Friday, 7 March 2014
Welcome to the first post in a new series called 'The Memory Dish'. Each week, I'll feature a recipe inspired from my travels, from far flung locations to a wee local cafe. Whether it's a great cocktail from a memorable bar, or something to dazzle at dinner, rest assured it will be tasty, fun and simple. Trust me - I'm not one for a complicated show in the kitchen. So with no further ado, welcome to the first Memory Dish!
Every meal I had in Jordan was preceded by a table of flatbreads, hummous, abbouleh and fattoush. Each time they appeared, I would try to stop myself from going to town on the chewy warm flatbreads, thusly filling myself up before I even got started.
But each time, without fail, I would dig in with such careless abandon that I scarcely cared about the meal to follow. I regret nothing. I could happily sit for hours, scooping up various gloops with a torn shred of bread, gradually working my way through a pile of the things. So what better way to kick off the Memory Dish than with a super simple recipe to recreate them at home.
There are various recipes for authentic Taboon flatbreads, involving rising, kneading and spices.
I have gone for the easy route, adapting a recipe from reliable kitchen hero Jamie Oliver. I have mainly done this because by gum, it's the quickest damn way to make flatbreads. They're also delicious. The yoghurt adds a fluffiness and a hint of tang lacking in simpler no-knead recipes, and my own spice mix gives it a little something extra.
I prefer a mix of wholemeal and white flours, which is what I've included below. But experiment with all other types, by all means. The first time I made these, I used a combination of stoneground wholemeal and plain white flour. It worked well, but was a little dense, which is why I made the switch to self raising white flour. I also added a few spices in, to get more of a Middle Eastern flavour. Of course, if your accompanying dish is spicy, you needn't bother.
I serve these with hummous, but they're also great with baba ganoush and tzatziki.
Adapted from a Jamie Oliver recipe
250g flour (I used 150g white self raising and 100g stoneground wholemeal) plus extra for dusting
1 teaspoon salt
5 coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 scant teaspoon baking powder
250g natural yoghurt
1. Sieve your flours into a bowl.
2. In a pestle and mortar, smash your salt with the spices.
3. Mix your spiced salt into the flours and give it a good stir.
4. Add in your yoghurt, and mix with a wooden spoon until you have a rough dough. Then give it a bit of a knead, until you're left with a smooth dough. You'll probably need to add some extra flour in, but this doesn't take long at all.
5. When you're ready to eat, roll the dough into a sausage and cut into 6 discs. Roll each one into a thin circle. Jamie says the same size as a side plate, which I got a little confused by. You probably won't. I would say roll it as thin as you can without making holes. Do be sure that it's of an even thickness, though, or your cooking times will vary.
6. Heat a non stick frying pan or a griddle pan until it's smoking. When it's ready, pop a flatbread in there and cook for a couple of minutes, until it starts to rise and bubble. Then flip it over and cook on the other side. Mine took around 3 minutes a side - I waited until there was a charred black line from the Bette Griddler to know it was ready.
8. Enjoy! These are best served fresh and warm, but they do keep quite well, unlike other flatbreads. Just pop them into a toaster or a low oven to heat them up.
Monday, 3 March 2014
It all happened so quickly. One minute, I was standing on the feeding platform at the Giraffe Centre, watching four creatures trot elegantly towards me. Then, before I knew it, one of them was kissing me. The long, rough tongue of a giraffe was on my face, and there was nothing I could do about it.
This was, of course, a bit of a staged event. I had been so giddy with the joy of seeing giraffes at such close quarters, that I did whatever the staff told me. At first, I had held out a handful of large pellets, and one of the animals had eaten from my hand.
“Now, put one in your mouth!”
I didn’t have time to consider the practicalities of this instruction. But as soon as I obeyed, the same beautiful giraffe leant in and ate from my mouth. It’s a strange thing, the tongue of a giraffe. At 50cm long, it can span your entire face with one lick. And, in case you were wondering, it does leave a substantial trail of saliva.
It was only in retrospect that I realised how truly peculiar this was. It also left me wondering how happy a giraffe would be, receiving his dinner in such a bizarre manner.
But as I gazed out upon the land they had to graze, I couldn’t question the beauty of their surroundings. There are 95 acres of indigenous woodland at the centre, which are the remains of the forest that used to border Nairobi, the capital of Kenya.
The Giraffe Centre (giraffecenter.org) was founded in 1979, when the Rothschild breed was an endangered species. Only 120 were left in a small area of Western Kenya, which was about to be divided. Two giraffes were brought to Nairobi to breed, with great success. Most of the calves born at the centre are reintroduced to the wild when they are two years of age.
As well as the feeding platform, the centre also houses an educational centre, which is frequently visited by local school children. There’s also a 1.5km trail through some of the dense forestry, where you can spot not only giraffes but an array of wildlife, including warthogs, monkeys and even the occasional leopard.
There’s also a boutique hotel nearby, Giraffe Manor (+254732812896; giraffemanor.com). With rates starting at €750, it certainly isn’t cheap, but at what other hotel will a giraffe stick his head through the window to share your breakfast?
Giraffes aren’t the only creatures being cared for in the area. Just a short distance away is the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (sheldrickwildlifetrust.org), also known as the elephant orphanage.
Once a day, a troop of baby elephants trundle to the middle of a dusty plain, led by a team of staff in bright green jackets. The infants are fed milk as they impatiently jostle for the bottle, nudging each other out of the way as the visitors watch from the sidelines.
When feeding time is over, the herd take to the dusty coloured puddles for a splash around. The staff follow, wielding spades and slinging water over the elephant’s backs to hit the spots their trunks just can’t reach.
The sight of baby elephants splashing and playing would melt the coldest heart. The audience was a mix of young and old, both locals and tourists, all of whom were held captive by the spirited herd.
And when they wandered back to their private nursery, they left a smile on everyone’s face.
This article originally appeared in the Irish Independent.
Tuesday, 25 February 2014
Despite being only a few hours away by plane, there’s a definite feeling of landing in a faraway land as soon as you touch down in Marrakech. Ornate silver lanterns hang in their hundreds outside tiny shops built into the city walls. Scooters zip around the dusty lanes at top speed, weaving in and out of tourists, children and the occasional chicken. Lines of barbeque stalls fill the main square, sending fragrant smoke into the sky as stall holders compete to get your attention.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed in a city that seems to have crammed itself into too small a space. This may be down to the ancient city walls which barricade the Medina, where you’ll find the souks and the square of Jemaa el Fna. Outside of these walls the city breathes a little, and you can wander through some of the numerous gardens dotted around.
The Marjorelle Gardens are a botanical oasis to the north of the Medina, with vivacious cacti and flowers. They’re also home to the ashes of Yves St Laurent (which explains the daily presence of pilgrimaging fashionistas) and a lovely, though pricey, café.
Once night falls, Jemaa el Fna is the only place to be. Pick one of the many restaurants dotted around the sides of the square, and enjoy the view over the hustle and bustle while nursing a tagine and cous cous. Afterwards, get a freshly squeezed orange juice for 40c and stroll around, keeping an eye on the ground for strays from the numerous snake charmers.
I quickly learnt to listen for the sound of the flutes that indicated a charmer was close by. This was my signal to move as quickly as I could in the opposite direction.
While the barbeque stands can look intimidating, they are also difficult to resist. For a few euro, you can fill up on succulent meats and seafood, cooked in front of you over hot coals. The tables are cheap and cheerful, and you’ll often find yourself moved along if more people arrive, but it’s an experience not to be missed. Order a healthy variety and tuck in, scooping up your supper with the flatbreads that accompany every meal in Marrakech.
When the commotion of the square becomes too much, the best thing to do is retreat to one of the many Hammams spread throughout the Medina. These traditional bathing areas can often be found within the Riads (guesthouses) and consist of a variation of steaming, scrubbing and soaking.
On my last night in Marrakech I made my way down the alleyways and side streets and through the nondescript door of Mille et une Nuits Hammam.
As with most of the buildings in the city, the inside opened up like a tardis to reveal a huge space, with decadent day beds and thick stone walls. I stripped down and was led to a smaller side room, where a bucket of warm water was sluiced over me.
Black Moroccan soap was scrubbed into my tired limbs before I relaxed in the steam room, the commotion of the city melting away as the steam washed over me.
Just before the heat became overwhelming, I was led back for my ‘gommage’ or scrub. The therapists worked away the grime of the city in long motions, leaving me squeaky clean and rosy cheeked.
The experience drew to a close with a spritz of rose water and a mint tea as I laid back on the day bed, waiting to re-join the never ending activity outside, as the city came to life for another evening.
This article originally appeared in the Irish Independent.
Thursday, 20 February 2014
I need to be honest when I say that I hadn't heard of the Grand Ole Opry before I went to Nashville. It was something that came up a few times in conversations prior to my trip, but I was still fairly in the dark about it.
To put it in fairly simple, potentially blasphemous terms - the Grand Ole Opry is the Vatican City of country music. And the Ryman Auditorium is Sistine Chapel.
In more accurate terms, the Grand Ole Opry began as a country music radio show in 1925. A lot has changed since then - venues, members, even country music itself. But the show is still broadcast live every week.
I took a tour of the Ryman a few days before the Opry performance I went to. As somewhat of a country music novice, there were things on display that went over my head, and things that didn't light a spark under me (aside from the outfits of Dolly Parton, of course)
What did strike me is the story of two women, both of whom had an integral part to play in the story of the Grand Ole Opry.
Lula C. Naff
|The stage at the Ryman Auditorium|
In 1920, the Ryman Auditorium hired Lula C. Naff as general manager. As I walked through the timeline displayed in the venue, it became very clear that Lula was a feisty powerhouse, who kept the troubled Ryman in the black for five decades, and ran the place with an iron fist.
In those times, it would have been unheard of for a woman to undertake this role. To avoid the sexism she would have undoubtedly encountered, Lula referred to herself in all correspondence under the name LC Naff. By the time she met those she'd been doing business with, the fact that she was a woman could not undermine the fact that she was getting the job done.
I just love the idea of a guy meeting her for the first time, and realising that LC was Lula. Had this ever been an issue, I would have loved to have seen her reaction.
Regardless of her gender, the management style and success of Naff was legendary, and her influence and power still lives on in the Ryman.
Minnie Pearl (Sarah Cannon)
A bronze statue of Minnie Pearl is one of the first things you see upon entering the Ryman. With her Sunday best on and a price tag poking out of her hat, Minnie graced the stage of the Opry for over fifty years. Something of a 'hillbilly comedian', Minnie would gently poke fun at Southern culture, her family members, and mostly herself. Each performance would begin with a raucous "Hoooowdeee!" to which the audience members would echo their response.
It scared the life out of me when a person watching a clip at the Ryman loudly did the same.
Perhaps most importantly, she played an enormous role in cancer research. After recovering from breast cancer, she became a spokeswoman for the local centre where she was treated, as well as setting up the Minnie Pearl Cancer Foundation. Just prior to her death, the centre became the Sarah Cannon Research Institute, and the role she played in awareness and the early detection of cancer is immeasurable.
Tuesday, 28 January 2014
|Pilgrims who continue to Cape Finisterre traditionally strip off at the beautiful end point. What they do for the walk back is anyone's guess.|
It's always a little embarrassing when someone asks if I've 'done' the Camino de Santiago. This is because while, technically, I have been there and, even more technically, I have walked it, the process took less than ninety minutes. Yes, my pilgrimage in its entirety took less time than it takes to watch Elf.
That said, I did spend a good few days in the region sussing out different routes, hostels and (ahem) vineyards.
So while I can't profess to know much about blisters, walking packs or how to avoid that annoying person you pick up on your first day, I can give you some good ideas for how to tackle the infamous pilgrimage.
|A former NYPD cop finishes in Santiago|
1. By Bike
If I were ever to complete the Camino de Santiago, I would definitely do it on a bike. Sure, you lose a few cool points by not trudging mile after mile, and you have to travel a little further to get your certificate, but you do get to cover more ground and work up some speed. You'll probably miss out on some chats with fellow pilgrims, but this may not be a bad thing. And cycling is a great way to clear the head, so don't let anyone tell you it's any lesser than walking.
Followthecamino.com have packages from Burgos to Ponferrada, which takes seven days.
2. By Horse
How cool would this be? When you pass the other pilgrims, you won't be speeding past them on a bike, but trotting past them, aloft your stallion. Possibly waving a handkerchief.
Walk the Camino have a horseback which costs £1,800 for 7 days.
3. In Style
Sure, you can walk the Camino and do what most other pilgrims do - find a hostel each night, eat the same thing at dinner, and start walking at dawn. But if this doesn't quite take your fancy, then you can stay in boutique hotels, enjoy fine dining and luxuriate a little.
Have a look at the Superior Collection on Caminoways.com for packages including stays at cute country cottages.
4. With the Family
I wrote about this trip recently as part of a big family holiday feature, and think it's a fantastic idea. You and the kids will take to the bikes for the last 100km stretch of the camino, covering the last section of the famous French Way from Sarria. You'll cycle around 20km a day (a perfectly reasonable distance, though you'll want to make sure that everyone's able) and stay at a family friendly hotel each night.
The trip costs €666 per adult sharing and €601 per child with Caminoways.com
5. The good old fashioned way
Let's get down to basics. You're not looking for the bells and whistles of an aided tour. You just want to pull on your boots, get walking and do this alone. And the good news is, it's easy (not the actual walking part, you understand, but the practicalities). You'll just need to decide on your route, break in your boots, and set to it. The facilities for pilgrims along the route are outstanding, with hostels spread at perfect intervals. They cost between €5 - 15 per night, and are all regulated by the Camino. You'll arrive to a dorm room bed, a shower, and plenty of other pilgrims to compare notes with. The variety of accommodation along the way is outstanding - you'll find quaint little stone buildings, monasteries and more. Finding food isn't a problem either - most have set dinners for pilgrims.
Find out more at the official website for the Camino - peregrinossantiago.es/eng/
- The minimum distance you need to cover to get your certificate is 100km. The most popular route is from Sarria to Santiago. Just don't forget to get your passport stamped along the way (this can be picked up from Sarria)
- Don't eat the famous octopus, whatever anyone tells you. Do eat everything else in sight - you've earned it, and Galician food is divine.
- Be sure to try some of the local Albariño wines - Paco & Lola is a beautiful choice, and easily found. Look out for the funky dotty bottle.
|Spot the pilgrims - a group of young walkers reach Santiago|
Sunday, 26 January 2014
|The aptly named Paradise in New Zealand, one of the new locations in The Hobbit|
When you stroll the streets of Manhattan, it’s easy to feel like you’re starring in your own movie. The streets, the skyline and the buzz of the city are so familiar that everything, from the pretzel cart to the yellow cab, feels cinematic. If you’re looking for a specific location from the big screen, the website onthesetofnewyork.com has everything you’ll need, from the deli Meg Ryan so famously enjoyed in When Harry Met Sally (Katz’s Deli) to the bridge where Woody Allen saw the light rise in Manhattan (Queensboro Bridge from Sutton Square) You can take various guided tours of movie hotspots with onlocationtours.com.
- Gohop.ie (01 2412389) have 3 night packages in New York from €481pp, departing Dublin in March.
New York isn’t the only city adored by Woody Allen. Midnight in Paris is an unapologetic love letter to the capital of romance, with ambling shots of moonlit dappled streets and the glittering Seine. While you may not be able to travel back to 1920s Paris as Owen Wilson’s character did, you can stay in the hotel where many scenes were shot. Le Bristol is an elegant 5* hotel in the heart of the fashion and arts district, a stone’s throw from the Champs-Elysées and Place de la Concorde.
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of Peter Jackson’s Tolkien movies, there’s no denying he makes his home country seem irresistible on film. Sweeping shots of dramatic mountains and landscapes seem so beautiful, it’s hard to believe they exist in real life. In the latest instalment of The Hobbit, The Desolation of Smaug, Jackson shot in new locations like the aptly named Paradise in Queenstown, used as the setting for Beorn’s House. You can tour the filming locations on horseback with Dart Stables (dartstables.com) from NZ $175pp (€104). The Shire itself is open at the Hobbiton movie set (hobbitontours.com), near Auckland, home to grass covered hobbit holes and inns. Tours start at NZ$75 (€45).
- Trailfinders have flights to Auckland from €825 (01 677 7888; trailfinders.ie)
Iceland – The Secret life of Walter Mitty
In Ben Stiller’s latest role, he plays the anonymous daydreamer Walter Mitty, who spends his days lost in fantasy. When the opportunity to live out his visions becomes a reality, he sets off on an adventure that was filmed in the stunning country of Iceland. From the Jokulsarlon Glacial Lagoon to the pretty village of Stykkisholmur, the film showcases the breathtaking scenery that the country has to offer. Iceland Travel (icelandtravel.is) have a Secret Life of Walter Mitty self-drive package for €754pp, taking in the various landscapes seen in the film, with accommodation, car hire, transfers and a detailed itinerary. There’s also a Viking sushi boat tour, and breakfast each morning.
Do you grow misty eyed at the memory of Virginia McKenna releasing the lioness Elsa into the wilds of Kenya? Then a trip to the Meru National Park, the setting for Born Free, will be right up your street. The only lodge in the park, Elsa’s Kopje, is hidden in the dramatic Mughwango Hill, above the site of George Adamson’s original campsite. Each cottage is incorporated into the hillside, with amazing views to the plains where giraffes, elephants and buffalo roam freely.
- Mahlatini (mahlatini.com) offer a five night stay in at Elsa’s Kopje in Kenya on an all-inclusive basis with return flights from Dublin from €3,200pp in low season (16 March – 31 May).
Tokyo – Lost in Translation
It may have been the setting for Bill Murray’s midlife crisis, but Tokyo shone through in the 2003 film Lost in Translation. The hectic district of Shibuya plays a strong role in the movie, as does the neon glow of Shinjuku. To recreate the karaoke scene, head to Karaoke Kan in Shibuya, where scenes were filmed in rooms 601 and 602. The hotel featured in the film is the Park Hyatt Tokyo (tokyo.park.hyatt.com), a swish and stylish option with views over the city and out to Mount Fuji. If you can’t afford to stay (rooms start at roughly €270 + tax) then head to the New York Bar, the hotel’s trendy cocktail spot where many scenes were filmed.
- Gohop.ie (01 2412389) have flights to Tokyo from €659pp in March/April.
The pretty Austrian city of Salzburg has long been associated with The Sound of Music, and there are numerous tours that take in the sites you’ll recognise from the film. You can see the Mirabell Gardens and Pegasus Fountain, where Maria danced with the children, and Leopoldskron Palace, used as the façade for the family home. There might be a queue to sing ‘Sixteen Going on Seventeen’ at the Hellbrunn Palace gazebo, but you can spread your arms at the beautiful Lake Wolfgang, where the opening scenes were filmed.
While you won’t be able to get on board at platform 9 ¾, it is possible to board the Hogwarts Express (for part of the journey, at least). At Fort William, the Jacobite steam train travels through the breathtaking Scottish countryside featured in Harry Potter. The most spectacular part of the journey takes place over the Glenfinnan viaduct, where twenty one arches tower over Loch Shiel. If there’s time, the train will pause at the spot where a young Ron Weasley drove a flying car over the tracks. The journey ends at Mallaig, a pretty fishing port where you can grab a bite before the train heads back to Fort William.
NB: All prices correct at time of going to press, but are subject to change/availability.
This article originally appeared in the Irish Independent.
Saturday, 18 January 2014
|Songwriter Sonny LeMaire plays in the Bluebird Cafe|
During the afternoon, he had told us a little about how he writes his songs (up to 200 a year!), what inspires him, and how they take shape. We couldn't exactly ask him to play each one he referred to, so it was great to hear him play in his element.
The Bluebird Cafe is something of a legend. This is where the songwriters perform their songs, which have been typically sung by a different performer. Listening to them sung by the person who put pen to paper is an entirely different experience. There's less of the glitz, the shazam and the firework bikini tops, and you can hear the song in an entirely different light.
The venue itself is tiny, with plenty of patrons crammed into a cosy, glittery space. A series of light-footed waitresses run the room with an iron fist - there's no talking allowed. Hurrah! If only they could work in cinemas too.
There are usually about three or four songwriters in the middle of the room, playing a few songs together, a few alone. When I was there, Billy was playing with Mark Selby, Clay Mills and
Sonny LeMaire, who were in a band together years previous. Their songs were the kind that you desperately want to remember - a melody that sucks you in and grabs you by the shoulders.
Billy sang a few of his big hitters - What If I Was Willing being one of them (click here to watch my exclusive video footage of this from the writer's room). The TV show Nashville often films in the Bluebird, and the cast members have been known to stop by.
The other song of Billy's was Suds in a Bucket, a real country song which was performed by Kelly Pickler on American Idol. Earlier that day, Billy had told the story of how he was sat at home during the performance, when a frantic phone call alerted him to turn on the TV and watch his song being played. After flicking through the channels, he found Idol just as Simon Cowell raged that "there are thousands and thousands of songs to choose from and you choose some gimmicky rodeo lassoing whatever nonsense!"
After some choice words were spoken, Billy remembered the all important fact - that rodeo lassoing song brought the house he was sat in.
Entry to earlier shows is typically free, with the 9/9.30pm performances costing between $7-12. All shows have a $7 food/drink minimum, so get a few Hap and Harry's into you.
Friday, 17 January 2014
I'm often amazed at how many bad pizzas there are in the world. It's something that's reasonably cheap to produce, ingredients wise, so I simply cannot fathom how people can get it so consistently wrong. Where I live, there's a pizza restaurant that prides itself on being the best in the business. But the dough is bland and ever so slightly undercooked, the sauce is in dire need of seasoning, and the toppings are cheap and watery. There's no excuse for it.
So when a genuinely great pizza pops onto my horizon, I get excited.
You could easily walk past B-Soho, at the top of Poland Street, without stopping in. But inside, it provides a welcome reprieve from the mania of nearby Oxford Street. When I popped in for lunch it was 3pm, and the place was empty. So I selfishly took up a whole sofa and table to myself, and settled in with the tastiest glass of Pinot Grigio I've had in a while.
I ordered the Don Piccante pizza from the Express Lunch Menu - a bargain at £8 for a huge pie that was too big for the plate. There were generous slithers of salami, with a great tomato sauce and tasty mozzarella.
But the base was king. Charcoal tinged on the bottom, it was the perfect consistency, with enough chew and bite to sustain the toppings. I would have happily sat with a base alone (and a generous bowl of garlic butter, of course)
In the evenings, B-Soho is apparently filled to the rafters with revellers enjoying cocktails and live music alongside their food - expect to pay around £11-12 for a pizza in the evening. Or saunter up in the daytime for a comfort food hideaway.
B-Soho Cocktail Bar/Pizzeria
21 Poland St
0207 287 1661
Thursday, 16 January 2014
I fly a fair deal. Obviously. I'm fairly used to flying, but each and every time I get to an airport, I am overwhelmed with frustration at the same damn things getting on my nerves. So, as I'm sat in an airport right now, what better time to get them all off my chest?
Bear with me, for I am in foul form.
1. The 100ml liquid limit
And not for the reason you may think. I don't actually care, really, about not taking full sized liquids in my hand luggage. Why? Because this has been the status quo for YEARS now. I am fully aware of what I need to do. When they first brought this rule in, I could understand why it would take a little explaining at security. But now? Seriously, everyone in the world knows about this. There is no reason to stand in a busy security line, as someone pulls out a bin bag full of full sized cosmetics, arguing with the officer about whether or not they're allowed. And while we're in security...
2. People who don't put their security tray back
Whenever I fly out of Gatwick, I spend a good few minutes putting approximately 20 huge trays back where they should be. Why? Because it's basic human manners. It's not someone else's job to do it, and it's not a huge deal, so figure it out.
3. People who don't stand in from the aisle upon boarding
It's perfectly easy to stand in from the aisle and put your hand luggage up in the stowaway bit, rather than making a whole line of people wait behind you. How do I know this? Because I do it EVERY DAMN TIME I GET ON A PLANE.
4. People who leap up as soon as the seatbelt sign goes off
You're not getting off any quicker, buddy. So get your elbow out of my face, because I already have a dimple. The only time it's acceptable to do this is when you're racing like mad to get a connecting flight. If you're collecting hold luggage, then there is never an excuse for it.
5. People who applaud upon landing
I've said this before. Boo if we crash, sure, but don't applaud a basic and expected part of the service.
Huh. It seems that, after completing my list, nothing about flying annoys me. It's flying with people that's the issue.
Monday, 13 January 2014
Ahhh, Nashville. The town that stole my porky little heart. There are so many amazing places to eat, that I don't think I ate one bad meal while I was there. So let's dive in, mouth first, before my head explodes with foodie memories.
This funky spot is right in the heart of downtown, directly opposite the Bridgestone Arena and seconds from Broadway. There's a great rooftop terrace too - while we were there, people were up there spying on the set up for the CMA Awards. Inside, the place has that industrial wasteland Miss Havisham vibe that I adore, with overstuffed leather sofas and mismatching furniture. Foodwise, expect the modern American cuisine that Nashville does so well. Think cornbread fritters, prosciutto sliders, Seitan corndogs. Kale salad is everywhere in Nashville, and theirs comes with beetroots, pine nuts and goat's cheese. I mean, I didn't eat it, but it looked good.
What I ate - poutine, which I have been super excited about eating for years (don't ask). Perfectly cooked french fries with cheese curds and gravy. There's a good selection of beers, too.
Peg Leg Porker
Peg Leg Porker
NOW we're cooking. And we're cooking for 14 hours, low and slow over hickory smoke. Oh, the pork. I still have dreams about that pork. Glistening with smoky, sticky flecks of BBQ goodness, so tender that the meats falls away from itself. You can read what I wrote about Peg Leg's here otherwise I'll end up waxing lyrical here for another ten pages. Just be sure to get the mac and cheese - you know it's the right thing to do.
What I ate - pulled pork, mac and cheese, fries and Tennessee baked beans.
12 South Taproom
If there was such a thing as a hipster magnet, an actual physical magnet that draws hipsters in like magic, this would be it. There were so many beards here. So. Many. Beards. When my food was brought out to me, I came incredibly close to accidentally saying "Thank you, hipster" But I didn't, of course. And the hipsters were all incredibly lovely, I should point out. While we were there, the guy from Lady Antebellum was in with his wife. It's also opposite Dolly Parton's house, which is so cool I could barely stand it. I think I made a poor choice while I was there - there was so much great stuff on the menu and I panicked, then looked longingly around everyone else's plates. I also made the mistake of ordering big - I was worried that 6 chicken wings wouldn't be enough, so I ordered 12. But these chickens? Must have been insanely fat, because each wing was the size of my fist.
What I ate - chicken wings with (shared) sides of mac and cheese, mixed beans and amazing roasted Brussels sprouts.
Read the menu here.
What I ate - chicken and waffles (and bacon)
Read the menu here.
I ate here with jet lag starting to take effect, but it quickly pulled me out of any grogginess. The set up is half restaurant, half gig venue, with live music taking place almost every night. It's probably got the most traditionally Southern menu I came accross - there was chicken fried STEAK, for crying out loud. Fried green tomatoes, fried green beans, CHICKEN FRIED CHICKEN... you get the idea. This is where I discovered that the secret to a great white pepper gravy is bacon grease. Mmmm. Bacon grease.
What I ate - chicken fried chicken, obviously. And a hearty glass of Hap and Harry's, my Nashville beer of choice.
Is that just the worst picture you've ever seen? Probably. But I'll tell you this - it was the best burger I've EVER EATEN. Seriously. Rare, juicy beef with the crispiest bacon and cheddar, in a bun that was toasted while soft. I didn't need to dislocate my jaw to eat it, but it was good and hearty. And the fries... oh, the fries. Perfectly crunchy and seasoned to hell, they were so good I can taste them now. The place was an incredibly popular dinner spot - it had a sports bar vibe, but the place was buzzing with a huge variety of people, all clustered around dark tables and booths. The cocktails were insane too - it's worth going for the balsamic martini alone.
What I ate - a bacon cheeseburger with rosemary fries. We also finished off with s'mores, which we made ourselves over a Bunsen burner. DivineRead the menu here.
Now I'm off to look in my fridge and sob.