Nashville, Tennessee, is famous for a number of things. History buffs know it as the home of seventh president Andrew Jackson. For music fans, it is the heart of country music and the Grand Ole Opry. Foodies crave the abundance of meat-n-three lunch places.
Our family discovered on spring break that it is also a great place to satisfy a sweet tooth.
Last October at the Mississippi State Fair I discovered, quite by accident, that Goo-Goo Clusters were made in Nashville. I was discussing all the deep-fried possibilities with one of the food vendors there, and he remembered they’d just been to Nashville, and might have one Goo-Goo left from that trip. He did, and of course, I ate it. That was an original flavor version (until it was altered by batter and hot oil). They also make a peanut butter flavor that I actually prefer, and I happened to find one of those at the Grand Ole Opry gift shop. It was devoured before we got out of Opry earshot.
As I wandered gift shop after gift shop looking for other local specialties, I was re-acquainted with a Colt’s Bolt. I can’t remember the last time I saw one of these, but something in my memory bank was triggered, and I bit — a big bite. Colt’s Bolts look something like a hockey puck in size — they just taste better. Way better. Solid layers of chocolate anchor the top and bottom, with peanut butter and whole roasted almonds in the center. Gracing the wrapper is a photo of Mackenzie Colt, the candy’s inventor, a former Hee-Haw Honey. You can’t get more Nashville than that.
A bit newer to the Nashville chocolate world is the Olive and Sinclair Chocolate Company. They’ve only been around a few years, but have already attracted lots of attention — I happened to see them featured in Southern Living. They make Southern Artisan Chocolate bars in small batches, beginning with single-origin coffee beans that are stone-ground and slow-roasted.
Most of their flavors are variations on a theme of dark chocolate (which means it’s healthy, right?), but few are what I would consider ordinary flavors. We chose three bars (apparently hand-crafted chocolate is kind of expensive to make): sea salt, Mexican Style cinnamon chili, and coffee bean. The coffee bean bar was easily distinguishable — chock full of bean pieces. It was pretty strong, but not too strong for true coffee lovers. Our favorite was the Mexican Style — the cinnamon gave it a slightly sweeter touch, with a little kick at the end of the bite from the chili. At the candy store, we were torn between the sea salt and the salt and pepper varieties.
The candy man recommended the sea salt with a pretty high degree of enthusiasm. I had been leaning toward the salt and pepper, but Wife made a face when I suggested it. I should have gone with my gut. When we returned from the trip, I brought out all the bars for sampling. Daughter’s Little Friend was visiting and she is an avowed foodie, so I knew I had the right team for tasting. This time she was the one who made the face — the sea salt flavor scored no points with her. But rest assured no chocolate will go to waste. Just because it wasn’t the favorite doesn’t mean it won’t be eaten.
Perhaps the sweetest fun we had was at the Bang Candy Company. I was aware of its existence before the trip, but didn’t realize it was in Nashville. I was perusing the tourist guide, and with just a few clicks, I discovered it was next door to a branch of the Antique Archeology Store, made famous by the television show American Pickers. At Bang Candy they have a little lunch café with paninis and such, but their true claims to fame are homemade marshmallows and syrups.
I had my heart set on the strawberry mint syrup (can you imagine that in lemonade this summer?), but it was out of season. There were plenty of marshmallows ready, though, and we tried just about all of them. Regular flavors were rose cardamom, chocolate chili, toasted coconut (bagged separately on my request), and orange ginger cinnamon, most of which were half-dipped in chocolate.
They were featuring a lemon lavender blueberry marshmallow, and the flavor of the day was lemon-lime. I’m not sure I had ever had homemade marshmallows before, and certainly none that were flavored like these. All of them were scrumptious, but I was even more thrilled that Daughter was actually excited to find this place. Food-related side trips usually get a roll of the eyes from her. At Bang Candy Company she actually spent her own money to buy a bag of lemon-limes for the road. Just about brought a tear to my eye.
I’ve already told of Las Paletas popsicles, but there were other frozen delights to be had as well. As we wandered around Broadway we happened upon Mike’s Ice Cream shop. The ice cream there was handmade, and we were — well, we were us — so we stopped. Son got a scoop of oatmeal cookie dough — perhaps a bit more out of the box than traditional chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream, but a very nice change. (Of course I tried it.
I pay, I try. That’s how it works in my world.) Even more out of the box was my choice: maple bacon with chocolate chips. I know what many of you are thinking — ugh, bacon in ice cream? It wasn’t just bacon flavored — there were bits of bacon throughout. I am not afraid of the bacon. With an ice cream like this, one must simply embrace the bacon. I chose to embrace it, and it was the best maple bacon chocolate chip ice cream I’ve ever had.
Go to Nashville. Eat sweet. Leave your culinary inhibitions at home, but bring a toothbrush.
Jay Reed is a local foodie and pharmacist. The culinary tastes expressed here are his and do not necessarily reflect the appetites of the Starkville Daily News or individual members of its staff. He welcomes your comments at firstname.lastname@example.org .