Tuesday, September 28, 2010

No Menu Monday

I've been wanting to go to Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen's No Menu Monday for quite some time now. On the last Monday of each month the chefs put out a special four course menu....& they don't tell you what you're eating until it's set down in front of you. It's kind of exhilarating to give myself over & not have control over a meal. I'm game for just about anything really, you name it I'll eat it. Kelly & I reserved a table with our friend Lindsey. Knowing how pork happy Chefs Michael Hudman & Andrew Ticer are I called ahead to inquire if they could do a vegetarian "No Menu". The manager said of course & we were on our way.

After getting a few outstanding cocktails from Shawn the bartender (he mixes one hell of a drink!) we were seated at a comfortable out on the back patio with a view of the garden. His Champagne Cocktail has a hint of sprightly sweetness but it's balanced with a floral characteristic from honey & gin. Quite nice.

Fall was finally happening & we were reveling in it! Our first course was Arancini (fried risotto balls) stuffed with veal cheeks & porcini. Sorry but no pic on this one.

After this course we popped open a bottle I picked up during Oregon Pinot Camp last year

The Shea Vineyard produces some very dark, masculine & brooding wines which was exactly what we were in the mood for.

Up next was a dish that will go down as one of the best dishes I've eaten in 2010.

Fried pig ears, pears, gorgonzola & caramelized radicchio. Oh...my...damn. The ears were crispy, unctuous & gelatinous the cheese was creamy & pungent, the pears were sweet & the radicchio earthy. Good lord, it was fantastic.

Then we got a bowl of housemade meatballs with a gorgonzola bechamel & a rosemary marinara. Very warm with hints of spicy meatiness.

After that were rabbit stuffed cannelloni.

This was my least favorite dish. Both Lindsey & I were confused as to what the protein even was & the sauce was a bit thin & bland. However I will stress that nearly any dish would have a hard time standing up to the fried pig ears.

Dessert was quite nice

Pumpkin panna cotta (probably some pork fat in there too) with pork fat caramel corn, marshmallows & dried cranberries that were finely diced, almost to a dusting, & sprinkled over the top. Very fall & very delicious.

I'm looking forward to the next one.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Birthday Boy

This past weekend I celebrated my 34th birthday which also happened to be the 10th birthday I've celebrated in Memphis. A lot has happened in 10 years.....anyway, you don't want to hear about that.

To get us started I popped a bottle of Elk Cove Brut 1999

What a lovely way to start the festivities this outstanding bubbly from one of the best Oregon wineries was exactly what I wanted. Toasty, crisp, a hint of creaminess, nice notes of dried fruit & this beautiful golden color. I absolutely MUST get my hands on some more of this.

Max, Marlinee, Kelly & I arrived at Restaurant Iris to some ice cold Hendricks martinis & Zardetto Prosecco. The restaurant was buzzing with energy, people smiling, digging into delicious plates & sipping wine. It all had a glow about it. We were seated at our table & our lovely server Rickie went over the menu with us. Max & I settled on a bottle of Michel Turgy Blanc de Blancs Le Mesnil Sur Oger Champagne to sip on while we decided on our meals. When I saw it, I just knew I had to have it: rabbit. Not just any rabbit but Braised Mississippi Rabbit with Potato Gnocchi & peas. I love love love rabbit & in the hands of the incredibly talented Chef Kelly English it was elevated to something spectacular.

The rabbit was tender, moist, almost melting in mouth with a rich sauce & pillowy, light gnocchi. Perfectly matched with William Fevre Champs Royaux 2008 Chablis. The acidity of the wine perfectly sliced through the richness of the dish. Plus the minerality & medium weight were so damn enjoyable.

Next we had Tennessee Foie Gras with Shallot Confit & Pepper Gelee. Rich, fatty, unctuous & pure decadence.

Then arrived my lamb sirloin

Oh....my....god. Cooked to a perfect rare & anointed with a dill flecked foam it was pure heaven. Many times throughout this meal my eyes rolled back into my head. The pairing of this absolutely amazing dish with a bottle of Brogan Cellars My Father's Vineyard PInot Noir 2004 Anderson Valley. The earthiness that came out of the wine & the mesmerizing dark fruit made for a wild pairing up against the slight gamy flavor & wonderful toothsomeness of the lamb.

I also received the best birthday present ever!!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Bubbles & Some Great Food

I just got an email from Napa Cafe about their upcoming wine dinner. I absolutely love Napa Cafe because they really have it all: great people, great food, comfortable atmosphere & a very cool wine list.

Here's the lowdown:

Domaine Chandon Wine Dinner

Four Courses Five Wines

First Course
Brut Classic, California, n/v
TUNA SASHIMI with apple puree, pancetta dust & toasted almonds

Second Course
Etoile Rose, Napa County & Sonoma County, n/v
"LOBSTER CAPPUCCINO" with lobster toast & black truffle foam

Third Course
Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, Carneros, 2007
DUO OF ELK-Spiced Elk Meatballs with Greek yogurt and Elk Carpaccio with lavender sea salt & marinated cucumbers

Fourth Course
Extra Dry Riche, California, n/v
Apricot Ravioli with black pepper & orange blossom honey creme fraiche

Wednesday, September 29, 2010 at 6:30
$55.00 per person

call 901.683.0441 for reservations. This WILL sell out.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Never A Bad Time

Even though September is here many parts of the U.S. are still in the grips of summer. However I am writing this while enjoying a cool breeze on the back porch but by noon it will be at least 90 degrees. This means I will still be enjoying dry roses for a few more weeks.

Some of my favorites:

Ponzi Rosato of Pinot Noir 2009 Willamette Valley $17.99
Chateau Campuget 2009 Costieres de Nimes $13.99
Domaine de la Berthete Sensation 2009 Cotes du Rhone $12.99
Maculan Costadiolo 2009 $17.99
Argiolas Serralorri 2009 Sardinia $18.99

What better way to cool down these last remaining summer days?

Monday, September 13, 2010

Restaurant Etiquette? Anyone?

There are an army of things that happen at a restaurant to ensure that our dinner experiences go off without a hitch. Many a chef, cook, dishwasher, server, bartender etc are busting their collective ass just so that our meal is deliciously prepared & our every need is taken care of while we are at the table.

I have seen & heard my fair share of restaurant patrons behave like no more than knuckle dragging, mouth breathing, morons who expect their server/bartender or whomever to bow down to them as if they hung the moon. Well I have had enough. I'm so sick of seeing articles & blog posts on tipping yet never once seeing a mainstream media outlet tackle the other side of things. Namely the "how not to act like a horrible diner" side of things. So I present to you actual situations that I have witnessed so that you will no not behave in this manner. However, if you are reading this blog I have to assume that you would never behave in this way in first place.

1. At one of the finest restaurants in the city a woman followed the hostess as she was seating a party that this woman was not a member of. This woman proceeded to berate the hostess, AS THE HOSTESS WAS SEATING THE OTHER PARTY, because the woman was upset that she had not been seated. This was on an extremely busy Saturday night mind you. Guess what people? If you want to dine at one of the most sought after restaurants in town on a weekend you are going to have to wait. Thats just the way it goes. Especially if you have a reservation at the prime dining time which in Memphis seems to be anywhere between 630-800 pm.

2. A couple seated at the bar, waiting for a table, again on a weekend at prime dining hours, said to the bartender "why should we wait? Tell me about the food? Why is this restaurant soooo outstanding that we should wait here for a table as opposed to just go over to Applebee's or something?" As they are bitching at their bartender the hostess is attempting to set the table behind them so they can be seated at it but these jerks won't bother to get out of her way so she can do so.

3. Don't act like you own the place no matter who you are. Don't go into the restaurant before it's open for the evening ON A REGULAR BASIS & just expect to be waited on as if the staff doesn't have five million things to do before opening. Thats just not cool. Get over yourself.

4. Don't call a restaurant up & request that a bottle of wine be delivered & served to a specific table & then get upset because they restaurant informs you that they charge gratuity for that. Aren't they providing a service? Aren't they serving the wine, keeping the glasses full, keeping it chilled & what not?

5. Don't bring wine to a restaurant with a wine list & expect them to not charge you corkage. Especially don't inform a server that you are not ever charged corkage you simply offer a taste of your wine in exchange. Let him or her decide that you jerk.

6. At a very fine dining restaurant in Memphis one idiot actually took artwork off the wall & placed it over the air conditioning vent because he was too cold.

7. If you can't get a reservation don't just walk in at the time you wanted & expect to be seated. The chances are practically zero that you will be seated at a 30 seat restaurant at 8:00 p.m. on a busy Saturday. No matter who you are.

Seven Hills Wine Dinner at The Brushmark

This dinner is still in the planning stages but I highly suggest that you get reservations now because it will sell out. On Thursday October 14th Chef Wally Joe will be pairing his exquisite cuisine with wines from Seven Hills winery in Walla Walla. Wally Joe is one of the jewels of the culinary scene in Memphis & the U.S. in general. Seven Hills produces wines of character, uniqueness & quality & they are just down right tasty. Many of the wines poured that evening will be fairly small production so this will be an opportunity to taste wines that might not have made it to the Memphis market previously.

Call 901.544.6225 for reservations.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Re-igniting a love affair

I'm not saying that I've forsaken it much less forgotten. It's been there but maybe just asleep.

One sip of this sensual & beautiful bottle got my juices flowing & made me remember why I love that country so much. When I first started working at Joe's Wines & Liquors I didn't know jack shit about Italian wine. Well maybe a little but not enough to fill a page. After a few years I thought of myself as not necessarily an expert just overwhelmingly passionate about this country's produce. They can be so many different things. Soft & easy & a perfect Tuesday wine or bold, gripping, powerful & something that needs aging. Even though I love the entire country's offerings my heart lies with sangiovese grosso. When crafted as Brunello di Montalcino it is round, moderately tannic, spicy, herbaceous, with dark red fruit & gorgeous acidity. Rosso di Montalcino can have that too although not as complex. However, thats why I love the RdMs so much because I know I can grab one, pop it open & its ready for me. I don't have to lay it down & salivate over when to open it.

Thank you Casanova di Neri Rosso di Casanova di Neri for making me remember why I love Italy so much.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

Shaken & Stirred

I've had cocktails on the brain lately. Cocktails, cocktails, cocktails. However, anyone who knows me well knows that this is nothing knew.

I've enjoyed a well made drink for many years now but recently its accelerated with tinkering & writing recipes & (the hard part) sampling.

There are a few things that everyone should have on hand in order to have a well stocked bar.

1 stainless steel cocktail shaker with strainer
Peychaud's bitters
Angostura bitters
2-4 martini glasses
1 bottle of gin (I prefer Hendricks, Citadelle, Magellan & Corsair)
1 bottle of vodka (I prefer Rain)
1 bottle of rye whiskey (Sazerac is the only choice)
1 bottle of bourbon (I prefer Eagle Rare 10, Buffalo Trace, Weller)
2-4 rocks glasses
1 bottle of an herbaceous liquor ( I prefer Herbsaint Original)
club soda
simple syrup
vegetable peeler (for shaving off a large peel from lemons or limes)

You can do most things with all of these ingredients & they are necessary in a host of different cocktails. Obviously I left out some ingredients but my point is that these are key.

Back to the cocktail laboratory for me.....