Category Archives: Food


Stalking Nashville’s Best Food Trucks and Discovering Their Must-Have Eats

The Old Timer from Hoss' Loaded Burger is stuffed with cheese. Don't think old-fashioned, think heavenly.

Guest blogger and self-described food truck chaser Gwen McCoy tracks down the best fare on wheels in Nashville. Before you take a bite out of life, try her five must-haves.

If you haven’t jumped aboard the food truck phenomenon yet, it’s time to take your lunch adventures on the road. Nashville has seen an influx of mobile eateries, serving anything from gourmet burgers to Thai food.

I’ve become a bit of a food truck chaser, following them on Twitter and forcing my family to drive all over Nashville in search of one we haven’t tried yet.

Here are my top five and my must-have picks for each. With so many choices, it was hard to narrow it down, but these five are the ones I would stalk over and over again.

No. 5: The Latin Wagon (@TheLatinWagon)

Why do I like it? It’s super fresh! Sometimes you just want a taco without having to use your online dictionary to describe the ingredients. Just call me a Latin Lover!

Must-Have? The Cuban sandwich is one of their most popular and is fresh and tasty. The brisket tacos were no joke. If I could just get a beer truck to follow them around, the meal would be perfection!

No. 4: Smoke Et Al (@SmokeEtAl)

Why do I like it? Having grown up in the South, I would probably eat any type of varmint if smoked right and covered in BBQ sauce. But don’t worry, no mystery meat here. They take your traditional BBQ and put a nice, new spin on it. I love all types of BBQ and the smell of the hickory smoke coming out of the truck is intoxicating. It makes my mouth water just thinking about it. I will try to wipe the drool from my keyboard. And I repeat, baste it with BBQ and they will come.

Must-Have? The Hammy is a “slap yo momma” treat for your taste buds. (No mommas were harmed in the eating of this sandwich, mind you.) It is a burger made of all pork—country ham, bacon, smoked pork shoulder, ground pork—and then covered with what they call Bama white sauce. No matter your collegiate allegiance, this burger will have you screaming, “Roll Tide!” Another popular item on the menu is the Fiddler’s Biscuit. Well, you had me at biscuit. Because nothing says health nut like a Southern biscuit covered in shredded smoked chicken and Tennessee honey. Yes, please, and thank you.

From Strawberry Lemonade to Sweet Potato, you can make a meal out of The Cupcake Collection's sweets.

No. 3: The Cupcake Collection (@cupcaketweets)

Why do I like it? Sweet mother of Betty Crocker—this ain’t no Easy Bake Oven Cupcake! I hesitated to put this in my top five because it wasn’t a “main course” food truck. But who says you can’t have cupcakes for lunch? Life is short and I declare it should be an eat-dessert-first kind of day. And to quote my 7-year old, “DUHHHH! It’s cake.” That about sums it up right there.

Must-Have?  The Strawberry Lemonade is ridiculous—light, fresh and delicious. It is lemony without being too much. The frosting is so light and creamy. I think I just got lightheaded thinking about it—please pause while I collect myself. Whew. My favorite is the Sweet Potato cupcake because well, I DO love my veggies! And this counts, right? The cake is moist and the cream cheese frosting makes me want to do a happy dance. Sweet heaven in a cupcake.

No. 2: The Grilled Cheeserie (@GrlldCheeserie)

Why do I like it? You may think, “It’s a grilled cheese—how great can it be?” Well, stop right there, my friend, because this is no ordinary grilled cheese. No, it doesn’t come with its own superhero cape, but I would crown it the “King of Cheese” if I had the authority. It is the ultimate in comfort food.

Must-Have? Any melt of the moment features the best seasonal ingredients and is usually a best seller. Try the specialty B&B—made of buttermilk cheddar, Benton’s bacon, apricot and orange marmalade on multigrain bread. The Pizza melt is also amazing and includes pizza toppings (as if the name didn’t give it away) that are always a favorite.

No. 1: Hoss’ Loaded Burgers (@hossburgers)

Why do I like it? I feel like there should have been some sort of a drum roll before the big announcement. Actually, a drum roll should be sounded every time these guys serve up one of their outstanding burgers. Juicy, fresh and filled with cheese—three signs of a happy marriage…I mean, burger. With beef and veggie options, there is a burger for anyone and any taste.

Must-Have? The Old Timer is your basic burger—only STUFFED with cheddar. Biting into the burger and then watching the warm, gooey cheese seep out of the burger—I think that is what Heaven looks like. If they have the Big Kahuna on the menu, go for it. It’s stuffed with Swiss cheese, covered with teriyaki sauce and topped with a grilled pineapple. Yes, yes, and YES!

The bottom line? Venture out and try a food truck. This is my kind of fast food!


‘Next Food Network Star’ Hopeful Orchid Paulmeier Shares What’s Next for Runners-Up

Orchid Paulmeier, Season 7 contestant on "The Next Food Network Star," owns One Hot Mama's on Hilton Head Island.

“The Next Food Network Star” winner will be announced Sunday, but what about the runners-up? Former contestant Orchid Paulmeier shares with what could be next for them.

Have you been watching Season 8 of “The Next Food Network Star”?

Orchid Paulmeier has, and she’s got a different take on it than the rest of us. Thanks to competing herself on Season 7, she has an idea what the runners-up are in for when the show ends because she’s experienced it herself.

“They have so many cool things and opportunities ahead of them,” she said. “And there’s a cool bond ahead of them too.”

Paulmeier has kept in touch with many of her fellow contestants, who’ve had similar doors open for them as a result of appearing on the show, and they’re attempting to plan a reunion.

Unlike some, the self-described Food Network fan (even before her “Next Food Network Star” run) approves of the new setup. On her season, the judges’ panel selected the overall winner, while a separate online contest crowned one selected by the viewers. “The Sandwich King,” Jeff Mauro, won both, but Paulmeier finished second in online voting.

That came as no surprise, as the personable Hilton Head Island, S.C., restaurateur made it about halfway through last season before her surprise elimination—several tabbed her as the front-runner to win it all.

What did her in was not her cooking, which frequently got rave reviews, but her being overshadowed by some of the bigger personalities in the group.

What did she learn from it all? “That I have to be more aggressive,” she said. “I’m so used to being in comfortable surroundings—I’ve been on the island for 19 years now. But I’m definitely more willing to put myself out there these days.”

Aside from the booming business she’s doing at One Hot Mama’s thanks in part to her Food Network appearance, Paulmeier is making stops in ten cities on the Southern Women’s Show circuit, and has gained entry into the Atlantic City Food and Wine Festival, the inaugural Atlanta Food & Wine Festival and the exclusive Palmetto Bluff Culinary Festival in nearby Bluffton, S.C.

“It’s really opened up a lot of opportunities,” she said of the show.

At the heart of her success is her restaurant, which she credits for getting her on “The Next Food Network Star” in the first place. Shortly after the first show aired, she said, “It literally doubled business. We’re still feeling the effects now.”

She’s had to hire more people as a result, not to mention she’s often recognized and customers ask to take pictures. The show has especially helped bring in tourists, reaching them in ways the restaurant hadn’t before.

When Paulmeier graciously exited “The Next Food Network Star” upon elimination, she promised viewers they had not seen the last of her. As she continues to network, she’s hoping to push a pilot to get on one of the cooking channels and is exploring the possibilities of franchising.

“I’m constantly trying to find out what opportunities are out there,” she said.

The winner of “The Next Food Network Star” will be announced on the Food Network on Sunday, July 22 at 8 p.m. Central/9 p.m. Eastern.


The 10 Best Magazines to Keep in the Kitchen

Make sense of everything that goes on in your kitchen with these must-have magazines. You’ll never have to wonder what to cook or how to store, budget or plan ahead again.

There’s a seemingly endless list of dilemmas we face in the kitchen—from how to best store fresh produce to organizing grocery lists and preparing healthy, but quick (of course) meals. Often, the answers to these culinary conundrums come a little too late—if we’re even aware to seek them out at all. But that’s exactly why these ten magazines made our list of must-haves in the kitchen.

Cook’s Illustrated: Even if the trial and error behind each recipe doesn’t interest you, the double-page spread of reader-submitted tips is packed with enough useful storage, organization and prep advice to make this worthwhile.

Everyday Food: This Martha Stewart publication not only makes the grade for its very convenient size, but also for its in-season profiles and multiple recipes in every issue that help you get the most out of  the freshest fruits and veggies.

Cooking Light: Lighter eating doesn’t have to mean blah. Not with these made-over meals that trim the fat and calories from foods you’ll actually want to eat. Budget-conscious beer and wine pairing advice and recommendations included.

Family Circle: Who isn’t trying to feed a family on a budget these days—much less trying to make it healthy, fast, tasty and exciting? It may sound impossible, but these recipes cover a lot of ground for less—and even break down the cost per serving.

Every Day With Rachael Ray: Take that budgeting and meal planning a step further with Rachael’s weeknight planner, shopping list and projected grocery bill in each issue. You’ll never get halfway through a recipe and realize you forgot an ingredient.

Food Network Magazine: Your favorite cooking celebs bring out the fun in food with creative presentation and recipes “copied” from famous restaurants. Each issue’s tear-out booklet features 50 variations on one food, like milkshakes, burgers and more.

EatingWell: Snacking can be the slippery slope that derails the best of us when it comes to healthy eating. Not so with these low-fat, low-cal treats that include everything from cookies and pies to prepared fruits and, yes, even cheesecake.

Vegetarian Times: Even if your diet isn’t meat-free, these recipes are worth having on hand for any guests—or for incorporating a vegetarian night into your own regimen. Regardless, it’s a great resource for hearty salads and sides.

YUM Food & Fun for Kids: Banish summer boredom or come to the rescue on rainy days with nutritious snack ideas and creative desserts kids can help make themselves. Your little ones will be well-fed—and entertained.

Cookbook Digest: Cookbook addicts, this is for you—one way or another. This magazine previews new cookbooks and lets you “try” multiple recipes before you buy, meaning you may add less—or more—to your collection.

Dining Lot: Nashville's First Annual Street Food Festival

Nashville’s First Annual Street Food Festival Gathers More than 35 Local Food Trucks

Dining Lot: Nashville's First Annual Street Food FestivalThe food truck movement has been rolling into Nashville for the past couple years, and Wanderland’s “Dining Lot” event at Centennial Park today is bringing the whole fleet to one place.

While most Nashvillians could spout off the name of one or two of their favorite food trucks — Mas Tacos Por Favor or the Grilled Cheeserie, perhaps — most would be surprised to know just how many gourmet meals on wheels have been making their way to Music City of late.

Uniting the entire foodie fleet, Wanderland Urban Food Park is hosting Nashville’s First Annual Street Food Festival today at Centennial Park from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. With trucks, carts and wagons full of everything from specialty handmade marshmallows (The Bang Candy Co.) to Asian subs (Sum Yum Yum) and authentic country cooking (Just Like Nannie Fixed It), this event is shaping up to have something for every palate.

In addition to featuring some of the best mobile food available in Nashville, the Street Food Fest will also feature some live entertainment and free samples. Nashville Food Bloggers and several VIP judges will be dishing out Critics’ Choice Awards in the categories of Best Savory Dish, Best Sweet Dish and Best Drink. Plus, festivalgoers get the chance to take part in the People’s Choice Awards, receiving one ballott with each food item purchased.

Tickets for the event are available at the “door” for $7 general admission, and kids under the age of 6 get in for free. Though the price of admission doesn’t cover food, you can enjoy the free samples and entertainment even if you don’t purchase food. Wanderland’s website predicts that most food purchases from vendors will only cost between $2 and $10–one of the many perks of street food. You can even bring your pet to take part in the festivities, as long as you keep him on a leash and clean up after him.

Take some time today to celebrate the mobile food movement and enjoy some gourmet eats at the same time. A complete list of vendors is available here.


Nashville Foodscapes

Nashville Foodscapes Helps You Landscape with Fresh and Beautiful Food

Nashville FoodscapesReclaiming the purpose and function of traditional landscaping, Jeremy Lekich and the team at Nashville Foodscapes are helping Nashvillians adorn their yards with beautiful, nutritious and edible plants.

It’s Saturday and you’re scrambling to check off that to-do list. You mow the lawn, pull the weeds, water your garden and then run out to the market to get food for the week. But what if you could consolidate those tasks by growing fresh and delicious food right in your own backyard? And we’re not just talking about keeping a garden or a raised bed, though those are wonderfully helpful as well.

Nashville native and permaculture guru Jeremy Lekich and the rest of the team at Nashville Foodscapes are teaching people how to incorporate edible foods like lettuces, herbs, fruits and vegetables into their everyday landscaping. And people are quickly catching on. Here, Lekich talks to about foodscaping, how to get started and why he sees it as such a vital next step.

For those who aren’t familiar with foodscaping, could you describe a bit about the idea behind it and how it plays into a more holistic approach to landscaping and gardening?

Foodscaping is landscaping our yards, lawns and open areas in an attractive, low-maintenance and poison-free way that provides food and beauty in one; a way to satisfy both our eyes and taste buds at the same time. It integrates landscaping and gardening into a process and system that is fertile, abundant, low-maintenance and fun. Foodscaping allows food to be grown in a way that is convenient and practical for most people’s lives, while satisfying the aesthetic desire too.

This isn’t just a hobby for you. You have years of experience, degrees and internships that have led you to come back to your native Nashville to do foodscaping. Tell me a little about your past experiences and what made you come back to Nashville.

I became fascinated with foodscaping in western North Carolina. While at college there, I spent my years studying the concepts and design patterns of foodscaping, while at the same time receiving hands-on experience in a diverse foodscape. It was great to study the theory for half the day and get my hands dirty putting those theories into practice for the other half. After I graduated, I realized that Nashville has way fewer foodscapers (if any) than western North Carolina. I also felt that I could be more successful in an area that I grew up in and knew so well. It feels good to be doing what I am doing and to be able to say I grew up here.

If I’m just starting to think about foodscaping in my own yard, what questions should I consider before moving forward?

What foods do I like to eat? Which foods do I find are the most expensive to purchase and are most difficult to obtain? How much time and money do I feel I can invest into creating a foodscape? Am I ready to have lots of fun and learn new things every day?

What’s a good first step for me to take if I’m not sure I can maintain an entire yard of fruits and vegetables?

Start with one or two fruit trees/shrubs. Start with a couple herbs. Pot a few lettuce plants or a tomato. Once you start growing a little bit of food, it is usually hard not to want to grow more. Also, read some books on ecological food production or edible landscaping, also known as permaculture or forest gardening.

What is the maintenance like for someone who decides to take the foodscaping route?

Depends on the landscape and design. For the most part, the first 3 to 10 years can be a significant bit of work and maintenance, and usually education too. But after that initial period of high work input, a well-designed foodscape should take care of itself, producing food and beauty with little input. Of course, if someone is less interested in that initial phase of high work input, a call can be made to Nashville Foodscapes. Also, the initial phase can be spread out over a longer period of time so that the work seems very minimal.

Why do you encourage people to adopt this new mindset when it comes to their yards and their food?

If you are going to spend time, money, attention on your yard, then why not have it produce more than just aesthetic appeal? Additionally, food plants are just as beautiful (or more) than the most popular ornamental plants sold on the market.

As for food, most food sold these days is void of nutrition and flavor. This is not only unhealthy but unsatisfying too. If we can integrate food production into our daily lives by planting food plants in our yards, we find that the health benefits are outstanding and evident due to the high nutritional value in our food. Just as important is the satisfaction that the food tastes wonderful and we had an active part in the growing of it.

Anything else you’d like to add?

Foodscaping takes into consideration the ecological processes and patterns found in nature and replicates them. A forest takes care of itself. By replicating those forest patterns, we can also create a landscape that takes care of itself, with the added benefit of producing tasty, nourishing foods.

Celebrating Cinco De Mayo: What Goes Into a Good Margarita?

Celebrating Cinco De Mayo: What Goes Into a Good Margarita?

Celebrating Cinco De Mayo: What Goes Into a Good Margarita?OK, admit it — the way most Americans celebrate Cinco de Mayo is by enjoying a good margarita. But how can you be sure your homemade margarita is top-notch?

You may or may not have any true Mexican heritage to celebrate this weekend, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t get to be a part of the fiesta. The weather is warming up, May has finally come and the conditions are right to relax on the back porch with a refreshing homemade margarita. But don’t fall into the land of store-bought margs and mixes that come in buckets. To make a fresh margarita from the comfort of your own kitchen, consider these few key ingredients and choose the freshest things you can find. Then your only problem will be keeping the neighbors at bay.

Basic Composition of a Margarita:

You have several options when it comes to the varieties of margaritas you can make — chilled or frozen, lime or blueberry — but the basic five ingredients that make up a classic margarita are pretty much the same. Essentially, you will need tequila, triple sec, lime juice, salt and ice. From there you can get as creative as you’d like!

Choosing the Best Ingredients:

Tequila: Here you can decide how fancy you want to get. While many people opt for a tequila like Cuervo Gold, those in the business tend to scoff at the liqueur and opt for something of a little higher quality. Experts agree that the very best tequila is made from alcohol distilled from 100 percent blue agave, which is primarily grown in Mexico. Tequilas that do not fall under this category are classified as “tequilo mixto” or mixed tequila and are made from a mixture of agave and other sugars. You can look at the label of the tequila and learn which category it’s in.

Those two categories of tequila are then further classified into five more categories to help you know exactly what you’re getting when you buy a bottle. Tequila silver (also called blanco, plata, white or platinum) is tequila made from the purest form of agave. It is typically clear in color and has never aged. Tequila Gold (also called joven or oro) will generally be a mixto that has added color and flavoring. Tequila Reposado is tequila that has been aged for between 2 and 11 months in tanks or wooden barrels. Tequila Añejo, or “extra aged” tequila has aged for at least one year, and Tequila Extra Añejo, or “ultra aged” tequila has aged for more than three years.

Triple Sec: Triple sec is an orange-flavored liqueur that usually includes the peels of bitter and sweet oranges. Here, most experts recommend going with Contreau, which is one brand of triple sec produced in France. It is said to have been an ingredient in the original margarita, and it still continues to be a top choice among many mixologists.

Lime Juice: To get the freshest margarita possible, forgo the bottled lime juice. Choose limes that are fresh and ripe, and squeeze them just before mixing your margarita. The fresh sweet and sour taste of the lime is a key ingredient that can make all the difference in your homemade drink.

Salt: When it comes to the salt for your margarita, you have several options. One fun option is to actually purchase margarita salt and use that to line the rim of your glass. When lining your glass with the coarse-grained salt, run a lime along the rim of your glass and then dip the rim into the salt. The taste will offset the sweet and sour taste of the drink and make it even more refreshing.

Ice: Obviously this one’s sort of self-explanatory. However, you do have the option of choosing to make a blended, frozen margarita or just shaking your cocktail with ice before serving it.

Now that you’ve got the basics of a margarita down, the options for exploration and variation are virtually endless. Impress your neighbors and friends with your newfound Cinco de Mayo skills and enjoy the party, amigo!