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Friday, January 31, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Tin Angel

When my dear friend Lauren asked to go on a friend date last week I couldn't say no, especially when she told me she had restaurant week reservations at Tin Angel. Despite this restaurant being in business since 1993 and me previously living off West End, I never made it over here. So the two Laurens trekked across town in sub-zero weather to try something new.
The bar at Tin Angel Restaurant, Nashville TN
The moment we walked in we were greeted by a large circular fireplace. All I could think at that moment was hallelujah because we were freezing, and a blazing fire was a sight for sore eyes. The inside of the space has a old kind of charm, with lots of wood and tin ceiling tiles. Everything about the decor made me feel cozy.

The music they were playing was quite hilarious. Lots of 70s and 80s contemporary light FM classics. Add this to the fact that most people at the bar were my parents age or older and I felt a little out of place. We did hear a wonderfully loud conversation involving three middle-aged drunk divorcees at the bar- so there's that. 
Drinks at Tin Angel Restaurant, Nashville TN
Because Lauren and I might as well be twins we ordered the same cocktail: The sparkling hibiscus. This drink was a major let down. The menu said it was made with absolute hibiscus, Lillet and Prosecco so we expected this drink to be served in a champagne flute and what we got instead was a wine glass FILLED WITH ICE. There was so much ice in this drink that it looked like we were drinking water. Also, who adds ice to a wine cocktail?! This should not happen. After adding a glacial amount of ice they put a massive lemon and lime wedge on the rim of the glass and a bright red cherry. It looked like some drink I would be ordering from a swim-up bar in Mexico. And when I finally tasted it, it had no taste. I didn't taste any hibiscus and I barely got a hint of Lillet. Worst $9 I've ever spent on a cocktail.
Appetizer  at Tin Angel Restaurant, Nashville TN
For our appetizer we both went with the duck prosciutto and deviled eggs. I got a big chunk of duck that should have been sliced thinner and all the way through. Despite the carving issue the taste was really nice. Lauren called it "the fanciest of lunch meats" and I would agree. The horseradish sauce that came with it was really tasty and I'm not ashamed to say I licked it off the plate. The deviled eggs were nice, but not mind-blowing. 
For our entree we both ordered the pork shank with mushroom risotto, broccolini and carrots. Something about this dish reminded me of catered wedding food. Very expensive plated wedding food, but wedding food nonetheless. I understand that the Tin Angel has been around for a long time but they really should update their plate presentations and maybe get a little more creative with the vegetables. 

The shank, however, was wonderful. I loved the fact that it was served on the bone, and it was so perfectly cooked that when my fork touched it the meat just fell away. The roasted garlic and wine demi-glace worked great with the pork and the mushroom risotto. This dish was pure comfort food.
Dessert at Tin Angel Restaurant, Nashville TN
For dessert they served us a trio of sweets. The best thing on the plate was the apple pecan bourbon cake. It was a soft little bite with a lot of taste, and the apple and whipped cream on top was a nice touch. The cannoli was not a great example of the classic Italian pastry. The cream was too light and clearly didn't have a strong amount of mascarpone and there was so much powdered sugar on top that it made you cough the second it went near your mouth. The brownie was a complete disappointment. It reminded me of something you can get from Costco or perhaps a very fancy Little Debbie. It was VERY chewy and a little overly sweet. I wish I could have just gotten a large slice of the apple cake.

Over all I wasn't blown away by the restaurant week menu at Tin Angel, but since so many people love this place and they have a long history in the neighborhood perhaps I should give them another chance. I'm just sad to say that my first experience was a let down. 
Tin Angel on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 24, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Sunset Grill

Every time Restaurant Week rolls around I use the opportunity to try new places, or ones I haven't been to in a long time. I think I went to Sunset Grill a few times for happy hour about four years ago and just never went back after moving away from that part of town. It's been open since 1990, so I figured it's about time to give it a real shot.
Inside Sunset Grill restaurant, Nashville TN
Sunset Grill appears to have done no updating to their decor since they opened in 1990. Let's just say that it reminded me of a Manhattan apartment of a coke-sniffing Wall Street Banker circa the late 80s. What grabbed my attention most was the artwork- apparently all done by the same artist that was probably super cool when I was in elementary school and now just reeks of the first Bush administration. I think Sunset Grill could stand to do themselves a big favor by updating their space. There's a large room with tons of windows -which is great- all they need to do is change the paint color and update the art. With how much I've been ragging on restaurant art lately I might as well start a blog called "Your Art Makes Me Lose My Appetite."
Drinks at Sunset Grill restaurant, Nashville TN
For cocktails I went with the Sparkling Cider which was made with apple pie moonshine, Prosecco and honey water. This was possibly the girliest moonshine drink I've ever had- but that's a compliment! (I am a girl afterall.) There was a very mild apple spice flavor that worked well with the bubbles. Steve ordered the Velvet Elvis which was made with Jack Daniels, Chambord, sour mix and soda. This was Steve's first time having this cocktail and while he said it was solid, he felt like the drink was just not his style.
Shrimp and grits at Sunset Grill restaurant, Nashville TN
The restaurant week menu at Sunset Grill allowed you to get one appetizer and one entree for $20.14 from a limited menu. For my appetizer I went with the half order of shrimp and grits. I really liked this dish! The shrimp were still tender and the grits had a mild tobacco spice which added heat. The pickled okra garnish was a great addition... mostly because I can eat a jar of pickled okra and consider that dinner.
Salad at Sunset Grill restaurant, Nashville TN
For his appetizer Steve went healthy and ordered the Sonoma salad. It had field greens, apples, almonds, blue cheese and a garlic-zinfandel vinaigrette. While everything worked really well together and the apples added a nice crunch, this is the kind of salad that you find everywhere now. Despite being derivative, everything was fresh and crisp, and the apples+bleu cheese combination just can't be beat.
Smoked pork chop at Sunset Grill restaurant, Nashville TN
For my entree I chose the smoked pork chops with greens and sweet potatoes. This was the right choice for me and I knew I would like this dish as soon as I smelled it. The chop had a very smokey flavor to it and was super tender. The maple demi-glace added a nice sweetness to the smoke. I enjoyed the sorghum sweet potatoes even though I came across a cold spot in the center of the pile. The mustard greens were not really my thing. First of all, they were left as full leaves making them hard to eat as you had to dig your knife in to cut them up. Also, they weren't boiled nearly long enough, making them very tough. I pretty much didn't touch the greens after my first bite.
Catfish at Sunset Grill restaurant, Nashville TN
Steve went with the Mississippi delta catfish. The dish was served with Benton's bacon butter beans, dill remoulade and crispy shallots. Compared to the amount of food I got on my plate, this dish was a significantly smaller portion. The fish didn't have nearly the amount of Cajun spice we were expecting, making it a much milder dish. But the way the fish was seasoned worked well with the lightness of the dill remoulade and the creamy deliciousness of the beans.

Overall we had a pretty enjoyable dinner at Sunset Grill. Our waiter was very nice and super attentive without being overbearing. While this isn't really the sort of restaurant I would go to often, I was pleasantly surprised by their offerings. Thus is the joy of Restaurant Week.

Sunset Grill on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 17, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Antica

Inside Antica restaurant in Nashville, TN
Antica, located in the Fifth and Main building, is the newsiest iteration in a space that seemed to contain an ever-revolving array of bars and restaurants (Myrida for example). This space never seems to keep a tenant long, and perhaps that's because the location just isn't the best. The parking at Fifth and Main leaves a lot to be desired and the location has almost zero foot traffic. But Antica is a quality place and I can only hope people trek out there more often.

The decor is quite nice, though it feels more like a lounge or bar than restaurant. There's a large white couch and low seating for mingling with friends. We sat in a comfortable corner booth, but the best part was the place was toasty warm on a cold night. And I have to give a thumbs up for the music playlist which included the Talking Heads, Modest Mouse, Cut Copy, and LCD Soundsystem.  
Cocktails at Antica restaurant in Nashville, TN
The cocktail menu at Antica was solid and contained several drinks I wouldn't mind trying out. Drinks also appear to be $1-$2 cheaper than they would be at some other local cocktail bars. I ordered the Keshia's Love Notes which contained gin, hibiscus syrup, rosemary, orange and prosecco. The drink was really light and herbal with a nice blend of refreshing flavors. Steve ordered the Mexico? More like Sexy-Co (real name- no joke) that contained tequila, Compari, lemon and chile. This drink was smokey and spicy and impressed both of us. I think if I make it back I would order this drink despite the embarrassing-to-say name. 
Small plates at Antica restaurant in Nashville, TN
Antica is another one of those "modern take on tapas" places that seem to be popping up all over the pace. Our first small plate was their take on Poutine with french fries, mushroom gravy and ricotta. The gravy was very flavorful and it worked nicely off of the mild ricotta. This was a nice departure from the heavier, more traditional poutine.  

Our second plate was deviled quail eggs. This dish was adorable but at $5 I think we should have at least gotten one more egg. The eggs were good- but were missing something flavor-wise. Perhaps a pickle or vinegar flavor would add some nice balance.
Small plates at Antica restaurant in Nashville, TN
And then everything arrived all at once! I specifically asked the waiter to have the chef course our order at his/her discretion and it appeared that they just cooked everything at the same time and decided to serve most of it all together. I really wanted to get an idea of how the chef would prefer to place the flavors, and perhaps only give us one dish at a time, but this is not the place for it (Treehouse and Catbird are). 

The Vietnamese catfish cakes with sweet chili sauce were fluffy little balls with a very mild fish taste. It almost reminded me of Jamaican fish cakes. The sweet chili sauce was a really enjoyable accompaniment that wasn't too hot up front, but then the heat slowly ramped-up until your mouth was singing with spice. Next up was the hot quail with white bread toast and cucumber raita. This was an awesome version of the famous Nashville hot chicken, but it was a more mild, refined flavor that worked perfectly with the gaminess of the quail. This little dish might have been my favorite thing of the whole evening.

Next up was the braised pork belly in spiced-rum molasses. This take on the dish was just too sweet and wasn't really my thing. It appeared that they braised the belly and then cut it into chunks, flash-fried it, and then poured a ton of sauce on it. Pork belly is one of my favorite foods, and this way of preparing it just wasn't for me. If you aren't into super-sweet things, you should skip it.

Gnocchi at Antica restaurant in Nashville, TN
There was a long wait between the pork belly and our last dish, so when our waiter came over to ask if we'd like to see a dessert menu, we knew he had forgotten our final item. I had a feeling that this was going to happen because the waiter didn't write any of our six dishes down. That is a lot for anyone to remember! There is no shame in writing things down so you get it right. Thankfully the waiter was apologetic and our dish came out very quickly.

Our final choice was our only thing off the large plate menu and it was potato gnocchi with scallops and pickled tomatoes in a mushroom cream. For a large plate, this was really tiny (it was less food than both the pork belly and the quail). There were about six pieces of gnocchi and itty bitty pieces of scallop. Chopped-up, very hard to find, pieces of scallop. This is not at all what I was expecting. The overall flavor was very nice, but the dish should have been bigger and contained one or two whole scallops for the price. ($12) I would say skip this and just order something else off the small plates menu. 

Overall, I enjoyed my dinner at Antica. The food is good overall but they do need to work on the value-to-price ratio of some of their dishes. The drinks are simply stand-out amazing and I will be stopping in for some more cocktails- if only I can figure out the maze that is Fifth and Main. 

Antica on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 13, 2014

All about your pet's Winter Coat with Petcurean!

When it gets cold out, your pets can't just go to the mall and buy a stylish new jacket to keep themselves warm when the thermometer drops. And given the tremendous cold snap we had last week, I figure now is a perfect time to make sure that your pets are well prepared for the winter. I had the opportunity to talk about winter coats with Petcurean's Pet Nutritionist Michele Dixon and ask all my pet winter coat questions.

Old Red BootsWhat is the difference between a cold weather and a warm weather coat for cats? Why do they change with the season? 

Michele Dixon: The change in season as cold weather approaches, starts the cycle, allowing the cat to grow a thick coat. This coat helps keep heat in and cold air out. As the weather turns warmer, they shed this thick heavy coat.

ORBHow do you know if your cat has a healthy cold weather coat? What should I look for?

MD: A dull, dry lifeless coat, often with accompanying dandruff requires attention, particularly in the form of diet choice. A healthy coat appears thick, bright and shiny, with hydrated skin.

ORB: What can I feed my cat to ensure that they have a healthy cold weather coat? What ingredients should I look for in food?

MD: Omega Oils are especially important for his/her coat, and a balance between Omega 3 and 6 also crucial. As well, because fur is majorly comprised of protein, a good quality recipe such as Petcurean FIT + FREE Chicken, Turkey + Duck which has meat based protein, is essential.

ORBBesides food, is there anything else a cat owner can do to make sure that coats are kept healthy and shiny?

MD: Brushing a minimum of once a week helps stimulate production of oils, and remove shedding hair. Brushing also helps reduce hairballs.

My fur babies have been enjoying their diet of Petcurean's Go Daily Defense formula for the past two months and I have to say that they are looking fabulous in their healthy, shiny winter coats. (Not to mention the fact that they just love the stuff) I mean, look at these faces and just try to tell me they aren't the cutest things ever!

** This post is sponsored by Petcurean but the opinions contained herein are wholly my (and my cats') own. **

Friday, January 10, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Tenn 16

Inside Tenn 16 in Nashville, TN
A few weeks ago Steve and I were thinking of a place to meet a friend for brunch. Some of our favorites had over an hour wait and to put it mildly, my stomach was very impatient. A quick Google search later and we ended up at Tenn 16, the newest pub on the 5 Points scene.
I'm going to be (a lot) harsh here: the decor is terrible. Despite the name of the restaurant being an abbreviation for Tennessee and the logo being an outline of our fair state, the theme inside is apparently New Orleans Mardi Gras. WHAT?! This is the most confused theme I have ever seen. I guess to drive home the Mardi Gras vibe they painted the walls a variety of yellows, purples and greens while hanging the most hideous plastic bead lighting fixtures I've ever seen. Add to this a dizzying array of flat screen TVs and some really terrible paintings you have a big mish-mosh of decor. I think the whole thing would be better if they created a theme around the name- a very TN-focused vibe, or change the name and go full-on Louisiana.

Beer at Tenn 16 in Nashville, TN
Since it was Sunday Funday we decided to have a few adult beverages with our meal. The beer selection on tap was quite impressive as well as their bottle list. Unfortunately, they didn't have in stock everything that was listed on the menu. Twice Steve ordered a beer and twice our waitress came back to tell him that they were out of it. Super disappointing to Steve. He did finally wind up with one of our favorites, the chocolate stout from Fort Collins Brewery.
Bloody Mary at Tenn 16 in Nashville, TN
I went with the perennial morning favorite, the Bloody Mary. Tenn 16 made a solid one and I'm always a fan when it's garnished with pickled okra.
Omelet at Tenn 16 in Nashville, TN
For my entree I chose the three egg omelet with veggies and cheese with a side of cheesy home fries. This omelet was inedible and I pretty much just picked out the vegetables and pushed the eggs to the side of the plate. Why? They cooked the omelet in a pan that was way too small for the amount of eggs and fillings, creating a small tough block of eggs that were terribly overcooked and stiff. Omelets should be light and fluffy and allow you to taste the joy of eggs (eggs are WONDERFUL). This omelet was more like a brick and less like a food product. The cheesy home fries were pretty awesome though. We all had them as sides for our entrees and agreed that these were our favorite part.
Eggs benedict at Tenn 16 in Nashville, TN
Steve ordered the crab benedict and once again Tenn 16 proved that they cannot cook an egg. Poached eggs that are traditionally served on a benedict are lightly cooked so that when you first put your fork to the egg the yolk gently pours out covering everything in golden deliciousness. Tenn 16's eggs were overcooked such that the yolk was mostly solid and nothing was runny.

The service wasn't very good either. Our waitress was forgetful and didn't stop at our table nearly enough. After we were done eating, she would stop by our table and ask if we needed anything else, and then leave without taking away the dirty plates. She did this twice before I told her explicitly that we were done and the plates could be taken away. Granted, my plate still had the stiff overcooked remnants of my omelet, but Steve and our friend had mostly cleared their plates. Tenn 16 was busy at this point, but they appeared to have enough staff working that the service should have been better.

Overall, I would say skip Tenn 16 for brunch. There are tons of places nearby that serve a solid brunch (Marche, Mad Donna's) that are definitely worth the wait. I would like to come back and try the more Cajun-themed dinner options and I would be more than happy to pop in here to have a drink with friends. 

Tenn16 on Urbanspoon

Friday, January 3, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Chelsea Bistro

Chelsea Bistro near Nashville TN
Before the holiday rush, Steve and I went for dinner at Chelsea Bistro with some of his family and friends. Never heard of it? Neither had I! Chelsea Bistro is located in an unsuspecting strip mall in Whites Creek about 20 minutes north of Nashville. It's very easy to miss while driving past, so look for the Tattoo sign. Hidden in this remote location is a little space that offers traditional French food.
Inside Chelsea Bistro near Nashville TN
The inside of the space is nicely decorated and features a full bar. We went on a cold Monday night and were the only patrons in the restaurant. Because of the weather outside and the lack of people, the space was really cold and most of my party had to keep their coats on. After talking with our waiter, it felt like they kicked on the heat for us.
Butter tasting at Chelsea Bistro near Nashville TN

We started out with the butter tasting. I don't remember the exact flavors of butter that we had (one was sweet with honey and another had duck fat), but I remember thinking "Etch does this way better." I found the butter too cold; it needed to sit out and get to room temperature before serving to guests. Also, part of the bread (there were two styles included) was not fresh- it felt like it was at least a day old. The sliced bread, which is hard to see in the photo, was much better.
Escargot at Chelsea Bistro near Nashville TN
Steve and I ordered the escargot profiteroles to start. This dish contained three puff pastry shells filled with escargot and a rich garlic butter and white wine sauce. The escargot was a tad bit on the chewy side, but that is a common ailment with snail. The sauce was heavy and decadent but it worked really well for this little dish.

A note about the service- I don't mean to be harsh, but if Chelsea Bistro wants to be on par with the city restaurants, they need to kick up their game a notch. There was a long wait between some of the courses, which I found very odd considering we were the only customers in the whole restaurant. Perhaps this was because THE EXECUTIVE CHEF WAS HANGING OUT AT THE BAR MOST OF THE TIME WE WERE THERE.

How do I know this? Dude was wearing a white outfit with his name and "executive chef" embroidered on it. What was he doing at the bar? Drinking and hanging out with his girlfriend while smoking an e-cigarette. I have never eaten at a place of this caliber where the chef wasn't in the kitchen checking on the food, let alone flirting, smoking and getting drunk.

I must say that our waiter was very nice and attentive. He did stop by the bar to check in on his friends, but he was polite and answered all of our questions. It wasn't his fault the chef wasn't in the kitchen.
prawns at Chelsea Bistro near Nashville TN
For my entree I chose the Parisian gnocchi with prawns and a Gruyere b├ęchamel. The gnocchi was light and delicious. I later found out that this was because their gnocchi is made with flour rather than potato. I guess I'll have to try making these! I loved the b├ęchamel and its heavy thickness. My one disappointment was the prawns. The shells weren't split down the back so they were very difficult to eat. They also appeared to be slightly overcooked. Perhaps if the executive chef was in the kitchen…
Trout at Chelsea Bistro near Nashville TN

Steve ordered the trout almondine and I really liked this dish. The vegetables were fresh and not overly soggy, and the fish itself was cooked nearly perfectly.
turnips at Chelsea Bistro near Nashville TN

For a side item we ordered the turnips au gratin. This was a really nice take on a traditional dish. The turnips added a thick texture and earthiness to the butter and cheese. It was very heavy and cheesy; perfect for a cold winter night. I love turnips to begin with, so I was excited to see this on the menu!
Chelsea Bistro near Nashville TN
I feel I need to go back here on a weekend night when it's full of people to get a better idea of the service and food. It seemed like we ate there on an off night and I might be slightly prejudiced because I faced the bar and watched the executive chef cavorting all night. Everyone else on the internet appears to LOVE THIS PLACE, so please keep that in mind. I'm picky and hard to please. :)

I really like what Chelsea Bistro is trying to do. I love good solid French food and that is exactly what they serve. I really need to go back in the spring when they have more fresh farm-to-table fare on the menu. The location outside the city isn't ideal for me, but I love the fact that smaller towns are getting quality locally owned restaurants instead of your local Applebee's.

Chelsea Bistro on Urbanspoon
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