Category Archives: Honeymoon Food Tour

Bourbon Street Bliss…

Well here we are in New Orleans!  Our trip here was pretty uneventful with a 9.5 hour drive over 2 days through Georgia, Alabama, and Louisiana.  Along the way, we saw some really beautiful country and even stopped at one of the biggest peach and pecan orchards ever called Lane Orchards.  It was over 5,000 acres!  We sampled their peach cobbler and also their black berry cobbler.  Both were amazing with a heaping pile of ice cream on top…YUM.  We then spent the night in Mobile, AL before making the final drive to New Orleans.

We got to the hotel, dropped off the car and found out that the hotel had upgraded us to a corner suite on the top floor.  It is absolutely stunning with views of the entire city, a sitting room, 2 bathrooms, and a wonderful jacuzzi tub, it’s the absolute perfect way to end our trip, we couldn’t be happier.  We have been so lucky between weather and fabulous sights and food and now this, I just feel like we are being looked after by someone special up there!  We truly are blessed.

new orleans

So, dropping off the car and checking into the hotel was really tough so we had to get something to eat to get our energy back up…or we were just hungry and couldn’t wait for our first foodie experience here.  Whichever it was, we headed off to Cafe Beignet for some lunch.  The cafe is set in this pretty little courtyard called Music Legends Park where they have live music and statues of some of the great jazz players of the past.

cafe beignet

We looked over there pretty large menu (for a cafe), I decided to get my first jambalaya, Jay went with the shrimp po’ boy.  We sat down at the wrought iron table and waited for our food while listening to the old school jazz that was being played for us.  It was not such a beautiful day with occasional down pours, but we were under an awning and it did not effect our mood one bit.  We were both super excited to be here.  The food came out in about 5 seconds and I’m sure I looked like a kid on Christmas.  My jambalaya was piled high in the bowl with a couple pieces of beautiful light french bread on the side to help battle the spice of the dish.  I immediately dug in.  The first thing you taste is the sausage and it is so spicy and fatty that it just makes you instantly happy.  The rice was cooked wonderfully and was not at all mushy.  You find those little gems of chicken in there too all blended together in the fabulous tomato based sauce that pulls everything together.  It’s spicy enough to make your mouth dance but not so spicy that you cant taste all the individual flavors each item brings to the bowl.  It’s starchy and savory and satisfying.  Jay’s po’ boy was great too and he was really happy with the light texture of the bread.

jambalaya

After we finished and were sitting there for a few minutes just enjoying the atmosphere and the music, we decided we wanted something sweet.  Jay had been eyeballing the chocolate eclair that was in the bakery case and I was ready for my first beignet.  Now if you don’t know what a beignet is, it is very simple, just a french doughnut really.  It’s fried dough covered in mounds of powdered sugar.  It is not something to eat while wearing black, that is for sure.  These come in an order of 3, and when they dropped them on our table, I could not believe how big they were!  They are cut into squares and were roughly about the size of my entire hand.  They were scorching hot from just being fried to order and were mounded with powdered sugar.  The aroma of the yeasty dough cooked so quickly in the oil was intoxicating.  I couldn’t wait to break one of them apart and eat it.  They were a pretty dense dough but not even a little bit greasy, and I mean not at all.  They were really soft and hot and the sugar on top just melts into the dough and some forms a crust on the top, and some just ends up all over you, that’s half the fun.  Fabulous…really fabulous.  Check off 2 items on the Curvy Cook New Orleans Must Have Foods list!

beignet 2

We listened to the jazz for a bit longer and then decided to head off and explore.  We went back to the hotel for a bit first to get changed.  It was freaking hot.  Not that the temperature was too much, it was only about 81 but it was humid as hell and I needed to take my jeans and sneakers off.  Once we were sufficiently stripped down, we headed to Burbon Street.  The rest of that night was spent walking, shopping, and me drinking a 24 oz. hurricane from a styrofoam cup and getting hammered.  Poor Jay.

Bourbon was everything I had imagined, and some I hadn’t.  It was teeming with people and places to stop in with bars playing music everyplace (even in the off season).  We stopped and listened to some creole music for a while, Jay got to play the washboard, and I got to play the tambourine!  Super fun people.  I also had one of the famous hand grenade drinks here which are supposed to be the strongest drink you can get on the street.  It was, and with the hurricane, oh boy.  We also saw a couple karaoke bars and every kind of band from jazz, to country, to blue grass, to hip hop.  The other thing that is EVERYWHERE are strip clubs.  I mean like every other store front, it’s insane.  I had no idea there were so many here and the girls were making me hysterical calling in anyone who might walk by.  Jay and I got offered no cover for couples.  Wooohooo!

When Jay decided that he was hungry again, or maybe that I just needed something to soak up some of the alcohol, we stopped into a small sandwich shop that is owned by the famous Court of the Two Sisters.  We both got po’ boys.  I got smoked sausage, and Jay the roast beef with gravy.  Now, my apologies, but I do not have pictures of the sandwiches.  Remember, I was inebriated and a camera would not have been a good idea.  Take my word for it, they are AWESOME drunk late night food.  There is something so freaking fabulous about the sausage here.  It is not like anything else you have had before.  It’s so smoky and spicy and perfect, I’m really going to miss it.  Po’ boys come pretty much the same every place you go with lettuce tomato and pickles, some have mayo some don’t, some have dressings, some don’t…but the premise is the same.  The bread here is also really great.  It’s light and airy and a little chewy with a crunchy crust.  It soaks up anything you put on it and makes for an all star sandwich every time.

Feeling that our first night here in New Orleans was a success, we headed back to the room.  With my Frommer’s New Orleans book on my night table, we were ready for the next two days here in the Big Easy…more to come…

Mushroom Madness…

Lazy southern days might just be the best so far.  Our last full day here in Savannah was just that, lazy.  We woke up and had breakfast in the hotel with some regular morning fare.  We had then decided that we wanted to spend some time down at the Riverwalk since we had not made it over there yet.  As we walked out of the hotel we couldn’t help but notice the completely fabulous weather today.  It was blue skies and mid 70s with a nice breeze.  Just perfect.  We walked the few blocks down to the main road by the water and made our way down.  In Savannah, the area that is right on the water is about 25 feet lower than the main land, if you can picture a plateau above and then another level below that is water level, that is kind of what it looks like.  There are staircases to walk down and and curved hills for cars at each block.  We walked down one of the many set of stairs that are old and stone and pretty steep…all I could think of was that my mother would never make it because you could see straight down the wall on the side of the staircase and it was a bit disconcerting for those who don’t love heights.  Once you get down to the river though it is about 12 blocks of shops and restaurants and places to buy tour tickets.  It is very busy and very pretty with old cobblestone streets and little benches and courtyards on the water to just sit and enjoy the area.

We did some shopping and ended up getting tickets to a one hour riverboat cruise for the afternoon.  We had some time before we had to board the boat so we kept walking down the strip and ended up at 2 market areas that had a little vendor outside in a courtyard that sold drinks and hot dogs and snacky type things.  We sat down for a while at one of the tables enjoying the water and the weather, and then decided to get a bite to eat before we had to go on the boat.  Jay headed over to the small vendor and found out that they had Chicago style hot dogs!  Score!  We both ordered one and were pleasantly surprised.  It was a real Chicago dog, complete with the neon green relish and celery salt.  It was perfect to hold us over to dinner and we sat and soaked up the wonderful sun before we went to the dock.  The tour was a very nice ride up and down the river and the guide talked about the Savannah port and the businesses and history around it.  All in all a nice way to spend an hour on the water.

steam boat

Once we got off our tour we decided to return to the hotel for a bit before dinner and change.  Yesterday, while walking back from the street fair, we passed by one of the places that my Aunt Barbara and Uncle Dick had found while they diligently searched the internet for great places for us to go on this trip.  It is called Alligator Soul.  Now, the name itself begs for you to go see it, but the menu posted on the wall made us want to go even more.  I called and made us a reservation and off we went.  It was nice to get a little dressed up and go out, it was almost a little reminder that this is our honeymoon and is really very romantic and exciting to be doing all of this traveling together.  W are very lucky.  When we got there we were pleasantly surprised.  It is in the basement level of a building, so you walk down some stairs to the door.  When you walk in, there is a lovely wood bar to the left and a small hostess station to the right.  Next to the bar there is a cozy sitting area with a few couches, through a large opening, there is the entrance to the where the tables are.  The place is not huge, maybe 30 tables or so, but it’s very warm and welcoming with soft lighting and a lot of stone and wood.  You would find places that look very similar in Ireland and England I would imagine.

As soon as we sat down I liked the place.  At our table was a small white box with a note on the top that read “Happy Honeymoon!  We hope you have a lovely evening!”.  Inside were two little pecan tartlets.  Totally classy move.  The hostess had asked if we were visiting for a special occasion when I had called for the reservations and I had told her, but who would have thought this would be there for us.  When the server came to our table, she was super friendly and very knowledgeable about the menu.  She also rattled off the specials without hesitation.  Jay and I both ordered appetizers.  I got the fried green tomatoes, cause I’m thinking they are becoming something of an addiction for me, and Jay got the special which was a craw fish and andouie sausage cake (almost like a crab cake).  The tomatoes came with this beautiful peppadew pepper relish and was tangy and spicy and very very good.  Jay’s was also great with the sausage adding some spice, and the peach chutney on top adding that sweet kick.

fried green tomatoes2

Now, for dinner, we had quite a choice.  There were about 5 specials and they all sounded fabulous.  However, I could NOT pass up one of them.  Wild boar tenderloin with a porcini mushroom bread pudding, and a cauliflower and truffle puree.  Yeah, I’m all over that.  Jay went with the fish of the day which was striped bass (basted in duck fat) with a roasted onion quinoa and a red cabbage, apple, and cranberry slaw.  We couldn’t wait!  I also ordered, on the suggestion of our wonderful waitress, a glass of Campus Red Zinfandel.  I wanted something that was not too overpowering but was still a red that could stand up to the flavors of the boar.  It was perfect.  It had hints of dark berries like cherry and raspberry and finished very clean with little aftertaste that I sometimes don’t like with heavy reds.  As we sat and chatted and people watched we enjoyed the atmosphere and each other.  Our dishes were brought out and I was drooling.

Wild Boar

wild boar

Striped Bass

striped bass

My dish was a perfect execution of mushrooms all around.  From the porcini bread pudding, that was pretty much like the best stuffing ever, with big pieces of mushroom wrapped around cubes of moist bread soaked in custard totally rocked.  It was very firm and not at all soggy (I hate soggy bread pudding).  Savory bread puddings aren’t always pulled off successfully, but this one nailed it.  It paired really well with the rich demi glace on the sauteed boar tenderloin.  Now, the coup de grace of the whole thing was the cauliflower and truffle puree.  There was a sweep of it right by the meat so that you could create the perfect bite of bread pudding, boar, and swipe up some of the creamy white goodness at the end.  Pure genius.  The truffle was not overwhelming but rather made this burst of mushroom flavor in your mouth that complimented the meaty boar so, so well.  It left you with this velvety mouth feel and earthy meaty flavor resonating throughout your pallet.  It was also served with two little piles of spaghetti squash, which were perfectly cooked and very good but could have been dancing bears for all I cared.  The mushroom madness that was created on my plate had me totally mesmerized.  This was the best dish of the trip so far.  No question.  I don’t mean to down play any of the food we have had to this point, but this was complex and deep and rich and really as perfect as you can get and totally another level.  For Jay’s part, he said the cole slaw was the best he has ever had.  Anywhere (that’s big).  He also said the fish was cooked perfectly and you could taste that slightly smoky flavor of the duck fat along with the onion quinoa.

We were stuffed and decided to order dessert to go.  The Jets were playing the Patriots tonight after all and we HAD to watch it.  We ordered a vanilla bean creme brulee with savannah honey, and some banana beignets.  We havent had them yet, they are siting on our hotel room desk but we will break into them soon.  I’m sure they will be just as amazing as the dinner.  Our last night here in Savannah was a complete success.  As we strolled back to the hotel, we chatted about how much we really enjoyed our time here.  Savannah is a beautiful southern city with true southern hospitality and a leisurely southern pace.  I can’t think of a better place to come visit.  When we leave tomorrow to head off to New Orleans, we will leave with very happy memories here and the knowledge that we will be returning again for sure.

 

http://www.alligatorsoul.com/

http://riverstreetsavannah.com/

Savannah Street Fairs And Sights…

Well, since our last post, we have made our way through the first leg of our road trip!  We left Nashville and had an overnight stay in Atlanta, then continued on to Savannah last night.  The drive was beautiful, we have been so lucky with weather, and at this point down here the trees are in full color, it has been lovely.  We even drove behind a truck carrying some nice sweet potatoes on the way…

sweet potatoes

Atlanta was a beautiful city where we stayed in a kick ass Omni hotel right downtown where we got lucky and were given a king size corner room on the 21st floor overlooking the whole city.  It was stunning and we felt super special.  We hung out in the hotel that night for the most part and grabbed some quick dinner at the food court in the CNN headquarters building, which was right next door.  The next day we visited the Georgia Aquarium.  It was SO  great!  The tanks are just huge and you feel like you are actually in the water with the fish!  We also went to the dolphin show and I don’t even know if Sea World has a better one.  The kids would have loved it, and it was one of the first times that I have missed everyone back home.  Once we had finished up the aquarium we were back on the road.

We arrived in Savannah around 5:30 on Friday night.  We checked into the hotel and got ourselves settled in our home for the next 3 days.  We decided to take a walk around and see a bit of the city and to grab a bite to eat before we went to bed.  Our hotel is in the perfect location and is in walking distance to just about everything.  We strolled up and down the main drag a while and walked through the City Market area.  Savannah is so pretty and we noticed that it looked like a street fair was happening this week, we started to get excited.  We ended up stopping at a Japanese restaurant right across the street from the hotel and ordered a few sushi rolls for takeout.  We sat in our room and ate and then proceeded to go to bed early so that we could get a good start to the day.

We woke up early, got ready, and headed down to the concierge desk to see what we could get for reservations today.  She happily set us up with the open trolley tour and promised she would call and see if she could get us reservations to Lady and Sons for lunch…YAAAAAAY!  The trolley tour was perfect with the guide telling us all the history of the city and drove us by 15 stops along the way.  The live oaks with the Spanish moss and the monuments and architecture were amazing.  While we were on the tour, our fabulous concierge called me and told me that we had a 1:15 reservation at Lady and Sons!  I’m pretty sure I squealed a thank you and almost jumped out of my seat.  We were going to see Paula (well, maybe not her exactly, but close enough)!

lady and sons

We had some time to kill after our trolley tour so we decided to hit up the street fair that we had seen set up last night.  When we got there we saw that it was actually an art fair that was related to the Savannah College of Art and Design (or SCAD as they call it).  There were about three blocks of vendors selling items from oil paintings and photography to pottery and jewelry.  The local shops on the streets were also open, so you had your pick of places to browse.  The fair ended in one of the many courtyards with more vendors and also live music and a local cafe who had set up a food booth selling a short list of items.

As we walked down the street on the first block we stopped here and there to look around.  Then we saw the sign for The Salt Table.  I was intrigued…a store just for salt?  We eagerly headed inside.  As we walked in, I realized it really WAS a store selling all kinds of salt!  Heaven!  They had little plastic cups around and encouraged you to taste the different kinds of salt that they had along with their oils, dips, flavored sugars and loose teas.  They also sold huge salt stones, used for serving or marinating some foods, and smaller pieces of salt stone all of which you could actually microplane and flake your own salt from.  This store rocked.  Pun intended.

As we went up and down the 3 aisles of salt, we heard one of the owners talking with several patrons explaining the items…which he loved, which to try, which were most popular, etc.  These people know their product.  Jay and I had our tasting cups ready and were happily trying several as we found more and more on the shelves.  We found some amazing bacon salt (hello outrageous baked potato), some roasted garlic salt, and some beautiful grey salt.  Then, we saw it.  The black truffle salt.  It was glowing like a beacon from the wood shelf that it sat on and I think I may have heard faint trumpets playing in the background.  When you opened the top and took a deep sniff we knew it was going to be amazing.  We shook a few granules into our cup and went in for the goods.  As soon as it touched your tongue, it exploded and coated your whole mouth with that unbelievable and unique earthy taste of truffle.  Jay and I looked at each other and just said “OH MY GOD”.  The next words that came out of his mouth are probably some of the best I have ever heard, and the most spot on assessment of a food item ever. “That is like sex in your mouth”.  I love that man.  It was true.  In the bag it went.  We also bought a brine mix for turkey and some citrus green tea.  They also had four large containers of brewed iced teas that you could buy by the cup.  I had a very serious relationship with this strawberry peach sweet iced tea that was their special brew for the day.  I had 2 cups, it was fabulous.  We headed over to the sugar section and also put in our bag a jar of coco flavored sugar that will be great on about a thousand kinds of desserts and coffees.  All in all it is my favorite store we have found and I was super excited to know that they are a very new budding business that has only been open about 4 months.  If today was any indication, they are going to take off like wild fire.  They are getting their full website up and running soon, and I can’t wait til they do so I can order more of the truffle salt whenever I need it!  If you are in the Savannah area, I highly recommend a stop here, the experience was unforgettable and totally fun.

It was creeping close to 1:00 so we headed down the street to Lady and Sons not wanting to be late even for a second.  We stopped at the hostess station and gave them our name and she sent us into the waiting room between the store and the restaurant.  I was grinning from ear to ear.  There was Paula swag everyplace and I couldn’t wait to browse the store after we ate.  In a very sort time, they called our name and sent us up to the third floor where our table was.  The place was packed and the buffet was steaming with all kinds of goodies.  We were seated in the bar area, and looked at the menu for a few minutes.

I decided that to really get everything I wanted, I had to get the signature southern buffet.  Jay got Paula’s other signature dish which is the chicken pot pie, topped with puff pastry.  We also ordered a fried green tomato appetizer, cause we had to, yes this was not an option, fried green tomatoes are a necessity.  The tomatoes were really good with a not too heavy batter and this tomato based sauce dotted on the top along with an onion slaw.  The onions were raw but were super sweet and provided that hit of acidity to cut the richness of the fried food.  They were soaked in some vinegar and I think buttermilk, they were great.  We finished them off in no time.

fried green tomatoes

When Jay’s pot pie came, it was a work of art…they lattice the puff pastry to form this beautiful top to the bowl of thick, creamy pot pie underneath.  It was chock full of chicken and you could taste every single ingredient in there.  It wasn’t a big mush of flavor like some pot pie can be, but you could really taste the peas and carrots and chicken all together, and the veggies were still standing on their own and not completely soft.  It was perfect and the puff pastry cover dipped in there was pot pie gold.

pot pie

As he broke into his meal I headed off to the buffet to fill my plate.  It was a bar of southern goodness.  There was fried chicken, ribs, collard greens, black eyed peas, butter beans with ham, green beans with potatoes, mac and cheese, mashed potatoes, brown sugar sweet potatoes, cream corn, gravy and I can’t remember what else.  I got all my favorites, some fried chicken, cream corn, mashed potatoes, butter beans, green beans, collard greens, and black eyed peas and mac and cheese.  I did share a few bites with Jay of each of the items, but for the most part I scarfed it all.  Not to mention the biscuits and hoe cakes that come to the table along with yet again another large glass of sweet tea (I’m an addict by the way, I’m going to need sweet tea detox when we come home).  Everything was amazing.  The greens were the best I have ever had in my life, anywhere.  Hands down.  Everything was salty and porky and buttered and it all was the better for it.  That woman knows her stuff and I bow down to the butter queen.  The meal was everything we had hoped for.

southern plate

Then they brought dessert.  Jay got the gooey butter cake and I got the peach cobbler.  OMG peach goodness in a bowl.  I’m making this at home for sure, I got the recipe downstairs in the store.  It was not only peaches and a topping, but it was also this thick pastry cream inside.  It was so sweet and so gooey and good.  The butter cake was also wonderful with a crust that tasted like home made graham crackers and a sweet brownie like texture on top.  YUM.  We left feeling totally satisfied and a little more in love with southern cooking than when we had gone in.  We also decided that walking the rest of the day was not a bad idea.  We do have to fit on an airplane to get home after all.  I hit up the gift shop for a few minutes, got some recipes and some Paula swag and we headed back to walk around the rest of the art fair.

southern dessert

The rest of the day we spent walking and shopping and generally enjoying the gorgeous weather that we had been blessed with.  As the day wore on, we did eventually get hungry again, many hours later, and we decided to stop at the small food tent at the end of the fair.  The first thing we tried were these lovely chocolates from a local chocolatier called Chocolat by Adam Turont.  They were not only beautiful, but also some of the most complex flavors in a little chocolate package that I have ever experienced.  We tried the salted caramel, the hazelnut truffle, the pumpkin pie, and the liquid honey centered spiced chocolate mousse creams.  They were all top notch and the spices that were added to the chocolate highlited the flavors beautifully.  Perfect little bundles of happiness.

After our chocolate snack we purchased 2 mini sliders of pulled pork, a cup of tomato soup, and a cup of turkey chili from the cafe next to the chocolates.  The tomato soup and the turkey chili were both great.  Thick and rich and perfect for the cool night it was becoming.  But those sliders.  On man.  It was not your regular pulled pork.  There was no red BBQ sauce to be had, but instead there was this mustard and beer based sauce that was not only mixed into the meat but also slathered on top of it.  I know it sounds strange, but the flavors all together almost tasted like corned beef.  They were to die for.  I wanted to lick the sauce off the little paper boat it came in.  They were totally unique from any other pulled pork sandwich I have ever had, and I’m sure we will have a great time trying to recreate that sauce!

bbq sliders

For the rest of the night we sat and listened to the live band for a while and then walked back to the hotel, stopping for some hot chocolate for me and ice cream for Jay.  Our first day here being a total success, we are heading to bed with visions of Wall’s BBQ and Alligator Soul dancing in our heads for tomorrow!  More to come…

 

http://www.salttable.com/

http://www.ladyandsons.com/

Biscuits & BBQ…

Today we hit up the Country Music Hall of Fame and some very famous restaurants here.  We decided that we could not come to Nashville and not go to the Loveless Cafe.  We had been leery about going to this particular spot because we had heard the wait time can border on the insane (2 hours in line, I don’t think so, no matter how good the food is).  However, we got our butts out of bed, got dressed and headed there at what we hoped would be a bit of an off time for them at 10:30.  When we got there, we parked in the first spot next to the door and walked right in to an empty foyer.  Woooohoooo!  No wait and many tables to be had.  I was practically bouncing with excitement and Jay was laughing at me, as he has done most of the last three days because of my absolute giddiness with all this amazing food and fun.

loveless cafe

We sat down in this super cute room with old country curtains and old fashioned music signs on the walls.  They had blue gingham print table cloths and I could see why the tourists loved it.  We were brought menus and drinks and now we had to decide what to order.  The two things that the Loveless is hugely famous for is their biscuits and also their ham (which they cure themselves) with red eye gravy.  There is also a smokehouse right next to the restaurant where they make BBQ.  Since biscuits come to the table with anything you order, I decided to go with the famous country ham and red eye gravy.

Enter the biscuits.  This was my first encounter since we came to the south with real biscuits and we were not disappointed.  At all.  They were yeasty and firm but so fluffy and buttery I couldn’t stand it.  They come with three kinds of house made preserves, strawberry, blackberry, and peach.  All were amazing and with a bit of butter (cause I said so) and the preserves.  I really could have just sat there and eaten them all day, forget eggs, forget ham, forget anything else…biscuits all day.  I also tried what they call sorghum which is a really light molasses.  It tastes like a heavy, thick honey and was by far my favorite thing on the biscuits (aside from butter of course).

biscuits

The first plate of biscuits being gone in about 5 seconds, the waiter probably thought it best that our food come out.  The ham was literally hanging off the plate, it was so big, and was accompanied by scrambled eggs and a home fry casserole (on the suggestion of the waiter).  The first bite of the ham and I knew I had never had anything like it.  It’s cured yes, but not at all sweet.  It’s also not nearly as salty as the hams that we have at home.  It was fatty and pungent and you could taste the pig so clearly, I said to Jay that it almost tastes grassy and so fresh.  The red eye gravy I was less enthralled with, but I think that people might have a love/hate relationship with the stuff.  Red Eye gravy is just coffee (yes coffee), ham fat (you read that right too), and some brown sugar.  Now, I’m not a huge fan of coffee in the first place and I think that is why I really wasn’t digging the gravy.  However, Jay loved it, so I would not shy away from trying it and making your own call.  Another plate of biscuits?  Yes, please.

breakfast plate 2

After breakfast, we meandered over to the gift shop called “Hams and Jams”, no I’m not kidding, and looked around and bough some more swag (no Amy, no soup for you this time).  We also found out that we can mail order from the store, so do not be surprised if these cool items find their way into a Christmas present near you!

We then made our way out to the Country Music Hall of Fame.  It was a wonderful day including a tour of the famous Studio B and a few hours of walking through all the halls of music history.  We also took some pics of the staff assembling the red carpet area where the Country Music Awards would be tonight.  There were already people lined up around the barricades, and we heard some of them had stayed overnight there.  Really?  Crazies.  When we decided it was time to eat again, we had already made the choice to go to the famous Jack’s BBQ on Broadway right in the center of all the excitement.

jacks bbq

We walked the few blocks over to the restaurant and as soon as we walked in the door Jay and I both looked at each other and said “that smells awesome”.  The smoke smell hits you in the face and draws you into the place like a trance.  Before you know it, you are ordering 2 combo platters with every kind of meat they make between the two of them.  Jay got the pork shoulder the brisket and the ribs.  I got the brisket, chicken, and smoked sausage.  We both got different sides, mac and cheese, wide beans, baked beans and cream corn.  All served with a couple pieces of moist, dense cornbread with a great crust on it.

bbq plate

The first thing you see is the great smoke ring on the meat, it’s easily an eighth of an inch wide and perfectly magenta.  All the meats were cooked absolutely perfect.  The sauces they had were all different in their own way and we tried them all.  My favorite was their vinegar based sauce, with a close second being their sweet and spicy one.  Dipping the meat and getting your hands all messy was the best part of the whole thing.  A little cornbread, a little meat, a few bites of beans.  Food does not get better than this, it’s not just eating out, it’s a total sensory experience, the smell of the smoke, the color of the meat, the beautiful taste and texture.  It’s fun and it’s just what we were looking for with BBQ.

bbq plate 2

By the time we left, the streets were starting to fill and people were everywhere heading out for the CMA awards.  We decided not to stay out, but to head back to the hotel since we were quite tired and were a little cold from the temperature drop.  We walked along Broadway for a bit taking in the Music City vibe and hearing all the singers in the local joins, we went all the way down to the river and saw the paddle boat, held hands a while,  and headed back up Broadway and on the way stopped to have some ice cream before we trekked back to the car and made our way through the traffic and back to the hotel.  We watched the CMA awards on TV and made our reservations for the hotel tomorrow in Atlanta.  All in all a great day and a perfect way to end our Nashville adventure.  We are seeing so many wonderful things and eating so much amazing food, I really couldn’t imagine the trip getting better.  But, we are off on the first part of our road trip tomorrow and I can’t wait to see what this beautiful country has in store for us next…more to come!

http://www.lovelesscafe.com/

http://jacksbarbque.com/

http://countrymusichalloffame.org/

Loving This Nashville Life…

Day two and three here in Nashville have been just amazing!  Yesterday we got up bright and early, partly because we are still operating on our work schedule wake-ups, and partly because we were so excited to get started doing all the things we had planned for the day.  We had decided, on the recommendation of our fabulous new friend at the front desk, to head over to a local breakfast joint called The Pancake Pantry.  It is a small restaurant that is famous for pancakes but also serves a ton of sandwiches as well.  The neighborhood is completely charming and very vibrant, being so close to Vanderbilt University, with used book stores and funky stationary and knick knack shops.  The Pancake Pantry sits on the corner of the block and you will walk by the front door if you don’t know it’s there, until you see the sign on the building on the opposite side.

pancake pantry

They tout the fact that there is always a line, no matter when you go, and we found that to be true.  However, this place is a machine…they turn tables faster than anyplace I have seen and we waited no longer than 5 minutes to be seated.  The restaurant itself is very open and airy and has friendly wait staff and bussers busily flitting from table to table.  You are seated and given a wonderfully diverse menu with several pancake options as well as sandwiches for lunch.

pancake pantry menu

As Jay and I sat there debating about what to get, the waitress delivered huge glasses of juice and warmed up the coffee at least twice.  I decided to go with what I thought might be the most interesting item on the menu:

“Village Smithy Sante Fe Cornmeal Pancakes
Recipe acquired from the Village Smithy restaurant in
Carbondale, Colorado. Three stone-ground cornmeal pancakes
with chunks of bacon, Cheddar cheese, and roasted green
chiles cooked inside. Recommended with maple syrup,
hot picante salsa, and sour cream.”

corn cakes

It’s a corn cake, so basically think of cornbread batter made thinner and griddled like a pancake.  This was basically what I deem as a lunch pancake.  It was a perfect balance of sweet and savory with that nice crunch from the corn cake and to balance the sweetness of the batter, add that salty crispy bacon, and throw in some cheddar that has been made a little crunchy at the ends from the griddle….YUMMM…I did take their advice and add the sour cream, salsa and syrup and OMG it was too good.  These people know what they are doing.  It was crazy filling since the corncakes are pretty dense but so so so satisfying.  The green chilies really made the whole thing come together and I can totally see myself making these again at home.

Jay also got a really great breakfast called “Grill Cook’s Medley” and it sure is that:

“One of our best sellers! Mounds of hash browns
with onions, green peppers, tomatoes, and ham, all grilled
up crisp. Add to that: melted American and Swiss cheeses
with two fried eggs on top. Just break the yolks
and spread picante sauce all over.
Medley with wheat toast and
two buttermilk pancakes”

breakfast plate

For me, from the one bite I got of his breakfast, the cheese was the kicker.  It really melded the ingredients together, and Jay added some hot sauce which was a great choice.  The regular pancakes that came with this were also fabulous, they were light and fluffy and for the first time EVER I think, they tasted reminiscent of my father’s pancakes.  I know, it’s a big step to say that, but it was the first thought that came to me when I ate it.

We paid the bill, got a very friendly thank you from our waitress, bought some swag (yes Amy you have a shirt from here), and headed out the door totally happy and ready to get to the rest of the day’s activities.  The next stop on the agenda was the famous Belle Meade Plantation in Nashville that was only about 10 minutes away.  As we drove into the gates we were treated to an absolutely stunning landscape that was in full autumn leaf colors and a house that was almost unreal.  Then we saw something we were not prepared for.  The Swaggin Wagon from the Ellen Degeneres show!  We quickly learned that Ellen herself was not here, but that her team was in Nashville doing a special and had heard of Belle Meade and decided to stop by.  We saw them from a distance and I did manage to keep Jay from running in front of the camera. The show will be airing this Thursday, 11/10/11.

I had read about the plantation a bit before we showed up, but I was still amazed by just how pretty it was.  The story is a sad one of a very wealthy and successful entrepreneur who bred race horses and had very successful studs, even in racing today, the bloodlines are still present and still winners.  Unfortunately with the stock market crash and the subsequent temperance movement, the family lost the property and all it contained.  It is very beautifully restored with almost all of the original artwork and antiques, it is just beautiful.  In the past couple years they have also started a winery and your tour includes a tasting at the end.  They had some good young wines, mostly sweet, but there was one that tasted like nothing I had ever had.  It was a blackberry wine and you could taste the berries like they were just pulled from the bush.  It was sweet and very very different, but I loved it and bought 2 bottles to take home.

Once we had walked ourselves hungry again through the meadows and gardens, we decided it was time for a burger.  Again, on the recommendation of our local food guru, we headed to a place called simply Burger Up.  This place was fabulous.  It’s a restaurant dedicated to sustainable food production and humane treatment of animals on the farms they get their meat from.  It’s definitely an upscale burger joint, with things on the menu like truffle fries and fried oysters, but it totally rocks.  For our appetizer, we felt that we couldn’t pass up on the fried pickle chips.  We were right.  they came to the table a perfect golden brown from a very light batter and quick fry.  Served with a buttermilk ranch dip, they were to die for.  The pickle itself, I think was made in house, since it was still so firm and you could really taste the cucumber flavor that wasn’t overpowered by vinegar and spices.

fried pickles

For my burger, I chose their Ramsay Pimento Cheese Burger, which has house made pimento cheese (which in it’s basic form is cheddar, mayo, and pimento peppers all mixed together) pickles, red onion, and bibb lettuce.  First, let’s talk about the beef.  Juicy, tender, and seasoned perfectly with just a bit of salt before it was grilled.  You really tasted the beef and nothing overwhelmed it too much.  The bun was a very soft yeast roll that held up nicely to the lettuce and cheese.  One bite through all the components and they had me.  I’d live at this place if we were closer.  Now, what is a burger without fries?  For me, I HAD to get the truffle fries, which are their regular hand cut fries, but with truffle oil drizzled over them after cooking.  The potato gods were smiling down on Burger Up when they pulled this one off.  The earthy truffle and the hot soft potato were like nectar of the gods.  The course sea salt that they have dusted all over them didn’t hurt either and I could literally not stop eating them, even after I was full.  The condiments are also all house made with a honey mustard aioli and a spicy tomato ketchup.  The mustard was light and mildly tangy, a good compliment to the fries, but the ketchup rocked.  You tasted nothing but fresh tomato, and as Jay said it almost was like a fresh sauce.  They don’t share their recipe of course, but I tasted a bit of sugar, worcestershire sauce and some hot pepper along with those pureed tomatoes.  Great for dipping. If you have a chance to stop at this place I highly recommend it, and take the time to read the back of their menu, it’s inspiring and it makes you want to jump on the sustainable food band wagon for sure.

burger

As we paid the bill and got ready to leave, we decided that we just had to stop next door to Burger Up at a local popsicle joint that we had seen on Food Network and also read about.  It’s called Las Paletas and they have some kick ass popsicles.  Never thought I would get so excited about a popsicle, but they were awesome.  I went with their creamy variety, and decided on a mexican caramel bar.  It was made with goats milk and was super creamy and sweet.  I think people who take something so freaking simple like popsicles and make them so wonderful are real geniuses.  Simplicity wins every day.

Jay and I headed home and at our popsicles on the road.  We were pretty exhausted and decided to just hang in the hotel room that night and get a movie.  We did head down to the hotel bar and grabbed a little something to eat and chatted a bit.  We went to bed eventually and couldn’t wait to see what new things we would do tomorrow!  More to come…

 

http://www.thepancakepantry.com/

http://www.burger-up.com/

http://www.yelp.com/biz/las-paletas-gourmet-popsicles-nashville

http://www.bellemeadeplantation.com/

http://ellen.warnerbros.com/

So The Journey Begins…

This past Saturday, I joined the ranks of married women around the world!  Everything was just perfect for our day, from the weather, to the dresses, to the food.   Jay and I are so lucky to have had all our family and friends there to celebrate with us and could not stop smiling.  The ceremony could not have been more beautiful thanks to our pastors and friends Donna and Meghan, and the reception was a blast with great dancing, compliments of some choice friends, and my drunk (soon to be) brother in law who told us all how much he loved us about a million times (we love him too!).   The feeling of joy that was pouring out of all of those who came embraced me the whole day and I’m so happy to be starting this next chapter of my life with my partner and my friend along with AC and our families.

beignet

SOOOO…onto the good stuff…we are on our HONEYMOON!!!!  Now, we are not doing the typical beach-side, umbrella drink trip.  Aside from the fact that nobody needs to see me in a bathing suit for 2 weeks straight, including my husband, we really wanted a trip that we could plan around the things we love most.  Food and music.  We decided that since neither of us have never been to any of the southern states here in the US (I know, it’s a tragedy), and since we both have a deep seated love of all things fried, we figured why not head south and eat our way through a good portion of the region!  Our trip begins in Nashville, TN…aka Music City!  From there we will make our way over to Savannah GA one of the most beautiful places in the country (and the birthplace of Paula Deen), and end our trip in the great city of New Orleans for some beignets and jazz.

Today was our first day in Nashville.  We landed, collected our bags, and went on over to the car rental counter to pick up our chariot for the next 2 weeks.  We got a great car, a Chrysler 200 in gunmetal gray.  It’s super roomy and rides real smooth.  Jay was so pumped about our score that he didn’t let me drive it all day.  He is also, as we speak, sitting on the couch in our room next to me creating his own 2011 Chrysler 200 that he is planning on buying, in some other life where we are buying a new car.  We got to our hotel within about 15  minutes of leaving the airport and were happily surprised to check into a very large room with a king size bed, sitting area, desk, and mini kitchenette.  It is the perfect way to start our trip.  We showered the travel grime off of ourselves and decided to head out to our first food destination!

I wanted to start with something really indicative of the south, so we plugged the address for Swett’s Soul Food into the GPS, and away we went.  It took us about 20 minutes to get there from the hotel.  It was in a very residential neighborhood to say the least.  There was not a tourist to be seen from what I could tell, and I was thrilled.  The restaurant is very unassuming with no sign on the door, just one in the parking lot with big red letters.

Swetts

Swett’s is the oldest minority owned restaurant in Nashville and has been in business since 1954.  They serve their southern soul food true cafeteria style with white trays and silverware in bins.  I chose beef tips, collard greens, loaded baked potato casserole, sweet cornbread and my first experience with real southern sweet tea.  The angels were singing, the stars were aligned, the gods were smiling…it was freaking awesome.  The beef tips had been stewed in this really rich brown sauce that was salty and satisfying, the meat so tender that I didn’t even reach for my knife.  The sides were just as amazing.  The greens were so tender and slightly bitter like they should be, I even added some of the home made hot pepper vinegar that was on every table.  WOW did that have a kick, but it really brought out that unique flavor of the greens.  Now, who can argue with a side called loaded baked potato casserole?  It was everything I had hoped for, a mix of mashed potato and chunks of potato all baked together with sour cream, cheese, big pieces of bacon and chives (I think).  It was all topped of with a healthy dose of cheddar.  I will be trying to remake this at home, trust me.  The cornbread was the only thing on the whole plate that I thought was kind of uneventful.  It wasn’t bad, but wasn’t great either.  It was a crumbly cornbread and a little dry for me, but dipped in that savory beef gravy, I could have been eating cardboard for all it mattered…that gravy makes anything better.  The sweet tea was the perfect compliment to it all, it cuts through the saltiness with a syrupy sweet taste that helps to balance out some of the richness.  It’s almost honey like, and I was pleasantly surprised to find it was also not what I was expecting, having pictured some kind of snapple like item.  It was real tea brewed tea, just very sweet.  Jay and I both left extremely happy and extremely full, him having had fried chicken, cream corn, macaroni and cheese and cornbread.  I would have tried more of his stuff but I was about ready to burst.

Swetts food

After we finished our meal, we stopped at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel and Convention Center at the recommendation of our friend Bob.  It is a huge, HUGE hotel and convention center that has acres of these beautiful botanical gardens all under an overwhelming atrium.  There are also stores to peruse and cafe’s and bars to relax in.  We walked around and enjoyed the beautiful scenery, took some pictures, and watched as some guys worked at least 9 stories up in the rafters setting up Christmas lights.  I dubbed them insane, Jay thought it was cool.  Typical.

When we had walked off enough of the lard we had ingested at Swett’s, we decided to stop for something sweet.  Next to the Botanical Gardens, there was a small bakery cafe with a gelato case in front that caught our eye.  After some discussion, we got a turtle brownie and a piece of cheesecake to take home, and we also ordered 2 scoops of the gelato that we were going to eat right away,  in these cute little yellow cups.

So, you have to understand that I have been on a gelato mission for years.  Ever since my cousin and I went to Italy and had gelato everyday, sometimes several times a day, I have tried to find someplace here that even remotely resembles the creamy goodness that we had there.  Imagine my surprise when I found the closest thing to Italy in a hotel in Nashville!  It was so smooth, nothing like our typical ice cream and more like frozen custard, and also has a really concentrated intense flavor.  It doesn’t “kind of” taste like the flavors it advertises,  it REALLY tastes like them.  My absolute favorite combination is chocolate and hazelnut, they use a lot of hazelnut in Italy.  I got the same combo tonight.  It was so so so good.  I even sent a note to my cousin telling her of the triumph of the gelato in Nashville!  Who would have thought…

gelato

Deciding we had executed a good first day, and also deciding that we were both exhausted from waking up at 4:30 AM and flying all morning, we went back to our room.  Before going upstairs, we stopped at the cafe in the hotel to get something hot to drink to go with our treats we had for later.  This easily was the best decision we made all day.  At the front desk was a truly delightful young woman who gave us all kinds of local suggestions for restaurants and places to see, she seemed to have the passion for food that we do as well…it was fate!  We chatted with her for a while as she wrote down a ton of places on paper for us to go see that she promised we would love.  There was also another couple relaxing in the lobby who joined in for a while as well telling us some not to miss sights in our next stop, Savannah and taking great joy in congratulating us on our recent marriage.    We went upstairs to our room feeling so excited to go on our next adventure tomorrow and hit up some local joints that were promised to be better than any place in a tour book.  Hooray!  Can’t wait for more…

P.S.  The people in the south really are as nice as everyone says.  We got a complimentary snack basket from the girls at the front desk when we checked in, and our foodie friend at the desk tonight, I’m convinced might be my savory soulmate.  Everyone greets you in passing and looks you in the eye and smiles.  Such a nice change from New England…

 

Swett’s Soul Food

2725 Clifton Ave

Nashville, TN

 

Hyatt Place Opryland

220 Rudy’s Circle

Nashville, TN

 

Gaylord Opryland Resort

2800 Opryland Drive

Nashville, TN