Music City Magic at Nashville Food and Wine Festival


Cooking is like love, it should be entered into with abandon        or not at all.  

-Harriet Van Horne


Music and food have always possessed the remarkable ability to take us back to a certain time or place. A single line of a love song from our youth can give us a rush of emotions. In much the same way, the smell of cornbread baking in your grandmother’s cast iron skillet can bring a wave of nostalgia so strong you’d swear it’s almost a religious experience.

So it is no surprise that two days of incredible music and food held in the beautiful city of Nashville, TN, made for a very cool weekend. Add the fact that the founders of the Music City Food and Wine Festival, the southern rock band Kings of Leon and world-renowned chef Jonathan Waxman, brought together not only the best chefs in the Southern culinary scene right now but also a superstar lineup of musicians who paid homage to country music’s classics at the Harvest Night celebration. The harmony of the two sent foodies and music lovers like myself over the top.

The two-day festival was held in Nashville, the city that has historically gained its reputation by being the Mecca of country music.  But what really makes Nashville the perfect backdrop for this festival is the reinvention of the city’s culinary scene. The city was featured by Food & Wine magazine recently for its “booming Music City food scene,” and is attracting a breed of young chefs who are breathing life into a tired food scene.  Their energy compliments the established chefs who are preserving their deep-rooted culinary heritage while embracing new culinary trends.

The mutual admiration between the culinary and music worlds was evident over the course of the festival. Panels of chefs shared their love of music and the role it plays in their creativity. The musicians returned the love by showing their support for the culinary arts.  You can get the impressive line-up of chefs and musicians at MCFW 2014 here.

The passion of which Van Horne spoke in the quote above was apparent in the work of the artists on display this past weekend. They all approach their respective crafts “with abandon” and are committed to preserving and improving these art forms so that we all can continue to be moved by their magic for years to come.







Chef Tyler Florence



Chef Tim Love from Texas teams up with Kings of Leon drummer, Nathan Followill, to talk about the art of burning food.



Sweet potato hummus with pecan sage pesto

Andy Ticer manning the birds.

Chef Andy Ticer manning the birds.

Always creative and fun ideas pouring at the Tito's table.

Always creative and fun ideas pouring at the Tito’s table.



Hunter Hayes owning the stage.




Caleb and crew saying good night.


Photos by Evelyn Savage

Music City Believer



I’m so excited to be heading down to Nashville this weekend! My friend Evelyn and I are off to the Music City Food and Wine Festival to get our fill of great music and great food.  Famous for its legendary music scene, the city is also showcasing an exploding culinary culture by bringing in world-renowned chefs and up-and-coming stars in the food industry to the Food & Wine Festival. Even though Nashville’s festival is one of the newest on the scene, be assured the promoters (who happen to be none other than Kings of Leon band members), are going to set the bar high with their two-day celebration of Southern food and music. Check out how the Followills got involved in the festival in the most recent issue of Garden & Gun Magazine here.

Believe it or not, Nashville will be hosting two huge festivals at the same time this weekend. Along with MCFW 2014, the Americana Music Festival and Conference, which the New York Times is calling “the coolest music scene today,” is being held Thursday through Sunday.  Not only is it jam packed with some of the best musical talent from the South and beyond, it goes deeper by offering educational “seminars” from music industry insiders to give a leg up to aspiring musicians.  North Carolina natives, The Avett Brothers,are headlining the festival Saturday night but every day is filled with an unbelievable line-up of 160 artists performing in 11 venues around Nashville.

The Music City is going to shine this weekend and I can’t wait to take it all in!


Not Your Daddy’s Oyster Bar

“He was a bold man who first ate an oyster.”  Jonathan Swift

photo by Linda Pugliese, food styling by Anna Hampton, props from ABC Home

Epicurious recently posted an article about the new generation of oyster bars. In it they pay their respects to traditional oyster bars before highlighting growing trends in oyster cultivation, harvesting and preparation at restaurants all up and down the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

Matt Duckor tells readers that the celebrated mollusks might be getting a makeover but the bars and shacks that serve them up are as well.  Matt offers up five ways for oyster bars and home shuckers to step up their game in the budding oyster revolution.

Click here to read the post.

Music To Your Mouth 2013

Nov 2013 Photo Stream - 274

It’s a damp, frigid day in New England–the kind that makes your bones hurt.

But right now, I’m warming up little by little.

I’ve got some hot cocoa and one of my favorite Nashville Indie bands, Moon Taxi, cued up as I browse through pictures from my most recent trip down South.

Last weekend, I attended the ultimate Southern epicurean experience: Music to Your Mouth. The annual festival sponsored by Audi is held in the pristine low-country waterfront resort, Palmetto Bluff, and features the region’s best cuisine, libations, and artisan crafts.


The spanish moss-covered destination sits on a 20,000 acre preserve on May River in Bluffton, South Carolina.  It’s the perfect setting for this celebration which is described by the event promoters as a “gathering of culinarians, winemakers, growers, and artisans, brought together to accentuate the abundance of ingredients from surrounding waters, woods and local farm.”

It was my second time experiencing MTYM but it certainly won’t be my last!

Here are a few shots that capture some of the magic of the weekend.
























Photography by Susan Scarborough and Doug Landis, a Southern gentleman (via California) and honorary SXNE photographer.

In New Orleans, the More the Merrier

“New Orleans food is as delicious as the less criminal forms of sin.” Mark Twain


Photography by Evelyn Laws

The New York Times had a fascinating piece today on the ever-evolving culinary scene in New Orleans.  Nearly eight years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Crescent City, the restaurant industry is booming and reflecting a richer city.  You can take a look at the article here.  And if you are making your way to the Big Easy soon, check out my list of favorites here as well as a list from USA Today of some of those new and notable restaurants.

Feeding My Soul


In an earlier post, I professed my undying devotion to my favorite Southern grown comfort food: peas.  Luckily for me, one of my friends (one who has forever solidified her ranking on that list) managed to make her way to New England with a cooler full of freshly shelled field peas.  I was like a kid in a candy store.  There were zipper peas, lady peas, purple hull peas. I began the process of freezing these gorgeous little gems right away.  I was sure summer would pass without my feeling the sensation of cool peas running through my fingers.


But one bushel of peas and 25 freezer bags later, I was set for the winter. I can cure my cravings for a pot of gorgeous, earthy green peas any time I want!

And to celebrate my gift and properly thank my friend,  I decided to make a southern-inspired meal fitting of these emerald legumes. I went straight to the godfather of southern food, Frank Stitt, and his Bottega Favorita cookbook for inspiration and came across his version of slow-cooked short ribs with gremolata and green olives.

That was a no-brainer.

The rich, tender beef braised in red wine and herbs paired perfectly with the peas and creamed potatoes.



And for desert, I threw peaches into my go-to blackberry cobbler recipe from the Blackberry Farms cookbook.  If you haven’t tried it the recipe,  then you haven’t had the thrill of experiencing how the fresh lime zest melds with the peaches and berries.  And the buttermilk dough dropped on top is just heaven.



It was a long day in the kitchen. But as dusk set and the sound of crickets floated through the screen doors,  my family sat down to enjoy this fresh feast of southern food.

I was so grateful.  I was grateful for the chance to do what I love…to be able to cook dishes from summers of my youth. Grateful for family to share them with, and grateful for friends who travelled a long way with big coolers to make it possible.  I was not only able to eat a meal that tasted this divine, I was also able to feed my soul.

Athens, GA – All Grown Up Now

gatheatretscemail The Athens of my college days brought R.E.M., the B-52s and Georgia Bulldog football but a renaissance in one of America’s quintessential college towns is now more likely to highlight great southern chefs like Hugh Acheson and host a Southern C summit to celebrate southern food and music. IMG_0921 Today, the New York Times has its own take on a downtown revival I can’t wait to see for myself. Check out the piece here. For additional help planning your trip, visit Southern Living and Garden & Gun to get their lowdown on this great little Georgia town.

Holy Smokes…Big Apple BBQ Block Party

bbq sause

Summer is upon us! And that means one thing…it is time for barbecue.


For one weekend in June, Madison Square Park in New York City is transformed into a 6.23 acre backyard barbecue party.  And for the 11th year, Danny Meyer and his Union Square Hospitality Group along with Southern Living lined up the best pit masters from all over the country to show off their mouth-watering versions of barbecue. These guys loaded their trailers and rigs with their smokers and pits and drove  hundreds of miles to set up shop in Madison Square Park for two days.

southern living





The smoke from all that bbq drifted blocks away and drew everyone in like moths to a flame except in our case it was hungry southerners looking for a little comfort. This past weekend was the perfect time for my southxnortheast world to come together. It was awesome to see some old friends from down south like the folks from Southern Foodways Alliance and even show a little SFA love by sporting one of their tattoos. (My 9-yr-old was very proud.)


Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q from Decatur, AL, took home the prize in my book with Chris Lilly’s ridiculously good pork sandwich. Apparently everyone else at the event on Saturday thought so too.  The fast-pass line was longer than the regular line.  There was no such thing as a shortcut.



And of course, our buddy from Tito’s Vodka, Matt Purpura, had the perfect lime-jalapeño infused concoction to wash down all that barbecue.

Eleven Madison Park set up a whiskey bar right outside their restaurant complete with cloth-covered tables and a picket fence. It was hosted by none other than  Julian Van Winkle of the cult-bourbon brand, Pappy Van Winkle.  Bands like The Crooners and The Dirty Guv’nahs provided an incredible soundtrack to the weekend.



My friends at Jim ‘N Nick’s never disappoint and can even make a saltine cracker look good.

jim n nicks



The take away here is if you aren’t a carnivore, this was probably not the place for you.


So when we got too full to put another bite of BBQ into our mouths, we walked over to the IKEA tent where the best of the best like Mike Lata, Chris Hastings, Sean Brock,  John Currence, Joseph Lenn, and Ashley Christensen offered a little variation on the meat theme and shared recipes and ideas on everything from cocktails to oysters.



The Block Party was a chance for these masters of  ‘cue to shine and show off their unique style of barbecue. The methods these mostly southern pit masters used were as old as the south itself. They took pride in their heritage and said, “That’s how my daddy did it.  And his daddy before him.”  As my fellow southxnortheaster put it: “It is so nice to find people up here who know the difference between barbecuing and grilling.”  Couldn’t have said it better myself. Until next year…

nyc bbq sign

Photography by Kley Sippel

Go to Jackson, MS to “get a helping of all things Southern” and where “the servers are as sweet as the tea.”


Photos by James Patterson for The New York Times

In today’s travel section of the New York Times, Laura Tillman takes us through Jackson, MS in 36 hours . She highlights the cultural, historical and culinary richness of the City of Soul.  June is the month you can celebrate the life of civil rights hero Medgar Evers with a historic tour and film festival. Or pay homage to Jackon’s literary heritage by visiting Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Euroda Welty’s house and by heading up to Lemuria Books, a Jackson institution for over 38 years.

And of course, the Old South’s traditions always seems to return to the table.  The Times piece celebrates Jackson’s eclectic food scene in a city landscape that combines old-school soul-food diners with impressive new restaurants that highlight sophisticated Southern cuisine.

Check out the entire feature on Jackson here.

Screen Doors and Sweet Tea


The long, cold New England winter has made the first taste of spring all the sweeter. Of course, spring did not come to me. I had to chase it down in Northwest Florida. And that was no easy task. But three cancelled trips, a stomach bug and ear infection later, I am sitting on the back porch listening to the waves crash on the Gulf of Mexico.

Heading home to the panhandle of Florida has not just warmed my body, it’s warmed my soul. I have soaked up every last ray of sunshine and love during this vacation. I’ve missed the slower cadence, laughter with family and friends, sugar-white sands, fresh Gulf seafood, eye-popping azaleas, slamming screen doors and sweet tea. (Thank you Martha Foose for the best cookbook title ever.)

The down-home feel and sense of belonging when I come home is not exclusive to the South. Beachside villages and towns along the Atlantic seaboard from Sag Harbor, L.I. to Bar Harbor, Maine have been calling families back to the New England coast for generations. Clam bakes, oyster roasts and days spent on the water around weathered cottages remind me of days and nights along Gulf Coast beaches like the one that is framed by Highway 30-A.

Southerners have been flocking to South Walton for one hundred years. My own family has been going there now for over three decades. The tradition continues again this year as Kate and Jack celebrate their spring break from school along the same stretch of beach highway their parents did before the first Seaside cottage was built.

I have no doubt that a generation from now, their children will be slamming screen doors, gulping sweet tea and playing in the same snow-white sands.




Nothing Ordinary About the Holy City’s New “Temple of Seafood”

As I head to the Charleston Wine + Food Festival this weekend, it seems only fitting to pay homage to one of the Holy City’s most talented chefs, Mike Lata.

A few months ago, I was lucky enough to try Chef Lata’s latest culinary offering, The Ordinary. This Charleston restaurant stands as a shrine to the fresh and fabulous Lowcountry seafood. The James Beard award-winning chef partners with hometown fishermen to cultivate the  best tasting seafood in the region. Combine that with Lata’s creative and seasonal preparation and you are sure to enjoy one of the memorable dinners you have had in some time.

My fondness for Chef Lata is only increased by the fact that he is a true SXN’oreaster, with a food career that began in Martha’s Vineyard where he overcame his aversion to seafood. Lucky for us! Lata then took his passion for cooking and love of local food sources to the South where he created two great culinary establishments, FIG and The Ordinary.

You can discover more about Lata and The Ordinary in the latest issue of Departures Magazine.

Photography by Evelyn Laws.

Husk, Where Have You Been?

I must say, I am getting pretty darn excited about going to Charleston for the Charleston Wine + Food Festival (CFWF). Just like Music to Your Mouth, I will be surrounded by some of the greatest chefs in the country.

One of those chefs, Sean Brock, recently had a restaurant ranked in the top 3 of the country by Bon Appetit. It’s no surprise his restaurants receive such accolades, considering the star chef running them has been given the James Beard award for “Best Chef Southeast”, winner of Food Network “Next Great Chef” and competed on “Iron Chef America.” Chef Brock has been in this business for a long time now and has built a reputation of not only preparing the most mind-blowing dishes but of leading the movement of heritage foods preservation and refining the farm to table efforts now sweeping the country.

I was in Charleston recently with my partner in crime, Evelyn, and paid a visit to Mr. Brock’s establishment, Husk. It was an early Sunday brunch on our next to the last day in the city. More importantly it was (gasp) our first time in. We moved quickly after scanning the menu and did what any two proper Southern girls would do…we ordered one of everything.

Okay, maybe not one of everything, but more than enough. Our waiter suggested her favorites and we picked some other irresistible dishes. The first course included three appetizers (we weren’t messing around). We had the trend-setting Fried Chicken Skins, Pimento Cheese crostini, and the Kenutckyaki glazed pig ear wrapped in lettuce and served with orange marinated cabbage slaw with toasted peanuts and cilantro. Yep. You heard nothing after glazed pig ears, did you? I was a little skeptical about them myself, but the older I get the more open I am to trying new things. (Not ready for the lamb “fries” just yet, though). All of the first courses were equally divine but my favorite was the Pimento cheese crostinis.

Our next course was the classic low-country dish–shrimp and grits, offering a less than predictable and delicious version that was a lovely surprise with every bite . It was a marriage of creamy charred scallion grits and sweet corn, peas, and bacon in a bowl with plump red shrimp thrown in there, all topped with a poached egg.


When we decided it was time to leave Husk–they weren’t going to bring us any more food–we paid our bill and left by the way of the wall-sized blackboard in the foyer listing all local sources for their foods. Quite impressive, as were the shelves of canned vegetables stacked neatly in front of the open kitchen.

I was so pleased to finally eat at Husk. We loved the whole experience and can’t wait to see what the Chef whips up for the wine and food festival in a few weeks!

Photography by Evelyn Laws.

Evening at Jean-Georges

Chalk it up to the old saying that it never hurts to ask. That was the case this past weekend when my friend, Kristine, and I visited Jean-Georges on Central Park West and asked to meet the legendary chef after our fabulous meal. Chef Jean-Georges was gracious enough to come out and patiently listen to our rave reviews.

He also came bearing great news for foodies everywhere. He shared he is planning to open a new Latin-Mexican restaurant in Manhattan. I’ll be counting the days until the city is graced with another Jean-Georges creation, but until then I’ll keep returning to the chic Columbus Circle restaurant that serves as the “jewel of Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s empire” and continue to be smitten with innovative dishes like scallop sashimi, egg caviar, sea urchin and sweet potato soup with Parmesan foam.

Thanks to Chef Jean-Georges and his entire staff for making our night extraordinary!

(In Manhattan now? Make reservations!)

Photography from Jean-Georges. Scallop Sashimi image from Foodish Fetish.

Chowing Down in the Big Easy

Not only are those ‘49ers and Ravens fans coming into NOLA during the most festive time of the year in New Orleans, they are stepping into a town where great food is as sacred as Mardi Gras.

Since I’m not attending the game, I’ll be doing the next best thing by preparing some of my favorite Cajun recipes. Maybe some chicken and sausage jambalaya, crawfish etouffee, muffalettas, and a little BBQ shrimp…

But, for those of you who are looking to eat out in New Orleans this weekend, here’s links to some of SXNE favs in NOLA:

Cochon Butcher (930 Tchoupitoulas St.) for the most amazing sandwiches set in a cozy little butcher shop/bar. They also have a seriously rich pancetta mac ‘n cheese. (Reserve a table here.)

Mother’s (401 Poydras St.) claims to have the world’s best baked ham. Maybe so, but if you don’t try the Ferdi’s you will never forgive yourself.

Domenica (123 Baronne St.) will take care of you in a big Italian way with their signature pizzas by rising chef Alon Shaya. (Reserve a table here.)

Central Grocery (923 Decatur St.) has bragging rights on the world’s best muffulettas.

Lüke (333 St. Charles St.) was voted best raw bar in New Orleans last year but I have it on good authority that John Besh serves up one of the best burgers in town, too. Anything that has Allan Benton bacon piled up on top has to be good. (Reserve a table here.)

What are your suggestions? Email us or tweet @southxnortheast #NOLA.

Peter Dale at City Grit

When you serve good food on a big table you build a bridge to many things–family, fellowship, and friends to name a few. Tonight, City Grit built a bridge from New York all the way from Athens, GA.

Having moved to New York from South Carolina, I fancy myself an ambassador of my homeland. Sarah Simmons shares this passion with her creation of City Grit, a supper club in lower Manhattan dedicated to Southern food traditions.

So with two tickets in hand, I invited my friend Jeff for a taste of the South. Originally from upstate New York, he intends to move South. Has he visited? Nope, he just knows it’s that great. The family-focused, laid back lifestyle draws him in, but I wanted to show the food-focused life is worth the move, too.

Peter Dale, chef at The National in Athens, GA prepared a great 5-course meal, featuring his Ecuadorian heritage and Southern roots. We started with a New Year soup of blackeyed peas and amazing cornbread croutons. Cornbread croutons–brilliant.

Next, Peter stewed some amazing shrimp in a plantain sauce with peanuts (from Georgia, of course).

He gave a culinary shout out to my home state and the Palmetto Tree with an amazing beef tartare with hearts of palm. It was a close second to my favorite entrée, the chicken thighs with endives and a surprisingly refreshing orange marmalade. Definitely a new spin on chicken thighs for me.

But oh my word–the Carolina plantation rice pudding stole the show. The lady beside me phrased it perfectly: “It’s like rice pudding got in a fight with crème brûlée and they both won.”

The only un-Southern thing about this supper was I couldn’t go back for seconds, which I would have with rice pudding…multiple times.

Photography by Kley Sippel

Music to Your Mouth


Whoever first coined the phrase “you can’t go home” was probably in the middle of a long weekend at Palmetto Bluff, the setting for the 6th Annual Music to Your Mouth Festival (MTYM).

MTYM is a food festival to end all other food festivals.

It’s hard to explain the first time you enter the 20,000 acres that is Palmetto Bluff. The vast beauty of the conservation preserve filled with spanish moss and 32 miles of riverfront is breathtaking. Without a festival to attend, one could still get lost for days in the beautiful residential community with a resort spa and Jack Nicklaus signature golf course. And if being pampered or hitting the links is not your thing, there’s always kayaking, biking, and fishing.

Adding a weekend of culinary indulgence to this serene environment, and you’ll think you’ve gone to heaven. It’s hard to name another event that features so many of the South’s finest chefs in such a relaxed, approachable setting.

Sean Brock, Drew Robinson, Hugh Acheson, Chris Hastings, John Currence, Allan Benton, and Ashley Christensen were just a few in the all-star lineup. The James Beard Foundation and Southern Foodways Alliance were active participants with awards and showings of short films showcasing the legendary bourbon-maker, Julian P. Van Winkle, III and the godfather of pork, Allan Benton.


Two days of bluegrass music created the perfect soundtrack to this Southern foodie weekend. But the best part, for me, was walking from table to table sampling the best in culinary creations while listening to interviews by John T. Edge and demonstrations by some of the finest chefs of the South.

Limited tickets meant no long lines, which is a good thing when you are transfixed by the smoked ham and cast iron skillets of bacon on Allan Benton’s table. Or when you’re being served a plate of Jim ‘n Nick’s perfectly smoked pork on white bread drenched in BBQ sauce and a couple of their divine cheese biscuits. Hungry yet? And since there was only a small band of Southern food worshipers,  finding a spot at fire pit to roast your gourmet s’mores was easy.

The MTYM folks got it right even more by donating a portion of every ticket to Second Helpings, a local organization set up to fight hunger.

From the potlikker block party to the oyster roast, the event was Dixie at its best. After all, a festival which sports a Bacon Forest and Game Day Beer Garden just takes things to another level, right?



I survived the weekend of indulgence. My waistline wasn’t so lucky. But I have a year to work off the damage before next year’s Music to Your Mouth Festival!

Photography by Evelyn Laws

Cochon Butcher


It’s website says it’s a butcher shop, a sandwich shop, and a wine bar. Sold. On our way out of town we decided that trying the little outpost under the same roof of Chef Donald Link’s fabulous Cochon, Cochon Butcher in the CBD, was just the eatery to help us bid farewell to the city and is the second restaurant that made in onto our MUST EAT list. No disappointments here, what with house-cured meats done in small batches, delicious ingredients, fantastic service (though not much room and very small tables), we couldn’t see a reason to leave this little gem off of one of favorite places we’ve been so far.




The creative menu included the like pimento sliders and a homemade mac and cheese that made you want to slap somebody, and bacon pralines for goodness sake! I have to admit that our meal was nothing if not SILENT. All we could do was utter noises and look at each other with wide eyes glances that definitely should never be photographed as we inhaled our last meal. We tried the enormous Cuban, the to-die-for muffaletta, and the INSANE pork belly sandwich which all tasted great with the sweet potato hot sauce that they leave on the smallish bar size round tables and the homemade chips.




We left with andouille, a souvenier gifted to us by a very engaging employee. He wasn’t the only friend we made though, there was this guy who was more the strong and silent type…



Photography by Evelyn Laws

Mother’s Restaurant


At first glance, it doesn’t appear that Mother’s, on the corner of Poydras and Tchoupitoulas, (pronounced Chop-a-too-less. Ok, then!) is worth giving a chance. You’d have to stop by and see the line for dinner or have heard the good rumors. Naturally, as luck would have it, we did just that and were pleasantly and abundantly surprised at how delicious our meal was, given the typical cafe style where you order and pay at the cashier, sit down, and wait for a server to bring the food to you. It’s definitely a dive, but it has remained a place where, almost any time of the day you can get a fabulous meal, sober or hung over. It’s a valid point, being in the French Quarter and all. From what I understand, it’s a place to be after a night out on Bourbon St.




Ever heard of the term “debris?” Well, let me clue you in on a little secret. There is a new meaning to debris that I was not privy to before eating at Mothers and it is their term for the pan-bottom scraps of roast beef that have cooked in the drippings during the roasting process, and are put on everything from their biscuits to their grits to the crawfish etouffee omelet to the famous Ferdi Special. I will never, in my lifetime, be able to think about eating grits or biscuits without dreaming about them covered in debris. Ever. If only there had been more stomachs to feed at our table, so we could try everything on the menu! I think we rounded house, however, with just the two of us trying more than our fair share of the offerings at this family owned cafe that has been around since the 30’s.



Photography by Evelyn Laws