REVIEW: The Catbird Seat

2018 came to a close with Chef Ryan Poli cooking a final meal at The Catbird Seat on December 29th after 3 years with the “avant-garde dining gem.”  It’s a new year and new chefs will be introduced in February. As my friends and I reflected on our “Best of 2018” experiences on New Year’s Eve, I knew, without a doubt, my “best meal” pick was The Catbird Seat.

I recently read a comparison of the dining experience at The Catbird Seat to hearing live music, specifically at the Ryman here in Nashville. The diner, Ben Kuttler, appeared as a guest writer on Nashville blog, Type-A Explorations, and expressively described the parallels between the Ryman and Catbird Seat as a feeling like “a massage at the center of your body.” On the other hand, the late, great Anthony Bourdain was so enamored with the pasta he was served at The Catbird Seat he claimed he would “face-plant in a big fuckin’ bowl of this” and “would wake up and eat this cold in a Tupperware container” like Tony Soprano does with Carmela’s legendary ziti.

High praise indeed. The figurative and literal accounts of The Catbird Seat experience, each an eloquent rendition of the multi-course meal, are both entirely accurate. I’ve been very fortunate to dine at several tasting menu restaurants all over the world and every time it was a special orchestrated performance unique to the chef(s), location and cuisine, not unlike the magical experience of listening to music live. I have to agree with Ben when he described “getting lost in the sound” of live music. Next time you’re at a venue with great acoustics, hearing an extremely talented musician, close your eyes. It feels as if every note resounds through the body pulling at every single heartstring stirring the soul. Tasting food, some things you’ve never heard of before, prepared in a way you couldn’t imagine recreating, the sheer inventiveness baffling the mind, sparks that similar feeling. Sounds of beautiful music and bites of something so indescribably delicious will absolutely move you to the core.

Continue reading “REVIEW: The Catbird Seat”

REVIEW: Geist

Geist is a bar and restaurant set in a historic 1900’s blacksmith shop in Germantown, on Jefferson St right in front of the Nashville Sounds stadium. I originally went when it first opened earlier this year for drinks with some girlfriends, but had yet to go for dinner and it’s been on my list.

Sean and I wanted a date night before we would be apart for almost a week due to separate travel plans. We were looking to stay nearby and go somewhere that would be fairly quick as we both still needed to pack. Geist seemed the best candidate:  a short walk down the street, romantic atmosphere with a great looking menu and a place neither of us had tried.

The decor is gorgeous with high back, comfy seats and stunning chandeliers – a perfect date night spot. I love the exposed brick, original wood floors and lofted ceilings – you can certainly imagine it as a blacksmith shop. I also absolutely love when restaurants restore historic buildings!

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We started with a cocktail and our waitress was super friendly and upbeat. She took our drinks menu and assured us she would be right back to explain the menu. I ordered an espresso martini, which is a rare choice for me outside of an after-dinner drink, but was really calling my name for some reason and it didn’t disappoint. Sean chose the Stingray; both of the cocktails were really delicious, however at $13 a pop we found them overpriced for what they were, especially when we could go up the road to Rolf & Daughters and enjoy a similarly tasty drink for $1-$2 less. Well, we had a good half hour to sip on them and enjoy each other’s company, all the while becoming increasingly hangry, the night about to take a turn for the worse.

After we received our drinks, we didn’t see our waitress again for at least 30 minutes. We were constantly looking around to grab any server’s attention. I was starting to get the shakes from drinking on an empty stomach right after working out (I know, bad idea). Hadn’t our waitress just so confidently state she’d be right back after taking our drinks order? Instead, we finished our drinks by the time we finally got her attention to put in a food order. Not a great start. Good moods were rapidly dissolving and our “fun date night” morphed into a disgruntled convo consisting solely of the restaurant’s service. Nonetheless we moved on, ordered several small plates and our waitress profusely apologized.

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We started with the leek kimchi, grilled peach, and cucumber salad with citrus vinaigrette and the asparagus and burrata with griddled bread. The peach salad was absurdly tiny for the price of $13. However, I thought the kimchi paired with peaches was an innovative, unique take and I enjoyed the flavor combination. The asparagus burrata was good, but nothing new for a burrata dish. I did really like fresh dill added in and the perfectly griddled sourdough. But, it was also very pricey, $14, and we had to ask for more bread as it only came with two small slices.

When we received our food, a server appeared with two limoncello shots to apologize for the delay. It was a very nice gesture and we appreciated it, but instead of moving on the servers became overly attentive hovering and trying to remove our drinks before we were finished. It was hard to have a private conversation with the wait staff constantly lurking nearby to cater to our every whim.

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Next we had the braised octopus, oven dried tomatoes, and roasted peppers. The octopus was overcooked and again, a small portion of only one tentatcle for the cost ($14). The ratatouille-esque tomato and roasted pepper sauce underneath was the star – the summery vegetables and herbs were cooked in olive oil together until the flavors melded into a perfect confit of sorts. I don’t think the daikon radish on top added anything other than perhaps a garnish for presentation.

We were then surprised with another complimentary dish, the roasted heirloom carrots with farmers cheese. This was my favorite dish! The carrots were smoky and perfectly cooked, which can be hard to do without making them soggy or too al-dente. I loved the buttery radish, and the farmers cheese paired well with the smokiness from the vegetables.

Lastly, we had the braised lamb, spiced yogurt flatbread. First of all, this is most definitely not a flatbread. It was more akin to a tortilla. Secondly, the portion was again, tiny and overpriced, $16 for about 2-3 oz of lamb. If you take a look in the picture below you’ll see there’s enough there for each of us to have a bite with the smallest swoosh of spiced yogurt.  Size and cost aside, the lamb was cooked to perfection and was full of flavor. I wasn’t as impressed as Sean was, but it was still a tasty bite. We didn’t really eat the “flatbread” and I’m not quite sure how it’s meant to be eaten. Should we have rolled it up into a burrito of sorts? The consistency was soft like a burrito and not crunchy enough to be able to eat it flat. We ended up just eating the filling and leaving the bread.

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Sadly, this was not the best experience and the quick date we were looking for turned into an almost 3 hour dinner. While we enjoyed several aspects of the dishes, overall, the high cost and small portions outweighed any enjoyment we had in the food. The cost was on par with Rolf & Daughters, another small-plates focused restaurant in Germantown, despite the food being nowhere near the same caliber. We don’t mind paying for a nice meal out if the cost adequately reflects the quality of food and if not quality, then at the very least quantity; not the case at Geist.

Then there was the terrible service. The servers did their best to make the delay in ordering up to us, becoming overly attentive to the point of hovering (which, totally killed our date vibe BTW) and offering complimentary limoncello and carrots. Even so, whomever was behind the decision to give us free food and drinks forgot to communicate with our waitress and she charged us for the “complimentary” carrots as well as the extra bread for the burrata.

We were really perturbed about the extra bread fee. When we asked for extra bread we were not informed there would be an extra cost; I was once a waitress and it’s server101 to inform your patrons of any added fees….even Chipotle does, “that’ll be extra for quac.” We didn’t bring it up to the waitress as we were already embarrassed by the flurry of activity around our table and didn’t want to call further attention or make a scene, but we did show the charge for the carrots we didn’t order in the first place. She kindly apologized and corrected our bill coming back with warm chocolate chip cookies. Who doesn’t love a chocolate chip cookie warm out of the oven? They were delicious and we really appreciated the gesture.

I really wanted to love Geist and I hope this was a one-off scenario. Despite the fact the menu is full of things I love, the decor is gorgeous and drinks delightful, I doubt I’ll be back any time soon except maybe to try their Champagne Garden.


Rating*: 2.8 | More Info:  Geist | Neighborhood:  Germantown | Cuisine Type:  Internationally-focused cuisine with regional ingredients
*Ratings are based on a 5 point scale with 5 being an exceptional, extremely satisfactory experience. Factors taken into consideration when reviewing include atmosphere, service, taste, food/drink preparation, quality & innovation, and cost relative to the previous factors.

REVIEW: Lyra

Nashville has an incredible, burgeoning food scene, receiving accolades from Vogue, NY Times, USA Today, Bon Appetite as a “must visit food city.” Although several of the restaurants are outposts from Atlanta, Charleston or even NYC, local, Nashville eateries are also popping up left and right. Lyra is the latest and it did not disappoint.

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Lyra is a new (it opened in mid-June) middle eastern restaurant in East Nashville on West Eastland Avenue. Chef Hrant Arakelian brings flavors he grew up on and experience cheffing at local standbys such as Rumours East, Butchertown Hall and Etch. The menu is full of fresh breads and smaller starters that are great for sharing.

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We came with some friends that recently moved to Nashville from NYC as well; we’re beyond thrilled they are here! They’re renting an adorable house in East Nashville, so we wanted to do dinner somewhere in their new neighborhood. The four of us started with drinks from the list of villain-inspired cocktails, such as Ursula, Green Goblin, Bellatrix, Dark Phoenix, etc. I opted for the Dark Phoenix, a tequila, grapefruit, Campari concoction with rosemary syrup that had a delightful freshness for a summer’s night but with that bitter kick from the Campari.

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To start, we shared some of the breads that smelled heavenly. We went for the standard hummus, aleppo, the cauliflower lahmacun and the salt baked heirloom tomatoes. Everything was perfect! The hummus was creamy and full of flavor and the pita fresh, soft and warm. We didn’t realize the hummus came with pita (rookie mistake) so next time we probably wouldn’t order hummus and one of the breads. The breads are like a middle eastern version of bruschetta or a tartine consisting of a larger piece of pita with a cauliflower purée spread on top. After not eating bread in over a month, the extra bread did not upset me. The salt baked tomatoes were juicy, fresh and popped in your mouth.

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For our mains, Sean and I decided to share the scallops and spiced hangar steak. Both were incredible! The scallops were cooked perfectly – completely tender and crisp on the outside and were served with potato skordalia – essentially, a garlic potato mash – spring beans, za’atar and pickled shallots. The spring beans added a nice crunch to an otherwise smooth dish and the za’atar provided that delicious middle eastern spice flavoring that is so comforting.

The hangar steak was also cooked perfectly medium rare and tender. But, the creamed greens accompanying the steak stole the show for me. I could have eaten a bowl of the creamed greens alone! The spiced cauliflower and chickpeas went well with the steak and it was a very generous portion, perfect for splitting. We both felt completely satisfied with the amount of food and somehow found room for dessert.

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Sean has a HUGE sweet tooth and since we’ve been together I’ve learned dessert or “pudding” (he’s English) is a must if we’re going out to eat. Thankfully, there were four of us to share this time. We split the ice cream of the day and the special chocolate cake with whipped sour cream and strawberries. I was intrigued by the Turkish coffee and always love ending a meal with coffee. I’m one of those that can drink caffeine at night and still fall fast asleep, but our server, Justin, warned me the Turkish coffee is not an average espresso. Turkish coffee is much stronger due to the method of preparing very finely ground unfiltered coffee. I’m a coffee lover so was intrigued and up for the challenge. Wooo, Justin was not lying, it was extremely strong and I actually had to add some of the sugar syrup to cut the bitterness, something I never do. The ice cream, cake and coffee were the perfect sweet ending to an incredible meal.

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I was beyond impressed with the service and couldn’t find fault with the food. Some of my companions found the food slightly under-seasoned. There’s nothing I hate more than over seasoning, so this didn’t bother me. The atmosphere was nice, clean and modern, however very quiet. I’m assuming this is due to the fact we went so early on after its initial opening, but we’re hoping for a bit more atmosphere next time. I knocked gave Lyra a 4.8 in my review for the lack of atmosphere and my companions’ feedback on the seasoning – other than that, I found it faultless and absolutely cannot wait to go back.

BONUS:  Justin, our server, even gave us a list of his favorite cocktail bars in Nashville, a welcome recommendation to new-comers. We decided to try the Fox Bar & Cocktail Club after dinner. Although, it’s a little further out from town it is a cozy, boozy cocktail club with strong drinks and a cool, Mad Men cocktail club vibe. I definitely recommend it and Mickey’s (on Justin’s list below) is a dive bar next door to The Fox Cocktail Club – see more photos below.


Rating*:  4.5 | More Info:  Lyra | Neighborhood:  East Nashville | Cuisine Type:  Middle Eastern
*Ratings are based on a 5 point scale with 5 being an exceptional, extremely satisfactory experience. Factors taken into consideration when reviewing include atmosphere, service, taste, food/drink preparation, quality & innovation, and cost relative to the previous factors.

REVIEW: The Old School Nashville

A wonderful thing about Nashville is the abundance of farms that harvest fresh produce for the locals to enjoy.  There are close to 200 farms in and around Nashville cultivating everything from meats (we love the lamb ladies!) and dairy to gorgeous, seasonal produce. Luckily there are many local farmers’ markets to shop these ingredients year round, but why cook when you can bring the farm to the table at the farm’s restaurant?

The farm-to-table trend really began in the 60s and 70s with the hippies ditching processed foods for local and organic food.  Since then, the trend has steadily grown and  became mainstream in the early 2000s, changing diners’ habits and shedding light on the quality of food. Several of the 50 best restaurants in the world are farm-to-table restaurants with NY farm restaurant, Blue Hill at Stone Barns coming in at #11. With increasingly more education on the science of food and how it affects our well-being from overall health, skincare and even our moods, it’s no surprise consumers are becoming more aware of what they are putting in their bodies.

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The Old School is a farm-to-table restaurant located in Bells Bend about 10-15 minutes from downtown Nashville on Old Hyde Ferry’s Pike. The farm is an incredible organization dedicated to giving back to the community. According to their website, it’s a “unique non-profit dedicated to producing quality farm-to-table food while providing employment for individuals of all abilities.”

Sean and I first discovered The Old School Farm when we attended our friends’ wedding there in April. The wedding in April was absolutely gorgeous, so I suggested it to another friend who recently got engaged.  She and I made a plan to go for brunch to check it out together.

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Continue reading “REVIEW: The Old School Nashville”

REVIEW: Sky Blue Cafe

Who doesn’t love a quaint, street-corner café? Sky Blue Cafe is the quintessential neighborhood spot.  The outside of the café reminded me of that classic mob movie scene, like A Bronx Taleof gangsters hanging outside of the local neighborhood café.  Instead of mobsters there were East Nashville hipsters sipping free coffee at picnic tables while they wait the half hour to be seated inside.

Sky Blue Cafe is located in the historic Edgefield neighborhood of East Nashville and is known for comfort breakfast food that caters to both meat-lovers and vegetarians. We’re currently eating according to the Whole30 plan, so the variety of options falling within our limited range was the very reason we chose to come for breakfast the morning after the Fourth of July.

Upon arrival, the friendly hostess informed us the wait would be 30 minutes. Kind of a bummer due to the extreme heat that day.  We decided to stick it out and I grabbed a cup of the aforementioned free coffee.

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Hot coffee on a 100° day was not the best choice. A pitcher of ice cold water for the parched, waiting patrons would have served us better. After 30 minutes, we started to get sweaty, hungry and antsy. Thankfully, our name was called about 10 minutes later. Continue reading “REVIEW: Sky Blue Cafe”

Welcome to Nashville y’all!

“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but  on building the new.” Socrates

I discovered the biggest challenge of change is “building the new,” a brand “new” existence.  New start, new job, new friends, new house, new city. The newness can be both exhilarating and overwhelming; it can be fun and rewarding, but it IS scary at the same time. What to do? Where to go? Most importantly, where to eat? And, who will eat with me?

My name is Chelsea. I grew up in SC and recently moved to Nashville, TN after nearly ten years in New York City to be with my wonderful fiancé, Sean, and the 99 others that moved that day.  Since I arrived, I’ve been learning how to navigate the elusive newness and break the stubborn cycle years of stability creates. I built this blog to answer those questions. Eat, Play, Love Local will serve as a personal guide to exploring my new city, Nashville, and the other local spots I find along the way.

I’m new to blogging, ergo I will lay out my qualifications. I’ve been reviewing food (unprofessionally) since I was 12 years old and my parents introduced me to New York City and fine dining. From my study abroad experience studying fashion marketing in Milan, Italy in 2007 I caught the travel bug. I love exploring other cultures and cuisines.  This blog will draw on my years of inexperienced experience to review whatever I discover on my latest adventure in Music City and beyond.

Thank y’all, for joining me! Can’t wait!

It isn’t what we say or think that defines us, but what we do. — Jane Austen, Sense and Sensibility

Steeple Chase 2018
Jumpsuit by First Monday // Shoes by Nisolo, local Nashville fave // Hat by Goorin Bros.

DJI_0083Nashville drone photos by Sean Rand