Wednesday, February 27, 2019

Best Bets: Edge Alley Shrimp and Grits

Posted By on Wed, Feb 27, 2019 at 2:30 PM

Shrimp and grits at Edge Alley. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Shrimp and grits at Edge Alley.

Shrimp and grits is a popular New Orleans dish. So, if you’re celebrating Fat Tuesday in the Bluff City instead of in the Big Easy, throw on some Mardi Gras beads and head over to Edge Alley for chef/owner Tim Barker's version of shrimp and grits.

I believe the first time I tried shrimp and grits was at City Grocery restaurant in Oxford, Miss. It was amazingly delicious. I probably thought at the time, “Who could have come up with such an amazing thing?”

That was decades ago. Over the years, I’ve eaten shrimp and grits in many locations, including buffets at parties.

Also over the years, I seem to forget there usually is meat of some kind in shrimp and grits. I’ll order it on a night when I don’t want meat and then suddenly I’m surprised to find chorizo peeping out of my grits.

Well, there’s no meat in Barker’s shrimp and grits at Edge Alley. They’re fabulous. Shrimp, grits, tomatoes, onions, garlic, herbs, and spices. An entree with as much comfort as a Stratolounger.

“I prefer the shrimp and grits that doesn’t have ham in it,” Barker says. “Or sausage. I don’t think it’s necessary. But roasting all the vegetables and getting that char, nice deep color, we’re able to achieve the same effect without adding ham.”

And, he says, “I’m not a fan of heavier, salty shrimp and grits. My goal with our recipe is to make a lighter, fresher, more healthful approach.”

There is butter in his shrimp and grits. “It’s not exactly ‘healthy.’ I put a fair amount of butter in it. But I’m in the camp that says butter is good for you. A lot of people have condemned butter, but everything in moderation. In a sauce made of roasted vegetables, a little butter won’t hurt you.”

Describing his shrimp and grits, Barker says, “Lilghtly blackened Gulf shrimp. The sauce is charred. Spicy-charred tomato sauce. And then our pimento cheese grits.

“The technique we use to prepare our grits is fluffier and lighter so they’re not heavy and gloopy. Mine are, from the outset, designed to be lighter and almost fluffy.”

I’ve added a video of Barker making his shrimp and grits like he does at home instead of in a larger quantity like he does at Edge Alley.

So, turn on the video and let the good times roll in Barker’s kitchen.

Edge Alley is at 600 Monroe No. 101; (901) 425-2605

  • Michael Donahue
  • Tim Barker

Monday, February 25, 2019

Coming Soon: Cousins Maine Lobster

Posted By on Mon, Feb 25, 2019 at 2:54 PM


The Cousins Maine Lobster food truck will make its debut Saturday, March 2nd at Crosstown Brewing.

The truck, which is one of about two dozen nationwide, is known for its lobster rolls.

Cousins is run by two cousins — Jim Tselikis and Sabin Lomac. According to Lomac, they were only in business a couple of months when they were urged by the producers of Shark Tank to appear. They did and convinced Barbara Corcoran to back them.

The company has since expanded wildly — now with 30 trucks and eight brick-and-mortar restaurants. Lomac says it was the exposure from the show that helped them realize this sort of success.

Lomac says that the Memphis market appealed to them because they recognized the promise in the food scene.

The truck will be at Crosstown Brewing on March 2nd from 2:30 to 7 p.m. From there, it's a busy schedule:

Buster's Liquors & Wines
191 S Highland Street, Memphis TN 38111
Serving Noon-5:00pm

West Clinic
7945 Wolf River Blvd, Germantown, TN 38138
Serving 10:30am-1:00pm

Wiseacre Brewing Co.
2783 Broad Avenue, Memphis, TN 38112
Serving 5-8:30pm

Health Sciences Park
Madison Avenue & S Dunlap Street, Memphis TN 38103
Serving 11am-2pm

Memphis Made Brewing Co
768 Cooper Street, Memphis, TN 38104
Serving 1pm-6pm 

The menu for the Memphis truck features two types of lobster roll (Maine and Connecticut), a lobster grilled cheese, lobster tots (!), clam chowder, and lobster tacos and shrimp tacos.

For Lomac, sourcing the lobster through Maine guarantees quality, which will be something Memphians will appreciate. "It's an affordable luxury," he says. "And we saved them a trip to Maine."

Those interested in booking the truck, can contact them through their website.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

The Scoop on Knifebird

Posted By on Thu, Feb 21, 2019 at 12:00 PM


Knifebird, the new wine bar in Cooper-Young, is set to open in May.

First things first, let's get the name out of the way. It is the bar owner Kate Ashby's nickname, based on a tattoo of a bird on her wrist. It looks, from some angles, like a dagger.

Knifebird will be next to Urban Outfitters, across the street from Railgarten. The look will be mid-century industrial chic.

Ashby describes it as "a watering hole for dignified people." She says that Memphis has plenty of cool breweries and restaurants, but Knifebird will be a place to stay a while — without the smoky atmosphere and promise of regrets.

"I'm really hoping to create a neighborhood bar with ambience and character," Ashby says.

Ashby has a background in wines, working most recently at the Kitchen Bistro and Char. She says that Knifebird will sell about 35 to 40 wines by the glass, ranging from $10 to $15 with a few high dollar glasses available. There will be local beers and a full bar as well. Ashby is bringing in a bartender to design the cocktail menu.

The bar will have a cold kitchen, meaning charcuterie plates and cheeses and the like.

Ashby says that Knifebird won't be pretentious and they aren't out to educate anybody. They will offer wines are that are familiar for those who like what they like and more "out there" wines for the more adventurous.

She says in her experience she finds that Memphians like California wines, but she hopes to turn them on to French wines. She herself likes a good glass of Beaujolais.

Knifebird to-be - KNIFEBIRD, INSTAGRAM
  • Knifebird, Instagram
  • Knifebird to-be

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Best Bets: Creamed spinach at 117 Prime

Posted By on Tue, Feb 12, 2019 at 4:06 PM

Creamed spinach at 117 Prime - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Creamed spinach at 117 Prime

Popeye had a lot to do with me liking greens.

As a child, I went through a period where I hated turnip greens, sweet potatoes, bananas, liver, buttermilk, beets, and Mexican food. Greens was at the head of the list — until my mother bought a can of spinach.

My brother and I got her to buy a can of spinach because we wanted to be like Popeye. It might have been "Popeye" brand. She had to open the can about three fourths of the way so it would look like the cans in the cartoons. Popeye squeezed the cans open and plopped the spinach into his mouth. Part of the lid always was attached to the can. My mother had to put heavy tape around the edge of the lid so we wouldn’t cut ourselves while trying to look like Popeye. This sort of lessened the effect we we were trying to achieve.

The outcome of all this was we discovered we loved spinach. It didn’t taste like canned turnip greens, which, I later discovered, my mother didn’t like, either. She served them because they’re good for you.

Well, if chef Ryan Trimm was cooking when I was a child, I might have bypassed Popeye and the empty spinach cans. I tasted Trimm’s creamed spinach during a recent trip to his 117 Prime restaurant. It’s one of the most delectable side dishes I’ve eaten. And, I’ll even say, it’s the best creamed spinach I’ve ever eaten.

I asked Trimm to tell me about it.

“I knew what was in creamed spinach and I made it,” he says. “I played with it. I knew the basic idea of what creamed spinach was and we played with it ‘till I got it.”

He wanted it to be “traditional creamed spinach - a combination of two different cheeses, shallots, garlic, spinach, cream, and salt and pepper.”

And, he says, “It’s always a white cheese."

The taste is spectacular. “Ours is rich. We put more cheese in it than most people do. It costs a lot to make. It’s not cheaply made by any means.”

I ordered the creamed spinach with my steak at 117 Prime, but, I have to say, I could make a meal out of the spinach. “It’s about 12 ounces of creamed spinach,” Trimm says.

Creamed spinach is something Trimm just likes to eat. “It’s something I remember from steak houses. I love spinach, sauteed, Italian spinach. And creamed spinach is something I’ve always enjoyed. When I go to a steakhouse, I almost always order sauteed mushrooms and creamed spinach. They’re two favorites.”

Two of his favorite places to get creamed spinach are Peter Luger Steakhouse in New York and The Palm in New York City.

Now you can stay in Memphis and get a great one.

Note: I’ve added a video of chefs Trimm and head chef Alex Switzer making creamed spinach at 117 Prime. It’s going to make you hungry.

117 Prime is at 117 Union Avenue; 901-433-9851

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Tuesday, February 5, 2019

Swanky's Coming Downtown

Posted By on Tue, Feb 5, 2019 at 2:47 PM


Look for later hours and a new dinner menu when the new Swanky’s Taco Shop opens Downtown in the old LYFE Kitchen space in The Chisca on Main. The restaurant, which will become the third Swanky’s location, is slated to open in April, says owner/founder/managing partner Matt Wilson.

“I would anticipate us staying open probably on the weekends,” he says. “Probably the bar open until until 12 or 12:30. Something like that. The kitchen open till 11 on the weekend and probably 10 during the week.

“We will be providing our casual, quick lunch option, which has been shown to be successful for us for almost 14 years. Nighttime table service and a different dinner menu will be unveiled at that location. You won’t consider it a lunch spot, if you know what I mean. A more refined atmosphere.”

And, he says, the new location offers “a great patio opportunity.”

The old LYFE space is only three years old, so Wilson says, “For the majority of it, we’re not going to change a whole lot. Do some demolition of walls and things to open up our queue.”

But, he says, “It’s in really good shape. They took really good care of it.”

They will move into 3,885 square feet, which includes the interior of the restaurant, the dining room and bar, says Chase Carlisle, managing partner of The Chisca on Main. The space also comes with a 1,200 square-foot-patio.

They haven’t set a date for the opening, but Wilson hopes it will be in April.

Wilson says, “So much happening in Downtown. It’s going to be our third store in Memphis. We looked Downtown for years and years and we haven’t found the right spot. And timing wasn’t right. We looked at One Commerce Square probably seven year ago. It didn’t work out.

“Now I feel there’s so much momentum for our great city and what’s going on Downtown. We cater to all sorts of clients, who have been asking for Swanky’s to come Downtown for a long time. Chase Carlisle brought the opportunity to my attention and we started talking about it late last spring.”

David Delapav, who ran Salsa for 14, 15 years, will be “the man in charge Downtown. And we’re already hired some folks and got them training at the Swanky’s on Colonial. We’re fired up. We anticipate a bigger bar business there than we have at our other stores.”

What sets Swanky’s apart? “It’s a commitment to serving the freshest food that we possibly can. We get produce delivered six days a week. And everything we do there is as fresh as possible. It’s certainly not fancy, but we feel we can deliver some healthy alternatives and no MSG garbage. We keep that stuff out and offer fresh flavors.”

Their catering business, with their fajita bars, “continues to grow at leaps and bounds.”

“Tenn Mex” is how they describe their food. “This concept was born in Memphis. Whether it’s our pretty sizable variety of bourbons we offer to some different things we’ve done dessert-wise, we feel like we’ve kept our connection to the Mid-South when we can.

“The whole deal is not possible without having a big crew of folks that are great team members. And we’re only as good as our frontline.”

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Monday, February 4, 2019

No More Plastic Bags at Cordelia's Market

Posted By on Mon, Feb 4, 2019 at 10:53 AM

Cordelia's Market in Harbor Town has made the decision to get rid of its plastic bags, effective today.

And, it's having a party to celebrate!

Kroger announced last summer that it plans to do away with plastic bags by 2025. Last fall, the city council discussed plans to tax consumers for each plastic bag used. I believe Cordelia's is the first Memphis-area market to do away with the bags.

"The environment," says Erica Humphreys on the reason why Cordelia's made this move.

Humphreys, who is a manager at Cordelia's, says that plastic bags are just no good. They aren't recyclable and it takes up to 1,000 years for a bag to fully degrade, and they junk up the ocean.

Humphreys says they had been thinking about it for a while and starting feeling out their customers' reactions at the register. The ban was well received. Cordelia's will offer paper bags for those who don't bring a reusable bag.

Today at the market, 3,000 reusable bags will be given away and for those who bring their own mug, there's free coffee, and discount beer for those who bring their own pint glass. 

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