As a kid growing up on a Tennessee mountain, I used to take long walks with my dogs (and the occasional tag-along deer) along abandoned railroad tracks. The tracks once served a vital purpose for the mountain top community but simply weren’t needed anymore. I remember my father loading our family onto a train in Nashville for a trip down to Disney World. I must have been about five. He wanted us to have that experience before the vast network of Southern railways fragmented, admitting defeat to the prevalence of highway travel. The bustling, historic Union Station in downtown Nashville was our departure point, its towering grand hall and stained glass skylights permanently etched into my little girl memory.
Recently, my father and I returned to Union Station which has been lovingly restored and preserved as a grand hotel with a fine dining component and popular bar. The occasion was lunch at Union Station’s upscale Prime 108. What used to be a bustling waiting room is now a refined restaurant with tall columns and art deco windows. Chef Thomas Cook served up some home runs, including caviar crepes, Kentucky bison meatloaf, and a sticky sweet kiwi/mango “sushi roll” dessert, but the dish that most impressed us was a deceptively simple bowl of creamy soup. With each spoonful, our eyes grew wider, our conversation reduced to an exchange of “Mmm!” and “Aaah!” until father exclaimed, “It’s like falling into a bed of downy feathers!” I laughed in complete agreement. It’s the perfect winter comfort, a soothing indulgence. Chef Cook was kind enough to share his recipe with us. When you make it, think back to the grand old days of train travel and new frontiers, and indulge in a culinary journey.
Cauliflower & Leek Soup
by Executive Chef Thomas Cook of Prime 108 at Union Station Hotel in Nashville, TN