Lannae's Food and Travel

I hope you like my food and travel blog.

March 15, 2015

Chinese Food Adventure

Are you looking for a Chinese Food Adventure in Nashville?  I have a fun dinner club for you!  The Chinese Dining Adventure Club is free to join, and meets every 1st Monday of each month at Lucky Bamboo China Bistro on Upper Charlotte Pike.  It costs $25 per visit and includes a Chef's Choice multi-course dinner, tea, water, tax and tip.  The meal is Chef's Choice, and the dishes are not on the menu, rather they are Chinese regional delicacies that you cannot get anywhere in Nashville.  In past months, the Chinese Dining Adventure Club had themes of Hunan, Schezuan, Malaysian recipes.

All you have to do is email Sallie at SallieMayne1@comcast.net and let Sallie know you want to reserve a seat at the next Chinese Dining Adventure.

The next Chinese Dining Adventure details are:
RSVP to SallieMayne1@comcast.net by April 3rd.
Dinner:  1st Monday April 6 6:00 pm
Where: Lucky Bamboo China Bistro

salliemayne1@comcast.net

A disclaimer, this is a Chef's Choice no restrictions dining experience.  As the flyer says, if you are vegetarian, vegan, celiac, have ingredient restrictions, are a picky eater, THIS IS NOT for you.  There will be no special requests or restrictions at any of the meals.  If all you want is just the same old General Tso's Chicken, Hunan Beef, or Sweet and Sour Pork,  you can go to almost any other Chinese restaurant for that, and you will not get that here at the Chinese Dining Adventure Club. 

If you are adventurous, and willing to try authentic Southeast Asian dishes you cannot get anywhere else in Nashville, this is perfect for you.  If you are open to a Chef's Choice experience, give this dining experience a shot. 

I have been to past dinners, and the food has been really good.  A couple months ago, in the height of winter cold, of of Chef's courses was a winter melon soup with seafood, and it was a big hit.  A winter melon is a large green gourd with white lightly flavored flesh inside.  The flesh is chunked up and combined with vegetables and seafood to make a a light brothy soup that is perfect for a winter's day.  Winter melon soup is anecdotally is considered a soup that helps stave off common colds, akin to chicken soup.  The most recent meal was a nod to Schezuan hot and spicy dishes.  One of my favorite dishes was a mung bean noodle, fish and vegetable dish seared in hot chili oil.  The Schezuan chili oil made my brow sweat from the heat, the savory flavors of the fish and vegetables was inviting, and the toothy texture of the mung bean noodles made me want to go back for more.

This is a fun food adventure for true adventurous eaters.  Hope to see you on 1st Monday in April!  RSVP to Sallie and let her know if you are coming!




March 12, 2015

37 Million Bees Found Dead In Ontario, Canada After Planting Large GMO Corn Field

37 Million Bees Found Dead In Ontario, Canada After Planting Large GMO Corn Field

March 6, 2015

TN Flavors Yummy!


Taste all the best restaurants and libations in the Nashville Area
Thursday March 12, 2015
5:30 -8:30pm
Nashville State Community College
White Bridge Road, Nashville, TN

To get tickets ($50-$150) visit TNFlavors.org
 your ticket benefits scholarships and equipment for the 
NSCC Culinary School Program

This is one of my favorite events like this in town.  There will be over 80 tasting tables set up including some of my favorite restaurants and caterers (City House, Cork and Cow, The Corner Market, Yellow Porch, Pucketts, Margot and Mason's at the Lowe's Vanderbilt to name a few).  There will be a bunch of local libations to taste as well (Prichards, Jack Daniels, Yazoo, and Corsair to name a few of my favorites). 

Get your tickets, come hungry and thirsty.  There is plenty PLENTY of free parking in the back of NSCC.  Also, NSCC is fairly centrally located, so cab, Lyft, Uber and other ride shares are fairly cheap from downtown Nashville.  For those of you who want to take the bus from Downtown Nashville, it is Route 3 that starts at Bay 5 in the Center City Terminal. Checkout the bus route schedule here.

February 18, 2015

Bailey's Meows and Barks




Are you and your critters feeling a little cabin fever after the ice and snow storms that have hit Nashville?  Well, do I have a good deal for you, while you get out of the house.  Bailey's Downtown Nashville is partnering with the Nashville Humane Association on February 25th, when Bailey's will donate 10% of sales to the Nashville Humane Association


That is not all!  If you go to Bailey's on February 25th between 6 pm- 9 pm, you will get to sample some of Bailey's specialty dishes including Greek hummus, drunken chicken tenders, tavern wings, Napa spinach salad, and Black Forest sliders.  This deal gets even better, Bailey's is offering $2 draft beer, and $4 specialty drinks including Irish 'Rita, twisted bitter, strawberry blonde and MORE!

Get out of the house, go downtown, have some fun, and have some good fun food and drink to benefit pets waiting for homes at the Nashville Humane Association!  Here is the summary  of the details:

Where:  Bailey's Downtown Nashville, 408 Broadway
When: Wednesday February 25th
Food Sampling and Drink Specials: 6-9 pm
What: Bailey's is donating 10% of sales (from all day)
to the Nashville Humane Association


February 15, 2015

VN Pho


condiment plate
VN Pho and Deli is located in a little strip mall, which is perpendicular to Charlotte Pike, rather than running parallel to Charlotte Pike.  You can't see the VN sign while driving east on Charlotte Pike, but you can while driving west from White Bridge Road.  If you are driving west from the White Bridge Road direction, VN is on the right hand side of Charlotte Pike, right before Charlotte Pike turns from 4 lanes to 2.  VN is across the street (Charlotte Pike) from the shopping plaza with Lucky Bamboo, Kien Giang, the K&S Market and the big green Storage sign.  VN is a little hard to find the first time there.

#13 spicy pho
VN Pho and Deli is a small Vietnamese restaurant, maybe 8-10 tables, and is owned by a really nice family originally from Vietnam, with a Southern Hospitality demeanor.  I have become somewhat of a regular here.  When I see friends in the areea, or shop in the Upper Charlotte Pike area, I usually stop in for lunch or dinner at VN.  Because of their Southern Hospitality, I get greeted with the sweetest, "Hello Darling! How many are with you today?"  I love being called Darling, it makes me feel special, and it causes me to smile :). 

#12 bun
Being a bit of a creature of habit, I have been getting the same things over and over at VN.  I get the fresh spring rolls (not the fried ones), bun with charred pork and egg roll, and spicy pho.  The fresh spring rolls come with a homemade peanut, coconut, hoisin dipping sauce which is delightful.  The bun (rice noodles) #12 is my favorite.  It is rice noodles over lettuce, and topped with pickled root veggies (carrot and daikon), egg roll and char-grilled (char siu) pork.  The pork is marinated with a house made marinade, which I cannot decipher specifically.  Most other restaurants in town who serve a char siu style pork, use a pre-packaged red flavor packet (fake chemical flavoring) to make marinate and make the pork.  Not at VN, VN makes their own marinade, and makes the best char siu pork in this town (IMHO).    And the spicy soup #13 is served with or without a pork foot.  We order without.  But, for those hipsters who are into "bone broth", this is the original Vietnamese style spicy bone broth soup.  The broth is slowly made from bones and bits of meat on the bone, and cartilage that slowly lets go of its thickening and flavoring qualities to the broth.  The broth has absolutely no fake flavor enhancers (unlike overly processed foods), so it is smooth and delicate.   As I do sometimes, I want to add a little heat to my meal.  Here, there is a house made chili oil made with oil steep lemongrass and cayenne, and it is outstanding, and I really cannot get enough of it.  The chili oil sits on the condiment plate in little glass jar with a little spoon and silver cover on it.  If you can take a little heat in your food, take a few drops of this chili oil with your meal.  You will not regret it.

VN is open everyday for lunch and dinner, except Tuesdays.  VN is open until 9 pm during the week, 8 pm Sundays.  The kitchen closes a little before closing time, so I suggest for the late eaters, go at least 1/2 hour before closing time.  So for Sunday, get there by 7:30 pm, and during the week get there by 8:30 pm.

VN Pho & Deli on Urbanspoon

January 2, 2015

What is old is new

Happy New Year!
 May you find delicious and healthy food in 2015!
 

To usher out the old and bring in the new,  I decided to make a a fermented salsa verde, which uses new ingredients until they are old.


I fermented chunks of tomatillos, jalapenos, garlic and onion to pickle them for a week, and then put the jars in the fridge.  Fermented veggies can keep for a long time, years in fact.


Then when I am ready to serve the salsa, I whirl up a jar of the fermented chunks of goodness in a food processor, and then stir in a ripe avocado.


The result is outstanding.  It is so delicious, that I want to lick the bowl.

December 3, 2014

Hot Tamale Capital

Greenville, MS is the Hot Tamale Capital of the World. 




Greenville, MS is a little sleepy Delta town next to the river, but in October every year, Greenville, MS is transformed into the Hot Tamale Capital of World!  Activities include literacy fundraising dinner, cocktail celebration, and all day street festival.  At the street festival, there are all sorts of arts and crafts vendors selling gifts and trinkets, lots of Delta Blues music, and there are the Hot Tamale competitors and their booths with their own hot tamales.


There were over 40 Hot Tamale competitors from all over the Delta, including home cooks, caterers, restaurant owners, and hot tamale enthusiasts competing for the title of Hot Tamale Grand Champion.  There were over 10,000 visitors coming into this little town of Greenville, MS to taste and judge for themselves, who should be Hot Tamale Grand Champion.


And this year's Grand Champion, for a second  year in a row: Jodie's Hot Tamales by Hattie Johnson from Greenville, MS.  Jodie is Ms Hattie's lovely daughter, and this home business is named after young Jodie Johnson.  Hattie's hot tamales during the year are by phone order only, and you take them home and steam them when you get home.  I conducted a poll of a bunch of locals, young and old, and from all parts of Greenville, and they all say Jodie's is where they call to get their tamale fix during the year.  Everyone from Greenville says Jodie's is their favorite.   


I took a dozen of Jodie's tamales home to try these beauties for myself.  The are spice ground beef surrounded by corn meal and wrapped in a corn husk.  They are bundled 6 tamales to batch, and that is a perfect size for a meal.  The ground beef is ground to a small diameter similar to the cornmeal. The texture is smoother than what we think of as a Central American style tamale, the texture is like polenta all the way through.  The way these tamales are constructed, it is hard to tell where the spiced meat ends and the spiced cornmeal begins.  It is a cohesive dish, that combines the ingredients to make one distinct dish.  The spices are more of a traditional American chili flavor, but that is the big secret spice mix Hattie makes.  I am guessing there may be paprika, chili peppers, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper, and probably more spicy goodness in the spice mix.  When I ate steamed and ate 6 of Jodie's tamales, I kept 6 frozen for later.  These little gems are so tasty, spicy, and wonderful, that I thought I made a mistake of only buying 12.  My next trip to Greenville, MS, I am taking a completely empty cooler, and buying multiple dozens to take home. 


The history of the Southern Hot Tamale is actually unknown.  This style of tamale has been around for over 100 years in the Delta.  It is thought that Mexican laborers working in the Delta brought their tamale expertise and shared it with their other laboring co-workers including African Americans, Lebanese, Italians, etc.  Folks thought this was a great way to stretch their meat budget my mixing in the much cheaper and abundant cornmeal in with the meat.  And with a variety of spice traditions, the Southern Hot Tamale was born.  


I love this Southern Hot Tamale Festival.  I am already planning on attending next year, when the City of Greenville, MS announces the dates.  I can't wait.  I long for the delicious flavor, texture and tradition.  See ya in October 2015!

November 29, 2014

4th Annual TN Local Food Summit


The 4th Annual TN Local Food Summit is happening next weekend December 5-7, 2014!  My favorite foodies, chefs and local restaurant owners, Miranda Whitcomb, Matt Spicher, Sandor Katz, Tyler Brown, Sean Brock and Laura Wilson will on hand to provide discussion of the state of local food in TN, and providing tasty meals for us. 

To register click here --->  TN LOCAL FOOD SUMMIT

For more information click here --->  TNLOCALFOOD.COM

The kickoff for the 4th annual conference will begin at Vanderbilt Dyer Observatory on Friday, December 5th with a reception, home-grown, chef-prepared dinner (arranged by Laura Wilson, the best chef in Nashville and 2 time winner of Iron Fork), and music by Beth Nielsen Chapman and Will Kimbrough.
A full day of workshops will be offered on Saturday, December 6 from 9am to 5pm. Preliminary plans include:
❧ Effects of farming on the environment
 Backyard and community gardening
 Business models and economic
opportunities
 Personal stories of research, education,
and outreach programs
 Land stewardship: Spiritual side of farming
and food
 Famous local chefs including Sean Brock and Tyler Brown, offering classes and demonstrations in Vanderbilt’s “demonstration kitchen”.

Following the workshops, Saturday evening, a locally grown, chef-made dinner will be offered, complete with live music by Darrell Scott and friends, at the University Club of Nashville.
Sunday morning, there will be a tour of a local farm Bells Bend.


November 11, 2014

I am Southern

I am Southern.  I have lived in the Southern Region of the USA the longest. I lived on West Coast, Northeast and Midwest for years as well, but I am Southern now.  I eat and share the bounty that Southern soil allows.  I breathe the Southern air everyday.  I take in water that the mighty Cumberland River provides to my county.  I feel the humidity and heat during the Southern summer months.  I am beginning to understand what it means to be Southern.  I am Southern.


I am also of Chinese ethnicity.  On October 24, 2014, the Mississippi Delta Chinese Heritage Museum opened its doors to the public.  The Museum is located at Delta State University in Cleveland, MS, and it is a small one floor Museum on the 3rd floor of the Archive and Museum building of the university.   It may be small, but it is powerful in the message that the South has a very rich history to be learned and embraced as part of the fabric of what made the United States. 


Image from Chopsticks in the Land of Cotton: Lives of Mississippi Delta Chinese Grocers
 by John Jung, paperback 2011

A little history lesson:  Back before the turn of the last century, in 1865, the 13th Amendment to the USA Constitution was passed stating that, Section 1 "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the USA, or any place subject to their jurisdiction."  Section 2 "Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation."  Amendment 13 is a protection for any USA citizen, but it does not protect those who are in the USA who are not citizens of the USA.  So, in all the wisdom that the Legislature had, seeing the issue of many Chinese coming into the USA in 1800s, and seeing that it is illegal to kidnap , torture, kill, maim, enslave USA citizens, Congress passes the Exclusion Act of 1882 banning Chinese from becoming citizens of the USA (and this continued through 1943 as the USA entered WWII).  This opened up a new pool of labor which was not afforded Constitutional Rights because they are not citizens.  There was propaganda on both sides, plantation owners and Chinese.  The plantation owners now had a supply of laborers who had no rights of the USA, and the Chinese were coerced into believing the South USA was paved with gold, and all they had to do was work hard and they will have the riches of the golden fields.  Plantation owners could treat the Chinese laborers like slaves and it was completely legal.  (I want to make distinction here, the atrocity of slavery in this country involved systematic capturing, kidnapping, killing, torture, cruelty, violence and many other heinous acts against the will of many peoples and families of African decent.  Chinese who came to this country, although coerced, came "willingly", but did suffer injustice, torture and wrongful death with absolutely no recourse because they were banned from the path of citizenship by law - the Exclusion Act.)


 In Mississippi, there were and are (see photo above) a lot of cotton fields that needed to be picked.  This was hard work, and plantation owners needed the slaves, and after emancipation, the Chinese.  And at the time of the late 1800s and early 1900s, along side of African Americans who stayed in the Delta, were the Chinese, Lebanese, Italians, and Mexicans (and other non-citizens), trying to make a living under harsh conditions.  This path to Delta is likely how my grandfather and his brother ended up in Greenville, MS.  They were coerced into believing this is where the fields were filled with gold, they would have a great life, and send riches back to their families in China.  The reality was a hard laborer's life in the Segregated South with no recourse if they did not get paid or fed for the day because those laws protect only citizens, and the Chinese were banned from being citizens.  There was substance/alcohol abuse to self-medicate, poverty, sorrow and basically once they got into being replacement field workers, there was no way out.


In the early 1900s, my grandfather (at the time was considered an old man) sent for a wife from China.  My grandmother came by herself and a very young bride into a West Coast port, and made her way to Mississippi to be the wife of this old man, 25 years her senior.  There was some seriously bad stuff going down in China, deep poverty, European occupation and port seizures, opium wars, and internal conflict.  It wasn't safe.  It was scary.  Times were desperate.  Families were trying to send their children to the USA because it seemed like a better option than famine, war, occupation and death.  It has to be really bad before any normal family would send a child on an unknown journey, which costs the parents a life of servitude to the transporter, and there is no guarantee the child will make it alive, or even have a better life in the USA.  (Side note, there is a parallel between how many of the Chinese children of this time got to the USA, and how Central and South American children are being sent to the USA today.  There is some seriously bad stuff going on in the home country like drug wars, poverty, internal conflict, death and parents are paying a lifetime of money to send their children with "coyotes" to get them into the USA for a better safer life.)


As a good Chinese wife to the old man, my Grandmother had 5 children, my father, and my aunts and uncles.  They lived in the Segregated South, in the black part of town, because African Americans, Chinese, Mexicans, etc were not allowed in the white part of town.  Then my grandfather died, likely from complications of alcoholism, and he left my Grandmother with 5 children under the age of 10 complete destitute because he gambled away all the money.  Author John Jung called my Grandmother a Chinese Woman Warrior.  Given this hand she was dealt, given the laws of segregation, given the Exclusion Act when it was illegal to hire Chinese,  my Grandmother made it happen for her children.  She fed, clothed and educated my father, aunts and uncles to give me and my family a better life that I enjoy today.  My Grandmother opened the only Chinese owned laundry in Mississippi and made pennies, went fishing in river for fish, and kept her family fed all on her own as very young woman.   She scrimped and saved and finally was able to open a little grocery store in the Black part of town, and the home my family lived in was attached to the store.  This grocery store was necessary because old plantation stores were closed, and people of color in the Delta still needed to eat, and my Grandmother's grocery store was one of the stores that kept her community and neighbors fed.   


Because of the Segregated South, and the Exclusion Act, the state of Mississippi was under no obligation to give the separate but equal education to the Chinese, because Chinese were not citizens by law, and had no rights to education in the USA. Chinese were not allowed in the white schools nor the Black schools.   So, the few Chinese families in Greenville, MS pooled their money (my Grandmother helped pool money), and bought a plot of land and built a one-room school house.  With the help of the First Baptist Church, the state of Mississippi was petitioned to provide a teacher.  Finally Mississippi ponied-up one (1) white woman  teacher for the Chinese kids.  This is how my father was educated.  This situation played out in other communities in Mississippi and Arkansas in the Delta with other pockets of Chinese Americans in the Delta.  As all Nobel Peace Prize speeches for at least the past 60 years have stated, a part of the path to peace and justice for all is by providing education and ending poverty for all.  My family, as well as many families in the Delta, had to fight hard for education and to climb out of poverty.

Then, during WWII, the Legislature repealed the Exclusion Act, banning Chinese from being citizens.  This allowed the US Government to expand their pool for conscription in to WWII.  My father was one who drafted and is Veteran of the USA who fought for mine and your freedom.  Thank you Dad for your service in the War to End All Wars.  Thank goodness for me, he survived, and he was able to get a college education after WWII, literally became a rocket engineer and worked on those really frickin' cool NASA's first spacewalks in the 1960s, meet my mom and started his own family.   


So back to historic Greenville, MS, as it is in life, it is so in death, that the Chinese in the Delta were not allowed to live amongst whites, nor rest in peace amongst whites.  There are three cemetery systems in Greenville, MS, there are the white cemeteries, there is the black cemetery with headstones and markers of those who died as slaves, and there is the Chinese cemetery.  After a series of floods, the old Chinese Cemetery in Greenville, MS started having body parts come up through the ground surface. 



For years after the floods, various Chinese families including mine, moved the remains of their loved ones from the flooded old Chinese Cemetery to the current Chinese Cemetery.   The current Chinese Cemetery is located next to the African American Cemetery, and these two cemeteries are completely segregated from the white cemeteries.


So last month, I spent a good amount of time in Greenville, MS including going to see the old "landmarks" of my family.  My grandmother's grocery store is no-longer, it is just a concrete foundation next to a fairly dilapidated house which does not appear to be in use at the moment.  The old laundry site is still there in downtown Greenville, MS, and sits empty.  The one room school house is still standing nearly 100 years later, as you can see above, there is a portion of the building with a thin slat facade, that is the old classroom building.   Currently the one room school house was added onto with a screened in porch and additional living space.  I would have liked to go in and see the building, but is a private residence now, and it would not be appropriate to do so.

I fell in love with Greenville, MS, with an edge of sorrow.  As far as this country has come, somethings have not changed in the past 60 years in Delta.  I am looking forward to my next trips to Greenville, MS to learn more and more about the Delta, and keep falling in love with this place over and over again.

October 20, 2014

Pine Mouth vs Local Pecans


For many years now, I have gotten a large bag of local pecans from a family just over the border in Georgia.  This family has a bunch of pecan trees, and grandma spends time hand cracking open the pecans, puts these beautiful pecans in ziplock baggies, and I go and get them to use through the year.  I use these pecan when ever pinenuts, walnuts, or almonds are called for in recipes.  I have been making a sort of pecan pesto of late with my Georgian pecans, Barefoot Farmer flat leaf parsley and garlic, and The Olive Press Arbequina olive oil.  I take the base ingredients and whirl them  up in a food processor, and use it on salads, meat marinades, or simply stirred in with pasta and rice.  This stuff is so good!

I have not bought pinenuts for years because the last time I did, these little gems were way more expensive than other  nuts, and my local Georgian pecans, so I just substituted my local pecans for the pinenuts.  I am sure it has been at least 10 years since I have purchased pine nuts.  10+ years ago, pinenuts were $20/lb more or less.  The pinenuts were of either USA or Europe varieties, and the price back then reflected the rareness of the resource, the time and process it takes to harvest pine nuts.  Back in the 1980s and 90s, pesto with pinenuts became all the rage for dining experiences, but because pinenuts were so expensive, pesto made with pinenuts was a real treat, something special.


Fast forward 20 years to 2010, with the demand for pesto and pesto made with pinenuts at an all time high with pesto being the sandwich spread of choice over mayo, and a bad year for harvest of pinenuts in the USA and Europe,  Chinese pinenuts arrive to the USA through big box price-club stores and mainstream grocery stores at a cheap price.  Inexpensive Chinese pinenuts made pesto as common as mayo and ketchup.

BUT, there is one big difference between Chinese pinenuts and USA and European pinenuts, and it is simply that the Chinese variety of pine trees are a different variety than those of the USA and European varieties, and USA and European varieties are also different from each other. 

In 2011, the US Food and Drug Administration put out a general warning about Chinese pinenuts.  It says that usually 1 to 2 days after eating Chinese pinenuts, peoples perception of food eaten tastes bitter or metallic.  This perception may last for a day up to about 2 weeks.  The condition will resolve itself without intervention, and does not seem to cause any permanent damage to taste buds.  Not everyone is effected, and symptoms vary and duration of symptoms vary as well.    It is also noted that the pinenuts tasted good, were fresh, and not rancid when people reported to the FDA about their pine mouth experience.   It is hypothesized that the Chinese pinenuts cause pine mouth because of the variety of pine tree, or it is caused by potential haul stripping chemicals during processing in China.  The last part is conjecture which I have read in opinion pieces, but it is possible.

There are 4 of who conducted the experiment of eating a couple handfuls of known imported cheap big-box store pinenuts (photo above).  One of us had noticeable bitter tasting food, especially sweets.  The sweeter the pastry or candy was, the more bitter the taste became. The bitter taste effects started 2 days after dosing, and the bitter taste lasted for about 3 days.  Water was neutral, and did not have a bitter taste.  Another one of us thought lettuce tasted bitter, but the lettuce came from a the same head of lettuce that was thought to be fresh, green and almost a little sweet days before.  Effects started 2 days after dosing, and only lasted for about 4 hours for the 2nd person.  For this second person, sweet drinks on day 3 seemed to be as sweet as they ever were, indicating that bitter tasting effects were short lived.  The last two claimed no change in taste perception.

If you run this experiment, please leave a comment or email  me at LannaeFood at Gmail dot com and  tell me about your experience with pinenuts.

For me, I am going to continue to substitute pecans and walnuts myself, and let the pinenuts be.