Sunday, November 29, 2009

Katie’s Meat and Three

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Katie’s Meat and Three
10 Arcade (in between fourth and fifth streets)
Nashville
615-256-1055


Perception is everything. Several years ago I visited Katie’s Meat and Three while on a stroll through downtown Nashville. I had just arrived in the city and the quaint feel of the Arcade drew me in immediately. As a northerner Katie’s proved to be my first meat and three experience. I was in love with Southern cuisine and ready for more. Well, as you probably know from reading this blog, that was many, many restaurants ago. Recently I was downtown and decided to revisit. The big question: great meat and three or just an overexcited northerner?

Downstairs doesn’t look like much at Katie’s; it’s a near claustrophobic sliver of a serving area. You get everything in a Styrofoam to-go container, which can be taken up the narrow stairs to a little dining room or back out into the arcade to enjoy at one of the iron tables while watching the lunch crowd. Either experience is a treat, but on a mild spring day the Arcade experience can’t be beat.

You won’t find any surprises on the menu. This is a fried chicken, meat loaf, pork chop, fried fish type of place. They do a country fried steak on Wednesdays and salmon croquettes on Tuesdays. The sides are the usual arsenal of southern favorites.

One bite reminds me that this is indeed good fried chicken: moist inside, crunchy skin. It’s a huge piece of bird. The corn bread comes muffin style, a little crispy, a little sweet and pretty good. The mac and cheese proves to be a disappointment in the flavor department. The mashed potatoes taste fresh mashed and the brown gravy is fine, but everything seems to be short in seasoning. I know in these days of healthy eating people like to add their own salt to taste, and I’m fine with that, but there are plenty of other seasonings that can turn average sides into great sides: garlic, nutmeg, or paprika.

Another lunch trip puts a fried pork chop in the spotlight. It looks good on the outside: a good size chop with a golden brown crust. A quick cut with a knife reveals the truth: this is a dry, rangy piece of pork; overcooked and chewy. The sides fare better. Stewed green beans are well seasoned and the white beans have a solid texture and good flavor. Even the white roll stands above that lousy chop: doughy and slightly sweet.

Anyway, perhaps Katie's has changed hands in the last few years. It seems more likely though that I’ve just had a chance to get out a bit to taste the wide array of meat and three options in Nashville. You’ll always need places like Katie’s, where you can get a good, quick, fairly dependable lunch in a pleasant environment. I paid $7.94 with tax and tip for meat and two and $8.75 for meat and three.

If you’re a tourist visiting Nashville make sure to swing by the Arcade for a walk. It’s a historic indoor shopping area built in 1902 in between fourth and fifth streets. The Arcade has several good, informal lunch restaurants.
Katie's Meat & Three on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Bill's Closes Up Shop

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Bill's Closes up Shop

Bill's Catifsh on Clarksville Highway in Joelton has closed. It's been a popular location for crispy fish and heavenly hush puppies for several years, so the closing came as a bit of a surprise. The folks answering the phone at the restaurant tell us that Bill is getting out of the business for personal reasons. A woman who worked at the restaurant, Marcella, plans to reopen soon under the name Marcy's Restaurant. They say the menu will be much the same as before. They hope to be up and running by December 4. We wish Bill the best and we will update the blog once we have had the opportunity to check out the fish at the new joint.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Our Hippie-Amish-Twelve Tribe Road Trip

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Our Hippie-Amish-Twelve Tribe Road Trip
Summertown and Pulaski

An intriguing thing about living in Nashville: another world awaits, just a short drive outside the city limits. Rural Tennessee can get pretty darn interesting and sometimes even a little weird. That’s one reason we enjoy road trips through the Volunteer State. We had a mixture of disappointment, discovery and moral soul searching on a recent expedition to Summertown and Pulaski. Watch how quickly a simple food foraging road trip turns into something else entirely.

Yeah, you already know the Summertown thing. We went to the legendary Farm. And it really isn’t that weird anymore. After 38 years the communal farming colony is well established, and the hippies have branched out into all sorts of vegetarian business ventures. We swung buy in hopes of purchasing some fresh mushrooms. Unfortunately, while they are leaders in helping people learn how to grow mushrooms (http://www.mushroompeople.com/; they don’t sell any on location. Visiting season is over now so we’ll have to go back for a mushroom tour next year. We did visit the Farm Store. Most of it is just organic and veggie commercial products like you would find in any health food store. They do sell their own soy products under the name FarmSoy (http://www.farmsoy.com/). We picked up some firm tofu. Under the Healthy-Eating label they produce textured vegetable protein. It looks worse than it sounds, much like dry dog food. Don’t let the Purina appearance dissuade you: with a bath in boiling veggie broth these nuggets come to life. The Veggie Eater sautéed them in onion and used Greek yogurt to make a zesty cream-like sauce. Mixed with angel hair egg noodles the soy creation made for a great dinner.

All of this healthy living talk must have lead to a case of the D-Ts for the Meat Eater. Just down the road we made a sudden U-turn at the sign proclaiming Shaffer Farms Custom Meats. Inside was a meaty paradise of steaks, ribs and briskets, enhanced with the smoky aroma of the adjoining barbecue joint. The main attraction is the butcher shop. They take meat really seriously. We waited while one couple had a top to bottom explanation of every type of meat and cut. They make their own sausage, so after a search the Meat Eater bought some German smoked sausage. The Veggie Eater went outside to escape the carnage and the Meat Eater took the opportunity to cheat on the upcoming lunch with a quick and stealthy beef brisket sandwich from the Texas Barbecue joint attached to the butcher shop. The brisket was good: smoky and quite moist. It was a little light in the flavor department, but it did provide a nice antidote to all of that tofu talk. The sausage, cooked up later, proved to be wonderfully strong and super smoky, with herbs and hints of spiciness.

Driving through Lawrenceburg is a blast. You watch Amish horse and buggies go head to head with two lanes of busy traffic. Look one way and you see three of them hitched outside the Save-a-Lot grocery store. Look another and they are navigating through a mall parking lot.

Down highway 64 towards Pulaski we found Powder Mill Hill. It looks pretty cool from the outside: an old farm mill nestled next to a limestone rimmed creek. The creaking building is covered top to bottom in antique commercial signs. Hundreds of rusting antiques and regular old crap of every size and description are strewn around the mill. Cow skulls anyone? Unfortunately it’s rather touristy inside, with the kind of newly minted “Americana” stuff you can get in a million stores these days. It is put together in a fun way with genuine antiques mixed in with the “Americana” kitsch. The owners are a blast. They couldn’t be nicer and insisted the Veggie Eater keep piling more apples into a $3.50 a bag special. We hit a couple more places a bit like this down 64 East towards Pulaski. The blueberry and cream cheese fried pie from the Green Valley Country Store is the best the Meat Eater has ever sampled and well worth an extra stop.

Our destination of Pulaski had one primary reason: a supposedly good vegetarian restaurant named Staff of Life. The menu online looked promising and we had a reader tip us off with a good experience. Unfortunately Staff of Life is gone. The owners have moved on to Alabama, according to residents we quizzed. Thankfully we had another stop in mind for Pulaski: the Common Ground Bakery. And this is when things got weird.

Common Ground has been selling baked goods at the Nashville Farmers Market this year. The breads have a distinctive European taste and texture: hearty, grainy and robust. The sourdough spelt is a real eye-opener. We swing by the bakery and are pleased to find a café, saving us a Pulaski lunch dilemma. Now forgive us for not knowing about this, but Common Ground cafes and bakeries can be found around the world. They are run by the Twelve Tribes organization (http://www.twelvetribes.org/). It’s a Christian sect that espouses giving up worldly goods and living a simple lifestyle outside of the money driven society. Sound a little like a cult? Well, they’ve certainly been accused of that and a visit to the café can’t tell you much at all. It’s a pleasant environment: a beautiful, historic home and a laid back tea room atmosphere. The menu is a simple collection of sandwiches, and salads. The tomato bisque is quite a bit like the bread: hearty, chunky and full of herbs. The bread is the star on this menu: even a sandwich filled with corned beef, roast beef, hot pepper cheese and provolone, gets some zing from the fresh and doughy onion roll.

Okay, we don’t hear a word about religion during our visit and if you don’t read the newspaper they give out (actually kind of hidden away) you might never realize that this place is religious. The women are dressed in a kind of Mennonite meets gypsy style. While it may not be obvious, it’s still clear something is going on here. They say nothing to us of any religious nature and everyone is laughing and having a good time, including the many locals who pack the place for lunch.

We get back home and do some research. The Twelve Tribes have been a subject of much cult debate. Do they beat kids and make them follow the Twelve Tribe lifestyle, whether they like it or not? Do they get so much flack because they rail against the big money, super church Christianity favored by so many today? Some quick internet research and a visit to their café isn’t enough information to form a valid opinion. We did appreciate this thoughtful television piece put together by the well respected Chronicle TV show in Boston. Take a look and see what you think: http://religiouschildabuse.blogspot.com/2008/01/twelve-tribes-community-or-cult.html

Will we buy stuff from Common Ground anymore? Probably not. They seem like genuinely nice folks. I appreciate their commitment to an alternative lifestyle and quite frankly share their concern about big money religion. However, anytime there is a powerful church leader there is the danger of blind faith. While they say there is no such leader in regular worship, news reports point to one of the founders of the group, who started it in Chattanooga in the 1970’s. Elbert Spriggs is accused of making pronouncements and telling followers what to believe. That’s not what bothers us. If ex-members can be trusted, he says some pretty weird things. In our final attempt at fairness we include a link to the ex-members site. Check out the alleged quotes: http://www.twelvetribes-ex.org/body.html

The traditional media also has many racist, homophobic and sexist quotes attributed to Spriggs. While attitudes like this could probably be found at many church groups in Tennessee, we cannot support them with the purchase of products or services. People have a right to believe what they want, but we don’t have to give them our money.

Who knew that good bread and a good lunch could be so complicated? We even debated saying anything about this on the blog, since we certainly don’t want to promote a cult or damn someone’s choice in religion. We have always promised honesty with our readers and we will continue that pledge with this entry.

Veggie Eater: What happens when you take an atheist vegetarian to a restaurant run by Messianic Christians? Good food and lackadaisical service. I ordered ice tea, I got water. I then ordered the lunch special, which was spanakopita with a Greek salad. Salad, soup, and Meat Eater’s sandwich all arrived promptly. The salad had baby red leaf lettuce, baby chard, and some heartier greens. It was topped with sliced carrots, cukes, red pepper, tomato wedges, and red onion. It was then generously adorned with cubed feta and lots of kalamata olives. The dressing was light and allowed the veggies to shine. Lunch was off to a good start. And then there was the wait. We probably waited at least 20 minutes after we had consumed the soup, salad, and sandwich for Meat Eater before the waitress returned to confirm that I had never received my spanakopita. Thankfully, when it arrived, the spanakopita was wonderful. I don’t know if they make their own phyllo dough but it was flakey and sinfully buttery. It was chock full of nutmegged spinach. The spinach mixture appeared to have been made from fresh spinach given the lack of mushy texture. It was then loaded with cheese, not the standard feta; maybe provolone? We then asked for boxes to take our treats home with us. Another 20 minutes passed and Meat Eater went up to the register to ask for the box and check. Lo and behold, she had forgotten the box…a really interesting day finished by a really interesting lunch.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thanksgiving Suggestion and Farm Fun

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Thanksgiving via Bosnia
We don't have the resources or time to offer up a comprehensive list of restaurants to eat out for Thanksgiving day. However, we do have one suggestion, thanks to Nashville Restaurants reader and intrepid food explorer Ed King. Sevala Kulovic will be cooking up Thanksgiving dinner at Cafe Bosna. I talked to her on the phone today and she is really excited about this...turkey, gravy with pecans, and cornbread dressing are just a few of the items on the traditional side. Lamb chops in a white sauce, stuffed grape leaves and smoked pork loin are a few of the specialties she will also be cooking up. She promises plenty for the vegetarian. Considering the down home atmosphere Cafe Bosna might be the closest you can get to having Thanksgiving at home...while not having to clean up. She will open at 11 a.m. Here's our recent review:

http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2009/11/cafe-bosna.html

Farm Fun
Have you ever wondered how they make goat cheese? The good folks at Noble Springs Dairy are going to help you find out. This is a note they sent to us about a farm tour they have planned. We did this once at Bonnie Blue Farm in Waynesboro and it's both fun and eye-opening. Making goat cheese is a real science.

From their newsletter:
Friday, November 27, at 3pm. Visitors will be guided around the farm, getting to meet all of our goats and other farm animals (cows, chickens, horses, cats, and dogs) and we will allow visitors to try their hands at milking one of our goats. We will also have numerous samples of our cheeses and cheese available for purchase. Tour admission is $6 per person and we ask that people let us know they are coming prior to 12 noon on Friday, November 27. For more information check out our website, http://www.noble-springs.com/ email us or call (615) 481-9546. If it is raining on Friday we will have to reschedule, we will let everyone know if we have to cancel. Our address is 3144 Blazer Rd., Franklin TN 37064.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Midweek Odds and Ends

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Midweek Odds and Ends
The Nashville Farmers Market is still hopping, perhaps thanks in part to the warm November weather. The change in vendors is remarkable in the last couple of years. We counted five different farms selling beef, lamb, rabbit and pork. Chigger Ridge Ranch, Garrett Farms and Walnut Hills have a wide variety of choice in meat cuts and styles. We went with aged beef burgers from Walnut Hills. I threw them on the grill that night. Combined with sourdough from the Schrock Family Bakery and a fresh tomato from Smiley’s, it was truly an all-star, all-Farmers Market burger. The Veggie Eater wasn’t left out of the fun. She cooked up freshly picked shiitake mushrooms on the grill from a vendor whose name we have forgotten (sorry, they were located right next to Walnut Hills Farm). The next day it was fresh milk for breakfast from J.D. Country Milk from Kentucky. Charlie Tambellini is selling spices under the coolspringsspice.com label. And we met up with Justin from Noble Springs Dairy offering samples of his chevre to market goers. The goat cheese business is taking off, with many restaurants recently signing up. That creamy chevre was a standout during a recent visit to the Silly Goose restaurant in East Nashville.
Nuvo Thanksgiving
We make another visit to Nuvo Burrito in East Nashville this week. Why does a tortilla Thanksgiving lead to a family fight? Read our update and find out:
http://nashvillerestaurants.blogspot.com/2009/08/nuvo-burrito.html

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Midweek Odds and Ends

The Kord family e-mailed recently to tell us about their Persian restaurant - Lazziz. The family is from Iran and Masoud Zand manages the restaurant, which has been open since July. It’s attached to a market on Nolensville Road near the zoo. The menu is primarily kebab based. They do venture out with Ghormeh Sabzi veal stew, Torshi pickled vegetables, barley soup.

I’ll try and get by soon for some solo visits, since it doesn’t look like there is much there for the vegetarian. If you have been there let us know what you thought.

Lazziz
3725 Nolensville Pike
Nashville

www.Lazziz1.com

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Beer and Bourbon....We're In!


Nashville Restaurants and Food
Beer, Bourbon and Barbecue Festival
Municipal Auditorium Basement
Nashville

The whiskey was pouring and the beer frothing at the Beer, Bourbon and Barbecue Festival this last weekend at the Nashville Municipal Auditorium. The event travels nationally, offering some 40 different bourbons and 60 beers. And it's not like they were holding out on the good stuff. We sampled a Pappy Van Winkle 23 year-old and a wonderful Elijah Craig 18 year-old. The servers were set up with about three whiskeys or three beers each. With dozens of stations around the floor it was easy enough to get any sample you wanted. That was at noon when we arrived (we bought the VIP tickets, which were only $18.50 each online) By 2pm when the general admission gates opened it began to get busy, but still manageable. We're told the longer lines came around 3pm. A ticket gave you access to all the free beer and bourbon samples you wanted. We did find that some of the most interesting beers were not available. Apparently they didn't ship in time for the event.

We had a chat with the folks who run Bourbon Review magazine. They were holding a sampling of George T. Stagg Barrel Proof. It's straight from the barrel uncut and unfiltered, making it about 60 percent alcohol by volume. It's tasty white lightning with a smooth finish.

The beer end wasn't quite as exciting. We didn't run into many beers we haven't already sampled. One new brew is the Guinness 250th Anniversary Stout. It tastes smoother than the American Guinness and strangely closer to the tap Guinness you get in Ireland.

Need something to hold that beer and bourbon down? They had barbecue vendors Pig and Pie and Suck the Bone selling their wares. We had other lunch plans, but it sure smelled good.

Our only real complaint was the location. It was held in the basement of the Municipal Auditorium...that's underneath the seats. Tarps full of nasty runoff hung from the ceiling and it kinda felt like getting drunk in a loading dock. Considering how well the event was organized otherwise, it would seem wise to upgrade the surroundings a bit. We'd like to relax while sipping a nice bourbon and not stare at peeling paint.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Café Bosna

Nashville Restaurants and Food
Café Bosna
5751 Old Hickory Blvd.
Hermitage
615-889-7008
http://www.cafebosnanashville.com/

Schnitzel is popping in the pan and Sevala Kulovic is quietly pulling together a hearty lunch. She moves about her simple open kitchen in plain view of the dining room. The experience is low key, warm and relaxing; kind of like having grandma cooking for you. Sevala greets you with a big smile and an energetic recitation of the specials, and then she’s off to cook. You may remember the Bosnian immigrant chef from her previous restaurant, Sevala’s Café, across from the State Capitol downtown (Sevala’s is still there, with a different chef). She moved to Washington State for family reasons and then back to Tennessee. Café Bosna has been open in Hermitage, near Summit Medical Center, since January.

Café Bosna is just a little bigger than her old joint: eight tables and the kitchen crowded into the same room. While Sevala is trying to branch out a bit with music on the weekends, movies and even cultural presentations on Bosnia, food is still the star attraction. The menu ranges from simple breakfast (omelets, pancakes), served anytime of the day, into lunch and dinner. Soups, sandwiches, and salads dominate the regular menu, with little European touches here and there: a Polish sausage plate, Bosnian Chevapi (the minced meat dish is a national specialty) and pastas: Alfredo, portobello mushroom ravioli and veal and sage ravioli. The specials menu is where the big guns come out. On this day Sevala offers goulash, well loved from her previous café, stuffed grape leaves and, in a move to make the Veggie Eater smile, there is a vegetarian special listed as such in bold type: bean and truffle oil salad served in a whole wheat tortilla.

Vienna Schnitzel arrives in a big bowl. Three large, golden cutlets are placed on top of the sides, which for this plate include mashed potatoes, linguine, salad and pita. It’s a small mountain of food and yet each taste remains distinct, despite being in the same bowl. And let’s face it: Schnitzel was made to go with some type of noodle. Sevala lets you choose a sauce to accompany a variety of pastas for the side dish. Creamy mushroom and green onion can come in a brown or white sauce. Bacon asparagus and marinara are also options. Customizing your food is not unusual at Café Bosna. We can hear the chef speaking on the phone to a regular. She goes through the soup line-up for the day, at the end of which she reports “we can cook-up whatever you want.” Of course that only works if the food is top notch. The Vienna Schnitzel has a light breading, tender cutlets and great flavor. The mashed potatoes are tasty and well seasoned. The Linguine is cooked just right and the silky sauce a nice accompaniment to everything else on the plate. It’s one heck of a lunch, probably better suited in portion size for dinner. Even the little salad sports fresh greens, olives, and a zingy lemon yogurt dressing. The pitas that threaten to tip off the sides of the bowl are toasted and lightly brushed with olive oil.

Veggie Eater: This is a real gem. I am sad that I no longer work in the immediate area, as I would have patronized it often during lunch time. As Meat Eater stated, everything really is made to order, so quite a few of the menu items could easily made veggie friendly. There are several dedicated veggie items (ginger veggie omelet, veggie and cheese sandwich, veggie delight), but most importantly, Sevala always offers a Vegetarian special item daily. Today, my good fortune was the bean and truffle oil salad. It consists of marinated kidney and pinto beans, broccoli, generous portions of diced avocado which is used to thicken the salad, celery, small chunks of tomato, all tossed in truffle oil. This is then housed in a whole wheat wrap and nestled atop mesclun greens and dusted with parmesan; a really inventive, great veggie lunch item. I asked Sevala about the daily veggie specials and she stated her Bosnian spinach pie is a sensational hit; it generally sells out at lunchtime on the day it is offered. She took my name and number to call me the next time it is offered. Her philosophy also includes, “There is always enough room for dessert!” We were stuffed from our meals and tend not to be dessert people, but she insisted we try today’s creation; it was some sort of pound cakey thing rolled around a strawberry cream filling and topped with chocolate sauce. I have no idea what it’s formally named, but it was damn good. Oh, and the dessert sample (appeared to be a regular portion), was free. Café Bosna is definitely a do-over. Plenty of food for left-overs. She was lamenting that business remains a bit slow, so I would encourage everyone to make it their personal mission to partake in Sevala’s hospitality.

Meat Eater: The Bosnian burger and the Jaeger schnitzel may have to be priorities on our next visit. Although that goulash is supposed to be pretty darn good. I can’t tell you how much a warm hostess/chef, great food and a leisurely lunch can perk up a gloomy weekday. I would imagine dinner and live music would be a fun way to experience Café Bosna as well. We paid $30 with tax and tip for two entrees. As mentioned though, that Schnitzel was really more of a dinner and you could easily do lunch on a more modest budget.Cafe Bosna on Urbanspoon