In last year's Fall Guide, Steve Haruch previewed Casa Azafrán, the $5 million hub of community activity on Nolensville Road, designed to connect Nashville's immigrant communities (including the businesses that thrive along the road) with the city's more established communities and power structures, represented by downtown.
What a difference a year makes.
The nonprofit group Conexión Américas, which helps Latino families integrate into all aspects of life in Middle Tennessee, held a grand opening for Casa Azafrán in December, and the community center's commercial kitchen, Mesa Komal, launched in the spring. The kitchen's name is a bit of clever wordplay: "Mesa" means "table" in Spanish; "Komal," means "community" in Kurdish (a language spoken by thousands in Nashville's immigrant community) — and "komal," is similar to "comal," which means "griddle" in Spanish.
The nifty new kitchen hosts special events and provides facilities for rental by entrepreneurs starting small food businesses. Furthermore, this summer, Mesa Komal kicked off culinary classes taught by local cooks.
The "Mezcla: Mix and Master" series of classes generally takes place on Tuesdays, and each class explores the cuisine of a different country. At the next Mezcla class, Oct. 15, Patricia Arrunategui will delve into the food and culture of Peru.
Not every class is part of a formal series. On Oct. 1, Hunter Briley of the Music City Pie Co. food truck will share some of his secrets of good piecrust in a class called "Sweet and Savory Pies." Each student will get a chance to prepare and bake a pie. Kids are welcome.
On Oct. 22, Carlos Davis of Riffs Fine Street Food will teach how to preserve the harvest's bounty in a class called "Fall Canning Basics." He plans to prepare apple butter and some seasonal pickles. Interestingly, students are asked to sign up for this class in teams of two.
Prices vary by class, and proceeds benefit Conexión Américas. Get details at kitchen.conexionamericas.org/events.
And if you'd rather just eat than cook, Davis is hosting Sunday brunch 10:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 13 to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. It will be held in the courtyard of Casa Azafrán, which is located 2195 Nolensville Pike. Tickets are $26 for adults, $10 for kids ages 5-10, free for younger kids, and 30 percent of the proceeds benefit Conexión Américas.
Again, check the website for details. Kitchen manager Jenny Harrison says Mesa Komal will expand the classes with even more offerings in January.
Sept. 19: Nfocus Alfresco
This dinner is five courses, served under the stars — on a long farm table under a big oak tree — in the garden at the historic Carnton Plantation. The party includes live music and cocktails, along with farm-fresh cuisine with wine pairings, and best of all, it benefits Mercy Community Healthcare. 6 p.m. at Carnton Plantation, Franklin
Sept. 21-22: Music City Eats
This ambitious inaugural festival is the brainchild of Kings of Leon and some of their well-connected associates in the worlds of music and food. While Saturday night brings the celebrity chef event Harvest Night and the musical tribute Petty Fest, it's the daytime tastings from local chefs — plus the unique panel discussions that bring together the local and out-of-town food sages — that sound especially stimulating. 11 a.m.-11:30 p.m. Sept. 21 and 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Public Square Park, War Memorial Plaza and Auditorium
Sept. 27-28: Southern Artisan Cheese Festival
This year the festival moves to the renovated factory garage at the historic Neuhoff Building in Germantown, which sounds like a good spot, with plenty of sunlight through big vintage windows but also shelter from unpredictable fall weather. (Last year's fest was chilly and wet.) Hundreds of artisan cheeses, cured meats, jams, breads, crackers, pickles and more will be available to sample, not to mention regional beers and a selection of wines to complement your tastings. Meet Your Cheese Maker dinner 7 p.m. Sept. 27, festival 2:30-6 p.m. Sept. 28 at the Neuhoff Building
Oct. 5: Music City Southern Hot Wing Festival
Now in its third year downtown, this festival celebrates the famous spicy chicken wing with a cooking contest (teams vie for a $1,000 prize) and an eating contest (individuals vie for a $300). Festivalgoers can sample wings for a $1 donation while listening to music from the likes of the Yacht Rock Revue. Proceeds benefit Ronald McDonald Charities House of Nashville. 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Walk of Fame Park
Oct. 26: Jack Daniel's World Championship Invitational Barbecue
Some 20,000 are expected to descend on little Lynchburg, Tenn., for this event, considered one of the top competitions in the barbecue pantheon. If you go, you probably won't get to taste the winning 'cue, but there are plenty of vendors to sample, pork-butt bowling to try, and you'll also enjoy the thrill of seeing a team of strivers get crowned kings and/or queens of "The Jack." 10 a.m. in Lynchburg
Oct 26-27: Tennessee Volksfest
Headlined "Munich Meets Music City," this is a new event inspired by popular events in Germany that unite carnivals and massive beer gardens. Organizers are planning to host up to 1,000 people under tents in Centennial Park, with an assortment of German-inspired food (including some vegetarian options), live music and carnival games. Noon at Centennial Park
Nov. 2: Wine Down Main Street
In this popular event, the main thoroughfare of downtown Franklin is closed to traffic, allowing pedestrians to wander from shop to shop sampling wine and snacks and listening to live music. Proceeds go to Franklin and Fairview Boys & Girls Clubs. 7 p.m. in downtown Franklin
Nov. 7: Alton Brown Live! The Edible Inevitable Tour
Brown's live show combines comedy, food science, a multimedia lecture and even music. And apparently it gets messy ... the first three rows are a poncho zone. 8 p.m. at TPAC's Jackson Hall
Dec. 7: 12South Winter Warmer Festival
This remains something of a holy grail (holy stein? holy pint glass?) of Nashville beer festivals, because demand always far exceeds tickets. Organizers say that's because the venue (Sevier Park in the 12South neighborhood) is small, and the beers served (winter seasonals) are often limited in supply. In any case, the reviews for this festival are usually good, so if it appeals to you, prepare to hover over your keyboard on the two sale days. (Tickets go live at 9 a.m. Oct. 11 and 8 a.m. Oct. 12.) 11 a.m. at Sevier Park
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