Midtowner Patty Dougherty is an expert on brunch. Most weekends, she entices her teenager son, Patrick, out of bed with the promise of food. They've spent a few dollars on simple breakfast fare and "way too much" on elegantly plated entrées. So what's Dougherty's pick for the best brunch in Memphis?
"Majestic Grille," she answers without hesitation. "It's great value, and the food is fantastic."
Families with younger children should check out Dougherty's recommendation on Saturday, December 20th, for the Majestic Grille's "Brunch with Santa." In addition to the big guy with the beard, the event features Chef Patrick Reilly's fun foods for children: "Green Eggs and Ham" with pesto and cheddar cheese, "French Toast Fingers" with maple syrup and bacon, and "Pancake Pops" with sausage links served on a stick. The $9 specials also include hot chocolate and holiday cookies.
Reilly is planning goodies for parents, too, including smoked salmon hash, steak and eggs, and the Majestic Mimosa, a bottle of champagne served with orange juice and fresh orange slices. One more thing: Brunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and reservations are required.
The Majestic Grille, 145 S. Main, majesticgrille.com (522-8555)
If your DIY groove hasn't kicked in yet for the holidays, try jump-starting it with a candy-making class Sunday, December 7th, at Mary Carter Decorating Center. But don't be late. The class, held from 2 to 4 p.m., is free, and seats fill up quickly.
"We open the store at 1 o'clock, and people should get here and claim a seat," says store manager Chris Famerty. "By 1:30, it's usually standing-room-only."
About 60 people can cram into the teaching room at Mary Carter's, where Famerty's mom, Kathy, demonstrates her candy-making magic. "For the first 15 minutes, she runs through the basic rules of candy-making," Famerty says. (Example: Don't dilute chocolate with water.)
Next on the syllabus is how to mold and present chocolates, suckers, and candy crunch. "Peppermint crunch is the most popular at Christmas, but we have a line of new crunches too," Famerty says, citing coffee crunch and peanut brittle crunch.
Only Kathy knows the rest of the candy class schedule (she's an improviser!), but count on this: Class participants always get recipes and samples.
Mary Carter Decorating Center,
3205 Summer, bakingstuff.com (452-1233)
For 30 years, Calvary Episcopal Church has been staging Calvary and the Arts, a series of free noontime concerts followed by affordable and delicious lunches. The final pairing of the 2008 season on Wednesday, December 9th, celebrates the holidays with a Christmas pops concert by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra and an audience sing-along.
Be sure to save time for lunch after the concert. Calvary chef Bill Webster is cooking sirloin tips with tomato chutney over egg noodles, mixed Tuscan vegetables, and coconut cake. Lunch tickets ($7) are available at the door.
Calvary Episcopal Church, 102 N. Second, calvarymemphis.org (525-6602)
Once upon a time, the Terrace Café at the Dixon Gallery and Gardens only opened for a few days in the spring, during peak azalea season. Then the café added days in the fall (delicious lunch and foliage!).
The Holiday Café is here again, offering a trio of activities for $25: fine dining, museum admission, and a chance to see the Dixon all dressed up for Christmas.
Now that you're tempted, you'd better hurry and make reservations, because only one day — Tuesday, December 9th — is still open for seating.
Dixon Gallery & Gardens, 4439 Park, dixon.org (761-5250)
Wine tastings may seem a little ho-hum these days, but the Memphis Botanic Garden has come up with a new twist. A Holiday Wine Party on Thursday, December 4th, features fashions by the Shops of Laurelwood and floral designs by Kevin Coble, owner of Le Fleur.
There are good eats, too, including fruits, cheeses, and appetizers, and don't forget the wines: Spanish and French Champagne, Brutocao Zinfandel, Chateau St. Michelle Chardonnay, Bernard Griffin Merlot, and Monkey Bay Sauvignon Blanc.
Memphis Botanic Garden,