Nashville may be the center of the country music universe, but its food and beer scene is making long cowboy-booted strides in a very positive direction. A new generation of chefs, brewers, artisans, farmers, and restaurateurs are creating dynamic spaces that capture the spirit of the south with a new Americana feel. Chefs like Brandon Frohne of Masons are reaching back to their Appalachian roots cooking historic driven food with a modern flair, while the folks at Dinner Lab are redefining the way people eat and interact with chefs, other guests and their surroundings at their secret pop up events all over town. New restaurateurs and bar owners are transforming neighborhoods like Germantown, 12 South, and East Nashville into hot destinations to relax with a beer, cocktail, or a great plate of food.
I had the distinct pleasure of Dining at Rolf and Daughters (again) for a taste of perfectly executed rustic pasta incarnations, while our modern meal at Catbird Seat left me mesmerized. The young visionary duo behind Catbird Seat, the Goldberg brothers (not the goalie from Mighty Ducks, but I think a QUACK is in order anyway), have expanded their mini empire again and now have a serious bowling alley in there ensemble. As much as I love the lanes I would rather sit in the dimly lit speakeasy, The Patterson House, tucked below Catbird Seat sipping the finest cocktails I have ever imbibed. Even after a full detailed description of their makeup by my Buddy Drew Hargrove who crafts the spherical ice cubes I still could not wrap my head around their construction, but that did not stop me from stirring one around in my empty glass with the glee of a toddler for the better part of an hour. From honky tonks to fine dining these brothers are doing it right and creating platforms for talented chefs to shine and spaces for young up and comers to learn their craft.
The Goldbergs and Chef Trevor Moran are not the only folks pushing the culinary envelope and sharing what makes Nashville unique. Farmers like the folks at Green Door Gourmet at Hidden Valley Farm are educating young folks about farming practices. This second generation family farm boasts a beautifully renovated barn and a green house bursting at the seams with seedlings ready to hit the ground once this silly weather gives way to spring. Tim and Dylan at Carter Creek Greens are challenging the possibilities of what a farm can be. Tucked into a downtrodden warehouse strip of the city, Carter Creek Greens is growing micros for restaurants and collaborating with chefs to grow exactly what they are looking to feature on their menus and garnish their dishes with. I spent over an hour trying different batches, like tangerine lace, mustard greens, daikon radish, and red vein sorrel, pulling them straight from their grow medium and tasting their pungent flavors. I may just be a sucker for tiny seedlings that hold all the flavor and potential of what a plant can be in one tiny morsel, but I totally geeked out, and ordered a bunch of seeds and can’t wait to get my first crop of Tangerine Lace in a few weeks.
Beer geeks and average drinkers alike have something to cheers to these days as fourteen new Breweries have opened in Nashville over the last three years. This could not have happened without the help of the old guard. I had the pleasure of listening to a panel discussion with the leaders of the Nashville brew scene (the founders of Blackstone, Yazoo, and Jackalope) along with our very own Steve Hindy. As they discussed the tumults of starting a brewery, their commitment to craft, and the growing Nashville beer scene I could not help but trace similarities between them and all the other craftsmen, artisans and artists I had met in my Mash Nash week, it was passion, perseverance, and joy. Everyone seems to love what they are doing, proud to provide a service to their fellow Nashvillians, and excited for the future. Nashville is a slow paced, but happening place to relax and appreciate the simple things in life like good people, good food and good beer.