Tag Archives: The Catbird Seat

Our Big Northwest Adventure

22 Jul

We just returned from a trip to Washington and Oregon that I affectionately call the Big Northwest Adventure. It was an awesome excursion that took us to some places that I had never been and to a lot of places that my wife had never been. Each day was filled with adventures that could expand into several long blog posts. Instead of doing that, I decided to provide a brief description of the days along with my favorite picture from each.

Day 1 – Mount Rainier

Although the hotel bartender told us not to go because of the traffic, we had to see Mount Rainier. We had to wait a bit at the entrance, the traffic was not that bad. We made our way to Longmire, where we hiked a trail to nowhere. We saw some poop along the path that my wife Necole worried belonged to a bear. Unbeknownst to me, she was planning our escape from the bear for the rest of the hike.

After that hike, we walked across a river of snowmelt that led to my favorite picture from that day.

On the way back from Mount Rainier, we stopped at Chipotle. That meal made us feel like the fictional bear must have felt on the side of the trail.

Day 2 – Seattle

On vacation, I would rather see small towns that big cities. However, we were staying in downtown Seattle, a city that we had never visited. That meant that we needed to spend some time there. We checked out the University of Washington because my stepdaughter has shown interest in going to school there.

We also went to Pike Place Market, a famous landmark where people can buy fruits, vegetables, fresh fish, cheeses, flowers and trinkets. I took a photograph on one colorful stand.

We had a great meal but missed out on getting coffee at the original Starbucks because the line was a little long.

Oh yeah, we also had dinner at Aqua, a place the concierge recommended. When we saw one entrée for $142, we lost our appetite.

Day 3 – Olympic National Park

We got up early to begin the road trip portion of the adventure and immediately grew concerned. GPS was taking us to the ferry, which is not what I had planned. It was not what Necole had planned, either. She was not sure about getting on a three-hour boat ride. After all, we had seen Gilligan’s Island. We reconfigured the GPS and made it on dry land.

After some hits and misses on my part, we finally made it to Hurricane Ridge outside the town of Port Angeles, Washington. The ridge has the best hike in the park. On a clear day, you can see forever. Yes, I stole that line. Anyway, it was not clear on the day we hike, which may have been a good thing.

Remember when I wrote that my wife worried about seeing a bear after we saw poop on the trail? Well, we saw a huge bear along this hike. It was playing around in a foggy meadow. If the sky had been clear, then we could have seen its true size. At that point, we may have frozen in place rather than casually sauntering back the way we came. I did not get a picture of the bear, but I got a picture of this.

We spent that night at Lake Crescent Lodge in another part of the park. I think we could have spent a few days in that peace and tranquility.

Day 4 – Olympic National Park

This day was a continuation of our visit to the park. Yeah, it is that big. We hiked to a waterfall. We had lunch in Forks, Washington. Necole said that this town was the setting of the Twilight series. I have never read those books or seen those movies, but I know that is cool.

After lunch, we headed to the beach. Do not let Necole tell you that I never want to go to the beach. I have always wanted to go to this beach, and it was my highlight of the trip. Ruby Beach was everything that I expected.

It was certainly better than the meal we had that night. We stopped at an interstate hotel and asked for a good place to eat. The restaurant they recommended certainly did not have a $142 entrée.

Day 5 – Mount St. Helens

From childhood, I can remember the coverage of Mount St. Helens. The weeks of rumblings. Harry Truman, who would not leave his home. The eruption. The aftermath. It is something that I will never forget. It is also a place that I wanted Necole to see.

Several years ago, I visited Mount St. Helens with my dad, my brother and my nephews, and it was stunning to see what was left of a mountain that was once covered with snow and dense forest. It is truly a place where the destructive force of nature can be visualized.

From there, we drove through Portland and made our way to Oregon Wine Country in the Willamette Valley. We also made it to The Allison Inn, our lodging for the next couple of nights. It was amazing.

Day 6 – Vineyards

We hired a driver to take us to a few wineries. The first, Archery Summit, was recommended by a friend. The second winery is where I took my favorite picture of the entire trip.

The third was Utopia, a small family owned operation. We had a great conversation with the owner and his daughter, who is a History major. They told us about how they got into this business at that location. We also talked about music. It was good to see that the growing of grapes is not just done my wealthy investment bankers and corporations.

Necole chose The Painted Lady, a famous local restaurant, for dinner. I can only describe it by saying that it is similar to The Catbird Seat in Nashville. Unfortunately, my wife is not a fan of The Catbird Seat. It is a long and winding story that I will not get into. Just know that she likes to bring up the night that I took her there when we were dating. That will probably stop because I can now bring up the night that she took me to The Painted Lady. If you want to know about The Catbird Seat experience, then you can click here.

Day 7 – More Vineyards

We visited more vineyards, but I did not take good photographs. I should have because they were beautiful settings. However, this was the day that our adventure started to wind down. After a few stops, we drove back to Seattle for a night near the airport. You know things are becoming more normal when you have dinner at Jack in the Box. The next day would be a flight home

The Big Northwest Adventure was great, but the real world was waiting. Here is the thing. The real world is pretty great, too.


The Farm House – A Great Dining Experience

6 Jul

Today is our first anniversary, and we have been celebrating for the past couple of days. The Fourth of July was spent at a friend’s pool, and, last night, we spent an evening in Nashville. We got a room at the Omni Hotel and had dinner at a nearby restaurant.

Choosing the hotel was not difficult. The Omni has quickly established itself as Nashville’s best hotel. However, choosing a place to eat proved more difficult. I type that in a good way. Great restaurants have popped up all over the place, and Nashville has become foodie heaven. Chefs from throughout the nation have opened eateries, and magazines have named Nashville the “It City” when it comes to great dining.

We have made it a mission to dine at as many of them as possible. Husk. The Catbird Seat. Urban Grub. There are too many to name.

Last night, we chose one that was near the hotel. We have been hearing a lot about it and figured it would be a good time to try it out. There is only one thing I know to say.

The Farm House is the best restaurant in Nashville. The food was awesome, and it was plentiful. One of the problems I have with hip restaurants is that they bring out an artistic creation, but it leaves you hungry afterwards. Farmhouse is the best of both. The food is an artistic creation. However, they know you are there to eat and make sure you go away knowing that you have done so.Farmhouse

All of that is awesome, but here is the best thing. The owner/chef did not come to us from New York or Los Angeles. He grew up right here in Wilson County. In fact, he offers a great drink called the Wilson County Sangria. With a name like that, we had to have one.

It is always good to see a local person do good, and we told the waiter that very thing. The next thing we know, a dessert is being delivered to us by the owner himself, Trey Cioccia. He talked about growing up in these parts and how he got into the cooking business. He also talked about how there are only a few chefs in Nashville who are natives and how they feel proud to be doing this in their hometown.

We walked out proud of him because someone from our hometown has created the best dining experience in the area. On top of that, he is in the process of moving out of the big city and buying some property back home in Wilson County.

If you find yourself in Nashville, then you have to make your way to The Farm House.


Listeria – Nashville Eats

9 Apr

The latest issue of Nashville Lifestyles lists the 50 best restaurants in Nashville, and it is an impressive grouping. In the past couple of years, the city’s food scene has exploded.

This is the city - the Nashville city.

This is the city – the Nashville city.

People may think that this area is all about Cracker Barrel and collard greens, but some of the nation’s top chefs work their craft around here. I don’t consider myself a foodie, but I like food. That means that I have been to several on the list.

The magazine ranks the Top 10 and offers the next 40 in alphabetical order. For the purposes of this post, I will write a few sentences about my experiences at the Top 10 and give a three word synopsis for the rest.

2. The Catbird Seat – I wrote and entire post about my experience at The Catbird Seat, so I will just go ahead and link it. This is a place that everyone should experience at least once.

4. F. Scott’s Restaurant and Jazz Bar – An ex-girlfriend and I had an interesting experience at F. Scott’s. There was an appetizer that I liked, but she didn’t. It’s a story that needs a post all its own. I promise that it will be coming next.

5. City House – This is a great restaurant with an industrial atmosphere. I have been once and want to go back as soon as I can.

6. Capitol Grille – Located in the historic Hermitage Hotel, this restaurant is a classic dining experience. The food is great, and you are surrounded by history. When the Tennessee legislature approved the 19th Amendment, women got the right to vote. This is where the politicians met to work out that decision.

7. Margot Cafe & Bar – Great food. However, the best part is dessert that is served on dishes that belonged to the owner’s grandmother.

10. Kayne Prime – I am a fan of the M Street experience. Whiskey Kitchen is great. Virago is great. I am even a member of Citizen, the private club in the area. However, Kayne Prime is not my favorite steak place.

And now, the rest of the restaurants.

Eastland Cafe – my favorite one.

Firefly Grille – small but great.

Germantown Cafe – I’ve had better.

Loveless Cafe – overrated country food.

The Mad Platter – books for decor.

Merchants – duck fried tots.

Midtown Cafe – small but good.

The Palm – the steak place.

Park Cafe – just like Eastland.

Prime 108 – company ruined it.

Red Pony – cool little place.

Sunset Grill – Henley’s song better.

Tin Angel – fantastic Angel Wings.

Virago – best sushi place.

Watermark – not so good.

If you are ever in Nashville, then you should check out a few of these places. There are other great restaurants not on the list, so you can’t go wrong. Just stay away from the chains. Like all cities, Nashville has some great locally owned restaurants. As I said, I am not a foodie, but one of my co-workers is. For great reading about food, click on her blog at Nashville Fork. Be warned, it will make you hungry.

Experiencing the Catbird Seat

2 Feb

Wednesday night, my girlfriend and I had reservations at The Catbird Seat, a Nashville restaurant that has garnered international recognition for being on the culinary cutting edge. We had no idea what to expect but knew that we had to experience it. In fact, we were so anxious that we arrived thirty minutes early.

That was good because it gave us the opportunity to go to The Patterson House, a cool bar that is on all of the trendy lists.

The Patterson House

The Patterson House

It is known for unique cocktails, and ours were unique. I got an Old Fashioned infused with bacon, and my girlfriend got a drink called Daisy, which is also the name of her dog. The bacon drink was cool, but the really cool thing happened when the waiter brought our check. It was not in a regular check folder. It was in a book – a real book with words and chapters and everything.

After the drinks, we made our way next door to The Catbird Seat and entered a small room with a curtain on one side and an elevator on the other. When Dorothy looked behind the curtain, she found an old man. We didn’t look behind the curtain, but there wasn’t an old man back there. It was a young hostess. She took us on the elevator to the restaurant. No tables. No art on the wall. We were going to sit around the bar; watch the chefs work; and eat the art.

The Catbird Seat

The Catbird Seat

With everyone in close proximity, we people watched. It’s the natural thing to do. In one corner was a couple with a camera, and they were taking pictures of each offering. I was trying to be smooth, so any picture on this post were not made by me.

Next to them sat a couple who had that tattooed, retro, 1950s vibe going on. They were the coolest cats in the place.

The next couple was a guy getting liquored up and a woman who ended up with the check. The look on her face was priceless because the food was far from it.

A foursome sat on the other side of us. It looked to be a young couple dining out with her parents. They seemed to like the meal, but I am sure that her dad stopped at Waffle House on the way home. There is no way that he got enough to eat.

The last people looked to be a woman with her son, who was probably a student at Vanderbilt. Overall, the crowd had a little variety to it.

Anyway, here is how it works at The Catbird Seat. You don’t order. You eat what they prepare. There are a bunch of courses with small portions. Each plate is a carefully prepared edible experiment. Some of it you will like, and some of it you won’t. But, each will be a different experience. Also, you are given a different alcoholic beverage to compliment each course. I ended up sipping a little from each one because somebody had to drive home.

Oh, and a chef explains the ingredients of each course and what they are trying to create.

The first course contained three bite-sized offerings paired with a Jean Louis Denois Brut Classique, which comes from Languedoc, France. The first bite looked like a small ice cream cone but was made of scallop, potato and roe. We didn’t like it. However, the second bite was awesome because it was essentially a Rice Krispie treat filled with seaweed. The third bite was a play off hot chicken, a Nashville staple. Except, this was fried chicken skin with spices.

Course number two was a small salad made of king crab, broccoli, green tea, yuzu and togarashi. It was paired with a cocktail made from Sawa Sawa Sparkling Sake.

Course three was not my favorite because the chef said the word truffle three times while describing it. I have no idea why chefs love truffles. They could mess up a wet dream. Anyway, this was a soupy combination with the aforementioned truffles, chicken skin, green apple, celery, roe and a runny egg. I don’t like runny eggs, either. Also, I’m not a ig fan of beer, but that was the highlight of the course. They brought out an awesome beer from the KleinBrouwerij de Glazen Toren Brewery in Saison d’erpe-mere, Belgium. Man, it took me a while to get that typed.

The next course finally contained some meat. Sturgeon, clams and blood sausage made a great combination with Kuentz Bas Riesling to drink. We were informed that it comes from Alsace, France. It turns out that the French do something right after all.

The fifth course brought more meat with chicken breast from Wedge Oak Farm along with fennel, black olive, black garlic and parsnip. It was washed down with Lechthaler 2010 from Italy.

More meat came with the sixth course. This time it was veal cheeks with beet, horseradish, yogurt and dill along with the Austrian produced Kirchmayr Zweigelt 2011.

By this time, I was having a hard time keeping up, and the courses were running together. According to the menu they gave us open leaving, the next course was made up of fig preserves, queso de torta, finca pascualete, and a few other things that I can’t read at the moment. I know that we had La Gitana Manzanilla sherry.

The meal was coming to a close, and that always means dessert. This time it meant three desserts. The first one was an almond ice cream popsicle covered with citrus cells , campari gel and cinnamon. It was awesome and came with the Italian Amaro Segesta with soda.. Not so awesome was the second dessert, an egg shell filled with maple, bacon and thyme. I thought that bacon could make anything good. It doesn’t. Next, we had oak ice cream with vanilla cake, a cherry crisp, pineapple and bourbon balls.

As I wrote, we liked some of it and didn’t like some of it. But, that isn’t the point. The point is that we had a great experience and expanded our dining horizons.