You know how you have those dishes that you will order no matter what… no matter how much you REALLY want to break the cycle and order something else? Well this is one of those. Every time I go to City House I swear I’m going try one of the many other surely delicious mains on their menu. But no… I will order the Pizza with House Made Belly Ham, Mozzarella, Grana Padano, Oregano, and Chiles (with an egg on top) every time, and I will devour the whole thing in a matter of minutes (proof: I didn’t take this picture, but rather had to borrow it from Melissa Yen—my pizza never lasts long enough for a photo op). I make myself feel better by ordering a host of appetizers (on Friday we had the Octopus with Bread Crumbs, Butterbeans “sott’olio”, and Parsley—AHmazing) and insisting that everyone else let me try their entrées.
Go to City House and order this pizza. You can sacrifice your own culinary variety and thank me later.
Today’s Top Five: Favorite Dishes from Veggie-palooza
Our second year of giving up meat for Lent (“Veggie-palooza”, as we called it) was a raging success. Yep, I’m throwing modesty to the wind and patting myself on the back for making some seriously tasty meatless dishes. So you too can forgo the meat with confidence, here are our top 5 favorites:
- Fingerling Potato-Leek Hash with Swiss Chard and Eggs (Cooking Light, April 2011). This was so good that we made it two nights in a row. I can’t think of a single meaty dish I’ve made two nights in row. What can I say? I’m a sucker for swiss chard and a fried egg.
- Cream of Garlic Soup (Susan Spicer’s Crescent City Cooking). I saw this dish featured on the Food Network’s The Best Thing I Ever Ate and got (a little too) excited when I realized the recipe was already on my shelf. If you’re a serious garlic lover (whose mate is similarly inclined), then this over-the-top roasted garlicness is for you.
- Chickpea Salad with Lemon, Parmesan, and Fresh Herbs (Bon Appetit, April 2011). This is my new “go-to” side dish. It is as simple as it is ridiculously delicious. Bill took it to work for lunch one day and begged me to make a double batch the next week.
- Spring Green Risotto (Ina Garten’s Back to Basics). Aptly named, this risotto tastes like spring in a bowl and gets better with every bite.
- Asparagus, Fingerling Potato, and Goat Cheese Pizza (Bon Appetit, May 2009). This pizza was, hands down, the best I’ve made. That should be enough description for you. Go make it. (Note: I didn’t use BA's crust recipe; I had some frozen dough that I made a while back. But I'm sure theirs is delightful.)
So there you have it. The five keys to our veggie success. Try these dishes when you get a chance… I dare you to tell me you miss the meat.
Veggie Review: Caffé Nonna
By far, our favorite dinner outing as vegetarians was to Caffé Nonna in Sylvan Park. I’m not just saying that because Nonna is less than two miles from where we live, or because its intimate interior hosts possibly the most charming atmosphere in Nashville to the point where I want to set up camp under one of the tables. No, this place is a legit destination for vegetarian eaters.
The key is the choose-your-own-adventure pasta and pizza offerings and I went for the pasta. My current favorite is the rigatoni with sun-dried tomato cream and sauteed spinach. Be forewarned: the sauteed spinach isn’t on the list of veggies to add, but it’s must-do hidden option. I asked my waiter to suggest veggies for my pasta and sauce combination and this is what he brought me. We went back to Nonna this week—as meat eaters—and I ordered the same thing.
The kicker, though, is that the best dish on the menu is vegetarian. Their Lasagna Nonna is layered with butternut squash, spinach, ricotta, and swiss chard, surrounded by two sauces that I can only describe as sinful. Bill and I fought over who got to order the lasagna for our first few visits, so we now trade off. This time was his “turn.”
So when you boil that cabbage down, here’s the bottom line:
- How easy is it to be a vegetarian at Caffé Nonna? Easy and delightful. Don’t let the number of meat- and fish-laden dishes on the menu fool you.
- If you go back as a vegetarian, will you have to eat the same thing? Absolutely not. I could go nuts with the pizza and pasta combinations, and I haven’t even tried the Nonna White Bean soup or the salads.
- If you do have to eat the same thing twice, will you be upset about it? No. Did I mention that I ordered the same vegetarian dish twice in a row?
Caffé Nonna is one of our favorite places to eat and, happily, a staple for the vegetarian 40 days in our year. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s so damn cute.
Veggie Review: Eastland Cafe
For the second year in a row, Bill and I have given up meat for Lent. So far (5 days in), this go-round has been much easier: I’ve had my eyes peeled for new and interesting vegetarian recipes for months and have more dishes I want to cook than days until we’re back eating meat. That being said, the most challenging part of this experiment, eating out, is the same. So, if only to make next year even easier, I’m going to review our forays into vegetarian eating in Nashville.
First up: Eastland Cafe. This was our first time to this East Nashville spot and it’s already on my list of staples. The atmosphere is inviting, the staff is welcoming, and the incredible kitchen smells hit you the minute your foot crosses the threshold. They had me at homemade-and-still-hot-from-the-oven bread when we sat down.
We started with the goat cheese brulee with local honey; we loved it. Off to a good start. When we looked for entrées, though, I think I had an easier time than Bill did: I love making two appetizers my meal, while he prefers a full-portion main. So he had the only vegetarian entrée on the menu, local linguine with broccoli rabe and a host of other vegetables, and I had a simple salad with house-pulled mozzarella and a bowl of french onion soup. Everything was delicious and satisfying; we didn’t miss the meat (much).
But when you boil that cabbage down, here’s the bottom line:
- How easy is it to be a vegetarian at Eastland Cafe? Moderate-to-difficult. While there are several vegetarian appetizers and salads, there is only one vegetarian entrée and none of the specials (though delicious-sounding) were veggie-friendly.
- If you go back as a vegetarian, will you have to eat the same thing? It depends. If you’re like me and are happy with a salad and a veggie app, you’ll have options. If not, I hope you like their one entrée offering.
- If you do have to eat the same thing twice, will you be upset about it? NO. The food we had was so good that I would gladly double up.
In sum, we will rush back to Eastland Cafe as soon as we’re meat-eaters again, and not just for the house-cured bacon. Well, maybe just for the house-cured bacon.
I made my own pasta. It made me feel like a badass. That is all.
Oh. My. Foie.
Bill and I have been waiting (very patiently, I might add) to try foie gras for the first time. We wanted our first foie experience to be incredible and done correctly. When our Montreal trip was in the works, we tried everything to land a reservation at the famed foie paradise, Au Pied du Cochon. Alas, no such luck; apparently our week-ahead call was 51 weeks late. Down but not out, we resolved ourselves to keep waiting… until last night. For my birthday, I asked Bill for a no-holds-barred dinner at Watermark, one of the best restaurants in Nashville. Within the first 5 seconds of being handed our menus, we saw it: Hudson Valley Foie Gras ‘A’, served with local fig and brioche bread pudding, candied pecans, and peach gastrique. Angels sang. Trumpets played. The heavens parted. The wait was over.
How did I love it? Let me count the ways, but not here; I’m not going to try to describe the flavor. Not only would it be impossible, but I would never destroy the mystery for someone who, like me, might’ve been waiting for the right opportunity to try their first foie.
Thanks to the folks at Watermark for a flawless (yes, flawless) first piece of foie gras. Though I can’t be certain the next will live up to it, I’m okay with chasing another piece of perfect foie.
I spent the last few days eating my way through Montreal with my extended family: grilled arctic char, perfectly-roasted rack of lamb… what’s not to love? And while the artfully crafted entrées at some of the city’s finest restaurants were outstanding, my favorite meal, bar none, was the hodge-podge of local flavor at a Montreal market, Marché Atwater. I don’t know if it was the row of fresh raspberries, the house-made charcuterie, or the ever-present smell of freshly baking bread… or the fact that I was so damn hungry from trekking my tail through the streets, but I was bewitched. I’ve never tasted cheese so good, duck paté so subtle and delicate, or a croissant (with the perfect amount of slightly warm dark chocolate in the center) so luscious. I could write poems about this food.
If you find yourself north of the border, I highly recommend wandering through this quaint but sprawling Montreal market. I regret that I didn’t get any pictures of the spread… I must have been too busy stuffing my face.
This Saturday morning, I raked myself out of the all-too-warm bed to make cranberry-orange scones for my husband, who has been (very nicely and very frequently) requesting them.
And yes, they’re shaped like hearts. Judge all you want.