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Monthly Archives: October 2012

Restaurant Review Nashville: Otaku South Popup

Josh and I jumped at the chance on Sunday to try a new popup restaurant in town. Otaku South is a project by a local resident, Sarah Gavigan, who has a passion to be bring authentic ramen to Nashville. She is currently only doing one or two events a month, and they have been extremely hard to get into in the past, so we were determined to get our own bowls of noodles this time. Luckily we have some food obsessed friends who were right there with us. The meal was served in a great coffee shop, so the four of us got there early and hung out with warm cups of coffee and tea until the main event.

I’ve proclaimed our love for ramen before (notably here and here), so we understandably went into this event with high hopes. Knowing that Sarah cooks her broth for days, using pork bones from Porter Road Butcher, was encouraging. Making true ramen is not a quick process. The broth is the star, with all of the other additions supporting players. You can’t have a great bowl of ramen with some weak store bought broth. It just doesn’t work.

There were three different flavors offered: pork, spicy chicken, and corn miso. While part of me (the new found part that is addicted to sriracha and spicy food in general) wanted to get the spicy chicken, I knew I’d be full of regrets if I didn’t join the rest of my group and get the pork ramen.

I’ll break it down into two groups: the fun stuff and the broth.

The fun stuff included shredded pork, a soft boiled egg, pickled greens, fried shallots that I could have eaten by the bowlful, and some of the best ramen noodles I’ve ever had. These noodles had the perfect chew and subtle flavor that makes for a well balanced bowl of ramen, and I need to find out where she gets them. I’d like to buy them in bulk and eat them on a weekly basis. There was also a little collection of pickled daikon radish, peppers, and mushrooms on the side to accompany the ramen. Josh, who I’m just now easing into the world of fungi, even said that the mushrooms were great, which is high praise indeed. All in all, these ingredients were delicious and also just a lot of fun to eat. Much slurping ensued, which in ramen culture is not only accepted but encouraged.

The broth is a subject unto itself. On each table was a bottle of a tasty homemade sriracha type sauce called “friendly fire” (which could take your taste buds off if you weren’t careful) and a bottle of burnt garlic oil. While the addition of these two ingredients make the broth tasty, they also contributed to my slight disappointment. To me, the perfect ramen broth shouldn’t need that much tinkering. Maybe a little squirt of something here and there to fine tune it to your preferences, but not a lot. While Otaku’s broth was nice and rich, it also felt slightly heavy and just lacked a certain depth of flavor. Most people might not even notice this, but after having had some truly incredible ramen over the years I know that this just didn’t quite measure up. All three of my co-slurpers felt the same way, so I knew I wasn’t just being too picky. I wound up adding a good bit of both the sauce and oil in order to brighten up the flavors.

While the experience didn’t quite live up to my admittedly high hopes, I would absolutely love to try it out again. Maybe next time I’ll give one of the other flavors a go (hello, spicy chicken). It was still good, and certainly far better than anything similar that I’ve had around here. I’m also just excited to have something like this available in the town that I love, and will support Otaku South for no other reason than appreciation for introducing the people of Nashville to the wonderful world of true ramen.

Quick Tip: Slow Cooker Chickpeas

Chickpeas (garbonzo beans) have become one of our favorite lunchtime ingredients. They add protein and heft to salads and are easy to find. I was trying for a while to keep a can or two on hand at all times, just so I could throw them into various dishes that needed a little something more, but we kept coming across a few problems.

For one thing, not all canned chickpeas are created equal. While Whole Foods has, in my opinion, the best and creamiest canned version, other brands are often mealy or almost crunchy and gritty. Not exactly a pleasure to eat.

The second problem was cost. While one can isn’t too bad, I’d have to buy at least four cans, probably more, in order to make a substantial base for our lunches. Once you start adding all of the fun ingredients on top of that, our little money saving lunches aren’t saving us quite so much money anymore.

I kept seeing things about how superior and incredibly easy cooking dried chickpeas was, so one day I decided to give it a go. I looked around to find the best and easiest version (Alton Brown, for the win!) and bought some dried chickpeas.

The results blew Josh and I away! We seriously had no idea that chickpeas could be so good. I’ll happily eat these by the spoonful with just a tiny sprinkle of sea salt, which I never in a million years would do with even the best canned version. Plus, they are CHEAP. As in, $1.49/pound for organic cheap. One pound of dried gets me the equivalent of 3-4 cans of chickpeas. Um, yes, we have a winner.

If I had more freezer space I’d portion them out into two cup servings and freeze the cooked beans, since they reheat perfectly. Then you still have most of the convenience of the canned ones.

The “recipe” could not be any easier.

  • 1 lb dried chickpeas, rinsed and drained.
  • 7 cups water (though I never actually measure it out)
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

Simply combine all the ingredients in your crockpot and cook on high for about 4 hours. I tend to start tasting around the three and a half hour mark so that I can control how soft they become. I like them to still be a little firm for cold salads, but I’ll let them cook longer for something like hummus.

Great chickpea salad recipe to come on Friday!

Restaurant Review Nashville: Lockeland Table

A few weeks ago, Josh and I decided to check out a new local restaurant that I had been hearing some really good things about. Lockeland Table opened about 3 months ago, and I’d say it wins our vote for best new restaurant in Nashville.

It will come as no surprise to frequent readers that we have very adventurous palates, and there were a few things that we had seen on the menu before coming that we knew we would be getting. While we did stick to most of those, there were also a few specials that we started salivating over as soon as they were listed. We decided the best approach would be to simply order a large quantity of appetizers and go to town. Our fantastic waiter loved our approach (in fact, he called us ballers) and did an excellent job staggering the arrival of all the dishes.

When making reservations, we chose to sit at the pizza bar in order to get the time slot we wanted. This turned out to be a fun chance to watch the pizzas being made and to chat with the staff about the food. We love sitting at the bar when we go out to get cocktails, so this was a very natural extension of that. I always enjoy talking to people who know the food and love what they’re doing.

I will go ahead and mention that while we had several cocktails, I can’t remember the details of a single one. My thoughts were all on the food. Lockeland Table doesn’t seem to have their cocktails listed online at this point either to refresh my memory. Suffice it to say, I had a lot of drinks, and they were very good.

We started off our meal with the classic cornbread. It came in a small cast iron skillet with a generous amount of honey butter on the side. Fact: I love sweet butter of any type, so I was already happy. I did try to limit the amount I ate though, knowing that I would be extremely angry with myself if I filled up on cornbread before the rest of the dishes arrived.

Next we got the chicken liver pate in a jar, with a layer of warm Benton’s bacon fat on top. This came with a side of smoked peach preserves and grilled bread. People, this is the dish that I want to be buried in/with when my time comes. I know that a lot of people are grossed out at the thought of liver, but this was honestly some of the best I’ve ever had. While some liver can have a very strong mineral taste, this was mellow and divine. The peach preserves added the perfect amount of sweetness to an already stellar dish. If you have ever even possibly considered trying liver, this is the place to go. We scraped every last bit out of the jar, and had dreamy smiles on our faces for the rest of the evening due to this.

Next we got one of the chef’s specials for the evening: head cheese. This one was definitely on the outer fringes of my comfort zone, having never tried it before. Normally the very mention of head cheese brings to mind visions of pimento loaf and worse, but I decided to trust them and try it, and it was delicious. Delicate, with a subtle barbecue flavor, and very little of the gelatinous quality I normally associate with the dish, this was absolutely something I would order again. After speaking with one of the chefs, we discovered that he actually used his PePaw’s recipe for head cheese. Love it.

Another special that night was pork and crawfish boudain balls with Alabama white sauce. Think of them like a rice and meat version of a hush puppy. They were crunchy and delicious, and the sauce added the right amount of tang. Definite comfort food right there for this Southern girl.

One of the dishes we knew we had to order was the roasted bone marrow. There’s something incredibly primal about ordered giant bones, cleaved in half, and scraping out the insides. After spreading it on grilled bread and adding some lovely pickled shallots and parsley though, I realized that eating like a caveman is vastly underrated. This was a rich, delicious dish that I’m sure raised my cholesterol entirely too much, but one that I will happily be ordering again soon.

As if all of this wasn’t enough, we decided to go bold and order dessert as well. We went with the ricotta doughnuts with homemade jelly filling. They came out, still piping hot, in a small paper bag filled with powdered sugar. We shook the bag well and enjoyed the perfect finish to a perfect evening.

Lockeland Table has already manged to create an incredibly welcoming and homey atmosphere in a very short amount of time. Ever detail, from the staff to the decor, contributed to a feeling of comfort that normally only comes with many, many years of experience. If this is how they start out, we can’t wait to see what’s to come.

Lolling Reno: Bathroom Renovation

Bryan and I own a bungalow built in 1920. We’ve lived here for nearly 4 years and have been blessed to not have to do too much work to it. Besides replacing an appliance and doing some work in the backyard this past summer, we haven’t done anything other than paint a couple of rooms.

I’ve never liked the tile in the shower, but it was at the bottom of our to-do list. From the moment I first saw the house I had a minor kitchen reno in mind for about 3-5 years down the road. Unfortunately for me the grout in the shower has decided it didn’t like being there anymore and we had some serious concerns about water damage. So as of yesterday we started with a major bathroom renovation. I guess its not too major as we’re keeping the flooring, the sink, and the toilet. But it is major in the fact that we’ll be living without a shower (in a one bathroom house, no less) for nearly 2 weeks. Weeeeeeeeeee!

I’ll have a full report for you afterwards, but I thought you might like to see our before’s and some of my inspiration. Just humor me, okay?

Here’s what we’re working with:

This is from the doorway looking in. We have a shower, sink, radiator, toilet, and built ins surrounding the toilet.
We actually had the shower curtain made a few months after we moved in. This bathroom was also eggplant purple when we moved in and we painted it the blue that first year as well.

Here’s our sink area. There is a small cabinet/cubby type thing to the left of it beside the shower.


Here’s the toilet area. Not too much will change here.


Here’s another angle of the shower. It’s positioned a little weird, so we had to have a custom shower curtain made to accomodate that back end.

I can’t believe I’m about to show you this, but here goes…

The reason for this whole mess. Yeah, that towel rack in the middle of the shower is not at all functional. And the grout is some of the nastiest I’ve ever seen.


Here’s a look at the far end of the shower. I have to say, I kind of like having that shelf there. It comes in handy for all my woman shower products.

Now onto some inspiration! We wanted to keep the bathroom consistent with the age and the feel of the house.

Source: houzz.com via Rachel on Pinterest

 

I liked the light and openness of this bathroom. The tile is period correct and we were really thinking about going with the glass shower.

Source: houzz.com via Rachel on Pinterest

 

I’m not going to lie. When I first saw this one I simply said “meow!” The marble, the flooring, and the glass. It just does it for me.

Source: jwkstyle.blogspot.com via Rachel on Pinterest

 

This one is most true to the direction we’re heading. We are going with white subway tiles and are having marble added to the top and surrounding the tub and adding some wood treatment to the front of it to make it more built in.

I’m so excited to see progress happening. In a way I feel like we’re making this house just a little bit more ours.

I’ll keep you posted.

Busy Weekends

It’s inevitable that every year, around this time, our life starts to kick up a notch. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that fall in TN makes everyone want to party (which is completely understandable), or if it’s kind of pre-gaming for holiday madness, but I find that every weekend starts to have multiple events.

We just had a wonderful, crazy, so very full weekend, and now I need a few days off. Too bad I have to wait until Friday.

As if normal fall insanity isn’t enough, this happened last Thursday:

Our poor Minerva got fixed. This led to a weekend of keeping her locked up in our temporarily dismantled office. Funny how cats completely don’t understand the concept of not jumping and climbing on everything. So much whining and crying, and I was only responsible for about half of the crying. It was rough. However, apparently the male cats in the neighborhood were starting to get a little too interested in her. Hussy.

In good news, I successfully made a dairy free, gluten free, delicious cornbread for a party over the weekend. That recipe will be coming soon! We have a lots of allergies in our group of friends, and a great longing for cornbread, so I decided to rise to the challenge.

Anyone else feeling the fall craziness? Or are you just bracing yourself for next month?

The Rant: Election Weariness

It’s not even November, hell it’s barely mid-October, and I’m totally over the election season. I’ve gotten to the point where I give my husband the evil eye should he mention either one of the candidates or worse, a debate.

Is it too much to ask to be able to keep your political opinions to yourself?

A friend of mine posted on Facebook last week that election season is like a magic sorting hat of who to “unfriend” or “mute”. Which is totally true. I find the same true for American Idol and other reality contests. If you post about it, there will be consequences. Granted the poster may not know about it, but I sure enjoy that moment of satisfaction on my end.

The Pioneer Woman’s website has been one of Allyn and my favorites for a very long time. Last week after a political debate she posted about her hair. I loved that. Yes there are bigger issues in life, but that doesn’t mean we all need to talk about it.

So, on that note, what’s your favorite superficial subject?

Wasted Wednesday: Sidecar

Bryan and I have been going through a major bourbon phase since The Best Weekend of our Lives. We’d dabbled in Mint Juleps earlier in the summer, but I tried a Side Car recipe a few weeks ago and it has since become my new cocktail.  What I love about this recipe is that its simple enough to make pretty quickly after a stressful day without being too complex. The end result is strong enough to make you forget all about that crazy b at work.

The Side Car

3/4 oz Triple Sec

3/4 oz Bourbon

1/2 oz sweetened lime juice or Rose’s

Lime garnish

Combine liquids on tumbler, serve over ice with a lime garnish.

Ahhh, a little slice of heaven.