Music City Food & Wine 2016: A Recap


photo courtesy of Music City Food & Wine


Last year we were blessed with glorious weather for Music City Food + Wine Festival.  This year, not so much.

Day 1 of the festival was one of the grayest, dreariest, messiest days I remember experiencing here in Nashville for quite some time. Lucky for me I learned my lesson years ago after surviving one mud-bogged Steeplechase, and I now own some cute rain boots for times like this. I’ll admit they don’t provide the best support for hours on your feet, but at least they kept my tootsies dry and made navigating the mud-filled park a lot easier than those people I saw getting stuck ankle deep in sandals in the mud. Ick.

While the rain did put a bit of a damper on the first day, it certainly didn’t stop me (and a few hundred others) from enjoying some great food and drink.

This was the 4th year of the festival, and the 4th year I’ve attended. Year 1 and Year 2 were held at Public Square Park downtown, but last year it moved to Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, and I absolutely LOVE the change of venue. Much more space, a few trees to seek shade (or shelter from the rain), and plenty of free parking in the area.



Virago’s Carp Crudo

It would be absolutely impossible for me to recap every single thing I ate and drank, so I’m just going to hit the highlights. Believe me, there were plenty of those.

By far the best bite of the day on Saturday was, for me, Virago’s Kentucky Silver Carp Crudo with pickled gooseberries, gooseberry ponzu, chevral, and smoked olive oil. It was so refreshing and flavorful, and just so very different than anything else I had that day!



Thai Esane’s spicy chicken larb

People often ask me to name my favorite restaurants in Nashville, and it’s HARD y’all. Sometimes I really love a place for certain seasonal dishes they have. Sometimes I love a place for the atmosphere. But there are a handful of places I consistently crave no matter what time of the year and my fondness for it has nothing to do with atmosphere. Thai Esane is one of them.

Thai food is my jam, and the pork larb is one of my favorite dishes there. Here at MCFW, Nina was serving up their chicken larb and even though I probably added a few too many peppers (good lord, my mouth was on fire!), it was one of my favorites.


The Goo Goo Shop at Music City Food & Wine

Okay, so I know I work for the company, but I swear even if I didn’t, the Premium Goo Goos would have still been the best dessert I ate on that Saturday! For the last couple of years we’ve been collaborating with some of Nashville’s best chefs for our Summer Chef Series, and Music City Food & Wine is where the series culminates and all chef creations are available for tasting.

My favorites this year have been Chef John Lasater’s (Hattie B’s) “Goo Goo Cluckster” and Pat Martin’s “Whole Hog“. If you weren’t at Music City Food & Wine and haven’t been able to get any of the Premiums yet, then hurry over to the Goo Goo Shop today and grab one because today is the very last day of the series!



The Southern’s potato pancake with duck confit

Now back to the savory…

I really enjoyed the Southern’s duck confit with spiced carrot puree and plum cherry mostarda with toasted pepitas, plus I got to chat with Chef Dale Levitski who was manning their booth at the time, so that’s always a treat.

As many of you probably know, Dale used to be the chef at Sinema, but left a few months ago. I was excited to hear through the grapevine a few months back that he was now working on the new Tom Morales seafood concept, Fin and Pearl (which will be a sister restaurant to The Southern). I love Dale and seafood, so should be a winning combo!



Watermark’s Bacon & Pickles

Watermark won my award for prettiest tablescape of the weekend. I actually kept taking people by there to see it. Of course, I wanted them to eat the food too, as it was one of the best bites — maple glazed bacon with pickled squash, carrots, onions and mustard seed. Yum.



Watermark’s Table at Music City Food & Wine



Chickens and cabbages gettin’ smoked at Martin’s

While I didn’t get photos of all the individual foods I sampled from the Martin’s BBQ fire pits, I can say that everything I had was fabulous! From lamb skewers to sausage to green beans, I loved it all.



Octopus on the grill at Music City Food & Wine



Hallelujah, Day 2 of Music City Food & Wine was a much better day! It wasn’t raining, the sun was shining, and for some reason, the food offering was even better (was that just my imagination?) than Saturday.

Over the last couple of years the Sunday Grand Taste has really become my favorite part of the whole weekend. The Gospel Brunch is fabulous. Love the music, love starting the day with a Bloody Mary (this year from Tito’s), and the vibe of Sunday just seems to be way more chill for some reason. Maybe because many people are hungover? Ha! Thankfully I wasn’t, so the day was pure awesomeness.



Merchants Bacon Cornbread

I’m not typically one for carb heavy foods, so sometimes I pass up those dishes at events. Not on this day, and thank goodness I didn’t, because carbs ruled.

When I saw the description of Merchants’s cornbread on their sign, it sounded strange, so I hesitated. But, ultimately I went for it and let me tell you, bacon cornbread with peach miso butterscotch dandelion pesto is divine.


Holler and Dash’s amazing biscuit

Let me tell you what else is divine. Every single topping on the biscuit from Brandon Frohne of Holler and Dash: candied bacon, popcorn, whipped peanut butter, and bananas. Yep. If I had been hungover, this definitely would have cured it.


mcfw16-pink-radio-cake-bongoBongo Java Pink Radio Cake

More carbs! When I spotted the pink radio cake from Bongo Java, I was giddy. You see, this cake has been around for years (at least 7 or 8 years?? I feel like I may have been eating it at Fido before I even created this blog).  But until Music City Food & Wine, I hadn’t had a piece in ages.

One little square reminded me what I’ve been missing out on. The second square confirmed that I need to eat it more often. No, I didn’t take a third square, but I wanted to. (fun fact: the cake and icing contain puréed beets but you’d never know it from the taste!)


Watermelon salad from Butcher & Bee

There were lighter bites to be had too, I swear. For instance, I loved this little bite of watermelon salad from Butcher & Bee. (Seriously, you can never go wrong with anything from Butcher & Bee. Never.)


Ceviche from Bajo Sexto at MCF&W

And this really light & tangy ceviche from Bajo Sexto. Speaking of which, have you been to Bajo Sexto Taco Lounge on Charlotte yet? It’s awesome, you guys. You must check it out if you haven’t already. Super cute space, great patio and some really interesting dishes coming out of that kitchen from Chef Kaelin.


The best drink booth of the entire festival was definitely Wild Turkey’s, as they had these guys from The Patterson House mixing up tiki drinks.

I mean, look at them. They slay.


Wild Turkey Tiki drink from Patterson House at MCF&W


Flyte’s Cornmeal Sourdough Crostini

One of the best parts of this festival is that I get to revisit some older, more established Nashville restaurants that maybe I haven’t been frequenting as often as I used to since all these newbies have started popping on the scene. Case in point – Flyte.

They served this simple cornmeal sourdough crostini with mushroom ragout and whipped bonnie blue chevre, and it was delicious. Chatting with Chef Chris Stallard reminded me that I haven’t been there since he took over the kitchen, and that’s a big fail on my part. My friend Kristin and I are already comparing calendars so we can remedy that.



Elote bite at Music City Food & Wine

Rodney Strong Vineyards brought Chef Jason Dady all the way from Texas, and my friend Jenny from Speakeasy Spirits forced me to eat the little bite they were serving up. Really, she forced me. I was so stuffed at that point of the day, that I didn’t think I could eat another bite, but I did. And when she saw the look on my face, she said “I told you so”.

This cream corn concoction was served atop a lime wedge, so you squeezed the lime to transfer the corn into your mouth and it gave you all the flavors of elote! Such a creative (and delicious) idea.


Ice Cream Sandwich from Bastion

The very last bite of food I ate on Sunday was this mind blowing ice cream sandwich with peanut ice cream, carolina reaper chili, and basil oil from Josh Habiger of Bastion. Josh is a genius, in case you didn’t already know that. I asked him to explain this little nugget to me, but I think my head was still trying to process how incredible it was, and I couldn’t for the life of me repeat back the details for you. Sorry! Just take my advice and go see him at Bastion. I’m quite sure he’ll astound you with several dishes.

So there you have it. My picks for the best of the fest. Until next year, Music City Food & Wine!


photo courtesy of my lovely friend Kristin, Camels & Chocolate

Disclosure: I was granted a media pass for Music City Food & Wine free of charge, but all opinions are my own.