Road Trip to Nashville
Back in March, my husband and I did something we’ve never done before… we took a road trip to Nashville! I’ve been wanting to go there for awhile because I had heard so many good things about the sightseeing and, of course, the food! So we decided to take a romantic getaway and headed to Nashville for a week.
We had such a fun time visiting the Johnny Cash Museum and the Country Music Hall of Fame. We also did an amazing walking tour through a few different neighborhoods of Nashville and got to try some incredible food. Hot fried chicken… check! BBQ… check! Southern home cooking… check and double check! If you are in Nashville, I highly recommend visiting Monel’s for breakfast or lunch. It’s a family style restaurant where you talk to everyone at your communal table and share huge baskets of fresh biscuits and the most incredible peach jam I have ever had!
Looking for a Local Gem
For our last dinner in Nashville, we decided to hit up Yelp to figure out the best local restaurant to eat at. We were staying in the Gulch area, and the highest Yelp reviews were for a restaurant within walking distance, called The Chef and I.
The Chef and I
The Chef and I was created by Chef Chris Rains and his wife, Erica. They originally started out as a private chef service and then grew into a full fledged restaurant. This particular restaurant, in the Gulch, was actually the newest building for Chef Chris – they had recently relocated from another building that had limited customers space. The Gulch restaurant opened on January 10, 2018. The space looks like a cool old car garage where the garage doors have been replaced with large, modern glass windows. It has a fun rock and roll feel with music artists posters on the walls. What makes this restaurant truly unique, is that the kitchen is open plan with dining seating set up around the side and front counter tops. This makes the whole dining experience incredibly interactive, super friendly and completely enthralling for foodies like me.
On the night we visited The Chef and I, our 5 course chef tasting menu was made by Sous Chef Paul and Oliver, Chris’ son. I actually have some really cool instastory videos of this night, so make sure to check out my highlights to see Chef Paul and Oliver in action!
It is so cool to see a restaurant kitchen work with such ease and fluidity. I loved being able to talk with the chefs about the food as well as learning a little about them. They had an amazing ability to multitask by cooking some incredible food as well as talk to each of the patrons and make their dining experience truly personalized.
The 5 Course Chef Tasting Menu
Here’s the low down on the incredible 5 course chef tasting menu plus a taster and a dessert course. There was also the option to pair each course with a specially selected wine.
- Taster: toast with goat cheese, sautéed mushrooms and balsamic. Such a beautiful and flavorful way to start the meal.
- Course 1: a twist on Shrimp and Grits. Large shrimp, creamy grits with tomato and some kind of pork, plus a creamy sauce. Super flavorful and a nod to the down home comfort food of the south.
- Course 2: the most creative and inventive course. Avocado mixed with lemon and Fresno chile, coconut milk sauce, and crispy oyster mushrooms topped with crunchy almond slices. The combination of flavors was incredible! The creamy avocado, the lemony brightness, the slight heat from chile, plus the slightly sweet coconut sauce, and the crispy mushrooms were like seared meat. Divine!
- Course 3: A mushroom-filled raviolo, pistachio pesto, parmesan and balsamic vinegar. Made in wonton wrappers and boiled till the wrapper is cooked. The pistachio pesto was the real highlight. It added such a burst of flavor and brightness to this dish.
- Course 4: Pork jowel fried rice. Asian flavors took center stage here with a perfect balance of salty and sweet, spicy and tangy. Perfectly cooked rice, tofu and vegetables.
- Course 5: A braised beef short rib. The liquid is cooled, fat drained, and then butter is added to the sauce. Topped with a sunny side up egg… of course! Perfect pairing of the salty unctuous meat and broth with the rich egg yolk merging to create a rich sauce. The meat was fall apart tender with a delightfully crispy crust to contrast with the tender meat.
- Dessert: A Spiced Chocolate Ganache tart. Think of a Mexican style chocolate ganache with chiles, in a graham cracker crust, topped with raspberry coulis and pistachio crumbs. You feel the heat at the back of your throat at the end of each bite. The chocolate ganache is super creamy, the raspberries are a sweet and tart offset to the ganache, plus you have the crunch from the crust and nuts.
What did I think?
The Chef and I have perfected the art of giving the customers a unique dining experience. There is excellent interaction with the chefs in the most organic and friendly way. We talked about different cooking techniques, their hobbies and fun upcoming trips. The chefs are also interested in their customers and learning about you too. Last, but not least, I have to mention the incredible waiter service from Mike, who turned out to have just traveled to NZ! Mike loved the trip so we spent some time talking about that with him too.
I highly recommended eating at The Chef and I! Even if you don’t do the Chef Tasting menu, all the food looks delicious, the dishes are so creative and the vibe is really cool and fun. It was definitely the best meal in Nashville plus you get an excellent interactive meal.
Recreating My Favorite Dish
My favorite dish from eating at The Chef and I was the Spiced Chocolate Ganache Tart. I mean, it’s chocolate of course!
Instead of making another chocolate tart, I decided to play with this spiced chocolate idea but update it for the summer. Enter the Spiced Up Chocolate Popsicles!
Spiced Up Chocolate Popsicles
I found some inexpensive popsicle molds at my local grocery store and let me tell you, making your own popsicles at home is so easy! This popsicle mold has definitely paid for itself many times over.
Homemade popsicles can be anything from fruit juices to fruit smoothies. I actually like to take any leftovers from our daily smoothies and freeze it in the popsicle molds. That way I have a healthy and delicious cold treat on these hot summer days!
To boost the nutritional content of these popsicles, I used Vega All In One Chocolate Protein powder and blended it with coconut milk. Adding more raw cacao powder gives a rich, dark chocolatey flavor to the popsicles. My secret ingredient in the popsicle mix is cinnamon! Just a little cinnamon in the popsicle mix adds an incredible amount of flavor…delish!
Once the popsicles are frozen, I removed them from the popsicle mold and dipped them in …..melted chocolate! This gave a really thin and crisp chocolate coating on the popsicles. Then to really hammer home the spices, I sprinkled on more ground cinnamon and chipotle chili pepper on top of the chocolate coating. Let me tell you, these popsicles turned out so good! The cinnamon and chipotle pepper are not overpowering at all. They just add a touch of spice to keep things interesting as you eat the popsicle. To be honest, I ate one of these popsicles and loved it so much, I wanted to eat another one!
I love traveling to new places and learning more about the city through its food. I absolutely fell in love with the inventiveness and creativity of the food and atmosphere at The Chef and I. I highly recommend checking them out the next time you are in Nashville.
Please give these Spiced Up Chocolate Popsicles a try. They are super easy to make and they taste absolute delicious! Did I mention they are healthy too?!?
A fun, homemade popsicle is transformed into a gourmet treat by using a couple of simple and bold flavored spices.
- 1 13.5 fl oz can of coconut milk
- 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder like Vega All in One
- 2 tsp stevia
- 1 tbsp raw cacao powder
- 1/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1 cup stevia sweetened chocolate chips such as Lily’s
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- Ground Cinnamon
- Ground Chipotle Peppers
In a high speed blender or food processor, add in the coconut milk, protein powder, stevia, cacao and cinnamon. Blend till well combined and no lumps remain.
Pour into your popsicle molds, insert the popsicle stick and freeze till hard, approximately 6 hours depending on the size of your popsicles
Once the popsicles are frozen, remove them from the freezer and set on the kitchen counter to start the thaw.
In the meantime, place the chocolate chips and coconut oil in a microwave safe bowl or cup. Heat in 30 second increments and stir the mixture vigorously. If there are a few clumps of chocolate left, just heat for a few more seconds, then stir again.
Lay a piece of parchment paper on your work surface or tray.
Unmold the popsicles from the popsicle mold and dip it into the melted chocolate, turning the popsicle around in the chocolate so that all sides are coated. Allow any excess to drip off. Lay the popsicles down on the parchment paper. Sprinkle over more cinnamon and chipotle pepper on top of the wet chocolate coating.
Allow the chocolate to harden while you finish dipping the other popsicles in chocolate and sprinkling spices on top.
Once the popsicles are all dipped and the chocolate coating is mostly hardened, place them in a freezer proof container and store in the freezer till you’re ready to eat!
To unmold the popsicles, you can leave the popsicles at room temperature for about 10 minutes, or you can place the popsicle mold in warm water for a minute or two. Then try to unmold the popsicles. Repeat as necessary until the popsicles are out of the mold.