Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Moondance Grill Will Open Thursday, September 12th

Posted By on Wed, Sep 11, 2019 at 7:21 PM

Moondance Grill - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Moondance Grill

Moondance Grill - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Moondance Grill

Coinciding with a near full moon, Moondance Grill, a new Germantown restaurant, will open September 12th. Taking some liberties with Van Morrison’s lyrics, it should be a marvelous night for a “Moondance.”

But the restaurant, which will open at 11 a.m., will also serve lunch and dinner well before the moon rises.

“Cozy,” “warm,” with a “nice mellow vibe,” is how Tommy Peters describes the restaurant he and his wife, Liz, and the Beale Street Blues Co. are opening at 1730 Germantown Parkway. Tommy is president of Beale Street Blues Co., which owns Itta Bena, the restaurant above B. B. King’s Blues Club, and Lafayette’s Music Room in Overton Square.

Tommy’s description is right on the money. Throw in “classy,” too. The restaurant, which is decorated in brown and teal with lots of exposed brick, is elegant and casual at the same time. A painting above a fireplace in the bar area sums up the restaurant. The moonscape includes the Germantown water tower. There also are two people in the painting. “Liz and I dancing to ‘Moondance,’” Tommy says.

The restaurant, located in front of Germantown Performing Arts Center, was named in honor of Morrison, who is Tommy’s favorite artist. He’s seen him in concert 22 times.

Liz says she wanted the restaurant to be “a nice, social bar in Germantown and a place for people to have fun." They didn’t want it to be formal or too casual, but somewhere in between, she says.

The expansive rectangular bar can seat 32 people, but there’s still an intimate feel. Same goes for the generous booths in one area and the tables in another. Moondance Grill is roomy, but, as Tommy says, cozy. And guests will probably hear “Moondance” played more than once on the digitally-operated Yamaha grand piano in the bar.

Joel LeMay, executive chef, will be in the open kitchen, preparing the fare, which includes pan-seared sand dab, shrimp and grits, grilled salmon, boneless braised short ribs, and some “Moondance”-themed items, including the “Moondance Club,” “Moondance Classic Burger,” and “The Moondance” — a salad made with mixed greens, ham, chicken, bacon, egg, cheddar jack cheese, tomatoes, corn, carrots, garlic roasted croutons, and honey mustard dressing.

Those who’ve eagerly awaited the opening of  Moondance Grill will probably agree with another line in Morrison’s “Moondance”: “And I know now the time is just right.”

Moondance Grill - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Moondance Grill
Moondance Grill - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Moondance Grill
Liz and Tommy Peters at Moondance Grill - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Liz and Tommy Peters at Moondance Grill

Moondance Grill - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Moondance Grill
Moondance Grill executive chef Joel LeMay and Beale Street Blues Co. corporate chef Oscar Pena. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Moondance Grill executive chef Joel LeMay and Beale Street Blues Co. corporate chef Oscar Pena.
  • Michael Donahue

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Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Memphis Food & Wine Festival will be Oct. 12

Posted By on Tue, Sep 10, 2019 at 6:48 PM

Spearheading the Memphis Food & Wine Festival are Wally Joe, Al LaRocca, Sherry and Bob Chimenti, and Jose Gutierrez. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Spearheading the Memphis Food & Wine Festival are Wally Joe, Al LaRocca, Sherry and Bob Chimenti, and Jose Gutierrez.

More than 40 chefs - area and from around the country - and almost 40 vintners will take part in this year’s Memphis Food & Wine Festival, which will be held Oct. 12th at Memphis Botanic Garden.

Six French Master Chefs, including Jose Gutierrez, chef/owner of River Oaks, will participate. Other chefs will be from Michelin-starred restaurants. James Beard Foundation winners will include Wally Joe, chef/owner of Acre. Gutierrez is the festival’s chef chairperson, and Joe is co-chef chairperson.

In addition to Gutierrez and Joe, local chefs will include Erling Jensen from Erling Jensen: The Restaurant, Andreas Kisler from The Peabody, Ryan Trimm, whose restaurants include Sweet Grass and 117 Prime; and Phillip Ashley Rix of Phillip Ashley Chocolates.

Out-of-town chefs include Tory McPhail from Commander’s Palace in New Orleans, Deb Paquette from Etch in Nashville, and Ken Frank from La Toque in Napa, California.

Among the culinary items will be Gutierrez’s roast pork tenderloin with peas and mint with fennel and coconut, and Joe’s gnocchi with duck confit, mushrooms, and smoked potato sauce.

McPhail is slated to serve barbecued gulf redfish cake with ravigote, Creole tomato sauce piquant, and herb salad.

Vintners include Caymus Vineyards, Pol Roger, and Silver Oak & Twomey.

Performers at the festival will include Amy LaVere, Will Sexton, John Paul Keith, and Ghost Town Blues Band.

Since 2016, Memphis Food & Wine Festival raised more than $225,000 for FedExFamilyHouse, says Sandra Lewis, relationship manager at Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Gutierrez, Al LaRocca, and Bob and Sherry Chimenti are founders of the festival.

For more information and ticket prices, go to

As a companion event to the festival, Acre is hosting a dinner on Oct. 10th.  Guest chefs Frank, the Michelin starred chef-owner of La Toque, and Michael Smith of Farina in Kansas City, Missouri will join Joe in the kitchen. Smith is a James Beard Best Chef-Midwest Award winner. Also cooking will be Gutierrez and Franck Oysel, pastry chef at Interim.

Wines from Dry Creek Vineyards in Sonoma will be paired with each course.

The cost of the dinner is $185 pp plus tax & gratuity. A portion of the proceeds will benefit FedExFamilyHouse and Le Bonheur Children's Hospital.

Monday, September 2, 2019

Highland Axe & Rec to open Sept. 4th

Posted By on Mon, Sep 2, 2019 at 4:18 PM

Highland Axe & Rec  offers three lanes and six targets for axe throwing. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • MIchael Donahue
  • Highland Axe & Rec offers three lanes and six targets for axe throwing.

It’s time to start limbering up. Highland Axe & Rec opens Sept. 4th at 525 South Highland.

It’s safe to say this 5,000-square-foot venue isn’t your usual Highland Strip watering hole.

Highland Axe offers three lanes with six targets. People stand behind a line and throw an axe and try to hit the target.

It also offers food, two bars, games, three 12-by-10 foot projector screens, and three other TVs, plus plenty of seating. Highland Axe also has a basketball-throwing machine and  video game arcades and pinball machines.

But let’s start with the axe throwing.

Throwing that axe isn’t easy at first. I tried it twice and hit the flat of the axe against the wall both times.

Taylor Berger, managing partner in, which owns Highland Axe, Rec Room, Railgarten, and Loflin Yard, showed me the proper way to throw. You hold the axe in two hands with arms raised, take two steps forward, and throw. Berger’s throw, by the way, was right on the money.

You might have thrown an axe or two if you’ve been to the Rec Room. But Highland Axe is the ultimate when it comes to axe throwing. The back area, where the lanes are located, also includes a wide-screen TV, a bar, beer pong and seating for about 30 people. That space was a storage area until they converted it, Berger says.

Why axe throwing? “I got hooked on playing,” Berger says. He’d go to Rec Room with his buddies after the kids had gone to bed and throw some axes. But there’s no kitchen at Rec Room. Now, at Highland Axe, you can eat, drink and be an ax champion.

The main area includes three living room areas, each with its own set of couches and giant projector screen. You can rent out the seating areas to play video games, or, if nobody is renting them, you can relax and watch sports.

Berger installed a deluxe sound system, which will come in handy at Highland Axe dance parties and DJ nights. He also will offer occasional live music.

The menu includes a variety of appropriately-named items, including the “Axe,” “Big Axe,” and “Fat Axe” (thee patties) hamburgers.

The “Kick Axe Chicken Sammie” is a whole, marinated fried chicken breast with melted cheese, served plain, buffalo, or chicken jerk style. Chef Russell Casey came up with the menu.

I’m intrigued by the “Bad Axe Pop-Tarts,” which are pancake battered deep-fried strawberry Pop-Tarts with whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles. You get two to an order.

Movie posters from famous axe-related movies, including Friday the 13th, Golden Axe, American Psycho, The Shining, and So I Married an Ax Murderer, will hang on the walls.

Will they actually run axe movies at Highland Axe?

“Frequently. Yes,” Berger says.

Highland Axe & Rec will be open from 4:30 p.m. until late on weekdays and 11 a.m. until late on weekends.

People can play games or watch sports on giant projector screens in comfy living room areas. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • People can play games or watch sports on giant projector screens in comfy living room areas.

  • Michael Donahue
  • Taylor Berger
Taylor Berger shows how it's done. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Taylor Berger shows how it's done.


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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Memphis Made Brewing Co. Releases New Brew

Posted By on Thu, Aug 29, 2019 at 9:43 AM

Memphis Made seen from the street - MEMPHIS MADE BREWING CO.
  • Memphis Made Brewing Co.
  • Memphis Made seen from the street

Memphis Made Brewing Co. releases its new American honey wheat ale, 3:30 on a Wednesday, at an event at the Cooper-Young brewery Saturday, August 31st, at 3:30 p.m.

  • Memphis Made Brewing Co.
For 3:30 on a Wednesday, Memphis Made revisited a previous specialty beer they brewed for a Memphis bicentennial celebration at the request of Music Export Memphis (MEM), a nonprofit that helps Bluff City bands to promote the Memphis brand abroad.

“We do a lot of one-offs, and if people like them, we bring them back,” says Andy Ashby, sales manager and co-owner of Memphis Made.

The new brew, Ashby says, is named after the city’s emergency sirens, which are tested weekly at noon, on Saturdays and, more importantly, on Wednesday afternoons at 3:30 p.m.

“It’s just a little Memphis thing,” Ashby says.

Memphis Made’s newest creation will come in three flavors — the original 3:30-style brew from the MEM event, as well as two fruit-accented versions in peach and raspberry. “Wheat beers are pretty good receptors for fruit flavors,” Ashby explains.

For their new, drinkable Memphis thing, the brewery has partnered with two stalwarts of the Memphis music scene: Goner Records and Unapologetic. Both the Cooper-Young-based record store/label and the hip-hop art collective have designed labels for the cans. Unapologetic designed the label for the peach can, with Goner taking on duties for the raspberry version. The can designs have yet to be unveiled, but one can’t help but wonder if Unapologetic artist A Weirdo From Memphis’ iconic pink bunny ears and red contact lenses will make an appearance.

A whole lot of GonerBrau - MEMPHIS MADE BREWING CO.
  • Memphis Made Brewing Co.
  • A whole lot of GonerBrau
Memphis Made has a longstanding relationship with Goner Records. The brewery has been one of the sponsors and venues for the annual Gonerfest. The brewery has also brewed commemorative batches of beer for the festival before, such as last year’s GonerBrau cream ale. “We love Goner,” Ashby says. “We’re again sponsoring Gonerfest this year. We’re the sole beer sponsor.” Ashby added that he was excited to work more with the creative forces at Unapologetic and hopes to collaborate with the collective again in the future.

DJs from Goner and Unapologetic will spin records at the release celebration. For those who want to take a taste of 3:30 on a Wednesday home, the beer will be on draft and available in six-packs, to-go. Though the wheat ale has been canned, Ashby warns, “This is a very limited run.”

3:30 on a Wednesday release at Memphis Made Brewing Co. on Saturday, August 31st, 3:30 p.m.


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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Lounge With a View: Mississippi Terrace Opens This Fall at Pyramid

Posted By on Wed, Aug 28, 2019 at 1:26 PM

  • Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
A new outdoor lounge is headed for Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid this fall that offers a one-of-a-kind view of the Mississippi River.

The Mississippi Terrace will overlook the river from the third floor of the Pyramid’s Big Cypress Lodge hotel. The 7,000-square-foot lounge will be open to hotel guests and Pyramid visitors.

The bar will offer beer, wine, and cocktails. The hotel describes its small-plate menu as “New American comfort favorites and down-home Southern twists.“ (See the full menu below.)
  • Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
Here’s how the hotel describes the vibe of the Mississippi Terrace:

“A feel-good ambiance evolves from relaxed al fresco afternoons and painterly sunsets over the Mississippi River to lively star-filled nights. Elegant gathering areas across the terrace’s 7,000-square-feet featuring oversized upholstered sofas and chairs with tables, high-top communal tables with modern pendant spheres that glow beneath awnings, striking circular tables that surround cozy fire pits, and dining tables for four with sun umbrellas.

“A copper-top destination bar offers additional seating while DJ grooves and live music (on select nights) filter through the terrace from a stage across from the bar. Hanging market lights, mood-inducing blue uplighting and beautiful landscaped plants, flowers and trees in wooden planters tie the meandering spaces together.”

No firm date was given for the opening of Mississippi Terrace. But when it does open, it’ll serve guests from 5 p.m.-11 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.
  • Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid
Here is a sample of the Mississippi Terrace menu.

Signature cocktails include:

Sweet Tea Mule – Deep Eddy Sweet Tea Vodka, peach puree, lemon juice, ginger beer, fresh mint
Southern Lady – Maker’s Mark, Jalapeno, mint, raspberry, fresh lemon juice, sparkling rose
Mississippi Margarita – Cazadores Blanco, Del Maguey Vida, agave nectar, fresh lime juice, grapefruit
Summer Rye - Rittenhouse Rye, strawberry, Aperol, fresh lime juice, absinthe
Strawberry-Basil Cosmo – Tito’s Vodka, Clear Creek Cranberry Liqueur, simple syrup, fresh lime juice, muddled fresh strawberries
Aromatic Gin Fizz – Slipsmith London Dry Gin, Domaine de Canton Ginger Liqueur, fresh lemon juice, simple syrup

Menu highlights:

Charcuterie & Cheese Board – venison and duck sausage, Genoa salami, aged cheddar, house-made pimento cheese, charred onion jam, wholegrain mustard and garlic flatbread
Smoked Trout Dip – green onion, caper berries, garlic flatbread
Heirloom Tomato & Mozzarella Salad – arugula, spring mix, sea salt, extra virgin olive oil, heirloom grape tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, balsamic reduction
Bacon Guacamole – avocado, lime juice, cilantro, tomatoes, smoked bacon, fresh jalapeno, onion, queso fresco, corn tortillas
Fresh-Baked Soft Pretzel – cheddar ale dipping sauce and whole grain Creole mustard
Margarita Flatbread – fresh mozzarella, heirloom grape tomatoes, fresh basil, extra virgin olive oil, balsamic reduction served on garlic flatbread
Italian Flatbread – hearty tomato sauce, roasted grape tomatoes, Italian sausage, fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced red onion, arugula served on flatbread
Southern Fried Catfish & Gator Basket – spicy, hand-breaded alligator, fried catfish fingers, sweet jalapeno cream sauce, house-made lemon tartar sauce

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Best Bets: Double Dog at Three Little Pigs Bar-B-Q

Posted By on Wed, Aug 28, 2019 at 12:30 PM

Double Dog at Three Little Pigs Bar-B-Q - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Double Dog at Three Little Pigs Bar-B-Q

If you order a “hot dog” at Three Little Pigs Bar-B-Q, you’ll get the conventional wiener in a bun.

But if you order a “Double Dog,” you’ll get one of my all-time favorite sandwiches.

The Double Dog is two sliced fried hot dogs on a lightly-toasted hamburger bun. You can get anything on it, but most people order it with slaw, mustard, and onions, says Three Little Pigs owner Charlie Robertson.

I love the barbecue at Three Little Pigs, but every so often I have a craving for their Double Dog. Actually, I always have a craving for their Double Dog, but it’s a sandwich I’d better not eat every day.

“It’s a sandwich I thought of ‘cause I like hog dogs and I like a fried hot dog,” says Robertson.

He believes he got the idea back in the day from Dyer’s hamburgers when it was on Cleveland. “Only Dyer’s threw them in the grease and deep fried them.”

The folks at Three Little Pigs cut the hot dogs in half and “fry them on a flat grill almost like a hamburger.”

You grill the hot dog until it’s brown, Robertson says. “Most people want them really brown.”

He, personally, likes to - at times - take one of his hot dogs and “drop it in the deep fryer.”

Double Dogs have been on the menu since Robertson took over Three Little Pigs 30 years ago. “It didn’t just take off,” he says.

It’s still not one of their top sellers, he says, but I think they’re fabulous. I love the slaw, which has a slightly-sweet taste to it. It’s the same slaw they use on their barbecue sandwiches. “It’s got sugar in it,” Robertson says.

They buy chopped cabbage, but they make the sauce for the slaw from scratch. It’s the same slaw sauce recipe that was at Three Little Pigs when he bought the place in 1989, Robertson says. “And we stuck with it.”

I asked if it was mustard based. “It’s mayonnaise-based slaw.”

OK. Now that I’ve written this, I WANT ANOTHER DOUBLE DOG.

Three Little Pigs Bar-B-Q is at 5145 Quince Road; (901)-685-7094

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Friday, August 23, 2019

Best Bets: Lobster Stew at Flying Fish

Posted By on Fri, Aug 23, 2019 at 12:53 PM

Lobster stew at Flying Fish - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Lobster stew at Flying Fish

I craved lobster stew for decades without ever tasting it.

It’s all because of the 1957 song, “Old Cape Cod.” Patti Page sings, “If you like the taste of a lobster stew served by a window with an ocean view, you’re sure to fall in love with old Cape Cod.”

Every time I heard those words, I wanted lobster stew even though I'd never had it before. Those two words conjured up such a tasty dish in my mind.

So, imagine my surprise and delight when I saw “Lobster Stew” on the menu when I was at Flying Fish the other day. I didn’t know they sold it.

The song didn’t specify whether the lobster stew was served in a bowl or a cup, so I went with the bowl.

It’s wonderful. It’s the realization of the lobster stew taste I created in my mind.

Manager Owen Ray told me the stew, which contains lobster, celery, carrots, and cream, is "in the top tier" as far as popular dishes at Flying Fish. And, he says, “I love it.”

The weather outside was in the top tier — mid 90s — when I took my first bite of Flying Fish’s lobster stew. The stew definitely will be a quick lunch and dinner go-to when the weather is chilly.

Now that I’ve tasted lobster stew, I’d like to eat some served by a window with an ocean view. But I’ll settle for a Mississippi River view.

Flying Fish is at 105 South Second Street; (901)-522-8228

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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

Best Bets: Lucchesi's Beer Garden Triple H Gyro and I'm From Memphis Sandwich

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 3:11 PM

The Triple H gyro and the I'm From Memphis sandwich at Lucchesi's Beer Garfden - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • The Triple H gyro and the I'm From Memphis sandwich at Lucchesi's Beer Garfden

I love sweet-and-savory food. So when I want a sandwich that fits in that category, I visit Lucchesi’s Beer Garden for a Triple H gyro.

When I stopped by the other day, I was delighted to discover Tony Lucchesi recently created a new sweet-and-savory sandwich — the “I’m From Memphis.”

But let’s start with the Triple H. I asked Lucchesi, who owns the restaurant/bar with his wife Basma, to give me the history of the gyro.

Tony says he came up with it “by pure accident.” He simply knocked over a bottle of honey. “I spilled honey on gyro meat,” he says. “I couldn’t send it out. I tried it.”

And he liked it. Tony then began adding ingredients from his kitchen to the gyro meat, which is beef and lamb.

He added hummus, which is “delightful with gyro meat.”

Onions and jalapenos were next.

Then hot sauce. “Who doesn’t like hot sauce in the South?”

Finally, pita bread. And a new sandwich was born.

Tony realized three of the ingredients began with an “H,” so, for him, the name for his sandwich was a no-brainer. “My favorite wrestler is Triple H.”

I tried my first Triple H gyro about five years ago. That was about the time Tony came up with it.

It’s one of their “most popular gyros,” he says. People like “the hot and sweet combination.”

I knew I was going to order two sandwiches after Tony told me about his “I’m From Memphis” sandwich. It’s made of peanut butter, pulled pork, a hot dog, and banana puree (honey and banana).

It’s fabulous. It makes my mouth water just to write about it. Something about all those ingredients, including the hot dog and that banana puree, make it over-the-top-good for sweet-and-savory people like myself. The bread — from Turano Baking Co. in Chicago — is the same bread Tony uses for his steamed subs.

The inspiration for “I’m From Memphis” came from a sandwich at Masterpiece Delicatessen in Denver, Colorado, Tony says.

Anup Patel, who was sitting next to me at the bar, says he was a taste-tester for the “I’m From Memphis,” which was created about a week before I visited Lucchesi’s Beer Garden. “I just happened to be here,” Patel says.

I asked him what he thought about it. “I just never had anything like it before,” Patel says.

Ditto. It doesn’t taste like Elvis’s fried peanut butter and banana sandwich.

Why did Tony choose “I”m From Memphis” as the name? “‘Elvis’ was too easy of a name to pick,” he says.

While creating sandwiches, Tony also came up with “The Pit Bull.” It’s a Cuban sandwich made of pulled pork, ham, spicy mustard, Swiss cheese, and house-made pickles.

Note: Tony says he’s going to start a food truck. They’re going to have gyros, falafel, and hot dogs.

I’ll keep you posted.

Lucchesi’s Beer Garden is at 84 South Reese Street; (901)-452-3002

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Fix Brings New Meal Service to Memphis

Posted By on Wed, Aug 21, 2019 at 12:23 PM

Flank steak with broccoli mac and cheese - FIX
  • Fix
  • Flank steak with broccoli mac and cheese

A new Memphis meal kit service hopes to fix the problems consumers find with other such services and do it with a local flair.

Wayne Culbreth founded Fix here last month. He believes his concept in the space will disrupt other services like Blue Apron, Hello Fresh, and others. The concept is different in three core ways, he says — no subscription, next-day delivery, and no packaging waste.

“Families don’t want to be tied to a long-term subscription and don’t want to feel they have a quota on the number of meals they need to order,” said Culbreth. “Home cooks want flexibility and the ability to see a menu of great local food and have it delivered to their house the next day.

“Our progressive production and manufacturing facility allows us to process requests as late as 10 p.m. with delivery of meals to homes across Memphis the next day. This is one of our ‘secret ingredients’ for a successful customer experience.”

Chicken parmesan - FIX
  • Fix
  • Chicken parmesan

To design its menus, Fix works with Jimmy Gentry, chef and owner of P.O. Press Public House & Provisions in Collierville and Paradox Catering, and Cara Greenstein, the talent behind the lifestyle blog Caramelized.

Fix customers can choose from easy, weeknight meals, options for kids, vegetarian dishes, and recipes to help them try something new. So far, Fix says its most-popular recipes include chicken parmesan, ribeye steak, salmon with capers and green beans, pork chops with fennel, and shrimp with asparagus.

“We are excited to be part of the culinary fabric of Memphis, a city nationally recognized for its food and culture,” said Culbreth. “We are just getting started and will be adding menu items and additional food purveyors over the next weeks and months.”

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Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Dancing Peppers' Memphis-Style Salsa Packed with Flavor, Civic Pride

Posted By on Tue, Aug 20, 2019 at 12:32 PM

Look for Memphis-made Dancing Peppers salsa (formerly Rojo Gold) at Kroger, Miss Cordelia's, Cash Saver, and more. - TOBY SELLS
  • Toby Sells
  • Look for Memphis-made Dancing Peppers salsa (formerly Rojo Gold) at Kroger, Miss Cordelia's, Cash Saver, and more.

I know salsa. 

I eat it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner on eggs, salad, tacos, chips, burritos, and everything else.

I embarrass myself at Mexican restaurants. I eat all the salsa and ask for more. That’s when the waiter just brings me that big carafe of salsa and leaves me to my own devices.

I love the impossibly thin red stuff at restaurants that many eschew for its inauthenticity. I love that bland, thick stuff from a jar that many eschew for its inauthenticity. I love the green and brown stuff at restaurants that many adore for its authenticity.

Maybe the only way I’d love salsa more is if someone made a salsa beer. (That’s a free idea, by the way. Please, someone, make a salsa beer.)

David and Tracy Murrell - DANCING PEPPERS
  • Dancing Peppers
  • David and Tracy Murrell
But a new (well, newly named) company improved salsa recently; they made it Memphis style — barbecue, that is. The company has been making and selling salsa in Memphis for years and you may have (probably) already eaten it. You just knew it as Rojo Gold.

Husband-and-wife team David and Tracy Murrell launched Rojo Gold (the company and the salsa) back in 2018. The salsa and the company wound down last year as the Murrells decided to rebrand it all as Dancing Peppers.

The company offers three salsas — medium, medium hot, and Memphis style. They are all made ”in small batches with carefully selected ingredients and spices to offer our customers a product without harmful chemicals added,” according to the company’s website.

I ate the medium salsa on salads last week. It’s tangy, salty, and just a bit sweet. It’s thin — not Chili’s thin — but Mexican-restaurant thin. The medium is an all-purpose salsa, good on everything.
You can smell the smoky tang of Memphis barbecue when you open a jar of Memphis style. It’s a bit thicker than medium and Dancing Peppers says it can be used as a barbecue sauce, especially on pork or chicken. It was great poured over a roasted chicken breast for lunch this week.

”Memphis is the home for the ‘World Championship BBQ Cooking Contest’ and is famous for its many great BBQ restaurants, so it only made sense for us to create the first ever ’BBQ Salsa,’” reads the company’s website. “Dancing Peppers Memphis Style Salsa is made with tomatoes, onions, jalapeno peppers and garlic, along with our secret BBQ Sauce recipe.”

But don’t let the added feature distract you. The Memphis style salsa’s highest-and-best function is on a salty tortilla chip. It’s delicious with a Memphis twist.
Dancing Peppers has another added bonus — civic pride. If you scoff at all other cheese dips if Pancho’s is available, you can proudly turn your nose up high in the salsa aisle until you find Dancing Peppers.

You can find Dancing Pepper salsa in Mid-South Kroger stores in Tennessee, Arkansas, and Mississippi. You can also find it at Miss Cordelia’s, Super Lo, Cash Saver, Curb Market, High Point Grocery, and more.

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Friday, August 16, 2019

Pickle Fest 2019 to be held at Hollywood Cafe

Posted By on Fri, Aug 16, 2019 at 3:09 PM


In a pickle trying to decide what to do this weekend?

Check out Pickle Fest at Hollywood Cafe in Robinsonville, Mississippi. The free event, which will be held between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. August 17th at the restaurant at 1585 Old Robinsonville Road, will feature fried pickles served all day, a pickle contest, a scavenger hunt, and arts and crafts vendors.

Pickle Festival will commemorate the restaurant’s 50th anniversary. This is the place Marc Cohn immortalized in his 1991 song, “Walking in Memphis.”

The original Hollywood Cafe, which was opened by Bard Selden in 1969, was in Hollywood, Mississippi before it was destroyed in 1983.

One of my fondest Mississippi memories — if I’m remembering it correctly — was driving up to “The Hollywood” one night and hearing Muriel Wilkins singing the words, “When it’s moonlight on the Delta,” while playing an upright piano in the window. To make it even more wonderful, I remember there was a full moon.

I interviewed Wilkins decades ago at her home in Helena, Arkansas for a feature story. She was very strong in her faith. So, the Cohn line, “Tell me. Are you a Christian, child,” was right on.

Hollywood Cafe also is the first place I tried a fried dill pickle. It’s still the standard — for me — for fried dill pickles.

The PIckle Fest 2019 Scavenger Hunt will be held between 9 a.m. and noon at the Tunica Museum. Cameras are required.

Winners can compete for “Best Cucumber Pickle” and “Best Unique Pickle Item” in the Pickle Contest. All entries must be submitted by 9 a.m. August 17th on the back porch of Hollywood Cafe.

For $50 per person, guests can take part in a VIP celebration, which will be held from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. It will include a food buffet, coffee, tea, soft drinks, and water. Mark “The Mule Man” Massey will provide the music.

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Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Best Bets: BBQ Bologna Sandwich at Payne's Bar-B-Que

Posted By on Wed, Aug 14, 2019 at 3:14 PM

BBQ Bologna Sandwich at Payne's Bar-B-Que - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • BBQ Bologna Sandwich at Payne's Bar-B-Que

The BBQ Bologna Sandwich at Payne’s Bar-B-Que is my standard when it comes to barbecued bologna sandwiches.

I could probably eat two or three of them, but over the years I’ve only ordered one per visit. It consists of a thick slab of barbecued bologna slathered with Payne’s slaw and barbecue sauce between two pieces of white bread.

That sounds simple, but it’s not. Ron Payne, one of the owners, sat down and elaborated on the sandwich.

The bologna begins with a bologna stick that’s placed in the barbecue pit with the shoulders and ribs and “smoked a couple of hours,” Ron says. “Some like it deep fried even after it’s smoked,” he says.

The sweet slaw is made with a secret ingredient, which Payne says is “a sugar-based substance." Brown sugar is my guess, but I don’t know.

You can order with hot, mild, or medium sauce. Hot is "cayenne peppery," mild is "sweet, tangy," and medium is "hot and mild mixed," Payne says.

And the white bread. I couldn’t imagine the sandwich made with wheat or rye, but Payne says, “Some people like it on a bun.”

The BBQ Bologna Sandwich was on the original menu when Ron’s parents Flora and the late Horton Payne opened the restaurant in April, 1972 Ron says. The coleslaw and the BBQ sauce are “family recipes” from his grandmother, the late Emily Payne.

Their chopped pork sandwich is their best seller, but the bologna sandwich and the smoked sausage sandwich come next, Ron says.

The barbecued bologna sandwich was featured twice on TV shows: “Best Food Ever” on TLC Network and “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” on the Travel Channel.

The sandwich got “really popular” after it was featured on TV, Ron says. It’s the first thing tourists who’ve seen it on TV order, he says.

I’ve never wavered when I’ve ordered Payne’s BBQ Bologna Sandwich, but, I confess, I have to try it on a hamburger bun. That sounds mighty good.

Payne's Bar-B-Que is at 1762 Lamar; (901)-272-1523

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Friday, August 9, 2019

Pink Palace Museum’s Science of Wine

Posted By on Fri, Aug 9, 2019 at 1:50 PM

(l to r) chef Mikael Patrick, Luke Ramsey, and Liz Grisham - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • (l to r) chef Mikael Patrick, Luke Ramsey, and Liz Grisham

As much as we like to imagine there’s a clear delineation — an unassailable wall — between art and science, there’s often a little bit of one in the other. The culinary arts, especially, have a pinch of math and a dash of science in the recipe, and perhaps never more so than with winemaking.

Maybe that’s why, for five years running, the Pink Palace museum has played host to the annual Science of Wine tasting, with this year’s event taking place Friday, August 16th.

The Science of Wine brings 120 different wines to the event, as well as samplings from 13 local restaurants (plus additional restaurants in the already-sold-out VIP area) to the grounds of Memphis’ rose-hued museum of science and history.

The annual event is a fund-raiser for the Pink Palace’s education department. To learn a little more about the museum’s boozy, foody educational fund-raiser, I met with one of the participating chefs, as well as the wine coordinator, and a representative from the Pink Palace in one of the museum’s basement science labs to eat some food, drink some wine, and learn about the event.

  • Jesse Davis

Mike Patrick, chef and owner of Rizzo’s by Michael Patrick, is switching up his menu for his third year participating at the fund-raiser. “I did duck breast the first couple years,” he says. “I’ve been doing this braised pork cheek for a couple weeks now. I want to add them to the new menu at the restaurant. … It’s very tasty,” he adds. “It’s braised, slow and low, for a couple hours.” Patrick brought samples of the pork cheek and grits, and they’re tender and savory, dressed in a creamy sauce.

“The grits are a great medium because it can rest upon it,” Patrick continues. “I’m also able to add a little sauce to it. This sauce is something that I put on the South Main Scramble for Sunday brunch. Will it be the final sauce? Probably not. Everybody’s familiar with grits, especially in the South, but I don’t try to do breakfast grits. I try to make them more savory.”

braised pork cheek on grits with sauce - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • braised pork cheek on grits with sauce

Patrick, who moved to Memphis in 1997 for a job with Elvis Presley’s Graceland, first visited the Pink Palace for a food-themed event of a different flavor. But that was years before his first Science of Wine. “Alton Brown did a booksigning here,” Patrick says. “He was promoting his motorcycle ride cross-country tour. I had heard of the Pink Palace, but I had never been.” Patrick says he remembers thinking of the museum, “This has been here the whole time, and I didn’t even know.”

(l to r) chef Mikael Patrick, Luke Ramsey, and Liz Grisham - JESSE DAVIS
  • Jesse Davis
  • (l to r) chef Mikael Patrick, Luke Ramsey, and Liz Grisham

Liz Grisham, the wine programming director for West Tennessee Crown, the company that provides all of the wine for the Science of Wine events, pays strict attention to the flavor profiles the chefs have on offer. She has to. It’s her job to coordinate between all the different vintners and chefs who participate in the event. “With this dish,” she says, motioning to the braised pork cheek and grits, “the petite sirah came to mind. It’s really dark and inky. It has a lot of flavors of blueberries and blackberries and black pepper, and that pairs well with barbecued meats, hamburgers, and things you cook on the grill. And it holds up to the spice.”

Grisham has to keep a lot in her head — flavor profiles, logistics, and more. “There are always going to be challenges when there are moving parts. I have someone from Oregon who’s going to be here. I have someone from California. People will come in from Nashville to represent their brands,” but, Grisham says, “I think on our fifth year, we have it down to a science at this point.”

Grisham is confident, but she wasn’t kidding about the many moving parts that go into making each Science of Wine event a success. West Tennessee Crown is responsible for more than just providing the titular beverage — they bring in the speakers for the guided tasting sessions, the “science” in “Science of Wine.”

  • Jesse Davis

“Somebody came last year who grew up in France and now lives in Oregon,” says Luke Ramsey, the manager of public and special programs in the Pink Palace Museum’s education department. “He talks about how the soil and weather and climate affects [growing] and how the terroir contributes to the flavor. And people love that. Another [speaker] was talking about the physics of why someone would choose to can wine instead of bottling it. Those are the keynote locations for Science of Wine. They’re like lectures, but they’re more interactive.

“We also have demo stations throughout the museum,” Ramsey continues, letting slip that more exhibits in the museum’s recently renovated Mansion will be open this year. “Last year, Christian Brothers brought an awesome display about pollination and what kinds of insects pollinate grape vines. And Wolf River Conservancy talked about the role that water plays and water conservation and how that connects to the manufacture,” Ramsey says.

“Last year, [the Pink Palace] served more than 140,000 students, both in the museum and with our outreach program. A lot of that, especially for Title 1 students, is provided entirely free or at a very low cost,” Ramsey explains. “A lot of schools have trouble getting here. Either they’re very far away, or they can’t schedule the time.”

So Ramsey and his coworkers in the Pink Palace’s education department send suitcases pre-loaded with experiments, instructions, and lesson plans. These hands-on lab packages are shipped, ready-to-use, directly to classrooms. And this program, along with the lab and theater programs in the museum, is what the Science of Wine proceeds go to fund. So drink up. It’s for a good cause.

The Science of Wine uncorks at the Pink Palace Museum Friday, August 16th from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. 21+

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Moondance Grill Slated to Open Early September in Germantown

Posted By on Wed, Aug 7, 2019 at 7:54 PM


Get ready for “Moondance Grill,” a new Germantown restaurant from Liz and Tommy Peters and the Beale Street Blues Co., which brought you Itta Bena, the restaurant above B. B. King’s Blues Club, and Lafayette’s Music Room in Overton Square.

Peters, president of Beale Street Blues Co., came up with the name. “After my favorite artist  Van Morrison,” Tommy says.

The new restaurant, slated to open in early September, is at 1730 Germantown Parkway. The restaurant actually is “on Neshoba off Germantown Parkway,” Tommy says. “In front of Germantown Performing Arts Center.”

“We wanted to have a nice, social bar in Germantown and a place for people to have fun,” Liz says. “We didn’t want it to be stuffy. We didn’t want it to be formal. We didn’t want it to be too casual. But somewhere in between.”

“We can’t ever duplicate Itta Bena,“ Tommy says. But, he adds, “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. It’s influenced by elements from four or five of our favorite grills across the country.“

The restaurant will feature an oversized bar area with a rectangular bar with 32 seats.

Moondance will have a grand piano, acoustic guitar, and “some saxophone,” Tommy says. “All background music. Quiet music. Everything we do has elements of music to it.”

It will feature an open kitchen, “which we’ve never done before,” Tommy says.

Food will range from “good seafood to steaks and great salads,” he continues.

And a “large small-plate menu,” Liz says.

Moondance will feature a raw bar with a jumbo shrimp cocktail and other items.

All the food is “classic-style” with “good quality,” Tommy says. “Food with simplicity. Real butter. Lemon.”

They don’t plan to change their menu, unless something doesn’t work, Tommy says.

Moondance also will include a 42-seat weatherized patio with air conditioning, heat, and a roof.

So why is Morrison Tommy’s favorite artist? “He is a true artist ,and he plays from his heart and soul for himself,” Tommy says.

Tommy, who’s seen Morrison in concert “probably 22 times,” says Morrison “plays how he feels.”

And why did Tommy choose “Moondance” over other Morrison songs? “If you put that song on, it’s the vibe that I want from this place,” he says, quoting the line, "What a marvelous night for a moon dance.”

“What I do is create subliminal moods through the music,” Tommy says. And, he adds, “If you listen to ‘Moondance,’ that’s the vibe I want every piece of this place to evoke. If you listen to that song and have a glass of wine and you’re seeing people talking around you, it’s sensual. Music is spiritual. And it’s the one medium that can take you back and make you feel.

“People will want to escape and feel great when they’re in our environment. And hopefully get away from their troubles.”

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Monday, August 5, 2019

Sandwich Lovers Unite in the Memphis Sandwich Clique

Posted By on Mon, Aug 5, 2019 at 3:31 PM

Ryan Joseph Hopgood of Memphis Sandwich Clique loves sandwiches. He's holding a "Dagwood" style sandwich The Green Beetle made up for fun. Note: They don't sell these at The Green Beetle. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Ryan Joseph Hopgood of Memphis Sandwich Clique loves sandwiches. He's holding a "Dagwood" style sandwich The Green Beetle made up for fun. Note: They don't sell these at The Green Beetle.

Everybody likes sandwiches, right? Well, in about two weeks, more than 1,000 Memphis-area sandwiches were documented on Facebook’s Memphis Sandwich Clique group.

Ryan Joseph Hopgood got the idea for a local sandwich page after he noticed no Memphis sandwiches were included on “Show Me Your Sandwich,” a national sandwich Facebook page. “They were all New York, Atlanta, L.A.,” Hopgood says. “So, I figured, ‘Hey, Memphians love their food. So, why don’t we start one in Memphis?’”

He posted two Memphis sandwiches - The Sonoma Add Chicken sandwich from Young Avenue Deli and the barbecued pulled pork sandwich, which was a special at Bardog Tavern. They went “pretty viral,” he says. “People started posting their own things: ‘You think this is good, check this out.’”

Each day, they get about 200 to 300 sandwiches on the group. “We don’t discriminate against anything, but bad sandwiches.” They also get about 200 to 300 new members a day.

You also can include homemade sandwiches, Hopgood says. “But they have to list the ingredients.”

About 100 of the sandwiches have complete profiles instead of just a photo and caption. But, Hopgood says, “Most of them will have comments. People chime in about their sandwich: ‘I like to add pickles to that one.’ ‘Try this one with special hot sauce.’”

Reuben Skahill, the group's “mood facilitating officer," jokes about his first name being the same as a popular sandwich. “I’m glad my mom didn’t name me ‘Monte Cristo,’” he says.

And, Skahill says, "I emcee the events and I bring everybody together as a family. Every Sunday we do a ‘Sandwich Clique Meat Up.’ We decide on a local business and we call it the ‘economic stimulus package.’“

Sam’s Deli on Highland was the first location. “We sold them out of bread that first week,” Hopgood says. “They made a great ‘thank you’ video.”

They also held an event at RAWK'n Grub at Growlers. The next one will be from 3 to 7 p.m. August 11th at the Hi-Tone. The public is invited, but, Hopgood says, “We would urge people to join the movement. We’ve got information on secret sandwiches and secret menus throughout the city. And you can only get this information by joining the clique.”

How did the group get so popular so fast? “People really, really, really, like their food,” Hopgood says. “And they like to talk about food. And the thing about Memphis is we like to debate about food. We’re the home of the barbecue fest, the Jalapeno popper fest, the grilled cheese fest. We’re hoping for a sandwich fest. That’s next on the list.”

Memphians want to support their community, Skahill says. “This provides a directory of places they’d never heard of before.”

And, Hopgood says, “Anyone can spend eight dollars on a sandwich and sides. It’s an economical thing. And when you spend your money on it, typically, it’s going to be a good place when you have the Memphis Sandwich Clique showing all the cool places that need your business.”

“Anybody can make a sandwich, but not everyone can make a great sandwich,” Skahill says.

They have a debate going about whether a hot dog is a sandwich, so they’ve added “Thot Dog Thursdays,” so people can add their favorite hot dogs.

One main thing to remember if you’re in the Memphis Sandwich Clique: Don’t post bad photos of your sandwich. “People will make fun of you,” Hopgood says. “If it looks unappetizing, if the picture (makes it) look un-edible, do yourself a favor and don’t post it ‘cause we don’t want to roast you. But we’ll roast you like some roast beef.”

If you want to join, search “Memphis Sandwich Clique” on Facebook, like the page, and join the group, Hopgood says. “We’re basically the most public secret society in the whole world.”

Reuben Skahill and his son, Ezra. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Reuben Skahill and his son, Ezra.

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