Days 4 & 5 – Nashville: Music & BBQ – Nashville style

Nashville is known for southern cuisine such as barbecue, but it is better known as Music City. Its music roots began in the early 1800’s and accelerated greatly after the building that is known as the Ryman Auditorium was built.

Because of the city’s reputation, I was determined to experience some live music. I checked on my trip planning document and I was dismayed that the bluegrass jam that I intended on seeing was cancelled.

After researching the local honky-tonk bars, I settled on Layla’s on Lower Broadway, or what the locals call “Lower Broad”. Live music can be heard midday on the Lower Broad and the action only gets livelier in the evening.

Inside Layla's
Inside Layla’s

We entered Layla’s mid-afternoon and a blues band was playing. Couples were dancing to the music and having a good time. If you didn’t order a beer, your drink was served to you in a plastic dixie cup.  No need for a bar sink, I thought to myself.

I was hoping to see some bluegrass music, but the next band was focused on country rock.  We left and headed next door to Jack’s Bar-B-Que. A number of people were lined up outside getting ready to attend the evening performances.

I was surprised by the fact that they offered different regional offerings: Tennessee Pork Shoulder, Texas Beef Brisket, Smoked Texas Sausage and St. Louis Ribs. I overheard one of the staff mention that his favorite was the brisket and so I ordered a brisket plate with coleslaw and baked beans.

Brisket with coleslaw and baked beans
Brisket with coleslaw and baked beans

I combined the brisket with a generous amount of Tennessee BBQ sauce. The sauce wasn’t spicy, but it was certainly heavy on the vinegar side. Consequently, it made me slightly wince when I took in a piece with too much sauce.

My mom ordered the Pulled Pork Sandwich and after sampling the sauces, she decided she liked the Memphis BBQ sauce. I probably should have sampled the different sauces, but I was too hungry and impatient.

Five Daughters, 12 South
Five Daughters, 12 South

The next day happened to be Halloween and it was our last day in Nashville. We checked out of our hotel and headed to one of Nashville’s hottest donut shops, Five Daughter’s Bakery.

I went there primarily to get a “to-go” box to take home to the family. I picked up a box of 5 of their fall flavors: Huckleberry with light chestnut cream infusion / Pumpkin with pumpkin cheesecake infusion / Chocolate Coffee Crunch / Apple Praline / Pumpkin Spice and King Kong (Maple/Bacon).

Donuts from Five Daughters
Donuts from Five Daughters

After seeing them boxed, it was tough not diving into one of them. I was surprised at how heavy the box was. I found out that they are particular on their ingredients: grass-fed French butter, organic when possible, no chemical preservatives, no GMO, no hydrogenated oils, no soy, no artificial colors or soy. I chuckled to myself, “these are donuts you can feel good about eating!”

z_signBreakfast was at Pancake Pantry which is located in the Hillsboro / West End section of Nashville. I was ecstatic that the first 2.5 hours of parking was free as I paid huge amounts to park the car in downtown Nashville.

The Pancake Pantry is a breakfast / lunch diner. The service was prompt, friendly and efficient. I selected their seasonal special: apple with walnut pancake and my mom went healthy on me and selected buckwheat pancakes.

Apple Walnut Pancakes
Apple Walnut Pancakes
Buckwheat Pancakes
Buckwheat Pancakes

I was very happy with my selection. The medium sized pancakes were topped with apples, walnuts with an apple syrup. My mom kept commenting that her pancakes were dark and looked like chocolate pancakes and as she ate them, she was really happy with her selection.

The AT&T (A.K.A. Batman) Building
The AT&T (A.K.A. Batman) Building

After breakfast, we drove to the airport and headed back home. I really enjoyed the trip and I hope my mom did as well. While we didn’t get to do the ideal music event, I think overall, it was a good time in Music City. I’d definitely return to see an act at the Ryman Auditorium. After all, the Ryman has the second best acoustic auditorium in the US next to the Mormon Tabernacle.

 

Advertisements

Day 4 – Nashville: Learning about Letterpress Printing

Sunrise over Nashville
Sunrise over Nashville

This morning, I looked out the window and noticed a beautiful sunrise. It is little things like this that I appreciate.

As much as I enjoy visiting independently owned restaurants, I also enjoy visiting independent coffee shops. The owner’s personality is usually reflected in both the establishment and the offerings. Red Bicycle in Germantown, is no different.

Red Bicycle in Germantown
Red Bicycle in Germantown

Walking inside, you immediately experienced the distressed wood look. Various different types of red bicycles are depicted on their walls. This is the type of place people feel comfortable frequenting and it invites conversation.

While Red Bicycle sells bagels, donuts and oatmeal, the real draw is their made-to-order crepes. A good assortment of both sweet and savory crepes are offered. My mom ordered the Sunrise (eggs & cheese) with her meat choice being chorizo.

Florentine Crepe
Florentine Crepe
Sunrise Crepe with chorizo
Sunrise Crepe with chorizo

I selected the Florentine crepe. This was filled with eggs, cheese, mushrooms and spinach. I like how they decorate the top of each crepe with some of the interior ingredients. This not only adds to the presentation, but also helps identify which crepe belongs to who.

Of the two crepes, I preferred my mom’s more. I remarked to her that most choirzo is so greasy, you usually don’t feel good about eating it. This one was very lean, yet still full of flavor. Mine was similar to eating a spinach and mushroom omelette. The light roast coffee and the Americano were both delicious beverages.

One of the many guitars in the Johnny Cash museum
One of the many guitars in the Johnny Cash museum

The Johnny Cash Museum is ideally located just off Lower Broadway. They offer a self guided tour through an extensive collection of Johnny Cash’s works and belongings. Most of the items were donated by longtime friend Bill Miller. The museum is quite a legacy to the fabled singer.

Both my mom and I needed souvenirs and what a better place to go than to the Goo Goo Shop. I already knew that it was across the street from the Johnny Cash museum and so we made good use of our parking.

Making the Rocky Roadkill Goo Goo Cluster
Making the Rocky Roadkill Goo Goo Cluster

The Goo Goo Shop was an unexpected surprise. It turned out to be a combination retail story, mini factory and ice cream shop. After looking over the general souvenirs and candy, I watched one of their employees making one of the premium Goo Goo clusters. Named the Rocky Roadkill Rocky Roadkill, it was comprised of peanut butter, marshmallow, pretzels, peanuts, and potato chips covered in milk chocolate.

The Hatch Show Print is a historic letterpress shop that operates within the Country Music Hall of Fame building. They designs and prints posters and also produce diverse art work. They have been in operation since 1879.

Inside Hatch Show Print
Inside Hatch Show Print

We took the guided tour. For me, it was a like a walk through printing history. This was during the time when the vocation “printers” existed and when craftsmanship actually meant something.

Hand carved in reverse
Hand carved in reverse

Type is manually set and in the case of posters, it is usually derived from blocks of wood that is individually carved. For events, it is possible that a single graphic image was carved. Because they needed to be reused, they often omitted the year.

I found the tour to be fascinating and they had us create a simple mini poster that we could take home. Fortunately, the type was already set and the ink was predetermined. All we needed to do was to place the roller on the ink well and spread it across the wood type.

 

Day 3 – Nashville: Izakaya Dinner

Small plates makes it easy to order numerous things instead of a single entree. For that reason I decided on visiting a popular izakaya restaurant, Two Ten Jack. While I didn’t inquire I suspect that the restaurant was named after the Japanese card game.

The patio at Two Ten Jack
The patio at Two Ten Jack

Rookie mistake, I neglected to make reservations. The hostess didn’t appear to want to accommodate us and so we were pretty much relegated to the bar or to a dark communal table. My mom surprised me and selected the communal table.

Sitting so close to everyone, you can avoid hearing everyone’s conversations. There was a group of four that looked fresh out of college and they were focused on learning where to buy Japanese ingredients in Nashville. The couple to my left was extremely quiet and the lady next to me was intent on checking out everything I ordered.

Because we were so tightly seated, I didn’t want to cause a distracting my taking pictures and artificially lighting my dishes. It was so dark, that I could not make out the visual details of many of the items we ate that evening.

We were light on veggies this trip and so I selected the brussels sprouts and the “Two Ten Jack” salad. The brussels sprouts were similar to the crispy type that many LA restaurants serve except that they included strips of nori to give it some additional taste and texture. The Two Ten Jack salad was their version of a cobb salad.

Although ramen is probably the most popular item to order there, I decided to focus on their yakitori. Since they were priced individually, I ordered two each: kurobuta sausage, wagyu beef short ribs and shiitake mushrooms.

Wagyu beef is known for its intense marbling and so I was expecting something that was moist and tender. While the beef was cut into 3/4″ chunks, they were fairly dense, dry and more like filet mignon in nature. The kurobuta sausage had a nice casing, but that too, was extremely lean. Our favorite was the shiitake; it was cut into 1″ squares and served basted with a sweet & salty shoyu sauce.

Jeni's Splendid Ice Cream
Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream

We walked to the end of “warehouse row” to find a Jeni’s Splendid Ice Cream. Both of our ice cream selections were delicious – I had the Whiskey Praline and my mom selected the Wildberry Lavender.

Wildberry Lavender (top) and Whiskey Praline (bottom)
Wildberry Lavender (top) and Whiskey Praline (bottom)

 

 

Day 3 – Nashville: Country Music

When we were on the trolley yesterday, the driver pointed out a few of the city’s more popular restaurants. Two of them had a line of at least twenty people: Biscuit Love and Hattie B’s. Concidentially, they were both on our agenda tht day!

Front doors to Biscuit Love
Front doors to Biscuit Love

To avoid waiting in line, we arrived at Biscuit Love when they opened: 7:00 a.m. We lucked out because there were only ten or so dining inside the restaurant and the large family in front of us let us go ahead of them. The restaurant gets its name because many of their dishes feature their homemade biscuit.

My mom and I have similar tastes and we will often order the same thing. I was toying between the “East Nasty” and the “Southern Benny”. It turned out that she ordered the Southern Benny which made my selection automatic, the East Nasty.

Southern Benny
Southern Benny
The East Nasty
The East Nasty

The Southern Benny is an open face biscuit sandwich layered with thin slices of ham, sausage gravy and two fried eggs. My “East Nasty” was a huge fried chicken sandwich with sausage gravy. As good as the biscuit was, I left that behind and focused on eating the delicious chicken.

img_1883Our next stop was the Farmer’s Market. I mistakenly thought that it was located at Centennial Park and was surprised to see a charity event taking place. After speaking to a local, I discovered that the Farmers’s Market is situated at Bicentennial Park.

Beautiful peppers
Beautiful peppers

Nashville is obiviously not having the same issues as LA. Pumpkins were galore and ones that would cost $30-40 were only $8 here. Peppers and tomatoes were vibrant in color and the apples weren’t shined over with wax. Unfortunately, I could not find items like homemade preserves, gourmet honey and cookies – things that I could potentially take home as souvenirs.

Hattie B’s was our lunch destination and we arrived at their front door 10 minutes prior to their opening. Already there were approximately 30 people were in line waiting for the door to open. After waiting 30 minutes outside and another 10 minutes in front of the counter, we finally placed our order.

Kid's Meal - one piece chicken and black eyed peas
Kid’s Meal – one piece chicken and black eyed peas
Two piece fried chicken, mac & cheese, coleslaw
Two piece fried chicken, mac & cheese, coleslaw

My mom was still full from breakfast and so she ordered a kid’s meal – one piece of chicken and a side of black eyed peas. I like juicy chicken and so I ordered the two piece dark meat with medium spice. The skin was extremely crispy and delicious. Fortunately, it was not as hot as I was expecting it to be. I only needed 4 paper towels to wipe my forehead.

Impressive Hatch Show Print artwork over the ticket booth
Impressive Hatch Show Print artwork over the ticket booth
Pedal Steel Guitar
Pedal Steel Guitar

The Country Music Museum is a massive two story visual encyclopedia on the history of country music. It is filled with photographs, posters, custom displays, automobiles and is a very informative to the casual or knowledgable fan of country music. A sizable section of the museum is dedicated to the relationship and the near 40 years of collaboration that took place between Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.

A view of the restaurant from the second floor of the museum
A view of the restaurant from the second floor of the museum

Day 2 – Nashville: Dinner at City House

img_1849When I did my research on Nashville, I discovered that City House is one of the most popular restaurants in town. To ensure I would be able to eat there, I made reservations about a month ago. I wasn’t going to repeat the mistake I recently made in Vancover.

I also learned that chef Tandy Wilson won this year’s James Beard award for the best chef in the Southeast. His food is Southern, with a strong Italian influence. That was enough for me to select City House as one of the places we would visit.

City House is a bi-level restaurant with a dedicated bar area. We were seated near the open kitchen. Our server, Michael, was extremely knowledgable about their offerings and how everything was prepared. This made decision making quick and easy.

We already knew that we were going to split a pizza. Our server indicated that the crust is extremely thin and we may want to order something else. I’m lucky that my mom lets me select; if she doesn’t want to eat it, she’ll simply say “it’s yours”.

Octopus Za-atar with winter squash and buttermilk crema
Octopus Za-atar with winter squash and buttermilk crema

I know she typically doesn’t eat seafood, but I had to order the octopus za-atar. What caught my interest is the fact that pan seared octopus is typically an Italian dish and it was combined with za-atar (North African) spices. The octopus was perfectly cooked so that it wasn’t chewy and the za-atar seasoning was delicious. It was combined with sliced winter squash and buttermilk crema.

Scrapple
Scrapple

When I traveled with my mom to Philadelphia, we had traditional Pennsylvania Dutch scrapple. When Michael explained that City House makes theirs with pork shoulder and grits, it was a no brainer to select that as our second appetizer. My mom surprised me by stating that she preferred this scrapple over the one we had in Philadelphia.

Belly Ham Pizza with a farm fresh egg
Belly Ham Pizza with a farm fresh egg

The Belly Ham Pizza appeared to be one of their most popular items. We ordered it with a “farm fresh” egg on top. It was served with melted mozzarella cheese, but without a pizza sauce. The crust was extremely thin and crisp. We both loved it.

Butterscotch Panna Cotta
Butterscotch Panna Cotta

I’ve recently developed a liking for panna cotta and their dessert menu listed a butterscotch version. This was topped with a dollop of whipped cream and chopped chocolate pralines. To complement the richness of the dessert, two pecan wedding cookies accompanied this dish. The dessert was absolutely delicious.

 

Day 2 – Nashville: The World Famous Ryman Auditorium

I really enjoy guided tours. The reason for this is that they are often led by people that are really interested in the subject matter. I’ve even seen volunteers lead tours and often they describe things with so much passion that it makes me understand why the tour has so much significance.

The Ryman Auditorium as seen from the Old Town Trolley
The Ryman Auditorium as seen from the Old Town Trolley

One of the tours I purchased in advance was the Ryman Auditorium guided tour. Since it included a walk-through backstage, I felt that it would be an opportunity that the average person would not experience.

Inside the Ryman Auditorium. This venue only has 2,300 seats.
Inside the Ryman Auditorium. This venue only has 2,300 seats.

Upon arrival, we were directed to their upstairs theater. We watched a very short documentary. Despite the short length of the video, we were left with a deep appreciation of the historical significance of the Ryman Auditorium.

We were able to see three different dressing rooms. Johnny Cash and June Carter, Women of Country Music and the Minnie Pearl rooms. Our tour leader provided details of everything in the room including who was depicted in each of the photographs. What was interesting was the fact that the lobby, ticket office and the dressing rooms were built during the remodel that started in 1994.

The line inside Arnold's Country Kitchen
The line inside Arnold’s Country Kitchen

We made a dash for lunch as I understood that this was one of the most popular lunch spots in Nashville – Arnold’s Country Kitchen. In addition, it is only open Mondays through Fridays. The food is served cafeteria-style and even though we arrived at 11:00am, there were about twenty people in line.

Fried Catfish, Fried Tomatoes, Cauliflower Casserole and Pecan Pie
Fried Catfish, Fried Tomatoes, Cauliflower Casserole and Pecan Pie
Chicken Dumplings, Fried Green Tomatoes and Corn Pudding
Chicken Dumplings, Fried Green Tomatoes and Corn Pudding

Despite their James Beard award and the long line, both of us were mildly disappointed with our meals. While I enjoyed my fried catfish and the cauliflower casserole, it was good and not outstanding. My mom disliked the fried green tomatoes and the corn pudding. She did, however, like the chicken dumplings.

Tootsie's Orchid Lounge
Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge

We spent the afternoon on the Hop On Hop Off Bus and took a complete round trip tour around Nashville. Midway through the loop, our driver pointed out Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. He said most of the major country music stars started their career there. He added that one of the most famous business dealings there was when Willie Nelson pitched the song Crazy to Patsy Cline’s husband. The rest is history.

Historic Marathon Works building
Historic Marathon Works building

Upon departing the bus, we walked through the shops at the Marathon Works building. During the early 1900’s this building produced the Marathon automobile. To date, Marathon has been the only automobile manufacturer in Nashville. Now, it houses shops that sell handmade goods.

 

 

 

Day 1 – Nashville: The Trip from LAX

After my dad passed away, I try to take my mom on a short trip each year. We typically do a 4 day trip somewhere in the US. To date, we’ve done Seattle, Chicago (twice), St. Louis, Milwaukee, Carlsbad and Memphis. This time we selected the country music capitol, Nashville, Tennessee.

Neither of us are country music fans and so planning for this trip was interesting. I’m glad that my mom likes my quirks about eating local food. She also likes many of my choices for sightseeing and so we were already compatible vacation partners.

We left LAX at 9 a.m. and had a short lay-over in O’Hare. Fifty five minutes later we touched down at Nashville International Airport.

After picking up our bags and finding out car, it was already 6 p.m. Our hotel was about a twenty minute drive south. Since we wanted to quickly adjust to the timezone, we decided to find our dinner destination.

I picked nearby Judge Bean’s BBQ. Their website indicated that they serve the “Best BBQ east of the Mississippi”. Figuring that claim was fairly lofty, we went there anyway.

img_1809I was happy to find that Judge Bean’s BBQ is in a modest building and looked like something the locals would frequent. The restaurant was half-full which is probably not surprising for a Thursday evening.

My mom and I both ordered meat platters. Mine came with pulled pork, baby back ribs, coleslaw and mac & cheese. My mom’s came with pulled pork, turnip tops and fried okra.

Pulled Pork, Fried Okra and Turnip Greens
Pulled Pork, Fried Okra and Turnip Greens
Pulled Pork, Baby Back Ribs, Mac & Cheese, Coleslaw
Pulled Pork, Baby Back Ribs, Mac & Cheese, Coleslaw

We were both pleased with our meals. My mom thought that the turnip tops were a bit spicy. Since the pulled pork lacked seasoning and sauce, we added their house BBQ sauce. Their vinegar based BBQ sauce was tangy and satisfying. I thought the ribs had a nice smoke flavor and were finished off so that they were slightly crisp out the outside.