Etc. made CN Traveler’s “11 Best Places for Brunch in Nashville” list! Read the article here.
We want to know what chefs eat! So, we asked pastry chef, Megan Williams of Nashville’s Etch and sister restaurant etc. what she enjoys making when she’s not at work. Read our interview below on her favorite foods, where she finds inspiration, how she got her start, her culinary idols, and what she’s looking forward to.
Moving beyond wit-based beermosas and beer-backed Bloody Marys, bars and restaurants are using beer in brunch cocktails in bold new ways.
Ask foodies across America about Nashville’s most famous chefs, and Deb Paquette’s might not be the first name you hear. But for more than 30 years, Paquette has trained and mentored countless chefs — and helped women succeed in a notoriously male-dominated industry.
Throwing away food that can be used or composted is a real problem in Nashville.
Consider these facts: It is estimated that 25% of the contents of our landfill is food waste. In fact, 40% of all food produced in this country ends up at the dump.
Beloved chef and owner Deb Paquette is known for adding extra unexpected ingredients to create unique dishes, so it’s funny that Etc. (pronounced et cetera) gets its name from omitting something. Her confident pairing of complexity and playfulness is on display at Etc. in brunch, lunch and dinner menus dotted with Korean pulled pork sloppy Joes with daikon kimchi and fermented black bean mayo, Vietnamese short rib with spun lemongrass noodles and candied peanuts, and chicken breast with honey black bean butter and candied garlic broccoli. Take away the final letter from Deb’s sleek downtown establishment, Etch, and you get an intimate eatery tucked away on a quiet Green Hills side street. And the neighborhood is so delighted that guests can hardly sit down before stopping to chat between tables on their way to the bar.
Pull out a pencil, let’s make a list.
As quickly as you can, name your top three neighborhoods for dining in Nashville. OK, is Green Hills in there? If the answer is yes, start over. Is it in your top five? Start over.
The fact of the matter is that Green Hills — even if someplace like Table 3 or Chinatown holds a place or certain dish in your heart — won’t make the top 10 on most people’s list of areas of town to go for dinner. There’s a lot of reasons for that, but most of them come down to rent — you’re going to pay more per square foot off Hillsboro Pike than almost any other place in town. The restaurants that survive usually have high volume (we’re looking at you, Cheesecake Factory) or high prices, and creative, chef-driven spots are rarely drawn to that kind of environment. Economics are bitchy like that.
Into that reality steps Etc, chef Deb Paquette’s 80-seat restaurant tucked into the Bedford Commons development off Crestmoor Road. It was originally supposed to be called Truss and located in Sylvan Park, but the developers built that space incorrectly and got into a dispute with the neighborhood association, so Paquette and partners decamped for Green Hills and the relatively quiet area behind Marriott’s Courtyard hotel.
When you pull up to the restaurant, you may be forgiven for thinking you’ve wandered into planned-community territory or onto some vanilla movie-studio backlot. The wide sidewalks and unadorned buildings look like they’re waiting to be dressed for the next sitcom exterior to be shot there. But step inside Etc and you find a comforting space, bathed in dark wood and ready to treat you well.
Fans of Etch — Etc’s sister restaurant downtown — will be familiar with the style, as larger portions abound, even for starters. Paquette pulls heavily from Mediterranean influences, and every dish arrives plated to grab your attention. There are arcs of dots and piles of greens. There are layers upon layers of flavors and sometimes a smear of sauce. There are auxiliary piles of crumbles and flavored butters. There is nothing untouched, and that includes the sourdough, which has been grilled smartly and topped with microgreens.
When it works, it really works. The lamb ($32), cooked perfectly medium-rare, comes with crispy coconut potatoes on top of a sauce of curried parsnips and some mung beans that have been sprouted and tossed with mint. It’s perfect Paquette. Her point of view might originally be Mediterranean, but she’s region-agnostic and unafraid to seek complementary flavors from anywhere.
The fowl trio ($34) was the same way. Seared duck breast slices were topped with just a little foie gras butter, but working opposite them was a chicken breast, splayed out on a corn husk and slathered with a red mole sauce. It was a lot to take in, but there was nothing left on the plate at the end.
In general, Paquette edits her starters a little harder, so while a scallop crudo ($14) comes with orange segments, curried mustard seeds and bits of tempura, it somehow feels simpler. Same for the Vietnamese-inspired short rib ($12), which had a glorious nearly caramelized richness to it. Even in the cases where the plate was too busy, her staff’s technique was spot-on, producing some of the most tender octopus ($13) I’ve had in a while. Just bump those greens over to the side of the plate and slide a piece through the smoked bean puree.
Lunch featured some mixed results. The shrimp salad ($15) was at war with the greens and the slightly soggy flatbread, but the Indian chicken tacos ($10.50) with a touch of hot peach jam left me smiling. It should be your first stop.
You can see Paquette’s proper Culinary Institute of America training everywhere. Even when dishes missed — oh, how I’d like a mulligan on that Portuguese ravioli ensopado ($37), as it was just a hodgepodge of seafood that never came together — all the components were cooked expertly. And as the menu has started to evolve over time (and season), dishes like the lamb have improved.
I never got less than excellent service, no matter the time of day or where I sat, whether by myself at the bar, lingering with a larger party or even just as half a couple on a weeknight. The staff was knowledgeable about the seemingly endless components and made good recommendations from the wine and cocktail list. (If you see their version of a whiskey smash on the list — rye, mint, lemon — grab it.)
Etc might not break any new ground for Nashville, but for Green Hills it feels positively progressive. Will Paquette get an area better known for retail and traffic into the dining top 10 anytime soon? Maybe, maybe not. But it doesn’t have a shot without her.
Before Nashville was filled with cocktail bars, award-winning restaurants and hipster-friendly coffee shops, Deb Paquette was on the culinary scene as the first woman in Tennessee to qualify as a certified executive chef. Three decades later, she’s still there, helming the kitchen at her restaurants, Etch and etc., and mentoring a cadre of chefs along the way.
Her love of ingredients, both in food and cocktails, is evident, as is her love of travel, apparent in her globally inspired menu (and dream of living on a tropical island). Paquette talks about finding a way to squeeze citrus into anything, her growing bourbon collection and what she looks for in a bartender.
What’s your cocktail of choice?
I’m a big grapefruit juice fan—I’m from South Florida; I love it. I’ll drink something with vodkaor tequila with grapefruit … and I’ll usually water it down with a little soda water. I’m not big on mezcal; it’s too smoky and doesn’t go well with grapefruit juice. [Laughs]
Has food inspired a cocktail for you? Or has a cocktail ever inspired a dish you created?
Yes! There are so many liqueurs and flavoring agents—I’ve used a lot of them in salad dressings, like artichoke liqueur [Cynar]. My mind will kind of expand with wondering how I can use all of these in food. We try to create chef-inspired cocktails, using ingredients we use in the food department, in the bar department. Like, at one restaurant, we make a Moroccan harissa cranberry simple syrup that we serve with bourbon in a cocktail. That idea comes from making harissa cranberries to garnish our food; we use the reduction in the simple syrup, and the drink is really good. It’s hot, spicy and fruity.
You’ve opened restaurants over the past 30 years. What’s changed the most?
Restaurants all have bar programs. Before, it used to be an afterthought. Now it’s not just a cocktail list, it’s also having a bourbon menu. We have a lot more choices; we have wine from around the world.… I don’t know where I’d be without Google. There’s so much to choose from, and you can’t have it all, so you research.
At my house, we have like 40 bourbons, and a few years ago, I didn’t even drink bourbon! [My husband and I] have both become bourbon drinkers. We do it for the art of the bourbon, so we know what we like.… We’re learning.
Are you a bourbon snob? Any favorites?
Nashville has clearly exploded as a food city, but how has it changed as a drinking city? Has the cocktail scene caught up to the food scene?
It has incredibly changed. There’s a place here called The Patterson House, and they really drove in the cocktail scene. Now there isn’t a restaurant in town that doesn’t have a cocktail list with eight to 12 specialty drinks that play off the food.
What do you look for in a bartender, both as a patron and when you’re hiring someone?
They have to have a sense of humor; they have to be able to lay a few jokes out. They need to be accommodating but not overwhelming. And they know their environment, like, “Where’s the nearest sushi place? Where’s the nearest pool hall?” I look at them for a source of information, not just what to drink but where to go out. And [I look for] a nice-sounding voice. Bartenders are out there in front of the public, sometimes, with more conversation than the waiter is.
Where do you go out to drink in Nashville?
I live pretty far away from work, so I usually go home, but if I go out, it’s to a restaurant so I can say hi and have a bite to eat too. I like to go to Pinewood Social and City House, and I like a place called The Filling Station by my house. I don’t go out a lot though. … When you’re my age, you need your sleep. [Laughs]
No honky-tonk-ing for you?
Been there, done that. But if I go, I’ll probably play it safe with vodka and water in those places.
So where’s your ideal place to drink?
One of my favorite bars is in the Bahamas. You stay in these guest houses, and they have everything you could possibly want: all kinds of juices, liqueurs and alcohol, like 200 bottles of stuff. You just go in, make the drinks yourself and write down what you used, and they charge you accordingly.
A bar on the honor system? Amazing! Maybe when you retire, you can trade in your chef’s coat for a bartender’s apron?
[Laughs]. As long as there’s a Tiki hut on the beach, that’s where I’ll be.
Paquette’s favorite drink, the Redheaded Chef (silver tequila, grapefruit juice, lime juice, agave syrup, a splash of sauvignon blanc and a garnish of cilantro and a pinch of salt), is a nod to her haircolor and love of grapefruit and is served at Etch.
Full Article at Liquor.com
Chef Deb Paquette has built a loyal legion of fans from her years cooking at local favorites, such as Cakewalk Cafe, Zola, and her current home, Etch. Though the city was all atwitter at the announcement that she had plans to open a second restaurant in Sylvan Park, that project, named Truss, unfortunately never came to fruition thanks to a series of zoning and codes disputes. It turns out that Sylvan Park’s loss is Green Hills’ gain, as Paquette and her restaurant partners decided to focus their attention on a new opportunity in a mixed-use development tucked behind The Mall at Green Hills, where Crestmoor and Bedford Avenue come together.
What to order:
What to Order
Indian Chicken Taco (lunch), $10.50
Portuguese Ravioli Ensopado, $37
12-ounce Grilled Strip Steak, $34
Big Night Pie, $22
Upside Down Plum Cake, $9
The new restaurant is called Etc., and it is an intimate dining space featuring Paquette’s globally inspired dishes that combine a wide range of flavors and dramatic plating. With less than 70 seats, plus a bar with room for a dozen drinkers and diners, Etc. is as suburban cozy as Etch is downtown dramatic. The interior was designed by Powell Architecture + Building Studio, with custom design elements by Red Rock Tileworks, Holler Design, and Hygge & West. The result is both organic and modern, with plenty of natural wood and stone tiles, accented by fun and funky fixtures, copper, and glass.
Chef Paquette realizes that, with two restaurants, she won’t be able to be in both kitchens at once—so, she’s had to put a strong staff together at each location.
“This is a gift to myself,” she explains. “Now, I’ll be able to oversee both restaurants and spend a little more time with my husband.”
At Etc., chef de cuisine Jessica Lambert will lead the crew. “Jess has worked in the kitchen at Etch for two years, and she has a great palate. We worked together to develop this new menu,” Paquette says, adding with a laugh: “She’s not as mean as I am, but she’ll get there.”
Though a collaboration, the menu at Etc. is vintage Paquette. Since her days in the kitchen at Zola, her dishes have been almost as fun to read about as they have been to eat. Her creativity and sense of humor shine onto the menu at Etc.
For example, on the lunch menu, Paquette has a beet salad with goat cheese, berries, bacon, toasted pecans, and a tart cherry-ginger vinaigrette—but there’s also exotic roasted cantaloupe-lime leaf sauce to set it off. The list of “sammies” represents a world tour of cuisines, with a New Orleans-inspired shrimp sandwich, a Moroccan flatbread, a Korean sloppy Joe, and a good, old fashioned patty melt. Entrees include an Indian chicken taco, a seared bistro steak and capellini, and a fried catfish dish. All the mains come as fully composed plates with appropriate sides.
At dinner, the creative gloves come off as chefs Paquette and Lambert layer flavors over textures. A spinoff of the popular butter tasting at Etch appears as an appetizer, called “Bread and Butter,” featuring a slab of grilled sourdough bread and a duo of specialty butters that change at the whim of the chefs. Other popular starters include duck gizzards prepared two ways (confit and fried), as well as a Vietnamese beef short rib dish served with spun lemongrass noodles, bean sprouts, cucumber, thai basil, and candied peanuts. It manages to be exotic and comforting at the same time.
For fans of Paquette’s famous paella at Zola, she pays homage to the Iberian origins of that popular rice dish with Portuguese Ravioli Ensopado. The word “ensopado” means “smothered”—and this delightful dish gets precisely that. Pulled pork linguiça ravioli, plus a fish of the day, scallops, shrimp, mussels, and a celery, fennel, and asparagus slaw are nestled in a light broth.
There’s a traditional strip steak on the menu, and even this beefy favorite gets the full Paquette treatment: The plate is dressed with a tomato salad, parmesan vinaigrette, crispy fried potato skins, delicate pea pesto, and grilled zucchini. For vegetarians, there is the “Big Night Pie,” a creative four-cheese filo cheese pie that includes a black olive quinoa caviar.
DRINKS + DESSERTS
Etc. offers a limited list of desserts highlighted by a dark chocolate panna cotta and an uncommon upside down plum cake. Rotating selections of ice creams and sorbets change daily, too. To drink, a tight cocktail and beer list showcases both local and international choices, while a surprisingly affordable roster of wines leans toward Old World influences.
For a special dinner or a power lunch, Etc. is certainly a welcome addition to the Green Hills dining scene. And it won’t matter whether Paquette happens to be in the kitchen when you visit—her touches are apparent in every aspect of the dining experience.