Celebrating Food 

Neighborhood restaurants are vital to the health and development of any zip code. They bring comfort, sustenance, and entertainment to their residential areas.

On Monday, July 14th, Glenn and Martha Hays are hosting a Bastille Day event at their neighborhood bistro, Café 1912. They promise decorations, music, and a special menu from Chef Tony Gault. Gault will be offering a three-course menu for $37 (plus tax and gratuity). Selections include terrine Maison with cornichons and Dijon mustard, frisée and tarragon salad with lardoons and poached egg, halibut à la Niçoise, braised beef short ribs with ratatouille, apple Charlotte with cinnamon ice cream, and puff pastry Napoleon with vanilla cream and chocolate.

And, of course, there will be wine. "We will be offering our regular wine list, which includes several French wines. However, we will also highlight the short list of Kermit Lynch French wines, which we have been featuring for the last several months," Martha Hays says.

Café 1912, 243 S. Cooper (722-2700)

On Wednesday, July 16th, River Oaks will host a benefit dinner for the James Beard Foundation. Some of the best chefs in Memphis will be preparing dishes that speak of their own skill, technique, and passion.

"The James Beard Foundation is a platform for chefs," says Chef Ben Vaughn of River Oaks. Only a select few chefs from around the country and around the globe are invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York.

"It's an honor to be among the few who have cooked in this tiny New York kitchen," Vaughn continues. "There is a quote from the James Beard Foundation that really resonates with me, and that is: 'Food matters.' It is important to us as chefs who struggled making a name for ourselves locally and nationally to give back to the not-for-profit Beard House. They help culinary students afford schooling. They also educate and enhance the way people see, taste, and think of food."

For the dinner at River Oaks, local top toques Vaughn, Clay Lichterman (formerly of Grill 83), Erling Jensen (Erling Jensen), Rick Farmer (Jarrett's), Wally Joe (The Brushmark), and Jason Severs (Bari) are each preparing dishes with their signature styles.

"Erling has a deft hand with game, Rick does amazing things with seafood, Wally fuses Southeastern cuisine with other regions, and Jason's passion is southern Italian," Vaughn says.

Each chef was given free rein over their respective courses. "I wanted the chefs to express their own style and not have any perimeters or restrictions," Vaughn continues. "For a dinner like this, it takes some time — several months to prepare a course, while we each run our restaurants."

The menu includes Kumamoto oyster and heirloom-tomato gazpacho "shot," Kobe beef, braised short rib, and foie gras slider, crudo of hamachi and tuna, pan-roasted roulade of Alaskan halibut, Wild King salmon, and Dungeness crab on seafood risotto, roasted quail and foie gras, roasted Montana elk loin, and a trio of tortas.

This dinner is another sign of the elevation of Memphis as a foodie town. "Memphis is a culinary hotbed. We have been noticed around the world for so long for barbecue and typical Southern preparations of foods," Vaughn says. "However, take a look at these chefs — they all have years of running the best kitchens in Memphis. What they do is an art. I want to bring the James Beard Foundation to Memphis to help the city receive some national attention, so that our better restaurants become dining destinations and our city becomes a 'foodie travel' top pick. We have a ton of talent."

The Memphis Friends of James Beard Foundation benefit dinner at River Oaks is Wednesday, July 16th, at 6:30 p.m. Cost to attend is $155 per person including tax and gratuity.

River Oaks, 5871 Poplar (683-9305)

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