Yesterday for lunch we stopped by Arepa & Salsa, a new Venezuelan restaurant on Madison in the old Burly's space.
I first noticed the Arepa's bright-yellow signage and the sweet colorful planters out front about 2 weeks ago. The restaurant opened last Monday.
While I only ate at Burly's once and my knowledge of the space is fuzzy, I did notice the new booths, and there's a back room and a small slice of outdoor seating on the balcony at the back of the building. Most of the parking is in the back, with entry up a flight of steps that puts you mind-bendingly on street level at Madison.
Arepas are a Venezuelan staple, a corn-based pastry made with a variety of fillings.
The UFOs ($4.50) are mini fried cheese arepas.
Beer lovers, there are three upcoming events you'll most surely want to make note of:
Beer on the Bocce will include both domestic and international craft beers and a menu that's been "reversed engineered" with the beer serving as inspiration for the dishes. The cost is $70. Seating is limited. To make reservations, call 207-7396.
The next weekend, on Saturday, October 13th, 1-5 p.m., it's the Cooper-Young Regional Beerfest. This festival, now in its third year, features craft beers all made within a day's drive from Memphis. Among the participating brewers are: Ghost River, Schlafly, Blackstone, Country Boy, High Cotton, and many more.
Tickets are $35 in advance, $40 day-of.
Last but not least, Bluff City Brewers & Connoisseurs is holding a Learn To Home Brew Day on Saturday, November 3rd, from 12:30-4 p.m. at the Memphis Botanic Garden.
The event is part of National Learn to Homebrew Day and covers everything from equipment and techniques to packaging. Free, with garden admission.
According Anna Harris of Urban Workspace, the owner Kier Thomas had wanted the facility to host classes. The shared kitchen sparked an idea.
Harris has worked as a personal trainer, and while helping clients with their meal plans, something kept coming up. "A lot of them didn't know how to cook," she says.
And, so with this space and with her background in mind, Harris has put together a series of classes with a healthy angle.
A little more than a month ago, Cosmic Coconut took on a new group of owners and with it newly expanded hours and a considerably larger menu. Drink sizes have also increased, while the drinks' price points have been reduced.
The new partners are Taylor Berger of Yolo, Arielle Moinester, Scott Tashie, and Stephen Stamps.
In my write up of Opera Memphis' 30 Days of Opera last week, OM director Ned Canty mentioned the "Opera Doesn't Suck" program. Part of the program's description reads, "Opera isn’t good for you. It is not your daily serving of vegetables. It has no vitamins or minerals. It is filled with murderers, prostitutes, adulterers and hot, sweaty gypsies. Opera will melt your face off with its awesome intensity."
Ah, but you CAN get your daily serving of vegetables and your opera this week when "30 Days of Opera" hits the Memphis Botanic Garden Farmers Market on Wednesday and the Memphis Farmers Market on Saturday.
Two makes a trend, right? In recent days, two red velvet cupcakes have appeared before me like magic.
From Cocoa Van, so sweet with its single heart sprinkle:
And from Simply Done Catering, this tasty treat:
From the contest site:
50 States for Good is a national initiative to help grassroots community projects, and we need your help! Nonprofit groups supporting healthy, human and environmental goodness applied for this year's Tom's of Maine sponsorship funding. Our judges have chosen finalists from every state. Now your votes will help determine which six finalists will share $150,000.
Grow Memphis, dedicated to promoting equitable and accessible food to those who need it most, has been a leading force in this area's community gardens. The plan the organization entered for 50 States for Good earlier this summer is a streamlining of its approach to establishing those gardens.
The idea is Community Gardening 101, which would be an 8-week course with two points of focus. The first deals in the technical aspects of gardening — selecting a site, soil development, etc. The second concentrates on community organizing.
According to Chris Peterson, executive director of Grow Memphis, the community organizing aspect of community gardening has been under-developed thus far. He says building skills in such tasks as volunteer management is crucial to long-term success.
Cast your vote for Grow Memphis every day until October 9th.
Sekisui's Tempura a-la-Carte menu offers 13 options — two pieces per order — including mushrooms, crab stick, onions, calamari, and shrimp.
A more reasonable person would have stopped at two, but let's just call my order too much of a good thing: sweet potatoes ($1), asparagus ($1.75), and broccoli ($1).
The first thing that struck me as I entered Green Bamboo, the Vietnamese restaurant on Germantown Parkway, is that whatever was cooking smelled good. Really good.
So, with the appetite fully primed, I set about studying the menu. The Pea Pod Stem ($11.95) intrigued — pea pod stems "gently kissed in a hot wok" and served with tofu and dipping sauce. The Canh Chua Chay ($11.95) was also interesting — a sweet and sour soup with pineapples, tofu, sprouts, tomatoes, and chayote (a vegetable related to melons and squash) served in a tamarind broth.
Ultimately, I went the traditional route with the Curry Tofu and mixed vegetables ($11.95) — a spot-on combo of vegetables (onions, carrots, mushrooms, etc.) in a mild lemongrass curry served on top of rice. An excellent dish all the way around.
On my last visit to Shang Hai, I noticed salted lemonade ($3) on the menu.
The server told me it is what it sounds like — with the salt enhancing the lemon flavor. (Basically, it's the same idea behind grandpa Gene salting the ice cream on Mad Men.)
And, indeed, it is very lemon-y, almost artificially so, and it reminded me of something I couldn't quite place. When I was paying up the server asked me what I thought about the drink, and I said it was okay. She noted that it reminded her of a margarita without the booze ... Bingo! That's exactly what it tastes like.
The third and final act of the inaugural Cochon Heritage BBQ weekend began with a giant plate of cheese and four glasses of wine — as, we've now determined, all good things should start.
Next door, Chef Edward Lee of 610 Magnolia in Louisville Kentucky, gave an overview of the umami-yielding properties of Red Boat fish sauce, including examples of its use in both American and Mexican cuisine. (We all got our own sample bottles to take home, along with a packet of the brand new Red Boat seasoning rub.)
And further down the hall, Dr. David Newman held a Heritage breed hog butchering demo, a reminder of the pork-filled competition still to come.
Out on the streets of downtown, an open air kitchen was already smoking, and a small farmers market was set up along Main Street. We headed to Felicia Suzanne's before the big competition to take in some (more) bourbon in honor of National Bourbon Month, and enjoy barbecued oysters and a Whole Foods BLT bar.
No sooner had we gulleted a few oysters and BLTs than the main event, the Heritage BBQ competition at the Columns at Court Square, beckoned us with its porky siren song.
The competition centered around a 4+2 Judge's Plate. Each of the nine teams crafted a snout-to-tail plate featuring a pull, a muscle, a bone, a stew, a mayo-based side, and a mustard-based side. From the official Cochon Heritage BBQ Program:
By the end of the competition, the winner was announced (with second and third place winners also noted.) Todd Mussman of Local 3 in Atlanta was the overall winner, with special marks given to his pig head gumbo served with dirty rice calas.
Mark Newman and Miles McMath of St. Jude, the only hometown winners, were given second place honors for their spread, which included a Yorkshire pudding, a pecan pie, Koolaid pickles, and an offal corndog (the offal/awful homonym led to a couple of enjoyable, if predictable, "Who's on first?" moments.) We believe Newman and McMath may have gotten a few extra points for their special guest, Sadie, the three-week-old piglet, who stayed tucked into her cage under the serving table. (She went home, unharmed, to live with Miles McMath.) Craig Bell of Sub-Zero Wolf in Chicago took home third place.
The weekend was a whirlwind of cochon camaraderie that swept through Memphis with Hurricane Isaac at its back. We're already looking forward to next Labor Day.
For more coverage, visit Pam Denney's Memphis Stew or check out this week's Food News in the Flyer.
After a long night of boozing it up on bourbon (and bologna!) the Cochon caravan traveled to Sweet Grass Next Door in Cooper Young for a mid-morning Bloody Mary Tailgate. There, some Cochon 5.55Kers took off running around the neighborhood while the rest of us gorged on bloody marys, oysters, and Benton's bacon. While I don't want to speculate on who got the better deal in this situation, I think it's clear we — burp — got the better deal in this situation.
The result of this culinary meeting of the minds was a gastronomical tour de force: barbecued oysters topped with fois gras; a BBQ spaghetti inspired cavatelli pasta; a Thai pork slider with green curry, pork fat mayo and kimchi; grilled cheese with pork belly and summer veggies; a mortadella, mustard, and robiola sandwich, Vietnamese fried bones; cured loin with lentils and salsa verde; Mexican soda pulled pork; and a special Manhattan snocone with Luxardo cherries for dessert.
The dishes were served family style, a steady stream of tastings for the whole table, and paired with Anchor brews and Elk Cove wines, and a tasty gin fizz (with a hint of celery bitters to keep things interesting and not too sweet.)
It was a porky prelude to Sunday's competition day, best enjoyed inside and away from Hurricane Isaac's after-dinner downpour.
A number of stations offered pork renditions from a variety of Memphis' culinary cognoscenti. Las Tortugas served a guacamole with crispy pork; Interim served a number of items throughout the evening, including a chopped pork shoulder with light vinaigrette and mustard greens; Acre offered up hog head and ham in a pretzel roll with fennel apple mustard garnish; Lunchbox Eats had its coconut lemonade to wash down the fig-smoked, beer-braised pork hock sandwiches topped with green tomato chow chow, veggie slaw, and cornbread toast. At some point, I had a chocolate truffle topped with crispy fried pork skins, and though I'm not sure I know how it wound up in my hand, I'd like to buy that chocolate fairy a drink. Probably something with bourbon.