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Monday, November 25, 2013

Petcurean blogger advocate

If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know I love food and I love my cats. I spend my days eating out, writing reviews and recommending places to eat. Considering all the time I spend thinking about food, I rarely ever think about what my cats eat.

When the lovely people at Petcurean reached out to me and asked if I wanted to be a Petcurean blog ambassador, I jumped at the chance to talk about good food for our furry family members. I watch what I put into my body- so it matters a great deal what I give Cooper, Sawyer, Belle and Sebastienne.

For my children I chose the GO! Daily Defense in chicken flavor. There are few things in the world that my cats like more than chicken!

They also have a special cat story on the back of the food bag. They're totally tugging at my heart strings and making this the Wheaties box for cats! I can only hope that one day my boy Cooper will grace the bag!

Over the next few months I'll be partnering with Petcurean to discuss pet nutrition. We'll also be having some great giveaways and maybe even a food review with Cooper, so be sure to check back in!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Nashville Food Friday: Wild Hare

Last weekend I got together with two of my favorite ladies and we decided to go out to "dine." I guess adults "dine" and children "eat." We wanted to be fancy. A friend suggested Wild Hare and since I had never been, I promptly agreed. I tried some of their samples at Music City Eats (which didn't wow me), so I was interested to see what the full restaurant was like.
Wild Hare restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
First off, the decor is just not good. The whole place looks like it was cobbled together with plywood and duck tape. The floor was uneven and sloped in locations. The ceiling was low and it made me feel like this was a restaurant in a high school student's basement rather than a real adult establishment. Everything about the decor is just plain sloppy which makes this immediately not the place you would take a date or your parents.
Cocktails at Wild Hare restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
We started off with cocktails. I chose the Jack Rabbit Manhattan with Maker's, raspberry liqueur, sweet vermouth, cherry and orange. What I got was about 90% ice. Traditional Manhattans HAVE NO ICE in them. The drink is supposed to be stirred in ice and then strained into a martini glass. What I got was a bastard version of a Manhattan served in a juice glass. My friend ordered the Bite the Bulleit which contained Bulliet bourbon, house-made ginger beer and orange simple syrup. What she got was something that tasted too strongly of ginger to actually imbibe. She tried to finish it, but about halfway through the drink, she just pushed it aside. My other friend received a drink different than the one she ordered and was just too tired to return it, so she drank it anyway. I wouldn't recommend ordering any cocktails here. Save your money and your taste buds.
Calamari at Wild Hare restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
For our appetizer we went with the fried calamari. It was standard bar-style fire calamari. I did like that it contained the tentacles because that's my favorite part of the squid. I just couldn't shake the feeling that these weren't fresh, but frozen and flash-fried. I could be wrong, but the breading was just a little too uniform and the flavor could have been more pronounced if it was freshly salted and seasoned. The sauce was pretty bland (I prefer something picante with calamari) but wasn't offensive.
Pizza at Wild Hare restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
For dinner we opted to order two pizzas and split them. The pizzas are really big and between the three of us we each had at least two slices to take home at the end of the night. One of their pizzas could be shared between two people, no problem. My first choice (which I was able to talk the ladies into getting) was the fig and prosciutto pizza. It was served with mozzarella and wilted arugula on top. Gosh this pizza was really good! The fig was generously spread all over the bottom of the base and every bite had the delicious combination of sweet fig, salty prosciutto and peppery arugula. This pizza was the winner for me and I would make a return trip just for it!
Pizza at Wild Hare restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Our second pizza was the Moroccan, which featured a Moroccan spice blend, roasted red peppers, mozzarella and curry chicken. This pizza was packed full of flavor and I especially loved the spice blend they used. Tons of mozzarella made this an uber-cheesy pizza which is always a good thing in my book. The chicken surprisingly was quite moist, though I feel this pizza would be excellent without it (vegetarians should order this one without the chicken). I don't believe I've ever had a Moroccan pizza before, so I like that I got to try something new-to-me.

Overall, Wild Hare was hit or miss. The pizzas were stellar but I honestly couldn't find anything else on the menu that I wanted to order. The cocktails are a no go. If you feel like drinking, stick with bottled beer here. The decor is sloppy and while our waitress messed up a drink order, she was overall attentive and polite. I think I'll come back on the rare occasion that I just need a Moroccan pizza ASAP.

The Wild Hare on Urbanspoon

Friday, November 15, 2013

Food Friday Atlanta Edition: Gato Bizco

Gato Bizco restaurant in Atlanta Georgia
Last weekend Steve and I took a trip to see my favorite band The Dismemberment Plan play a show in Atlanta. We had a great time at the show and the next morning went looking for a good brunch place. The first place we tried had a 45 minute wait, and with our time frame to get home, just didn't work. A quick Internet search led us to the Gato Bizco Cafe, which was obviously fate for this cat-loving gal.
Gato Bizco restaurant in Atlanta Georgia
This place is tiny! There's only a handful of booths and some bar seating. When we arrived I put my name on the list and I was told 15 minutes, which was doable for us. We weren't waiting outside in the sunshine more than five minutes before they seated us at a booth. Under-promise and over-deliver is a surefire way to get people to love you.
Cats at Gato Bizco restaurant in Atlanta Georgia
The theme of this place is cats. (Gato Bizco means the cross-eyed cat in Spanish, in case you're wondering). There are cat trinkets and photos of cats everywhere- but not so much that it looks like a hoarder house. As a proud cat mama I wanted to throw up pictures of my babies on their walls!
Gato Bizco restaurant in Atlanta Georgia
Even the menu had cats on it! The food choices were rather limited, but solid. Our waiter was attentive and friendly. The service was on the slow side- which tends to be the norm anywhere during the crowded Sunday brunch rush. Gato is probably run by 20-something hipsters, which just added to my enjoyment. The place is an Internet meme waiting to happen.
breakfast at Gato Bizco restaurant in Atlanta Georgia
Other reviews online raved about the sweet potato pancakes so Steve and I both ordered one pancake each to try. OH MY GOD- these were the best sweet potato pancakes I've ever had. They were light and fluffy and really did taste like sweet potatoes. This is a must-order if you're ever here- you won't be disappointed. The side of bacon was overcooked and very crispy. I'm the weird girl that likes her bacon to be fatty and floppy, not crisp in the slightest. I would say skip the bacon and get another pancake.
breakfast at Gato Bizco restaurant in Atlanta Georgia
I ordered the huevos rancheros, which consisted of fluffy eggs and cheese inside corn tortillas with red and green salsa, black beans and a dollop of sour cream. I really liked the presentation of the dish. It was really good- but it was a lot of food. Inside the tortillas the egg ratio was slightly off- less eggs would have blended everything together nicely. Also, more sour cream please.
breakfast at Gato Bizco restaurant in Atlanta Georgia
Steve's dish was the clear winner: an omelet inside a tortilla done up like a quesadilla. For this dish you get your choice of any of their omelets done quesadilla-style. I'm going to steal this great idea at home! Steve chose the Felix- ham, cheese, tomato, onion and fresh basil. It also came with both red and green salsa and a large amount of sour cream (some of which I stole). The grilled tortilla was so good and perfectly crispy; it really made this dish stand out. I love the idea of an omelet that you can pick up and eat like a sandwich!

I really liked this joint and highly recommend it. If I lived in Atlanta I would be eating sweet potato pancakes every weekend!

Gato Bizco Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Cool For Cats

Howdy folks! It's been a long time since I posted an outfit shoot. I'm going to get real for a moment: I've been going through a patch where I don't like how I look and I don't like any of my clothes. I'll try on a bunch of outfits, but nothing seems to look right. Things that I loved a month ago just don't do anything for me anymore. I don't know how or why I'm in this slump, but I really wish it would end.
Lucky for me Steve knows what is best for me when I can't see it. He basically demanded that I put on an outfit and we go take some pictures. I wasn't one to argue, since he is usually correct in these situations, so we took these at a local airpark. I can't say that I was really into the shoot or that I really love how I look in these pictures, but taking them is the first step to getting back on the horse.
So for all you other bloggers out there: did this ever happen to you? Did you just lose your "umph" for taking pictures? If you did and you got over it- HOW DID YOU DO IT?! Maybe I'm just meant to be a food writer and y'all are just sick of looking at my face? Who knows. But advice is welcome.
This sweater has been my favorite thing since I picked it up on super discount this summer while in New York. I have a tendency to buy clothes off-season and jump the gun with wearing them- hence why I was sporting this baby in August. It's from Wildfox and it might be the softest, most comfortable piece I own. Wearing it is like getting hugged by a big pillow. Plus how can you say no to a slick looking cheetah wearing sunglasses? YOU CAN'T.
Sweater: Wildfox via Saks off 5th
Tights: Romwe

Friday, November 8, 2013

Nashville Food Friday: The Treehouse

The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
The Treehouse is a new restaurant that opened in the East Nashville five points area in a renovated home. I always get excited when a new place opens in my neighborhood and I've been pestering Steve about checking it out. We went there for date night last week to see what the fuss was about.
The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
The inside is very nicely decorated, but boy is it tiny. There's too much furniture jammed into a little house. I also wasn't the biggest fan of their communal dining experience. At The Treehouse, everyone sits next to strangers. We were at a six-person table with two other couples and because of this we couldn't really have any meaningful conversation, because DUH, other people. I warmed up a bit to the idea during the meal when I started really liking the couples next to us (they were very sweet and talkative). But let's be real- not all people are awesome and sometimes in a situation like this you will have to sit next to someone you don't quite like. I personally don't want to pay a lot of money for a romantic dinner to sit next to someone who is slowly driving me insane.
Drinks at The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
We started out with some cocktails. I had the Uprooted, which was gin and green apple juice. This was a really good fall cocktail and the tart apple flavor worked really well with the light gin. Steve had the Kentucky Hussey which was a whiskey drink. It was strong, tart and he liked it. If you are looking for beer, you may be disappointed because they have a very limited selection with only 3 choices.
Mussels  at The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
The menu worked like a tapas restaurant. You chose a bunch of small courses to share and they arrived one at a time. Every single thing on the menu is made to share- which has its pros and cons.
The first plate to arrive was the mussels with bacon, blue cheese and wine. This was the best dish I had all night. The mussels were delicate and not overcooked. The sauce was a perfect blend of the cheese and wine and we even asked for extra bread to sop it up.

Unfortunately the service was very slow between courses. We sat waiting between the first and second course for what seemed like a long time. When the courses are small portions (such as tapas) they have to come out in a timely manner.
Fry bread  at The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Our next course was the fry bread, for which the topping selection changes daily. On our night it was topped with peanut sauce and grilled romaine lettuce. This was solid, although I wasn't the biggest fan of their peanut sauce. I felt like this course should have arrived before the mussels to have with our cocktails- but that's just me.

At this point the service got even slower. We had to ask the wait staff if they put in the right food and if it was coming. Because of the multiple parties at the same table they couldn't remember who ordered what and when the food arrived the server gave it to the wrong couple, which threw off the whole serving order for everyone else. 
Duck liver at The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Up next was the duck liver with peanut sauce and apples. This was a full duck liver which I usually quite enjoy. Unfortunately, the same peanut sauce I did not like earlier was also served with this dish. The iron flavor of the liver, which was cooked perfectly, did not work with the peanut sauce. This dish just seemed very confusing.
beef hearts at The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Our last course was the anticuchos (beef hearts) with smoked pumpkin and spiced pepitas. I didn't like this dish at all- which is strange because I normally adore beef hearts. I was not a fan of the smoked pumpkin or the spicy seeds; the heart and all that stuff together just wasn't delicious. It tasted oddly heavy with lots of fall spice. I really wish the beef hearts' natural flavor and texture had just shined through.

At this point of the dinner things seemed rushed. Plates were flying and courses were cleared the second we dropped our forks. 
Dessert flan at The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
For dessert we tried the flan with shortbread crumble and candied serrano chilies. The candied peppers came in large chunks that were so hot that when you bit into them you couldn't taste anything else. Steve and I agreed that if they were chopped up into little pieces this would've been much better. The flan itself was unspectacular, but good.
The Treehouse restaurant in Nashville Tennessee
Because the Treehouse is new and we went on a busy Friday night, I decided to give them the benefit of the doubt. I went back on a weeknight for dinner with my friend Ana Beth (who has excellent taste in food). Both of us were very disappointed- here's a quick run down:
  • The service was still off. A waiter tried to give us someone else's food. That person wasn't even at our communal table at all.
  • We ordered the empanadas which were not good in the slightest. They didn't look right and just appeared to be mangled and malformed. They were overstuffed with only beans and then fried, making the whole thing a greasy, soggy mess. Neither of us could finish this dish.
  • We ordered the quail and what we got was just sad. Instead of a whole quail (which is implied by just the word QUAIL), we got a tiny boneless over-cooked breast that was half the size of my palm. The legs are the best part of the quail and they were missing. I asked the wait staff about this and they said it's just how the dish comes. I suggested that they need to indicate "quail breast" on the menu to avoid confusion and disappointment. This was the saddest $10 I've spent on food.
I hate to say this, but the Treehouse really needs to get its act together, both in service and food. I really like the idea, the space, and the location but I just can't recommend them yet. They have an identity crisis with no discernible culinary inspiration, and that just confuses the whole menu. They serve whatever they want without regard to how it fits in with the overall menu and theme. I'll give them more time to figure things out before I make a return appearance. 

The Treehouse on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 4, 2013

Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival in Nashville

Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
This past Saturday Steve and I headed downtown to the Municipal Auditorium for the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ festival. This festival tours around the nation, making stops in places like Manhattan, Richmond and Tampa besides Nashville. For a bourbon festival I was shocked to not see a stop in Kentucky on the list - those people know their bourbon! Anyway, we spent the day eating, drinking, talking to friends and having an all-around good time.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
We started off with the Schlafly black lager which to me was just ok. I'm normally a big fan of this St. Louis brewery, but this beer didn't do much for me. Steve (who knows all things beer) said that it was smooth and black and all things that a dark lager should be. I would trust his opinion on beer more than mine. My second beer was the Leinenkugel Snowdrift Vanilla Porter. Porters are more my style and I loved this beer. You could really taste the vanilla and it reminded me of an ice cream float. I love dessert beer!
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
I was pretty surprised by the BBQ portion of the festival. First of all, the BBQ was not included in the door price. With BBQ in the title, I was expecting the opportunity to sample different types of pulled pork from multiple vendors. Nope. Food was extra $$ and there were only three BBQ vendors (Low and Slow, Jim 'N Nicks, and Whitts). In a city that has a growing BBQ culture, they needed more BBQ vendors and more local (non-chain) shops. I was hoping for Edley's or Peg Leg Porker. 
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
Since our options were so small we went with Slow and Low because neither of us had tried their food before. We went with the standard pork platter with their vinegar dressing, with cole slaw and mac & cheese for sides. The pork was good, tender and not dry at all. The mac & cheese was slightly disappointing. After having Edley's mac & cheese I feel like everything else will be an uphill battle. Steve and I both agreed that their peppery version of cole slaw was AMAZING. It's rare to say that about slaw, but it was just that good. 
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
Cabin Fever whisky is made in New Hampshire and infused with maple syrup. I instantly fell in love with their take on whisky- it was sweet but not so much that it burns your teeth, and it was deceptively easy to drink. It went down smooth and I'm pretty sure I could get in trouble with this stuff. I can only imagine how winter-time hot toddies would taste with some Cabin Fever.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
Sticking with liquor, we tried the offerings from Filibuster. Their bourbon was just weird to me but I very much enjoyed their rye. I found the rye much smoother and easier to drink. Perhaps I'm becoming more of a rye girl these days. Who knew?
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
High West is from Park City, Utah and have a variety of blended whiskeys. On the company rep's recommendation we sampled the Rendezvous Rye- a blend of 6 year and 16 year rye whiskeys. The addition of the older spirit really elevates this rye. It went down very smoothly. I could imagine myself sipping this after a long day of work.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
We tried both the bourbon and the the rye from Charred Oak. Their rye wasn't a spicy as what I had previously. It was mild and had a simple flavor. The bourbon on the other hand, was quite good with a complex sweetness. It went down smooth but left a spicy aftertaste.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
After all that liquor it was time to slow down with some beer. I sampled the Wells banana bread beer which just wasn't my thing. I couldn't even finish a tasting glass. I'm not a fan of hefeweizens that taste like banana, so I'm not surprised that I didn't like a purposefully banana flavored beer. I followed that up with Young's double chocolate stout which I had enjoyed many times before. It continues to be delicious and rich.

We sampled the BBC bourbon barrel stout which was solid, but was missing the Oak and vanilla flavor that we love about Kentucky Ale's bourbon barrel ale. We then tried the Ommegang Game of Thrones Art of Darkness Belgian style beer. It reminded me of one of my local favorites, Calfkiller. It was a classic dark, fruity Belgian Abbey ale. It also left my mouth feeling very dry!

Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
Steve then sampled some hoppy beers that I wanted nothing to do with. No matter how hard he tries, I doubt I will ever be converted into a strong hop drinker. Steve tried the Schlafly T IPA, which is a Tasmanian style pale ale. This was a special release beer, much like Yazoo's hop project. Steve said that the Australian hops had an herbal, earthy note. It had a fantastic aroma, but flavor wise it was a little too bitter, throwing it out of balance.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
Steve then tried the Unita Hop Notch because I insisted. Why did I insist? The label was so well designed! I guess I'm that girl who judges beer based on the label. Steve liked this better than the Schlafly T IPA. He said it was solid, but nothing much stood out about it.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
Back to liquor! We sampled both offerings from Red River, based in Texas. The Rye was really sweet and not that smooth. It tasted a lot like granny smith apples to me, giving the rye an overwhelming flavor reminiscent of cider. The bourbon was smooth and a lot less sweet. 
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
We sampled Belle Meade Bourbon, which is made right here in Tennessee. This bourbon was smooth, but lacked much flavor. It was super mild compared to everything else I tasted. I feel like this bourbon would be good in a mixed drink but because it doesn't have any strong flavors, probably won't be worth drinking by itself. 
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
By this time we were hungry again so we stopped by Jim 'N Nicks from some baby back ribs. Despite being a chain, Jim 'N Nicks make some pretty good BBQ. I really enjoyed these ribs. They were super tender and very saucy. The people were even nice enough to give me extra pickles! I have a feeling I'll be headed to Jim 'N Nicks in the near future just for the ribs. 
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
We then attended a whiskey tasting with Robert Kennedy of Charred Oak. This wasn't the most informative talk I've been to. He talked a lot about the joy of drinking and not at all about how to go about tasting his product. I wanted to learn what to look for when drinking bourbon and rye and instead I got an infomercial. I guess I was looking for something more substantial.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee

Overall, we had a really good time. But I would be remiss if I didn't mention a few things.
  1. There was a notable absence of local products. Favorites like Yazoo, Jackalope, Calfkiller, Black Abbey and Corsair were missing completely. Perhaps because this a touring festival and not a local one, they focused more on the national brands. I totally understand that, but I think next year they should have a tasting station dedicated to Tennessee beers and spirits.
  2. I overheard people in the bathroom complaining about the lanyard situation. Apparently last year you got a free glass holder lanyard with your ticket, but this year you had to pay $7 for them. People never like it when you give them something for free and then ask them to pay for it later.
  3. I said it before, but more local BBQ and actual BBQ tastings for which you don't have to pay extra would be nice.
Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Festival in Nashville Tennessee
With all that being said, we still had an awesome time. I loved having the opportunity to try so many whiskeys back to back. It helped me actually get a better handle on what I liked, what I didn't like, and what makes a whiskey good. The crowd itself was fun, lively and overall very polite. 

I'll definitely be making a return appearance next year. 

Friday, November 1, 2013

Nashville Food Friday: Koto Sushi Bar

Koto Sushi Bar in Downtown Nashville Tennessee
Last week Steve and I were heading to TPAC for a show and wanted to grab some dinner on the way. Koto Sushi Bar is located downtown and just a few blocks away from the theater, so we decided to give it a go.
Koto Sushi Bar in Downtown Nashville Tennessee
When we arrived we were seated right away, but within 10 minutes the place filled up with people going to see the same show. There appeared to be only one waitress for all the tables and I felt bad for her because that's just way too many customers for one lady. Probably because of this, the service was slow. Later on in the evening a different lady came out from the kitchen to help with the rush of customers.
Pickles Koto Sushi Bar in Downtown Nashville Tennessee
The night was cold so for starters we ordered some hot sake and a pickle plate. The pickles took a very long time to arrive at our table, considering they are cold and just have to be plopped on the plate. Because of the odd timing the sake arrived way before the pickles. Oy. Anyway, the pickles themselves were quite enjoyable. They had a good crunch and strong vinegar flavor.
Sushi Koto Sushi Bar in Downtown Nashville Tennessee
For dinner we ordered four rolls: Dragon roll, Yummie roll, crunchy shrimp, and the salmon skin roll. I also ordered some sea urchin because I love the stuff. When the food came I was slightly disappointed right off the bat. Appearance and presentation is an integral part of the sushi dining experience, but their rolls were just NOT PRETTY. It appeared that they took no time in making their sushi look delightful and perfect. The rolls looked mangled and the pieces were all different sizes. One sea urchin looked pretty and one was horribly ugly and kept falling over. The end pieces on all of the rolls were also ugly and did not contain much filling at all.

Besides the presentation, the sushi was just ok. It didn't wow me but it was passable. The salmon skin was over cooked making it very hard in spots. I felt like the crab topping on the Yummie roll needed something else: mayo, spice, avocado? Just something. The only thing that Steve and I agreed on was that the crunchy shrimp was quite good.

Koto Sushi Bar in Downtown Nashville Tennessee
Overall, I wasn't impressed with Koto. But its downtown location and proximity to the theater, arts district and broadway is pretty hard to beat when looking for a decent (non-touristy, non-chain) place to eat downtown. I feel like I personally should give them another chance on a night when they aren't so swamped.

Koto Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon
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