Tasty Takeaways from Music City Food + Wine Festival

The fifth annual Music City Food + Wine Festival was held this past weekend at Bicentennial Park and it did not disappoint. In an effort to keep up with the ever-evolving culinary scene in the Music City, festival programming was expanded to include a Friday Night Grand Taste highlighting more of our local chefs and restaurateurs. One noticeable change this year was the ratio of booze to food. It was overwhelming and for many quite a challenge to remain sober. In 48 hours, I consumed no less than 10,000 calories. Clearly, I was living my best life. With more than 100 vendors at the festival, I had a hard time culling down my list of favorites. So I chose my top tasty takeaways from the festival.

One of my first stops at the Music City Food+Wine is always Barilla Pasta. Chef Yury Krasilovsky always has a spectacular pasta dish featured. It doesn’t hurt that he lives in Chicago and we have a chance to catch up on our favorite new restaurants in the city. This year Barilla brought their A game and one helluva pasta pan! Below you will see Chef Yury preparing Barilla Penne with Tomato “Passata”, Burrata Cheese and Arugula Pistachio Pesto.

Hot chicken…It’s what Nashville is known for, among other things.  Hattie B’s was serving up their delicious hot chicken (and no, it wasn’t too spicy) on top of a pimento cheese grit cake. Of course, no hot chicken bite is complete without a pickle!  Hattie B’s partnered with a local brewery, Bearded Iris, to pair this bite with their Homestyle or Scatterbrained Beer. I found the Homestyle to be a little less hoppy and more to my liking with this bite.

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The Keeper in Plano, TX…Is Just That…A Keeper

The Keeper in Plano’s at The Shops at Legacy was one of the most awaited openings. After my visit I know why….this place is a KEEPER.

The Keeper
5840 Legacy Circle D100, Plano, TX 75024
http://thekeeperplano.com/

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Fall Wine Festival at City Winery Nashville

This weekend we were invited to attend the Fall Wine Festival at City Winery Nashville hosted by Nashville Wine Festivals. What a fantastic event! It was everything you need for a party in one place: music, unlimited drinks, food, and plenty of Instagram worthy photo backdrops!

City Winery

City Winery has always been one of my favorite places to go for dinner and a show, but I’ve never really explored the whole building. It’s a huge facility with different bars and places to sit and sip your favorite glass of wine. My new favorite spot is upstairs on the outside patio with a downtown view of Nashville! Not only was the view great, the weather couldn’t have been better – 76 degrees with a slight breeze and not a cloud in the sky. On the patio, I enjoyed a Matua Pinot Noir Rośe and my husband sampled a glass of Relax Chardonnay while we enjoyed the flawless day.

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Falling in Love with Union Kitchen & Tap in Encinitas, CA

Since I moved to the North County of San Diego ten years ago, I have been completely in love with Encinitas. This charming and chill beach town is literally what dreams are made of and the dream keeps getting better. Recently, I’ve been delighted to see an emerging food scene along the North County coast. Though the trek from Ocean Beach to Encinitas is daunting, I couldn’t miss out on the opportunity to try Union Kitchen & Tap. My friend, Paul, came to town last week. I knew this was my chance! We decided to make a day of it including meditation gardens, my favorite beach and a delicious dinner.

Union Kitchen and Tap
1108 S Coast Hwy 101, Encinitas, CA, 92024
www.localunion101.com

I’ll stop rambling and get to the good stuff! We started with the cocktail list…a very good place to start. The list is organized by liquor type and included the flavor profile of each cocktail. I often have a hard time choosing, so I loved this attention to detail. I was immediately drawn to the agave portion of the menu. I chose the Fleetwood which combined serrano-pineapple infused Blanco, dry Curacao, and lime. The cocktail list described it as “charred, tropical and tart”. It arrived looking beautiful and tasted just as delicious as it was described. I might have been heard saying it was the best cocktail I’d ever had AND it was even named after my favorite band! Paul opted for the Agatha with Belvedere vodka, watermelon, cilantro and lime. Described as refreshing, sweet, and bright, this was a great choice for our hot summer day and it was exactly those three things!

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#NationalBaconDay is (Jalapeño) Poppin’

It’s National Bacon Day! Actually, there has been some confusion about when National Bacon Day actually is, and after some research (Googling, really) we’ve come to the conclusion that bacon is so ridiculously awesome that you can celebrate it today, and September 2nd, and December 30th. How cool is that? But back to the task at hand: (first) National Bacon Day!

The first college football games are a few short days away. What better way to celebrate this porky food holiday than with this delicious take on the classic jalapeño popper? No need to pull out the greasy deep fryer; these spicy, salty, cheesy bites of goodness are baked in the oven.

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Thai-Mexican Fine Dining in Acapulco: Zibú

In the middle of one of the most dangerous roads in Acapulco sits one of the best restaurants I’ve ever been to Zibú, Thai-Mexican fine cuisine with the most beautiful Caribbean like atmosphere. The mesmerizing views of Acapulco Bay, fantastic service, and delicious food makes going to this place a memorable experience that you’ll want to repeat as much as possible. I’ve been quite a few times myself and even spent New Year’s Eve that at an awesome party. 

Zibú
Avenida Escenica S/N, Fraccionamiento Glomar, Pichilingue, 39887, Acapulco, Guerrero

This last time I went for a romantic date with bae. He had never been before, so I took him by the hand and guided him through the most delicious dishes of Zibú. The entrance of the restaurant is hard to find because the only thing you see, even more so if you go at night, are a few steps, the sign of the restaurant, and the valet. As you take a few steps down, you meet with the hostess under a beautiful palapa, right next to a rustic bonfire. I would suggest making a reservation, they are on Open Table, and they tend to book quickly, they also host events as well, so sometimes half of the restaurant is unavailable. For instance, the time I went, there was a wedding reception. But as a customer, you would never know, the only reason I knew was that my sister was a part of the wedding. As I said before the restaurant has different sections and private rooms that the regular customer would never be aware, once I saw one of their smaller rooms filled with roses and candles for a proposal once, so special.

Anyway back to me! As I was trying to show my boyfriend the best of the best we had quite the big dinner. We started with the amazingly delicious Camarones Sol y Sombra (Sun and Shadow Shrimp), it consists of six grilled shrimp placed on top of a mirror of mango sauce, the sun, and tamarind sauce, the shadow. It was not only delicious but amusing. As you can tell from the picture, it comes with veggies, mashed potatoes, and rice which is mostly carbs and neutral flavored so that they absorb the sauce to give the protein a beautiful complement. It can be sweet or sour or mix both sauces and get the best of both worlds. It’s a very well rounded dish, just delicious.

Camarones Sol y Sombra
Arroz Oriental
We then ordered Arroz Oriental and the Chicken Pad Thai. The rice has a colorful seasoning, ginger butter, and Thai red pepper, also a variety of seafood: shrimp, octopus, calamari, and lobster. If you like paella this is an interesting twist. It was delicious. Next up the chicken pad Thai, personally I love the texture of noodles and these were just perfect, the flavors of this dish were less bitter and more sweet with a hint of spice. Honestly, the food and the service were so good that we were planning on when our next visit should be.
Chicken Pad Thai 
Selva Mextai
As full as we were we could not miss dessert, this is one of those places that you can’t leave with out trying to fill your body with the biggest amount of food you’re capable. After a few minutes, we both agreed on getting the Selva Mextai. The description of the dish leaves out an ingredient on purpose, and even if you ask the waiter what it is, he won’t tell you, he will tell you though that you’ll have to guess after you try it. It was fun, we have no allergies, and we were curious, so we got it without fully knowing what to expect, and I’m glad we did. The coconut ice cream was fantastic, buttery and tasted just like an iced coconut. It did not have a hint of artificial flavors, and the dulce de leche made up for a great companion to eat. The mystery fried vegetable surrounding our dessert, well I can’t tell you, you’ll have to guess once you’re there!

Paella Wine and Beer Fest with L.A. Paella

Over the weekend our friends over at L.A. Paella Catering invited us to visit them at the inaugural Paella Wine and Beer Festival in Orange County. Paella, wine & beer? Of course I would join! It was a beautiful day at the OC Fairgrounds in Costa Mesa and I could smell the paellas on the other side of the parking lot. Maybe it was the 80 degree weather or perhaps it was the red hot competition, nonetheless the aromas had me dreaming of winning the contest and the trip to Spain.

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Going Retro at The Smoking Gun in San Diego

This past week I had to opportunity to head into San Diego’s Gaslamp Corner to check out one of it’s newest hot spots, The Smoking Gun! I was excited to see this new twist on a neighborhood bar and restaurant, offering up a southern inspired menu, nostalgic details, and old school games! I was immediately charmed with the details that greeted us, from the menu in an old school folder, to the drinks presented in this favorite childhood toy, and especially by the oldies playing all night long!

The Smoking Gun
555 Market St., San Diego, CA, 92101
www.thesmokinggunsd.com

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Summer’s Kelp Noodle Pad Thai

I have been trying out this whole no processed carbs thing for awhile now and I actually really love how it makes me feel. However I am only human and the noodle craving has hit me hard. Like really hard. I want all the noodles and I was especially craving pad thai. Obviously pad thai is not on my meal plan. I know what you’re thinking, “But Summer you love zoodles. You are always telling us they are an awesome substitute for noodles. Why don’t you just use those?” You guys are right, I do say that and I mean it. They are an awesome substitute for noodles but I need in this moment something more. I need the firmness of a perfectly cooked al dente noodle.

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Isabel’s Whole Roasted Chicken

There’s something about whole roasted chicken with it’s the perfect balance of herbs, spices and lemony aroma! It makes my heart sing and my tummy rumble with joy. It reminds me of all my favorite things; my mother’s house, fall, cozy nights playing cards with my family! Not only is it delicious, it’s also one of those meals that produce little baby meals all week long.

To me, the best part of roasted chicken is the crispy skin. I realize that might gross some people out, but when it’s cooked correctly, it’s delicious. This roasting method gets a nice crisp outside but keeps the meat nice and juicy on the inside. No dry white meat here! You can really use any combo of spices and herbs you want, but I personally love the combo in this recipe.

Serve your beautiful chicken with your favorite sides and you have a delicious dinner for the whole family. My favorite sides are quinoa or rice, steamed broccolini or roasted veggies, and a side salad!

Isabel’s Whole Roasted Chicken

1 organic, free range whole chicken (Mine was about 4 1/2 Lbs)
Tons of fresh rosemary
Two or three large garlic cloves
Lemon
1/2 white onion (optional)
Pink sea salt
Lemon pepper
Garlic powder
Cayenne pepper
Paprika
Olive oil
Directions:
Preheat oven to 400F (If your oven runs hot or cold adjust it accordingly).
Pat chicken dry with a paper towel so the skin will get nice a crispy-steam=soggy skin.
The wings will be pointing up when cooking so starting on the bottom season starting with lemon.
After lemon, add olive oil and a good amount of spices.
Flip over and liberally season in the same way.
Stuff the used lemon halves, rosemary, garlic and onion inside the chicken.
Truss the legs of the chicken tightly. (Don’t skip this step!)
Bake covered for 25-30 minutes.
-Tip- be sure that the tin foil or lid doesn’t touch the chicken because when you take it off the skin will come off with it wherever it’s touching.
Baste with juices in the bottom of the pan and season with a little more lemon pepper, garlic powder, and salt.
Cook uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until internal temp is 165F and skin is crispy.
-I like the skin almost burnt, in some places, as you can see in this photo. If you want it a little less intense just turn down the heat a bit or “tent” with tin foil. This method allows the direct heat to be blocked without trapping steam, which will uncrisp the skin.
Let rest for at least 10 minutes before cutting to keep the juices from running out which will make your chicken dry. 
Once you’ve cooked a whole chicken the possibilities are endless as far as where to go next. Plain old leftovers, cold chicken salad, chicken sandwiches, and the best part…bone broth! The process of bone broth involves slow cooking the chicken bones in water with spices, herbs, and vegetables. This takes the nutrients from the marrow of the bones and the vegetables and makes an extremely nutritious broth that can be eaten alone or made into any soup that calls for chicken broth. Homemade is always best in my book! It adds such amazing flavor and depth to your soups that you’ll never go back to store bought!
Work sharp zucchini nachos

Grilled Zucchini Nachos with Work Sharp Culinary

I recently had the opportunity to test out a new line of knife sharpeners from Work Sharp Culinary. In case you missed my previous post on how to create the perfect cheese board, I utilized the Work Sharp M3 manual knife sharpening system.

Work sharp E5 sharpener

Work Sharp Culinary has also released an electric sharpening system that is easy to use, and creates professional results. Work Sharp Culinary provided me with a knife sharpening system to try out and review for our Girls on Food Readers! Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

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New Eugene Italian Restaurant, Pastini, Takes a Pizza My Heart

There are three things I love most in the entire culinary universe: carbs, cheese, and wine. So when my husband, Jake, and I received an invitation to attend the new Pastini location’s soft open it was a no brainer as to what our response would be. It was ‘yes’ in case you were wondering.

Pastini
325 Oakway Rd, Eugene, OR 97401
http://www.pastini.com/

The Chef’s Board

Pastini Pastarias are strictly unique to Oregon with locations in Portland, Corvallis, and the newest spot opening in Eugene. They specialize in authentic Italian dishes using local, fresh ingredients. This location had a warm and comfortable interior juxtaposed with dark industrial elements influenced by the high ceiling of exposed pipes. The casual atmosphere was reflected in the servers’ uniform. Each wore a company t-shirt in what appeared to be a soft cotton, jeans, and converses in either black or red. Having worked in the food industry for years I can appreciate a business who puts their employees comfort as a priority. The displayed artwork was large yet minimal to keep focus on the true masterpieces, the food.

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