Tag Archives: Chris Chamberlain

Nashville’s Dining Scene: Our Food Writers Weigh In

ErinHopefully by now, you’ve had some time to dig into the April issue and our list of Nashville’s 50 Best Restaurants. We’ve received a fair amount of feedback, both in agreement and opposition to our list—which was exactly what we were hoping for. I love talking food with people, whether it’s dissecting every dish of my last meal or scheming up ideas for the next one. But the conversation I sat in on for our Best Restaurants list was my favorite kind since it got some of the city’s most well-versed food lovers dishing on what they love (and don’t) about Nashville’s food scene.April 2013 Best Restaurants

Because I’m still a Nashville newbie, I was fascinated to hear what the locals think of all this national media we’ve received. As the Tennessean’s Jennifer Justus (JJ) admitted, “I think we have more restaurants, but I don’t think all this praise from outside means that we have anything going on that’s really super amazing and creative.” Beth Sachan (BS) of the blog Eat.Drink.Smile. agreed: “We have all these restaurants opening but I feel like there’s so much that’s the same. It’s like the whole farm-to-table thing: Can we get something that’s a little more interesting?”

So, there’s certainly space for other types of cuisine and more creative influence, it seems. Chris Chamberlain (CC) who writes regularly for Nashville Lifestyles laid it out for me, saying, “We still don’t have a good Chinese restaurant, we still don’t have a great Mexican restaurant. We still don’t have any place to get a paella, there’s no good Jewish food in town.” Long-time food writer Kay West (KW) chimed in, adding, “No good Cuban food, no Spanish food, I still don’t think there’s any good Italian. Where would the mob go? That’s what I want to know.”

Well, then what are we doing right? I wondered. Turns out, plenty. Here’s just a taste of our conversation:

CC: We are attracting folks like Phil Krajeck [of Rolf & Daughters] coming in from out of town, Sean [Brock] coming in and bringing his new chef. We are becoming a destination for chefs to go. We don’t have that advantage of a big cooking school here. We don’t have a Johnson & Wales, but we’ve got the Art Institute and Nashville State. That’s burgeoning. And that leads to developing younger talent.

KW: I also wonder, what incentive is there for someone to come along and be daring and exciting and innovative? I’m not saying that restaurants need to dumb down but I think if you’re a chef who’s investing your own money or trying to get investors and it’s such a hard business, you don’t have big bucks behind you, then you’re going to have to make something that’s going to have a return. Your investors want to see a return. So you’ve got to find that balance between what’s going to be successful and what’s going to be creatively exciting to that small group of diners.

Food Writers

Nashville food writers: Kay West, Chris Chamberlain, Beth Sachan and Jennifer Justus

JJ: I will say that when City House first opened, I would recommend it to people, but I would say, “don’t expect meatballs.” I don’t have to do that anymore. I can just be like, “go to City House.” I do think the level of sophistication is growing.

BS: I think people are more open minded. Another positive thing is [that restaurants are] sourcing locally. Because in the last couple years, a lot more restaurants are naming all the different farms they’re sourcing from and I love that.

JJ: When I interviewed Jeremy [Barlow of Sloco] recently, he was like, ‘I remember it used to be five farmers I could call, and now it’s over 60.’

KW: And a lot of restaurants are doing their own farms, too. That was a pipe dream ten years ago.

Nashville Food Writers

CC: And we’ve got purveyors like Porter Road that we didn’t use to have. There wasn’t access to a butcher that could provide you with locally sourced meat that could be processed the way you wanted it processed. If you didn’t have a local butcher, which we really didn’t, there was no option even if you wanted it. I mean chefs don’t have time to drive to a farm in Millington to bring back a cow.

JJ: That’s another thing, I don’t think they make me describe CSA anymore in a story. It used to be like, what is that?

CC: And we do have a great community of chefs. It may not be one big community, but there are small groups, and they work in each others’ kitchens. I remember when Kahlil [Arnold] told me—he used to work at the Loveless for Tom Morales—and when he left the Loveless to go back and work at his family business, Tom wasn’t mad, he said, ‘how many of my guys do you need to take with you to help run that place because you need to take care of your family business.’”

Nashville Food Writers

KW: I think there’s a huge amount of support among the chefs.

JJ: You know years ago I remember, I think it was in this magazine that I read it, one of the Goldbergs [of Strategic Hospitality] said that if you start something here, people don’t instantly want to drag you down, they want you to succeed. And I think that spirit is definitely going on here.

So, reader: What say you? What is Nashville doing right? And what would you like to see more of? Give us your two cents—and while you’re at it, make sure you have a copy of the April issue. (Comment here or email us at wehearyou@nashvillelifestyles.com)

Cheers!

— Erin B. Murray, Managing Editor

Recap: Pairings, A Celebration of Food and Wine

Erin

Last Friday night, I had the distinct pleasure of attending the first ever Pairings event, hosted by the Nashville Wine Auction. This wine auction and dinner event was a prelude to the Nashville Wine Auction’s (NWA) many wine-related events, including the big one, L’Ete du Vin set for Saturday July 20, and offered a more accessible ticket price than the summer event while still raising much-needed funds for organizations that serve cancer patients throughout Middle Tennessee.

Pairings took place at the Noah Liff Opera Center and while the room was packed, it only added to the thrill of the auction events and the fact that the NWA had gathered such an exciting and talented group of wine makers (and chefs) into one room for the night. The silent auction put dozens of small lots out for the taking – including several that had me ready to plunk down the checkbook, like a selection from Au Bon Climat and a group of French Bordeaux. As the minutes ticked by, auction sections would close down, elevating the silent bidding process to a fevered pitch. Meanwhile, a host of winemakers from spots like Ilsley Vineyards and Cliff Lede Vineyards were pouring tastes for guests as they browsed the auction items.

At 7:30, the party moved in to the dining room where NL contributor Chris Chamberlain took the stage as emcee and introduced the many sponsors and beneficiaries who were in attendance. At the table, we were treated to a parade of outstanding courses that were created by a string of James Beard award-winning and nominee chefs who, in the spirit of the evening, were paired together to collaborate on a dish.

The MenuPairing5Photos by Jim Cook

Table 3 chef Will Uhlhorn was paired with chef John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen located inside Jennings Barn (Cashiers, N.C.) to create a brandade dish that was neatly wrapped in prosciutto; chefs Tandy Wilson (City House) and Nate Appleman (former executive chef of A16 in Chicago) put out a plate of unbelievably tender wine-braised octopus over semolina and grit farinata; the smoked and braised short ribs were melt-in-the-mouth delicious thanks to chefs Tyler Brown (Capitol Grille) and Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman (Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog and Hominy in Memphis); and for dessert, chef Tandra Watkins (Ashley’s in Little Rock) finished things off with a wine tart with poached pear. If I’d known there was a vegetarian option, I might have chosen it since it was prepared completely by Roderick Bailey of the beloved Silly Goose.

Side note: Several of these chefs were honored as semi-finalists and nominees for the 2013 James Beard Awards: Tyler Brown, Tandra Watkins, Tandy Wilson, Andrew Ticer, and Michael Hudman were all on the list; this week, Wilson, Ticer, and Hudman found out that they are on the short list of nominees. Congrats to an outstanding team (and to Pairings for pulling together an A-List team in the kitchen)!

Pairing9Pairing8Photos by Jim Cook

As for those pairings, the kitchen was chock-a-block full of kitchen genius, as captured by Chris Chamberlain.Chefs at Work
And in the glass, a selection of Stag’s Leap wineries had poured four lovely pairings that perfectly captured California in the glass. The 2010 Solo Cabernet by Silverado stood on even footing with that octopus, while the 2006 Chimney Rock Tomahawk Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon was sturdy finale paired with Watkins’ pear tart.WinesPhoto by Jim Cook

I’ll admit that I didn’t take part in the live auction madness but those who did enjoyed an entertaining display as wine experts Elise Loehr of F. Scott’s and Table 3 stood alongside Brett Davis, MW from Louisville to offer peanut gallery commentary about each auction lot while David Allen of Music City Auctioneers brought the house down with his lightning-fast auction calls. It was hard to tell where the all of the winners landed but hearing a few auction lots fetch well over $2,000 per prize had me hopeful that the event had done it’s duty of raising a pile of money–more than $165,000–for several well-deserving local cancer facilities. It was a job well done and certainly put me in the mood for what will surely be a summer of wine-friendly fun.Pairing7Photo by Jim Cook

A few more Nashville Wine Auction events to look forward to:

Thursday, June 20 – Grand Cru
An elegant cocktail party offering an Auction Preview. ($250 per person).

Wednesday, July 17 – A Year In Burgundy
The Nashville premiere of Martine Saunier’s documentary shows at the Franklin Theater. ($30 per person).

Thursday, July 18 – Vintner’s Tasting
A tasting featuring Taittinger Champagne and the French wines of Martine Saunier at Hillwood Country Club. ($135 per person).

Friday, July 19 – Patrons’ Dinner
A gourmet wine dinner prepared by guest chef Sean Brock of Husk, Charleston with Chef Tyler Brown of The Hermitage Hotel featuring the best of Taittinger Champagne and French wines of Martine Saunier. ($1,000 per person).

Saturday, July 20 – 34th Annual l’Ete du Vin
An evening at Loews Vanderbilt Hotel beginning with a Silent Auction and wine sampling followed by dinner and a spectacular Live Auction. ($275 per person).

For tickets to these events and more information, go to nashvillewineauction.com.

— Erin Byers Murray, Managing Editor