Saturday, April 30, 2011

National Cheeseburger Month?

Maybe I've known this before and just don't recall it, but for much of April I've been hearing about how May is National Cheeseburger Month.  That sounds like my kind of month!  It makes sense...people are lighting up their grills, cooking out and what a better time of the year than May to have "National Cheeseburger Month."  Some things just receive a day - National Oreo Day, National Margarita Day, National give someone a hug day.... I like that the cheeseburger gets a full month.  Whoever declares these days - Kudos to you!

That said, the first week in May I will be at Disney World...and no doubt will have my fair share of Cheeseburgers.  However, I'm really thinking about doing some Disney World oriented posts too.

So we'll see how next week goes... there may just be a combination of posts.  Yes, it's interesting to me that I'm actually planning ahead for these things now... but I am looking forward to sharing my favorite food (the cheeseburger) along with posts from my favorite place (Disney World).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

My Top Ten List

I've had two people in the past week ask me to name several of my favorite restaurants around town after discussing post from my blog with them.  It's kind of fun when people talk with me about places I have recommended or telling me they've tried a place.  During the conversations, both of them suggested I do a top ten list. 

It sounded like an easy enough suggestion....until I started thinking of having to limit my favorite places to ten local restaurants.  But here they are, these are my top ten favorite restaurants in the Nashville/Brentwood/Cool Springs/Franklin area at this very point in time.  I know me well enough to know the list would be slightly different on a different day.

They are in no particular order....
  1. Chuy's - I've had too many good times here for this place not to be on the list.  I love the atmosphere there, their chips, salsa and their Elvis room...
  2. PF Changs & Pei Wei - They are both owned by the same company, and have basically the same menu, so it works as one place, right?  Pei Wei has been a staple on Thursday nights before Sanctuary and the people I go there with have been such a blessing.
  3. Sopapilla's - The food is great, it's close to my house, the service is excellent, they GIVE YOU dessert, and I've even written a blog post about this place.  If you haven't tried it yet, you want to give it a try.
  4. Cantina Laredo - It's in The Gulch and is an upscale Mexican place - which is kind of a weird concept for me.  But their Guacamole and their  Sizzling Apple Pie on a Fajita platter sold me on the place.  And I've had the best of experiences there each time I've gone.  They've all been special times with special people!
  5. SATCO - For Nashvillians, no explanation is needed.  This place is all about the atmosphere.  The food is good, but for the hangout potential, it's the best.
  6. Brewhouse South - I've only known about this place for two weeks, but it has made the top ten list for certain.  They have absolutely THE BEST chicken I have ever put in my mouth.  They've gotten a little mention in a blog post, but not nearly what they deserve.
  7. Blue Coast Burrito - I've eaten there so many times it simply feels like home.  It (Baja Burrito) was the first of its type in the Nashville area and still remains the best, in my humble opinion.
  8. Five Guys - They have the best cheeseburger in Nashville, period.  I wish I could buy into this chain and let them call it "Six Guys." One of my favorite Five Guys stories is being in DC last summer and while I was walking out of Five Guys five "ladies" were walking into Five Guys.  I noticed, as I held the door open for them, that they were all crossdressers/transvestites.  I SOOOOO wanted to take a picture of them in Five Guys.  Get it?... Five guys dressed as women in Five Guys.  I so missed out of this opportunity.
  9. Genghis Grill - It's stir fry and you get to choose how much and what goes in each bowl.  And you get to choose the sauce and the carb and you get to watch them make it!  And lately I've been going with some spectacular people, which makes this place even better.  It's a fun place with really good food.  ...and if the food was bad, it would be my fault because I didn't choose the right combination.  I like this place!
  10. Jim n Nicks - I've done a blog on this one too, and I really can't say enough of good things about this place.  If Cool Springs were to get a Jim n Nicks, I'm certain they'd all know me by name!  The food is wonderful, and like the other favorites, there are sweet and precious memories involved.
Ok, so that's it, that's my top ten list as requested.  Maybe I'll do this in another two months to see the mood I'm in then.  In two months, the marina restaurant may just be on my list!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Cajun-Style Prime Rib Recipe

My mom loved cookbooks.  I really have never seen a person with so many cookbooks in my life!  My mom used to cook, but oddly enough I have very few recollections of her ever actually using those cookbooks...she just seemed to know how to cook.  She would sit in her chair and just read her cookbooks like I would read John Grisham or one of my favorite magazines.  She'd share with me an entree or dessert that sounded tasty, and as she told me about it she would describe it in ways that would make me salivate.  She loved to read those cookbooks....

Mom taught me how to cook - and even though I now eat out more times than not, I really do love to cook.  That comes from my mom.  I loved when mom came and visited because I knew I was going to get home-cooked meals at my house! Occasionally she would send me a random recipe.  Southern Comfort food is the best...

When mom passed away, we started giving away her cookbooks as people came over to visit.  It wasn't something I was ready for... but nothing about the experience was something I was ready for.  I knew I wanted to take one of her cookbooks simply because they belonged to her.  It was something that she loved and something that would remind me of her.

As we were going through pictures, I ran across a picture from 1972 of mom and I standing at the entrance of Disney World.  I kept that picture and placed it in one of the cookbooks from Disney, "Cooking with Mickey and the Disney Chefs."  This was the cookbook I wanted to keep.

Mom had given me a recipe years before that was so good.  Matter of fact, while at Disneyland a few years ago I sought out and ate at the Blue Bayou Restaurant to have the Cajun-Style Prime Rib.  This was in the cookbook I kept and one of the recipe's she had sent to me. The photo remains tucked away in that cookbook.  I just wish I still had mom...and that totally awesome Donald Duck hat!

In case you didn't know, when you visit a Disney Restaurant the chefs are more than willing to share the recipes of their food.  If you find something totally yummy, you can just ask for the recipe and they will either bring out the recipe to you or email it to you.  I've gotten so many recipe's through the years..... I've just never been able to recreate the Magic of Disney.  But I have been able to share the good food!

I wanted to share this recipe with you, the recipe mom sent to me... try it, if you like Prime Rib and like cajun food, you will love it!  If you don't want to take the time to cook it, just go to Disneyland and have it.... you can never go wrong with Disney, and you can never go wrong eating from the recipes that my mom sent.

Cajun-Style Prime Rib

1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon white pepper
1 tablespoon granulated garlic
1 1/2 teaspons ground red pepper
1 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
Prime Rib, about 4 ribs in thickness
(Approximately 9 ounces per serving)

1.  Mix all spices and rub prime rib on all sides.  Then let rest overnight in refrigerator.
2.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Place prime rib fat side up on a rack in an open roasting pan.
3.  Roast for about 1 1/2 hours for medium-rare (until thermometer reads an internal temperature of 130 degrees F).  Let rest 15 minutes before slicing.

Serves 4

This is served au jus at Blue Bayou Restaurant with creamy horseradish sauce and is accompanied by potatoes, fresh sauteed vegetables and a Southern-style popover.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Second Round...

Ok, so I ate at Brewhouse South again today and had absolutely the best tasting chicken I have ever put in my mouth!  I will definitely have a blog just for Brewhouse South at some point - much more than the little blurb I gave it yesterday. You can read a little about it in the previous post, but I know that I didn't give it justice yesterday!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Water With Lemon, please...

It's been a week or so since I've added a new post so I thought I would do a quick mention of three notable locations I've experienced lately. All three are in Cool Springs and two of the three are more sports grilles/bars than anything.  I really do love the food I have had at these places. And I'll just preface this by saying I only drink water with lemon.  When servers ask me what I want to drink, I say "Water with Lemon."  It's been that way since November 15th, 2005.  I don't see that changing anytime soon.  While these places all seem to focus on the drinks they sell, they do have noteworthy food!

Loser's 2

I have only visited Loser's during the day during the lunch "crowd" and during the slow hours between 2 and 4.  There has always been a brisk crowd and it's always been a fun atmosphere. It's a small sports grille menu, and everything I have tried has been excellent.  The wings were amazing!  The Southwest Cheeseburger was outstanding.  The fries have always been surprisingly delicious.  I've even ordered a hotdog that truly should receive a standing ovation!  And they have one desert -  a Chocolate Eclair Cake which was oh-my-word delicious!  Initially I thought "only one desert??" But when it's that good, you really don't need to offer anything else!

The music in this place is loud and has always been right up my ally!  Each time I've asked myself "Who selects these songs because I love this playlist!" It's fun and upbeat music.  Not all country, not all old music and I've yet to hear Justin Bieber - it's a great mix!!  There is a stage for live music, though I've not been lucky enough to catch live music (it's always been lunch). They offer patio seating and have a huge garage door to the outside - every visit the doors have been open - so you get the feeling of being outside, even when being inside.  It's been perfect with the recent weather.

The pictures on their facebook show a crowded typical bar setting at night.  I've not experience that, only the somewhat easy laid back feel of the lunch hour.  This place is on Carothers near GiGi's and Swanky's.  It gets two forks up for sure!
Loser's 2

Brewhouse South

Let me just start by saying I will be watching some away Titans games at this place!  There are tons of large wide-screen tv's every direction you look!  I watched a Predator's playoff game there a few days ago and wow,  what a great place to watch a game!  In addition to that, one of my favorite servers, Amanda, works there too!

I've only been to this place once, but the experience certainly was good enough to know that I'll be returning.  It had an interesting menu, and Amanda recommended one of the burritos.  You typically don't have to twist my arm when you suggest that.... so that's what I ordered!  Seriously, it was so good. It was very good. It surprised me at how tasty it was.  It was rather spicy, full of flavor, stuffed full of goodness, and rather filling.   Like Loser's, they only offer one dessert.  On this night, it was a Tiramisu....which seemed very out of place with the other menu offerings but  I must say, it too was rather impressive!

My first experience at this place was very positive.  It certainly has a sports grille vibe and with the incredible display of tv's in each and every direction, I believe they will be giving Jonathan's next door a little competition!  From my experience, they have a much better viewing experience for games than Jonathan's.
Brewhouse South

Cool Springs Brewery

Before this place was "Cool Springs Brewery" it was Guido's.  They added their own microbrewery, changed the name, but kept the same great food!

During lunch, this is an exceptional place to visit. They have a salad, pizza and pasta buffet that is simply incredible!  Their New York style pizza is outstanding!  For a person who will be fine if he never has Papa Johns or Domino's again, this pizza is crazy good! Rich sauce, fresh toppings and lots of cheese! That's the "Guido's" part of their menu that makes this eatery great.  They have outstanding pasta and subs as well.  There is a great selection of specialty pizza's on the menu and on their buffet but (and wouldn't you know it) my favorite is their desert chocolate pizza.  They even add some cinnamon to make it THAT much better!!  It's an outstanding value and truly delicious food.
Cool Springs Brewery

So no funny stories or deep experiences to share this post...just a few recommendations to offer if you are looking for somewhere new to try.

I found out a few days ago that May is "National Cheeseburger Month" so I will have a little fun with that theme!  Boy can I ever tell you where to find good Cheeseburgers!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Road Trip to Birmingham!

I have a several passions in life.  To name a few, I love being out on my boat, for around fifteen years I was blessed by getting to volunteer with a youth group - when people I meet asks me if I have kids, I have always responded with "I have several hundred" - so students have long been a passion of mine, and for this particular group of students, I love them dearly.  I love Marketing and get to do it full time with my job at WT Cox Subscriptions.  I really do love eating out - thus this blog.  And I love God and try to make Him the center of all aspects of my life.  I just realized I used the word "Love" several times in a row.  I love - It's who I am...

A combination of all of the passions merged yesterday and today during an incredible road trip.  The highlight of my trip was getting to spend some time with Adair.  She is one of those students who I have known for years.  Matter of fact, the first time I remember meeting her she was probably 8 or so.  Maybe younger?   If Adair reads this, she'll know the story that comes to mind - one I have embarrassed her with time and time again!  But I won't embarrass her with that story this time.  Rather, I'll mention that Adair has gone to the lake with me numerous times.  I'm sure by now I have taken literally hundreds of groups to the lake with me....and one of the trips with Adair certainly goes down as one of my favorite all time trips.  Matter of fact, two of the trips with Adair will be considered my all time favorites.  The first one the day ended with me having dinner over at her house after an incredibly fun day at the lake.  The other is a "siblings day" we had last summer.  Adair has meant so much to me through the years...And it was wonderful to see her!

When I knew I was going to be in Birmingham, I got in touch with Adair to see if she would be up for dinner, coffee, desert...whatever.  And it worked out so we could go eat together.  She asked me where I wanted to go, and of course I didn't care so she asked a friend for a suggestion, and the friend suggested a place called Urban Cookhouse.  Adair had never been there, I had never been it seemed like a great adventure for the two of us.  I was so hoping the food would be good, because my first impression of this place was great and I thought it would make a good blog post.  It did not disappoint!

Urban Cookhouse has a very different look and feel to it than most places I like.  As the name would suggest, it had a very Urban look.  Everything feels very modern, very hip.  The menu and selection are both very impressive.  I literally had to make a choice among five different things that I wanted to try.  Adair had a couple she was deciding between.  Their menu made everything seem so tasty and the naming and descriptions were fun.  Whoever came up with this menu certainly had major creativity and culinary excitement at their core.  They offer a great selection of sandwiches, salads and "fork & knife" entrees.  I choose "Lime-Marinated Steak & Rice" from the "fork & knife" section.  It came with a salad and an orange roll - all for under $9!

The salad was full of a wide array of vegetables, that all appeared and tasted to be fresh from someone's personal garden.  The rice was seasoned to perfection and the steak was incredibly impressive.  And that orange roll I mentioned - YUMMY!!  Had I not been with Adair, I probably would have been tempted to go buy a dozen of those orange rolls!

Urban Cookhouse has sidewalk seating, and on a perfect night like last night, we were able to enjoy the fresh air while catching up.  It was a bustling spot full of friends and families enjoying time together.  The atmosphere was welcoming and lent itself to good conversation.  The steak was quickly delivered and devoured, but Adair and I had the opportunity to sit and catch up with each other for a while. We reminisced about lake trips, friends, and I got to hear all about what was going on with her at college.  She's been such a blessing in my life, and it's obvious she continues to be a blessing to others in Birmingham.

Adair had mentioned a Mexican restaurant that I tried out today before I left Birmingham.  Concina Superior was excellent!  And again I got to eat outside and loved every item they served me.  I want to mention this place simply because it lived up to "superior" that is in the name.  I even brought home a souvenir cup from there it was so good!

What an opportunity I had in Birmingham. I got to spend some time with someone I think the world of, I got to see how God is working in her life, I got to do a little marketing for my company, I got to reminiscence about some fun lake trips (which make me crave the lake so much) and I got to eat at two very outstanding restaurants.  This road trip was a success!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Priorities and Being Prepared

Back several years ago, as I was going through the process of buying my house, I made a decision that my house would be a place where people felt comfortable, where people could feel at home hanging out and where one of my favorite things could easily occur: cookouts.  I love grilling.  I love the atmosphere of cookouts.  I love friends being at my house and I love hosting them. They are laid back, easy-going and people don't have high expectations of the food...yet grilled food is some of the best tasting food out there.

This may seem to go against the whole theme of my blog, but I love good food and I love sharing meals with friends.  Cookouts truly create one of the best times to simply enjoy peoples company.

Before I even moved into my house, I shopped around for a good quality grill.  I wanted quality, I wanted something that would last, and I wanted something permanent. I found just the right grill!

My grill is cemented into the ground just under the overhang of my patio/carport.  When it's raining, or when it's snowing, or when it's sunny... I can grill out.  And yes, I do this often!  I had purchased the grill before I even hired a moving company to help me move... I had my priorities straight!

The weather the past few days has me itching for a big cookout.  Not just 3 or 4 friends over, but a BIG cookout for lots of people.  I'm sure I'll be scheduling and inviting soon because the anticipation has now grown even larger.   I recently ordered and received a few of my favorite grilling sauces.  I am preparing for the upcoming grilling season!

After I had bought my grill, but before I had moved in my house, I was at one of the stores in Cool Springs that sold grills...and they also sold marinades and grilling sauces too.  The shop owner had suggested this steak marinade called "Hukilau Hannah" from Hoboken Eddies.  I bought a bottle of this...and after using it I went back and bought three bottles of it.  It immediately became my steak marinade of choice.

Hukilau Hannah is a sweet blend of teriyaki, apricot, wasabi and ginger.  I am typically not a big fan of teriyaki, so trust me when I say that this is not a strong teriyaki taste.  It's very citrissee and sweet. My steak of choice is a thick cut rib-eye from Sam's Club.  After allowing the steaks to marinade for at least 24 hours they are ready for the grill.  This blend of marinade tastes Polynesian or Hawaiian to me, so I also like to throw some pineapple on the grill too.  I've had some incredible steaks before, but this is truly one of the best steaks to me.  I hope I'm not biased!

That particular grill shop closed so now I have to buy the marinade from online.  For a while they even stopped selling it direct and only sold to when I buy it, I typically buy several bottles at once.  But oh my word, it is so worth it!

The other grilling sauce is a relatively new flavor for me, it's called JohnBoy & Billy's Grilling Sauce.  My sister introduced it to me over Thanksgiving.'s just one more reason to love my incredible sister!  If you like pork chops on the grill, then this sauce needs to be sampled.  I like baking chicken with it, but I've yet to grill chicken on the grill with it...because I have a favorite for chicken too, Carolina Treet.

There is an original version of JohnBoy & Billy's, but the spicy version is better to me.  It's got a little vinegar tang to it (it's based in Eastern NC) and the pork chops it produces are simply YUMMY!  Carolina Treet has a much strong vinegar base, and is perfect for wings.  I've discovered vinegar based BBQ sauces are definitely regionally acquired taste.  But I do believe the JohnBoy & Billy's Grilling Sauce will be loved by anyone who has it with pork.  Ask me to prove it!

So I have planned ahead and bought the marinades, the weather is warming up, and now it's just time for the crowd to be invited.  Grilling season is upon us!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

By George - that's a cheesesteak!

In June I plan to go to New Orleans, and when I tell people this I instantly hear "You have to go get a Beignet from Cafe Du Monde!" Because I already know this,  I'm letting them cater an event I'm hosting with my job (WT Cox Subscriptions).  When I went to Portland last year, everyone told me I had to visit Voodoo Donuts, and I did!  AMAZING!  I had a peanut butter and Oreo donut that was totally yummy! In Memphis, you're told to go to Rendezvous for Ribs.  They won't disappoint and you will find yourself licking your fingers.  When in Chicago you have to get a deep dish pizza from Giordano's.  You'll leave stuffed.  And when you go to Philly, you know you're going to be told to get a Cheesesteak.

Last week I was in Philadelphia for a conference and was staying in "Center City" (the heart of the convention center area).  Reading Terminal Market is a jewel that gives Philadelphia a distinct personality for convention goers.  It gives the city some personality and a distinctive feature that the city can be proud of.  It has heart, it has soul - and even the day before the convention started, it was bustling with traffic.  In the movie "National Treasure" Nicholas Cage runs through the market. How he didn't stop for something to eat causes me to believe the movie isn't all that realistic...

This market is like a farmers market, meat market, dry goods market, bakery, flea market and a scattering of many counter restaurants all in one.  The mouth watering aromas almost drove me crazy.  The Amish goodies had me salivating. The fish markets had me gagging.   There were so many places to eat that I had a difficult time deciding where to choose.  I was following the tweets from the conference and attendees were saying "try this place" & "try that place."  So I did.  The market was fun!

On my first day in Philly I ate at a stand called Carmen's.  I pounced when I saw an empty seat at the counter!  The empty seat just happened to be right in front of the cash register.  The cashier (and I'm guessing the owner) rudely told me I was to wait in line, place my order and then get a seat if there was one available.  I thought he was rude, but by the end of the week, I realized that's just the personality of people in the market.  Brash. Loud. Obnoxious.  No southern charm there!  There wasn't a line so I was able to order from my seat, and the sandwich quickly came.  It was good - but nothing to write home about.

But by George, I was going to find an outstanding cheesesteak!  The next day I saw several tweets about a place called "By George" and I set out to find it.  The steak in this sandwich was real steak, not just "meat" sliced so thin it looked like a product called "steakums." It was real steak, and a very healthy portion was sizzling on the grill.  And the cheese - there was lots of cheese.  It was cooked with onions and placed on a roll that was perfect for the sandwich.  I had found it, I had found a GREAT Philly Cheesesteak!

Even in the midst of all the options surrounding me, I ended up eating at "By George" twice.  The food was fabulous, and the guy at the cash register was actually kind.  They had a wide range of Italian dishes to choose from but their cheesesteak appeared to be one of the hottest selling items.  Like many others, I tweeted of this exceptional cheesesteak!

I do want to mention another place too - Delilah's.  Back in 2003 Oprah said she had the best Macaroni & Cheese in the country.  I'm sure that got this place some business. The mac and cheese was good, but the fried chicken and blackeye peas with rice were exceptional.

I just had an observation - we had two customer dinners where the bill was well over $1,500.  Yet I am writing about an $8 Philly Cheesesteak.  It's pretty obvious to see where my taste buds gravitate.

And just in case my boss reads this - Yes, I did spend some time in the convention center and spent time at our booth.  Our customer dinners were a huge success.  It was a great conference with many leads generated!  But it was Reading Terminal Market that made this conference stand out from the recent ones.