Friday, December 31, 2010

Christmas Eve at Restaurant Iris

After a long grueling Christmas Eve workday at the wine shoppe all I needed was a cocktail & some decompression. However, Kelly had other plans for us. I came home, cleaned up & we headed to Restaurant Iris for a good meal & some good vino. I love walking into a restaurant & seeing the place full with happy diners. The energy at the restaurant was jovial, joyous & smiling happy faces all around were making that "oh my god this is so delicious" face.

I brought along one of my favorites to pop open

The Champoux Vineyard is one of the premier growing sites for Bordeaux varietals. When we first popped this open I was a little worried because the cork sort of...disintegrated. At first sniff it seemed a little jammy, almost roasted but after about 45 minutes I remarked to Kelly that "this has developed into the wine I hoped it would be. It's the wine I wanted." The dark fruit gave way to gripping, earthy texture & all kinds of spice notes were popping out. Absolutely divine.

My first course was

Roasted Marrow Bones with Pico de Gallo & Fresh Brioche. Mmmm meat butter. The luscious texture on the soft bread with the brightly acidic pico was a texture & flavor sensation that almost made me lose my mind. Whoever was just thinking "eww" because of the picture needs to get over themselves, get to Iris & order this immediately! Absolutely one of the best dishes I've had.

Next up

Braised Lamb Shanks.

I'm a total sucker for a good shank. Seriously. The rich meat that had been cooking down for hours just melted away in my mouth. It was a total "eyes rolling back in the head" moment. Paired with the Andrew Will Champoux I almost lost all concept of space & time.

I joked with my friend Jaime, our server, that I needed a straw to suck out the marrow in the shank too. I can never have too much marrow. She promptly returned to our table with straw in hand.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Memphis Is Not The Problem

In the latest issue of Memphis Daily News Chef Ben Vaughn details the demise of his Cooper Young restaurant Grace. For the article click here.

There have been a rash of restaurant closings in Memphis lately. When any independent restaurant closes its a very sad sad time. No one wants to see an independent restaurant close because they speak so much about our culture & overall personality of our wonderful Memphis.

However, I take issue with a few things in this article. "We did well with people coming to town, but in my opinion, there's a small group of diners in Memphis and all the restaurants share the same customers." The first part of this statement implies that Memphis isn't ready or "cultured" enough for what this restaurant was putting out. I beg to differ. A few examples are as follows. Bari Ristorante puts out unique & distinctively Southern Italian cuisine that is unlike what most people think of when they think of Italian. Restaurant Iris has dishes such as roasted marrow bones, foie gras & sweetbreads. Sweetgrass serves duck rillettes & beef carpaccio. There is no shortage of cuisine in Memphis that goes against the typical "meat & potatoes".

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

You Have Got To Be Kidding Me

Just when I think people could not get more self absorbed, entitled & generally ridiculous along comes someone who surprises me. This woman came into the store a few weeks ago & basically demanded that we get her some free stuff. "My son is building a home bar & I want to get him lots of large empty showcase bottles of wine & liquor. You need to get them to me for free of course. There are other stores working with me on this & you need to give me a reason to give you my business."

Uh. Ok. Exactly what business are we talking about? I don't believe I've ever laid eyes on you & now you are demanding free stuff? Really??

While she was in the store she was on the phone with a friend & looked over at a co-worker of mine & said "my friend is going to take me to this party but only if I promise her that I won't ask for anything free from the host." You have got to be kidding me. So obviously she knows how much of a tacky cheapskate she is.

So my boss says to me "Alright. I'll go out of my way to get whatever I can for this woman so I can show her that this store is where she needs to shop. We are the type of place that goes above & beyond." Well yes. Good point. We do go above & beyond for our customers......even the crappy people who we barely, if ever, see & who demand free stuff.

My boss got a plethora of large format bottles for this woman. She called one day & immediately got an attitude with me on the phone. "Your OWNER was supposed to get me a bunch of FREE bottles for my son's bar & I haven't heard from him."

I said "well actually ma'am he did get a few bottles in for you but he is waiting to hear from some other suppliers to see if he can get some more. He told me he was going to call you by Friday."

Cheap Demanding Freeloading Woman: "Oh thats wonderful. You have my business."

There she goes again about her "business". What "business"? Like I said, I don't believe I've ever even seen this woman before she came in to demand we go out of her way to give her free stuff.

So she came in, picked up her free bottles & again said "you have my business." Uggh.

Flash forward to last night when Cheap Demanding Freeloading Woman comes back into the store & now says "I need large empty bottles of bourbon & scotch too. For free of course. You need to get these for me or I'll take my business elsewhere."

You have got to be kidding me.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Could this be anymore boring? C'mon! With all the exciting wines out there F&W is going to give us a guide to Cali Cabs? Yawn.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A Year In Tastes pt 4

Part of Me is Still in Oregon

This trip to Oregon I took Kelly with me to show him why I fell in love with this place.

The beautiful bubbles of Argyle

Discovering new wines I've never tasted

The Food

Oh my god the Food

Holy damn the Food

Eating at Gabriel Rucker's Le Pigeon Again

PDX's Food Cart District

Chowing down at Pok Pok

I can't wait to get back there....

A Year In Tastes pt 3

Bari's Veg-Italian Dinner

Back in the Spring Bari put on an all vegetarian wine dinner that was stellar. The pure flavors of fresh produce were presented in wonderfully delicious & exciting ways.


This bottle was one of the more unique & interesting that I'd had all year.

Old Bordeaux

There is just something about an old Bordeaux, a good one that is. Wines like this just aren't made anymore. It's like a time machine in a bottle. So cool.

Oh Rose

Memphis weather in the summer is tailor made for glugging down gallons of dry rose. If you still think that pink wine=white zin then I feel sorry for you.

Thyme's Spanish style Shrimp Deviled Eggs

Thyme restaurant really surprised me with their deviled eggs. So bold & flavorful.

Monday, December 13, 2010

A Year In Tastes pt 2

2010 was a year of awesome wine dinners.

Salmon & Squid

This gorgeous plate was courtesy of Chef Joe Cortright at Spindini. Cured salmon with squid ink gnocchi stuffed with salmon roe. Awesome.

Damn, Piedmont

Luigi Einaudi 1999 Langhe. Whoa. I mean....whoa. Bad ass Italian.

South of Beale's Tuna

South of Beale is Memphis' answer to the question: Gastropub? One of my favorite dishes of theirs is the Sesame crusted tuna on sushi rice balls. Pure asian flavors in a rustic & comfy space in South Main. Thank you SOB!

Terrene in St Louis

Terrene is an excellent restaurant in St Louis, MO. If you are in town go! They took high quality local beef & created a super delicious beef carpaccio.

Napa Cafe is East Memphis' Oasis

I love bellying up to the bar at Napa Cafe & getting some apps & some vino. Their crab cakes are outstanding!

Justin Goes All Latin Up in Here

In case I haven't said it before my friend Justin is an amazing cook. He whipped up a bright, spicy, earthy dish of tostones, black beans & avocado. So tasty.


I love bright, nervy white wines with loads of minerality & acidity. Enter Muscadet.

Auction Purchases

I won the right to purchase some bad ass wine at the Brooks Museum's Uncorked event. One of the best & most fun food & wine events in the Mid-South. Brogan Cellars is a small producer of premium pinot noir & syrah in California. I'm not the biggest California fan really but this bottle was stunning.

Sea Marshmallows

Restaurant Iris is one of the best restaurants in town & their scallop dish is one of the reasons why. Just look at it!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Year In Tastes pt 1

I'm really over seeing the Top 100 lists & Holiday Gift Guides "What to Buy the Wine Lover In Your Life". Uggh. Gimme a break. I started to think about this past year & it seems as though it almost never happened. It flew by so fast that I hardly remember it! So I thought I'd recap a bit over some of my favorite experiences.

Truffle Bonanza at Justin & Amy's

Justin's exceptional cooking & extreme creative thinking in the kitchen produced outrageous flavors. The '97 Argyle Riesling was ethereal.

Elizabeth Blew My Mind With a Bit of Burgundy

I've never understood Burgundy because I don't have the wallet for it nor do I have access to them for the most part. However, this beauty that my good friend Elizabeth brought to dinner was a game changer for me.

Oh Patty

It's no secret that Oregon has my heart. This bottle from a fiercely talented winemaker is an example of what is happening in Oregon. Gorgeous.

Noodle Bowls

I love all things noodle. Although I would never tell Kelly this I kind of like the fact that he is a vegetarian. It makes me think in a uniquely creative way when crafting meals for us. This beauty was a result of that thinking. Curry coconut chili broth with Udon & fried Tofu. Yum.

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen Swine & Wine Dinner

Do I really need to say anything here? I mean really. Pig & wine? Yes please.

Monday, December 06, 2010

You Pompous Jerk

Dear Houstonite Who Was In My Store With a Shitty Attitude,

How dare you come into my store, talk trash about our selection, our prices & our layout? As if this wasn't enough you had the balls to trash my city? Really?? You know nothing you Texas idiot. Memphis is a very cool city with so much going on that you have no idea about. You are lucky I held my composure & didn't go off on your ass. Take that stupid blue tooth headset out of your ear & open your mind an inch. Go back to Texas because you don't deserve my city.

Cutting Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face

I cannot believe that one of my suppliers actually said this to me. One of my sales reps told me that his Department Manager would stop selling us a certain popular product of theirs if we bought a certain new product from another distributor. His reasoning was that when this company began focusing on this genre other distributors said it would ruin the wine/spirits business in Memphis. He said back then other distributors tried doing this very thing & pressuring stores to not purchase their new products. So now that some other distributors are getting into this genre they want to retaliate. Why on earth would a company want to punish their customers (me) & themselves (loss of sales) by refusing to sell me a product because I bought something from another company? That is the very definition of "cutting off your nose to spite your face". It made me so mad that I could barely contain myself. How mind bogglingly ignorant? That would be the same thing as if I refused to sell to a customer who purchased from another store. Stupid. Just stupid. Not to mention bad business.

Friday, December 03, 2010

Argyle Brut 2006

This month at Joe's Wines & Liquors we are featuring Argyle Brut 2006 as one of our Winos Wine Club selections. “I first visited Argyle in June of 2009 as a participant in Oregon Pinot Camp. OPC brings together 200 wine industry people from around the world each year to be immersed in the wine culture of Oregon. Argyle winemaker & co-owner Rollin Soles led a seminar on Oregon’s unique white varietals & afterwards hosted us for lunch. He opened bottles of sparkling wine, pinot noir & a special surprise. During the seminar he talked about his riesling’s ageability & in particular a 15 year old bottle that he had just recently opened. He went on & on about how well it showed so much so that I raised my hand & asked him if he would open one for us. He laughed & continued on with the seminar. During lunch Argyle’s Sales Director came over to my table & poured me a glass of white wine. He turned the bottle toward me to reveal a 1992 Riesling! This was one of a series of wow moments I had while at Pinot Camp. I returned to Argyle this past July with the memories of the previous years’ experience still fresh in my mind. This time we tasted through their entire lineup of sparkling wines. They were mind-blowing! Truly exceptional as wines first & foremost but some of the best bubblies I’ve had that weren’t Champagne. I kept going back to the 2006 Brut, tasting & re-tasting it, discovering layers upon layers of unique flavors that are rarely if ever displayed by wines produced outside of the Champagne region. I can still see the bottles laid out before me & the flavors of the wines caressing my palate. Argyle will always have a special place in my heart & I hope that you wine club members will feel the same way.

This bubbly is more Champagne-like than any other sparkler could hope to be. Argyle's style of sparkling wine is yeasty, toasty, creamy & sensuously lithe. On the palate are flavors of roasted pear, orange marmalade & vanilla tones with a mouth filling round texture that leaves a gorgeous finish behind. For this lovely wine Rollin Soles sources from some of the best vineyards in Oregon including Knudsen & Lone Star. He allows the vines to speak for themselves & they really come through in this wine. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS GOOD IN THE WORLD DO NOT SERVE THIS IN A FLUTE!!! This beauty needs room to breathe & will benefit from being served in a normal wine glass. The flavors, aromas & textures will unlock themselves in a traditional white wine glass. This wine is truly something special & deserves much respect.

Corsair Artisan

Click here for my latest column in the Memphis Flyer about Corsair Artisan Spirits.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Why I Choose Memphis

My good friend Leigh Johnson (aka Dr J) asked me to contribute to her blog on the topic of Why I Chose Memphis. My beloved city has come under fire & the source of this artillery are those damn top 10 bottom 10 lists with such titles as "Ugliest City" "Unhappiest City" etc... What a bunch of fools. If these morons had set one foot in this city before compiling their lists they would have seen the city that I continue to love. So I thought instead of discussing why I chose Memphis I thought I'd blog about why I CHOOSE Memphis & continue to choose it.


Memphis is a delicious city that one outsider remarked "smells like bacon". How can you not love a city that smells like bacon??? We have brilliantly talented chefs in this city that run some absolutely taste bud electrifying restaurants. Majestic Grille's smoked salmon or array of flatbreads, Restaurant Iris' bone marrow or scallops, Tsunami's tuna "nachos" or pot stickers, South of Beale's tuna with sushi rice balls, Cafe 1912's burger...I could go on & on but I only have so much time in a day. I like to eat & so do most of the people I know in this city. We like to eat well, drink well & talk about a varied array of topics.


In the decade that I have spent here I have met some of the most interesting & fantastic people I've ever encountered. Some of these people have become very close friends of mine. Lawyers, professors, artists, photographers, teachers, chefs, writers etc. This city will support your passion & so will its people. We love to talk loudly, hug tightly & share our passions. We love to give back to our community....& did I mention we like to eat?


Memphis can get better. We all just have to help it along. While we do have a world class food scene, art scene, etc we can make it so much better. In the past few years I have seen changes for the better. Project Green Fork was founded a couple of years ago by Margot McNeeley to "contribute to a sustainable Mid-South by helping reduce environmental impacts, with a focus on strengthening homegrown restaurants." The list of PGF certified restaurants has grown exponentially & it is wonderful to support restaurants who want to be more ecologically conscious. Mayor Wharton has created a Brand Manager for the city to showcase the benefits of the city. Playhouse on the Square has opened a gorgeous new facility. These are just a few examples of what has happened recently & therefore what we can continue to work towards. Hopefully City-County consolidation is one of those things we accomplish.

Monday, November 22, 2010

It Got Me

Every once in awhile a wine will grab ahold of me. As if it's reached out of the glass & taken ahold of my heart. Last night a wine did just that. Spring Valley Vineyards Cabernet Franc "Katherine Corkrum" 2008 Walla Walla Valley almost brought tears to my eyes. The only reason I didn't let the tears flow is because I was in public with a group of people & I didn't want to embarrass myself. First of all I think I smelled this wine for a solid 10 minutes. There was so much expressive, musky, floral aromas coming off it that I couldn't stop myself. The first sip was as if I'd just experienced love at first sight. My heart pounded & the feeling spread throughout my body down into my nether regions & up into my throat. There are few wines that grab me like that & refuse to let go. I'm always thankful when one of them comes along.

Monday, November 15, 2010

8th Anniversary at Bari

Bari is celebrating their 8th Anniversary! This is one of the gems on the dining scene of Memphis. Unique, delicious, consistent & always fun. Tomorrow night they will be hosting a wine dinner that is sold out but it might behoove some of you to call & get on the waiting list just in case of a cancellation.

From Rebecca Severs at Bari:

Bari is celebrating our 8th Anniversary with a Wine Dinner on Tuesday 16th at 6:30 at Bari. Elizabeth Mall from Delta will be talking about the four wines from Dalla Terra that we have paired with four courses.
The cost of the dinner is $60 per person.

call 901.722.2244

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Closer to Ta

Whenever I cook something from my childhood I always feel closer to my family even though the family is farther away than I'd like. That's especially true when it comes to saltanas (pronounced sahl-tehn-yas). They are kind of like empanadas. Saltanas always make me think of my Grandmother who we loving called Ta. The name stems from her trying to get my sister & I to say abuelita (meaning little grandmother in Spanish) when we were very little. I could only say TaTa & my sister could only say Ta. So the name stuck & it's the only thing I ever called her. If we wanted Ta to make saltanas we would have to request them over a day in advance so she could start preparing the filling & the dough.

After she passed away 13 years ago there was a definite piece missing that's still missing to this day. A number of years ago my mother started making the saltanas & my dad started making the hot sauce to go alongside them. Taking a bite into them would always make me smile & think of Ta. I decided to start making my own about a year or so ago but since Kelly is vegetarian I put my own spin on them. Normally they are stuffed with beef, olives, raisins & potatoes. I substituted red wine & garlic braised lentils for the beef & I must say they are pretty tasty.

Whenever I make them I feel her presence, guiding me as I add the flour or roll out the dough. She is in the kitchen with me as I fold the pastry over the stuffing & seal the edges.

I know she is proud of me when I pull them out of the oven looking gloriously golden brown. There is just nothing in the world that will ever taste as good as her saltanas. Not foie gras, not truffles, not cassoulet, not pork belly. Nothing. Ever. Never.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Lunch at Restaurant August

I've wanted to go to Restaurant August for years. Since Kelly & I haven't been to New Orleans in years we decided to go all out & eat & drink to our heart's desire. When we arrived at August with Max & Marlinee we were seated at a corner table right by the window. Right off the bat we knew we were in for an experience when they set down this

Fish custard with caviar & truffle. Oh my good

Up next

Handmade gnocchi with truffles, crab & parmiggiano. Heaven. Total heaven.

Marlinee got the Lobster Tempura which was absolutely delicious. That's saying a lot for me because I don't care for lobster.

Up next was a matsutake mushroom salad with duck confit, absolutely outstanding

A lovely, earthy, rustic & rich Vacqueryas was our accompaniment for the entrees which for me was

Veal grillades in a super rich demi glace with lardons. Damn, I needed a nap after all this deliciousness

Sunday, November 07, 2010

Back to Siduri

Haven't had a bottle of Siduri wine in quite sometime. I figured what the hell, it's a nice little date night so why not. So I popped a bottle open. 2005 Rosella's Vineyard Pinot Noir. I love love love pinot. Mostly I gravitate towards Oregon pinot but I've been a fan of Siduri for quite some time. The first I get off the nose are cherry pits, smoke, barrel char & a hint of cinnamon. As I'm inhaling more I'm getting some cherry conserve, cola & vanilla. Upon sipping it's striking how ripe the wine is at first. Quite a bit of sweet strawberry then the acidity spreads across my palate then some fennel bitterness comes on. It's a bit one dimensional at first but I just opened it so that could change. Another sniff brings some lavender & a hint of graphite. The wine is starting to broaden & expand with the cherry & fennel getting bolder & bolder & the finish is getting longer & longer.


Check out my latest article here.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

The Second Day in NOLA

We were starving. Something about this city just made us all ravenous. I felt like a zombie but instead of brains I wanted po boys, gumbo & anything laced in butter. Max whisked us off to Domilise's for a true authentic po boy. This place was an original for sure. Total hole in the wall with a tiny bar, about 4 tables & an open kitchen (if you can even call it that) where the prepared amazing po boys. Kelly & I split a large fried shrimp po boy dressed with everything. Look at this beauty.

Perfect chewy bread, crispy shrimp that wasn't greasy, crunchy cool toppings. I drizzled hot sauce on mine & devoured it like I hadn't eaten in years. Absolutely delicious.

For dinner we decided on Herbsaint.

I've been reading about Chef Donald Link for years but never had a chance to try his food. Needless to say I was hungry. Thirsty too so I ordered a bottle of Henri Biliot Brut Champagne for the table. The server brought the bottle & some flutes & I asked him if he could please instead bring regular wine glasses instead. I learned from my good friend Sam that good Champagne should be treated with respect & should never be locked up tight in a flute. One sip of Champs from a normal wine glass & you'll never use a flute again. Thanks for that Sam!

Next we went Northwest for a little Oregon pinot gris.

Crisp, bright, nutty, rich but not over the top. This wine is lovely.

My first course was the most memorable. A unique spin on carbonara.

Panko fried soft boiled egg, housemade guanciale, creamy noodles. Heaven. The server actually said to me "be careful when you cut into the egg. It's been known to explode on people." To which I replied "I love it when things explode on me."

He wasn't kidding. Super creamy yolk that just ran right into the saucy noodles. Damn.

I nearly squealed with delight when I saw this bottle on the list. Again, Sam is responsible for creating a new obsession in me with this wine.

It is one of the most sensual, luscious, hauntingly sexy wine I've ever experienced. Truly something special.