Kitchen Notes.

Recently, an old friend of mine and I decided to catch up over breakfast at Kitchen Notes, a three-meal (breakfast, lunch and dinner), farm-to-table dining concept located in Downtown Nashville's Omni Hotel.

I am all about the interior of a place just as much as I am about the food!  So naturally, the thing that wowed me upon my first encounter with Kitchen Notes was its decor, which consists of "repurposed materials found at local antique stores and flea markets."

Think old Southern charm with a few contemporary adjustments: tufted benches, floral arrangements sitting in Mason jars, and an assortment of vintage plates and handwritten recipes hanging on the walls in glass frames (hence the restaurant's name). 

The main dining room is situated in an open and naturally lit space that includes this tantalizing buffet of all of the down home cuisine you can possibly think of: fresh fruit, homemade flavored biscuits (such as chocolate cherry), locally prepared jams, steel cut oatmeal with all the 'fixins, an assortment of warm pastries, cereal, applewood smoked bacon, blueberry-maple country sausage patties, country ham, breakfast potatoes, as well as made to order omelettes (my dish of choice), buttermilk pancakes, cast-iron waffles and french toast.

Y'all. During the two times I've visited this place, somehow I have managed to get a taste of everything I've listed above.  And almost nothing falls short of incredible. 

The price point is what you'd expect of a restaurant in an upscale hotel, but I guarantee you that the food and the experience are worth every penny. I'd recommend making reservations in advance regardless of your group size. 

 

Antique Treasures.

I love just about all things vintage – cars, music, furniture, dinnerware, clothing, shoes (particularly vintage Nikes), accessories, jewelry trays, you name it. 

When I lived in Memphis, one of my favorite weekend pastimes was shopping for antiques with my mom. We'd wake up early Saturday morning, grab breakfast and then spend the rest of our day traveling through Midtown on the hunt for some of the most quaint, one-of-a-kind, charming and inexpensive pieces we could find. 

I've sort of gotten away from my hobby since I've been in Nashville.  But this past Sunday afternoon, I made it a priority to head to Wedgewood and check out the flea market as well as a few antique shops in the surrounding area.

Now I wouldn't call myself an expert just yet, but I can say that there is a technique to this kind of shopping (I've done my research).  If this is something new for you, here's a routine that guarantees me the best experience:

  • wear comfortable clothing and dress appropriately for the season

  • bring a cold bottle of water during the warmer months

  • don't be afraid of the dust (as many things can be dry cleaned, polished, etc.) 

  • have patience to sift through cluttered merchandise

  • throughly inspect items for discoloration and other unfixable things before purchasing

  • avoid wearing blatantly expensive clothing as this may affect your ability to bargain with vendors on pricing (remember almost everything is negotiable), plus you don't want to risk getting dust on your clothes

  • create a budget beforehand and take cash to ensure staying within budget  

  • have a mental list prepared of things you are looking to buy but keep an open mind to other items that may catch your eye while there

And as far as the flea market, if there is absolutely something that I am looking for and have to have no matter the cost, I try to get there as early as possible on the first day of the market for first dibs. Otherwise, I wait until the last day of the market to shop as my chances of negotiating prices may be greater.

Summer Blooms.

Having fresh flowers on display in my home is a must. The instant elegance they add to any room in the house (bedroom, living room, kitchen, office etc.) as well as the natural fragrance they exude bring about such positive energy, which is very necessary for a homebody like me. 

My weekly routine usually involves purchases from the supermarket, where I can find flowers at bargain prices (3 bunches for $12). 

Side note: Not all supermarkets are created equal, as far as floral quality. I definitely have my picks!  

If my husband and I are expecting out-of-town guests or maybe hosting a get-together, I'll make a special trip to a local wholesaler or a flower shop for the more exotic or seasonal blooms, which tend to be more on the expensive end but worth the price, since they can make quite a statement.

My floral arrangement style is very similar to my personal style – neutrals, neutrals, neutrals! Even when it comes to nail polish and makeup, I go for mostly anything that's understated and minimal. Every now and then I like to step outside of my comfort zone and go for something a bit more daring, offbeat and multi-chromatic, especially in the summertime.

This past weekend, I grabbed my straw tote and just shopped around. I had a few ideas but I didn't have a set look in mind (and I don't really follow the rules when it comes to floral arranging).  I knew that I wanted to include a mix of florals with variations in size and that white peonies would be the base flowers. I picked up a bunch from the wholesaler and then headed to a flower shop and the supermarket for a rose, some carnations, gerbera daises, mini hydrangea, delphinium and a few fillers (leather leaves). 

As soon as I got home, I unpacked the flowers and lined them up by size, snipped the stems accordingly and bunched them together (starting with the largest flower). Then I secured them with a medium sized rubber band (pushed up far enough where it was not visible) and immersed them in a vase full of fresh water. I keep a collection of vases stored to fit any type of arrangement.  I even use mint julep cups and Mason jars as vases whenever I want to create a more Southern feel. 

And voilà! I can get at least a week of life (two weeks for hydrangea and carnations) out of most blooms by trimming the stems and replacing the water in the vase every two days. 

Nashville Fashion Week Part 2: Ready-to-Wear Runway Showcase

Religion

More stunning looks were presented Friday, April 10th for Nashville Fashion Week's second runway show at the Bicenntenial Mall Ampitheater.  Sponsored by Opry Mills, the show featured the collections of five local and national designers: Alfredo Bove of Religion, Megan Huntz, Lagi Nadeau, Michael Magnone of Circle of Gentlemen and Timo Weiland.  And former Executive Director of Council of Fashion Designers of America/New York Fashion Week creator Fern Mallis was in attendance for the second year in a row!

 

Megan Huntz

Lagi Nadeau

Circle of Gentlemen

Timo Weiland

Nashville Fashion Week Part 1: Nashville Designer Showcase

A couple of weeks ago, I received an invitation to cover Nashville Fashion Week as a photographer and I couldn't have been more excited!  Everything about this brand new experience for me was amazing, mainly because I was surrounded by so many insanely creative and inspiring individuals.  The entire week was a non-stop celebration of Nashville's advancing fashion industry, including panels, retail-based events, parties and exhibits.

Sponsored by YP Nashville, the first of the two runway shows took place opening night (April 7th) at Acme Feed and Seed, with world-renowned fashion photographer Nigel Barker (America's Next Top Model) in attendance. The collections of seven local designers were featured: Van Hoang of Van Hoang Designs, Maria Silver of Black by Maria Silver, Leslie Stephens of Ola Mai, Eric Adler of Eric Adler Clothing, Truly Alvarenga of Pink Elephants DesignsAmanda Valentine and Ashley Balding of Ona Rex

 

Van Hoang

Black by Maria Silver

Ola Mai

Eric Adler

Pink Elephants Designs

Amanda Valentine

Ona Rex

There are more photos to come!

Adele's.

I live for the weekend, mainly because I love to brunch.

There are two eateries that I keep in heavy rotation, however, the other day I decided to switch things up a bit and dine at Adele's, one of the newest spots to hit Nashville's rapidly-growing restaurant scene. 

Located downtown in the Gulch, it's a concept that was brought to life by Jonathan Waxman, a former musician turned chef, as an ode to his mother's love and passion for food.  His background is beyond impressive — he attended culinary school in France, has worked in the kitchens of game-changing restaurants in Los Angeles, became the pioneer of California cuisine, opened up one of the most popular dining sensations in New York and has established himself as one of America's most prominent chefs.

Adele's is housed in what used to be an old 1950s automobile repair shop.  Tall, let up garage doors now serve as windows that illuminate the entire space with plentiful amounts of natural light.  The decor is simple — exposed brick walls, oak tables and a few splashes of aqua blue provided by stools positioned at the bar.  There's an open kitchen (which really makes this place feel like home) with a tremendous wood burning oven and an extensive counter where you can sit and engage in conversation with the staff while they prepare the food.

The menu takes an avant-garde approach to traditional brunch items and is subject to change frequently, since everything is cooked with fresh and seasonal ingredients. My goal was to deviate from my usual mimosa routine and try a bloody mary for the first time.  Made from scratch with all of the usual elements — vodka, tomato juice, cayenne pepper, it was surprisingly pleasant and wasn't too spicy or too bold.

I'm still a champagne and orange juice kind of gal, though. 

As a starter, I chose the shaved brussel sprout salad, which included a salty-sweet mixture of golden raisins, walnuts and pecorino cheese.

For the main course, I went for the eggs benedict, which is also something I've never tried before, due to my challenging relationship with egg yolk.

No really, this is a true struggle for me; I have texture issues.  I literally started eating eggs last year!

But this one was rich in flavor and prepared to my liking.  The English muffin was lightly toasted and topped with shaved country ham, hollandaise sauce and a poached egg that had a firm yolk, which made it quite delightful to eat.

Bravo, Mr. Waxman.  I've just added a third restaurant to my list of weekend brunch favorites. 

Rock Paper Scissors.

Whenever an occasion that involves me giving someone a gift arises, I get excited, mainly because I love making people smile.  And since I aim to make stylish statements with everything that I do, delivering a beautifully wrapped box is just as important to me as what's inside of the box, if not more.  

Unfortunately, I'm not a "do-it-yourself" kind of girl and wrapping gifts is not my specialty.  But hey, that's what chic gift and paper boutiques like Rock Paper Scissors are for. 

Not too long after we moved to Nashville, I had a bridal shower to attend. I was in a bit of a frenzy about no longer having access to Ménage, which was my go-to stationery shop in Memphis. Attempting to wrap the gift myself at the last minute or being lazy and throwing it in a gift bag were just not options for me, so I searched Google and came across Ménage's sister store in historic Downtown Franklin. 

Let me stray away for a second and talk about how charming downtown Franklin is. When I arrived to Main Street, I was in awe of the aesthetics — brick sidewalks and Victorian architectural style buildings that housed antiques shops, restaurants and a general store or two. Little did I know, it's acclaimed by many major publications as one of the best towns in the nation. 

I walked into Rock Paper Scissors and I was wowed even more. Clean, colorful, undeniably feminine and softly lit — it was absolutely gorgeous.  On display throughout the shop was a variety of cute custom monogrammed notepads, some jewels here and there, party accessories, as well as non-traditional wedding and birthday cards with the wittiest sayings on them. 

Then I met Lauren, the creative mind behind this concept, and it all made sense why this place was full of such stunning details.  

A Jersey girl with a degree in Texture and Clothing (as well as a lover of all things Kate Spade like me), she relocated to the Nashville area some years back with the desire to "open a modern, New York inspired stationary store in a Southern town." 

She took my gift box and spontaneously came up with a really neat and festive idea for the wrapping, which included bold-colored and whimsically-patterned wrapping paper, accented with a hint of sparkly ribbon and an oversized bow. 

Ever since then, Rock Paper Scissors has been the source of my luxe paper goods for all occasions, even Christmas.

Pinewood Social.

One of my favorite hangout spots in Nashville is Pinewood Social, a 13,000-square-foot former trolley barn that now serves as a day-to-night location for social gathering.  

What intrigues me the most about this place is its versatility. As a matter of fact, Pinewood Social entails so many things in one that I have to experience it in separate parts.

My first visit was with a group of friends on New Year's Eve last year. We were intimately seated in an open area with oversized, wraparound booth seating, a cozy sofa, lounge chairs and a coffee table with classic board games underneath it. We didn't eat dinner there, but we took total advantage of the bar and ordered an assortment of some of the most eclectic cocktails. Situated behind us was a full service, six-lane bowling alley, which put me in the mindset of being in an old-school, recreation center in the 1950s.  A karaoke room was also nearby. Outside, there were a couple of four-foot deep swimming pools and private cabanas overlooking the Cumberland River and the city's skyline.  The energy that night was high and all night long people were laughing and chattering among the sounds of bowling balls knocking down pins and champagne flutes toasting at midnight. 

But when I went back one Sunday morning for brunch, the atmosphere was completely different.  The vibe was much more laid-back, and the dominant sound was the tapping of people's fingertips on laptops while sipping coffee prepared by the expert baristas of Crema. The booths and the sofas in the lounge space were pretty much unoccupied, instead, the preferred gathering place was a long, dimly lit wooden table that looked like something you'd find in a library.   

The bar was open, but this time, the drink menu consisted of breakfast/brunch inspired cocktails, such as The Good Sinner (shown above), which was like a mimosa with a twist: sparkling wine mixed with St. Germain, pineapple juice, Pernod and your choice of either gin or vodka.  I also had a coffee cocktail called Southern Limerick (shown below), that was made with coffee, bourbon, sorghum and heavy cream.

The brunch menu included Southern-style dishes with some unconventional tweaks here and there.  There were so many good options that I couldn't decide; it was either order the Egg in a Basket, filled with ham, truffle hollandaise, a poached egg and toast or the fried chicken biscuits and homemade gravy.  I went with the latter and added the granola to my tab, which was blended with yogurt, fruit, mint and a drizzle of honey. 

Pinewood Social has received some pretty fascinating press. It's been raved about in Cosmopolitan magazine, USA Today, Forbes Travel Guide, InStyle magazine and New York Times, just to name a few.

Seems like one of the most inventive concepts on Earth, right?  Definitely a must-try during your next trip to the Music City….

 

Lauren Irene.

Not too long after I launched my blog, I received an unexpected email from this girl who had found me via Instagram.  She told me how much she admired my photography and that she was willing to travel from Memphis to collaborate with me for an up-and-coming project of hers called The Cultured Goddess, a website she was designing to promote and showcase female artistic expression.  Of course I was thrilled! But since I am still quite the amateur at this photography thing, I was somewhat hesitant about whether or not I could seriously do this.  I was willing to take on the challenge, though. 

To my surprise, when we spoke on the phone a few days later, it was as if we'd known each other for quite some time. High-spirited and wise beyond her twenty-something years, she shared with me her love for old-school music, classic literature, as well as her appreciation of cultural feminism. She defined herself as a "girl on a mission," which ultimately became the inspiration behind this photo shoot. I envisioned her effortlessly strutting the city streets while styled in something vintage modern chic, traveling to various spots located in the heart of downtown Nashville, such Dunn Bros Coffee shop, 5th Avenue of the Arts, and the historic Printer's Alley.

The morning of our shoot, I grabbed a pastry from another one of my many go-to coffee shops, Frothy Monkey, and waited for her to arrive. From a block away, I see a petite and seemingly self-confident chick amidst a crowd of people, sashaying in my direction while eagerly waving her hand in the air.  As she comes closer, I'm falling in love with her look from head to toe, from the pixie-like haircut underneath a cinnamon toned floppy hat, to the cerulean blue jumpsuit that was cinched at the waist with a built-in belt, and the cutest leather cut-out, peep-toe sandals.  Her accessories were minimal — a couple of pieces of small, dainty jewelry, a pair of aviators, and the illuminating smile she wore on her pretty face.   

Our chemistry was instant, and as a result, I didn't have to do much directing.  We laughed and connected so much that people kept stopping me, asking if I wanted to hand them the camera so that they could take a photo of us together, as if the two of us were just friends and I didn't have a job to do.  

To Lauren Irene: Thank you so much for this amazing experience and for believing in me! I wish you much success.

IveyCake + The Cupcake Collection.

 "Boss"  by IveyCake - a custard filled vanilla cupcake with an eclair frosting, dipped in ganache and topped with a cherry. 

"Boss"  by IveyCake - a custard filled vanilla cupcake with an eclair frosting, dipped in ganache and topped with a cherry. 

Prepare yourself for some serious deliciousness in this post. 

I remember when cupcakes used to be so simple.  As a kid, my options were to either ask my mom to purchase a box of cake mix, along with a carton of eggs, milk and some tin foil cups from the supermarket or to pick up some of those Hostess-labeled packets of preservative filled cakes from the gas station or corner store.

But then a few years ago, this high-end gourmet cupcake craze began, and I must admit, when I became aware of it happening, I too, joined the bandwagon. I read an article recently that suggested the trend was on a decline nowadays but I see no evidence of this thing going away anytime soon. 

I had my go-to bake shop in Memphis and I didn't think any other place could compare to it.  But after moving to Nashville and being introduced to IveyCake and The Cupcake Collection, I may have to beg to differ. 

 

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Yes, this über glam you are seeing is really a bakery.

Have you ever received a Christmas gift that was wrapped so beautifully that you didn't want to open it to see what was inside? This feeling sums up my experience whenever I am at IveyCake in Brentwood.  

As soon as I walk through the door, I'm allured by this colorful spread of cupcakes that are always so whimsically packaged with either buttercream frosting or cream cheese icing and an assortment of toppings.  Instead of being labeled with traditional names, such as strawberry and vanilla, they're named with witty phrases and titles like "Good Kisser" and "Hot Mess" that give them so much personality and character. 

And they taste just as divine as they look.  These sweet delectables are baked from scratch daily with the finest ingredients.  

 "I Do" - a vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting topped with edible pearls and glitter. 

"I Do" - a vanilla cupcake with buttercream frosting topped with edible pearls and glitter. 

 "Big Dreams" - a strawberry cupcake with cream cheese icing tinted pink (my favorite)!

"Big Dreams" - a strawberry cupcake with cream cheese icing tinted pink (my favorite)!

 "Break Up" - a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and glitter (my second favorite)!

"Break Up" - a red velvet cupcake with cream cheese frosting and glitter (my second favorite)!

 "Birthday Cake" - chocolate or vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, sprinkles and glitter. 

"Birthday Cake" - chocolate or vanilla cupcakes with vanilla buttercream frosting, sprinkles and glitter. 

Ivey Cake

This place has received major local and national recognition and accolades, including The Tennessean's "Toast of The Music City" award for Best Bakery in 2012.  A couple of years prior, People magazine featured singer Carrie Underwood's wedding cupcake tier, which was created by Ivey Childers, the shop's founder. Childers also appeared on the TV show Cupcake Wars, a reality-based baking competition that airs on Food Network. 

On to The Cupcake Collection…..

 "Sweet Lemonade" - a tart and sweet combination of lemon cake and lemon icing.

"Sweet Lemonade" - a tart and sweet combination of lemon cake and lemon icing.

 "Strawberry" - strawberry cake topped with strawberry icing (it has real strawberries)!

"Strawberry" - strawberry cake topped with strawberry icing (it has real strawberries)!

Let me start by saying that I shot these photos at about 10:05 am on a Monday, which was five minutes after they had opened the doors for the day. Two minutes later, there were people standing behind me in a line that was almost out of the door waiting to place an order.

Oh yeah, the obsession with The Cupcake Collection here is real.

Located in Nashville's historic Germantown, it sits in the living room of a cozy, quaint house that belongs to baker Migñon François and her family.  

Their style approach to this confection is traditional.  And just like Ivey Cake, they are made from scratch daily with fresh and natural ingredients.  Each cupcake is moist, tasty and lightly topped with an icing that's just the right amount of sweet. Flavors to choose from include classic (Vanilla, Chocolate), premium (Café Au Lait, Strawberry Lemonade) and specialty (Butterfinger, Campfire S'mores).  

 

 "Red Velvet" - velvety smooth southern style red velvet cake topped with cream cheese icing. 

"Red Velvet" - velvety smooth southern style red velvet cake topped with cream cheese icing. 

 "Chocolate" - rich chocolate cake, chocolate icing, chocolate, chocolate and chocolate!

"Chocolate" - rich chocolate cake, chocolate icing, chocolate, chocolate and chocolate!

 "Sweet Potato" - a sweet potato pie in a cake! Topped with buttercream icing and a dash of cinnamon. 

"Sweet Potato" - a sweet potato pie in a cake! Topped with buttercream icing and a dash of cinnamon. 

The Sweet Potato is their most popular cupcake (and one of my favorites as well).  It tastes just like a homemade sweet potato pie, which makes it just right for the fall. 

 Winner of The Tennessean's "Toast of the Music City" award for Best Bakery 2011

Winner of The Tennessean's "Toast of the Music City" award for Best Bakery 2011

Live on the Green.

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For the past five years, Nashville has been the home of Live on the Green, a free, outdoor music festival presented by local radio station WRLT Lightning 100.  Held in Public Square Park, which is located downtown near the Metropolitan Courthouse, it hosts indie and well-known musicians of many genres.  And somewhat similar to the famous Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in California (but on a smaller scale), people from various states and countries travel to the Music City to attend. This year, the festival took place on three consecutive Thursdays in August and during the first weekend in September. I caught the final show on the evening of September 6th and I must say, it was quite an experience.

Outside of the park, a number of food trucks were lined up on nearby street, serving everything from loaded BBQ nachos to spicy curry goat, Chinese steamed buns, chicken shwarma sandwiches, and those homemade, sugar-dusted funnel cakes that seem to melt in your mouth with each bite. The food truck scene here is bananas, by the way, but I'll go into more detail about this craze in a later post.

Ice cold craft beer was on tap, including my new favorite, Leinenkugel's Summer Shandy, a light beer with a splash of lemonade flavor. 

The weather was breezy and 75 degrees. Children were laughing and dancing in the water fountains without a care in the world, like free spirits. And there was a huge crowd spread out among the park's plush green lawn, waiting on the next act to grace the stage. 

An alternative rock singer-songwriter with this androgynous look and tiny stature by the name of LP stepped onto the stage while strumming her guitar and belting out notes with a voice that was larger than life.  When she performed the song "Night Like This" from her latest album entitled, Forever For Now, the crowd went crazy.  People were twirling and rocking from side-to-side where they stood, while flawlessly mouthing the lyrics. And then she began whistling the tune in a perfect pitch, it was unlike anything I had ever heard before. I expected to hear good music at this festival, but I honestly did not anticipate leaving as a new fan and immediately downloading an album on iTunes when I got home.  

Later on, I learned that she's a powerhouse in the music industry.  She's worked with legendary artists such as singer-songwriter Linda Perry of 4 Non Blondes and pinned songs for Cher, Christina Aguilera, and Rihanna, just to name a few.  

I guess I've been buried under a rock somewhere. 

Check her out by pressing play below:

Champagne Toast at Watermark.

It's no secret among my friends and family that I absolutely love to sip champagne.

So there was no better way for my husband and I to celebrate my new blog than to grab a bottle from our bar cart at home and toast it up on the rooftop patio of Watermark, a stylish and contemporary restaurant in Nashville located in an area downtown known as The Gulch. 

Of course, no celebration is complete without good food. What I love the most about this restaurant is how the chef prepares these Southern dishes in such a creative, non-traditional way, without sacrificing their great taste.

To get us started, we ordered a stone ground grit soufflé that sat in a creamy mixture of goat cheese, smoked bacon butter sauce and shittake mushrooms. Then we had pan seared scallops served with a medley of corn and lima bean succotash in a warm bacon vinaigrette sauce, with a side of grilled asparagus.

And each dish was every bit of delicious. 

Cheers to new beginnings….

The Peach Truck.

There's this '64 Jeep Gladiator that travels all over Nashville with a truck bed full of sweet, juicy, Georgia-grown peaches. And quite frankly, they are some of the best I've ever had. 

Like….ever.

These fruits of heaven are hand-picked from orchards in Georgia and then driven to Nashville to be sold by the bagful.  Even if you don't live around here, you can still purchase them online and have them shipped to your door. They're only available during peach season (mid-May to mid-August), which means that you are getting the absolute best quality.

When I grabbed one out of my first bag and took a bite, I immediately thought about making a peach-flavored cocktail for our house guests one day, since we love home entertaining.  I took an inventory of what we had on our bar cart and searched Pinterest for inspiration.  

After scrolling through about a million results, I finally found a sangria recipe that includes the perfect fusion of white wine, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, sliced peaches and mint leaves.

You can find the recipe here

Jeni's Ice Cream Shop.

Jeni's

It's mid-August.  And even though the day consisted of nothing but cloudy skies and rainfall, the temperature gauge on the dashboard of my car still read 90 degrees.  

A cool, sweet treat was definitely in order. 

So I headed to the artsy and eclectic side of East Nashville and ended up at what seems to be the most popular place on the planet: Jeni’s

This scoop shop takes pride in serving ice cream made with fresh ingredients shipped directly to it from local farms and around the world.

During a typical visit, I expect to see several people standing in a line long enough to wrap around the building waiting to enter, but fortunately for me (since it was damp and muggy outside), there was no line and I was able to just walk right in.

Jeni’s has so many great choices, which can be overwhelming for an indecisive person like me.  No matter how many times I’ve been, I always end up sampling the same three flavors before making my decision: Riesling Poached Pear Sorbet, Salted Caramel and the new Sweet Cream Biscuits and Peach Jam, a flavor Jeni's created with The Peach Truck.

When I tasted the new Backyard Mint flavor, which Jeni's describes as "cool, sweet, with a remarkably refreshing herb-garden finish," I was sold.  But I had to act fast.  In less than five minutes of stepping onto the patio and into the extreme heat, there was more ice cream on my fingers than in my waffle cone. 

12 South.

12 South is probably my favorite of Nashville's up-and-coming neighborhoods.  When I visited it for the first time, it was like taking a deep breath of fresh air — the boutiques, the coffee shops, restaurants, music stores — almost everything is local and I was amazed at how they all seemed so innovative and anti-cookie-cutter.  

What's also really cool about this place is the Nashville B-Cycle station, a bike-sharing system that allows you to rent a bicycle for up to 24-hours and ride it anywhere in the city.  I decided to stay in the area with my bike and meet my husband for lunch at The Flipside

One of 12 South's newest restaurants, the interior has a modern 1950s diner flair, with powder blue banquette seating and vintage fire engine red Big Chill refrigerators.  The walls are combination of white tiling and transparent garage doors that allow natural light to shine through, giving this place a soft and airy feel. The bar is stocked with an abundance of options and they also have quite a few local draft beers on tap. 

The menu is centered around chicken breasts coated with seasoned bread crumbs, pan sautéed in olive oil and topped with various unique combinations that you can order as a a sandwich or standalone.  I enjoyed the Popeye sandwich, which includes spinach, tomato, mozzarella cheese and a balsamic drizzle. 

There was an inevitable sweet tooth that followed soon after, so we headed to Las Paletas, a gourmet ice pop shop also located in 12 South.

They are made with fresh ingredients with no preservatives or artificial flavors, which gives them a subtly sweet taste that's just right and not overwhelming.   And although the shop serves many traditional flavors, such as peach, strawberry, and vanilla chocolate chip (shown above), they also have more exotic ones, like pineapple chili, honeydew and Chai tea, which makes this experience more fun.  I just haven't built up the courage to try the fun ones yet!

CREMA.

I’m an avid coffee drinker.  And I don’t always want to settle for just a basic cup brewed with grounds purchased from the supermarket.  Every now and then I like to indulge in something exotic that’s been prepared by an elite barista who considers the brewing process a form of art.

So naturally, when we moved to Nashville last December, one of the first things on my agenda was to tap into my inner hipster and find a coffee shop that sits in one of the city’s many burgeoning, trendy communities.

Then I found this awesomeness called Crema.

It’s a brewtique located in SoBro (South of Broadway), a neighborhood close to downtown that was once industrial but is now undergoing a modern redevelopment.

When I walked into the shop, I was beyond impressed. This sophisticated aroma of coffee beans greeted me at the door.  There were simple floral arrangements in Mason jars on wooden tabletops.  And the sounds of people chattering, mugs clinking, and laid-back R & B music playing melded together harmoniously in the background. I stood still for a few seconds and took it all in.

I ordered a vanilla latte that day, but I have since fell in love with the Cuban, a mildly sweet, smooth and balanced flavored latte made with steamed milk and a Corazón blend expresso.