I had the pleasure of joining two fantastic dining partners for a mid-week dinner at Sound Table on Thursday. I was very much looking forward to the company, and of course the wine, but had heard … well … terrible reviews of the restaurant. I can’t even sugar coat that with “somewhat unflattering” reviews – from what I have heard from multiple food sources, this is a “must avoid” establishment. I wasn’t going to let the naysayers influence my dining experience on probably the coldest day of the year, I had my lovely friend escorting me down the seedy, wonderful, exciting, promising Edgewood streets and to the door.
Upon arrival, I’m expecting a minor wait as they ready a table – but not so. We were immediately seated, b/c no one else was there. Literally. No one. A few staff members were hanging around the bar, a DJ was “spinning” (pressing play) on a heighten stage with a glowing green wall behind him, and other than those few signs of life the place was a ghost town. So maybe the negative reviews spread further than my friend group. On the way to the table I had to step over a few speakers on sticks – which I found basically ridiculous. Why not invest the money into patching DJ’s in house speakers – multiple speakers littered the floor, but I guess with zero foot traffic there’s little chance of tripping over them.
We settle in, are very pleasantly surprised to be dining on “half price wine night”, and look over the menu as we wait for our bottle. When the waiter returns, we order the steak tartar, and then enquire about the entrees. First thing – the entire menu looked fantastic – mussels and frites on the starter menu, several interesting salads, and although only 5 or so main dishes, I would have ordered any one of them. I also was blown away by our waiter’s knowledge and ability to speak intelligently about every item on the menu, how it paired with our wine, and general good nature. He might be one of the best waiters in the city, and I appreciate that his skill comes at you quietly and unexpectedly.
The meal is looking up when I try what might be the best steak tartar I have ever tasted. I don’t know if the perfectly toasted lightly butter crustini help make it sign, but this was a wonderful way to start the meal. At this point, I’m not sure what the naysayers are talking about – and I’m looking forward to the rest of my order. I order Chicken & Waffles, because I’ve never HAD Chicken & Waffles, and if I’m going to start – why not start with the nicest Chicken & Waffles I have seen. A ‘hearty” dish, the chicken was moist and flavorful, and paired well with the kale that lined the bottom of the dish. The waffles were pretty basic, and the teriyaki syrup that the waiter raved about was a bit TOO sweet and TOO concentrated for my taste. However, overall the dish was really interesting and when you lump everything into one bite – and go easy on the syrup – it’s a pretty dam good bite. We were sampling each other’s dishes around the table, and everything I had was quite good. Frites were great with the sauce on the side, the risotto served with the snapper was heavenly, and the brussels and cauliflower made me realize I LOVE brussels and cauliflower.
I’d also hear some pooh-poohing on the price, but all being said the price isn’t bad and completely in range of other restaurants of the sort. Really the only off putting thing about Sound Table is the atmosphere. It’s just creepy, and cold, and strange and empty. The “sound” at Sound Table on our night was borderline comical in a way that’s not supposed to be comical. Maybe I just didn’t understand what the art that glowing-green DJ was trying to express. I would consider going back for the food (esp. on half off vino night), but the space itself really turns me off – so sadly, I probably WONT be back anytime soon. Overall impressive food, rounded menu, if you have our waiter you’ll be impressed – I WOULD recommend this for a nice evening, but any recommendations would come with a large “atmosphere” caveat.
I’ve frequently stated this, but cooking in my kitchen is a major stress reliever for me – and I’ve been in crazy need of a stress reliever for a couple of days. Make that weeks. Months actually. It’s been awhile since I’ve had an extra few hours to not only research a new dish to make, but then shop for menu items (fridge has been empty save beer for awhile) and then cook a meal.
Luckily I found myself leaving work before 7:00pm, and had taken a few m minutes the night before to pursue the COSTCO cookbook that their rep gave me last week as a ‘thank you’ for setting her up at SweetWater to hock memberships to our staff. For starters, this is hands down the best cookbook I own. I freaking love it, and basically read it cover to cover in one day like a f$%&ing Dan Brown novel.
My first dish from the book: Spinach & Feta Stuffed Salmon. I coupled the main dish with a fun side from Pinterest – Zucchini Ribbons. And then went lazy with the carb. – 90sec. Wild Rice. The stuffing in the salmon consisted of some mayo, cream cheese, spinach, red pepper flakes, garlic, lemon, panko break crumbs … and I think a few more things. There was a lot. I think I went too light on the panko, and too heavy on the cream cheese, but regardless the outcome was great. The salmon needed no seasoning save a sprinkle of cracked pepper. The flavors were delicious, and next time I’ll adjust the stuffing measurements to make get more of a browning effect. The zucchini ribbons were almost therapeutic to make – mainly just the peeling of the veggie into the pan. I was in a zone and before I knew it, had peeled up (3) baby zuchs. I should have gone for a 4th. The zuch ribbons wilted down a good bit. Note for next time – one more zuch, and sautéed less for slightly more crunchy ribbons. All you need to season this side is oil, garlic and pepper – then grate a small amount of parm. over the final product.
The full plate was a great mix of flavors and textures, and mixing all items on the plate into one seasoned bite worked well and made sense. Feeling relaxed … for tonight at least …. Woosah … Woosah …
John Hunter knocked it out of the park this Valentine’s Day – flowers delivered to work, a stupid action movie opening day, and best of all a WONDERFUL date to Empire State South. Watching Hugh A. every week on Top Chef, I’ve been waiting to taste what he can do. Well, I guess not exactly what he can do since he’s not the chef, but see what ESS is all about. So glad we did. We showed up early for a couple glasses of wine at the bar, and immediately I was taken by the décor and feel of the place. Rustic is the best word – and since I’ve moved to SweetWater Brewery – I’ve used that word thousands of times to describe our event space. Rustic. This restaurant gave me a few design/décor ideas that I need to bring to work! The highboys near the bar were basic wooden tops with a metal base, the bar is a beautiful (Georgia?) marble, a nice glow covered the space, wooden curtain valances, and the staff all in checkered button-up hipster dress.
We went all out for the special occasion – charcuterie board, main dishes, and dessert. All were great, but the charcuterie board might have been my favorite. I’ve had a lot of cheese/meat boards in my time – a great one at The Admiral in Asheville – but this one was the best HANDS DOWN. We had a cow, goat and sheep’s cheese, rabbit pate’ served ironically with carrots, and blood sausage! This was my first time trying blood sausage, and I have to say it was excellent – I was nervous, but wasn’t going to back away from anything on the board. We also had some of the best pickled veggies I’ve ever tasted, and great mustards to boot.
The menu is relatively small as far as entrees are concerned, but I liked that I wasn’t given a whole lot of “run of the mill” options, because I probably would have played it safe with a common fish or steak dish. I went with duck, with crispy onions and spinach, on top of a milky sauce with hints of some type of sweet fruit. There were two cuts of the duck on my plate, the breast and I think the belly – but I’m not exactly sure – all I know is that it was juicy, interesting and something I typically would not order, because the description was full words I’d never read. I’m very glad I took the chance, and since have made a pledge to get away from my “Go To’s” more often. Hunter, on the other hand, stayed with what he knows – prime ribeye with potato macaire, mushroom, and collard greens. The steak had a very smoky flavor that I wasn’t expecting, and it was truly unique to any other steak I’ve ever tasted.
The desserts were bso eautifully plated that I almost didnt want to eat them! We did, every last bite, and of the two my favorite was the Cheescake & Rye – described perfectly as greek yogurt cheesecake, hazelnut caraway milk crumb, rum raisins, poached pineapple, rye bread ice cream. Heaven I tell you!
You’ll drop some bills at Empire State South, but the foodie experience is worth it. Its casual feel, with elevated menu is fun, the wait staff is friendly and very knowledgeable, and of course the food is superb. Try it out for your next special occasion or celebration – and get some wine. The cheapest Pinot Noir bottle is the best “cheap” wine I’ve had in a long time.
Now with my feet (slightly) wet at SweetWater, this weekend I had a few moments to breathe. I took a short trip to Asheville with my boyfriend and several other buddies for Warren Haynes’ Christmas Jam – an evening long jam/celebration with a number of bands and special guests. I’d been looking forward to this trip for many months – not only for the music, but for the town. I fell in love with Asheville a few years ago when I was in the area for another concert, and have been back a couple more times since. Outside of the charm of the town, the unique shops, and talented, bountiful street performers – Asheville has many amazing restaurants for foodies. From small bistros, to Irish pubs, to hipster holes in the wall, I have literally never had a bad meal in Asheville.
Building up to the excitement of the Saturday night-long concert, the evening before the Jam my group had reservations at The Admiral – a restaurant that has been mentioned to me on several occasions; one of which I knew little about. I did know, however, that if I was going to continue my love affair with Asheville I needed to visit The Admiral ASAP. Located in West Ashville, The Admiral’s exterior is nothing that I expected. Sitting on a small corner directly across the street from an ill-lit gas station and small holiday shop, The Admiral is a squat, pale and unflattering building that looks more like a smoky dive bar than a local foodie gem. The side door brings you onto a porch with a wood burning fireplace, and on this evening some of the locals were enjoying a few beers fireside. Entry into the restaurant provided more surprises. The interior is dim, but glows. The atmosphere is friendly and upbeat without being over-the-top or annoying. Small, candlelit tables and booths scattered the floor – while mismatched decor pieces, homemade holiday ornaments and paper snowflakes lined the ceiling and walls of the narrow dining space, which seats at full capacity no more than 50-60 guests.
The menu is split between salads, small plates, full entrees and a short list of cheese & dessert options. Upon first glance the menu items seemed a bit pricy, with small plates ranging between $10 – $15 and entrees between $22 – $30. However, the exposed kitchen allowed me to preview a number of dishes as they were being delivered to anxious diners. As the plates started moving to surrounding tables, I asked our waiter to (discreetly) identify some of our neighbor’s dishes. I was pleasantly surprised that most of the amazing dishes I was eying were in fact the small plates, and were plenty substantial for one. The entrees were even larger. And every dish that ordered at my table of (6) was perfectly cooked, seasoned, plated and unique.
For a quick rundown of some of the dishes we ordered:
Me: For my starter – A cheese plate with Appalachian Cheese (cow) and Lenora Cheese (goat) with apricot chutney, apple slivers and toasted baguette. My main dish – the beef tenderloin tartare ‘small plate’, which arrived on a large cutting board. My server graciously “walked” me through the board. Along with the tartare, I had another marbled cheddar cheese, a 64 degree egg, crumbled egg white, siracha aioli, apple slivers, homemade pickles (or pickle like things), radish and toasted baguette.
Hunter: Ribeye steak, with Black Eye Pea-Fennel Ragu, Pimenton Whipped Chevre and Pickled Crimini Mushroom. The steak, as pictured, was almost a “contest” portion – “finish-the-steak-in-under-30mins- and- win- a- TShirt” size portion. Also, the chef nailed the medium rare request – something that we have had troubles with elsewhere… even at fine dining establishments know for steak.
My other friends enjoyed: Crispy sweetbreads with jasmine rice – Sweetbreads, as I learned, are the pancreas of young cows, piglets and lambs (under 1 year old). I was too focused on my food to sample the sweetbreads, but now it’s on the top of my list of cuisines to try. Ramen – a fancy, BEAUTIFUL ramen with 60 degree egg, fish cake and pork belly. Buttermilk fried grouper and duck dishes were also among the small plates on our table.
Everyone had amazing notes on every dish, the staff was experienced and educated, the wine list included wonderful bottles that didn’t break the bank, and when all was said and done the price of the meal was well worth it. We all ended up spending less, and leaving more impressed than we imagined. I cannot wait to come back to this West Nashville unassuming restaurant – and will probably make this a “must” dining experience every time I visit from here on out.
Anyone looking for a quick, amazingly flavorful, casual brunch/lunch, place Urban Cannibal at the top – vey top – of your list. Set up like a market, with an exposed kitchen in the back, the atmosphere at UCB+B is always bright & upbeat. I literally have to stifle a ‘village idiot’ grin every time I walk in the door. I’m on their e-mail blast, and the last few weeks the ladies of UCB+B have been promoting their back-by-popular-demand “Two Chicks” sammies. (The shop is owned by Calavino Donati and her wife Doria Roberts. Two chicks. Get it? And yes, there is a message behind this particular food offering.) Several varieties of these mini-chicken sandwiches are on the menu, ie: Original, Spicy, Club, Breakfast, and Deluxe. I was planning on taking it easy by ordering an original, but the chef behind the grill sold me on the “What Came First” Chicken, Egg & Cheese Breakfast Biscuit and the Two “Spicy” Chicks Sandwich.
The Spicy was simple & solid – a small lightly batter chicken breast on toasted buttered bun with Spicy sauce (a mustard & mayo mix) and pickles. Maybe a LITTLE too much sauce for my taste, but overall a very good, cheap, chicken sandwich. Unfortunately this chick was overshadowed – like Foghorn-Leghorn-walked-in-and-had-his-way-with-every-other-chick-in-the-place overshadowed, by the “What Came First” Breakfast sandwich.
This flavor masterpiece combines (on one of the best biscuits I’ve ever tasted) lightly battered chicken, a fried egg, maple mayo and gooey melted American cheese – plus the owners & chefs obvious love for their craft and each other. Upon first bite, my eyes instinctively closed and my head slowly shook back and forth in utter disbelief. I’m sure I looked mental. I’m sure I didn’t care. Each bite was much of the same – eyes closed in unshakable focus on the best breakfast sandwich I’ve ever eaten. Mark it. I only hope these two chicks keep “Two Chicks” on their menu throughout the year.
Graveyard Tavern has never been my cup of tea. I had been there late night for drinks once or twice, but the super loud, dance club mixed with industry grunge, blanket of smoke feel always turned me off. It’s one of those establishments where I need to be good and hammered upon arrival to deal. I’d tried some of their bar food in the past – onion rings, wings, etc – and I remember them being good, but food on these nights was an afterthought. Served simply to prevent the group from passing out. Long story short – I rarely gave much thought to Graveyard Tavern.
Browsing through the Scoutmob deals on Thursday, I ran across Graveyard. I skipped immediately past it, but then doubled back. I always want to support EAV, and was pretty sure I had heard a few people over the last few years mention this chef. Maybe I had this local EAV spot pegged all wrong. I began reading what they have to offer for dinner. The Scoutmob writer also noted how crazy this bar gets late night – so suggested to get there early if you’re looking to avoid the madness. After convincing John Hunter, we made the very short trip to the village and headed to Graveyard to give this very popular hotspot another shot. I’m so glad I gave Graveyard Tavern that chance! The menu options were impressive, the meals served were excellent (and beautiful), and my particular dish immediately landed on my Top Meals of EAV.
JH went with a usual favorite for him – Hanger Steak. Served with mashed potatoes and asparagus, the plate was beautiful, looked perfectly cooked and surprised me with the level of quality well past bar food that I was expecting. Per the suggestion of our waitress, I ordered pork chop – something I literally have never ordered at a restaurant ever. I love pork, but it never crosses my mind to order it out at restaurants. The brilliantly glazed pork chop arrives on top of cheesy potatoes gratin and bok choy. For starters, the potatoes were very good – not the absolute best, and a little odd mixed with the mainly Asian flavors of the rest of the dish – but still very solid. The stars of this dish were the bok choy and pork chop. Man, I LOVE bok choy – and now plan on buying and cooking this green at home as much as I can. It was delicious, crunchy, flavored perfectly and the best possible side for a honey soy glazed chop. I almost can’t describe the chop, it was that good. The pork chop was a light pink at the very center, extremely juicy, with a thin amount of flavor packed honey soy glaze on the top. A layer of fat rimming the meat kept all flavors in. This is one of my favorite dishes in EAV – up there with the Pho at Soba and a few lunch items from Urban Cannibals.
I am over the moon excited that I have a new love (and new dinner location) for EAV favorite, Graveyard. I will more than likely never step foot in the place past 10:00pm, but there are many more items on this menu I am dying to try and know with confidence that this four-star restaurant cleverly disguised as a seedy hipster bar will continue to impress.
Beka, Preston and I took a short trip from Reston, VA to home of the Oriels; Baltimore, Maryland. I was on the hunt for Maryland crab, not really knowing anything about Maryland crab, how it was served or how to eat it. We have limited time, so we chose to stop in one location with many (albeit touristy/chain options) – Inner Harbor. Outside of the food I was seeking, I was pretty excited that this location was literally down the street from Camden Yards, home of John Hunter’s beloved Oriels. Check off seeing that stadium.
We made our way to the suggested Philips Seafood restaurant, located in a beautiful building with a “crab deck” right on the water – sort of a separate casual dining crab and oyster dock/patio hovering over the water across from the main restaurant. Perfect. Live crabs were being sorted, oysters were being shucked, and brown paper was placed on the long family style tables that served as your “plate” when you ordered crab. And crab I did order; a half dozen Tilghman Island crabs that were placed whole in front of me with nothing else but a mallet. I obviously seemed excited, because our waitress asked “Are these your first Maryland crabs of the season?” We let her know these were my first Maryland crabs ever, and I have no idea where to go from here. She was a great help, and proceeded to take me through a quick, but very informative tutorial of how to get the meat out of the crab – step by step.
“First take off the legs, each leg. — See this “tab”? It’s how we know it’s a boy crab. We only serve boy crabs. Pull up on this tab and he opens up a bit. — These are the lungs. Make sure you take all of the lungs out, because the lungs release toxins that will make you sick. Very sick. Don’t eat the lungs. — You also don’t want to eat the face. Take that off (awesome). – The intestines are in this little cavity. Scoop out the intestines. — This yellow substance you’re seeing is called “mustard”. Some people like it, some don’t. It’s edible, but scoop it out with the intestines if you don’t want to eat it. — Crack this section open, and then see these two “bulbs”? That’s the crab you can eat. — You also have a mallet to crack open the claws.”
I’m up for the task of working my way to the crab meat, and am thrilled that I now know how to take apart a Maryland crab! Great foodie experience in the bag! We also dined on an oyster fritter unlike anything I’ve ever seen, Beka has the famous crab cakes, and I had red potato salad (which I made it to after about 30mins of de-gutting crab). The red potatoes were very fresh and lightly dressed to make it the “salad”; a delicious side to the succulent & delicate crab meat.
As I came to my 7th crab (I ordered 6, but they gave me 8) I threw in the towel. I had a pile of crab parts in front of me, a full belly, filthy dirty hands and fingernails and a huge grin across my face. This is exactly the experience I was looking to have on my trip, and one I will never forget – for the food, and more importantly my best friend and her son in my company.