blvd..World-Class Wonderful at a Belmont Bistro

Today Fred and I had a Labor Day lunch at blvd, Arnold Myint’s neighborhood restaurant on Belmont Boulevard. The meal I had was an explosion of perfection–some of my very favorite things all in one meal–pimento cheese, watermelon, street corn, and yes, a Mexican Coke! How could I ask for more? Easy…I took a piece of apple pie home for dessert later. (That pie is the best apple pie ever, and I consider myself an expert on apple pie.)

Arnold has been quite busy lately. He did extremely well on the recent series of Food Network Star and always has several projects in the works. When he came back from Los Angeles a few days ago he literally hit the ground running. He has been working on the menu and in the kitchen at blvd and the results are pretty swell. In fact, the food there has never been better. I am really enjoying the changes. There are plenty of options for a vegan/vegetarian and the carnivores will also be very well-fed. There are choices for happy hour snacks (2 for $8), Sunday brunch, lunch, and dinner. Each occasion has its own menu. I can’t possibly mention everything, but I will tell you about some the things I have tried. There is a green bean and pine nut salad that I have had twice. It is very generous, and very delicious balanced meal. There is an entree that is pure poetry; he calls it a “charred cabbage steak.” Even if you aren’t a vegetarian, you should give this one a try. And the other entrees go all the way from shrimp and grits to a New York strip steak. With many (well portioned) small plates—do not, I repeat, do not, miss the okra fries, decadence worth every fat gram—to choose from along with salads, and sides, you can put together a table top feast. All the prices are reasonable, and the servings are not stingy. This is not one of those places where you drop a small fortune and leave hungry.

There are some wonderful Sunday brunch options, too. I really wouldn’t miss anything that has to do with biscuits. Fred and I had a brief visit with Arnold yesterday (probably one of the few times he has sat down since being back in Nashville) and he talked about making biscuits. It was a very sensuous conversation. I woke up this morning and started thinking about those biscuits. He is perhaps the only person I have ever known who could describe making biscuits in such a way that makes you just want to roll up your sleeves, get your hands in the dough and the biscuits in your mouth. But, I think I’ll just skip the rolling up the sleeves, hands in the dough part and let Arnold do the cooking.

If you are in the mood for a drink, blvd is your bar. The cocktail menu is remarkable. I am partial to the Pinky Lee, a pink grapefruit nectar that can be done with vodka, gin, or tequila. (Of course, I have only tried it with tequila.) There is a rim on the glass with kaffir salt and sugar. It is a perfect balance of sweet and salty. The wine list is mostly French, and pretty extensive for an unpretentious neighborhood bistro. There is also a wide variety of beers, and some interesting non-alcoholic drinks as well. I could forgo my afternoon cocktail easily for one of those Sprecher’s sodas–I haven’t tried them all because I can’t get past the ginger ale. And speaking of French—the fries here are simply the best in town. There is a variety, and they will all make you happy. One more thought; while you’re there you just might want to do some shopping. There are some fun food products for sale, especially Arnold’s Smoked Salt, Smoked Vinegar, and Herbs de Provence.

The restaurant at 2013 Belmont Blvd is becoming my go-to place. If it’s been a while since you’ve been there, or if you’ve never tried it, you really need to check it out. Open every day from 11 am until 11 pm, with Sunday brunch served 11-5. And, note, there are half-priced bottles of wine on Sundays. Reservations are first come, first served. You might decide you’d like to sit outdoors and watch the world go by on Belmont Blvd. And don’t worry about parking because there is a valet.

A Mid-Summer Night’s Dream…Serving Fabulous

This being my birthday week, I decided to have a very small dinner party on July 3. I like to keep the group small enough so that everyone can interact around the table. When I mentioned this to my friend, Arnold Myint (who is an amazing celebrity chef–catch him on Food Network Star, Sundays at 8), it started his wheels turning. In fact, he decided to turn it into a fantasy trip to someplace far more exotic than our back porch. I always love to be involved in Arnold’s projects because his inspiration always inspires me. He is an artist, and food is his medium. He starts with whatever the menu idea is and builds a whole ambiance around it and he doesn’t miss a detail. He works fast. He enjoys people and loves to feed them. And, no matter what he is serving, it will come out looking like a picture. There is nothing like having Arnold take charge of the kitchen.

We moved all the furniture off the porch and set up low tables and pillows. Everything was candle light. The feeling was intimate and the food was delicious. We had Persian Pickled Cucumbers, Radishes with Feta Dip, Mushroom Caviar, Pea Salad with Dill and Mint, Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Lemon, Curried Cabbage, Mashed Lentils with Red Pepper, and Naan Flat Bread. The dessert was a beautiful Green Tea and Lime Cheesecake that we picked up at Avo. Everything was perfect as the late afternoon drifted into evening and we sat on the pillows, eating and drinking and enjoying each other’s company on a perfect summer night.

You Just Can’t Keep Him Out of the Kitchen….That’s Arnold Myint

This past March, Fred and I were staying in a lovely house in San Cristobal in Chiapas, Mexico. We always invite our friends to join us when we are in Mexico, and we were delighted when our friend Arnold, who is currently competing on the FoodNetwork Star show, had a break in filming and decided to head South. Fred and I gave some serious thought as to where we’d take Arnold to eat while he was with us there for five days. We put together a list of places we’d found. San Cristobal is not the food town that Oaxaca is, but there are some interesting places to try local food.

When Arnold arrived he was a bit tired from his long layover in Mexico City and his first activity was a little nap. But then, when he got up he announced that he felt like cooking. Well, Fred and I have known and loved Arnold (and his cooking) for years and we would never say no to that offer. So, off Arnold and I went to the markets to gather our ingredients. And then back to the house where the magic happened. A great meal and wonderful evening with three close friends.

He is doing really well on Food Network Star, which airs on Sunday nights at 8. In fact, he has been in the top three for the first three shows. He is a genius in the kitchen, and I love it when we just hang out and he cooks. Not just because the food is always delicious, no matter how simple, but also because watching him do it is like seeing a moving meditation.