Last week, I was invited to a special dinner with some Nashville foodies. I won't go into much detail about who was there, but I want to tell y'all about the food! We met at Butcher & Bee, a farm-to-table concept with locations in Nashville and Charleston, South Carolina. I'll admit that the name of the restaurant threw me off at first. It's not a vegan place, so I wasn't expecting that. But with both "butcher" and "bee" in the name, I assumed it wouldn't be very vegan-friendly.
But boy was I wrong! Yes, they do serve meat, but they also know how to properly treat a vegetable. Chef Bryan Weaver dined with us, and he talked about how, like so many of us, he grew up not liking vegetables. But he later learned that was simply because the veggies he was eating weren't well-prepared. Weaver treats vegetables like some chef treat cuts of meat. They're well-seasoned and prepared in thoughtful, innovative ways.
We started with mezze plates. The Zucchini was sliced into ribbons and paired with candied tomato and cherry pepper. The sauce was slightly spicy from the pepper, and it was hands-down the best zoodle dish I've had.
Next up was the Celery Salad with jalapeno pickled cherries and peanut vin. This was like a fancy version of Ants on a Log! The celery was shaved and paired with the peanut and these sweet cherries. I've never had celery prepared this way, and I've been dreaming about it ever since that meal.
The Fire-Roasted Carrots were my fave among the mezze plates. For one, I just love carrots, especially fresh-from-the-ground, roasted baby carrots. These were dressed up with peanuts, sambal onions, and a phenomenal coconut cream that blew the non-vegans at the table away (and me too!). When I first saw this dish, I just assumed it wasn't vegan. So stoked that the white stuff was coconut cream!
Butcher & Bee serves a number of dips and spreads, and we had the Baba Ganoush with chili salsa, an excellent baba. Served with pita bread.
For our salad, we were served the Autumn Greens — shaved collards, pecans, and pickled apricots. This salad typically comes with parm as well, but they made me a special one without cheese. I'm not typically a fan of raw collards, but these were amazing. Very tender and well-dressed. The pickled apricots were a lovely addition and didn't taste too pickle-y or tart.
The Abalone Mushroom was so much better than any portabella I've had. Like most vegans, I view portabellas as totally cliche. They're often just as an easy option thrown on a menu so the chef doesn't have to put any thought into a vegan dish. But this abalone mushroom had such a complex flavor, and it was served over a pickled green tomato jam. It typically also comes with a yogurt sauce, but they left that off to make this vegan. It reminded me of steak!
My very favorite dish of the night was the Avocado Crispy Rice! This was unlike anything I'd ever tried. The rice is deep-fried, so you get these awesome crispy bits. It's topped with greens, peanuts, serrano chiles, and avocado. It had an Asian flair. I'll definitely order this on my next visit.
I also LOVED the main dish of Grilled Eggplant with black garlic tahini, pickled cherries, and pine nuts. The tahini took the eggplant to the next level. I tend to find most eggplant dishes to be a little meh, but this was astounding.
I've never been to Vedge or Dirt Candy, but I imagine this thoughtful preparation of veggies is similar to what you'd find in those famous, veggie-forward vegan/vegetarian restaurants. It's so rare to find even a vegan restaurant that treats veggies with such admiration and respect as Butcher & Bee did!