Burger Up and Green Light update:  Burger Up will have a soft, soft opening for family and friends this Friday evening and will be open to the public as of May 1st.  The chef is a South Carolinian, whose partner will be managing the Green Light organic market next door.  That’ll be opening soon as well.  Cat, the manager says there’ll be veggies, meats, cheeses, and prepared foods.  She promises me that I’ll never have to go to Whole Foods ever again.


Asia-fying Crawfish

April 28, 2010

An interesting, fun story in the NY Times today about SE Asian entrepreneurs spreading the Cajun love for crawfish in California, Texas, and Atlanta.  In agreement here:  not that I’m biased, but my Vietnamese relatives in the bayou make the meanest crawfish boils anywhere.  Disagreement:  NYTimes editors, how can you write about New Orleans crawfish and use the term “crayfish”?  If you’re going to write about the further creolization of crawfish, you’ve got to at least creolize your English.

Holland House

April 25, 2010

Holland House
935 W. Eastland Ave.
Nashville, TN 37206

The skinny:  Great experience.  We’d go back for their drinks, knowing that we’re paying coinage for the urban vibe and din, as well as the cocktail know-how and history.  The food is good gastro-pub affair.

At center stage in this newly renovated brick building is a large, welcoming four-sided bar. Natural wood, exposed roof beams and brick walls give the place an urban, organic feel, barely lit by ornate chandeliers.  The dimmed light glimmers off the crystal prisms and the myriad of liquor bottles.  The crowd–from hipsters and neighborhood folks to trans-river visitors–seemed comfortable and content in the dark milieu.  (It was too dark for photos.)

Holland House is quickly gaining a reputation, as a cocktail and food establishment.  It’s a venture led by folks from the now-closed Ombi (one of our old favorite haunts), Terry Raley and Laura Wilson, along with Christian Dye, who hails from Miro District and Watermark.  (Go here for more of HH’s origins.)

They focus on elaborate, historical cocktails.  There’s an entire menu of hand-crafted drinks that span from the late nineteenth century to the prohibition period, stateside–a period heavy on the gin, aka the “Golden Age of the American Cocktail”. The cocktail names alone are delectable: Chelsea Sidecar, Straits Sling, Rum Swizzle, Caravella Mojito, Peach Julep.  All for the flat price of $10/each.  Pickled ordered an enjoyable Ramos Gin Fizz and then a glass of white wine.  The server was spot on with her suggestion of a sauvignon blanc, L’Arpent des Vaudons Francois Merieau.  I, however, am going through a vodka phase and just wanted either a vodka martini or vodka on the rocks.  Due to their allegiance to a historical period preceding the importation of vodka, their vodka selection was limited, and there was a reluctance to make a vodka martini. We respect the historical fidelity, but wonder how long it will last.  The bar didn’t stock cocktail olives, so they brought some out from the kitchen.  Accommodating, though they still charged me a pricey $10 for each drink.  Besides a boutique-ey wine list, they also have high gravity, high octane beers.

Food-wise:  The menu offers a couple of salads, some samplers and dip snacks, small plates, and featured entrees.  The entrees looked a bit too meat-heavy ($12-$19)–with the exception of a local veggie plate, and no seafood.  So we opted for a bunch of small plates ($8-$12), sized in between tapas and entree portions.  From our most to least favorite:  grilled crab sausages, house steak tartare, fish and chips, spinach and fennel salad, and the pork belly confit.  We could taste all the sausages’ subtle elements, which went well together.  The tartare, with a raw quail egg on top, rivaled some of the better tartare we’ve had.  The fish and chips had the right crisp-, fried-, and hot-ness.  The portion, however, was tiny, even for a “small plate.” The pork belly confit was an open-face BLT, the pork was overcooked–killing all tenderness and richness of pork belly.  Didn’t work.  Our meal for two just exceeded the Benjamin mark, plus tip.

Initially, the good folks attempted to push Nashville’s taste buds with dishes like “honeyfire” duck feet and steamed littleneck clams.  But Nashville wasn’t quite open-minded enough for such gnawing.  Let’s hope that all of the Holland House’s vision and artistry–from their cocktails to their food–aren’t hemmed in by our un-adventurous tastes.

Make your reservations.

Holland House on Urbanspoon

Bacon and Caviar Wings

April 24, 2010

B&C BBQ (on Franklin, near Melrose Kroger) has become a regular pit stop for me, in the late afternoons for a post-lunch, pre-dinner meal. (We’ve written about them here.) I like the vibe, the people behind the counter, and the prices. The food does the job. But I’ve recently discovered something to really scream about: their wings, smoked and fried. I like the dry, plain variety–which brings out the love that goes into smoking and frying chicken. The hot, buffalo-sauced versions masked all the goodness.  Try the dry versions.

Their website: http://www.baconandcaviar.com/

Steak Salad

April 22, 2010

Coming home late, along with the intention of working after dinner, we had to come up with a quick meal.  So we figured steak salad, Vietnamese style–which also means served with rice.  Strikingly tasty dish, though simple and easy.

No time to write up our own recipe, thus a referral:  the following recipe from Epicurious.com does a decent job.  Though a few things to note:  jalepeno pepper in SE Asian food just sounds weird, so go with Thai chili peppers, if you want real spice.  Otherwise leave it out.  The combination of soy sauce and fish sauce is counter-intuitive, double up one or the other.

Also, this might NOT work for this recipe, but a technicality:  many English-language recipes will call for sugar to sweeten fish-sauce–what they don’t tell you is that VN cooks actually boil the fish sauce to bring in the sugar.  And then let cool before serving.  Adding the garlic, lime, peppers, and mint leaves as the sauce cools.

This recipe can be prepared in 45 minutes or less.

Yield: Serves 2


1/2 head romaine
1/2 small English cucumber
1 small shallot
1 small fresh jalapeño chile
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 teaspoons Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon sugar
a 1 1/4-inch-thick rib-eye steak (about 3/4 pound)
1/4 cup packed fresh mint leaves


Tear romaine into pieces into a bowl. Halve cucumber lengthwise and seed. Thinly slice cucumber crosswise and add to romaine. Chill romaine mixture, covered. Mince shallot, jalapeño, and garlic (wear rubber gloves when handling jalapeño) and in a large bowl stir together with lime juice, soy sauce, 1 tablespoon oil, fish sauce, and sugar until sugar is dissolved.

Pat steak dry and season with salt. In an 8- to 10-inch heavy skillet heat remaining tablespoon oil over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking and sauté steak 4 minutes on each side for medium-rare. Transfer steak to a cutting board and let stand 5 minutes.

While steak is standing, stack mint leaves and thinly slice. Toss mint with romaine mixture and all but about 2 tablespoons dressing until combined well. Divide salad between 2 plates and slice steak. Toss steak with remaining dressing and arrange on salads.

As reported by MSNBC local, Nashville’s Taca Mamacita can now serve beer:

By Written by Elizabeth Emmons

NASHVILLE, Tenn. – Nashville’s hip new eatery is hoping to soon sell beer.

Taco Mamacita is located in the Edgehill neighborhood.

Tuesday night the Metro Council approved an exemption for the Mexican restaurant so it could sell beer regardless of being 100 feet from homes. The restaurant was already serving liquor, which is allowed by state rules. Beer is a city issue.

As for our previous take on TM, click here.

A nod to JMS for the tip.

With a few amendments, the guns-in-bars bill could be up for a vote in the Senate as early as next week.  We still disagree.  According to the Tennessean, “Tennessee’s guns-in-bars will became a guns-in-restaurants bill Tuesday when a House committee amended ti to ban guns from any establishment that makes more than half its money from booze sales rather than food.  That would effectively ban guns from bars but allow state carry permit holders to bring their weapons into restaurants that serve alcohol.  Drinking while carrying a gun would still be illegal.”

See today’s article in the Tennessean, front page.  For an electronic version, click here.