Sunday, June 22, 2014

Nashville

As a newly converted country music fan (freak), I had been itching to visit Nashville for the past few months. Fortuitously, my awesome job sent me to the Americans for the Arts Conference, which was in Nashville! While I filled my days absorbing arts knowledge and new ideas, I filled my belly during my free time. I was so impressed with the city's architecture (the conference was downtown - everything is so new and shiny!) and I LOVED the live music at the honky tonks all night...not that I was out that late...I did have workshops to attend! But, when in Rome!

When I'm not conferencing, I'm a tourist.
First things first: I had to visit the Grand Ole Opry. Before the show, I decided to dine at Husk, which recently opened after the success of Husk in Charleston, SC. It's safe to say that dining here altered me. Homemade Parker House Rolls are topped with Sea Salt and Sesame Seeds and are even more divine when you slather on Pork Fat Butter. Crispy Pig Tails remind me of General Tso's Chicken - incredible Asian flavors, and a natural gelatinous bite, not at all fatty. A Short Rib is accompanied by a trio of the humble Cauliflower and Oyster Mushroom. Peach Cornmeal Cake is complemented perfectly with Black Walnut Sorbet - this dessert is not too sweet, so you can eat the whole thing. (I did, duh.)
(L-R) The Commencement Cocktail, Crispy Pig Tail, Peach Cake, Short Rib with Cauliflower


Damn Hot. They mean it!
I would be remiss if I didn't mention Etch, where I consumed what may have been an entire head of Roasted Cauliflower by myself. But the Truffle Pea Puree and Whipped Feta were fabulous accompaniments. Hattie B's Hot Chicken is a Nashville institution. Levels of heat include "Southern," "Medium," "Hot," "Damn Hot" and "Shut the Cluck Up" - I decided "Damn Hot" would probably give me the heat I was looking for, and it did, plus a collagen lip injection and a free sinus clear-out. The chicken breast itself is so insanely tender and juicy, but they mean serious business with the heat here! Another Nashville institution is the Country Music Hall of Fame, where I saw Elvis' gold Cadillac, a Reba exhibit, and Miranda Lambert's dresses from the past few years. This was a treat.

At Merchant, I checked another exotic ingredient off my list – SQUID INK. It’s a rich, black, buttery ingredient and turns anything it touches a gorgeous dark hue. The Squid Ink Risotto is insanely buttery and looks like a bowl of Black Beans. Throw in tender Scallops, chewy Calamari and lemony Sunchokes and you’ve got a killer dish.

Not Black Beans - Squid Ink Risotto!
Each Honky Tonk I went in is a reminder of why Nashville is “Music City, USA.” The level of talent these singers and musicians have is just ridiculous. You question why all of them aren’t signed to record labels. One girl in particular tore UP her fiddle to “The Devil Went Down To Georgia” after a (most likely drunken) sir paid $100 to hear it.

The Southern is where it’s AT for brunch. It’s brunchgasmic. Brown Butter Linguini is coated with the yolks of two Poached Eggs, Goat Cheese and Pine Nuts. I don’t care if pasta isn’t technically a brunch food – I would eat this for every meal of my life if I could. Not to mention the Lardons - OH - the Lardons! The thick-cut pieces of Bacon make this dish even more indulgent. Add to it a Blood Orange Mimosa and consider me done.

Brunch HEAVEN. Yes, Pasta is a brunch food, since it has Eggs.
Two dear friends will inevitably have their bachelorette parties in Nashville (and join the 1,000 other parties I saw that weekend), so I look forward to my return. I'm going to go sing "Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy," now that I know which "Broadway" Big & Rich are referring to. 

New friends on Broadway!

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