Like a lot of people, many of my best memories are flavored by food: me licking batter off the mixer blades as a child growing up, whenever my mom baked a cake, being part of the barely controllable conversational chaos that surrounds the holiday dinner tables of large families like mine, the laughter and jokes served with a shared meal (and an occasional cocktail or two) during a night out on the town with friends, etc., etc.. Maybe that’s why I look forward to the trips my husband and I take – the good food and good times we’re sure to share – or maybe it’s simply because I love great food. Whatever the reason, it’s just a real special part of what makes life great to me, and I love sharing it with others. That’s why today I’d like to do exactly that and take you with me on a virtual roadtrip, sharing with you some of the gastronomical sights and flavors of a recent weekend road trip my husband and I (and our Furry Babies) made to the Country Music Capital of the World – Nashville, Tennessee. My hope is that once we’re done, you’ll have so enjoyed the journey that you’ll soon plan such a trip for yourself, but between then and now just sit back and relax, and leave all the driving to me.
With the furr babies in tow, we stopped over in Memphis to help break up the drive. Arriving late afternoon, there was just enough time to take in a couple of noteable sites, and then it was on to the main event – dinner – and the chance to savor some of the glorious goodness know as BBQ, for which the area is so famous. (Pictured below is Memphis’ #1 rated BBQ house – Central BBQ, where we ate.)
As a long time Texas transplant, I will always love the beef BBQ Texas is known for, but in Memphis – it’s all about the pig, and I’m good with that, because there was not a thing in the world wrong with their sweet, mild, lightly smoky, pulled pork BBQ sandwich, with a side of golden delicious onion rings (pictured below), that I devoured there. I ordered mine with slaw served ‘on the side’ (rather than Memphis style, where it’s served on top of the sandwich), and while no one made a fuss about it, some will no doubt ask, “Why not Memphis style?” – especially given the fact that I always add the slaw to my sandwich after it arrives at the table anyway. My answer never varies: “Because that’s just how I like it.” Call me a rebel!
Up and on the road again by 8:15am the next morning, we rolled into Nashville just in time for brunch at a quaint local spot, the Sky Blue Cafe. As with most trendy East Nashville eateries, the wait was impressive – around 45 minutes – but good fortune was on our side and we were able co-ordinate our arrival time with my son who lives in the area, timing it perfectly so that we were parking just as he was being seated at a table. (Travel Tip: Having a local ‘on the ground’ that way is extremely helpful when trying to maximize a limited stay in a new area – and a great reason to get out there and visit family and friends who live in desirable areas!)
Having heard the story of Nashville’s most famous dish – Hot Chicken – and already being a huge fan of Eggs Benedict, I of course had to try Sky Blue’s unique menu offering Hot Chicken Eggs Benedict (pictured below). I love spicy, but having conferred with our waitress, I elected to go with their lowest level of hot – and man, am I grateful! Any chiliheads out there? You must try Nashville’s Hot Chicken! (Sky Blue’s rendition was truly divine – but I may or may not have lost all feeling in my tongue for awhile…)
Nashville has a very young feel to it, and most eateries are casual and laid back in pace. Rumours East, though more upscale than some, was no exception to this rule. Converted from an old mid-century Victorian style house, with its cozy sized dining areas, picturesque fireplace and lighting, and general southern charm, we found this cozy little bistro everything you could want. They treated us with such an amazing air of grace and charm too – seating us almost immediately (amazingly without our having previously made a reservation) at a lovely table with a view, right around 6:00pm.
Our appetizer – the crawfish gyoza with ginger aioli (pictured below), was amazing. (Think: Chinese dumpling, with crawfish filling, with a deep fried crunch, and served with a lightly spiced ginger dipping sauce.) We only thought there were no new ways to make dumplings.
I ordered the braised pork shoulder with white cheddar grits, sesame collard greens, and a compound butter. Oh.My.Goodness! My grandmother made collard green when I was a kid – and she was a great southern cook – but these were not my grandmother’s collard greens. I don’t think they’re anyone’s grandmother’s collard greens, but stay tuned to the blog, because if I can ever figure out how to recreate them, I’ll be sure to share the recipe with all of you!
Finishing up our meal just as darkness began to fall, we were ushered into the night by the romantic glow of their charming outdoor lighting (pictured below). If you’re in Nashville and in need of a truly picturesque place, with fantastic food, be sure and check out Rumours East before you decide to go anywhere else.
Our time was drawing to a close for the evening, but we have this rule that we always abide by on vacation: “There’s always enough room for ice cream.” It’s a rule people, and we try to obey the rules, so we made our way to Jeni’s Spendid Ice Cream Parlour for dessert. We tasted several flavors – and I felt I showed amazing restraint in selecting just two – but let me say, It’s ALL Good!
Weekend road trips have a way of sneaking up on you quickly and being over before you know it, and that was the case for our trip to Nashville too, but we did enjoy one last meal before hitting the road for the long drive home – a brunch at Marche Artisanal Food. As a restaurant and market, the Marche offers more seating than most of the local spots we frequented during our stay, and it’s an equally great place to pop in and grab a freshly brewed coffee and pastry to go, or like us, to linger a while longer and enjoy a more leisurely meal.
Arriving before 9:00am (opening time on a Sunday), we were not surprised to find yet another line of people measuring halfway down the block, waiting for the door to open. (Block long lines of attractive, Hipsters looking Gen Xers, iphones in hand, standing, texting, and generally doing the kinds of things Gen Xers do – uh, it’s a real thing – at least in Nashville.) We lucked out again and were able to grab a seat at a communal table, and within minutes were seated inside and sipping on a freshly poured artisanal cup of Joe. Our final meal in Nashville? A farmer’s basket full, so to speak, of a variety of the goodies the Marche is known for: freshly made crepes and croissants, homemade preserves, Shrimp and Grits, and Croissant French Toast, not to mention some great bacon and farm fresh scrambled eggs. Are you hungry yet? Well, like they say it in the South, “Honey, you simply must go!.
So that’s it – I hope you enjoyed tooling around town with me for awhile, and as I said before, I do really hope you’ll get out there real soon to see (and sample) it all for yourself!
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Here’s to us tearing up the roads together again real soon!