Having once again tried and failed at urban gardening, I will now return to the sturdy professionals of community supported agriculture. In my case, that's Tally May and John Drury, the green thumbs at Fresh Harvest Coop, who cheerfully hand over their bounty of vegetables, fruits and flowers every week without so much as a hint of judgment about my inability to work the land—or even simply to water plants. In the next few weeks, John and Tally will be driving in from their Hickman County farms, laden with arugula, Swiss chard, radishes, bull's blood beet greens and turnips. Later in the fall will come Brussels sprouts, kale, cauliflower, lettuce, carrots and red and golden beets. The flower crops of marigolds, sunflowers and zinnias will grow until the first frost, and many of the veggies will survive, protected under covers, into the winter.
The cooler temperatures can't come too soon for chef Laura Wilson & Co. over at Ombi restaurant, where the kitchen team is preparing to swap the grill for the oven and a repertoire of braised and slow-cooked entrées—such as the oxtail over potato-chive ravioli that recently hit the menu board. Expect to find plenty of Brussels sprouts in the copper-flanged kitchen on Elliston Place, where Wilson blanches and roasts them with lardons of pork belly from DW Farms in Pulaski, Tenn. "I love Brussels sprouts like nobody's business," adds Wilson, who was about 13 months pregnant at press time. When pears recently arrived from her mother-in-law in Portland, Tenn., Wilson debuted a shortbread tart with pears poached in bourbon and served with crème Anglaise.
Fall is the season of squash, gourds and pumpkins, and in the kitchen at F. Scott's, chef Will Uhlhorn is awaiting the arrival of Farmer Dave's North Georgia candy roaster squash. Uhlhorn will prepare the squash with sage, pancetta and mascarpone, a combination he describes as "great with birds, cows and pigs." Martha Stamps at Martha's at the Plantation is ladling out a spectacular soup made with delicata squash and garnished with candied almonds, which is about as decadent and comforting as a cashmere shawl.
Across town at Flyte, where chef Jake Stearns is returning to the perennially adventurous kitchen, expect to see an earthy array of produce from the nearby Farmers' Market, including squash soups and entrées of lamb with roasted butternut squash and pork with pumpkin. Sous chef Jen Franzen predicts the Flyte crew—known for delivering flights of ingredients prepared three distinct ways—will assemble some autumnal troikas that include Brussels sprouts seared with cranberries, pine nuts and truffle oil and cauliflower-pine nut slaw. They're also working on an entrée of beer-braised mushrooms. As the winter rolls in, Franzen will experiment with salsify, a.k.a. oyster plant, pureeing and caramelizing the root vegetable, and she's counting the days until Barnes Produce at the Farmers' Market brings in Honey Crisp apples, which might make their way into a parsnip-apple soup. Flyte's dessert menu will move from summer berries and fruits to more nut-based confections with milk chocolate, hazelnut, figs, dates, pears and caramels.
At Miro District Food & Drink, the new Mediterranean-flavored restaurant in the Adelicia high rise, chef Dean Robb, recently relocated from Birmingham, is getting his first taste of Nashville's early fall bounty. With the help of Randy Boone, Miro's liaison to the Farmers' Market, Robb is segueing from the tomato-rich summer into an early autumn repertoire that includes mushrooms, arugula, roasted walnuts and beets, which he says are "so wonderful and so misunderstood." Look for pasta with cauliflower, tomato, vodka and cream; ravioli with butternut squash, sage and brown butter; risotto with lobster mushrooms; and more braised dishes. On the dessert menu, Robb expects pears and apples to be strong for a while.
Much fall-flavored creativity will be on display during the Nashville Originals' Restaurant Week, Sept. 15-22, when 22 of the city's best independent restaurants offer special deals on their menus. Tin Angel, Cabana, Mirror, Mambu and Zola, for example, will offer three-course prix-fixe menus for $20.08.
If the autumnal spirit of Nashville's creative chefs rubs off on you, there's no better place to start your own fall cooking spree than at the Farmers' Market, which continues to increase the number of local growers providing fresh produce in the farm sheds. On Oct. 18, the market will host its fourth annual Fall Festival from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with cooking demonstrations, live music, free cider, plenty of fresh produce and recipes to taste, some 100-pound pumpkins to ogle and tiny pumpkins for kids to decorate.
In the meantime, the Chefs at the Market series—which has hosted culinary luminaries including Joe Shaw of The Standard at the Smith House and Julia Helton of Mitchell Delicatessen this summer—continues through the fall on Saturdays at 11 a.m. in Farm Shed No. 2. Located at 900 Rosa Parks Blvd., the Farmers' Market is open daily 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. If nothing else, it's good to see someone else's garden is doing well.