After being provided with the opportunity to accompany my beloved on a business trip to my hometown of Nashville, TN, last week, it didn't take me long to realize why my younger brother now refers to it as "Nastyville Tennis Shoe". What a difference 25 years makes! A mere shadow of its low-key, folksy (in a "smallish-bigger town kinda way") former self, the downtown area now more closely resembles a cross between Reno, the Kissimmee/Orlando theme park area and Gatlinburg on steroids. It still clings to a creepy "third notch of the Bible belt" mentality along with Prohibition Era Blue Laws, creating kind of an oddly juxtapositional vibe (in the hope of keeping itself from being uplifted by Satan into the handbasket to hell, I'm guessing).
Now that my rant is over, let us move on to regional cuisine. We did manage to find a couple of noteworthy venues, first and foremost being Etch. Located about a block from our hotel, it boasted both a sleek, big-city vibe and menu (along with a well-heeled crowd that had me peering around for a possible Tim McGraw sighting).
We got amazing service from Lane, who expertly led us through the menu and explained Chef Deb Paquette's cutting-edge style and passion for pairing sweetness with savory dishes. Chef Deb...you're my new gurl crush!
Having already snorted a couple of heinous snacks at the Omni Hotel in the early afternoon, we decided to share a couple of apps, split an entree and enjoy a dessert...along with a bottle of Ca Vittoria Prosecco. First up, UD's Fried Pork Belly with Kenji Kimchi, Tahini Tofu Sauce and Ginger Caramel. This was pork belly as God intended it to be served. Tender, juicy, cooked to perfection and sans the gigantic slab of blubber some chefs don't bother to remove from the underside. Manna from heaven!
Warning: You may need smelling salts after viewing the photo and description of MY starter.
The Duck Confit served atop a lovely slab of bread with Fig Foie Gras Butter, Jalapeno, Orange Peel, Balsamic Blackberries and Mustard Seed left me reeling in ecstasy. One of the best duck dishes I've ever tasted.
There was an irresistible seasonal creamy Pumpkin Soup available with a Cranberry swirl on the menu which did not disappoint. Once again, savory met sweet in the most luscious and decadent of ways. Velvet on the tongue.
After these generous starters plus some freshly baked bread and herb butter, UD and I opted to finish up "Old People Style" and share an entree. Our gracious server didn't bat a "you cheap arses" eye when we placed our joint order of "Trio of Grilled Scallops, Confit and Tempura Mushrooms, Smoked Shallot Vinaigrette, Bacon, Greens, Butternut Garlic Essence and Beet Siracha".
While this dish was fine and tasty, there was a little too much going on here in my humble opinion and the scallops were somewhat under-cooked for my personal taste (UD disagreed, however). Perhaps die-hard Floridians should not order seafood in inland restos. The side order of Ginger Grits with Pear Butter, however, was unforgettable. If I have to drive 12 hours to get another bowlful of those, I will...in a hormonal heartbeat.
Stuffed to the gills, I let my Super Hero make a dessert selection for us to share...and he chose wisely. Even though chocolate doesn't make my heart race as much as it did when I was younger, the Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch (with Chocolate Crumb Crust, Hazelnut Milk, Chocolate Crunch, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Cocoa Nibs, Caramel Sauce and Whipped Cream) was much lighter than expected. Okay...not really. But I couldn't keep myself from digging in anyway.
Amazing meal. And, as a reminder, the official mating call of the Southern Girl is: "Ya'll, I'm Drunk and/or Particularly Well-Fed!" (in this case, a little of both).
Bless your heart, Etch, for an unforgettable dining experience!
My blog entries contain the unmitigated, and sometimes unforgiving, dining truths and perceptions I experience as an ordinary restaurant patron. Every meal I post about has been fully paid for by one of the participating members of my personal dining party. I do not engage in the gratis blogger freebie dining events I'm constantly invited to attend and never will. If I ooze font-like love for a restaurant in my blog, it's because they totally earned it…not because they gave me free food or knew I was going to share the experience on the internet.