Flavors and Tastes of Nashville

Last week I had the good fortune to judge the Flavors of Nashville fund-raising event for the American Liver Foundation. The affair was totally unique to any other food event that I’ve attended, bringing together some of Nashville’s top chefs who each designed their own menu and prepared a five course meal, paired with wines, for a table of 10 guests.

The competition was broken down into three categories: Best Appetizer, Best Tablescape and Best Menu. My fellow judges and I spent the first part of the evening wandering the massive dining room taking in all of the beautiful tables personally designed by each chef. After scoring those, we moved on to the daunting task of tasting the 15 appetizers being served to guests during the opening cocktail reception.

Yes, I said 15. Flashbacks from the night of 24 cocktails flooded my brain as I repeated, “pace yourself, pace yourself”. Remember, there was still a five course dinner ahead! We plowed through, picked our faves, then moved on to the menu judging, perhaps the hardest part of all. Instead of tasting the food itself, we were critiquing the concept and flow of the menu. But you know me, one of my hobbies is perusing menus, so even though it was tough narrowing down the competition, it was fun!

Best Tablescape
(shown in photo above)
Saffire – Chef Vinny Tardo

Best Appetizer
Hillwood Country Club – Chef Perry Seal

Best Menu
Mack and Kate’s– Chef Cooper Brunk

All judging duties complete, it was time to relax and enjoy the rest of the evening. This is where the really unique part of the event kicked in. Up until this point, none of the patrons knew who whose food they would be eating. During the cocktail hour, each chef drew a number from a hat that paired him with a guests’ table for the night, then personally escorted them to the table.

I hit the jackpot when Chef Carl Schultheis of Red Pony (at left), drew my table number!

Red Pony Menu

First Course: Butternut Squash Soup with Candied Butternut Squash and spiced wine gastrique

Second Course: Black Bean Mollettes with Milagro Shrimp and Queso Cotija

Third Course: Seared Tuna with Rockefeller Artichokes, Caper Aioli, and Balsamic Reduction

Fourth Course: Braised Lamb in Mole Negro and Sweet Corn Tamal

Fifth Course: Strawberry Trifle

I would highly recommend attending this event in the future if you have the opportunity. Not only is it for a good cause, but it’s truly an evening of gastronomic delights!

While we’re on the topic of fund-raising food affairs, just days away is one that I very rarely miss: Taste of Nashville, supporting the Boys and Girls Club of Middle Tennessee.

This year’s Taste is this Friday, September 25th, at the Cannery Ballroom. A few of my preferred dining spots and watering holes are on the list: Park Cafe, Saffire, Virago, Lime, and The Patterson House; along with some on my “to do” list: Eastland Cafe, The Cocoa Tree, and The Local Taco. I’m especially excited to get a taste of soon-to-be-opening Kayne Prime and Whiskey Kitchen. All of these and more for what I believe is the lowest price I’ve ever paid – only $50! (all drinks are included as well) Click here to purchase tickets. The number is limited, so do it now!

Friday, September 25th
7:00 p.m. – 1:00 a.m.
The Cannery Ballroom
1 Cannery Row
Nashville, TN
$50 in advance or $60 at the door