Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

August 31, 2008


bartered goods

We participated in the Hungry Gnome Farm CSA this summer, and it was a great experience for us. We got about 1/2 bushel of produce each week, and many weeks the basket was overflowing. It was great when we were not traveling so much for work and other reasons. We barely went shopping for groceries during the weeks of June and early July. But, as the summer went on, we found ourselves having to travel for various obligations and we had to figure out what to do with the veggies in our weekly basket. We decided to give our extras to our neighbor. Our neighbors are really great cooks, party givers, and supporters of sustainable agriculture. They took the extra bounty with open arms and happy stomaches. The last week we took food over the the neighbors, our neighbors decided to share their bounty with us. They gave us a beautiful, sustainably and locally grown bunch of flowers that we enjoyed in 2 vases around the house. The flowers are available at the Snow Gallery on Dallas in the Belmont neighborhood on Wednesday evenings and all day Thursday. They are just beautiful and a feast for the eyes.


August 30, 2008

Pretty Packages

The box

At one time, gifts, wrapping paper, ribbons and bows were of the wealthy only. Back before manufacture paper and tape (what would we do without clear and masking tape?) gift wrapping was truly and art form made from artfully folded paper and ribbons to hold the structure together. Also, because gifts and gift wrapping were of the wealthy, they paper and ribbons were usually painted, beautiful, colorful and a bit showy to show off how wealthy the gift giver is. That was over 100 years ago.

Fast forward to my birthday, and I got a really nifty gift box that was wrapped in the tradition of the 1800s. There was no tape used, only folded clear plastic to make the boxes, and ribbon to hold in the boxes. There were 8 tiny boxes in one big box that was tied with green and purple ribbon, then placed in a matching green bag with matching purple tissue paper of the bag. Even the card color scheme matched the wrapping and ribbons. The package was absolutely stunning.


I have purchased only 2 USA made candy bars since returning from Belgium (really superior chocolate quality) because the mass produced chocolate quality that is made in the USA is like a hydrogenated oil wax stick with brown coloring. If I wasn't in the 3pm "got to eat candy" mode on those 2 occasions, I would refrain. It is not worth the calories or hardening of the arteries to eat USA mass produced chocolate.

When I opened my really visually wowing package, I saw that I got hand made chocolates! Wheee! Was I in for a surprise.


The chocolate truffles are hand made and sold in on Main Street in Franklin, TN just south of Nashville. Xochonochco offers old world crafted chocolates, not mass produced, and not with chemical flavorings devised in New Jersey candy. The strawberry gel inside the strawberry truffle is made from a strawberry reduction to result in a consistency of a soft Turkish delight, it isn't sweet because the chocolate maker did not add a lot of extra sugar into the gel, and the true strawberry flavor comes through delicately to the mouth and nose. No shortcuts were taken to make these chocolates. No fillers were used to make these chocolates. They are what hand crafted chocolates should be.

The quality and flavor of these chocolates are so so so much better than any USA mass produced chocolate, that these serve as a reminder that I need never buy USA mass produced chocolate ever again. I suspect Xochonochco chocolates cost is relatively high compared to USA mass produced chocolates. But, it is all about quality and goodness over quantity. It is also about pound foolish, penny wise. The real old money wealthy know this way of life: spend now and only once on quality and have it last, be satisfying and be timeless instead of buying a ton of inferior product over and over again because it is poor quality and never satisfies. Xochonochco is satisfying.

August 28, 2008

Flying in good taste

Nashville Airport
B Concourse

my brisket sandwich

Nashville Airport has done a lot to improve the airport food standing. There are kiosks and shops from some of my favorite restaurants in town including Baja Burrito, Noshville, Provence and now Neely's. These new food kiosks remind me of the bad days from 2 Tgivings ago when we were stranded at the Nashville airport, and were given $10 vouchers to eat. We looked and looked, and the food quality was so poor (disgusting, and I would not even have my best enemy eat that crap), we opted to go hungry until we found bruised bananas and a rice crispy treat.

My, what a difference 1-1/2 years and millions of dollars of renovations make. It it was the 2nd day that the Neely's kiosk had been open on B concourse at the Nashville Airport. Luckily we were catching a plane out of B concourse. We were thrilled. We each wanted to eat something good and fairly good for us because it was going to be a long time until we had dinner plans at our destination. We like Neely's in Metrocenter and Memphis, and we hoped to like Neely's at the Airport. The menu is abbreviated with pulled pork, chopped brisket, and turkey sandwiches as the choices, but that is enough at an airport. That was a smart move because those BBQ smoked meats will travel well and can sit on a warmer for a long time without losing too much of their integrity.

Because it was the 2nd day the kiosk was open, there was a logistical problem between the order taker and order filler. There was an incredibly long wait between placing an order and picking up the order. I don't think that they had their mise en place set up, and I don't think that the sides and extra sauce ordering was translating to the back either. After quite sometime, my brisket sandwich came out drenched in sauce, after I made sure to order it dry. I am not a big fan of Neely's vinegary sauce, but I don't need to be because they do such a fantastic job with smoking the meats, and sauce just covers the delicate smoky flavor. I had to wait for a correct sandwich with no sauce. Finally, a correct sandwich came out, and there was a small side 1/4 cup container of Neely's yellow spicy coleslaw. That was awesome because I do like putting the slaw on my sandwich. The sandwich was so huge, it took me quite a long time to eat it. Good thing the airlines ask for people to be at the gate 1 hr ahead of the flight, and I needed all that time to order the sandwich and eat the sandwich. The brisket sandwich was really good, and I think that the integrity of the Neely's name is intact. This is the best airport food I have ever had. Now, if they can just fix the communication problem between front of house and kitchen to get the orders right, and speed up the delivery, we will have a winner of all airport food!

August 25, 2008

Funland Local

the view

I am lucky enough to have work in Sandusky, OH. Sandusky is the best kept secret for family vacation. It is inexpensive to fly into Cleveland, it is a short drive to Sandusky, there is a lot of natural land, beaches along Lake Erie, family friendly restaurants, Cedar Point Amusement Park, local festivals and crafts to see, and other local attractions that would be fun for families. Sandusky also is in an area where I can eat really well from the local bounty.

corn at a farm stand

Along many of the side roads in and around Cleveland, there are farm stands in the driveway of family farms. There are peaches, plums, raspberries, corn, squash, tomatoes, variety of peppers and other locally grown veggies at these farms stands. On the way into Sandusky in Milan and Huron, there are farm stands that I bought veggies for the week. I got zucchini, corn, tomatoes, fresh banana peppers, peaches and plums and took it all back to my hotel room that has a microwave, fridge and coffee maker.

these bags work

I had no idea how I was going to make this food, but I went to the Target to help figure it out and buy a plate. When I got there, I was walking through the isles and saw the Zip and Steam bags, and I heard *ding ding ding* jackpot, this is how I am going to cook my veggies! Score. I usually don't use microwaves because I usually cook most of my food from scratch on the stove and oven, so I don' t know how to cook in microwaves. Luckily, the Zip and Steam bags have directions on them with the type of food being made. There was also an insert with recipes to cook in the Zip and Steam bag including making a chicken and veggie dish. Amazing. I am sold in this convenient technology. The Zip and Steam bag made my trip to Sandusky a healthier and tastier trip.

plate of local fruits and veggies

So, what I did for the week to feed my desire to have quality locally grown veggies in my diet, is that I had zip and steamed up corn and zucchini in separate bags. What I did not finish, I zipped up in the resealable Zip and Steam bag, and put in the fridge for the next day. I snagged a few salt and pepper packets from the Target food bar to season my veggies. For protein I went out to my favorite mom and pop chicken joint, and got takeout chicken to go with my veggies. At the Target, I got a $2 plastic reusable plate to eat with, and I took a plastic knife, fork and spoon from the hotel breakfast bar. I had peaches and plums for dessert, along with the locally made Toft's ice cream.

On Saturday, in downtown Sandusky, there is a 25+ year old farmer's market that I was waiting for. I got some black berries for breakfast, and I got 6 lbs of Avery, Ohio grown popcorn. I got only 1 bag last year, and the popcorn quality and flavor of this popcorn is far superior to any industrial made popcorn. Last year, that bag went quick. Last year, I popped this popcorn in a brown paper bag in my hotel room microwave, and brought the extra home to enjoy. This year, I am no dummy, and I bought 6 lbs of this golden goodness. I risked the volume in my luggage, and I indeed got stopped by TSA going through airport security because of the strange shapes seen in the X-ray machine. When the TSA officer opened the bag, she was just laughing at the volume of popcorn in my bag, and then she sent me on my way.

In closing, even on travel, it is possible to eat deliciously and eat locally.


Canal Days

I have been in some serious travel mode all summer for work and play. I really thought this year my travel schedule would be light, but the opposite happened, and I have been needed in various areas of middle and eastern USA. I have been to Ohio (to my favorite work site) multiple times, Alabama, Massachusetts, New York, Kentucky, and North Carolina this summer, with some travel back to back with time just long enough to do laundry in between. The most recent 2 week stretch included back to back to back trips to North Ohio, New York, Central Ohio and back home on a Sunday. Monday, we went out to the Wilson County, TN Fair (aka the best state fair on TN) to have a good time eating fair food and seeing what animals, crafts, games and rides we could see. On the way back to our home late in the evening, I wasn't driving, and I saw an exit sign off the highway saying Gallatin. My mind momentarily took a lapse of remembering where I was, took in clues of what car and who I was with, and my mind said, "Oh wow, Ohio has a Gallatin town too!" I guess that is what happens when one is on the road too much.

Coshocton High School "The Redskins" band

During our short trip to central Ohio, we managed to arrange our stay during the same day as Canal Days in Coschoton, OH. Canal Days festival is a 37 year old festival to celebrate the 1st canal boat landing in Roscoe Port, Coshocton, OH on August 21, 1830. The festival takes place every year in the main square of this small town on the weekend closest to August 21.

Canal Day Queen

There are fair food vendors and local crafts vendors here. We went to the Canal Days celebration in hopes of finding a roasted corn vendor. Central Ohio is one of the biggest corn producing areas in the country, and the eating type of sweet corn from this area is like no other. In years past, as I am told, the corn vendor at Canal Days is the hit of town. So, we get there and there is no corn vendor. We walk around the square again, and nothing.

Canal Days Princesses

It is possible that the corn vendor is no more because the farmer is probably growing corn for ethanol production. I heard word that this area put in a bid for an ethanol manufacturing plant because of the know corn production, so farmers are no longer producing corn for human or livestock food, but for ethanol production. The farmers don't have to work as hard to grow corn, and they get a better price per ton. The result for people like me who want to eat delicious Ohio sweet corn is that there is no corn to be had, or corn per ear has become relatively expensive. Gone are the days of a dozen ears for a dollar at the farmers market, lets try three for a dollar, a 400% increase over the past 2 years. Gone are the days of roasted corn vendor.

Canal Days Jr Court

Disappointed in the lack of corn for human consumption in Central Ohio, we focused our attention to the Canal Days parade down Main St USA. The festival queen had long flowing blond hair like story book princess, the princess were decked out in pretty long dresses, and the junior court and senior queen (over 65) rode in style on a platform pulled by a truck. Even though we had no corn, we did get to enjoy an parade that was a throw-back into time.

August 23, 2008

Black Pearl

UPDATE: This restaurant is closed.

the sign

We had a whirlwind trip to NYC for the honored 50th anniversary couple celebration, so we decided to go into Manhattan a day early and see some of my relatives for dinner. We got off the plane, dumped our stuff and took the subway to Union Square and took a stroll to the garment district of Manhattan to where the Black Pearl restaurant now resides. The Black Pearl in New York has no affiliation with restaurants in other cities that share its name. This Black Pearl wanted to re-create the Cape Cod or Maine seafood shanty food experience in a Manhattan setting. The offerings include an oyster bar with oysters from both east and west coasts, clam chowder of both Manhattan and New England varieties, lobster roll made in 3 traditions, fried whole belly clams and usually they have steamers too.

the martini

My relatives gave us a couple of choices of moderately priced ($20 - 25/person) restaurants to choose from, including this seafood restaurant, and I immediately jumped on the opportunity to get really good seafood. Being landlocked here in TN, it is tough to get really good seafood. Just a reminder about how it goes here in Nashville when asking about oysters... I asked a waitress at a Nashville, self-proclaimed oyster bar, what kind of oysters they had, and I was expecting to hear words like PEI, blue point, malpeque, WA, Canadian, MA, gulf of someplace, and her declaration was that they had two types, raw or fried. I got pork that night. So, I jumped on the opportunity to have New England style seafood that enjoy so much.

Manhattan clam chowder

I started out my meal with Manhattan clam chowder. I was in Manhattan, so I opted for the red clam chowder instead of the cream based New England clam chowder. Normally I would opt for the N.E. clam chowder, but hey when in Manhattan do as the Manhattans do, and drink a Manhattan and eat Manhattan clam chowder. The soup was a nice veggie based soup with a few clams in it. It was kitchy to get a Manhattan soup in Manhattan, but next time New England here I come.

clam basket

For my entree, since they did not have steamers this evening, I opted for the whole belly fried clams. I actually cannot remember the last time I had whole belly fried clams. It is quite possibly over 10 years ago while vacationing on Cape Cod. Having waited so long, I was ready for some real fried clams. My relatives were interested in how the clams and fries would be because NYC has now banned all trans-fats (oleo, Crisco, hydrogenated oil, the white fatty stuff) from being served in restaurants, and they had not had fried food out in a restaurant since the ban went into effect. The result is that the fried food is not that different, but a bit lighter in finish. I enjoyed the whole belly clams.

nice building nearby

We got done eating, and the rain had stopped outside. The best part about dining in Manhattan and being too cheap to take a cab, you get to walk and take the subway. There is nothing better than taking a stroll after dinner, and give time for the food to work itself out. We all strolled, chatted and window shopped. What a nice evening.

Black Pearl on Urbanspoon


August 21, 2008

The Boss

Just came back from seeing Bruce Springsteen (the best concert I have seen in recent history) at the Sommet Center, along with the other 15,000+ other middle aged people wanting to relive their 20s. Saw 2 middle aged men hi-fiving each other when Bruce started in on a song they wanted to hear ... they were yawning and it wasn't even 11 pm yet. My section actually sat through some of the show. We are definitely not 20 something anymore. Regardless, Bruce still has it going on.

Levy Restaurant
Sommet Center
501 Broadway
Nashville, TN
(615) 770-2407

I had a really relaxing, no hassle experience before the Bruce Springsteen concert. We parked up on 9th, just far enough away from any of the major parking, with a nice short stroll to the Sommet Center. We walked by the front entrance of the Sommet Center, and there were a ton of general admission people waiting for the doors to open on that humid day, so they could get the best standing space close to the stage. We walked up to the black awning on the 5th street side of the Sommet Center where no one was standing, and we walked in. We were greeted by a Sommet Center employee who showed us the way to the attended elevator to the Sommet Center Suite Level, and the Levy Restaurant. The Levy Restaurant is open at the Sommet Center for most events, including hockey and some of the music events like Bruce Springsteen. I don't have photos because the rule at big concerts is no camera.

The dining room is really nice, airy, open and clean. The bar is well stocked. The staff worked hard and are very nice. The dinner buffet included 6 tables to choose from: Asian, Mediterranean, Southern, meat and potatoes, cheese and dessert. At the meat and potatoes table there were bacon-garlic mashed potatoes, gravy, and braised short ribs which I liked a lot. The Mediterranean table had couscous with candied citrus and dried fruit which was delicious, grilled salmon in puff pastry also delicious, and a pear salad which had way too much dressing on it. The Southern table had shrimp and cheesy grits, and a ham carving station. The Asian table had chicken red curry which wasn't that good because it lacked the complex spice of a curry and the chicken was under cooked, and beef satay which was passable. Dessert was a bread pudding, a chocolate covered brownie bite, fruit on stick and a panna cotta. Since it is a buffet, the food I did not care for, I did not take, but the food I did like I went for seconds. It is tough to make volumes of buffet food and have it not be that "wedding banquet rubber chicken". There seemed to be the "rubber chicken" syndrome going on at the Asian table, but there were the other 5 tables to taste. I really thought the couscous, beef and potatoes, and shrimp and grits were tasty so I went back for more.

We leisurely strolled into the Levy Restaurant door, took a short ride in the elevator, had a leisurely dinner with some food that was worth blogging about, and had great bar service. Right before we were heading to our seats, the bar manager set us up with to-go cups, so we would not have to wait the lines downstairs. We leisurely strolled back to the elevator with drink in hand, and then waltz right to our seats. This no hassle lifestyle is what I am all about now. I guess since I am middled-aged, I have left my youthful concert going days behind me. I used to be that person getting to the venue 5 hours early to hang out with friends in the parking lot, maybe spend $3 of fast food, and then fight the masses to get the best standing space. All that is no more, I really like this new found middle-aged way of going to a concert in leisure.

This concert dining experience with good service and no hassles is on my list again as long as I can afford it. This convenience, no hassle, no line, no humidity, good dinner, good service, good bartender, a modest drink, tax and tip will run about $60 per person. Dinner with wine or champagne will of course cost more.

August 19, 2008

Park on Madison

It is really amazing. We were invited to attend a fancy dinner for a 50th anniversary dinner. The party of honor really did it up for us by sending a limo to take us from the condo to the restaurant. We rode around in style. We were whisked away to the 11 Madison Park restaurant.

the limo

11 Madison Park is owned by Daniel Meyer, the man who shaped New York dining and made celeb chefs who they are. Danny Meyer is the guy that made Tom Colicchio a house hold name. Danny Meyer's restaurant empire includes Union Square Cafe and Gramercy Tavern, and this one 11 Madison Park. I have heard of all his restaurants for years now. My cousin and cousin-in-law live in Manhattan, and they send their daughter to the same private school that Danny Meyer sends his daughter to. Danny Meyer hosts his daughter's class to dinner parties at his restaurants, and the kids have eaten at his restaurants multiple times. The kid has dined at 11 Madison Park at least 3 times, yet my cousins, her parents, have not even tried it once. I think through the kid's exposure to excellent ingredients and excellently prepared foods, she has taken an interest in cook. The last time I saw the kid, she was eager to cook for us, so "have at it" I said. I sat back with my scotch and water, watched her cook a 3 course meal for us, and I then sat back and enjoyed the fruits of her labor.

hors d'oeuvres - sorted with tomato, sushi, tart, foie gras, and rabbit

Anyway, back to 11 Madison Park. The service was excellent and friendly. The staff was well dressed and appropriate. I cannot say enough good stuff about the staff and service. They were kind, but not drippy icky sweet. They were knowledgeable, but not haughty. They were attentive, but did not hover. It was the best service I have ever had dining ever.

rabbit hors d'oeuvre

After we were seated and all settled in, the staff brought over lovely plates of bite sized hors d'oeurves. They were tasty and perfect to tie us over while we decide on dinner, a fixed price 3-course meal. The hors d'oeuvres were tomato and cheese, tuna sushi, charizo tart, foie gras cracker, and rabbit. The care it takes to make these thumbnail sized bites is apparent. The combinations of textures and flavors were terrific. I don't think I would make these myself, nor do I think I have the fine dexterity to make these.

amuse bouche - gazpacho with baby basil and melon

We ordered, and the staff brought out an amuse bouche. The bowl contained a wafer of watermelon topped with tiny balls of canteloupe and honeydew, and then topped with baby basil leaves. The staff then poured a bit of smooth gazpacho over the fruit. Then the staff drizzled olive oil over that. The presentation was really laborious. I was scared to have tomato and fruit. I took bites of the orange and green melons with the soup and that was surprisingly good. Then I added a bit of basil to those bites, and again very good. Then I ate the watermelon and the soup, and the soup just changed the nature of the watermelon into something that is almost savory. What a strange sensation to expect a sweet watermelon, but it tasted more like a savory cracker.

first course - tuna tartare

I opted for the tuna tartare for my 1st course. Others got foie gras or gnocchi. My tuna tartare came with baby bok choy leaves and radishes over avocado cream. The avocado cream had a whipped cream texture that I do not care for. I have never liked the texture of whipped cream, and it was a bit much to have that texture in avocado. I quickly scraped the avocado off, and enjoyed the tuna and veggies. I tried the gnocchi, and they were a bit stiff and gummy, kind of like what I could make at home. I was surprised at the toothy texture because I have had a variety of Tom Colicchio's gnocchi which were very light, fluffy, with the essence of the potato still readily available. The gnocchi was still good though.

second course - lamb tenderloin

For my second course, I opted for the lamb tenderloin with roasted artichokes and arugula. The staff poured the sauce over the lamb then dotted it with olive oil. I opted wisely. The presentation was beautiful. The flavor was lamb like but not gamey. The flavor and preparation is unlike any lamb I have ever had. It was delicious and tender. The other entree I tasted was the braised beef cheek with bordelaise sauce. I have never had beef cheek before, but it seems to be a fatty piece of beef with a texture of brisket. The fattiness of the cheek melted away during braising, leaving a really nice melty piece of beef. Others had lobster, pork and char. The 2nd courses seem to be a big hit all around the table.

third course - 4 cheese with berries and nuts

The third and last course was dessert. To relive my France trip, where I always took a cheese course if offered, I ended up opting for a cheese plate instead of a sweet dessert. I got one mild goat cheese, one goat cheese made in a camembert tradition, one a mild aged cow's milk cheese and an epoisse. To accompany the cheese was fig and pastachio, fruit jam, marcona almonds, and port wine jelly. To accompany the whole plate, of which I did not get a photo of, were the cutest baby baguettes about 3 inches long by 1 inch diameter. This was the perfect ending to my meal. The slices of cheese were big enough to have multiple tastes, but small enough to be an appropriate serving. I mixed and matched the the flavors on the plate, and the ultimate combination was the aged cows milk cheese with dried fig on top of a piece of the baguette. Others had a chocolate peanut butter dessert with popcorn ice cream. The ice cream is made from New York grown corn purchased from the New York Green Market. The ice cream was definitely popcorny in flavor, and appropriate for the dish. I don't think that I would eat popcorn ice cream normally, but it kind of worked in this whimsical dessert.

It was a fantastic celebration of a 50th anniversary for sure. As most things go, this good thing had to come to an end. We had to leave before the limo turned into a pumpkin.

Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon


August 11, 2008

My Neighbors

When me moved to this neighborhood nearly 6 years ago, we did not know how lucky we were. People say "location location location", but I say "neighbors neighbors neigbors!" We have great neighbors who have decided that we want a community. My neighbors, in general, are fun loving people who want to hang out and enjoy time with each other. Here is a foodie photo log of some of the events and parties I have been to with and for my neighbors in the past 3 months. I have a great neighborhood for sure!

The drink table at the celebration after Laura's art opening

The glasses lined up ready for the the retro cocktail party

tangerine juice from my Campari tangerine spritzer

the Campari tangerine spritzer

a cat during a neighborhood garden tour

You know what this is. The pinata game is fun at any age!

festive tex-mex yummies before the pinata game

the TN State Fair Cake Baking Blue Ribbon Champion cake
(yeah! I live 2 doors down from The Champion!)

Angela's birthday dessert plate

BB's childhood friend comes to visit from the North, and
we did a Big Chill tuna, Singapore noodle, and local organic
green bean group dinner

August 3, 2008

Meeting of the Masters

Wow, what a great evening it was. We had 3 different dishes prepared by Tandy Wilson, and 3 different beers prepared by Linus Hall, and it was definitely a match made in culinary heaven. The event was low key, and enjoyable on one July evening that was relatively cool and with low humidity. It was an evening that was meant to be.

the bucket of Yazoo beer

The variety of Yazoo Beer available was Hefeweizen, Pale Ale and ESB. Tandy and Linus thought these 3 would pair best with the 3 courses offered.

City House spicy fennel sausage

3rd course was the City House made spicy fennel sausage. Above are the sausages on the grill. This was the 1st meal I had at City House, and the sausage hooked me in. It is the best sausage I have had in Nashville. I think that Tandy should make a new pizza with this sausage crumbled on top. Linus and Tandy thought the ESB would be the best pairing with the sausage because the bitter could cut through the heaviness and the fat of the sausage. Good pairing in my opinion.

Delvin Farms orange tomatoes covered in City House made mozzarella

The second course was the local organic tomatoes wrapped in City House made mozzarella. The orange tomatoes, the size of a large jaw breaker, were from Delvin Farms, a fairly large local organic farm in Williamson County (just south of Nashville). Delvin has a large CSA following, provides a fairly large farm stand at the Franklin Farmer's market, and they also provide local organic veggies to sell at the local Whole Foods in Green Hills. Delvin is one of the farms that is helping change where Nashville gets its produce. The local, fresh, ripe and delicious veggies taste so much better than the poor veggies that are picked unripe and have to travel 1000s of miles to a grocery store.

Anyway, back to the beer and food pairing, Tandy and Linus thought that the Pale Ale would be a good pairing. In our opinion, tomato and mozzarella is impossible to pair with anything but a wine that has a level of acid to it. I enjoyed the tomato and mozzarella because each bite
seemed to take my mind to Italy, sitting in a small restaurant by the sea with a lovely sea breeze and bright sun lapping over me. The dish was simple, and elegant, capturing the simplicity of taste and texture of old world food.

local Columbia, TN peach wrapped in German style speck

The 1st course offered was peach wrapped in German style speck. The speck was cured and smoked with peppercorn to give it an extra umph of flavor that you cannot find in an air cured Italian tradition prosciutto, or a plain USA ham. The peaches came from Columbia, TN, but I did not get the name. I am unsure if Tandy made the speck or if he got it from a speck maker. It doesn't matter because I think I enjoyed this dish the most. The peaches were prefectly ripe, and not overly ripe, and the speck had a really nice gentle savory flavor that paired well with the peach.

Linus and Tandy thought a light beer like the Hefeweizen was the match to the peach dish. As the Hefe has a banana essence to it, the rest of the Hefe did not have the umph to compete with the complexity of the peach. We thought the Pale Ale was a better match. The peach and speck seemed to bring out the fruity aroma of the Pale Ale and also smooth out the edge of the hops in the Pale Ale. Well, that is just our opinion, and we are willing to experiment more with ripe peaches and Yazoo varieties.

the last peach and speck

While I was eating this dish, I thought that it might be a good thing to toss onto a charcoal grill to crisp up the speck a little, and char and caramelize the peach a little and serve it warm. Since I don't have a speck provider, I will have to resort to prosciutto or even a shaved country ham. Also, I had been experimenting over the past couple of years with various fruit to wrap in prosciutto, and I had not tried a peach. It really works out. Cantelope, of course is a classic. I had tried pineapple, and that is a no go. The pineapple is too acidic and overwhelming for a delicate slice of ham.

Tandy and Linus solving all the worlds problems, or at least
figuring out the grill time for the sausage

Thanks Tandy and Linus for a really nice evening of tastings and chatting. I hope you can do this again sometime in the fall perhaps, when the weather is cooler. I had a nice relaxing time, I enjoyed the food, the beer and the company.


August 2, 2008

Oh Yea Ouyang

shu mai (sorry for the blur, no flash used)

So, there has been a lot of buzz about Ouyang, a 1 year old Chinese Buffet in Nashville. People from NAAAP Nashville were saying that this is the best Chinese in town. I thought, "Are you kidding me? All Chinese Buffets suck in Nashville and have poor quality food." Then the Scene wrote them up, and an Asian food blogger wrote them up as passable, so I had to try it myself. The 1st free night we had, we were off to find this place. One blog said that the restaurant is just south of K&S Market, a landmark on Nolensville Road. We google-mapped Ouyang, and off we went. We found Ouyang a building next to the now defunct Lowes Home Store space. Have you ever noticed how Tennessee Lowes Stores always have a little strip mall nearby and there is always the obligatory Chinese Buffet in the that strip mall? That is what I assumed Ouyang to be before trying it.

What I discovered was that Mr Ouyang hired a dim sum chef from New York (originally from Hong Kong area), and Mr Fu who used to own Shanghai Cafe (raves about this real Chinese food place, now closed). One should note something about Chinese food, and that different regions of China have different styles of food. South China (Hong Kong, region) has a history of dim sum, while Shanghai (central east) does not. The variation of food styles is similar to the USA where Southern New Orleans food is quite different from Boston (Northeast) food. Boston and New Orleans may share some basic food and flavors, but there is a complete difference in food styles.

beef chow fun (chung fun)

What did we find in our visit? I found that the buffet is about the same old crap as you get in any other run of the mill Chinese buffet. Egg rolls, crab legs, sweet and sour pork, etc are not real Chinese food, and are abundant on this buffet. We opted to order only dim sum off the menu. Since I speak only English (except for a few Taisan works of food) they kept on pushing that generic Chinese buffet menu on me. I protested and FINALLY got the dim sum menu on one side, and a Chinese only menu on the other. I suspect the Chinese only menu may be Mr Fu's creations because he had a Chinese only menu at Shanghai. I was lucky enough to get a copy of this menu, and I am going to give it my mom to see if she will translate it for me. Stay tuned, about the Chinese only menu in the coming months, and maybe I can get a reasonable translation so us English speakers can enjoy REAL Chinese food, not this deep fried crap on the buffet.

Ok, so on to ordering for our dinner. We got piquot (little pork rib bites steamed in fermented black beans), shu mai (1/2 opened pork dumpling), now yook chow fun (beef with wide rice noodles), chive dumplings (made with some meat and scallions), lo bok go (taro root/radish root patties crisped up on a skillet). I was expecting heated up frozen food distributor industrial made food, but I was wrong. Every bite I took, it seemed that the taste and texture was that of something made in the kitchen, not frozen distributor food. I parsed apart my chive dumpling and the veggie portion was too fresh and snappy to be previously frozen. We really liked these dumplings. The lo bok go was good, and actually more fluffy in texture than expected. I have had some lo bok go that was hard as a rubber ball from being heated too long, but this one was fluffy like a perfectly made potato gnocchi (note, gnocchi should be light and fluffy, not hard and gummy). We liked the lo bok go too. The shu mai was definitely made in-house, and it had a chunky texture to it, a bit different from what I am used to. The flavor was fine.

Would this dim sum hold up to New York or Hong Kong, probably not, but for Nashville, it is definitely passable, with a couple of the items being good. Will I eat here again. Sure, but I will be ordering off the menu, and definitely not eating the buffet.

My opinion about Ouyang's business decision to have both a buffet and a menu that includes other items (Chinese only menu and dim sum menu) is Right On! There is a large demographic in Nashville that expects and wants the Chinese buffet, and they are the main stay paying customers. That demographic should be offered what they want, and keep them coming back. There is also the other style of customers (a much smaller population) who wants real Chinese food, and Ouyang accommodates those paying customers too. Unfortunately, there doesn't seem to be enough people in Nashville who really want real Chinese food to keep a real Chinese food restaurant afloat. That is why I think Ouyang can be the happy medium for the offering of Chinese food in Nashville. I hope that Ouyang can keep up with providing both styles of eaters with the food they want, keep Ouyang profitable, and keep dim sum on the menu in Nashville.