the catbird seat: a dissertation

The house rules at Patterson House bar

I like to eat. I like to travel to eat. And so, even though we leave for our long-awaited honeymoon on January 8th, the new (can I still call him new? We're almost at six months!) husband and I jetted off to Nashville for New Year's Eve. What can I say: the flights were cheap and the biscuits were even cheaper. Ideally a post on our entire trip is forthcoming, but since our dinner at The Catbird Seat was so insane, I felt it necessitated its very own space on the internets.

To start off, why was I so excited to check this place out? Last year, Bon Appetit named it the fifth best new restaurant in America. Look at that plate of food! So, it's been on my radar ever since. Even though we planned our trip rather last minute, we were lucky enough to snag a late-night reservation our first night in Music City (it's also possible that I planned out our restaurant reservations before I knew if we were definitely traveling. GOT A PROBLEM WITH THAT?).

We started off with drinks at Patterson House, the speakeasy bar that's directly below the restaurant (its rule list is pictured above). They serve that really big ice there, which means it has to be good. In typical fashion, I got drunk off about half of one cocktail, but it was probably one of the best mixed drinks I have ever had.

Now, on to the meal:

Chefs hard at work in the kitchen.

Everyone sits around a circular bar and you get to watch the chefs cook and plate everything. This was especially neat because you don't get a menu beforehand, so this is the only way you really know what your next course will be. The chefs are also all very friendly and were on hand to answer any of our annoying questions (we even found out that one of them was cooking at Noma when we ate there last summer. Hi Trevor!).

When we were seated, our first snack was already at our places: a savory cracker made out of compressed bar nuts. I wish I could buy a bag of these somewhere.

"Bar nuts"

Next up was a trio of bites: an Island Creek oyster, fried bologna sandwich and what was listed on the menu as "country ham and coffee": a sort of dehydrated chip with coffee grounds. I'm not a huge oyster fan, but the other two bites were super flavorful and fun.

More snacks

The final snack was a take on Nashville's specialty: hot chicken. The hot refers to its spiciness (although it's fried chicken, so yes, temperature-wise it's also hot). Catbird serves hot chicken skin that is crunchy and as additive as a Dorito.

Hot chicken skin.

Our first course was a salad of sorts. Greens were wrapped with twine and stuffed with pecan butter, black currant jam, more pecans and pine (yup, like the tree) dressing. I know the picture is terrible, but the mixture of the salty, the sweet and the freshness of the greens was so goddamn tasty.

Salad

The next appetizer was a chicken liver terrine, topped with creme fraiche and sprinkled with gingerbread, honey crisp apple and celery. It sounds rich -- and it was -- but it was still light enough that I polished off the whole thing. Also, isn't that plating just so pretty?

Terrine

Before our main courses were served, we were treated to another snack. Potato was cooked in a way that it resembled rice and then crudo was placed on top. This was one of Mike's favorites.

Crudo!

And yes, we were very full by this point already, but SOMEHOW we found a way to soldier on. The first main course was turbot, which, rather than cooked with its skin, was seared with a very-thin slice of buttered bread that crisped up very nicely. It was pair with sea urchin, roe and lemon.

Uni foam, zomg.

Not that any of the previous courses were really circumspect in terms of rich ingredients, but this next one took it to a whole new level. Poussin was stuffed with black truffle, mushrooms and -- I think -- a little bit of foie and served with smoked potato and broccolini. DAMN SON.

Poussin.

Next, (because we needed an intermezzo, obviously) were two petite fried chicken drumsticks, coated with honey. Beauties.

You can never have too much fried chicken.

Our last main course was beef ribeye, served with the creamiest onions I have ever had and topped with a seared cippoline.

Such a pretty plate.

The cheese course was maybe my favorite of the night. Tete de moine from Switzerland was shaved using a girolle and then dotted with walnut, cranberry, endive and honey. I want to eat this every night for dinner.

Tete de moine.

Our first dessert was a kartoffel cake, which was kind of like a cream puff, but it also had marzipan in it, which just brought it to a whole new level of awesome. My biggest regret from the trip was that I didn't finish the whole thing. #whitegirlproblems well #halfwhitegirlproblems

Kartoffel ridiculousness.

Next, a mini dessert of custard with bacon and maple. I would say this was my least favorite because it was a bit eggy for me, but whatever, I still ate the whole thing.

Custard!

Finally, oakwood (yup) ice cream served with little gelatin balls of bourbon, this additive cherry chewy thing and bits of pineapple.

Wylie Dufresne would be proud.

Weirdly, or embarrassingly, we weren't full to the point of being sick by the end of the meal. I cannot say the same thing about Blue Hill at Stone Barns, for example. It was an entertaining dinner from start to finish: not only was the food really phenomenal, but I loved getting to interact with the chefs. That's not something you can find at similar spots in New York. Before we left, they were even nice enough to sign our menus:

Moral of the story. You should go to Nashville and eat the specialities like hot chicken and meat 'n threes, but without a doubt, make time for dinner at The Catbird Seat. They are churning out some of the most innovative and tasty food in the country.

invites through the ages

our bridal party