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The Definitive List of the Best Appetizers in Nashville According to Me

17 Sep

Today, we dined at one of our favorite brunch places in Nashville, and I posted about it on Facebook. Yes, I broke down and joined the Facebook universe after fighting it for years. This means that I now have a Facebook account; three Twitter accounts; and this blog. Hopefully, all of that will not lead to a social media meltdown.

Anyway, the discussion that ensued brought to mind a potential blog post. What, in my humble opinion, are the best appetizers in Nashville, a place that has become known as a foodie locale?

For those who may not know, I once wrote a post about the oddity of appetizers. Since this is my second post about appetizers, then that must qualify me as an appetizer expert. With that in mind, here is my list of the top five appetizers in Nashville.

5. The Charcuterie Platter at Urban Grub – On the surface, charcuterie platters seem simple. There is a little cheese. There is a little meat. There are a few crackers. However, not a charcuterie platters are made equal. Urban Grub brings out a slab of wood topped with a variety of house cured meats and distinctive cheeses. The Creole mustard is what really sets it off. Unfortunately, the Creole mustard ended up on the floor during my first platter experience. That is another story for another time.

4. My Way at The Southern – This is more than an appetizer. It is an explosion of flavor. It is like someone put a dance club on your plate. It is an appetizer. It is a meal. Heck, it can also be dessert. I will just let the menu describe it. My Way is brown butter linguine topped with pine nuts, goat cheese, bacon lardons and two fried Willow Farm eggs.

3. Roasted Garlic Tallow Candle with Monkey Bread at Fort Louise – We were looking for a new dining experience, and I stumbled upon Fort Louise while browsing the Internet. On the night of our dining experience, we were not sure about it. We pulled up to an old house and wondered if it was the right place. There was no sign, and the restaurant next door was packed. When we walked in, there we a few other diners who would fit the mold of millennials. Of course, Nashville is filled with millennials. They live cool lifestyles and eat cool food, but none of us can figure out how they afford it. I say that to say that we were the oldest people there. However, youthful vigor returned when we were served our appetizer. The tallow is burning, and the monkey bread is meant to be dipped into the melting candle. Fat has never tasted so good.

2. Cheese Fritters at Amerigo – My absolute favorite food is burnt cheese. You know when you make homemade nachos and part of the cheese is crusted on the pan. That is the cheese that I like. Now, take that cheese; cook it in an orb shape; and place it on a plate of honey mustard and marinara. I am speechless just thinking about it. Wait, I should say that I am typeless just thinking about it. This is the appetizer that inspired my previous post about appetizers.

1. Deviled Eggs and Millionaire’s Bacon at Brick Top’s – Today, we had brunch at Brick Top’s, and we never go there without getting this appetizer. A lot of restaurants in these parts have deviled eggs appetizers, but none of them compare to these. In fact, Brick Top’s may have started the deviled egg trend. These eggs are awesome, but the hot sauce makes them more awesome. That spice also blends well with the bacon that is smothered in a sticky syrup. We always wonder how they make the sweet bacon. In the old days, we knew one of the managers, and he would always slip us some extra eggs and bacon. Now, we just get the regular order, but there is nothing regular about these eggs and bacon.

There you have it. My list of the best appetizers in Nashville. If you have dined in the Music City, then what is on your list?

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A Relaxing Night in the Way Too Busy City of Nashville

27 Aug

Last night, we had dinner with friends at Silo, a restaurant in the Germantown neighborhood of Nashville. On the way, we hit little traffic and, once we arrived, found a parking spot within a few yards. You may ask why I mention that and here is the answer.

A few blocks from the restaurant, the Nashville Soccer Club was playing in the recently built minor league baseball stadium.

Just past their stadium, Taylor Swift was performing in front of over 60,000 screaming fans at Nissan Stadium.

From there, a short walk across the pedestrian bridge would have taken you to Ascend Amphitheater where Needtobreathe was putting on a show.

Down the street from the amphitheater, Journey and Def Leppard packed Bridgestone Arena with fans reminiscing about the 1980s.

Across the street from Bridgestone Arena, over 4,000 people were competing in the Pokemon Finals at the Music City Center.

Up the hill from there, another sold out show was being held at the historic Ryman Auditorium.

On top of all that, Garth Brooks appeared on two shows of the Grand Ole Opry.

In short, there was a lot going on in Nashville. In fact, it is estimated that over 130,000 fans were in the city for some kind of event.

However, we had a nice dinner without any hustle and bustle. The only issue was everyone in the back of the car trying to get this picture right before posting it on social media.

While others were rocking the night away, older eyes were trying to determine how they looked in a picture as I rolled down the interstate.

By the way, dinner was awesome. If you make it to Nashville, then you should definitely go to Silo.

Our Big Northwest Adventure

22 Jul

We just returned from a trip to Washington and Oregon that I affectionately call the Big Northwest Adventure. It was an awesome excursion that took us to some places that I had never been and to a lot of places that my wife had never been. Each day was filled with adventures that could expand into several long blog posts. Instead of doing that, I decided to provide a brief description of the days along with my favorite picture from each.

Day 1 – Mount Rainier

Although the hotel bartender told us not to go because of the traffic, we had to see Mount Rainier. We had to wait a bit at the entrance, the traffic was not that bad. We made our way to Longmire, where we hiked a trail to nowhere. We saw some poop along the path that my wife Necole worried belonged to a bear. Unbeknownst to me, she was planning our escape from the bear for the rest of the hike.

After that hike, we walked across a river of snowmelt that led to my favorite picture from that day.

On the way back from Mount Rainier, we stopped at Chipotle. That meal made us feel like the fictional bear must have felt on the side of the trail.

Day 2 – Seattle

On vacation, I would rather see small towns that big cities. However, we were staying in downtown Seattle, a city that we had never visited. That meant that we needed to spend some time there. We checked out the University of Washington because my stepdaughter has shown interest in going to school there.

We also went to Pike Place Market, a famous landmark where people can buy fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, cheeses, flowers and trinkets. I took a photograph on one colorful stand.

We had a great meal but missed out on getting coffee at the original Starbucks because the line was a little long.

Oh yeah, we also had dinner at Aqua, a place the concierge recommended. When we saw one entrée for $142, we lost our appetite.

Day 3 – Olympic National Park

We got up early to begin the road trip portion of the adventure and immediately grew concerned. GPS was taking us to the ferry, which is not what I had planned. It was not what Necole had planned, either. She was not sure about getting on a three-hour boat ride. After all, we had seen Gilligan’s Island. We reconfigured the GPS and made it on dry land.

After some hits and misses on my part, we finally made it to Hurricane Ridge outside the town of Port Angeles, Washington. The ridge has the best hike in the park. On a clear day, you can see forever. Yes, I stole that line. Anyway, it was not clear on the day we hike, which may have been a good thing.

Remember when I wrote that my wife worried about seeing a bear after we saw poop on the trail? Well, we saw a huge bear along this hike. It was playing around in a foggy meadow. If the sky had been clear, then we could have seen its true size. At that point, we may have frozen in place rather than casually sauntering back the way we came. I did not get a picture of the bear, but I got a picture of this.

We spent that night at Lake Crescent Lodge in another part of the park. I think we could have spent a few days in that peace and tranquility.

Day 4 – Olympic National Park

This day was a continuation of our visit to the park. Yeah, it is that big. We hiked to a waterfall. We had lunch in Forks, Washington. Necole said that this town was the setting of the Twilight series. I have never read those books or seen those movies, but I know that is cool.

After lunch, we headed to the beach. Do not let Necole tell you that I never want to go to the beach. I have always wanted to go to this beach, and it was my highlight of the trip. Ruby Beach was everything that I expected.

It was certainly better than the meal we had that night. We stopped at an interstate hotel and asked for a good place to eat. The restaurant they recommended certainly did not have a $142 entrée.

Day 5 – Mount St. Helens

From childhood, I can remember the coverage of Mount St. Helens. The weeks of rumblings. Harry Truman, who would not leave his home. The eruption. The aftermath. It is something that I will never forget. It is also a place that I wanted Necole to see.

Several years ago, I visited Mount St. Helens with my dad, my brother and my nephews, and it was stunning to see what was left of a mountain that was once covered with snow and dense forest. It is truly a place where the destructive force of nature can be visualized.

From there, we drove through Portland and made our way to Oregon Wine Country in the Willamette Valley. We also made it to The Allison Inn, our lodging for the next couple of nights. It was amazing.

Day 6 – Vineyards

We hired a driver to take us to a few wineries. The first, Archery Summit, was recommended by a friend. The second winery is where I took my favorite picture of the entire trip.

The third was Utopia, a small family owned operation. We had a great conversation with the owner and his daughter, who is a History major. They told us about how they got into this business at that location. We also talked about music. It was good to see that the growing of grapes is not just done my wealthy investment bankers and corporations.

Necole chose The Painted Lady, a famous local restaurant, for dinner. I can only describe it by saying that it is similar to The Catbird Seat in Nashville. Unfortunately, my wife is not a fan of The Catbird Seat. It is a long and winding story that I will not get into. Just know that she likes to bring up the night that I took her there when we were dating. That will probably stop because I can now bring up the night that she took me to The Painted Lady. If you want to know about The Catbird Seat experience, then you can click here.

Day 7 – More Vineyards

We visited more vineyards, but I did not take good photographs. I should have because they were beautiful settings. However, this was the day that our adventure started to wind down. After a few stops, we drove back to Seattle for a night near the airport. You know things are becoming more normal when you have dinner at Jack in the Box. The next day would be a flight home

The Big Northwest Adventure was great, but the real world was waiting. Here is the thing. The real world is pretty great, too.

 

Childhood Memories – Chilly Chili

2 Jul

A few days ago, I overheard a conversation where one of the people said, “It’s chilly in here.” That statement sent my mind through a wormhole to my childhood, a time when I did not understand the concept of that phrase.

When I was a kid, I never understood why people used the word chilly to describe it being cold. Why would they say that when my mom’s chili was never cold? In fact, it was hot to the point where I had to crumble a bunch of crackers into it and blow on it before I could taste it. If my mom’s chili was hot, then why did people say it was chilly when they were cold?

My brain could not wrap itself around this idea.

Obviously I, as a college professor, have grown to understand the different meanings between two words that sound the same. However, it still freaks me out a little when someone says, “It’s chilly.”

A few weeks ago, we were in Waffle House, which is often known for its powerful air conditioning. Although it was super hot outside, my wife was wearing a jacket inside. The guy in the booth next to us said, “It’s chilly in here isn’t it?”

I cringed inside. It was almost like nails on a chalkboard. He could have said all sorts of things like:

It’s cold.

It’s freezing in here.

It’s colder than kraut.

Brrrrr

I’m getting frostbite.

It’s cold enough to kill hogs.

I can see my breath.

All sorts of things could be said other than chilly.

Yes, I have learned that chilly and chili are not the same. I have also learned that there are things out there hotter than my mom’s chili. The green chili in New Mexico put your tastebuds in a place of fiery ecstasy.

I can promise you there is nothing cold about this stuff.

Picture This – New Mexico

24 May

We just returned from our annual field trip to New Mexico. For those who may not know, every spring another professor and I take students on a journey through the land, art and cuisine of the Land of Enchantment. This was one of our best experiences with great students and great learning opportunities. Instead of chronicling the entire venture, I decided to post my favorite photograph from each day.

On the drive out, we stopped at Cadillac Ranch, one of the most famous examples of Pop Art, and we all added our own touch to the masterpiece. 

On the second day, we made our way closer to the final destination of Santa Fe. However, we stopped at the home of artist Peter de la Fuente along the way. He is the grandson of Henriette Wyeth and Peter Hurd and does everything he can to carry on the family tradition. Currently, he does it on an 80,000 acre ranch.

Once in Santa Fe, we went on daily excursions that included hikes and moments of historical instruction. However, the highlight of the next say was our meal at Horseman’s Haven. If you love breakfast burritos covered in green chili sauce, then that is the place you need to go.

By far, my favorite hike is at Tent Rocks. It is a stroll through a slot canyon before a climb to the top of a mesa. Its true name is Kasha-Katuwe.

Our most time-consuming excursion is the drive to Chaco Canyon, the home of the Anasazi. No one knows for sure what if the canyon was a religious center, a commercial center or the home to thousands. It could have been all of that. 

We also drove to Taos. However, we did not stop in town. We went straight to the Rio Grande Gorge Bridge and walked across to get some great pictures and some great shakiness over the height.

Acoma Pueblo is always one of our favorite stops. It is the oldest inhabited community in North America. There are great views from the top of the mesa on which the pueblo sits. However, I am always amazed by the streets within the community. I expect Henry Fonda to ride up on a horse at any minute. In fact, he did ride up on a horse in My Name is Nobody.

We also visited the ruins at Bandelier National Monument. Climbing the 140 foot ladders is always a highlight. However, it best moment is when we convince the students to sniff a tree.

On the final day, we did something completely different and new to our trip. A few of us went to Meow Wolf, an interactive art experience supported by Santa Fe resident George R.R. Martin. It was a weird and awesome thing to do.

After that, we made the long drive back to Tennessee. Hopefully, this trip to New Mexico was a learning experience for everyone.

Talking About Acting in a University Cafeteria

15 Mar

Today, I had lunch in our campus cafeteria. The big crowds had yet to arrive, and I saw our Theater Director eating alone. I loaded up with my grilled cheese sandwich and french fries and sat at his table. We have had many conversations through the years, but I had never asked what everyone should ask a Theater Director.

Who, in your opinion, is the greatest actor of all time?

His immediate answer was Laurence Olivier. He also thinks that James Dean was a natural and that Marlon Brando tried too hard. When I asked about current actors, he said that Denzel Washington is at the top of the list along with Meryl Streep. Although, Streep probably gets nominated for awards when she should not because of who she is.

It was an interesting conversation that delved into acting styles, acting teachers and the mistakes that he feels people have made with each. However, it got really interesting when he asked this question.

Have I ever told you about my older brother?

This is the story that followed.

His older brother dropped out of college and went to Hollywood. He was a handsome guy with dark hair, green eyes and a great smile. In short, he fit the mold. Like most people, he struggled for work and was constantly being turned down at auditions. However, there was a time when everything clicked.

He auditioned for a new television series and got the call. He had a role in the show.

Unfortunately, he received another call from a friend with news that he did not want to hear. His name had come up, and he was going to receive his draft letter. The friend said that there was no way to stop it. If he wanted to get out of being drafted, then he had to immediately sign up for the National Guard. That meant giving up the role in the new television series.

The decision was made. He turned down the role and went into training with the National Guard. The producers of the show replaced him with a slightly older actor who was beyond draft age.

The television show was Rawhide. The role was Rowdy Yates. The replacement actor was Clint Eastwood.

Our Theater Director’s brother returned home to Nashville, fell in love and got married.

Clint went on to a modicum of fame.

The Oddity of Appetizers

5 Mar

We dine out quite a bit. Nashville has developed a vibrant restaurant scene, and we try out as many trendy places as we can. The menus are always filled with choices that all sound delicious, and we cannot help but try a variety of items. That usually means getting an appetizer before our main course.

At most places, the appetizers bother me.

It is not the taste. In fact, I have found few appetizers that I did not like. Rather, it is the number. I have noticed that many restaurants serve their appetizers in odd numbers.

We order the cheese fritters at Amerigo, and they bring out five. This is us after eating five fritters.

We order deviled eggs at Bricktop’s, and they bring out five. For those who are not familiar with deviled eggs, they cuts eggs in half and take out the yolk. They then mix the yolk up with other great stuff and put that mixture back in the egg white. When I see five deviled eggs, I see two and a half eggs and wonder what happened to the other half. Why not bring out six?

The odd number of appetizers bothers me because they cannot be divided evenly among the diners. Just take the five fritters. If there are two dinners, which is often the case, then there may be a fight over the fifth one. That may definitely happen because the fritters are awesome.

Think about what happens if there are three diners. For example, there could be parents with a child. Then, you have one each and two left over. How do you divide that?

A lot of times, couples dine out together. Do you divide the fifth fritter into quarters?

The only way this works is if five people are dining, and I am certain that does not happen very often.

In my opinion, restaurants should tackle this issue because it is definitely a misstep within the industry that leaves diners in a quandary. Luckily for them, I have a few suggestions.

First, count the number of diners at the table and serve that many portions of the appetizer.

Two people equal two portions. This would also prevent them from stuffing themselves before the main course.

Three people equal three portions.

You get the point.

If it is a large table, then we understand that restaurants cannot financially do this. Those people can order more than one appetizer.

Second, serve an amount of portions that is easily divided amongst everyone. I have thought about this a lot and determined that six is the best number.

Two people get three portions each. They may not be hungry when the main course arrives, but the fritters or deviled eggs were definitely divisible.

Three people get two portions each. See, you have taken care of two amounts of diners that are probably common.

Four people gets trickier, but it is not insurmountable. Each person gets one, and the other two are split between each couple.

Five diners make six portions impossible to deal with. My suggestion is to leave the fifth wheel at home.

I have been thinking about this problem for a while, but I finally decided to write about it after dinner on Friday night. We went to the Yellow Porch and ordered appetizers. They were awesome, and, lo and behold, they were served in an even number. It was not the optimum six, but it was an easily handled four.

Finally, a restaurant is close to figuring out the oddity of appetizers.