There’s nothing wrong with Nashville

My recent decision to plan a trip to Nashville began as most good ideas do, with the feeling that my living room walls were closing in on me while a Todd Snider song played on the local community radio station. Within a couple of hours I had booked four nights at a cozy East Nashville airbnb with a huge backyard and a potbellied pig named Abby. I’ve never spent much time thinking about Nashville, but it’s only 9 hours away by car and I suddenly had the urge to hear a southern accent. It wasn’t long before my sister decided she needed to hear one too, so she booked a flight.

I fell fast for this city, and long to go back… Today. Nashville in April is warm and green. The city is laid-back and friendly. Every single person we passed on the street said hello, including a shirtless jogger who took out his headphones to take the time to say, “How y’all doing.” If you tell someone in Nashville that you like something of theirs, they give it to you! (I am now the proud owner of a button with a picture of Obama smoking a cigarette.) In Nashville, there is a hardware store where cats sleep in a basket of flowers in the window, and a taco joint where women share a pitcher of margaritas at 8 pm on a Sunday while their kids play with my little ponies. This is my kind of town.

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We spent most of our time in East Nashville, which was really easy to do. We ventured out a couple of times- including an unsuccessful attempt at getting into the Bluebird Cafe and a successful field trip to the Pinewood Social, a giant place with delicious greyhounds made with fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice, a bowling alley and $7 coozies- but we spent most of our time eating, drinking and walking around on the east side of town. Here are a few of our favorite things in East Nashville. Many of these recommendations came from Abby the pig’s family, our lovely hosts for the week.

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High Garden Woodland Tea House: At High Garden you can buy tinctures, eat miso soup, and order a kombucha flight. And the woman pouring the booch has a roommate from somewhere in Wisconsin, so she’s no stranger to Wisconsin cheese, one of our favorite topics.

Two Ten Jack: Sake and wine on tap, a forgiving waiter who may have gotten sprayed in the eye with water by a certain toddler, and the BEST vegetarian ramen I have ever had in my life.

IMG_3134Turnip Truck: A natural grocery store with a juice bar, lots of organic food, emergency drinking beer, and pimento cheese spread.

Ugly Mugs Coffee Shop: This unpretentious coffee shop was within walking distance of our place and had outdoor seating, hot coffee, granola with yogurt and breakfast sandwiches.

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Barista Parlor: This pretentious coffee shop had a record cabinet built out of wooden pallets, $5 cups of (really delicious) coffee, and the most tasty breakfast biscuits with an egg and cheese. Totally worth the denim-apron clad male baristas wearing girl power buttons.

Southern Grist Brewing Company: We had lots of fun sitting at a picnic table in the parking lot of this brewery. We made friends with the other parking lot dwellers, including some sweet dogs, and loved Southern Grist’s unique and tasty beers. And the pimento cheese snack, of course.

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The Treehouse: That photo is of The Treehouse’s grilled pineapple mule. They have grilled pineapple mules on their cocktail menu.

Sky Blue Cafe: A small, busy diner with lots of breakfast choices. My favorite is the homemade granola served with yogurt and berries. So delicious.

Jeni’s Ice Cream: This delightful ice cream shop smells like waffle cones and they make flavors like lemon buttermilk frozen yogurt and goat cheese with red cherries.

IMG_9644Mas Tacos: Pineapple cilantro aguas frescas, free pickled carrots and other veg at the counter, and tacos like fried avocado and sweet potato with quinoa. And there’s a patio out back with a hot pink-painted cement brick wall. Cash only.

You stole our hearts, Nashville. We hope to see you soon.

*Many of these photos belong to our travel partner, my sister Sena.

 

Farmer Brown’s garden

I love the progression of spring. The first brave plant to push through the sleeping earth is the purple crocus. Next come daffodils, tulips, irises and lilacs. One by one the birds start singing and bunnies are hopping around, waiting for the first green things to munch. In the vegetable garden, it’s the chives that signal warmer days are ahead and then everyone starts talking rhubarb.

Around this time rhubarb starts popping up everywhere. In your garden, at the farmer’s market, in a bag from a friend or neighbor. While most people think rhubarb was destined for pie, Madison darling Quince & Apple– maker of small batch syrups and preserves- has bottled this sour perennial, pairing it with bitter hops, turning it into a syrup perfect for a spring cocktail.

Just like the start of baseball season and playing in rain puddles, when I was growing up springtime also meant Easter and elaborate egg hunts with clues written by my dad, followed by a basket full of pastel-colored candy. This year I hope to host a spring-themed brunch party with radish sandwiches, deviled eggs, a delicious carrot ginger tea cake with lime glaze from the March 2016 Sunset magazine (it’s so good!) and beer cocktails made with Quince & Apple’s Rhubarb Hops syrup. This month I had so much fun experimenting with the rhubarb syrup- which can be mixed with anything from prosecco to vodka to club soda- but found that it tastes delicious with beer. Also, it’s nice to serve something at brunch that won’t get people feeling too bubbly so early in the day! My inspiration for this drink was the French Monaco, a beer cocktail either served to adults at children’s parties, or drank by French children at brunches (I still haven’t figured this out) but either way, it seems quite charming.

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Per the recommendation of the helpful people at Star Liquor on Willy St., I chose the new (and so tasty) spring farmhouse ale from Door County Brewing Company. As a nod to the smell that would permeate our house when we dyed Easter eggs, I rinsed the glass with a swirl of cider vinegar, which really brings out the tart flavor of the rhubarb. Add a green spring of thyme for some green herbaceous-ness and voila! Farmer Brown’s Garden- the perfect spring brunch beer cocktail.

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Farmer Brown’s Garden

Makes one cocktail

IMG_9130Ingredients:
1 ounce Quince & Apple Rhubarb Hops Syrup
1 ounce freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces farmhouse ale or pilsner
Splash cider vinegar
Sprigs of fresh thyme

Instructions: Pour the syrup and fresh lemon juice into an ice-filled shaker (or a jar with a lid) and shake vigorously. Rinse a glass with a small splash of cider vinegar and strain the syrup and lemon juice into the glass. Top with beer and garnish with a fresh sprig of thyme.

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Happy spring.

This post was in partnership with Quince & Apple.