When visitors walk between the 1853 Greek-revival mansion’s six solid-cut stone pillars, onto the portico, and through the heavy wood door, they might tour the rooms or learn to cook in its original kitchen. Originally founded by John Harding in 1807 for thoroughbred-horse breeding, the rolling grounds of Belle Meade Plantation now welcome seasonal tours and events ranging from book signings to art shows. Knowledgeable guides in period costumes lead tour groups through the building’s parlors and bedrooms and down a long central hallway to ascend the three floors via a circular cherry-wood staircase.
As groups wander the mansion and cross the grounds, guides divulge facts about famous visitors, such as President Cleveland and General Ulysses S. Grant, including the fact that they probably got scared of the dark just like normal people. During special tours, the staff demonstrates Southern cooking techniques and walks visitors through an herb garden or serves them lemonade or hot wassail with desserts. In an on-grounds winery, winemakers hold tastings of red and white varietals made from Tennessee grapes. Visitors can also clink wineglasses over Southern-style cuisine at the Harding House restaurant, located on the plantation grounds.
Since tapping its first beer almost twenty years ago, Blackstone Brewery has continued to brew an ever-evolving selection. Now a decorated purveyor of fine ferments, Blackstone has collected 17 awards to date, including a gold medal at the 2010 World Beer Cup for its Chaser Pale brew, and its St. Charles Porter became the most awarded brown porter in the Great American Beer Festival's history. Its intimate brewery space tempts thirsty patrons to attend a variety of tastings or view the beer tanks and engage in an up close and personal hug. Along with their craft brews, Blackstone cooks up a diverse menu, including plates of chipotle pork tenderloin with smoked gouda grits, fresh salads, and hearty pub grub such as shepherd's pies and baby back ribs. For those who wish to experience the brewery's offerings outside of the brewpub, Blackstone recently opened a Nashville facility that brews and distributes bottles daily throughout middle Tennessee.
After honing his culinary chops at restaurants owned by Disney, Marriott, and the Wyndham Union Station hotel, chef Angelo launched a local bistro and steakhouse that makes dining feel like a vacation. Here, he stuffs whole racks of lamb with fresh basil, garlic, and feta cheese and sautés veal picatta in white wine and capers. To accommodate diners with dietary restrictions, they also prepare vegetarian and gluten-free items, such as a baked eggplant with zucchini, squash, organic spinach, and a tomato-based broth as light as cotton candy spun from summer sunbeams.
In addition to delivering grilled beef tenderloins and cowboy rib eyes, attentive servers uncork bottles of wine from around the world during dinner and special events such as tastings and private parties. Live music wafts through the restaurant Thursday–Saturday as the house pianist tickles the ivories from 6 p.m.–9 p.m.
Bakers mix batter, whip frostings, and top cooling racks with just-baked cupcakes handcrafted from Blue Velvet Cupcakes' signature recipes. More than 30 cupcake flavors fill a glass display case every day, such as maple bacon, sweet Georgia peach, and cherry-vanilla cobbler, crowned with frosting and drizzles of syrup or slices of fruit. Across the blue-walled storefront, stools scoot up to a black and chrome café table. This table takes up residence next to a floor-to-ceiling window, whose sunshine casts a cheery glow and helps incubate cupcakes into full-grown cakes.
Belcourt Taps celebrates the charms and flavors of the South with regular live music, and gourmet twists on comfort classics. The festivities begin before diners even step through the door. Outside, a sprawling patio surrounds the restaurant, lit up at night with warm sconce lighting and candlelight. There, guests can sample the Belcourt sliders trio, where one Angus patty holds a stack of bacon and blue cheese, one carries duxelles and brie, and the last hefts roasted-tomato-and-onion confit. Diners can also explore tapas and shareable plates of fried green tomatoes and steamed mussels or dive solo into a fried soft-shell crab BLT.
Inside, regular live music showcases the talents of singers and songwriters who carry on the Nashville sound. Golden yellow walls brighten the room, adding the feel of a southwestern cantina or a southwestern cantina owned by a pyromaniac, and soft overhead lighting creates the ideal atmosphere for a draft beer.
All Seasons Gardening & Brewing Supply Co. arms fermentation farmers and green-thumbed dirt-doctors with a catalog of equipment essentials and hard-to-find accessories. Budding suds sages can find supplies for every stage of the brewing process, from carboy containers ($4.75 and up) for fermentation to a profusion of grains, yeasts, sugars, hops, and malt extracts. The carboy brush ($5.69) scrapes off icky residue, and guides such as the The HomeBrewer's Answer Book ($14.95) explain why previous failed batches kept opening portals to the 12th dimension.