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Thursday, April 24, 2014

Tres de Mayo: Nashville Margarita Festival

Tres De Mayo- Margarita Festival Nashville
Happy spring and happy festival season! There are few things I like more than a food and drink festival, and that's why I'm happy to announce that I will be one of the judges at Nashville's Tres de Mayo Margarita Festival! Ole!

This event will be super fun, as you'll get to sample unlimited margaritas from 40 of Nashville's best bars and restaurants. If a ridiculously large supply of margaritas isn't enough for you, they have 15 Mexican Beers and 2 stages of awesome music from up-and-coming female fronted bands (girl power!).

If you are like me, then this whole shin-ding is right up your alley! The event will be held on Saturday, May 3rd (duh) downtown on 1st Avenue. Tickets for the event are available here. And readers, because you are my dear friends, the fine people behind Tres de Mayo are giving you $10 off the ticket prices. 
Discount Code for $10 off Tres De Mayo- Margarita Festival Nashville

Just enter BOOTS as the coupon code and just like that, you save ten bucks. I'm super excited to be judging the margarita competition and I hope to see some of you down there enjoying yourselves as well!

**You can also check out the event Facebook page here**

Friday, April 18, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Pinewood Social

A review of dinner at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
I've been itching to check out Pinewood Social since they opened their doors last year. It seemed like all of Nashville fell instantly in love with this place from the second they opened, crowding my Instagram feed of happy people eating, drinking, and bowling. Yes, bowling. In a 6-lane alley that looks like the scene of a Wes Anderson film. Pinewood Social is a monster of a restaurant (if you can even call it that). It's a full service restaurant serving breakfast, lunch, dinner and late night, as well as a coffee shop, bar, bowling alley, karaoke spot and once it's complete, a pool club. Feeling dizzy? Pinewood is nothing short of a fancy summer camp for adults with tasty food and strong drinks.
A review of dinner at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
Chef Josh Habiger, formally of the Catbird Seat, heads up this sparkling gem for the folks at Strategic Hospitality. Chef Habiger definitely knows what he is doing, trading in haute cuisine for his take on comfort foods. The menu reads like Sunday dinner options at Mom's house. But while the menu might be a new take on traditional food, the decor is nothing less than clean, modern and absolutely stunning.
A review of dinner at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
Polished concrete floors and exposed beams remind the diners that they are in a trolley barn. The lush, comfortable seating and charming light fixtures remind you that Pinewood could very well be the lobby of the chicest hotel in the world. Not to mention, everything is sparkling, cool and clean. For a place that appears to always be open, the staff sure knows how to keep everything looking spotless.
Cocktails at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
The cocktail list is comprehensive and enticing, with plenty of good-looking drinks to make your decision a difficult one. After consulting with the very talented head bartender, I decided to go with one of his favorites, The Bitter Wife. It contained gin, arrack, lemon and sparkling water. This cocktail tasted like spring. Mildly floral with a hint of citrus. It was light and refreshing and the bubbles were a nice touch. Everything in this cocktail was nicely balanced and not one flavor obscured the other. Steve chose the Marathon Manhattan with triple smoke whiskey, rye and bitters. This drink was manly, but had a nice sweet molasses like finish. Despite its strength, it was really easy to drink. 
cheese curds at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
The appetizer list had a lot of good options, but when I saw the cheese curds my mind was made up. I hardly ever find these delicious tidbits anywhere, and when I do I jump on the chance to shove them in my mouth. They were freshly breaded and crisp, but not so hot that you burned your mouth. The creamy pepper aioli was a nice touch. I felt kind of guilty eating a food that's just terrible for you, but damn, these things are worth it. Perhaps I should move to Wisconsin…..
New  York Strip Steak at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
For my entree I chose the New York Strip Steak because meat + potatoes = my comfort food. I asked for the steak medium rare and it was cooked perfectly. It was really red and juicy on the inside just the way I like it. Also, the portion was massive. There was no way I could finish this steak in one sitting, which was perfect because it guaranteed me a delicious lunch the next day. I have to give a big thumbs up for the bĂ©arnaise sauce for being so thick and decadent. It was a perfect accompaniment to the steak. The only disappointment to me were the side dishes. The spinach was way too salty for me to eat. I'll be the first to admit that I'm really sensitive to salt and don't like it to be too present, but even Steve agreed that the greens were just too salty. Needless to say, they remained on the plate. While the bread pudding was savory and nice, it was also too salty for me. This could be a result of having the spinach first, but nevertheless, it wasn't my thing. Steve, on the other hand, LOVED the bread pudding and was happy to take it off my plate and devour it himself.
Pork Chop at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
Steve went for the grilled pork chop with bok choy and sugar snap peas. The pork chop was expertly cooked and really tender. It was clearly marinated in such a way that it soaked up all the flavor and the red onion sauce was a perfect blend of sweet and tart. Personally, I wish they hadn't cleaned the bone. I know it looks nicer, but I love sucking off all the fat from the bone on a chop. Total personal preference there. The sugar snap peas were really tasty and added a nice crisp pop to the otherwise heavy dish.
Brussel sprouts at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
For a side we went with roasted brussels sprouts. They had a nice smokey flavor which was probably from the bacon bits we found hiding at the bottom. The inside of the sprout was still crisp and green while the outside was nicely charred. 
Lemon and lavender pie at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
When I asked to see the dessert menu and was told they don't have one, but they do have some pies available, I was intrigued. We went for a lemon and lavender pie, with lemon curd on the bottom and a lavender cream on top. The pies are made by local baker Dozen and are really worth the splurge. The tartness of the curd and the light floral sweetness of the cream were absolutely perfect for my palate after the salt overload. The crust was flaky and clearly homemade with love.
bowling lanes at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
I must note that the service we received was impeccable. The place is run like a well-oiled machine with a tremendous amount of staff. And it has to be, because Pinewood is huge and open for three meals a day plus late night. I was very impressed with how the whole place worked. 
A review of dinner at Pinewood Social in Nashville Tennessee
I now fully understand the appeal of Pinewood Social. The space and atmosphere is magnificent and you can tell this is a cool place to be. The staff is courteous, attentive and helpful while at the same time being unobtrusive. The cocktails are top notch and I'll probably be coming back soon just to sit at the bar. While I didn't really enjoy my sides (next time I'll ask for no salt), the food overall was solid. And after seeing how lovely their bowling lanes are, I'll have to come back just to throw a bunch of fancy gutter balls.

Pinewood Social on Urbanspoon

Friday, April 11, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Seoul Garden

A review of Korean BBQ at Seoul Garden in Nashville Tennessee
A couple of weeks ago Steve and I went out for dinner to celebrate my friend Aubrey's birthday (Aubrey has a fabulous blog- you should totally check it out!). Aubrey and I are both very into food and we love trying new things and eating at old favorites. We decided that a cook-your-own Korean BBQ feast at Seoul Garden would be perfect for a birthday double-date!
A review of Korean BBQ at Seoul Garden in Nashville Tennessee
Located just off of Nolensville Road, Seoul Garden might be the only place in town where you can grill your own meat at the table. There are about 4-5 tables that have the cook-top (you can make a reservation- just not the day-of to reserve one of these special tables). The inside decor is clean and simple, with hints of Korean culture. While you dine two large screen TVs show Korean pop sensations and their fabulously elaborate dance routines. While the place is clean and the service is prompt, do not expect the waitresses to be overly nice. The service was fine, but I had a feeing that our server just didn't want to deal with us.
Steamed beef dumplings at Seoul Garden in Nashville Tennessee
To start, we had the steamed beef dumplings. The dough was really light and thin and they were steamed perfectly, not allowing them to get overly sticky or soggy. The filling was what you typically find in dumplings, as was the dipping sauce. Overall I really liked these and I would definitely order them again.
Galbi beef ribs at Seoul Garden in Nashville Tennessee
The way the BBQ menu works is that you select from a variety of uncooked marinated meats that are brought to your table. A sweet old man (called grandpa by the staff) brought out hot coals and started our fire. It was really cute to see how the staff fussed over him; it was clear that they did not want him to be working so hard, especially with hot coals. The first meat we ordered was my favorite: the Galbi marinated beef rib. The meat was thinly sliced and clearly marinated for a very long time. This cut soaked up all the flavor and everything was super tender. I honestly could not get enough of this stuff. My favorite part was when you got down to the rib bones and you can just suck off all the flavor.
Pork Bulgolgi at Seoul Garden in Nashville Tennessee
Our second meat entree was the spicy pork bulgolgi. The meat was bright red from all the spices it soaked up during is long marinating period. The meat was very tender and cooked fairly quickly, and was spicy but not to the point of pain. I loved the flavor of the spicy pork and I was happy that it was significantly different from the rib meat.
BBQ Tables at Seoul Garden in Nashville Tennessee
As for cooking, you just place the thin pieces of meat over the grill in the center of the table. You can kind of see when it is getting done and you just flip it over. The staff watches you and comes around to make sure you are doing it right. Although they do this sometimes, they don't do it all the time, so you should be proactive about not burning your meat. Once the meat is cooked you use a food scissor to cut it up into bite size pieces and you can leave it around the edge of the grill to stay warm. If you want to use one of these tables, there is a minimum of two meat entrees per table.
Banchan  at Seoul Garden in Nashville Tennessee
As with any Korean meal, I always enjoy the banchan! Seoul garden offered a nice variety including the traditional kimchi, spouts and daikon as well as mushrooms, eggs, tofu and spinach. I really enjoyed the flavor of the eggs, especially the yolk when it soaked up the marinade. The tofu was kind of meh, being an odd taste and texture to be served cold. The only thing I missed from this assortment was some kind of dried fish.

Overall, I really enjoyed Seoul Garden. If you are looking for a fun creative dinner where you can go with a bunch of friends, you should really consider getting a BBQ table and sharing a meat feast!

PS: Happy Birthday Aubrey!
Seoul Garden Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

East Nashville Beer Festival 2014

A review of the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
The Old Red Boots group: Steve, Lauren, Justin (who made all the pretzel necklaces), Jen and Donnie 
This past Saturday was the East Nashville Beer Festival, one of my favorite days of the year. This festival marks the beginning of spring, when locals emerge from their houses, put on their sunglasses and step outside to mingle. The festival officially started at noon, but we arrived a half hour early so we could get our IDs checked and get in quickly. Gate entry was really efficient this year with teams of two checking IDs and scanning tickets at the same time. This prevented any entry backup and as soon as the festival was open we sauntered right through the gate.
Calfkiller beer at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
I made my way right to the Tennessee tent to try out some of my local favorites. Calfkiller always provides some of my favorite beers (not to mention that their set-up is always super cool). The first beer I tried was the Trail Ale, which was a granola flavored beer. It had a full nutty sweetness with the signature Calfkiller yeast flavor. I also got to sample the Pear Smoke Treat that had a subtle smokiness about it and a nice sweetness from the pear. Their Dark Earth Stout was thick and heavy but not overly sweet with chocolate or coffee notes. Honestly, you can never go wrong with anything the Sergio brothers put out.
Cool Springs Brewery at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Cool Springs Brewery got my vote for favorite new brewery, but it also won the "place where I'm most embarrassed to order" award. Everything was a dick joke from the team at CSB. While I thought the blow-up sex doll and dildo tap pull were a little over the top, the beer was some of the best of the day. The Mango IPA (which had the least creative name) was a standout. I normally don't enjoy IPAs, but everyone I talked to, no matter what their preference, loved this beer. The mango made the beer so sweet and fruity that I didn't even notice the bitterness that the hops added, creating just a solid flavorful drink. I also sampled the From the Window orange blossom saison, which was light and sweet but wasn't super impressive. While I didn't get to try it, The Sweet Peachy Balls also received favorable reviews.
Turtle Anarchy at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Turtle Anarchy is another local favorite that just keeps putting out solid beer. I tired their special of the day, a peanut butter stout made with PB2. I have never had a peanut butter beer and I was excited to try this. I was surprised by how subtle the peanut butter flavor was. I was kind of happy that it didn't taste like I was drinking a jar of Skippy. The beer reminded me of a snickers bar soaked in dark beer, which is actually a lot better than it sounds. Keep up the creative work Turtle Anarchy!
Yazoo at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Yazoo is the granddaddy of Nashville beer and they always go all-out at local festivals. I went for the special, a 2013 Berliner Weisse filtered through pink grapefruit and pineapples. This is the MOST PERFECT BREAKFAST BEER EVER DEVISED. All we could talk about is how we want this beer for some Manmosas.
Straight to Ale at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Oh Straight to Ale, how I love your space age quirkiness, clever names, and tasty libations. I tried the Sand Island Lighthouse Kolsch and quite enjoyed it. It was a light and enjoyable summertime beer that would be great for beach hangouts or porch hangs and day drinking. Since I'm not a fan of hops I let Steve try the Helle Rye IPA filtered though fresh citra hops. He said it was "glorious" and "amazing" with a very nice aroma.
Flat 12  at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Unfortunately, the consensus was that Flat 12 brought along some of the least tasty options of the day. The Briar Pinko, a barrel aged raspberry stout was the most divisive offering of the day. Two of my friends loved it and thought it was a good mix of sweet and sour, while others thought it reminded them of Robitussin. I'm more inclined to lean with the medicine folks, as I couldn't drink it without having flu flashbacks. Their Tequila aged saison, Reposado Saison du Flat reminded most of my group of Italian salad dressing with everyone dumping this one out. Despite the first two bummers, the Brandy Walkabout Pale Ale aged in French Brandy Barrels was enjoyed by everyone, especially Steve.
Woodland Wine Merchant at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
The folks from my favorite Eastside wine and liquor store Woodland Wine Merchant brought a staggering array of Belgian beer to taste. They even brought a long a checklist of all their offerings and after looking at that list I knew there was no way I could possibly try them all. Upon recommendation from my friend Holland who said that this beer "made him question every life decision up until this point" I had to try the Cuvee des Jacobins Rouge. This was a refreshingly tart and very wine-like sour beer.
Schmaltz brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival

Schmaltz brewing always brings some of my favorites to the festival. Besides their really good beer, I'm a fan of their design and packaging. We tried the Rejewvinator, a mix of a belgian style dubbel ale and a dopplebock European lager brewed with merlot grapes. It wast tasty but not overly sweet or sour from the grapes. We gave this beer a gold star and would be remiss if we also didn't decide that this beer would be a solid deck-drinking beer. Steve enjoyed their R.I.P.A. on Rye, a rye double india pale ale aged in whisky barrels. It had that alcoholic flavor and a bit of a throat burn, but in a good way. It was hoppy with a dash of sweet that made this beer stand out.
Deschutes Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Deschutes had some really impressive offerings. My favorite was the Mirror Mirror barleywine. This was one of my favorites, being so sweet and easy to drink. There is no overpowering alcoholic feeling, so it's deceptively easy to drink for something with such a high alcohol content. You could drink a whole bottle of this and not know how strong it was before it's too late. A few of us (including me) went back for seconds on this one. Another favorite from Deschutes was their Mirror Pond Pale Ale.
Black Abbey Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Black Abbey is one of Nashville newest breweries. I went to their taproom a few weeks ago and loved it. The atmosphere is nice, the staff is friendly (Hi Carl!) and the beer is downright awesome. I tried their Crossroads Cream Ale which was new to me. It was light and sessionable. They also had the And The Bandit Smokey Rye IPA. The smoke was subtle but blended nicely with the level of hops, and didn't get lost in all the other flavors that were going on.
Jackalope Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
All the folks walking around with antlers must have stopped by the Jackalope booth. Their Bearwalker is always a good go-to drink for me. At the festival I was able to try something different, the Snowman Stout made with mocha. It wasn't my favorite stout of the day, but it was solid and definitely something I would order from their taproom next winter.
Little Harpeth Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Little Harpeth Brewing is another newcomer to Nashville (Can I just say that I'm excited about all these new breweries in the past few years?). I tried their Chicken Scratch, an American Pilsner made with corn. It was light and drinkable, a perfect beer to bring when you are floating down a river in the summer.
Schalfty Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
I've been a fan of St. Louis's Schlafly beer since a trip to the city about 4 years ago. If you ever make it to STL, you have to stop in for some food and drink at their taproom. I had their special pumpkin ale which was amazing. It tasted just like drinking a pumpkin pie. Granted, it was the wrong weather for this type of beer, but when you have something so good that tastes like nutmeg and cinnamon, you can't go wrong. Their Irish Stout was the best stout of the day, being well balanced and robust without any of the bitterness from the roasted grains and hops.
New Belgium Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
New Belgium is always a fan favorite, putting out tasty beer, having an awesome corporate culture and putting on the super-awesome Tour de Fat all over the country. Steve tried their Wild Dubbel- it was pretty amazing according to Steve. It was made using a wild yeast strain, but the most impressive thing about it was all the earthy herbal notes. I think the wonder of this beer left Steve speechless. I was able to try a Gruit beer, a beer made with other herbs instead of hops. This type of beer was new to me and I had no point of reference, but it really wasn't my thing.
Left Hand Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Left Hand brewing makes a phenomenal milk stout. I was able to try their version of a nitro stout, which was one of my favorite beers of the day. It was sweet, while being dark and lovely. I was also able to try the Founders Kentucky Breakfast stout which was done with a variety of coffee beans and chocolate. It was thick like a milkshake and really strong. I totally loved this beer!
Red Brick Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Red Brick and some really nice offerings including a Russian imperial stout and a bourbon barrel beer. The stout was solid and while it tasted like coffee, the texture was not very thick. The bourbon barrel ale was really smooth and sweet, but was fairly run-of-the-mill as far as barrel aged beers go.
Lagunitas Brewing at the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Lagunitas' Brown Sugga' sweet release was pretty tasty. It's a beer that caused many expletives to come out of our mouths. It was hoppy, but it had enough balancing sweetness to make me really enjoy it. I surprised myself with how much I enjoyed this beer. The overall consensus was that it was pretty darn amazing.
A review of the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
The nuts and bolts of the event went really smoothly this year. Like I said earlier, the quick ID check and ticket scan made waiting on line much easier. Just like last year, there were more than enough port-o-johns for everyone and there was never a line to get in (which is probably the most important thing when your event is based around continuously dumpling liquids into your body). The ticketing system through Eventbrite was easy to use and flawless. While I was excited about the new TripFriend app for the festival, I found the interface clunky and not as useful as I was hoping. Perhaps because I tend to write everything down, I was hoping that there would be a specific list of all the beers by each brewery with a spot in the app where I could take notes. I really hope that the app can become much better in future years for annoying factotums like myself.
A review of the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
Favorites:
Cool Springs Brewing: Mango IPA
Deschutes: Mirror Mirror Barleywine
Yazoo: Berliner Weisse with Pink Grapefruit and Pineapples
Founders: Kentucky Breakfast Stout
New Belgium: Wild Dubbel
Schlafly: Irish Stout
Straight To Ale: Helle Rye IPA w/ fresh Citra hops

Not So Much:
Flat 12: Briar Pinko and the Reposado Saison du Flat
New Belgium: Gruit 
A review of the 2014 East Nashville Beer festival
***A special thanks to Rhizome productions who put on this fabulous event (as well as many others) year after year. They invited me back to cover the festival and I'm so thankful that they keep taking a chance on a local blogger who just loves to eat and drink.***

Friday, April 4, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Brunch at Marche

A review of brunch at Marche in East Nashville Tennessee
There's a good reason why Marche is always on the top of the "best of" lists for brunch. I'm not one to necessarily follow the crowds or jump on the latest bandwagon, but when it comes to Marche's brunch dominance I am bound to agree.

The decor is light, open and reminiscent of a Paris cafe. Large windows and iron chair compliment the simple, but elegant dishes. Near the front door there is a small area where you can purchase knickknacks and artisan food. There is also a display of all the lovely pastries and sweets that you can pick up on your way out.
A review of brunch at Marche in East Nashville Tennessee

The one downside to Marche, due to their extreme popularity, is the wait for a table. Sometimes the wait is over an hour, so to guarantee a table on weekends I suggest you arrive before 10am or around 1pm. We arrived at 10 on the dot and were nervous, but the hostess told us the wait would only be 20 minutes. That's a miracle and we happily put our name on the list.
Coffee during  brunch at Marche in East Nashville Tennessee
While we were waiting for our table we ordered cafe au lait from the barista. This is my favorite drink at Marche and reminds me of my visits to Paris. The coffee was flavorful, warm and milky. The best part: it's served in bowls that require you to wrap both hands around them. The coffee warms your hands and your insides as you drink. It's magical!

Before we had a chance to make a dent in our coffee we were informed that our table was ready. I'm always impressed when the estimated wait is exact or event shorter than anticipated. Nothing ruffles my feathers like being told there will be a twenty minute wait and then sitting around for 45 minutes.
Tartine during  brunch at Marche in East Nashville Tennessee
*Important note: Marche changes their brunch menu periodically, so don't expect every dish you see here to be available when you go. This is also one of the reasons why people keep coming back! (a few favorites like the steak and eggs and croissant french toast are perpetually on the menu)* 

To start off we ordered the tartine: organic bread topped with mascarpone, strawberries and a balsamic reduction. This was the perfect sweet bite to have with our coffee. The tartine was loaded thick with mascarpone cheese just the way I like it. The strawberries were sweet but were balanced out by the tart balsamic reduction. This dish was so simple but perfect, and sometimes less is more.
Crepe during  brunch at Marche in East Nashville Tennessee
For the main course I chose the savory crepes filled with beef, potatoes and caramelized onions topped with a cheddar Mornay sauce. The sauce was perfectly flavorful and creamy but not heavy enough to overpower the delicate nature of crepes. The crepes themselves were crisp on the outside and had a good fork feel. The potatoes, beef and onions were all mashed into almost a pate inside the crepes. While I wish I had a few chunks of meat, I understand that having a smooth filling is easier and more elegant inside crepes. Needless to say, I left not one bite and swept up all the leftover sauce with a finger.
Biscuits and gravy during  brunch at Marche in East Nashville Tennessee
Steve had a hard choice on the menu. He wanted something French but his Tennessee roots popped in and forced him to order the biscuits, sausage gravy and eggs. Marche makes their own sausage from scratch on the premise and you can really taste that in the gravy. The sausage had a unique spicy flavor. The over easy eggs were cooked perfectly and the yolk ran all over the plate.The biscuits were the perfect texture to bring the whole dish together. Marche did a great job of putting a sophisticated twist on a southern soul food classic.
A review of brunch at Marche in East Nashville Tennessee
I was also really impressed with the service we received. The place was crowded and even in that kind of fast-paced environment our server was polite, prompt and paid attention to the details.

Marche is still probably my favorite place for brunch. I also really enjoy their dinner (read about that here). I guess when the masses are correct, there is no need to disagree. You might as well get up early on Saturday and get in line. It's worth it. 

Marché Artisan Foods on Urbanspoon
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