Friday, May 30, 2014

The Tomato Head Made Me Eat My Words

For years I have stood at a distance and glared at the Tomato Head. I've been sneering, judging and assuming things. Big things. I've told myself all the reasons why I would never want to eat there and why the people who do are crazy. The soy cheese option alone is enough to make me scream. Crunchy. Hippie. Organic...All words that send an epic shiver down my spine. All words that keep my guard up and apparently block delicious food from entering my mouth. 
Well, lo and behold the tables turned on me this past week when I found myself in Market Square with a non-meat eating friend. Although it wasn't our only option in the universe, it was however the no-brainier, so naturally- I bucked up, hunkered down and went for it. All I can say is I am a huge judgmental turd, because the food and the service was so good I'm already planning my next visit. "3 1/2 Years of Missing Out" is what I should have titled this entry. DAMMIT!!!! 
There was hustle and bustle, hummus and blue corn chips, ginger beer and iced teas to start. It was my ideal kick-off to a meal. Then, as if I wasn't humbled and astonished enough, every bite of the roast beef, gorgonzola and red onion sandwich was perfection. I ate every bite of it, and I NEVER finish a sandwich, out of principal, naturally. My friend Shana had a southwest salad with tofu and it actually looked GOOD. Yes, I said it. Ugh. Our waitress was adorable and kind and looked like M.I.A.. The food wasn't the fastest, but there was a ton of tables and people, so considering- the time frame was spot-on. Great prices and super tasty fare with all the trimmings. Kettle chips? OK!
Dammit Tomato Head, you made me eat my words, literally.
Colleen's yummy food rating: 4/5
Go there!

Shana Mofo Sugar.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Buttermilk Pie Shop: The Crust Stops Here

My favorite part about writing this blog is that I get to eat the most wonderful things in the name of creative research. It never gets old. Just when I think there's no hope for new wonderful tasty treats in this town, a gem like Buttermilk Sky opens up. And not just one location, but two. Sweet. (Get it?)
Truth be told, if you saw the size of my ass I know you wouldn't believe me when I told you I normally wouldn't pay much attention to a pie shop. We'll, it's true. And it's simply because I am a bonified pie crust hater from back in the day. My childhood consists of a catalog of dessert plates littered with burnt, dry, pasty, nasty tasting crusts expertly dissected from the slice of whatever pie the occasion presented. I'm not joking- I HATE pie crust. HATE IT. We'll, I thought I did, until now. 
Buttermilk sky has officially turned the tables on me, and I've been told (by my LOVING husband) that I am no longer allowed to spend any more money there for a few months, or until we can catch up on our mortgage payments. Seriously, I could empty mine, yours and 6 of our mutual companions' bank accounts in that joint. How you ask? Easy. Their crust is like that of a perfectly baked shortbread cookie! DID YOU HEAR ME??? A pie baked in the likes of a cookie crust! I'll wait while you compose yourself. The inginuitey of taking a variable like bad pie crust out of the equation altogether is what really gets me going about Buttermilk Sky. Especially since I feel like almost anyone can make a halfway decent pie these days. There's dozens of frozen crusts developed by magical corporate 'taste-scientists' to ensure your store-bought canned filling is paraded to the table with some shred of respect. But, this pie shop raised the bar on how to create an overall pie experience that starts with the crust and moves on to the filling then back to the crust then back to the filling then back to the crust then back to the filling- I'm dizzy. Hold on. My point is, for the first time EVER the pie crust is as heavenly as the fillings are, and I'm totally new to that. In fact, i'm still pretty sure i'm imagining that Buttermilk Sky even exists, but I just googled it and sure enough, it's real. 
Also, have you seen the I-40 pie? It' like a magic cookie bar in a pie. I have officially died and gone to fatty heaven..via fatty Highway I-40. The signature Southern Buttermilk is creamy, rich and not too sweet, unlike their cherry, apple, S'mores, coconut creme, Houndog, pecan and chocolate meringue which are all too rich and too sweet and too wonderful for a Yankee like me to put to words. Can someone please bless my heart? My Facebook stalking of them also tells me they now serve cinnamon buns on Friday & Saturday mornings, but I guess I'll have to wait until we have equity back in our house to try them. Scratch-made biscuits with chocolate gravy & homemade ice cream also adorn their menu. This place is killing it. 
(By th way, the picture of that cherry pie up there was my Valentine's Day present from my mother-in-law. Thx Linda!)
Go there! Now! RUN!!!! 
Colleen's yummy food rating: 5/5 (Actually 750/5)
Here's their website. 

Friday, January 31, 2014

TOMO's Cherry Blossom Roll: What Does It All Mean?

My non-extensive 2-click internet research concludes that in Japanese culture the cherry blossom represents fragility and the beauty of life. With that being said, i'll go ahead and promptly address my point early; I am now a firm believer TOMO's Cherry Blossom sushi roll does as well. Just hear me out. 
The roll transported me to a place far, far from here. Maybe it was a quiet crispy-aired garden complete with zen-like water sounds, or maybe even an ancient pagoda adorned with lotus flowers and water lilies... when in fact, it was actually just the 2-top table in a Bearden shopping plaza where my hubby and I sat on date night gazingly in love. Either way, I'm changed. Revived. And now, thanks to my own self-righteousness will after 2 years of not writing this blog, tell you why.
The notion that life is fragile and all things are beautiful and blah, blah, blah, all sounds like my last morning meditation mantra. But, the painfully adorably and ironic fact is, I already believe this notion. So, when the first bite of that roll hit my mouth, I finally, and for the first time through food, experienced this truth and beauty and ultimate fragility. Sound a little fishy? (Oh, a sushi joke?) Let me explain. 
There were so many subtle little flavors. There was the culmination of the mild and gentle yet vividly bright red tuna, the heat wave of spice from the special ponzu sauce, the salty mayo and the crisp freshness of the cucumber topper. But then, oh wait, just then, that's when the miracle happened. On top of each piece was a small wedge of lime. LIME?? Yes. A paper-thin slice caps each piece and subsequently turned out to be the one missing component of every bite of every meal I have ever taken. Looking back now, it was actually just the taste of conquering a fear... because in my mind the lime was about to ruin the entire taste experience of that bite. I had already decided it didn't belong there and therefore was about to ruin not only the bite, but the meal, the night and everything in between. How dramatic. Thankfully everything I've learned after years of succumbing to my own demons tells me not to stop before the miracle happens- and thankfully I didn't. And, it turns out that it was the game changer I had so desperately been searching for. The bitter, sour lime was neither bitter or sour or even a lime flavor at all anymore. It became something totally different. It brightened, supported, toned and enhanced every other flavor in the entire bite. The fragility of a god forsaken sushi roll became evident through flavor and therefore beautiful and ultimately meaningful. It was a whole new flavor- a flavor I could have never imagined and will never forget. It was the perfect metaphor. It's almost like they thought this shit through before naming it. It was thousands of years of knowledge on my plate, next to my chopsticks and low-sodium soy sauce. 
Long story short, my head exploded all over the back wall of the dojo and we left. 
Not really.
We pounded a variety of rolls and pieces as well as tempura sweet potato, asparagus & crab sticks. It all kept my head spinning and belly swooning. Our waitress was a peach, the perfectly-dim lighting kept my eyes comfortable for once and the check total didn't make us crap our pants. Near date night meal perfection by my standards.

It feels good to be back y'all. Anybody want to go get some lunch? I feel a tent revival coming on.

Colleen's yummy food rating 5/5.
Go there.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Thai Me Up, Throw Me In Your Trunk And Drive Me Back To 'Taste of Thai'

Thai is one of those cuisines that cannot be substituted when I NEED IT. A masaman curry makes me feel warm and sensual inside, like i'm wearing a slinky satin robe of silky coconut sauce while stretching out onto a bed of fluffy, cloud-like starchy white rice. Was that too weird? I'm sure it was. Anyways...
Upon arrival, the interior of this place looked like something was going to be left to my imagination. In fact, the lack of decor actually sat me between a retail display of golden Buddha's, candle sticks and some old brown baby booster seats. Now, I have learned time and time again, that from the deepest depths of the darkest mud pits rises the most beautiful of Lotus flowers, and 'Taste of Thai' is no exception to this age old tale. (The decor is not for the foodie looking to find the serene, mellow Thai experience of waterfalls and trickling rock gardens, but more for the restaurant sleuth who wants to get their food fast, love it, finish it and lick their fingers and lips for the rest of the day while secretly planning their next trip back.) So, the inside kinda sucks. In the immortal words of Garfield, "Big. Fat. Hairy. Deal".
The food, on the other hand is definitely in the Top 3 of all Thai food I have ever had. I'm not sure if it's fair to say that over some Tom Yum (traditional lemongrass & mushroom soup), and a huge plate of #19... the masaman curry (meat sauteed with avocado, roasted cashews and broccoli in rich creamy coconut milk with masaman curry spice), but it's my story and i'm sticking to it. This food was incredible! It was all three  of my most favorite things in a Thai restaurant: 1. FRESH, 2. FAST, 3. SPICY, but not blowing my face off my head. I mean, I like a good amount spice, but I also like to be able to taste the elements of the dish, e.g., the individual flavors of the meat, the sauce, the veggies, and how they make a new completely different overall flavor, (I find it difficult for Thai restaurants to execute all three of these seemingly simply elements, and when just one of them is missing, it tends to really ruin a dish or an entire meal for me....especially the 'FRESH' element) but not to worry, this place gets it.
The hubby, being the tried and true kinda guy that he is, got the Pad Thai, (classic stir-fried thin rice noodles with meat, bean sprouts, egg and ground peanuts). It was also notably delicious. Heaping bowl of spicy noodles + quiet eating wife = happy hubby. Easy math.
The service was as short and sweet as any Thai place I have ever visited, making it a 22 1/2  min. in-and-out experience that will forever remind me of why I will turn my head 180 degrees to stare at it as long as possible every time we pass it, remembering my first bite, seventh bite, last bite and most of all, the warm, calm feeling we had walking out the door. Great prices, great service, amazing FRESH, fast Thai.
Colleen's yummy rating 5/5.
Find their menu here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Northshore Brasserie: Qu'est ce que c'est, Mediocre.

I know it's been a pinch since my last blog, but I have actually been pretty mom-busy, and waiting to hit a killer date night spot so I could redeem myself, my blog, my family blood line, and the free-world as we know it....okay, maybe not redemption of that caliber, but close. I wanted this to be a good one; a meal squealed about that was a classy, expensive one...somehow hoping that this magical night out in cheap heels and a pencil skirt would get the writing gods to visit my hands. Thankfully, it worked.
Since the Northshore Brasserie has only been recommended to me, say, 900-1,400 times a day for the past year, (which totally makes sense-it's a pretty nice place for Knoxville, it's in a wealthy area of town, and it's modern-ish decor suggests that the food is going to really blow your face off your head) we thought we'd go ahead and give it a whirl. I don't know about anyone else, but when the purveyor is greeting patrons in a dirty golf shirt and jeans at the front door along with a 17 year old hostess, you get the feeling that the hook has been set, they are now just going to reel you in, fight you for a good hour or so, and then set you free back into the cruel world in which you came from. True story-Let's roll.
I ordered their Key Lime Pie martini, which it turned out that only certain members of the staff are trained to make, so about 15 minutes later I was offered to drink the incorrectly made one (for free, like that was a nice thing to do..back-handed compliment much?) and to pick another drink with the promise that it would be made really fast. Yikes! Not a deal breaker at this point because our adorable waiter Patrick was trying really hard to step it up and soak in the embarrassment that the bar had poorly shaken and not stirred. So, we went ahead, threw the dice and went for our appetizer: the steak tartar. Not too shabby is the nicest thing I can actually come up with to describe the flavor, but the chopped hamburger consistency was beyond gross. I mean, it wasn't like we weren't going to finish it, we just manned-up and got it down. I know what you're thinking....this is a slam piece. Well, you're wrong. This is where it takes a turn for the best! The charcuterie plate (which we asked to come out with our entrees and did not...but came out almost 20 minutes before) had grilled boar sausages that sent me to the moon. They were 100% to die for (unlike the rabbit pate', or terrine-mound, call it what you looked and tasted worst than the best cat food i've ever ate), and then came our entrees, and we were beyond pleased. Provencal mussels and the roquefort burger were both prepared and presented in a manner that made us forget that we were about to sell the farm to cover the check, and we enjoyed every last bite of both. Gold star for the kitchen staff! So, feeling happy and lovvey at this point, we decided to wash it all down with an after dinner drink. Unfortunately for us when we each ordered a $10 Duvel, there was no clean Duvel glasses to come with the beer (again, which the employees felt free to tell us). Overall, it  just took away from the ability of this place to be a consistently great place, but a beer is a beer, especially when it's a Duvel, and my belly is chock full of mussels.
I'll admit it, The Northshore Brasserie has a lot of, qu'est ce que c'est: Balls? Or issues....either way, if i'm going to spend that kind of cheese, i'll naturally expect something a little more than mediocre.
Find their website here.
Colleen's yummy food rating: 3/5.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Plum Tree: Knoxville's Ancient Chinese Food Secret

When I look at a place like Plum Tree on Kingston Pike in Bearden, two very separate but distinct thoughts go through my mind. One is that I am about to re-visit the early to mid-80's and the amazing Asian decor that was lost in that decade, and/or I am going to get food poisoning, lose 25 lbs. and never have to wear fat jeans again. Both wrong, again. You would think that I would get better at the pre-judgement thing as I go try more restaurants, but nope. Not.Even.Close. I always assume the food is going to be run of the mill, greasy and salty, just how I like it, but I was in for a real surprise.
I implore you to consider the ability of Plum Tree, which is the size of a shoe box from Coffin Shoes to be able to masterfully prepare a 4-6 page menu of 17 categories (yes, I counted), then believe when I say that after being a real fat fatty and picking 6 items from all different categories, and tasting the 4 other items my husband picked, each dish was so delicious it could hang in the ranks of food I have had at high-end Asian places in several major cities. I mean, this was light and fresh, belly warming, mouth-watering, non-oil slick covered, 'I can actually taste all the items in this dish' Chinese food. I had no idea this happens in nature. This is where I suggest that absurd idea that, "Maybe this is why the place has been around so long".
Okay, okay...onto the selections that are making my mouth water just thinking about re-consumption. (Please do not judge me, I was mildly to moderately hungover and STARVING!)
I started with a warm soft, doughy and steamy pork bun that was as good as any I have had in SF's Chinatown. The next three things I inhaled was a blur of egg roll, fried 5 spice "ming" wings and TomYum soup. Then came the Panang Curry with tofu and  brown fried rice. I need to stop here and let you know this was by far, the hottest, creamiest, most flavorful Panang Curry I have ever ingested. I seriously love this shit and eat it all the time. It's NEVER ever going to be the same after Plum Tree's version. Okay, now that I got that out.....there was more. It was my husbands dinner, but I didn't care. It was the Mandarin Fried Rice and it had every meat and seafood known to man in it. By the look the hubby gave me when I asked for some of it, he felt the same way about it as I did. Actually, to quote my husband, "I bet this is what 'real' fried rice tastes like." So adorable.
Just go there! The food is going to blow your mind through the back of your head, and all over the wall, then leave you in a cozy sodium bliss. Plum Tree has it all figured out.! Must be 'ancient Chinese secret'. (No, i'm not talking about pee-pee in your Coke.)
Find them and their menu here.
You're welcome.
Colleen's yummy food rating: 450,000/5.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Rouxbarb's Royal Tasting

In honor of the Royal Wedding this week, it would only seems fit to write the most royal of my reviews yet: Rouxbarb. This little gem of an establishment caught my eye a few weeks back, and after a solid internet stalk I knew this would be my next target. We chose to go check it out for a 'date night' as us young classy 30-something parents do these days, and it proved to be not only the most deliciously prepared food I have had in oh, say about the last 31 years of my 31 year-old life, but hands down the most (how do I say this w/o swearing?) "*&%$#@*&^%-ing" greatest dining experience my sweet hubby and I have had to date.
When we arrived the seasonly-glammy hostess sat us and buttered us up correct, and got us going on our BYOB bottle of white we scooped on the way, and immediately had our waitress at our side. Ok, so there's waitresses, and there are PROFESSIONAL, this lady was goooood, and I mean good. She suggested the Chef's tasting, if we were interested, (like that was gonna get a 'no'), and then proceeded to send the Chef out to our table like he had nothing better to do but to meet us. At this moment I blacked-back-in and remembered what a REAL dining experience was like, ya know... when the Chef wants to meet the people he is gonna cook for, and maybe actually cares who's his patrons are. Anyways, it was a quick beg and plead for the last tasting of the night and POOF we were relocated to the bar for the food-feast that took eleven- hundred plates and what seemed like hours to consume. It was glorious, royal even. I felt like Kate Middleton in a cheap dress and expensive lip gloss.
Our first several plates were delicious Southern-fared concoctions like deep fried chicken livers with tomato jam and grits, pimento cheese beignets with hot pepper jelly and PEI muscles w/ Benton's bacon and the most eggy soft bread that helped me consume all that last drop of broth, because upon the Chef's recommendation, I picked the bowl up and drank the rest. No big deal. This is what i'm talking about, an establishment that can create such an intimate dining experience while not focusing on the white table cloths and pocket-book plumpness of it's patrons, but keep it a close face to face conversational meal.
Oh, did I mention they have their own BBQ smokehouse out big deal. Ha!
Right, so then maybe the 7th or 8th plate we enjoyed was a warm grilled pineapple salad, then quail with dirty rice for our entree and then a dessert plate that was a serious slap across the face. There was like 7 different desserts on this platter, and yes I mean platter. It was the truly awesome ending that we could have never expected. Actually, the whole experience was so unexpected that we're still pinching ourselves making sure that it actually happened.
We finished our bottle of wine chatting it up with another couple across the bar, and the great staff who really made the whole time we spent there (it felt like it was 4 or 5 hours of mouth-watering 'open-mouth insert heaven' time) just perfect. It's not any wonder the Chef has as many kudos locally and nationally as the number of plates he fed us that night, the food was like nothing else Knoxville has going, and the experience was as good as it gets.
While everyone else is watching the CNN and MSNBC royal wedding coverage this weekend, i'll most likely be texting everyone I know trying to find someone to go back with me. Yes, its that's good.
Colleen's yummy food rating: 5/5
Check their website here.