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Dining in Nashville

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Dining in Nashville

by Jenise » Thu Feb 06, 2020 3:56 pm

Spent the past week in Nashville and had some really terrific food experiences. Notably:

Fried green tomatoes. Which I've had before, but only ones I've made plus a garnish on a dish of shrimp and grits I once ordered in Charleston. Had them twice last week, at the Bluebird Café which were good but the best, at Puckett's Grocery in Franklin, came on a puddle of pimento cheese.

Pimento Cheese: something I didn't think I liked, but I absolutely LOVED it at Husk (yes, Sean Brock has opened one in Nashville). Smoked cheddar, serrano chiles and a good dose of vinegar made it interesting, not to mention the lasagna noodle-thin house-made crispbread.

Delta Tamales: at Superico, a superb and sophisticated Tex-Mex restaurant in Nashville's Gulch neighborhood. Here, they were mixed meats nominally clad in a cornmeal outer shell and served in a bowl of "spicy tomato gravy" with soda crackers on the side. Didn't take the crackers seriously until I realized how useful they would be to sop up all the leftover gravy once the tamales were gone. YUM! Loved this restaurant so much we went twice.

Fried chicken: the first time at Monell's, a fantastically fun boarding house style restaurant wherein as guests arrived they're accumulated into groups of ten or twelve and then seated together at one of several big tables in the various rooms of this grand old house. Once you sit down, here come the bowls of food as per the day's offerings from the kitchen, and servers strictly admonish guests to pass to the left. No alcohol, just lemonade, sweet tea and unsweet tea. The second, and best, was at Puckett's grocery mentioned above on a plate with flatiron beans, mashed potatoes, white gravy (you get to choose white or brown), and cornmeal pancakes quite unlike anything I can remember having. Everything was beautifully cooked and seasoned. No, I didn't have any Nashville hot. Wasn't avoiding it, I love hot food, but just didn't get around to it.

Catfish: Out here we only see it frozen, never fresh. We had an outstanding plate of blackened catfish with chipotle butter, puffy in-house made flour tortillas, grilled shrimp wrapped in bacon and charro beans at Superico, and another day ordered catfish nachos at a honky tonk on Broadway.

Every single thing we ate at Rolf and Daughters in Nashville's Germantown. Rolf's menu is brilliant in the new style of things I've run into just a few times: just lists of ingredients. Except for desserts, the menu isn't divided into categories. It's just an egalitarian list of things you may order. The delightful part is you don't necessarily know exactly what's going to show up, but based on the ingredients you can be pretty darned sure you're going to like it. "toast, straciatella, blood orange, pistachios" was one such dish, and from the dessert list "sourdough, sunchoke, coffee" turned out to be sourdough ice cream with a savory sunchoke foam and crispy crumbs made out of coffee oil cooked to a crisp in a cast iron skillet. We were just wild about every single bite of everything we ordered. This was not just the best meal in Nashville it was by far the best restaurant meal of recent memory, and not only was the food geeky the wine list was the geekiest wine list I've seen in ages, too. Looked like something my local wine geek friends would put together--stuff was really Out There, like Cruse sparkling Valdigue. I finally told my waiter to just pick one of three different wines for me, I couldn't choose. One of those would have been a chardonnay from a Japanese winemaker in the southern Rhone. Cuckoo stuff, but GOOD cuckoo.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Jeff Grossman » Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:19 pm

Love the sound of that Rolf & Daughters menu!
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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Jenise » Thu Feb 06, 2020 5:30 pm

It was insanely good, Jeff. And everyone there has a great, welcoming attitude. You feel it on the website where reservations are advised but they include, "We love walk-ins."
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Dale Williams » Thu Feb 06, 2020 10:22 pm

Fried green tomatoes range from abominable to sublime
As a Southerner I usually have pimento cheese once a year, ranges from abominable to pretty darn good
For Japanese winemakers in Rhone I know Grande Colline in north,who is the Southern producer (Chardonnay?)
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Jeff Grossman » Fri Feb 07, 2020 12:13 am

Jenise, did you try to get into Catbird Seat?
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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Jenise » Fri Feb 07, 2020 1:35 am

Dale, name was not familiar to me, something short with an H and an O, like Hi Otku.

What we got instead was a really crazy Sancerre by Sebastian Riffault. Its early yet, but I can assure you that wine will be on my Top 20 of 2020 eleven months from now.

Jeff, no, didn't even know about it. Info?
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Jeff Grossman

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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Jeff Grossman » Fri Feb 07, 2020 4:18 am

A chefly bôite. Prix-fixe, all reserve, pay in advance, everybody sits at the U-shaped counter and watches them cook. Super-creative in the modern vein, though not molecular.

Per this article it is now being run by two Noma graduates:
https://www.foodandwine.com/travel/rest ... enu-design

But I was there under the original regime, the Poli brothers. My report:
http://winedisorder.com/comment/56/8597/
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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Jenise » Fri Feb 07, 2020 10:54 am

Ah. Love the sound of that and looks of the menu, especially the intellectual bent. But that menu could be done, literally, just about anywhere in America and on this trip, I wanted to experience the south so only paid attention to restaurants that would serve that notion. And I was limited to two, possibly three, dinner evenings. One I could commit to with a reservation before leaving home, so I selected Husk, and the others had to flexibly be left open. My other two top choices were Rolf described above which is open seven nights a week and that's not usual, where we did go, and City House, a restaurant that appears to be a brilliant fusion of Italian techniques with Southern ingredients. Unfortunately, City House closed for four days, god knows why, and I missed my one chance to get in there on the night we booked Husk. The Tex Mex was just lunch--twice.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Rahsaan » Fri Feb 07, 2020 9:29 pm

Jenise wrote:Rolf's menu is brilliant in the new style of things I've run into just a few times: just lists of ingredients..


I have no problem with that style as I don't need unnecessary (and deceptive) adjectives adorning menus. And, I usually order based on which types of ingredients I want to eat anyway. However, it is helpful to have a sense of which ingredients will be featured more/less prominently. Often restaurants will list them in descending order of prominence, but it always helps to chat with the waitstaff to be sure, and to avoid disappointments! (I.E. looking forward to a mushroom element and finding it only in the 'dust' on the far corner of the plate)
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Re: Dining in Nashville

by Jenise » Sat Feb 08, 2020 1:30 pm

Thinking back, you're right, the ingredients in this case were pretty much listed in order of appearance but not overly detailed (like your mushroom dust example). Two things come to mind: 1) These kind of menu descriptions are the opposite of the 'Viva Mexico! Chicken' food names of my childhood. And 2) they're perfect for complex, creative food that isn't protein-centric. When everyone was presumed to be carnivorous, menu descriptions were centered on "Pork chop with item, item, item" but happily, we--and the food!--don't have to be like that any more. And the most exciting restaurants aren't.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov

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