Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Nashville!

We had the extreme pleasure of visiting our friends the Hoffmans, in Nashville last weekend. Dave and Erin (and their 7 children) were dear friends of ours when they lived here in California, but they moved back home about 5 years ago and ever since we have missed them so! Dave wanted Rich to do a Children's ministry seminar at their small church, so they flew us (and Emma too) out for a visit. It was so fun to be reunited and be a part of the large Hoffman clan which now includes two daughter in laws and one baby grandson!

They live in the country about 30 minutes away from Nashville, in a small town called Greenbriar (or Coopertown). Here is their ginormous 3 story house:

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Oh, the beautiful houses you can get here. This house is perfect for them.

Dave and Erin graciously gave up their own bedroom suite for us. It was so pretty and had floor to ceiling windows of the countryside. It was such a pleasure to wake up and look at the beautiful scenery. And I must mention that they have a king size tempur-pedic bed with lots of fluffy comforters. Ahh. We felt so spoiled.

Well, backing up, we arrived Friday afternoon and Erin had lovely homemade hummus and other snacks and coffee for us. We talked for awhile, and then Dave, Erin, Rich and I went to a wonderful restaurant for dinner called Brick Tops. What a menu! As soon as we were seated Dave proceeded to seemingly order one of everything. In a matter of minutes we were greeted with this unusual appetizer:


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Yes, that's deviled eggs and BACON strips! Sugared bacon strips to be exact. Oh mama.

Then came not one but TWO orders of some of the best sushi I've ever tasted. Then an unbelievable crabcake. Then dinner. Not just my own dinner but sharing Dave's seared fresh Ahi and Erin's best-ever barbecued ribs. Oh, and of course, a side order of their famous stuffed potatoes which was as big as my face. Oh my word it was good. Here's my entree - Chilean sea bass. It was marinated in some Asian flavors, topped with panko and pan fried. It was delish.

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Here's a blurry picture of the four of us after our fantastic meal. Apparently our waiter didn't have the steadiest of hands. :-)

After dinner, Dave drove us by some incredible historic hotels we went inside to get a peek. Here are a couple pics I took:

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This shot is actually a mens' room. Rich took the pic for me - :-) Cool vintage Art Deco.

After that, we enjoyed a walk through hoppin' downtown Nashville. It seemed like one after the next Honky Tonk joint with live music blasting. We walked around, met up with some of our kids for ice cream, and even had the added surprise of Dave getting his car towed from where we parked. Thankfully, we were able to retrieve it quickly, and we all learned not to park in the Kinko's parking lot even if you go in and buy candy so you can be a 'patron.' Ahem.


On Saturday we awoke to the smell of coffee and Erin cooking up some righteous blueberry pancakes. Yum. The men then set out for the seminar at the church, and Erin took me antique shopping and to the BP for a pulled pork sandwich. Yes, the BP is a gas station but they have some awesome pulled pork. Because of my love for vintage stuff and vintage glassware in particular, I was in heaven when she took me to this huge antique shop - we stayed 2 hours and I really could have stayed all day. I picked up two pieces of depression glass as souvenirs and Erin found a cool candy dish.

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This photo just doesn't do this pork sandwich justice. It was soooo good.

Later that afternoon, we met back up with everyone at the house and Erin and I began preparations for our fried chicken dinner. She had set all the chicken in buttermilk that morning, and she made a simple breading of flour, salt, & pepper in a bag to shake the pieces in. What surprised me was that she didn't "deep fry" per se, but just cooked the chicken in about 1/2" of Crisco. She used cast iron skillets, which she said are a must. She made mighty fine biscuits as well. Unfortunately, Erin doesn't follow a recipe so I cannot even try to make her biscuits. She just laughed when I asked her what proportions she used. I do know she used shortening, butter, coconut oil, self-rising flour and buttermilk - beyond that only she knows the secret. They were so flaky and flavorful.

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Youngest daughter Rainey cut all the biscuits out.


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It was torture waiting for the chicken!

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Rich making the mashed potatoes. He's always made perfect ones.


It was really fun helping Erin and most of all watching her. The Hoffmans don't eat Southern food often but they blew out all the stops for us. Erin is actually really into eating healthy - normally she juices, serves raw milk to her family, and gets organic groceries at Whole Foods (where two of her sons work).

As we all sat around their large dining room table relishing our fried chicken, mashed potatoes, green beans, sauteed apples, and biscuits, all anyone could say was how good everything was. I don't think we had regular conversation at all for at least 10 minutes into the meal because everything was just so good and everyone just kept saying so. But there are always lots of laughs to go around at the Hoffmans. We shared many good memories and laughed until we cried. The Hoffmans are super special people who love the Lord and people intensely, and we relished every minute together.

After dinner, the three older boys, Zach, Max, & Alex, a/k/a Lazar Lazar
went to their music room for a jam session. We ended up hanging out with them for well over an hour listening to them play. It was great fun and they even played some Boston for Rich. :-) Rich and I even got up and danced. Good times.

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This is a bit blurry - Alex on left and Max on right. The guy on keyboards is a friend.


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Oldest bro Zach on drums.


The next morning, we went to their church. It's always a unique experience for us to go to a small church! The Hoffmans lead music, of course. After a nice time of communion and a message from Romans 8, Dave and Erin got up to do the closing song. I looked up at the overhead and saw the hymn go up "It is well with my soul." My heart stopped; and then I just lost it. It was so special because eight years ago, Dave and Erin had sung that song at Brady's memorial service (so beautifully with just a guitar). Ever since that day it has been a super emotional hymn for me to hear and sing. Rich held me tight and tears kept streaming throughout the whole song but it was such a blessing. It turns out that Emma had put Dave and Erin up to that just for us, as a heartfelt surprise. It was so sweet, and I'll never forget it.

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After church, sadly it was time to pack up our stuff and head to the airport. But, one last stop was in order- late lunch at a great little deli in East Nashville called Mitchell's. Dave and Erin spoke of their BLT's as being super good - and they surely didn't disappoint. Everything about the sandwich was perfect - the roll, the bacon....in fact we loved the bacon in the sandwich so much (6 weeks cold smoked, no nitrates) that we bought two pounds of it to take home! Yes, only I would have bacon in my airline carry on. It was worth it, believe me. I also bought some local made butter and extra dark chocolate - yum!

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My bacon getting sliced up for the ride home.
:-)

It was so sad to leave Nashville and the Hoffmans. Part of me could totally move there ... we'll have to see someday!

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