Friday, January 13, 2012

Tender Tennessee Christmas

Growing up and hearing this Amy Grant song, I never realized how befitting the following lines would be in my future life: "Rockies are callin'. Tender snow fallin'. Somebody said it's four feet deep. But it doesn't matter. Give me the laughter. I'm gonna choose to keep another tender Tennessee Christmas. The only Christmas for me."

So far, a Tennessee Christmas has been the only one for me! We were so fortunate to be able to travel down south this December to spend 10 wonderful days with family and friends. It was so comforting to be belly-laughing, reminiscing, telling stories, and sharing meals with my constants from a place that will always be "home".

As always, I am going to highlight the delightful culinary treats I encountered, but let me preface by stating that the absolute highlight of Tennessee are the PEOPLE in my life!
Like these people...
...and these people.

Jordan and I were welcomed upon our arrival to Nashville on December 25th by sweet southern accents and a semi-tropical climate. (Compared to Montana anyways.) We were also welcomed by Christmas dinner!
Jordan's mom, aka Big She-She, made a spectacular meal! Sweet potato casserole with a pecan & coconut topping, fresh salad with fruit and feta, hot rolls, and DEEP FRIED TURKEY. Listen...this is the way to eat a turkey, people!!

My parents opened up their home for a little shindig the day after Christmas. Queso with homemade tortilla chips & bourbon apricot ham were compliments of a favorite local restaurant, CHEF'S MARKET. I fancied up some baked brie with pastry ribbons and fresh fruit.

Michelle, my belle.
My long-time fellow dancer/house shopping companion/Doyle & Debbie fanatic friend came to visit! Her gift to Julz and I...none other than a bottle of "Kung Fu Girl" wine. I appreciate the way this lady makes me laugh...

BAKING DAY with the Johnston ladies!!
Enjoying an afternoon of chatting over hot mugs of French press coffee, solving the world's problems, and taste-testing the cookie dough along the way.
We baked chocolate chip cookies from a Pinterest recipe which called for pastry flour AND bread flour. Seemed a bit odd for a cookie recipe. But whatever. I'll go with it because these little morsels of goodness with huge shards of bittersweet chocolate were divine!

Duck, Duck, GOOSE!
Julie introduced me to my favorite eatery that I visited on this trip! My little sister is becoming quite the foodie herself!

SILLY GOOSE in up-and-coming East Nashville definitely has a localvore, farm to table vibe. The hostess sets a fresh peony in a mason jar on your table as you are seated. We ordered rosemary lemonade and herbed iced green tea, again in mason jars. Our delectable sandwiches were an array of grilled local vegetables hugged by perfectly toasted artisan breads, and the signature herbed cous cous was so fluffy it was barely existent.

There was this group of 15 girls formed my sophomore year of high school. This was a very creative group of friends who called themselves, "The Fifteen". We got together for birthdays each month and had a progressive dinner every Christmas. This year we did not "progress" since the expedition between 5 different houses seems a bit overkill, but we had some good southern cookin'!
We have been with each other through marriages, babies, great losses, hard times, life changes...everything that comes with 12 years of friendship. This event is not about the food or the Dirty Santa gift exchange (although this does get QUITE entertaining!) It is about a camaraderie that absolutely cannot be replaced! We are 15 extremely different women and we have been throughout the journey, but there is an unexplained, unquestionable bond that we share.

For the birds.
Elizabeth wanted to name her steel cut oat, flax, honey, peanut butter, cranberry breakfast treats something other than "oat balls". And I can see why.
Sumalee looked pensively at one of the yummy treats and decided that they looked like the food she put out for the birds. Hence the new name for them...Bird Bites. Appetizing??...

This local coffee shop is newer, so I had never had the pleasure of going. I read about it on a blog that I follow, Eat.Drink.Smile. Therefore, it was a must-see.
Apparently, Dave Barnes was also a must-see because I saw him here. It made me remember the days of seeing "famous" people around Nashville and what a commonality that used to be.

FOOD TRUCKS are the newest craze around Music City USA.
Therefore, it made my list of "things to do" while in Nashville.
The GRILLED CHEESERIE did not disappoint!
Wow...the all time best grilled cheese sandwiches I ever tasted!
- Brie, turkey, pumpkin seeds, pesto, roasted butternut squash -
- Gouda, ham, fried farm egg, and spicy brown mustard -

I loved this new addition to the official Nashville poster collection. It is in remembrance of the big flood in 2011 and how the city rebounded from that huge tragedy.

Back on track....more FOOD!
jeni's ice cream
Yet another outstanding East Nashville eatery.
I loved their mission statement. First things first..."We believe in glorious butterfat."
Enough said.
I tried salty caramel, fig and goat cheese, and bumbleberry crisp flavors.

Mom, Julie, and I cooked a random, but delicious, meal for the Canaday-4.
It was fun to have just the girls and dad at home for a meal, just like old times.
Homemade whipping cream dumplins, fried ham, fresh salad, and roasted spaghetti squash.


Always a fave of mine. Consistent, creative, fresh food in an atmosphere that takes you across the pond to a little bistro in Paris.
French onion soup & Cauliflower/Onion tarte were my choices "de jour".

frozen yogurt = nashville trend
I was beginning to believe that a lady named CeCe was taking over the city! There is a Sweet CeCe's yogurt shop on every corner of town! No exaggeration!
Naturally, I HAD to try it out to see what the big deal was.
As you can see, the toppings line the back wall of the shop. And that is not all...there is a bar of candies, fruits, sauces, etc. along another wall!!

Jordan and I took a night to go on a DATE! Actually, we dropped my parents off at the Ryman for a Glen Campbell concert, THEN went on a date :)
Big decision: WHERE in the world to eat??!!
We chose J. ALEXANDER'S.
It was always our go-to place when we found ourselves downtown with an appetite and a budget. So, definitely a good nostalgic location.
The roasted acorn squash with almonds and brown sugar, house-made veggie burger, and orzo salad met every expectation of one of my Nashville favorites.

Here's to you, Nashville!
Home of country music and wanna-be stars.
Home of the Titans and the Grand Ole Opry.
Home of gourmet restaurants and greasy spoons.
Home of friendly folks and bad drivers.
Home of Goo Goo Clusters and Loveless Cafe biscuits.
Home of precious family and forever friends.
Home of a lifetime of memories.
Home of my history.