Friday, March 31, 2006

Unsatisfied in Nashville

So all good things must come to an end right? I have had great luck with my restaurant experiences lately. That was until Nashville...

I was in Nashville Tuesday and Wednesday this week on business. I was driving around Tuesday night looking for a place to eat (by myself) and decided instead of just settling for the Ruby Tuesday's, Hard Rock Cafe, etc. I would try to find someplace nice where I could enjoy a glass of wine and a delicious meal. Well I thought I found a nice place, but the delicious part was what I had wrong.

I chose to eat at the Merchant's in downtown Nashville. It was a quaint establishment with an attractive sounding menu displayed in the front display, with a Simple monogram "M" adorning the front window. I was given the option of eating on the 2nd floor fine dining room or first floor bar (the 3rd floor is reserved for private parties). I chose the bar and plopped myself down in a booth with my server Dave on hand immediately. It was an old building with brick and crown molding. However, the bar stools look like they came out of some cheap hotel dining room from the 80s and the booth upholstery had seen better days. The wood floors were beautiful, as was the bar.

Dave chose a wine for me, at my request, which I did enjoy. It was Mia's Playground, a red Zinfandel. Then I ordered a Lobster and Crab fondue as an appetizer. It was definitely meant for a group of 2-4, but it wasn't too bad. It was served very hot (good point), but the garlic toasts were a little greasy, the shrimp was overcooked, and there was an overwhelming spice taste that I couldn't put my finger on. Next I ordered the incredible sounding Pan Seared Scallops with Braised Leeks, and Butternut Squash Hash. It was pretty, garnished with roasted corn and red pepper. Again, it was served very hot, the scallops were perfectly cooked (just slightly raw in the middle), but I couldn't taste scallop or butternut squash. There was some kind of sausage in the hash that consummed the flavor of everything. I ate a few bites and pushed it away. I told my server that it was bad, very bad. He said he was sorry I didn't like it and that it was one of his favorites and that was the end of it.

I guess I should have enjoyed a margarita and a snack at Ruby Tuesday's instead. I would have enjoyed it more and it wouldn't have cost me $65.00(after tax/tip)!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Homemade Ice Cream

My friends Amy and Eric gave me a cool Ice Cream related Cookbook for my birthday this weekend (along with a very cool ice cream scoop and spoons). I decided to make the Vanilla Bean Ice Cream. Well I finished it up this evening, and even though it wasn't quite frozen enough, I decided to post of photo of it. Since I'm going to be out of town for work the next couple of days, I wasn't sure if there would be any left when I returned. Unfortunately my hubby is out this evening and I wasn't able to utilize his artistic photography skills (I barely know how to turn the camera on). So here is my melting homemade vanilla bean ice cream. It's pretty darn tasty. Enjoy!

Husband Tested

I made this lemon pound cake yesterday afternoon. I was going to take a picture of mine, but it didn't last that long. The picture shown is off the Williams Sonoma website. Apparently the recipe is a good one, because there was less than half the cake left this morning. My friends gave me the pan last year as a birthday gift. If you want to try it for yourself check out the recipe here...

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Birthday Gift #2

My husband surprised me with yet another birthday gift. He bought me a beautiful Coach Leather Hobo purse. I think the girls would agree he gets major bonus points for that. I am also looking forward to dinner with our great friends Amy and Eric on Saturday evening at Z'Tejas. It's been a while since we've been there.

Also, Happy Birthday Grammie. My grandmother turns 78 (I think) today. I called her this morning. I was surprised I got through (she has 14 kids (plus their spouses), 38 grandkids, and 6 great-grandkids). She deserves a very Happy Birthday!

Happy Day!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Effective Advertising

Like Crate & Barrel needs to try hard with Marketing on me. I received a flyer in the mail last night advertising some of their new products. I decided immediately I had to have this cake platter and I need to make the cake to go along with it. Perhaps I'll pick it up this weekend and see if I can make a cake to look as pretty! ;)

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Julie & Julia

I finished reading the book Julie and Julia: 365 Days, 524 Recipes, 1 Tiny Apartment Kitchen last night. It was a pretty entertaining read. Julie Powell (the author and main character) is an Austin girl living in the Big Apple and chronicles her experiences in recreating all the recipes from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a one year period.

Before the book, came the blog the The Julie/Julia Project. I wish I had known about this at the time, because I think I would have enjoyed recounting her daily experiences as they happened and following along in her journey in real-time.

However, I did finish the book (which says something in itself in that I am NOT a book reader) and actually looked forward to sitting down to read it.

Who knows, maybe I'll have a "Julie/Julia" project of my own someday... No livers for me though. :)

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Early Birthday Gift

My husband bought me an early birthday gift today.
It is a Mario Batali Red 6 qt. Dutch oven from Crate & Barrel. I have been wanting a Dutch oven for quite some time. I have been eyeing the Le Creuset version at Williams Sonoma, but loved this one when I saw it (and it is a fraction of the cost). I have no idea of what my first dish will be, but will be sure to let you know how it turns out! Hopefully it will be some rustic Italian dish that would make Mario proud. Arrivederci!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Date Night

I have to agree yet again with Food & Wine for their superstar chef picks. Our visit to Uchi was great! We started the evening outside with a drink (we had to wait a little over an hour for a table). It was a good chance to people watch and have an actual conversation with my hubby.

Then we were seated at the Sushi bar for our meal. I ordered a Sake (which I wasn't a fan of) and then a red wine. At this point I was feeling very much out of my element. I was on the end of the bar, right by the front door, in view of all the patrons entering and exiting, with my inadequacies in chop stick use and nary a fork or knife in site. However, a few minutes later I was thrilled to learn we were being taken care of the Head Sushi Chef, Vu Le (such a fun guy) and well on our gastronomic roller coaster ride.

I have never been a sushi fan. Correction, I have never had really good sushi. Everything we had (raw or not) was a perfect melange of flavors and so artistically presented.

Here is a list of what we shared:
*Apple Sorbet- to cleanse the pallet
*Uchiviche - citrus-marinated striped bass, salmon, tomatoes, bell peppers, cilantro, garlic, and thai chilies.
*Avo Bake - creamy baked tiger shrimp and krab, served in a grilled avocado (My favorite of the night)
*Crunchy Tuna - spicy bluefin tuna roll with avocado, warm tempura flakes, balsamic reduction and toasted black and white sesame
*Madai Carpaccio - fresh, thinly-sliced New Zealand black snapper served with tangerine-infused oil and maldon sea salt
*Hotate Chokhu- Seared scallops and hon shimeji mushrooms on roasted artichoke hearts with with living watercress and yukari vinaigrette
*Maple Ice Cream with Tempura Apples

Is your mouth watering yet?

I had asked our server if she could have Tyson Cole sign a copy of the menu for me (since I forgot to bring my F&W issue with me). She obliged and brought it back to me with our bill. Then Tyson appeared behind us with a complimentary additional dessert and introduced himself to us. We tried his Hydroponic Basil Sorbet which is indescribable. You really need to try it if given the chance. It was a perfect end to our meal.

As far as the restaurant itself, it is a refurbished old house and quite small. The main wall is painted red with a floral motif and the ceiling is a gray-turquoise. You can check out the decor on Uchi's website. From our seat at the Sushi bar, we were privy to all the action, including a clear view into the kitchen, where we could see Tyson and staff preparing their edible works of art. The staff seemed relaxed and Mr. Cole quite subdued (perhaps deceptively so).

After dinner, we went for a drive downtown and grabbed a latte before returning home.

All in all it was a wonderful evening, and a reminder of why we have been together for over twelve years! :)

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Japanese Anyone?

My husband and I are having a "date" night on Thursday. A rare luxury when you have a three year old and live far from relatives. We had a wonderful experience on Saturday at the Driskill grill (per my previous post), so we have picked another Food & Wine magazine Chef of the Year. This time, we have decided to experience Uchi and one of Food & Wine picks for America's Best New Chefs '05 (July 2005 issue), Tyson Cole.

Here is a quote from F&W on why he was chosen:
"Because he's managed the seemingly impossible task of combining traditional Japanese sensibility with thoroughly American audacity. The result: food that's utterly delicious and wildly inventive."

I hope we can keep our plans and experience it for ourselves. I will let you know on Friday! In the mean time, you can check out Uchi at

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Driskill Grill

We had a wonderful dinner at the Driskill Grill on Saturday evening. It was a sort of going away dinner for my brother-in-law who will be moving to China this month and a "kid" free night out with the in-laws visiting. I have to say that I enjoyed every minute of the meal, even if not every individual flavor.

David Bull, the Executive Chef of the Driskill Grill, was named one of America's Best New Chefs in the July 2003 edition of Food & Wine magazine. I think he was 28 at the time. Quite an accomplishment in my book (I am sad to say he is younger than I). And what a great guy. We had the chance to meet him on Saturday evening when he came to our table, with my signed cookbook I had requested, and answered a few questions I had presented to our server about the meal.

We enjoyed drinks, a three course menu, and dessert. My brother-in-law brought a couple of special bottles of wine from his collection in California for us to enjoy that evening. I need to get the specifics from him on what we had...

Here is what I had personally for dinner (besides tasting others dishes as well):
Margarita on the Rocks
Amuse Bouche-Smoked Halibut with Meyer Lemon
First Course-Heirloom Tomatoe Salad with Fresh mozzarella Puree, Toast Crisps, and a lemon -vinaigrette (sorry I don't have the menu description on this one).
Second Course-Pistachio Crusted Sea Scallop: Scallop Quenelle, Chanterelle Mushrooms, Truffled Herb Salad - This was my favorite of the evening. Melt in your mouth!
Third Course-Pan Roasted Breast of Duck: Sunchokes, Braised Lettuce, Sunflower Sprouts, Apple-Raisin Hollandaise.
Dessert-Coffee and Chocolate Ganache Cake with Fresh Raspberries and Gold Leaf. (Also don't have the menu description for this).

I would love to go back and try the Chef's Nine Course Tasting Menu.

As far as the dining room itself, I was expecting it to be a little more modern, but it is true to its Texas roots, a quaint, elegant dining room, with beautiful Italian linens. However, the modern French China seemed a little out of place with the traditional silver (I was informed they are waiting on the new stuff) and historic decor.

The verdict is, I thoroughly enjoyed the experience and highly recommend it to anyone visiting Austin (it was my first time eating there in the seven years I've lived here). The flavors were purposeful and beautifully combined and the presentation was stunning! And our server was knowledgeable, she put up with my million questions, and was a sweetheart.

You can check out the Driskill Grill and David Bull's Bio at

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Foodie Blogs

Here are a few great Foodie blogs for you Gastronomes out there. They are beautiful and well written, in my opinion. Hope you enjoy!

delicious days
The Domestic Goddess