Eco RDN touched down at Nashville International Airport earlier than anticipated as we forgot about the one-hour time difference between NY and TN. We followed the signs and made our way to ground transportation, where you can grab an express bus via Nashville MTA for a mere buck seventy! In NYC MTA is currently $2.75 for a one-way commute. The bus took us directly to Music City Center where I was able to check in to FNCE and square away registration in no time. I was pleased to discover that this year’s goodie bag was a small canvas tote rather than the enormous plastic totes of previous years that fell apart after one use. The usual 50lb (obvious exaggeration of weight) spiral bound program book was replaced with a simple four-page handout with the schedule of each day’s sessions printed on it. The Academy also made everything available in virtual format for 2014 FNCE and again this year. Damn it, I forgot my highlighter to mark the must do sessions! After registration we checked into the hostel and made plans for lunch.

Researching the area, using the Food & Nutrition magazine FNCE 2015 special addition, we found very few vegan options in the downtown area. We finally decided on Pub 5 for their tempeh dishes. The look of the place was “rustic hipster”, exposed bricks, huge windows and lots of gorgeous reclaimed wood. The servers and staff also fit the “rustic hipster” bill, wearing flannel and denim. The menu was clearly marked with gfs for the gluten free options but surprisingly no vs (vegan) or vgs (vegetarian) as most restaurants use to help identify such foods on their menus. We tried the tempeh tacos and the tempeh sandwich. The tempeh seemed to be prepared in the same way for both dishes, deep-fried planks, which was slightly disappointing, however it was tasty, if not a little GERDy from all the oil. The tacos were a nice soft white corn tortilla, four of them to the plate with salsa and a couple greens on the side. The sandwich came with French fries (ughh, additional GERD) by our own poor choice and served on white flour Italian bread (not my choice). Although the offering of tempeh was unique (rather than tofu or yet another veggie burger) their preparation was standard and boring. We could have done with more fresh options to balance out the stodgy, typical pub fare.

After lunch we headed back to the hostel to start thinking about dinner (I know, always thinking about food). We would be splitting up in the evening as I, the RD, had a networking event with the Vegetarian Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group. Chef Johnny would have to whip up something in the hostel kitchen by himself. We checked out the tools in the shared kitchen space, which included nice industrial style hot plates, mini rice cookers and all types of pots and pans. Plus there was a spice rack filled with free leftover herbs and spices from other hostel patrons. One of the closest grocery stores we found was a Piggly Wiggly less than a 2-mile walk away from the hostel. We decided to accept the challenge of the walk in a misty rain and the challenge of finding vegan foods in a Piggly Wiggly. Our first ever Piggly Wiggly experience was as expected, very little fresh foods, heavy frozen meats section and packaged foods. Its no wonder why Americans don’t meet the US dietary guidelines for fruits and vegetables if this is where they are doing there food shopping. As a rule of thumb if I can’t find decent fresh veg I look to the freezer section. We managed to find a bag of frozen mustard greens, a tin of crushed tomatoes, a pound of whole grain brown rice, a package of Dutch iced oatmeal cookies (not the best ingredients but no eggs or dairy), a pound of split peas and a pack of reusable plastic containers (to store leftovers) for only $9.22.

Back at the hostel Chef Johnny cooked up a nice Southern inspired dish with the Piggly Wiggly ingredients and free spices. I headed out to the opening session of FNCE, featuring speaker Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s. He talked about the other grocery store he is president and founder of, Daily Table. Daily table is a not-for-profit retail store, which opened June 4, 2015 in Dorchester, a diverse residential community in Boston. It offers products that are priced to compete with fast food. The deals are made available in part by growers, supermarkets, manufacturers, and other suppliers who donate their excess, healthy food to Daily Table or provide them with special buying opportunities. There is a kitchen within that also supplies grab n go type foods. Thus, helping to eliminate food waste. There are plans to expand to other areas in Boston.

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After the opening session, I headed to the Renaissance Hotel for the networking event. The spread was awesome this year, Beastly Sliders with a topping bar sponsored by Beyond Meat, fruit kabobs by Dole, herbed iced teas, fresh summer rolls and other delicious hors d’oeuvres. The evening ended with a raffle for various prizes including vegan books and a chance for a free certificate of training in vegetarian nutrition. I sadly did not win anything so back to the hostel for a not so great night of sleep. Maybe the top bunk was a bad choice.

See what happened next in Nashville….

sources/ links:

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© 2015 ecoRDN


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