An October 2004 trip
to Nashville by zabelle
Quote: Nashville is Music City, not Country Music City. There is music everywhere, but not all of it is country. You can find jazz, gospel, rock, and even opera in the Athens of the South.
You will be charmed by the eatery even before you sit down. The bright wall murals, the dim lighting, the terracotta walls, all insure that you will be delighted that you have picked this restaurant. Dining is on two levels indoors, and there is also outdoor patio dining. The bar is a smoking area and is known for its fine selection of cigars, which are welcome there.
Once you are seated, you will be totally overwhelmed by the menu. There is a staggering number of choices. Just the regular menu would guarantee confusion, but then you throw in the specials and it can take 20 minutes just to look everything over. Luckily, I was with a group and we were served samplers from the appetizer menu. I had a terrible time deciding what I wanted for my main course. One has to complain that there are too many choices.
I finally ordered a Caesar salad and a small plate of Korean-style barbecue marinated prime beef with coconut rice and spicy pepper sauce. The sauce is served on the side. The beef was very tender and the rice and sauce yummy. I also tried a local brew, the Yazoo Dos Perros, which was a red beer with a slightly smoky and, I thought, woody taste. Definitely different, but maybe not my favorite.
The plates of sample foods were amazing. The “cheese selection” paired Bavarian Champignon, Chimay, Vacharin and Garoxxt with a muscadine jam and fig chutney, a perfect balance of pungent and sweet. I also tried the pan-seared sea scallops, crab cakes, and the tastiest lamb chops with a cilantro honey graze. All exceptional.
Everyone in our party was raving about the food. One of the men tried the ostrich and couldn’t wait to let everyone try it (not me, though—I don’t care for it). Another member of the group had the Phoenician, a large platter of marinated mozzarella. Sesame feta, sun-dried tomato chutney, lemon-scented roasted red peppers, pesto, mixed olives, tomatoes, cashew hummus, raita, roasted garlic, toasted pita points, and focaccia. All this for $11.
The dessert menu makes me want to cry over the fact that we were late for our next engagement and didn’t have time to eat any. Oh well, there is always next time—and rest assured, there will be a next time.
Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 26, 2004
911 20th Ave S
Nashville, Tennessee 37212
+1 615 321 3043
Southern hospitality at its best is what you will be treated to, along with some of the finest food available in Nashville—or any city, for that matter. Sit back and relax; this is going to be a dining experience. Old Hickory Steakhouse has won the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DiRoNA) Award—one of the most prestigious awards for fine dining.
The selection of appetizers is small, but packed with punch. The jumbo prawn cocktail is a beautiful presentation, with the lemon wrapped in mesh to keep the seeds from squirting out. If you’re looking for something more exotic, consider choosing the crispy goat-cheese–stuffed artichoke. It’s not the heart, but rather the inner, very tender leaves. The crab cakes are huge, and if there is any filler, it is invisible. The clincher, however, is the steakhouse chips with Gorgonzola. Served in a pretty wire basket, they are addictive.
I can’t recommend the lobster bisque highly enough. Your plate comes with a mound of lobster in the center, and then the waiter pours your bisque over it. The pink color was appealing and the taste is divine. If they serve lobster bisque in heaven, this is where they get it.
There are multiple salad choices, but I had the seasonal crunch salad. It is a salad of field greens with Bibb lettuce, dried cranberries, pumpkinseeds, and cranberry vinaigrette. The tangy dressing mixes well with the sweet cranberries and the crunch of the seeds.
This is a steakhouse, so beef reigns supreme, but you can also choose veal, chicken, lamb, salmon, or shrimp. I had the filet mignon; there was a choice of sauces, from which I chose the horseradish crème fraiche. One bite and I was hooked. The meat was soft as butter and the sauce was so good I wanted to bury my face in the bowl. The vegetables are served family style, and the asparagus with hollandaise was flawless. I didn’t try the balsamic-roasted portobello mushrooms, the creamed spinach, or the roasted-garlic mashed potatoes, but they all looked and smelled delicious.
Dessert seemed anticlimactic until I tasted it. The crème brulee had a spun-sugar atrium top with fresh berries. The taste was so delicate and the texture so creamy that I wanted to be able to eat the whole thing, but I was too full. Not so full that I didn’t take a mouthful of the fabulous cheesecake shaped like a snowball or the chocolate volcano. If you can, save room for dessert; if you can’t, then order it to go.
Old Hickory Steakhouse
2800 Opryland Dr
Nashville, Tennessee 37214
+1 615 871 6848
The atmosphere here is very intimate. The singers (there were four) are seated in the center of the room, and the tables, which seat about 100 people, surround them. No one in the room is more than 20 feet from the singers. What is different is that they interact with each other and with the audience. They go around the circle introducing the song they are going to perform, many of them written by themselves, alone or in collaboration. They give you little anecdotes and jokes, and laugh with each other. They also musically back each other up, both with guitar music and with harmony.
There are waitresses, of course, who will take your drink or snack order. There is a cover charge of $7.50 and a minimum food order of $7.00, so plan to spend a minimum of $29 per couple. For the quality of the entertainment, this is a fabulous bargain.
One note: when you arrive, don’t just walk in. You have to be let in by the doorman. He lets you in between sets so that the artists aren’t disturbed. And come in quietly; we were shushed for talking. While the artists are performing, it is as quiet as the grave.
The four artists that we saw were all great, and they each had their own unique style. It was obvious that they had worked together before because they were so comfortable. At least two of them had CDs that you could purchase at the Bluebird. The Bluebird itself sells t-shirts, which are hanging from the bar, but it was so dim that I couldn’t see the design enough to make a decision.
Although this is a café, you don’t feel any pressure to order alcohol. I had several cups of coffee and my friend had a Diet Coke. Now, if you prefer not to spend $9 for two cups of coffee, then by all means, have a drink and a snack.
If you are a country-music wannabe, you can play here at their open-mic night or come to one of their auditions. For more information, visit their website.
4104 Hillsboro Pike
Nashville, Tennessee 37215
Attraction | "Carl Van Vechten Gallery of Fine Arts"
Founded in 1866 by members of the American Missionary Association, the school began by offering former slaves an elementary education. In 1867, Fisk University was incorporated as a private educational institution and began offering secondary liberal-arts education to students of all sexes and races. Art acquisition has always played an important part in the life of Fisk University. It began with a collection of donated African art and was supplemented by a painting of the Jubilee Singers donated by Queen Victoria.
Fisk’s first black president, Charles Sturgeon Johnson, was instrumental in bringing New York Renaissance painter Aaron Douglas to Fisk. He not only painted some fantastic murals in Cravath Hall, but also served as chairman of the art department for many years. It was Charles Johnson’s friendship with fellow Columbia graduate Carl Van Vechten that led to the major acquisition. Van Vechten, looking for a way to help his old friend, donated 400 of his own photos to the collection. Then he began arm-twisting to get people to donate. He found a fruitful arm in Georgia O’Keeffe. In 1949, she donated 101 works from the collection of her husband, Alfred Stieglitz. He was a famous New York photographer and gallery owner who had an amazing collection of modern art. The remainder of his collection was split between the Metropolitan Museum in New York, the Chicago Art Institute, the National Gallery, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. What Fisk received was on a par with what the Art Institute and the Metropolitan received. You can imagine what a windfall this was for a relatively small college in Tennessee.
The building that now houses the collection was originally built as a church in 1889. No photos were allowed inside, unfortunately. The galleries are almost stark, very simply painted white, and are a wonderful backdrop for these works, which range from a Picasso painting from his Blue Period to a watercolor lithograph by Renoir. Probably the most famous work in the collection is Georgia O’Keeffe’s Radiator Building - Night, New York. Displayed near a photo of her husband's of the Radiator Building, it is an effective presentation..
In the lower floor of this building, there are works of art by members of the faculty at Fisk and people associated with the University.
Now, if this were all they had, it would be worth the visit, but there is more. In the library building on the third floor is the Aaron Douglas Gallery. Known as the Dean of African-American Art, his Noah’s Ark is on display here, along with works by other African-American artists. What is amazing about the whole collection is that every piece has been donated. The items on display in the Douglas Gallery are rotated every 3 to 4 months.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 26, 2004
Carl Van Vechten Gallery
Nashville, Tennessee 37202
+1 615 329 8720
In 1928, Hay referred to the music as coming from the "Grand Ole Opry." The name stuck. The show had five homes before it finally landed at its sixth, the Ryman Auditorium. It remained there for 31 years. In 1974, the new theater was inaugurated as the main attraction of the Opryland Resort. An 8-foot circle of wood was removed from the Ryman and placed center stage at the Opry House to keep the tradition going. Finally, they had a home that could hold the staggering number of fans who wanted to be present for the weekly shows. The two-tiered seating at the Grand Ole Opry can accommodate 4,400.
We had seats in the last row of section D. Section D is excellent, since it is dead center. Since this is a live radio show, it is quite different from a normal show experience. What you have is a performer doing two or three songs, the announcer doing a break, and the Opry Square Dancers coming out and doing their routine. There is some comedy thrown in and a star or two. We saw Alison Krauss and Caroline Dawn Johnson.
Even if you are far from the stage, it isn’t hard to view everything. Four huge screens broadcast the performance, though it is a little distracting seeing the cameraman right off to the side of the performers. The acoustics here are great. This is a very enjoyable way to spend an evening. The seats look like church pews with cushions on them. You are seated on a bench, so you actually have a little more room than you normally would have.
Part of last year’s renovation was the addition of a new store. It is huge and has lots of goodies for the die-hard fan. If you want a snack, there are vendors selling popcorn, candy, and all the usual show food. Seats can run anywhere from $27 to $47. You can get them from the box office, online or on the telephone.
Grand Ole Opry
2804 Opryland Drive
Nashville, Tennessee 37214
Attraction | "Travelers Rest"
In an attempt to keep the property viable, a meeting venue has been added where many wedding receptions are held each year. It provides 60% of the necessary income to maintain this historic property. The entrance fee is $8, and three to four thousand people visit here annually.
The house was built in 1799. They now know that it was built atop an Indian village. Excavations on the property have been prohibited to preserve the site. Artifacts discovered in the past are on display both in the information center and in the home.
This is the type of house that I enjoy visiting. It is not really a mansion, though it is by no means a small house. It is the home of a successful judge and farmer. You are taken through the house by one of the costumed guides. Ours was very friendly and gave us lots of tidbits about the family and the history of the house. The parlor is formal, but the rest of the house was built with comfort in mind. The judge had his office in his bedroom, and he even ate his meals there. The original house had only four rooms. In 1808, two additional rooms were added. In 1816, a kitchen building was added, and in 1828, the porch was closed in to connect the kitchen to the house. The original property was 2300 acres, and the inventory shows that there were 50 slaves.
John Overton didn’t marry until he was 54. He married a widow with five children. Previously, his law clerks had lived in the house, but at this point, they had to move to other buildings on the estate. There had to be a redesign of the stairway to the second floor; up until this time, the stairs had been on the exterior of the house. This kept the clerk from going through the house to get to their rooms.
John Overton was a friend of Andrew and Rachel Jackson. Actually, as a law clerk, he had lived with Rachel and her first husband. They were frequent guests at each other’s homes.
The formal sitting room has many pieces of furniture that are original to the house. There is also a glass said to have been used by the judge to toast the Marquis de Lafayette. In the men’s sitting room, there is a display of Indian artifacts.
During the Civil War, the Battle of Nashville was fought right on the property. The Confederate generals used the house as their headquarters.
There is a small garden that can be visited.
Travellers Rest Historic House Museum
636 Farrell Pkwy
Nashville, Tennessee 37220
+1 615 832 2962
This 1853 Greek Revival plantation house was the home of John Harding, though it was William Harding who had the passion for thoroughbred horses. You gather on the front porch and then go as a group into the entrance hall. It is lined with horse prints, ala Stubbs. It isn’t very long before you understand why.
There are costumed guides in each of the rooms. They give you a little talk about the particular room you happen to be in. One thing you do notice is that there are a lot of mirrors in these old homes. This was explained as helping to reflect the light, especially at night. We really can’t imagine how dark it was before the advent of electric lighting.
William Harding was sent to prison camp in Michigan for six months during the Civil War. Union troops occupied the house. They were not that well behaved, and his wife Elizabeth wrote to the Lieutenant Governor, and as a result, the Union troops then became the guards of the plantation.
Pay particular attention to the doors and woodwork in the house. They look like oak or mahogany, depending on which room you are in. They are neither; they are poplar and are faux painted to look like more expensive wood. Iroquois’ silver-capped hooves are in one of the cases in the library.
The house is decorated in typical Victorian style, with some interesting feather pictures. You must visit Belle Meade on a guided tour. You buy your ticket in the gift shop; do I detect a trend here? Well, it is a very nice gift shop with a really exceptional collection of books, so while you’re waiting for your tour to begin, it is worth browsing. The carriage house has a fine collection of carriages, and there is a restaurant which is open for lunch.
Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 27, 2004
Belle Meade Plantation
5025 Harding Rd
Nashville, Tennessee 37205
"The mission of the Country Music Hall of Fame is to identify and preserve the evolving history and traditions of country music and to educate its audience." - Kyle Young, Director, Country Music Hall of Fame
The museum is organized chronologically. You begin on the third floor and work your way down. This museum is handicapped accessible; there is an elevator. You begin with the roots of country music in the gospel tradition of the old South. What really astounds is that not only do you follow the evolution through the written word, but you also get to hear examples of the music being discussed. You walk into kiosks and can listen to examples of whatever is being shown in that particular area.
Between the kiosks, there are cases filled with musical instruments, memorabilia, and ephemera from all the elements that helped country music become what it is today. Meanwhile, there are videos running that you can stop and watch. I listened to Garth Brooks talking about the first time he performed with George Jones. He was just as star-struck as any of us would have been.
You need to allow 3 or more hours to truly appreciate everything that is offered here. Before you even leave the third floor, you will want to give Elvis’s solid-gold Cadillac a good looking over, sit down and watch an episode of the Tennessee Ernie Ford Show, visit with the costumes from Hee Haw, and walk along the Gold Records Wall. Eight hundred fifty-four gold and platinum records, it starts on the third floor and goes down to the first. The albums are hung chronologically. Some of the albums open and you can listen to a song performed by the artist. I opened Patsy Cline’s Greatest Hits, which sold 8 million copies, and listened to her plaintive voice.
On the second floor, you can immerse yourself in the R&B aspects of country music. You can sit and watch "Night Train to Nashville" or listen to Robert Knight singing "Everlasting Love." As you leave R&B, you will come to a wall of Dolly Parton magazine covers; in a nearby case, there is one of her dresses and a wig. There is a theater which shows The Star Experience with Tim McGraw. Don’t forget to make your own CD—you can select up to 12 songs and then pay at the museum store.
As you wind up the display section on this floor, you will pass through the current flock of country stars: Faith Hill, Alison Krauss, and Alan Jackson, among others. Your last stop on the second floor will be the Hall of Fame Rotunda. Every inductee into the Country Music Hall of Fame is represented here. You can see their pictures, their bios, and the years they were elected. Were there any surprises? Well, yes there were. I never knew that the Everly Brothers and Roy Rogers had been inducted.
The cost of entry is $15 and you can get an audio tour. I have only one gripe about this museum. It was Saturday and there was only one person selling tickets. The line was insanely long. This didn’t make any sense to me, and actually, if I hadn’t wanted to see it so badly, I would have walked out. Come on, guys, you can do better than this.