…on good food, questionable judgment, and making life work
I have been meaning to get to Chef Sean Brock’s Nashville branch of Husk for some time now, but life, children, work, more life and the need to let them get the opening kinks worked out pushed back my timeline. Next thing I knew, it was December.
And along the way, I had heard all sorts of rumblings: the food was awesome, service was uneven, it was impossible to get in for dinner, very different experiences at lunch and dinner, etc. (By the way, here is the gift of Sean Brock and Erik Anderson, formerly of The Catbird Seat going out for Nashville hot chicken)
And then my wife went there for lunch with a friend who had recently made partner with her firm, and she shot me this picture of the veggie plate:
Of course you know, this means war. My wife, a beautiful, intelligent lady, was unfortunately raised to be a vegetarian by her pesky parents. Which means that the best parts of this restaurant are lost to her.
If you didn’t already know, Chef Brock is one of the leading figures in the Lardcore movement. This crew believes that pork fat has gotten a bad rap and is doing everything in its power to bring it back. Like whipped honey lard butter for your rolls – it’s in there. Or lard caramel. Or lard cotton candy.
So, on a night when my family was out of town and I found myself exhausted from weeks of working without a day off, I managed to squeeze myself into a reservation for a party of 2 (which would have no other half).
First off, the outside of Husk is beautiful – it is a historic home that looks like any other from the outside and there is a great smell of wood smoke that hits you as you approach. Once you enter, it is warm and cozy, the perfect cure for a cold winter’s night.
The hostess led me down to the bottom floor (after I gave the bullshit excuse that my dining companion’s flight had been delayed) and along the way I got a great view of the kitchen upstairs. The upstairs leads to a beautiful two story open space enclosed in windows. I was led to my table and my server, a friendly lass named Cassidi, was attentive and made sure a beverage menu was put in my face ASAP.
It was a tough call because frankly, in addition to having a great wine list, they have a well-designed cocktail program, and a perfectly curated list of beers and ciders – bottled or draft. And they even have an assortment of famous Southern sodas and non-alcoholic cocktails, although really? I opted for the “Old Sorgy #2″ – a takeoff on the classic “Old Fashioned”. It was perfect – very rich and delightfully boozy. Sorghum makes everything better. It was served in a great lowball glass that has a punt at the bottom as seen below in my second cocktail – The French Invasion.
As I was working on cocktails and sussing out my courses on the menu, they delivered an amazing fresh roll wrapped in a napkin served with a side of love…
At some point, I opted for the Charcuterie Plate to start off. I have to be honest, it was a tough choice because I was sorely tempted by the fried chicken skins, the beef tartare, the cornmeal porridge, the marrow, the oysters, and the pig tails. Damn. That was a tough decision.
Enjoy the closeups of naughty meats:
I kind of danced around the plate with my eyes. On the platter was some lamb sausage, aged ham, cured pork shoulder and beef tongue, some house pickles, house-made dijonnaise, fresh light rolls (HEY LOOK, SOMEONE SERVED CHARCUTERIE WITH BREAD OR CRACKERS, FANCY THAT ARNOLD MYINT, YOU WORTHLESS NO-TALENT REALITY TELEVISION TRASH!) Ahem. Anyway, holy mackerel, everything was a treat, and especially the tongue, which was so tender and flavorful. Melted in my mouth. And it was all served on a large slab o’ wood. Perfect.
For my main course, I was not nearly as conflicted, though I was distracted by the catfish and chicken and dumplings. I opted for the Bear Creek Farm beef; I think it was a hanger steak? The chef recommended it medium, which is generally more done than I go, but I went with it (and it was perfectly tender). Along with it were charred greens, shitake mushrooms, soooooo much marrow jus and… well hold on.
Those three blobs, at 10 and 11 o’clock. That was where they took brioche and pureed it, turning it into a kind of perfect meat condiment/pudding. It was everything I wanted it to be. And that thing up at 2-3 o’clock that looks like a pork crackling? It was a freeze-dried beef tendon they had turned into some sort of crackling-like material and dusted with something else that tasted amazing. Surprise. And I loved the pottery plates – they were beautiful.
I threw Cassidi a curve ball and asked for a specific glass of wine just as my dinner was served. SHE CAME BACK IN LESS THAN TWO MINUTES. That is awesome. I didn’t miss a degree of heat from my entrée. And the only strangeness from the service, which was excellent, was that my server would leave in front of me and appear completely unseen behind me due to the nature of the floor plan which freaked me out, but at the same time was mysterious.
I finished my meal so happy, but couldn’t resist topping things off with a dessert. Of all of the options, there was really only one choice, the Pumpkin Buttermilk Pie, which was supposed to be served with a Tokaji, but since I wanted to make it home without ending up in a ditch, I opted for fresh black coffee.
It was perfect in every way, and again, I loved the plates and cups. Only 20 or so trips and I could probably swipe a whole set for my house. When I left, I swear I skipped on the way out. Places like The Farm House can go ahead and shut down.
ONE LAST NOTE:
I should warn you, if you are downstairs and must go to the restroom, watch out, because there are some step downs that may throw you off. And whatever you do, do not trust this device:
It is a combination automatic sink and hand dryer that will blast all of the loose water in the sink onto your clothes. Screw the environment, and go for a paper towel. Trust me on this one, kids.
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