Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

July 29, 2012

Block Party

Block Party Potluck
one of the establish neighborhoods in Pittsburgh, PA

The tents, tables and chairs getting ready
I love PA.  I vacation in PA.  I lived in PA for about 10 years.  I love PA from Philadelphia to State College to Pittsburgh and everywhere in between.  This blog post is about  my most recent vacation to the 'Burgh visiting my pals.  They live in the city, the houses are old brick homes. Actually all homes within Pittsburgh are all brick by ordinance in response to the great fire of 1845 that swept through Pittsburgh burning down 11,000 homes and many additional factories and businesses.  Homes in the downtown area are built close together, and there is no confusion between downtown Pittsburgh and the suburbs surrounding it.  This is how I like to live - close to my neighbors because it does help build community and friendship.  This is how it is on my pal's street, there are small lots with historic brick homes on each lot, and they know every neighbor by name, how long they have lived on the street, and  are there for each other when in need.

There are residents that span recent to 50 years+ on this street.  I love listening to Bette, one of the 50 years + residents on the street.  She said that when she moved in, she was a newly-wed, and there were a bunch of other newly-weds on the street too.  They all became friends, had cookouts and cocktails together and gossiped every once in a while about each other.  She then recounted a story of new neighbors who moved in across the street from her about 50 years ago, and she recognized the woman back to her high school days.  The woman, in high school, stole her cousin's boyfriend, and back then (similarly to now) Bette and her cousin "black-listed" this woman and vowed never to be friends with her.  So finally, after a few months, this woman invited a bunch of neighbors over for a cookout, and Bette and neighbors discovered the woman's backyard was the best for block party cookouts, and the woman was married to another man, not the ex-HS boyfriend.  It turns out, after that 1st cookout 50 years ago, Bette discovered that woman was actually a lovely caring and fun neighbor.  After that, they became fast friends for life, watched each others kids, carpooled, and looked out for each other. 

There are the middle aged residents who moved in about 20 years ago, like my pals.  These middle aged folks have kids that grew up on the street, knowing Bette, and always getting a cookie and a "grandma place" to go visit.  I had a lot of fun talking to the kids, the teenagers who are getting ready to go to college.  Many of the middled aged folks, as well a my pals, are affiliated with the Univ of Pittsburgh.  Like many teens bound for college, they want to stretch their wings and fly to a college away from Pitt. So, all of the teens are heading to Ohio, or further for college.  Close enough to drive for a weekend, but far enough away that mom and dad cannot just drop in.  The heartwarming chats I had with the teens are that they are very aware of who their neighbors are, and they know Bette, and her husband in advanced stages of dementia.  They were raised to enjoy their time with their neighbors, and now they are old enough, to look out for their neighbors as well. 

salads table

Then there are the new neighbors who moved on to the street in the past 5 years, they have their whole lives ahead of them, and they are optimistic like Bette was 50 years+ ago.  This young ones have little kids, or about to have babies.  The life of this street starts over again.  The young ones want to know their neighbors, invite others kids over to play, have cookouts and cocktails, and really be a part of this special tight-knit community.    I love that the kids were running around together on foot and their trikes like you see on a 1950s TV show.  They know all their neighbors, so there is no fear, and the kids can be kids playing outside.

Caprese bites

This block party was awesome.  One thing you need to know is that the Univ of Pitt and PennState grads know how to tailgate, and that translates to a really awesome block party potluck.  There was some of everything. Everyone made a dish, and the young dads on the block got together to build a charcoal spit in the backyard and roast a pig for over 24 hours.  The pig came from a local farm, and was quite delicious.

pig on a spit
The side dishes were all homemade, none came pre-made from C@stco, or Gi@nt E@gle.   Many of the dishes started out with locally grown or home grown ingredients.  There were fresh lettuce salads, pasta salads, veggie salads, chickpea salads, strawberries, watermelon, corn, cookies, pies, brownies, and dozens of other dishes.  And of course, in good tailgating style, there was  the Iron City Brewing Company keg on tap.

Bette's butter cookies
Of note to me were the desserts.  I usually don't love desserts, but the desserts here were irresistible.  One of the new neighbors discovered that she has sour cherry trees in the backyard, and the cherries are perfect for pies and jams.  They are a little too sour to eat straight away, so pies are the way to go.  The new neighbor learned how to make pie crust, and baked sour cherry pies.  The filling was so terrific, sweet and tart. Once word got out that the pies were made with cherry trees on the block, it took 1 minute for slices to be called dibs on.  By the time I got there, there was only one small piece of crust and some cherry juice and a few cherry pieces left in the pan.  I licked the pan, it was so good.

And then there were Bette's butter cookies.  My pal has consulted Bette over the past 20 years about Bette's cookies.  The recipe is the same as standard butter cookies.  It is not the recipe, but the technique. Bette has that 50 years+ technique that my older relatives have.  The cookies are light, crispy yet buttery-melt-in-your-mouth quality.  The cookies are not overly sweet, and beckon you to eat another and another.  I told my pals that they need to get in with Bette and learn her secrets before it is too late.  Our grandmas, and great aunts have all passed away, and Bette is one of the last people we know who can make butter cookies like this.  Bette's generation really knows how to make things from scratch, and I fear that modern society is losing that quality.

cherry pies
But, then again, I don't think all is lost, many of the younger folks on this street, there are people like me, Andy at Barista Parlor, Tandy and City House, Porter Road Butcher, and others who are trying to get back to the good old ways of doing things.  I see some of the younger generation are yearning for all that is traditional, the old way and rejecting mass production processed food, probably because real cookies, really mac and cheese, real locally grown veggies just taste better.  What would be the shame is that the younger generation having to re-create the wheel, experimenting over and over again to get Bette's cookies, and maybe never getting the secret method, when Bette is still here holding the key.  

I actually live on a block here in downtown Nashville that used to be close knit, and we had potluck cookouts all the time.  Neighbors have moved, the older neighbors have passed away, and we have grown apart to some extent over the past 5 years.  I see and know some retired neighbors, and I know a few of the middle aged neighbors like myself, and in the past 5 years, I see a lot of young neighbors a couple with little kids, who moved in on the street with their whole lives ahead of them.  I think it is time to see if we can have another block party potluck, and celebrate our neighbors, and feel the love and hope.

July 22, 2012


Dinette is in East Liberty, a re-newed and hip area of Pittsburgh. At one time, if you squint really hard, you might see East Liberty as the livestock grazing area of Pittsburgh in the 1700s, just like the Boston Commons and Boston Garden was a livestock grazing area of Boston. Now in East Liberty, the only grazing area may be a few weeds popping up between concrete slabs. In between the Revolutionary time and now, East Liberty was built up as the main commerce center in Pittsburgh, and then through sketchy urban planning, and white flight to the 'burbs, East Liberty, like so many urban centers in the 1960s, fell into a decline. And, like so many urban centers now, there is an interest from the suburbanites to come back to the city, to East Liberty. The population in the 'Burgh has been in a steady decline for decades, and the average age in the 'Burgh was 40+ over a decade ago. But now, the population has stopped fleeing the 'Burgh, and young people have moved back in and the average age is not about 35, about the same as the the USA population.

Dinette is chef owned and driven by Sonja Finn, a two time James Beard Award nominee. Dinette is perfect for East Liberty. The price point is right, the ingredients are sources as locally as she can, and the dining room is casual. This is the perfect place for those young suburanites who want to return to the city.

My 'Burgh pals, have lived in the city for many years, and they have been having a good time watching various Pittsburgh neighborhoods come alive again. They enjoyed welcoming Dinette and other restaurants in their neighborhood. Dinette plates are small plates, salads, brick oven pizza all with an average of $10 or so. The concept is to order a bunch of plates for the table and share.

We got a bunch of stuff for the table, olives, fritto misto, ricotta and greens, grilled shishito peppers, chicken wings, carpaccio, arugula salad and pizza. The fritto misto was a seasonal veggie dish, and did not get photographed because we dug into the dish for the decedent crunchy goodness with reckless abandon. Dinette has the grilled shishito peppers dish all the time, and it grilled shishitos drizzled with excellent olive oil and salt. These peppers are delicious. I need to find the peppers and get seed and see if I can grow these peppers myself and have them on hand when I want them. Anyone, anyone reading this blog, do you grow shishito peppers? If you do, let me have a couple to save seed and grow myself. We closed our dinner with a "dessert" plate of the carpaccio, the dish my pals often get because it is their favorite dish. The beef is so buttery and sliced so thin, it melted in my mouth. The accoutrements of egg, greens, horseradish cream and pickled onions are the perfect pairing with the beef.
Dinette on Urbanspoon

July 19, 2012

Anthony Bourdain

Thats right folks. You saw it on the TPAC website, you saw it announced all over the Nashville Scene's blogs, and now you are seeing it here on my blog:
Anthony Bourdain is coming to TPAC November 3rd at 8 pm for the Nashville engagement of an 11 city tour. Anthony Bourdain will be sharing candid and often hysterically funny insights about his life, work and travels. What a great opportunity for Nashville to hear Anthony Bourdain live. Tickets are $15-$65 and will go on sale Friday July 27 at 10:00 am CST. Tickets will be available or by phone 615-782-4040 or by going to the TPAC box office at 505 Deaderick St.

There are limited number of VIP tickets are available. VIP tickets include: premiere seating and an exclusive meet and greet session with Bourdain featuring hors d’oeuvres, a photo opportunity, a limited edition Anthony Bourdain tour poster and a limited edition tour VIP laminate. The meet and greet will be held at The Nashville City Center, featuring a menu by Chef Tandy Wilson of City House Restaurant. Promotional partners Corsair Distillery, Yazoo Brewery and Olive & Sinclair Southern Artisan Chocolates will be providing selections of their specialty spirits, beers and chocolates for all in attendance. Other promotional partners include Nashville Scene and YELP.

Here is the deal I have for you: You can get tickets before everyone else, either regular tickets or one or some of the limited VIP tickets. Here is what you can do: Starting 3 days early on July 24th 10:00 am CST log into and choose your tickets. That is right, if you want one of the VIP tickets, you probably need to get in early because they are going to go quick.

OK, that is all I got for now. I will see you in the VIP seats November 3!

July 15, 2012


(behind Rainbow Fashion)

Herbal iced tea 
We were sitting at City House bar for dinner, as we do as often as our disposable income allows, and we always seem to meet interesting people having dinner too.  Stephanie introduced us to Andy, owner and coffee barista extraordinaire of Barista Parlor.  Since I am so behind the times of all that is shiny and new Nashville, I didn't  really know about Barista Parlor until this time.  So, we chatted with Andy about food, local food, local organic food, Porter Road Butcher and the Bloomy Rind.  I love being a locavore (I wear that badge proudly), so it was just so fun talking to Andy who really is embracing the local and artisan ingredients in his shop.  I like knowing where the ingredients in my food come from, and I know exactly where the ingredients come from in any breakfast sandwich I get at Barista Parlor.

Porter Road Butcher sausage in a house made biscuit
When we sat with Andy at dinner, we were talking about Philadelphia, Lancaster, and areas in and around the Southeastern Pennsylvania area where we both lived in our former lives.  We talked about scrapple (City House Sunday Supper) and the scrapple Andy grew up eating, and the scrapple I ate when I lived in Philadelphia.  We talked about gravy fries that seems to be a thing in Philadelphia.  We talked about the Mennonites I used to live near.  We talked about how there is a solid food tradition from many backgrounds in Philadelphia, where the "old ways" the crafts-person ways, the artisan ways are respected and expected in Philadelphia.  I mean, the good Italian food, good cheese steaks, and good family style Amish meals are all house-made, they are not pre-made food distributor concoctions, they are made the real way, the old-school way, and the expectation is for really food.  We talked about the Pennsylvania agriculture tradition, and and how the Amish and Mennonites, and many people in Pennsylvania were doing farm-to-table for their whole time in Pennsylvania, and doing it before it became a cool thing, a hip thing to do.  

After talking to Andy, I truly believe that he lives to his core a sustainable business with fair trade, local organic ingredients, and excellence in preparing a simple glass of water to a perfect cup of coffee.  His dad too plays into Barista Parlor by being behind the scenes in the kitchen making batch after batch of biscuits trying to get them just yummy for breakfast.  Some days, hot and humid, or cool and dry really do effect the biscuits, so everyday the biscuits are a work in progress.  I know it is a bit Portlandia of me, but I find the way Andy runs Barista Parlor empowering for me to choose exactly what I eat, and knowing that I am not eating a bunch of antibiotic meats, or highly processed manufactured MSG foods.  I don't make antibiotic meat and MSG laden food in my house, so why do I want to pay top dollar and tax and tip for it outside of my house. 

Gluten free raisin toast with egg, Bloomy Rind cheese
and Porter Road Butcher sausage
Andy not only goes sustainable and excellent in food and beverage, he goes into reduce, reuse, recycle materials as well.  The structure is reclaimed.  All the wood tables and chairs are reclaimed.  All off the fixtures are reclaimed.  Barista Parlor's furniture and fixtures are respecting the wood by being reused and repurposed and allowing the wood to shine again in all its glory, and not rot in a landfill.   Reusing, reclaiming, an recycling furniture is a wonderful ideal I would like to do myself, but I haven't yet.  I have a lot of Ikea furniture, not reclaimed and reused furniture.

Cold drip iced coffee in the make
We love Barista Parlor.  We have gone to have Sunday breakfast when ever we can get over to Barista Parlor.  Andy has these breakfast sandwiches that we love.  This is how I get it.  Gluten free toast, Porter Road Butcher sausage, farm egg, and grated Bloomy Rind cheese.  The last few times the gluten free bread has been raisin bread, and it goes so well with the spicy sausage, and the fattiness of the cheese and egg yolk.  That was my standard Sunday breakfast for weeks.  The biscuits are house made everyday, and getting a sausage biscuit is always fresh.  And it is best to get to Barista Parlor before 11:00 or noon because once they are are out of sausage and biscuits for the day, they are out until the next morning.  The hot coffee, now the hot coffee is made with a Japanese swirl filter while swirling in hot water.  Each cup is swirled to order.  There is iced coffee available too.  The iced coffee is cold drip, about 40 - 60 drips per minute through coffee grounds and then a condensed cold coffee is collected in the collection chamber for the next day.  It takes all day to make iced coffee.  Coffee isn't the only beverage available. There is hot tea, and iced tea as well.  The last time I went, I already had 3 cups of coffee at home, so I really did not need anymore caffeine, so I opted for an herbal mint iced tea.  They had to brew the tea first, and then ice it for me, and it was just a nice refreshing beverage with my breakfast sandwich.

OK, so it may seem to be expensive, say an extra dollar or two per item here than at the comparable coffee shops in Nashville.  I also think it is about the same cost for coffee here than the St@rbuks.  A extra large cup at the big chain, cost about the same.  The difference is, Barista Parlor coffee isn't bitter, isn't scorched, what it is, is made with care, in an artisan manner by people who really care about the coffee making method.  The little extra cost is the true cost of real food and real beverages that don't take any short cuts from growing to plate.  This place is not for everyone, but it is a place for me.

Barista Parlor on Urbanspoon

July 9, 2012

Local Sourced Dinner

We had a little potluck dinner with some friends, and it was a local and local organic dinner sources most ingredients from within 100 miles of downtown Nashville.  We had an 8 course meal with wine.  Even our wine was local and from Beachaven Winery 60 miles north of Nashville.  Here is our meal.

Noble Spring goat cheese with Provence bread
We started with Noble Springs goat cheese (26 miles) with Provence Bakery bread (o miles).  Tennessee is not a good wheat growing region, but Provence Bakery makes bread and baked goods in Nashville and has done so for 16 years.  Provence in Hillsboro Village donates to charity all its unsold baked goods at the end of each day.

Stewart Orchard Peaches and Hamery Tennshootoe 
The 2nd course was peach slices wrapped in air dried ham. Stewart Orchard now has two orchards, one in Ashland City (20 miles) and one in Bells Bend (13 miles).  They have a variety of peaches, plumcots, blackberries and apples and are available at the West Nashville Farmers Market.  In the coming years, the Bells Bend location will be open for "U-Pick".  The ham is an air cured ham like that of prosciutto with a level of apple and hickory wood smoke, but made at the Hamery in Murfreesboro (26 miles). 

Pickle Me This pickles, Kenny's cheese, Foggy Hollow tomatoes
The 3rd course was pickled root veggies and fruit.  The 4th course was cheese and tomatoes to balance the large flavors of the pickles.  The pickles came from Pickle Me This, a small cottage business in East Nashville (0 miles).  The turnips, carrots, plums and grapes came from the Nashville Farmers Market, and Pickle Me This added spices, vinegar and water and water bathed jarred these yummies to preserve them.  The spices in the plums and grapes created a sweet, sour, and spicy flavor that is like a chutney.

The 4th course was Kenny's Farm House Cheese gouda (75 miles) and fresh sliced Foggy Hollow tomatoes (13 miles).

JD milk and cream, NFM tomatoes and corn
The 5th course was a soup course made with JD milk and cream (54 miles) and corn and tomatoes from the Nashville Farmers Market Smiley's Farm (20 miles).  To top off the soup was basil from the backyard (0 miles).

Barefoot Farmer carrots, squash and lettuce, Foggy Hollow tomatoes
The 6th course was a salad topped with a red wine vinaigrette (0 miles).  The Vinaigrette is made with red wine vinegar that I started last year and keep feeding the vinegar every time we don't finish a bottle of red wine.  The herbs in the vinaigrette are from my garden.  The carrots, squash and lettuce are from the Barefoot Farmer (70 miles) and the tomatoes from Foggy Hollow (13 miles).

Lazzaroli shell pasta, Benton's bacon, Barefoot Farmer butternut squash
Italian parsley and garlic scapes
 The 7th course, which was my favorite course was the pasta course.  The pasta, although the wheat is not grown near Nashville, but was fresh hand made by Tom Lazzaro and his mom-in-law at Lazzaroli Pasta Shop (0 miles).  Topping the pasta was Benton's bacon (not within 100 miles, but made in TN 194 mi), Barefoot Farmer Italian parsley, butternut squash and garlic scapes (70 miles).  The basil is from my yard (0 miles) and the water is from the Cumberland River via Metro Water (0 miles).  I used only 3 diced up pieces of bacon for a huge pot of pasta, and the dish was very smoky and bacony.  The bacon smoke and salt worked very well with sweet butternut squash.

Basil ice cream
Last but not least, our 8th and final course was the basil ice cream made with Jeni's basil ice cream recipe.  The basil was from my pals' garden (0 miles).  This stuff is addicting.

We also had a 9th course, but I forgot it on the kitchen counter and it never made it to the table.  It was Swiss chard and beet greens with gralic scapes from the Barefoot Farmer (70 miles) sauteed in Cumberland River water (0 miles) and Bluegrass Soy Sauce. Bluegrass Soy Sauce is made in Louisville (not within 100 miles but is 175 miles) using KY grown non-gmo soy beans and fermented and aged in old Jack Daniels (73 miles) whiskey barrels to give the soy sauce a nice light smoky flavor.

We did not do a meat course this time because we had so much food already and decided against it.  The next time we will probably do a meat dish and have a 10th course.  There are quite a few local, free range farms, so it will be easy to get any meat product we want.

I love eating local and local organically because it is so dang delicious!  

July 3, 2012

Bella Nashville

open for lunch 'til 3 pm every day of the week

Pizza with Benton's ham
 One thing that I have learned about trying new restaurants is to wait until the hub-bub settles, wait until the customer service hits their stride, and wait for all the kinks to be worked out.  All the snags that happen in the 1st few weeks of a new business is not really a reflection on the real business, so it is nice for me to wait for a restaurant to work things out and be at their best.  It did not take long for Bella Nashville to hit their stride and be at their best.

Pizza oven on the make
Back in March, of this year, I watched Bella Nashville's wood burning brick oven be created.  The builders built the oven over many nights.  I was hopeful for wood fired pizza, and I gotta say that this is the best wood fired pizza I have ever had.

Wood burning pizza oven up and running
First off,  a pizza is only as good as its oven, flour, and toppings.  This is a good wood burning pizza oven.  The flour is a really good 00 milled flour which is a very fine mill that is perfect for flatbread and pizza.  The toppings Bella Nashville uses are best local suppliers can provide  The bacon and ham are from Benton's, the beets and beet greens are from the Barefoot Farmer, some other ingredients are sourced by the owners visiting the farmers market and buying direct from the farmers.  There is no corn syrup, or fake food distributor ingredients here, only real foods, real ingredients.

Pizza dough getting ready for topping and cooking

We waited for the dust to settle (or should I say flour to settle) before trying Bella Nashville.  What a treat it was for me to finally get over to the Nashville Farmer's Market and try this wood oven pizza everyone has been raving about.  We went on the 1st Night Market of 2012.  I told "the Man" to get home early enough so we could get to the Nashville Farmer's Market right when the Night Market opens at 6:30, so we can park, and get in. Well, "the Man" did not listen and we got there a little after 7 pm and there was no parking, it was pouring rain, so we parked in the overflow parking lot and walked in the pouring rain just for this pizza.  We get in line for pizza, and the person in front of us was told they were getting the last pizza for the night.  I was so upset, no parking, pouring rain, and then being shut down as the next person in line.  As I was pouting, Emma, David and other staff has a little conference, and said that they had 2 extra pizza doughs for me and "the Man", and we are the absolute last customers.    It turns out, the extra dough was supposed to be dinner pizzas for the owners and staff after Night Market closed, but instead of feeding themselves dinner after closing, they fed us!  THANK YOU Bella Nashville!  You have a fan for life.

My pizza made my way (Instagram)
We have been back multiple times to Bella Nashville.  We've tried the margherita, the meat lovers, the Benton's bacon and beet special, and a custom pizza. The dough is nice and thin, with a puffier edge crust to hold onto the pizza.  The edges get a little charred from the wood burning in the oven.  The mozzarella is hand stretched at Bella Nashville and is always made fresh. The herbs are locally grown and fresh.   When I was there, they said they would make any pizza I wanted as long as they had the ingredients on hand.  I wanted to try a Benton's ham and Benton's bacon pizza with extra burned and charred pizza bread.  If I had my way, the outside edge would be completely blackened, with all the dough bubbles black charred, and the bottom be burnt as well.  I don't know why I like pizza burnt that way, but I do, and it was impossible to get pizza that way in Nashville until now.  Bella Nashville doesn't normally burn pizzas, but they will specially burn my pizza for me.  Yes, you can have your pizza your way, just let them know.  But, if you just ask them for a normal pizza, they will give you a very nice pizza like normal people like, unburnt.  I am just a little strange about burnt bread.   THANK YOU AGAIN Bella Nashville for making the pizza I have always wanted!

Bella Nashville on Urbanspoon