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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Vacation Eats: Nashville and Charleston Part I

I don’t know if I’ve ever needed a vacation as badly as our most recent trip. I was literally counting down the hours until our week away, when I could escape the stress and craziness of our present state of life. Much to my surprise, I was able to truly relax, casting aside all thoughts of normal life for a full seven days. Thanks to a major backlog of posts, The Sweets Life stayed up and running but I was truly on a break—no posts were drafted, no recipes were photographed, no other blogs were really read or commented on.

Of course, vacation or not, food is still essential, and we managed to enjoy a lot of it on this year’s “Spring Break” trip. Last year, we began our Spring Break tradition with friends Mike and Maggie, when we explored Arizona for a week last March. This year, keeping up with the theme, we headed on a road trip hitting Nashville, Charleston, and Asheville over the course of seven days.

Though I don’t want to bore you with the gastronomical details of each day, I do want to point out a few highlights…lest you find yourself in any of these cities in the near future. I greatly rely on recommendations from people (thanks KaraErica, and Kath!) as well as sites like Yelp to find fun places to explore in new cities, so hopefully I can pass the favor along!


FidoWe hit up this café twice during our weekend in Nashville, first to meet my stud of a cousin Ben and our friend Mike for lunch, and again to grab breakfast on the way out of town. No one was disappointed with their meal at this hip joint (is Nashville hipster or is Nashville hipster?!), but we were particularly impressed by the baked goods. Don’t miss any of their freshly baked muffins, which we got to experience WARM early one morning! (and stay tuned, because I’ll be attempting to recreate at least one of them!)

Burger UpIf you have time for only one meal in Nashville, don’t miss Burger Up. This was definitely one of the top meals we experienced on vacation. The restaurant itself is pretty small and clearly popular in the area—we waited almost an hour at 8:00 pm on a Sunday night! Cocktails are creative, but it’s the food that really stands out. From the salads (Bacon vinaigrette—amazing! Roasted beets & goat cheese—also amazing!) to the sweet potato fries (somehow thick, crisp, and not at all greasy) to the burgers (DON’T miss the lamb burger!), we were oohing and aahing with every bite!


BakedI was so anxious to try this famed bakery and coffee shop, whose cookbook I have flipped through many a time in the bookstore! Though tough to make our choices, the four of us sampled a variety, including the vanilla cake truffle, grasshopper brownie, coconut macaroon, and the Irish Carbomb brownie, appropriate on St. Patty’s Day week (stout brownie, whiskey caramel, and Bailey’s ganache). The macaroon was my personal favorite, but I don’t think a sweets-lover can make a bad pick in the place!

Gin JointThis was far and away our favorite cocktail experience of the trip. With funky décor and servers in bow ties, this bar serving prohibition-style cocktails won the hearts of Mike and Ryan who have already begun scheming how to someday have their own, better version of the place. Even I, unaware when it comes to “classy” cocktails, was wooed by the flavors and ingredients in these drinks! The appetizers we snacked on here were also impressive—potato skins, in tiny purple and fingerling potatoes, and white pea hummus were the two we struggled to choose from an alluring menu. Neither disappointed!

Huff’s SeafoodOne of our favorite pastimes is preparing great meals with Mike and Maggie (remember the Columbia Crest dinner?), so we like to seek out houses with kitchens to rent on vacation. This year was no exception, and our cottage in Folly Beach, South Carolina did not go unused! We took a break from the restaurant scene one night to stay in, purchase local seafood at Huff’s Seafood in Folly Beach, and make fish tacos with mango salsa alongside grilled vegetables. I didn’t bother to photograph it, but the meal will be recreated in the near future because it’s a must-make!
(the boys, cooking and storytelling?!)

Before I lose you all, I’ll end here for now and continue with our vacation eats recap tomorrow…recipes to return on Friday, I promise!