25 February 2012

Nashville Nosh - Burgers, Fruit Tea, Fried Chicken and Goo Goo Clusters

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Some people visit family during the holidays.  Cody and I aren't most people.  We want quality time with the relatives not stressful, house-packed, near nervous breakdown visits.  Not to mention that my holiday baking brings in some $$$, so we opt to travel during the "off-season."

This is the off-season.

Nashville bound.  Music City.  Grand Ole Opry.  Home of the Goo Goo Cluster?  Yeah, I bought one.

When we go to Nashville, it's all about family.  Our choice.  We've talked about doing things like going to the Opryland Hotel (which is supposed to be impressive) every visit, but we never manage to fit anything in.

Something we did fit in this time was lunch at Gabby's.  I had just booked our rental car online when a story popped up on Yahoo! about Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys giving Bon Appetit the lowdown on where to grub in Nashville.  Now that's serendipity.

On that recommendation, Cody and I dragged his mother to this funky little burger joint called Gabby's in south Nashville.  I was hungry and craving meat.  Our timing and destination were in synch.

It was crowded and the lunch counter was full.  The menu was simple and I'd read that one must-order was the sweet potato fries.  SPF are my favorite so no arm twisting required.

I don't know if I've ever mentioned that I have a firm policy that when a menu item features a fried egg garnish, I have to order it.  That goes double for a burger joint.  Forget the cheese, bring on the rich, runny egg deliciousness.  Gabby's menu offers a fried egg topping.  Yeah, I ordered it.

This is the Seamus.  Single grass fed beef patty, fried egg, onion, lettuce tomato and chipotle mayo.  LOOK at those fries!!  Skins on.  Crispy, crunchy, crackly sticks of yum.  No, I'm not overstating the experience of those fries.  They tasted so good that my mother-in-law asked how they were made and they told her!

Here's the secret:  First you bake the whole potato for an hour.  The next day you slice the potato into fries and fry them in oil for a few minutes at 325 degrees.  When you're ready to eat, fry them again at 350 degrees to crisp and caramelize.  I think it's the combo of baking and leaving the skins on that make them awesome.

Cody went for the Gabby--basically a Double Double for you In-and-Out fans.  Cody's mom went with the Seamus, like me, although she passed on the fried egg indulgence.

So Gabby's was the second place we visited in Nashville that offered "Fruit Tea."  I passed on it the first time around because I'm more of a black tea girl--although I do like it sweet.  No Lemon.  No Arnold Palmer.  No passion fruit or peach or whatever the fruit of the day happens to be.  HOWEVER, after tasting the first fruit tea combo of tea, lemon, orange and ginger ale that Cody wisely ordered at another eatery, I didn't make the same mistake twice.  Gabby's take is tea, orange juice, sugar and pineapple juice.  The best punch ever!  This trend has taken sweet tea to a whole 'notha level.  Bravo.

For dessert--yes, we went there--they had a few of those homemade dessert bar concoctions to choose from and I grabbed two - one with peanut butter, cornflakes and peanuts on a slab of chocolate that tasted like a Butterfinger and the other was chocolate, marshmallow and pretzels all mushed together in a ridiculously thick bar.

Both desserts were a hit at home with the family--we shared.  I wanted to add a sprinkle of grey sea salt onto the chocolate, marshmallow, pretzel thing, but then I can be too fancy sometimes.

Our Gabby adventure was a total success.  Happy we took the recommendation from a fellow Ohioan.  We Buckeyes know how to eat!

The Loveless Cafe is a Nashville institution.  It's a motel and cafe that built its reputation on fried chicken and biscuits served to travelers passing by on Highway 100 as early as 1951.  The motel no longer operates but the cafe is thriving on the strength of those light and cakey biscuits.

Since Aunt Jennifer is into food and had never been to the Loveless, seven of us loaded into the car and drove out into the country south of Nashville to get some biscuits and jam and whatever else sounded good.  I should mention the Loveless doesn't take reservations for fewer than 12 people.  I should also mention this was a Saturday.

We put our name in for a table around 11ish.  There were throngs of people sitting outside the cafe in rocking chairs and at picnic tables.  Even more people milled about in the motel rooms that had been converted into gift shops selling the wares of local artisans.  They even had cornhole to pass the time.  Yeah, it was going to be a 2 hour wait?!

You could say I was heavy with guilt that day.  I hoped it was worth the wait.

After thumbing through the Cafe's dessert cookbook to pass the time and looking at all the trinkets and bobbles we finally got the call (the page actually).  They gave us a nice big table in the sunny front room of the converted country house.  It's a checkered oil tablecloth kind of place.

The most striking thing to me was that the tables weren't jammed together like they are in most restaurants.  I can only guess they thought it was worth it to give the staff enough room to safely carry gigantic trays piled high with biscuits and all the fixin's through the dining room.

I'm a bit of traditionalist so I went with their claim to fame--fried chicken and biscuits.  I had two sides to choose so I ordered southern staples, fried okra and creamed corn.

Cody chose pulled pork with fried eggs, grits and hash-brown casserole.

Truth be told, the biscuits are the whole story.

I couldn't even guess the number of buttermilk biscuits we gobbled up that day.

Jams are another Loveless specialty, but what got my attention was the sorghum - a rare find.  It was sweet and a little floral with a nice bite at the end.  Perfect on a buttered biscuit.  Sorghum is considered molasses, but it's lighter and looks more like a reddish honey.

The jams were a big hit though.  The Jam Champion at our table, by a unanimous vote, was the blackberry.  Peach took second prize, followed by the strawberry.

Wouldn't be an outing without a slice o' pie and I chose Peanut Butter.

This was an icebox pie, not the baked custard like my Grandma used to make.  At the Loveless they serve it on a chocolate crust that tasted a lot like brownie.  Sounds rich, but it was nice and light and I made sure everyone got a taste.

One of the things I came across during our wait, aside from this slice of Elvis

was a candy called, Goo Goo Cluster.  Cody snapped it off the shelf, all smiles, and told me his dad used to buy them for him all the time when he was a kid.  Sounded like a good childhood memory to me so I bought it.

Turns out the Goo Goo Cluster is a Nashville creation (one of my favorites as a kid, the Moon Pie, hails from Chattanooga).

It's a combination of caramel, peanuts and marshmallow nougat covered in milk chocolate.

I tried it.

It should be delicious.

It's definitely sweeeeet.


Something tells me that changing manufacturing needs have cost the Goo Goo some flavor somewhere since its 1912 debut.  I can't help but think that if I tried to make it myself it would be an outstanding indulgence.  I just enjoyed getting to taste something I'd never heard of that put a smile on my hubby's face as a kid.

I like family time that doesn't involve the holidays.  Much more fun and adventure to be had.

1 comment:

  1. enjoyed my peep inside your family visit! the food looked yummy - the fruit teas - will have to taste it to give up southern sweet tea...keep "the baking life" coming. puts a smile on my face every time.