The Tasting Panel magazine

July 2015

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Page 91 of 136

july 2015  /  the tasting panel  /  91 I t's a bit difficult to say exactly what Pinewood Social in Nashville is. On the one hand, it's a restaurant—it's got a chef and a menu and lots of local favorites. But it's also got a bowl- ing alley, a pool, a bar built in an Airstream trailer, a "living room," a bocce ball court and, of all things, showers. But mostly, it's a taste of Nashville, cooked by a chef who's put in his time at Craft and Alinea. From Alinea to catfish—now that's a jump—but for Executive Chef/ Culinary Director Josh Habiger, it's all about the experience. Merrill Shindler: How do you describe Pinewood Social? Josh Habiger: I guess it's a trailer park–themed dive bar. Okay—that's different . . . It's kind of both a restaurant and an amusement park. It's a lot of things to a lot of different people. On one level, it's a coffee shop. It's also like the lobby of the Ace Hotel in New York—it's a great place to just hangout. It's very big for bachelor parties. We do a lot that are Mexican/Caribbean-themed at the Airstream. And you cook catfish? Isn't that the sort of food cooked over a fire in the piney woods? Well, it definitely has a rap as a less desirable fish, which is not deserved. Did you grow up eating catfish? I grew up in Minnesota. I didn't know catfish. We ate lake fish up there, so I had to learn all about catfish. Do you get up early to catch them yourself? We get catfish filets from farms in northern Georgia and South Carolina. So, they're local to the South. Are they different from other catfish? They have a much milder flavor. And they come as just filets. So we don't have to deal with the skin or the bones. But we do have to deal with the flesh. How so? We soak them overnight in a brine of buttermilk and hot sauce. The buttermilk tenderizes the fish. And what hot sauce do you use? This is Nashville—we've got to use Crystal. It's the local standard. Anything exotic about the oil it's cooked in? Lard maybe? Nope, just good quality vegetable oil. That gets them pretty crispy. I use a mix of corn meal and flour, which makes for a terrific crust. You serve the catfish with shrimp and corn fritters, hot pepper vinegar you make in house, slaw—and your own tartar sauce. Making your own tartar is very impressive. How do you do it? Easy! Mayo—either make your own or use Duke's— lemon juice, Dijon, chopped capers, diced shallots, diced cornichons, parsley, Crystal Hot Sauce and Old Bay Seasoning. Crystal Hot Sauce again? It's Nashville. CHEF JOSH HABIGER'S CATFISH AT PINEWOOD SOCIAL IN NASHVILLE PROVES IT'S A FISH TO BE RECKONED WITH PHOTO COURTESY OF STRATEGIC HOSPITALITY by Merrill Shindler Chef Josh Habiger.

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