Friday, July 12, 2013

Nashville Day 2

Day two in Nashville was a scorcher.  Not too bad at 90 degrees, but the humidity was at 35% which made it seem hotter.  Nevertheless it was sunny and a beautiful day to visit the Bell Meade Plantation which was home to the Harding and Jackson families (no relation to the presidents) for nearly 100 years.  If you love history like I do you'll enjoy this wonderfully preserved site.  The Harding family had a slave owning plantation where they raised and bred horses.  After the emancipation proclamation all the slaves were freed. Do the names Secretariat and Seabiscuit ring any bells?  Those horses were direct descendants of the horses that the Jackson family owned.  You can get a guided tour of the mansion, and at $16.00 it is well worth the fee.  Unfortunately we couldn't take any pictures inside the home-I was really bummed about it because the house is beautifully kept and most of the furniture, books, portraits and other antiques are original to Bell Meade. I did however take some pictures of the exterior and grounds and here they are:

The entrance to the plantation.

The beautiful exterior of the mansion.  The tour meets on the porch (there were about 20 of us total), and you're led through each room and given information about the family, their history and the artifacts in the house.

Horses are kept on site...seems a bit random at first, but after going through the tour and finding out the family bred horses for a living, and were well known for it, it all makes sense.

Mumsy and I stopped for a snap shot.

 The exterior of the carriage house.  Bell Meade has about 17 historic carriages that you can walk around.

The back of the mansion.

After the 45 minute tour through the house you're brought to the wine tasting portion.  Yes they have wine tasting!  Our host was Nick, he was hilarious.  He told us all the different things we could mix with the wine...which included tequila with the Bell Meade Blackberry.  I was a bit skeptical (I'm kind of a wine snob) but after I tasted it I could understand what he was talking about. It's a sweet red wine that would make a perfect mixer. He also shared with all of us that Bell Meade winery is the only winery in Nashville and one of the few non-profit winery's in the United States.

We sampled the first 4 wines on the list: the Carriage House Chardonnay, Red Muscadine, Racing Silk Red and Blackberry.

Mom and I loved the Racing Silk Red!

We walked a bit through the back of the mansion on the grounds after the tour and wine tasting. We were definitely ready for air conditioning...which brought us to shopping...

We made our way to The Mall at Green Hills.  This mall is huge-lots of well known designer stores (Tory Burch, Kate Spade, and Michael Kors to name a few) that we visited, but my favorite discovery was this little shop called Absolution.  Native to Nashville they have two stores.  There were so many unique findings.  I'm used to great shops in Ann Arbor that carry a lot of little known brands but this place had quite a few lines that I've never heard of before.

LAFCO candles: based in New York city, these candles are simple in their design but have a beautiful scent.

Books and small charming gifts fill the store.

A Nashville based candle company makes candles named after every town surrounding Nashville.

I had to save the best for last. This was my favorite finding at Absolution.  The jewelry is made by a Franklin based designer, Amy Sale.  The line pictured here is called Bella Honor, and the jewelry is re-purposed from soldier's medals.  10% of the proceeds of sales go to veterans.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Always Local

So my mom and sister and I took a bit of a road trip.  O.k., it was a big road trip.  Sadly it wasn't spur of the moment; it's been in the making for a few months now. (I say sadly because there is something very adventurous about a spur of the moment road trip) But alas, my mom and I are the "planner" type.  My sister is a voice major and she is off on one of her music adventures while mom and I enjoy Nashville. My first day impression of this city: let me just say that you don't need to love country music to enjoy a visit. Between the restaurants, the museums, the historic sites, the shopping, the scenery, you'll love it here.  Nashville is a beautifully laid out city.  And the surrounding suburbs are just as exciting as being in the heart of Nashville.

Our first stop in the city was Nashville's farmer's market. I'm glad we stopped by because this place is HUGE.  One thing I really like about cities is their effort to connect the metropolis to the country in the form of healthy organic produce. The produce portion of this farmer's market is open 7 days a week, and we wanted to get some fresh fruits and veggies.

South Carolina Peaches. Yes, we bought some.  We're putting the peaches into a paper bag to make them ripen faster (yes, this method really works!)

All over the place, colors of yellow, pink, red, blue and green surround you.  On weekends Nashville farmer's market has a flea market portion open.  Unfortunately we'll be gone before then, and I'm a little sorry to miss it.

I learned that there are a lot of different jams and pickled foods out there.  I have never heard of green pepper jam, but it's a thing.  My mom said it sounded delicious...I'm not as optimistic.

Locally sourced honey.  I love honey that you get from local farmers.  It's the most delicious and free from additives.

If you get the chance to visit the Nashville farmer's market on the weekend, I recommend making a morning of it and then eat lunch at their fantastic dining center.  They have a lot of different ethnic foods, including an ethnic market and they carry gourmet sandwiches and locally made desserts!  To get an idea of which farmers and vendors will be on site check out the website here:

So the question I have for all of you: Green pepper jam, yea or nae?

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Latin Weekend

My brother Luke is a bit of a foodie, so when he raves about a restaurant, I believe pretty much without question that it's got to be good.  So we took a lunch break to Frita Batidos, a Cuban street food restaurant that is relatively new to Ann Arbor...we were on a mission try a sandwich that has become one of Luke's favorites.  Honestly I love street food, I think that it represents some of the best of cuisine, so if you haven't hopped on the street food bandwagon, get on board!

As soon as you walk into Frita Batidos you're welcomed by a trendy yet simple aesthetic.  The sandwiches and other lovely food are listed over the counter where the friendly staff take your order. There's also a small bar.

Now you can enjoy eating at this place one of two ways: you can people watch from the front window (Ann Arbor is perfect for that!), or you can sit at one of the picnic tables.  Get ready to mingle with people, because the seating is set to invite a neighborhood atmosphere!

Haha...I look sorta forlorn here, but I promise, I was in a good mood!

Tah-dah! This is The Inspired Cuban.  THREE types of bacon and melted cheese (gruyere!). To be more specific it's lemongrass roast pork, thick cut bacon and tasso ham. It's also  packed with chipotle mayo and cornichons.  Delicious.  I was definitely impressed.

~ The next day my whole family, along with my sister's friend Clayton, took a trip to Lena for brunch/lunch. Also relatively new to Ann Arbor, Lena specializes in upscale Latin fare.  This isn't my first visit to this place...their pulled pork sandwich is fantastic and had me hooked, so a return was inevitable.  I can't recommend the food here enough.

The atmosphere at Lena has a cool vintage unique vibe, which I love.  They have a gas fire near the entrance to warm your hands from the cold Michigan winters.  As it is summer here, the weather wasn't an issue during this visit obviously, but it definitely will come to good use soon enough!  The decor has sort of late 1960's feel, with multiple booths with little windows that kind of make you feel like you're in a (very classy) old diner. It's fabulous!

From the brunch menu, my mom had the Tortilla De Fideo:  grilled capellini, egg cakes, cilantro and salsa with queso fresco.

Lena's version of The Cuban.  Scrumptious.

Lena's Seared Chicken Sandwich.  Boneless chicken with escabeche salsa, cheese, pickled onions and cornichons. I love those little cornichons!

So I'll be honest: one of the things I judge a restaurant by is their sweet potato fries, if they happen to have them on the menu.  Lena's sweet potato fries are always perfectly prepared.  Not soggy, not overcooked, just the right amount of crispness. I definitely recommend getting a side if sweet potato fries are your thing.  If you're ever in the mood for a good dessert, try Lena's flan, it's deliciously rich and making my mouth water just thinking and typing about it!

Also a little hint-leave extra time if you're visiting this place, as the service style tends to be a bit more laid back (but always friendly).

It gets busy on the weekends but you can make a reservation here:

Buen provecho!