The Deep South
Saturday, September 09th , 2017
We recently visited the USA in order to see the total eclipse of the sun. Although eclipses happen every year, they are often visible in fairly inaccessible places, such as over a stretch of the Pacific or a mountain range in Kazakhkstan, and can easily be obscured by cloud. This particular one, on August 21st, traversed the continental USA for the first time in a century. We watched it in Nashville, and it was very impressive, the sky going almost completely dark during the two minutes of totality, and the temperature dropping dramatically as the moon passed in front of the sun. Nashville has a few attractions beyond the music business, such as former president Andrew Jackson’s residence (pictured).
While there we tried Husk, a restaurant whose original branch is in Charleston, and whose chef splits his time between the two venues (he seemed to be in Nashville when we visited). This restaurant showcases the food of the southern US, so you see dishes such as grits and catfish. This is fine in principle, but the meal we had was pretty ordinary, the service experience slick but having the feel of an industrial process as tables were turned. I also tried Edleys BBQ, a very popular barbecue joint that was pleasant and at least reasonably priced. We did better at Desano, which has a very good Naples style pizza in quite basic surroundings. In case you are wondering, the well-known local restaurant Catbird Seat was closed during the time we were there, so we didn't get a chance to try it.
From there we drove to Memphis, which is noted for its barbecue. We tried an authentic, basic place called Cozy Corner. This had very pleasant pork ribs at a very low price. Less enjoyable was the much smarter but also pricier Hog and Hominey, a loud restaurant with implausibly large portions but not much else going for it. Inexplicably, the place was packed out, just as at Husk. It must be a good time to be a restaurateur in the USA.
We then flew to Chicago, where we tried Oriole, a two-Michelin star tasting menu restaurant. The meal was fine though expensive and very elongated, with long gaps between courses, which is not ideal for the jet-lagged traveller. Alinea has recently been refurbished, and now offers a more theatrical dining experience, with lots of trickery going on beyond that on the plate. It was a very enjoyable evening, though from a culinary viewpoint I preferred my two previous meals there.