Category Archives: Magazine

A First-Timer’s Look at the Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium

ErinAbout a week ago, I sat in on the 16th Southern Foodways Alliance Symposium, which is organized and attended by (in my opinion) some of the most fascinating people in the South. It was my first time attending the Oxford, Mississippi-event and I was hooked from the get go: As a first-timer, I was invited for bloody Marys and biscuits at director John T. Edge’s home to kick off the weekend.

I was introduced to a dozen new faces, all of whom were as excited and anxious to start the weekend as I was. The high-octane beverage helped, especially since it was packed with spices, pickled okra, and a hefty pour of Cathead vodka. There were biscuits and souvenir Tabasco go-cups, to boot. That sense of hospitality was carried through the entire weekend. One evening, we were handed a flask filled with a potent bourbon cocktail (to be consumed on a school bus as we rode to fried catfish dinner); the next afternoon, we received illustrated tea towels.

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Hospitality and event organization aside (the entire weekend of lectures, meals, and entertainment were executed flawlessly and to the minute), the weekend was packed with informative conversations, both formal and casual. The theme of this year’s conference was “Women At Work” so everything revolved around women and food. It started with the car ride down; I was joined by food writer Jennifer Justus and author Alice Randall (Jennifer summed it up nicely in a recent wrap-up post) and continued once we arrived, just in time to watch the Thacker Mountain Radio program. There was an interview with fashion designer Natalie Chanin followed by a performance from The Gee’s Bend Singers, who are both fine quilters and choral singers. Friday, Alice and her daughter Caroline Randall Williams, presented their newest project, a cookbook, due out next fall. We were entertained with stories about Caroline’s grandmother, Alberta Johnson Bontemps, who left Caroline her massive cookbook collection, which includes a full range of Junior League cookbooks that were once housed in her grandmother’s guest toilet. The speech made me laugh out loud and also crave a cookbook collection like hers.

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Alice Randall presents a talk with her daughter, Caroline Randall Williams

There was a clever lecture on Eugenia Duke, creator of Duke’s Mayonnaise and a moving documentary by filmmaker Joe York about Alzina Toups, of Alzina’s Restaurant, who also won the SFA’s Ruth Fertel Keeper of the Flame award this year. Her restaurant will surely be my next food pilgrimage

Between all of this, there were funny and fascinating conversations with people from all over the South as well as other members of the Nashville food world like Karl and Sarah Worley of the Biscuit Love food truck, Kahlil Arnold of Arnold’s Restaurant, and Lisa Donovan, pastry chef at Husk. It was a big Nashville contingent, I was told. I imagine it will only keep growing.

The meals were spectacular, made even more delicious by the conversations happening over them. One lunch by chef Asha Gomez of Cardamom Hill in Atlanta, was the prettiest plate I’ve seen all year.

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As a first-timer, going into it, I didn’t know what to expect—and like many I’ve spoken with, still feel overwhelmed by everything I experienced. But driving home on Sunday, I was struck by how fulfilling and satisfying the weekend turned out to be. The food, drink, friendships, takeaways, and knowledge have all sunken into my bones, held firmly in place by the fact that I now have 375+ reasons to return again next year.

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—Erin Byers Murray, managing editor

Celebrating our Cover Dog

Nashville Lifestyles May 2013
This isn’t the first time our May 2013 Cover Dog, Bella, has seen the spotlight.
Every week, she is the star of a different show when she visits the community of seniors at the Homewood Residence at Brookmont Terrace in Belle Meade. Showering them with puppy love and with free slobbers, Bella’s a regular.

The folks at Brookmont hosted a celebration party in her honor and we had the pleasure of being party guests. It was such a sweet afternoon out on the patio enjoying the cutest dog bone cake (made of cupcakes), the dog of honor, and singing along to fun pup-themed songs.



It was a perfect way to wrap up our People & their Pets issue! For our online pet guide check out — everything from How to Pick a Perfect Pet Sitter to the Top Pet Friendly Hotels in Nashville.

A sneak peek at the awe-inspiring new Music City Center

There are plenty of reasons to get excited about Nashville’s new Music City Center (MCC), which opens to the public this Sunday, May 19. There is the intricate architecture and design (spearheaded by Nashville-based firms Tuck Hinton Architects, Moody-Nolan Architects and Atlanta-based TVS Design), the four-acre green roof, the massive eight-acre exhibition hall floor, and 57,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom which mimics the interior of a guitar. The chef is sourcing from a number of Tennessee farms and can produce up to 20,000 meals per day; the building’s entire energy consumption is offset by 845 solar panels; and there are 32 loading docks hidden away off Korean Veterans Boulevard.

What we were most inspired by, though, was the generous display of local art used throughout the entire building. Senior Art Consultant Rich Boyd, who previously worked with the Tennessee Arts Commission, helped secure the 101 pieces that now hang in the MCC and explained that 50 of the 59 artists on display are from Tennessee. The Center’s $2 million budget paid for 8 site-specific art installations, including “Composition” (below) by Aaron Stephan, which takes inspiration from small model-making kits and “Euphony,” an arrangement of 25 miles of stainless steel chain cascading down from a 1,400-pound ring, which was created by L.A.-based Ball-Nogues Studio.


“Composition” by Aaron Stephan


“Euphony” by Ball-Nogues Studio


Photographs by local designer Bob Delevante

The Center’s Public Art Committee also sifted through 2,500 submissions, eventually acquiring artwork for 62 different spaces throughout the building. Local artists represented include Fisk University professor Alicia Henry,  photographer and Watkins faculty Caroline Allison (below), Brentwood-native Jamaal Sheats, and mixed media artist Carrie McGee. Next to each piece of art, you’ll find plaques describing the art, along with a QR code that will eventually lead you to more information about the artist (those details are still being put into place, says Boyd.)

Art tours will be available starting June 1, allowing the public to access this massive collection, as well as the interior of the stunning structure itself.


“Ivy Green. Tuscumbia, Alabama” by Caroline Allison


“Intimacy and Peace” by Alicia Henry

Find out what else is happening this weekend (May 17-19) in Nashville!

The Grand Opening of Music City Center kicks off this Sunday, May 19 at 1:30 p.m. with a Community Open House and live entertainment lasting through Monday night. For details, go to


MCC By The Numbers:

7,300+ people worked on the construction of the building
1.2 million square feet of public space
11,000 tons of steel; 12,000 tons of rebar
150 feet high at its tallest point
18,000 stackable chairs
20,000 meals-per-day kitchen capability
35,000 pieces of china
$130 million spent with minority, small, and women-owned businesses

Behind the Scenes with American Picker, Mike Wolfe

MW-4Our good buddy Mike Wolfe catches up on past issues of Nashville Lifestyles (who knew this local celeb was an avid NL reader?)

MW-3 MW-2Mike’s motorcycles are spread throughout the house, including one in the dining room, one in the bedroom, and several in the basement.


Get the rest of our in-home tour with Mike on!

Nashville’s Dining Scene: Our Food Writers Weigh In

ErinHopefully by now, you’ve had some time to dig into the April issue and our list of Nashville’s 50 Best Restaurants. We’ve received a fair amount of feedback, both in agreement and opposition to our list—which was exactly what we were hoping for. I love talking food with people, whether it’s dissecting every dish of my last meal or scheming up ideas for the next one. But the conversation I sat in on for our Best Restaurants list was my favorite kind since it got some of the city’s most well-versed food lovers dishing on what they love (and don’t) about Nashville’s food scene.April 2013 Best Restaurants

Because I’m still a Nashville newbie, I was fascinated to hear what the locals think of all this national media we’ve received. As the Tennessean’s Jennifer Justus (JJ) admitted, “I think we have more restaurants, but I don’t think all this praise from outside means that we have anything going on that’s really super amazing and creative.” Beth Sachan (BS) of the blog Eat.Drink.Smile. agreed: “We have all these restaurants opening but I feel like there’s so much that’s the same. It’s like the whole farm-to-table thing: Can we get something that’s a little more interesting?”

So, there’s certainly space for other types of cuisine and more creative influence, it seems. Chris Chamberlain (CC) who writes regularly for Nashville Lifestyles laid it out for me, saying, “We still don’t have a good Chinese restaurant, we still don’t have a great Mexican restaurant. We still don’t have any place to get a paella, there’s no good Jewish food in town.” Long-time food writer Kay West (KW) chimed in, adding, “No good Cuban food, no Spanish food, I still don’t think there’s any good Italian. Where would the mob go? That’s what I want to know.”

Well, then what are we doing right? I wondered. Turns out, plenty. Here’s just a taste of our conversation:

CC: We are attracting folks like Phil Krajeck [of Rolf & Daughters] coming in from out of town, Sean [Brock] coming in and bringing his new chef. We are becoming a destination for chefs to go. We don’t have that advantage of a big cooking school here. We don’t have a Johnson & Wales, but we’ve got the Art Institute and Nashville State. That’s burgeoning. And that leads to developing younger talent.

KW: I also wonder, what incentive is there for someone to come along and be daring and exciting and innovative? I’m not saying that restaurants need to dumb down but I think if you’re a chef who’s investing your own money or trying to get investors and it’s such a hard business, you don’t have big bucks behind you, then you’re going to have to make something that’s going to have a return. Your investors want to see a return. So you’ve got to find that balance between what’s going to be successful and what’s going to be creatively exciting to that small group of diners.

Food Writers

Nashville food writers: Kay West, Chris Chamberlain, Beth Sachan and Jennifer Justus

JJ: I will say that when City House first opened, I would recommend it to people, but I would say, “don’t expect meatballs.” I don’t have to do that anymore. I can just be like, “go to City House.” I do think the level of sophistication is growing.

BS: I think people are more open minded. Another positive thing is [that restaurants are] sourcing locally. Because in the last couple years, a lot more restaurants are naming all the different farms they’re sourcing from and I love that.

JJ: When I interviewed Jeremy [Barlow of Sloco] recently, he was like, ‘I remember it used to be five farmers I could call, and now it’s over 60.’

KW: And a lot of restaurants are doing their own farms, too. That was a pipe dream ten years ago.

Nashville Food Writers

CC: And we’ve got purveyors like Porter Road that we didn’t use to have. There wasn’t access to a butcher that could provide you with locally sourced meat that could be processed the way you wanted it processed. If you didn’t have a local butcher, which we really didn’t, there was no option even if you wanted it. I mean chefs don’t have time to drive to a farm in Millington to bring back a cow.

JJ: That’s another thing, I don’t think they make me describe CSA anymore in a story. It used to be like, what is that?

CC: And we do have a great community of chefs. It may not be one big community, but there are small groups, and they work in each others’ kitchens. I remember when Kahlil [Arnold] told me—he used to work at the Loveless for Tom Morales—and when he left the Loveless to go back and work at his family business, Tom wasn’t mad, he said, ‘how many of my guys do you need to take with you to help run that place because you need to take care of your family business.’”

Nashville Food Writers

KW: I think there’s a huge amount of support among the chefs.

JJ: You know years ago I remember, I think it was in this magazine that I read it, one of the Goldbergs [of Strategic Hospitality] said that if you start something here, people don’t instantly want to drag you down, they want you to succeed. And I think that spirit is definitely going on here.

So, reader: What say you? What is Nashville doing right? And what would you like to see more of? Give us your two cents—and while you’re at it, make sure you have a copy of the April issue. (Comment here or email us at


— Erin B. Murray, Managing Editor

An Afternoon with the Wagner Family of Wines

ErinI never get tired of the perks of this job, especially because it allows me to meet people like Joe Wagner. The fifth generation winemaker is in town this week for Savor Nashvillethe Wagner Family of Wines is sponsoring Saturday’s Celebrity Chef Dinner at The Hutton Hotel—and set up a special tasting for the staff of Nashville Lifestyles at the Hermitage Hotel yesterday afternoon.

Belle Glos

After introducing us to his family through a video, Joe gave us a comprehensive tasting of the wines. And while most of us were already familiar with his most popular labels (bottles of the Caymus, Conundrum White and Meiomi pinot noir are currently sitting in several of our home wine fridges), tasting through them with the winemaker himself is one of those once-in-a-lifetime moments that will forever shape my personal enjoyment of his wines going forward (especially his stories about discovering and guzzling a bottle of sauvignon blanc at the age of five).

Joe is a farmer, first and foremost. Like his grandfather, Charlie Wagner, he was raised in the vineyards. And that farmer comes through when he talks about sugar content, ripeness, harvest times, structure, and cryo-extraction. But when it comes to what’s in the bottle, he puts it plainly, saying, “I just love those rich pinots.” His father and a few of his siblings are also part of the business: brother Charlie II is the winemaker of Mer Soleil and Mer Soleil Silver (Joe says they rib each other constantly about the virtues of red versus white wine); both sisters Erin and Jenny are coming up as winemakers; his father Chuck is the winemaker and viticulturist for Caymus. But the heart of the family today is Joe’s grandmother, Lorna Belle Glos Wagner, the namesake for the family’s fantastic line of pinot noir. Joe says the 97-year-old had her hand in the process from the very beginning, whether it was working on the bottling line or making lunch for the crew. She, her husband, Charlie, and Joe’s father Chuck founded the winery in 1972 and though Charlie passed away over a decade ago, his and Lorna’s legacy will likely keep the winery running for generations to come. In fact, Joe and his wife have five kids of their own—he told us that he’s hoping that at least one (but not all) of them chooses to carry on the family business.

Joe Wagner

Now on to those wines. We tasted through nine, including a bottle that will hit the market in a few weeks, the Belle Glos Dairyman Pinot Noir: It was named for the Portuguese dairy farming family from who Joe purchased the land. Like the other Belle Glos Russian River Valley pinots, this one is affable, well-balanced, berry-heavy, and rich—definitely a staff favorite (you can taste for yourself if you have tickets to Saturday night). I appreciated tasting the Mer Soleil and Mer Soleil Silver side-by-side. Both are Chardonnays with grapes grown and harvested from the same lots but with two different applications: the Silver is kept on the lees in an egg-shaped concrete tank (which inspires the opaque grey bottle) while the regular Mer Soleil is barrel fermented. Meanwhile, the Belle Glos Oeil de Pedrix rose is a lovely presentation of low acidity pinot noir rose and will surely make an appearance this summer on my back deck. The showstopper though had to have been the 2010 Caymus Special Selection, a cream of the crop vintage that produces a beautiful, classic Napa Cabernet.


It’s not everyday that you get up-close with a talent like this—but if you have tickets to Saturday night’s Savor dinner, I recommend introducing yourself to Joe and raising a glass to say thanks.

—Erin B. Murray, Managing Editor

“Traces” Transforms the TPAC Stage

Talent is not in short supply in Traces, the highflying show playing at TPAC through Sunday. To call Traces a circus show or an acrobatics performance oversimplifies what is a completely unique theater experience. What these seven performers can do with few props is outstanding. The level of strength, concentration, coordination, and practice needed to pull off the performance is enough to make your head spin. A friend and I saw the first show last night, and we walked out of the theater amazed, rehashing the stunts, puzzled at how they really pull it off.


See a trailer of the performance!

These performers, all members of the group 7 Fingers, are artists in every mode of expression: dancing, singing, writing, guitar playing, drawing, skateboarding. The artists themselves in a creative way during the 90-minute performance, giving you a glimpse at their true personality, not just characters covered up in costumes.

A stand out for me was the one female performer among the six men, Valérie Benoît-Charbonneau. This girl’s sheer physical strength and precision of movement, balanced with the beauty and emotion of her performance, will have your jaw dropping. Nashville has never seen anything quite like it, and I was thoroughly entertained and constantly surprised the entire performance.

If you’re looking for a weekend activity, don’t miss Traces, while it’s in our backyard, or scope out What To Do This Weekend for other ideas. Tickets are available online at

— Jane Taylor, staff writer