Monday, February 25, 2013

Gojo Ethiopian Cafe and Restaurant - A Taste of Africa off Nolensville Pike

My friend John is, among many other things, a chef. He's been cooking -- and exploring international food -- since he was a wee lad in East Tennessee. He's worked at world-class restaurants in New Orleans, New Zealand, and Nashville. So, you might say he knows a bit about food, and it shouldn't surprise you that one of our primary activities together is restaurant crawling.

On Friday we had a date to go "somewhere ethnic" in my part of town. The Nolensville Pike area is Nashville's epicenter for international culture, and the list of food choices is nearly endless. This embarrassment of riches is explored periodically on the Bites Blog of the Nashville Scene's web site -- Sean Maloney writes an occasional series tagged "The Road" that visits various eateries on this international corridor. John and I had long talked about exploring some of these mom-and-pop restaurants, groceries, and delis; Friday was our first joint foray. After a little discussion we decided on a spot and headed out. Along the way, though, he asked if I'd ever been to Gojo, the Ethiopian restaurant just off Nolensville on Thompson Lane. I hadn't, but had wanted to go for a long time. He had been, and liked it, and I was game. So we made a snap decision to change course and visit together.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Straight to My Heart - Red Velvet Cake for Valentine's Day

Red Velvet Cake, Red Velvet Cupcakes, Red Velvet Ice Cream, Red Velvet Cookies, Red Velvet Waffles, Red Velvet ... Everything is all the rage, and has been for a few years now. Back in the day it was considered a regional dessert, common enough in the South but not well-known elsewhere. There's a bit of a joke there as the original Red Velvet Cake was developed at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City. There is no definitive story about how it came to be popular in the South, but it was certainly a fixture at my grandmother Dorothy's Christmas table during my youth. In fact, it was such a hit with my brother Dale that to this day it's the cake he wants for his November birthday.

I'm not sure why RVC caught the imagination of the rest of the country a few years ago, but it's certainly entrenched now. I'm sure the current fad for Southern cuisine has helped keep it front and center. The problem, though, is that even when you are presented with an actual layer cake (as opposed to any other red velvet treat), it has often been bastardized. The "improved" version then often gets a reaction along the lines of "I don't understand why people make a fuss. It's just mediocre chocolate cake with a metric ton of artificial dye."

Well ... yes and no.