Friday, May 27, 2011

Nashville, Tennessee

Well, we just got back from a week in Nashville, and figured that this would be as good of a time as any to begin the new travel blog. The weather was in our favor (albeit a bit muggy) and the cicadas were a constant soundtrack to the week. The Great Southern Brood hatches once every 13 years by the tens of thousands, and the sound that they make is akin to a hundred weed whackers running constantly. An ever present accompaniment to Tennessee's lush greenery.

This was a very refreshing trip in so much as we brushed over a lot of the really touristy sights in Nashville, and were treated to some of the less conventional sights. Specifically touring through three different mansions: Cheekwood, The Oaklands, and Castle Gwynn.
Located in Murfreesboro, TN, The Oaklands began as a 2 room house around 1818 and was gradually added onto. It was a prosperous plantation, until the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. The house was occupied by Union Colonel William Duffield, until his troops were defeated by the forces of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The surrender of Murfreesboro was signed in the parlor of The Oaklands. It remained in Confederate hands until their defeat at the battle of Stones River. The Federals held it until the end of the war. Sadly in the 1950's the house was left vacant and fell into disrepair, and was saved from demolition by a local women's organization who have led the renovation of the property that we see today.
We also had the privilege of visiting Cheekwood.  The Cheeks came into wealth by developing a particularly tastey blend of coffee, which they marketed at the most famous hotel in Nashville, The Maxwell House. Later they sold their interest in Maxwell House Coffee, and invested in IBM. The Mansion at Cheekwood was lived in until the 1950's when it was deeded over to the city of Nashville for use as a botanical garden and art museum.
And finally, we had an amazing all access tour through Castle Gwynn. The Castle is based upon Castell Coche or "Red Castle" in Wales (Castell Gwynn means "White Castle"). It has been a labor of love for Mike Freeman and his wife since 1970, the couple also operates the Tennessee Renaissance Festival every weekend in May, which was another treat along with our castle visit. A third tower is still being planned, as is a feasting hall.

If you're not afraid of waiting in line for a bit, The Pancake Pantry is a Nashville tradition. Try the sweet potato pancakes and you can thank me later.
For some of the most decadent southern pastries hit up The Puffy Muffin and make sure to have a glass of milk handy. Their Chess Pie is OUTSTANDING!
There were several other, outstanding places that we ate, but it would seem unfair to put them on the same page with The Loveless Cafe. Simply put, the best southern cooking ever. . . yeah, ever.

Here's a little home cookin' for ya. This is an awesome vinegar sauce to put on your pulled pork in lieu of regular BBQ sauce. It has been made popular at Whitt's Barbecue, and is both easy and delicious (my two favorite things in a recipe)

Whitt's BBQ vinegar sauce
1 Cup white vinegar
1/4 Cup water
1/4 Cup sugar (white or brown)
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon white pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Mix all ingredients in a jar or bottle, shake well. Allow mixture to sit overnight.

We didn't manage to get a chance to see any shows on this trip, but there were a couple good shows playing while we were in town. Check out The Bluebird Cafe, or the world famous Ryman Auditorium (Social Distortion was playing the Ryman while we were in Nashville. Hated missing that one) But if you're ever in Nashville you won't have any trouble finding a good show, I promise.