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Archive for the ‘Restaurant Food’ Category

martins bbq

After Aubrey’s horseback riding lesson at Crossroads Ranch (don’t be too impressed or envious, it was a one-time, birthday gift), we had lunch atMartin’s Bbq in Nolensville, TN. I ran across¬†Pat Martin’s blog a few years ago while researching bbq recipes and ideas. It was a fascinating journey through the first several years of opening a restaurant. Now, he is apparently so busy that he doesn’t have time to post, so read the early years, but don’t expect it to every come up on your Google Reader.

Pat Martin started queing small, normal, pork shoulder-kinda smoking. Somewhere along the line, he made friends with a guy who smoked up whole hogs and he was never quite the same again. He has developed quite a strong reputation for this. He has won several awards for Nashville restaurants, was Pitmaster for the 2010 Big Apple BBQ festival, and was visited by Guy Fieri with Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (Pat seemed pretty bored during the whole episode).

This is the second time we have eaten at Martins. We had lunch at the original (tiny) location last winter. The new place is much bigger, but could still double in size without any trouble. Jill, Aubrey, and I had the pulled pork sandwiches, while Emma and Gideon had hotdogs.

First the negatives. In my never-to-be-humble opinion, pulled pork should be really smoky. Save a light smoke flavor for fish, let me blow smoke rings from my que! A whole hog will never get as smoky as smaller pork shoulders, so this has to be taken into account. The sandwich is reasonably priced, but other menu items are a wee pricey (I overheard a self-professed regular in line saying the same thing). Martins is a good example of pricing fairly (to meet costs and make money) and being successful because you give a good product, but if you are on a budget, the menu gets real slim real quick. The place is also loud; turn down the music! It’s not quite as bad as Outback where you can’t enjoy the meal for the racket, but it’s still loud.

Positives. Meat was tender and decently smokey. The sandwich was better this time; I wasn’t all that impressed last winter. Maybe, my expectations were too high then.¬†Extra sauce was on a stand near the kitchen. A lot of fries and they were relatively crisp.

I’d like to go back sometime and try the infamous “Redneck Taco” and the brisket. But when it comes to pulled pork, I still like mine better.

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Jill was finally feeling up to a date night. Pregnancy seems to make all food taste like cardboard to her for about the first four months. Knowing this ahead of time, I saved the Christmas date and Birthday date till she was able to enjoy the dinner.

Here is the background: the local sports radio station (WFNZ) has a promotional deal “50 of Fridays” where they sell gift certificates for local restaurants, spas, etc at 50% of face value. You would think that most of the restaurants would be pizza places or sports bars, but they also have some really nice places. They must have been clearing out inventory in December, because they had $50 Ratcliffe certificates for $15. After looking at the website, I bought two. $100 meal for $30; not bad, right?

March rolls around and we need a break. So we head out to Ratcliffe. It’s downtown (oops, in Charlotte it’s “uptown”), which is not a plus for me, but I can make do every once in a while. The Ratcliffe is in an old flowershop location. Ornate. The maitre d’ spent a fair bit of time filling us in on the history of the location. Turns out the owner of the flowershop swiped some fancy colored glass lamps from the streets of Charlotte when they converted them over from gas to electric. Interesting, but I’m here to talk to my wife, not the maitre d’.
One really odd thing: when he seated us, there was a white linen napkin folded at the table. He took that up and gave us each a black linen napkin. We called Jill’s cousin who owns a spa and restaurant with her husband and they have never heard of this custom either.
Anyway, Ratcliffe specializes in “farm-to-fork”; use local produce; go organic as much as possible. Jill ordered the pork chops and I chose the striped bass. She was thinking about the trout stuffed with foie gras, till I told her what foie gras is. She suddenly decided to look at other options.
We were served a potato soup in a tiny, and I do mean tiny, little mug. It could not have held more than two tablespoons of soup. I imagine there is some fancy name for the soup, and I think I remember our server mentioning some word I didn’t recognize. But I wasn’t paying much attention; I was staring at this tiny, and I do mean tiny, little mug, wondering what on earth…??? I looked at Jill; Jill looked at me and said, “Don’t ask me, this is your department.” (Sometimes being a foody brings a lot of pressure. Especially on our budget.) Fortunately, a different server swept past at about that time, taking a pair of these tiny, and I do mean tiny, little mugs to a different table. I told Jill to watch what they did with them and that couple knew what to do and quaffed the soup straight down. And so we followed suit. And it was good. I wish they had brought a bowl.
After that the server stopped by with a basket and tongs. She carefully opened the basket and placed one, just one made-from-scratch biscuit on each plate (using the tongs). I know it was made-from-scratch, cuz the Pillsbury frozen we buy are a lot taller. (That is the subject of a whole different blog entry, but those frozen biscuits are among a very few things that I would rather buy than make myself.) I also know she could have been a wee bit more generous, cuz there were more biscuits in the basket; I saw them. They were fairly non-descript.
Well, we also ordered salads: Jill – farmhouse salad and I had the goat cheese and spinach. That was a kickin’ good salad. Love that goat cheese.
Finally, on to the main show. Jill’s pork chops (two of them) were really quite good. However, the “organic pink lady apple break pudding” was pretty dry. It sounds great but was a disappointment. The bass was really good. Worth getting again. Although it arrived on a plate the size of a hubcap and looked rather forlorn sitting there in the middle surrounded by white nothingness.
We ended off the evening with a dessert each. I cannot remember what we had and the desserts aren’t on the site. After all was said and done, I handed over both $50 gift certificates, plus another $30 or $40 dollars. Shoulda bought three of ’em.
We decided we both liked the place and the food…at 70% off. I cannot imagine dropping $140 on one meal. If we have the chance we will go again. (Help me out WFNZ.) But I would forgo the dessert, and I would try the rabbit next time. Of course their site says they change their menu regulary. But they have their “winter menu” still going. It’s April for goodness sakes. It’s only winter in Canada at this point.

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