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Friday, August 22, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Josephine

Last week my Mom came to town and we wanted to go out for a nice dinner at a new place. Josephine has been high on my "must try" list for a long time now (many people keep suggesting it), and I knew that my Mom would really like the menu offerings. We were lucky to snag a day-of 7:30pm reservation, so we headed on down to the 12 south neighborhood.
A review of dinner at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee
At first I had a hard time locating the restaurant. I didn't see a sign from the road, and the immense long line of people waiting for Jeni's Ice Cream obscured any view that would have hinted that a restaurant lay behind it. After circling the block and just walking, we finally found it and were greeted by an open space with a large central bar. The decor is clean, dark and sexy, with lots of bench seating with pillows and large communal tables (which I'm still not a fan of).
A review of dinner at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee
A rather un-enthused and gruff hostess tried to sit us at a table that had a large concrete window pane running right through where I was supposed to sit. I would have been pressed up against a large uncomfortable beam, and we both agreed that this was the worst possible table in the restaurant (and a table shouldn't have been put there in the first place). When we asked if we could move due to the large concrete industrial intrusion, the hostess wasn't very friendly and didn't really offer any alternatives. We noticed that the patio out back was open, and requested to sit there. I don't know why another table or the patio wasn't offered, but after some back and forth we found a nice place outside on a cool night with good fans. 
Cocktails at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee
Once we were seated our waiter was very polite and friendly. I started with the Eastsider cocktail, made with gin, lime, cucumber and simple syrup. This drink was well balanced and very light, perfect for a hot Nashville summer night. I really liked how the citrus wasn't overwhelming and it let the gentle cucumber flavor shine through. 
Beef tongue at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee
If you have been reading me for a while, you know that I prefer the parts of the animal that some tend to describe as "gross." Both my Mom and I love beef tongue, so this appetizer choice was a must. It was served on a sweet corn puree with a green tomato and cilantro salad. I loved how thick the pieces of tongue were sliced, making them extremely meaty. The braise of the meat made the top crispy and really added to the flavor while sealing in all the juices. The meat itself was tender, buttery and just fell apart in your mouth. The corn puree was sweet but the serving was small. They really should consider adding a bit more to the plate. The salad was a nice addition, adding some flavor and freshness to the plate, which complemented the heavy meat.
carrots at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee
One of the features I enjoyed on the Josephine menu was the prominence of the vegetable options. They all sounded very amazing, but we decided on the grilled rainbow carrots with curry granola, dill and a buttermilk vinaigrette. The presentation was amazing, with the carrots stacked row on row like a log cabin, creating a tall, elegant carrot-based structure. The carrots had a heavy smokey flavor, and upon asking our very friendly waiter, he informed us that they used hickory to smoke the carrots. The wood flavors blended nicely with the curried granola bits (which included oats and dried fruits.) The buttermilk sauce was weak in the mix and I felt it could have been more prominent on the plate to increase that nice tangy note. What I did have of the sauce was so delicious that I scraped up every last bit from the plate. 
beef cheek at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee
When my Mom and I eat together we usually order two entrees and split them. The first offering was the beef cheeks with charred corn, green beans, leeks, and potatoes with a sweet onion glaze. The beef was rich and hearty while being tender. You can taste the sweet marinade and the hearty fat marbling. I'm normally not a fan of green beans, but these were great, due to what I assumed was about half a stick of butter coating all the vegetables. The mixture of the corn, beans and potatoes was an interesting take on traditional succotash and really livened up the heavy meat. This dish was outstanding, and highly recommended.
duck at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee
The second entree was the duck breast with creamed corn, trumpet mushrooms and herb oil. The best part of this dish was the duck skin that was crisped up and laid on top. Few things make me as happy as duck fat/skin. The duck meat was very juicy, red, and perfectly cooked. The quality of this duck was very high, with a rather low fat content and flavorful meat. I really liked the cream corn on the bottom (causing me to realize that most of our dishes featured some form of corn). The cream corn was very thick, and reminded me more of a hearty corn pudding. The mushrooms were somewhat potato-like, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention how the herb oil lightened up everything, including the savory meat. 
peach shortcake dessert at Josephine in Nashville, Tennessee
For some reason after all that food, I still had room for dessert. How was this possible? I chose their interpretation of a peach shortcake, made with a sweet biscuit, peaches, blackberry sauce and whipped cream. The whipped cream was so light and fluffy the glutton in me wanted heaping cupfuls dumped on top. The biscuit was impressively sweet and light, not at all too dense. I think I might have to learn how to make a sweet biscuit now. The peaches were fresh and sweet and the tartness of the blackberry was a nice compliment to the sweet-overload. 

I was very impressed with Josephine. Every dish we had was well thought-out and beautifully crafted. Despite our surly hostess, our waiter and the rest of the staff were helpful, knowledgeable and prompt. The outside patio was a lovely spot to dine, although next time I would like to try the main dining room. And trust me, there will be a next time. Very soon!
Josephine on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 8, 2014

New York Food Friday: WD-50

A review of WD-50 in New York City
When I heard that avant garde molecular gastronomy mainstreamer Wylie Dufresne planned on closing his first establishment WD-50 at the end of November, I knew that I had to make it there before I missed the opportunity. I have been pining about going here since they opened almost 11 years ago, and never had the chance due to lack of money and my inability to secure a good reservation. When I found out I was popping up to NY for a quick trip to visit my folks, I figured this was as good a time as any to try. After a lot of phone calls, wait lists and obsessive Open Table stalking, I was able to get a good reservation.
A review of WD-50 in New York City
The decor was clean and modern, with high backed booths and wooden tables. The paint scheme seemed a tad bit Mardi Gras, but it wasn't overdone. The bar at the front of the restaurant was gorgeous with its marble top and tall seats. But honestly, I wasn't there for the decor.

What we came for was the tasting menu. Because I'm a big fan of going big or going home when I'm trying food, I opted for the 13 course tasting menu for $155. What I decided not to do was the corresponding wine paring for $95. After what happened with all the alcohol at The Catbird Seat, I decided that 15 glasses of anything, no matter how small a serving, would be way too much for me.
A review of WD-50 in New York City
Instead I opted for a house cocktail called the Citrus Hystrix made with gin, kaffir lime, raspberry brandy and egg white. The drink was really heavy on the citrus and the raspberry brandy got lost. I did enjoy the egg white whip which made the whole drink much lighter. It was a solid cocktail and went really well with the meal.

Like most tasting menu restaurants, I feel like I cannot fully review the menu. If you go, you probably won't get the same things I had, and if you did, they might be presented completely differently. What I can do is talk about what I ate, and the overall experience of being surprised dish after dish.
Our first course was an oyster in an edible shell. The shell was made out of an edible clay and squid ink. The shell itself didn't really have a taste and crumbled into a few pieces the second I tried to pick it up. The oyster was beautiful and sweet, a perfect bite of the sea. The oyster was garnished with snow pea, hazelnut and preserved lemon.
The scone course was a mashed potato ravioli that was covered in a egg yolk. I was baffled by the magic of how runny yolk could be encapsulated and wrapped around potatoes. It was served with caviar that went really well with the creamy potato. Underneath the ravioli were some tiny flash-fried potatoes. They were crisp but too tiny and really weren't my thing. But when you put a little bit of everything in your mouth at once, you get "breakfast."
The soup course was an avocado-pea soup with smoked crab and pistachio. The crab was really tender and flavorful; the best thing about the dish. The soup itself was cold and rather bland on its own, but really worked when taken in with the crab. I still wish the soup had a little more life in it to make it stand up against the beautiful smoked crab.
Following the soup was sous-vide cuttlefish sliced into thin strips like pasta. It was served with extremely tender carrots, a tad bit of chamomile and what tasted like middle eastern spices dusted with schmaltz (chicken fat). This whole dish worked really well together and the flavorful chicken fat gave the cuttlefish a nice burst of flavor. The sauce was so well balanced that I couldn't resist scraping up every last bit!
The next dish was a lovely strip of charred chicken liver pate with honeydew melon and injera (Ethiopian bread). This was my favorite dish of the evening! The chicken liver was so flavorful and creamy that it would make a Bubbie proud! The injera was served crisp like a cracker and was a nice vehicle for scooping up the liver. The melon was a tad bit confusing at first, but the sweetness balanced out the iron flavor associated with liver.
Following the liver was my other favorite dish of the night. On the menu it was listed as "shrimp and grits" but in reality there were no grits. The shrimp was cooked and chopped in such a way that the shrimp itself became the bite size grits. This dish had the most amazing mouth feel. I think they only added a little drop of corn flour for flavor. The mildly hot pickled jalapeƱo also added a nice kick. As a southern transplant, I was impressed with the shrimp and grits, making it one of the best renditions of this staple I have ever had!
The last of the seafood course was tilefish with a parsnip jerky, pickled ginger puree and nori mustard. The tilefish was fatty, tender and tasted like butter. The fork just broke it apart and it melted in the mouth. I love tilefish and I wish I saw it on more menus. What really surprised me was the parsnip jerky, which if they didn't tell me was a vegetable, I would have thought it was meat. The nori mustard was dehydrated and served like a cracker, but it tasted more like nori than mustard.
Up next was pork collar with tamarind, spicy parsnip and a poppy seed crisp. The collar itself was very stiff and meaty, and the mixture of the fat and the sauce was not as thick and juicy as I was hoping. The spicy parsnip didn't seem to go with everything else; it was too strong and overpowered the pork. The poppy seed was very strong and like nothing I ever had before. This wasn't my favorite pork dish, but at least it was interesting.
The duck dish really made up for the pork. The duck breast was cured and the skin was served crisp, making the inside bright pink and delicate. Duck is still one of my favorite things to eat so I'm really happy that this dish was so well put together. The dish was served with "curds and whey" but not in the Little Miss Muffet way. The bottom of the bowl was slathered in a whey consomme and there was a cheese curd under a nice bit of sliced sweet potato. The whey was really fatty and quite tasty. The black rice puff served on top reminded me of cocoa puffs!
The first dessert course was an oat meringue cookie with a banana, strawberry and yeast mixture inside. This tatsted more like a protein powder than a dessert and distinctly reminded me of what I would eat before a 10 mile run. The best part was the strawberry and elderflower topping, which was sweet and fresh.
The next dessert was pretty confusing, but once I figured it out I got into it. The piece on top looks like a cookie but it's actually rhubarb ice that was so strong and sour, that I just had to remove it and eat the rest without it. Underneath the sour ice was a verbena mousse on top of buckwheat with camellia oil. Overall this was very herbal and light. The buckwheat cake on the bottom of the mousse was lovely, and reminiscent of an oatmeal cookie in flavor. I'm not sure if I would order this if I saw it on a menu, but it was very interesting and nice to experience.
My favorite dessert was the Ovaltine cake with a wafer wrapped around cardamom ice cream with a sheep's milk cream. The tube was crunchy, chocolatey and really complemented the spiced ice cream. The cake was thick and tender and soaked up the sheep's milk, making it gooey. I really loved this dish and wish I could've just had this one three times in a row.
Our final bite was cookie dough ice cream. In actuality, it was cookie dough on the outside with vanilla ice cream in the center like a bon bon. This was so creative and tasted exactly like something I loved as a kid. I really enjoyed this play on a childhood favorite!

As expected, the service was excellent. Our waitress was knowledgeable, helpful, funny and even let me look around the kitchen when I was done eating. The whole staff worked well together and the pacing of the courses was perfect.

And while the food and service was great, what I really enjoyed was the conversations with the couples sitting next to us. The tables are close together so cross-table interaction is encouraged. On one side was a lovely Canadian couple who appears to travel around looking for food and wine adventures. They have even visited Nashville in the past! On the other side was a lovely couple of New Yorkers, via Australia and Greece. Everyone was kind, friendly, talkative and exactly what I love! If you go, make friends with those sitting next to you.

I'm so happy I finally got to try WD-50! They are open until the end of November if you feel like trying to get in, or you can try Wylie's other space Alder, or wait for whatever comes next!

WD-50 on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 1, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: The Farm House

A review of The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
If you are like me, you are getting a little bit sick of the Nashville obsession with "farm-to-table." Nowadays it seems like every restaurant feels compelled to throw up a chalkboard and list their providers. While I do support this movement (I love knowing where my food comes from and that it's supporting local growers), every restaurant of this variety seems to have similar menus, decor designs, and outfits for the wait staff. And while I wish these places were a tad bit more creative and separated themselves from their brethren, I'm constantly taken in with southern-inspired home cooked fare. Despite my apprehension, I was thoroughly impressed with The Farm House. Their food options were just different enough from competitors to keep my interest, and they were darn good.
A review of The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
A review of The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
The inside of The Farm House, you guessed it, looks like a barn. Lots of exposed unfinished/refurbished barn wood and warm colors abound. Even the private dining rooms had an actual sliding barn door. There was a smattering of farm animal knickknacks and photos. I have to say the decor didn't really do it for me. While it was clean and nice, something about it seemed a tad bit cheap. When entrees are nearly $30, you want a little more city luxury and less rural barn.

The service was prompt and friendly. Our waiter was talkative, but really nice and was totally willing to go back to the kitchen to answer a ton of my silly questions- so a big thank you goes out to him!
Cocktails at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
For cocktails I had the Matt's Staycation, which had Pear moonshine, pineapple and sparkling wine. The drink was sweet and strong and totally trouble. This is the type of cocktail that sneaks up on you and if you drink too many, you won't notice the alcohol until it's too late. Thank goodness I only had one! Steve had their version of a Manhattan, which was made with bourbon, root liquor and bitters. The taste was atypical of a Manhattan but really good! The lack of sweet vermouth made this drink really smooth. 
Pork Belly at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
For the appetizer we went with the pork belly. The pork belly was brined, smoked  and then charred on the grill for the nice crispy top. I really tasted the smoke in the meat, plus it was tender and fatty just the way I like it. The Farm House really impressed me with the egg. When this dish was brought out, the waiter had the egg still in its shell and dumped it onto the plate. Talk about showmanship! The egg was gooey just the way I like it. We smeared the yolk all over the scallion pancake which was just fantastic! And I can't forget about the cracklings on top, which always make any pork dish better.
Hot Chicken at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
Steve went with the Hot chicken, after making sure that it wasn't Prince's-level hot- because eating something like that takes mental and psychical preparation. The chicken was cooked with a wet sauce that was mild compared to true Nashville hot chicken, but still had the flavor you expect. The cut looked to be white meat (snooze) but the chicken was moist and really soaked up the flavor. The hot chicken was served on top of a biscuit puree that was was just traditional biscuits and cream in a blender. This was a really great way to mimic the traditional white bread served with hot chicken. The warm potato salad was a nice touch and even their chow-chow was great! But the best part was the candied chicken skin served on top. The skin was sweet, savory and crispy and if they sold these to-go I would leave with a giant bag and eat them all in one sitting.
Lamb at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
For my entree I chose the lamb loin with peas, morel and oyster mushrooms, lamb bacon and ricotta gnocchi. The first thing I did was eat the beautiful flower served on top- it had a very light herbal taste. The lamb itself was perfect, very red on the inside and super tender. The peas were cooked well and still had a nice bite to them, and the mushrooms + lamb are a match made in heaven. I really enjoyed the ricotta gnocchi as they appeared to be flash fried or pan seared in order to make them stiffer to hold up to the pan sauce. The lamb bacon was the star of this dish. It was really salty, fatty and pretty amazing. Apparently it's made by curing the cuttings off the lamb loin, and was good enough to have Steve declare that he would like to eat lamb bacon for the rest of his life. 
Dessert at The Farm House in Nashville, Tennessee
For dessert we had the butterscotch pots du creme with a vanilla creme, chocolate crumbs and a chocolate macaron. The pudding was creamy and smooth and could have used a hair bit more of that signature butterscotch flavor in order to stand up against the chocolate crumbs and creme. The chocolate crumbs were really crunchy, very flavorful and created a nice texture juxtaposition with the smooth creme and pudding. The fresh macaron was tasty, and the chocolate filling was the best part. This was a good dessert!

Overall, I really liked the The Farm House. And while it's just another farm-to-table in Nashville, they make really good food. Fact.

The Farm House on Urbanspoon
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