Tasting Menu at The Chef & I, Garth, And Pls Don’t Paint Buildings Like That

The tasting menu at The Chef & I in Nashville (close to Arnold’s) was incredible and just so much fun, owing to the chefs, staff, and owner Chris being super friendly and putting on such a great time.

There were cocktails — this was the Freddie Mercury, with Xicaru mezcal, Frida Kahlo tequila, jalapeno agave, and house sangria float…

I made reservations on OpenTable, and we were able to sit right at the counter — the chef/owner, Chris explained how much he was in love with this quartz and how it was one of the largest expenditures. He spent a while talking with one of my friends about the restaurant business and the operations there.

Being a tasting menu and changing so often, the servings weren’t listed on a menu. But I can say that every.single.thing was just crazy delicious, from the egg dish to the blackberry waffle to the shrimp with avocado, and our desserts — chocolate espresso creme brulee

and the heirloom carrot cake = so fab.

One of the most amazing things for me was that the kitchen staff seemed unhurried. They did everything efficiently and quickly, and everyone got their food in a reasonable amount of time, but they weren’t crazy stressed or running around like I imagine (and I guess I get that from too much reality-ish tv). In fact, when there wasn’t a server available and a dish was ready, the chefs would just bring it around themselves. Nobody stood on ceremony. It was just super chill.

After lunch, we didn’t even think about supper. It was off to the Grand Ole Opry to see Garth Brooks! He was last of course but played four or five songs and the crowd was SO into it. Of all the concerts I’ve been to, this short set with Garth was maybe my favorite. He is that much fun.

Afterward, we joined the rest of Nashville on Broadway at Tootsie’s and Robert’s Western Wear (there were two other big concerts going on that night) and got price-gouged by Uber going back to the hotel. Still, who cares!? It was crazy fun.

BTW, quick mention about lunch the next day: it’s been a forever since we went to Monell’s downtown, that we had to do it again — but this time at their location by the airport — Monell’s at the Manor. Y’all. I’m not sure their air conditioner was working and everyone was just burning up. And while usually one’s table mates are friendly, only one couple was really interested in chatting (the other was busy with their baby, and a group at the end of the table was busy talking about a supposedly worthless member of their family so whatevvvvs). The food wasn’t especially hot or flavorful, and the waiter took the fried chicken platter and never came back with it as he had promised another member at the table. Just meh. Soooo I don’t have to do Monell’s again for a while. And hoo. Why is the building they’re in painted like this?

And of course, our next adventure, going to Cheekwood for the Cracking Art exhibit, was divine. Crazy great weekend.

Cracking Art at Cheekwood

We got to see the Cracking Art exhibit at Cheekwood in Nashville and it was really fun! The show is closing September 2, so now’s definitely the time to go.

If you’re familiar with Cracking from the penguins at the 21C hotels, or you’ve just seen news about their other exhibits, Cheekwood made for a terrific setting because the sculptures were on view on the grounds of the garden setting, as well as in the mansion.

From Cheekwood’s site:
Cracking Art is a Milan, Italy-based artist collective born out of the intention to radically change the history of art by investigating the relationship between natural and artificial reality. By using 100% recyclable plastic materials, Cracking Art creates site-specific installations using large-scale, natural animal forms made of synthetic materials, playfully arranging meerkats, bears, crocodiles, birds, and other animals in surprising invasions of familiar landscapes.

We interacted with the giant bird and her eggs, and even rode the croc!

September 22 – October 21 is Cheekwood Harvest where, among other sights, is their famous 400+ gourd pumpkin house.

Little Break, Back Soon


Hi friends! I took a little break from DFK, but will be back mid-April. I’ve missed you, and your notes wondering when I’ll be back have been just super sweet! Everything is great and I can’t wait to share with you again soon, soon, soon. See you again around the 18th of April. xoxo!

Merry Christmas!

Lots of love and sweet wishes and yummy dishes to those of you who celebrate Christmas. Hope you have a really terrific holiday. xoxo!

Rewind to a few holiday-ish pics:

Christmas tree at Winder Binder Gallery in Chattanooga


Christmas car in Greenwood, MS


River Road bonfires on the levee for Papa Noel to find his way


Gingerbread at the Roosevelt Hotel in New Orleans


Window display at the Mallory and Leech General Store in Charlotte TN


Oak tree with lights in Monroe, LA

Built for Instagram: The Graduate in Oxford

Imagining I could link to a couple dozen articles here about places being designed specifically around what’s particularly Insta-hot right now, but you’ve probably read them too. When we walked into The Graduate hotel in Oxford, Mississippi earlier this month, that’s exactly what I was thinking: built for IG.

The location is perfect — just a block off the Square, so in the morning after breakfast at the hotel, we got to walk around before setting off to Memphis. Here’s what’s going on inside:

…globe lamps above a small library at check-in, only to behold that the books are sawed (?) in half and adhered to the cabinetry. Seriously, I found ‘You: The Owner’s Manual’ smashed between ‘The Heat of Ramadan’ and Garrison Keillor’s ‘Wobegon Boy’ which was either crackpot genius or just, you know, somebody grabbing yardsale books and finishing a shelf.

Some of the brand’s philosophy on why they choose university settings, from the founder via Skift:

We morphed into really focusing on university anchored secondary and tertiary markets and what we found was that most of those markets had a very limited — or very lackluster is probably a better word — hotel product in what were some very dynamic and unique markets. We saw there was opportunity there because there was very little competition for doing any kind of lifestyle, boutique or independent hotel in those markets. Then, we also saw after doing some research that there was very low volatility in these markets safety well; they didn’t suffer nearly as badly in terms of the last two recessions and they bounced back much quicker.

art by William Goodman in the lobby

I always associate him first with that big mural at the Mississippi Museum of Art

More lobby fab:

The televisions here are in big frames so they look less like big dopey televisions.

Lest we forget college town, there’s a few reminders strewn about

The Graduate Hotel, Oxford MS

Back to the yearbooks for a sec, the ones on display were late ’60s and ’70s and w o w y e s s s s s

El Burrito! Yassss.

Burger Chef

and the, um, Benzo Burger

Students are welcome to sit in the lobby at the hotel to study, etc and who exactly gets to study in Eames chairs at school?

I do remember, though, luxuriating in the ball chairs in the Oberlin College library a couple of summers, though, so there’s that. Beyond fab.

There’s a restaurant upstairs at the hotel as well as this quick-serve little cafe:

and just outside:

Then there was this one moment when it got just waaaay too Pinterest-y:But but hey, we all overdo it at college I guess.

at the elevator alcove:

and down the hall (though you’d think they’d want to reconsider houndstooth in Oxford, but ‘kay…):

The room was fine — it’s wasn’t super plush or too minimalist. It was comfortable and alright. They’re making a killing on football weekends but overall it’s not luxurious or particularly service oriented. It seemed as though students were running the hotel, and even when we went to breakfast, instead of someone welcoming guests, they were just sitting around chatting and we mistook them for fellow visitors. There was a whole back-and-forth-how-do-we-even-do-this between the front desk and restaurant when we explained we had purchased a package with breakfast included (so it was as though it was a completely new concept to everyone, and they still wanted to charge us tax). Would we stay here again? Nah. But it was okay.

There was a bluetooth speaker you could take into the bathroom for musical accompaniment, Faulkner illustrations framed on the wall, and Malin + Goetz goodness:


For nicer, there’s Chancellor’s House in Oxford (and that’s a lot of greige).

Our stay at the sister Graduate Hotel in Athens, Georgia here.

My husband the UVA grad is prob going to want to stay at the Graduate in Charlottesville to give that one a go, and if you like card catalogs in your hotel, well there’s this.

 

Vogue Loves Savannah Like We All Do

Yesterday, Vogue posted Is This Old Southern Town the Next Brooklyn? and they’re talking about Savannah. In reality, it’s more of a travel guide on where/what to eat, stay, and see, but they definitely tried to make a connection between north and south due to the number of makers they found in the city. And there’s a romance.

Noted humor writer Harrison Key adds, “It’s like the mind of Flannery O’Connor made a baby with San Francisco.” Whatever the outlook, the general consensus is one of sheer and utter love.

As to where to stay, they call the Kimpton Brice the ‘best choice among the higher-end boutique hotels’. We stayed there — actually, because I’m such a hotel lover, we stayed at two different hotels in the city, the Kimpton Brice and the Mansion on Forsyth Park (I’ll post them both this week).

The article also notes that West Elm (West Elm?!) will soon open a hotel there, and two SPG hotels including the ‘Perry Lane Hotel’ in the brand’s Luxury Collection will open.

Among those the article also gave attention to: Savannah Cordwainers (custom cordovan Budapesters: $1850), Christian Dunbar furniture, J. Pearson Designs, Katy Skelton, ShopSCAD, Alex Raskin Antiques, and Mimi Cay Antiques

Art-wise, mentions included the Jepson Center (Savannah’s art museum), and Laney Contemporary plus the Gutstein Gallery at SCAD and SCAD art sales, Pamely Wiley‘s quilting (looook).

For dining and drinking, the list mentions that Sean Brock is opening Savannah’s Husk later this year, and to also consider The Wyld, Atlantic (thank you to whoever designed their beautiful script logo!), The Grey, Back in the Day Bakery, Sandfly Bar-B-Q, The Collins Quarter, and the gorg Artillery Bar.


above, a pretty door I found in Savannah. They, Charleston, and New Orleans need to go on some war-of-the-beautiful-front-doors or something.

This is going to be Savannah Week at DFK so two fab hotels, a few amaze restaurants, and lots of pretty-pretty is coming this way. xoxo!

Top Of Atlanta, And The Chocolate Blue Dome

I shall never tire of a revolving restaurant.

We’ve been to the Skylon Tower in Niagara Falls, Ontario, the Chart House at Tower of the Americas in San Antonio, and now both of the ones in Atlanta.

Earlier this year, we planned to celebrate our anniversary by going to the Sun Dial Restaurant for lunch and then later drive to Florence, Alabama for the 360 Grille at the Marriott Shoals (on our way over, after having our reservation for several days via OpenTable, the manager at 360 called a couple of hours before our res to let us know that the mechanism that makes the restaurant revolve hadn’t been working for a few days. I canceled our reservation, but couldn’t he have called earlier than that night so we could have made other plans? It worked out okay because we wound up at Odette which was fab).

The Sun Dial is on the 71st floor of the Westin Peachtree Plaza.

Over the course of…maybe an hour, we got a 360* view of Atlanta, which the boys got a big kick out of


Besides getting to see everything from a window-side table, there’s also an area with an observation binocular

Happy!

Av had blackened Georgia trout over tasso-crawfish grits, which he liked

Shug went with pasta and Shugie had pizza

And I wasn’t so hungry, so I just ordered a Caesar salad which was tiiiiny.


(looking up from the lobby at the Hyatt)

This past weekend, we were in Atlanta again and after supper elsewhere, we walked over to the Hyatt Regency and had dessert at Polaris, which is on the 22nd floor. This time, we had a nighttime view of the city as the restaurant revolved.

We rode right past the open kitchen

We shared the very pretty Polaris Blue Dome: fair trade chocolate mousse, rooftop honey caramel, flourless chocolate cake atop a meringue disc

Delish.

Hotel Finial, Neon, And Pawn Shop Murals

Earlier this year, we went to services in Anniston with plans to go on the next day to Atlanta, so we made reservations to stay at the Hotel Finial. It was recently renovated and had previously been known as The Victoria.

Only suites are inside the main home, and all the other Expedia et al-bookable rooms are in a motel-like arrangement with exterior corridors. That’s what we wound up with.

Parking was in a gated lot. The room was okay — not luxurious (e.g. two pillows on each bed whereas most hotels offer at least three or four) but not uncomfortably minimalist, either. It was fine.

We stayed out until almost bedtime anyway, and when we got up, it was time to walk over to the Victorian home for breakfast, which is included in the cost of a stay. The food was a step up from, say, a Hampton/economy hotel breakfast, and the best part was definitely the setting.


That first night, though, for something different, we decided to drive up to Jacksonville, Alabama where a there’s a family pizza place on the square with a fab neon sign — so we figured we’d have supper and walk around…

The boys liked their pizza


We drove back to Anniston for services. The congregation there is so, so kind and they have a great building. The rabbi here drives in from Atlanta and he’s in his mid-80s…he and his wife are just super sweet.


Before we left Anniston, we stopped to take a picture of this great mural at a pawn shop there.