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VOL. 43 | NO. 43 | Friday, October 25, 2019

Brewers, restaurants pair fare to benefit Nashville Food Project

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The food event calendar is crammed with opportunities to eat and drink with purpose. I think I’ve counted more than a half dozen “dining in a field, on a farm” type gatherings this fall alone. I get it, because October should be the best and driest time to sit out under the stars and contemplate how farmers get food from their soil to your fork.

Food events have passed the fad stage now, and seem to be regularly occurring excuses to get out and eat and maybe raise some money for a deserving charity. Besides the farm events, there are pop-ups, visiting chef collaborations and all kinds of beer-, wine- and spirits-sponsored events.

There are so many things going on that they tend to blend together. That’s no knock on the events or their relative level of quality interest. And maybe I’m a bit jaded, but it seems like it takes a lot to grab my attention anymore.

One event managed to do just that.

It’s called The Nashville Brew Project and takes place Saturday, Nov. 2, 2-5 p.m., at the Nashville Food Project, 5904 California Avenue in The Nations.

I love this event for a number of reasons. First, it’s on a Saturday afternoon and, unless you’re glued to a screen for a specific college football game, it’s one of my favorite times to hang out in the fall with friends.

Second, it benefits the great Nashville Food Project, a nonprofit that turns garden fare and donated produce and other ingredients into fantastic meals to help folks who struggle to get food on the table. They are geniuses at taking what they have and converting it into culinary magic.

The NFP, which has a beautiful new home and kitchen over in the Nations, decided to approach a handful of local brewers to produce an inspired beer and to join a local restaurant in pairing that beer with a dish.

Iterations of this type of event have been done, but his one pulls a lot together in one place. I love the idea of how the NFP’s mission informs how the brewers and chefs inform their pairings.

Here’s a quick rundown of what attendees will find, with the caveat that some experimental beers don’t always turn out and something different might be in its place:

Black Abby Brewing inspired this event idea when it used NFP peppers and basil for a brew last year. It is pairing with Double Dogs. Hot dogs and beer? Where did that come from?

Jackalope is pairing with Cafe Rose and, at last mention, was looking into using bitter melon, a fruit grown by Bhutanese/Burmese farmers whose gardens are part of the NFP’s outreach into immigrant communities.

How to attend

For more information on this event and to buy tickets, visit the NFP website

Southern Grist, inspired by the food waste awareness movement, will experiment with dried fruits for their beer and will pair with Red-Headed Stranger/Butcher & Bee.

New Heights Brewery is making Dead Beet Ale (more on that name below), joining with Lockeland Table. The two businesses have collaborated before at the restaurant’s Community Hour, so the beet-infused creations should be interesting.

Blackberry Farm joins Nicky’s Coal Fired for their duo, which will feature Muddy Pond sorghum and malted barley finished in Alan Benton’s smokehouse.

You can see some crazy creativity going on here, which is why this jumped out at me. There is also a funny story behind one of these concoctions.

One day at the NFP kitchen, someone spied what they thought was a dead rat on the floor of the walk-in cooler. Folks there are rightfully proud of their brand-new, state-of-the-art cooler, with its automated door and other features only a veteran kitchen hand can get excited about.

You can imagine the alarm that swept through the building. How did it get in? Is there a breech somewhere? Did it come in with a box of produce? Questions flew, along with the realization that the whole cooler would need to be emptied and cleaned.

Cue heroic music for NFP director Tallu Schuyler Quinn, who stepped up to do the messy work. After opening the special automated door and peering inside, what looked to be a rat with its rat tail turned out to be a beet with its beet root.

That story amused and motivated Cara Graham from Lockeland Table.

“[The immigrant farmers] grow indigenous vegetables, so we chose three different ingredients from their harvest – beets, Roselle and grains of paradise,” says Graham, who has also used spent beer mash to make pretzels.

“We chose beets for the earthiness and color they give the beer; Roselle has a nice sour flavor to add a layer of complexity (although, it is worth noting that the beer is not sour); and grains of paradise adds a nice peppery herb taste to the beer.”

Matty Hargrove with Blackberry Farm Brewery says their first attempts didn’t take like they hoped, so they are serving up the loquacious, “Tennessee Jeppe and the Thoroughbred Hillbilly: An Imperial Stout Conversation Between Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergso and Allan Benton As Told by Blackberry Farm.”

Dark, smoky and toasty with a chocolate finish, this demonstrates how to push the boundaries of beer-making. I’ve heard of hanging hams in whiskey barrel warehouses, but never putting bags of malted barley in a country ham smokehouse.

But why not? What took you so long?

These are just a couple of examples of the great things going in Nashville and how to tap the creativity of the food and drink community. It also gives those chefs a chance to step beyond their daily menu and try something new and different, all while helping a local organization make a little extra coin.

Jim Myers is a former restaurant critic, features columnist, hog wrangler, abattoir manager, Tennessee Squire and Kentucky Colonel. Reach him at jim@culinarity.com

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