Sunday, February 23, 2014

Our Kids Soup Sunday at LP Field!

It was an awesome day!  I met up with three friends at "Our Kids Soup Sunday" at LP Field Club level. I have been going to this event for about four years now (mark your calendars for every February), but this was actually their 20th year hosting this event. I received an email from one of the Board of Directors and she sent me a free “media pass” for me and my friend, Vivek. Therefore, I feel an obligation to blog about my experience in hopes that it will encourage you to contribute to the cause or attend future events.

Our Kids Center is a Nashville-based charity who’s mission is to: provide expert medical evaluations and crisis counseling services in response to concerns of child sexual abuse, and to increase community awareness, conduct research and offer education and training about child maltreatment.
They have locations in 5 cities throughout Tennessee to help children & families coping with the ramifications of childhood sexual abuse.

The cost of the annual event is $20 for singles and $40 for the family pack (two adults plus kids). If you wait to purchase your tickets at the door, the price increases by $5 for each ticket type. Every year celebrity judges and culinary judges rate the soups. Celebrity judges have included actors from the show “Nashville” as well as sports celebrities including the Tennessee Titans and the newest Vanderbilt coach. Culinary judges include food critics and well known Nashville chefs.

Fifty plus (50+) locally owned Nashville area restaurants & catering companies provide samplings (about 1 oz each) of their best soups for you to try – although they will gladly have you take more than one. This is an all you can eat event – so I challenge you to get through 50+ ounces of soup and go back for 2nds (that’s 6.25 cups of soup). Bread is also provided at each table along with free sodas and water (stations located throughout the event).

Our Kids provides you with a small tray that will hold about 12 samples. If you’re good at balancing, maybe more, me not so much, I almost had a couple disasters on my hands. If you purchase the “Family Pack” you get a larger cafeteria tray. With the small tray, I made a total of four trips. I missed out on a few since they were sold out before I got there. By the end, I was taking only a sip or two of each.

We tasted some very creative soups and one that I really wanted to spit out (surprisingly it was created by a very high end, reputable restaurant) - no names mentioned other than it contained beer & cheese. I’m not averse to beer-cheese soups but a couple friends agreed with me on this. Sometimes you have to wonder if they follow the chef's code of "taste, taste, taste your food before you serve it". 

Soups: The Girl Scouts served up a "Chocolate Mint Bisque" (basically a Thin Mint cookie soup). How do you say no to a little Girl Scout who asks you to try her soup? Actually, the soup was made by Lorraine's at the Marriott in Franklin. Shockingly it was actually very good. Vivek mentioned as we stood in line that he hated chocolate and mint together, but admitted after trying that it was “actually pretty good”. Not so much a soup as a dessert. Vandy Campus Dining won the People's Choice first place with their "Princess Peach Shortcake Soup" - again VERY good but more like a smoothie (very refreshing and a palate cleanser). 

My personal savory favorite was Taqueria del Sol's "Shrimp Corn Chowder" which won first place from the celebrity and culinary judges. It is on their menu at their 12 South location. They were closely followed as my favorite by Corner Market Catering with their "Curried Yellow Squash Soup". 

Antionio’s of Nashville won second place “creative dish” from the judges as well as third place in the “People’s choice” with their “Shrimp & Cognac Bisque”. This was also a favorite of mine.

I wish I could mention every soup individually but it would take me more space than I am allowed. My favorites are listed above. If you attended the event, please post your comments regarding your favorite soup.

The highlight of the day is my friend, Vivek, gave me a Canon PowerShot S5 IS as an early birthday present. Sorry I don't have any pics to share yet. I need to download the software and get a matching USB cable to sync them up - hopefully I will get that this week. Once I figure it out, I will have no excuse not to create some amazing pictures of the foods we eat around Nashville. 

Our Kids Center
1804 Hayes Street
Nashville, TN 37203
Hours: Monday – Friday; 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Hai Woon Dai Korean Restaurant

This is the food I grew up eating as a kid, from the age of 6 YO until college. The "perks" when your childhood best friend is Korean. I spent 3-4 nights a week in the kitchen of my surrogate mom, Ok Cha Kim. When she would hand me food and I asked what it was she would say “just eat” and I did. I never questioned Momma Kim because I knew I could be kicked out of her kitchen at any given time. She was the Korean “Gordon Ramsey”.

Thanks to Momma Kim, I knew what sushi was by the time I was 8 years old, chewed on dried octopus, ate raw stingray and became a kimchi aficionado. Her cucumber kimchi was so amazing that I attempted it for years without success. She taught me how to eat with chopsticks and even gave me my first official pair of chopsticks (not the wooden pull apart kind) and I practiced on cheap ramen noodles.

I have been eating at Hai Woon Dai (pronounced “Hay Woon Day”) for about 7-8 years, before I even conceived of my Meetup group, What the Pho!

The food is above reproach, the service fast and exceptional. THE BEST KOREAN in Nashville! I will stake my reputation on that. Assuming “Jean” is working when you visit, mention my name. You won’t get any freebies but I’m sure she will give you extra TLC.

Banchan: First there’s the banchan, small plates of condiments which include kimchi, cucumber kimchi, fish cake, seaweed salad, etc, etc. These are free and are replenished when you run out.
Banchan (photo courtesy of Sun Tzu
James Quach)

Appetizers: I would highly recommend the “gyoza” which is vegetarian. I had never ordered until recently because I expected them to be like Japanese gyoza which I can take or leave. A Persian friend ordered them a few weeks ago and shared, I fell in love. Had the menu said “Yaki Mandu” I would have known what I was ordering. It’s like a little “empanda”. This is a staple on my visits now. 
Dolsot Bibimbap (photo courtesy of Sun Tzu
James Quach)

The “Seafood Pancake”, I’m not a fan of squid (for dietary reasons) but this one is outrageously popular. It is HUGE and should be shared with about 8 people, unless you plan to make it your primary meal.

Entrées: The (BBQ) chicken bulgogi is some of the most tender chicken I've ever tasted. I also love the beef bulgogi which is thinly sliced and tender. I haven’t tried the pork version which my friend Pam swears by.

And bibimbap, this is a staple, it includes rice, beef, veggies and a fried egg. Order the dolsot bibimbap for the hot stone pot experience. Think of it as fried rice to the n'th degree.This brings back memories.

I am also a fan of the Japchae (sweet potato noodles stir fried in sesame oil with vegetables and beef), ask them to cut the noodles or you might be in for the fight of your life.
Japchae (photo courtesy of Sun Tzu
James Quach)

One of my go to favorites is their “jjigae” which are their soups delivered at a rolling boil in a hot pot. They have several variations with seafood, meat and tofu. They are presented with a raw egg. As soon as the soup arrives, crack the egg and stir. Jjigae is one of my comfort foods when I’m sad or happy. Momma Kim never made me jjigae. But I ate a lot of bulgogi growing up and it was amazing.

Desserts: None offered. But you will be stuffed before you can finish all of the above. I don’t remember ever having desserts in Kim’s house.

Hai Woon Dai
Address: 2051 Antioch Pike, Nashville, TN 37013
Phone:(615) 333-9186
Hours: 11:00 am – 11:00 pm (closed Monday)

Moke ga
먹자 (Let’s eat!)

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Epice: Lebanese Bistro!

Tabouleh: parsley • mint • tomatoes • bulgur wheat
The girls and I had an amazing dinner tonight at the new Lebanese Bistro on 12 South in Nashville, appropriately named Epice (French for "Spice") just a couple weeks after their opening. All I can say Maher Fawaz is "Well done sir, well done". Maher (the owner) stopped at our table a couple times to see how everything was. The host followed us out after dinner to ask "Who is Rose?” Yes, I'm the one who called you three times to change the # of attendees. We chatted for a bit and he thanked us for coming. 

I can honestly say in my 20 years in Nashville and out of the 100's (or rather 1000's) of restaurants I have tried in Nashville, around the country and world-wide - this is one of my favorites by far. Normally, I cringe at the idea of $40-$50 for a meal (no drinks included). But Epice was worth every penny I spent, and then some. Not a single regret - except I wish I could have eaten more.

Our server was very knowledgeable and beautiful - the spitting image of Zooey Deschanel. The appetizers came quickly. We ordered the Tabouleh, Al-Raheb (roasted eggplant purée), Fatayer (a trio of stuffed pies) and Sfeeha (flat bread with cured beef & cheese). 

Sfouf: Lebanese yellow cake • seasonal fruit salad •
orange blossom syrup
Now for entrees: Jie & I ordered the Sayadeya (cumin dusted barramundi with caramelized onions) - this was absolutely AMAZING. The fish was so tender you could hardly get it on a fork. Jie completely cleaned her plate and took a picture to prove it. Hope & Jennifer ordered the Tawook (marinated chicken brochette). Mary had the Epice Salad with the marinated chicken. Donna ordered the Batinjan (roasted eggplant with ground sirloin) and Cynthia had the Beyrouti (chickpea purée with ground sirloin and pine nuts). 

For dessert: The seven of us split the Pots de crème, Katayef (Lebanese crepes) and Sfouf (Lebanese yellow cake). The desserts were perfect, not overly sweet. I loved the fresh fruit served with each dessert - and oh, the fig. Loved the fig! 

Katayef: Lebanese crepe • sweet cheese • walnuts •
orange blossom infusion

Definitely an amazing dinner! Oh yea, I'll be back and I see it being VERY soon! 

General Info: 
2902 12th Avenue South
Nashville, TN