Hail and Farewell tāyst



It was a festive yet bittersweet New Year's Eve for the final night at tāyst, which has closed its doors after almost nine years at its 21st Avenue South location. For the "final tāyst" chef-owner Jeremy Barlow and staff conjured up a stunning nine- or eleven- or 12-course extravaganza (depending on how you count) with predictably first-rate wine pairings selected by Adrien Matthews.

The end of tāyst's run means we lose the city's first certified green restaurant, a concept that Barlow described (and evangelized about) at length in his book published last year, Chefs Can Save the World. Here's how Barlow in the book describes tāyst's origin:

After all this time in the business, this was the first restaurant in which I had ever been allowed to cook my own food. The first menu was definitely straight comfort food. I still used the same products from the same suppliers, and my menu was not really that different from what I had done in the restaurants where I had worked previously. Except for the fact that we used absolutely no Asian flavors whatsoever, we were just another independent restaurant in Nashville. Then I started to play. I started experimenting with “space food.” I started really allowing my personality to pour into my dishes. I took it so far as trying to be weird for the sake of being weird. This was great for learning, not so good for business. I had pushed the boundaries too far and needed to rein myself back in. It is a business, and I needed to cook in a way that would fill the seats. At tāyst that came to be a blend of upscale and uncomplicated. We try to find subtle ways to get funky, but it’s never over the top. I think the best way to describe it is having one foot firmly planted on each side of the line.

... And its evolution as he pioneered farm-to-table in Nashville:

I always cooked seasonally, but realized that the seasons didn’t stop and start—they rolled. My menu started to reflect that roll. It became totally reliant on Mother Nature. We have cooked through drought and endless rain, bounty and slim pickin’s. It still amazes me that I have been cooking for nearly twenty years and the weather just recently became a factor in my food. Also, my dishes became simpler because my product was so good on its own that I had to manipulate it less in order to get good flavors into the dish.

For many regulars tāyst's bar was a remarkable venue for experimenting with wine and spirits with Matthews, who has been with the restaurant since the beginning. Matthews summed up the place's singular beverage vibe in a 2011 interview:

Wine lists are only for people who don't talk with me directly. The first purpose of a wine list is to get a conversation started. We have regular customers who haven't looked at the wine list in years. Sometimes they know what they want and we go from there, but a lot of people like to be surprised and want to see what I can come up with that they will enjoy.

Have a glance at the "final tāyst" menu after the jump. Bonne chance Jeremy, A.D., and company.


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