Monday, April 25, 2016

Step Into History at Homestead Manor Restaurant



About 25 minutes south of Nashville, in the little community of Thompson Station, is the most unlikely of restaurants. Sitting on fifty acres and surrounded by pastures, trees and rolling green hills, is a stately old plantation house and, now a restaurant, called Homestead Manor. Construction on the home began in 1799 and was completed in 1819. Most of the materials used in the building of the house came from the property. Hand hewn wood floors, plaster walls and 12 foot ceilings, 9 fireplaces and wide porches all harken back to the early part of the 19th century.  
Every room in the house is dedicated to a different chapter in the home's history and the history of the surrounding community. One room tells the story of young Alice, with a portrait of her on the wall as well as a flag embroidered with the words of Colonel S.G. Earle of the 3rd Arkansas Calvary, "Boys, a woman has your flag!" A cannonball from the battle is also on display in this room.


If walls could talk, this house would have lots to tell. On March 5, 1863, seventeen year old Alice Thompson, daughter of Elijah Thompson, for whom Thompson Station is named, and other women from the area, hid in the cellar of the home as the Confederate army marched across the property toward Union lines. As the ladies watched the Battle of Thompson Station unfold from a tiny window, they noticed that the standard bearer for the regiment had been hit. Young Alice, ran outside and grabbed the flag and held it aloft to urge her troops on. At the end of the five hour battle, the home became a hospital for the wounded soldiers and Alice and the other women tended the injured and dying. Blood stained wood floors on the upper level of the house are a visual reminder of the horrors of war. 

Another room, dedicated to the importance music has played in this part of Tennessee, showcases musical instruments. Guitars signed by famous musicians line the walls and a chandelier made of old piano keys found on the property casts a disco-like glow over the room. 

The technological room highlights changes in technology as seen by the different machines, tools and implements that were used on the property at one time or another. All of the items showcased in this room were found somewhere on the estate.

A flag with 34 stars is displayed in the blue and gray room, dedicated to the history of the Civil War. The flag became the official flag of the United States on July 4, 1861, after Kansas was granted statehood. The only president to serve under this flag was Abraham Lincoln.

Many artifacts have been found on the property over the years. They are lovingly displayed throughout the home, including the grand entrance hall.  Also of interest are the squares of stained glass over the front door. They repeat in a strict AB color pattern until the last square. The last square is the same color as the preceding square. Our hostess told us this was a code for the Underground Railroad, to let escaping slaves know this was a safe place to hide. I could not confirm this in my research, but if true, it makes the home and its occupants even more interesting.    


Outside, the grounds of Homestead Manor are meticulously cared for and watched over by a pretty little garden angel. The garden on the front lawn makes a beautiful view from the upstairs porch. But Homestead Manor is more than just pretty. It is a working farm. Ten acres of the property are dedicated to sustainably support the restaurant with a garden and orchard. Yes, we did mention that Homestead Manor is now a fine dining restaurant, which is why we ended up at this hidden jewel. The home is now owned by the same family who owns several restaurants in and around Nashville, including Puckett's Grocery and Puckett's Boathouse. We told you about Puckett's Boathouse when we visited our niece, Kelly, in Franklin.

Our tour of the home actually came at the end of our meal. For dinner, we were seated in the bar area at the back of the house, where we could look across through the windows and see the cooks pulling pizzas from the large brick wood fired oven.

Our server brought our menus, a cosmo for me and a basket of homemade bread with herb butter for us to munch on while we made our selections. That herb butter was so good!

I made my selections from the appetizer menu with soup, house salad and a tray of pimento cheese and hoe cakes. Everything I had was delicious. I especially liked the rich, brothy beef soup with mushrooms and the creamy pimento cheese. If I had one critique to make it would be that I prefer my hoecakes thinner and crispier, but that is a personal preference. The salad was lovely with thin slices of rosy beets, radishes, tomatoes, carrots and crispy greens. I could have sipped the champagne vinaigrette with a straw, it was so good. Yum!

Scott chose the grilled hangar steak. It came with smashed fingerling potatoes, fried garlic chips, baby greens topped with a mustard vinaigrette and bearnaise sauce. We both liked the dish, although I think I liked it even better than he did. The meat had a lot of char on it, which I love. He prefers a bit less.

We were way too stuffed for dessert, but I did check out the sweet offerings for your information. They had lemon ricotta cheesecake with blueberries, black forest cake with brandy soaked cherries, strawberry shortcake and house made gelato. Everything sounded delicious!


One other thing. While we were touring the cellar, our hostess and guide told us the room is now used for private dining. They have set up a chef's table, where guests can dine in privacy and the entire dinner is designed around your preferences and requests. The candles are lit and the mood is set for a one of a kind dining experience. I so want to go back and reserve the chef's table!

Homestead Manor is also hosts  events, both public and private. While we were there, the staff was busy getting ready for a wedding reception complete with a white buggy for the newly weds. Tables were being set up in a nearby barn. And we noticed a couple of spring events open to the public on the event board.

If you would like to visit Homestead Manor, the address is 4683 Columbia Pike in Thompson Station, TN, just south of Franklin. The restaurant is closed on Monday. Hours vary slightly each day, opening a bit earlier on Saturday and Sunday and staying open a bit later on Friday and Saturday. They are open for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch. For more information about Homestead Manor ,check out their website.

Three Friends and a Fork give Homestead Manor 3 historic Yums UP!  
The next time you are in the Nashville area, visit Homestead Manor, and be sure to ask for a tour of the home!

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Rosemary Thumbprint Cookies with Tomato Jam

It began with a flat of tomatoes from Costco. There were about 15 medium sized tomatoes in the box. They looked good, but they tasted like, well, nothing. I couldn't eat them and I couldn't make myself throw them out. Then, in a moment of, maybe not brilliance, but a flash of above average, I decided to make some tomato jam. We love tomato jam with field peas and it had been a while since I had made the sweet condiment. 


I started by plunging the tomatoes into a boiling water bath for a few minutes to loosen the skins. The whole process is made easier if you core the tomatoes and make a shallow X on the bottom of each one with a knife before putting them in the hot water.

Once the tomatoes were peeled, I placed them in a saucepan with 2 cups sugar, 1/2 t. salt and 1/2 t. pepper. Then I cooked them on medium heat until the tomatoes were broken down, thick and jammy. It takes a while. Just stir frequently to make sure they don't burn and to help them break up. Remove from the heat and add the juice from 1/2 a lemon. Then pour the jam into clean canning jars. I ended up with a quart of jam plus a half pint. Place the jars in the refrigerator after they cool.

I remembered seeing an Epicurious recipe for some rosemary shortbread cookies filled with tomato jam. I have tons of rosemary growing in my garden and I happen to be a big fan of shortbread, so I decided to adapt the cookies from sandwich to thumbprint. I feel that sandwich cookies can be too much and I just prefer a thumbprint cookie. So, I took the Epicurous shortbread recipe, made thumbprint cookies and filled them with my tomato jam. 

To make the shortbread, begin by chopping fresh rosemary very finely. You are going to need a heaping tablespoon of chopped rosemary. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a stand mixer, blend 1 cup of room temperature butter with 1/2 cup sugar until smooth and fluffy. Add two large egg yolks and the chopped rosemary and mix well. In a separate bowl, combine 1/4 cup plain yellow cornmeal, 2 cups all purpose flour and 1/2 t. salt. Add to butter mixture and mix until the dough holds together. Remove from bowl and shape into two 6" logs. Wrap each in plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour. When dough is well chilled, remove from refrigerator and slice into quarter inch sized discs. Place on cookie sheet about one inch apart. Make a dent in each disc with your thumb and fill with small amount of tomato jam. Bake about 12-15 minutes until the cookies are lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool on wire racks. Then try to eat just one! My husband decided these were a great breakfast cookie with a slice of crispy bacon. I think they are good any time of day. 

Get a printable copy of these recipes HERE.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Beignet Café...How Sweet It Is!

So, you are craving some sweet, powdered sugar beignet goodness from New Orleans, but you don't happen to be in New Orleans, what do you do? Make your own? Well, you could, but if you are near Huntsville, AL, you could head to Beignet Cafe on Winchester Road. From Scottsboro, take a right on Sheilds Road (at the intersection with McDonalds and Arby's), and then another right on Winchester. Beignet Cafe is in Winchester Plaza on the Homer Nance side of the building.

Do not use Google to find out Beignet Café's hours, at least for another couple of weeks. Google has it wrong and the owners were told it would be at least two weeks before the mistake is corrected. Go figure! We went over on Friday and Google said the restaurant was closed. I thought Friday was a peculiar day to be closed, so I kept looking. Their Facebook page told a different story. It said they were open, so I called to find out. Lo and behold, they were open and had just been made aware of Google's shenanigans. Anyway, we got directions and headed on over. I snapped a picture of the hours posted on their door, so you wouldn't have the problems we had.

Open only since October 2015, the café is small, maybe a dozen tables. 


We were greeted, seated, given menus and had our drink orders taken within a matter of seconds. Our server was cute and friendly. When she brought out our drinks, she told us she was practicing making hearts in the foam of the café au lait. I just love initiative! 

We nibbled on a basket of beignets while we studied the menu. 

Breakfast and lunch items were both available. Oddly enough, though I am usually the lunch eater and Scott gravitates toward breakfast, we switched!

He ordered the cranberry pecan chicken salad sandwich and loaded potato salad. It was as good as it sounds. The chicken salad was piled high on a split loaf of french bread. It was a big sandwich. We loved it and the potato salad, too.


I couldn't resist the dirty grits with chicken and andouille sausage. And just to make sure I got enough carbs, I had a side of potato salad. Hey, don't judge! It was goooood! The grits were warm and spicy, but not too spicy. The potato salad was creamy and cool.

We will definitely be back to Beignet Café, especially now that we know their hours. Next time I want to try their shrimp po'boy...or their shrimp and grits...or the French toast! Oh, well! I think we will be back often! Maybe we will see you there!

                              Three Friends and a Fork give Beignet Café a big welcome and                                3 Sweet Yums UP!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

A.M. Booth's Lumberyard

A couple of years ago, we told you about a little establishment on Cleveland Avenue called Sandwich Farm. We loved Sandwich Farm, the concept, the food, the cute sandwich posters and the creativity, so we were sad when we found out Sandwich Farm was going to close. Even though we were aware it was closing because a new restaurant was moving into the same complex, we were hated to see Sandwich Farm go. Well, the new restaurant, A.M. Booth's Lumberyard is now a reality and we just had to go check it out. It is one door down from where the old Sandwich Farm was located and it seems to be so much more than just a restaurant. 


The name, A.M. Booth's Lumberyard, derives from a real person, A.M. Booth, who opened the lumberyard in 1895. He was also a contractor who built more than 1100 homes in Huntsville and Madison County. The lumberyard closed in the 1950's and, for a while, was home to an auto parts store. The space sat vacant for many years until Sandwich Farm and a bar, called the Lone Goose Saloon, breathed new life into the rundown facility. Now new changes are afoot. Sandwich Farm and Lone Goose Saloon are gone and the entire lumberyard is being turned into a restaurant and event venue, with different types of entertainment planned for the different areas of the old lumberyard. The first time we were there, workers were setting up for an outdoor wedding reception in the center of the complex.



The new restaurant, A.M. Booth's Lumberyard incorporates many of the dishes and character of Sandwich Farm, but with its own unique personality. Like Sandwich Farm, the menu changes and rotates. On our first visit, our meal looked like this.

I had a skillet burger with sweet potato fries. The fries were just like the ones I had loved so much at Sandwich Farm, so I was really happy about that. The thick burger was cooked medium well, topped with red onion, tomato, romaine and cheese (your choice).  It was an excellent burger. If you like your burger more well done, you probably need to let your server know.

Scott chose a turkey sandwich with avocado, havarti, romaine and garlic mayo. He decided to have regular fries with his sandwich. They were also delicious. The mayo was very garlicky, so if you are sensitive to garlic or, perhaps just don't want to smell like garlic, ask for it to be served on the side. 

On a recent return visit with friends, I started with a bowl of super thick minestrone. It had lots of tomatoes and was served with a crusty hunk of bread. I liked it very much. It was like a bowl of seasoned stewed tomatoes with a few other veggies thrown in for good measure. 


The roast beef sandwich was served on the same crusty bread with romaine, tomato, red onion, cheddar and horseradish mayonnaise. The beef was medium rare and sliced thin. It was a very good sandwich.

Here are the crab cakes my friends ordered. They arrived on a bed of shredded potato cakes and were topped with tartar sauce and chopped chives. Crispy on the outside and crabby, not bready, these crab cakes were excellent. 

My buddies got smoky mac and cheese with their crab cakes, because smoky mac and cheese is just too hard to pass up and because you just can't have enough carby goodness. I didn't taste the cheesy shells, but they were gone, so they must have been good. 

One thing we haven't tried that sounds interesting are A.M. Booth's Smoke Stacks. They are rice bowls you build yourself. You start with a bowl of organic brown rice and top it with one meat, three sides and one sauce. The meat choices are white beans, chicken, pork, brisket, shrimp or salmon. The sides include edemame, carrots, marinated mushrooms and onions, green beans, pickled beets, kale slaw, soft boiled egg or pickled vegetables. The sauces are sweet and spicy, chimichurri, pineapple and sriracha, roasted garlic tahini and romesco. If you try one of these bowls, we would love to hear what you think. 

Be sure to wander around the complex when you finish your meal. There are a couple of shops. Domaine South has fine wines, local beer, Alabama made gifts and many items from the shops at Lowe Mill. We saw chocolate from Pizzelles and tea from Piper and Leaf. They also carry those delicious, Huntsville-made, Jala-Jala jellies. If you haven't tried these, you should. We can especially recommend the Black Widow,  made with blackberries and jalapeño peppers. The Indigo Shoppe has women's clothing, accessories and art and is described as boho boutique. We haven't gotten to visit it, yet, but we plan to on our next trip to the lumberyard.

 If anyone knows what Tupelo Mist Cornballs are, we would love to know. We asked, but the staff was about as perplexed as we were. They thought it had something to do with a movie.

We love the things that are going on at A.M. Booth's Lumberyard and we feel Mr. Booth would be thrilled to know that his old lumberyard has been given a new life. Check it out!

Three Friends and a Fork give A.M. Booth's Lumberyard 3 Nostalgic Yums UP!