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

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

Easter Eatin’

Happy Easter, y’all!

I’ve been up to a lot lately that I will post about when I have some free time, which will be on the fifth of never.  Just kidding.  Kinda.

Even though these posts won’t be in chronological order, I thought I’d share my Easter while it’s fresh in my noggin.  My dear little sister, Eugene drove down from Lexington, Kentucky to join me for the holiday.  I hadn’t seen her since Christmas, which seems ridiculous since she lives only three and a half hours away.  She arrived last evening and we went out to dinner at Germantown Café, which we had been to last summer for brunch.  The brunch last year was fabulous and dinner certainly didn’t disappoint.

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My friend and her sister joined us and we ordered two appetizers to share: pork belly tater tots and fried green tomatoes.  I normally don’t like tomatoes but I didn’t mind choking these down one bit.  They weren’t half-bad; in fact, they were more than half-good. The pork belly tater tots were slightly smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, which was good.  I’m not a huge fan of smoky things, including cigarettes.  They were very rich but quite tasty.

For my entrée, I had the fish special, which was a panko-crusted tilapia with a Puttanesca –like medley over parmesan polenta and asparagus.  If there is ever a fish and grits/polenta dish offered at a restaurant, I will most likely order it.  It’s one of my favorite combinations ever.   This wasn’t the best I ever had, but it certainly hit the spot.

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We moved on to Holland House for drinks/dessert.  I ordered a drink on our waiter’s recommendation that wasn’t on the menu.  I don’t recall the name, but it was a bourbon-based concoction that tasted like fall in a tumbler.  Fall is my favorite season and bourbon is my poison, so I definitely enjoyed it.  It didn’t hurt that Holland House is such a neat scene with its dim-lighting and parlor-like feel with just the right balance of rustic and refined décor.  Initially I had wanted to sit at the bar to people watch and observe the theatrics of the bartenders making their artisan cocktails, but it worked out that we were seated by the fireplace since it was a cold, rainy night.  We ordered dessert to finish off the evening.  My sister and I split a flourless chocolate cake with a scoop of homemade carrot cake ice cream.  The dessert wasn’t as spectacular as the drinks, but all in all, it was a fun evening.

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After church this morning, my sister and I headed over to Pancake Pantry, which I have been wanting to try since I moved here.  I was forewarned that there would be a line down the sidewalk and today was no exception.  Poor Eugene toughed it out in the rain with me, each of us with a malfunctioning umbrella and no outerwear, for about 45 minutes.  Thankfully, the food was worth the wait otherwise I think she would have killed me.  She ordered pecan pancakes and I ordered chocolate chip.  We also rounded out the meal with an order of sausage patties and hash browns.   The pancakes were superb and the sausage was the good stuff.  The hash browns, while good, were clearly crisped up on the griddle with Parkay margarine.  I know this because Parkay has a very distinct flavor which I first experienced as a child when I insisted we purchase the Parkay spray margarine I had seen on TV because it looked like fun to use.  It is not tasty and I’m going to have to dock Pancake Pantry a few points for this faux pas.  They have a good thing going with their pancakes with whipped butter, though.

In my typical fashion, the visit was centered around food.   Eugene didn’t seem to mind and I didn’t have to cook.  Not that I mind cooking, but I still don’t have barstools so there isn’t a proper place to sit and eat a meal in my apartment.   I’m working on it though.  Thank goodness Nashville has a lot of great restaurants.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Siriously?

I’m new to the iphone 4.  I realize that the iphone 5 just came out, but I likely won’t be ready for that kind of innovation until 2015.  It’s not that I’m opposed to technology; I’m just the opposite of an early adopter.  I like simplicity, and acquiring new technological trinkets without a clear value-add to my daily existence goes against everything I stand for.  Well, that might be an overstatement, but you get my point.

Even though I’ve had my iphone 4 for several months now, until recently, I had yet to really test out all of its allegedly wonderful features, namely Siri.

I challenged her to some simple tasks of finding local restaurants for me to call and order take-out.  She proved to be fairly capable.

A few weeks back, I decided to give her the more complex challenge of providing me an update on my mother’s arriving flight.  In a very surly tone, Siri replied, “I can’t help you with flights. Sorry.” And then she pulled up a “search the web” link for me to look it up myself as if I didn’t already think of that.

I later picked up my mom at the airport after confirming that her flight was on time (no thanks to Siri).  Then I picked up my dad after his flight came in and the 3 of us decided we could go for some Mexican lunch.  We settled on Taco Mamacita, a great little fresh-Mex kind of place in Nashville.  I had only driven there from my apartment, so I consulted Siri on directions from the airport to our lunch destination.   I asked for directions to “Taco Ma-ma-seat-ah” from here.  She responded with directions to “Taco Ma-mass-sit-uh” from my current location.  While she was helpful in directing me to the restaurant, she could use some work on her pronunciation.

A little while later, my dad asked if there was an Apple store near me, so I suggested we ask Siri.  My dad asked her to “find an apple store.”  The bright lass found Apple, Inc. in Cupertino, California, helpfully adding that it was “far from here.”

I’m sure Siri will help me out of a pickle someday, but until then, I think I’ll have her stick to entry-level tasks.

Y’all come back (just don’t ask Siri how to get here),

Sugarlump

Family Visit: Scene I

I haven’t posted much this past week as I have been a tad busy with out-of-town guests (my immediate family), visiting my grandparents in Kentucky, picking beans out of the garden, making potato and chicken salad (clarification: potato salad and chicken salad, not salad with chicken and potatoes.  That would be weird.), cleaning up my house, drinking enough water to match the rate at which I am sweating it out due to the triple digit heat wave, breaking up and shelling beans to put up, wrangling my cats, watching the clouds, working at my day job, watering my scorched container garden, sending thank you notes, catching up on recorded reruns of Pioneer Woman, tracking severe weather across the U.S., and remembering my name.

It has been quite a week, but a good one.

I had Mexican food for dinner Friday, Sunday and Monday nights.

I repeat: It was a good week.

It was also nice to see my family.  We tend to have some good laughs when we’re together.

The fun began when my sister drove down from Lexington and we picked up my parents at the airport the Friday before last.

Getting down to business, we drove straight to Mexican Restaurant #1 for dinner.

My Dad ordered a large Margarita, which was served in what seemed to be a punch bowl with a stem.

I had taken a few minutes to decide what kind of drink I wanted and I was telling the waitress that I would like a strawberry daiquiri as my Dad’s water basin of a drink arrived.

The waitress then asked me what size drink I would like.  Seeing my eyes bulge out of my head as they placed my Dad’s drink on the table, she cracked a smile and devilishly asked:

“You want big?”

I was a little hesitant to order a drink as large as my head, but I kind of wanted one.   The waitress was a very perceptive lady and concluded:

“You want big.”

A few minutes later, this is what arrived.

Yes, Eugene, that is my drink.

As you can see, we were off to a great start with the family visit.

We enjoyed a tasty dinner and caught up on what had gone on in the past week.  I was telling my parents about taking my cats, Gus and Scarlett, to the vet for the first time since moving to Nashville.  I had to take them in for a distemper shot and I was going on about how Scarlett had behaved quite badly, per usual. I believe at this point in the conversation Eugene was sort of half-listening as she tried to make a dent in the 4 plates of food she had been served because she looked up confused and asked:

“Wait, she had to get a shot for his temper?”

We all died laughing. Another great “Julia-ism.”

Oh, you crack me up, Eugene.

More to come on the rest of the family weekend.

Y’all come back,

Sugarlump

Seeester’s Birthday

Today is my seeester Eugenice’s birthday.

She came to visit me this weekend and boy did we have a BIG time.

First, we shopped around in downtown Franklin and had an early lunch at Puckett’s.  We left the restaurant to check out a cute little bakery and stumbled upon this completely normal scene on Main Street:

The latest in hybrid vehicles.

Thankfully this guy kept his road rage under control.

Apparently the dress code for this event was formal.

Somehow (perhaps inspired by our canine acquaintance’s fashion statement), we wound up at the mall where I purchased these VERY tall shoes.  I thought that I was going to sneak one by Eugene and finally be taller than her.  But then she also bought some VERY tall shoes.  So I got to be tall and she got to be VERY tall.  At least I was tall.

Here are some very professional photos we took of ourselves dressed to go out to dinner.

I’m not sure what’s going on with my right eye here.  I think it got stuck.

Eugene’s poof was not cooperating.

We take ourselves very seriously.  Obviously.

This makes me laugh uncontrollably every time I look at it.

The point of these pictures was to capture our full outfits, especially our sassy new shoes.  Clearly we succeeded.

Not.

We ventured down to the Gulch and had a delicious dinner at Sambuca’s, where we enjoyed some great live music in our VERY tall shoes.  We also had a celebrity sighting, which was a special present that I organized for Eugene (not really, but that’s what I told her.  I won some major points).

After enjoying ourselves thoroughly at dinner, we started toward the door and realized it was pouring rain outside.  We decided to wait it out for a little while, but then it just started raining harder.

Wonderful.

So, we agreed to cut our losses, take off our new tall (and suede) shoes, stick them in my purse and run for the hills (the car).  I hope someone witnessed this and had a good laugh.

The next morning I whipped up a gourmet breakfast of Eggo waffles, butter and butter-flavored syrup.  I then served this delicacy on my formal storage bin table next to the sofa.  I know this made Eugene feel really special.

As I tried to take a picture of Eugene enjoying this beautiful breakfast spread, my camera went off like a machine gun.  Evidently, the night before as we tried to take pictures before going out to dinner, Eugene had adjusted my camera to a timed, rapid-fire setting so we could back up and get a picture of ourselves since there was no one else to take a photo of us.   I was not aware that my camera was still on this setting when I turned it on the next morning.  As it went off, my instinct was to find cover because I had no idea what was happening.

Eugene just shook her head.

All in all, I would call it a very successful weekend of birthday/sister shenanigans.

Welcome to the third decade of your life, poodle.   I hope you had a stupendous Birthday.

I LAHV you.

Y’all be careful and take an umbrella,

Sugarlump