Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen's Swine & Wine 2011

If there ever was a holy animal I think it would be the pig. Chefs Michael Hudman & Andrew Ticer of Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen took that holy animal & gave us a truly spectacular meal that drove my porkaholism to a new disturbing level. These guys have done this dinner 3 years running to celebrate the pig slaughter in Italy. Last year's meal was impossible to top...or so I thought.

Snout: Frito Misto, Deviled Egg, Popcorn paired with housemade Bacon IPA
What we have here is a lesson in rustic snack food made with pork love. Fried snout is now my new obsession. I want it in salads, chocolate bars & with my eggs in the morning. The housemade pork rinds were crisp, light & perfectly seasoned. I'm not even kidding, these guys made a bacon infused IPA & it was really good. More elegant than you would expect & with just an undertone of smoky, bacony goodness.

Head: Pastrami, Crouton, Brown Butter paired with Cooper Mountain Tocai Friulano 2009 Willamette Valley
The pastrami was made with some super tasty part of the head & the croutons were made with head cheese. I could have popped those croutons in my mouth all night, crunchy yet unctuous & perfectly crisp with the right amount of salt. I love the Cooper Mountain Tocai with its bracing acidity & hint of nuttiness which sliced through the tongue pastrami. So good.

Shoulder: Pork, Pot Pie, Offal, Apple paired with Coltibuono Cancelli 2008 Tuscany
This course was the closest thing to "cute" that we ate that night. It looks like an egg doesn't it? The rich filling of shoulder & various organ meats was a nice contrast to the brightness of the apple based sauce on top. Of course the pasty was made using lard. Delicious, delicious lard. What is needed with the boldness of offal is acidity & the Cancelli had that in spades.

A/M "Ramen": Pork Belly, 63 degree egg, brodo paired with Boroli Barbera d'Alba 2008 Piedmont
Two words; skin noodles. Yep. The "ramen" was made from pig skin. Ingenious. I don't know how they got those noodles to be so tender & succulent. The broth was some serious stuff. I wanted to jump in the bowl & swim around. The pork belly needs no words because of course these guys rocked out some good belly. The egg was sublime. Creamy, rich & soooo luscious. The barbera brought spice & darkness which played nicely off the asian spice laced brodo.

Pasta: Smoked flour, Lardo, Tomato Sugo paired with Taurino Salice Salentino 2006
Really? Smoked flour? Really? Who thinks of this??! If it wasn't evident before its obvious that Michael & Andrew are quite creative. When the plate was set down what I saw was a simple plate of ravioli. Therein lies the beauty. Simplicity gave way to earthy porky flavors with an undertone of smoke, luscious risotto filling & rich tomato sugo. The wine brought a figgy quality to the party & matched up nicely with a smokiness all its own.

Ham: Hay, Polenta, Red Eye Mustard paired with a housemade Smoked Porter
The sweet, savory, ham was cooked in hay which lent it a grassy note that played off the sweet-salty nature. I love ham & this was truly a new way of looking at it. The creamy polenta contrasted the firm ham. Again, they rolled out a housemade beer. Where the Bacon IPA was elegant the Porter was bold & super tasty.

Tail: Risotto, onion ash, leeks paired with Marchesy di Gresy Nebbiolo 2008 Piedmont
Braised....pig...tail. Whoa. It's fatty, rich, hardcore. Imagine pig flavor times 20. This showed a lot of guts. To me it was as if they threw down the gauntlet & said "ok guys, you like pig? Show me." It was very rich & was a gorgeous match for the heft, spice & tannin of the nebbiolo.

Zeppole: bacon, chocolate paired with Tenuta Sant'Antonio Ripasso 2007
Bacon & chocolate is a combination that is one of my weak spots. Kelly gets me the Vosges Haut Chocolat Bacon Bars at Christmas in my stocking because he knows how much it gets me. The zeppole was crisp yet fluffy with salty little bits of heavenly bacon. I'm not sure but I think there was bacon fat in the chocolate sauce. This was a pig lovers dessert but more importantly a really damn good finish to a great meal. For me, cabernet & chocolate is kind of boring. Doesn't really work. However, ripasso & chocolate? Heavenly.

Thank you Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen for a meal that I will be talking about & salivating over for a very long time.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Tasting at Majestic

I just returned from a tasting of Gundlach Bundschu wines at the Majestic Grille. The Majestic is one of those places that simultaneously feels cosmopolitan & comfortable due to a sleek design & welcoming staff. Obviously, I've waxed poetic about their brunch & dinner but they also hold very fun & cool events. This Gundlach Bundschu tasting was a chance to taste some of their current releases as well as view a gallery style showing of the art of Betsy Bird. Chef Patrick Reilly created a selection of pairings that not only matched up with each wine but also was a unique play off the Gundlach Bundschu name. If you haven't been to one of Majestic's events before you should go to the next one.....& the next one after that....& the next one...& so on.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Wine Tasting March 3rd

The list of wines is starting to shape up for Joe's Wines "Bang For Your Buck: Best Wines Under $20" tasting. Thursday March 3rd join the Joe's staff at Playhouse On The Square from 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm for this awesome wine tasting. You'll be sure to find a few new favorites. Tickets are $35/person & can be purchased at Joe's Wines 1681 Poplar or call 901.725.4252. In addition to the 40+ wines on hand to taste we will be serving some hearty appetizers to balance out all the wine. Don't miss it!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Dinner at Bari

I'm thankful that we have so many delicious restaurants in Memphis such as Bari. Honestly it has been quite some time since we sat down & had a full meal there. Bari has become something of a favorite watering hole for us due to their brilliant Martini Mondays. Marlinee & Max invited us to come dine with them & we of course accepted. There are numerous vegetarian options for Kelly & seafood/meat options for myself.

I started with a bracingly delicious glass of Nino Franco Rustico Prosecco because really, what better way is there to start a meal? Kelly & Max both started with Hendrick's Gin martinis, their poison of choice. There is something about Hendrick's that is simultaneously savory & sweet with a super refreshing hit of cucumber.

Our first course was an antipasti platter of grilled eggplant, roasted mushrooms, calabrase salami, speck, & a selection cheeses. I'm blanking on the cheeses but quite honestly you can't go wrong with just about any of Bari's cheese selection. Their selection is extensive & the staff is very well versed in each of them.

Next up for me was the Orecchiette alla Pugliese: handmade “little ear” pasta, sauteed rapini, tomatoes, salt cured anchovies, and garlic. The handmade pasta was tender but toothsome with an unctuous creamy texture. The dish hits on all centers of the palate, with a combination of flavors that was absolutely delicious. Savory, salty, sweetness from the tomato & earthiness from the garlic & anchovy. One of the best dishes in Memphis in my opinion.

When ordering my next course it was a difficult decision between the pork special (roasted with honey, chilis & garlic) or the Piedmontese Montana Strip Loin (garlic, olive oil, herbs). I went with the steak.

It was perfectly medium rare & so ridiculously tender presented in a very simple & straightforward way. The beef is the star here & that is a hallmark of Italian cooking: let the ingredients shine through. I'm craving this steak right now as I'm writing this.

We had to have dessert of course, along with a little Tuaca on the side, & I am obsessed with chocolate. Naturally, I went for the Torte di Cioccolato:house made dark chocolate espresso cake with dark chocolate mousse and chocolate ganache. A good dessert can help cleanse the bad memories of a not so good dinner. But in this case, this rich, velvety, earthy chocolate dessert helped continue the smile on my face that started with the first sip of prosecco. Every single morsel of food that evening was near perfect & more importantly, truly delicious. Get to Bari now & have dinner. You owe it yourself.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This Tuesday Feb 22

You won't want to miss this event. If you are in Memphis this Tuesday do yourself a favor & check this out. This progressive tasting is a great opportunity to taste the delicious food of Majestic Grille & some great Sonoma County wines. Get into it!

F&W People's Best New Chef

Click here & vote for Ryan Trimm of Memphis' very own Sweetgrass Restaurant for Food & Wine Best New Chef 2011. Sweetgrass has quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in town. If you haven't checked it out, do so. If you have, then go vote for Ryan. Voting concludes March 1.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Willamette & Iris

Tuesday March 1st Restaurant Iris is hosting a wine dinner with Willamette Valley Vineyards. Winemaker, & former Memphian, Don Crank will be greeting guests, answering questions & sharing insight into the beauty of Oregon wine. Cocktails & passed appetizers begin at 6:00 with dinner following promptly at 6:30. Cost is $65/person plus tax & gratuity. For reservations please call 901.590.2828.

Monday, February 07, 2011

Friday February 18th & Saturday February 19th Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen is hosting their annual “Swine & Wine Dinner”. Chefs Michael Hudman & Andrew Ticer are getting free range, heritage breed pigs from venerable producer Newman Farms in Missouri. These rock stars of the pork world are the stars of the show in this seven course snout to tail wine dinner. Every year this event sells out so call immediately if you want a reservation. $100 person, cocktails at 6:30 p.m. with dinner starting at 7:00 p.m. Call Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen at 901.347.3569 for reservations.

Bang For Your Buck

Joe's Wines & Liquor will be hosting the next big wine tasting at Playhouse on the Square Thursday March 3rd 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Tickets are $35/person. This Tasting’s theme will be “Best Bang for Your Buck: Delicious Wines Under $20”. We will be sampling between 35-40 different wines from all around the world alongside tasty appetizers. If you would like to purchase tickets you may stop by the store at 1681 Poplar Ave.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Years Go By

This month marks the 5th year anniversary of Joe's Wines & Liquors Winos Club. I started working here just 2 months after the Winos Wine Club started & I'm now in control of that club. For $35 per month each member receives 2 bottles of wine that has been personally selected by myself. I taste through countless bottles of wine with my friend & co-worker, Richard Lewis, in order to select the best & most unique. Along with those 2 bottles each member receives tasting notes, they are placed on a special email list & they receive a special discount on wine purchases. Plus, the 2 bottles always amount to way more than $35 of retail value. It's a total bargain. It's been so amazing to watch people's reactions when they see what wines they are receiving. Some at first look at the bottle & say such things as "what is a roussanne?" but then came back to say "that wine was DELICIOUS! I'll take two more." There are few things as satisfying as receiving those positive reactions. I've received my fair share of negative comments of course but not everyone is going to like everything in the wine club. For me it's been about showcasing winemakers & regions that aren't the most well known & also showcasing those that I feel an intense connection with. It's about helping people explore the world of wine. Most importantly it's about sharing. Sharing my passion for wine with others. It's been a lot of fun. I couldn't do this without the support of all 285 members, those who have been with me since the beginning & those who are recent members. Thank you!

Thursday, February 03, 2011

No Menu Monday Revisited

A few months ago Kelly & I went to Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen's No Menu Monday. I'm all for giving over control & just seeing what the chef puts out. Kelly....not so much. However, he was being a good sport & really enjoyed everything he ate. All of us were thrilled with it & couldn't wait to come back. Fast forward to this past Monday & Andrew Michael's Vegetarian No Menu Monday. Now, as I stated in my previous post I pretty much hate labels. However, in this case it was necessary to label it as "Vegetarian" so people would know it wouldn't be an all out pork-fest. We arrived to a packed restaurant. There are few things that make me as happy as seeing a busy independent restaurant. These guys deserve every bit of success that they receive & I really think A-M is a jewel in Memphis' culinary crown. Now, their No Menu Mondays always end with a handwritten menu but I thought I'd start with it since y'all might not have been there.

We brought along many delicious wines to sample but one of the standouts was the Torii Mor Pinot Noir 2008 Willamette Valley $22.99. Anyone who reads this blog knows I'm obsessed with Oregon so of course I brought a bottle of some Oregon deliciousness.

It had a solid backbone, luscious elegant texture & an earthy hit that lingered along so beautifully.

The amuse was unique & exciting-a black olive "oyster". Some molecular gastronomy was in play here & really set the tone for the playfulness of the meal.

First course was the Chubby Vegetarian "scallop". Oyster mushroom, carrot salt, carrot curd & a carrot mint salad. Absolutely wonderful.

Second course of Smoked Ravioli stuffed with a BBQ risotto in bay leaf butter with charred scallion. When it came out I thought the charred scallion was shaved truffle which makes me giddy. However, finding out that it was scallion was pretty unique & exciting too. Again with the playfulness. It was blatantly obvious that Michael & Andrew were having a lot of fun & that carried over to the food & of course the diners.

Each & every course was well thought out but never over wrought, full of flavor, hinting at whimsy & brimming with fun. It's nights like this that I'm happy to be a Memphian & can't help but feel like the luckiest guy in the world. Surrounded with people I love, sipping good wine, eating extraordinary food & never wanting to leave.