Posts Tagged ‘speakeasy spirits’

Shop Without Dropping – A Southern Holiday Primer and Guide

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With the holidays upon us, driving becomes increasingly impossible as folks flock to the malls to get their shopping done – around here generally in giant SUVs and without the need for the basic courtesy we give our fellow man in the parking lot during the rest of the year. Fortunately, no matter where you are, thanks to our consumer culture, you probably have to opportunity to shop in the exact same stores and buy the exact same things that everyone else does once you’ve played parking roulette. Likewise, I suspect that doing some of that Christmas/holiday shopping locally and regionally seriously appeals, both for the potential original gifts and the limited mall time.


Here in Nashville, the mall scene is especially crazy, particularly since national businesses seem to all be trying to locate within one square mile around The Mall at Green Hills. While that location now has a whole bunch of truly excellent retailers– including my jewelry obsession Judith Bright, plus the only area Nordstrom’s (my Jo Malone source), the only freestanding Kiehl’s and L’Occitane stores and the Container Store, plus I hear, depressingly, that another of my favorites, LUSH, is opening there too – the fight with the traffic, even on Wednesdays in July is still a misery that can’t be topped. (Hint to national businesses – we have a big city with a lot of great potential shopping districts – Franklin, Cool Springs, West Nashville, East Nashville, the Gulch, Brentwood, 12South, West End – do your homework people! Clearly, we drive.)


If you, like me, are currently fighting the ills of a nasty cold and dread the notion of fighting the malls and the traffic, here’s a list of places to go or to order online that really will make your shopping day brighter.


The options are not limited to Nashville – there’s plenty here from across the Southeast, and most have online shopping options if, like me, you’re actually sick and want to spend the next couple of days doing nothing more strenuous than typing on your notebook from the sofa. (Names are your links, should anyone have a question about that – click away!)



At Bathos

Bathos: Easily one of my favorite places in the whole world, Bathos in downtown Franklin, Tenn. Offers handmade soaps, bath fizzies (“hullaballoos”) and skin care that top most of the national brands. Treat yourself to the lavender-scented Bathing Not Drowning fizzies – or my favorite Hoo Hing Spice Balls. The marmalade soap smells like heaven, and scents your bathroom, while the tough guy in your life will love the Tar Bar or the Daily Grind coffee-based soap.



Franklin Antique Mall

The Franklin Antique Mall (a.k.a. “The Icehouse”): My favorite source for antique and vintage, both knick-knacks and serious pieces of furniture. There are several great antique malls nearby on Second Ave. and for new home stuff you won’t find elsewhere, stop in P.D.’s in the train car across the street.


Potent Potables: The area has really started producing some excellent spirits of late. Get your spiced rum, truly excellent, juniper heavy gin, and vanilla vodka from Corsair Artisan Distilleries, pick up some better-than-Irish Cream Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream created by Speakeasy Spirits and outstanding Collier & McKeel Whiskey – Mike Williams amazing product also distilled right here. Of course, around here, you’ve also got Jack Daniel’s, George Dickel, and a host of really good Kentucky bourbons – and at most of these places, if you live nearby, let me recommend taking tours as part of your holiday festivities. I particularly love the one at Woodford Reserve. While you’re buying, pick up a bottle of Heroes Vodka – they’re not only a Tennessee company, but they support veterans charities right here – like Operation Stand Down – with a significant portion of their profits.


Jewelry You Want Under the Tree: There are plenty subsections to this one, not all in the Nashville area. Among your options are fine jewelry, really nice fashion jewelry, and some more unusual options from some of my geek girl connections that are nevertheless splendid and appropriate.

Margaret Ellis: I’ve always coveted her work, in hammered silver and 22 kt. gold. Designing from a studio in Cummins Station in Nashville, she really helped define the city’s artisan jewelry making scene for me when I started writing about fashion here, and I remain a major fan. If you have someone to impress on your gift list, start here. She’s deservedly one of the most popular Nashville jewelers, and she has very nice men’s pieces as well as women’s.

Bracelets from Judith Bright

Judith Bright: I never leave home without her work on somewhere, it seems. Her Rock Star pieces number among my favorites. A former music industry girl who spread her wings, studied jewelry making in Florence, and brought a Renaissance aesthetic to the contemporary world, Judith is something special. She now has outlets in Atlanta and Los Angeles too, but her online shop is very accessible. As with Ellis, buy her pieces knowing they’ll last forever and remain classic.

Cindy David: Synonymous with creative fashion jewelry with flair, her work is affordable and supremely on-trend. She works with quality semi-precious stones, and when you buy from her, you get a well-made, exceptionally wearable piece that you’ll reuse in a million ways.



A Crafty Celt necklace


The Crafty Celts: I’ve known these South Carolina-based artisans seemingly forever, and their work only gets more gorgeous. Based on historic designs and artifacts from all over Europe, the work is high-end, the pieces are exquisite, and you won’t find anything else like it. My husband gave me one of their beautiful bronze torcs (necklets) right after we started dating, and I wear it constantly – no one else has anything like it. Buy here for guys and girls alike, and you’ve scored a big ol’ win for the folks on your list who are history minded, or who are huge fans of Game of Thrones, Spartacus and Rome.


Followers of Fashion: Around here, only a fool fails to mention the excellent ties of Mr. Otis James and the oh-so-desirable bags of Emil Erwin – leather goods are pretty hot when they come from the designs of Phillip Nappi at his Peter Nappi boutique as well, and there aren’t a lot of local shoe designers around here. To round out the list of things you’ve probably already seen in Garden & Gun, but still should explore, check out Imogene + Willie, the 12South boutique that brings you custom, handmade jeans you’ll wear for life.


Vintage Finds: With those out of the way, let me throw in a few less obvious choices. First, the vintage world is a brilliant place to be. In East Nashville, Old Made Good (OMG) is a fantastic locale for reviving the old school into new style. In Murfreesboro, Sugaree’s Boutique, owned by my fashion-forward friend Staci Higdon, carries a lush selection of 1920s to 1990s vintage, as well as plenty of current looks – one of the few places that does both jobs well. If you make your way to Huntsville, Alabama, the Lowe Mill Arts and Entertainment Center has a plethora of vintage stores set inside an old factory – super cool. Plus, all the artists’ workshops in the same building give you plenty of holiday options.


Zavozina’s Russian Princess gown

Designer Originals: Start with the bespoke – if you’re planning your wedding right now, or have a formal event to attend, Olia Zavozina, who made my wedding dress and does custom bespoke suits for the Tennessee Titans is a superpower from her atelier in Edgehill Village. Guys, if you’ve got debonair tastes and have a good sized budget, the bespoke world beckons to you – former Hugo Boss and Calvin Klein head honcho Barry Wishnow’s bespoke Bash line is one of the most exceptional things I’ve seen this year – yes, you can channel Cary Grant.


From bespoke, move to designer originals – I’ve mentioned Alabama Chanin before, but especially since she’s got a pop-up boutique this month at Leiper’s Fork’s The Copper Fox (another great source, if you’re buying art) as well as her Florence, Alabama atelier, for my money she’s the most creative creature in the refined world of Southern fashion. If your budget doesn’t allow for her garments, her books and kits will let you create your own. (And check out my long-form piece on her in this month’s Nashville Arts magazine).


A DIY dress kit from Alabama Chanin, $340


Speaking of DIY, if you aren’t familiar with Chanin’s sometime textile and fiber art collaborator Anna Maria Horner, this is a good time to learn – her kits are perfect for the crafter in your life.


Tapestry kits from Anna Maria Horner



It may sound odd, but I’ve found a plethora of marvelous hand-made textile options at The Franklin Farmers’ Market lately. The winter market is up and running, and it’s proven a great source for original knitted and crocheted pieces, and some original stuff made from recycled and repurposed sweaters – including really wonderful hats scarves and shawls. Of course, there are plenty of culinary options, from jam and pastries to pies from Geraldine’s and Papa C at the market as well. More on that below.


The gold standard of anti-aging products, from Nashville skin care entrepreneur Linda Roberts

If you’re looking for beauty, fragrance, skin care and the like, here in Nashville, we have the wonderful Woo Skincare and Cosmetics, which also has an Atlanta location. Exclusively carrying a number of premium lines, this is a fabulous gem of a store for the beauty addict, male or female. Nashville and Chattanooga both offer the Cosmetic Market, outlets for Therapy Systems entrepreneur Linda Roberts. They carry plenty of popular lines, offer serious spa treatments, and carry the Therapy Systems skin care line, which for my money is as good or better than larger lines that are three times as expensive.


A Lodge Cast Iron Dutch oven



At Home: Housewares are sometimes tough, but I think there are amazing finds to be had. Lodge Cast Iron, out of Chattanooga, is a must-have for any home cook. If you can’t cook in cast iron, you must not have Southern roots – my dad, a master of the cast iron cookery, gives me a new piece almost every year. It gets used.


A sgraffito bowl at Firehorse Pottery




Pitchers and bowls with a historic sensibility from Tuscaloosa, AL.-based Kerry Tyson Kennedy’s Firehorse Pottery fill my china cabinet – she has an Etsy store, so they can fill yours too. Georgia’s Uncorked Glass Company is also on my list – repurposing wine bottles into lovely glassware. I have a set of the green, and we use them constantly. And speaking of repurposing wine bottles, I’m really hooked on a new Tennessee company producing 100% soy candles in repurposed wine bottles as well. Intoxicating Aromas sells at the Franklin Farmers’ Market and at The Copper Fox mentioned above, but doesn’t yet seem to have a web site – contact them ($15-$20) via – the “home and hearth” scent is perfect for Christmas.


Cobalt blue glasses from Uncorked Glass Company, $44 for a set of 4.


My friend Michael Schuerer in Decatur, AL. mentioned another really fantastic, if pricey, home option to me – the incredible functinal steel sculptures at Fire Pit Art are something you have to see. As popular as the outdoor metal firepit has become ( we have one, and so do most of our friends) this company takes that up a whole level, and introduces the firepit as incomparable art work.


Tennessee based Fire Pit Art redefines the fire pit; these start at about $1,000 for a 36 inch fire pit.



And, Of Course, The Food: Because it ain’t Christmas, or Hannukah, or Solstice, or Kwaanza or New Year’s, or Saturnalia, or Festivus or whatever your family celebrates this month without food. Ah, where to begin?


Feridies peanuts – yum!

Well, as someone with a whole lot of family in the great state of Virginia, I’ll tell you Virginia peanuts from the area around Southhampton County make for some fine gift giving. Feridies is the go-to source for my family going back years, with Hubs coming in not far behind. I like the spicy Cajun, but the plain salted is just fine. We eat these things like candy – except fortuitously they have food value.


I few days ago, I wrote about Kristina Mansoor, Nashville cupcake and cake baker extraordinaire. I reiterate the need to buy her cupcakes. If you happen to be in the Atlanta area, call Barbara Reed of Bianca’s Designs for your holiday cakes. I have eaten plenty of her baked goods, and thankfully, I don’t live near her, or I’d be fat and have no teeth because of all the sugar (she also teaches cake decorating courses). If you’re ordering sweets, I also suggest Dozen: A Nashville Sweet Shop for excellent cookies made of organic ingredients. Her chocolate chip cookie are delish, although my addiction is the peanut butter ones (I can be bribed with these).



Hibiscus Orange Flower ginger syrup at Bang Candy Company, $19

Bang Candy Company produces some of the world’s best artisan marshmallows, and owner Sarah Souther also does a bang up job on truly unusual simple syrups that need to be paired with Prosecco before your next holiday party. I might need some now – where’s my bottle of rosemary ginger? Of course, Olive & Sinclair chocolate is really becoming a big deal. I favor the salt and pepper variety, because sweet and salty is good.


I’ve mentioned Miss Daisy King before – if you’re in Nashville, drop by and see her at the Grassland Market (2176 Hillsboro Road in Franklin) and pick up some of her amazing sides or desserts to take home for your holiday indulging. Take home a cookbook or two as well. Hint – go for her pound cake. And of course, remember you can also buy Allan Benton’s bacon there.


If you’re in East Nashville, drop by and see Kathleen Cotter at the Bloomy Rind for handmade cheeses and, in the same space, the guys at Porter Road Butcher – artisan does taste better than mass produced.



Lastly, sadly only available on Saturdays at the Franklin Farmers’ Market so far, Ellie’s Old Fashioned Doughnuts are a revelation of sweets. Save up all your points or calories or carbs for them. Buy a big bag to take home and reheat the next morning (20 seconds in the microwave makes a doughnut perfect). Eat one as you leave while sugar dribbles down your chin. I don’t obsess over much food, but these are that good.


I could go on and on, but we’ll save more for other posts as we approach the holiday season. Meanwhile, don’t forget to also shop your locally owned businesses and boutiques – because having a gift that really is one of a kind is truly worth it. And also because supporting local artisans and small businesses just makes sense, and makes for a better holiday season for everyone in your community.

The Meme-ing of Life

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We decided it was time to let you know a little about where we, the consortium, are in our lives right now. Some wacky little Proustian questionaires seemed the way to go. Enjoy! – Stephanie


The Buttermilk Trace Meme


julia child

Cooking: Fall means football. My football playbook is more Julia Child than most, so coq au vin and boeuf bourguignon tend to be on the menu more than burgers and brats. If it’s ungodly hot, then grilling is almost necessary, but my great secret is that Costco in Franklin now has Prime steaks for Choice prices.


Cookbook: My local heroine Tammy Algood’s The Complete Southern Cookbook gets a lot of use in my kitchen. I’ve already mentioned Julia, but I’ve also been on a cooking from the ancient world kick lately, so Sally Grainger, John Edwards and Mark Grant’s redactions of ancient Roman cuisine have gotten plenty of attention. The food is actually lighter and easier to eat than the legends of excess would have you believe. I’ve spent a lot of money on pine nuts and weird spices lately though. Go-to faves still include Alton Brown and Claudia Roden.


Shopping: I haven’t truly hit my fall boot and coat shopping phase yet, but it’s coming. I’m sure there’s a coat from Sugaree’s in Murfreesboro to be had. My budget has been tighter than normal since I left my editor’s role at Nashville Lifestyles, but I have spent judiciously on new watercolors, vintage saris to cut up and make clothes out of, and a couple of wardrobe staples. Alabama Chanin’s Alabama Studio Sewing + Design (buy it here) is also at my disposal, so I can tweak my wardrobe using my sewing skills.


Do Lunch: I’ve just discovered Bella Nashville wood-fired pizza at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. The meat pizza is lush with Benton’s ham and fresh basil, plus truffle oil for me in place of mozzarella, since I sadly get monster migraines from milk and cheeses in quantity. The Biscuit Love food truck’s “Princess” hot chicken biscuit with stone ground mustard is my fast food of choice.


Evening Out: My husband and I live in Williamson County, south of Nashville, and the area is just acquiring the local restaurant population Nashville has long taken for granted. Jason McConnell is really taking it upon himself to change the culture though, and Red Pony is a favorite. We love his 55South across the street, had brunch there Sunday, and his newbie, Cork & Cow is pretty fabulous too. The Cool Springs iteration of local Italian Porta Via is also a favorite.


Gadget of the Moment: I’m not really a tech geek; that would be my husband. My newest toy is a SodaStream machine (Genesis model – but I don’t know if it has an invisible touch yet). I drink lots of club soda, and Seth is using it to make tonic for the g and t. I gotta admit, though, I’d like one of the new Samgung Galaxy Note II’s with the drawing capabilities.


Beverage: I’ve interviewed a million distillers of late. I’m so impressed with what Jeff and Jenny Pennington and Mike Williams are doing up at the Speakeasy campus on 44th Avenue North. If you haven’t tasted Collier & McKeel whiskey or Whisper Creek Tennessee Sipping Cream, do so. Corsair Artisan’s gin rocks my world.


On My TiVo: Titans and Saints football (I know, not the best season for either one). Alton Brown. Big Bang Theory. Game of Thrones. If I’m sewing, something I do a lot as a costumer, I’m usually watching Anthony Bourdain, Gordon Ramsay and guilty pleasures Ghosthunters and True Blood. Can’t wait for Downton Abbey.


On My Kindle: I just read David Anthony’s fabulous work on archaeology and linguistics, The Horse, The Wheel and Language. It soothed me after Gone Girl, which was terribly well written and my own definition of terrifying – a look at how human, petty and banal true evil really is. My favorite book so far this year is Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and I’m really excited about Tasha Alexander’s newest.


Culinary Fixation: Roman cookery, as mentioned above. Also bone marrow, cooked properly, after eating splendid takes on it at Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill and Hot & Hot Fish Club, both in Birmingham.


Seasonal Produce: I hope the tomatoes last through November again, but it’s not looking good. Seth and I have Sunday morning BLT tradition, using local tomatoes and lettuce from the Franklin Farmers’ Market, the wheat mountain bread from Publix bakery and fresh basil from my herb garden. The shiitakes are starting to show up, and that’s made of win for me. this week I got gorgeous brocoli and the apples are pretty fantastic. I loves me an apple.


Road Trip: There are a lot planned for the fall, but I can’t wait to head up to Lexington, Kentucky in a few weeks and make bourbon trail stops. Woodford Reserve has one of the best tours you can take, by the way.


Mad Experiment: Simple syrups. I started on this last spring, trying to duplicate the honeysuckle martini I’d had at Hot & Hot Fish Club. The honeysuckle did well, and kept well, so I moved on to herbs, then fruits, then complex mixes and now I have half a dozen mason jars in the fridge at any given time. Seth’s beer has had to move to the second crisper drawer as a result.


Song: Vintage Trouble’s whole self-titled album. They’ve got a retro ‘70s sound I love.


Pop Culture Fascination: Still enjoying everyone’s pics from DragonCon in September (hey, nice job Forbes – what does that say about the power of nerd culture though?), which I missed this year. Currently planning my ChattaCon costumes for January. I am always and forever a geek girl.


jo malone blackberry and bayCoveting: I’m a perfume-aholic. I actually wish I could be the New York Times fragrance critic. Hey, a good wine nose equals a good perfume nose, right? At the moment, clean is the rule of the day. Jo Malone’s latest, Blackberry and Bay, is heaven, crisp, tart and a faint underlying sweetness – more like the leaves of the blackberry plants in my yard after the berries are gone. Fall perfection (buy it here). Kiehl’s new Aromatic Blends really appeal too – I’m especially jonesin’ on the Fig Leaf & Sage (buy it here). Look at Demeter’s light Singular Scents if Jo Malone isn’t in your budget. I favor Dirt, Wet Garden and Thunderstorm (buy it here).


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