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...