Belle Meade Wine; a modest suggestion

January 14, 2008

The operators of Belle Meade, the plantation home/attraction just outside Nashville, have announced that they will begin producing wine and hope to start popping the corks in 2010. The plantation folks hope to emulate the success that Biltmore house and gardens have achieved outside of Ashville, North Carolina with their fruits of the grape.

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A winery will fit right in with plantation life–no doubt Harding family meals were graced with a nice red or white. In these days, however, when customers pull up to Tennessee vineyards, they are looking for the sweeter wines. Fruit wines and anything with “scuppernong” on the label sell out more quickly than the drier varieties.

For that reason, and with a name that is perfect for this purpose, Belle Meade should distinguish itself from the other wineries by skipping the grapes entirely and fermenting honey to produce mead.

Can’t you just see the label? Belle Meade Mead! Perfect!

This blog is part of a much larger website, also entitled Tennessee Guy, that contains travel and cultural information about Tennessee. Visit it here.


Artisinal cheese maker goes underground in Hartsville

December 9, 2007

Perhaps the most elaborate underground marijuana-growing facility–make that the former weed-growing facility in Tennessee–has been auctioned to Roth Käse USA LTD, an artisinal cheesemaker based in Wisconsin.

As detailed in the Nashville Tennessean, the company bought seven acres of land near Hartsville. The real prize, however, was an “improved cave” some 90 feet down containing rooms as long as a football field. While this hall of the marijuana king didn’t exactly work out for him, it should prove ideal to age the kinds of cheeses made by Roth Käse.

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Country hams at Christmas

December 6, 2007

The New York Times brings the glad tidings that the first Spanish Iberico hams go on sale today in the United States. These hams–jamon in Spanish–have been cured for two years and sell for $900 apiece or a mere $50 per pound. You can buy them here.

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On hearing this, I called up Alan Benton, proprietor of Benton’s Smoky Mountain Country Hams, the best country ham I have ever had in Tennessee. Speaking from his store in Madisonville, where whole and sliced hams are flying out the door during his busiest time of year, Benton took some time to expound on his favorite subject.

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New old cookbook from Chuckey Mountain

November 21, 2007

The day before Thanksgiving, The New York Times had an interesting piece on Malinda Russell, a Tennessee African-American woman who published a cookbook in 1866 entitled Domestic Cook Book: Containing a Careful Selection of Useful Receipts for the Kitchen.

The cookbook is remarkable for two reasons: first, being published by a black woman just a few years after slavery was abolished, and for the kinds of recipes offered to readers. There’s none of the “soul food” commonly associated with black cooking–collard greens, fried chicken, and chitlins–in this cookbook, which has high class sounding dishes such as rose cake and sweet onion custard.

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Photo from The Janice Bluestein Longone Culinary Archive at the
William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan

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Wonderful ribs in Memphis

November 14, 2007

Having been disappointed at the ribs served up at the famous Rendezvous in Memphis, I headed south to 2265 Third Street and the home of Jim Neely’s Interstate Bar-B-Que. I have not eaten in all of the Memphis rib joints, but I have to say that, so far, these are the best ribs I have ever had in my life.

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Memphis’s Rendezvous: the thrill is gone

November 6, 2007

Years ago, seemingly like everyone who comes to Memphis, I ducked in the alley and ate ribs at Charles Vergo’s Rendezvous restaurant and pronounced them great. I had never had dry ribs before–ones with the seasoning applied as ground spices instead of a sauce–and I thought they were wonderful. When I wrote my guidebook, I had Fredric Koeppel of the Memphis Commercial Appeal review the restaurants, and in the last edition, he wrote the following:

The Rendezvous inspires such loyalty that criticism of the place seems to merit fluffin’ up the feathers and heatin’ up the tar. Sure, Elvis had Rendezvous ribs flown to Vegas when he performed there, but he also loved banana and peanut butter sandwiches. Even the Vergos family, owners of the Rendezvous, admit that the dry ribs they produce, rubbed with a unique spice mixture, partake more of Greece than the mid-South, but that fact doesn’t keep Yankee writers from proclaiming the Rendezvous ground zero of Memphis barbecue. To our minds, these ribs are interesting but not the Real Thing, but who’s going to argue with 100,000 tourists?

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Culinary tourism: Selmer and Southern Foodways

November 4, 2007

I just got home last night from a culinary tourism swing across Tennessee, and today’s Memphis Commercial Appeal brings a great story on the Southern Foodways Alliance’s (SFA) tenth annual Symposium held last week in Oxford, Mississippi. Roy Blount, Jr. was the headliner. Here are several podcasts of the event, although I don’t see Roy’s remarks among them–too bad about that.

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Roy Blount, Jr. photo by Valerie Shaff from Blount’s website

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Selmer’s slugburgers

November 1, 2007

If MacDonald’s was conjuring up some new burgers, they would probably not call them “slugburgers.”

That’s the name given to burgers whose patties are a mixture of ground beef and soy grits. These delicacies came about during the Depression as a means of saving money in those hard times, and they got the name “slugburger” because they cost a nickel, which was known in some areas as a “slug.”

Corinth, Mississippi is the epicenter of slugburgerdom, with a Slugburger Festival in July, but just north and across the state line in Tennessee, Selmer is the place to go for this culinary experience. I tried for years to get a slugburger in Selmer, but every time I came through town, the two leading slugburger emporiums were closed. Seems that they open for breakfast at 4:00 AM and by 2:00 PM the proprietors are ready to go home and take a nap. They tend to never see the Tonight Show or Letterman.

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Road trips and jerky and Dwight Yoakam

October 19, 2007

Since moving to Colorado, I have come to associate road trips with jerky. Out here, at least in the warmer months, purveyors of seasoned and dried meat park their vans along heavily traveled routes, with the more enterprising staking out a series of signs a la Burma Shave leading to the mobile store.

I’m getting ready to fly to Fort Myers, Florida then drive to Kingsport and across Tennessee, so I’ve got traveling and jerky on my mind. Metro Pulse has a good article on The Beef Jerky Outlet just off I-40 next to the Bass Pro Shop. Could there be a better location?

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Roger Brashears: keeper of the Jack Daniel’s fame

September 27, 2007

While in Chattanooga, I touched base with Roger Brashears, the head of public relations at the Jack Daniel’s distillery. He has worked for the distillery since 1963–Mr. Jack was only there for 29 years–and fits perfectly with the down-home image so carefully tended by Brown-Forman, the corporate owners since 1956.

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