Thursday, August 4, 2016

Eating Nashville - A "Research" Trip

by Jay Ducote

These days I am fortunate to get to travel to some pretty awesome culinary destinations. It's the part of my job that I've always loved, and all the more reason that I'm hoping that my pilot for Deep Fried America gets picked up by the Travel Channel. I'm hoping to hear something in the next month or so, but TV takes time, that's for sure!

While I wait for the call, I have plenty of research to do in the mean time and not just in the name of fried foods. In about a year's time, I'll be opening up my first restaurant, a taco stand in Baton Rouge's White Star Market, Gov't Taco.

I can't wait to hit the road to find taco nirvana, but If I'm going to show people where to find the best fried food in America, I need to start eating. Nashville Hot Chicken is one of the most quintessential fried foods out there, so I had to taste it first hand. When I travel, I love to eat and drink locally, so you know beer and some other southern eateries definitely had to be on the menu.

Biscuit Love

I met my friend Tabitha, a food blogger turned culinary marketing mogul, at the Nashville hot spot. They have a rather large "Nashville" that lots of people take their picture with it. So, when in Biscuit Love...

Jay Ducote at Biscuit Love in Nashville
Posing at Biscuit Love in Nashville

One of many great things about Tabitha is that she gets me. I couldn't decide what I wanted to try, other than obviously something with a biscuit, so she ordered nearly everything on the menu. Here's the lineup:

Classic biscuit with jam.
Nashville Hot Chicken biscuit with pickles and mustard.
Bonuts: fried biscuit dough with lemon mascarpone and blueberry compote.
The Lindstrom: shaved Brussels sprouts, hazelnuts, Parmesan, lemon vinaigrette and poached eggs.
Eat Nasty: fried, boneless chicken thigh, aged cheddar and sausage gravy.

One of everything, please! Biscuit Love goes hard.
One of everything, please! Biscuit Love goes hard.

The Eat Nasty, Biscuit Love's signature dish is as remarkably southern and just as delicious as it sounds; as is the entire menu. I need more on my taste buds, stat!

Hattie B's

Nashville Hot Chicken at Hattie B's
Nashville Hot Chicken at Hattie B's

My next hot-spot stop in Nashville was to none other than Hattie B's. I had to get a taste of that famous Nashville Hot Chicken! I'll chalk this up under research for Deep Fried America. I mean, how else would I know if it is worthy for prime time TV, right? 

In case you're wondering- yes, I tried the Shut Da Cluck Up, Hattie B's hottest flavor and yes, I pretty much regret it. A part of me is glad I tried it once, but I'll definitely never do it again. That Hell fire is just not worth the feverish memories. 

The hot chicken, though, which sits in the middle of the spice spectrum, is pretty darn amazing. It has the right heat while still packing plenty of other flavor. The burn is a slightly painful, but in the pleasure to burn kind of way. The idea of hot chicken as a whole is quite crave-able. I know I'll be back. My mouth waters just looking at the picture.

Husk Nashville

Confession: I've never been on a culinary adventure to Charleston, SC. It is a shame, I know. In the last year I've been lucky enough to cross Portland, Austin and Nashville off my bucket list. I'm hoping Charleston and Savannah join that list soon.

I've been itching to get to Husk in Charleston. Chef Sean Brock is the man behind the legendary Charleston restaurant, but now with a location in Nashville I chomped at the chance to grab a taste.

A group of friends and I went for brunch. There were so many stellar options on the brunch menu that I had a difficult time deciding. Our waiter could see it in my eyes, though. He knew what I was thinking: burger time!

The Burger at Husk Nashville
The Burger at Husk Nashville

The HUSK Cheeseburger with Bear Creek Farms beef and potato wedges is about as true to the textbook definition of cheeseburger as it gets. Juicy, borderline greasy (in all the right ways) beef patties are layered with cheddar. Everything else is optional. Dress to your liking and dig in. Simple, but magical. 

The party didn't stop there! Some more traditional brunch dishes were ordered, but the show stopper was the "plate of souther vegetables." A symphony of flavor, these seasonal vegetables are dynamite. I don't understand why more restaurants aren't celebrating local produce more.

Southern Veggies at Husk
Southern Veggies at Husk

Jackalope Brewing

My trip to Nashville couldn't be all food, after all, this is Bite and Booze. I met up with my buddy Kurt Strickmaker, owner of local craft beer distributor Bounty Bev. He took me to Jackalope Brewing where we met up with owner Bailey Spaulding and enjoyed a couple beers as she showed us around the microbrewery.

Kurt Strickmaker from Bounty Bev, Bailey Spaulding from Jackalope Brewing and I pose at Jackalope
Kurt Strickmaker from Bounty Bev, Bailey Spaulding from Jackalope Brewing and I pose at Jackalope

Jackalope is a pretty rad spot. They use a mobile canning line to come in and can their beer so they don't have to warehouse all the cans or invest in the expensive equipment. The tap room is inviting and the brewery itself is small but efficient. It's definitely worthy of a stop on a beer run through Nashville.

Mas Tacos Por Favor

Having completed my other research obligations, it was time to turn my attention to tacos. Mas Tacos Por Favor in East Nashville provided a perfect place to do some tortilla-wrapped homework. The style of this taco shop is simple, authentic and inspiring. It's straightforward, but well thought out; unique, but not pretentious. They make tacos, and they are damn good.

Mas Tacos, always
Mas Tacos, always

I opted for the pulled pork taco braised down with tomatillos topped with cabbage, onions and spicy yogurt. Along side that I got he rotating special: a fried tilapia taco with cabbage, onion and a dill yogurt. Both tacos displayed simple flavors in a way that made them fantastic. They weren't revolutionary or modern, they were just good.

Nashville certainly didn't disappoint me. I found some great food, tasty beers and amazing company. I know I'll be back again to try to find some different spots to conduct my research. Feel free to offer up any suggestions to @jayducote on Twitter!


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