Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

October 27, 2012

Stir the Pot Part 2

Stir the Pot Potluck
A benefit for the Southern Foodways Alliance
a non-profit to celebrate and document the rich diversity and history of 
food in and from the American South

ham and honeydew
The next day after the spiffy Stir the Pot sit-down dinner, was the Stir the Pot Potluck located at the Nashville Corsair Distillery in Marathon Village.  The potluck was awesome.  Everyone brought a dish to share, and the drinks were offered by Corsair, and beef brisket was offered by Tandy Wilson.  This was my favorite Southern Foodways Alliance fundraiser in Nashville yet!

Laura Wilson's watermelon mint salad
Pat Martin of Martin's BBQ, could not attend, but sent a huge batch of pulled pork for us to snack on.  Bob from the Hamery brought his TN smoked air dried ham.  Laura Wilson brought perfectly 1/2 inch diced watermelon mint salad.  Tandy brought the best smoked brisket I have ever had.  Beth brought Goo Goo Clusters from a 100 year old Nashville company making chocolatey treats.  Tom Lazzaro brought pear and cheese raviolis.  Olive and Sinclair brought all sorts of chocolates to try.

Tandy Wilson's brisket
And the other guests are walking in with homemade casseroles, fried rice, salads, and desserts.  There were these bacon horseradish muffins that we all coveted.  There was a cast iron made mac and cheese.  The dessert tables were beautiful with many desserts from pies, cookies, brownies and more.

Tandy Wilson's salumi and cheese
For my dish, I felt a little pressure because some of my favorite chef's and food blogger friends were in attendance and bring a dish.  I was thinking about making a locally sourced dish, which would probably be more in a European American tradition. BUT, all of the people attending the potluck are of a European American tradition.  How could I make a dish that would stand up to some of the dishes at the potluck?

green bean and potato casserole
I decided on a Southeast Asian inspired dish instead of a Euro-American one.  I made a gluten free peanut coconut curry dish with rice noodles, local biodynamic Barefoot farmer veggies, ginger, lime, cayenne from my organic garden, red curry paste, my pal's local honey, and fish sauce.

Goo Goo Clusters
I actually simmered the peanut curry gravy the day before.  I added cayenne and lime.  I kept adding cayenne and lime every hour or so because it wasn't hitting that sour/heat receptors in the back of my mouth.  Finally, after a few additions, it was perfect.  What I keep forgetting is that cayenne gets hotter and hotter the longer it simmers and sits over night.  The next day, the day of the potluck I tasted the curry sauce, and I nearly fell over from the spicy heat.  Well, I was a point of no return.  I added the veggies and noodles, and crossed my fingers.

dessert pie
Tandy and Stephanie claim to like spicy food.  Tandy was over in the corner coughing after taking a bite of my curry.  Uh oh.  Juliet, who said that she is of a Latin American chili tradition and can handle some spicy food, was turning a little pink from the heat of my curry.  It was the only dish that had any real spicy heat to it, so it was a standout in that way.  Well, the dish was eaten by some of the 75 potluck guests, so it couldn't have been too bad right?

cream cheese brownies
Well, the evening wasn't about my dish alone, it was trying everyone else's dishes, enjoying the company of some real foodies, and trying some Corsair cocktails.  

Olive and Sinclair buttermilk salt and pepper white chocolate
This Stir the Pot Potluck event is really my favorite event of all the Southern Foodways Alliance events I have been to.  I really like the guest participation portion where everyone brings a dish.  I loved tasting some of the really delicious homemade food!  I really enjoy the people in attendance because they respect Southern food heritage as I do, and they are a joy to talk to about food.

I have another 5 months or so to figure out what I am going to make for the next Stir the Pot Potluck.  What do I make!?  I do have a note to self, Stop Adding Cayenne after one addition!  

October 17, 2012

Stir the Pot Part 1

A benefit for the Southern Foodways Alliance
a non-profit to celebrate and document the rich diversity and history of 
food in and from the American South

The Menu for Nashville Stir The Pot part 1
Southern Foodways Alliance is an organization with a mission to document, study and celebrate the diverse food culture of the American South.  Southern food is so much more diverse than BBQ, over cooked and over salted greens or green beans, or over lardy everything.  The American South is more than some stupid slack jawed Hee Haw caricature.   Southern Foodways Alliance is trying to document the American Southern food history to present time in many ways including oral histories, film, music, and written word.  The deep rich history of Southern food should be told and remembered. 

Course 1 - Smoked Trout Roe
Often, people don't think about other immigrants to the South besides Europeans, and Africans who were horrifically captured and brought to the USA to be slaves, but there is a history of West and East Asians, Central and South Americans.  There is also a history of Native Americans living along the fertile river valleys in the South.   There is one project Southern Foodways Alliance conducted was a limited oral history of Chinese and grocery stores owned by Chinese in the Arkansas and Mississippi Deltas.  I hope one day SFA continues further into the history of Chinese in Delta.

Course 2 - Tandy's pork belly
Had I not moved to the South 15 years ago, I would have never given Southern Food nor Chinese in the South a second thought.  I feel so lucky that I did move to the South because my father's side of the family (and that would include me) immigrated to the Mississippi Delta, and I am giving attention to that part of my family history.  My Chinese relative, my grandfather, came to the USA in the late 1800s, as an indentured servant, a serf, a replacement to slave labor.  It was illegal at the time for Chinese to become citizens of the USA, by the Chinese Exclusion Act (1868 - 1943), so there were no legal protections for Chinese or my family.  As with many Chinese serfs and my grandfather, they thought working in the harsh conditions in the fields of the South was oppressive, so they opened grocery stores in the Black part of town.  Southern whites at the time would never allow a non-white business in their part of town.  So as the story goes, my grandfather died when my father and uncles and aunts were quite young, and my grandmother was left a widow and to run a grocery in Greenville, MS.  She was the only Chinese woman owned grocery for as far as my family knew.  I am really proud of my family, coming to the USA with nothing, and giving me every opportunity to live the USA dream, and keep their story alive.

Not only is there an important history of Chinese in the South, there are other important histories as well.  To name a few, Native Americans, Kurdish, Laotians, Oaxacans,  and Sudanese in the South have contributed and reshaped the richness of the food landscape.  I hope that SFA conducts oral histories for these groups as well.  

Course 3 - Octopus and yogurt
I have supported the Southern Foodways Alliance over the past few years.  This year, I supported SFA through the new Nashville Stir The Pot fundraisers. For an organization withe the word FOOD in its name, the fundraisers are going to involve food.  I went to the spiffy Stir the Pot sit-down dinner fund raiser and the more casual potluck fundraiser the next days.  The spiffy Stir the Pot dinner included happy hour, and 5 course meal prepared by Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo of Animal (Los Angeles) with preparation help from Tyler Brown of Capitol Grille and Tandy Wilson of City House, all James Beard nominees.  Wine pairs were compliments of Horizon Wines.  The Historic Hermitage Hotel and Capitol Grille hosted this dinner, and it was a great success.

Course 4 - Double H beef filet
The highlights for me was being able to chat with Tyler Brown's parents.  His dad is retired now, but he taught engineering in Eastern MA, near where I went to school for engineering. We chatted about MA, we chatted about engineering, and we chatted about how wonderful his son is for honoring the history of the Capitol Grille and the Southern tradition of food.  We love the garden fresh veggies as well.  I also got to enjoy Stephanie and Juliet's company, which was such a joy because they usually are working when I see them, and it is not the same.  I also got to meet other City House regulars too, which is fun because they are a lot like us when it comes to food.  I also got to tell some of the folks attending the dinner why Southern Foodways Alliance is so important to me and my family, it is because they are documenting the history of families like mine and my family in the South.

Course 5 - Scuppernog and Peanut Milk
The courses at the dinner inventive and like no other dishes I have had before.  The two dishes I liked the most were the 1st and last course.  The 1st course was smoked sunburst trout roe with maple cream.  It was a small couple of bites only.  The salty smokiness went well with the slight sweetness of the cream. And the last dish was dessert.  The scuppernog is a local thick skinned grape which can be made into a sweet wine, or just eaten as a snack.  The dessert was a play on peanut butter and grape jelly.  The peanut milk and grape flesh was so familiar yet not, the dessert was like a "welcome to my home" feeling.

So on the agenda, I believe Nashville will host a Stir The Pot event twice per year.  This event was mid-September, and the next one I suspect will be April sometime.  I can't wait for the next one! I can't wait to deliciously support the Southern Foodways Alliance Again!

October 14, 2012

Gus's Nashville

471 Old Hickory Blvd
next to Kroger (Nipper's Corner)

Thanks Ulika for the tip-off that Gus's is finally open!  We went for dinner right away after seeing Ulika's blog post.

Gus's Nashville is finally in soft opening this weekend.  A few people from the Memphis shop are in town helping the Nashville shop get up and running.  Gus's chicken is a thin crust with slightly spicy flavor fried chicken.  It is not a Nashville "hot chicken", Gus's is fried chicken.  Right now, the dining room is clean.  They serve beer by the bottle (including 40 Bud Light), and fountain drinks.  There is the dining room for sit down service, and there is the take-out line at one corner of the restaurant to keep the dining room clear of the take-out crowd.  The Man and his bro' really really like this chicken.  It is obvious the chicken was never frozen, so the meat is clear, tender and moist.  Like any restaurant in the first few days, there are going to be some service glitches.  So be patient.

So, one of the Memphis folks talked to some of the dinner guests tonight telling people to expect about an hour wait before being served.  They cook everything to order.  They also execute orders as they are received.  If there are 10 tables ahead of you, they will get food before you.  My word of advice is that when you are just getting a hint of hunger, drive down to Gus's and order and expect an hour wait.  When an hour has elapsed, you will be the perfect hungry to eat the fried chicken.

Gus's World Famous Hot & Spicy Fried Chicken on Urbanspoon

October 11, 2012

My Drink

On my recent vacation to a sunny bright beachy place, I walked into a local restaurant with an excellent bar and friendly bartender.  I asked him to make me a drink that would make me feel special, and here it is.

October 7, 2012

Urban Grub

Bread Basket

Garth, one of the mangers, came by our table one night to see how things were going and if we liked the restaurant.  We do, we like the food, we like the bread basket, we like the raw bar,  we like the various dining rooms and patios, and we like to proximity to our house.  And, every time we go, the friendly service gets better and better (early on, service had a slow start, but I think they work that out).  Also, the big deal is that Urban Grub took a derelict car wash (it was an unsavory character hangout for at least a dozen years since I lived in the neighborhood) and made a really nice and relaxed restaurant with no evidence of unsavoriness.  


But as human psychology goes, people are resistant to change.  So, I told Garth, the 1st time going to Urban Grub, I was expecting to really dislike the place, probably because the place really changed the landscape of my 'hood.  Even though the derelict car wash was and eyesore and a place for drug dealing, my brain (victim of normal psychology) was resistant to change.  But, as the psychological change cycle goes, there is a time of acceptance and it only took 2 visits be accept and embrace this addition to my 'hood.   My pals who dine at Urban Grub for the 1st time last week, were a lot like me.  They all went into Urban Grub expecting to hate it, and heard it was terrible etc, and all of them were surprised and happy, and all it took was one visit for them to get to the acceptance phase of change.  Some of them really enjoyed the al fresco dining, and some really liked the various wines by the glass.  One real curmudgeon came in saying all she heard was terrible things, and she almost didn't come was won-over by the wine and bread basket.  In the middle of dinner, she softened up and said that the biscuits were divine and just like her grandmother used to make.  She too liked the patio, and the memories of her beloved grandma that the biscuits brought. 

Steak Frite

So the gig here is that Edgar the chef low and slow sous vides most all the beef, and low and slow smokes the chicken and brisket.  The beef in particular are local grass fed beef which can be stiff and chewy unless it is treated correctly with low and slow heat to tenderize the meat and not make it seize up like higher heat will do.  I just thought the sous vide was just a parlor trick, but having had the steak frite, I have been converted.  The steak of the steak frite is usually a cut like flatiron which is stiff and chewy normally, but the sous vide really makes it tender enough to enjoy.  The steak frite is really a well composed dish with house made chimichuri sauce of fresh herbs from the Urban Grub garden.   The frites that come with the steak has been through a revolution to what they are now.  They are just fresh cut potato fries, not some bad frozen food distributor fries, and not over done truffle fries - they are just simple fresh cut fried potatoes.  Simplicity is best with the humble potato, and I just like these simple fries.  And here is the deal, the frites are best enjoyed with the house made white bbq sauce.  The frites don't normally come with the white bbq sauce, so ask for it on the side and dip your fries into it.  The smoked chicken and brisket has been great every single time.  The chicken and brisket are low and slow smoked, tender, and have just enough smoke to make the nose happy.   

 Cuban Corn

So, a few weeks ago, I was down in the Gulf of Mexico, and I went to a range of restaurants from wood picnic tables to white linen table clothes.  Not one restaurant served local Gulf shrimp or oysters. How disappointed I was.  I don't get seaside too often, and don't get fresh local seafood at all (seeing that TN is landlocked by 7 other states).  So while in the Gulf of Mexico region, I thought I could get some local seafood, but no dice.  I even went to one highly rated and expensive restaurant, and the menu claimed Gulf shrimp.  When the plate came, the shrimp were all uniform in size, red like farmed shrimp, and had the texture of farmed shrimp.  Gulf shrimp I have gotten over the years have a lovely muted peach color, have a much denser texture than farmed shrimp, and are not of uniform size.  I fell liked I was duped.

So, as I got on the plane from the Gulf to home, I felt a bit robbed by not getting a Gulf seafood.  The layover in Atlanta provided terrible food, so I didn't eat anything.  When I landed at 9 pm, I called home saying I wanted to head to Urban Grub for dinner.  All I had was 1/2 oz bag  of peanuts, 2 cups of water in flight, and a pear I brought with me.  I was hungry and felt defeated during my trip to the Gulf.  We sat at the raw bar talking to Travis the raw bar guy.   I told Travis that I stepped off the plane from the Gulf, and drove straight to Urban Grub, and he needs to set me up with some raw bar seafood, which I could not get in the Gulf.  Is it irony that I spent a lot of money on a round-trip plane ticket, and 16 hours round trip to the Gulf of Mexico for Gulf seafood of which I could not find one morsel of Gulf seafood, when I just had to go a few blocks from my house to get Gulf seafood?  So Travis was kind enough to set me up with a dozen Apalachicola oysters, and wild caught shrimp.  The oysters were nice and plump with a fresh ocean flavor.  Travis also set me up with a few beautiful peel & eat wild caught shrimp.  They were that lovely pale peach color, and a meaty texture that you can only get with wild caught shrimp.  With the money I spent to go to the Gulf, I could have gotten 100 dozen oysters and shrimp from Urban Grub, and I wouldn't have to leave my neighborhood.


I guess I akin the acceptance and embracing Urban Grub being like the pretty and stylish new girl in high school.  In high school, when a pretty and stylish new girl starts to attend school, other girls assume the new girl is some sort of richy b!tchy snobby girl who is interested in being popular and could care less about the general population.  Then the other girls, one by one, meet the new stylish girl and find out the new girl is nice, smart, and used her baby-sitting money wisely to buy some smart pieces of clothing.  Well, Urban Grub is a new and stylish restaurant in an old and established neighborhood.  Urban Grub staff is really nice.  The dining rooms and patios are stylish, but also inviting and there is at least one space that will make most every diner comfortable.  Chef Edgar is really smart for cooking meats low and slow to get them to be tender.  And the Chef and staff are really wise to grow their own herbs because the fresh herb flavors are so inviting.  Yup, Urban Grub may be new and stylish, but definitely nice and inviting.  Glad I gave Urban Grub a chance.

Urban Grub on Urbanspoon

October 3, 2012

A lil' Bit o' Phila

Twin Kegs
(aka International Famous Twin Kegs)
413 West Thompson Ln
Nashville, TN

TK patty melt and a side of tots

I love the neighborhood pubs where friends and family go gather, in the style of Boston, Philadelphia, Cork Ireland, etc.  Having lived and visited all these places, I think people meet at pubs because these are areas with traditionally small homes, and enjoying friends and family is best done at a pub.  When I lived in Phila, me and my neighbors would head down to the Berwyn Tavern about once per week to grab a bite, have a drink, perhaps catch some music from a local band, and the bottom line enjoy each others company.  Also in Phila and Massachusetts, the neighborhood pub or tavern often had a shuffleboard game.  Since moving to Nashville, I have not seen a shuffleboard game in Nashville.  There is no real history of pubs and taverns in Nashville due to alcohol sales and distribution laws, and the recent no drinks the glass laws.  It is tough to have a pub or tavern if for decades it was illegal to sell drinks by the glass.  Because of the lack of the pub and tavern tradition, there is a lack of shuffleboard tradition.


Then, after much ado in the Nashville Scene about Twin Kegs, I decided to go visit this place.   The reviews said the burgers are good and worth a visit.  Well, Twin Kegs is really a down and out a dive.  It is cigarette smokey, and feels dirty.  I have not ventured into the bathroom in fear that it will be worse than a NYC Chinatown bathroom. The menus are all worn and sticky.  I just want to use hand sanitizer all the time I am there.  The lighting has seen better days.  It is unclear how service works at this place.  Do you have to go to the bar?  Do you sit at a table and wait for service?  I dunno.  There was a woman there who took about 20 minutes to help us, as the guy who is normally working there, wasn't there, so we had no idea who was working.  It is always a bit of an awkward situation to sit and order for me.  It also is not a friendly place.  Neither the normal guy, nor the woman have been particularly nice to me.  They actually had an air of being put out by me ordering anything.

Outwardly, I really don't like Twin Kegs, but what does keep me coming back is the shuffleboard, the only shuffleboard I know of in Nashville.  I really love shuffleboard, as it reminds me of my friends when I lived in Philadelphia, who I miss dearly.  Also, the burger isn't bad.  It is made fresh to order, and it seems like real ground beef, not those industrial pre-made frozen pucks.  So, as long as Twin Kegs maintains the shuffleboard, and they have a decent burger, I will be going back again and again for my shuffleboard fix with memories of my Phila days.

October 1, 2012

Nashville TV Show

I gotta tell you, I am really excited for the new Nashville TV Show, premiering on ABC on 10/10 at 10 pm Eastern (9 Central)!  The insiders say that this drama is smart with real characters, not some hooky southern caricatures with bad fake accents.  The story line is fiction, but could totally be real.  Got word there will be many songs of never previously recorded music by Gillian Welch, Elvis Costello, Lucinda Williams and more great!  And lastly, the TV show is being filmed on location, right here in Nashville. If you see it on the Nashville TV Show, it is the real deal Nashville.

I really like this promo piece, and it is getting me excited for Nashville TV show to start.  Filming here has already been a good thing for my home town, and I think the story line and scenery will also be a good thing for Nashville too.

OK, I am planning for this evening.  I am gonna get my best organic popcorn ready to popped in grape seed oil infused with local biodynamic organic Barefoot Farmer garlic, and rosemary from my garden.  And then I will pour myself a nice little drink maybe with some local Jack Daniels and ginger lemonade.   And then I am gonna sit down and watch this new TV show, Nashville.