Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

September 15, 2016

Riverside Grill Shack



It has been quite a while since my last blog post.  I have been quite busy doing other things than food blogging, and I have been doing work to be ok with the passing of my mother.  It has been a process, and I am back to blogging about the food I love.  I will start off with the Riverside Grill Shack.

the sign on the shack

The Riverside Grill Shack is a little bit off the beaten path, is not in the trendy East Nashville areas, and is a little shack.  There are many benefits for Riverside Grill Shack to be out of the trendy area, and some are: low traffic, a BIG gravel parking lot, free parking, and fairly easy to find because the shack is off on its own and you can't miss it!  Yes, you read that correctly, low traffic, Free Parking, and PLENTY OF PARKING!  Can't get that around those trendy areas.

burger and fries
My friends and I have been planning this outing to Riverside Grill Shack for months.  Finally, our schedules allowed us to go get dinner at Riverside Grill Shack.  We got burgers, a wedge salad, hot wings, Cajun dry rub wings, and uber tuber hand cut fries.  

1st, the beef is local and grass fed beef, and there is a delicious meaty flavor you can't get from grain fed beef.    The bun is toasted, and the perfect size for the hand pressed patty.  The burger is packed with toppings on the side, so the bun does not get soggy.  This is the perfect burger to eat right away, or take-away and enjoy at home or at another location.  This is by far the best hamburger I have had all year.  I have to say 2nd, the fries are freshly cut potatoes and then deep fried, and very lightly sprinkled with salt.  These are the best fresh cut fries I have had all year.  There are almost as good as the twice fried Belgian fries we used to get when Claire owned that dairy dip shop on the west side of town.  The wings and wedge salad are just as solid as the burger and fries. 

As I end this post, you East Nashville friends know who you are, I did blog about Riverside Grill Shack.  I know you wanted me to keep this burger joint a secret because you want it all to yourself, especially on weekends when this place can get really crowded.  I have to say, you are right, and Riverside Grill Shack is too good to keep it a secret.

February 28, 2016

My Mother

My mother passed away two weeks ago on the 8 day of the Lunar New Year.  She went on her own terms.  She had a life that I do not envy, but she came from hearty stock, and she worked through the hardships in her own way, and she survived.   

She overcame a great deal, the Japanese occupation of China, WWII in China, the internal civil wars in China, drug wars in China, all the atrocities that come with occupation and war, and her ultimate escape to the USA in hopes to have a safer life and better life for her children.  Thank you mom (and dad) for your long journey over seas and land, which gave me and my sisters a better life, a life of autonomy, a life of free will, and the right to pursue happiness.  Thank you mom.



 My mom worked hard all her life to provide for me and my sisters.  It was my hope that during her retirement, she would have a good and full life that she deserved.  It was a slow start into her retirement because all she knew was hard work, she didn't know leisure or doing fun things for herself.  What she did know was that she had to learn how to make retirement successful.  There are four basic pillars of a good healthy life: nutrition, exercise, mental stimulation, and community.   My mom always tried to eat healthy with mostly a plant based diet with some seafood as her favorite protein, and Chinese snacks (preserved plums and candied ginger) to sweeten the deal.   She walked a lot.  In Boston, it is easy to walk because there is great public transportation, and daily conveniences (grocery, drug store, etc) are all within walking distance of more residences.  She was an avid reader, crossword puzzle fiend, and Scrabble player.  Her mind was as sharp as a tack through the day of her passing.  She also made a ton of friends at the Brookline Senior Center, which seems more like a university student union for retired folks.  The friends my mom made, the activities she did and the trips she took with the Brookline Senior Center makes me want to move back to Brookline when I retire because it is all so fun!

It is my wish that if anyone would like to honor my mom, please consider contributing to the Brookline Senior Center (a 501 (c) 3 non-profit) by going to http://www.brooklineseniorcenter.org/ and clicking on the "How to Help" tab.
 

At the Brookline Senior Center, there are dozens and dozens of activities daily like yoga, painting, seminars of all kinds, book club, computer class, movies, and flower arranging to name a few.  My mom, every Thursday morning would go do flower arranging.  She loved this!  Her and her three besties would get the leftover flowers from Trader Joes, and make flower arrangements to place around the Senior Center, and take arrangements to other seniors who may be under the weather and could not get out on that day.


A couple days per week, she would meet her friends at the Senior Center and then go out to lunch.  She loved to dine out (as well as I do)!  She loved trying new places, and eating new foods.   She often went to Asian restaurants within a couple miles of the senior center with her besties.  One place she went with her besties on a regular basis was Jo Jo Taipei up near Boston University.   She really liked the mapo tofu dish, a spicy silken tofu that goes well over rice. 


 When my sister or I would get up to Boston, we would also go and dine at some of the best that Boston has to offer.  We would spend time in Chinatown at the newest and best Chinese restaurants, or go to the best lobster (lobstah as a Bostonian would say it), or go to the best deli.  One deli my mom really liked, as well as Anthony Bourdain liked, is Michael's Deli.  It is the best corned beef you will ever have in Boston.  The sandwiches are huge, so have half now and half later.  The dill pickles are made the traditional way through salt brine fermentation to give a healthy dose of probiotics with lunch.  This is what I did last on my last day in Boston, I went and had lunch at Michael's and ate 1/2 my sandwich.  Because my flight was in the evening, I had my second 1/2 as my dinner on the plane.  Yeah, made some folks jealous as they stared at their 0.5 oz bag of honey peanuts which taste a little chemically.  


One little place me and my mom went to, and always kept a secret from everyone, including other friends and family, was the Daily Catch.  The gig is, I did blog about this place once a couple years ago, breaking the code of silence of all my friends in Boston.  It is very hard to get into this place.  It opens at 4 pm, there are no reservations, and there are 6 tables of 2-tops and 4-tops.  If you get there, the line is outside.  You wait outside.  There is no where to wait inside.  Rain, sleet or snow, you are waiting outside.  It is equal opportunity for people to wait outside, including kids, adults, and retired folks.  Every time I was in Boston, my mom and I had a secret 4 pm dinner date on one evening of each visit, and WE TOLD NO ONE.  Last year, some extended family asked if we could get together one night for dinner.  It was hilarious, my mom and I looked at each other, and said I was busy with friends and couldn't make it.  It was really because of our secret 4 pm dinner at the Daily Catch.  It was our secret, as to not have competition for one of the 6 tables.  We would get there at  4 pm as they opened, to stake our claim to one of the 2-top tables.  She really liked the clams they made fresh to order.  She also liked the flavor of the squid ink pasta because it reminded her of a Chinese shrimp paste which is full of umami. 


For me, I just can't make a trip to New England without getting a steamed lobster.  Every visit, my mom and I would go and get me a lobster.  Before my mom downsized to her 1 bedroom condo, and she still had the house with a big-@ss kitchen, she would go to the docks and find the best deal on buying lobster direct from the lobstermen.  It was cheaper to get "chicken" lobster, the lobster with 1 claw, and she would boil up 2 lobsters at a time for me.  She would make a Chinese style vinegar dipping sauce for me. It was so dang good!  The last few years, we went out for lobster at Legal Seafood.  Regardless of its status as a chain restaurant, the Boston version of Legal Seafood is still true to making a great steamed lobster. 


I saved the best for last, Bernard's Restaurant in Chestnut Hill.  For decades, we had at least one meal at Bernard's Restaurant in Chestnut Hill for every visit I made.  Bernard's is a Chinese Restaurant that is appealing to a wide range of folks, from the newbies who want more traditional Americanized-Chinese food (ex General Tsao Chicken) to a more traditional Chinese-Chinese food like tripe in fermented black beans.  I think my mom liked this place because it is so easy to get to from I-95, Rt 128, Rt 9, Boylston St, and the T (Chestnut Hill T stop Green Line D).  There is plenty of free parking.  I think she also liked this place because it does have real Chinese food (there are plenty of items that are true to a Chinese Cantonese tradition), and Bernard's has a really great Chinese style ginger-scallion lobster.  When I head to Boston next time, I am going to Bernard's for the ginger-scallion lobster, as I think about it time and again.   I like Bernard's too, because of the food, and it is also near the Shake Shack for a delicious concrete (frozen custard with mix-ins).   It is also near the Container Store, which I could wander around for hours and hours looking at ways to organize my stuff.   

Talking to my mom's friends this past week, and thinking about my mom while writing this blog post, I realized how much we shared in our love of good food, and dining out with friends.  Talking to mom's friends, they all mentioned their time with her and finding new or delicious restaurants to try.  Thinking about my mom, I realized we are very similar in this way.  Neither of us are flashy or extravagant, neither of us are clothes or shoe horses, rather most of our disposable income goes to food, good food, from a humble bagel to a magnificent lobster dinner.  To my friends here who have asked what you can do to support me during my time of mourning: break bread and dine with me and share with me delicious stories of good food and friendship. 

February 14, 2016

Happy Chinese New Year of the Red Monkey

Happy Chinese New Year of the Red Monkey!  May you have health, wealth and wisdom all year long!  For the majority of the world, Chinese New Year is like New Year's Day, Rosh Hashanah, Eid, and Christmas combined.  It is a time of family, care, giving, and joy.  It is a time of rebirth and a time to plant.  It is time to thank those who came before us, who paved the path of a better life for us.  It is a time to give sweets to children.  It is a time respect our elders. 

Main Chinese New Year celebrations start on the new moon, February 8, and runs for two weeks to the full moon and Festival of Lights on February 22.  Feel free to send me any New Year's wishes, as I am still celebrating!

Here in Nashville, there isn't too much going on to celebrate this world-wide holiday, but I managed to find small but sweet celebrations.  The Chinese Arts Alliance of Nashville (CAAN) was founded by Jen-Jen Lin, a woman who wanted to bring Chinese art and culture to Nashville.  I got to celebrate the New Year with a traditional Dragon Dance, Lion Dance and various Chinese arts demonstrations.  CAAN also sponsors a 10 course Chinese New Year meal every year at a local Chinese Restaurant.  This year was at Lucky Bamboo, and the special menu included harmony mixed salad, duck bao, and lucky whole fish.

I also celebrated New Year's Eve weekend with the Chinese Culture and Language group, which is a group of people who enjoy speaking Mandarin and talking about China and Chinese Culture.  We went to Lucky Bamboo restaurant for a multi-course chef's choice dinner.  We had 2 tables of 10, and each person pays a fixed price (tax, tea and tip included), and Jack, the owner provided a lovely 10 course meal for us.  The meal included Hong Kong style roasted duck, crispy shrimp, and "bird's nest" delight.  The bird's nest delight is a crispy basket (in the shape of a bird's nest) made of taro strips (a root veggie with a more earthy flavor and sturdier texture than red potatoes), filled with a light seafood and fresh vegetable mixture.  Bird's nest delight is one of my favorite dishes of this New Year season.

I also celebrated Chinese New Year with close and new friends at Asian Corner Bistro.  My friends and I enjoyed many dishes here too, including handmade dumplings, spicy squid, special spicy pork belly with ginger and garlic, gai lan with oyster sauce, crispy green beans, spicy eggplant, cumin lamb, and crab corn soup.  We chatted and talked about our Chinese New Year traditions.  My favorite tradition is to do spring cleaning for the week prior to Chinese New Year day.  Then on Chinese New Year Day, and for two weeks, there is no house cleaning.  It is about spending time with family and loved ones, eating and celebrating, not cleaning and frittering away the time.  Yes, that is right folks, I am not cleaning the house for 2 weeks :)  Cleaning will resume next week.

One other great thing about Chinese Lunar New Year, is that it is a good time to re-evaluate those Solar New Year, January 1, resolutions.  Did they fall off the wagon?  Chinese New Year is a perfect time to either say good-bye to resolutions which do not serve you well, or maybe pick up those resolutions that might have gotten lost over the past 6 weeks or so.

No mater how use celebrate Chinese New Year, may your Lunar New Year be filled with happiness, health and prosperity! 

Please enjoy some of my photos from Chinese New Year 2016 Year of the Red Monkey!







November 29, 2015

KC Q



 Q39 is the best barbeque in the whole Kansas City area.  Before eating at Q39, I went to the the Yelp #1 KC BBQ place, and I originally thought that the Yelp ranked place was some of the best BBQ I have ever had, until I Q39. I had the pleasure of hanging out with a decades long grand champion barbeque judge over the summer.  He said that the #1 Yelp BBQ place is good, it is good for tourists, and they serve a lot of BBQ.  But, if I really want to try the best barbeque KC has to offer, I needed to go to Q39.  Yes, he is right.  Q39 is so dang good.
 
brisket and ribs
 
 Q39 is in a strip mall in midtown KC, MO.  The interior of this place has a nod to a rustic country style dining room, but the tables, chairs, bar and design is sophisticated, and inviting at the same time.  All of the dishes appear to be custom pottery made for this restaurant.  Q39 also has a full bar including soft drinks, craft soft drinks, cocktails, beer and craft beers.  

ribs and sausage

 The owner of Q39 has been leading a barbeque team for over a dozen years, and he has been multiple Barbeque Grand Champion over the years, as well as Brisket, Chicken and Ribs Grand Champion as well.  This is one place which knows how to Q.  Not only does the owner know barbeque, he knows how to conventionally cook as well, having graduated from CIA, and worked in the restaurant field for years.

onion straws

 Over the course of a few months, and multiple visits, we tried the ribs, chicken, brisket, sausage and pork belly barbeque.  The pork belly was one of my favorite dishes.  It is low and slow  barbeque smoked pork belly, then it is finished on the grill to get the outside a little crunchy.  The pork belly is served with stewed white beans and onion straws.

The ribs were so tender, had a nice smoky essence, and a perfect stick to the bone.  I was told that the perfect competition rib always the judge to bite into the rib with a semi-circle teeth marks, the meat sticks to the bone just enough to allow teeth to go through the meat, and the meat does not pull or shard.  The subsequent bites can remove the meat from the bone with a little tug, such that the meat isn't adhered to the bone, but it is not completely falling off the bone either.  It is a perfect tackiness to the bone that could be the difference of a grand champion or not.  These ribs were as close as I will ever come to the perfect rib.  These ribs were cooked slow and low, that the moisture in the ribs did not boil off (if heat it too high), the meat was tender enough that I could bite through the meat and leave a semi-circle teeth mark, the meat was just sticky to the bone without being adhered, and it was a perfect slight pull to remove the meat from the bone.  

pork belly

 One meat of note is the sausage.  Q39 house makes the sausage with their own secret spice mix.  What makes or breaks barbeque sausage is the sausage itself.  You can have the best wood, the best temperature, the best equipment, but if you start off with a bad sausage, the dish is going to be bad.  I love the house made sausage at Q39.  It isn't overly salty or spiced, and has a nice texture.   Because the sausage is so outstanding, it is likely that they could cook the sausage in a pot of boiling water or microwave, and the sausage will still taste terrific.

The chicken and brisket were also cooked perfectly.  The chicken skin is bite-able without pulling the whole skin off (as it happens sometimes).  The chicken is also still moist and juicy too.  That means the chicken is also cooked low and slow, as to not boil off the moisture in the meat.  Brisket can be tricky to cook, but Q39 does that well too.  The brisket is served trimmed (most of the fat is cut off), there is some resiliency to the sliced brisket because it was cooked low and slow, and the meat is tender.  The brisket was cooked at the right temperature to keep it moist and tender.

The best part of the barbeque here is that there is a nice wood smoked aroma and flavor to all the meats, but it is not completely over powering.  It is the level of smoke that makes you want to come back for more.

mac and cheese
The last things I want to blog about this place are the sides and apps.  All of the apps and sides are house made, with excellent execution.  Some BBQ joints fall short on the sides because they are so focused on BBQ and not really thinking much about side.  Q39 really thinks well about the sides and apps.  The house made mac and cheese is so luscious, with perfect texture and nice cheesy flavor.  I am not sure how they do it.  It is likely that the macaroni is cooked, and right before serving, it is tossed with cheese sauce and baked in the oven to make it bubbly and creamy.  We loved the onion straws too.  I recommend the onion straws for a table of 4 or more.  We could not finish that app because the portion was so big.  One of the options for a side are fresh seasonal veggies.  I did opt for the fresh veggies during all visits.  The fresh veggies is not a typical picnic or BBQ side, but it fits well with what Q39 seems to be trying to get at.

Q39 does well with traditional smoked barbeque, and is the best Q in all of Kanasas City, IMHO.  I also like that Q39 sides and apps are perfect to accompany barbeque.  Q39 is so popular, and there is a buzz throughout the region, that I recommend a reservation if you want to go eat at Q39.  All I know for now is that when I am next in KC, I know where I am going for lunch and dinner, and that will be Q39.

October 20, 2015

Wine Down Main Street

Come join the 15th Annual Wine Down Main Street in Franklin TN on November 7th, 7:00 - 10:00 pm!  There will be 40 shops opening their doors to you, and hosting over 170 wines, and tasting plates from some of the best local restaurants the the Franklin/Nashville area.  Many of my favorite restaurants, such as Saffire, Rodizio Grill, Chauhan Ale and Masala House, City Winery, Amerigo and more! will be providing delicious bites for you to try.

Chauhan spicy lamb chili with cucumber sauce and papadi chips


VIP and Premium VIP tickets include an exclusive experience at The Red House, complete with special food tastings and a full bar. Premium VIP will also include a gift bag and “FastPass” credential that allows guests to bypass the line at select wine tasting stations.  All proceeds from ticket sales will benefit the Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle TN.

I got to speak with some staff and the President of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Middle TN, and hear what this organization means to them.   The answers ranged from fun to saving lives.  Dan Jernigan, President and CEO said his Boys and Girls Club in his home town saved his life.  When he was growing up as a little towheading and bright eyed boy in the Midwest, he did not know his father (until later in life), ran with a rough crowd, and most of those rough crowd kids did not finish junior or senior high school.  He started doing some bad stuff as teenager, and much of that bad stuff is not what you want your son or daughter to be doing.  Then, he joined his local Boys and Girls Club.  He loved his time after school at the club, he met new friends, got hangout with some of his already-friends, got to play with his friends, learned new things, and focus on his future.  The director at his club, helped Dan focus on going to college, have acedemic success and do the right thing as citizen of his community.  His said all his old friends and neighbors who did not join the Boys and Girls Club did not go to college, and some got arrestedHappily for Dan, he did go to college, and then worked his way up to President and CEO of this organization, with a focus of giving back to the kids of our communities, and help more kids have fun after school, learn new things and focus on their future of success.  Dan attributes his life success to his Boys and Girls Club.  

You can make a difference in kids lives simply by participating in Wine Down Main Street!  Yes, it is that easy, buy a ticket and attend the Premier Williamson County wine and food tasting event in Downtown Franklin. Wine Down Main Street has raised $1.5 Million since the event has begun.  Every sip and taste you take will help kids like Dan become successful and contributing members of our communities.  To learn more about The Boys and Girls Club of Middle TN, Click Here.

October 4, 2015

My Breakfast


I like breakfast, from an easy cup of Joe with a side of banana, to a nice brunch with bacon, eggs, toast, fresh churned butter, fruit, coffee etc.  I love a simple fruit and coffee or a nice hot breakfast.  I love a good bowl of oatmeal or grits.  I am not one for cold cereal.  I never loved cold cereal for breakfast.  I don't like soggy cereal in milk.  I don't like super sweet things, which some of the popular cereals are corn syrup and sugar as the 1st or 2nd ingredient.  I also like a hot lunch.  I love dinner leftovers for lunch.  I was never one for sandwiches, and I especially dislike peanut butter and jelly on white bread.  I don't like conventional jelly (think $muckers) because it is pure corn syrup/sugar and I hate that feeling of eat too much sugar.  It makes my teeth feel like they are rotting, and it makes the sugary acidic coating in my mouth and throat.

Because I am not one for conventional breakfast or lunch (cold cererals and plain sandwiches), I have to work a little harder to to get breakfast and lunch on the table.  Today, I made homemade ramen for breakfast.  It is lamb broth, fresh noodles, Chinese broccoli, and medium hard boiled duck egg.  It is a luscious hot meal on a cold, rainy, gray day here in Nashville.  My soup was so darn good because I started out with really good base ingredients.

To start I made the lamb stock.  The original lamb bones came from the Williamson County 4H sheep club which shows at the Williamson County Fair.  The lamb bones were roasted in the City House wood burning oven.  Roasting bones (fish, meat, or shrimp shells) provides a deeper richer flavor for broth or stock.  I took the roasted bones and put it in a large crockpot with carrots, onions and garlic (from the Barefoot Farmer biodynamic farm), one cayenne from my organic garden (original seed from Tana at Eatons Creek Organic), and some salt.  I got my duck eggs from Bells Bend Farms.  I went to InterAsian Market and got some Chinese coriander (ngo gai, sawtooth coriander, Thai coriander, long leaf coriander), and put 6 leaves in to pot  The Chinese coriander gives a high end bright note (almost citrusy) and and East Asian green aroma and flavor you want in an East Asian stock.  I did not put celery or a bay leaf in the broth because I really don't like what bay leaves offer, and celery does not give a flavor I want for a ramen stock.  I let that go overnight.

The noodles I got from InterAsian Market.  The noodles are fresh mein noodles located in the refrigerated case in the back left corner of the market.  The case is the right most case of the cold refrigerated area.  Each pack is enough for 4 servings.  These noodles are nothing like the convenient fast food ramen (although I like the $0.25 style noodles as well).  These fresh noodles only need 30 seconds in boiling water to cook, so it is faster and more convenient that those brightly colored dry ramen packs (3 minutes).  There is an ramen, and that is udon.   King Market makes  fresh udon noodles and are on sale near the cash register.  Fresh made noodles are so much tastier than processed and dried noodles.

The veggies I used for my stock are from my CSA Barefoot Farmer.  The onions and garlic taste so good and they are really potent in aroma and flavor.  The benefits of using biodynamic garlic is that there are no chemicals used on the produce.  Conventional garlic is sprayed with chemicals to arrest the development of a sprout.  Chinese garlic, where most conventional garlic comes from, uses bleach on the garlic to keep the garlic white, and sprays unknown chemicals on the garlic to keep it from sprouting.  With all the press about Chinese bait and switch (selling rat and decade old meat as good beef and pork, fake eggs, fake rice, using leaded gasoline to dry tea, avian flu etc), I am not interested in buying food with origin China.


The duck eggs are new to Bells Bend Farms.  Livestock is a new addition as of the last year.  Bells Bend Farms is a biodynamic farm as well, and they raise livestock humanely.

The above paragraphs are my thoughts about base ingredients.  My ramen soup recipe is really simple, but to get to the point of making the soup is an arduous path.  There are many people, and growing seasons that had to happen to make the soup.  After getting all the ingredients together, I would say my soup cost me way more than $0.25.  In an NPR radio piece about making chicken soup from SCRATCH, it will take about $15,000 because the chicken coop and chickens need to be raised, a well for water needs to be dug, wheat for noodles and veggies need to grown, salt needs to be harvested, fallen trees for fire needs to be gathered, etc.  I am not going that far to make noodle soup, but I do like knowing where my base ingredients come and have the ingredients be fresh.

Here is my recipe.  It is deceptively easy because to get to this point of assembling the soup, there are many steps to take to make the soup.
1.  Medium boil a duck egg (7 mins-ish)
2.  In a pot, put a generous cup of stock, and small diced gai lan Chinese broccoli and simmer
3.  In a 2nd pot, dip fresh noodles in boiling water for 30 seconds (or until desired toothy-ness)
4.  In a big bowl, place drained noodles at the bottom
5.  Pour stock and broccoli over the noodles
6.  Peel and cut open the duck egg and place on top of the soup
7.  Enjoy

June 28, 2015

1st Try at Cornbread


This is my 1st attempt at cornbread.  I really like it.  I made it on my own terms.  I used more egg than the suggested number because I really like moist cornbread.  I also only used ingredients I had on hand because I did not want to have to go to the grocery store.  I made the cornbread from corn that is biodynamic from the Barefoot Farmer farm, and it was hand ground just last week.  The eggs I used are from a small farm in Hohenwald, TN which employs organic and free range practices.  The fat I used is bacon fat I have kept to make corny foods like fried corn, popcorn and cornbread.  I have not churned my own butter lately, so I do not have butter milk on hand, so I used what I had on hand which was soy milk and yogurt.

In general, I don't eat a lot of cornbread because I find most recipes are dry and crumbly.  Trying to put butter on crumble is a futile effort which I really dislike.  I like moist cornbread which I can pick up with my fingers and not have it crumble to the floor.  I like moist cornbread because it does not "need" more butter to moisten it up, but of course one can add more butter because it tastes good.

Here is the basic corn bread recipe I used as inspiration:

Preheat oven to 400F

Wet ingredients:
3 eggs
2 cup butter milk
2 teaspoons baking power
1 teaspoon salt

Dry ingredients:
2 cups corn meal

Fat ingredient:
1/2 cup butter

Method:
1. In a bowl, combine wet ingredients well and set aside
2. In a cast iron pan, melt fat ingredients over medium heat
3. Add dry ingredient to the cast iron pan, stir for 2-3 minutes over medium heat
the corn meal will look like golden sand
4. Remove cast iron pan from the heat, stir in wet ingredients, combine well
5. Put cast iron pan in 400F oven for 25 minutes

Variations:
1.  I really like moist cornbread, so I used 4 eggs instead of 3.
2.  I did not butter milk, so I used 1 cup soy milk and 1 cup yogurt.  This liquid can be butter milk, all yogurt, cream, whole milk, almond milk, coconut milk, soy milk, etc.  I only had soy milk and yogurt in the house, and I like the very slight tartness the yogurt brings to the overall flavor.  I can't tell that there is yogurt in the cornbread, rather the sourness from the yogurt is perceived by the sour receptors of the tongue, which activates more portions of the tongue to really get the full flavor of the corn bread.
3.  I added spices including garlic, cayenne and ground black pepper.  In the wet ingredients, I can see where one might want to add cheese, jalapenos, herbs, or other flavors one might want in corn bread.
4.  For my fat ingredients, I used 1/4 cup of butter and 1/4 cup of bacon fat I have saved from recent bacon I cooked up.  I just have not had time to make butter of late, so I don't have much butter in the house, so I had to bolster the little butter I had with the bacon fat.  Other fats can be used, and in greater quantity if you want more moisture.  I think that the fat used must be able to stand up to 400F, so peanut oil may be used.  Butter and bacon (pork ) fat seems to be the best way to make this corn bread.
5.  For a sweet cornbread, honey, sorghum, maple, or sugar can be added.  I am also thinking that this can be made into a sweet pastry cake if enough sweetness is added, and 4 eggs are used.
6.  This can be a gluten-free and dairy free cornbread cake if non-dairy liquid like coconut milk is used, and a non-dairy fat is used like peanut oil or pork fat.

I am so glad to make this cornbread.  It opens up a whole new world for me and corny goodness!

June 14, 2015

1 of the Top

For me, there are those dishes in my life that I keep thinking about, and have made it to the top 10 in my life.  One top 10 dish I had about 40 years ago.  The dish was an artichoke with a lemon vinaigrette that was placed in the center of the artichoke.  The restaurant, with a name which escapes me right now,  was somewhere on Wilshire Blvd between Brentwood, CA and Beverly Hills, CA.  The restaurant was a little lunch place where ladies-who-lunch, and where moms had "mom dates with kids".  My family re-created this dish a number of times over the years.  I have re-created this dish, not as often as I like, but I still think about this dish, and when artichoke season is up and running, I will make it for myself this year.   There was another dish, in Lesmont, France, that I still think about too.  The dish was a simple fresh salad with smoked chicken gizzards and a warm herb dressing, probably made from the fat the gizzards were cooked in.  The gizzards had a duel texture of a little crispy on the outside, and tender on the inside.  I have tried recreate this dish, but I ruin the gizzards, or the gizzards are just like chewing on erasers. 


 There is a recent dish that made my Top 10, and it is deceptively simple.  I am sure when I try to re-create it at home, it is not going to be as good.  The dish sounds incredibly simple.  The dish is grilled asparagus on top of  chevre, and topped with with sliced radish, mint, and bread crumbs.   This dish has the perfect texture combination of smooth from the chevre, toothy from the asparagus and the crunch from the radish and bread crumbs.  The dish has the perfect flavor of creamy from the chevre, acid brightness from lemon, pungent bite from the radish, and the salty/peppery-ness from the salt, pepper and good olive oil.   The version of this dish I tasted was so good, that I literally licked the plate.  This dish tasted good because the base ingredients were really good.  I am guessing the chevre was from one of the local goat cheese farms near Nashville, the asparagus and radishes were form a local farm, and the bread crumbs are made by Tandy Wilson, and his bread crumbs are so friggin' good, and possibly the best bread crumbs you can get!  I cannot duplicate the bread crumbs.  I can guess where the radishes are from, and I can get excellent radishes from the Barefoot Farmer.  I do have some single source, organic, California grown, olive oil I can use.  I think the bread crumbs are going to be the ingredient I will have to research, to be able to get the crunchy, toasty and nuttiness that you get with a Tandy Wilson bread crumb.


A few weeks ago, Tandy Wilson, Chef and Owner of City House, and multiple year James Beard nominated Chef, invited Steven Satterfield, Chef and Co-Owner of Miller Union Atlanta, and also a James Beard nominated Chef, to cook a special multi-course dinner to celebrate Satterfield's new book Root to Leaf (2015).  This asparagus dish is on page 10 of the cook book.  This is a break through cook book for me.  I am an omnivore, and sometimes I struggle with getting enough fruits and veggies into my diet.  Root to Leaf is cook book that puts veggies and fruits as central elements to the dishes, rather than meat.  There are recipes which include meat, and there are also vegetarian, vegan dishes as well.  The recipes are organized by season, so it is easy to look to see what is fresh and good to eat now.   This is quite helpful now that the Nashville Farmer's Market is a producers only market, and is only selling what is seasonally harvested.  I am looking forward to winter when I have a house load of kale, root veggies and butternut squash as my veggie base.  I can only make so much butternut squash soup and sauteed kale.

The Root to Leaf cook book is really great for me because I have been a bit turned-off by vegetarian and vegan dishes of my past.  I came to learn about vegan and vegetarian foods in the 1990s, in Western MA where I was taught that the main-stay vegan dish was beans and rice with bee pollen sprinkle.  I did not eat a lot of meat back then because I could not afford it, and college cafeteria had the worst, bottom quality Ar@m@rk meat.  The burgers had hard chunks in them like bone chips, the "veal" pucks were more breading and soy than veal (and corporate veal is a complete no-go for ethical treatment of livestock), and the chicken patties were more deep fried breading and chicken by-products than chicken.  All the veggies on the hot-line were canned.  Canned peas, corn, carrots, and potatoes were on every menu.  The canned peas and carrots were so slimy mushy and yucky, that I cannot eat canned carrots or peas even now. That cafeteria food made me sluggish and it made me not want to eat meat.  There was an alternative to cafeteria food, and it was called "Earth Foods" at the student common.  "Earth Foods" everyday has a bean and rice dish, everything was this brownish/grey color, and everything had a texture of a think gloppy paste.  It didn't taste great, the texture was mushy terrible, but it also did not make me feel sick to my stomach like the crappy highly-processed yuck at the cafeteria. I said to myself, when I can afford better food, I was never going to eat vegan brownish/grey beans and rice pasty mush ever again.

I am looking forward to diving into Root to Leaf and start a new relationship with veggie and fruit based dishes which taste good, have a good texture and are pleasant to look at.  I need to change my mind and bring it to the present, and believe vegetarian and vegan food doesn't have to be brownish-grey mushy pasty beans and rice.  Veggie foods can be tasty, crunchy, smooth, bright, and plate licking good.

May 27, 2015

Happy Lao New Year

Lao New Year 2015

video

One thing I know for sure, I know that Lao Americans in the Nashville Area know how to ring in the new year!  Lao New Year makes it seem like Lao Americans invented the festival of great food and dance.  The traditional Lao New Year is celebrated over 3 days.  The 1st day is the last day of the year.  The 2nd day is the no-day or the day that is neither last year nor next year.  The 3rd day is the 1st day of the new year.


A quick history of Lao Americans in the Nashville area is that many Lao Americans came here as refugees right after the Vietnam War began.  Individuals and families found their way to Tennessee, and a large population of Lao settled in the southeast of Nashville.  Due to the war and other factors, many Laos came with virtually nothing but the clothes on their back.  Nashville was a good place to settle for many Laos because Nashville is a hard working and family oriented area, and Laos share those qualities as well.  At one point in time (1990s), Lao was the 3rd most spoken language in the Nashville area after English and Spanish. 


There are multiple wats, Lao Buddhist Temples in and around Nashville.  The leadership of the wats cooperate with each other and each wat picks a weekend different from each other, and those are the weekends which Lao New Year is celebrated.  I know of 3 wats in Nashville, and they spread out their celebrations with one every couple of weeks.  The biggest wat is located about 25 miles south of Nashville, and the Lao New Year celebration was the last one in the series of celebrations, and happened over the Memorial Day weekend.


This big celebration included live music, a parade, food, toys, beverages, and dancing.   Some of the food offered at this celebration included grilled squid, squab, chicken, duck, craw fish and pork belly.  There was also sticky rice, fruits, veggies, pho, and noodle dishes to be had.  There were beverages also, and the one I love so much is the fresh sugar cane juice.  The cane is put through a press designed to press cane, and the flat dry cane fiber comes out on one side, and the refreshing juice came out of the spigot on the other side.  I sipped on the juice over ice all afternoon long, and it felt refreshing, energizing, and delightful to my body to drink this juice.


For this celebration, just like many cultures new year celebration, it is meant for family and larger groups to come together, and partake in a meal together in joy and well wishing.  There are lots of tables under tents and a pergola, so guest and revelers can enjoy a celebratory meal.  I got smart this year, and I brought a big shopping bag with tupperware and plastic bags to take home leftovers for later.  I took home with me a couple pounds of Lao style BBQ pork belly, a whole Lao style duck, and a bunch of sticky rice.  These items I cannot make at home, or at least not in the expert way they are made at the New Year celebration.  Next year, I will remember to bring a large wide mouth bottle, so I can take home fresh cane juice.


Happy New Year to my dear Lao American friends!   Thank you for letting me be a part of your circles.  I am forever grateful for you kindness and letting me be a part of your lives.  Let us celebrate New Year next year!  xoxo

March 31, 2015

Iron Fork #8

proceeds benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank


This is one of the funnest food charity events in town.  Not only are there going to be a bunch of restaurants offering delicious tasting plates, there will be delicious beverages to taste as well.  Come hungry and come thirsty!  All the whilst, there will four of the top Nashville Chef's will battle it out to be the 8th Annual Iron Frok Winner.

Get your ticket, and cheer on your favorite:  Last year's champion, Hal Holden-Bache of Lockeland Table defends his title this year, Crystal De Luna-Bogan of The Grilled Cheeserie food truck, Robert Grace of Kayne Prime and Dale Levitski of Sinema.

And, if it wasn't enough for proceeds to go to 2nd Harvest Food Bank, and all the tasting plates you could want to try, and all the beverages you are going to want to taste, your ticket will give you admission to the Musician's Hall of Fame Museum!  Yes, you and all the other guests can go and view the museum all evening during the event!  It is like getting a free ticket for after hours viewing of the entire Hall of Fame!  That is a nice bonus!

It is going to be a tough race for Iron Fork Winner #8!  Get your ticket and enjoy the evening!