Over the past few years, the food world has been abuzz with talk of eating locally and seasonally. For Memphians, translating this movement into practice has become so convenient that excuses for not eating locally and seasonally are like the croissant bread pudding placed before me at my recent visit to Interim. That is to say, the excuses have disappeared.
Dinner at Interim is one way you can eat local foods that follow the seasons. Chef Josh Belenchia and staff do a complete overhaul of the menu four times a year (that's one change for each season). Depending on availability, as much as 50 percent of their produce comes from local farmers markets. And it tastes good. I stopped in to sample the newest menu changes recently and had smoked salmon cakes served with fennel-apple slaw and citrus reduction and trigger fish with parsnip purée, braised fennel, roasted Brussels sprouts (my favorite), and citrus brown butter.
My companions also sampled some seasonal fare, including an incredibly tender pork shank served with locally made Delta Grind gouda grits, collard greens and whole-grain mustard jus, and the Springer Mountain chicken breast with caramelized onions, bacon, sweet potatoes, and Swiss chard.
Some staples are always on the menu, like Interim's wildly popular burger made with beef from Neola Farms, located 30 minutes north of Memphis in Brighton, Tennessee. (The open kitchen at Interim offered a perfect vantage to see just how many Neola Farms burgers were coming off the grill. Answer: a lot.)
Meanwhile, new menu items were peppering the surrounding tables during my visit: sweet potato soup with crème fraîche and toasted hazelnuts, scallop puttanesca, steak of the day with Parmesan-truffle fries, sautéed garlic spinach and wild huckleberry sauce, and a pear mousse cake with spiced devil's food cake, pear panna cotta, and pear mousse amaretto sauce.
Interim is proof that eating local, seasonal food doesn't have to mean cooking it yourself.
Interim, 5040 Sanderlin (818-0821),
Of course, if you like to cook, Miss Cordelia's grocery in Harbor Town carries a wide range of local foods to work with: herbs from Millstone Gardens in Hernando, McCarter Coffee from the Millington micro-roaster, honey by Robert Hodum from Collierville, and Bonnie Blue Cheeses from Waynesboro.
What you might not know is that Miss Cordelia's also pairs up with local restaurants to make some of their foods more readily available. For instance, Las Delicias, known for its fresh Mexican dishes, chunky guacamole, and homemade tortillas, now sells their homemade corn chips at the Harbor Town market. And the sushi at Miss Cordelia's? "Most people don't realize that it comes from Umai," says executive chef David Thornton.
Out of all Miss Cordelia's local items, Thornton says Isa's Cakes — made by Isaura Amill, originally from Puerto Rico — and the products from Big Ono Bake Shop on Front sell the best. Big Ono brings in fresh pastries, breads, and cupcakes every day, and since the bakery itself closes at 3 p.m., Miss Cordelia's is the only place to find their fresh baked goods in the afternoon.
Miss Cordelia's, 737 Harbor Bend (526-4772), misscordelias.com
Another local treat you might spy at the grocery store is a bag of Makeda's homemade cookies. Ten local Kroger stores carry the brand, and you can always pick up a dozen at one of the three Makeda's Bakery locations. The business was founded in 1999 by Pamela and Maurice Hill and four other family members and was named after their niece Makeda, who passed away from leukemia in 1997.
In addition to Kroger, Makeda's cookies can be found at area restaurants such as Soulsville Grill on Shelby Drive and D'bo's Wings n' More in Cordova.
What's their secret? "The premium ingredients," Pamela Hill says: "100 percent butter and a lot of love." The butter cookies are the number-one seller, but the bakery sells 16 types of cookies, including chocolate pecan, iced oatmeal, chocolate chip, macadamia nut, sugar, and peanut butter.