Saturday, May 26, 2012

Barista Parlor ... a work in progress

Hooray! A brand new coffee shop opened up over on the East side of town! And boy, is it brand new... in ideas, in decor, in service and selection of beverages! Nashville foodies are all about doing things well, but these guys have taken it to another level. Sure, you could "compare it" to Crema... but I say the vibe and personality is SO much better. Hanging out in the Barista Parlor is like you've just transported yourself to the coolest, neighborhood hang somewhere in Santa Monica. Yes, it does remind me of Intelligentsia, but it's got that east side swag to it that the west coast just doesn't have. (no offense, cali friends!) ;)

 sweet nicole... she's the best to experience new food and coffee joints with. (so is my sister but she lives in charlotte.... weep.. more weeping, sniffle)

This place offers a pretty extensive selection of espresso and single cup brewed coffees. And they offer a very limited selection of food. So far all I've seen as far as "made-to-order"goes is pop's waffles, (which are really good, but don't compare to Frothy's in Nicole's opinion) homemade cinnamon rolls with espresso cream cheese glaze and Porter Road Butcher's sausage and scratch-made biscuit. I won't lie... the smell of the biscuit was so intoxicating, I ordered one. So did Nicole. We both got sick. NOT a win, Barista Parlor. Enough said.
Nicole and I have been twice now. The first time, I had two espressos. One was an Intelligentsia La Tortuga, which never disappoints, in my opinion. Second I had an Owl's Howl. It was good! Standard, and nothing that left really a lasting impression, but it was drinkable and tasty. Just what I needed.
 (served with soda water... classy)
 Nicole had a latte... she fell in love. It was delicious, I tasted it, too.
So our first experience was great! We were happy campers with great coffee and a lot of eye candy to check out for the first time. The decor of the place is all handcrafted long bar tables made out of exposed, old wood, lacquered up and riveted with standard steel hardware. Very cozy actually! And the barista's stand is right in the middle of the joint, so from any vantage point, you've got a slew of things to look at, from barista's pulling shots, the chemex coffee drippers doin' their thing, to watching the cold coffee process brew through three feet of glass bowl contraptions. It's pretty fascinating to watch, and a good "mindless distraction" to watch in the midst of blogging, e-mailing, skype meeting, etc.
The second experience wasn't as great... I ordered a regular brew coffee... the San Rafael to be exact. It took about eight minutes to get to me, and when I saw it, smelled it and then tasted it, I swear it was tea. (okay, it wasn't, but it might as well have been) Too weak, and not punchy at all. Not what I was looking for in a personally brewed cup of coffee. But it was served cool in it's own little decanter! I liked that. The little things, man... they make it. This was also the time we ordered those biscuits. After it took about 12 minutes to get them, (granted they did warn us it would be about ten minutes due to running out of sausage and having to cook up some more) we were both feeling sick immediately following. WAY too greasy. Actually can't write anymore about it because the thought is making me ill.

But I WILL say this... the staff COULD NOT BE NICER OR MORE ACCOMMODATING. And they're as straight forward as straight forward could be. If you're expecting an immediate, "to-go" type experience, they'll let you know straight away that you're not going to get that kind of experience there. If you're looking for soy milk, sorry, they'll let you know right away that they only use full cream milk. (legit!) They are who they are and that's not gonna change, but they want their guests to feel at home and to know exactly what they're getting ready to experience. And I appreciate that. So Barista Parlor, well done!  I like you, and I like you a lot. You've got some work to do and some kinks to work out, but who doesn't after only 3 weeks! Heck, who doesn't after 3 years! You guys are champions and you've got people that believe in you and what you're doing! Thank you for reminding people and awakening people to what a true, beautiful coffee "experience" really is.

Cheers to a good cuppa!

Cantaloupe & Kale

So I walked into the turnip truck the other day, saw a stack of cantaloupe, (which i never buy) and HAD to have one. It was one of those bizarre moments where all the sudden, I could've just sunk my teeth through the rind to get to that orange juicy fruit inside, I wanted it that badly. I contemplated going to Starbucks for a plastic knife to try and saw my way through so I didn't have to wait to get it home. Then I came to my senses and drove home with it. :) But you know I didn't wait long! I chopped up some kale and red lettuce, threw it in a bowl and decided to chop and marinate the cantaloupe in a mixture of balsamic, honey, basil and lime juice. An hour later, I threw it all together and sent my self straight to fresh, fruity heaven. The only thing I really feel the need to tell you about this salad is that you need to make it because it's A: way too easy not to, B: like eating the freshness of a garden surrounded by tropical fruit trees, and C: it's way too easy not to. (did i already say that?) ;)

So here's what you need:

  • a bunch of kale. I used lacinato because you know I'm currently obsessed with it.
  • a bunch of red lettuce. or whatever else you want, that's just what i wanted for color.
  • half or whole, depending on how much you want, cantaloupe, sliced and diced.
  • balsamic vinegar
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 lime
  • fresh basil
  • honey, i used wildflower and love love loved it.
  • parmesan reggiano or asiago and romano for finishing
Wash your greens and put them aside to dry a little while you prep the cantaloupe.
 Let's slice up your cantaloupe and really clean it out... don't throw any of that good fruit away.
 Once you've diced it, place it in a shallow plate or bowl so we can marinate it.
Depending on how well you like it, sprinkle some fresh basil pieces all over the cantaloupe. Then squeeze the juice of one whole lime all over.
 Now drizzle balsamic vinegar all over to make a small pool in the bottom, drizzle a little olive oil over the top, loosely drizzle or spoon skinny "strands" of honey all over and then sprinkle on some sea salt. (be careful with the sea salt, it's so much saltier than regular table salt... but it's so much better on the fruit!) :) Now just set that aside to marinate. Throw it in the fridge if you prefer your melon to be chilled in the salad.
Now finely chop your greens! I like to gather the stalks and leaves horizontally, bunch them together tightly at the ends with my fingers, and chop inch wide slices all the way down. Keeping them together as neatly as possible all the way down, I like to then slice all the cuts vertically to make the lettuce pieces bite size. Otherwise you end up looking like a brontosaurus with no manners. :)
(funny that lacinato kale's other name is 'dinosaur kale.')

Toss your chopped greens in a big, pretty salad bowl, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with a little more sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Then top with your shaved cheese.
 I'd let your melon keep soaking... but that's just my opinion... if you're ready to eat, go ahead and mix your goodies together. Otherwise, at this point you've probably only got another 20 minutes to wait.
When you're ready, pour the cantaloupe on top of the bed of greens and cheese, including all the juices it was sitting in... that is what's going to make your main dressing flavor.
 Now drizzle with a little more olive oil and cracked black pepper... voila!
I served myself a hearty portion of this with a slice of extra crunchy whole wheat sourdough, doused in butter and topped with a little sea salt.
It'd be fabulous with grilled salmon, grilled chicken, shrimp, whatever! For girl's night, I served it up with some roasted chicken tossed with chopped tomatoes and olive oil. It was fab!
But I personally love tasting each and every ingredient just as is with no meat involved... the cantaloupe really shines that way.
Get creative! Make this salad your own! But don't NOT make this salad.... make this salad. (bad grammar, I know... just really needed that extra 'not' punch) Go buy a cantaloupe and sink your teeth in... it's BEYOND refreshing. And if you're not into cantaloupe, buy a watermelon and some soft chevre goat's cheese... swap out the cantaloupe and the parmesan for those two. It will be equally as rewarding.

Love you guys! Happy Memorial Day weekend! I'm so grateful for our Armed Forces. Dad, Uncle Vic, thank you for serving and protecting us.

I'm proud to be an American.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

$ 5 Bourbon & Burgers

Yes that's the truth... the Holland House, over on the east side of Nashvegas, does five dollar bourbon and burgers on Monday nights... What a dream! My friend Nicole picked me up from the airport Monday night and we headed straight to the watering hole. We were beyond pleased to find Mike, our trusty, faithful bartender friend standing behind the bar. He's always so kind and helpful and my goodness, is he CREATIVE when it comes to making classy, old time drinks! Naturally, Nicole and I wanted bourbon... we went with Woodford Reserve. I was starved and ordered their "mini meester" burger. Grilled to perfection on ridiculously decadent bread, served with a side of amazing, musky truffle fries. Are you joking?

Needless to say, the food was perfect, the drinks were just what the doctor ordered and Mike even surprised us with a cocktail creation of his own in lieu of dessert. (nicole is my kinda friend!)
 check out that awesome $5 list!
 I think this place is so beautiful and charming, don't you?
and now for the magical dessert drink...
yeah, he's tasting it to make sure it's just right. what a champion. we don't really know what was in it other than bourbon and some sort of italian chocolate bitters.
And you guessed it... the bourbon really was five dollars. The burger really was five dollars. We got away for a STEAL.

Mike, Jeremiah, thank you for yet another fabulous experience at your fine establishment. Friends, go ahead and treat yourself $10 worth in about four days.

Happy Thursday and happy eating!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Rosemary Simple Syrup

Today's a fun, different and quick post, friends... homemade rosemary simple syrup, for cocktails!
As you all know, I've been going crazy at the farmer's market lately, buying up fresh produce and herbs without thinking about all the upcoming travel. As you also know, I hate wasting food- I won't do it. Well, I bought a beautiful rosemary plant that is so fragrant and growing so well... and I'm not going to be able to water it for the next five days. The solution? Rosemary simple syrup! That I can just save and use over and over again for the next few weeks in our homemade cocktails! (or as the "sweet" contributer drizzle over some sweet and salty bruschetta hors d'oeuvres)

This is super easy to make and you can use the basics of the recipe with any fresh herb or fruit you desire! The next one I'll have to make is blood orange simple syrup- I've got those coming out my ears, too! Shall we begin? :)

You'll need:
  • one or two big sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup sugar, I prefer demarara but I was out, so I used granulated white.. worked just fine!
Bring your water to a boil. Once it's boiling, throw in the rosemary and let it blanch for about two minutes.
While the water is still boiling, pour in the cup of sugar and let it cook until boiling. Stir often until the water turns clear again. Don't take it off the heat until all the "cloudiness" is gone. This could take anywhere from 5-8 minutes.
Once it's clear, remove from heat, stir, and pour it into a container to cool.
Once it's cooled, pour it into a pretty bottle and add it to your home bar collection! :) If you're not planning on using most if it that soon however, store it in the fridge.
Give this a try, even if it's a little out of the ordinary for you... I'm guessing you'll feel very classy, very gourmet... maybe even a little F. Scott. And give other flavors a try... basil, lemon rind, blackberry... the options are endless! Break out those cocktail glasses and stir up a little love tonight! :)


Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Black Bean Turkey Burgers ... with caramelized onions & dates

Yeah, I know the title is long... but I didn't want you to just read over this one if the turkey burger part of it doesn't interest you... because the caramelized onions and dates definitely should interest you.

I was asked to make a quick casual dinner for three yesterday with whatever was in the fridge. Lo and behold, ground turkey! I also found a tub of leftover black beans from their mexican feast the night before- perfect. If you've got that, everything else is easy... these are great because you can go to town on ingredients, just using whatever you have for flavoring. Turkey and black beans are really a perfect blank slate for creativity. Here's what I used:
  • 1 lb. ground turkey
  • roughly 1 cup cooked black beans (with a little of their juice)
  • 1 egg
  • roughly 3-4 Tablespoons cornmeal
  • dijon mustard
  • salsa verde (green tomatilla salsa)
  • soy sauce
  • chili powder
  • onion powder
  • salt
  • olive oil
Sound good? If not, use my basic skeleton and use whatever ingredients you have! Red peppers, jalapenos, corn, sun- dried tomatoes, anything! So, to start, throw those black beans over some low heat to let them start simmering. Add in the chili powder, onion powder and soy sauce. Stir and let simmer while you prepare the turkey.
Put your ground turkey in a mixing bowl and crack in the egg, add some of the dijon mustard, or stone ground if you prefer, which I do but they didn't have, and 3 heaping tablespoons of cornmeal. Mix together! (yes, it'll get squishy and gross)
Stir your black beans to make sure they're not burning, and start smashing some of them down with the back of your wooden spoon.
Add in some salsa verde to the turkey mixture and another heaping tablespoon of cornmeal. Stir!
 these pictures are so gross, I apologize.
Now let's add in the beans!
Mix together and let's get the skillet out. Drizzle it with olive oil and plop dollops of the mixture on. I don't like perfectly round turkey burgers, I like them to have a little unique, messier shape but, if you want, round them first. Just beware that if you're going to round, you'll need to lightly flour or cornmeal your hands because the mixture is sticky.
Once these babies hit the hot skillet, I'd let them sear for about 30-45 seconds and then go ahead and give them their first flip. Turkey burns quickly so be conscious of flipping them often. Smash down after each flip with the back of your skillet to make sure it cooks evenly through.
Once you can see that both sides are getting golden and the insides are still a little raw, you're probably going to give both sides about one more flip at a minute on each side before they're done.
Now the only way to eat these things in my opinion, is with caramelized onions and dates, and finished off with goat's cheese! (and tomatoes and other normal burger toppings, of course) So slice up one whole onion, I used yellow into thin slices, drizzle some olive oil in a skillet and sprinkle with salt and toss those onions in. Let cook for about five minutes or until they start to get a little translucent. Then finely chop up two whole dates. And don't forget to remove that pit! :) Throw those into the onion mixture and cook on low for as long as you can stand it... I cooked these for about 15, 20 minutes. The smell was unbelievable. That should be a good sign that they're probably done.

So there you have it! I don't have any photos of the finished product, since this was dinner for someone else... but I did taste the burgers and they were so tasty and so simple. Also you can feel pretty good about having more than one of these babies because they're made with such lean meat. Eat them all on their own with no bun, or serve them open faced over some crusty italian loaf with your caramelized onion mix, tomatoes and a few slices of avocado. If you're feeling REALLY saucy, poach or fry an egg and pop that on top as well... heavenly.

Happy Turkey Burger Tuesday, guys!