Sounds Delicious: The Food of Nashville
July 6, 2012
"Why would you go to Nash Vegas?" asks the woman next to me at Charlotte airport's sushi counter, where I'm waiting for a connecting flight to Tennessee. Charleston and New Orleans would be much more fruitful for my purposes, she says.
This isn't the first baffled response I've had since planning my food tour of "Music City", which, with its country music heritage, baloney-touting honky-tonk bars and landlocked location, has never been known as one of the US's culinary meccas.
Until now, that is. Because there's a new energy to Nashville's food and drink scene that has been getting it noticed lately. It's being driven by a crew of home-grown entrepreneurs and creatives drawn to the city's reinvigorated music scene (thank you Jack White) and laid-back lifestyle. It is also driven by a newfound interest in southern barbecue and soul food – currently starring on menus from New York to London – with food scenesters raving about collard greens, pulled pork, chicken and grits.
Two days later I'm sitting at the wide wooden counter at The Catbird Seat (1711 Division Street, +1 615 810 8200, thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com), Nashville's hottest culinary destination, watching two chefs assemble vivid, artful dishes with a mixture of balletic synchronicity and rock'n'roll swagger. The Catbird Seat is an open-kitchen restaurant, where Erik Anderson and Josh Habiger cook in front of their 36 guests, personally delivering their creative, seasonal seven-course set menus ($100).
The two chefs have CVs spanning some of the world's best restaurants: Alinea in Chicago, London's St John, Noma in Copenhagen and California's French Laundry. That's some form, and it's palpable – with both Anderson and Habiger just named Best New Chefs 2012 by US-based Food & Wine magazine.
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