North comes South: Part II

Day 2 of my friend Blair’s visit was quite busy.  We started off the day with a plan to hike part of the Natchez trace and suited up in several layers of athletic apparel to face the nippy wilderness.  But first, we made a stop in downtown Franklin for a little retail therapy and sustenance.   I took Blair to several of my favorite spots: Iron Gate, Gino, Philanthropy and Anthropology.  Blair found a couple of cute pieces for Easter at Gino and then we decided a sweet treat was in order as delicious smells wafted over from the adjacent Meridee’s.  I had a strawberry pastry that I intended to eat just half of, but before I knew it, it had disappeared on me.  Blair got a cookie that I made a note to try sometime.  And by sometime, I meant later that afternoon.

As we walked to the car to head on to the Natchez trace, I lost Blair.  She was behind me one minute and as I went to unlock my Jeep and hop in, she was nowhere to be found.  I circled the car only to find Blair trying to get into another car two spaces ahead of mine.  We had a good laugh over that.

Our drive to the Natchez trace took us through the beautiful farms in Leiper’s Fork. I had never been over that way so it was an uncharted adventure for both me and Blair.  We saw lots of different animals. Blair was particularly taken by the horses wearing “sweaters.”  They were pretty darn cute.

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Don’t let this clear, sunny sky fool you; it was about 45/50 degrees.

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We arrived at the trail entrance and embarked on our hiking adventure a little leery of the heavily wooded/potentially creature filled path.  Thankfully, we didn’t encounter anything questionable except a swampy patch and a little horse poo.

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Not too far into our journey, we stumbled upon this beautiful view.

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Selfie alert!  Here we are at a large bluff along the trace.  You can’t judge us because there was not a soul within miles who could have possibly taken our picture.

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Limbo anyone?

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I was very interested in the neat shadow patterns of the trees.

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About 2 miles in, the trail opened up into this lovely lawn.

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Lots of pretty wildflowers.  Seeing this reminds me that I once suggested to my Dad that we turn part of my parents’ lawn into a meadow.  It was a no-go.

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We came across this memorial honoring the soldiers who traveled along the Natchez Trace during the war of 1812.

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We hiked the trail for roughly 4-5 miles.  Our pedometer seemed to be confused by our frequent elevation changes through the hills so our mileage was a little ambiguous.   We weren’t terribly concerned about it.  It was a nice hike and a nice chat and we were happy to have made it out of the wilderness alive.

It was 2:00PM by the time we wrapped up our hike and we were kind of hungry.  Just a little ways down the road, we stopped in “downtown” Leiper’s Fork for some lunch.  We first ventured into Puckett’s, which looked delicious, but neither of us was really in the mood for a rib-stickin’ meal of BBQ or meatloaf.  I was craving a salad (a very rare occurrence for me) and Blair thought something a little bit lighter sounded good, too.  We were about to head back to downtown Franklin when we spotted a little café.  Perfect! We walked in the door and started reading what looked to be a lovely selection of salads, soups and sandwiches.  The “host” greeted us with a very confused look on his face as he speculated, “Lunch?”  Not knowing any other commonly accepted term for a mid-day meal, Blair and I responded, “Yes?” (duh?).  He then informed us that the grills had been turned off.  We said no worries; we were hoping for salads anyway.   His frown deepened as he informed us that he wouldn’t be able to serve us salads either because apparently when the grill is shut down, this establishment that serves many things not prepared on a grill is paralyzed, and it is impossible to prepare anything edible for two hungry young ladies even though there were pre-packaged items staring at us in the refrigerated case in between us and Mr. No.  We left a little miffed and happily noshed on salads and fried pickles at 55 South back in downtown Franklin.

We arrived back at my place mid-afternoon and inadvertently took a power nap while catching up on some March Madness.  Then it was time to get ready for dinner.  On to the next meal!

Blair loves sushi so I knew I had to take her to Virago at some point during her visit.  Not only does it have great sushi, but it’s also one of my favorite restaurant designs in Nashville.  Good lighting, not too loud, different dining formats, great use of texture, interesting crowd, prime location in the Gulch.  It’s a pretty swanky spot.

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We sat at the bar so we could watch basketball.   After thoroughly reviewing the menu, we ordered sushi and drinks and settled in.  I can’t explain it, but something possessed me to order a cocktail spiked with jalapeno.  It was very interesting and mostly enjoyable until my sushi that contained sriracha entered the mix.  It probably didn’t help matters that I also dunked each bite into soy sauce mixed with a sinus-clearing portion of wasabi.   Towards the end of the meal I ordered a bowl of plain rice to counteract the inferno building in my mouth.

It was still a reasonable hour when we wrapped up dinner so we headed down the road to Patterson House, a throw-back speak-easy in Midtown.  We ordered fancy, chemically-engineered, hand-crafted drinks.  And doughnuts.

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We got to talking to the bartender (as this is the south after all) about the concept of this establishment and how it reminded us of a “mixology”-type bar in Boston, called Drink.  Much to our surprise, this bartender knew Drink because Patterson House had hosted several guest-bartenders from Drink recently.  This world is impossibly small at times.   We chatted with the bartended some more about her favorite places to eat in Nashville.   She recommended City House and Rolf and Daughters, two places high on my list to try in Germantown.  She also mentioned the Catbird seat, which is located directly above Patterson House.  I made a note to check it out.  Sadly, our new friend was moving to San Francisco in the near future, but it was nice to meet her.

And on that note, we concluded day 2 of our adventures.

Y’all hurry back,

Sugarlump

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North comes South: Part I

My good friend from college Blair came to visit me a few weeks back.  She was my first non-family member Yankee visitor and it was her first time in the south.  EVER.  It was a pretty big deal.

I picked up Blair at the airport early Wednesday afternoon and went over some ideas of things to do and try out during her stay.  Even though it was a little chilly (I’ll have you know it was 80 degrees the weekend prior), the afternoon she arrived was supposed to be the warmest of the days while she was here so I suggested we pack up a picnic and head out to Arrington Vineyards.  I had never been before but had been told by many people that I should go if I had the chance.  We packed up supplies in the largest beach tote known to man, picked up some cheese and olives at Whole Foods and headed on our merry way.

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After a scenic drive away from the city, we arrived at Arrington Vineyards for our free wine tasting.  Our server gave us his spiel, telling us we could try up to 8 different wines.  I asked Blair how many she was going to try, to which she replied, “8! I’m on vacation!”  I like the way she thinks.  No wonder we’re friends.

We were both starving and decided to nosh on the cute little crackers offered at the tasting to cleanse the palate between wines.  Blair referred to them as cracker pillows, because they did indeed look like pillows made out of a cracker.  Our server agreed and we giggled about it for a good 5 minutes.  For the record, this was before we had sampled any wine, which was unfortunate for Blair who tasted the crackers first.  I asked her how they tasted as she chewed for an eternity.

“Very…dry.   They make you thirsty.  In a bad way.”

I tried one or four also and concluded that they were indeed the driest crackers I’d ever tasted.  Who knew something so small and cute was capable of robbing your mouth of all moisture.  Perhaps they should use them at the dentist instead of that terrible saliva sucker thing…

For the rest of the trip, Blair and I referred to anything or anyone who put a damper on things as a cracker pillow.  As in, “Man, he was a real cracker pillow.”

Anyway, we tasted our 8 wines and decided on a bottle to purchase and enjoy with our picnic.

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I went to the car to retrieve the picnic and as I walked back up to the porch, I got several comments on my monstrosity of a bag.   It really does come in handy on such occasions.

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We set up our spread and caught up for several hours as we enjoyed our wine and cheese.  The sun began to set on the Vineyard and it was time to pack up and get ready to go downtown for dinner.

Normally, if I’m trying to ensure that my guests have a good time and/or trying to convince them to move to Nashville, I take them to places that I have been to and know are worth returning to.  I hadn’t been to Arrington Vineyards, but that was a hit so I continued breaking my rules that evening by suggesting we try a new restaurant in town that I hadn’t yet been to.

We freshened up and headed downtown to The Row, which had just opened the week before.  We arrived to a nearly empty restaurant and were seated in a booth in the corner under some very harsh, interrogation style lighting.  We asked if they could maybe dim the light a little, which they couldn’t (poor lighting design) so we asked to move.  We were re-seated in a very dark section and began to study the menu by candlelight.  From one extreme to the other in the span of 30 feet.

The menu had lots of southern classics to choose from.  I picked chicken fried chicken with cheese grits and bourbon sweet potatoes and Blair got the BBQ, brussel sprouts with bacon, and fries.  What the restaurant lacked in atmosphere it sadly did not make up with its food.  While it wasn’t terrible, it wasn’t special.  I know better than to order fried chicken with two grandmothers from Kentucky.   Shame on me.  I’m sure the restaurant would be more pleasant if it were full, but I’m not in a hurry to go back and neither is Blair, particularly if she has to come all the way from Boston.  So maybe I should have quit while I was ahead with the blind adventures.  Thankfully, Blair was willing to write off that one since we started off well at the Vineyard and had several days of pre-approved adventures ahead.

And that was just the first 8 hours.

Stay tuned for parts II & III.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Here to Stay

Somehow, I have lived in Tennessee for a year.  How did that happen?

This past Saturday marked the anniversary of completely uncharacteristic move 1100 miles south.  In a way, it seems this year flew by, and yet living in Boston seems a long way back.  I didn’t know a soul when I moved here, but of course I received a warm welcome.  It is the south after all.

I’ve made many wonderful friends in the last 12 months.  I’ve gotten to see my grandparents and extended family more than ever.  I’ve discovered I like bluegrass.  I’ve put 17,000 miles on my car. I’ve experienced a tornado warning.  I’ve taken thousands of pictures of the sky.  I haven’t done yoga once.

Words like “you’re fine” and “y’all” have become fixtures in my vocabulary.  My style has become more eclectic and less preppy.   Though it would be a serious stretch to call me an extrovert, I’m more outgoing and chatty than I used to be.  I like to get out more.

I don’t have a TV in my room and I don’t miss it. I still haven’t bought bar stools so I don’t have a proper place to eat a meal.  I cook maybe once or twice a week.

I’ve decided I’m not over the city living as much as I thought. I’ve stopped drinking soda. I like dogs more than I used to.  I’ve been to the movie theater 3 times.  I’ve canned jam.

I’ve learned more about what’s important to me and what’s not.

It feels like home here.

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I think it’s time to take down this wreath.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump