Saturday, April 27, 2013

Eatin' in East Nashville, Hot Spots continued

Hot Spots, continued

East Nashville.
I could spend five posts on this hipster haven, which has been touted by everyone from The Rolling Stone to the New York Times. It's the happening place for urban prepsters who have left suburban life in Brentwood and Green Hills (and places afar) in droves to take up residence there. What's the attraction? Sidewalks, front porches, great restaurants, a thriving bar scene, burgeoning music presence, family friendly community life and much more. For fans of the Nashville television series on ABC, East Nashville is where Deacon and Scarlett supposedly live. For visitors to town there are several restaurants worthy of a drive across the river to enjoy the urban renewal and eclectic vibe that is East Nashville. My personal faves are:
Marche. (For brunch it's the best around town, hands down).

 Margot. (Both Marche and Margot are owned by James Beard celebrated chef, Margot McCormack.) Her mantra is fresh, local and seasonal. Situated in an old gas station, this quirky restaurant space is home to some incredible cuisine.
There's a new kid on the block, Lockeland Table, who is inspiring a lot of buzz. Recognized as one of the James Beard Foundation's Best New Restaurants, this welcoming neighborhood eatery feels like a place to which you want to return over and over. From the appetizers to the entrees to the wood fired pizzas with all sorts of unusual pairings, this chef is getting it right and knows all about how to serve up a marvelously inspired meal.

 I am also besotted with Mitchell's Deli. I find myself fantasizing about the toasted Silke bread and the perfect bite of horseradish on my favorite sandwich.
Pictures of Mitchell's Deli - Restaurant Photos
photo courtesy of Trip Advisor
mitchells main sign 620x826 Mitchell Deli: Sandwich Envy
Oh, and I almost forgot Rumour's East, a great wine bar with so many wines by the glass that you will never work through them all (the food is fab, as well). If it's warm enough, sit outside and raise your glass to friends.
Rumours East-2.jpg provided by Rumours East, Inc. Nashville 37206
Photos of Rumours East, Nashville
photo courtesy of TripAdvisor
And if you don't eat meat and/or dairy, the vegans and vegetarians alike swear by The Wild Cow which also boasts a gluten free menu. Be forewarned, this place is teeny tiny so don't blink twice when looking for it or you'll miss it completely.
The Place</p><p> - Picture of The Wild Cow Vegetarian Restaurant, Nashville
This photo courtesy of Trip Advisor
You just can't talk about East Nashville without mentioning Jeni's of Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams' fame. Yes, Nashville is home to a Jeni's and it's literally right around the corner from The Wild Cow.  If you think you like ice cream, wait until you go to Jeni's. I don't really care for ice cream (I know, it's almost like Americans saying they are not patriotic on July the Fourth), but I love Jeni's combinations. You will, too. Just go ahead and get the trio. Once you pick your first ice cream, get them to help you with the other two. Then you will be so happy, you'll come back again. And again. And again.
My children who live in East Nashville dine regularly at The Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden (all the burgers are hand-patted and the potato bread bun is there to soak up the juice)
The Pharmacy burgerSweet 16th Bakery (the brookie and the heavenly scone are to die for)  
Holland House (the cuisine is an accompaniment to a progressive and innovative cocktail menu),
Five Points Pizza (the name speaks for itself),
 and Pomodoro East (home to Northern Italian farm-to-table cuisine).

The truth of the matter is that there is much more to do, see, and explore in East Nashville than can possibly be covered in a single post. So do a little digging, read a few reviews, and make your own choices. Whatever else it is or isn't, East Nashville is a haven for good food. Enjoy!

Friday, April 26, 2013

The Hot Spots in Nashville

   It started back in the seventies when Ed Sconiers, the owner of the Tastee Freeze in DeFuniak Springs, Florida, discovered that I attended college in Nashville, Tennessee. You'd have thought he had won the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, the man was so excited he could hardly stand it. Ed was just sure that it would not be long before Porter and I had made one another's acquaintance and that it would just be a matter of time before I was on a first-name basis with Dolly. It never happened. But what did happen was that all kinds of people started calling me for tips on what to do when they came to visit Ed Sconier's Music City. At first it was just friends of Ed's. And then friends of friends. It's still happening to this day. And it's been a long time.
   And since I was raised by my mother to be helpful whenever possible, I did develop a list of places that are must sees. It has changed and adapted itself over the years. So I reckon it's high time I shared it with you, but be forewarned that there is no way that I am going to be able to cover my Hot Spots in one post, so I'll just have to have a go at it and then we'll see where we end up.

So, without further ado (in no particular order)

The Ryman Auditorium. 
It's known as the Mother Church of Country Music. It was where the Grand Ole Opry started before it moved out to what used to be Opryland (we Nashvillians have still not gotten over that one). In my book, this remains one of the best places to visit whether you are a tourist or not. Most musicians will talk about playing the Ryman with reverence and awe. There really is something magical about it. It's small for a concert hall, old, and it just reeks of history. There are no individual seats here, just row upon row of wooden pews, because after all, this really once was a church. And the honeyed tones of the wood absorb and reflect the sound so that the sound comes out all warm and honeyed as well. If you think I'm lying just read about The Ryman here. Sheryl Crow, Vince Gill, Johnny Cash, Dolly Parton, Wynonna, Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, BB King, Kings of Leon, Mumford and Sons, Black Keys, Emmylou Harris, Alison Kraus and the list goes on and on and on. You name 'em. They've played the Ryman. Except that it's The Ryman. Kind of like the Holy Grail. It's sacred ground in Music City.
 So go ahead and pay the money and take the tour. You can even stand on the stage and strum the guitar and act like you are singing and they will take your picture and then you have the pleasure of paying for that, as well. But while you are up there squint your eyes and gaze up at those stained glass windows, breathe deeply and imagine. Dream a little. It's what The Ryman does to you. 
It makes you believe. And that's what I love the most about it. 

The Schermerhorn Symphony Center.
   When you visit this lovely lady, you will know without a doubt that Nashville is a city well-deserving of the title Music City. We have come of age. Reputedly ranked among the top ten symphony and performing halls in the world, the Schermerhorn is a stellar newcomer to the stages of Music City and she is all the more enchanting to us because we nearly lost her in the Flood of 2010. The lady Schermerhorn is elegant, refined, and gloriously classical, but with thoughtful contemporary touches here and there. She's a Tennessee girl, after all, and the pride of Tennessee is woven throughout her architecture. If the Ryman is the "Mother," then the Schermerhorn is the newly crowned "Queen," a title she earned all on her own.

The lobby beckons and soars. It gives you a foretaste of the magic within.
  There is truly not a bad seat in the house. I do not lie when I tell you that the acoustics are so refined that if a sheet of music falls to the ground, everyone in the hall is aware of it. Go online to see if a tour is offered. You won't be sorry. As you feast your eyes on the beauty, look around for the Captain's Wheel, the Maxwell House coffee beans, the irises and the lyres, all symbols that call our fair city to mind. The Schermerhorn may belong to Nashville, but the world is her rightful stage. Just ask YoYo Ma.

The NashTrash Tour.
   Do you want to laugh so hard that you wet your pants? Then don't waste a moment more; go online NOW and get your reservation to the The NashTrash Tour. My friends took me for my birthday a few years back. I have never laughed so hard in my life. Now I send everybody I know. It's a once in a lifetime experience. Think Saturday Night Live meets Duck Dynasty. Now you are gettin' my drift. You will find yourself climbing aboard a Pink Party Bus (really a school bus painted Pepto Bismal pink) over at the Nashville Farmer's Market and riding around town for 90 minutes with two sisters who have certainly made a name for themselves. 
Photos of NashTrash Tours, Nashville
This photo of NashTrash Tours is courtesy of TripAdvisor
Oh, and don't forget to bring some adult beverages in a 6-pack size cooler. You won't need any food. The Jugg Sisters thoughtfully provide the Ritz Crackers and the Cheez Whiz in a can. This is one of those times you are just gonna have to go with it. Trust me. If Al Roker did it, you can too.

That's all for today, folks.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Best Southern Style Food in Music City

   I grew up in a part of the country that considered the meat-n-three a form of elevated cuisine. My tiny hometown prided itself on the fact that every single restaurant in town (including the Tastee Freeze) served up some form of the meat-n-three. However, at the time I did not fully appreciate the rich tradition and fine Southern cooking that these establishments provided.
  Part of the allure of going away to college in the early seventies was my desire to experience a more urban lifestyle. Therefore, I was attracted to a campus that was fully integrated into a burgeoning metropolitan area. Imagine my surprise when as a freshman my newly acquired college friends began raving about a place away from campus where you could get the most unbelievable food. After much conversation accompanied by a growing dislike of dorm food, we finally piled willy nilly into some commandeered automobiles and made the trek out to this much talked about place. I should have known something was up when we soon left the lights of the city and drove for what seemed an interminable length of time. As soon as we pulled in, I immediately recognized the restaurant. My first dining experience out in Nashville, Tennessee, and I am suddenly back in the land of the meat-n-three. Oh, the irony.
   Now all roads happily lead to home. In the intervening years I have enjoyed many a great meal at this establishment and enthusiastically recommend it to all comers to Nashville. It is an iconic eatery and serves some of the best Southern food on the planet. And what is this place? Why, it's none other than the nationally renown Loveless Restaurant.

And no, it's not a motel. It used to be. A long, long time ago. 
The restaurant folks just kept the sign because it was retro before retro was in.
   Don't be fooled by this seemingly small and unassuming exterior. Just roll down your car window when you pull into the parking lot and breathe deeply. The smell of all that fine Southern cooking is your first clue that it's gonna be good. Real good.
   Here are some things you need to know before you go: 1) Call ahead for a reservation, if possible or you are going to have a good long wait. 2) No matter what time you eat, you will not be eating will be eating supper. It's a Southern thing. 3) Biscuits are served with butter, preserves, honey and sorghum. If you don't know what sorghum is, look it up. 4) Loveless actually serves moonshine (it's legal now), but the best thing to aid with your digestion is to finish off your meal with a little Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream. Finally, 5) Forget the diet and go ahead and order the fried chicken. If you don't, you are gonna need to have your head examined. Immediately. It's also probably some kind of sin.
Photos of Loveless Cafe, Nashville
This photo of Loveless Cafe is courtesy of TripAdvisor
 My family always eats family style because that's the only way to go in my book. I am really not a fried chicken aficionado so I spend most of my meal savoring the unbelievable biscuits slathered with butter and peach preserves. I also eat my fill of the sides.
Photos of Loveless Cafe, Nashville
This photo of Loveless Cafe is courtesy of TripAdvisor
My friend Carol Fay was the famous Biscuit Lady of Loveless. We have a family connection with her that runs pretty deep. She helped me raise my children and keep my house. I just didn't know then that she was gonna be so famous or I would have gotten her to teach me how to make those biscuits.
This photo of Loveless Cafe is courtesy of TripAdvisor
This is the wall of fame. Everybody who is anybody has eaten at Loveless', and chances are pretty good that you are sitting next to someone who is famous. But in Nashville, we don't act like we recognize them because a lot of the time we don't. So we pretty much leave everybody alone. 
Even if it's Brad Paisley and his beautiful wife and their cute two little boys.
Photos of Loveless Cafe, Nashville
This photo of Loveless Cafe is courtesy of TripAdvisor

So if you want an authentic version of Southern cooking that hasn't changed much over
the past sixty years you need to pay Loveless' a visit.
As I said before, it's some of the best Southern food on the planet.
Can I get an Amen?!

Saturday, April 20, 2013

A Native's Guide to Visiting Nashville

     My aunt and her book club are planning a visit to Nashville this fall to coincide with the Southern Book Festival. Turns out that in addition to being book-a-holics, these lovely ladies have also become addicted to the television series, Nashville, that showcases much about our lovely city. Thus, when my aunt called me to tell me about their impending visit, she told me that number one destination on their list was the vaunted Bluebird Cafe. The ladies learned all about the Bluebird from the TV series. I hate to tell them that Scarlett really doesn't work there, but surely they are smart enough to tell fact from fiction (even though you can never be sure which is which in the music business...) Deep down I chuckled at their request. Ever since the series debuted, the lines around the Bluebird have grown longer and longer. Part of me is proud that this little gem tucked far and away from the touristy honky-tonks down on lower Broad is garnering an extended national reputation, but the other part of me is downright sad. I don't want the Bluebird to get any harder to get into than it already is, but I guess that's the price of burgeoning fame.

   I thought I might pass along some of my recommendations for any other folks out there who might be thinking about visiting Music City in the near future.

Part One:  Accommodations in Downtown Nashville
    There are lots of options in the downtown area for folks who want to make this their base of operation. These are a few of my recommendations.
1. The most luxurious history-laden hotel in the city is The Hermitage Hotel (not to be confused with The Hermitage, the home of Andrew Jackson.) This is a gem of a hotel that sparkles with its restored beauty, but be forewarned that this accommodation will definitely set you back some serious bucks. There is also a fabulous restaurant at the hotel and an amazing bar, but I will get to those when I get around to talking about food.

And while you are at The Hermitage, you absolutely must check out the world famous art deco men's public bathroom. Don't worry, someone will stand guard so that you ladies can view it without any bonus sightings. It's actually not uncommon to see brides and grooms taking their pictures in there. Here's a glimpse of the glory!
2. The Indigo - the hipsters like this place, but I think my aunt would, as well. The Indigo is only a couple of blocks from Broadway and has a great contemporary vibe with live music and a hopping bar scene. The hotel is also housed in a former bank building that has found new life. That kind of repurposing makes me happy.

3. The Hilton - for a chain hotel, this is one of the nicer ones. The lobby is large and filled with nooks and crannies for reading and relaxing, and the location could not be more spot on. Situated directly across from the Country Music Hall of Fame, adjoined on one side by the Schermerhorn Symphony Center and on the other by the Bridgestone Arena, the honkytonks, bars, and sounds and sights of the city are just a hop, skip and a jump away.
Hilton Nashville Downtown Hotel, Tn - Exterior
Hilton Nashville Downtown Hotel, Tn - Atrium Lobby
4. The Hampton Inn (not the one up on West End, but the one adjacent to the new convention center.I actually have not been in this hotel, but one thing about the Hampton chain is that they are totally predictable. You will get exactly what you pay for. No more, no less.
5. Midtown Courtyard Marriott - (not the one on West End, but the one in the century old high rise on 4th Avenue North. This hotel is located in yet another former bank building that is finding new life as a hotel. The soaring lobby has recently been remodeled. Centrally located, this hotel is just steps away from all the fun!

Another option is to do VRBO and rent out an apartment in one of the downtown high-rise apartment buildings: you don't get your towels and sheets changed out every day, but you can do your part to stay green if you stay there.

There are some obvious omissions here, but these are my faves for downtown.

Oh and watch this happy, snappy video of Nashville before you come. It will get you in the right frame of mind to visit our beloved Music City!

Stay tuned, Part Two to follow soon!

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Wash, Dry, Repeat. Wash, Dry, Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

     Sigh. The Daughter is getting ready to remodel and expand her house, and she is building a new laundry room. Never mind that she already has a laundry room (well, sorta). I, on the other hand have a washer and dryer that live behind louvered doors in my KITCHEN. That means I am always folding and sorting laundry on my kitchen table. The only silver lining in this arrangement is the fact that the dryer sheets make my kitchen smell good...most of the time.
     The Daughter asked me today what my ideal laundry room would look like. We understood one another immediately. Women speak the same language when it comes to laundry rooms...the operative word is a ROOM for the laundry. Not a space. Not a closet in the middle of the kitchen. A ROOM.
     So I promptly got to work with my day-dreaming...cause of course, the next best thing to having your own remodel is having someone you love get the remodel. So here's to the laundry room of my dreams -- which is the only place that mine will ever exist...but hey, I don't live in a country without running water nor am I washing my clothes in a metal tub like some folks I know, so I cannot complain too much. But here's to dreaming...and off, I go.

This is my in-a-perfect-world list of laundry must-haves:

  • A new washer and dryer. I really don't like front loaders and think that they are vastly overrated, but if you are looking for a washer/dryer choice that will allow you to add a folding surface in the most space efficient manner, then the front loaders make perfect sense.
  • A folding surface. A must-have that should be long (3-4 feet, if possible) and completely flat. Avoid breaking the space up, if possible. 
  • An apron sink with a sprayer. Actually any utility type of sink would do, but since this is the Paradise version of a laundry room, I am sticking with the apron sink.
  • Open and adjustable shelving. Who wants to open cabinets in a laundry room? When you are in a hurry and trying to get that load of wash going, you don't want to be opening cabinets. You want to reach for the detergent, the Oxy-Clean, the stain stick, or whatever else you need and get the show on the road. I have seen laundry rooms with cabinets with glass doors, but frankly, who cares? 
  • Baskets for sorting and folding and some type of accessible storage for the baskets. I don't want my sorting and folding baskets stacked on my loooonng lovely folding counter. 
  • A hanging bar. Mine consists of a couple of bungy cords looped together and strung between two super-dooper cup hooks that are screwed into a stud on each side. It is not pretty and you can't hang much up there, but necessity is the mother of invention. A hanging bar is a MUST!
    • Assorted hooks and perhaps a towel bar, cause you always have something that needs to go on a hook. Like a bra. Or your Spanx.
  • A nice bright light. You need to see those stains, sister, so you can treat them properly and so you won't screw up and match a navy sock with a black. Maybe even some specific lighting over the sink in addition to the nice bright overhead lighting. 
  • A door that closes. 
I am purposefully not putting an ironing board in my laundry room because all of my friends who have them don't use them. They still put up their ironing board in their bedroom. So I am not even gonna think about wasting my money on that pricey little item.

And now here are some pictures to help you get in the right frame of mind for doing your own laundry room remodel. 

First up are the lovely stainless steel finishes in this space. I am totally enamoured with the backsplash behind the sink but I think that oval sink is way too small. However Sarah Richardson won me back over with that sprayer. I also am NOT a fan of the glass doors. Like I said before, I think they are totally superfluous. But I love the bright white light and the frosted glass door is long as it can hide the real story about how many days in a row you just didn't feel like getting any laundry done...

This picture has made the rounds so you may have seen it before. I am a huge fan of that farmhouse/apron sink along with the open shelving. I think it's genius to have a place where you can keep pillows. Up, up and away they go! I also like the can lights, but don't particularly care for the potting shed vibe going on side-by-side with the washing and drying, but who am I to talk?!

And here is a great example of a sorting station. My children each had a basket that looked just like these. It was a system that worked for me and one that won't break the bank!

I also found this gem, which works well if you would prefer a vertical option.

And here is some bar love for's the little things...

As usual, Ikea has great options for making the best use of limited space.

How about this great hanging choice for a tight space...
Alas, I am aware that laundry rooms come in all shapes and sizes. You generally make
do with what you have. If your space is narrow, this is a workable arrangement. 
This space below is large enough to accommodate a sink, but not a folding counter. 
I would probably have a board cut that would slip over the sink space 
to give me a solid counter when the sink was not in use. 
And this one is so large that I thought it must be from Texas. Turns 
out it's in Idaho. I guess they do a lot of laundry in Idaho.
However, I think those wooden crates for sorting are totally lame. 
Who's going to carry around a wooden crate? 
I just couldn't resist posting this photo, 
'cause this is usually how real life looks as least some of the time
Hopefully in about eight months, I will be able to post pictures of 
The Daughter's house expansion and remodel.
 First up will be her laundry a pristine state, of course!

Dove Really Gets It

    I already use the soap. And you can betcha that I am going to buy more Dove products whenever I can find a good use for them. Some cynics would argue that I have simply succumbed to Dove's latest advertising campaign. It might appear so. However Dove's latest ad campaign goes much deeper than products to clean, cleanse, and condition. It's about women. And how we see ourselves. It's about a problem that has plagued us since Eve first viewed her reflection in a pool outside of the Garden.

    I have watched the following video three times. I have cried each time. There is a profound truth about beauty here that has been thwarted and perverted and promulgated by our culture, by our own inadequacies and by our propensity to believe the lie over the truth. I am not laying this one at the man's door. It is our struggle. It is our pain. And at our core, it is our lie.

   This idea of self-image has been and continues to be a fairly constant struggle for me. And the struggle of many other women. It haunts me every time I pull on my pants, think about putting on a bathing suit, or catch a glimpse of my reflection in a mirror as I pass it by. Can I value what I see there? Can I not define myself by that image? Can I correctly validate the warp and woof of time that are daily being etched on my face? Can I see myself for who I really am?

   I have blogged about this before here and here. It's a ongoing conversation that women of all ages and persuasions need to have. Old and young. Mothers, daughters, sisters, friends. Not one of us is exempt.

   Thank you Dove.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Party Pretties

   The Daughter turned me on to the flowers at Trader Joe's. I am now officially hooked. Instead of spending a minor fortune at a wholesale flower house, I actually found that purchasing the flowers for a party at Trader Joe's was a much cheaper option. Who could have guessed?!
    Take a look at the flowers that I pulled together for a sweet little Sip-n-See in honor of a new baby girl!

Here is the "Before," and yes, that is my thumb partially obscuring the clumsy photo taken with my iPhone!

And here are the "Afters"

Ranunculus just might be my new favorite flower. I paired them with white tulips, hyacinths, pink flowering branches, hydrangea, spray roses in two shades of pink and also white, and some lovely bluebells for added height. The fragrance of the hyacinths nearly scented my whole house.
 As soon as I knew that this little one would be making her debut
 I started scouring the antique malls for some vintage
baby planters. I arranged flowers in them and scattered them on the main table
 and throughout the house.
I love this little sweet!
Here's a close-up of that little vintage lamb planter!
When I discovered these little pink ceramic McCoy shoes on one of my forays, I snagged them
right away. They looked perfect on the table filled with pink spray roses!
To display the yummy petit fours, I simply used an oblong silver footed tray on 
which I placed a small pink cake stand. 
In the center was a tiny pink shoe filled with more roses and a bit of pink heather!

 Here is another look at the petit fours. Hands down, these are the best I have ever eaten.
A friend referred me to the baker, who works out of her home. 
If you need a custom cake or more of these amazing petit fours, call Katie at A Perfect Bite.

 As you can well imagine with a baby girl, it was pink, pink, and more pink EVERYWHERE!
 These gorgeous pink pressed glass plates with the lattice design once belonged 
to my mother-in-law. I have always loved them. 
One of my favorite touches was this banner that I purchased back in December
(If you have never been, you simply must!)
She uses vintage linens and some lovely fabrics to create the perfect look. 
I added the ribbons for a special accent.

 The little bunny is sitting on the entry hall table in homage to the baby's grandmother, 
my dear friend Ann (the little baby girl, the honoree, is named for her). 
Ann had a thing for antiques, bunnies, and flowers.
Her daughter is much more contemporary in her choices, hence the tiny Chuck Taylors!

The little bitty chair was mine as a child and was made from an oak barrel
purchased in England in the 1950's.
I had it recovered some years ago in a vintage circus fabric.

 I apologize for the poor quality of the photos which were all taken with my iPhone.
The Husband was off galavanting at the Final Four and of course, he
had the good camera with him!