Dinner on the Yellow Porch

January 30, 2010

I had dinner with a friend at Yellow Porch (734 Thompson Ln., Berry Hill area) the other night. We hadn’t seen each other in a while, and it seemed like the perfect place for a few glasses of wine and a good meal. When we arrived the restaurant was packed, and we were lucky to snag the last parking spot. Parking is a premium there, because if the lot is full you might end up braving the mall parking lot. We were sat in a quiet corner with a window overlooking the porch, which was closed for winter.

The server arrived to take our drink orders and bring a basket of fresh bread, accompanied by some vinaigrette  with some cheese  floating in it. Although the vinaigrette did not look appetizing, I ate too much of it while we lingered over the wine and pondered the menu.  V and I debated the trout. I settled on a baby green salad  for $3.95 and Pasta Bettola (Penne pasta in a vodka cream sauce with tomatos and garlic) for $12.95. I should have tried something more adventurous, but I was looking for some comfort food.  The salad was fresh and light with a tart balsamic vinaigrette. The penne pasta was too salty and garlicky. Despite my misgivings at dinner, I reheated it for the lunch next day and found it more to my liking. V’s dish was over the top with flavors. The fish rested atop stalks of broccolini that were perched on sweet potato gnocchi–all of which floated in a pork broth. In addition, next to the fish was a single fried cheddar and pork ravioli that looked a lot like a fried wanton. Yes, we knew all this from the menu and wondered if it could actually be tasty. The individual items were fresh and cooked properly. However, that pork broth was just too potent. There is nothing subtle about pork broth, and I can’t see any reason to pair it with gnocchi and fish. We were too full to order desert, but thrilled to learn they make it all in house. The over-the-top pork-of-some-form dish is undoubtedly a Nashville specialty. I can think of a number of restaurants including Park Cafe and Mambu, where these dishes can be found. Yellow Porch is not the best of the group. However, YP’s prices, ranging from $13-$26 with many in the $15-$17 range, are the best in town. All told, the Yellow Porch is a good place to go for fairly priced food and a few glasses of wine. The menu also has a nice selection of vegetarian options. Next time, however, I might just stick with the appetizers.

615.386.0260

Yellow Porch on Urbanspoon

Hill & Hollow Lamb

January 27, 2010

A quick shout out to our friends at Hill and Hollow for some of the tastiest lamb we’ve had in a while–in any restaurant or at home.  We broiled their lamb chops (to mid-rare) which turned out succulent, marbled and tender–that delicate lamb taste at its prime.  To compliment the lamb, we sautéed some swiss chard, leaf and stem and all, with some red onion and garlic.  Topped with a balsamic vinaigrette reduction that was flavored with some peppercorn and rosemary.  Classic rice pilaf provided our starch supplement.

Dinner: we saw some good-looking snow peas and decided to make use of them in a stir-fry, Epicurious.com recipe–one of the best we’ve come across.  (We got a small tenderloin, which was wonderfully flavorful and tender, from Whole Foods.)  The details count, and yet still simple:

  • 1 tablespoon medium-dry Sherry
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons Asian sesame oil
  • 3/4 lb boneless pork loin, thinly sliced, then cut into 2- by 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 tablespoons peanut oil
  • 2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
  • 1 large red bell pepper, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 1/2 lb snow peas, trimmed
  • 1 cup salted roasted cashews
  • Accompaniment: rice

Stir together Sherry, cornstarch, and 1 tablespoon soy sauce, then stir in sesame oil. Add pork, stirring to coat well, and let stand 10 minutes.

Stir together sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons soy sauce.

Heat a wok or large nonstick skillet over high heat until a bead of water dropped on cooking surface evaporates immediately. Add 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil, swirling wok to coat evenly, then stir-fry 1 teaspoon ginger, 1 teaspoon garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper flakes until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add bell pepper and stir-fry 2 minutes. Add snow peas and cashews and stir-fry until snow peas are crisp-tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer vegetables to a bowl.

Heat remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil in wok until just smoking, then stir-fry remaining ginger, garlic, and pepper flakes until fragrant, about 5 seconds. Add pork and stir-fry, separating strips, until browned and barely cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes. Add vegetables and sweetened soy sauce, then stir-fry until vegetables are just heated through, about 1 minute more.

Today’s Groupon Deal:
$10 for $20 Worth of Fresh-Baked Goods, Sandwiches, Coffee, and More at FiddleCakes
.

FiddleCakes is in the 8th Ave. corridor, just south of Wedgewood . Their website is: http://www.fiddlecakes.com/.

DEAL ENDS: Tuesday, January 26th at midnight.

Miel Dinner

January 23, 2010

Miel’s location behind Bobby’s Dairy Dip (343 53rd Avenue North, 37209, map here) is wonderfully ironic. But irony is not what the owners, Jimmy and Seema Phillips, are going for. Like their beautiful conversion of Johnson’s Meat Market into a restaurant space of clean, bold lines, the Miel folks are going for straightforward food and drink. There aren’t many fussy cocktails on their drinks list, but rather, only classic ones. The food menu offers expected French brasserie affair: roasted chicken, steak, bouillabaisse, Parisian gnocchi, foie gras, mussels. (Like all Nashville fine dining restaurant, entree prices hover around $25.) With these classic dishes, they’re banking on the quality and freshness of the food raised on their own farm (which is near the restaurant). This is commendable, but there’s a catch here: it only works if the elements of a dish work off of each other to forge a memorable taste. But if the simplicity of the food isn’t savory, it’s forgettable. Overall, our meal at Miel was tipped towards the latter…somewhat forgettable.

We started with the special appetizer, 6 oysters on the half shell. Simple: fresh oysters served with a mignonette that had a hint of citrus. Absolutely wonderful, though the oysters could have been chilled a bit more. AHS then ordered the chicken liver pate. It was a big portion, but distinct in its texture and sweetness. The sourness of the accompanying cornichons complements the pate nicely. I was most excited about the frog legs and escargot app. The escargot was prepared and presented in the classic way: swimming in butter, in an escargot plate. Inexplicably, two fried frog legs were served on top of the searing escargot plate. The batter for the legs had no seasoning–so its blandness only accentuated the dullness of the escargot. For her entree, AHS had fresh, perfectly cooked grouper on a medley of seasonal vegetables, along with some chestnuts. There was nice balance and quality to the dish. I ordered the osso bucco, but was disappointed with its lack of flavor. The meat was not as meltingly tender, nor the marrow as buttery decadent, as I would have liked. The polenta cake was buried underneath bland red sauce.

Service was attentive. Our waiter knew the wine list well and made an excellent recommendation, a bottle of Italian Gamay. Sitting in clear view of the open kitchen, it was nice to see Jimmy cook and serve up the food, as Seema expedited each dish. That’s as hands on as restaurateurs can get. The deserts were just fine. We loved the deconstructed presentation of the creme brulee, a scoop of creme nesting in a beautiful caramelized sugar bowl. Messing with such a classic desert is brave. The apple cider sorbet desert was tangy and delightful, but the accompanying cookies were somewhere in between sweet and savory. The candied walnuts were a nice touch, although the presentation was less than elegant.

Overall it was a fine, but unmemorable meal.

615.298.3663

Miel Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Last night called for an impromptu dinner party, so we went to one of our favorite recipes:  “Steamed Cod with Ginger-Garlic Mustard Greens.”  Quick, healthy, and easy (less than 15 minutes), the dish comes from a New York Times recipe, but it doesn’t appear to be online anymore.   The recipe originally calls for flounder, but all of Nashville didn’t seem to have any fresh flounder, so we used Trader Joe’s frozen cod. If fresh flounder was available, we would have preferred that. But alas:

-1 tbsp vegetable or peanut oil

-1 tsp toasted sesame seed oil (optional)

-3 garlic cloves, minced

-1 1-inch-thick slice peeled fresh ginger root, minced

-2 small bunches mustard greens, cleaned, stemmed and torn into bite-size pieces

-1 tbsp soy sauce (optional: for drizzling)

-One packet of Trader Joe’s frozen cod (must be defrosted according to packet instructions. Otherwise, the fish will become too soggy.)

-Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

1. Heat oil in a very large skillet (we used a large Le Creuset “French Oven”). Add garlic and ginger and saute until fragrant and translucent, about 2 minutes. Add mustard greens, soy sauce and 3 tbsp water, and saute until greens start to wilt, 2 more minutes.

2. Spread greens out in pan. Season cod with salt and pepper, and place on top of greens. Cover pan, reduce heat to medium, and let fish steam until just cooked through, about 6-8 minutes. If pan dries out before fish is cooked through, add a little more water, a teaspoon at a time.

3. Uncover pan and transfer fish to serving plates. If greens seem wet, turn heat to high to cook off excess moisture. Serve greens on top of fish, drizzled with a little more sesame oil and soy sauce, if desired. (If you forego the sesame oil, some crushed red pepper can add some spice.)

We served this dish with a wild rice blend. In addition, as I was picking up the mustard greens at Harris Teeter, I saw some beautiful, wild, not-yet-frozen shrimp from the East Coast (with head on) for $5.99/lb. So I bought a pound to supplement the fish, in case one Trader Joe’s packet of cod wasn’t enough for four people (I was right). I deheaded and peeled the shrimp, marinated them in Cajun spices, sauteed them in butter with garlic and chives, and served them with the main dish. Our second course was a green salad. All paired with the Lonely Cow (New Zealand) Sauvignon Blanc. Voila. The total time to cook this entire meal was about 30 minutes.

Today’s Groupon Deal:

$15 for $30 Worth of Cuisine and Wine Pairings at The Wine Loft Wine Bar

The Wine Loft is in the Gulch, where Bar Twenty3 used to be.  Their website is:  www.thewineloftgulch.com, but it’s slow to load today.

DEAL ENDS: Sunday, January 24th at midnight.