Wednesday, January 2, 2013

TENNESSEE Part 1: Nashville

Tennessee Yarn.

That’s not a instantly vibrant image, is it?  When someone says “Tennessee,” other iconic things come to mind...Elvis, fried things, gee-tars, a lady named Dolly, and a certain unmistakable twang.

All of these things can...and part of your visit to The Volunteer State.  But this blog is devoted to the pursuit of a certain something that can definitely be part of your visit to Tennessee: great yarn shops and great yarn.

These episodes--one for Nashville and one for Chattanooga--are selected by a means no more scientific than my speaking schedule (as if often the case for DestiKNITions).  I will admit, however, to a long-time yearning to set a book at the elephant sanctuary I discovered there (stay tuned...both here and on your bookshelves!).  Be warned, this first episode is all about food and and culture are up to you.

To start off, let’s grab some lovely breakfast.  Lucky for you, there’s the perfect spot very near our fiber find:

The Perch
117 Franklin Road
Brentwood TN  37027

Coffee and crepes...there aren’t many better ways to start your day.  Being the big fan of desert-for-breakfast that I am, I went for the Nutella with Banana and wasn’t a bit sorry.  You can do food crepes in a variety of tasty flavors should you feel the need to be nutritious, but why would you?  And I dare you to turn down a latte entitled “The Best Chocolate Bar, EVER.”  Awesome, truly.

Once you’ve shown your tastebuds such bliss, it’s time to do the same for your knitting needles at:

Bliss Yarns
127 Franklin Road
Brentwood, TN 37027

You can tell a lot by the chatter that meets your ears when you walk into a yarn store.  An energetic, friendly vibe always signals a welcoming shop, one where you are sure to feel that southern hospitality everyone always talks about.  I entered to a flurry of happy activity that no doubt is a result of owner Dana Nelm’s cheerful disposition.  I liked that someone on staff said “hello” to every person as they walked in the door, not to mention the rocking chairs out front that just begged you to “sit and knit a spell.”

The store hits the right balance between a spacious, well-lit energy and a cozy, comfy atmosphere.  You feel like you won’t have to hunt to find what you need--and that goes a long way with me.

My favorite detail?  The store has adopted “Liz,” an elephant from the fascinating Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee.  I know I often say that an animal mascot is the sign of a great yarn store, but this takes that theory to delightful extremes.  I had a smile on my face the entire afternoon just thinking about Liz and her fiber fan club at Bliss.

Want in on the pachyderm pampering?  Click on over to Ravelry and purchase the “Lizzy Love Hat.”  Not only does your $5 get you a clever pattern that can be done up in any worsted weight yarn, but proceeds from your purchase buys Lizzy the tender care she deserves.

Our Knit Along from Bliss is none other than one of this year’s hottest projects:  the Color Affection Shawl.  To give this national obsession a local twist, I’ll be knitting it up in  Yet” Lace yarn from Tennessee’s own Miss Babs Hand Dyed Yarns and Fibers.  If you are color-impaired like me, the staff will be happy to help you achieve the perfect color triad that makes this shawl the popular stunner so many knitters love.  Not only did I have to have the staff pick the colors for me, but I had to have them number the wound balls in the correct knitting order!  If you have someone in your life who thinks knitted shawl are for grannies, this will surely change their mind!

If you’re not the shawl type (give me an hour with you and I’ll change your mind), another popular Ravelry-sourced project is Larissa Brown’s “Shift Cowl.”  Again, color is the star here, so pick five colors of Classic Elite Vista, grab a hank of each, and you’re good to go.  As with the Color Affection shawl, the staff will help you should color selection be one of those places where you wander off the sensible path (I have a sweater that could make you ill just by looking at its supremely unfortunate color combination...).

Need something a bit more substantial?  Opt for the Hannah Fettig’s “Effortless Cardigan” in Berroco Vintage--again a Ravelry find or available in her book Knitbot EssentialsSimple enough to feel doable even for just-above-novice knitters, this cardi has enough clever styling details to feel fashionable.

Fiber treasures in hand, spend the afternoon doing whatever classic Nashville tourism attractions appeal to you.  Since I write historical novels, Belle Meade Plantation is high on my list, but the music scene may be more your thing.  I’ve had even non-music friends rave about the fascinating stories told inside the Country Music Hall of Fame.  The city is thick with art galleries, or the Cheekwood Mansion and Botanical Gardens combine both arts and natural beauty to feast your eyes.

No one can deny, however, that Nashville is a fine, fine food town.  Folks will tell you never to leave Music City without dining at either: 

Five different locations

I felt like just reading the menu sent my cholesterol up a dozen points.  Plan ahead...this place is often packed but well worth the wait.  I’m a huge fan of sweet potato fries and oh, my, heaven sits on that plate.


The Loveless Cafe
8400 Tennessee Hwy 100
Nashville, TN 37221

Biscuits. Big Momma’s Blackberry Jam Cake. Creole Shrimp and Grits.  Really, do I have to say any more?

Based on conversations with other locals and my own experience, I would add two other spots for your consideration:

The Catbird Seat
1711 Division Street
Nashville, TN 37203

A serious foodie’s paradise.  While no small feat to get in (reservations are accepted only online and on a rolling 30 day cycle), the idea of a fine dining experience with only 32 seats arranged around an open kitchen is highly intriguing.  Definitely not a last-minute impulse but at $100 for seven courses I can almost guarantee it’s a memorable night (I couldn’t manage a table during my visit but it was recommended many, many times to me).

Where I did manage to eat was a lovely spot called

The Tin Angel
3201 West End Avenue  Nashville, TN 37203
(615) 298-3444

More accessible but no less delicious, I enjoyed my meal here as well as the attentive service to our large party.  I had an outstanding lobster and shrimp risotto and the very aptly named “Chocolate and Caramel Indulgence” desert.  A good spot if you’re in town for business or with not a lot of time to plan ahead.

I admit, my first Nashville visit several years ago didn’t go much beyond the stereotypes.  With this visit I’ve expanded my vistas and found more to love in the music city even though I’m not a fan of country music.  With a son looking at Vanderbilt, this won’t be my last trip, and I’m looking forward to discovering new facets in the future.

Up next, we cast on the latest craze:  The Color Affection Shawl.  Will I get the tricky top edge right?  Stay tuned.....

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