Photo: Courtesy of Resy
When chef Sean Brock entertains people visiting from out of town, the first place he takes them, whisking them straight from BNA, is Arnold’s Country Kitchen. “It sets the tone for the whole trip,” he says.
So it made sense that Brock chose Arnold’s as the location for a weekend of turnabout takeout cooking. The Classics Remix weekend is created by Resy, the online reservation platform and app, and features eight top chefs across the country, who each picked the beloved and long-standing institutions they wanted to honor. Each chef, including Brock, will create one-weekend-only takeout menus for the restaurant of their choosing. The idea, according to Resy, is to “celebrate famous food destinations, pay homage to each city’s culinary history, and create weekend-long pop-ups for diners who are missing exciting culinary experiences.” Other participating chefs include Chicago’s Erick Williams and Philadelphia’s Michael Solomonov.
The Brock/Arnold’s mashup takes place Oct. 23-25. Tickets go on sale Tuesday, Sept. 22 for those with American Express cards and for Thursday, Sept. 24 to the general public. (Note that these aren’t tickets in the old pre-pandemic sense of the word. You’re buying the $60 takeout package that you’ll pickup from Arnold’s, not a sit-down experience.)
Brock designed the menu as both an homage to Arnold’s classic dishes as well as a way to incorporate some of the ingredients that will be used at Audrey, his forthcoming East Nashville restaurant that will highlight the foods of his Appalachian roots. It will be the first opportunity for his staff to cook together for customers in the Audrey kitchen (opening date still TBD, thanks Covid). Dishes will be prepped at Audrey, using ingredients that are soon to be staples there, such as sour corn and leather britches beans, and then moved to Arnold’s to be packed for pickup.
“We have all been so excited to sit down and conceptualize dishes,” Brock says of the Audrey team. “We have been discussing how we are going to approach it. Being able to sit down with a blank piece of paper and have Arnold’s as the inspiration really solidified why I love this city so much. I’m so thankful to be asked. This is really cool.”
Brock concedes: “When you tell someone from out of town or from out of the country that you are taking them to a cafeteria, they have low expectations.” But when they arrive at Arnold’s, everything changes. It isn’t just the food — although Brock admires the slow-cook process of Arnold’s country cooking — but the family-run business and the nurturing vibe. “All those family members working together and still liking each other, it is very comforting, the whole idea of what a family-run restaurant provides.”
The weekend menu will include Plano chicken with cornmeal dodgers as the main dish, with sides of autumn squash with sassafras and acorn, creamed sour corn, and greasy beans and leather britches — plus a black walnuts and smoked chocolate dessert. Many of the ingredients, such as the sour corn, leather britches beans and greasy beans, are foods “inspired by my upbringing,” Brock says. He tells a story of greasy beans being served when he was a kid — produce that was a favorite of his mother and grandparents. “That was the first time I saw people get giddy over ingredients.”
For the Classic Remix takeout, he’s preparing foods with a nod to Arnold’s traditional preparation methods, including braised beans and creamed sour corn.
From his perspective, the event is a “win-win,” adds Kahlil Arnold, owner of the storied 8th Avenue restaurant. “Even before he was at Husk, I was a huge fan of his,” says Arnold. “When Resy and he talked about this… what can you say? Sean Brock is an amazing chef and an amazing person.”
Arnold thinks the weekend will be a boost to his family restaurant, not just now, during the pandemic, but in the future. “This is huge for the restaurant. It helps keep our restaurant current.”