Nashville is such a great city. Within a 30 minutes, you can have so many experiences: Elegant old South high-end, farmland, lakes, big city, hipster, honky-tonk, you name it. Our trip was a late birthday celebration for M. And our main destination were Mason’s at the Loews, Flyte, and Husk… with a lot in-between. It was packed pretty full and so were we by the time we left.
We stayed at the Hotel Preston. We’d received mixed reviews about the hotel so we were a little apprehensive, but we liked it a lot. It was recently redone and has a kitschy, vegas meets 50s country feel throughout. The smallish lobby and sitting area have comfortable seating and very colorful artwork. The elevators are a bit wonky to operate and don’t demagnetize your room key with electronics or billfolds with magnets or you will end up stuck on your floor waiting to be rescued (just sayin’). The room was well appointed, and decorated nicely if a bit noisy at night due to thin walls. No complaints at all and we’d definitely stay here again as it’s very convenient to downtown. I do wish the shuttle ran downtown. Our last stay at the Millennium was very handy as the shuttle would take you anywhere downtown, then take you from one location to another, and ran until 11. This saves a lot on cab fair.
I left my camera at home and opted for iPhone only on this trip. so the photos aren’t top-notch.
First up was dinner at Mason’s. We have been in communication with Chef Brandon Frohne for almost a year since first hearing about his amazing food, more here, here, and here. There is no doubt this guy is headed for James Beard Award status quite soon, after all, he did cook the James Beard Thanksgiving Dinner in 2013. On top of it, Brandon’s life story is one that is very inspiring. And he’s just a genuinely nice person.
We arrived a little early and had a cocktail at Mason’s Bar (just across the hall from the restaurant). There’s free parking for dinner guests at the hotel. Lot’s of detail is put into the branding of the Mason’s concept. The bar menu is an elegant leather hand-crafted menu and Edison light fixtures (and of course Mason jars handled in a very modern, but comfortable way) abound along with some funky modern fixtures. It all seems to be done effortlessly and with restraint. M had the Sweet Lucy to drink … which isn’t sweet at all (that’s a good thing). Maker’s and soda for me, thanks!
When we walked across to the restaurant, we were greeted by an eager host who quickly showed us to a corner table and handed us menus on wooden boards that were just as elegant as the bar menus. After a minute or so, our server for the night, Brian, and Chef Frohne came out to greet us. As chef was talking and said he hoped we were hungry, Brian covertly took our menus from us. We weren’t really sure what to make of this…but we had a good idea that something special was forthcoming. Chef Frohne then said to sit back and enjoy a 9 course tasting menu. WHAT!? Oh, were were in for a ride! We made an early mistake of not pacing ourselves properly but it was just SO good. Brandon personally brought out a number of the dishes and Brian was a top-notch server throughout the night. Along with our meals, we enjoyed a host of wines and champagnes. OK, here it is in all it’s glory. Make sure you read the descriptions:
The evening couldn’t have been any better! Chef Frohne was incredibly gracious and I can tell you as long as he is cooking, no matter the city, if we’re there, we will eat there. I can’t wait to see what he comes up with in the future. He has single-handedly transformed what Nashville thinks of as ‘Hotel Food’. No longer will you stay at the Loews because of the hotel (which is very nice), you will want to stay there so you can run downstairs and eat at Mason’s!
Admittedly, it took us some time to recover from that meal. So on Saturday morning we ventured out for coffee and a couple biscuits at a cool hipster coffeeshop called the Barista Parlor. We really lucked up on the weather as it was perfect and the wait outside in the sun helped us recover. The biscuits with sausage and jam and refreshing coffee got us going.
Afterwards we needed to walk off some of the last 24 hours to we headed to Cheekwood Botanical Gardens. We didn’t realize it was ‘Easter Egg Hunt Day’. But it wasn’t TOO painful and the property is really beautiful and a nice walk that helped motivate us to go to our next stop.
There was no way we were leaving Nashville without some hot chicken! We settled on Hattie B’s and it was all we’d heard about and more! It’s a heat that hits you in the back of your throat and the white bread that was underneath catches the hellishly hot grease that comes from the tender GIANT (but hormone-free) breasts. We had pimento cheese mac & cheese, greens and pea salad as our sides and it was all great.
Prior to dinner we stopped in for a cocktail at Pinewood Social. These guys know how to craft a cocktail! There’s no hurrying. Each cocktail is made with precision, tasted, and adjusted to make them perfect. I had a Smoky Manhattan with Corsair Triple Smoke, 1776 Rye, Carpano Antica, Regan’s Orange bitters. It was perfect for me, but a little overpowering for M who ended up with a Bitter Wife (Corsair Gin, Batavia Arrach, Lemon, Lyles Golden Syrup, and Sparkling Wine) and then a War of the Pacific (Pisco 100, Cappelletti Vino Appertivo, Grapefruit, Lime, Angostura, and Egg White). I love the vintage vibe of the place and great branding. And next time, we plan to bowl in the reclaimed wood bowling alleys! And not to be missed is the delicious smell of Crema Coffee as soon as you walk in.
Dinner (how can we even think about dinner!?) on Saturday was at Flyte. Now, a little backstory, I (E) was a little apprehensive about going to Flyte after seeing a recent episode of Chopped that featured both Brandon Frohne and Flyte’s Matt Lackey. Chef Lackey was… um, less than gracious. At least it was edited that way and I commented about it on Twitter. Scott from Flyte was nice enough to reach out to me and ask that we visit when we were in town to help dispute what the Food Network had presented audiences. Unfortunately the night we visited, Matt wasn’t able to be there, but nevertheless, it was a splendid meal. Our server was very good and the manager on duty, Will introduced himself (Scott was out on a medical issue) and both the service and food were excellent. The meal started with a savory amuse bouche. The menu is rather small, but I think there’s something for everyone and Chef Lackey sources everything within 50 miles and much of it comes from his own farm.
We started with cured and pickled beet with blackberry, pistachio, and fresh cheese. Very very good… even if the blackberry seeds seemed to be a bit distracting. Dinner took a while to arrive and our server was kind enough to bring us complementary glasses of wine that would work with our individual dishes. (it was quite dark so it was hard to photograph)
Next, M had the Rainbow Trout. Served with the head on, but our friendly server, an 8 year Nashville native, kindly offered to guillotine it for her if she preferred. She didn’t. It was served with spaghetti squash in sherry, turmeric, and pepitas.
With it being the weekend of Easter, I had the Rabbit with slow roasted cornmeal porridge, fiddleheads, morels, and black pepper. Probably the best rabbit dish I’ve ever had. To truly appreciate the complexity, you needed a little bit of every component as the porridge was very rich, but the vinegary base of the morels balanced it out just right.
Will again came by our table and told us our dessert, a Milk Oolong Panna Cotta was on the house. This dish, as the server that delivered it said, was a little hard to wrap your head around. But after the second bite, I was sold (I didn’t take the second bit for M to be sold. It was a winner right off) The dish was a small piece of Oolong Panna Cotta with quince sauce, caramelized white chocolate, dried cranberries and honey pecans. Not for every one, but we liked it.
Will and our server (I’m so sorry we forgot his name), told us taxis were hard to come by that night and to our surprise offered to take us over to Broadway for our obligatory Honky Tonk Night (as well as pointers on the best non-tourist-trap bars). Very very kind of them!
Top billing on Sunday was Husk, but we woke up super early and had coffee and split a small Pimento Sandwich at The Frothy Monkey.
In the afternoon, we were headed to Husk. Now, I want to get the negative over first. Husk Charleston is our FAVORITE PLACE. And the only downside for brunch was that our server just didn’t represent the values and excitement of the company. When we’ve visited Charleston, the servers are eager to tell you about what is at the heart of Husk. Husk supports heirloom farming, local sources of provisions. Our server could literally have been an Applebee’s server. Just the basics (albeit courteous): Hello, what can I get you?, etc. And when I asked for a small side of gravy just to taste, she turned me down (she later redeemed herself with a sampling after I tweeted).
Now onto the better part! Husk Nashville has a different, less formal feel than Charleston and I like it a lot. We sat in a very sunny side of the lower level that also houses Husk Bar. We were greeted with the famous benne rolls and pork butter. Worth the visit for just those and a cocktail! The menu changes pretty regularly. Here was this morning’s:
M started off with the Wedge Salad that was excellent. The fresh lettuce itself had a tasty vinaigrette and underneath is hidden an even tastier herbed buttermilk ranch. I don’t normally like blue cheese, but this cheese was wonderful as was the fried Hamery Ham and vibrant roasted tomato. At the Charleston location you will see more use of Benton’s Country Ham than here. This is a much more delicate taste and overall, I found that to be the case with the whole menu. It’s a little more subtle (at least for brunch). And we both could appreciate that. Once M was finished with her salad, our server delivered my gravy sampling. Now, I’m a gravy snob. Big time. Nothing has ever matched my mom’s gravy and I figured it never would. She may roll over in her grave now: This was the best gravy I’ve ever had! The flour, obviously cooked brown and then the house-made SMOKY country sausage were perfect. I’m so glad I got to taste it! It’ll be what I order next time for sure!
Next up was our mains. M ordered the Quail Biscuit with gravy and an egg. The quail is fried ‘Nashville Hot Chicken Style’. And was tender, succulent and no worrying with the bones. And their biscuit was like what I grew up on. My kind of biscuit is a little chewy just like these. You work the dough just a little more than you think you should. And the hash which accompanied both our dishes was out of this world with a couple varieties of house-made, heavily smoked sausages. My dish was an open-face Monte Cristo and was indescribable. I’ll post a picture of how it looked after about 10 minutes! I also came away with a Husk Hat.
We closed the visit with a Buttermilk pie and lemon sherbet from the talented Lisa Donavon.
I don’t want to discourage people from visiting Husk as the food and the chance to eat here are not to be missed if you’re in Nashville, I just think the staff aren’t as prideful as the Charleston staff.
There were no LOSERS on this trip. Every taste was excellent and we can’t wait to go back and hit some of the many other places our our to-do list! By far, though, you MUST go to Mason’s on your next trip! Happy birthday M!