As we close out the year, we love to look back on some of the highlights. From the best advice we’ve received to the biggest projects we finished, it’s nice to take a step back and reflect. When it comes to food, it’s hard to pick a favorite restaurant or even a favorite meal, but we tapped some of Nashville’s notable media pros to share their most memorable dining experiences of 2019. These folks have tasted it all this year, and these are the dishes, tables and people they remember fondly.
Local Media Professionals’ Most Memorable Meals of 2019
Chris Chamberlain, contributing writer for The Nashville Scene, StyleBlueprint, and other publications
I’m always hesitant to write about a specific meal at Husk, because by the time anybody reads about it, whatever I loved probably won’t even be on the ever-changing seasonal menu anymore. But that’s exactly what chef Katie Coss and the talented kitchen staff intend since they are committed to moving their cuisine forward based on their latest whims and the freshest ingredients that show up at the back door of the kitchen on the back of farmers’ trucks. My favorite way to dine is to just ask a chef to send me out whatever has them particularly excited until I wave my napkin in surrender, and then send out two desserts. Then we can figure out the bill and settle up at the end of the meal.
That’s exactly what I requested when I dined at Husk in late July, at the absolute peak of summer ingredients, and Coss did not disappoint in any way. A starter of oysters arrived at the table covered in a delightful slightly sweet cantaloupe foam followed by the ubiquitous Husk app of deviled eggs made new by the addition of crispy chicken skin. A dish of heirloom tomatoes tasted like summer in a bowl, set off by the interesting addition of biscuit croutons. Another old Southern saw, shrimp & grits, was made new again thanks to the use of sweet Royal Red shrimp that tasted like mini lobsters offset with the subtle acid of buttermilk, chili oil summer corn and zucchini juice and a topping of onion ash. Coss finished my journey with a few slices of Denver steak from Bear Creek Farm, the ranch where the chef actually lives with her farmhand husband. Knowing how much she cares for the animals that provided that beef made the dish even more special.
It was the sort of meal that would be impossible to prepare at home and which reminded me exactly why eating out at a maniacally focused restaurant like Husk is so special!
Tracy Kornet, WSMV News4 anchor
So my favorite meal of the year was during our NFL Draft coverage with my co-anchor Lauren Lowrey. We were anchoring all evening shows from the rooftop of Tootsies and trapped in traffic, so we seized the rare dinner date and walked across the street to Merchants on Broadway. We shared the Local Apple and Endive salad and the 1892 Burger (perhaps it was the special sauce and how they call good ol’ American cheese Fromage Americain that drew us in).
The meal was DELECTABLE and the elegant atmosphere SO relaxing in the midst of Draft chaos. Yet, like any favorite meal in my opinion, it was truly the company that put it over the top.
Delia Jo Ramsey, Editor of Eater Nashville
“First up, the newest iteration of Catbird Seat — changing the game for Nashville dining. The creative geniuses there provided one of the most fantastic, most memorable meals I’ve ever eaten. While every single course was incredible, the standouts for me were the peach fritter with smoked beef tongue, softshell crab with fermented pepper, peach with sobrasada/acacia honey, and a charcoal-grilled beef heartbread. The flavors and the beauty and unique serving of each dish — astounding works of art.
“Second favorite meal this year — Setsun pop-up at Sky Blue Cafe. I’ve probably frequented and introduced more people to this spot than anywhere else this year. The ‘try everything’ route is the way to go — because everything they’re cranking out is worth trying. The menu changes often, but the ricotta agnolotti is maybe my favorite dish in the city right now. And I love that they offer wines by the half glass because they have some really interesting ones, and I love having the awesome team pair them with my courses.”
Stacie Standifer, Founder and Editor of The Nashville Edit
“While our small team has been doing lots of meals on the go, with the unpredictable schedule of a start-up, we have found a way to experience some restaurant offerings while also building content for our readers. Every month we try to go on at least one ‘field trip’ as a group and check out the environment of a particular dining venue while catching up on work and life. This summer, it involved countless rooftops. But one of those that was especially fun was trying all of the offerings at The Green Pheasant. The food was outstanding and so different from our typical go-to menu of salads on a weekday. Pairing the tastings with help from their sake sommelier was an added treat that definitely made the meal feel special and more like a celebration.”
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Erin Byers Murray, Editor-at-Large, Nashville Lifestyles
“Chefs Will Aghajanian and Liz Johnson are putting out a tasting menu of truly mind-bending dishes. This is a whole new realm of creativity for The Catbird Seat, and I loved the adventure. That baked potato ice cream might have been the best dish I’ve eaten this year.”
Matt Niehoff, Founder of Experience Nashville
Gather at the Farm, Bloomsbury Farm
“A perfect fall night under the stars, celebrating the best music, food and drinks in Nashville. A unique culinary pairing of chefs Jess Benefield, Trey Burnette, and Katie Coss. Cocktails by Freddy Schwenk. Private show by Dave Barnes. The weather couldn’t have been better, service and food were perfect. Bloomsbury provides a truly stunning backdrop, and Dave was incredible. All in all, it was a wonderful night representing our beautiful city.”
Abby Flittner, Co-founder of Nashville Guru
“The descriptions and meaning behind each dish that Vivek Surti serves make every meal at Tailor beyond memorable. I also love that the menu changes seasonally so we can go back to experience a brand new set of dishes every time the new menu is announced.”
Alex Corradetti, Alert Desk Reporter at WKRN News 2
“At Edley’s BBQ, I got Nashville hot chicken for the first time ever! It was an amazing, perfect flavor. The sides were terrific too! The environment made it memorable; it was a very relaxing place to be. Great margaritas, too!”
Mary Hance, Ms. Cheap with Tennessean
Jimmy Kelly’s “Steakout for Second Harvest”
“My most memorable meal of the year would have to be the Jimmy Kelly’s “Steakout for Second Harvest,” which was the wrap-up fundraising event for the 2019 Ms. Cheap Penny Drive for Second Harvest. At the dinner, we were happily able to announce that the drive raised a record of $102,741 to help feed hungry people in Middle Tennessee. That brought the 10-year total to $580,128.14 for Second Harvest programs. Definitely a cause for celebration!
About 50 of our Penny Drive-supporting friends gathered on the festive enclosed patio at Jimmy Kelly’s Steakhouse for wine and cocktails, and then enjoyed a fabulous dinner that included a choice of filet or salmon, a blue cheese salad, baked potato, blackberry cobbler and the hoecakes that this third-generation Jimmy Kelly’s restaurant is famous for. It was a great night to be with so many enthusiastic supporters and, thanks to them and owner Mike Kelly, the annual “Steakout” was a fantastic fundraiser for this fight against hunger.”
Jill Melton, Editor and Founder of Edible Nashville
Edible Nashville Spring Farm Dinner at Sugar Camp Farm
“Although I rarely sit down and eat at these dinners in the traditional sense, I do nibble a lot. At this farm dinner, the community created by the guests and partners involved was fantastic. The chefs, James Kerwin of Little Fib at the Renaissance Nashville, and Skylar Bush, Edible Executive Chef, cooked their hearts out. This included an entire pig from TN Grass Fed Farm that was transformed into a charcuterie spread, which included pork butter with local honey, Uncle Nearest-cured rillettes, pine-cured lard, ham hock and pea terrine, and beet “blood” sausage.
Peas, arugula, fennel, onion and carrots were pulled from the ground the same day as the dinner, resulting in smoked turnip carpaccio, lamb grit tamales with charred spring onions, grilled trout with carrot gnocchi and carrot-top pesto. Local strawberries from White’s Family Farm landed in strawberry bubble tea served with spinach macarons. For the farmers to have their products transformed — with such love and warmth — into a dinner for strangers and friends to share under the stars is pretty magical.
Our farm dinners are served family-style, so friendships are formed as guests pass bowls to one another. To see folks arrive as strangers and leave as friends is heartwarming and the point of our farm dinners. This, in turn, is the point of food.”
To see News Channel 5’s Tuwanda Coleman, see our December What to Wear, here.
For more delicious scoop about Nashville’s food and restaurant scene, click here.