Nashville Food and Fun

Birthday Feasts

Last Friday, I celebrated my 22nd birthday! The week leading up to it, I had four friends stay with me because it was their spring break. It was great because I got to play tourist in my own city and celebrate my birthday with them as well! I took them to the Country Music Hall of Fame, some iconic Nashville spots, and the Jack Daniels Distillery. And of course, we ate some pretty amazing food. We didn’t eat out every meal so stay tuned for some new recipes I tested on my village people.   10422920_10152832039623237_6489192471436421229_n1620788_10152833828918237_554891954402108823_n 11081135_10152832037508237_301153506368428946_n

Wild Cow

This entirely vegan restaurant in East Nashville is easily one of my favorites (shocking!). Their intricate menu items show just how easy and delicious it can be to go dairy-free and meatless! We shared the nacho and spinach and artichoke dip appetizers. The spinach and artichoke dip got it’s creaminess from cashews rather than pounds of parmesan cheese, mayo, and/or cream cheese. It gave it a rich taste without being too heavy. For my entrée, I got my favorite salad of theirs – the Market Veggie – loaded with fresh vegetables, nuts, and seeds, and topped with their grilled tempeh. It blows my mind how they make such a seemingly simple salad so outrageously tasty.

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Blvd

On St. Patrick’s Day we rented out a backroom in Blvd as an early birthday celebration for myself and my KD little who turned 21 two days before my birthday. We started off with the butternut squash salad, and then I got the quinoa falafel wrap with a side of kale. Everything was extremely tasty and well priced and having the room was a great way to be able to mingle with all of our friends.

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No visit to the south would be complete without biscuits, and I couldn’t let my village leave without trying some from The Row. Their four homemade jams – tomato, peach, strawberry, and blackberry are a perfect condiment for their flaky, warm biscuits.
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Fido

I can’t believe I’ve never blogged about Fido. Easily my favorite and most frequented breakfast/lunch spot. Their coffee is top notch, their banana nut pancakes are arguably better than Pancake Pantry (gasp!), and their hash browns could end wars (or at least massive hangovers). My go-to’s are the simple eggs (nothing wrong with a classic), the village scramble, or the huevos rancheros. But don’t forget about the baked goods! If you’ve never tried their Sweet Potato White Chocolate Chip muffin, you’re missing out.

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I first visited this place back in May when my dad visited for the weekend, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to have dinner with my roommate and her mom on my actual birthday here. We tried the edamame hummus (delicious!) a few new rolls (The R2D2 will definitely be a repeat offender next visit!) and of course I had to get the Amazon roll (shown with the huge shrimp on top) and the key lime pie.

20150320-IMG_0009 Mack and Kate’s

My wonderful friends, Alex and Stacey took me out for an amazing brunch out in Franklin. Alex has been multiple times and hasn’t stopped raving about it since, so I was eager to try it out myself. Our waiter gave above and beyond service with complimentary mini muffins and a huge piece of cake once he found out we were celebrating my birthday! The salad I had was so fresh with big chunks of crab meat, juicy mango pieces, and creamy avocado.

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Saturday night, I went out with my KD little’s family to Merchants downtown. The menu upstairs is drastically different than the one downstairs so I was excited to try new things. My favorite appetizer was their tuna tartare because it had olives and capers mixed right in, giving a new twist on the classic. My dinner was the roasted cauliflower salad with pine nuts and golden raisins, which made for a delicious dish with interesting combinations of flavors and textures.

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So unfortunately I didn’t take any pictures, but probably because I was so overwhelmed by the amount of different menu items we all tried as a group. We literally ordered every appetizer and every side dish and each one was better than the next. My favorites were definitely the grilled octopus with avocado and peanuts and the stewed swiss chard. Fun fact – it’s the first time I’ve ever liked octopus!

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Marche Brunch

Marche is the sister restaurant of Margot Cafe, my absolute favorite restaurant (which is something I don’t say lightly!). Naturally, I had to check Margot’s relative, and since brunch is my favorite meal of the day, I figured it would be an instant hit. My roommate and I went over the summer, but with my crazy schedule there are a ton of restaurants and cities I’ve been wanting to post about but time got away from me. Now I’m hoping to incorporate some #TBT posts to make up for that!

Back to brunch. Like Margot, Marche utilizes local, seasonal ingredients in its dishes. My roommate and I started off with the Fruit Tartine appetizer, which featured the famous Peach Truck peaches (if you’ve never had them, then I’d argue that you’ve never really eaten a peach!). For our entrées, she got their classic Almond Croissant French Toast and I had a ratatouille dish topped with over easy eggs. Of course we swapped to test taste, and it was the perfect sweet and savory brunch combo! Can’t wait to go back to this quaint french bistro sometime soon!

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Restaurant Week: Yellow Porch

Restaurant Week came at an excellent time this August because it coincided with Vandy’s first week back. The night before classes started, I had my first sorority family dinner of the semester at Yellow Porch. I had heard great things about this place before, and since there were great specials for Restaurant Week, I figured it’d be the perfect chance to try it out.

I opted for the Paella and Bananas Foster White Chocolate Bread Pudding. While the paella, didn’t quite measure up to the one I ate in Barcelona (I mean, really, will anything be able to???), it was still delicious nonetheless and had a great variety of seafood. As for the bread pudding, there are simply no words that would give this dessert the credit it deserves. It combined my favorite flavors into one delectable package. Imagine bananas foster in an ultra moist and gooey cake form smothered in a rich caramel sauce.

*Cue drooling*

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The Southern: Boozy Brunch Edition

No weekend adventure is complete without a proper boozy brunch to recap the previous nights’ events. Last weekend, I graced The Southern in South Broadway with my presence to see how their bellinis stacked up to the competition. The Park, in the meatpacking district of NYC held the official title for World’s Greatest Bellini. I’m sad to say that The Southern wasn’t able to steal the spotlight on this one. However, their blood orange mimosas definitely gave The Park a run for their money. They also had arguably the greatest biscuits I’ve had since moving to Nashville (sorry Loveless, better luck next time). While admittedly it’s hard to mess up biscuits (if Vanderbilt dining can bake a decent one, how hard could it be?), The Southern took theirs to a whole other level of flaky goodness.

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left: bellini, right: blood orange mimosa, center: drooool

For the actual meal, I went the lunch route and had a great salad with an even better name: “Bless Your Heart.” Since I love to create and cook my own meals, I have become pickier when I go out to eat. My favorite salads are the ones that have ingredients I wouldn’t usually buy for myself. This one certainly measured up as it was chock full of hearts of palm, beets, artichokes, roasted cauliflower, pumpkin seeds, and goat cheese. The combination of flavors and textures made for a picture perfect salad to accompany the quintessential weekend brunch.

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“Bless Your Heart” salad with a Bloody Mary on the side. Pro Tip: Don’t order the Bloody Mary unless drinking straight black pepper is your thing…

 

The Listening Room Cafe

The Nashville live music never ceases to amaze me. Last night was no exception as I ventured over to The Listening Room Cafe for the first time to see a writer’s round with Stephen Salyers, Two Story Road, Johnny Bulford, and last but certainly not least, Megan Conner, the amazing singer/songwriter/producer/personal trainer (seriously what doesn’t she do!?). I had the pleasure of watching these talented songwriters perform their personal songs, many of which have been recorded by the likes of Chris Young, Lee Brice, and Rascal Flatts!

The Listening Room Cafe has live music nightly, bottomless Mimosas and Bloody Marys during their weekend brunch, and although we didn’t order any food last night, every dish that walked by smelled and looked delicious, so I definitely look forward to going back soon!

Below are some clips I shot last night (sorry for the poor iPhone quality), but I bet they will entice you to check out these artists and visit The Listening Room Cafe ASAP!

Not Another Memorial Day Weekend BBQ

This past weekend was the unofficial start to summer, and I was lucky enough to get to spend it with my dad who came down to visit. While in the past Memorial Day Weekend was filled with BBQs, beach time, and pool lounging, I was happy for a change of venue this year. We I made  a very detailed itinerary for the weekend so we could fit in as much as possible in a short few days. Fortunately, the weather cooperated with us and we were able to visit a majority of the places we had planned.

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On Friday, we had a late dinner at Margot Cafe, my absolute favorite restaurant in Nashville. We shared a basil, grapefruit, fennel and anchovy salad appetizer, and I had the soft shell crab special for my entrée. It was the first time I had ever tried soft shell crab, and it was absolutely incredible! It’s meals like these when I get sad that they change their menu daily.

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Saturday morning, my dad and I rented bikes and rode around 12 South, the Gulch, Broadway, and Germantown. In high school, on Sundays when I didn’t have cross country practice, my dad and I would bike along this 10 mile trail near our house, so it was nice to be able to do something similar with him this weekend. We took a lunch break at the Farmer’s Market where he got a BBQ plate and I had crawfish (so southern!) and a cold-pressed juice from Beach Bums. We went back later that day to buy produce that we couldn’t carry while biking, and I bought some of the best peaches and yellow tomatoes I’d ever had! Can’t wait to go there more this summer!

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Later that evening, I took my dad for pre-dinner drinks at Patterson House where I got my favorite drink of all time, the “Juliet and Romeo” which consists of gin, muddled cucumber and mint, and rosewater. My dad got a sweet whiskey drink with a pineapple liquor made in house (I may have had some influence on his drink decision…). Dinner was at Wild Ginger, an Asian fusion restaurant in Franklin. They had the most unique sushi rolls ever – wow! I needed to take 2-3 bites per roll, and they were topped with pesto, various aiolis, balsamic, and other sweet and spicy sauces! My favrite was the Amazon which had asparagus, avocado, ebi, crab, crunch, and was topped with guacamole, dynamite scallop, rice pearl dusted shrimp, alfalfa sprouts. By the end I was a super happy camper in an intense sushi coma.

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Counterclockwise starting from top left: The Amazon (my favorite), Cobra, Water-Lily, October Sky, and lastly, we splurged on key lime pie with a macadamia nut crust

The next morning we got up early to hike at Percy Warner Park. This has been on my personal bucket list for a while, and I can assure y’all I will be back very soon! Despite how confusing it was to find the entrance and our slight “detour” during the hike, I would say it was a success. We brought my friend, Stacey, and my dog, Lilly along for the fun. Little Lilly showed no signs of slowing down, even at the bitter end!

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After the hike, we headed over to 12 South for Burger Up and Jeni’s. To say my dad is a fan of bison burgers would be a huge understatement, and even so, he claimed that Burger Up’s bison burger was by far the best he’d ever had! Success! I opted for their quinoa and black bean veggie burger on top of their beet salad, which included arugula, crushed pistachios, apples, cucumbers, and avocado. Having made veggie burgers myself, I have no idea how they get their veggie burgers so crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, but I would LOVE to know their secret (or at least be able to buy them in bulk and freeze them!)

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On actual Memorial Day, we headed to Broadway for some day drinking. Who knew Rippy’s actually had such amazing drinks?! My dad got the Spiked Sweet Tea Lemonade and I had the Yeehaw which had sweet tea vodka, coconut rum, peach schnapps, lemonade and sprite. It had the perfect amount of sweetness and tanginess.

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Before his trip officially came to an end, per his request we went to Pancake Pantry in Hillsboro. I felt like I was on carb-overload from the weekend, so I decided to be adventurous and try a breakfast wrap. I created my own with egg whites, peppers, mushrooms, and salsa. The wrap itself was also so flavorful with lots of herbs baked right in. My dad got the pecan pancakes which were good, but way too sweet for my taste. I prefer the blueberry or peach ones, but I was also excited to discover that there is more to Pancake Pantry than just pancakes! Perfect way to end a wonderful father-daughter weekend adventure!IMG_4440IMG_4439

Hope y’all get to check out some of these places soon! Happy Friday!

 

 

Husk: A Twist on Typical Southern Food

A few weeks back my little sister in KD ran the Country Music Half Marathon. Despite battling knee injuries throughout the year, she finished strong and smiling! To celebrate, the family and I went to brunch at Husk, a great Southern restaurant just south of Broadway in Downtown Nashville. But this isn’t your typical grits and fried chicken joint. Husk transforms traditional local southern ingredients into unique dishes. Oh, and did I mention that the menu changes TWICE daily?! This ensures the freshest ingredients are used and keeps things interesting.

 

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In a recent Nashville Scene article, they listed the 12 dishes that define “New Nashville,” which describes the sophisticated shift in the restaurant scene in the last 5-7 years. Their first dish of the magazine piece was the Vegetable Plate at Husk. Of course, being a pescatarian, I was very intrigued, but before you meat-lovers write it off, hear me out. The Vegetable Plate is served on a tree trunk disk, yes you heard me, a big round tree trunk disk. The trunk hosts 4-5 hearty bowls of unique vegetarian-based farm to fork style dishes from local vendors. As I mentioned earlier, this changes twice daily. While, the Vegetable Plate entrée itself is offered daily, the accompanying dishes change. it’s a great way to try to a variety of the chefs’ daily specials at once.

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Before I go into detail about my Vegetable Plate, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing, freshly baked honey sesame rolls served in a mini cast-iron dish – buttery, melt-in-your-mouth kind of good! We also splurged and ordered an appetizer of calas, which are essentially a fusion of rice balls and beignets. The chewy, sticky sweet rice is covered in a light dough and dusted with powdered sugar. Definitely felt like more of a dessert, but hey, sometimes you need dessert first!

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Now onto the main event. My Vegetable Plate consisted of a butter bean and farro succotash, savory tomato basil grits with a perfectly poached egg, sautéed mushroom medley, and pan-fried turnips. My favorite one would have to be the grits. While I’m not usually a grit lover due to the texture, the fresh tomatoes and runny, bright yellow yolk combine to make the ultimate sauce. Next up, the succotash was light yet filling and I absolutely loved the creamy butter beans. Mushrooms are a staple in my diet, so I really enjoyed trying the different varieties, especially the oyster ones! Last, but not least, the turnips were delicious, but nothing special. To borrow the words of a Food Network critic, it did nothing to transform the dish. Nevertheless I left happy and satisfied! Can’t wait to go back again soon.

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Commodore Cruising

Last Tuesday, my KD little sister and I won tickets to see Wicked through a program at Vanderbilt called “Commodore Cruise.” Until this point, I had not met a single person who has ever won one of these elaborate prizes before, and considering I received the good news on April Fools Day, I had a hard time actually believing it until we physically got on the bus.

The evening started off at City Fire, a restaurant in the Gulch that has undergone three management changes in the three years I’ve lived in Nashville. This was my first time visiting under the newest ownership. Upon arriving, we were given a pre-set menu, so unfortunately I didn’t get to try the tuna tartare (a personal favorite), but nevertheless there was quite the spread to enjoy.

Let me preface this next part by saying that our table was having fun bringing out our inner food critics (think Chopped on the Food Network). So while City Fire was certainly not one that I’ll rush back to anytime soon, it was still an overall enjoyable meal (and it was free so even better, right?).

Each table got a different appetizer and luckily ours was guacamole – probably the highlight of the meal to be honest. But then again, for an avid avocado enthusiast like myself, you can’t really mess up guacamole.IMG_2779

Next course was the salad. At first it seemed promising: mixed greens, cherry tomatoes, oranges (oh wait, everyone else got those except for me) and then much to my dismay it was COVERED in bacon – to the point where it overpowered the otherwise light, refreshing dish.

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Time for the main course. I ordered the salmon, again another favorites of mine and since the fish is so great on its own I figured it was a safe bet. It was cooked to perfection, but unfortunately it was extremely greasy and oily. The side of spinach was also drenched in oil and onions.IMG_2776 Last, but not least, dessert. We chose the sweet potato pie and the marshmallow creme brûlée. From my earlier post, you know my love affair with sweet potatoes, but this one did not measure up. As my friend put it “they did a poor job transforming the sweet potato.” In other words, it tasted like a dried out baked sweet potato with a thin pastry covering. The raspberry and caramel sauces were its only saving graces. As for the creme brûlée, it is a rare treat for me but one of my absolute favorites. I’m still not sure what made this one “marshmallow” because it tasted like an average vanilla creme brûlée. Still tasty, but confusing.

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After that interesting dinner, we headed to the Tennessee Performing Arts Center to see Wicked. Although I am slightly obsessed with the Wizard of Oz (#tbt to my bat mitzvah theme: Follow the Yellow Brick Road to Danielle’s Bat Mitzvah), I had never seen this show. I had high expectations, but it definitely did not disappoint. Wow. I can’t get over the fact how the entire storyline ties perfectly into the Wizard of Oz. As the plot progresses it gets more and more linked to the movie and watching it all unfold on stage was nothing short of magical. As soon as the curtains closed I immediately wanted to watch it again, but for now, I’ll settle for listening to the soundtrack 24/7.

hanging out with the Australian flying monkey from the show

hanging out with the flying monkey from the show – turns out he’s Australian!

Sneezing Purple

It’s approaching 2am on a Friday and I’m at Rippy’s on Broadway. I look down at my phone and notice the time and a wave of panic rushes over me. The following thoughts pop into my head: I should NOT have had that last shot, sushi probably wasn’t the best pre-going out meal, I’m STARVING, shit I need to get up to run the Color Run in approximately 6 hours…

Well, luckily a friend accompanied me to Two Boots, the pizza utopia on Division St. And no, I definitely didn’t go my usual V for Vegan, healthier vegetable pizza option, (sorry Megan…) instead I devoured a slice of the Tony Clifton, which has shiitake mushrooms, vidalia onions, red pepper pesto and lots of gooey, delicious mozzarella. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to snap a picture before inhaling its cheesy, magical hangover curing goodness, but luckily I found the exact slice on google images and it definitely does it justice.

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Fast forward to 7:30am (a mere 4 and a half hours after the pizza escapade): my alarm blares loudly in my ear. Much to my surprise, I wake up feeling GREAT (told you that pizza was magical). I spring out of bed – so excited for the Color Run! Last year, my little sister in KD and I ran the Color Run and decided to make it a yearly tradition because it was just that awesome. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the Color Run, it is a 5k and at every kilometer, powdered color is thrown on you, so it’s like running through a giant outdoor paint party.

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the aftermath of Color Run 2013

Just like last year, it was cold and rainy, but it was so worth it. When we got to purple, my favorite station of the run, one of the color squirters got some purple up my nose, which led me to cough, and my open mouth was then filled with even more purple powder. So for the rest of the race (and until the next day), I kept coughing and sneezing purple. Still worth it. And besides at least it was my favorite color – silver lining?

before the purple explosion

happy as a clam before the purple explosion

The run was over before we knew it, and then we got to play with extra color packets, bringing out the inner 5 year old in me. I’m already looking forward to the 2015 Color Run with my favorite partner in crime!

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Gulps and Strokes

Birthdays are by far my favorite celebration. I think everyone deserves that Queen (or King) for the Day moment, and it doesn’t hurt that I also love to plan. This past Friday was my good friend Stacey’s birthday. We started off the evening with an incredible meal at Virago. This is not your ordinary California and Spicy Tuna roll type place. These sushi rolls were so unique. They included a variety of seafood, fruit, nuts, veggies, and sauces, and the different combinations of flavors and textures were simply amazing. We were so obsessed that we made a pact to try every roll by the end of the summer (I’ll keep you posted on how that goes!). The cocktails were cool, refreshing, and deceptively strong, which allowed for a pretty decent head start to Sips and Strokes, our next stop of the night.

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Appetizers: (front) Crispy Rice with Spicy Tuna and Pop Rocks (back) Lobster Shooters with Spicy Coconut Curry

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Hawaii Five-O Roll: soy wrap, hamachi, escolar, hearts of palm, avocado, cream cheese and mango inside, rolled in toasted coconut, wrapped in kiwi, topped with honey fire sauce and macadamia nuts

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Kiwi-Cucumber Cocktail: muddled kiwi, cucumber-infused Stoli, soda water…the most refreshing and delicious drink I’ve ever had

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By recommendation of our awesome waiter, Tanto Roll: tempura lobster, avocado, pickled carrot, topped with tuna and fresh salmon sashimi, tempura crumbs, seared jalapeño, spicy yuzu, eel sauce

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Dessert: Green Tea Mochi

Sips and Strokes (or as we renamed it – “Gulps and Strokes”) is a BYOB painting class in the gulch. They rotate artwork themes daily, and Friday night’s was wine bottles. At the start of class the instructor asked us who would consider themselves to be a Type A personality. Of course both of our hands shot straight up, but at least we were in good company with the rest of the class. The instructor’s advice to us crazy perfectionists was to just keep drinking wine and it will look better and better. I have to admit that the key to my immense enjoyment of the class, rather than pure frustration at my lack of painting skills was due entirely to my wine (and partner in crime, Stacey). Even so, I kept joking that my painting was going to turn out to be abstract wine bottles a la Picasso rather than the realistic example canvas. Fortunately, with some liquid courage (and the aid of the instructor) I’m pretty impressed with the finished product, not to mention that I didn’t stop laughing the entire time (#typical). I absolutely cannot wait to go back or recreate the idea in my apartment with some friends, blank canvases, a lot of wine, and maybe a good Ashton Kutcher movie too.

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The night ended in typical college fashion down Broadway at one of our favorite bars, Rippy’s. We even got Stacey up stage with the band when we told the leader singer it was her birthday. Happy birthday, stace!