Farm Flavor editors Rachel Bertone (RB) and Jessy Yancey (JY) experienced a culinary playground at the third annual Music City Food + Wine Festival in Nashville, held over the weekend Sept. 19-20. See some of their favorite highlights:

Grand Taste

This year’s Grand Taste offerings didn’t disappoint. The festival was set up with local Nashville restaurants, wineries, breweries, distillers, artisan food companies, food retailers and more, all handing out tasty samples. Chefs seemed to lean toward the sweet side with their creations this year (no complaints here!) and I definitely had a couple favorites. The winner of the weekend for me was from Pinewood Social, who served up a tasty morsel featuring a pretzel crust, lemon curd, cream cheese mousse, lavender gremolata, fresh blueberries and edible flowers. Rolf and Daughters also came in strong with their Semolina pudding with blueberry jam and saba (an ingredient similar to balsamic) and Kayne Prime served white miso ice cream in a ginger cone topped with duck chicharrones. Needless to say, my sweet tooth was satisfied. As for savory dishes, Sinema’s Ricotta Agnolotti with lamb sugo (sauce) and Parmesan breadcrumbs was excellent, as was the pierogi from chef Jason McConnell’s restaurant group. -RB

Rolf and Daughters

Semolina pudding with blueberry jam and saba from Rolf and Daughters.

Sinema

Ricotta Agnolotti with lamb sugo and Parmesan breadcrumbs from Sinema.

Pinewood Social

Pinewood Social’s blueberry lemon lavender goodness.

I ate some incredibly unique, delicious concoctions this weekend. Lemon ice cream salad with candied pecans from Catbird Seat; a cold, savory Gol Guppa Shot from Chauhan Ale and Masala House; a sunny-side up quail egg over braised short rib from Watermark. Those were all very memorable, in a good way, but some of the best bites were simple, down-home dishes with a little twist. Mac-and-cheese and pecan pie from Arnold’s County Kitchen. New potatoes (from our Tennessee Home & Farm writer‘s Rocky Glade Farm) with Hatcher Family Dairy sour cream, dried scallops and herbs. Dark chocolate, peanut butter and banana jam Goo Goos. Since the lines have kept me away, this was only the second time I had Hattie B’s hot chicken – the perfect breakfast to follow a late night of live music. -JY

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See More: Photos of Music City Food + Wine 2015

Harvest Night

Harvest Night is truly where the festival shines, showcasing its goal of combining absolutely mouthwatering food with the great music Nashville is known for. Some of the more well-known national chefs, including Jonathan Waxman, Andrew Zimmern, Carla Hall, Graham Elliot, Tim Love and more, displayed their culinary chops for the hungry crowd. I think Jessy and I both agreed that Chef Tim Love was our favorite dish once again. His prime rib from last year was hard to beat, and this year, the proud Texan served an unassuming Elk slider. I’ll be honest, I was a bit disappointed at first. It looked pretty plain. Little did my tastebuds know what they were in for. One bite of the juicy meat and I quickly changed my tune. It was probably one of the most flavorful things I’ve ever eaten. Other highlights were a crispy pig tail from Chef Matt McClure and Jonathan Waxman’s gnocchi with shrimp and corn. The music kicked off with Kings of Leon – founders of the festival – and performances by Michelle Branch, Jewel, Robert Randolph, Michael McDonald and many more, all choosing their favorite soul song. -RB

Music City Food and Wine

Chef Tim Love’s delicious Elk slider.

See More: Highlights from the 2014 Music City Food + Wine Festival

Tim Love and Aaron Sanchez

Tim Love and Aarón Sanchez discuss the perfect steak.

Demos and Panels

One of the best things about the festival is how so many of the chefs and personalities pop up at each other’s sessions. Tim Love came onstage while Mike Lata (of FIG Charleston) talked about seafood, and later that afternoon, Aarón Sanchez showed up to help Love tell us how to cook the perfect steak. Although my biggest takeaway was Love’s technique of sprinkling salt and pepper from high above so that you don’t end up with a pile of saltiness in a small concentrated area – it’s evenly dispersed. And as Rachel said, the guy knows how to season red meat. But all those interruptions make it difficult to stay on schedule (likely why Love was at the end of the day). We didn’t mind that the demo ran long, though the festival organizers (including Nathan Followill) tried to no avail to get him to finish up. But there’s no rushing a good steak.

Levon Wallace at Music City Food + Wine

Levon Wallace cooks cast iron cornbread.

On Sunday, we caught the tail end of Graham Eliot’s cheese demo, and watched Andrew Zimmern lead a panel of Lata, City House’s Tandy Wilson and former Husk pastry chef Lisa Donovan discussing their culinary travels. But the standout session for me was Levon Wallace. When I visited New Orleans earlier this year, everyone recommended the renowned sandwich counter Cochon Butcher, but I didn’t get a chance to check it out. Lucky for me, Wallace was just tapped to open the butcher shop/sandwich counter’s second location in Nashville last month. I haven’t made it there yet, but after watching Wallace’s cast iron cornbread go from stovetop to oven, fritatta style, I’m sold. And that’s not even bringing into account the Dutch oven-cooked vegetables and black-eyed pea cassoulet featuring stuffed pork tenderloin,  venison sausage and carefully charred onions. It’s hard to believe this guy isn’t originally from the South, but he’s doing by our traditions pretty well. -JY

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