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Wow, it’s been more than two months since my last kitchen update! Things are progressing very slowly. What I had thought would be just an overall three-month renovation has dragged on and will be closer to six or seven months. However, we’ve been living here a month now because we do have a working kitchen and one working full bathroom.

Anyway, all the cabinets, appliances, and countertops are all in place. It still needs to be finished off because the fur-downs created a challenge. None of them were particularly straight, so there were gaps, but we will put some edging on them and paint to match the cabinets to make them look like an extension of the cabinets. We couldn’t get rid of them entirely because they hide some of the HVAC ductwork as well as some wiring and plumbing.

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I am happy with the functionality of the IKEA cabinets (still using the AKURUM system, which is being discontinued by IKEA), but painting them was a real chore. I got some incorrect information that I could just use some alcohol-based primer and I wouldn’t need to sand all these pieces, so I’ve had to do some painting, re-painting, sanding, and re-re-painting. Of course, I probably would have been okay if I’d used an oil-based paint instead of latex. But I’m not going to re-do it all again! And I'm hopeful that they'll last a while. They have a 25-year warranty, but they are not real wood, so I'm anxious about how they'll hold up. I plan to take care of them, though. Prevent spills, keep them clean, and so on.

For the countertops, I went with quartz. There is some quartz that is just gorgeous...and also very expensive. But I opted for Caesarstone in "Nougat" which is pretty with just a bit of sparkle to it. It's in the middle range as far as quartz pricing and about the same as some of the nicer granite. I really like it.

The Bosch appliances have been mostly great. The counter-depth fridge is low on space, particularly in the freezer, but it’s very sleek (thanks to the water and ice dispensers being inside) and the alarm is nice since I don’t always get the door closed. Also, the stainless steel front will take a magnet! This is great news for my little artist.

The Bosch dishwasher (a 500 series) does a great job and is very quiet. So much so that when it does make a noise, it’s startling because I’ve forgotten it was on. However, I am accustomed to a “dry” cycle that could be disabled so that I could put any item anywhere in the dishwasher. This one does not have a dry cycle, but uses extra heated water to “made drying faster.” Well, that water melted a silly straw already. I used the express cycle once, but it did not get the dishes as clean as the “light” cycle on my old Kenmore. However, I can get a lot more stuff into the Bosch, so I don’t have to run it as often, so I suppose that works out.

The slide-in range is a bit disappointing. Though it is gorgeous, doesn’t require any countertop behind it (it is “full depth”) and has many, many nice features (most of which I’ll never use), the one problem with it is a big one. That is, when the oven is on, the cooling fan is also on. And it is not quiet. This is only true for the slide-in models and I really don’t get it. Even when I had it on a warming mode of 120F, the stupid fan was still running. In this age when everyone is blowing out the walls in their homes and many of us have living areas open to the kitchen, this seems like a real design flaw. And as quiet as the dishwasher is, I’d rather have it not be quiet and have a quiet oven because I can run the dishwasher at night and never hear it. And when I’ve finished cooking dinner, the fan will still run to cool down the oven for some 10 minutes after I’ve turned it off. So we hear this clutter noise while we’re eating. This is something I think Bosch should really address or they’re going to have a tough time selling these things. Though, in reading the reviews of the microwave, this feature may be preventing the microwave front from melting...

The microwave is the last of the suite of appliances I got. Its functionality is almost identical to the LG that I left behind (and loved), though it is smaller (by choice) and doesn’t heat items quite as quickly. A weird thing it does is run the vent fan after items are heated, but the fan turns off once you open the door. I suppose this is so there’s a lesser chance of your food continuing to be heated and cooked after it shuts off, so that’s actually a rather nice feature if you use it to steam vegetables (as I do).

The floor remains on the to-do list. Of the many mistakes I have made, I definitely count purchasing Behr Semi-Transparent Concrete Stain near the top of the list. I should have let a professional do this job (and I will have to let a professional RE-DO this job). Here’s the deal. This is acrylic water-based stain, which means it’s really just very liquidy, thin paint. So, when it goes on, you can’t really see where the stain is going because the water discolors the concrete. When it dried (lighter than when it went on), I could see roller marks that did not show up before. And by then, of course, it’s too late to fix. You can put another coat or two on, but then it’s not really semi-transparent any more. It’s mostly opaque. Also, it’s not a great sealer. Water-based sealer isn’t great for sealing against water (dur) and it wears off within a couple of years anyway (I learned this from another DIYer after the fact). I also didn’t prime the floors (I thought it was not necessary because of the sanding) and the stain did not adhere well. Lumps of drywall mud were left to dry on the floor when I had the ceilings finished and when I cleaned them off, the stain came with them. So I will pay someone else to stain and seal my floors…sometime.

Note that you see two faucets at the sink. Even though we have a filtered water dispenser inside the refrigerator, I wanted one at the sink (I don’t like to drink really cold beverages). Mr. Eats wanted something a little sleeker than the standard water dispenser, so he chose this Delta prep sink faucet. It’s not from the same line as the big pull-down faucet (Delta Allora, which I highly recommend), but similar enough and both come in Delta’s newest finish, “Arctic Stainless” which is brighter and closer to the color of stainless steel appliances. It’s really pretty.

The two barstools have been in my possession for 20 years now, purchased at a friend’s yard sale, so they were already old then. But finding comfy 24-inch bar stools (counter height) is more of a challenge than I’d thought! And WTH, bar stools are expensive! I also still need the new windows install and trimmed out, a stainless steel backsplash for behind the range, install the shelving for my cookbooks over the 6-foot long counter between the pantries, choose a paint color for the breakfast room, and find an island that I like. So far, I haven't needed it.

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It's been a long time since I updated about the kitchen. Right now, we're in the middle of renovating the home, pretty much top to bottom and side to side. There's not a single space in the house that doesn't need something. But it's moving along; it has to since we have to move in soon.

Since last time, I spent all afternoon in my local Ferguson showroom deciding on appliances as well as lighting for the entire house. The appliances were the easy part; after surveying a lot of friends, I decided to go with all Bosch appliances. They had the French door refrigerator without a dispenser on the front, the slide-in range (that's full depth, so I didn't have to run the countertop behind it), the over-the-range "microhood" microwave, as well as the dishwasher, which is what folks really rave about. The lighting took much longer (so many choices!) and is primarily Kichler in brushed nickel (to go with the stainless appliances and Delta Allora pull-down faucet, which I currently have and like so much I wanted it in my new house), including this badass fan (that I need because my microhood doesn't vent to the outside):

The Kichler Starkk fan
The Kichler Starkk fan

But now to the other really important part: the cabinets. I chose to use IKEA cabinets because of their high customer satisfaction rating. I have two friends with IKEA kitchens and they're both very happy. A local company, ModerNash operates as an importer of IKEA goods to Nashville (because we don't have our own) as well as a kitchen design and installation store. So, because they are experts on all the nuances of IKEA kitchens, I had them measure and design the space to my specifications. Namely, moving the appliances to where they made sense and making the space more functional. In the process, I lost a double oven (I didn't like losing the space on a 30" cooktop for the controls), but I think this will work just fine. Besides, I have a great Breville toaster oven!

Here's the mock-up of the kitchen layout:

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It's changed some since this rendering; there was a miscommunication on the size of the slide-in range as well as the microwave, so now it's back at 30" wide for both (no filler panels) and a 15" tall cabinet over the microwave. Note that now the range is a shorter distance from the sink (for pot filling and draining) and that the refrigerator has been moved out of the primary workspace (and the sink is also accessible without having to pass by the range). It's a full-on functional work triangle! I take items from the fridge and either place them on the cabinet by the range or on the island (which will be removable). Also, not shown here is that the peninsula cabinets are all drawers. For all my many food storage containers (both plastic and glass).

The tricky part of the kitchen is the cabinets themselves. I'd pretty much decided on the Adel, but when I saw it in person, I saw that it was white laminate. It looked pretty cheap to me. No offense to Adel owners, but that's just not what I wanted. So I opted for the Orsa birch, which will be painted white. This is a huge PitA, but I'll have real wood cabinets, which is important to me (even though they'll be painted white). Sixty-eight pieces of cabinetry (including the laundry room) that need to be primed (twice) and painted is a lot of painting (and a lot of time, particularly when waiting on them to cure between coats). Aside from the painting, the other tricky part is having the cabinets look right with the soffits, which are uneven. But I've been assured that "it will look great."

Here are some pictures of the demolition, which we did ourselves (with some help from PopPop Eats):

You know how they always attack cabinets with sledgehammers? Now I know why: stripped screws and 4x4 tile. Sledgehammers are the only way.
You know how they always attack cabinets with sledgehammers? Now I know why: stripped screws and 4x4 tile. Sledgehammers are the only way.

 

Over the course of a couple of days, we got all the cabinets and tile out and all the flooring out, too. Not bad!
Over the course of a couple of days, we got all the cabinets and tile out and all the flooring out, too. Not bad!
But there was still more to rip out. All the drywall had to be replaced; some due to tears from the tile removal, some due to rot and water damage.
But there was still more to rip out. All the drywall had to be replaced; some due to tears from the tile removal, some due to rot and water damage.

 

Finally starting to look like it's ready for cabinets. Note that the floors are finally clean. Two days of sanding with a diamond head floor sander (messy and loud) finally got rid of 40 years of mastic and vinyl glue. Ready to be stained!
Finally starting to look like it's ready for cabinets. Note that the floors are finally clean. Two days of sanding with a diamond head floor sander (messy and loud) finally got rid of 40 years of mastic and vinyl glue. Ready to be stained!

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You wouldn't think that a city that is right in the heart of the mid-south would be all that vegetarian-friendly, but Nashville is very progressive, food-wise with a number of strictly vegetarian and vegan restaurants and many (most!) restaurants being quite accommodating.

Since the fall is a popular time to come to Nashville, I wanted to highlight some of my favorite Nashville restaurants for vegetarian and vegan dining that I'd suggest to visitors. I originally wrote this for the organizers of the Music City Food + Wine Festival, so I pared this list back as much as I could. But it was difficult! I have many favorites that I just couldn't squeeze into my top five format. I've also added a section for my favorite vegetarian-friendly food trucks.

Table Service/Upscale Restaurants
Here are of some of my favorite places that offer excellent selections for vegetarians as well as their omnivore friends, ranging from casual to upscale.

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The butter tasting at Etch

Etch—located downtown, convenient to the Music City Center and Schermerhorn Symphony Center—is the perfect place for everything from a casual lunch to a special occasion dinner. The menu changes seasonally, but there are always excellent vegan and vegetarian options. Tips: get the roasted cauliflower and butter tasting appetizers; ask the server for omivore recommendations; leave room for dessert.

 

The roasted cauliflower as an entree at Etch
The roasted cauliflower as an entree at Etch

Margot Café is a casually elegant restaurant in East Nashville’s Five Points area. The menu features many local and seasonal foods with European flair. Tips: order anything that features tomatoes or sweet corn; the brunch is fantastic, but popular, so be sure to make reservations; the second floor is quaint and cozy.

The 404 Kitchen, a sleek, newer restaurant in the Gulch, also features European-influenced cuisine with an emphasis on seasonal and local produce (some of which comes from the chef’s own farm). Tips: do not miss the burrata; omnivores should get the crudo; if you are unable to get a reservation (the restaurant seats just 44 – 56 people, depending on weather), arrive early and sit at the bar.

 

Burrata with shaved black truffle at 404 Kitchen.
Burrata with shaved black truffle at 404 Kitchen.

Kayne Prime is the flagship steakhouse restaurant of Nashville’s MStreet Entertainment Group. You wouldn’t think a vegetarian would recommend a steakhouse, but their plant-based menu options are extensive, often making it difficult to decide on dinner. Tips: the salads—particularly the kale salads—are all excellent, but you can also make a great meal out of the side dishes (and accompanying popovers); the main dining room can be a bit noisy, so ask for a table with a view up front, a booth, or in the private dining room, if open.

The Silly Goose is a casual restaurant on Eastland, deep in the heart of East Nashville. It has an eclectic menu that focuses on sandwiches and bowls at lunch and then on exquisite entrées at dinner. Tips: the dinner menu changes frequently with what’s available from local farmers, but quinoa, polenta, roasted vegetables, and hash are always good; make a meal from a combination of small plates and/or sides; reservations are strongly suggested, even on weeknights, but you can walk in early or late and usually get seated within 15 minutes.

Bonus: City House and Rolf and Daughters, both located in Germantown and both known for making omnivores happy with some specialty meat items also have some vegan- and vegetarian-friendly items peppered among their menus. Vegan is a little harder to find, but if that's your thing, just call ahead and see if you can be accommodated, particularly since menus change frequently. For something a bit more casual (but not overly so), Amerigo and Porta Via are both great options for Italian food and pizza (Porta Via has a new kale salad with lemon cilantro vinaigrette that I LOVE). Both have extensive gluten-free menus as well.

Quick Service/Counter Service Restaurants
These restaurants include some of my favorite casual places to eat, particularly when you want something quick and/or casual.

The Wild Cow is a laid-back, casual restaurant on Eastland in East Nashville that serves primarily vegan and organic foods in a variety of cuisines and styles. Tips: if it’s available, get the seitan banh mi; otherwise, get the Far Eastland bowl featuring garlicky kale; there’s also an extensive gluten-free selection.

Sunflower Café in Berry Hill (not far from Melrose and 12 South) is a casual, cafeteria-style vegetarian (mostly vegan) restaurant that is actually quite popular among omnivores. Tips: arrive early for lunch because the eat-in area fills up quickly after 11:30; get a plate of sides/salad that includes the sesame kale and get their fantastic veggie burger to-go for later.

SLOCO
The shaved seitan sandwich from Sloco.

Sloco—located in 12 South as well as the Nashville Farmers’ Market—is a quick-service sandwich shop that uses fresh, local, and organic ingredients in its components, most of which are housemade (including the bread). Tips: the housemade shaved seitan sandwich will make you forget that roast beef was ever a thing; make sure to get the pickles; there’s also a great kids’ menu.

Fido, in Hillsboro Village near Vanderbilt is a little bit of everything. It’s a coffee shop, but there’s also all-day breakfast/brunch, delicious sandwiches and salads and daily specials worthy of a five-star restaurant. Tips: parking—particularly during the day—can be a challenge, so come hungry for late lunch or dinner when you can order one of the spectacular dinner specials which are posted frequently to Facebook  (example: fried green tomatoes with roasted okra and watermelon salsa); check out their signature drinks (aside from the coffee); the portobello and eggplant sandwich is one of the best and most filling I’ve had.

Calypso Café, a local chain with multiple locations around the city is consistently voted as “Best Cheap Eats” in the Nashville Scene Best of Nashville Readers’ Poll. But this inexpensive, Caribbean-style food is good, too. Tips: many of the menu items are or can be made vegan; omnivores love the rotisserie chicken; don’t miss the fruit tea or boija corn muffins with your “beans and three.”

Bonus: The Stone Fox, a bar/restaurant/music venue in West Nashville that offers something for everyone. In the early evening, it's a relatively family-friendly casual restaurant with an ever-changing menu of inexpensive seasonal appetizers, sandwiches and burgers, and baskets ranging from decadent (pimento cheese hush puppies, Kitchen Sink mac and cheese) to healthy, but tasty (garden salad with house-made dressings and the King Rabbit Bowl). There's also an awesome brunch on the weekends. Tips: the happy hour is fantastic and offers a special menu of light bites (don't miss the "pulled" jackfruit sliders). The kitchen is open late every night.

World Cuisine
Nashville is home to large populations of people of Middle Eastern, Indian, Korean, and other backgrounds, ensuring that we extensive options for world cuisine.

epice Epice is an upscale Lebanese bistro located in 12 South. There are tons of wonderful Middle Eastern restaurants, but Epice goes above and beyond the falafel. Tips: parking is a challenge, but a bit easier at dinner; get the al-raheb, labneh sandwich, and the katayef for dessert.

Woodlands on West End Avenue is the city’s only all-vegetarian Indian restaurant, specializing in southern Indian cuisine that even dedicated meat-eaters will love. Tips: the lunch buffet is a great way to figure out what you like if you’re not already familiar with southern Indian cuisine; for dinner, be sure to order a masala dosa (it’s huge), tomato and peas uthappa, paneer butter masala, and the batura bread.

smiling elephant
House salad with lime-lemongrass vinaigrette and tamarind pork-moo sahm rhot (with tofu substitution).

Smiling Elephant near Melrose is one of a number of great Thai restaurants, but what puts it gives it the edge to me is the ability to substitute baked tofu (which is not spongy) in just about any dish. Tips: the restaurant is tiny, so plan to arrive for lunch when it opens at 11 or just get takeout; the lime-lemongrass vinaigrette makes any salad worth getting; most desserts are vegan; don’t miss the pad thai or tamarind pork-moo sahm rhot (with tofu substitution).

Jamaicaway serves Caribbean specialties from locations at the Nashville Farmers’ Market and in Cool Springs. Omnivores will enjoy the goat, oxtail, and fish selections but there’s also an extensive collection of mock meat specialties and vegan items are helpfully  noted on the menu. Tips: the restaurant is closed on Saturdays, but open Sundays; try the sorrel punch from the cooler; the fried “chik’n” is delicious with a side of pineapple sweet potatoes, fried plantains and a jonny cake.

Korea House is a small, hole-in-the-wall type restaurant in West Nashville. It serves traditional Korean cuisine, which is not typically very vegetarian-friendly, but the staff here is helpful for helping customers navigate the menu to the items that can be prepared as vegetarian or vegan (and for helping customers who are new to Korean food). Tips: the noodles are handmade, so definitely try a noodle dish, get the bibimbap with tofu (and no egg).

Bonus: Chauhan Ale & Masala House has not yet opened its doors in the (northern) Gulch, but Chef Maneet Chauhan has hosted many previews of her restaurant while awaiting the finishing touches on construction. I attended one of the previews and was just blown away. The menu will not be all vegetarian, but there will be many vegetarian specialties to choose from as well as specialty beers made specifically for the restaurant.

Food Trucks
Nashville has dozens of food trucks ranging from the taco trucks that dot the city's busiest roads to gourmet food trucks offering the type of cuisine you'd find in a fine restaurant. There's even been a book written about our fantastic food truck scene. Visit their sites or social media for locations.

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Charred tomoato and sweet pepper gazpacho and grilled cheese and tomato sandwich on tomato sourdough from Grilled Cheeserie.

Grilled Cheeserie was the first "gourmet" food truck I ever tried. I know that when they're at an event, there will always be a vegetarian option. Gourmet grilled cheese? Yes. This isn't the grilled cheese you make at home. Only the finest locally-made breads and cheeses plus soups, sides, desserts, and a great selection of bottled beverages. Tips: lines can get long, so plan to visit the Grilled Cheeserie when you can catch them in off hours, such as the mid-afternoon or show up when the truck first opens its hatches. Don't miss the desserts.

Riffs started out with a primarily Caribbean and sometimes Asian-inspired menu but now features just about everything, according to the whims of its chefs. Tips: omnivores love the Korean BBQ Tacos and burgers, but Mr. Eats has loved everything he's ever had. My favorites are the kare pan (a Japanese-style curry pocket), "Nashville hot" fried green tomato slider (usually only available during the Tomato Art Fest), and the Riff'd up mac and cheese. There's almost always a vegetarian (or vegetarian-able) option on their menu.

Smoke Et Al specializes in smoked meats, but are very adept at putting their smoker to good use for those of us who don't eat meat. They offer salads, tacos, and other entrees that feature smoked vegetables combined with other ingredients like field greens and house-made dressings to make really compelling meals. Don't miss the sides, though. The fried pickled okra (whole) served with 'Bama white sauce is a favorite.

 

The Lindstrom from Biscuit Love Truck
The Lindstrom from Biscuit Love Truck

Biscuit Love Truck is a truck that--you guessed it--specializes in biscuits. They make angel biscuits (with butter, not lard or shortening, so they are vegetarian, but not vegan), which aren't what I grew up with, but are tasty nonetheless. Be sure to check their menu before chasing them down; they make some tasty "salad biscuits" as well as (when we're lucky), "bonuts," which are biscuit donuts. Look for their permanent location in the Gulch coming soon.

Crankees Pizzeria makes hand-made pizzas in a wood-fired oven that is right there on the truck. And it's delicious, too. Always on the menu is a vegan option with just sauce and herbs (and, occasionally, some arugula and garlic) as well as a vegetarian margherita pizza with fresh mozzarella.

Bonus: Riddim N' Spice is a new truck that offers a vegan chorizo, which is quite tasty!

There are a lot of great restaurants that are listed here, though. Not just because I didn't have room, but I've also not been able to visit so many restaurants because the Nashville restaurant scene is growing so quickly! Let me know in the comments what vegetarian item you love at any of your favorite Nashville restaurants. If I haven't tried it, I will surely want to!