The SOMM Journal

October/November 2014

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Page 78 of 120

78 { THE SOMM JOURNAL } OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2014 { deconstructing dishes } LIKE MUCH OF NASHVILLE, MERCHANT'S RESTAURANT COMES WITH A PAST that's just a bit—let us say—shady. It sits in the venerable Merchant's Hotel, which dates back to 1892, in a building that went up after the War Between the States, in 1870. The origi - nal building's occupants included a drug manufacturer on the third floor that fabricated alcohol- and opium-based "Blood Medicine" (the original ad for the medicine is still visible on the exterior brick walls.) Over the years, the Merchant's Hotel provided lodging for fabled pickers like Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Loretta Lynn, Dolly Parton, Porter Waggoner, Little Jimmy Dickens and Roy Acuff. Merchant's wasn't just a hotel in Nashville; on some levels, it was Nashville. And in some ways, the restaurant that now occupies the building is Nashville as well, serving regional cuisine, using regional ingredients. Though the original occupants might not recognize dishes like the duck fat tater tots, the grilled Wagyu culotte with chimichurri sauce . . . and a culinary object of desire described as a "Tennessee farm egg with summer squash carbon - ara, Merchant's jowl bacon, Fiore Sardo and black pepper"—pasta carbonara done a whole new way. And deconstructed for us by Chef Barclay Stratton. Merrill Shindler: How did a college football player from Texas wind up cooking summer squash carbonara in Nashville? Barclay Stratton: It took a few years. I used to help cook for my family on holidays, baked chicken and potatoes, that sort of thing. I didn't get serious till I went to Texas A&M and got a job at Veritas Wine & Bistro. That made me want to travel and learn about food in other places. I went to Spain, Germany— and then, in Italy, I landed a job at Ristorante degli Archi in Siena. And I was hooked. So, you came back to America, and you started working at Blue Hill in New York? I applied as a stage. And it was a great education. I learned so much about technique. I learned all the right terminology. And it led to a job as Chef de Partie at Lenoir in Austin. And then to Merchant's—a Texas boy in the land of pork barbecue. AT MERCHANT'S RESTAURANT, CHEF BARCLAY STRATTON PUTS HIS UNIQUE TAKE ON LOCAL INGREDIENTS "Nashville Grown" Goodness "It's eggs and bacon." Barclay's finished Tennessee farm egg with summer squash carbonara, Merchant's jowl bacon, Fiore Sardo and black pepper. PHOTO: JAMES BECK by Merrill Shindler Q: Q:

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