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!
I take ok photos. I also use a pretty decent camera, which helps, so must of the shots that I post on the blog are pretty decent. None are great like those by Sophorn, Kip, Amanda, and others, but some are pretty good. It helps that my subject matter is normally something that is pleasing to most people, food, and I imagine that makes people like the photos even more. I’m no master or aperture, I’m not a maestro of ISO, and I’m certainly not the Top of the f-stops. But I will admit that I loved this photo as much as any that I have snapped…
The sandwich was better than the picture. Egg, bacon, sprouts, cucumbers, tomato, toast.
Easter. A day of rejoicing, singing, seersucker and Lily P, and feasting. In case you aren’t aware, Easter is the celebration of Jesus’ resurrection, so it is a pretty big deal. For many of us, the first chance to say Alleluia after Lent is the perfect time to have a celebratory family gathering over a nice meal. Easter is kind of the unofficial opening of seersucker season, an opportunity to wear that perfect, puckered fabric that is dedicated to keeping us cool and making us look cool. I am such a proponent of seersucker, that a clothing company that makes the best pants around (Bonobos), named last season’s seersucker suits after my suggestion (The Counselor and The Senator). I am kind of an expert witness…
This Grove aint in Oxford
In my family, one of our go to family spots it The Grove Grill in Laurelwood Shopping Center (which appears to be keeping Davis-Kidd – whew!). The Grove offers a great combination of good food, a good volume level for talking it up and family gossip, and great service. They also offer an amazing Shrimp and Grits, but we’ll get to that later. I would tell you what table we normally sit in, but since it is so good, I don’t want to risk losing it…
When I think of the Hi-Tone, two things come to mind. First, as anyone my age can attest, almost anytime I hear the word Tone, I think of the word Loc. I remember listening to Wild Thing on the way to MUS almost everyday for a couple of years in one of my carpools.
The second thing that I think of is that the Hi-Tone is one of Memphis’ best music venues slash bars. Tucked over by Overton Park on Poplar, this mural covered building is home to rockers and ragers almost every night, as evidenced by the constantly updated marquee. With all the art on the building, it isn’t hard to find.
It is famous for hosting bands that know how to rage a club and bands that are on the rise to fame and stardom, like the part Memphis-rooted MGMT (listen to them if you haven’t already, trust me). It is also home to the hottest inside weather in the world on the night of a sold-out show. One of my favorites was when The Whigs came roaring into town with hometown hero Hank Sullivant on the bass guitar (Hank also possessed one of the finest touch shots in Memphis lacrosse history, a real renaissance man).
It seemed like everyone that had ever known Hank, his family, or just people that loved a power trio and the sounds of rock and roll had piled into the place, much like I hear just happened with Steve Selvidge and the Hold Steady.
This doesn’t sound like the type of place that has a lethal brunch does it? Well, looks and sounds can be deceiving…
The Juice is Loose
The first important piece of info from the Hi-Tone brunch is that the Juice is Loose. I’m not talking about a white bronco, and I’m not talking about everyone’s favorite tailback/movie cop/murder suspect.
What I’m saying is that the place will refill your juice for free. That’s right, free. This is basically unheard of in today’s restaurant business, so it is definitely a Heisman-worthy performance by the good folks at the Hi-Tone.
Major props to them for keeping me vitamin-c heavy with a full glass of grapefuit juice the whole time I was there.
B n’ G
As you can imagine my brunch companions are usually a collection of Southerners, so it is in our blood to want biscuits and gravy. There is also a decent possibility that we have a little gravy in our blood down here. Maybe that’s why we are generally pretty easygoing and friendly in the ol’ delta. It might also explain why things just move a little slower down south. Gravy in our collective bloodstream (metaphorically, of course) or not, we do have a number of places that know how to fix biscuits and gravy up right.
The Hi-Tone is no exception. Their gravy was thick without invoking words like “clogging” or “heart stopping,” rather it had just the right amount of flour in their mixture. After learning about the free juice refills, I wasn’t surprised to see that they certainly don’t skimp on the sausage. This isn’t sausage gravy as much as sausage and gravy, and that is a good thing. I’d definitely order this up again, as long as I had a couple of people to help eat them. A half biscuit apiece was plenty!
Tin Cup Plates
The brunch plates at the Hi-Tone are not half-assed by any means, they shoot for the pin and go for it like everyone’s favorite (obviously, this isn’t true) actor, Waterworld’s own Kevin Costner. Here he taking the same approach as the Hi-Tone.
While there were no tin cups or even Tin Cup playing on the television at the bar, they did serve their food in these sweet tin frisbees/pie plates/dishes. When dealing with dishes that have pseudo-liquids like runny egg, syrup, or gravy, it is nice to have a good slope to the dish that allows for better wrangling of the food. As for the photo from Tin Cup, do you think it is really a good idea to have Cheech Marin giving you advice in the biggest golf tournament of your life? I’m not sayin’, I’m just sayin’…
First up in the tee box was my buddy Charles’ order of the Pork Hash. This came our with enough pulled pork to make a jumbo sandwich at Tops, and it was good. It had a good smokey flavor and good combination of moist meat and crispy pieces. This was served over their potatoes and came with a couple of eggs. Because Charles is a healthy eater, he got a side of tomatoes to go with this monster. Seriously, this was a great breakfast dish, and he was able to take enough home to eat lunch. This is good example of a slight variation on the Cost-Quality Ratio, where you add quanity to the equation. This means that not only was the food good in terms of cost and quality, but the amount of food and the added value of an extra meal in a take home box makes it even better. Or, you could split this with someone and maybe supplement with a side of fruit.
K was next to tee off, and she ordered up the Breakfast Plate, which gives you eggs and a number of options in terms of meats, starches, etc. K hit the green with toast, grits, bacon, and a side of asparagus. All of it was good, but the combo of a bite of bacon and asparagus is a great one. Fresh fruits and vegetables make a huge difference to any meal in my opinion.
Now, I will say that Charles and K both made good choices, and I would definitely be tempted to order the Pork Hash in the future, but I brought my total A-Game to the tee-box. Like Memphis’ sometime beloved, often maligned golf star, Big John Daly, I gripped it and ripped it.
When the server read the special to me, I did a double take, then I stepped up and ordered it: the Root Bear Float Pancakes. That’s right, 3 pancakes made with root beer topped with fresh fruit and a scoop and vanilla ice cream. This was an awesome flavor combination, and it really translated to the pancakes well. I’ll also chime in that a little ice cream on top of pancakes in place of butter is an awesome variation. It creates a heat contrast, while adding a slight sweetness, and it mixes well with the syrup. But what was really awesome was the great fruit that really added depth to the dish in the strawberries, blackberries, cherries, and blueberries. This was not the sliced melon fruit dish that a lot of places stick you with. My plate also had a couple of chicken sausages that were great. I’m not sure how often they will do this one, but if you get the chance, I think it is worth it. It is pretty sweet, so take that into consideration.
The Hi-Tone is cool. They have great shows, they have cool art, and they have three flags hanging inside, showing their support for the Good Ol’ US of A, Tenneessee, and Memphis and our Tigers.
Get over there on a Saturday night and see a show and then go back on Sunday for a serious brunch. It will definitely cure a post-show hangover! I’ll be back, and I’ll see you there!
PS. Click the photo for the full menu
I can’t help it. Here’s one more for all you Tone Loc fans. It was the other side of the carpool Tone Loc tape.
“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!