'm familiar enough with the standard product to give a review. My thoughts? Well, it's not the best pad thai I've ever had, but it's pretty good for a frozen entree. The freezing process wasn't kind to the aesthetics of the vegetables, but the taste was just fine. And the peanut flavor was really good and not too spicy (though it has a little kick). Another thing to like about the pad thai is it's part of their new "Balanced Vegetarian" meals (reduced sodium, higher in protein and fiber, and have zero trans fats). That doesn't mean it's low-cal (nearly 500 calories and 19g of fat), but they're better fat and calories than in a typical frozen meal. And likely a LOT less in fat and calories than the pad thai at your local Thai restaurant.

So if you're looking for a lunch option that's a little bit different and you don't mind everyone around you knowing that you're having Thai food (it is quite aromatic! and heavy on the onions for my taste), give it a try. And if you happen to be lucky enough to live near a grocery that has the naans or the dosas, let me know if you've tried them and how they taste!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Morsels Cafe

Tanisha Hall--known for Fleur de Lis Flavors, the wonderful snow cones at the Nashville Farmers' Market--has revamped the Morsels Cafe at the Gordon Jewish Community Center. It's now only the second certified kosher cafe in town (behind Grins on the Vanderbilt Campus). And it's not just kosher--it's vegetarian. Check out the story about Morsels Cafe in The Tennessean.

Hey, we're moving in the right direction. We just need some vegetarian cafes in more easily accessible places! (Shame-filled admission: I've never been to Grins.)

Congratulations and good luck to Tanisha in this new venture!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Mark your calendars--upcoming events in Nashville

There are a lot of worthy causes with some fantastic fundraisers in Nashville, but it seems that the Martha O'Bryan Center is the benefactor of the some of the very best food-related events the city. Or, at least two of my favorites--Nashville Scene's Iron Fork Nashville and Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin'. And both are coming up soon, so mark you calendars.

I'm kind of an expert (ha!) about Iron Fork, having been in a couple of times. Last year was particularly fun since Mr. Eats's long-time friend Andy Hunter walked away with the top prize. Andy has since relocated to sunny Florida, so there's no defending champion this year. It's going to be a tough competition--all the chefs are fantastic and have made some of my favorite food. The competition takes place April 20, 2011 at the Country Music Hall of Fame from 6-10pm. Your $40 admission includes three drink tickets and samples of food from the area's finest restaurants. There were several good vegetarian options last year (and a LOT of really great sweets), so it's well worth the money. And it's a great time! Find out more information here.

And go ahead and clear the calendar for Miss Martha's Ice Cream Crankin' 2011. This year, the event takes place on June 12, 2011 from 3-5pm and will be on the grounds of  First Presbyterian Church at 4815 Franklin Road. Last year, advance tickets were just $10 and were VERY MUCH worth it. Mr. Eats, Baby Eats and I had a fantastic time and I can't wait to go again.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A vegetarian in Gatlinburg

Typically, when I visit a new place, I scour, and to find the best places to eat. I'm looking for that great local place or that hidden gem. So when my husband's family decided to gather in Gatlinburg, I looked to see what my options would be.

Well, it seems the non-chain options in the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area are pretty much steak houses and pancake houses. Lots of both. But the steak houses are generally not veg-friendly (unless you like iceberg lettuce salads, which I do not) and the pancake houses aren't open past lunch. So. For dinner one night I had a PayDay and the other night a Clif bar. Though both were enjoyable, they're not photo-worthy. So, instead, I will post a picture of one of the many "entertainment" venues popular in the area.

Yes, it's an upside-down building. No, I don't know why.

So, if you go, I recommend renting a cabin up in the mountains and bringing your food with you. And/or ordering pizza.

This photo--of yet another popular "entertainment" option--is quite representative of when I intend to return to Gatlinburg.
That's right--flying pigs.

Monday, March 14, 2011

A whirlwind of wonderful restaurant visits

I'm way behind on posting all of our outings over the past month or so. Apparently, we've had a lot of reasons to celebrate. Valentine's Day, Mr. Eats's birthday, got a babysitter day...we've had some wonderful meals. There is truly some great vegetarian (fine) food to be had in Nashville.

First up is Miel. We live nearby but have never been. The kind hostess was able to squeeze us in for a last-minute reservation the Saturday before Valentine's Day. We were excited because Deb Paquette, formerly of Zola is helping out in the kitchen.

I started with a favorite from Zola, the bowl of mixed olives, followed by the seasonal vegetable plate. It was a lovely plate with red carrots, roasted parsnips, a mixed salad, some broccolini and a lentil concoction. It was a pretty hefty plate of food--good and filling. Except I discovered I'm not much a fan of parsnips.

And we just had to get dessert and I opted for the trio of pots de creme, which I assume were prepared by pastry chef Angela Reynolds (who has celebrity fans). Even the capuccino flavor--not really a favorite of mine--was delicious. It just feels good to eat a good pot de creme. And I like Miel--it's a surprisingly quiet-but-not-too-quiet space and is very comfortable.

We also finally made it to Watermark. And in keeping with the Zola theme, we remembered our server from Zola. It was nice because he was understanding and helpful with my "dietary restrictions." Not that he needed to do much--my eye immediately went to the vegetarian special, a saffron risotto. There were some wilted greens and some spaghetti squash and roasted beets accompanying the risotto, but it was just about all I was interested in. It was as good as it sounds. Yum.

A note about Watermark--if you're looking for a really nice fine-dining option, this is the place. It's a wonderful place and the service is really fantastic.

And we (again--finally) made it to Holland House in East Nashville. I'd heard a lot about it--good things about the cocktails as well as the food. Definitely splurge on one of the specialty cocktails (the Warsaw Mule is fantastic). And were able to squeeze in during happy hour, so we got a few of the small plates to start off. I really enjoyed the fries, but the edamame-ponzu dip was a little off in context--I think it would work better in the summer with a beer. For dinner, I had the risotto with foraged mushrooms (I really like risotto) and it was delicious. The lighting is not great for food photography, but it was lovely to look at, too.

Though the dessert menu at Holland House was not really our thing, so we drove down the street to Allium, which I know will always have a great dessert selection. For Mr. Eats's birthday, he enjoyed a wonderful pistachio and chocolate mousse (um), tarte? I can't remember. I'd had several cocktails by then. But it was wonderful and exactly what he wanted. Interestingly, while at Allium, we noticed two other tables (including a large table) that we'd seen earlier at Holland House. I think they were doing drinks at Holland House and dinner at Allium. Huh. Maybe those guys need to partner up!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Wonder bread

There are a number of things from the kitchen of my childhood that I just cannot stand now that I'm an adult. Miracle Whip. Margarine. Wonder bread.

My mom loves Wonder bread. I tolerated it as a child but begged for wheat bread. It was a special treat when she'd by Roman Meal wheat bread. I loved the heels the most. I still do, though I've upgraded to whole grain and seeded breads. In fact, I blame Wonder bread for hating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I absolutely cannot tolerate the feeling of a sandwich bit stuck to the roof of my mouth. However, I refuse to try PB&J again (because I also don't like peanut butter with sweet tastes).

But now I have my own child. Early on, she showed a distaste for wheat breads. I'm certain it was the texture. So I tried Wonder bread. She loves it. And though Mr. Eats and I don't eat it, we love it, too. Why? No crumbs. And given how much food ends up on the floor, that counts for a lot. The tiny pieces of sandwich she eats with Wonder bread stays together even when thrown off the side of a highchair. I'm sure that the chemistry responsible for this amazing feat isn't something I'd love, but I do love a crumb-free floor.

Now, if only I could find prunes that were not sticky.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Tofu with penne

Y'know, sometimes you just don't feel like making a big production at dinner. Sometimes, you just want to fry up some fresh tofu cubes in olive oil and diced onions until both are crispy and then throw in some marinated artichoke hearts, diced tomato (canned! but drained-ish), garlic and some Italian herbs and salt and pour the mixture over some penne and call it a meal.

I did also pan fry some frozen haircots vert over high-ish heat to serve as a side dish.

Baby Eats loves the fried tofu and artichoke hearts; notsomuch the green beans. We're still trying, though.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Hot and Cold

There are a hundred reasons I'm happy that we've gotten a break from the frigid weather here in Nashville, but one of the top ones was to finally be able to visit Hot & Cold over in Hillsboro Village for the Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream. The place and the ice cream were every bit of everything I've heard and more.

The Jeni's ice cream is amazing. The flavors are bizzare-wonderful. And they're expensive. However, for your $4, you can get a small cup that has a reasonable portion of up to two flavors (for only $1 more, you can get a third flavor). Not bad. The $10 pints seem a bit steep, but there's a lot of good stuff packed in there. We got a pint of the Bangkok Peanut (peanut butter, honey, toasted coconut, cayenne pepper) and one of Sweet Cream and Appalachian Elderberries (a mostly unflavored ice cream base with elderberries and black currants). A little Valentine's Day splurge. Also, pints are the only way to get many of the flavors.

While in the store, I had a small with Salty Caramel and Goat Cheese with Cognac Fig Sauce (both outstanding) and Mr. Eats had the Brambleberry Crisp and Cherry Lambic sorbet (again, outstanding). Very much worth every penny. We had cups, but were very tempted by the house-made waffle cones.You can also have a variety of chocolate sauces, peanut sauce, or espresso served with your ice cream.

I regret that we didn't get any of the sipping chocolate or any of the other very wonderful-sounding hot beverages (including cider). They also serve Las Paletas (and Chiquitas--mini versions of the paletas), which are handy if you don't feel like dropping too much money (and butterfat) on the little ones (ha!).

Hot & Cold is located at 1804 21st Avenue South in Hillsboro Village an iS open from 11am-9pm (I think) every day. I actually ran into the owner while there (he was getting the Roxbury Road in a waffle cone--a good endorsement for that, I'd say) and mentioned that the hours listed on the website didn't have weekend hours listed so I hope that's fixed soon. They ARE open on the weekends, though!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Barley Walnut Loaf

Since my trip to Memphis, I've been inspired to create my own veggie meat loaf. Y'know, even though I don't like meat loaf. So I scoured the google for recipes and was disappointed. Too many recipes with stuff I don't like (bell peppers, celery) and just about all of them called for either eggs (no, thanks) or ground flaxseed (which I didn't have on hand) as a binder.

So, I just decided to figure out what I did want in it (brown rice, barley) and what I could use that would hold it together (ground walnuts, cheese). Unbelievably, it worked and it tasted good! Really good. Mr. Eats even had seconds!

So here's the recipe I used. If you're looking for something new for Meatless Mondays and would like a nice vegetarian comfort food, this is the loaf for you. I will continue to play around with it, too. I think some shredded carrots and chopped mushrooms would be good additions. And of course, if you like bell peppers and celery, you could add those, too.

This takes some time and a little planning, but it's easy to do in stages (which I have to schedule during nap times!).

Barley Walnut Loaf
prep time about 2-3 hours for the grains and loaf to cook plus cooling
1/2 cup brown rice
1 cup water
2/3 cup pearled barley
2 cups water
1 packet onion soup mix
4 ounces cheddar cheese, shredded (I used Cabot Seriously Sharp)
1 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup bread crumbs (or quick oats)
olive oil (to grease the loaf pan)

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon thyme*
1 hefty pinch of cumin*
2 tablespoons nutritional yeast*
(*these seasonings are optional; add what you like or have on hand)

2 tablespoons catsup
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
pinch of salt

Cook the brown rice with 1 cup of water according to directions (simmer on low heat for 50 minutes).

Cook the barley with 2 cups of water and the packet of onion soup mix for one hour (simmer on low heat).

Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in the oven or toaster oven at 300F until lightly browned and just as you can smell them (just a few minutes). Place into a food processor and chop into a course meal.

Transfer the walnut meal to a large bowl and add the cheese, rice, barley, breadcrumbs/oats, and seasonings and mix well.

For the glaze, place all ingredients in a small bowl and heat slightly (so the honey will melt) and mix well.

Grease a loaf pan with olive oil and spoon the loaf mix into the pan, packing down well. Spread the glaze evenly on top and bake for 50 minutes at 350F.

Let the loaf cool for at least an hour before slicing, if possible (otherwise, it will fall apart slightly--so this is optional). Then reheat to serve.

Make it vegan!
To make this recipe vegan, simmer the barley in vegetable broth instead of onion soup mix and add in 1/2 cup of well-sauteed diced onions (many onion soup mixes are not vegan). And skip the cheese or use vegan cheese. Sweeten the glaze with agave nectar, raw sugar or another vegan sweetener.

Mix well. Mmm...appetizing, huh?
Press it down as much as possible
Add the glaze and bake!
I cut it too soon. Don't make this mistake.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

A little fun in Memphis

I'm from Memphis originally and I frequently go back to visit friends and family and, of course, many of my favorite restaurants that I've found no replacement for in Nashville. Things are coming along here, but I still have no good substitute for Memphis Pizza Cafe and Panda Garden.

Aside: There's a fairly large and vibrant Chinese community in Memphis, particularly compared to Nashville. So there are some great Chinese restaurants from take-out to upscale. Recently, awards were given in San Francisco for the best Chinese restaurants and my favorite, Panda Garden made it on the "best value" list, China Wok (near where I grew up) made it on the "best takeout" list and Royal Panda was listed among the best overall restaurants. Incidentally, Royal Panda is the subject of a blog dedicated to the food the chef/owner creates: The Wu Food Project.

Other old favorites include Gibson's Donuts (like them on Facebook to keep up with special offers and be sure to have the caramel donut) and the Beauty Shop (vegetarian- and kid-friendly, as you can see but be sure to call ahead and request a high chair in an out-of-the-way place if you can).

And I am an unabashed fan of Cafe Ole, no matter how many times it changes ownership. As long as it still has sangritas (recommended!) and black bean quesadillas, I'll keep going.

Baby Eats on the Blackberry and enjoying a lime at the Beauty Shop

And I have new favorites now, too. Thanks to Lindsey, I've become acquainted with Fuel, the latest restaurant to occupy the old gas station on Madison, just east of Zinnie's and just west of P&H. There are LOTS of great vegetarian options, including this veggie cheese & walnut loaf. It inspired this conversation:

"How much is it like meat loaf? Because I never liked meat loaf."
"What didn't you like about meat loaf?"
"Well, definitely the ground beef. I hate ground beef. The texture and grease."
"Well, this has no ground beef and no grease."
"And also the sauce. I think it had ketchup on it."
"We don't put ketchup on it. It does have a honey barbecue glaze, though."
"What about the texture? Is it a little looser? Because that would be good."
"Yes, it's definitely looser than ground beef because it's made with chopped, not ground walnuts and cheese and oats and some other things."
"Hmm, okay, I will try it then."

I liked it! It made for a hearty sandwich. And as promised by the server, the fries were fantastic, too.

Also at the suggestion of Lindsey and just about everyone else in Memphis, Mr. Eats and I visited The Cove. This is a good place to go to drink, but not so much to eat if you're a vegetarian. I ate, but it was nothing special. The drinks are very good, though (but just a tad on the pricey side). But the place has a good vibe, a very homey atmosphere. It's unpretentious, which is a rarity these days.

I won't be back to Memphis very soon, but when I go, I hope to visit a few of the other new restaurants I've heard about: Au Fond Farmtable and Three Angels Diner. Oh, and of course, a couple more of those top Chinese restaurants! And have this!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Really Easy and Good No-Knead Bread

I'm about six or seven years behind on this trend, but I just recently received a beautiful Le Creuset dutch oven for Christmas and the first thing I wanted to do was make this bread. I've always wanted to make really good bread at home but I have no room (and no interest, really) in a bread machine. So when I first heard about this method, I really wanted to try it.

There are a lot of ways to do this--some take less time--but after a few tries, I've decided I like this bread so much that this is my preferred method.

Easy No-Knead Bread
adapted from the recipe of Jim Lahey of Sullivan Street Bakery

1½ cups warm water
¼ teaspoon yeast
3 cups all-purpose flour
1¼ teaspoon salt
additional flour for dusting

Special equipment
5 to 8 quart pot with lid (Le Creuset enamel cast iron dutch oven, Pyrex glass, or ceramic) that can withstand 500°F (if you have a Le Creuset or similar dutch oven, you will need to get a stainless steel replacement knob; the cool-touch knob will not work).

Dissolve yeast in the water in large bowl (preferably glass or metal). Add the remaining ingredients and mix well with a wooden spoon (about a minute). Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the dough rest 12-18 hours (overnight) at room temperature (at least 65°F). The dough will have bubbles on the top and be stringy when ready.

Generously flour your work surface and hands and pour the dough from the bowl and fold twice (add flour as necessary to keep it from sticking to the surface or hands). Let the dough rest 15 minutes. Then shape the dough into ball by folding side to side and end to end and place on a cotton towel (not terry cloth or waffle weave) that is generously covered in flour with the seam side down. Dust with flour, cover with another towel and let rise 1-2 hours at room temperature, until more than doubled in size. It must rise to the desired level during this stage as it will not rise much further during cooking. If necessary, place in a toaster/convection/traditional oven that has been heated to "proof" the dough during this time.

When your dough is ready (or shortly beforehand), preheat oven to 500°F (remove dough if you're proofing it in your large oven) for 30 minutes with the dutch oven inside. Remove the pot from the oven and flip the dough from the towel into the pot with the seam side up. Cover and bake for 30 minutes and then 15 minutes (or longer) uncovered until the loaf is golden brown.

The result of all this time is a really nice, thick crust that is not too hard, but still toothy and satisfying. And the inside is light and airy. It really is fantastic.  I've tried to use whole wheat flour and I have to say it's just not as good. Just plain ol' white flour is the way to go. It's quite a treat!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Nashville's Restaurant Week

It's time again for Restaurant Week here in Nashville. Each participating restaurant has a special price and often a special menu for the occasion. The Nashville Originals website has links to all the specials and menus available this week.  It's a great way to get some affordable introductions to the city's best locally-owned restaurants.

So far, I've made a reservation at Cha Chah with some friends and Mr. Eats and I may get out to Allium, Flyte, or Cafe Nonna later in the week (if reservations are still available!). Those are just a few of the restaurants that understand that vegetarians like good food, too. I just wish more restaurants were open Monday this week!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Restaurant Round-Up: Mad Donna's, Smiling Elephant, NY Pie

I'm busy perfecting a bread recipe/technique so in the meantime I'm happy to share that I've finally gotten the chance to get out to eat in the last month.

Mad Donna's
I was fortunate enough to attend a special tasting event at Mad Donna's and it's a good thing because it's never really been on my radar. And that's too bad because there are a few reasons it should've been and is now:

1. Macaroni and cheese--several kinds to choose from!

2. Crispy sweet potato fries

3. A huge menu with lots of vegetarian options (as well as gluten-free options)

4. Brunch! (Wish I'd known this during the many times I've waited--and waited and waited--for a table down the street at Marche).

Mad Donna's is kid-friendly downstairs and has a pretty cool space upstairs. Check their website for their awesome daily specials and events. If I lived in the neighborhood, I'd be a regular.

Menu sampling!

A group of us digging into some fried ice cream
Mad Donna's
1313 Woodland Street
Nashville, TN 37206
(615) 226-1617
Open every day except Monday; brunch on Saturday and Sunday

Smiling Elephant
I'd heard about Smiling Elephant for a while but I figured that it'd be just like all the other Thai restaurants in town. They're all good so what's the point in driving all the way over to 8th Avenue South? But one night, we had some time and we stopped in.

Let me sum it up this way: Smiling Elephant will change your life.

Wow, so good. And different! Not the standard pre-fried tofu splashed in some sauce (not that there's anything wrong with that). And not the standard dishes either. A smaller menu than some places but all dishes thoughtfully prepared. And fresh. I got the dinner "set" which included soup, entree and dessert (and a bonus ginger tea!). The soups are vegetarian and just about any entree can be made with tofu so you can imagine I was quite pleased. Mr. Eats actually ordered vegetarian food, too so that we could share! And everything was fantastic.

Smiling Elephant is a small space. Even at 8pm on a Monday, it's busy so plan your first visit for an off time so you can really enjoy it.
Vegetarian lemongrass soup

Tamarind tofu and ginger tofu--couldn't decide which I liked better!
Smiling Elephant
2213 8th Avenue South (across from Fiddlecakes and just south of Wedgewood and Zanie's)

Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 891-4488
Closed for lunch Saturday and all day Sunday

NY Pie
It's no secret to friends and family that I love New York style pizza. I like Neapolitan, too but I really love good NY style slice that you can fold and eat. House of Pizza in the Arcade and Joey's House of Pizza in Brentwood are my favorites locally but are nearly impossible for me to get to due to my West Nashville location.

So I was pretty excited to see the sign for NY Pie go up over in Nashville West. Though I was a bit skeptical. I've had some pretty mediocre pizza in Nashville and Porta Via has been my go-to pizza since it opened. It's great, but it's Neapolitan.

So on a chilly Tuesday night, my friend and I and Baby Eats stopped in around 6pm to try it out. First things first, the place is BUSY and small. They could easily fill up a space twice the size they have now. So when you want to try it, you may be best off getting takeout.

Now the important part. The pizza is great! Very reminiscent of my favorite pizza, John's of Bleecker Street. The only thing they lack is RC on tap (no, really--RC on tap at John's--YUM!). There are a lot of specialty pizzas on the menu, but I got the basic cheese and really enjoyed it. My friend got the margarita and let me have a slice and it was good as well--a slightly sweeter and thicker tomato sauce to make it different from the standard slice (along with the chopped basil and fresh mozzarella).

Speaking of slice, the menu indicates it's available by the slice, but I didn't see any pricing. I just got the 10 inch for $6.50 and though I shouldn't have, I ate the whole thing. The edge of the crust was a bit thicker and fluffier than a real NY slice, but it worked out well for me because I shared it with Baby Eats. Not all pizzas are like that--each pizza is hand-tossed (right in front of you!) and different from the last, so some pizzas may have a thicker edge. Small price to pay for a great hand-made pizza.

NY Pie is locally owned and operated and really care about the pizza they're making (asking each customer what they thought about the pizza once the crowd slowed enough for them to breathe). Sorry--no pictures; tight squeeze in the place and I didn't want to be too conspicuous. But trust me--it's a great-looking and authentic New York style "pie."

NY Pie
6800 Charlotte Pike, Suite 105 (Nashville West in the middle section, Charlotte side of the street)
Nashville, TN 37209
(615) 915-1617