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!


GenerousHelpingsThere are a lot of great tasting events held in Nashville every year, but one of my very favorites is Generous Helpings. Not only because it benefits the Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee's Middle Tennessee’s Table (their prepared and perishable food rescue program), but also because it always features food from the best restaurants, caterers and food trucks in the area. And for a really great price. For just $50 (in advance; $60 at the door, if available), you get samples of appetizers, entrees and desserts plus wine and beer. All you can eat and drink, folks. This year, the event will be held at 6 p.m., Thursday, May 15 in the Market House at The Nashville Farmers Market. You can purchase tickets online in advance here.

Participating restaurants this year include:
312 Pizza Company
55 South
Amerigo Italian Restaurant
Chago's Cantina
Commerce Street Grill/Renaissance Nashville Hotel
Cork & Cow
Holland House
Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams
Kickin' Coffee & Tea
Kohana Japanese Restaurant
Kroger Chef Shoppes
Legato Gelato
Mad Platter
Marché Artisan Foods
Margot Café & Bar
McConnell House
Midtown Café
Nashville State Community College Culinary Arts Program
Nothing Bundt Cakes
Pied Piper Eatery
Provence Breads & Café
Red Pony
Riffs Fine Street Food
Second Harvest Culinary Arts Center
Sunset Grill
The Southern Steak & Oyster
Zumi Sushi Japanese Kitchen

This event is always a good time. And I'm happy to, once again, be able to offer free tickets to this event! The winner of this giveaway will win TWO tickets (a $100 value!).

Entry #1 (mandatory to win): Second Harvest wants to keep you up to date on the great work they do, so all you have to do to enter the giveaway is sign up for their email list. Come back to this post and leave a comment letting me know that you signed up and you're entered to win!

For up to 3 additional entries, you can also:

1. "Like" Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee on Facebook. (If you already like them, just say so!)
2. Follow @2HarvestMidTN on Twitter. (If you already follow them, just say so!).
3. Follow @lesleyeats on Twitter and tweet Yay! @lesleyeats is giving away tickets to @2HarvestMidTN's Generous Helpings or something similar (as long as you include the @s and the link!).

Leave a separate comment for each entry (up to four total!) to make sure you've maximized your chances of winning.

The contest will be open from now until Friday, May 2 at 1pm CDT. The winner will be chosen at random and be notified by email that afternoon and will have until Monday, May 5 at 6pm CDT to respond. If there's no response, I will choose another winner.

Good luck! I hope to see you there!

This contest is now closed; congratulations to commenter #3, Liza!

22 Comments's Iron Fork time again. This is the seventh year for the event and I've been nearly every year. I love Iron Fork; not only do I get to watch talented chefs in action, I get to sample tasty selections from a lot of local restaurants. And these restaurants always bring their best bites to Iron Fork sampling, too. It's where I first had Cupcake Collection cupcakes and Perl Catering's caramelized onion bisque. Anyhoo, this year's competitors are:

Matt Bolus — Chef, The 404 Kitchen, named a 2014 semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation. I haven't had a chance to write it up yet, but Mr. Eats and I celebrated his birthday at The 404 Kitchen and had a fantastic meal. The burrata  is to die for.

Chris Carter & James Peisker — Co-owners, Porter Road Butcher. Listed as one of the five best artisanal butcher shops in America by Bon Appetit in 2012. I'm not a customer of these guys, but Mr. Eats has had breakfast from PRB West several times and gives the meats and the pastries two licked-clean thumbs up.

Kristen Gregory — Executive chef, Firefly Grille. Winner, 2013-14 season premiere of Chopped. I have never been to Firefly Grille, which is tucked into a little corner in Green Hills, but I have heard good things.

Hal Holden-Bache — Executive chef, Lockeland Table, named a 2013 semifinalist for Best New Restaurant in America by the James Beard Foundation.

The premise is pretty cool: there are teams of two (each chef gets to have a sous chef assist during the competition) and each team must prepare a dish based on a secret ingredient. Last year’s secret ingredient was maple syrup, which winner Jess Benefield used to prepare a butter-poached New York strip with a green Sriracha-chimichurri, coconut powder and maple syrup soy sauce. That was accompanied with a papaya salad topped with maple syrup candied pecans and a shrimp toast with a sweet maple chili sauce. That dish also won Chef Benefield (now of Two Ten Jack, an excellent izakaya in East Nashville) a spot at the coveted judges’ table for this year’s event. I’ve got no early intel on what it may be, but I’m hoping it is something exotic and green, like the year it was fiddlehead ferns.

While watching the competition, you can enjoy drinks from Blue Chair Bay Rum, Four Roses Bourbon, Three Olives Vodka, and Boodles Gin as well as beers from Newcastle, Heineken, and Dos Equis. And there will be more than 20 restaurants and artisan food companies sampling from their menus, including Amerigo, Bar Louie, Boca Loca Cantina, Cafe Fundamental, Drake’s, Jim and Nick’s, Lucky Bamboo, Mere Bulles, Music City Tippler, Nashville Farmers’ Market, Nashville Jam Company, Olive and Sinclair, Opryland Hotel, Qdoba, Salsa, The District and Two Bits.

You can read my round-up of the sampled bites at last year's event on the Bites blog archive.

Tickets are available online for $45 per person, with all proceeds benefiting Second Harvest Food Bank of Middle Tennessee. If the event does not sell out in advance (it has in the past), tickets may be available at the door.

Iron Fork
Wednesday, April 16
6 to 9:30 p.m.
The Commodore Ballroom at Vanderbilt University
310 25th Ave. S.
Tickets (for people 21 and older only): $45