To celebrate the restaurant's birthday, Willett is orchestrating a weekend celebration with a four-course tasting menu and special wine pairings. The restaurants regular dinner menu also will be offered, and all customers will be treated to a complimentary glass of bubbly.
So what's the chef, who hails from Jonesboro by way of New Orleans, serving Friday and Saturday night? Cultivated wild mushrooms will be followed by roasted escolar from the Gulf of Mexico (a buttery, white fish popular in Louisiana), panneed veal, and a tasting of goat cheeses from Bonnie Blue Farm, a regional producer in Waynesboro, Tennessee. The fixed-priced menu is $65.
"Even though we'll be full, I'll also put together a fun dessert, probably cupcakes and chocolates," Willett says. "I'm so proud of my staff and my customers that I want to do something nice."
Adding to the occasion are the evening's California wines: Patz & Hall Chardonnay (2006); Au Bon Climat Pinot Noir (2006); and Duckhorn Merlot (2005). "I'm excited about these wines, because usually they are too expensive to serve by the glass," Willett says.
Willett's birthday party showcases her classic Southern cooking style, a philosophy she says adds to her success. "When I started the restaurant, food was going very modern," Willett recalls. "I appreciate that approach, but I'm more classic. I found a different niche, and I stuck with it."
An avid cheerleader for downtown Memphis, Willett also praises the city's proximity to Gulf seafood and Mid-South farmers. She is getting revved up for warmer weather, when her menu will reflect the season's bounty of mushrooms (chantelle, black trumpet), baby greens, and spring onions.
"The squashes will come off; the asparagus and lamb will come in," Willett says. "I can hardly wait for all the spring vegetables."
Felicia Suzanne's, 80 Monroe, feliciasuzanne.com (523-0877)
by Pamela Denney