Wednesday, November 28, 2012

2nd Annual Passport to Oregon

Passport to Oregon, Memphis' premier tasting of the best wines in Oregon, returns to the University Club on Thursday February 21st from 4:30-7 p.m. Those of you who attended the 1st Annual Passport to Oregon saw first-hand how much fun this event was & how exceptional the wines were. Each winery will be represented by someone direct from the winery. This is a rare opportunity to taste wines with the very people who had a hand in making them. Most of last year's wineries will be returning along with a few new faces. Tickets are $45 plus tax and include heavy "Northwest" inspired appetizers. Special discounts will be offered on orders placed that night. Wineries who will be in attendance include: Adelsheim, Argyle, Elk Cove, R Stuart, Bethel Heights, Erath, Anne Amie & many more! For tickets contact Joe's Wines & Liquors, 901.725.4252.

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Beer on the Bocce at Hog & Hominy

I am thrilled to announce a partnership between Joe's Wines & Hog & Hominy for an upcoming dinner pairing unique craft beers with their creatively delicious food. On Sunday October 7th at 4pm please join us for what will surely go down as the best beer-food pairing of the year. Chefs Andrew Ticer & Michael Hudman have crafted a menu that will make this unlike any beer dinner you've ever experienced. Prepare yourself for an afternoon of courses that elevate, mirror & contrast against a wide variety of domestic & international craft beer. We met with the chefs & General Manager Nick Talarico to reverse engineer the menu using the elements of the beer as the jumping off point. The chefs unique perspective on Italian food with a Southern sensibility has garnered them critical acclaim, national press & even a coveted James Beard award nomination. There are a limited amount of seats available. When making reservations please be sure to have a credit card handy to secure your spot. Cost to attend is $70/person plus tax & tip. To make reservations please call Hog & Hominy 901.207.7396.

Small Plates Pairing with Sparkling Wines At Sweetgrass

Chef Ryan Trimm has created a unique menu around some bad ass sparkling wines for this Thursday's Cooper Young Night Out event. Sweetgrass will start offering the menu at 5:30 but there is no need to arrive right on time. The pairing will be offered until 8:00 pm. Come taste some really good bubbly with me! The menu & price are listed below. Thursday, October 4, 2012 Tuna Tartare avocado, kim chee, cilantro, sesame-red miso Segura Viudas Brut Rosé NV, D.O. Cava Duck Liver Mousse pickled grapes, arugula, grilled sourdough La Scolca “Rugrè” Sparkling Corese NV, Piedmont Braised Newman Farm Pork Belly green lentils, honey thyme reduction Segura Viudas Reserva Heredad, D.O. Cava Vanilla Scented Quail poached pear, pea shoots, lavender broth Argyle Brut, 2008 Willamette Valley 25++ No need to call & make reservations just stop in.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Cochon Heritage BBQ

Cochon Heritage BBQ will descend upon my hometown of Memphis on Labor Day weekend. This insanely delicious, pig loving, whiskey loving festival has something for everyone. Join me at the Mixologist's Rooftop Soiree on Friday August 31st at the Peabody Hotel. I don't want to divulge what I'm making for my featured because I don't want my competition to get a look at what they have to beat. But I'll give you a little tease: sarsaparilla.
I'll also be serving some very interesting cocktails at Food Republic's After Hours Brunch & Midnight Bourbon Toast. Hint: Bloody Mary goes Asian, Molè meets bourbon, Breakfast!
Sunday morning I'll be leading a cocktail seminar at the Peabody as well as pouring delicious bourbon drinks at Felicia Suzanne's Bourbon Reception to celebrate National Bourbon Month.
Obviously the best way to go is to by a full weekend ticket so you don't miss anything. However, the beauty of the events is that you can buy tickets to almost any of the events separately. Come down to Memphis & drink well, eat well & have fun with some of the most amazing culinary personalities in the U.S.
For more information visit: Cochon Heritage BBQ

Monday, August 20, 2012

Hog & Hominy

The opening of Michael Hudman & Andy Ticer's new restaurant, Hog & Hominy, was easily the most highly anticipated opening of the past few years. These chefs are banging out some of the best food in the country at their restaurant Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen which is conveniently located across the street from H&H.
The menu is difficult to navigate only because I can't decide on what NOT to order. Kelly & I went one night & walked into a hopping, electric & very much busy restaurant. I love to see that. A busy, independently, locally owned restaurant is a vital life sign to the health of a city.
We started with a selection of fresh, raw east coast oysters & arancini stuffed with mushrooms. The oysters were so briny yet creamy & tasted of the ocean. The mignonette on the side was bright & acidic which perfectly cut through the richness of the oyster. The arancini is one of my favorite snacks. They remind me of my mom. Andy & Michael's arancini is a perfect little snack size hug. It was creamy, savory & earthy. Delicious.
Kelly went with the Prewitt pizza with eggs & boudin. The crust was snappy & had a lovely chew. The boudin was so creamy & meaty which blended perfectly into the egg. I had the fluke crudo with lemon, olive oil & serrano chili. The fluke was so creamy & practically melted in my mouth. The lemon provided that perfect zing against the rich fish.
We finished with the fig, melon & prosciutto salad with a creamy housemade cheese. The sweetness & caramel-like nature of the figs & sweetness of melon is braced with the salty creamy texture of the cheese. It has a certain richness to it but its not heavy at all. I also got to taste the barrel aged Negroni that Manager/Beverage Director Nick said was almost ready. It was deeelish!
My friend Richie & I popped in for a quick bite & a drink last Saturday & thankfully were able to squeeze into two seats at the bar. Our first order of business was to try the grilled watermelon cocktail with chartreuse & basil. It was sweet & herbaceous & WAY to easy to drink. We discovered what is quite possibly the best snack in the history of the world. Gorgonzola stuffed fried olives with fried chicken skin. I wanted 14 bowls of them. We also shared lamb ribs with cuban bbq sauce over pea pods & potatoes in a creamy sauce. The fat is really the star of the show on this plate. Its really a unique fat here. It was in solid form on the rib but as soon as it hit my mouth it just seemed to liquefy. It melted in my hands & I didn't mind whatsoever. It was so so good.
I love H&H's cocktail program. In my opinion it is one of the most unique cocktail programs in town. They are barrel aging cocktails, making their own maraschino cherries (absolutely delicious) & using lots of unique spirits. They have a kick ass beer selection too. I'm simultaneously happy & sad that H&H isn't in Midtown. I'm happy that I won't be spending all my time & cash there but I'm sad that it isn't close by.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Going Back to Cali part 4

When I was in the midst of planning this trip for the wine club I started thinking about my connection with California wine. I didn't have one really. Sure there are wineries that I respect but honestly I rarely reach for a California wine when I'm selling to a customer or buying for myself. I knew that in order for this experience to be personally successful I had to have that "a-ha" moment. However, going into an experience like this with such an expectation could be detrimental. What if I didn't have that connective moment? Thankfully I did have that...twice. I've been curious about Unti Vineyards for quite some time now. They grow grapes that are outside of the norm of Dry Creek Valley such as barbera, picpoul, grenache blanc, cinsault & montepulciano among others. I just had to take the group by there. We were initially just going to run into the tasting room, buy some bottles & take them back to the house with us. Well that plan went out the window when they invited us to stay & taste through their wines. The winery itself is super small. The "tasting room" is their barrel room & office all in one small area. So cool! Their wines were not your typical Dry Creek Valley viscous fruit bombs that I've seen. These were elegant yet still powerful, with spice, gorgeous texture & aromas. I was in love. I wanted to stay there the entire trip & just keep on sipping. I wanted to run through the vines like a wild stallion until I collapsed in the soil. Unfortunately I didn't snap any photos at Unti because I was too engrossed in the wines. Go there now & buy their wines......then send them to me.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Going Back to Cali pt 3

We started our day at Frei Brothers Ranch. Frei is one of Gallo's many producers in California. While many may view Gallo as just simply another large producer I've always viewed them in a different way. Yes they are one of the largest wine companies in the world. Yes they produce some very bottom shelf bulk wines. However, they are still family owned & they are not publicly traded. Additionally they are very focused on making a positive impact on the environment.
Their 50/50 program sets aside an acre of land to protect & enhance wildlife for every acre of land under vine. But their positive environmental doesn't stop there as you can see from the link above.
Their Frei Ranch property is set amongst the gorgeous rolling hills of Dry Creek Valley. On this quite large property they grow merlot, chardonnay, zinfandel & a few other grape types.
We were taken all over the property by our gorgeous greek tour guide. She was very personable, very knowledgeable & super nice. At each stop on the tour of the grounds she had a different bottle ready for us to drink. What really stuck with me was our view into the production facility & the barrel cave. They were massive facilities. MASSIVE. If they were set in a warehouse park it would come off as a wine "Area 51" but set amongst the Valley it softened the hard edges. There was a beautiful row of redwood trees that bordered the outdoor production facilities. We were informed that Gallo actually spent the cash to uproot them from their original spot & move them to make way for new tanks. The fact that they even considered, not to mention actually doing it, as opposed to just getting rid of them is shocking to me. I commend them for that.
As you can see their barrel room is gargantuan. As is my smile. I can't help but be happy when I'm surrounded by wine.
After Frei we drove over to Ridge Vineyards-Lytton Springs. Ridge has always held a soft spot in my heart. The estate vines are old, gnarled & almost menacing looking. Richie & I remarked that they looked like something out of a Tim Burton movie. They could almost reach out & grab you & devour you. The wines themselves straddled the gap between elegance & bold power.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Going Back to Cali pt 2

After the outrageous brews of Lagunitas we drove northeast of Petaluma to meet up with hometown boy Mike Drash of Tallulah Winery. Mike has worked for some of the best & most highly regarded wineries in California (ahem..Far Niente). Those big bombastic style wines of some of his previous wineries may not be my thing but I definitely like what he is doing at Tallulah. His sauvignon blanc & syrahs are deep, lush, spicy & delicious.
We pulled up at Farina Vineyard near Glen Ellen & were greeted by a smiling Mike Drash, his two dogs & a cooler full of wine perched on the back of his truck. He obviously knows the way to southerner's hearts. As we sipped his Farina Vineyard chardonnay Richie & Brad pulled out the dungeness crab. The sweet, succulent, briny richness of the crab matched up wonderfully against the rich, round texture of the chardonnay. Its acidity also cut through the suppleness of the crab.
The latest addition to the Drash family is Chester, a golden lab who was HUGE. Both Chester & Dexter (not pictured but a super sweet chocolate lab) romped around the vineyard as we sipped the fruits of their Dad's labor. Once it was time to leave we jumped in our vans & drove north to our houses in Guerneville. Once we changed & cleaned up a bit we headed over to Hook & Ladder winery for a little bbq amongst the vines.
The lovely people at Hook & Ladder (thanks Kate!) set a this beautiful table for us between the vines & the bocce court. Obviously a few fierce games broke out before & after dinner. Their sauvignon blanc was spicy & smelled of fresh habeneros which really got our mouths watering. I think my favorite of theirs was the carignane which had these smooth edges, an earthy spice & a nice dark core.
As you can see my girl Fiona is enjoying a bit of the sauvignon blanc herself.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Going back to Cali pt 1

Our long awaited Joe's Wine Club trip to Sonoma has come & gone & I'm still basking in how wonderful of an experience it was.
The best way to start it all off was our DIRECT FLIGHT to SFO. It's been too long since I've had a direct flight & they are truly the last enjoyable things about air travel. As you can see from above I was getting myself in the right mindset for a week of professional imbibing. When we touched down we went immediately to our hotel, grabbed a quick bite & crashed. The next day I was up bright & early (still on Central time) & ventured out for coffee.
But not before gazing out of my hotel room up at Coit Tower for a bit. I met up with cohorts Richard & Kelly to peruse the Wharf.
These succulent looking bad boys were just calling out "eat me"! so we scooped up some to take up to wine country.
After wandering around & checking out the waterfront we hopped in our rental vans & headed north to our first stop of the trip: Gloria Ferrer.
I absolutely adore bubbly & Gloria does a good job making good quality affordable bubbles. I wish more people would drink bubbly on a regular basis...but I digress. The wonderful staff at Gloria had set up tables & lunch for us right on a lovely terrace overlooking the vineyards. As we sipped their lovely wine the sun warmed us but didn't bake us. Each different bottle expressed a unique fruit flavor & texture. The Blanc de Blancs & Royal Cuvee were my favorite. They were bright, nutty, floral & not too fruit forward.
We said our goodbyes & thank yous & headed toward more bubbles.
Lagunitas is one of the biggest craft breweries in the U.S but their size hasn't muddled quality. Their uniquely delicious beers are some of the best I've ever tasted. Ron Lindenbusch led us through a lineup of some of the best beers they make at Lagunitas. After waking up our palates with beer we headed on northward to meet up with a hometown boy made good....

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Le Bon Appetit Dinner for Le Bonheur Hospital At Sweetgrass

I just received this email from Chef Ryan Trimm at Sweetgrass:
We are having a really exciting event at Sweet Grass on June 28th. We are holding a fundraising dinner in cooperation with Blackberry Farm for Lebonheur Children's Hospital to kick off Le Bon Apetit. Michael Sullivan of Blackberry Farm and I will put together a charcuterie platter to start. Barry Maiden of Hungry Mother in Boston is opening with a fish course. Kevin Nashan of Sydney Street Café in St. Louis is putting up an entrée, Porchetta of Goat. Shannon Walker of Blackberry Farm is constructing a cheese plate. And Sweet Grass will serve a dessert. Chase Cellars, Napa Valley, a great boutique vineyard will be the featured winery and this will be their introduction into the Memphis market. Reservations are $150 plus gratuity per seat. There could possibly be one or two more local chefs involved.
This is an extremely rare opportunity to witness the talents of some incredible super star chefs all under one roof. Great food, great wine & a great cause. Don't miss this!
Sweetgrass Restaurant, 901.278.0278

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Roses of Summer at Joe's Wines & Liquors

There is nothing that is more enjoyable in the oppressive summer of Memphis than good dry rosé. Our shipments of some of the best rosés on the market are starting to arrive & we are stacking them up & chilling them down for you. With summer starting so early we anticipate that these may not last until the worst heat of the summer. We have never seen such a huge response to rosés this early in the season!
Adelsheim Rosé of Pinot Noir 2011 Willamette Valley $18.99
(a Joe’s Exclusive!) This is one of Oregon's most delicate and nuanced offerings. A beautiful array of strawberry, cherry and rhubarb are balanced by crisp acidity. This medium weight rosé will develop after its been opened and shouldn't be served too cold. -
Elk Cove Rosé of Pinot Noir 2011 Willamette Valley $16.99
Elk Cove's 2011 offering is surprisingly dry and stylistically reminiscent of those made in the French birthplace of rosé, Provence. The inviting pale watermelon hue leads to a nose of dried strawberries, floral notes, and perhaps even a touch of anise. The palate is bright & fresh with lots of minerality and bright, mouthwatering acidity that leaves you wanting more. -
Ponzi Rosé of Pinot Noir 2011 Willamette Valley $17.99
Last year we sold out of this glorious rosé in just 2 weeks! Ponzi delivers an amazingly balanced wine. Bright fruit is perfectly offset by vibrant acidity and a palate that is luscious without coming across as weighty. The whole affair is brought to a close with a zingy tart cherry finish. Beautifully done. -
Belle Glos Pinot Noir Blanc 2011 Sonoma County $20.99
California too can make a fine rosé! Belle Glos, now famous for its almost too reasonable Meiomi Pinot Noir, is now producing a single vineyard Pinot Noir rosé! While many producers use saignée, excess bled off juice from red wine production, to make their pink wines, Belle Glos manages the Brugioni Vineyard in Sonoma County with the sole intention of making this great rosé. We bought the last remaining cases from the wholesaler. -
Chateau des Annibals 2011 Provence $20.99
This biodynamic beauty is a perfect example of why Provence is the queen of rosé. The pale, antique rose/skin tone hue is indicative of the greatest wines from the region. These wines where originally produced to pair with the Mediterranean cuisine consumed in the area. Shellfish, Bouillabaisse and Aiolis really make this style of wine shine. The AOC for Provence was actually signed in this Chateau! -
Domaine Houchart 2011 Cotes de Provence $15.99
Houchart has always been a great entry level Provencal buy. It also has consistently been of excellent quality despite how the vintage faired. There is delicate but fresh bright fruit on the palate with a nice hint of the minerality indicative of the region. This wine has been a Joe's staple for years. -
La Remise de la Mordoree 2011 $15.99
There are only 2 cases of this Marselan-Merlot blend! If that first wine listed in the blend seems unfamiliar, you're not mistaken. Marselan is a mid 19th century hybrid of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache. This varietal is only grown in a few vineyards across the globe and offers a profile quite unlike anything else! This slightly fuller-bodied rosé offers an array of baking spices on the nose with hints of black pepper and a rich, round mouthfeel. If you are at all interested in pursuing Marselan further, we carry a red wine made by the same grape. -
Charles & Charles 2011 Syrah Rosé Washington State $13.99
This Washington State wine delivers a ton of character for the asking price. Big bright Rainier cherries and fresh strawberries dominate a palate with plenty of acidity to keep it fresh. When it comes to bang for your buck, this is one of our best! -
Sensation 2011 Cotes du Rhone $13.99
Both the 'Sensation' and the following 'In Fine' Rosé are brought in by Bourgeois Family Selections. The owner, Philip Bourgeois, finds small family owned wineries that are organic, biodynamic, or at least sustainably farmed and gives them the opportunity to export their exceptional wines. These tiny operations would never see representation in the U.S. if it wasn't for this small import company. Sensation Cotes du Rhone offers aromas of peaches and berry fruit that carry through to the palate. 55% Cinsault, 25% Grenache, 15% Carignan and 5% Syrah. -
In Fine 2011 Cotes du Ventoux $12.99
Another great offering from the Bourgeois Family, this is one of the driest rosés we have this year and is quite indicative of what Southern Rhone Valley rose has to offer. Stone fruit, with little hints of dried strawberries and blackberries, this Grenache driven blend is a fantastic food wine. Hard, saltier cheeses, olives & salamis all bring out the dynamic nature of this wine. -
Arizona Stronghold “Dayden” 2010 Arizona $16.99
Maynard Keenan (lead singer from Tool, A Perfect Circle) and Eric Glomski teamed up together to grow wine in Cochise County (Tombstone) Arizona. They did a great job! You can watch what a nightmarish process it was to carve out these vineyards in the documentary "Blood Into Wine." Last time we checked, it was streaming on Netflix. This darker crimson rosé offers plenty of bright tropical fruit with flinty mineral notes that are indicative of Arizona wines.
All of these wines can be purchased at Joe's Wines & Liquors, 1681 Poplar, 901.725.4252

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Dinner with Kathleen Inman

If you are a fan of Russian River Valley you absolutely MUST go to this dinner. Napa Cafe is one of my favorites & they always put on a fantastic dinner. For more information click here.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Perhaps Whats Wrong with The Business

Unbelievable: This goes against everything I love about the wine business: link

Monday, April 30, 2012

Project Green Fork's Spring Supper

Project Green Fork is one of the most vital organizations we have. They help lead restaurants to become more environmentally conscious. They help them recycle, compost, replace their take-out containers with compostable containers & much much more. I absolutely love eating at PGF certified restaurants. I can take pride in the fact that my $ is supporting those who are doing their best to be good stewards of the planet. What better way to help support Project Green Fork than to eat & drink? I'll be crafting the welcome cocktail using Corsair Artisan Spirits!
Purchase tickets here.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Dinner with Trey Busch at Napa Cafe

I was thrilled to learn that Trey Busch, winemaker of Sleight of Hand Cellars in Walla Walla, would be coming to town. The icing on the cake was finding out that Napa Cafe was hosting a dinner pairing his wines with some fabulous courses. Napa's wine dinners are always so well thought out & paired in very interesting ways. Chef Rick's food is truly some of the best in the city. Match that with Sleight if Hand's fantastic wines & this was sure to be an awesome Tuesday night.
As an aperitif we were poured both Renegade Wine Co. Chardonnay 2009 Columbia Valley & Renegade Wine Co. Red Wine 2008 Horse Heaven Hills. The chardonnay was steely & bright with lots of tingly acidity that got my mouth watering & ready to take a bite out of something. The merlot had dark lush plum & blackberry fruit with a nice hint of fennel & dusty tannin. They are both lovely & inexpensive introductions to the Trey Busch style.
First Course: Smoked Trout & Granny Smith Apple Salad
Paired with Sleight of Hand "The Magician" Evergreen Vineyard Gewurztraminer-Riesling, Columbia Valley 2010
This dish was lovely way to begin. The smoky briny flavors of the trout balanced against the crisp tart-sweetness of the apple were perfect together. The dish itself was almost like a pate or terrine that was creamy & spreadable. The wine's acidity cut through the richness like a laser. This blend is floral without being like perfume & has gorgeous notes of jasmine, ginger, honeysuckle, mandarin orange with a bright racy palate. Even though the pairing itself was done so well I could easily see having either the dish by itself of drinking this wine without any food. They were matched well but could stand alone.
Second Course: Littleneck clams with bacon, parsley, olive oil & white wine
Paired with Modern Wine Co. Chardonnay Columbia Valley 2008
I was very interested in tasting wine because I was hoping it would continue my belief that Washington wines have much more age-ability than California. Typically consumers might shy away from a four year old white wine. However, this chardonnay did live up to expectation & showcased that even Washington whites are have longevity without sacrificing anything like texture or flavor. The clams were beautifully tender with a clean savory, ocean sweetness that were amplified by my best friend bacon. The chardonnay took it to the limit of almost overwhelming the clams but then seamlessly intertwined with the flavors the dish. I love clams so I adored this pairing. I try not to make prejudiced statements such as "I hate chardonnay" because I hate people who say that. However, I typically am not going to reach for a chardonnay when I'm selecting white wine. This wine would definitely be one I would go for. It has power & depth but is balanced by vibrant acid without which would change it completely.
Third Course: Venison Loin, rosemary, cherries, sweet potato
Paired with Sleight of Hand "The Spellbinder" Red blend Columbia Valley 2010
It isn't often that one sees venison on a menu which is strange given that the Memphis area is filled with so many avid hunters. Regardless, I was happy to see it & even more excited to taste it paired with this wine. The venison had a very tender texture but still some toothsomeness to keep it from being almost too tender. The rosemary & cherries brought out the mild gamy quality of the meat which matched up so well against the round, gripping dark fruit & fine grained tannins of the Spellbinder. The wine itself doesn't need food to help it along but it was a seriously delicious match with the venison. I hope to see venison more often.
Fourth Course: Chile Rubbed flank steak, Bone Marrow, Parsnips, Red Wine Sauce
Paired with Modern Wine Co Malbec Columbia Valley 2005 & 2007
It's always a special treat to taste side by side vintage comparisons. Malbec is a rising star grape in Washington & it's easy to see why. It has the texture & bold fruit of Argentina but a hint of earth & age-ability of Cahors. Marrow. Marrow. Marrow. I love love LOVE marrow. Whats not to love? It's meat butter! This was easily one of the most beautifully plated dishes I've had in a while. The steak was lovingly draped over a sawed open marrow bone that cradled the perfectly seared meat. It tasted outstanding too. The flank was cooked perfectly medium rare with a nice hit of chile that was soothed by the rich creamy marrow. Both vintages dark fruit & earthy spice notes lifted up the chile & smokiness of the meat. The 2005 had begun to mellow but still had years & years of life in it. The 2007 was almost a baby with bold dark depth that spoke of years to come of unraveling flavors. Trey is a very cool down to earth guy & his wines are fantastic. It's always so wonderful to meet winemakers whose wines I adore. It's even better when they turn out to be as friendly of a person as Trey. Napa Cafe rocked this dinner. I can't wait to see the new bar! All of the above wines are available at Joe's Wines & Liquors, 1681 Poplar, 901.725.4252. Follow Joe's on Twitter @joeswines or find them on Facebook.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Monday, March 19, 2012

They Better Win

Kelly & I decided to go to a play with our very good friends Marlinee & Max this past Saturday. If you haven't seen God of Carnage at the Playhouse on the Square then you have to go immediately. It was FANTASTIC! Since the play started at 8 we had to make very early dinner reservations. Dining with the blue hairs so to speak. We went to one of my favorite restaurants, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. Chefs Michael Hudman & Andrew Ticer have been nominated for a James Beard award AND they were nominated for People's Best New Chef by Food & Wine Magazine. These two deserve to win for many reasons but mainly because their food is fantastic & they are such genuinely nice guys.
We sat outside to enjoy the wonderful Memphis spring. Before it gets oppressively hot & sticky which I'm sure will happen any day now. For my starter I ordered the Parmiggiano Sformato with neck bone gravy & a quail egg.
The texture of the sformato was so luxurious & rich. The neckbone gravy contrasted that with a savory earthy umami characteristic. Go order this immediately before they change the menu for Spring!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sidney Street Cafe in St Louis

Back in February I was a judge for Cochon 555 here in Memphis. It was a once in a lifetime experience that I will never forget. If I ever get the chance to do it again I will absolutely do so. One of the competing chefs was Kevin Nashan from Sidney St Cafe in St Louis. I was very impressed with what he & his team put out especially their menu presentation. Since we were going to StL for a Radiohead concert last weekend I figured we should also go check out Kevin's restaurant. We got a reservation for 8 so we were able to spend the day bouncing around town & basking in the wonderful weather. When the time came to depart for dinner our friend's Crystal & Okan decided to come along with us. I figured that was fine since of our 4 top one dropped out so we were left with 3. When we arrived at the restaurant we were informed that they didn't have a table to accommodate the extra person. I said we didn't mind if they just pulled a chair up to our original table if that would work. The manager said that they couldn't do that because it runs the risk of backing up into another table. I said we didn't mind but he explained that they didn't want to compromise another table's comfort & space.
At first I didn't quite get why they couldn't add a chair. However, we went to the bar to wait for a table & ordered a bottle of Bethel Heights Pinot Noir 2009. After relaxing with my glass of wine for a bit I realized that the manager's response is exactly what it should have been. In fact, I wish that more restaurants would have that same policy. I realized that if I were at an adjacent table & another chair was added that backed up into me or my guests I wouldn't appreciate it. That policy is obviously in place to make sure that ALL the guests are comfortable. After a short wait at the bar we were seated in the back room where a small table top chalkboard was set listing the specials. It was cute & more importantly unobtrusive. Our server was blunt & direct but not unfriendly. We ordered a sampler of all the starters which arrived split up on a small plate for each of us. The lobster turnover was outstanding. Rich & creamy with a briny sweetness from the crustacean. The sweetbreads were luscious, creamy & unctuous. I adore a sweetbread.
For my main course I ordered rabbit. Rabbit is always a draw for me because it's a very mild protein therefore a chef's technique really shines through. It was rabbit multiplied! Confit, rilletes, sausage...oh wow. I left all manners aside & just picked up the confit leg with my hands & chowed down. The rilletes were rich & luscious & I wished I could've ordered a jar to go. My dish paired perfectly with a bottle of Van Duzer Pinot Noir 2008 Willamette Valley. The earthy texture dried cherry fruit of the pinot played so well off the savory, rich, umami of the rabbit dish.
I can't wait to go back.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Blog to Book...Next up Beard?

We are so rich with culinary talent here in Memphis. I hope it's never taken for granted. My friends Justin & Amy of The Chubby Vegetarian are putting the finishing touches on their cookbook as we speak. Meanwhile my friends Paul & Angela Knipple are out on the road promoting their new cookbook The World in a Skillet.
Pick up a copy of their cookbook & join them at Restuarant Iris this Sunday at 6:00 p.m. Cost to attend is $60 plus tax & tip. Chef Kelly English will be putting his spin on some of the recipes from the book & both Paul & Angela created cocktails especially for this dinner. Come eat some delicious food, drink some tasty beverages & support some Memphis culinary cool kids. For reservations call 901.590.2828.

Monday, March 05, 2012

Swine & Wine 2012

It's no exaggeration that Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen's annual Swine & Wine event is my most favorite meal of the year. Pig & vino. Need I say more? Each year I always leave thinking "how are they going to top that next year?" & each year they do. Swine & Wine is not just a delicious meal but its also paying respects to the pig. To use only part of an animal & throw the rest out is disrespectful of the life it gave for us to be fed. It's truly obscene. Chefs Andrew Ticer & Michael Hudman not only pay respects to such a delicious animal, they elevate it.
Starting a meal with charcuterie sets a nice tone. Everyone reaching into the same platter of porky goodness sparks conversation, a convivial attitude & its just plain fun. Burning River Meats' Aaron Winters produced some deliciousness on this butcher board. Blood sausage, guanciale, lardo, mortadella, corn nuts, pork Every bite was fantastically porktastic.
I loved the whimsy of pairing the charcuterie platter with PBR. Sure a wine could have gone with it but honestly an ice cold beer & piggy treats are a perfect match.
I was so in love with the pig ear salad that I wolfed it down before I could snap a pic so I'm jumping ahead to the cannelloni. What you see here is spinach soubise wrapped in braised pig skin with trotters in a ham brodo. Yes I said pig skin. It was rich, succulent & almost creamy. Paired with the Cooper Mountain Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 Willamette Valley, wow. The wine exploded with fruit, earth & acidity after a bite of the rich cannelloni. The savory porkiness of the dish really paired well with the pinot noir. I'm so glad the guys were wide open to pairing non-italian wines with their dishes. I was really proud of this pairing.
I also unfortunately didn't snap a photo of the garganelli with offal ragu. Damn. That dish was so delicious. After that course we had crepinette of pig heart & snout over a sauerkraut puree with whole grain mustard "caviar". There was sweet, sour, spice, brininess that was bracing against the rich texture of the heart & snout. I am not a fan of sauerkraut at all. However the puree really worked here as a counterbalance against the pig. The leathery, dusty earthy darkness of Montecillo Rioja was brilliant with the mineral nature of the heart & snout.
Next was jowl of pork with a blood & beet risotto. It was a gorgeous plate. The bright red color was so vibrant against the rich jowl. Some may find this dish strange but honestly it was just like eating bacon or pork belly. The fat was creamy & succulent while the risotto brought an earthy sweetness. The last course of popcorn gelato with pork fat caramel, chocolate blood torte with peanuts was rich, sweet & just plain fun. Paired with the sweet unctuous Felsina Vin Santo was like a dream. I wish more people were into dessert wines. 2012 Swine & Wine. Wow! Thank you Chefs Andrew Ticer & Michael Hudman. Thank you Nick Talarico & the entire staff at AMIK. I'm already salivating for next year!

Thursday, March 01, 2012

Meet the Winemaker at Napa Cafe

I just received this email from Glenda Hastings owner of Napa Cafe. Rodney Strong wines are consistently some of the best in Sonoma/Alexander Valley. What a great opportunity & a great deal!
Napa Café & Rodney Strong
Special Guest Winemaker, Rick Sayre
Wine Tasting with Four Wines
Rodney Strong, Alexander's Crown, Cabernet Sauvignon Brother's Ridge, Cabernet Sauvignon Rockaway, Cabernet Sauvignon Symmetry Meritage
Appetizer Tasting
Mini BLT on Toasted Brioche Delta Grind Grit Cake, Fontina Cheese, Braised Beef Short Rib Sausage & Ricotta Canneloni, House Made Marinara
Monday, March 5, 2012 6:00-9:00 p.m. drop in, reservations recommended $15.00 per person includes Wine & Appetizer Tasting!
Reservations 683-0441 Napa Café 5101 Sanderlin Avenue Memphis, Tennessee 38117

Monday, February 27, 2012

Full Circle with Lachini Vineyards & Restaurant Iris

A few years ago I remember sitting down with Chef Kelly English, Jeffrey Frisby (GM/Wine Manager of Iris), & Elizabeth Mall (CSW at Delta Wholesale). Before Kelly & Restaurant Iris worked so hard to win such acclaim & well deserved accolades there was just the four of us tasting through an impressive lineup of wines. One of the standouts was from a small family owned winery in Newberg, Oregon. As we all sipped the Lachini Vineyards Estate Pinot Noir 2005 each of our eyes lit up & smiles spread across our faces. This wine was truly astonishing. The earthy tones, dark fruit, hedonistic yet elegant texture, & haunting sensuality. All four of us were changed after sipping what was in our glass. Shortly thereafter Ron Lachini came into town & Restaurant Iris very first wine dinner ever was to be with Ron. Unfortunately they didn't get their occupancy license yet so the dinner had to be switched to another restaurant.
Flash forward to last Friday when we all had a trip down memory lane with Lachini Vineyards.
Both Chef Kelly English & Jeff Frisby spoke to their love of Ron's wines & how that first sip stuck with them. Ever since they opened the doors Ron's wines have been on their list. Now they finally had a chance to show Ron how talented they were. Chef English's menu was absolutely perfect up against the gorgeous pinot noirs. The lucky 21 people in the room got a rare retrospective of 2005-2009 vintages along with a sampling of his Washington State projects La Bestia & Spur.
As we sipped we all engaged with one another & commented on each wine. Each glorious bite of food & each mouthful of elegant pinot was met with more oohs & aaahs & eyes rolling back into heads.
Ron is a very cool guy whose passion about his wine is infectious. When he got up to address the room he had everyone's undivided attention. We all wanted to hear from the man whose wine's we had fallen for.
Thankfully he didn't talk too long because I really wanted to dig into this alongside his 2010 Pinot Noir Port.
The rich creamy dark chocolate brownie with maple bacon....yes I said maple cream & caramel. Oh my god. With a sip of the Pinot Port it was absolute heaven. I ran a finger through the melted ice cream after all was said & done. It was pure delicious gluttony at its best. Thank you Restaurant Iris for the unbelievable meal. Thank you Jeff for the incredible service. Thank you Ron Lachini for the absolutely gorgeous wines.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

A Tale of Two Pinots at Majestic Grille

This past Wednesday two outstanding Oregon wineries, Elk Cove Vineyards & Lachini Vineyards, squared off in a head to head battle for Pinot Domination!.....ok not really but it sounds so fun that way. Chef Patrick Reilly prepared a stellar menu to pair with these delicious wines. It was obvious from the first bite that Patrick thought about each & every layer of flavor to match up & elevate each wine.
From Lachini Vineyards we sampled:
Rose of Pinot Noir
Pinot Gris
Estate Pinot Noir 2009
"S" Pinot Noir 2010
& Ron Lachini even brought some secret treats such as his La Bestia Cabernet Sauvignon, Cuvee Giselle Pinot Noir & Pinot Noir Port. A stunning lineup.
Todd Stewart from Elk Cove poured:
Dry Riesling
Pinot Blanc
Willamette Valley designate Pinot Noir
Mount Richmond Pinot Noir
Each of them presented their wines in a way that the diners could understand & be comfortable with. They discussed differences in their vineyards & school of thought when it comes to winemaking. This night was an absolute treat. Thank you Majestic Grille for all your hard work! Thank you Deni Reilly for your love of Oregon wines!

Oregon Wine Week - Memphis 2012 (unofficial)

This week was jam packed with dinners, our HUGE Oregon winery showcase tasting & of course Swine & Wine 2012 at Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. What I've learned from this week is that I do still have the stamina of a 20 something & that Memphis is thirsty for good wine especially from the Northwest. Memphis is my home & my home is a delicious city filled with lovers of good food & great wine. We may not be flashy like Nashville & we may not have the same level of mainstream media support, which quite frankly is inexcusable for a city of our size. Food sections in other cities, such as Charleston, are well put together, professional & coveted. What we have needs work. Regardless of that we are making amazing things happen here. Next year I expect more support & I expect a city wide Oregon Wine Week culminating in a huge tasting event. Memphis is in for a treat!

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Tale of Two Pinots

This is a dinner for Oregon lovers. Go to this!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Not A Wine Post

This morning I got to work at 7:30 a.m. to a box full of puppies that had been dropped at the back door like trash. My heart broke into a million pieces as I stared down into a cardboard box filled with 7 sweet fuzzy faces.
The person who left them to freeze & starve in our parking lot is obviously a sub human. Actually much much worse than that. If there is a hell there is a special place for this person. My co-worker & I sprang into action. He ran across the street to get food & I sent emails, tweeted, posted to FaceBook & hoped & prayed that someone would respond.
I held each one & whispered to them that everything was going to be ok. I kissed them on top of their sweet little heads.
Their sweet puppy fragrance was intoxicating & it truly took every fiber of my being not to take them or at least one of them home with me. But we have 3 dogs already & I knew Kelly would kill me if I brought another home.
Almost immediately phone calls & emails started coming in. One by one homes were found for each of them. Every time a puppy left I had to choke back tears. This is why I love Memphis. People have big warm hearts here & they open their homes to creatures in need that have been so horribly mistreated.
My faith in humanity was severely shaken before I even had a sip of coffee this morning. By 2 p.m. it was restored & stronger than ever. One of the guys who took 2 of the pups texted me this: "Hey, it's Alex. My parents are going to adopt both dogs. They named them Laverne & Shirley". These puppies hit the lottery.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Cochon 555 Porks Up Memphis pt 3

Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen was the final stop for the judge crew. We began with Kelly English & ended with Andy & Michael. This amazing experience was bookended by our hometown boys. I was electrified with pork & pride by the time we got to AMIK. Regardless of how proud I was of all three of them I still kept in mind that I was there to do a job & be an unbiased judge. Honestly it wasn't difficult to be unbiased. Every chef there brought their A game & produced piggy dishes that were insanely delicious. But I digress.
The look & design of the menu itself was super cool & practically jumped off the table. It popped. As we judges gathered around the tables the chefs & sous chefs were finishing off our plates. There was this beautiful creative energy that was palpable & almost intoxicating. The plates themselves were works of art.
Everything they put out was outstanding but for me the spiedino & the chocolate blood torte were some of the best bites of the day. The spiedino was rich, succulent, savory & earthy. The torte had the mysterious mineral note that came from the blood which really worked well against the bittersweet lusciousness of the chocolate. I was blown away by this entire experience. Cheers to all the chefs who competed! But a special shout out goes to Andy & Michael & Kelly English. You all did Memphis so proud!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Cochon 555 Porks Up Memphis pt 2

Kevin Nashan & his Sidney Street Cafe crew threw out an amazing plate full of pig. I loved the scrambled egg mousse & I gotta say that the Memphis nod with the "Elvis" was absolutely delicious & gave me a little home turf pride.
Up next was Lee Richardson with Ashley's at the Capital Hotel in Little Rock. I imagine there was a bit of a friendly rivalry between Chef Kelly English & Chef Lee Richardson since they used to work together years ago. However, both chefs seemed too focused on their dishes to really give any play to that possible rivalry. I have to hand it to Chef Richardson for his mortadella stuffed in a pig head.
As we continued on we began to see that each chef was operating on very different wavelengths. Yes there was pork belly, trotters & ears, even blood but each chef produced distinctively different dishes.
Chef Chris Hastings of Hot & Hot Fish Club in Birmingham had somewhat of an Asian style going but with somewhat of a Spanish-French infusion. I flipped over the heart crudo. So creamy, lush & supple but with a brightness from the capers. The blood sausage was absolutely to die for. It had a beautiful mineral earthiness & reminded me of my grandmother's cooking.