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Monthly Archives: April 2012

NASHVILLE, TENN. — It’s hard to visit Nashville and not want to forget about your life beforehand and put down roots in the Portland of the midsouth.

We visited the rolling city to support several of our friends who ran the Country Music Marathon and were instantly smitten, aside from the horrible, horrible traffic, but that’s another story.

First of all, I say stay away from downtown. It’s a country Los Vegas, or another version of Dollywood, only with more drinking. It’s all loud, crappy country music and Neon. There’s a three-storied, open bar that I swear is a scene out of Dante’s Inferno. I can only imagine the bodily fluids that have flowed out of that place.

But beyond the south side of downtown there is an amazing, vibrant city that manages to feel smaller than it is.

Being a militant farmers’ market supporter, we had to stop at the year-round Nashville farmers’ market. The smells of fresh strawberries, onions, and baked goods was everywhere. I got a pint of strawberries which me and the wife, along with two friends, managed to take down in an afternoon.

After a brief visit to the only full-scale replica of the Parthenon (that’s got to make Athens Ga. a little miffed) we went to Pharmacy Burger Parlor and Beer Garden in East Nashville. It was exactly what I’ve always expected out of beer garden, but haven’t been able to find — picnic tables, great service, a beer list that is impressive and the distinct impression that no one has ever puked there. Add to that a great cast of friends, a late afternoon sun and a temperature in the low 80s, and you’ve got my version of paradise. (For you teetotalers, they do their own gourmet sodas, which looked pretty good.)

The burgers looked great, but the wife and I ate a late lunch and had to opt out, though when we return we’ll bring our appetites with use.

After an interlude at some friends’ place, we headed to Five Points Pizza and got, well pizza. It was good pizza, which is a high compliment, because I think pizza is either good, bad or Pizza Hut. (All three of which, by the way, I’ll gladly eat.)

Then, to end a great day, we headed to 3 Crow Bar for Bushwackers. Imagine if Dave from Wendy’s and Captain Morgan got together and decided to make a drink (a.k.a a Frosty plus Rum) and you get a Bushwacker. This is a one and done kind of a drink, first because it’s strong, and second because I have no idea how my stomach could handle more than one. Though it’s been rumored someone has had six in one sitting.

We managed to save the best culinary experience for last. Just west of the river in an up-and-coming neighborhood there’s a place called Monell’s. There’s no ordering at this restaurant. You get seated at a big table with strangers. Your waitress quickly tells you to mute your cellphones and enjoy. They bring out dish after dish and you enjoy family style. We had a country breakfast which included: biscuits and gravy, cinnamon rolls, eggs, pancakes, corn pudding, cheesy grits, bacon, ham steak, sausages, fried chicken, fried apples, hashbrowns, coffee and sweet tea.

Other than saying everything was amazing, I don’t think anything else has to be said about this amazing, down home food experience.

So if you get the chance, check out Nashville, avoid downtown, and don’t drive during rush hour.

Peanut butter is a staple of my life. It feeds me in the morning, I use it in sauces, I use it as a snack, I use it in beer, I pay way too much for it. Opening up the cupboard and not finding a glass jar of peanut butter would be like a drunkard thinking he had a sixer of Natural Light waiting for him only to discover when he opened the fridge that it was just a half-gallon of stale milk staring back at him. Ugly.
Bourbon, while not a staple of my life, is my drink of choice. It’s got character without being all snooty like Whiksy. That could be because of its humble roots in the hills of the Southeast. Or maybe it just hasn’t matured quite enough to be all snooty like it’s older sibling. Either way, me and Bourbon can hangout and he doesn’t make me feel uncomfortable or like I’m the product of poor breeding.
Get peanut butter and Bourbon together and that sounds like one hell of a party that I wouldn’t miss.
Enter these cookies.
  • 1/2 cup butter (a whole stick) softened
  • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 1/2 shots of Bourbon
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • About 2 cups of chocolate chips, though adjust this according to your tastes

Preheat oven to 350

Mix the flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Set aside

Cream the sugar, peanut butter and butter in a mixer for 2 to 4 minutes. Then add the eggs one at a time until just combined. Add vanilla, honey and Bourbon and mix for 15 more seconds.

Slowly add the bowl of dry ingredients until they are well incorporated, then mix in the chocolate chips.

Mix dough into balls about the size of golf balls and put on well-greased cookie sheet. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Cool on tray. Enjoy!

Obviously, if you’re in AA or don’t have a taste for Bourbon (is that possible?) you can omit the shot. I would suggest adding a bit more vanilla extract, if you go down that route.

There’s an ingredient in the above picture from a previous post. Can you guess what it is? Wrong. Seriously, there’s no way you could have guessed it unless you’re full of dumb luck. Want to know what it is? Preserved lemons! (Here’s the post on how to make those delicious treats).

The recipe is a really simple, Moroccan inspired stew from Chow.com

The basic ingredients are beets, radishes, squash and garbonzo beans. Mix those with cumin, coriander and preserved lemons and that’s about it. It is actually really delicious. I used more preserved lemons than they recommended, which gave the dish a really nice citrus tang. I also added plain yogurt, which they didn’t have, because it adds a nice creaminess. Also, there’s no raisins in my dish, not because I didn’t want them, I just forgot to pick them up at the store. My bad.

I’m on the lookout for other ways to use my preserved lemons. I’m thinking chicken with a garlic, ginger and preserved lemon crust. I’ll keep you updated.

I’ve always been scared of rhubarb. I’ve never had the standard rhubarb strawberry pie, and there’s that whole thing about poisonous leaves. But I couldn’t help myself the other day in the grocery store. I got a pound of the strange plant in conjunction with a giant tub of strawberries. It’s the classic scarlet combo.

Being that it’s May (maybe not by your calendar by in my calendar May started today [inside joke about working at the Illinois Legislature]) I don’t have a lot of time to do kitchen projects. So I did this quick simple syrup that is a great spring/early summer mixer for your cocktails.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 1/2 Cups water
  • 1 Cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped rhubarb

Mix everything in a sauce pan and bring it to a boil.

Boil until it’s reduced by at least half. The rhubarb will start to disintegrate. Don’t worry. Once it’s reduced. fish out the rhubarb with a slotted spoon and save it for adding to oatmeal in the mornings.

Put the rest in a jar and save in the fridge for a few weeks. It’s that easy.

I made delicious drink the other night with the syrup.

What you’ll need:

  • 1 shot of strawberry vodka
  • 1/2 glass of soda water
  • juice of 1/4 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons of rhubarb simple syrup

Combine ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake, pour, enjoy, repeat.

Ah the wonders of warm weather and fresh produce.

It’s spring, which means you should be eating asparagus. But there are only so many ways to prepare the veggie, namely roasting or grilling. Chow show’s us a different way to skin the cat, so to speak.

WAUKESHA, WIS. — First, I’m upset that I was in this state for seven hours before I got a beer, it is afterall the drunkest state in the union. Secondly, when I finally did get my hands on some New Glarus brew, it was deliciois.

Lastly, I picked up a new talent this morning. The breakfast offered by my hotel was less than appetizing, and the three people sitting there in staines sweatpants, munching on congealed gravy on nuked biscuits weren’t helping. I grabbed a few packets of peanut butter, and a few packets of oatmeal and jetted.

Safe in my room, I put some water in my coffee maker, the oatmeal in the carafe.

image

A few minutes and two peanut butter packets later, viola!

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Pork is my favorite meat. Give me a properly cooked pork chop over a New York strip steak any day of the week. Pork is more complex than other meats out there and I think the pig gives you so many choices when it comes to cuts. You can have the leaner chops and hap, or the crowd pleaser — bacon. And let’s not forget about sausage. Glorious, delicious, salty unhealthy sausage. Don’t forget, you can’t get biscuits and gravy without sausage (and sorry my vegetarian and vegan friends and readers, but nothing is an equal substitute for country sausage in that dish).

Combine my love of pork with love of finding old books about things I’m obsessed with and you get me buying this book this week.

I’m just into the book and find it fascinating. It’s talking about pork production in the year 1908. At that time nearly 50 percent of all the world’s pork was produced in the United States. Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Nebraska and Missouri were the top 5 pork producing states. It’s not that those states love pork more than the other 43 (this was before Hawaii and Alaska were stars on our flag). It’s just that those states grew lots of cheap, good corn.

It’s also interesting to read about the shift from longer growing periods and larger pigs to quicker turn arounds and smaller pigs as a result. I’ll give a full report once I’m through. Until then, here are some pictures from the 614 tome.