I ate a LOT in Nashville, so I'm breaking these up into three posts. You can see Thursday's eats in yesterday's post. Tonight, I'll recap Friday. I woke up in my hotel Friday morning and scarfed down an Odwalla Lemon Ginger Bar. I'm not really a bar for breakfast kinda girl (prefer them for mid-day snacks), but there weren't many other quick options since I had workshops to attend. I went to a couple presentations — one on the future of journalism (story-writing robots! drones!) and one on niche journalism.
And then it was time for the annual Free Speech Lunch. Every year, AAN hosts a cool lunch speaker. My first year when AAN was in Little Rock, former prez Bill Clinton spoke! And last year in Miami, it was Luke from 2 Live Crew! This year, the folks from Freedom Sings performed a medley of once-controversial music (mostly '60s and '70s songs) made possible by free speech. And since it was lunch time, they fed us too.
The main dish was a pasta with cream sauce, so I couldn't eat that. But AAN is always fairly vegan-friendly, and I found plenty to eat — Steamed Veggies, Salad with Balsamic Vinaigrette, Cucumber-Tomato-Onion Salad, and a Wheat Roll.
Since there wasn't much in the way of protein, I snacked on some vegan jerky back in my hotel room. I was a little thankful for the light lunch though because I needed to sneak in an early off-site dinner before the official Friday night AAN party. Lesley of Lesley Eats is a food writer at the Nashville Scene (that city's alt-weekly and the host of this year's con). She suggested I check out Sunflower Cafe. It was about five miles from the hotel, so I grabbed an Uber car.
It's a quaint little cafe in a mostly residential area. I love the giant wooden sunflowers! And since I was there at a weird time (about 3:30 p.m.), I had the whole place to myself. Sunflower has a "meat"-and-three model, and although they have some dairy stuff sometimes, everything was vegan on Friday. I got to choose one main dish (the "meat") and two sides from this massive lunch counter!
I had a hard time settling on three things, but a lovely server helped me out. I went with Mushroom & Quinoa Enchiladas with Daiya, Thai Peanut Noodle Salad, and Sesame Kale.
EVERYTHING WAS SO GOOD! The enchiladas were perfectly gooey with the sauce and tortilla and filling were all melted together just they way they should be. The kale was expertly flavored. And the Thai peanut noodle salad (a recommendation from the guy behind the counter) was by far one of the best things I ate in Nashville. Of course, I doused everything in sriracha.
I spied desserts on the counter, and when I looked closer, I noticed they had cupcakes made by Khan's Desserts. Khan used to bake for Imagine Vegan Cafe in Memphis before my friend Stephanie took over. Khan would drive a batch of cake over from Nashville to Memphis every week, and her stuff was way good. Her minty Grasshopper Cupcakes were always my fave though, and Sunflower had a few for sale. I grabbed one for the road! Nostalgic!
I got a Lyft car back to the hotel, changed, and then headed to the lobby to meet with the rest of our staff. Then we all walked to the AAN cocktail party at the Country Music Hall of Fame.
When we walked in, this adorable band was playing.
They were dishing out free cocktails there, and I had my share — a Sweet Tea Vodka Lemonade, a Vodka-Cranberry, and a Grapefruit Vodka cocktail. I needed all those drinks to wash down all the food I ate. I was still full from dinner, but the appetizer spread was totally vegan! I had to support that! I skipped out on the pita and hummus (too filling!) in favor of Pickled Veggies.
After the party, my staff went to a sushi joint since most of them hadn't had dinner yet. They had some vegan stuff on the menu, but I was stuffed! I just had a beer while they enjoyed their meal. But then back at the hotel bar a few hours later, my tummy was grumbling. I had a free appetizer coupon that the Sheraton gave me since my room wasn't ready at check-in the day before. So I used it to order the only vegan appetizer on the bar menu (and an AWESOME one at that) — California Toast (avo-toast with tomato, red onion, and chilis).
That was a lovely way to end the night, for sure! Technically, it didn't stop there. Our crew hit up Broadway again until about 2 a.m. But that was the last thing I ate before bed. I'll be back tomorrow with my final installment of Nashville eats (hint: I'll be blogging about my long-time favorite Nashville vegan restaurant!).