Thursday, July 24, 2008

Cheesecake Factory

FYI: July 30th is National Cheesecake Day! The Cheesecake factory will be celebrating by offering any of their delicious cheesecakes for $1.50 a slice. You can not beat a deal like that. May I suggest calling up a few of your closest friends ordering a hand full of flavors then play pass the plate. It's a great way to try multiple flavors for next to nothing as well as making memory to last a life time. Grab a fork, Let's celebrate...

Friday, July 11, 2008


Germantown is one of my favorite areas of town. It is located a few blocks from the Farmer's Market. Most of the houses in the area have been restored to their original early 1900's appearance with 21st century furnishings on the inside. The historic neighborhood is filled with charming little houses each with a unique touch. I find driving through Germantown a refreshing change from the cookie cutter neighborhoods of today. Another appealing quality of the area is Germantown Cafe which happens to be my favorite restaurant. The cafe is located on the corner of fifth street in an old building that has been completely renovated. Inside you will find a sleek design with plum walls, wood furniture, white tablecloths and a few artistic pieces including single Gerber daisies on each table. Simple, but elegant. The tables set in front of a wall of glass that over looks Nashville's skyline. The menu is as breath taking as the view. The cafe serves traditional food with a subtle twist. Some of their most popular items include the Chef's Frittata, French Toast, French Onion soup, fresh Pasta, Saute Chicken with a side of asparagus. One of my favorite items is the Traditional Ruben with house made dressing. Let me also recommend the open face Chicken Salad with a side of fresh fruit. If that doesn't interest you, try the Crab Cakes served with mashed potatoes and green beans. Whatever you order, do mot leave with out checking out dessert. The chef serves a Chocolate Moose to die for...he spent years perfecting it and I must say it is pretty perfect. So next time you wondering downtown looking for a delicious place to eat check out Germantown Cafe. You will not be disappointed I promise!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Blackberry Bliss

In the summer, Ted loves to eat fresh blackberries. It reminds him of his childhood. He often makes a delicious blackberry cobbler with moist dough and a nutmeg-cinnamon flare. I wanted to recreate his treat with a twist. My batter is similar to a cobbler with a few minor adjustments. I substituted the cinnamon for fresh mint as an added bonus. For the icing, I used Italian cream cheese and a little vanilla. The icing is really tasty by it’s self. I have been using the leftover icing as a fruit dip. But for future reference I would recommend mixing half a pound of sugar with mascarpone cheese for a fruit dip to make it a little more fluid. Another suggestion would be to serve these warm. In that case you will want to put them on plate and serve with a fork because them will fall apart, but they are extra yummy warm.

Blackberry Mint Cupcakes

1 cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter at room temp
3 large eggs
1 cup buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
t teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups fresh blackberries
1 mint leaf shredded (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cupcake or muffin tin with cupcake liners and set aside. For the cake: Cream the sugar and butter together until light and fluffy with a standing mixer set on medium speed. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add the buttermilk and vanilla and combine well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour and baking soda. Add flour mixture to batter. Fold in the blackberries carefully by hand. Sprinkle mint leaf in batter. Pour in cupcake tins. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cakes spring back in the middle when touched. Set aside to cool slightly in the pan.

Mascarpone Icing
8 ounces mascarpone cheese
1 pound confectioner’s sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon water

Meanwhile, prepare the frosting: Cream the cheese and vanilla together on low speed. Gradually incorporate the sugar until mixture is smooth and creamy, you may not need to use the whole pound of sugar. Add water as needed until right consistency. Frost cupcakes. Before serving garnish with a blackberry and mint leaf. The mint leaf will wilt if they set out for more than a day.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

House of Gyro

I Love Greek Food! When I was in college. my mom and I began a tradition of going downtown to get Greek food every time she came to visit. This tradition continued until I moved home the summer before Ted and I married. But not for long. One day, Ted and I stumbled upon this little Greek place on Stewarts Ferry. The House of Gyro is one those places that you probably would not notice unless someone pointed it out but once you find you never for get it. Their menu is designed for the Greek lover or plain janes. Thy offer Greek specialities as well as more common food like chicken and fries. I highly recommend ordering some type of Gyro. Their Lamb has the most amazing flavor. They slow roast it on a vertical rotisserie. Then they shave it off and grill it for a few minutes before serving it up on a platter complete with Greek salad, rice, and of course a pita. After eating at almost every Greek restaurant in town I can honetly say they have the best Lamb in town. The best part is...its cheap. Prices range from $3.99 to $5.99. You can't beat that. My favorite part about the House of Gyro thought is not the food. I love the owners. They have this philosophy of getting to know their costumes and making them relaly enjoy their dinnig experience. In this day and age that is a rare thing. Different from American culture they work really hard to save and invest in their restaurant. Everytime I go in they have changed something small to make it a better place. I love supporting a good onld family owned business.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Baja Burrito vs. Blue Coast

Baja Burrito is a locally owned fresh mex burrito joint located in Berry Hill. At any given time of the day, you can walk up to find a line out the door. What makes them so good you ask? Good question...perhaps it's the fact that every thing is made fresh on the spot. Maybe people love the fact that every order is made the way you want it meaning you can have all, nothing, or something in between. If those are not good enough reasons, then maybe it's the refillable chips and amzing queso. Really I have no idea what makes it so fabulous, but it's good enough to make people wait in line for twenty minutes just to enjoy one of the finest burritos in town. And it's good enough that a few years ago they decided to branch out. The company wanted to maintain the authenticity of Baja Burrito so they created a spin off chain called Blue Coast. As I was researching Blue Coast Burrito I was pretty amazed at how quickly and how far it has expanded. There are shops litterally from one end of the state to the other as well as a few in Arkansas in a little less than three years. Pretty Impressive! Blue Coast has the same bright colors and crazy dessert decor as Baja. They also use a similar menu with the famous made to order style. After visiting several locations, I have concluded the spin off is good, but not quite the same. I can't explain exactly why the food taste different considering they use the same menu, but there just seems to be something missing. Perhaps it's more the atmosphere. The regulars know the loyal staff. More importantly despite the large crowds the staff seems to know you. After years of weekly visits, they begin to remember the way I like my food without me having to order. Then of course the other bonus is that on any given day you will run into someone or a dozen someones you know. There are actually two or three people I run into almost everytime I go. All of this to say there is just something about Baja that people can't get enough of....and can't be satisfied by spin offs. Kay West from the Scene said it best "No matter how bad a case of seasonal affect disorder you are suffering, there is no way you can walk out of Baja without a smile on yoru face." If you don't believe me check it out for yourself. I would recommend a chicken taco salad with honey chapotla dressing, or a steak burrito with guacomolie, or their speciality a trio of fish tacos. You really can't go wrong!

Friday, July 4, 2008

Lemon Blackberry Cupcakes

My mom and I went berry picking this week as we often do. After a few hours, we returned with a load of blackberries which are Ted’s favorites. With a bucket full of fresh blackberries, I began searching for a recipe worthy of my time. I didn’t quite find what I was looking for at first. But I did find a yummy recipe for Lemon cupcakes filled with preserves. So I did what I do and used it as a jumping off point. The batter is very light and fluffy. It has a rich lemon flavor. For the preserves, I used Smucker’s blackberry preserves and mixed in fresh blackberries for a fresher flavor. The cupcakes really turned out well. I was also pleased to try out a recipe with some type of filling. I had wanted to add filling after reading a Wilton article of cupcakes. But I was under the impression that you had to use a special tool to do so. Well apparently I was wrong. On discovering I was wrong, I found out that one of the best ways is simply to use a batter, filling, batter method which gives you more flavor.

Lemon Cupcakes with Blackberry Filling

1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of salt
6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp.
2/3 cup sugar
2 large egg, lightly beaten
zest of two lemons
juice of two lemons (with 1 T held aside for the icing)
1/2 cup lemon flavored yogurt

Preheat oven to 350 and prepare muffin tins. Stir flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt together. Set aside. Beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, beating until just blended. Then add in lemon zest and lemon juice. Add lemon yogurt. Beat in flour mixture until blended.
1/2 cup blackberry preserves
½ cup blackberries

For filling, fold the fresh blackberries into the preserves. Divide half the batter evenly among the tins. Place a scoop of blackberry preserves on top of the batter in the middle of each cup. Cover with the remaining batter. Bake for 18 minutes.

Lemon Icing

1 cup powdered sugar
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
Fresh blackberries

Mix powdered sugar, lemon juice and 1 t milk. Add more milk as needed by 1 t amounts until icing consistency. After icing, allow cupcakes to sit until the icing has set. Garnish with fresh blackberries.