Since getting this thing started, I have written a lot about meals and special events over on Brookhaven Circle. K and I have spent a lot of time at Andy and Mike’s spots Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen and Hog & Hominy. Since AMIK and Muddy’s opened pretty close to each other and are essentially neighbors, we’ve had a cool connection in watching the businesses grow, and we’ve loved seeing all of the recognition that they’ve earned.
The most recent event was a celebration of the major effort that went into making their new cookbook Collards & Carbonara.
Back during the summer my mom decided to turn a normal weekend into a Memphis staycation. Since she wasn’t going out of town, she decided to treat Memphis like she would treat another city while on vacation. That meant going out to dinner with K and I. So, imagine you’re from somewhere other than Memphis (I know, horrible, right???), and you look up restaurants in Memphis. One of the first things that you’ll probably find out is that Kelly English and Restaurant Iris seemingly win every award that is out there. Seriously, they might have to buy up an extra building on Monroe to house their trophy case.
As an out-of-towner, you’d probably get on Open Table and set up a reservation. So that’s what we did. Since everything I’ve ever tried at Iris has been good awesome, I’m always interested in trying as much as possible. Fortunately, they make that easy with their 5 course meal option, where they’ll hook you up with small portions of three starters and of an entree plus a dessert. Since, we’re all family, and sharing plates is how it works, we asked if we could get as many different plates as possible. We only had one overlap during the entire meal, so if you decide to include the amuse, then you can call this dinner the Fab Fifteen.
Sometimes you go to a place that has a great combination of skills and confidence, like an MC in his prime or a ninja. Places like that will often give you a hint of their greatness early on through an amuse, a little bite of something that shows exactly how much they can do in one bite. Iris showed up early with this.
This little batch of tempura fried tomatoes with a sweet jelly was an awesome treat. The best and worst of a good amuse is that after you finish the bite, all you want is to eat more and more. I’d consider this a gateway bite, aka a bit that leads to bigger and more intense bites.
In the Beginning
I’m going to break these down into groups of three to follow along the progression of courses. I’ll start with a little story. All three of us went in with totally open minds about what we would get during the course of dinner. My mom, however, made one request. She asked that at some point, out of her five courses, could she please get some of the fried oysters. They came early.
I could tell you the long version about these oysters, using words like amazing, delicious, heritage, etc. Instead, I’ll share the short version. My mom almost cried because they were so good.
The good places know, don’t they? Somehow they know that K’s favorite thing is this lobster knuckle sandwich, and then it shows up on her plate. I’ve described this in detail before, but I’ll remind you that this luscious lobster sandwich on buttery bread is simplistic excellence at its best. Everything on the dish is there to make the lobster more delicious.
This is the Iris foie gras, and I’ll be honest, I didn’t tear up, but it wouldn’t have been out of the question. This was rich. Really rich.
But really, it was amazingly flavorful. I’ve recommended it to every one of my friends that was going to Iris after this dinner (sidenote, I also really recommend that they get the 5 courser, just sayin’).
You Two Can Fly
After round 1, we all knew that we were in for an amazing meal over the course of the next couple hours.
This slow roasted Tamworth cochon de lait is so full of flavor. One good sign of a great meal is that even when you know you shouldn’t, you end up dipping your french bread into the sauce to wipe the plate clean. That happened with this.
This scallop was beautiful. The vegetables and the Benton’s bacon took it to the next level. That is all.
I didn’t get the best photo of this one, but this is a salad that includes pickled watermelon (you read that correctly, I assure you), fried sweetbreads, and some peppery arugula. Yum! I’m noticing a trend here. If you make a great batter, use it to cover up delicious ingredients like oysters or sweetbreads, then fry it to perfection, you end up with something amazing. Just sayin’.
Let’s See What Three Can Be
Third course was a pure salad course, which was excellent. I started us out with this awesome shrimp salad. Greens, cheese, roumalade sauce, olives, and shrimp.
Pretty awesome. For the ladies, we had the one plate that was doubled up, and with good reason.
The heirloom tomato and crab salad is probably the best choice on the menu for something light and delicious when it is available. I imagine that we’re past time for this, but if you ever see it, you can be sure that it will be a great treat. Few things are as good by themselves as a perfect heirloom tomato, so when you add in the little extras with this, it just puts them over the edge and into greatness.
More? Here Comes Number Four.
I was psyched when my fourth course came out. I don’t know if it was that the sauce came out in a french press and was slowly poured over my fish at the table or if it was the knowledge that it had recently been on the 100 things to eat in Memphis before you die list in the Commercial Appeal. The yellowjack and gulf shrimp with the harissa cafe au lait was pretty awesome!
Well deserved place on the list, I’d say.
Here’s another delicious piece of fish. Here’s how well the meal was going. I forgot to write this one down. I’ll holler at someone from Iris to get the description and fill it in. I remember this, it was good.
Here was the kobe beef that was on the menu for a while this summer. Super meat prepared superbly. For all of these final savory courses, it was almost like we were totally crunk on the food and the experience. I was so wrapped up in the moment of taste and pass, taste and pass, that I couldn’t keep very many notes at this point. Like I said earlier, even as we kept getting fuller, you could tell how good these were by looking at the plates we sent back to the kitchen. Nothing but a little sauce, streaked across the plate by our last attempts to soak it all up with the french bread.
Fiver – The Sweet Surrender
First out was a lemon cake with lemon ice cream. It was awesome. It tasted fresh and tart, and it was a great cool down after such a rich meal.
Here’s a little hello dolly cake with coconut and chocolate and some homemade graham cracker (!!!) ice cream. Look, can I just say that I love homemade, good ice cream, especially in unique flavors like graham cracker. Dense, rich, packed with flavor. The goal of this was to continue the push towards full on food coma.
Last but definitely not least. This is my new top dog for dessert. This is a peach shortcake with buttermilk ice cream. Not only is buttermilk ice cream my current favorite, but the peaches were so delicious and it was an amazing combination. Loved it.
15 Down – 1 to go
There we were with fifteen different plates down. So good that I could barely walk or talk. So good that I lost track of what was happening at some point during course four. But, here we go for the final one to go.
I said earlier that Restaurant Iris and Kelly English win a ton of awards. Well, they are much deserved. Restaurant Iris hits this amazing balance. As a “fancy” restaurant, they have a beautiful but comfortable interior, the staff is highly trained and knowledgeable but welcoming and friendly, and the food is extremely well executed but never flashy or trendy. I think some places out there (not really much in Memphis) win diners over with a flashy, trendy experience but Iris wins us all over with pure, old-school excellence. If someone asked me to tell them why I like it so much in short, I’d say that Iris is the place that I could take a friend, a foodie, a visitor, my mom, my brother, or my grandmother, and I know that any of them would love it. It is so good that I have been known to go by myself every now and then…
If you haven’t been yet, figure out a special occasion and take someone that you want to have a great time with. This place is a treasure and Memphis is lucky to have it. See you there!
Three weeks (ish) ago, my neighborhood hosted the awesome, annual Fourth of July parade. Since the parade route goes right past our house, and our porch overs a stunning vantage point for the festivities, K and I have had a morning party at our house each year we’ve been here. We get all kinds of friends and family over. The kids are dressed up for the parade and the adults enjoy the company, cocktails, and confections that K puts together. A couple of those adults were Angela and Kelly English, our awesome neighbors from the street over. During our conversation, I came across an amazing story of the culinary arts. And I want to emphasize arts, as that is the only way to describe what I’m about to tell you.
On the Road to Cochon
So, as many of you know, Kelly English (Iris) was the champion (aka Prince of Pork) at the Memphis Cochon 555 competition. That put him in the national finals, which were in Aspen. As we talked about the competition, I asked if he cooked the same items he did in Memphis, and he told me the story about how he came up with a new dish for the event.
Kelly’s chosen pig was a Tamworth, so he did some research on the breed and their history. It turns out that the Tamworth breed was created by Sir Robert Peel at his Drayton Manor Estate at Tamworth, Staffordshire. While there, he bred the Irish Grazer with the local Tamworth pigs, and the Tamworth Pig breed was born. Due to a lack of interbreeding with non-European breeds (cool!), this pig is one of the closest to the old European forest pigs that there is. Another fact about the Tamworth is that it is often called the “bacon pig” due to its large belly that gains mass but not an overwhelming amount of fat.
As Kelly researched Peel, he found that Peel led a pretty extraordinary life. In addition to bringing the Tamworth to the world, he was also the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom,twice.As the Home Secretary, he created the modern concept of the police force in setting up London’s Metropolitan Police Force.
This led to police officers in England being called “bobbies” and officers in Ireland being called “peelers.” Some people theorize that the American slang of calling officers “pigs” came about because Peel was a pig farmer in addition to the founder of the modern police.
Here’s where the artistry really comes into play. Kelly assimilated all of this information about the history of the breed of pig that he was using, conceptualized a dish that would take that history into account, created a dish that would blend history with an excellent flavor combination, and then executed the dish in a competition setting.
What did he make???
Kelly made “Piggy Doughnuts” using confit ribs and neck, leaf lard, blood, and chocolate.
There’s the doughnut on the right, with the rest of his dishes for the contest.
Artist/Chef and Chef/Artist
They don’t call these the culinary arts for anything people. Sure, some of us can cook, but you can really see the art when you start to ask a few questions about a dish. This one little doughnut is the product of years in school studying technique, years in the kitchen building a cooking vocabulary and personal style, as well as the product of a critical mind that can pull together ideas from both within and without the kitchen. The final product is a doughnut that speaks to us on visceral level through taste, texture and all that good stuff and on an intellectual level because of the way it puts the animal that was used into an easy to understand historical context.
Hot damn! It really is amazing what you can learn when you ask.
Next time you see Kelly, ask him why he made dish that was a take on Chinese food. If you’re at Iris, there’s a decent chance that I’ll see you there!
PS. Multiple blog posts on Iris coming out in the near future. Fortune found us there as part of my birthday week, K’s birthday, and my mom’s great Memphis staycation. It will be good.
PPS. Special thanks to Meghan Heimke of Green Line Marketing for helping me track down a photo for the post!
During the time I’ve been writing this blog, I’ve found a couple of helpful hints for the potential blogger out there.
Don’t be afraid to take your camera into a restaurant. As much as I hate toting my murse (camera bag/man purse) around, the photos I get from my DSLR are much better than those that my phone takes.
Don’t sweat writing for everyone on the interwebs. I write like I’m the only one that will read it. This explains my typos.
Let other people help you develop your “word on the street.” Ask advice from people that like to eat and follow your favorite places on Twitter and Facebook.
Have a crew that you can count on to go eat with you. They should be able to 1. hold a good conversation 2. get adventurous with their orders 3. wait to eat until their food has been photographed 4. be totally gnarly and awesome.
I’m going to get into #3 for this post. If I weren’t following Kelly English and Restaurant Iris on Twitter, it might have slipped right by my radar that he planned up an awesome menu for Fat Tuesday to celebrate Mardi Gras. Fortunately I found out, and not only did I get an incredible meal (more on that in a minute), but I also got some good material for the ol’ blog. Having a good #4 meant that I had a good group to go. Here we go.
Let’s Get Fat
I’m all about specials and special menus (see my obsession with Andrew Michael’s No-Menu Monday), because when that goes down, it means that I don’t have to worry about my order AAAANNNNNDDD I get to eat whatever the chef is excited to make. That’s usually at least a win-win. So, imagine how excited was when the ol’ Tweeter came up with the news that Kelly English, who is from Louisiana and spent a good bit of time working for John Besh in New Orleans, had put together a special Mardi Gras dinner menu. I immediately made reservations for four, with the assumption that the Counselor and I could talk the ladies into a late Fat Tuesday dinner.
Ok, so I literally just wrote that I like to order off the special menu. But, I also like to take advantage of being in one of the best restaurants around, so I ordered an extra appetizer, I couldn’t help it. Here’s why.
If this lobster “knuckle” sandwich doesn’t tempt you to deviate from the script a bit, then you have much more willpower than I do. It was incredible. Chunky lobster, buttery bread, fresh greens, etc. I think this is my new favorite sandwich. K and I are already planning return trips just for the knuckle. We are strongly considering an attempt at ordering these for takeout dinners on the regular.
So, Cochon 555 was 9 days ago, and it still feels like yesterday. I kind of feel like Will Farrell in Old School, when he finishes his debate.
So, now that I’ve come to after a Cochon-induced blackout, I can safely say that February 4 was one of the best culinary experiences of my life. In one awesome room downtown, there were 5 chefs who put a ton of skill and effort into turning 5 well-bred and well-raised heritage breed pigs into delicious food for about 500 people. Successes all around.
I could go on and on about some of the dishes that I had at the event, but instead I really just want to pass on some props to a couple of people. I’m going to break this into two posts, this one for the Memphians and the next for our out of town brethren.
Let’s take it back a bit. A good while ago I found out that Cochon555 had Memphis on the tour this year. That went a little like this:
T: Holy Berkshire! K: What? T: Cochon is coming to Memphis!!! This is only the coolest sounding food event that I have ever heard of. 5 pigs 5 chefs and 1 extremely excited T-Rob!!!
Well, here we are, less than a week from the competition, and I’m not sure that everyone has a grip on what’s about to happen at One Commerce Square on Saturday. So instead of me trying to figure out the best way to explain something that I have never actually been to (although my intuition on things like pork festivals is pretty strong), I went to four people that know what they are talking about in Kelly English, a contestant and chef of a place you might have heard of before, Restaurant Iris; Michael Hudman, former lacrosse superstar, and Andy Ticer, the two chefs at a little place called Andrew Michael that are also competing in the event; and Brady Lowe, only the brainchild and head honcho of Chochon555 and the Taste Network. So, here’s how this will go, I’ll ask the questions and some of these guys will answer them up. Pictures from previous Cochon events will set them ambiance (thanks to Brady for letting me use all of them).
Cochon and Heritage Breed Pork – What’s It All Mean?
Thomas: Brady, tell us a little about yourself. Where did your interest in food come from?
Brady: I give most of my food passion credit to my family. It’s a huge part of our lifestyle, especially father, who recently passed away. We were raised with this great love of food.
Thomas: What’s Cochon all about?
Kelly: Cochon 555 is the celebration of responsible farming, cooking and eating.
Michael and Andy: Bringing awareness to the farmers around the country returning to the roots of food. Sustainability and a good product, that’s what heritage breed farmers promote. We think that they are changing the food culture, making it more about quality than quantity. And Cochon is the granddaddy party to celebrate heritage pork famers.
Thomas: Brady, what made you start the Cochon competition?
Brady: I founded Cochon 555 when all of my friends — chefs, winemakers, farmers, were telling me about the huge need to educate the population about heritage pork. As a result, I am so passionate about increasing awareness of the sources that support a more natural, sustainable food system. I think the best way to spread the word is through unique culinary experiences.
It all started from a series of conversations. I met farmers struggling to keep their family businesses alive. I saw restaurants looking to source exceptional ingredients. And I heard from consumers wanting to know where their food comes from and how it has been raised. All of these conversations converged into one idea: the ultimate quest for content and flavor. The Cochon tour is a journey that I knows food lovers will want to join, like touring with your favorite band, watching new artists take the stage to showcase their own riffs on pork, and eating your heart out while the band just plays flavor all night long.
Thomas: In the competitions 4th year, how are things different than your first year?
Brady: I would have to say the momentum for the tour and for the cause. Heritage Breed Pigs are so much a part of popular thought these days, as people are discussing sustainable eating in the media and in forums. The tour continues to gain recognization and respect. People are calling me every day to participate, lend a hand, invite us to their town. All this being said, the cause and mission is still as important as ever. We need more chefs to see the value for heritage breed pigs, more consumers to be willing to pay more for it, and more farmers to raise them.
Thomas: Why is it important to celebrate heritage breeds of pork?
Michael and Andy: Heritage is history. Without history, where would we be? By using a heritage breed, like Mark Newman’s Berkshires, which we use exclusively, we’ve developed a really important relationship that inspires us constantly.
Kelly: If you look at the people raising these pigs, they are the most passionate people in their industry. This is not the most economical or easiest way to get a pig from pasture to plate, but these farmers care about what they do. Same thing with the chefs involved, their restaurants are about way more to them than just a bottom line…to each of us our restaurants mean much more to us than dollars and cents, our restaurants ARE who we are.
Brady: Flavor. There are a long list of reasons, but at the end of the day, for me, it’s about saving flavor.
Thomas: What are the challenges or excitements of cooking with a whole hog?
Kelly: It is exciting to honor the life of an animal by using every scrap of it. That’s such an overlooked part of cooking, if I roast a chicken and it gets overcooked or didn’t give it my best effort, then I have wasted that life. I take that seriously.
Michael and Andy: When you start with something as beautiful as a whole Berkshire, slung over Mr. Newman’s shoulder coming through our door and wind up with these amazing cuts, with all these different flavors and textures stretched across the prep table, it inspires you. We look over the table and we start asking each other, what about this? or this?
It reminds us of Italy, when we watched our foster family slaughter their pig, the whole family would start to do their job, yelling back and forth to each other different ways to utilize it. They only got the one and it had to last. For them, it was a thing of real beauty, something they respected because it was theirs—they’d raised it, they’d fed it, and now it would feed them. And there are always challenges. Each pig is different. Each one has a few surprises while we fabricate it.
M-Town, The 901, Feb 4, 2012, The Scoop
Thomas: Why bring the competition to Memphis?
Brady: Memphis has such a rich pork history. I’ve wanted to get there forever. You have talented chefs who are supporting the cause and consumers who are eager to learn more about the breeds.
Thomas: How pumped are you to have the competition in Memphis? What does that say for our city?
Kelly: When I was in Atlanta I could not believe the production of the event…oysters, caviar, wine, butchering demos, chicharons in so many places you would think that Willie Wonka dreamt it up. I said to Brady after the event, “If you are celebrating the pig, and you don’t come to Memphis, well then you really aren’t celebrating the pig.” The tour stopping here says so much about where we are right now as a community from restaurants to emphasis on wine to emphasis on sustainability and green living to the way we think about food and eat it…Memphis is a badass place.
Michael and Andy: Since we are born and bred Memphians, this is our home. This city is our heart, and it’s the most supportive group of people in the world. And there is so much freaking talent in this city. There are incredible people doing incredible food here, but lots of times, it feels like the city gets overlooked, that people have almost forgotten that Memphis is an amazing food city. Cochon 555, and Brady Lowe, they see it and bringing this event here is turning a national food spotlight on our town. We love it. We are so excited.
Thomas: What should people expect when they come down to One Commerce Square on Feb. 4?
Kelly: Leave your expectations at home, don’t come in with any preconceptions. Things you never thought of with pork will happen. I judged last year in New Orleans and Eric from La Provence did a Pork Baked Alaska, it blew my mind.
Brady: Pork, pork and more pork. It’s five chefs each preparing whole roasted heritage pigs so you should expect to taste ears and trotters. They also should expect amazing cheese, an endless supply of wine, caviar, a fun guess the ingredients challenge from our friends at Le Creuset, a rockin’ Perfect Manhattan bar, a champagne toast from Laurent-Perrier. It’s a walk around event, so we ask people to bring an appetite.
Michael and Andy: One hell of a show. It’s going to be porktastic.
Random Food and Drink Question Lightning Round
Thomas: Bourbon or Scotch?
Kelly: Bourbon every time. I like mine with ice and family and friends.
Brady: Bourbon and ryes, American craft all the way.
Michael and Andy: Well, Bourbon obviously.
Thomas: Pancakes or Waffles?
Michael and Andy: Waffles
Brady: Waffles … with bacon and ice cream
Kelly: Both, but no syrup for me. Sorghum or Molasses…I have never really had a big sweet tooth, even when I was a kid.
Thomas: BBQ sandwich or Ribs?
Kelly: Where are we eating?
Andy: I’m sandwich. Michael: Ribs. All the way.
Brady: Seriously? Bones all the way
Thomas: Ribs – wet or dry?
Brady: I always go for both, but dry is better when you are driving
Michael and Andy: Wet. Especially and mostly from Cozy Corner.
Where Do Yall Eat?
Thomas: Where might people find you out for dinner when you aren’t in your restaurant?
Kelly: We have so many good places in town that it is hard to answer that. Las Tortugas is where I find myself a lot.
Michael and Andy: We love to grill. We eat in Andy’s backyard a lot. For lunch, we eat at Cozy Corner, Gus’s, and Bosses. We do go to Restaurant Iris (but don’t tell Kelly). Felicia Suzanne’s, Interim and Sweetgrass are great options. If it’s local, we eat it.
Thomas: For my traveling eaters, are there any places that you absolutely recommend in other parts of the country?
Brady: Man, that is a great question – i love Toro and Oya in boston – Del Posto in NYC, Lark in seattle, there are a lot of great places and my stomach hurts now after tinking about it.
Thomas: What is your best tip on a place that most people may not know about?
Kelly: Everyone knows about the burgers at Topps BBQ right? The pasta salad at Bogies Deli is ridiculous. The vegetarian (yes, I said it) udon at Dō is stupid good. The quiche at Beauty Shop is the best brunch item in this hemisphere.
Michael and Andy: Casablanca for sure. Between Mendenhall and Truce. Great little place with awesome schwarmas. We also just got introduced to the best muffalata in Memphis at this place called Jerry’s Sno-Cones on Wells Station.
Thomas: Anything else?
Kelly: I like to cook food.
That wraps up the Great Cochon interview, and hopefully, you now have better understanding of what Cochon555 is, why heritage breed pork is important, and of how cool the guys at Restaurant Iris and Andrew Michael are. All four of these guys have a great passion for what they do, and that is why we are lucky to have them around. See you on February 4!
I’m sitting at home with my tie loosened and my sport coat thrown over a chair as I attempt a rapid recovery from round 1 of the K&T Thanksgiving Double. Round one saw a grand buffet at the club, and I’m prepping myself for round two over at K’s dad’s house. I always joke with people about how many places K and I will go on holidays, since we are both Memphians with big families. But really, no joke, it is awesome. We have awesome people to spend quality time with, and with the cooking skills in both families, we have awesome meals to do it over.
On that note, while I am thankful for the blessings of good friends and family to spend my time with, I’ll wax nostalgic a little about the blog. It has been awesome writing this thing. I’ve gotten to meet new people, try new food, and in my own way, support a lot of cool people and my city at the same time. With that, I’ll look back on 10 meals that I was especially thankful for in the last year in no particular order.
1. The Clan Gordon English Dinner
You know the times that you do something, and it is so awesome that it has to become a tradition. This was one of those dinners. We’ll look back on the 2010 Clan Gordon English Dinner with fondness for years, because it was the one that made it a tradition. I’m already looking forward to mid December, when the 2nd annual dinner rolls around.
I’m obsessed with the movie Fletch. This means that when I find a steak sandwich that takes it to the next level, I am obligated to spend the next few weeks saying Fletch lines like, “I’ll have a bloody mary, a steak sandwich, and, uh, a steak sandwich.” Local has that steak sandwich.
Another family tradition is the Reindeer Cake that K developed a few years ago for Christmas. This gingerbread cake covered with caramel icing is pretty much my favorite dessert of the year. Pair it with a cup of coffee, and you’ve got the best post meal action (or next morning breakfast action) that I can think of.
When a new place opens up, and I go to check it out, then I end up going quite often, that is a sign that a place has really hit me. Slider Inn has that going on and more with their Lobster Roll, excellent patio, and sweet (close) location. I keep planning on getting the burgers, but I always call out for the lobster roll. So good that it was my grandmother’s choice for her birthday lunch the other day!
The first time I ever interviewed someone in person was when I had lunch with Felicia Willett at her awesome restaurant Felicia Suzanne. I was pretty nervous, but I found out pretty quickly that interviewing a super-nice person that tells a lot of fun stories is a lot easier than I expected. Throw in the amazing lunch, and I count this as one of the top meals of the last year for sure.
I mentioned above that we went to Slider Inn for my grandmother’s birthday a week or so ago. Well, her birthday last year also makes the list. Iris is consistently getting awards and recognition as one of the top restaurants around. This was my first time there, and they backed up everything that I have heard about them. Soooooo goooood!
There is an interesting trend developing as I put this lil ol list together. The meals that I shared with my family and friends over special occasions are the ones that stick out in my mind the most. Maybe it just makes the food taste that much better, or maybe the reason that we really eat is because it is a perfect opportunity to further the relationships that we have. My thirtieth birthday was an awesome time spent at my mom’s house with her and K putting the legit touches on some awesome food. Just love spending a little extra time with the peeps.
Got the “I want to try something new” blues? Get on over to ACRE. Everyone waited for this place to open, and when it did, somehow it lived up to the expectations. The places is beautiful and so is the food. Totally excellent! I’ll be hitting it up during the holidays. Love getting out of the house and chilling when there is so much that keeps us busy.
I love Trolley Stop. No doubt. I go there all the time because it is A. excellent and B. close to work. That is a lethal combination. But my favorite Trolley Stop meal was definitely the pizza that K and I ordered in the first night in our new, awesome home (there could be a wholenother Thanksgiving post on the house). Since then we have ordered quite a few Reuben pizzas to our humble abode. I’m not sure I have ever been able to wait long enough to take a picture of it, so here’s a different slice!
I loved eating over here recently with some of my friends. It was a reminder that Memphis has a lot to offer, even when it doesn’t always look like that to everyone else. I love this city, and I loved this lunch.
I’m pre-thankful for my dinner plans on Monday night. I’m booked with K and some prime-time friends for a night at Andrew Michael for their No-Menu Monday. I have no idea what they’ll serve, and that’s the way I like it. I love eating at people’s houses, because they usually cook what they like to eat. I’m just taking that process to a restaurant with two of Memphis’ best chefs calling the shots. Their spot is so good!
I hope you all have great things and people to be thankful for. I’ll say it again though, that I am thankful for the opportunity to write this little ole blog. I have a great time doing it, I love talking to people about it, and I’m still pleasantly surprised whenever I find out that anyone reads it. More than anything, I’m excited that I keep having new posts to write and new places to go and new people to see. That means that we are growing as a local food community, and we all benefit from that. Keep eating local, and I’ll see you out there!
As you can see by the date above, it was a few weeks ago that my family got together to celebrate my grandmother’s birthday at Restaurant Iris. Before I go anywhere, I’d be remiss not to say that Dodie is a fantastic grandmother and a fantastic woman. She’s been a constant positive influence in my life, so this is my little shout out to her for being so awesome.
“And if you don’t know, now you know” -Notorious B.I.G.
Here comes The Brunch Report, back in action and hopefully better late than never! Last weekend the stars aligned and my Dallas brother and KC sister were in town on different business. I was one Atlanta stepsister short of seeing all of my siblings in the same weekend, that literally only happens like every other Christmas. Now, any of you with siblings that don’t live in the same town know that this doesn’t happen as often as you would like, so this was a big weekend for me! How does Eat Local Memphis celebrate? As Biggie says, “if you don’t know…”
With my brother in town, we all decided that it would be appropriate to have a make-up of Mother’s Day, which none of us were together to celebrate, so we gathered up the moms and headed over to Restaurant Iris for a Sunday brunch. Having not ever been down here gave me that feeling of a kid watching as all the rest of his friends get picked for the kickball team ahead of him. Everyone, and I mean everyone, that had been here before told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to get over there for a meal or 50. Sounded like pretty good odds to me.
Out of the Gates
With our party of seven seated in a small private dining room, this had the makings of a raucous family affair. I love dinner table banter and shenanigans and to be totally honest, many would say that I also like to talk either too loud or too often! Getting a private room to enjoy the family sent the meal out of the gates like Seabiscuit.
On the topic of bicsuits and good starts, they promptly got us going with an assortment of mimosas, bloody marys, coffees, and biscuits with strawberry preserves and honey butter.
They were nice and fluffy with a good crisp bottom, and the honey butter was just the right addition.
The First Turn
After a little bit of family fun and jibber jabber over our drinks and biscuits, we jumped in to order some smaller dishes to get us all started. My favorite part of the trip was that my brother’s lady friend (also from Dallas) came more prepared than me, having memorized the menu in the days leading up to their trip to M-town. She was able to give recommendations based on Iris’ extensive TV presence and her familiarity with the menu.
So, with her blessing, we put together a few orders. A couple of people at the table naturally were drawn to the Fried Oyster “Salad.” Note that the quotation marks around salad were present on the menu. You will see why in just a second. Wait, wait, wait, now!
The oysters were pretty large and fried to perfection. We had them served with two different dressings due to some dietary restrictions, and they were great with the original dressing and the remoulade. This was a big dish of oysters, and I (like I will do with most of the items) heartily recommend it!
Begin random math lesson – I remember growing up and learning about the Golden Ratio, fascinating to generations of mathematicians and often found in Renaissance art and architecture. Let’s give the obligatory shout-out to my boy and hero to mathletes everywhere, Pythagoras, who not only has his own theorem, but is also considered to be the man that figured out the Golden Ratio.
The idea is that the sum of the two sides of a rectangle are in the same proportion to the larger side as the larger side is to the smaller side. Here is a quick diagram:
Basically, it is important to realize that math is useful in many, many situations, and it is often capable of placing some measurable values on things that just seem to make sense, like the most please proportions of a rectangle. End random math lesson.
Well, I have some news for all of you mathletes. I have come up with an equation of my own, ready?
Kelly English + Neola Farms beef + pie = Off the hook good
Not even Fibonacci (last math reference, I promise!) could argue that these meat pies are insane good. Not much else to say about them, so take a look.
Last up during stage one, was my brother’s lady friend, and she took her studies to heart and went with the highly recommended Brussel Sprouts. These were very flavorful and served with Benton’s bacon, which gave them a saltiness that was a great addition. This would be a great dish to share with 2 people, as it is large enough to serve as an additional side, and we all know that it is important to eat your veggies!
The Winner’s Circle
Since this was a family event, we weren’t going to go lite on our choices, so most of us ended up getting a starter and another dish. I went with the Duck Confit Omelet, which was served with greens. Duck Confit, or confit de canard in French, is a traditional French way of cooking a duck leg, first by salt curing the meat and then by poaching the leg in its own fat. This leads to a highly flavorful piece of meat, and the shredded duck in the omelet was no exception. This wasn’t your typical “western omelet;” it really was awesome!
A couple people at the table played a game of Duck Duck Pig, and went with the Grillades and Grits with Poached Egg. This pork dish was great with Delta Grind grits, a perfectly poached egg and very flavorful meat. I’m tempted to go back to order this one, because the one bite that I had was definitely not enough!
My mom went with another small plate order, which was a crab pancake. It looked good, and we all supplemented her plate with a little extra, the only unmentioned item in the picture are the bacon and hash browns that my brother got with his omelet. Good report on them as well.
K went with the trout amandine, and it might have been the best single bite at the table. The fish was crisp on the outside and perfect on the inside, so full of flavor. I would recommend this in a heartbeat. It was very rich with the fish and the sauce, but so, so good.
The Trophy Room
Iris gets a lot of respect in town. Chef Kelly English was named Best New Chef last year by Food and Wine Magazine, and this year is a semi-finalist for the James Beard Foundation Award for Best Chef of the Southeast. They’ve got a lot going on in there, and based on my amateur insights, I think they should probably keep some room in the trophy case for some more recognition.
I don’t have any trophies, plaques, pens or pins to hand out, but I will give them my praise and a high recommendation. Get on the phone and make reservations for brunch or dinner, but do it in advance, because it fills up fast (not surprising!). I’m really excited about taking a trip over there for dinner. See you there!