I left my home and my really unhappy dog last night at around 9:30pm to catch a train and then a plane to Nashville, Tennessee. I had never been to Tennessee before so I didn't know what to expect, other than that I would be tired when I got there because I was taking a red eye flight.
Why Tennessee? The answer is simple. Never been here before – so why not? I also have a timeshare property in Pigeon Forge near Dollywood and Nashville is a huge food city and a burgeoning tourist destination. So it makes for a lot of options for an affordable vacation.
As good little tourists we arrived in Nashville with a detailed itinerary and reservations at a number of well researched food destinations. But first we had to meet our airbnb hosts in their lovely East Nashville home.
Our carriage house accommodations were awesome and very much Jimbo approved.
The sunny but slightly chilly day awaited and we made our way to downtown Nashville for lunch. Oddly enough the meat and 3 place that was highly recommended is closed on Saturdays and Sundays, as was every other place that might to be frequented by locals. It was as if we were being herded to the tourist district.
So after gawking at the headquarters of Country Music Television we made our way to The Stillery just off of Broadway in The District.
But we had to wait for our table (because it was the only restaurant open) so we checked out the George Jones Museum gift shop across the street, as the sounds of live music reverberated up and out of multiple venues and street facing loudspeakers making us dizzy.
When we finely got a seat at The Stillery, after exploring a few random cowboy boot shops
we were informed that The Stillery is known for macaroni and cheese because they make the cheese in house.
So we had to order the mac & cheese with hot chicken, brussel sprouts for a vegetable, and deviled eggs for good measure.
Satisfied and full it was time to take a tour of the original Grand Ole Opry home, the Ryman Auditorium, for our first official action as tourists.
The Ryman Auditorium started out as a structure for a revivalist preacher and open congregation – it was called the Union Gospel Tabernacle. You could call it one of the first mega churches of the South – except it actually started in a tent, not just a megalomaniacs head. It was funded and built by this guy
for this guy to preach in for no strings attached.
However, much like every person has three careers, the Ryman also went through a similar progression. It went from church, to fine arts/opera venue, to grand ole opry and country music venue, to abandoned structure to revived "church of country music."
It is a place rich with the history of Nashville, old and new as the Ryman has moved completely into today – allowing any onlooker to see and feel it as a tourist or a listener/fan of country music.
Next we found ourselves exploring the state capital grounds and the surrounding park and memorials. There were a lot of statues and fountains and fun ways to play with shadows.
We searched for some time for the Tennessee State Museum. Both the printed maps and tourist maps had it located next to or behind the performing arts center, turns out you had to go in the performing arts center and then down a staircase to find it. We got there with just a little less than an hour to explore, expecting a small free state museum. We found three floors of history, starting with the paleolithic age and ending with modern art. The three of us splintered to enjoy our own versions of Tennessee history under our time limit.
I focused my efforts on the origins of the state and Andrew Jackson and then took a bunch of pictures of the civil war battle exhibits to read later. Civil war history note – Tennessee was the location of the bloodiest battle of the civil war (The battle of Shiloh) and a series of other skirmishes and battles – essentially it was a battleground the majority of the war.
Here is a model of Nashville at its very white/European settlement beginnings when it was still Fort Nashborough.
Apparently, the diet of the pioneers who settled the area was primarily pumpkin, corn and wild game – supplemented with a little bit of raised pork. Corn was referred to as the mana of life, and the pumpkin was grown unattended around the corn stalks. Based on this exhibit, it appears as if pumpkin was not the favorite of their options, even though it was the option. I wonder how it tasted with possum.
It is obvious that Andrew Jackson is a well loved character in Tennessee's history, as he is Tennessee's native son. There were fascinating exhibits filled with political cartoons from his campaigns that I could not understand because I had no context – but a part of me felt better about today's presidential campaigning after reading them.
Time ran out in the museum, and we all had a huge case of museum fatigue that could only be cured with one thing. A visit to the famous Hermitage Hotel's Oak Bar. Jeremy proceeded to order the most complicated drink possible – because he knew a bar with so much oak and stature could handle making it – the Ramos Fizz.
The ladies bathroom was fully equipped with a giant powder room area as any old hotel institution of the south should have. The men's room was equipped with shoeshine stations along with mint green and black stripes according to my travel companions. Classy.
It was time for dinner. We had reservations for Josephine's special weekly tasting menu called 10 by 10 i.e. 10 courses for 10 people. We were sat with a whole host of individuals at a communal table who were all interested in food. The restaurant used the long table to its advantage when serving different courses. For example here is the first "snack" course served on a giant communal board.
Everyone got a radish coated in butter and sea salt, a tiny piece of fried chicken skin, a cube of "scrapple" and a bone marrow custard with mushroom caviar. The radish was my favorite – it was fresh without too much bite, and butter was exquisite. If it wasn't made in house it was very fresh and hand whipped. The scrapple was a little cube of curiosity – no one heard what exactly it was made out of, other than it was obviously meat and had a super spicy kick to the sauce on top.
My second favorite dish of the night – the asparagus with brown butter hollandaise toasted bread crumbs and sorrel. The spring green of the asparagus balanced the deep rich umami of the brown butter toasted crumbs.
Foie gras and black eyed peas with maple syrup. The fat of the foie gras was in perfect balance with the fiber of the peas. I enjoyed the juxtaposition of the liver with the peas, two things I never thought I would see on a plate together. The maple wasn't too disruptive of the balance, as it was subtle and didn't overpower like something so sweet could have.
Bread course. Yum.
Catfish, served stewed, not fried. Unique, strong smoke flavor from the woodroasted kale broth.
Medallion of rabbit.
Lamb belly. A first for me, very tender, not overly fatty and served with a pansy. The next course was the cheese course and I failed to take a picture. It was a slice of really tasty cheese from Doe Run Creamery.
This is the strawberry course – I was expecting a strawberry sliced but instead we got deconstructed strawberry shortcake. I was too full at this point to truly enjoy it.
The final course was a take home dessert with a chocolate and a giant jelly – that was kind of like a really good version of the drug store jelly candy.
It was a good end to a long day of adventure. We were overly full, filled with wine and ready for bed.