Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

March 27, 2007

bars and oats

The other day, I saw a co-worker eating this square thing that looked really good. It was about the size of a brownie, but had nuts, dried cranberries and oats in it. It was a home-made granola bar! I must have stared a little too much as he enjoyed eating his treat, that the very next day, he brought in 2 bars for me and the recipe. Oh those bars were so good! I hoarded them, and ate only a little bit at a time, making them last all day.

I never really liked store bought granola bars because they are too sweet, too hard (break a tooth hard), too fake and chemically, or too padded with horrible empty calories like cheap marshmellows or cheap chocolate bits. When I am in a pinch, and have to eat a manufactured granola bar, I regret it everytime. The sugar content of those things makes me sugar crash later, and it starts a blood sugar cycle for the day that I could never keep up with. The fake filler chemicals skeeves me out, and makes me wince.

I never knew I could make a granola bar that I could love! Back in college (the days of the earthy crunch hippies) the "good for you foods" were devoid of any sugar, honey and fats, and it was like eating dry cardboard, soggy cardboard or paste. Not that I ever ate paste, but some of that "health food" of that time was as close as I could imagine paste to be. That type of food is not appealing to me. I like flavorful ingredients and a nice good texture. During my college days, I just never had anything made with whole oats that tasted great, and felt great to eat it too.

I never knew that I could make a granola bar that I love! Shall I divulge the recipe? OK.
Dry stuff
4 1/2 cup oats
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
shakes spices like cinnamon, nutmeg, star anise, and clove
a little salt
a smidgen of vanilla
1/2 cup nuts
1/2 cup dried fruit of choice

wet stuff
2/3 cup honey
2/3 cup oil

dump dry stuff in bowl and stir up a little 'til combined. dump wet stuff in the bowl and combine until all the dry stuff is moistened. pre-heat oven to 350F. Take a 9x13 pan and line with non-stick Reynolds Wrap, or grease pan really really really heavily. Take mixture, and press tightly into the pan. Bake for 25 - 30 min until golden. In the 30 min wait, go to your computer and read my blog. Take out, and let rest for 10 min. Turn onto a cutting board. Cut into 24 squares while still warm. Any crumbs are to be eaten by the chef.

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March 24, 2007

Cowboy Chicken Dance

We went the Gerst Haus, in East Nashville (301 Woodland St) for dinner on Friday. We never go there because it is high fat foods, fried foods, canned foods, lots of people smoking, and virtually not one fresh vegetable. The food is a bit of a throwback to the 1970's. The Gerst Haus is supposed to be German food, and they do serve schnitzel, spaetzle, brats and saurkraut. There is also fried catfish, fried oysters, french fries and Italian (in an 1970's American kind of way). People from Nashville grew up with the Gerst Haus, so it seems that there is a soft spot for this place. I am not from Nashville originally, so if I had to name the one thing I liked about the Gerst Haus is the "dinner theater".
Friday night at the Gerst Haus

On Friday and Saturday nights, the Gerst Haus band plays polkas for our listening enjoyment during dinner. I am telling you, they are the kings and queen of the polka and chicken dance.

Video of Gerst Haus patrons dancing to the band's music

This vision of other Gerst Haus patrons dancing to the chicken dance was worth the cost of dinner. The Gerst Haus band made the annoucement that they were going to play the Chicken Dance, and if you wanted to dance along, get and and form a circle. I would say that nearly 1/2 of the patrons got up willingly to dance the Chicken Dance while not at a wedding. How many times do you get to see a Nashville cowboy do the chicken dance?

The Gerst Haus Band

Oyster Basket
I got the oyster basket and a side of spaetzle. Note, everything is deep fried. The oysters were surprisingly good, but I only got 5 of them for $12.99. The fries were the thick cut, probably by Sysco. The spaetzle surprisingly wasn't too rubbery, and had a nice garlicky flavor. Next time, I think I will stick with the spaetzle. The big fish bowl of dark German beer helped cut the fried grease I consumed.

Schnitzel, apple sauce and saurkraut

My dining companion got the schitzel, as it is what people think of when they think of German food. Well, it was a think piece of park, breaded and deep frind. The apple sauce is probably Sysco variety, as well as the saurkraut. The dark German bread is more like a brown white bread. I personally did not love the food here, and I believe very little of it was actually made in-house. The schnitzel is also suspect that it is just a frozen breaded piece of pork made by the food service, not hand breaded by the cooks on the line. What I do respect about this place is its long tradition in Nashville, and the locals love going here.

March 20, 2007



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March 18, 2007

min/mil vs triple word

This is not a food related blog entry, but it is an entry for travel of the mind. The day was March 17, the day of my favorite foot race, the Tom King 1/2 marathon. Last year I missed it because of a sore ankle, and then severe back pain that continued on for 9 months. This year, 2 weeks ago, I pulled a calf muscle, limped around in pain, and my hopes of running the Tom King again were over. What was I going to do for a diversion for all the newly found time I have? Go visit the Scrabble Club of Nashville of course!

The official board ready for play

In the summer of last year, a friend and I saw a poster for a Scrabble competition fundraiser being held at the library. You see, my friend plays Scrabble with his family a lot, he reads a lot, he plays with words a lot, and he always gets 7 letter words every game. I am more about 3 letter words like cow, hop, see, etc. Anyway, for a good cause, we were going to go the fundraiser. Our fun was dashed when we got an email a few days before the event. We were told it was cancelled due to lack of interest, and we were basically the only ones to sign up. Since then, I have been on the Scabble Club of Nashville's monthly email list.

The offical Scrabble Timer

The Scrabble Club of Nashville meets, usually the 1st Saturday of the month in a room at Meigs Magnet Middle School in East Nashville. The Saturday may switch depending on what is going on at the school. Lucky for me, this March, the meeting switched to the 17th. For nearly a year, for one reason or another, something much more compelling had come during the 1st Saturday for me. There were business travel, meeting people for a long run, the flu, out of town guests, helping friends move here from Boston, etc. This year, it was going to be running the Tom King 1/2 Marathon that was going to keep me from attending the club again. After months of not being able to go, I was taking it as a sign that I am not meant to go to play with the Scrabble Club. With my painful and swollen calf muscle, I took it as a sign that this was the right day to play Scrabble. Off I went to find Meigs and play.

If you wanted to know, scrabble is a usable word in Scrabble... hahaha so is QI and ZA.

As I approached Meigs Magnet School, I got nervous, so I called my friend who plays for fun a lot. I told him where I was going, and that if all the people in the Scrabble Club were like the Comic Book Store Guy from the Simpsons, ya know the know-it-all who makes new comers feel small, I was leaving and never to return. Remember I am the 3 letter word kind of player, like cat, dog, esh, etc. To my surprise, there were a few other new people who are very nice, and the standard people there ranged from age of 11 through post-retirement, there were boys, girls, men and women, and there was a good racial mix of people. The best part was that Alvin, who leads the club, was Not At All the Comic Book Store Guy. In reality, he is a math teacher at the magnet school, and has all the dynamic energy of wanting his students and Scrabble Club members to have fun and learn something along the way. Alvin seems to still have that special pixie dust thing that is important to have as an effective school teacher. He donates his personal time to the Meigs Magent School's Scrabble Club and the Scrabble Club of Nashville. In the photo below, you can see that Meigs Magnet Cavs are the 2002 State Champs. Go Cavs!

My final board of 3 games

I would like to point out my opponents Bingo, or 7 letter word she played. She is pointing to INCLINED, and it was worth 80 pts. Yes, she got that on her 2nd play, and I was at about 20 pts total with the words DINGO and DUE, as I am the master of the 3 letter common word.

I finally won one game

What happened to me? Well, I played 3 games, and got 2 butt kickings. Ouch. The last game I won. The play here is by the official rules, meaning it is timed to 50 min total play time, and no looking in the dictionary during play. At home during Scrabble play, I look in the dictionary all the time in hopes of learning new words, or trying to spell the words correctly. Auto-Correct in the MSWord program really has screwed my spelling. The timer made me nervous. At home we have no timer, we can take our time at strategy of blocking, not leaving a triple word open, or finding the biggest and best place to put our tiles. I will be going back to the Scrabble Club as schedule permits. I do hope to be injury free to run more on the weekends, so I will have to weigh the running with the Scrabble, as both are excellent pursuits.

If anyone wants to get a monthly email from the Scrabble Club, or get directions to the meeting place, or get the offical rules, or just to say hi, you can email Alvin at mmmsteacher (at) Comcast (dot) Net and he can tie you in.

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March 17, 2007

Monell's Family

Monell's Family Style Dining
1235 6th Ave North
Nashville, TN

The original Monell's is located in the historic district of Germantown in Nashville. There are lovely huge homes from the 1800's in this neighborhood, and some of them have been converted into business fronts, like Monell's. Monell's opened in 1995, not that long ago, but it was opened before I moved here, so I thought it has been around for ages. Anyway, the stats on Monell's is that it is a family style restaurant, first come first server, and the food is traditional southern. It is a great place to go with a group for lunch because there has to be at least one dish that appeals to each person. The quality of the food seems to be rather good too.

The owners of this place got it right. It is country home kitchy with all the best components of country kitch. There are no manufactured blue and white ducks here. The window glass ornaments are cute and for sale. The tables and chairs are straight out of the Walton's (the tv show, not walmart).

A friend won a meal for 6 at Monell's at a fundraiser silent auction. I was so thrilled to be invited to dine for free with my friend and 4 other people. This time at Monell's we went for a Saturday Breakfast, and I have only gone for lunch. We got there at 8:30 am, and we were the 1st to be seated next to the big sunny window that you see above. It was like stepping into a lovely breakfast nook in Emily Dickinson's house with the sun shining onto us on a winter day. The room felt like home from days gone-by.

On the menu this day were fresh bisquits, milk gravy, steaming hot cheesy grits, Virginia ham, thick cut applewood smoked bacon, country sausage patties, scrambled eggs, corn pudding (my personal favorite), Monell's famous fried chicken, pancakes, country potatoes, orange juice, real butter, homemade peach preserves, iced tea, hot tea, and coffee. I know I am forgetting something.

This was the basket of meat items to choose from. If we ran out of something, Monell's is right there to refresh our supply.

Here is a plate of perfect pancakes.

Here is a photo of our country table filled with lots of good country food. This meal with friends, and stranger at the other end of the table, was really quite nice. We had to engage the new people to ask for them to pass the food or drink. It really helped remind me about all the good things about people I haven't met yet. I have to remember that the social deviants seen on the nightly news are just that, and most of humanity really wants to interact in a nice way, break bread and connect with others.

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March 11, 2007

A Walk in the Park

Sylvan Park - Melrose
2330 Franklin Pike
Nashville, TN 37204
(615) 269-9716

Sylvan Park Restaurant is categorized as a Meat-N-Three. Meat-N-Three is uniquely Nashville. What it means is that you can pick a meat dish like chicken-n-dumplings, meatloaf, salisbury steak, salmon croquette, pork chop, fried chicken or another equally delicious, but fat laddened meat item. Along with the meat, you can pick three side items such as mac-n-cheese, turnip greens, green beans, corn, white beans, mashed potatoes, or other sides that are straight out from the 1950s. Dessert is, of course, pie or banana pudding. Banana pudding seems to be another Nashville specialty, and anyone who has grown up in Nashville seems to have a soft spot for banana pudding. The set up at a Meat-N-Three is either a cafeteria line or diner style.

my burger and fries

During my first trip to Sylvan Park, I was taken aback by the waitress. She was as tall as Flo from Alice, had some hair like Flo, and spoke in an accent like Flo. The differences were that our waitress was wearing jeans and tee-shirt, not a pink uniform, and she spoke to us as if we were her long time daily customers coming for a chat. Quite inviting indeed.

fruit salad plate

We were a bit late in the evening for Sylvan Park standards, about 7:30 pm, the place closes at 8 pm, and they had run out of a lot of the menu, including the banana pudding. So we had to make due. I got a burger and fries, on dinner mate got a fruit salad, and the other got a 3 veggie plate, which is a 3 sides plate.
veggie plate

My burger was as much of a diner burger as you would want. My friend's fruit salad plate is, as you can see, like a plate straight out of the 1950s. I like the veggie plate which my other friend chose a jello salad made with red jello and canned fruit, macaroni with stewed tomatoes, and pole beans which are like huge green beans that require a lot of simmering to be soft enough to eat.

The food here has been showcased on the Stern's Roadfood, and Fodor's online. Sylvan Park is such a throwback to the 1950s, that I think people love going here because it reminds then of fond memories of when they were carefree kids. Who wouldn't want to suspend time for just a moment and enjoy good childhood memories of a warm summer day, while eating some red jello.

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March 5, 2007

Genie in a restaurant

Genie's Persian Palace
6990 Moore's Lanae
Cool Springs, TN

UPDATE: Sadly, Genie's Persian Palace closed.

Try this place, it has really great Persian food!
The cold food buffet bar

This place serves authentic Persian food and kebabs on a buffet that is reasonably priced. There were dishes with lovely flavors I have never experienced before because they are authentic, delicous Persian recipes. This place does not seem to be "dumbing down" the food for the average USA palette that only wants American-ized flavors. For example, much of the average Chinese food in the USA, like at a shopping mall, is not anywhere near what Chinese food is anywhere in China. It is American food with gravy made from soy sauce, msg and corn syrup. Anyway, the food at Genie's have complex flavors, ingredients and spices that are Persian. The food is honoring a long history of fine cuisine from the craddle of civilization.

The hot food buffet bar

The funny thing about this place is not the food, it is what the owners own. The owners, Mo and Shiva Karimy, own FAT MO's a Nashville renouned burger hut, drive through joint that has been recognized on the Food TV Network for excellent beef burgers. On rare occassions that I want a messy burger, I go to Fat Mo's because it is cooked to order as you sit in the drive-thru window. The spiced fries are good too. I like Fat Mo's for what it is, but it is a far, far, far cry from ethnic food. Fat Mo's is as American as you can get. So, I was surprised when Shiva Karimy wanted to open a Persian Restaurant. I was so afraid that this would be yet another Nashville restaurant claiming it is serving Persian food, and then serving the kebab equivalent of a cheap hamburger. To my surprise, THE FOOD AT GENIE'S IS GREAT!!! I am mean delicious!

My Plate

I tried shirazi salad, rice and lentils, chicken in pomegranate and walnuts stew, a red lentil curry, a yellow chicken curry, a green herb curry and beef, beef and chicken kebab, a tomato stew, and others that I cannot remember. The chicken in walnut and pomegranate was sweet, savory, slightly tart from the pomegranate, slightly grounded from the walnut and I just could drink it up all night long. It was a flavorful dish that exceeded its parts. Truly Divine! The best part was the homemade butter on bread. Having grown up in the USA, I don't get a lot of homemade butter, as a matter of fact, I never had homemade butter. This was truly a treat I want to taste again. The desserts were made with rosewater, which is an flavor I am not accustom, but I can appreciate the use of this ingredient. I cannot wait to go back there. I just cannot wait!

For those of you who are in Franklin or Nashville, TN, and are adventurous in dining on real Persian flavors, PLEASE try Genie's Persian Palace. It is located east of the Cool Springs Mall in a little strip mall. The directions are:
Take Moore's Lane West towards Franklin Rd
Right before you get to the traffic light at Franklin Road, there is a strip mall on the right.
Genie's is on the right side of the the little strip mall.

Give a call, go for yourself, and enjoy!

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March 4, 2007

Pork - Radius 10 style

After the cooking class with Chef Jason Brumm of Radius 10, I decided to try making a variation of his famous braised Kobe Beef Short Ribs, and Grits, but without the Kobe Beef and without the Grits. I used the same spice base has he did. I used star anise, orange peel and cinnamon as the stars of this dish. I am excited about using star anise because the only 2 things I ever used it for was Chinese Roasted Duck, and Chocolate Cookies. To be able use star anise in other cooking is awesome!

One thing about my cooking is that I am incredibly lazy, but I want my food to taste good and have a good texture. The way I made this dish is fairly lazy, as I use the dump and forget-it method. I never get hung up on the exact measurements of anything because most cooking isn't an exact experiment in chemistry class. I rarely ever measure anything. Baking, well, that is a different story that may require measuring, but regular old fashioned cooking stems from dumping a hunk of something over an open fire, and then eating it. OK, so I may be a bit of a lazy cook liking the dump and eat method, but I do comb Nashville markets for the best ingredients I can get, and I mail order the best spices, oils and cheeses.

That is my preferred method of cooking. Dump it on heat, when done, eat it.

Lannae's Lazy Pork Tenderloin, the dump and go method. The basic dish feeds 6 people and includes the following ingredients:
1 1/2 lb browned pork tenderloin, cut into 1/4 lb pieces
small whole raw mushrooms
1-2 cups Mirpoix (diced) to deglaze
1 cup red wine to deglaze
2 cups pork stock (beef or chicken is fine too) to deglaze
Drops of vinegar to deglaze
Drops of real Grade B Maple Syrup (or sugar, not fake stuff) to deglaze
Garlic whole cloves, use at will
2 whole star anise
1 orange peel
pinch of cinnamon
pinch nutmeg
2 whole clove
Bay leaf
Fresh or dried thyme at will
Crushed dried red peppers at will
salt and pepper at will
whatever you herb or spice you think goes
cornstarch to thicken gravy

METHOD: Dump browned pork and raw mushrooms in a dutch oven. Dump deglaze stuff on top. Dump everything else in the dutch oven. Stir once. Cover. Put in 325F oven for 3 hours. DO NOT OPEN. Eat orange and leftover celery. Go to a movie, or do something fun for 3 hours.

When the pork is done, and nearly falling apart, put the dutch oven on the stove, and thicken the gravy with a little corn starch. When thick, cover, and set aside off the heat, and make the rest of the meal.

I made roasted diced root vegetables of carrots, daikon, beets, yam, turnip, parsnip, garlic and onions. I added a leek for color and a lovely carmelized flavor when roasted. I tossed with Spanish Arbequina olive oil which is very flavorful, thyme and salt and pepper. If you don't have flavorful olive oil, you can try Goya brand Spanish Olive Oil which is the most flavorful bulk olive oil I have tried. The olive oil is a flavoring and a herb flavor carrier in the dish, and it is not meant to be used to grease anything. Anyway, I dumped the veggies on a pan, roasted for 25 min in a 500F oven, stirring once.

Ta da. Roasted root veggies with leeks. Yum.

Here is my plate of root veggies, Jasmine rice and the pork with gravy dish. I definitely deviated from the Radius 10 recipe because I really needed to drop the fat grams for my regular home cooking. This meal can be very lean as long as the olive oil is used sparingly on the root veggies. The pork is a lean cut and you don't need a lot of oil in the pan to brown the pork as long as the pan is REALLY HOT.

A Great Success!

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March 3, 2007

Fall Creek Falls

I went to Fall Creek Falls during the coldest day of the winter. It still isn't that cold in the south, as you can see by the Fall Creek Falls' lake. This is the view outside of my lodge window. Nice huh? There is a fairly flat 3.5 mile and nearly flat trail that goes along the lake shore, and leads to the falls. There were nobody there cuz it was so cold, and some of the trails were icy. It was a nice get away with the peacefulness out there this winter. I heard that Fall Creek Falls is different in spring through early autumn, when people are visiting, and I heard that the Fall Creek Falls' lodge is completely booked through the end of the year already. I am sure the summertime at Fall Creek Falls is like going to Walden Pond, the former home existentialism. Walden Pond now is crowded, polluted, littered, and a far cry from an existential experience.

The view of Fall Creek Falls Lake from my lodge deck

I was so lucky to be able to experience Fall Creek Falls in winter when only a scant number of people are there. The quiet, the peace, and the nature was awesome to take in while nearly in solitude. It was a moment that I was able to stop and appreciate it all. If all moments could be like this one.

This is the video of Fall Creek Falls

This is the still photo of Fall Creek Falls

Here we are, at the the rim of the falls. Did you know that Fall Creek Falls is the highest water fall in the USA east of the Rocky Mountains? Now you know. Fall Creek Falls drop is 256 feet. That is a lot of feet! Oh, you question if Niagra Falls is taller, or that Niagra Falls is in Canada, so I must not be counting it? Well, I learned that Niagra Falls drop is only 170 feet. That is an 86 foot difference. I know, you would think that Niagra Falls would be higher, but I think people think that because of the wideness of Niagra Falls and the sheer volume of water moving over Niagara Falls. So, if you ever get the question about the waterfall with the greatest water drop distance in the Eastern USA, you now know the answer.

The plaque with the facts about Fall Creek Falls

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