Monday, November 17, 2008

Marche’ Artisan Foods – 11.07.08

Irony hung thick in the air as we entered the door of of today’s lunch spot and spied this sign awaiting our arrival.    
It is almost as though the man upstairs had been reading our mail.  Nashville Eats It’s ABCs  was out on a special birthday edition of our alphabetical lunch saga as  tomorrow is Eddie’s FOURTIETH birthday.  Eddie got to pick out any restaurant staring with the letter M and he wisely choose Marche’s Artisan Foods for the very last lunch of his 30s.  But before we get down to the brass tacks of our food extravaganza, let’s take a moment for you to get you know Eddie a little better, shall we?  
In the tradition of banal, myspace profiles, here is a Q&A snapshot of our fairly reserved and always frugal Eddie….    

Music: Sarah McLaughlin 
Movie: Tombstone 
Book: The Icarus Agenda by Robert Ludlum 
TV: The Office 
Hero: My grandpa  (both of them, actually) 
Who I’d Like To Meet: Tiger Woods 
Hometown: Albany, NY 
Height: 6’ 2’ 
Smoke; no 
Drink: no 
Children: more than 4 
Education: Canadian community college, eh? 
Favorite childhood activity: riding bikes 
Favorite color: silver 
Sport played: Basketball 
Favorite Nice Dinner Out: Cheesecake Factory 
Junk Food: Peanut Butter M&Ms 
Best Thing About Turning 40:  gray facial hair 
Can’t Stand The Thought Of: listening to the girl from Sugarland sing (Jennifer Nettles)     

And now that the world knows Eddie a bit better, here are our thoughts on Marche’ Artisan Foods…   

Marche has become one of my favorites by far.  It's the closest thing to a European cafĂ©' that you'll find in Nashville.  I haven't been able to find something to complain about in all the times that I've been there...and that's a rare thing for me.   I went with our server's recommendation and got the Roasted Butternut Squash Bread Pudding that came with a spinach salad that was topped with a warm hazelnut vinaigrette.  Bread pudding for lunch sounded a little strange...but was one of the best lunches I've had in a long time!  The best way I can find to describe it is...3 parts savory to 1 part sweet...all parts freakin' good!  (My mouth is watering as I type this)  And for only $8...I thought it was a deal.   It's also worth mentioning that they've got a great breakfast menu and one of the best cups of coffee that I've had.   Check it out...tell them Hank sent you.  They'll reply..."Who is Hank?!?"...and you'll say..."I don't know!".  Then there will be an awkward silence.  At this point...feel free to talk about the weather, the economy or politics...those are always good conversation fillers.   

For me, Marche’ will always be the place where Jack White first had the opportunity to shake my hand.  (lucky devil)  But besides that, Marche’ is certainly now (and hopefully, will always be) my favorite breakfast place of all-time in Nashville. This is the one place that my Williamson County friends are truly envious of.  Great, imaginative food, consistently good service and a panoramic view of Main Street…  what could be better?  In Nashville, not a whole lot.  Other than Crema, this is the place I try and schedule the bulk of my morning meetings so as to enjoy the company, atmosphere and food.

For lunch today I had the Boar’s Head Hot Roast Beef Sandwich.  It was great.  And by great, I mean awesome.  What else do I need to say?  I suppose if I were forced to make a critique about lunch, I would have preferred that the baguette be toasted, but that would have been the icing on the cake.  But the cake was delicious.  And by cake, I mean the roast beef sandwich.

One request for Margot though,  please bring back the poached eggs on creamy-tomato-polenta.  I’ve tried to recreate this at my house (came somewhat close) but I really need this back on the menu.  Seriously.  Best breakfast ever...
Oh, and happy birthday Eddie!  You’re getting OLD.   


Thanks Eddie for that illuminating review.  And that does it for another installment of Nashville Eats It’s ABCs.  Next time won’t you eat with…. 

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lil Cees – 10.29.08

What happens when you arrive at the letter L, wonder where to eat lunch AND aren’t really in the mood for Mexican food?  You freak out, that’s what.  And frantically scour the phone book + internet for the most obscure restaurant possible that doesn’t start with La, Las or Los.  Not an easy task, friends.  But it is possible.  And the possibility that emerged was a little-known-to-us East Nashville soul food eatery on Douglas Street named Lil Cee’s.  And here is the verdict…       

I really liked Lil’ Cee’s!  Not because it was in a swanky building in a primetime location, not because a fancy menu, not because it was it was the most perfect dining experience ever.  I liked it because it was REAL.  That was their X factor.  It trumped the fact that it wasn’t the cleanest place in the world (health score of 82...not bad...not great)...that they didn’t have the first 2 things I tried to order off the menu...and that the soft drinks were paid for at the register and then bought out of a pop machine (weird).  None of that was a concern of mine...because as I was sitting in there watching the steady line of neighbors coming in to hit me that Lil Cee is making good food for the people that he lives and works with.  That’s a pretty great thing!  I got the baked chicken, mashed potatoes and green beans w/ fried cornbread.  The chicken had a great flavor, as did the green beans (it tasted like there may have been some brown sugar in there).  The fried cornbread was pretty awesome was basically a cornbread donut...which isn’t a bad thing in my opinion.  Overall...if I found myself in that part of Nashville during lunch hour again...I’d go back.   

I was in the mood for some comfort food and I must say, Lil Cee's was surprisingly comforting.  The meatloaf and mashed potatoes were fresh and flavorful, and the portions were quite generous for the price... a great value.  Although the building looks a little run-down, the tables and chairs were very clean.  The owner was real friendly and made us all feel welcome. 
This is the kinda place that I like to pull up to. An unassuming, gray cinderblock exterior that houses who-knows-what-kind-of-food on the inside.  We walked in the door to find run-of-the-mill interior, BET blaring on the TV overhead and a small but eager line of folks moving down the steam table to get their grub on.  This place is not unlike a place like Monell’s Express on 8th Ave South as far as the low-rent vibe goes, but much better food.  Lil Cee’s employees were of the friendly but no-nonsense sort and the owner and/or manager made note that we were evidentially not regulars and asked how we found the place.  (The phone book, said we.) 
I ordered the fried chicken, red beans and turnip greens, all of which were good.  Not mind blowing, not lousy, but good.  Solid.  I also ordered the grape drink out of one of those convenience mart type juice fountains.  It seemed appropriate for my meal somehow.  So while everything was good and tasty, there one was super-great part of my meal.  The hot water cornbread!  This freakin’ cornbread rocked my world and was the second best I’ve ever tasted (first place goes to Nero’s Grill’s famous corn cakes in Green Hills..).  Lil Cee’s does cornbread RIGHT.  High-five, thumbs up, five stars.