#My500Words: January 12, 2014


Review: Saint Añejo http://mstreetnashville.com/restaurants/saint-anejo/details


Last night I met Kathy and Neil and a few others at Saint Añejo, the new Mexican restaurant in the Gulch by the M Street group. They have six restaurants, all on the hip, happening, high end and most in the Gulch. Saint A is Mexican and has a premium tequila and mezcal menu of over 120 labels and does tequila tastings and tequila flights. I'd been there before Christmas for dinner and found it fine. The bar will be fun in the nice weather since they have large “garage door” type windows that will open up to the outside. There are also a number of big screen TVs showing sports.


We started with drinks and they have a number of signature libations and margaritas (hibiscus; ginger/rosemary; cucumber/habanero/lime). I'd had one of the margaritas the first visit and wasn't too impressed (should have went with a normal one), so last night I had a Negra Modelo. The beer list is good, with many Mexican beers on it. The do have pitchers of margaritas, but it doesn't seem that they will do a pitcher of normal margaritas. Bad idea. There is also a wine list, sangria (will have that in warm weather!), and for the non-imbibers, Jarritos and Horchata. Neil got one of the signature libations which tasted like a cigarette and he had to send it back for a beer and they were good about taking it off the bill. Stick to the regular margaritas or beer.


They didn't automatically bring out chips and salsa and since two of us had been there before, we asked about the chips and trios of salsas that we'd had before. They brought some of that for the table. I forgot to look at the bill and see if those were a charge or not. The chips were okay and the salsas were all fine. One tasted like pure crushed tomatoes, another had mango in it with a lime kick, and the third was a little smokey. None had heat. A major fail in my book! I'm one of those who keeps a Costco-sized bottle of Tabasco and a bottle of Sriracha next to the stove at all times!


If you look at the menu online and then go to the restaurant, you will find that they are different. So please, if you change your menu, update your website!! There are a few appetizers, quesadillas, tacos (3 small ones to an order), nachos, salads, a number of different entrees, a couple desserts and a couple of daily specials. I ended up ordering the special chimichanga which was really good and big enough that I gave Kathy some of it. It came with some rice which was pretty bland. One of the sides they have is chorizo mac and cheese which got raves. In my first visit, we'd had the Mexican street corn and that was amazing.


One change between my first visit and last night is in the tacos. Previously, you could order tacos by the taco so you could mix and match. Now you can only order them by the platter of three and they will all be the same. With a few people you could order a few and then share. The tequila lime chicken was really good. Others that sound good are the grilled shrimp with Chipotle-Lime Mayo, and the Salt + Pepper Beef (Ground Round/Mex Cheese/Shaved Jalapeños). There is also a veggie option, Mahi-Mahi and a few others.


At the table, someone had the chicken tamales and said they were very good. The grilled chicken got raves as being moist and quite good. Desserts were churros, a flan and something else that I forget, but we all passed on dessert. Since we had 9 people, gratuity was automatically added to everyone's bill. Mine came to $25, so not cheap. On my Mexican rating scale, it rates towards the bottom. Give me authentic Mexican food, salsa with heat and a couple of Negra Modelos and I'm happy. But the company was A+!


As someone mentioned last night, Nashville is turning into a city for people with money. They aren't too far off. I've said it from my first trip here – except for buying a house (and in some areas, that isn't even true anymore), it's not that much cheaper here and more expensive in some ways, compared to California. But that's for another post.


#My500Words: January 11, 2014


Review: Pinewood Social http://pinewoodsocial.com


Co-worker Vince and I needed a break from so much work, so we left at 5:15 PM (so early!) last night and went to check out the new Pinewood Social in the Rutledge Hill area. Reading the Yelp reviews, people either really liked it or hated it, so we weren't sure what to expect.


Since we got there so early, we didn't have to worry about waiting, though the front desk (“INFO”) was less than overly welcoming. One gal was on the phone, the second said, “Hello”, but then nothing and the third took her sweet time in greeting us. An immediate minus.


We said we wanted drinks and probably some food (versus being there specifically for dinner), so eventually we were taken to two seats at the bar. The guy who took us there was MUCH more friendly than any of the three gals at the INFO desk. Thing were looking up.


The bar is in the middle of the room and is quite large and square with seating around 3 sides of the square. The drink list is lengthy and interesting. This is a cocktail place so if you plan on drinking beer, you'll be disappointed (but then, there are lots of places with very excellent beer lists). The first bartender who waited on us was pretty matter of fact and didn't offer much in the way of suggestions and went off and made our drinks, which were good, albeit pricey $12 per drink).


But then bartender Lee took over and things were very much on the upswing! Lee asked if we wanted to order food and the two ladies sitting kitty-corner from us had suggested the fried broccoli appetizer, so we ordered that and cheeseburgers. The broccoli was amazing! Next time I would order that for myself and not share. The broccoli florets are flash-fried (not deep-fried) and then lemon zest and sea salt are sprinkled on it and they come with a dipping sauce, but really, you don't need that. $6 for the broccoli.


The cheeseburgers ($13) come as two thin patties with cheese, lettuce, onion, pickle, mayo and mustard and the bun was pretty good too. This comes with home fries and a little cup of cornichons. I couldn't finish it all, leaving some of the home fries and about a quarter of the burger. I'd get it again for sure.


We got chatting with Lee, who is from Charleston and went to The Citadel, and we let him make our second drink, whatever he wanted, after us telling him what we do and don't like. I have no idea what I had except that it was not sweet (my request) and had mint and ginger syrup in it. Vince liked both of his drinks. They make all of their syrups and everything they use in-house and it was fun to watch the guy making different syrups during the evening. And with the “gatekeepers” at the front door, you don't have people walking in and standing at the bar. This is actually one big gripe in the Yelp reviews.


There are also a number of banquets along the windows and tables were you can have dinner, then there are the couches and small tables and chairs like someone's living room. And a long raised table where people were working on their computers. I'd like to go back with a group and get one of the two private rooms, or, get a group and hit the old time bowling alley. There are 6 lanes in the back with retro bowling lanes and equipment, but at $40 per hour, you need a group!


One thing we did note is that except for Lee and one other busboy, every single bartender and waiter had dark hair and facial hair. Not that I'm complaining! That is definitely my favorite look!! And the crowd was quite eclectic – a few grey-haired patrons, preppy types, some hipsters, tourists, downtown workers, pretty much a little of everything.


Pinewood Social is open all day, with breakfast, lunch and dinner. The breakfast menu looks good so I'll check that out. When we left at 8:30 PM, there were probably 20 people waiting in the front, but they all had drinks in their hands, so the other major complaint on Yelp of not being able to get a drink while you wait seems to be fixed. The other big minus in the Yelp reviews was on the food, but our broccoli and cheeseburgers and fries were very good, so maybe the kitchen has improved. I'll definitely go back, but it won't be a regular thing since I'm not so keen on dropping $50 a whack. It's San Francisco prices for sure!


One thing that Vince and I talked about is that if all these new places had been here in November 2011 when we came on the “recruiting” visit (and if they had taken us to them), then it wouldn't have been such a cultural shock to move. In the past year, the bar and restaurant scene here has exploded, which is a very good thing.


And if you're wondering, did I skip my 500 words for the past couple of days, rest assured that I did not. I wrote +500 words Thursday and Friday, just not for public review. So I'm 11 for 11 on this goal.

#My500Words: January 3, 2014

I've been awake for over two hours (it's now 6:05 AM) with major gastric reflux. Woke up belching up a storm. Yes, that's a visual I know. Sorry. The same thing also happened on New Year's Day, during the day. I've been thinking about what the culprit might be. On Wednesday I thought it might be ground beef. But there are two things in common that I ate over the two days...chips and salsa (and a different brand of salsa than I've ever had), or, black-eyed peas (with tomatoes and sausage). Maybe I'll stick to juice, fruits and veggies for a couple of days and see what happens.

Before Christmas I watched a movie on the Netflix streaming service, “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead” [http://fatsickandnearlydead.com/] about a 310 pound Aussie guy who drank only fresh fruit and vegetable juice for 60 days, plus exercise, and lost a lot of weight and more importantly, got off medication for a debilitating auto-immune disorder, as did another guy with the exact same auto-immune disorder. I found it to be a pretty interesting movie and it was probably the right time for me to see it since I'd been eating crap for far too long this fall and winter. Why I'd been doing that is a whole other discussion in itself for another time.

Anyway, I poked around on Joe the Juice guy's website and last weekend when we were at Costco, they had the Jack Lalanne juicer for $89. Score! So this week, I've been experimenting with juice for breakfast. Though just a coffee cup sized glass of juice at 8:00 AM left my stomach growling by 9:30, so I've added one egg to go with it. And we all know how healthy and fitness conscious Jack LaLanne was, living to 96 years old and working out to the end. Probably living in Northern California helped too.

I was a little leery about drinking spinach or kale, but my concoctions all have been pretty good! The first day it was carrots, pineapple, grapefruit and spinach. I was very pleasantly surprised – it was TASTY! Though putting frozen chunks of pineapple in the juicer is not advised. And, baby carrots try to escape if you don't stick the plunger in real fast. The first couple of days I used what I had on hand, but after a trip to the grocery store, I now have quite a few options. Yesterday's mix was kale, apple, lime and carrots. That was really good.

One good thing that's come out of this so far, is that I've been taking my lunch to work and don't have any urge to eat eat fast food. And in fact, the thought of meat isn't too tempting right now. I took some turkey for lunch yesterday to go with my cabbage salad and I ended up eating only half and tossing the rest.

Joe the Juice dude also recommends giving up coffee, but that is not going to happen. I am trying to cut down from drinking it all day, but I actually like the taste (and I pretty much drink black only) and brew my own in the mornings with my Kona coffee from coffeesofhawaii.com. No office swill for me! And I have three Starbucks gift cards that I've received in the past couple of weeks, so I couldn't let those languish, now could I?

Lentil Soup

I made a grocery store run yesterday to stock up on fruits and veggies and Diet Pepsi and decided to cook up a pot of lentil soup. Something hot, spicy, and healthy to try and kick this cold.

In a skillet brown two cajun sausages (I like spicy--you can use a mild sausage if you want) and some onions. Once browned, add to a large soup pot along with:

1/2 bag lentils
handful of mushrooms
shake of Tabasco
teaspoon of vinegar
bay leaf

Cover all with water and put lid on the pot and cook about 20-30 minutes until carrots and lentils are soft. If needed add more water, turn down the heat some and then add greens and a can of chopped tomatoes. I bought a bag of various "bitter greens" (mustard, kale, chard, turnip) which are loaded with vitamins and minerals, and added a couple of big handfuls. Cook another 15-20 minutes until greens are wilted.

Serve with a nice crusty rye bread and some red wine. Soup tastes even better the next day or the next. Using 1/2 bag of lentils makes enough soup for about 6 servings.