Archive for the ‘Restaurants’Category

EPICE Lebanese Bistro Adds Spice to the 12 South Neighborhood Restaurant Row

EPICE Neighborhood Lebanese Restaurant 

2902 12th Avenue South, Nashville TN 37204 | 615.720.6765

Hours: 11AM – 10PM Tuesday – Saturday | 11AM – 9PM Sunday

Epice Lebanese Bistro is conveniently situated in the lively, hip yet sophisticated 12 South neighborhood.

EpiceRestaurantPicMonkey Collage


The ambiance is just right for a great lunch or dinner experience. Both indoor and outdoor seating are available in the beautiful modern bistro. The servers are courteous and knowledgeable about the menu but the menu doesn’t tell the whole story. EPICE is situated such that sitting outdoors is a pleasure and is conveniently situated in the lively and hip 12 South neighborhood. They really have a great location on 12 South.  On the day that I had lunch and the evenings that I had dinner, the indoor and outdoor experience was near perfect. On every occasion that I have dined, Maher has always been there to greet all of his guests and meanders around the tables speaking to every one he knows, and he knows many! I would guess that Maher has had a culinary foodie following for many years!


Maher and Chef Will have created an amazing menu of Lebanese culinary treats which does not hold back on flavor, color and freshness. And, THAT is my style! Vibrant colors, exotic flavors and aromas of freshly prepared bistro-style Lebanese cuisine is on every plate! Maher Fawaz, of the very popular Kalamata’s Restaurants again, has skillfully managed to satisfy our palates for the cuisine that pleases the eye and fills the mouth will a myriad of “secret” blends of Middle Eastern spices and flavors like to other. Together with Chef Will, they have created a varied and satisfying menu for everyone to enjoy. EPICE’S menu is a perfect marriage of complex and bold Arabic spices and cooling yogurt sauces and fresh salads to balance it all.

It’s a “secret!”( a lesson in “demystifying” Lebanese Spices)

Don’t ask your server (like I did) to ask Chef Will about the mysterious combination of seasonings and spices you are eating because they won’t tell you! You be told it’s a “secret!” Therefore, I will help “demystify” the spices and names a bit to empower your foodie spirit for a culinary adventure you will want to revisit many times! Some of Chef Will’s closely guarded “spice secrets” are a blend of  Lebanese Spices, Arabic or Middle Eastern spices include (but not limited to) such warm and aromatic spices such as turmeric, black pepper, paprika, cumin, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, cardamom, sumac, fennel, ginger, and allspice. Each dish recipes has its own blend or “Baharat” of spices. Baharat means mixed spices in Arabic. Baharat is a combination of several different spices . The blend differs with each dish and each family ( or Chef) makes it their own. And, sweet-tart Pomegranate molasses can be found in several of the menu items too!

Prices: Moderately priced lunch and dinner so you can enjoy both often! Wine: Great wine selection that pairs well with the Lebanese spiced dishes

IMG_5960 For lunch, I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful and tasty entrée Sayadeya, a Lebanese fish dish with spices such as turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, allspice and other “secret” spices served with caramelized onions, roasted vegetables and vermicelli rice.   IMG_7219 I love lamb! Lahmeh one of the most satisfying, flavorful and succulent rack of lamb dishes in town.  On the dinner menu: Lahmeh spices most likely including cumin, coriander, allspice, nutmeg, garlic, onion  and with a pistachio encrusted rack of lamb with lemony (sumac) olive oil, herb roasted potatoes and roasted red pepper puree. It’s $29 but there is enough to share! IMG_5972 I overheard a customer tell Maher that she dreams about this salad! To that customer: I agree! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! The Epice Salad is a harmonious blend of salad greens,creamy and mild goat cheese, house made fig vinaigrette and toasted almonds. It’s just right for a lunch especially if you add meat to it or a great way to begin the dining experience. IMG_5962 At dinner Labneh is served as an appetizer but at lunch you can order a  Labneh Sandwich: Soft Cheese–Labneh is thick greek yogurt when the water has been strained out over several days leaving a thick, tangy and bright soft cheese added flavors of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, spices served with lemony, cilantro and lemony roasted potatoes with a peasant salad with a light pomegranate molasses vinaigrette. IMG_7223 Here are two more of my favorites! This is my comfort food!  Al-Raheb which is roasted and chopped eggplant,  tomatoes, spring onions and finished with crunchy pomegranate seeds and warm pita to scoop it up.  Kibbeh is well seasoned ground sirloin with cinnamon, allspice and perhaps cumin or coriander surrounded by a crunchy bulgur wheat crust drizzled with roasted red pepper puree and a cool yogurt & garlic based dipping sauce. IMG_5945 Za’taar is one of my favorite spice blends to use at home. I made Za’taar bread by grilling pizza dough and adding tomatoes and onions. Here, they serve Crispy Flatbread with Za’taar spice as a starter and it delicious! Za’taar is a blend of dried  thyme, lemony ground sumac, salt, and nutty  toasted sesame seeds. IMG_5946 On the dessert menu, Katayef is a Lebanese dessert where one crepe or stuffed pancakes is filled with walnuts, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar and the other is filled with slightly sweet, slightly salty soft and creamy feta. Tangy Fresh fruit sauce perfectly complemented. Yum! I would get that again! IMG_7230

Stay hungry and thirsty for more!  Cheers!



07 2014

The Tipsy Tennessean: Nashville’s Cocktail Scene Pours Up Christmas in a Glass!

‘Tis the season to enjoy hand-crafted cocktails in Nashville with the flavors of the holidays!



Nashville’s happening cocktail scene celebrates the holidays with the flavors of the season. Pinewood Social is Nashville’s  newest place for social gatherings. This unique and roomy state-of-the-art bar  features classic cocktails by the glass or “punch” in pitchers to share. Matt Tocco, Beverage Director of Pinewood Social’s bar program, shakes up a couple of cocktails worthy of toasting to the holidays!

The Humble Magnificent is brimming with big refreshing flavors of tart lemon, Saigon Cinnamon, fresh orange, apple brandy and Pimms #1 with a refreshing hint of mint. The flavor and aroma of red hots from the cinnamon and apple brandy brought back memories of cinnamon & apple-scented Christmas ornaments we used to make when we where kids!

Speaking of punch, did you know Pinewood Social features several large format Punches by the pitcher to share with your friends? That’s right! At least 4 large format cocktails will come to your table in a pitcher for everyone’s enjoyment. The Achilles and the Tortoise Cocktail (with the lemon zest) is a large format drink but Matt scaled it down for us to enjoy! Although the name does not sound Christmasy, the combination of bourbon, pear brandy, Yellow Chartreuse and cider was extremely refreshing and would be perfect for a celebration with your crowd of friends or after a big day of Christmas shopping.


The Southern Steak and Oyster Restaurant near downtown Nashville has a very welcoming ambiance and the bar is a great place to meet up with friends and enjoy a southern style hand-crafted cocktail. We discovered a seasonal cocktail that is perfect ushering in the fall all the way through the holiday season. The New Fashioned Cocktail, handcrafted by Chris, is ” a glass full of Christmas!”  Bourbon, bitters and muddled apples are combined with a house-made winter-spiced sweet syrup. What came to mind with each sip was apple pie spices with a touch of chai tea aromas. This sweet cocktail was refreshing and would be pleasantly comforting on cold winter days. We really enjoyed this one!


Another Christmasy Cocktail we found at Silo’s Restaurant in Germantown. This rustic yet chic farm-to-fork restaurant has a really nice bar area and great for meeting up with friends and enjoying cocktails with their daily appetizer selections. The House Barrel-Aged Cocktail is a blend of Chattanooga Cask Whiskey , Chai Tea , Apple Brandy with a touch of lemon and pure cane sugar.  This lip-smacking drink is barrel aged right there at the bar. With the first sip, we both said it was Christmas in a Glass!   You could taste the exotic spices from the Chai Tea and the crisp apple brandy balanced with the caramel and vanilla flavors of the bourbon with just enough lemon for balance.  The barrel-aging  mellows this amazing elixir and is guaranteed to be unforgettable. Ask for Anthony or Robert, they will take care of you just right!  Although it was the priciest at $15 a glass, it is well worth it! And, just like the holidays, this seasonal cocktail won’t be around for long …..just sayn!






12 2013

Celebrate with BBQ & WINE Pairings hosted by Chris Lilly and Heath Porter at the 2012 2nd Annual Atlanta Food and Wine Festival

Sommelier Heath Porter and Pit Master Chris Lilly put their skills together and treat us to surprising and uncommon pairings with WINE and BBQ.


Hey Guys! The 2nd Annual Atlanta Food and Wine Festival 2012 was fabulous! This three-day event celebrated the South by showcasing the region’s award-winning chefs,mixologists,pitmasters and experts in wine. I spent three luxurious days and nights sampling some of the finest Southern cuisine around,hanging out with the chefs that created such authentic and unique food to define and honor Southern Cuisine as I sipped on cocktails and wine that paired perfectly with the South.
After a couple of days recovery and sensible eating, I am looking forward to sharing MY favorite wine and culinary adventures that I experienced during an amazing event that pays homage to the unmistakable flavors of the South!

Ever wonder what wine pairs best with BBQ?

Memorial Weekend officially kicks off grilling season and what better way to get the answer was taking a class by two rock stars of food and wine: Chris Lilly and Heath Porter.

Chef Chris Lilly is one of America’s best known BBQ Pitmasters. Not only is he the head chef and partner of world famous Big Bob Gibson BBQ restaurant in Alabama, he is also the head chef of the award-winning Big Bob Gibson BBQ Competition Cooking Team and the winner of 10 World BBQ Championships including three Memphis in May Grand Championships and eight state competitions throughout the Southeast. To top it off, he has been a guest chef for the James Beard Foundation,written several cookbooks and is the National Spokesperson for Kingsford Charcoal. On May 23nd, he will be a judge for the Kingsford Charcoal Steak Championship in New York and our own Chef Willie Thomas of Park Cafe will be competing to win the title. (Check out my previous post on this upcoming event!)

The ROCK STAR of Wine! There is just no other way to describe this country’s most knowledgable expert on wine, Heath Porter. What a dream job he has! He is the director of wine at the famous Greenbrier in West Virginia. His expertise comes from many years of hands on experience in the food/wine industry and is also an advanced level sommelier bestowed upon him by the Court of Master Sommeliers.

Both Chris and Heath made the class enjoyable and very entertaining by their wit and humor while we discovered great wines and how to pair them with BBQ.

From left to right, four different sauces prepared by Chris were paired with wines selected by Heath.
#1 Vinegar-based North Carolina-style sauce: a combination of apple cider vinegar,honey,brown sugar,cayenne and other spices.

#2 Mustard-based South Carolina-style sauce:mustard,honey,brown sugar and spices.

#3 Championship Sauce-a traditional tomato-based and smokey sauce and of course THIS is the sauce of all of the BBQ Championship competitions!

#4 Sweet Glaze-a combination of flavors such as blackberry,cherry and jalapeño that is great for a rib glaze at the end of the cooking to give a shiny an extra-flavorful dimension to the ribs.

We were served a plate of Chris’s award-winning slow-smoked pork shoulder to sample and compare with each of the sauces and the selected wines. This class was held at 10:30am. What a delicious way to start a day.I could used to this quickly!

Four Wines from different areas of the globe:France,California,Italy and Austrian wines were paired up with four styles of BBQ sauces from different areas of the South. At first,these may be uncommon pairings BUT these are pairings that work well. Think of the table talk at your next BBQ event!

Champagne and BBQ! Yes!

My favorite wine IS Champagne. Sparkling with acidity and berry-flavored bubbles,I think anytime is a good time to sip on champagne-especially the pink ones!
The French Champagne Besserat de Bellefon pale pink champagne is an intensely flavored sparkling wine with red berries and strawberries on the palate and mouthwatering acidity. Pairing up the acidities of the(#1) North Carolina vinegar-based sauce and of the champagne enhances the flavors of both the sauce and wine. Great combination!

Patz and Hall 2010 100% Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir
This Pinot Noir is full of fresh cherry and raspberry with hints of spice such as cinnamon and vanilla and silky tannins along with bright acidity – the hallmark of cooler growing season of the Sonoma area. The notes of chocolate and earth further the intensity of this wine. The acidity and sweet flavors of (#2)mustard-based (and honey) South Carolina sauce combined the smokey pork shoulder paired with the Pinot Noir but did not overpower this well-structured wine.

Terradora Aglianico Campania, Italy IGT 2009
Ever thought about pairing an Southern Italian wine with a Southern American BBQ?
After all, Italian wines are considered food wines and this one is no exception to another sensational pairing. The Italian indigenous grape Aglianico produces a medium plus bodied ruby red wine that is soft and supple with black cherry,blackberry and plum fruit flavours with spicy, toasted overtones. The tannins,acidity and fruit stands up to complex and bold flavors of the Championship BBQ sauce and pork. Aglianico wines are yet another way to pair up with summer grilling. Terradora Aglianico would be a great pairing with a thick and juicy burger too!

Zantho 100 % Zweigelt Burgenland, Austria
The indigenous grape Zweigelt(a crossing of two Austrian grapes) is the popular red grape variety in Austria. Zweiglet wines are well-structured,spicy and juicy with fresh,ripe black cherry Warm spices such as vanilla,cinnamon and sassafras are the perfect complement to the the sweet,savory and spicy glaze; Paired up a juicy,dry rubbed steak with this wine would be Divine!

Heath’s discussion on wine pairings was fun and informative. I am glad this class was on my schedule!



Chris Lilly Shares his Championship Recipe for Smoked Pork Shoulder at the 2012 Atlanta Food and Wine Festival and you too can serve up some of the best smoked pork you will ever have!



05 2012