Last Day in Nashville

It was our last day in Nashville and we had meetings scheduled for most of the day, but we did take time to drive to Cracker Barrel for breakfast rather than eat at the expensive hotel breakfast again, no pictures of that but it was delicious. Then, as long as we were so close, we HAD to visit Cooter’s Place, the Dukes of Hazzard Museum. This museum has memorabilia from the show, and most of the cars from the show, but mostly it has ALL of the merchandise the show generated. From Dukes of Hazzard Underoos to sleeping bags, video games, puzzles, and beach towels, they had it. It was fun to look at. We did not pay for the privilege of having our pictures taken sitting IN all the cars, but taking your picture in front of the cars was free.

Most favorite picture of myself in a while. No, we did not slide across the hood of the General Lee.

We went to meetings all afternoon and then decided to eat at the Italian restaurant, Ravello, at the Gaylord that night (I, of course, had scoped out the menu on the internet well beforehand.)

This is the bread with an amazing marinara dipping sauce. I think the sauce used crushed tomatoes, had a very nice texture. Mmmmmmm.

We ordered the antipasti selection for our appetizer – 3 different kinds of Italian cured meats, and 2 cheeses. They don’t specify which kinds on the menu, and I wasn’t taking notes, but one of the cheeses was a soft cheese with cow’s, goat’s, and sheep’s milk, and it was amazing. The hard cheese was also good, and the three cured meats were delicious. The side plate contains pickled vegetables, raspberry compote, and preserved figs, all of which combined well with the meat and cheese. The little triangles are pita bread.

I love soup, so of course I had to have the soup. This was carrot bisque with a citrus ricotta garnish. Again, amazing.

Going around the table, our entrees. Above: Aqua Pazza, classic spicy southern Italian seafood stew with lobster, scallops, shrimp, and mussels over pasta, lemon, and grilled ciabatta.

Angel hair shrimp scampi – tossed with San Marzano tomatoes, roasted eggplant, basil, and ricotta salata.

Gnocci in a Marsala mushroom ragu, with beef tenderloin tips and dulce gorgonzola.

I, of course, want to sample as many things as possible, so I ordered the appetizer sampler as my entree.

Hearth fired meatballs, in a house made tomato sauce with Bonnie Blue Chevre, fresh basil, and sambuca.

Charred beef carpaccio, seared tenderloin with crispy capers, shaved Grana Padano, red onion, and arugula, drizzled with Coloratura aioli. This was amazing, is essential Very Very Rare or raw beef, but it is cut so thin, and then seasoned so perfectly, it was the best thing I had all week. I know some of you are shuddering over the raw beef, but you know I will try anything once. I will definitely try this again.

Caprese – mozzarella burrata, slow roasted jewel box tomatoes, and fried basil leaves are drizzled with pesto and a balsamic reduction. I prefer my caprese with all fresh tomatoes, not roasted, but this was still good.

Polenta and asiago fonduta – creamy polenta dip with jumbo lump crab meat and grilled ciabatta. This was the blandest item of the sampler, all of the others were very tasty but this one just didn’t stand out. It was fine, just not my favorite.

The convention concluded with a trip to the Grand Old Opry with a concert set up just for our attendees. The featured entertainers were: Mike Snider (awesome mountain music/bluegrass and very funny), Sarah Darling, John Conlee (Rose Colored Glasses), Joey + Rory, and Darryl Worley. And, it pays to go over to thank the sponsors of the concert because then you might get invited backstage to meet Darryl Worley.

So all in all, a pretty good trip. I guess I can’t say my job is not interesting. And look, the biggest miracle is that I wore that white shirt all day and DIDN’T GET ANYTHING ON IT!

The Parthenon, Nashville

Friday afternoon we visited the Parthenon in Nashville. It was originally built as part of the Centennial Exposition in 1897 (out of plaster), and was then re-built out of sturdier materials. The building and the 42-foot tall statue of Athena inside are full scale replicas of the originals in ancient Greece.

We were interested in both the building and the art collection inside. The Parthenon houses the City of Nashville’s art collection, which was donated to the city in 1927 by James M. Cowan, an art collector who had spent part of his childhood in Tennessee and considered it his ancestral home. No photography was allowed in the art gallery, but some pictures are available online. Here is a link to the  Cowan Collection, with photographs of some of the paintings. I think my favorite was Widening Sea by Frederick Waugh – no picture, but this blog by Armand Cabrera has pictures of several of his works. Very turbulent seascape.

Neither one of us had any desire to have this one in our houses:

That dead fish is even more dead in person.

The art gallery visit was not enhanced by a screaming baby and a horde of college kids who were apparently there for a basketball tournament. Then again, when I was a college kid, I would not have been enthused about the art gallery either.

Exterior of the building. This one is all restored, the one in Greece has been damaged/looted over the ages and is missing most of the statues and friezes.

Look at that blue sky, does it look like a tornado warning is headed our way?

Once you are inside, there is a small admission fee, and then you can walk around the art gallery and displays of some of the history of the Nashville Parthenon, showing its history and how it was built, and re-built, and the renovations.  Upstairs you find the statue of Athena which was added to the Parthenon later, after funds were raised from private donations and school children collecting nickels and dimes.

Athena is 41 feet 10 inches tall, making her the tallest piece of indoor sculpture in the Western World. Yes, she is rather frightening.

This is the head of the medusa on her shield.

While we were at the Parthenon, they announced they were going to be closing an hour and 15 minutes early because of expected severe weather. When we got back to the Gaylord, it had clouded up and was starting to sprinkle. We were promptly sent into the service corridors by the hotel staff to wait out the tornado warning, which only took about a half an hour. Text messages were flying and everyone was checking in on Facebook. S. and I were really wishing we had our wine we bought at the plantation with us……

Arnold’s County Kitchen

Note to my niece: Sorry, no General Lee picture yet, I have to post that when I write about Saturday, and I am still writing about Friday! XXX000 love you!

When I found out I was going to Nashville, of course I checked into what area restaurants had been on “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives.” (My favorite TV show.) There were a few in the area, but I thought the most authentic Southern-sounding one was Arnold’s Country Kitchen, which is cafeteria-style and serves “meat and three” – your choice of the meats they have that day and then you can pick three sides. Or two sides, or whatever you like.

My friend S. the artist (who gives invaluable advice on newt quilts) had diet RC Cola, BBQ beef on a jalapeno grit cake with jalapeno cheese sauce, grilled asparagus, and mashed potatoes and gravy. She said everything was excellent, especially the jalapeno cheese sauce.

I had a diet RC cola, roast beef, greens (with bacon and a little wasabi), squash casserole, and white beans. I would drink Diet RC regularly if you could find it around here.

They carved the roast beef right there in front of you, it was excellent. I was so excited to eat here I forgot to pay. I did go back and pay after I realized that. Everyone in line was busy talking about the expected tornado warning, and I just managed to wander through and not pay.

I don’t know what was in this squash casserole but it was very sweet and it was delicious.

Don’t you love the macro setting on this camera? Wouldn’t you like to get closer to my food?

These greens were great. Bacon, wasabi, probably a good quantity of bacon grease….

These white beans were great, another recipe I will try to figure out. I believe that is ham in there. Anyone who knows how to make these, please let me know.

A new culinary discovery! Bruce’s Tabasco Peppers in Vinegar. I don’t believe you can buy these in stores up here. I will look. They had them at our hotel but they wanted $10.95 for a bottle, and they are $1.99 online, so I think I will be ordering them if I can’t find them locally. I just put the vinegar on my meat and greens, I did not eat a pepper, although I am looking forward to that too.

The missing camera has been located! I apparently knocked it out of my bag when I was rummaging for something on the airplane, so thank goodness for Frontier Airlines. I have also lost my Blackberry on a Frontier flight, and got it back safe and sound, so I appreciate their good service.

Belle Meade Plantation, Tennessee

A few of us ventured out into the Greater Nashville Area to see some local sights. Friday morning, we visited the Belle Meade Plantation.

We couldn’t take picture inside the plantation house, but this is the front porch. Please note the bullet holes in the columns from the battle of Nashville. This was our tour guide, Tom.

The Plantation is actually in pretty good shape, and was not looted/destroyed as much as some others because the owner, General Harding was a friend of future vice president Andrew Johnson, who advised him to sign a loyalty oath, and when he didn’t, sent him to exile in Michigan. However, he did give protection to Mrs. Harding and the plantation. The main money maker for the plantation was thorough-bred horses.

The Plantation now includes a winery whose proceeds are used to support the maintenance of the plantation. There is evidence that used wine bottles were purchased by the plantation and those were probably used to make homemade wine.

We tasted a red muscadine (grapes native to the U.S.), a blackberry wine, their “Racing Silk” red, and a chardonnay (white). I purchased some of the muscadine, red, and blackberry, and had them shipped home. They are not here yet. I am hoping SOON.

The wine jellies you can see in front were also delicious.

The crypt on the Plantation. They dug up all the bodies in there and moved them to a cemetery. Still pretty creepy.

This little vine was quite happily growing out of the stone wall

An interesting old grist stone

Three grist stones.

The dairy and the view back to the plantation house.

The area around the plantation is more developed now, but the grounds are still pretty extensive. It was a very interesting tour, and besides the winery, they had a great gift shop, which featured painting by local artists. Both of us on the tour had paintings we wanted to take home. If you are in the area it is definitely worth a visit. They also had a restaurant there, but we had other plans for lunch (to be continued…..).

More Southern Fried Goodness

Thursday night in Nashville, we ventured out to Puckett’s Grocery and Restaurant. It was a Facebook recommendation and it was excellent.

I am very lucky to have two board members along who understand my quirks and don’t mind when I say “Don’t eat it yet, I have to take a picture.”

We had been told to try the fried green beans and Yazoo beer. I am not a beer person, but my two board members tried it and said it was great. I had a apple pie moonshine martini which was excellent.

I had the fried chicken, excellent.

It came with a corn cake, green beans, and mashed potatoes.

I was torn on whether to order the chicken or the shrimp and grits, so I was glad when one of my board members ordered the shrimp and grits, because then I got to sample them.

They had a lot of cardamom in them, so very Indian spicy tasting.

Mmmmmm. My other board member ordered chicken fried chicken. It was a little larger than he expected it to be.

He also gave his meal the thumbs up. We were too full for dessert. They also had a live bluegrass band, Quickfoot and the Slow Downers – they were really very enjoyable. We hadn’t been actively seeking live music, but it was really nice to have someone to listen to. A delightful evening! And on our return to the hotel, “weather alerts” including the unnecessarily apostrophed “temperatures expected to rise into the 70’s and 80’s which could lead to the outbreak of tornadoes” so that may be festive.

Southern Goodness

I am in Tennessee for work so will give a brief report on my travel so far. First of all, apologies to those of you (Tim) that I freaked out when you thought I had another fire right before my trip. No, those were PAST fires. I haven’t had a really good one since the grease fire in October.

I would like to give some appreciation to the Denver airport for their art on display. In the bridge to the A Concourse, they have several cases of Colorado art and design. I have taken the time to walk up both sides now and look at everything, the exhibit is mostly geared toward design but it is well worth looking at.

Then I would like to tell you that if you are going to eat on A Concourse, stay away from Panda Express’ veggie spring rolls, which have absolutely no taste or texture. The hot and sour soup was a very mediocre version but it was leaps and bounds above the spring rolls. There are not a lot of good places there at the hub on A, I would go out to C and get a calzone if you have the time.

Our first meal here in Nashville was at Caney Fork River Valley Grille. This is pretty close to our hotel, and we gave it a try. Our party had the chopped steak, the filet, and the Camp Fire Fish Fry, consisting of Southern Fried Catfish, fried shrimp, Fried frog Legs, Fried Cod, a crab cake and some hush puppies and some french fries. Plus two sides: fried okra and baked beans.

Two of us shared this and it was still too much.

Fried okra and various dipping sauces.

Plus, at the beginning of the meal they bring you fried corn fritters with powdered sugar.

Sorry, I took these pictures with my phone and they are not the best.

The best thing was the frog legs. They were really quite good. The catfish was fine, the okra was very good and fresh, but the cod had way too much breading, it was better when I picked it out of the breading. The baked beans were also excellent. And the corn fritters were good. Even splitting this between two of us, it was too much food.

The restaurant also had an excellent version of Long Island Ice Tea “Backwoods Tea” which was very good and about half as expensive as the ones at our hotel.

Plus they had many interesting stuffed and mounted animals on display, including many deer with “atypical” racks. So I would recommend it if you like a place with character. If you are a vegetarian, maybe not so much.

Please pardon any random capitalization, I have been at a reception where there was Wine.