Long Weekend in... Nashville
There’s a t-shirt in Nashville that says, “Music: It’s why I get up every afternoon.” Don’t let that be you. There’s too much to do.
To start, belly up to the Pancake Pantry for more than 23 kinds of pancakes made with fresh ingredients, family recipes, and accompanied by homemade syrup. The line snaking out the front
door (part of the experience and often means celebrity spottings) is a testament that these stacks are divinely inspired, especially the bestseller sweet potato pancakes made with real sweet potato flakes and sprinkled with powdered sugar and cinnamon. (Photo courtesy of Flickr/toastforbrekkie)
Next stop is the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. Once the Nashville Post Office, this 1934 art deco splendor morphed into an art museum in 2001 with exhibits rotating in and out every six to eight weeks. The black marble floors, gleaming silver fixtures, sweeping staircases, and 22-foot-high ceilings make it an impressive spot to showcase its traveling exhibits. Showing through January 8th is "To Live Forever: Egyptian Treasures from the Brooklyn Museum," an exhibition of 4,000-year-old coffins, jewels, and mummies from Egypt. I’m partial to the Frist’s upstairs ArtQuest Gallery, a hands-on space where wannabe’s can make prints, collages, and start their own portfolio, all matted and scanned, in 30 unique, educational stations.
While you’re in art mode, stop by the Rymer Gallery and ask if curator Herb Williams is in. Williams is also an artist, one who never quit playing with crayons. Only instead of using them to draw, the 30-something father of two makes giant sculptures using the crayons themselves. He has sculpted Marilyn Monroe, a life-size statue of Johnny Cash, and a nine-foot cactus, all out of crayons. Marilyn Monroe alone took a quarter million peach, apricot, and bittersweet crayons.
For lunch, head to Barbara Mandrell’s house. Or rather, her former house. The 136-acre property where she and her husband built a 27,000-square foot log cabin, one of the world’s largest, also has a farm-to-table restaurant. It’s called, not surprisingly, The Farmhouse and serves locally raised beef, veggies, and hand-crafted local cheese. Spend the afternoon touring Fontanel, the log cabin mansion where singing tour guides dispense gossip (Oprah Winfrey once cooked in Barbara’s kitchen), play guitar, and show you the six bedrooms, indoor shooting range, soda fountain, and indoor pool.
Plan a late-afternoon pick me-up at Las Paletas in Nashville’s trendy 12South neighborhood. Two Mexican-American moms dispense all-natural, handmade gourmet popsicles. An oft-erased chalkboard hangs over a freezer case with the day's two dozen flavors — anything from mango and coffee to banana-nut or chocolate almond. Irma Paz-Bernstein and Norma Paz-Curtis never advertise and close up shop at 7 p.m., and when chef Bobby Flay caught wind of the Paz sisters and challenged them to a “Throwdown” on the Food Network, he lost.
For dinner, don’t miss Hutton Hotel’s 1808 Grille. Since it opened three years ago, it has pulled down every award in Nashville. Executive chef Charles Phillips has cooked for everyone from Bill Clinton to Bill Gates and uses local, sustainable ingredients in his whimsical, yet healthy menu.
Although you hear live music everywhere (“In a city with 1.3 million, at least 1.2 million of them are pickers and singers,” says Steven Whitson), Bluebird Café is tonight’s destination. It’s tiny and unassuming, but it is THE place for aspiring songwriters. Garth Brooks, Keith Urban, and Taylor Swift are just a few discovered there. There are two intimate, acoustic shows a night and reservations are highly recommended.
Have drinks afterward at the Patterson House. Named after former Tennessee Governor Malcolm R. Patterson who vetoed the return of statewide prohibition in 1909, this dimly lit speakeasy has dark wood bookshelves, damask wallpaper, and more than 50 cocktails, carefully fussed over and poured over eight types of twice-filtered ice. Patterson’s mixologists (don’t dare call them bartenders) make such specialties as bacon-infused old-fashioned’s and the Jennings, inspired by Waylon, and made with Jack Daniels and hickory smoked cola, cooked with hickory chips right on the premises.