It turned out to be a perfect welcome home for my college-age son Christopher. I was invited to a dinner at Hard Rock Café, and sensing the potential for massive amounts of non-college food, he eagerly accepted.
He hadn’t really spent much time in a Hard Rock and before heading into the private event space we looked around at some of the memorabilia. He’s a heavy metal DJ at Vanderbilt, so he was uber impressed that Neil Murray, the bassist for Black Sabbath, had a guitar on display. I was more interested in Shakira’s tiny demin pants.
(I listen to his show on my WRVU app, just to hear him talk between the guttural growling and explosion of cacophony that he calls “music.” Yesterday I asked him how he can possibly listen to that stuff. “To me that sounds like angels crying,” he said. Of course, they’re crying, I thought. They can’t stand that music either.)
Our dinner was in the private event space next to Hard Rock Cafe, a perfect venue for a party, especially if you’re having a band. We were there to sample the new menu items. See, Hard Rock is turning 40 this year, and like many others in middle age, is focusing on healthier eating by introducing 12 new lighter menu items. We sampled them all during the ensuing feeding frenzy.
During cocktail hour we strolled around checking out more memorabilia (Hard Rock has more than 73,000 items in all!) while tasting the balsamic tomato bruschetta, chicken lettuce wraps, crab cakes and smoked salmon crostini. I liked them all but Christopher declared the crab cakes his favorite.
After we sat down we were served two small cups of their new salads – the Anti-Cobb salad with dried cranberries, apple, strawberries, avocado and mango; and a yummy Greek salad.
I was amused to see my son eat them both. He has sworn to me that he eats a salad every day at school but I’ve yet to see a lettuce leaf cross his lips. But he ate it all.
Then the slider plate came out. As we were sampling lots of menu items, we had smaller portions of the Angus burger, turkey burger and mahi-mahi sandwich. He eagerly got to the challenge of eating them all. “The Angus burger is religious,” he declared.
But more entrees were on their way. This time we had four portions on our large square plates” the grilled chicken marsala, grilled lemon caper chicken, macaroni and cheese and ratatouille. The mac and cheese was particularly rich, apparently a full portion has about 2400 calories, but the secret ingredient is not to be revealed. (Although a Google search turned up a recipe fairly quickly)
Although we were stretching our limits at this point, dessert was a must. Well, make that five desserts. We had portions of crème brulé, chocolate mousse, chocolate peanut butter, strawberry cheesecake and mixed berries and cream. I could only manage one bite of the rich chocolate peanut butter and the crème brulé was definitely my favorite.
In between our course chef Anna Firmani came out to sweetly describe what we’d be eating and tell us that everything they make is fresh and made in house. A native of Venezuela, Anna was formerly Executive Chef at OK Café, one of my favorite places.
So now you know. You can visit Hard Rock and eat a light and healthy meal. But you can always get that religious Angus burger instead.
In addition to the fact that Hard Rock serves plenty more than burgers, another little known fact is how much philanthrophy work the chain does. Hard Rock International sells a line of T-shirts with original musician-created artwork that has raised millions of dollars for several causes. And when the Hard Rock Café in Nashville had to close for a few months last year after the floods, Hard Rock kept the staff on the payroll as they performed community service.