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
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.
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.
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.