K rolled back into town today (2 Sundays ago at this point) around brunch time, so it was a great chance for us to go out, so that I could get the scoop on her travels. The usual brunch plan involves rolling over towards Cooper Young and figuring out a plan from there. Sweet Grass was the spot, and it was as awesome as usual. Seriously, if it isn’t a part of your brunch rotation, it should be. Here we go, the triumphant return of the Brunch Report.
Apologies for the cellphone photos, which definitely aren’t as good.
Our bartender/server was Johnny, and he hooked me up with a great n/a drink to get started. This was a n/a version of their Morning Refresher, which came out as ginger beer, lime juice, Sprite, and a cucumber. It was awesome and refreshing.
We opened up with a pretty eclectic set of starters, one for health and refreshment and one for comfort. Up first was a brulee grapefruit. It was incredibly sweet and refreshing.
Basically, I love a good grapefruit, and there is nothing wrong with torching the sugar on top with a blow torch.
Biscuits and gravy for comfort. These were baked up awesome and tall, and the gravy was rich. What more can you ask for?
A side benefit of running around town with a professional baker is that sometimes her friends that bake will send us out a little sample of their own baked goods. One of my favorite baked items in Memphis is the scone at Sweet Grass. Every week they have a different scone, and they are always awesome. Get them.
For this mega-brunch, one in which we admittedly went a little crazy, we got a couple of entrees. K started it up with the steak and eggs with the truffle fries.
This was decidedly awesome. I mean really, what do you expect?
I got the totes awesome duck hash with Henry Bain sauce and the fried eggs. Everything about this dish is good. And lastly, because we are insane, we ordered dessert. Who says “no” to chocolate peanut butter pie? Who? Not me…
I will admit that we had one bite and then took the rest home. Eyes were bigger than the stomach, or so they say.
Last thing. I always have really good service when I go to either of the Sweet Grass restaurants. That was the case again with Johnny offering us up great food, drinks, and conversation. It was a really enjoyable Sunday, and I’d reckon most of you would enjoy it just the same. See you there!
As part of Cochon Heritage Barbecue week, I reached out to the competing chefs to run a few questions by them, so that we could all get to know the players that will be cooking this weekend.
This time, we’ve got Ryan Trimm of Sweet Grass and Sweet Grass Next Door (I totally just realized that I don’t write enough about these places considering how often I go…) fame on the hot seat. Ryan is really great for our food community. Listening talk about why he does what he does and what is important to him, you can really tell that he has an amazing vision for what he and his team will accomplish.
From a food standpoint, Sweet Grass is so consistently excellent that it is crazy. I literally ordered something different every time I went for the first 5-6 times, and I was amazed each time. For those wondering, the first dish that I cycled back to was the osso bucco, trust me.
On a barbecue note, Ryan did a preview of the Heritage BBQ event at Cochon 555. After all the eating from the competition was done, Brady Lowe announced that Heritage BBQ was coming to Memphis, and Ryan had whipped up an amazing barbecue feast. His cuban sandwiches, ribs, barbecue spaghetti, and beans are still on the top of my mind. His team is going to be ready, I can tell you that…
Cochon Chef Interviews
Thomas (Eat Local Memphis) – What lured you into competing in Cochon Heritage BBQ?
Ryan Trimm – Heritage BBQ is an event that represents a lot of what I believe in already. It would be great to see a bbq restaurant that utilizes the whole animal. If that bbq restaurant went through two heritage pigs a week, it would mean 100 more pigs from a heritage farmer. That is a big number and a huge help. *TR note on this below.
In addition to a competition, Cochon is really about highlighting heritage breed pork. What’s your take on heritage breeds and why they’re important? There are two obvious reasons for me. First, is the product quality alone. The taste, texture and flavor are all second to none. Using heritage breed pigs makes my job easier. As a cook, it is important for me to always start with the best ingredients. I’ve been buying pigs from Mark Newman for two years now, and I can promise you that every pig I’ve bought has been first class. Second, it is important to know where your product comes from. Not just from what farm, but where it went in between. I like being able to cut out most of the processing and knowing that I personally broke the pig down.
What breed of pig will you be using in the competition? Why’d you pick that one?
I will be using Newman Farm Berkshire Pig. That is what I have always preferred. I think the quality is second to none.
Why is Cochon good for Memphis? Memphis is just breaking into the culinary scene of the Southeast, and we really haven’t received a ton of publicity nationally. Cochon 555 and Heritage BBQ will help surge Memphis into a spotlight for Southern cuisine.
At the last Cochon a friend of mine said that this is Memphis’ time as a food city. What’s your take on it? I completely agree. New Orleans and Atalnta have had their time on stage. Charleston continues to grow and receive more recognition. Memphis is constantly growing and molding into what should define our city as a culinary destination. I feel the growth and change is one of the most exciting times for a food city.
If you don’t mind sharing, where do you go in Memphis to deal with your barbecue fix?
Payne’s for a sandwich.
Lastly, rapid fire:
Ribs, dry or wet: dry
Barbecue ribs or sandwich: ribs Bourbon – what’s your favorite: Eagle Rare 17yr old (but the 10 yr old is also great) Neat or on the rocks: one big rock
Thanks a lot to Ryan for filling us in. I want to jump in where he imagined a barbecue place that used two heritage breed whole hogs per week. When Brady Lowe was describing his vision for Heritage BBQ, he asked, what if there was a $10 barbecue sandwich that was made by a chef and was made with the best possible ingredients. When that happens, the heritage breed farmers will be able to raise/sell more pigs, and we will all win. It would be great for the farmers, the chefs, and the eaters. Here’s to it!
If you are familiar with Gangs of New York, you certainly remember Bill “the Butcher” Cutting.
This is what he would order at Sweet Grass Next Door. The butcher plate, a combination of the cheese plate and the charcuterie plate. Between the delicious cheeses, house-cured meats (pickled beef tongue, pork loaf, duck something or other), reduction glazed figs, honey, walnuts, and all the rest, this was a gem of a plate.
Rally up your crew and try one for yourself. It was really, really awesome. If anyone from Sweet Grass would like to correctly identify all the elements of the plate, that would be awesome. Otherwise, we’ll just call them all delicious.
See you there!
You want to go to there:
937 South Cooper Street
Memphis, TN 38104-5606
I’ve written about it before, but my mom recently started a new art school slash gallery space, where she and a number of great artists teach classes to people ranging from my skill level (little) to other pros. Well, I am always down for some good art instruction, and it is cool to have a mom for a teacher, so I signed up for a watercolor class. I had my first class at the Flicker Street Studio on Saturday.
During class, we researched artists to see the incredible difference in “voice” or “style” that people can bring to a similar medium, we worked up some washes with some mixed up colors, developing our swatches and getting a grip on what is possible with 6 colors (orange-yellow, green-yellow, green-blue, violet-blue, violet-red, and orange-red). With 6 colors that are placed 60 degrees apart each on the color wheel, it is possible to create any other color, so that was a pretty cool lesson! I used some of my new found skills yesterday to paint a couple of boats using a John Marin watercolor as inspiration. Anyway, this isn’t an art blog, so on to the more topical stuff…
After class? Sweet Grass
What do you do when class ends at 12:30 on a Saturday? You go out to eat. Fortunately my mom is my teacher, so we were able to get a little family time in after class and discuss some of the nuances of the art we’re working on. We took the trip over to Cooper/Young to eat at Sweet Grass, because they have an awesome lunch/brunch menu on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Nan (my mom), went with the lunchtime Arugula Salad. Here is the description: Arugula Salad, Roasted Chicken, Bleu Cheese, Honey Pecans, Country Ham, Sliced Apples, Grilled Red Onion and Balsamic Vinaigrette. This thing was awesome! Everyone has a good chicken salad (by that I mean salad with chicken) that they love, and this might be the one for me from now on. The country ham added flavor and saltiness, the honey pecans blended with the blue cheese, and the spicy arugula mix was the perfect palette for all of these great flavors and textures. Legit.
Since I basically skipped breakfast before class (thanks, handful of cashews!), I was more in the mood for a breakfasty dish. I went with the Duck Confit Hash, described here: BBQ Duck Confit Hash and Fried Egg, Peppers, Onions, Crisp Potatoes and Henry Bain Sauce. This was awesome! The duck was flavorful, the sauce was awesome, the eggs were just right, hell, it was just all good. I would order this again in a second. Let’s talk Henry Bain sauce really quick for those of you that aren’t familiar (as I wasn’t until I Googled it at the table). From the great tome of knowledge Wikipedia:
Henry Bain (1863-1928) was one of the first employees and eventually a legendary head waiter at the Pendennis Club in Louisville, Kentucky, which was founded in 1881. He created his famous sauce for both steaks and local game animals. Club members liked it so much that they would bring their kills to the club after a day of hunting in the nearby woods along with potential members as a recruiting tool. To this day, it is served at the Club and enjoyed by its members and guests.
Give this a try!
Since it was the weekend, and it was a family lunch, we didn’t feel too guilty about ordering up something sweet. After all, everything up until this point had been awesome (this visit and during all my previous visits), so we were confident that we’d end up with something great. We decided on the peach cobbler, which came with a homemade vanilla bean ice cream and a strawberry sauce. The cobbler had a thick crust, the peaches were soft and well spiced, and it was a fantastic end to an awesome meal. It will be hard for me to not get the sour cream apple pie next time, but this might just be enough to make me think about it!
I hope you all had a good weekend and got a chance to do some fun stuff and spend time with family. Sharing a meal with family really is time well spent, and it is what food really offers us beyond just nourishment and energy. Also, really, think about getting over to Sweet Grass. It is an amazing place! See you there!
One of the best things that has happened since I started writing this little blog is that more and more people have been giving me recommendations about their favorite or cool new places to eat. I love getting this info, both because it gives me insight on new places to go and because it is other people doing what I like to do, talk passionately about the food they like.
Cash, Gas, or Sweet Grass, but nobody rides for free.
Down on Cooper is a new place that is quickly becoming a favorite of a lot of people. I’ve had friends, coworkers, and people that read the blog all but drive me over to Sweet Grass and drop me off. After all the excitement and hype about Chef Ryan Trimm’s new low-country spot, I obviously had to get over there. Lucky for me, K wasn’t on the clock last night, so we were able to make it a date.
We called ahead and reserved a table and headed down to Midtown to find out if the word on the street was true. It was a good sign when I walked in and saw about 6 people I knew sitting at different tables across the restaurant. Enough build up, on to the food.
You must choose, but choose wisely
The menu is broken up into 5 main categories – small plates (appetizers), medium plates (dishes with about 4 ounces of protein aka meat), larger plates (with a more traditional 6 ounces of protein), side plates, and the pretty accurately described sweet plates. After we got our drinks (Rose and Pellegrino), we set to figure out how to narrow down all of the great choices into a meal that we could handle. We decided to pick something from each category just to be thorough. We’ve taken to throwing around the excuse of, “we have to, it is for the blog,” when we go a little crazy!
Good things come in small packages
We started things off by ordering from the small plate menu, and we chose the highly recommended Oyster Stew (to be precise, the Charleston Oyster Stew, Yukon Gold Potatoes, Benton Smoked Bacon and Scallop Cream).
It is going to be difficult for me to ever order anything else from the small plates, because I want to get more of this. The combination of the cream, the salty, fatty bacon and the nice big oysters was off the charts! It had a sauce that you wanted (and I did) to sop up with the bread, and it was just a great little dish for K and I to split. Did one of us (kind of) jokingly ask if we could lick the plate? I’m not saying.
This surf is on my turf
After the awesome stew, K and I chose to share a couple of items to share for entrees. First up was the medium sized Pan Seared Sea Scallops, which came in a creamy sauce with a tomato risotto (I think this is all right!). The scallops were West-Philadelphia-to-Bel-Air fresh and seared to perfection.
The whole dish was incredibly appetizing, and it made for a very flavorful, light entree.
For our turf portion of this shared meal, we were wooed by our server’s recommendation of the pork special for the evening. I was having trouble deciding between the special and the Osso Bucco that a friend at the next table told me to get, so I heeded our server’s advice that I could get the Osso Bucco the next time (which, I hope, will be soon).
The special was a Pork Loin wrapped in Pork Belly served with broccolini in a caramelized bourbon sauce topped with a green tomato relish. Holy cow pig! I normally opt for seafood over pork, but this was a great choice. The loin was cooked just right, so that when I paired a thin slice of pork and a small piece of the belly, I got a strong, hugely flavorful bite. The pork loin really soaked up the delicious sauce, which really pushed this over the edge. Score a point for broccolini, as it is almost the cousin of asparagus and broccoli. It was great with the sauce.
Excellent, gnarly, sweeeeeeeet!!
To finish off the experience, we wanted to get in on one of the sweet plates. Since K is a professional, I put the pressure on her to make the choice. She was able to get it down to 2 choices, the apple pie and the peach cobbler. Again, we trusted our server, and he led us down the road towards the apple pie (technically a Deep Dish Sour Cream Apple Pie).
The pie was served cold with a scoop of vanilla gelato and fruit on the side. It was great, the apples were sweetened very well, the crust was strong, and the sour cream added a new dimension to a classic favorite. One of the things I like about great chefs is the ability to take things that are so traditional and normal and make them their own. This was the result with this great apple pie.
Chef to table
One of the coolest parts of our date was that in addition to great service and awesome food Chef Ryan Trimm was out and about in the dining room talking to all of the guests. He made a stop at our table and chatted with us after our appetizer and again as we were eating the pie. Since pie is one of K’s passions and it is her profession, they were able to talk shop a little bit. It was an incredibly personal touch, and it was great to see the thought that Ryan and his staff put into the food and the experience.
It is this kind of thing that makes Memphis a special town, everyone knows somebody that knows somebody, all the way until you know everybody. More than great food, I love M-town because we have incredible people. Ryan and his folks at Sweet Grass get that and act on it. I’ll be back, oh yes, I’ll be back, and I hope I see you there!