Nashville’s Top 5 Food Finds

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Nashville’s southern fare is getting a makeover, as Lena Diaz’s taste buds discovered.

Redefining Dining

1. Set in the residential neighbourhood of historic Germantown is City House, with a menu that marries Italian ingredients to traditional southern cooking. Try the chocolate pecan pie; a light shell with a chocolate, rum and pecan filling topped with coffee, caramel gelato. Hello heaven. Fun fact: Most cocktails are named after staff pets.

2. You’d never guess, with its unassuming cafeteria style setting and yellow painted cinder block walls, that Arnold’s is nearly as much an institution as the Grand Ole Opry. Come on in, grab a plastic tray and slide it towards your choice of meat and three (a Nashville tradition of 1 meat dish + 3 side dishes). Side dishes include collard greens, pinto beans, mashed potatoes and cornbread muffins to die for. Bring your stretchy pants.

3. Dinner at Margot is an herb-infused occasion where every dish from first to last leaves a fine impression. Start with an appetizer of Parmigiano Reggiano and Capriole goat cheese served with mostarda (candied fruit cooked in a spicy mustard flavoured syrup) and fresh focaccia bread; a great prelude to the daily house-made pastas.

4. Nashville’s iconic Loveless Cafe started as a pit stop in the early 1950s and, thankfully, neither the decor nor the home cookin’ has evolved. Biscuits served in a heap, waffles piled high with pecans and maple syrup; you wouldn’t want it any other way. The gift shop is a hoot; pick up a ‘Praise the Lard and pass the Biscuits’ tee shirt or some of their famous homemade jam.

5. Order a veggie lover’s taco of fried avocado with red onions, red cabbage, spicy dill sauce and cilantro at Mas Tacos. And add a cold Aqua Fresca (pineapple, cilantro and lime water) served over ice. Delicioso.

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Ottawa’s Top 5 Restaurants

For a small city Ottawa features an abundance of first class dining options, though many are a well-kept secret as far as the locals are concerned.

Follow Dabble’s picks for a memorable week of meals in the capital city.

Ottawa Sweet Treat

1. The Wellington Gastropub has an infectious vibe that makes it one of the most sought-after places to book a table. Busy every night of the week with success that can be attributed to dedicated owners Chris Deraiche and Shane Waldron and their attention to an ever-changing menu.

2. A lively neighbourhood hotspot Fraser Café is on the edge of upscale Rockcliffe Park. Brothers Ross and Simon Fraser offer fresh, local food served simply in a casual setting. Their brunch menu has earned them a solid reputation with the weekend crowd.

3. Town owners, Marc Doiron and Lori Wojcik, are a married couple that combine their passion for art and food beautifully in a bustling, atmospheric restaurant in the Golden Triangle neighbourhood. Featuring locally grown food, the commitment to fresh deliciousness is evident in every dish served.

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4. Perhaps the most sophisticated of the top five spots, Beckta makes Ottawa proud. A world-class sommelier owner Stephen Beckta and his partner, award winning executive chef Michael Moffatt, can take on Manhattan. In typical Ottawa style there are no pretensions just haute cuisine served in elegant simplicity.

5. Atelier’s celebrated owner/chef Marc Lepine artfully creates food worth savouring in an atmosphere that encourages lingering. The innovative tasting menu at Atelier is considered molecular. Diners come for an experience and are never disappointed in a restaurant known as one of Canada’s finest.

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Buen Provecho – Eating in Puerto Rico

With few exceptions, the dining scene in Puerto Rico is unpretentious, so come as you are. Expect excellent food in a casual setting and a welcoming wait staff to wish you, ‘buen provecho’.

Puerto Rico Dessert

BREAKFAST 

Kasalta Panderia
Everyone eats at Kasalta—politicians, school kids, housewives and secretaries. The glass countered bakery serves tempting pastries and a divine Cubanito (mini ham and Swiss).

Panadería España Repostería
Another reliable local hangout with a similar atmsophere to Kasalta. Consider the cheese and wine selection if you’re planning a picnic.

Dabble Savvy: Save on restaurant meals by ordering water like the locals do: “I’ll have the Carraiso Springs.” A joke that references the city’s main source of tap water.


LUNCH

It’s not fancy, but the burrittos and tacos are delicioso at La B de Burro in Ocean Park. In addition, ginger and tamarind are the finest companions to tequila imaginable, so ask about 2 for 1 margarita specials.

Bebo dishes up well-priced local fare to its dedicated clientele. Try arroz mamposteado (rice and beans) or empanada de pollo (chicken empanada) and ripe plantains.

Under the Trees
Sit on the outdoor patio, order a mimosa and a fabulous brunch experience is assured.


DINNER

Once you find the well-hidden restaurant, José Enrique is a fine dining experience that is unparalleled. Start with the cheese plate and order the red snapper as a main. You won’t have room for dessert, but the three chocolate dish is to die for.

I celebrated a recent (delicious) birthday at Uvva Restaurant in Hosteria del Mar. Almond crusted lamb chops in mint chimichuri sauce are every bit as tasty as they look (see photo page 124). As we sat on the beach the next day, the owner noticed our group and sent over a round of drinks—matching our order from the night before. Now, that’s service.

Chef Robert Trevino (of Iron Chef fame) masterminds the Budatai fusion menu, serving elegant sushi and divine seared ahi.

Chef Wilo Bennet’s Varita in Conrad San Juan Condado Plaza revitalizes local delicacies such as roasted pig. Start with the lettuce wraps and save room for mini coconut tembleque (coconut flan).

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DESSERT

When pastry chef Raquel Holcman launched Sweet Sentations, her fanciful concoctions became instant classics.