If Heaven is a Restaurant, it’s the Catbird Seat

For my 30th birthday, all I wanted to give myself (treat yo’ self, as Kim would say) was a dinner out at the Catbird Seat. For those of you who are living under a rock, the Catbird Seat is a restaurant in Nashville that’s been featured in Food and Wine, Bon Appetit, Southern Living, Travel + Leisure, etc. It’s one of the top restaurants in the country, and I’d venture to say a trailblazer in putting Nashville on the culinary map.

So what’s all the fuss about?

The food. Dear baby Jesus – the food.

But the experience, too. You see, you don’t walk into the Catbird Seat and order some chicken fingers. You must have a reservation. You can only get a reservation within 30 days of when you’d like to go, and you must do it online. You cannot call from your prepaid cellular device. So if you want to go eat there 30 days from now, you get online at midnight and start clicking before the reservations are all gone…because they will be, in seconds.

Then you arrive 15 minutes apart from each of the other parties for that evening. And you sit at one of 32 seats at a square bar around the kitchen, where award-winning chefs greet you, prepare your meal and serve it to you while explaining what it is, how you eat it and then stand there and shoot the breeze with you about things like music and Amsterdam.

You eat 10 courses of the most delightful culinary treats you’ve ever experienced. You don’t order anything – it’s all chef’s choice. Oh, and you have a wine or cocktail pairing with each course. (insert drunk face here).

It is a nearly three-hour-long, foodgasmic party in your mouth where no one overstays their welcome.

And y’all. I don’t really get star-struck in this fair city often – but being the food lover that I am, I knew I’d totally GEEK out over eating here and seeing Erik Anderson in the flesh. In front of me. Cooking food for me. Serving food to me. Talking about food to me. I want to be his best friend and awkwardly show up for dinner unannounced every Sunday.

So we went. We ate and drank. And it did not disappoint. Here is the play by play.

The Catbird Seat.

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We arrived, were welcomed by the hostess and rode up the elevator with her babbling about I don’t know what because OMGI’MABOUTTOEATATTHECATBIRDSEATSHUTUP!

We were seated and then greeted by a tiny plate already waiting on us, with the chef’s version of Nashville’s famous hot chicken.

Crispy chicken skin and a “Wonder Bread” puree. Y’all.

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The wine and cocktail pairing is $40 per person and worth every dime. (Also, take a cab).

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This was another one of our “snacks” and part of the first course. I failed to take a photo of the others before I inhaled them. But this was a beef tartare. Amazing.

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Oh hey famous chef Erik.

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This was a melon salad. And you’re all like “oh melon salad, whatevs.” No. It was to die for. Those little melon balls almost changed my life. There was an avocado puree, some sort of foam and mint and salt something or another that made it to die for.

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This was a celery root that was served on a super hot plate with foie gras shaved over the top. (Foie Gras = duck or goose liver that has been especially fattened). That foie gras melted like butter on the hot root and hot plate and we were encouraged to eat it quickly. Um, no problem.
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Mashed potatoes. But not your grandmas. These had golden caviar underneath and cured sturgeon with lemon thyme. You know, like you do. Amazing, but probably the least impressive thing we ate.

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Now we’re getting to the good stuff. I had known three other friends/acquaintances who ate at the Catbird Seat and two of the three were served Pigeon. Make that three now, counting me. I was so scared and excited when this came up. LOOK at that claw.

And aren’t pigeon’s referred to as “rats with wings?” They are gross, annoying animals. But I would have eaten a frosted turd if Erik Anderson served it to me.

So, he put this in front of us and explained it and I had heard to ask a lot of questions, when you eat at the Catbird. So the best I could come up with was, “How far down this little claw leg can I eat?” Well played.

He said, “well, that’s a bone – so don’t eat it.” Sweet, dude. Y’all. A real, single tear came to my eye when I ate this dish. We will all be eating pigeon in Heaven. Real talk.

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After. Like a boss!

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This was maybe my favorite cocktail that got major points for creativity. It was sweet tea, but real tea leaves were infused in riesling instead of water. That’s how we should all be drinking our tea, folks.

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This was a top contender for favorite dish, as well. Wagyu beef ribeye that simply melted in your mouth. The watercress puree was really strong — watercress is just such a distinct flavor. I loved it, but it could have ruined it for you if it’s not a flavor you like.

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We should always have a cheese course – with every meal. This was harbison cheese, which was kind of the consistency of brie, but twenty times tastier – served inside a hollowed out shallot with a mushy cherry compote of some kind. I don’t know — but it was good.

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Hey drinks! And the first of three dessert courses. YES! Sweet corn ice cream, y’all. It was SO good. Served in a potato cone with shaved truffle on top. Truffle is such an overwhelming flavor when served in this quantity — but with the ice cream it was on point. This was a super savory dessert, as well.

IMG_2455Another savory-ish dessert. Maple, bacon, thyme custard served inside a real eggshell with a tiny real piece of bacon. I almost licked the inside of the egg.

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Finally — a little smorgasbord of vanilla cake, cherry crisp, oak wood ice cream and pineapple gelee. But the star of this show were the bourbon beads. Close up in the next photo.

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So that bourbon bead you see there was a tiny, gel casing that when bit into shot straight bourbon into your mouth. It was the craziest thing and I don’t know how they made them, but I could have eaten a million. I would have died, but it would have been sort of worth it. They were delicious!

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Lastly, a tunga vanilla espresso drink with an espresso ice cube. Eh, it was fine. I had a lot of food and alcohol by this point, so I would have enjoyed anything.

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Chef Erik, cutting some lady’s pigeon off the bone for her because the claw freaked her out. Really lady? This aint Burger King — you can’t just have it your way.

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The view of the restaurant from the door when you walk in. This is pretty much the whole thing.

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Lastly, here is a photo of our menu that they give you to keep as a souvenir. You can read all about everything here if you’d like. But I suggest you just fork over the cash and go yourselves. It was worth every penny. (FYI — it’s roughly $100/person plus the $40/person alcohol pairing plus service charge and tax, so…yeah).

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We decided we’d treat ourselves once a year to this kind of experience, if possible. The menu changes constantly, so hopefully each time will be new and different.

I love Nashville and I love food. I’m so glad the two have teamed up to make our great city a foodie destination, as of late. There’s so many new eats to be excited about.

Thanks, Catbird. We’ll be back.

XOXO,
Jenn

My Juice Cleanse Experience — The Juice is Loose!

juice. Nashville

**I preface this post by saying, I am not a doctor. What works for me may not work for you. This is my opinion and backed by no professional or medical knowledge about basically anything, ever.**

Several weeks ago I got serious about researching a juice cleanse. I don’t really know why – it was a combination of things probably. I have been really serious about trying to eat healthier foods, watch my calories and overall be healthier since the new year rolled around. I also read about it on Beth’s blog when she did it last year – and I pretty much trust that anything she says is awesome, will be awesome. The day I picked up my juice, she was there picking hers up too – for her third cleanse in six months.

Since it seemed to be the best around, I settled on Juice Nashville – a local company who does not have a brick and mortar storefront – they are a mobile, family-owned, cold-press juicery. That means no preservatives are added, no sugar, no nothing. The juice has a shelf-life of 3 days, so you get it and use it – or freeze it immediately. And if you open a bottle, you drink it within 8 hours. All this to say, it’s fresh, y’all.

So I placed my order for a the 3 day cleanse and was ready to pick it up on Saturday morning. I made sure I had no dinners planned, no fun events, etc. I was just going to hibernate all weekend with my juice and wrap it up on Monday at work.

I went to pick the juice up at the Nashville West Farmer’s Market where Wes (the husband half of the Juice team) sells on Saturdays. As he sifted through paperwork to locate my order, my juicy heart sank. He didn’t have it. Even though I had my confirmation email, something happened and my order was missing. I left thinking I might not be juicing after all – but Stephanie (the wife half of the team) called me as soon as I got to my car and said they were trying to figure out what happened to my order – not to give up yet. I went home and put on my PJs and Tweeted my feelings – and in true 2013 customer service style, Stephanie replied to my tweet in about two minutes and said that she was moving heaven and earth to find my juice.

WOW – customer service gold star for you ma’am. About 45 minutes to an hour later I got a tweet that said “found your juice! Calling you now.” And my cell rang. (I did drink a Naked fruit juice in the meantime that I had in the fridge because I was getting hangry = hungry + angry).

I zipped back down West and got my juice. I could have hugged Wes. I couldn’t believe they were so responsive to my juicing woes and were just so, so nice. Turns out, they had my order all along and the paperwork had just been misplaced so the two couldn’t be matched up.

So, let’s Juice.

The Juice Cleanse includes NO food. No drinking ANYTHING other than water or green tea. (I missed coffee dearly). You drink 5 juices a day (the same 5) and one almond milk a day.

The juices are:

 the cleanse 5 juices

I’ll be honest – I liked some of these more than others, but I hated none. I LOVED the C Ya – orange, apple, grapefruit and ginger. OMG. Snap – apple, carrot, ginger. Delish. But I think, crazy enough, the almond milk might have been my favorite. I love almond milk.

The Whoa (apple, beet, kale and ginger) was a bit harder to swallow. The Oh Yeah (apple, kale, collard and lemon) got old by the third day. But again, none were terrible. And the nutrients they clearly contain kept me chugging!

The experience:

Were you hungry? Not really. To know me is to know how much I love food. I love to eat. Food = love, to me. If you love me, cook me dinner. Buy me dinner. I love to eat. I exercise so I can enjoy food. Some people eat to live – I live to eat.

So a liquid diet with no chewing and salty food was a real challenge. But was I hungry? Not really. I did yoga Sunday night (day 2), and the calorie burn made me momentarily starve, so I ate a cutie (one of those tiny mandarin oranges). Juice Nashville says if you are desperate, you can have a raw fruit or vegetable.

By the third day I had a screaming headache, but I still think that may have been from three days with no coffee more than anything. I don’t think it was from no food as much as it was caffeine withdrawal. Although I will say, when that last juice was gone, I ate a spoonful of peanut butter straight from the jar. Sorry I’m not sorry.

How did you feel? I felt detoxed, just like they promised. I felt pumped full of vitamins and nutrients and I felt healthy.

Why did you do it? To detox. To cleanse the system. To purge the crap. I did NOT do it to lose weight.

But did you lose weight? Yes. I lost 4 pounds. It was an added bonus – yes. AND, it did jumpstart my fitness this week when I finished the juice. I wanted to keep that four pounds off. I worked out twice a couple days this week. I was determined. But I also ate pizza, which I did crave while I was abstaining from solid foods during the cleanse! Ha.

Let the record show – I just weighed myself this morning and gained every bit of those four pounds back this week. Even with two-a-day workouts and overall watching what I ate, I gained it back. So it’s my advice not to do this cleanse for that reason. Or any cleanse. Clearly.

How did it work for you and would you do it again? I think it totally purged my system. I was drinking a huge glass or two of water between each juice and I was peeing every half hour. My system was cleansed. I was so hydrated – TMI, but my pee was so clear you couldn’t tell I’d peed at all. It was insane. SO I would venture to say that a lot of the weight I lost was water weight and as soon as I started consuming regular food and salt again, it just came right back. I’m not near as hydrated as I was.

Would I do it again – yes. I would definitely buy their juice again and incorporate it into my regular diet, probably before I would juice again. They have lots of other flavors I want to try! But I would juice again if I started feeling sluggish and full of crappy crap. I’d do it again.

Can you work out during the cleanse? I’m no doctor, so I say just do whatever you feel like. I went to power yoga on Sunday evening, two days into the cleanse. This is a 400+ calorie burn class, so it’s intense, and I was totally fine. Again, you aren’t starving yourself – this isn’t a lemon juice and cayenne pepper cleanse. You HAVE nutrients in your system, so just do what you feel like.

How much is it? Lots of people asked me this. It’s not cheap – but when you realize how much fruits and veggies are crammed into every bottle, they can’t be marking it up that much, y’all. It’s quality product, so you pay for it. The three day cleanse was $123 with tax and the refrigerated tote that the juice comes in (which I’ll definitely be using again!). Full disclosure, in the name of stellar customer service, Stephanie gave me half off my juice cleanse because they misplaced my order. Thanks gurl!

So there you have it. Oh – one more thing. Again in the spirit of full disclosure, this juice cleanse did things to my bowels that you would not believe. And the worst day was on the third day when I was back at work. (You’re welcome, coworkers!) I mean, when you’re stockpiling fruits and green veggies in your system and they are in liquid form, there are going to be some touch and go situations. So, that’s all I’ll say about that. Just be prepared, if you do the cleanse.

Huge thanks to Juice Nashville for being overall awesome and wonderful to work with. I can’t say enough good things about Stephanie and Wes, how adorable they are, the customer service they provide and the product they deliver. They truly have it figured out. Nashville needs you – so thanks for being here.

XOXO,
Jenn

See ya, Summer

Tell your friend Fall to hurry on over.

We’ve been enjoying the last days of Summer but craving Fall so much.

Here are some of our end of summer happenings.

I recently went to Atlanta for my friend Crystal’s bachelorette party. She is a sweet friend and Phi Mu sister from UT. I can NOT WAIT for her wedding in Austin in a few weeks! We had a blast in Atlanta. The crew was about half friends from college and half friends from her post-college days in Atlanta. So that was really fun. We all got along so well and had a blast – duh, Crystal picked us all as friends, so we’re clearly all awesome. 🙂 It was so much fun.

We spent Saturday “shooting the Hooch,” or tubing down the Chattahoochee River. So nice! It was like redneck tanning. Just laying in a tube, getting some sun and drinking from your floating beer cooler next to you. Yes indeed.

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Then, it was bachelorette time. On the right is Edgin and I – my freshman year roomie!

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There was a serious game of Jenga. Each piece had a question about the bride and groom on it or had a “drink three drinks” or “never have I ever” kind of phrase on it. It was hilarious.

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Me and the bride!

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OMG – dinner at Two Urban Licks. I had scallops over gouda grits. GOUDA! I love you.

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Jen Hester and I have a mutual friend back in Nashville – like, besides the ones who know Crystal. Small world.

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Beginning of night – end of night. 8:30 vs. 3:31. Wow.

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Back in Nashpatch, we went to Bartender Bash. Just as fun as I remember! But the drinks were not as yummy as last year. There were only a couple that blew my mind. The rest were just, eh, so so. But when you’re in good company, it doesn’t really matter.

Stud!

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Alice and I, and Samantha and I. Samantha, our month-long roomie, has moved back to GA since her rotation, and we miss her so! Hopefully she’ll do her residency at Vandy. 🙂

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Beautiful Union Station Hotel where Bartender Bash was held.

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End of the night – sorry so blurry, but things were…well, blurry.

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Also while Samantha was here, there was a Food Truck contest in Centennial Park across the street from our place. We headed over because Samantha won a spot as a judge! She got to try like 20 food trucks on her last day in Nashville. Jealous.

I ordered lunch from Riff’s Fine Street Food, my favorite food truck that I’ve tried.

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I had the shrimp and grits (OMG) and the salt cod fritters, which was their “tasting” portion available for the event. Y’all. I could eat those one more time, top it off with their cucumber basil (I think that’s what it was) lemonade and die happy.

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Look at Samantha and all her loot! Fortunately, she left a lot of it in our fridge when she drove back to GA the next day. Muhahahah. I ate it. All.

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Come on, Fall! I’m tired of sweating every.where.I.go.

XOXO,
Jenn

Etch

Some days it’s all about what you know. Other days, it’s definitely WHO you know. Monday was a who you know kind of day.

I was catching up on my Google Reader, like I do every morning, and my favorite foodie, Beth Eats, was blogging about a sneak peak at a new restaurant that’s opening today, in downtown Nashville. I’m always envious of her taste testing and was living vicariously through her blog, at that very moment. The restaurant was Etch, which is located in Nashville’s Encore condo building.

Several minutes later, my phone buzzed and it was my friend Alice. “Hey — my friend Megan is the pastry chef at this new restaurant and has me on the list for a friends and family lunch today at 1 p.m. Want to be my date? It’s called Etch.”

AHHHHHHHHH! (Angels sang).

HECK YES, I said. Jenn Eats!

Etch is opening today, Wednesday, August 29 — and the servers were still working out the kinks and getting their practice on. We were invited to give constructive criticism about our meal, to help them prepare for opening day. And of course, in return, our meal was on the house. The only thing better than delicious food is free delicious food.

We got to share an appetizer and then each got an entree. We ordered the roasted cauliflower to start. I know — really. Cauliflower as an appetizer. But OMG y’all. It was amazing. It came with a feta cream sauce and a roasted, smokey pea puree for dipping. I could have licked the rest of that beautifully green pea puree off the plate. So good.

For the entree, Alice ordered the short ribs, which had the flavors of a beef stew, but was served between layers of thin pasta — so it was almost like some crazy lasagna. It was soooo good. I ordered the lamb sausage. It was served with ginger grits (I know — I know) topped with manchego cheese and a small spinach (I think) side salad that tasted smokey. How, I have no idea. But I’d eat greens all day if they taste like they were on the grill.

The ginger grits were out of this world, although they sound terrible. Ginger and grits? But yum.

And the sausage was just so deliciously delicate and very fennelly (is that a word? no.) and it melted in your mouth.

Dessert was not part of the menu — however, when you know the pastry chef, you get special treatment. Megan gave us a choice of a chocolate something or another OR a goat cheese…..

Stop. I don’t hear anything you say after goat cheese. Cheese in my dessert. YES!

So we had the Goat Cheese Semifreddo. I sort of knew what a semifreddo was from watching years of the Food Network, but just to be clear, here’s a little Wikipedia for you.

Semifreddo (pronounced [semiˈfredːo], Italian: half cold) is a class of semi-frozen desserts, typically ice-cream cakes, semi-frozen custards, and certain fruit tarts. It has the texture of frozen mousse because it is usually produced by uniting two equal parts of ice cream and whipped cream.

It was like really firm ice cream, with a hint of goat cheese taste. I love savory desserts over sweet ones, so this was perfect.

She came out to explain the dish to us and we said “is this raspberry sauce?” She said “Oh no — it’s a hibiscus sauce. I take hibiscus flower petals and combine them with a simple syrup to extract color and flavor. Then I just reduce it way down to get it all nice and thick and syrupy.”

Ah yes — I did the same thing last night.

Amazing! Megan was so good to us and we’ll definitely be back to eat her delicious desserts (and everything else on the menu) real soon! Do yourself a favor and make reservations at Etch. You can keep up with them on Facebook, here.

**Note — other than tagging along for a free meal, I was not provided anything or asked by Etch to write this review. These opinions are mine and mine alone.

XOXO,
Jenn

For People Who Love Cocktails

One of the most fun and delicious events I’ve been to in Nashville since living here for seven years now is the Nashville Lifestyles Bartender Bash. I went last year with my friend Alice and it was the perfect girls’ outing. This year though, we’re letting the boys tag along.

It’s at Union Station Hotel, which is a beautiful venue, and bartenders from around town and Nashville’s finest eateries show you that there’s more to Nashville’s hot spots than good food — COCKTAILS! I mean, some of the things they whipped up last year were incredible. I can’t wait to see what this year holds! Here’s my recap from last year. (That post from last year also serves as a great reminder as to why I should never have short bangs again. Gross. WTF — all you people who call yourselves my real friends! NO).

Get your tickets now and join me — they’ll sell out! Beth over at Eat.Drink.Smile had a great write up about the event, today. The lucky little lady is judging the event. They’d have to call an ambulance if I got a full serving size of each cocktail — there’s no way I could have just a “tasting” of each. Heck no. Too yummy.

See you there, Nashville!

XOXO,
Jenn

I Swear Officer — I Just Wanted to Hug Them

I don’t normally get star struck, although in Nashville there are plenty of opportunities. The stars just walk among us like normal humans, for Pete’s sake.

I think I normally don’t get star struck because I usually don’t recognize who it is I’m looking at until they’ve come and gone.

Exhibit A: one time I was at the Bound’ry restaurant and ran into Lucas from Days of Our Lives, Bryan Dattilo. I literally ran into him coming around a corner. He was by himself and I was like “OH MY GOSH, I’m so sorry. OH HEY!”

Because I knew I recognized him but had no idea from where. UT? Kingston? Right. So I played it off.

Jenn: “How are you? I haven’t seen you in forever? (true statement — it had been since about 1997 that I last watched an episode of Days).  Doing ok?”

Lucas/Bryan: **confused — oh hell, how do I know her…is she crazy? Probably** “Oh — you know. I’m fine.”

Jenn: **wow — he seems a little uptight.** “Great — well, it’s really good to see you again. I’ve gotta run.”

Probably about one minute after he walked away I realized who it was. More cocktails, please.

Joke is on him since he probably spent the rest of the evening either a.) trying to figure out if I was an extra he’d once “dated,” or b.) looking over his shoulder for the deranged fan who pretended to “know” him.

Anywho, there have been countless other incidents like this and I’m just never quick enough to put it all togehter…until recently.

Monday night I had to get a package of tortellini for dinner. I tried to go to the Turnip Truck grocery in the Gulch, but they were closed. I cussed, then thought “I’ll just go to the janky Apple Market across the street from my place.” I got in my car and since I’d had a glass of wine with my gal pals, I dug my iPod out of my purse and turned on my favorite car sing-a-long, Miranda Lambert’s “Baggage Claim.” (This will be ironic in a moment).

I drove over there, walked in and turned down the aisle and saw a girl way at the end of it that was so cute. I thought “whoa…what’s she doing in this place?” It’s just kind of seedy. She had on cowboy boots and a crisp white dress and blonde hair in a low side ponytail. Then this tall drink of water walked up behind her and I thought “he’s tall. They sort of look like… HOLY TORTELLINI it’s Blake and Miranda.”

Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert. I about passed out. I don’t really give a hoot about a lot of these people, but I love Miranda and Blake is just precious and hilarious.

I think I stopped and just stared and then walked toward them — like a moth to a flame. Then I panicked and turned around and they cut down a different aisle. I then said to some random guy “THAT WAS BLAKE AND MIRANDA.” I think he was homeless. “What. WHO?” Nothing. Walk away.

I walked around until I spotted them again like a total creeper. I wanted a picture so bad! They were so cute and were just shopping and being normal. Who knew?! Miranda yelled “BLAAAKE! We still got them pizzas? Need more?” It was California Pizza Kitchen, if you want to be like the famous people. It’s basically a rule that I’ll only eat CPK pizzas now.

Unfortunately after I cut down three or four aisles like some sort of stalker, I gave up and got in the checkout line. Well heavens to Betsy, they got in line RIGHT behind me. I didn’t dare look at them. As we waited, a couple of people said stuff to them — one lady told Blake she auditioned for the Voice — and he was just sweet as pie. But I swear — Miranda had one of those pizzas up her butt because she was all eye rolls and smug looks. I understand — I’m sure that kind of treatment gets old. You just want to buy your overpriced frozen pizzas and go on about your business like a normal person. But lady, you’re in Nashville and it’s CMA Fest week. You gotta either hibernate at home or just get over it and indulge us a little.

The checkout clerk, who I feel like is my uncle or something since we go in there so often, asked her for a picture. He said, “My wife will just die. She loves you.” She released a heavy sigh and said a flat, “sure.”

I left at this point, got in my car and waited for them to come out. Yes, yes I did.

OH, first I did take a couple photos through the window, as seen here.

As they exited the store, Miranda looked RIGHT at me. I mean, we locked eyes. Dang it. I know she thought “there’s the creeper from inside.” As they headed toward Blake’s pick up truck (or hers, who knows), she whispered something to him and then HE turned and looked at me. OMG I was mortified. I’m one of them — those people who come to Nashville to see famous people and then bother them in their natural habitat. Like poking a stick at an animal in its cage at the zoo.

I cranked up my car and through my speakers blasted Miranda’s twangy voice at top decibel since I’d just been singing along with her. I thought she was back to beat me up. I about peed my pants and then sped away.

Such a loser.

XOXO,
Jenn