I love to cook, but typically I read cookbooks for fun, not for help in the kitchen. I bookmark lots of recipes but seldom cook any of them.
I mention this approach because Recipes From the Memphis Farmers Market, a new cookbook on locally grown food, was a game-changer for me. I made "Wild Mushroom and Leek Tart," a recipe from Chef Jose Gutierrez, as soon as I got home with the book. (I used a packaged pie crust, not Gutierrez' homemade version, but the tart was still rich and delicious.) Within a week, I had tried three more recipes: Susie Graves' Parmesan zucchini quiche, Sharon Leicham's okra pancakes, and Nancy Kistler's summer squash casserole.
Clair Kelly, who compiled the cookbook, isn't surprised by my enthusiasm. She and a group of 18 volunteers tested hundreds of recipes contributed by local chefs, caterers, market vendors, and Memphis foodies. They eventually settled on about 200 appetizers, salads, soups, breads, main dishes, sides, condiments, sauces, and desserts for both carnivores and vegetarians.
"We wanted recipes that were healthy and not too complicated," says Kelly, a Harbor Town resident and scientist at St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. "But the most important criteria was for recipes to feature ingredients from the farmers market. The market was our inspiration."
Leicham, a market board member, credits Kelly and graphic artist Linda Harris, who designed the book, for pushing the fund-raising project from concept to publication. "They were responsible for coordinating this amazing volunteer effort," Leicham says.
In a month's time, the market has sold 410 cookbooks out of the original 500.
A second printing has been ordered and copies ($18 each) are available online, at the season's final market downtown Saturday, and at the Fourth Annual Harvest Celebration on November 8th at Central Station's Hudson Hall.
The market's harvest celebration is another major fund-raiser for the market, pulling in more than 500 participants. Tickets — if purchased by Saturday — are $45 for singles, $80 for couples, and $25 for vendors and market volunteers. Ticket prices increase $10 November 1st. "We hope to raise $30,000," Leicham says.
The event, from 4 to 7 p.m., will include entertainment and beer, wine, and food from a who's who of local restaurants, including Andrew Michael Kitchen, Amerigo (the event sponsor), Big Ono Bakery, Cafe Society, Grill 83, Inn at Hunt Phelan, Interim Restaurant, Majestic Grille, Mesquite Chop House, Restaurant Iris, Sole Restaurant, and Chez Philippe.
An auction, with many items contributed by market vendors, also will offer unique goods and services, such as backyard vegetable gardens, cooking demonstrations, and monthly flower bouquets. "You can even bid to stay at the cabin at Bonnie Blue Farms in Waynesboro," Leicham says. "And while you're there, you can milk the goats."
Memphis Farmers Market (memphisfarmersmarket.com)
If TJ Mulligan's has had live bands three nights a week, how many band nights have they had over the past 20 years?
Lee Adams, who opened the original TJ Mulligan's in Southeast Memphis on October 28, 1989, figures the answer like this: "Three times 52 is about 150, give or take a few nights," he says. "150 times 20 years is 3,000 band nights."
Throw in the other TJ Mulligan's locations (two in Cordova, one downtown, and one in Jackson, Tennessee) and the total number of band nights might top 10,000. "No matter how you figure it, we've fed a lot of starving musicians," Adams says, laughing.
Music, along with food and drink specials, are on tap all week to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the first TJ Mulligan's at 6635 Quince Road.
"We've never tried to be something we're not," Adams says about the restaurant's longevity. "If you want a cutting-edge martini, you've got the wrong place. We are a neighborhood bar and grill, and we don't believe in overcharging."
Twenty years ago, customers came in with their girlfriends, Adams continues. "Then those same people came in with their kids. Now those kids I first met when they were 3 years old are bartending and waiting tables. It's a big family."
Anniversary events culminate Saturday night with Halloween parties at all locations. Check the TJ Mulligan's website for specifics, but don't miss the haunted house at Mulligan's Pinch location. "They really knock themselves out getting ready," Adams says. "And they give all the money they raise to St. Jude."
TJ Mulligan's, 362 N. Main (523-1453); 8071 Trinity (756-4480); 6635 Quince (753-8056); 2821 N. Houston Levee (377-9997), tjmulligans.com
When the check came after dinner last week at Sekisui Pacific Rim, I was incredulous. "It's only $40," I said to my husband. "And that's with a tip and my martini."
So how did we keep the bill so affordable? First, we had a $10 coupon from restaurant.com, but, more importantly, we ordered the restaurant's new monthly specials, an inventive mish-mash of small plates from head chef Takeshi Hanafusa.
Two of our favorites were shrimp tempura (five large shrimp for $5.50) and daikon salad, a mountain of shredded daikon, tomatoes, and cucumbers dressed with a sweet and sour combination of plum sauce and Ponzo.
Other similarly priced specials include grilled pike fish and shiitake mushrooms. "The mushrooms are sautéed in butter, Hondashi [a Japanese seasoning], salt, pepper, and a little soy," says manager Jenny Son. "It's simple and delicious."
Sekisui Pacific Rim, 4724 Poplar (767-7770), sekisuiusa.com