Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Nashville Part I

My lack of posting last week was a reflection of a busy week spent in Nashville. The primary reason for the trip was ostensibly a meal. In my business, as I'm sure is the case in many fields, a large deal warrants a large meal with all the folks involved in the transaction.

We went to Jimmy Kelly's which has been a Nashville Dining Tradition since 1934. The restaurant is in a grand old Victorian home very near Vanderbilt's campus.

The bar was intimate with excellent service and ample televisions to satisy the football fan this time of year. There were a few public dining rooms of various sizes on the first floor and banquet rooms on the second.

We were seated in a good sized private room upstairs and were served by two excellent waiters who could very easily make the switch to stand-up comedy.
While reviewing the well edited menu and rather clipped winelist we were served the house specialty - corn cakes. These were thin, dense, pancakes akin to Hoe Cakes (recipe to follow), but Hoe Cakes beat them out in texture, flavor, and greasiness.

For appetizers we had fried oysters, onion rings, and crab cakes (formed into bite sized morsels at the recommendation of our waiter. These were all fried delights with the oysters being my favorite.

For salads we all bent to the pressure and ordered the house specialty "The Original Faucon Salad From My Granddad’s Good Friend, Mr. Faucon. Mixed Salty Bacon, Hard Boiled Eggs And Bleu Cheese Served On Our Iceberg Lettuce". This twist on the wedge was good if not great, the blue cheese dressing was a bit too thin and pungent at the same time.

For steaks, and everyone ordered a steak, we were across the board. I selected the standard cut of the Bleu Cheese Filet cooked to medium. I made this selection hoping that the ring of bacon surrounding the steak would be crispy, a concern I had with a medium rare order. Unfortunately the bacon was cooked but limp and the cheese had clearly been directly out of the refrigerator when packed around the steak resulting in a room temperature smear of cheese between the bacon and the steak. Several folks ordered the Bootlegger's Ribeye and seemed quite pleased with their selection. Untasted I would still recommend you head in that direction if dining at Jimmy Kelly's.

The only a la carte side selected was asparagus which still had sand in it. It should be noted that at the reasonable entree prices baked potatoes were included. These were old school wrapped in aluminum foil with a small pleated paper cup of sour cream on the side.

Only two desserts were ordered at the table: Death by Chocolate and Chocolate Decadence. I tasted the latter which was a very dense brownie covered in ice cream. I would probably recommend either the Blackberry Cobbler or Pecan Pie judging from the ones I saw coming out of the kitchen and the happy people in the downstairs dining room.

No after dinner drinks were ordered though quite a few ordered capuccinos and were disappointed to get milky coffee in the bottom of a too large coffee cup.

Jimmy Kelly's Wrap-up

Atmosphere: 4
Drinks: 3
Meat: 3.5
Sides: 3
Desert: 3
Service: 5
Value: 4.5
Overall: 3.7
Note: Still a better experience than Morton's Nashville.

Jimmy Kelly's on Urbanspoon

Here's a recipe for Hoe Cakes from Paula Deen inspired by the trip to Jimmy Kelly's:

1 cup self-rising flour
1 cup self-rising cornmeal, or from a mix (recommended: Aunt Jemima's)
2 eggs
1 tablespoon sugar
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon water
1/4 cup vegetable oil or bacon grease
Oil, butter, or clarified margarine, for frying

Mix all ingredients together, except for the frying oil, in a bowl until well combined. Heat the frying oil or butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Drop the batter into the hot skillet. Use about 2 tablespoons of batter per hoecake. Fry each hoecake until brown and crisp; turn each hoecake with a spatula, and then brown the other side. With a slotted spoon, remove each hoecake to drain on a paper towel-lined plate.

Chef's Note: Leftover batter will keep in refrigerator for up to 2 days.
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy
Yield: 16 hoecakes (give or take)

Recipe and Photo courtesy Paula Deen

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