Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

September 26, 2010

Tender Octopus

We went to City House again. We like the food, we like the staff, and City House is usually open to a time that fits our dining needs. There is a dish I really, and it is on the summer menu. It is a roasted octopus tentacle over cool salad of beans, house made chow chow and parsley. The octopus is tender on the inside and has a nice charred crust on the outside. Tandy said that he boils the octopus in water with a couple corks (real cork from wine bottles) which he claims tenderizes the octopus. The octopus is tender, and every time I get octopus at City House it is tender. Tell me, anyone anyone? Have you tried the cork - boil method? Is it true, or is it an old wives tale, and Tandy really has other magic to keep the octopus tender?

September 22, 2010

My Favorite Martin

the sign

Martin's BBQ Joint is behind the brand new S*nic. If you are driving, you may miss seeing Martin's BBQ if you did not know it is behind that fast food place. So, just look for that place and Martin's is right behind it.

a pork butt table top display

On Saturday, starting at about 4 pm, they start pulling out pulled pork from the whole hog that had been in the smoker for about 24 hrs. I suggest if you want any of the whole hog pulled pork, you best get an early start on Saturday dinner, say about 4:30 pm, and specifically order a "Whole Hog" sandwich or plate. There is regular pulled pork from smoked pork Boston butt, but it is not as moist and flavorful because it is not cooked as a whole hog. So, if you go to Martin's for the whole hog, you gotta let them know you are there for the whole hog. I really liked the pulled pork from the smoked whole hog. It had the perfect smokiness throughout the meat, and it was so moist. Non-whole hog pulled pork in my opinion can become stringy, dry and acrid, and I usually do not eat that type of pork. But, man Martin's whole hog pulled pork is the sh!t. I just love it. I would gladly fight that mall and sprawl congestion on Nolensville Rd at about 4:30 pm on Saturday to get another plate of Martin's whole hog.

whole hog and fries

We also got some smoked wings and a smoked brisket taco. I have had the smoked wings before, but as take-out. Honestly, the take-out was good, but as any take-out, after a 40 minute drive, the wings were good, but not great. Well, eating in, and eating the lightly seasoned smoked wing out straight out of the smoker, the wings were not good, they were Great! Oh, so dang good. And the brisket taco was served simply on a small flour tortilla with a little tomato salsa on top. The brisket was juicy, a little smoky, and almost melty in a good way. This was the best brisket taco I have ever had. I appreciate that most of the pork, and all of the wings were served without sauce because the wonderful moist smoked meat can stand on its own in aroma, texture and flavor. Real BBQ does not need sauce to be enjoyed. BBQ sauce is only needed to cover up bad bbq.

whole hog

Besides the BBQ Bobby (RIP) made at J*ck's, Martin's BBQ is the best BBQ I have had in the Nashville area hands down. I think I probably ate Bobby's BBQ every other week since I moved to Nashville because Bobby was just the Best Pit Master I knew. After Bobby passed away, I didn't think that I would ever find a replacement to the quality of Bobby's BBQ, and I stopped eating at J*ck's. There was no point of eating at J*ck's anymore because I loved Bobby's BBQ and I thought so highly of Bobby, and that my BBQ life would never be the same. Oh, it was a happy day when Eric and Katie wrote about Martin's BBQ. There was a glimmer of hope for excellent BBQ in Nashville again.

I think one reason the food is so good is because Martin's sells a lot of BBQ. There are no left overs from the day before to sit in the fridge getting hard, string, and dry, all the food is made and served daily. Another reason is that Pat Martin is a real deal BBQ Pit Master, he has some really good BBQ professionals working with him, who understand smoking low and slow, and he has some good support staff who can handle being slammed every Saturday. On Saturday at 5 pm, we met a packed dining room. At 5:15 pm, the ordering line was out the door. As we left at about 5:45 pm, the line was still out the door, every table was packed inside, and every table outside on the patio was taken, and every table along the sidewalk was taken. Pat Martin and staff have this gig down pat.

Martin's is one of those magical restaurants that beckons me to return. I am still thinking about the whole hog pork plate, those smoky wings and the brisket taco. I cannot help thinking about Martin's BBQ, it is so good. The aroma, color, texture, and flavor are just that perfect combination which makes me want more. I keep reliving in my mind Martin's whole hog pulled pork, wings and brisket. There are only a couple dishes in my lifetime that I keep thinking about, and long for, and Martin's BBQ is one of those dishes. I guess I have to say I love Martin's BBQ.

Martin's Bar-B-Que Joint on Urbanspoon

September 18, 2010

US Constitution 19th Amendment

house made charcuterie and pickled house grown vegetables

On Aug 18, 1920, the last vote in Tennessee made it possible to have the 19th Amendment to the USA Constitution to pass, and allow women the right to vote. The wheeling and dealing for this vote about the 19th Amendment happened right in the Oak Room of the historic Hermitage Hotel which still stands today, and is now the bar of the Capitol Grille. Back then, the Oak Room was a men's only smoking club, and I am sure there my have been a few bottles of spirits in there as well, even though the 18th Amendment prohibiting the sale of liquor was ratified and passed just a short 7 months earlier. By the way, the 21st Amendment repealed that pesky 18th Amendment just in time for those caught up in the Great Depression to drown their sorrows.

So, last month, on August 18, 2010, we went to dine at the Capitol Grille to celebrate the 90th year of USA Women's Right to Vote. Really, voting is my right and obligation to democracy, and I am going to exercise that right and obligation. I also will use the historic vote back in 1920 as an excuse to dine in one of the best restaurants in Nashville.

truffled mac and cheese

Honestly, I love being a USA citizen with the right to vote. And, I love using it as an excuse to dine out too! Tyler Brown, Exec Chef of the Capitol Grille (independent restaurant, and not at all related to the chain Capital Grill) has really taken this fine restaurant back to its roots, literally. Tyler has partnered with the Land Trust for TN, and the historic Glen Leven estate to have an all organic garden on the Glen Leven land. Most of the vegetable served during the growing season, May through October will be from the organic garden. The pickled vegetables that came with my charcuterie plate are vegetables from the garden. The charcuterie, the salami, sausage and air dried ham are all cured in-house, very much in the same style of Tandy Wilson at City House. The bread served with the cured meats was nice and thick and char grilled toasted just the way I like it.

view of the restored mens room

For entrees we got grouper and short ribs. The grouper is accompanied by the organic farm beets and fresh beet puree, with sugar snap peas and a nice light sauce. The beef, it is from Painted Hills in Oregon, and it was braised in Linus' Yazoo beer, and accompanied by squash, and squash blossoms from the organic garden. I really enjoyed tasting the beet puree, it was cooked down to have a really nice earthy and sweet beet natural flavor. The squash broth and Yazoo beer braising liquid combined to make a perfectly light sauce for each bite of beef. There many other dishes that are accompanied by the organic garden vegetables.

For those who have been dining at the Capitol Grille for years and years, there are still the standard oldies but goodies. We started off with the Vidalia onion bisque with a baby brie grilled cheese, bacon bits and chives, which has been a standard menu item for years. It is so tasty and creamy. I am sure Tyler Brown knows he would have a riot if he took this off the menu. There are also the standard oldies but goodies steaks, burger and fries, and truffled mac and cheese. Again, if Tyler Brown took any of these off the menu, a riot would ensue. Well, I would riot if there is no truffled mac and cheese and Vidalia onion soup. OK, hint hint Tyler Brown, me and a bunch of others must have our truffled mac and cheese and Vidalia onion bisque fix from time to time, so these items should always be a fixture on your menu.

another view of the restored men's room

And lastly, if you are walking through the hotel, please take time to check out the men's room. It has been restored to all its splendor from the 1930s. I went in obviously, and I took the photos, but I waited until no men were inside. I believe the phone still works, and gets you a line to the concierge if you need a taxi home. The women's room is nice, but it is nothing like this fabulous men's room.

The Capitol Grille on Urbanspoon

September 15, 2010

I am not the Next FoodTV Star

I went out for the casting call for the Next Food Network Star. I wanted to try this experience that I have never done before, and it was really fun. I filled out the 11 page application, and got some Walgreens printed headshots as they asked. I left work early to make the 3 pm cut-off time. I got to the Hutton on West End Ave, and was directed to the conference waiting room with a bunch of chairs for applicants. On this day, there were only 123 and I was #121. I finally got to go in for my interview, and it lasted only 2 minutes. I was going for a Farm to Table concept, I tried to be friendly and inviting. I said my name, and then the casting director, "Tell me more about yourself." I talked about jogging, marathon and eating locally, for about 1.5 minutes, and then the casting director politely but firmly said, "Thank you, I will let you know today, after I meet with the last candidate, if we want to call you back." And there I was. What the casting director was politely but firmly telling me was, "You are Not the Next FoodTV Star, Goodbye!"

What I noticed while I was waiting with about 20 other people was how I would pick people to be on TV if I were the casting director. There is the whole package, the face, skin quality, the body shape, the clothes, the smile, the voice, the food concept, the food competency, and the "It" factor that I would be looking for. There were a few people who looked like they rolled out of bed, and put on clothes that were from the dirty pile, and they did not bother to comb their hair. There were people sitting there who looked pissed off, others like slackers, and there were a couple who are like those terrible antagonistic people on reality TV shows, who you love to hate. Yeah, those people are not the ones I want to see on TV trying to teach me how to cook.

But, I met a couple fun people. There was April from who was actually one of the 40 finalist for last year's Food Network Star, but she got cut at the last minute. She has the package for this show. She is adorable, she dressed appropriately, she combed her hair into a nice hairdo, she has a beautiful smile, and she has that inviting aura about her. April has the "It" factor. I could totally see her on my TV everyday! I immediately wanted to talk to her because she has unspoken thing. I met Lisa aka Hef's Chef. That is correct, I met one of the 15 Hugh Hefner's personal chefs. Lisa was one of the caterers for Kendra's wedding. Lisa also teaches culinary arts at the Arts Institute. She has the technical goods, but as TV goes, they are looking for people who are going to look great on TV, under pressure and in front of a steaming pot of offal. I met one of Lisa's sweet culinary student. He was dressed in his cooking whites, his hair was trimmed just so, and he has great skin quality, and he was bringing his A game. And lastly, I met Vivek who cooks. Vivek, who I am a fan of his foodie website, seems to know quite a bit about cooking from making tomato soup from scratch to making low and slow Southern smoked pork BBQ. Vivek has a nice way about him, he dressed very well, has a nice smile, and a very nice voice. He exactly what you want in a home cook. He is exactly who I want in my kitchen everyday, and I could totally see him do an international version of Rachel Rays' 30 minute meals. And, The Next Food Network Star TV show has never had a man of Indian decent on the show, so my bets were on him. The only problem is that Aarti's Party, who won last season is just a cutie of Indian decent, so it is possible casting will not be looking for another person of Indian decent right now.

It appears that casting has certain stereotypes in mind when they are casting, like a couple young white men, a couple young white women, an African American man, an African American woman, an Asian American man, an Asian American woman, a person Central or South American decent, a European, an Australian, a couple professional chefs or sous chefs, a caterer, a successful soccer mom cook, a hunter, a farmer, the LGBT, the rich bitch, who knows what stereotype they are looking for. But, no matter what type they are looking for, the people have to be approachable, and the audience will want to have them in their living room every week or everyday.

OK, I did not make it to the next level of casting The Next Food Network Star, but I am still holding out hope for some of the wonderful people I met at the casting call.

September 14, 2010

Restaurant Week Nashville

Restaurant Week in Nashville put on by the Nashville Originals is in full swing now. We went to the Sunset Grill and got one of everything on the Restaurant Week menu, and each meal was only $20.10 this week, and valued at $40+. This is such a super deal! The caprese salad was fresh and delicious. The oysters were lightly coated in corn meal and then deep fried to just done, and the oysters were piled high and served with cute home made crackers and wonderful home made cocktail sauce. I think I might have squealed with joy when the oysters were placed in front of me! Oh, they were just perfect, and the oysters alone are worth $20.10. The lamb bolonese with fresh made pasta was out of this world. The umami irresistible flavor was unbelievable. And the salmon topped with pesto over smashed potatoes and a side of roasted beets was also good. The salmon was just cook enough to be cooked, but it almost melted in my mouth because it was not over cooked. Of course, I love Sunset's mashed potatoes, and I could eat them everyday. We finished with dessert, a whole dessert each. We got the mango sorbet and the chocolate pot de creme. I really like the pot de creme.

I really think that the Sunset Grill is really offering a great value and good quality food at a rock bottom price. Sunset Grill is one of only restaurants to honor the original tradition of a 3 course full meal for only $20.10 (for the year 2010). I so respect the Sunset Grill and Randy Rayburn for offering such wonder options for Restaurant Week. Thank you!

Lastly, if at all possible, put the lamb bolonese on the entree menu, and put the fried oysters on the app menu. I would get them every time I am at the Sunset Grill. yum!!

September 13, 2010

Red Gables

Jamie Pribanic, Chef and Owner

Red Gables, I have past by this place 100s of times, Never giving it a 2nd thought because it looks so funky from the outside. It is actually is an interesting concept, has a strong point of view, and is worth a visit. This theme of mine, passing by restaurants and businesses in Sandusky because they look funky on the outside needs to stop because every time I go in, I have a great time, the food has been great, and the owners are usually really down to Earth enjoyable nice people. Red Gables is one of these places that look funky on the outside, but has really good food, much of the vegetables and bread are sourced locally, cooked over mesquite, and Jamie the owner is super nice. Also, a running theme of mine, nice goes a long way for the success of a meal.

old school steak house decor

I was tipped off about Red Gables from the owners of Zinc Brasserie and Crush Wine Bar, that Jamie at Red Gables strives to use locally grown vegetables, and he only has a mesquite grill to cook with. I was intrigued, so I went for a meal. Jamie is Jason's father, and Jason is the one who started the 1st CSA in Sandusky, and the 1st all artisan, local, and local organic farmers market in Sandusky. Jamie does get fruits and vegetables from Jason, and I am sure they are locally sourced. Jamie also gets his bread from Jason, and all of that bread is baked daily by a local artisan baker. The meat is sourced from a meat market in Cleveland, where there are still real butchers and meat markets. I make this comment because Nashville's last real butcher and meat market closed last month, and now all Nashville has are chain grocery stores with meat cutters who don't know how to butcher. The situation with the cooking equipment that Jamie has is really unique for a non-BBQ steakhouse, he has an industrial size wood burning stove and grill. About 20 years ago, Jamie took a trip down to "my parts of the woods" to Crossville, TN where there was a wood stove maker for restaurant use. Jamie wanted a restaurant sized stove that burned wood, charcoal and mesquite, and have that be the only stove in his restaurant. Everything cooked in-house is cooked on this stove, including appetizers, steaks, other meat, vegetables, everything. This is great for me because I like eating locally wherever I go, and I love the flavor mesquite.

artisan rosemary bread

When I got into the restaurant, I was taken aback and taken back by the decor which is so 1980s. The dark mauve carpet and matching booth and napkin colors is so 1980s. I am pretty sure that the restaurant design was made approximately at the same time the wood burning stove was purchased, and when Red Gables was 1st set up. I believe it is the original decor scheme, it is not retro, or I guess it is the original retro. I was a little scared by the decor, but I remembered what I was told about this place, and I pushed on.

smoky Thai style shrimp dumplings

The menu is meat and shell fish heavy. If you are a vegan, or someone who wants a high fiber meal, this is not the place for you. If you eat meat, shellfish and like mesquite aroma and flavor, this is a Must Try place. I ordered the house made Thai style seafood dumplings to start, and a NY Strip. Everything is grilled on that mesquite and hardwood charcoal grill, including the dumplings. I questioned if the dumplings were made in house, but when I took a bite, I was sure they were. They were made with a really nice wonton noodle, fresh peas, and shrimp. The dumplings were boiled, and then put on the grill to give it a little char and mesquite, and then topped with the spicy and sweet Thai dipping sauce. Really tasty, and the char and mesquite added a nice quality to the dumplings. If I had my way, I would make all my dumplings this way. Also, much Thai street food is made over an open flame, so these dumplings may taste more like food from which it was inspired. My NY Strip was pepper encrusted and put on the mesquite grill. Years ago, Jamie went to a restaurant in Knoxville, TN which prepared steaks similar to how Jamie prepares steaks. The Knoxville restaurant staff said all steaks come pepper encrusted and cooked over wood coals, and if you didn't like it, they would make a plain steak. Wish I knew what restaurant that was, and I would go visit it one day. But, anyway, as the story goes, virtually no one returned steaks at this Knoxville restaurant, and virtually no one returns steaks at Red Gables either. The steak has a nice flavor from the pepper, but it isn't over the top peppery. When I talked to Jamie, he said he is looking for grass fed beef options for his menu, perhaps this year or next. I am not sure when. It may be tough to find a tender grass fed option, so perhaps there might be a 2nd category on the menu with the beef he sells now, and then a few local grass fed beef options for those who remember, and can appreciate grass fed beef steaks. It may be easier to find decent pastured chickens and have that on the menu.

NY Strip and asparagus

As I was dining, Jamie came around to say hello to every table, and chat for a moment. First off, I had a moment of awe because Jamie looked like a healthier and younger version of Mick Jagger from the 1960s, when young women swooned over Mick. Jamie told me about his wood and charcoal burning stove and grill, where he got it, and the story of installing into his restaurant. It is really heavy, so it was installed once, and that is that. He talked about where he sources the bread and vegetables, and they were delicious. He also told me how he became mostly a vegetarian. Jamie has the genetics for clogged arteries, and his doctor told him to lay off the fatty heart clogging foods, including steak, get more exercise and enjoy. Is this irony for a man who cooks steak for a living? Jamie is really a wonderful example of doing what you can with diet, exercise, no smoking, enjoying life, enjoying family as a prescription for a healthier life, rather than relying on pills and surgery. Jamie may have a taste of the steak he cooks from time to time to make sure things taste good for the restaurant, but he has not eaten a steak since his heart attack a few years ago. He also limits certain shell fish which is high in cholesterol. He spends time fishing and enjoying a pretty day with his youngest child who is just learning how to fish. He likes to hug people in joy.

My take away from my evening at Red Gables is that I will enjoy his steaks, in moderation. I will not waste my time, tastebuds, fat and cholesterol content on inferior beef, rather I will enjoy a great steak every once in a while. And, enjoying life, others companies and a hug now and again is a great way to live.

Mick Jagger from the London Evening Standard 16.12.08
Stones' Studio Runs Out of Time
by Louise Jury

Sympathy for the studio: Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger
during sessions for Sympathy For The Devil,
recorded at Olympic Studios in June 1968
and filmed by Jean-Luc Godard"

Red Gable Mesquite Grill on Urbanspoon


September 12, 2010

Samurai revisited

Samurai Sushi
2209 Elliston Place
Nashville, TN

various sushi

I remember when Samurai Sushi opened, and all it had was a sushi bar, and a few tables of 4 and that was it. Mr Choo, chef and owner, had copied pages of Asian calligraphy and taped the pages up on the wall to make a wall paper. It really felt like I was sitting in a hole in the wall sushi joint in Manhattan. I loved it. Then, Samurai got really popular with the Exit/In and the End crowd, and it became nearly impossible to get in on a Friday or Saturday. Then, a couple years ago, the next door neighbor went out of business, and Mr Choo expanded his little restaurant into another space tripling the size of his restaurant. It is much easier to get in to Samurai Sushi now, and there is generally no wait. Mr Choo has also painted his walls now to a beige color, so gone is his homemade wall paper. It does seem like a "nicer" restaurant now, but I miss that urban edge that his wall paper gave to the room.

We have always had luck asking Mr Choo, what is the best fish, and taking a minute to looking into the sushi cooler. I really like the standards, yellowtail, tuna, salmon and salmon roe. Every time we get these fish, they have been buttery, smooth and fresh. I also like getting seaweed salad, which has sesame oil in it. Note, there is really no cooked food here except for miso soup. If you want teriyaki or other stir fry stuff, this is not the place for you. Samurai sushi is about straight forward sushi.

I like going to Samurai Sushi when I have just come off the road from food desserts that I occasionally go to. When I have been in towns with only fast food, or fatty foods devoid of vegetables, I crave raw food, seafood, and lack of added fat. I want something completely opposite of fast food, and Samurai Sushi feels like it is the complete opposite of fast food. I seem to feel better when I have a meal at Samurai Sushi.

Samurai Sushi on Urbanspoon

September 10, 2010

I ain't Jacking you

Artisan bread toasted, local free range egg omelet

This is a rather amazing little deli, restaurant, late night and breakfast place. This place is open at the crack of dawn for breakfast, and stays open until the last tourist finds his or her way out the door, which could be 1 am or later. This place doesn't look like much from the outside, and it has a big bright, a bit obnoxious, yellow sign that is backlit. I have driven by this place 100s of times over the past decade, and never gave it much thought. I ignored it because it is on route to Cedar Point, and it seemed to be targeting the tourists wanting to go to the amusement park. My assumption was that this deli was offering minimally edible product like so many other tourist traps, but I was wrong. Jack's is a place that take care in sourcing and serving food.

Jack's Deli breakfast is so good, and it serves up local, local organic and artisan food. It has been almost 5 years since I have made an effort to eat locally where ever local may be. 5 years ago, it seemed that eating locally was impossible in Sandusky, OH, yet Sandusky is surrounded by farm land. I had gone to lengths to eat locally while Sandusky by stopping into those farms I see while driving in, and buying directly and cooking in my microwave at the hotel. I no longer have to do that just to have a locally grown ingredient, there are a handful of restaurants that offer wonderful local foods, and Jack's is one of them.

I went to Jack's for breakfast on my way out to another N OH city, and I didn't want to be weighed down by huge portions of food. Also, I wanted eggs, but not those tainted industrial eggs that have been in the news lately. I found out Jack's sells local free-range eggs, local fruit, and artisan bread. I ordered a 2 egg omelet and toast. The plate came out with a nice thick piece of artisan bread that was toasted and spread with real butter, not margarine. The eggs were sourced locally, and had no worries about having bad bacteria. I asked for the omelet to be stuffed with mushrooms and onions. There was also a side of locally grown watermelon that was so sweet and delicious that I ate them all before I could take the photo. I got all this for less than $4. Yup, a mostly locally sourced delicious breakfast for less than $4.

Jack's is focused on selling to the tourists that come through the area because that is where a significant portion of the Sandusky income is coming from. I think that tourists may pass by this little place (much like I did) because they are judging a book by its cover (like I did). It doesn't look like much from the outside. The shame is, I believe the care of sourcing local farm fresh foods and breads is completely lost on the tourists who run in for a quick cheap bite before heading to the roller coasters. Also, the tourists don't build a repeat customer base. None of the virtues of Jack's Deli is lost on me.

Jack's Deli on Urbanspoon

September 4, 2010

Locally Made Dinner

cooking with local ingredients

Shell pasta - Lazzaroli Pasta
Bacon - Scott's Hams
Okra - Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms
Yellow Squash - Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms
Small Tomatoes - Bellos Bend Neighborhood Farms
Red Pepper - Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms
Cayenne Pepper - Smiley's Ridgetop
Basil - Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms
Garlic Scapes - Bells Bend Neighborhood Farms
Water - tap, Cumberland River - Metro Water Services

Dice all ingredients
Cook diced bacon in a fry pan over medium heat
Dump in diced squash, peppers and okra
Add minced garlic scapes and minced cayenne
Add 1/2 cup of water to make a little gravy
Cook until tender
Add whole baby tomatoes and heat for 2 minutes
Add cooked pasta and coat with gravy
At the last minute, stir in sliced basil