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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Music City Food and Wine Festival 2014: Harvest Night

Finally- Harvest Night. This was the big show for the Music City Food & Wine Festival. All of the star-power chefs prepare dishes, followed by a intimate concert by some of country music's biggest names. I arrived at the gates as soon as they opened and made my way down the line to try some hotly anticipated items.
After seeing Chef Morimoto give a talk on sushi earlier in the day, I went to try his dish first. Chef Morimoto presented his take tuna ceviche. From what my tongue could tell, this was less like a traditional ceviche and more like really good raw fish dusted with some citrus, soy sauce,spice, and cilantro. Whatever this dis actually was- it was delicious. While it might not have been plated the prettiest- the taste made up for it. 
Next was my fellow New Yorker- Andrew Zimmern who's sign simple stated "Dead Baby Cow Sandwich." What we got was a a veal sandwich on a toasted buttered bun, with some special "rocket" sauce on it and some peppery greens. The meat was succulent and the sauce really enhanced the sweetness of the meat. This sandwich was so large, that I could probably have just eaten this, and called it day. But I'm not a wuss when it comes to food- so I pushed on.
Chef Sean Brock's Nashville outpost of Husk is one of my favorite places in town.  I've never met the celebrity chef in person, so I was happy to meet him and find out that he is super nice and very friendly.  Chef Brock gave us a grilled pork rib with peanuts and pickled peaches- I succulent take on the typical southern rib. I was already won over by the whole "meat on a bone" thing- but the combination of the peanuts and peaches added in a nice thai-like element while still remaining wholly southern.
Making my way down the booths I tried Mike Lata's grilled squid salad. The reason why this dish was such a winner was that the quality of the squid was high- and Chef Lata did not over cook it. The squid was tender and as a bonus to me came with a lot of tentacles. This dish had a distinct citrus flavor- and would probably go well on a menu with Morimoto's ceviche. 
For me the dud of the nigh would have to be Chef Michael Symon's zucchini fritter with feta and dill. First of all, it was presented like a lone turd on an empty plate. I think visually this dish would have been better if there was some form of garnish on the plate. The fritter itself was really soggy in the center- making the texture questionable. This was not my thing- so I moved on.
Levon Wallace's BBQ quail leg with Ethiopian berbere spice, watermelon and buttermilk curds was a masterpiece. There was so much going on in this dish that I just keep taking bites trying to figure it out. And even despite the huge lines and fast pace- the plating on this dish was lovely. I guess I'll have to make a trip back to Louisville!

Jonathan Waxman's chicken tacos with spicy cabbage was just that- chicken tacos. I was expecting so much from this master of chicken and all around nice guy- but I wasn't that impressed by this. It kind of reminded me of what I can do at home.

Chef Tim Love's short rib had a really nice heat about it. Couple that spice with a thick fat layer and you are talking my language. This was a huge portion that yet again I forced into my belly just because it was so good. I remember not being a fan of Chef Love's food last year, but this really made me change my mind about his cooking!
Tyler Florence presented fresh corn shrimp and grits with smoked pepitas. It was basically a smoked corn puree with shrimp and a light micro green salad. I really liked this dish and I feel inspired to combine corn and shrimp more often. They really do go together!
Chef Aaron Sanchez offered a more traditional take on seafood ceviche with pickled jalepeno and plantain chips. The flavor of the ceviche was hot and comforting, but the plantain chips were just kind of soggy. Perhaps I hit this booth up too late in the evening.

Harvest Night was an amazing evening. I got to spend it eating great food and drinking good wine under the stars while listening to some pretty damn good music. Is it too early to start counting down for next year's Music City Food and Wine Festival?

*Special thanks to the staff of the Music City Food and Wine Festival for letting me attend a second year in a row. Special thanks to Sarah Abell*


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