Virginia Woolf said, "One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well."
In that moment, Virginia Woolf won me forever. Because she's right, isn't she? Food is one of the most affective elements in our lives. We need it to live, after all.
But good food elevates us to a higher plane of being. Because when dining is transformed from a survival necessity to a shared experience to be enjoyed, something magical happens: the table becomes a place where we can appreciate a tangible fruition of our hard work, and share that with the people we love. Around the table, we can just enjoy being.
Celebrating the table is what J.T. and I had in mind when we started this blog. And along with great wine comes great food and the people who make it—which is why we'll be hosting a monthly culinary travelogue. We'll talk about our favorite places to eat and drink, the places where we break bread with our loved ones. Sometimes the menus will be local to Nashville, sometimes they'll be from places we've visited.
But one thing's for certain: we're only going to bring you meals that elevated us to that higher plane, the ones that we can't stop thinking about.
Which is why the first meal I'm going to bring you is my favorite from last year. I hinted about this in an earlier post, but I didn't do the whole experience justice.
Etch has been around the Nashville culinary scene for a few years. For a while I'd seen glowing reviews of the restaurant in local publications. And truth be told, I unabashedly love when a woman is a head chef of a fine dining establishment (shoutout to Chef Deb Paquette). So when my lovely boss asked me where I wanted to eat for our Christmas lunch, it didn't take me long to settle on Etch.
Settle. That's a word I'll never use to describe this restaurant.
Tucked into a corner of the Encore building, Etch is in the middle of downtown Nashville action. But not to worry: the restaurant offers free valet (hallelujah!). And take note, classical lovers—it's across the street from Schermerhorn Symphony Center (and take note, boyfriend: Etch + symphony = perfect date night!).
Etch's décor is sleek and understated, the dining room thankfully carpeted so that voices don't carry (There's a theme emerging among Nashville's new restaurants: refinished concrete floors. Problem: it's as loud as a concert in those places. Give me function over form any day.).
The drink list was extensive but by no means exhausting. I opted for this Riesling from the Finger Lakes, while J.T. had a 303 cocktail, filled to the brim with St. Germain, Riesling Sekt, and freshly-squeezed lemon juice. Equal parts earthy from the elderflower and bright from the acid, the 303 goes down down a little too easily. I think we both would've ordered another round if we didn't have to drive (and if it weren't, you know, noon).
I've waxed rhapsodic about Etch's award winning appetizer, the roasted cauliflower seen above. I still think about the whipped feta, tangy roasted red pepper sauce, and smoky pea pesto. I live for condiments, and I need to add these to my personal repertoire in 2016.
With entrées from multiple hemispheres, it was difficult to pick a main course. Between Argentinian beef, local catfish, Indian chicken, and coconut lemongrass chicken and quinoa, we were bound to get a flavor explosion no matter which direction we chose. But we opted for the chicken and quinoa. I can't get enough of big, aromatic Thai flavors—cilantro, lime, fish sauce, ginger, lemongrass, Thai basil, coconut—so I was quite pleased with this culinary explosion. This isn't a numbing fireball you sometimes get at Thai restaurants; in this dish, I could taste each layer of flavor: nutty quinoa, bright lime, smooth coconut, fresh cilantro. Underscoring all of these flavors is a gentle but noticeable heat, probably from a fresh chile paste, but the heat was by no means overpowering. It all worked so well.
Quinoa replaces rice in this curry dish (ultimately, that's what I would call this—it's in a bowl, there's a flavored sauce accompanied by meat and a starch). I appreciated the grain for its nuttiness (and there was some sweet potato in here, too, adding complexity to the starchy element!). I think rice would've sopped up the curry sauce a bit better than thin quinoa granules. Though by no means am I complaining—I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
And dessert? Pssh.
Pretty sure you can't go wrong with this mocha torte, complete with espresso meringues, and a scoop of house-made vanilla ice cream (churned with goat's milk, no less).
We only snapped this photo because J.T. had the presence of mind to actually document the moment, whereas I wanted to shove the moment in my stomach.
Overall, this was just a lovely meal, made even better by Etch's friendly, helpful staff and low-key ambience. My boyfriend has a client coming into town in a few weeks, and he asked me where to take them to dinner. Without hesitation, I blurted, "ETCH!!!" I hope I can twist an arm into delivering a take-out box of mocha torte, or even the espresso meringues. But this restaurant suggestion was more than just a selfish ploy to get a fabulous dessert: Etch is going to give his clients a meal that'll please just about any palate. It's as easy as that.
If you're planning a trip to Music City, by all means, save your pennies for a nice meal at Etch. It'll be something you savor during and after your dining experience.