A city's food and drink scene can be unofficially gauged by the quality of its food and drink events. If you're judging Nashville based on Music City Food + Wine, we've got a high-quality present and an even brighter future.
For the uninformed, the fourth annual Music City Food + Wine was a tour de force of quality bites, sips, and demos that took place this past Saturday and Sunday in downtown Nashville. The event has grown in reputation during its 4 years of existence, and visitors travel from far and wide, including internationally, just to get a taste.
Music City Food + Wine brings self-proclaimed food lovers and enthusiasts to a single location in the name of eating great food and listening to the Music City's quality tunes, all while getting their mingle on with top national and local food notables. Lucky visitors are afforded the ability to not only taste samples made from famous chefs, but also take a peek into their lives, their culinary process, and their personalities.
“Once in a while during events like this, I get to play, and cook, and get my skill set back. That’s why I like these food festivals because I get back to cooking again with these remarkable chefs.” Said Billy Durney, Pitmaster Hometown Bar-B-Que, Brooklyn.
The unofficial start to the event begins when the out-of-towner chefs and industry professionals arrive in advance of the event. Every good party needs a respectable pre-game to kick things off proper. So, where was the favorite restaurant for these top chefs?
Nashville’s north-downtown Germantown neighborhood win's first prize, specifically, City House. It is, however, no surprise, as chef /owner, Tandy Wilson of City House won Nashville’s first best chef award from the James Beard Foundation this 2016. That’s right, Nashville’s first "best chef," thanks for finally noticing, James Beard House!
City House was home to pre-parties and after-parties all weekend long and if you wanted to catch a glimpse of who's who in the food scene, you just needed to camp out at the bar.
Saturday classic food television viewers were treated to the things they love most, cooking demos by notable globally-known chefs Tim Love, Nancy Silverton, Jonathan Waxman, Ludo Lefebvre, and Tony Mantuano. Additionally, there were two panels of chefs talking food and life —Tasty Travels & Creating the Celebrity Chef.
Tasty Travels was a hoot featuring Maneet Chauhan, Tony Mantuano, Deb Paquette, and Levon Wallace all chopping it up on stage. While, Creating the Celebrity Chef was an interesting history lesson of sorts featuring Jonathan Waxman, of Top Chef Masters, and chef/owner of Nashville eateries Adele's restaurant and Bajo Sexto Taco, with manager to the stars (and the man Emeril coined as creating the celebrity chef phenomenon, Shep Gordon).
For the lover of all things cocktail, there were tasting sessions filled with Hendricks Gin, Savor South Walton, and Tequila Patrón, as well as Meet the Maker events for the tasting and touring public to get an inside sip with the people behind the label. On Saturday, if you weren’t at one of these events, chances are you were at the Grand Taste overindulging in the best of Nashville.
As a pro-tip for any future festival-goers, the Grand Taste is not to be taken lightly. There was an unbelievable amount of food and drink to be had, and if you're a "completionist" and you absolutely had to try everything, you need to enter the arena with a plan of completion and escape. The Grand Taste, eat it, or it will eat you. Ha, well that may be a bit of hyperbolic melodrama, but you get the point, there was a truck ton of options.
Saturday night is called "Harvest Night" and year-in and out it's one of the hardest individual tickets to score at Music City Food + Wine. An evening of wining and dining under the stars paired with music from Nashville artists (although this year mother nature's rain brought out more ponchos and gave us less open-air wishing on shooting stars). But some rain drops didn’t stop this party, or even really slow it down— it is #Nashvegas after all. Even T. Swizzle herself was spotted backstage this year, couture poncho and all. Nevertheless we’re all there for the same reasons— to celebrate the creative talent Nashville has to offer and feel the energy of the city.
Sunday morning is Music City Food + Wine's Gospel Brunch, which begins aplenty with bloody Mary or (insert your own personal hair of the dog option here). Maybe it was the sunshine, or maybe it was Gale Maye’s, but the Sunday morning festival attendees came with great spirits and kicked off Sunday in style.
Gospel Brunch featured cooking demos courtesy of Vivian Howard, Tony Mantuano, Aarón Sanchez, and Michael Symon. Sunday’s panel’s included insight into Slow & Low barbecue tradition, featuring a panel of highly entertaining pitmasters, and Kitchen Disasters. Tasting sessions via Angostura Bitters and Old Rip Van Winkle Distillery aka the popular “Pappy Hour” for the bourbon lovers. Pappy has a name and reputation to live up to, of course.
Case and point: you’re not going to get the same experience both days. Music City Food + Wine is an incredible culinary experience that is only going to get better and better as this cities culinary momentum proceeds. JBF awards or not, high-quality chefs are flocking to Nashville.
Complain about the city's growth and traffic all you want, these are all just tertiary symptoms of a city stretching into its own. The primary benefit we Nashvillians receive is high quality restaurant options and plenty of variety. Most of which was on display this past weekend at Music City Food + Wine.
This festival is not just about eating the food and drinking the drink. It exists to bring likeminded persons together in celebration. While here, they get to catch a glimpse into where Nashville's food currently exists, where we're heading and who is going to potentially take us there. There’s just something about Nashville now-a-days that you just have to eat to believe.
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