The weekend before last I made the now familiar drive up to Nashville to stay and collaborate on a dinner with the effervescent Ruthie Lindsey, with me on the food and her on the styling. It was a weekend of feasting with my fellow womenfolk; cavorting around East Nashville haunts, dives, and shoppes; and feeling far younger than I do in my day to day existence. I planned on a simple, French inspired menu (which you can find in it’s entirety below) that indulged all my Francophile tendencies, packed my huge Le Creuset Dutch oven in the back seat of my car along with various tools of the cooking & styling trade, and met up with Ruthie at a tattoo parlor where she was getting an exact replica of a white feather that fell before her eyes in a moment when, well, she needed a white feather to fall before her eyes.
We all have a story. Some wear their trials like a sad crown of thorns and use their pain as an excuse. Others use their stories to show just how resilient, buoyant, and adaptable the human spirit can be. Ms. Lindsey falls so very squarely into the latter category. You wouldn’t know the half of what’s she’s been through if you met her. As a matter of fact you’d be more likely to think she sprouted up like a wild daisy and has never known anything but a gentle breeze. Not so. She’s tough, cheerful, and earnest in a way I don’t think I’ve ever known another person to be. I can listen to arguably bad music with abandon, indulge my latent southern accent, and never once feel ill at ease when I’m around her. And as if her artless generosity of spirit weren’t enough, she’s also a mean stylist, art director, decorator, and all around aesthete. And her personal style is impeccable too. The fact we dress ridiculously similar (we look like little girls playing sister—or should I say Sistah!—when we hang out) has nothing at all to do with my saying how dashing she is. Hats. That is all.
The night before the dinner we met up with Evie Coates of Twelve At The Table at Rolf and Daughters for plenty of pâté, handmade pasta, and vaguely inappropriate story telling. Having been familiar with her work, I’d been dying to meet Evie for some time, and I was more than elated (and nervous!) to have her as a guest at our dinner the following night. We all convened along with Rebekka, Hannah, and Sionnie on Ruthie’s light strewn back porch for the dinner you see here & the menu below. I went with Poulet Vallée D’Auge a la Mimi Thorisson for the star attraction—it’s perfect: chicken, wild mushrooms, butter browned apples all swimming in a sauce of apple brandy, cider, and crème fraîche. I couldn’t imagine changing a thing. The only tweak I made was to use some raucous hen of the woods & chanterelle mushrooms I found at the market instead of cremini . For the sides I served my long standing favorite gratin dauphinois which is nothing more than baking potatoes thinly sliced and baked in irresponsible amounts of butter and cream. I discovered it in one of my favorite books, Jeffrey Steingarten’s It Must Have Been Something I Ate, and it’s a decadent dish that hinges upon technique to produce a bubbly, brown crust that makes you think there’s cheese where there is none. I also did some asparagus topped with poached eggs, lardons of pancetta, and a simple tarragon shallot vinaigrette. Obviously there is little to nothing autumn about asparagus; I recommend not doing what I did and finding some nice seasonal vegetables to give this treatment to! I think it would be amazing over fennel and leeks! Hannah provided a beautiful pear galette in a cheddar vodka crust with some Chinese five spice thrown in, and Evie assembled a stately cheese plate. She’s obviously a professional. A cheese plate is a litmus test.
From the moment I arrived to the moment I left Nashville, it was one lady’s night after another, the likes of which I can honestly say I’ve never experienced before. The next night I ended up at Miel with Ruthie, Rebekka, and James where I think we proceeded to make the waiter blush a record number of times. Both nights ended at The Crying Wolf where I was told you could “get drunk around taxidermy”. I did not get drunk. But I did smoke fake cigarettes and make faces in a photo booth. So it was sort of like being drunk. And there was definitely taxidermy. Oh! And I also just happened to bump into to Emily of Board and Bread while we were there—she’s recently transplanted to Nashville, and I admire her woodworking so much. Do pay her a visit.
It took a unique bunch of women to get me over my fear of female compatriots. I’m rough around the edges, have an admittedly crass sense of humor at times, am really into science fiction and video games, wear my past on my sleeve, and I disappear off the face of the earth without a word not bothering to return texts, sometimes for weeks at a time. Which is all to say, I’m not exactly prime friend material. I was one of those girls who always went around proclaiming that she “didn’t get along with women”. In college, for instance, I once lived with five men: four Andrews and a lone Zach. I’ve had to realize that my previous inability to have thriving female relationships was more about me than women. Long story short, I couldn’t hit on them or otherwise feminine wile them, so they confounded me. I’ve since grown up and found new and exciting ways of relating to people other than batting my eyes, and I feel like I woke up one morning having gone from about three long distance dude friends to having a veritable bushel of formidably talented, hilarious (in the Louis C.K. sense of the word), strong, appropriately dorky, drama free, and low maintenance lady friends. There’s a certain type of person, both male & female alike, that I’ll probably always freak out, but as for the rest? Let’s be friends.
In other news:
A little interview & glimpse into the good, bad, & ugly of my typical (if there is such a thing) work day with Breanna Rose.
Imen’s writing a book! Hip hip! I, for one, cannot wait.
Aaand…coming to an internet near you soon…my pop up shop Sweet Gum Co., southern made & found provisions from me to you! Join the mailing list in the sidebar or here to be the first to know when we open & to be notified of shop updates.
Autumnal French Feast
plate of local cheeses, fruits, nut, and honey
poulet vallée d’auge
blanched vegetables with poached eggs, pancetta, & tarragon shallot vinaigrette
seasonal fruit galette
“The best people possess a feeling for beauty, the courage to take risks, the discipline to tell the truth, the capacity for sacrifice. Ironically, their virtues make them vulnerable; they are often wounded, sometimes destroyed.” | Ernest Hemmingway |
Cheers to not letting our wounds destroy us & not putting up walls.