2011: My Favorite Bites, Sips, and Adventures!
2011 was a rollercoaster of a year. It was, in fact, my first full year of blogging. I’ve had the honor of writing for a start up publication – The Double Standard, and in a few weeks be part of the writing team for a new website – 2 Dine For Nashville (feel free to follow us on twitter!) – with my lovely sister, Zarna. I (somehow) was “qualified” to be a judge for a Nashville Lifestyle’s Bartender Bash, the Southern Hot Wing Festival, and a cookoff amongst Real Estate companies. I competed in the Music City Hot Chicken Festival and the Music City Chili Cookoff. I joined a CSA and got great/local produce for the entirety of the growing season. I started a new job and spent a lot of time moving out of a house I had lived in for the better part of 2 decades. I’m hoping for big things in 2012 and can’t wait to keep blogging and sharing my adventures with y’all – thank you, as always, for being along for the ride.
I took some time over the holiday to reflect on the past year. Of course, memories of the year are even better when there is food involved! So with that, here is a list of my favorite bites, sips, and adventures of 2011.
(Photo Courtesy of The Sweet Stash)
I was never a huge desert person. Then, I ate Whitney’s oatmeal cookie sandwich. Two large crispy and chewy oatmeal cookies sandwiching cinnamon buttercream. There was an all out war amongst foodies in Nashville to see who could get to the market early enough to pick them up. Sometimes, I could see [insert unnamed friend here] buying the last few cookies just seconds before I made it to the counter. THEN, Whitney came out with a second cookie sammie. Peanut butter cookies with chocolate buttercream and rolled in salted peanuts. HOLY. Most recently, there are gingerbread cookies with lemon buttercream. GENIUS. I get one almost every weekend. I can’t stop eating them!
#9: House of Kabob, Braised Lamb Shank
I’m really hesitant to tell you about this dish and this restaurant. I’ve been coming here religiously for over 7 years. It is amazing, authentic, delicious Kurdish food. I’ve had everything on the menu, but my absolute favorite is the braised lamb shank served with yellow rice with housemade hot sauce and yogurt. The lamb is braised to perfection in a rich tomato broth until succulent and delicious (plus you can suck the marrow from the bones!) It is quite possibly the best piece of lamb I’ve ever had in my life. I’ve probably eaten it a hundred times. House of Kabob is my little secret treasure in Nashville and after many years of keeping it secret, I’m willing to share. Go try it. And for my good friends that don’t like lamb, try the joojeh (Cornish hen) kabob – some of the best chicken you’ll ever eat.
A bunch of Nashville Food Bloggers got the opportunity to go on a trip to see how cheese was made from a real dairy farm. This year really was a lot about learning where my food comes from and who produces it. I’ve been hooked on Kenny’s cheese since the trip and I love seeing Jennifer and Robin’s faces every week at the Farmer’s Market. Mac N Cheese just wouldn’t be as good without some of Kenny’s aged cheddar.
#7: Nashville Food Trucks
At this time last year, Nashville had about 2 food trucks. Now, the list has grown to almost 40. That is one helluva trend. I love the food truck movement, and I love the delicious morsels I get to grab from these decked out mobile kitchens. I was even featured on The Food Network’s Cooking Channel show Eat Street (twice!). A few of my favorite dishes are the kao mun gai from Deg Thai Truck, bahn mi from Riff’s Fine Street Food, the pimento mac n cheese melt from The Grilled Cheeserie, the brisket tacos from Smoke et Al, and the tiger wings from Jonbalaya. I can’t wait to try out more food trucks in the coming year. If you’re not on the bandwagon, you need to be.
I’ve eaten a lot of burgers this year. I’ve even made a few. But nothing compares to Chef John Stephenson’s Local Burger from Fido. A mix of local beef and lamb, with Kenny’s cheese, caramelized fennel, fried onions, fig mayo, and an amazing bun. It’s just perfection between two slices of bread. A few friends of mine have accompanied me and now we all make special trips to Fido just to get this burger.
This was the first tasting menu I’ve ever done in my life. Before this, I could never afford one on my student budget. Lucky for me, during the first restaurant week of 2011, celebrity chef Arnold Myint churned out a 5 course tasting menu that literally blew my mind.
Secret entrance through a fake phone booth. Painstaking attention to detail. Amazing cocktails. Hot dogs with deep fried mayo (courtesy of Wylie Dufrense) and wrapped in bacon with kimchi (courtesy of David Chang). A not to be missed spot in New York.
Sometimes there are restaurants you go to, just to try things out. Then there are places that you crave and entice you to keep coming back for more. City House is the place I always want to have dinner at. Chef Tandy Wilson makes all the food I want to eat. Homemade salami, a frico of montasio cheese covering roasted potatoes, a salad of octopus, thin and crispy pizza topped with house made belly ham, a beautiful wood oven roasted chicken, or house made sausage. I want to eat everything I see on that menu, all the time. The drinks (especially the kubric) are phenomenal and I especially love the Sunday Suppers, where Chef Tandy prepares a meal of snacks that people can order and share with their dining companions. Any meal with pork snacks (crispy pig ears, fried pig tails buffalo style, high life ribs, homemade corndogs, etc) makes me happy.
#2: The Catbird Seat
By far the best restaurant experience I’ve had up until this point in my life. It was exciting, unexpected, revolutionary, thought provoking, and of course, mighty tasty. It’s certainly an occasion dinner spot, but I really hope I can go back soon. Chefs Josh Habiger and Erik Anderson are doing real special work here.
No single adventure has changed me more than being a part of this incredible blogging community. I’ve written enough about it in numerous posts over the course of the year. Learning techniques on curing, salting, smoking, grinding, and brining will stick with me for a long time. I love making my own bacon and sausage. I appreciate knowing where my meat comes from and how it’s grown. The relationships and people I’ve met along the way will be my friends for a very long time. When I started this adventure, I had no idea what an impact it would have on me. Out of over 400 people nationally, I was honored to be one of 10 semifinalists. I guess it just goes to show that if you have the opportunity to try something, at least try it out. You’ve got nothing to lose.
Now, onto 2012! Cheers,