Anyone who knows me knows that there is, in fact, one thing in this life that I love MORE than food: MUSIC! In honor of this one true and unconditional love, every year I travel to Nashville, TN with my beloved crew for the CMA Music Festival, which is undoubtedly the best live country music event anywhere EVER. (Think: the Bonnaroo of Country Music). For four nights at LP Field (the home of the Tennessee Titans), a celebration of the best of country music takes place. Artists this year included Alan Jackson, Carrie Underwood, Darius Rucker, Dierks Bentley, Rascal Flatts, Tim McGraw, Keith Urban, Jason Aldean, Lady Antebellem, Martina McBride, the Zac Brown Band, Blake Shelton, Trace Atkins, Josh Turner and my girl Miranda Lambert. On September 1 at 8PM this event will be featured on ABC. Being present for this yearly event feels like partaking in an absolute fairytale. Sampling the best foods of Nashville is no different. I’ve posted some highlights below.
This year we were fortunate enough to have the opportunity to attend the CMT Music Awards, which we immediately followed up with excessive pitchers of beer at from the Paradise Trailer Park. Hey, it is Tennessee after all and it was sweltering hot. But it made the greasy food we ordered all the better. Excellent grilled cheese sandwich on whole wheat toast with sweet potato fries with Carolina BBQ sauce. Other members of the crew enjoyed a chili cheese dog, chili cheeseburger, and macaroni and cheese. All served on top of wax paper in paper cartons on a red cafeteria style trays. The Paradise Park is one of our favorite drinking places downtown because it’s cheap and really fun – there’s always great live entertainment and great food!
Another one of our Nashville staples is Rippy’s BBQ for multiple reasons including cost, convenience, atmosphere, speedy service and most importantly: AMAZING food! This year we were a little disappointed because Rippy’s featured a special events menu which meant that our favorite Nashville sandwich of all time, the Pork Loin Sandwich on Texas Toast, was unavailable. (The horror!) But we still enjoyed their pulled pork bbq with a side of baked beans with jalapeños. The cornbread is also a must have at Rippys – it’s as light and buttery as a pancake.
One of our favorite things to do when we visit Nashville is to take a trip on the General Jackson Showboat. This river cruise is an amazing way to enjoy the gorgeous TN weather. Good food, good drink, good company … there’s nothing better. We enjoyed a traditional southern bbq buffet on the outdoor deck before putting the bartenders to work inside. It was ridiculously gluttonous but worth every cent and every calorie. I attempted to capture the essence of this luncheon in one dish, seen below.
A tossed mixed green salad, hot house grown cucumbers, grape tomatoes, blue cheese, croûtons and ranch dressing. (For some reason, it seems like everyone in the south LOVES Ranch dressing. It’s everywhere! This one tasted particularly fresh and may have been homemade.) To my delight, there was a fresh tomato and basil salad. “Rachel’s Sour Cream Baked Potato Salad” was absolutely amazing! I’ve never had this before and am wondering this twist on the potato salad is a southern trick? Rachel, if you are out there reading this, I would love this recipe! 🙂
For the entree, we were treated to Coca-Cola Braised Beef Short Ribs, Buttermilk Fried Catfish and Chicken and Andouille Sausage Gumbo. (Loved the gumbo – but I think that mine was just as good!) The sides were country herb roasted yellow potatoes, country style garden vegetables. For dessert, a vanilla bread pudding.
The view from the General Jackson boat was beautiful but it was a little bittersweet as well. Remnants of the devastating flood were evident along the riverbanks of the Cumberland and it really saddened my heart to think about what the people of Tennessee went through and how much they have lost. Our driver tearfully told us how she lost all of her furniture in the flood. Thankfully, half of the proceeds of the CMA fest benefited flood victims of Middle Tennessee. To learn more about how you can help: click here to visit the Red Cross; click here to visit the Community Foundation of Middle Tennessee; and click here to visit Feeding America.
All the barbecue in Nashville can seem a little bit overwhelming at times, so thankfully we were able to scour out a few places where we could find real lettuce, vegetables and other edible items not swimming in barbecue sauce, sugar and mayonnaise. One of my favorite salads was the Hummus and Goat Cheese Salad with Grilled Chicken from the Big River Grille. It’s a heaping pile of lettuce with roasted red peppers and tomatoes topped over warm grilled flat bread and drizzled with balsamic vinaigrette. I was very happy with this salad.
Our server also recommended trying the Smoked Tomato Bruschetta with fresh basil and asiago cheese, claiming it was the best in at least 5 states. As soon as she said it, I knew it probably wasn’t but I appreciated her recommendation and ordered it anyway. The capers in the bruschetta were a nice touch, but I wasn’t really crazy about the fact that the tomatoes were not served directly on the bread and they were room temperature. My family has been making bruschetta from home grown Pittston tomatoes so I am a little bit spoiled and bias. But I enjoyed this dish nonetheless. I also included a pic of the lemons I ordered – which tasted like little pieces of heaven squeezed into my glass of cold water on a 98 degree day. I cherished those first few sips.
My only problem with this restaurant was that we waited a ridiculous long time for our food and an eternity for our check. But it was the CMA Fest and they were understandably extremely busy. (Or maybe people in the south just aren’t as rushed as we are? I’m not sure.) But props to the the Big River Grille for even being open after the devastating flood! I’d go back again. And I’d get the Hummus and Goat Cheese salad.
Another option to try if you are looking for a salad is Tazza Restaurant which is on Church Street downtown. This place got mixed reviews online but I enjoyed it and would go back again. It was an Italian pizzeria and we felt at home inside. My Mediterranean Salmon Salad with strawberries and creamy feta cheese was refreshing and crisp and the service was really great. Our server was so sweet and really tried to give us some good suggestions about what to order.
Another highlight of our trip was the Josh Turner fan club party. For $35 a ticket, we enjoyed an intimate private concert by Josh, one of my favorite country artists. We were pleasantly surprised that this price even included a catered Cracker Barrel Country Style Breakfast. I tried biscuits and gravy for the first time in my life – they weren’t bad either! he servers looked shocked when I firmly passed on all the hot fruit toppings though – the idea of hot fruit on pancakes is not appetizing to me, but apparently it’s a huge thing in the south.
Hope you enjoyed my pics! Check back soon as I will be posting more on my fairytale feasts from Nashville soon! 🙂