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February 20, 2012 / beatricebunny

Dining Out

Friday night, my husband and I went to dinner at a favorite Nashville restaurant – Miel.  As I have become a better cook, we eat out out less often, and when we do eat out, our reasons for eating out are different than before.  These days, I can usually cook something just as good at home (if not better) than we can get at a restaurant so we eat out either because there is some event that makes coming home to eat not a timely prospect (like a show right after work) or because we want food that I don’t yet know how to prepare.  Dinner at Miel is always the latter.  February is the heart of oyster season, and Miel has the best oysters in Nashville.  We will go there for that alone.  We also love the ambiance and the delicious, in season, food.  While not strictly a locovore restaurant (oysters are not available locally in Tennessee), the restaurant does have its own farm, and the food from there is always amazing.

I am not in a hurry to shuck my own oysters.  I like having them prepared for me, and I am, frankly, a little nervous about the risks involved with selecting my own.  It is an area where I am wholly ignorant.  I prefer to leave oysters in the hands of a professional (at least for now).  The other thing about eating out is getting to try food that I do not otherwise have access to.  Friday night, I tried antelope for the first time.  At Miel, it was served medium rare, like venison, with brusselsprouts, bone marrow flan, and a red beet puree. It tasted amazing.  Bone marrow flan is another dish that I cannot make (yet) in my own apartment kitchen.  Maybe someday, but not right now.  It tasted amazing though.

The one dish that I had at the restaurant that I haven’t made before, but would love to try to re-create was a delicious carrot and ginger soup.  The server told us that the soup itself was vegan, though it was garnished with creme fraiche, which moved it to vegetarian instead.  I am really curious how the chef got it so creamy with no cream.  My green soup recipe calls for a small amount of rice in order to create a creamy texture, but I don’t think that was the case with this recipe.  My husband theorized that the carrots were roasted and then blended so thoroughly that the creaminess came from them.  I am just not sure.  What ever it was, the carrots and ginger together created an amazing contrast and a lovely winter soup.  It was filling and the ginger added a brightness that I greatly enjoyed.  The soup was immensely satisfying.

I guess that there is a third reason that I eat out, and that is to come out with new ideas for own cooking.  Stephen King, in his book, “On Writing,” encourages all writers to remain readers.  Reading, he says, is absolutely required in order to become a writer.  To me, eating out at restaurants that create innovative or interesting tasting foods is vital to growing as a cook.  Yes, I will not be making bone marrow flan any time soon, but I will be trying my hand at a creamy vegan soup – my plan is pumpkin and ginger, because I think that it will be tasty and I have a pumpkin that needs to be used up.  I read cookbooks and magazines, but there is something about tasting something for the first time that cannot be replaced by pictures and written descriptions.

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