F eature Story
The Perfect Duet
Music and food pair well together everywhere, but in Tennessee in the
fall, the servings are ample.
By Margaret Littman
rom "Cheeseburger in Paradise" to "Red Solo Cup" eating (and
drinking) and music long have been a good combination. And when it
comes to country music, well, let's just make that a double. There's a
rich history of country musicians getting into the food business. The
above-referenced Jimmy Buffett has Margaritaville (now with a location
on Lower Broad) and Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill has his name
in the title. Music City-based Fishbowl Spirits LLC makes Blue Chair
Bay, Kenny Chesney's rum.
From "Cheeseburger in Paradise" to "Red Solo Cup" eating (and
drinking) and music long have been a good combination...
It isn't surprising that music and food mash up so well and so
often. Think about your favorite song, that number to which you still
know every single lyric (even if you routinely forget more recent
things, like where you put your car keys). You might associate a
certain food with that song. I can almost smell the french fries sold
at the swimming pool of my youth when I hear "We Got The Beat" by the
The connection of food and music doesn't have to be nostalgia,
though. A number of musical heavyweights are lending their names not
just to restaurants or food products, but also to bona fide music/food
experiences. Zac Brown's Southern Ground Music & Food Festival has set
up stages in both Nashville and Charleston, S.C. in the past.
Big national foodie names—think: Andrew Zimmern and Carla Hall—will
join those with local ties—among them Sean Brock and Josh Habiger—for
the second annual Music City Food + Wine Festival. Held at
Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park, this event is self-described as
"Nashville's biggest culinary experience." This two-day event was
originally organized by local rock giants the Kings of Leon. At press
time the 2015 musical acts had not yet been released, except to say
the music was being "curated by the Kings of Leon," so it's gonna be
During the days you can meet and chat with the chefs, watch demos to
improve your own skills and sample food and drink. The Harvest Night
party, in particular, will be the mash-up of food and music, held
under a Music City sky. (See sidebar for more details and other
There's no better time than fall to get outside in Middle Tennessee
and tap your toes and sip a locally brewed beverage and enjoy a
culinary treat. If you think music festival food is just funnel cakes
and brats (not that there's anything wrong with that), think
again. Here's a roundup of a few festivals to whet your whistle and
allow you to whistle along to some tunes, as well.
Music City Food + Wine Festival
Three tents, two days, one night, countless things to eat, drink and hear.
Tickets: Range from $150 per day to $500 for the whole VIP enchilada
Dates: Sept. 19–20
Nashville Whiskey Festival
Held at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, this fourth annual festival combines two southern favorites: bluegrass and whiskey. Yes, there will be lots of Tennessee whiskey on hand, but also some Japanese, Scotch and Irish whiskey, as well.
Tickets: $100 or $150; $40 for designated drivers
Date: Sept. 12
ABC-TV’s "Nashville" star Charles Esten (better known as Deacon Claybourne) is headlining the city of Clarksville's annual Riverfest. While the event may be on the banks of the Cumberland River, it is all about the food and the music. Hungry crowds will be fed thanks to a Food Truck Rally, with a mobile culinary cross-section of dishes.
Dates: Sept. 10–12
Where else would you find Nashville's biggest Oktoberfest celebration if not in Germantown? And what else would you find at a big Oktoberfest celebration but Tennessee craft beers and live music? At press time the 35-year-old festival had not announced its musical lineup.
Tickets: Free, but VIP tickets with access for shorter beer lines and bathrooms with A/C will be for sale
Dates: Oct. 9–11
Music City Bacon and Barrel Festival
Bourbon and beer samples, plus bacon, BBQ and live country music are all part of this one-day event held at the Nashville Farmers’ Market. A cash bar supplements the sampling; proceeds benefit Hands On Nashville.
Date: Oct. 10