I usually do a wrap-up of the Music City Food + Wine Festival over at the Scene with all my favorite vegetarian bites, but I've moved it over here for this year.

I was really pleased at the vegetarian selection this year and had some really fantastic food, but I have to say my favorite thing this year was the addition of the Williams-Sonoma Pastry Tent curated by Lisa Donovan (of Buttermilk Road). Many of Nashville's best pastry chefs brought out their best for folks to try and it was immediately my preferred place to hang (it helped that it gave shelter from the rain on Saturday). Even better: many of the desserts were packaged, so I could just drop them in my bag to take home and eat later. Because even with five hours to graze, it is really easy to fill up at this event. But because of that, I don't have a lot of great pictures of the desserts. But among the standouts was a root beer float cookie sandwich from Littlest Love, a chocolate panna cotta from Megan Williams of Etch, an olive and thyme fougasse from Dozen, a soft pretzel with brown butter mustard from Kayla May of Josephine, and the lemon ricotta cake from Rebekah Turshen of City House. I think I got those right, but everything--EVERYTHING--was amazing. There were also sweets from Dulce Desserts, Olive and Sinclair, Sweet 16th, Utterly Nashville (amazing macarons), The Salted Table's Charles Hunter, and Southern Fatty Phillip Fryman. The espresso/coffee/chocolate chip cookies I got from The Salted Table and Sweet 16th kept me going all of the following week.

Along with the food, there was a TON of alcohol. I didn't try a lot of the alcoholic beverages, but I really enjoyed the ginger-infused Virgil Kaine bourbon, a hibiscus mimosa made with Firepot Chai tea, and American Born Moonshine's Dixie sweet tea moonshine. I also got to sample Pepsi's new artisanal colas, the 1893 "Original" and "Ginger" colas, which are made with cane sugar. They were fantastic. But now for the photos:

Sweet 16th's spread in the Williams-Sonoma Pastry Tent
Bastion's ice cream sandwich: peanut ice cream, Carolina Reaper chili, basil
Grilled Cheeserie's grilled mac and cheese at the Martin's BBQ pit
Rolf and Daughters muscadine jelly donut with lime glaze (favorite bite of the festival)
Canelas in the Williams-Sonoma Pastry Tent. I believe these were from Utterly.
Compressed watermelon with mango butter, lime leaf, and mushroom furikake from Little Octopus
Seaweed pasta from Catbird Seat
I can't remember the exact description of this one, but isn't it pretty?
Margot's veggie banh mi
Chocolate panna cotta
Proper Bagel's proper bialy (minus salmon)

Not included in my wrap-up are all the great demos and panels and Harvest Night, too. Just too much to cover! But check out the official festival wrap-up on the Music City Food + Wine Festival website and mark your calendars for the third week in September next year!

I know, I know, kale is so 2012. We've had Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, kohlrabi and romanesco since then! But I still eat kale. For me, it's an easy way to pack in a lot of vitamins and minerals with very little effort (that is, if you buy the pre-washed kind). I've written about kale salads before (this chopped kale salad is Very Important Salad in my house; it makes frequent appearances) , but with this salad, kale is just the supporting vegetable. The star here is actually this tomato vinaigrette and this whole recipe is built around it. Which is pretty evident from the all the pre-prepared ingredients I used. Nonetheless, convenience foods can still be healthy and this is a great, hearty dinner. Even heartier if you substitute quinoa or brown rice for the white rice.


Black Bean and Kale Salad with Tomato Vinaigrette
Serves 6-8

For the tomato vinaigrette:
1 can Hunt's Fire-Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 ounce red wine vinegar
1 ounce lime juice
1 tablespoon honey (or 2 tablespoons sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced (or 1 teaspoon of already-minced garlic)
1/4 cup olive oil

Measure out 1 cup of the diced tomatoes and reserve the remainder. Combine all ingredients in a blender and mix until well-blended. Pour into a lidded pint jar and chill.

For the salad:
2 cups cooked rice (white or brown; or quinoa)
2 ounces lime juice
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 cans low sodium black beans (I use Bush's)
1 bag microwaveable yellow kernel corn (I used the steam-in-bag corn)
1/2 teaspoon paprika or cayenne (to taste)
1/2 teaspoon cumin (to taste)
1 bag pre-washed and chopped kale greens
cilantro for garnish (optional)
roasted or fresh tomatoes for garnish (optional)
2 avocados, peeled and chopped
finely shredded cheddar cheese for garnish (optional)
sour cream for garnish (optional)

Cook rice or quinoa according to directions to yield 2 cups of cooked rice, replacing 2 ounces of water with 2 ounces of lime juice and adding oil (use slightly less liquid than recommended for rice that is not sticky).

Rinse and drain the black beans and heat in the microwave just long enough to warm and set aside in a medium bowl. Cook corn according to directions and add to the beans. Toss with paprika (or cayenne if you prefer spicier) and cumin. Set aside.

For each salad, use 1-2 cups of kale greens and rub them between your hands, removing thick spines. Place in serving bowls and drizzle with vinaigrette. Top with rice, bean and corn blend, and then garnish with cilantro, the remainder of roasted diced tomatoes (or fresh diced tomatoes), and chunks of avocado. Drizzle on more dressing. Add cheese and sour cream if desired. Note also that you may want to add some salt and black pepper after preparation.

Serve with tortilla chips.

Oh, geez, it's been so long since I've written a blog post, that I now have a ton of stuff in the queue to write about. Twitter and Instagram make it so much easier to share things that I love quickly, but sometimes, I need a little more room to fit all my praises.

bfreebagelFirst up, let me tell you about BFree gluten-free breads. I'm not GF, but I am always interested in breads that have more nutrition and fiber than conventional wheat-based breads. BFree breads do not contain wheat, dairy, eggs, nuts or soy (all the major allergens) and are all vegan. But they do contain other ingredients like pea and buckwheat flours, flaxseeds, and other nutritious and fiber-filled elements. The BFree product line is huge, so there is a little something for everyone, regardless if you're gluten-free or just want breads with a higher dietary fiber level, more protein, or lower glycemic index.

When I expressed some interest (after hearing that they're now carried at Publix), the folks at BFree generously shipped me a box full of products, so I got to try everything! Because there are white and "brown" versions of just about all their products, there are some taste and texture variations. The white breads are definitely better suited for folks who miss traditional white breads. They're all delicious, but not quite as nutritious as the seeded and brown products. It's also worth noting that you need to keep them refrigerated because they are free of synthetic preservatives, so they can mold quickly in a humid kitchen. My favorites are the pita (virtually indistinguishable from wheat pita), bagels (far better than other GF bagels I've tried and very similar to other grocery brands as far as taste and texture), and the rolls (heartier than most dinner rolls, so they're more satisfying and filling). Find out where you can purchase them with their store locator.

Nocciolata-Dairy-FreeNext up is Nocciolata Dairy-Free, an organic hazelnut and cocoa spread. There's a milk version of it, too, but I tried the vegan version. I loved it. Though I must admit that I ate the entire jar (not at once!) with just a spoon. I didn't make anything with it. It was just really satisfying to eat it that way. It's perfectly sweet (not too sweet), so I didn't get a headache from eating it (or a sugar rush); it was just pure hazelnut and cocoa flavor. Insanely delicious. Perfect texture.

I also recently tried Califia Farms Toasted Coconut Almond Milk. I really hadn't intended to, but my local store was out of my favorite So Delicious Coconut Milk. I have to say, I'm really impressed. I don't know that I'd love the other almond milks they produce (almond milks are a little too...earthy may be the word...for my taste), but I really loved the toasted coconut version. I like it straight, but I also love it mixed with my tea.

IMG_4450Lastly, I'm all about Nasoya tofu these days. If you're sensing a theme, you guessed it: these are all vegan products. I've gotten less tolerant for dairy recently (cheese and yogurt are fine, but I've been off dairy milk for 15 years and recently phased out dairy-based ice cream). Nasoya's silken tofu is great in a smoothie that really works as a meal replacement since it's packed with protein. It needs some strong fruit flavors (like frozen strawberries) to cover up the soy taste, though. I mix it with coconut milk, too. And I still LOVE the sesame ginger baked tofu. Recently, I made a dinner of steamed broccoli with zucchini and carrot noodles, tossed with Soy Vay toasted sesame dressing and topped with the sesame ginger tofu (cut into cubes) and sprinkled with Eden Foods seaweed gomasio. Truly fantastic dinner.