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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Why I Paid $900 to Dine at Saison

Acquiring Michelin stars has been a hobby of mine for quite some time, albeit a costly one for both my wallet and my waistline. In the midst of planning my annual trip to San Francisco, I decided it was a great time to add a few Michelin stars to my list seeing as the Bay Area now has as many three star restaurants as New York City. Poring over the Michelin Star list, note that there are 54 restaurants that received stars in 2017, I knew that I wanted a dining experience that was a departure from the typical pomp and circumstance of a three Michelin star restaurant and one whose menu pushed my gastronomic boundaries. I found both at Saison.

Saison

178 Townsend Street, San Francisco, California 94107
Website

Approaching the door of Saison, I was reeling with excitement to see what was on the menu (would it be? Black bear, antelope or perhaps a different exotic game?) and I couldn’t wait to immerse myself into this dining experience. It’s hard to imagine that seven years ago Saison was a “pop-up” restaurant operating in the back of a cafe and now they are arguably one of the best restaurants in the world.

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D.C. Dining: Rose’s Luxury

Lately, it seems as if I am developing a habit of standing in lengthy lines for dinner. First Street XO and now Rose’s Luxury. The question that is always asked: “was it worth it?”

You’ll have to read and find out!

Rose’s Luxury

717 8th St. SE

Washington D.C 20003

Website

For those of you unfamiliar with Rose’s Luxury, I thought it might be helpful to have a little background on the restaurant. Rose’s was named Best New Restaurant of 2014 by Bon Appétit and two years later Chef Aaron Silverman was recognized by Food & Wine as the Best New Chef in 2016. Quite the impressive resume and it continues to grow as Rose’s was recently awarded one Michelin star in the inaugural Michelin Guide for Washington D.C. Chef Silverman’s focus is not just on the food and kitchen. His primary concern surrounds making his patrons happy and showing them a good time.

How did the restaurant get its name? Great question and one of which I adore the answer. Rose was the name of Chef Silverman’s late grandmother who was quite the epicurean. The luxury represents Silverman’s pursuit and obsession for hospitality. I always find it heartwarming when a chef pays tribute to a family member or friend who has provided inspiration throughout his/her journey.

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Madrid Musings: Street XO

As you all know by now, I am notorious for planning all of my vacations around food. Before I even made flight or hotel reservations for Madrid, I checked to see what Michelin star restaurants were in the area. Imagine my excitement when I discovered that there were 14 different restaurants with Michelin star rankings, and that doesn’t even include the World’s 50 Best list! Seeing how Diver XO and Alinea recently collaborated, it was one of the first places to research. Months in advance of my trip, I reached out to Diver XO inquiring about reservations. Imagine my disappointment when I learned that they don’t accommodate parties with less than two guests. Dammit. Rather than brooding over the fact that I would not be able to experience the culinary creations of the mohawked, Michelin star chef, David Muñoz, I decided I would check out the next best thing, Street XO. And so the journey begins.

Street XO
Calle de Serrano, 52, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Website

Planning my itinerary, I decided that Monday would be the ideal day to visit as I had read numerous articles talking about the wait. I grabbed my things from the hotel and off I went. Starting my day with a quick bite at Arzabal, I then spent a few hours wandering through the Reina Sophia and then decided to make my way to Street XO. I grabbed my phone and input the address. I was a little over a mile away and would arrive as soon as they opened. Perfect timing, right? As I made my way down Calle de Serrano, I kept looking for building 52. 60, 56, 48, where the hell was 52? Trying to avoid being the typical American tourist, I popped into a few stores asking if anyone knew where it was and all I received were blank stares until the last store where the kind gentleman told me it was located in El Corte Ingles. I had only walked past that place at least 6 times during my search.

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Weekend Wrap Up: Music City Spirits and Cocktail Festival

It’s been another crazy weekend in the Music City. Not only did we have the usual cast of characters: bachelor/bachelorette parties, concert-goers, and tourists, but this weekend we had thousands of visitors from around the country participating in the Rock and Roll Marathon. I, on the other hand, kept it local and had the chance to see what the Music City Spirits and Cocktail Festival was all about. Cocktail connoisseurs and imbibing enthusiasts from across the city came together to celebrate craft cocktails, award winning bar programs and some of the city’s top mixologists.

This multi-day festival had something for everyone. Kicking off the party on Thursday was an event sponsored by Cooper’s Craft, Bourbon and Bluegrass, two of Nashville’s favorite things.

Providing a little bit of relief from the heat on Friday afternoon, MCSCF hosted the Polynesian Pop, A Tiki Extravaganza. Not only do I have a love for rum but I have a penchant for coconuts, umbrellas and all things tiki. While all of the cocktails were spectacular, there were two standouts of the evening. The first was a take on a Dark and Stormy which used Smith & Cross Jamaican Rum, Lustau Sherry, and Ginger Beer.

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Music City Spirits & Cocktail Festival in Nashville: Get Your Tickets Now!

Calling all cocktail connoisseurs and imbibing enthusiasts! PourTaste’s Jon and Lindsay Yeager are hosting the fourth annual Music City Spirits & Cocktail Festival. This year’s festival will be held April 27-30th at Pavilion East, in East Nashville. Guests must be 21 years of age to participate. Enjoy classic cocktails crafted by some of Nashville’s finest mixologists while mingling with your fellow Nashvillians, and all for a great cause! From bourbon and bluegrass to a frozen cocktail comeback, this festival has it covered!

Image Provided by Music City Spirits & Cocktail Festival

Event tickets begin at $35.00 and if you are torn on which event to attend, never fear! You can secure an all-access pass, which begins at $120.00. Click here to purchase your tickets.

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Hello, Henrietta Red: Nashville’s Next Level Coastal Cuisine

Henrietta Red
1200 4th Avenue North, Nashville, Tennessee 37208
http://www.henriettared.com/

I stepped off the plane and literally, hightailed it to Nashville’s newest restaurant, Henrietta Red. Nestled between Cochon Butcher and City House on 4th Avenue North, Henrietta Red is a restaurant/barroom serving up a variety of coastal fare. Chef Julia Sullivan, a Nashville native, and business partner Allie Poindexter partnered with Strategic Hospitality (last seen here) to develop this chic-seafood concept in the ever popular Germantown neighborhood.

Chef Julia Sullivan built quite the culinary resume while in New York City.  Spending time at Blue Hill at Stone Barns and Franny’s in Brooklyn, her most notable assignment was as a cook in Thomas Keller’s Per Se kitchen. Julia and Allie were introduced to one another while working at Haven’s Kitchen.  A match made in heaven, if I say so myself!  Without further adieu, the pair left New York City and moved to Nashville to work on this labor of love, Henrietta Red.

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BINGO!: Bastion in Nashville

I have been a fan of the Goldberg Brothers for years. They single handedly changed my twenties by opening one of the very first trendsetting bars in Nashville—Bar Twenty3. As their Nashville footprint grew, they launched Strategic Hospitality, responsible for 75% of my favorite bars and restaurants in Nashville. Any time I hear about one of their concepts brewing, I can’t wait to check it out.

Bastion
434 Houston Street, Nashville, Tennessee 37203
www.bastionnashville.com

Welcome Bastion to the dining scene. Bastion, an avant-garde concept from Strategic Hospitality, is located in the Wedgewood-Houston neighborhood tucked inside Houston Station. Bastion is a two-fold concept. For those looking for a more casual evening filled with delicious craft cocktails, Ms. Pacman and classic vinyl on the turntable, grab a seat at the bar and order the nachos, you can’t go wrong. Looking for a little more refined evening sharing incredible food and catching up with friends? Reserve a seat in the kitchen with Chef Josh Habiger. This twenty-four seat restaurant fills up almost immediately when reservations open. Having been named one of the 21 Best Restaurants in 2016 by Eater’s Bill Addison, it’s on EVERYONE’S radar. It’s no surprise that Bastion receives nod after nod from various food critics.

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Biscuit Brunchin’ at Holler and Dash in Brentwood, TN

Holler and Dash is a fast-casual spin on the famous Cracker Barrel Old Country Store. Featuring local artisans like Olive and Sinclair and Frothy Monkey, Holler and Dash pays tribute to southern living with a biscuit inspired menu.  All of the menu items have been crafted and curated by Jason McConnell, Chef de Cuisine, and Brandon Frohne, Director of Culinary. They have done a tremendous job leveraging their southern roots, experience, and creativity to craft a menu that pays tribute to the quintessential southern staple, the biscuit.

Holler and Dash
203 Franklin Road Suite 120, Brentwood, Tennessee
https://holleranddash.com/menu/

Warning:  Don’t read this on an empty stomach!

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Benvenuto Trattoria Il Mulino

Trattoria Il Mulino
144 5th Avenue South, Nashville, Tennessee 37203
http://trattoriailmulinonashville.com/

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Confession: After spending a few weeks in Italy this summer, I quickly adapted to their way of life, especially the food. What am I saying? It practically turned me into a food snob. Fresh ingredients were abundant. Pasta, vegetables, and meats. Practically anything you needed for an authentic Italian meal right at your fingertips. Since my return to Nashville, I have struggled to find Italian food that can compete with the cuisine of Tuscany, Rome or Modena. I was recently introduced to Trattoria Il Mulino located in Nashville, Tennessee. While this trattoria isn’t located on a cobblestone street and it doesn’t have a view of the Pantheon, it has some killer Italian food.

As you enter the restaurant, it’s hard not to notice the wine wall located near the kitchen. Trattoria Il Mulino has an extensive wine program and an amazing sommelier that can answer any question you can throw at him (even those non-wine related).

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To tease our palate, Chef Eugene created a lovely amuse bouche comprised of eggplant tomatoes, shallots, parmesan cheese and olive oil served with slices of salami. The Chef did an excellent job pairing the mild flavors of the eggplant and tomatoes with the spiciness and saltiness of the salami.  Normally, I would have expected this dish to be prepared with a crostini but the salami was the perfect vehicle.

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While we sipped on our wine and relished our last bites, we were presented with a bread service.  These were not pale, flavorless breadsticks, y’all. Homemade sourdough, fresh focaccia with peppers and tomatoes and garlic parmesan breadsticks were the offered for our meal. All of which were made in house. Good luck trying to steer clear of carbs at this restaurant. TO. DIE. FOR. Without a doubt, you must try one of each of these when you visit. The bread service truly set the tone for the upcoming dishes.

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Exercising my willpower, I did my absolute best to save a few bites of the delicious focaccia for the Salumi & Formaggi board. Accompanying the prosciutto and soppressata was arugula, roasted red peppers, olives, and honeycomb. As if that weren’t enough to make your mouth water, the Chef carefully paired pistachio crusted goat cheese, Red Dragon cheese, and an aged cheddar on the plate.   On the quest for the perfect bite, I combined the prosciutto with the honeycomb and roasted red pepper and the flavors exploded! The perfect combination of sweet and salty. I did, however, find a new favorite cheese that I will be serving in the future: Red Dragon.  Have you ever heard of it?  Delish!  Red Dragon is a type of Cheddar cheese blended with mustard seed and ale.  The Sommelier let us in on a little tip: spread the cheese over a bit of sourdough bread and drizzle a bit of honey on top- seriously mind-blowing!  Without a doubt, the bread tray made its appearance at our table on multiple occasions that evening.

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One of my favorite items to try at restaurants is the octopus. It’s such a tricky thing to cook at home as you have to be quite careful and skilled to make sure the consistency isn’t too rubbery or tough. (The main reason I have yet to cook it in my kitchen.) Imagine my delight when Grilled Octopus was one of the dishes Chef Eugene sent to our table. The Grilled Octopus was served with olives, capers, jewel box tomatoes, and fingerling potatoes. That lovely golden sauce is a combination of white wine, butter, and parsley. The consistency of the octopus was flawless and the sauce was the perfect compliment. Without a doubt, the grilled octopus was my favorite dish of the meal.

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When I thought that things couldn’t get any tastier, Porcini Ravioli made their way to our table. Stuffed with porcini mushrooms and topped with champagne truffle cream sauce, each piece had a delicate black truffle shaving on top. This was one of the most decadent dishes of the evening.   Pastas are handmade daily using as many local ingredients as possible. The kitchen is very flexible and can accommodate a variety of dietary restrictions.

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Trattoria Il Mulino has an assortment of pizza offerings and once you see the menu, you will realize what a predicament I was faced with. One?! I thought to myself?  Really, I have to choose just one? (As if the waistband of my jeans weren’t tight enough at this point.) What happens when you want all of the pizzas on the menu? Chef Eugene worked his magic and gave me the best of both worlds.

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Pizza Four Ways: (not currently listed on their menu)

Verde (bottom): Mozzarella, Arugula topped with Prosciutto

Meatball (left): Ricotta cheese, Meatballs (sliced ever so thin) on a rich tomato sauce

Primavera (top): Mozzarella cheese topped with season vegetables, red and yellow bell peppers

Sausage (right): Olive Oil/White Sauce topped with sausage and broccoli rabe

While I enjoyed trying each of these, the standout was the Primavera.  Fresh crunchy peppers topped with the freshest mozzarella and served with a light white sauce.  Scrumptious!

Now that the Nashville Predators are back on the ice, Trattoria Il Mulino has kicked off their game night special. Stop by and grab a drink or two and order one of these fantastic pizzas before heading across the street to the Bridgestone!

Seriously, the food coma had set in. Gang, this was almost as bad as the Thanksgiving turkey coma I was in last week! I knew I had to rally because Chef Eugene mentioned that desserts were forthcoming. Placed before me were three hand selected desserts off the menu. I knew I was in trouble because I have a weakness for both chocolate and cheesecake.

Dessert Trio: Pictured from Left to Right: Limoncello Tiramisu, Bianco e Nero, and Italian Cheesecake.

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Let’s start with the signature dessert, Limoncello Tiramisu. Holy Cannoli! The lady fingers are drenched in Limoncello and layered between fluffy mascarpone clouds. This will make all your tiramisu dreams come true. The Bianco e Nero can cause quite the addiction. Layered between pistachio gelato and Vanilla chocolate chunk ice cream lies this amazing house made caramel sauce with bits of biscotti sprinkled strategically throughout. Last, but not least, Italian cheesecake.  This was not your typical dense cheesecake that you often find at restaurants but light and airy, which means it’s not overly filling. The best part- the Luxardo cherry. Pair that with a forkful of cheesecake- Forkyeah!

If you are looking for a great place to dine in downtown Nashville and crave something other than the typical Southern fare, pop into Trattoria Il Mulino and have a bite. You will leave with a smile on your face.

Catherine Takes a Seat at Andrew Tarlow’s Table

These days, I rarely have time to sit down and read a book. Let’s be honest, I am lucky enough to keep up with meetings, conference calls and only because of The Skimm am I well aware of what’s going on in the news. When I found out that Andrew Tarlow was making a trip to Nashville and partnering with one of my favorite restaurants in town, Rolf and Daughters, I knew this was an event not to be missed. I put aside the magazines, hit pause on the DVR, sat down and read Dinner at the Long Table from cover to cover.

Andrew Tarlow is the “unofficial mayor” of Brooklyn. This restaurateur is single-handedly responsible for transforming the New York borough into the world class dining scene that it is today.  His empire is vast and truly knows no bounds. Consisting of five restaurants ( Marlow and Sons, Diner, Roman’s, Achilles Heel, Reynard, ) a butcher shop (Marlow and Daughters) a bar (The Ides) a bakery ( She Wolf Bakery)  and a hotel (Wythe Hotel), Tarlow has most recently added handcrafted leather bags (Marlow Goods) to his list. I seriously want to know when this man sleeps!  What’s the latest with Tarlow? His Cookbook, Dinner at the Long Table, a collaborative effort penned with Anna Dunn. Dunn is yet another superstar who serves as the editor in chief of the famous Diner Journal, a magazine dedicated to art, literature, and recipes. Oh, and by the way, add that one to his list as well. This man is pure genius. Clearly, I am a huge fan 🙂

It’s no surprise that this “cookbook” reads more like a personal journal or book of short essays exploring family traditions and celebrating those that have shared dinner at the long table with Tarlow from the beginning.

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Tarlow and Rolf and Daughters carefully selected dishes highlighting multiple menus throughout this gorgeous book.

We started with Turnip and Apple, which was a slight variation of the Turnips and Oranges recipe under One Good Goose. This menu focuses on the importance of people and procuring ingredients from local purveyors. The apples were the perfect juxtaposition to the turnips. The heartiness of the dish was balanced out with local watercress and Gruyere cheese. A perfect opener for the evening.

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Anxiously awaiting our next dish, the Eggplant with Bone Marrow Agro Dolce was served from the section I love, you love, we all love bluefish. This menu pays tribute to those who enjoy and find pleasure in highlighting the unsung heroes of the sea. Speechless. I was left speechless after my first bite. This dish was the epitome of agrodolce. The richness of the broth provided balance to the sharp vinaigrette. And the marrow? Melted in my mouth faster than any M&M I’ve ever had.

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Basking in the deliciousness of my first two courses, the Agnolotti in Brodo was served. This dish comes from the Night Before a New Year menu. Dishes concocted for this meal are both elaborate and laborious, as what would be expected on New Year’s Eve. I enjoyed this dish and could taste the amount of effort that went into crafting each piece of pasta. The agnolotti was stuffed with a crumbled pork mixture, lighted covered in brodo and topped with Parmigiano-Reggiano. Confession: If I weren’t in public, I totally would have had every drop of that brodo. AMAZING!

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Wild Striped Bass with Polenta, Tomato and Mint highlighted in the Agro Dolce menu strives to find the balance between sweet and savory. The bass was placed atop a soft, creamy bed of polenta drizzled with olive oil and garnished with mint. The creaminess of the polenta played very well with the acidity of the fish.

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Ending the meal on a sweet note, we ordered Toasted Rice Ice Cream with Bitter Chocolate.  I could not think of a better conclusion to this flavor filled journey. The ice cream was both delicate and sweet, topped with crisps that provided that extra crunch with each bite. Maybe one of the best ice creams I’ve ever had. And yes, I realize what a strong statement that is.

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Tarlow and Dunn open with the poem, “Eat Sunshine.” This will speak to each person in different ways, but I wanted to share a few of the nuggets that sang to my heart:

  • participate in the timeless
  • never measure
  • make drinks
  • spend your life thinking about dinner
  • game changers
  • remember what you forgot
  • eat with your fingers
  • set off the smoke alarm
  • write a menu for every meal, even the small ones
  • find your heroes

Pour yourself a glass of wine and have a seat at Andrew Tarlow’s table. He truly is a hero and an innovator when it comes to American cuisine. I promise you won’t be disappointed.

Music City Food +Wine Festival Highlights

Torrential downpours did not stop festivalgoers from coming out to Bicentennial Capitol Mall and checking out the Music City Food + Wine Festival. Attendees doubled up with umbrellas and ponchos and made their way through the demonstration and grand tasting tents. The muddy grounds and rain didn’t seem to dampen any spirits as the wine and cocktails were flowing freely and there was an endless sampling of bites from some of the best chefs around.

By far this is one of my favorite events of the year.  Not only do we get to see what new tricks chefs like Tim Love and Michael Symon have up their sleeves, but the collaboration between the chefs is always a treat. I talked to people from Chicago, Ft. Worth, and Minneapolis and asked why they chose Nashville and the response was overwhelming. “Nashville just has that chill vibe and we love the southern hospitality. It’s hard to put our finger on it, but there is just something about this city.”  I agree gang – there is something about this city and this festival. Pretty sure that Nashville is one of the few that concludes the two-day event with a dance party where Kings of Leon, Tim Love, and Aaron Sanchez pass out tequila and rose to festivalgoers.

While I had MANY favorites and took loads of photos, here are my top five standouts of the festival:

1. Seersucker Southern Craft Confections:  Scott Witherow, owner of Olive and Sinclair Chocolate ( totally one of my guilty pleasures) decided to expand his creativity beyond the bean to bar chocolate and Seersucker Candy Company was born. There hasn’t been a piece of candy that Scott has made that I haven’t fallen head over heels for, but these Cherry Bombs BLEW ME AWAY! Rest assured, you haven’t had anything like this before. Each Cherry Bomb is filled with pickled maraschino cherries dipped in buttermilk fondant and dark chocolate. Your mouth will enjoy every decadent bite.

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2. Virago: This is one of my favorite places in Nashville and I recently highlighted their Brunch with a View on blondevoyagenashville.com. Chef Andrew Whitney knocked this one out of the park, yet again.  He created a lovely sashimi of Kentucky Silver Carp paired with a small bite of red pepper and cilantro. Don’t judge a book by its cover, this delicate bite packed one heck of a flavorful punch! Confession: I may have used the excuse of getting out of the rain multiple times so I could swing by and grab another one of these beauties!

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3. Hattie B’s: How could I talk about Nashville food and not mention hot chicken. While I loved their Hot Chicken Jambonette, served bone-in on a bite of white bread and topped with a pickle, it was the Hot Quail Leg with Pimento Cheese grits that stole my heart. You read the description… need I say more? The creaminess of the grits lighted up the heat on the quail leg. I do hope this is one they will consider adding to the menu.

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4. Devil’s Backbone Brewing Company– Pumpkin Hunter: I adore craft beer, so when I was introduced to the lovely folks of Devil’s Backbone, I was pleasantly surprised. These brewers came to play!  Located in Roseland, Virgina, their brews are becoming more and more popular throughout the country, especially in the Southeast. Being totally basic, I opted for their fall choice and had the Pumpkin Hunter. Forget the pumpkin spice latte, this is where it’s at! The flavors are such that you feel like you are having a piece of pumpkin pie! They have a great tool on their website that will help you find a local retailer. Stock up on the pumpkin, it’s only here for a limited time and you don’t want to miss out!

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5. Pat Martin + Friends- Open Hearth Cooking: I can’t imagine the Music City Food+Wine festival without Pat Martin and his open hearth cooking. Each year seems to surpass the last. The “pitmaster’s playground” had a variety of proteins from whole hogs, goat, chickens and even octopus to feed the masses.  It definitely worth the wait in line for these goodies. Scrumptious.

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I tried to keep the list short and sweet, but if you are looking for more scoop on the festival, check out my Instagram  @blonde_voyage_nashville where I will be posting more of my favorites throughout the week!

Even though the dates haven’t been announced for the 2017 festival, keep an eye out on their website, http://www.musiccityfoodandwinefestival.com/ for details.  I hope to see you next fall!