When Chipotle first arrived in Nashville, I didn’t immediately understand all the hype. The company has a huge and loyal fan base and many in Nashville were thrilled about their arrival. When the crowds died down a bit, I finally tried it out. And then I understood. Chipotle puts a tremendous amount of effort into their food sourcing and it really comes through in the quality and taste of their food. Plus, sofritas, y'all! And a good, cheap kid's meal.
Aside from the food tasting great, Chipotle has won support because of their commitment to sustainable sourcing, accommodating various diets, and partnerships with charitable organizations. In Nashville, Chipotle works with The Nashville Food Project, whose mission is “Bringing people together to grow, cook and share nourishing food, with the goals of cultivating community and alleviating hunger in our city.” The organization does so through their organic gardens, through their kitchen (where they also use donated and “recovered” food), and through their food trucks, which they use to distribute meals and produce to those in need.
The Chipotle partnership dovetails nicely with Chipotle’s Food With Integrity program, in which Chipotle seeks to create better food from using ingredients that are fresh as well as sustainably grown and Responsibly Raised™ (with respect for the animals, the land, and the farmers who produce the food). Throughout the year, Chipotle holds and sponsors fundraisers for The Nashville Food Project. In April, the restaurants raised money for TNFP and just a couple of weeks ago, sponsored Nourish, a benefit dinner held at Green Door Gourmet.
I didn’t get a chance to attend Nourish (tickets for the event sold out well in advance), but my friend, Tabitha of A la Mode Media was able to attend and get some cool “backstage” photos of the event. What’s cool is seeing some of the city’s (and the country’s) most celebrated chefs working together (and having a good time) to prepare this dinner. I think her photos clearly capture the spirit of the event (and The Nashville Food Project, in general). At the end of the night, the event raised $140,000 for TNFP. A huge success!
Every year for Mr. Eats’s birthday, we go out and have a very fine, civilized meal. Last year was 404 Kitchen; the year before that was Kayne Prime. This year, I decided on Prima. Like Kayne Prime, Prima is a steak house, which seems like it would be an odd choice for a vegetarian, but like Kayne Prime, there is much more to Prima than just steak. In fact, if I hadn’t been told it was a steak house, I wouldn’t have known.
And that was the issue that Steve Cavendish had with the restaurant when he reviewed Prima for the Nashville Scene. His review was titled, “Prima is a really good Mediterranean restaurant, and a so-so steakhouse,” which gave the impression that it was not a good review. It was, in part, a great review of everything on the menu except the steaks. But let’s be honest: it’s not difficult to cook a steak. It is difficult to cook a steak that will wow you. Because it’s just steak. I asked my husband what was the best steak he’s ever had and he said it was the sous vide/pan seared steak that was served at a friend’s house recently. Not a steak in any restaurant. But they have to have steak on the menu, because the Bill Braskys of the world want a $50 steak when they’re dining on the company dime.
So there’s the background on Prima. And why I thought it would be a good choice for dinner. The menu changes frequently based on what’s seasonal and available, but I knew that they would accommodate me if there was nothing on the menu that suited me. Indeed, most of the sides had some sort of non-vegetarian component (such as pancetta or beef fat), but that was just fine because there was a good selection of salads and soups that would make a good meal. No need to ask for a vegetarian entrée at all.
I started out with the sweet potatoes appetizer. The potatoes are cooked in the skin to the point where it’s crispy and the flesh is creamy (not stringy at all; how do they do that?) and served with grilled onions and fig jam and topped with shreds of ricotta salata. It’s a huge portion, definitely meant for sharing and very delicious. The onions have just a bit of heat that is cooled by the delicate pieces of ricotta. Mr. Eats had the octopus starter, which I recommended based on friends tasting it an event a couple of months ago. The citrus zest really sets it off and Mr. Eats commented that the texture was perfect; not rubbery at all.
For dinner, I had the corona bean soup, which was a vegetable stock based hearty soup that also included bits of carrot, wilted arugula, and I think parsnips or potatoes as well. It was a heavy soup that I couldn’t even finish; it could be a meal on its own (and it will be because you know I brought it home with me). I also had a swiss chard and farro salad with dried cherries and pistachios. The chard was cut into ribbons, tossed in a vinaigrette and mixed with the farro, cherries, and pistachios and then topped with two scoops of deep fried goat cheese. The goat cheese was a substitution that I requested since I’m not a fan of blue cheese. This was one of the best salads I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what else to say about it other than you should try to go there soon before it disappears (though it is a recent addition to the menu, having replaced a kale salad). My husband got a grilled trout (not pictured, for obvious reasons) that was fileted and plated tableside and was huge. As a side, he ordered the grilled broccoli salad, which apparently is lightly seasoned with Beach Road 12 sauce from Martin’s BBQ Joint. He said both were fantastic.
By the end of the meal, I was too stuffed for dessert, which is too bad because there was this chocolate orange and olive oil concoction that sounded as if it were made just for me. Not a fan of the chocolate and citrus combination, Mr. Eats opted for the dulcey chocolate bar, which was actually milk chocolate and mousse-like. He loved it because he prefers milk chocolate to dark. Even better—the staff made sure it was specially-prepared for the occasion.
This seems like the time to mention how fantastic the service was. It’s team service with different staff members for refilling your water (still or sparkling, both complimentary), bringing you a linen napkin (your choice of black or white), and bread service (do not skip the bread; it is delicious). The service was knowledgeable, helpful, and attentive without being intrusive. Other little things that made it nice included that though the restaurant was about 75% full and the kitchen is open to the restaurant, it was not loud. I also didn’t feel crowded up against the tables nearest us. And of course, the gorgeous light fixtures gave us something to gawk at between courses. There is also a valet and complimentary self-parking in the Terrazzo garage. Dress is business casual and up (it's Nashville; men are almost always in jeans, though).
700 12th Avenue South
Open for dinner nightly
Now that my kitchen is functional (and I’m getting deliveries from Green Bean Delivery every other week), I’ve been busy in the kitchen. I have several great recipes with mediocre photos to share, but I thought I’d do a round-up of others’ recipes I’ve either made or tasted recently and really liked.
Roasted Romanesco. The romanesco is a broccoli/cauliflower hybrid that is milder and tastier than either of the two. I got one in a Green Bean Delivery box and cooked it up using this simple recipe from The Kitchen Snob and it was great! This is a particularly good recipe to try when having guests since the vegetable looks so great on a plate. And they were definitely better than roasted cauliflower steaks. I just can’t seem to roast them at home so they taste like the cauliflower at Etch.
Baguettes. During the recent snow/ice storms, we were stuck in our house for nearly a week. Our driveway was covered in a thick sheet of ice. The steepness was great for sledding, but not so much for getting out without possibly careening into a tree. So I decided to make some bread in anticipation of actually running out! My friend, Amy at Fearless Homemaker has made these baguettes often and loves them.
Eh, I didn’t love them. But it’s not the fault of the recipe. Somehow (perhaps the arid conditions in our house because of the heat being on all the time), the dough was too dry, so we had to add water. I also had trouble mixing the dough initially (almost burned up my mixer’s motor). My husband swears he did not measure inaccurately, but anyway, the result was a bread with overworked dough that resulted in a tight crumb (like sandwich bread). So I wasn’t blown away. But if made properly, I can see how this bread would be really great. It’s a huge recipe, though (makes four loaves), so keep that in mind.
Freekeh with Brussels Sprouts, Apples, Cranberries, Cherries and Pecans. This is the dish that Beth of Eat. Drink. Smile. brought to our Nashville Foodbloggers post-holiday potluck. I loved this dish. I’ve got to skeedaddilydoo over to the store and get some freekeh, though. I’ve never had it before and certainly never bought it. But it is fantastic. Plus, I’m always up for a new way to use Brussels sprouts.
I’ve also made a really great Brussels sprouts salad (several times), some fantastic waffles, and a “cookie salad” (my contribution to the foodblogger potluck). Those are the recipes I plan to post soon (I hope).