Eating for three
Pat Martin’s (of Martin’s BBQ) live-fire extravaganza brought out the inner caveman in all of us
A little late reporting on the Music City Food and Wine Festival, which was in mid September, but I’m just now digesting. In years past, my friend Mary Ann from the D.C. area and my son Noah were my partners in culinary crime but this year I was solo. So I proceeded to eat for all three of us. And discuss with my seemingly imaginary friends who weren’t there the merits of each dish, thereby looking like a complete loon.
And I should mention that a brief survey of the crowd revealed that I was the oldest person there. By a lot. “Oh, look at that old lady talking to herself about the chicken liver mousse with a balsamic reduction. Bless her heart.”
But I can hang with the Millennials. I can hang with them all day long.
So the first day was a weather disaster. It rained, it poured and the mud piled up until we all looked like we were wearing brown socks. Loved watching those young chicklets with the stiletto sandals. Those heels would sink into the mud, spinning their owner around like a weather vane.
But I digress. The food. It was fabulous. My top five:
Porter Road Butcher: 130-day dry aged beef with pickled sweet corn and smoked Bernaise. I’ll admit it. I stopped and calculated how long 130 days is – more than four months. I briefly thought about health safety issues. And then I ate it. Even if I’d dropped dead that very second, it was worth it.
Jim ‘N Nick’s: Pulled pork slider with scratch-made slaw. Deceptively simple, yes? Except that, as always, Jim ‘N Nick’s manages to serve succulent tender moist smoked pulled pork no matter the conditions. Any competition cook will tell you that the minute you start pulling a pork butt moisture starts to evaporate like water on hot asphalt. You dance with who brung you. For Jim ‘N Nick’s it’s pulled pork.
Watermark: Bacon with Pickles. I was obviously delirious when I snapped this photo because it’s slightly (a lot) out of focus. But the bacon. Oh, the bacon. Thick, slightly sweet (maple syrup?) and the perfect counterbalance to the acidic pickles. Someone asked me what kind of leaf was on the top. I considered it a gratuitous garnish and promptly removed it.
Hattie B’s: Hot Quail Slider. These people know hot chicken or any kind of fowl better than anyone in a city known for hot chicken. Spicy in a good way. I hoped the server didn’t recognize me when I went back for seconds.
Bajo Sexto: Fried Blue Corn Tortilla with Beef Cheeks and Avocado Crema. For me, the best bite of the festival. These were served piping hot so the tortilla nest was uber crunchy playing against the tormentingly tender beef cheek. I dropped all pretense here and went back for a second one right away before they ran out.
There was lots, lots more that was delicious. This seemed to be the year of chicken liver mousse. Three or four restaurants served some iteration of it. I was fine with that. There was a lot of poke, that raw tuna preparation from Hawaii. I can honestly say I only ate one thing that I instantly regretted – a duck heart. I’m not opposed to hearts of any kind but this was…well…chewy. And not in a good way.
Well, I have gone on and on about this and I apologize. But if I ever won the Super Bowl and someone asked me where I was going next I would not say Disney World. I would say the Music City Food and Wine Festival.