After much ado, Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman’s second joint venture Hog and Hominy does not disappoint.
Hog and Hominy doesn't take reservations, so at the urging of fellow food writer Pam Denney, we arrived on the early side — about 5:15 p.m. on a Tuesday. And she was right; slowly but surely the new hotspot on Brookhaven Circle filled up, until diners were hovering around the bar, waiting to take our table. If our meal was any indication, they likely found it worth the wait.
We started with some snacks: popcorn, arancini, and poutine. The arancini, fried balls of risotto with a pickled cabbage filling, dusted with freshly grated Parmesan, are not to be missed.
Poutine, a Canadian classic made with neckbone gravy and shreds of tender pork, combines three knockout ingredients — French fries, gravy, and cheese curds — you don’t see plated together often around these parts. The glutton in me wanted more cheese curds (always, more cheese curds) but I’ll defer to Andy and Michael on the proper proportions. And lest you think the dish sounds too rich, a drizzle of chili oil kept the otherwise hefty fare from being bogged down.
We also sampled the Buffalo pig tails, a take on the American favorite buffalo chicken wings. They were served with a light, lemony cream that took the edge off the spicy sauce and topped with a celery leaf garnish. At the urging of our waiter, we added creamed corn to our already full line-up of dishes. It seemed an unlikely star, but the suggestion was much appreciated: rich tarragon cream, parmesan, and black pepper created the perfect context for sweet corn.
The food came out as it was prepared, in a sort of ambush-style that kept the table buzzing with new things to try. Mid-way through the snacks, we added two sausages: The house-made mortadella hot dog with beer mustard and relish, and the Calabrese sausage with red onion sofrito, a seasoned sauce common in Spanish and Latin American cuisine.
Of course, we couldn’t possibly neglect to order a few of the highly anticipated brick-oven pizzas. We opted for the ‘Shrooms pizza with porcini, mushroom, smoked mozzarella, arugula, cream, and roasted garlic oil; the Boom-Baba with fig, lardo, fennel, prosciutto, balsamic reduction, and talegio; and the Red Eye with jowl, tomato, egg, fontina, celery leaf, and sugo. (Not surprisingly, we left with quite a few leftovers that night.)
The pizzas are some of the finest in Memphis: crispy, chewy crusts with a slight charring, choice ingredients, and the right toppings to keep things interesting but still comforting. The Red Eye pizza for instance was introduced to us as the perfect hangover food. This is a pretty spot-on description, but with creamy egg yolk, tart tomato, spicy, salty lardo, and chewy crust, this makes for a most satisfying eating experience — hangover or no.
We polished everything off with some coffee and desserts, the peanut butter pie taking top marks. Starting with a vanilla wafer crust, the chefs layer banana pudding and creamy, Reese’s style peanut butter and top the whole thing off with whipped cream.
The prices are reasonable for the quality ingredients and expert treatment of the food. Pizzas are $13-$16; plates, including the sausages and the poutine, range from $8-$12. Sides, like the sizable bowl of creamed corn or potatoes with rosemary and brown butter, are $5 each. The décor is chic but casual, a reminder that Hog and Hominy is not its quiet, reserved sister Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen. When the restaurant fills up (and it will) the concrete floors amplify noise and conversation gets a little tricky. But then again, you’ll probably have your mouth full anyway.
It looks like Hog and Hominy is making strides to bridge the gap between fine dining and traditional cheap eats in Memphis. The past 10 years have been monumental for the fine dining scene here, but Hog and Hominy is bringing some of the most interesting dynamics of national food culture to a hip new level that won’t break the bank. Plus they have a bocce court. Who can argue with that?