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Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Music City Food and Wine Festival 2014: Sunday

Last year, Sunday at the Music City Food and Wine festival was a tad bit more subdued than Saturday, and this year was no different. I think this is in part due to the massive amount of alcohol people imbibe during the day Saturday and then later during Harvest Night. There were many more eyes shielded by sunglasses Sunday morning, but apparent hangovers didn't stop the crowd from enjoying another day packed with good food.
My first stop reminded me vaguely of breakfast, which in Nashville means pork. 1080 Grille offered up a bite size corn arepa topped with pickled onion and a spicy chutney. I really liked how the arepa held up underneath the moist pork making this dish officially a finger food. This was a really solid bite to start off the day.
I had planned to eat "breakfast" things, but when I saw what Josephine was serving I had to stop there. I recently had an amazing meal there and I wanted to try their offering. Lucky for me they were serving up one of my favorite meats: Beef tongue. The tongue was topped with pickled tomatoes that, despite the lateness of the season, were still really fresh. The tongue itself was fatty and tender, although cold. The cold tongue worked for this dish, but my preference is for the tongue to be slightly warm.
With my plan thrown by the wayside I stopped back by Moto to see what Chef Andy Hayes was whipping up on day 2. On the menu was sunburst trout crude with orange and fennel. I recently discovered my love of fennel earlier this year and I'm thrilled to see it included in things I wouldn't expect- like a raw fish dish! The trout was very delicate and had a sweet mild taste. The fish was amazing quality and really worked with the bitter fennel and sweet orange.
The folks over at Tavern offered up pork rillettes with a cheese cracker, zucchini and a poached quail egg. At first I wasn't a fan of the creamy pork texture, which was smooth but with little bits of muscle. But the taste of the meat was very good and made me forget my texture issue. The poached egg added a needed binder to the dish, although the yolk of this tiny quail egg was a little too small.
Margot and Marche (the best place for brunch in town) offered up a nice change of pace with a strong vegetarian showing of roasted beet tartare with pickled apples, creme fraiche and a buttermilk saltine. I really liked the format of this dish; the ability to scoop up the beet with the oversized cracker. At first bite I wasn't a fan- it reminded me of borscht. But the dish grew on me. By the end I really enjoyed it. I think the enjoyment was due to the richness of the creme fraiche and how it elevated and sweetened the beets. 
The Farm House was offering up a smaller version of a dish I had at the restaurant, pork belly with a scallion pancake and cracklings. The pork was tender, buttery and full of fat. I really liked this dish at the restaurant and it still held up in this smaller version at the festival.
After giving up on my breakfast plan I finally found a dessert that could pass for breakfast at Sinema. This beautiful dish was cardamom french toast with a red wine poached pear and whipped farmer's cheese. It was phenomenal and sweet in just the right way. The cardamom added a deeper layer to the cake and it really complimented the hearty cheese.
The 404 Kitchen is one of my new favorites but their bite just didn't do it for me. They served cornbread squares with olive oil and pickled cherries with white truffle shavings. I'm usually a fan of all things pickled but I was surprised to learn that I do not liked pickled cherries, not one bit. They were too tart and really overshadowed what I'm sure was a great cornbread and delicate truffle.
The folks from Pinewood Social offered up a bite of a "reuben." This twist on a traditional sandwich was made with tongue on toasted bread. I tried one of these and didn't really get it. I guess I was expecting more. I thought I needed to get another taste of this so I took a break and came back. The second bite was much more satisfying and I could taste where they were going with this. Perhaps my first bite was missing a key ingredient- either way I'm happy I gave this a second chance.
Good God do I love Etch. Chef Deb Paquette's world flavors get me every time and her offering Sunday was no different. She presented a duck meatloaf on white bread with pickled ginger and peach jam. All of Etch's dishes have a ton of ingredients that would appear to be just too much, but they always work out in the end. This dish was really heavy for the hot day, but weather appropriateness aside, this was my favorite bite of the day. The game of the duck mixed with the sweet of the peaches was a winning combination.

The Watermark gave us crab mac n'cheese and it was a total snooze. It was slightly off, like it was missing something. I took one taste and dumped the rest in the bin. Sorry Watermark!
The fine folks at the Silly Goose offered up a watermelon gazpacho with pork belly, avocado, corn and cucumber. You wouldn't think that pork and watermelon soup go together, but this dish was really amazing. The sweet of the watermelon mixed with the fat of the pork and, well, it just worked. This dish tasted like summer and I'm inspired to try my hand at more watermelon inspired dishes next year.

I decided I needed a break from eating, I went to see Chef Amanda Frietag talk about my favorite meal: breakfast. She went over how to properly cook an omelet and poach eggs. The ease of which she poached eggs was incredibly infuriating. She even had a shot of tequila and still wound up poaching eggs perfectly. I'm very inspired to take back up the mantle of poaching, as hard as it might be. I am now armed with a few new tricks!
Feeling brave again, I stopped by Hattie B's for some Hot Chicken. I just love how they presented their chicken with tiny Tennessee flags. I'm not sure what the spice level of this was- but I could have gone for something with a bit more of a kick. Anyway, yum.
The folks from The Sutler (new to me) offered up Brussel Sprout Hash which would work for both breakfast and dinner. There were crispy brussels on top with some fried shallots with mashed potatoes on the bottom. This was a really good bite and I'm interested to try them out for a full meal.
On both days the fine folks from Martin's BBQ and their friends were cooking up whole pig, goat, ribs, quail, brisket and a bunch of veggies. Depending on the time of day you stopped by their booth, you could try a variety of directly-off-the-fire meats. I was beyond impressed with their offerings- especially that they were nice enough to give me a bunch of pig skin and even some of the ear. I really enjoyed the woodsy quality of the quail but the stand out for me was the ribs. THOSE RIBS! They were so tender and even though I was beyond full, I just had to finish it. 
And for my final act of festivities I went to see Chef Andrew Zimmern talk about hot chicken from all over the world. Besides being another nice Jewish kid from New York, he is an amazing public speaker and really has a knack for getting you passionate about cooking. He made a Thai-style hot chicken dish that had peppers so hot that I couldn't breathe when he started cooking them in the pan. I'll definitely be stealing that recipe from his website- just probably toning it down a bit. 

With Saturday and Sunday fully recapped, all we have left is Harvest Night. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Music City Food and Wine Festival 2014: Saturday

I have been eagerly anticipating this year's Music City Food and Wine festival since it ended last year. The first year of the festival was phenomenal, and really set the stage for what was an even more incredible sophomore outing. If you missed this event, please don't miss it next year. Trust me.
The first table we approached was City House, one of my favorite restaurants in town. Chef Tandy Wilson offered up a simple salad of homemade mozzarella and marinated vegetables. For a restaurant that hosts pork nights every Sunday, I was surprised by the lack of meat in this dish. It was a simple dish that was deceptive in its complexity. A light bite to start out the day that paved the way for an inhumane amount of food. 
Next up was a plate of cured meat from the mobile kitchen of the Biscuit Love Truck. I found nothing wrong with this trio of salted meat. I especially liked what they called a "southern communion wafer" that was a bit like a dense, heavy biscuit. 
Otaku South, the owners of Pop Nashville, were serving up some of their famous noodles. Up today was Tantan Mazeman, a thick noodle with a sesame chili sauce, chili oil and a cured egg yolk. This was a really flavorful, borderline spicy dish. The fresh scallions on top made the peanut butter-like taste of the sesame chili sauce really stand out. This was one of my favorites of Saturday.
Dale Levitski, the head chef of Sinema, was serving up something he called duck duck dumpling. 
It was cooked duck on a bistro salad with fresh apples and curried dumplings. This dish was really complicated- there were many ingredients on the plate. But it reminded me of fall and I liked the juxtaposition of the game meat with the light salad. Plus, the fig on top was a nice bonus.
Moto is another one of my favorite places. Chef Andy Hayes is incredibly talented and also super nice. He offered up a plate of his homemade burrata with tomatoes, croutons and balsamic vinegar. Burrata is a beautiful thing, especially the way Chef Andy makes it. You can never go wrong with giving people soft cheese.
I was actually surprised by how much I enjoyed the sweet offerings on Saturday. My favorite dish of the day was actually a dessert! (surpassing, because if you watch Top Chef, the contestants are screwed if they make a dessert and aren't actually trained in pastry). Anyway, incredible Chef Trevor Moran of The Catbird Seat offered us potatoes in dirt. In realty, this was a giant cream puff covered in marzipan and dusted with cocoa powder, which was itself nested in cocoa nibs and cake crumbs. This "potato" had me screaming expletives and I may have had more than one (NO SHAME). 
From the East Side folks at the Treehouse, we had a tuna ceviche on a yucca chip. Everything about this dish was so light, that I couldn't really taste much. The tuna was lightly seasoned and the yucca seemed to lack a soul. It wasn't bad, it just wasn't a memorable follow up to a potato in dirt. 
Porter Road Butcher does a lot of things right. Every cut of meat I have gotten from them has been amazing and I love how they cut my marrow bone the long way when I make it at home. I believe this was a pork curry pate. It had a really gentle curry flavor and I loved how the seeds (mustard?) popped in my mouth.
And the other amazing dessert of the day came from Pastry Chef Lisa Donovan of Buttermilk Road and Husk Nashville. It was a butterscotch bourbon pudding with cream on top. Sweet Jesus, this was smooth, rich and just like heaven! There is a reason why I love the desserts at Husk!

The folks from Lockeland Table served up bear creek farms skirt steak with chimichurri sauce and a pickled tomato. I was disappointed that this was seved as a finger food because it was pretty oily and got all over my hands. Besides the lack of a utensils I really liked the flavor. Skirt steak is one of my favorite cuts of meat and serving it with a chimmichurri is pretty classic. It's classic for a reason- it tastes really freakin' good.
Urban Grub provided a trio of meats, also without a fork. Next year- I'm brining my own fork. I couldn't quite tell what meat was in the sandwich or in the sausage- but both were tasty. What I really enjoyed was the salami-type meat with the Brussel sprout and grape salad served on top. 
Merchant's said they were serving shrimp and grits- but I'm not quite sure what I got. It was a crispy something with a wet something on top. There was so much of that shrimp/spice powdered on top that I started sneezing immediately and by the time I got the thing to my mouth it was way too salty for me. 
Festival character and all around party dude Tim Love gave a demonstration on how to burn food. He basically put a bunch of vegetables in a hot pan and let them cook until the sugar turned brown on one side. He did all of this while imbibing ungodly amounts of tequila. I don't know how the man was even standing, but he was able to produce a pretty tasty assortment of food. I think I'll follow his recipe for burning boiled beets and then mixing that with goat cheese.
The folks over at Silo gave us their version of hot chicken- which wasn't terribly hot, but after a day in the hot sun drinking, it definitely burned going down. It really wouldn't be a food festival in Nashville if someone didn't make my intestines cry with hot chicken.
Mason's served up smoked waygu short rib with a shaved brussel salad- at least that is what it said on the sign. While I don't believe I got any brussles, the short rib was very fatty and tender. It was cooked just the right amount with little fuss- really showing off the superiority of the cut of meat.
Arnold's Country Kitchen was the one that did me in. They served a whole lunch portion- not a taste. I was given a giant plate of roast beef on a corn cake with turnip greens. This was so good that I forced myself to eat most of it- which was a good or terrible idea, depending on how you look at it.
Since I couldn't leave without grabbing something from the amazing Peg Leg Porker- I picked up their pulled pork and pork rinds. I wish I had more room because the fat on this was great. I always love Nashville chefs because you can guarantee that you will get more fat than your arteries can take- and when you think you have enough- they throw fried pork skin down your throat.
My final act of the day was seeing Iron Chef Morimoto teach us how to make and eat sushi. Watching this man gut a fish is a thing of beauty. He effortlessly sliced into the fish and with three quick motions had the best piece all sliced up and ready for plating. Morimoto was incredibly charming and even serenaded the crowd!
Oh and this happened. Hello Chef Waxman! Pardon my silly face while I'm clearly so happy to get a photo with you! Stay tuned for more MCFWF- I ate a lot more than this!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Nashville Food Friday: Table 3

Dinner during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennessee
I'll be honest and say that Table 3 wasn't even on my radar. I rarely go to the Green Hills Mall, and I hit up the cinema there even less. Table 3 was never recommended to me and didn't really pop up as a "trendy" place to go. Therefore, I'm quite thankful that Steve picked Table 3 as our choice for restaurant week. What we got was a solid interpretation of standard French cuisine that was quite the value for restaurant week.
Dinner during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennesse
For a place I had never heard of, I was taken aback by Table 3's cavernous space. With a long bar and a massive dining room, Table 3 is quite the operation. And on a Friday night, the place was packed! The decor was an attempt to mimic a french bistro, which had some hits and misses. The colors were clean and the arch windows were a nice touch, I just think it's hard to force an intimate feel on a place so large.  But for France in Nashville, they did ok.
Cocktails during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennesse
For my cocktail I chose The Perfect Pair, made with vodka, pear liquor and sparkling wine. This was a surprisingly deep and rich drink for something that had so much fruit in it. You can taste the liquor and get a little bit of the burn, but not too much. This was strong, and the way that this was mixed masked the huge amounts of liquor hidden inside. Steve thought that it tasted like a very rich fortified wine, which wasn't too far off the mark. Steve chose the Kilted-Carnie, made with scotch, taverna, and lemon. This drink went down very smooth and had a nice, warm carmel sweetness to it. 
pate during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennesse
Steve and I both ordered off the restaurant week menu which consisted of an appetizer and an entree for $24.14. I have had my fair share of restaurant week "deals" where I thought I wound up paying way more for less food. THIS IS NOT THE CASE AT TABLE 3. What we got was a huge amount of food at a good value. More restaurants should strive to do what Table 3 does.  

For his appetizer Steve chose the pork pate with house pickles, mustard and bread. The pate had a nice smooth flavor that complimented the grainy mustard. The house pickle was done well and really helped bring out the lighter flavors in the pate.
mussels during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennessee
For my appetizer I chose the mussels in a white wine, shallot and garlic sauce which was served with a half loaf of bread. The smell from this dish was amazing! Plus, this was a crazy amount of mussels and could have been my main meal. The mussels themselves weren't the best quality; I had a few that were crunchy. But overall this was a satisfying dish. 
Steak Frites during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennessee
For his entree Steve chose the steak frites. The steak was good, but the butter really elevated the meat. The presentation was snoozy (we have all seen this dish done the same way before) but there isn't much you can do to fancy up meat and potatoes. Steve really enjoyed the frites and thought that they were deceptively simple but offered a lot of flavor, where I thought they were just a little too salty. Needles to say, his plate was cleaned.
coq a van during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennessee
If you have read my blog you know that I'm not the biggest chicken fan, but I took a gamble and ordered the coq a vin. I was a little bummed because it appeared that my dish was done and sitting around for a while since the gravy had time to congeal and form a viscous skim layer on top. But besides that, the flavor of the sauce was really good. The wine mixed with all the vegetables really screamed provincial farm house. The carrots really soaked up the sauce flavor and the mashed potatoes were delicious. As for the chicken itself, I really enjoyed it because they served me two pieces of dark meat, and it just fell off the bone!

I have to say that the wait staff was awesome. They were friendly, attentive and changed out the silverware after each course, making sure I had the correct tiny mussel fork. There was also a huge table of tourists that weren't the most polite, and they handled that situation with grace.
salted carmel mousse dessert during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennessee
For dessert we decided to splurge and ordered the salted carmel mousse. This was really salty, but when mixed with the heavy dark chocolate it worked. I liked how the salt was in large granules that made the overall texture exciting. The pastry that was served with it was kind of "meh." Perhaps they were a day old? Either way, the mousse was good.
Dinner during restaurant week at Table 3 in Nashville Tennessee
Table 3 also has a small market attached where you can get sweets, coffee and snacks before a movie!

As far as restaurant week deals go, Table 3 kicked it out of the park. It wasn't the most inventive food or the coolest atmosphere, but this place is solid. If you are ever looking for a bite to eat before a movie, or after a long day of shopping- go here and totally forget that chain dining was ever a thing.

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