As much as we love this time of year in Calistoga, we felt that it was time to travel South and show our friends and partners of LOLA a little love. So, Jason and I packed our bags and headed to some of our favorite southern cities for a taste of local flavors and our favorite LOLA pairings.
For LOLA’s road trip down South, our first stop was Nashville. Known for it’s bold flavors, rich history, and legendary music, we decided to jump right in with dinners and private tastings at Kayne Prime and The Southern. Kayne Prime takes the idea of a classic upscale steakhouse and blends it with the ideas and aesthetics of a “chef-chic” contemporary boutique restaurant. Ranked in the top ten steakhouses in the U.S., Chris Hyndman’s passion project offers a variety of carefully picked wines, and dishes that include perfectly aged steaks and fresh lobster.
The Southern also serves up a not-to-miss steak, but gives Nashville a variety of different flavors as well. Every entree at The Southern tells a story and is prepared with local produce, sustainable seafood, and a variety of exotic ingredients. Chef Matt Farley has something special here in Nashville with his shuck-to-order oyster bar and diverse flavors. This is one of our favorite spots to settle down for a glass of well chosen wine and a unique plate that provides a “Southern experience with a twist”.
After filling up on Nashville’s finest cuisine and wines, we moved onto New Orleans. This Louisiana city is drenched in the shadows of mystery, magic, and a culture of food and drink as rich as its history. This city is no stranger to a strong culinary culture and vibrant nightlife, but for Jason and I, we had an experience unlike any other. We first stopped into Felix’s Restaurant and Oyster Bar for some fresh Louisiana seafood and drinks. Fresh-shucked oysters and creole staples make this restaurant a classic and casual go-to for any NOLA trip.
But, the most moving part of our entire trip was at Bacchanal, founded by Chris Rudge. One of LOLA’s original supporters, Chris was a longtime friend from a Florida town that neighbors my own hometown. Chris has supported LOLA since it’s beginnings, and we were looking forward to seeing him in his New Orleans based restaurant and wine laboratory in the Ninth Ward. Unfortunately, our friend passed away before we had the opportunity to see him, leaving us saddened before our stay. We took this opportunity in NOLA to remember Chris, and to honor his memory at the beautiful, inventive restaurant that he created. There was art, music, and of course wine. Everything our LOLA friend would have loved. Though our time at Bacchanal was bittersweet, it was the best part of our trip celebrating the life of a visionary such as Chris. He is gone but never forgotten in the LOLA family.
After our time in New Orleans, we moved onto Alabama where we spent time in both Birmingham and Oxford. In Birmingham, we had the pleasure of meeting legendary chef Frank Stitt. Both Frank and his wife Pardis, showed us nothing short of supreme southern hospitality.The staff at their Italian-inspired southern restaurant, Bottega, presented us with a phenomenal menu and fantastic service, along with a LOLA tasting. Our evening with the Stitts was incredible, and we had one of the best meals of this year. We also took the opportunity to stop into Stitt’s other restaurant Highlands Grill. Since our time in Birmingham, Highlands Grill has been nominated for Best Restaurant under the James Beard Foundation. Congratulations are in order for our friends Frank and Pardis, and everyone at Highlands Grill for their well deserved nomination!
After Birmingham, we ended our trip in Oxford. Oxford was an exciting conclusion to our journey. William Faulkner is laid to rest here, and seeing as he is my favorite author, I had to stop by his statue in the town’s center as well as his grave. Also during our time here, John Currence and chef Sean Brock (of Husk fame, and one of the nation’s top chefs) were both participating in a “chef throwdown” with Mexican street food at the Lamar Lounge. John’s restaurants City Grocery and Snackbar both serve Anna Maria’s bottarga and will soon be pouring LOLA, so we went out to show our support.
Our trip was filled with so much food and wine—but even better than that—it was filled with amazing friends of LOLA. We are lucky to have been surrounded by such wonderful friends (and those we consider to be family) during this time, and we look back to returning to these southern cities.