Play It Again 

In the restaurant business, is there any better thank you than free food? Not for Barry Pelts, who will be passing out nachos, lemonade, barbecue wings, and ice cream Friday evening to celebrate the 25th anniversary of Corky's.

The restaurant's "Party in the Parking Lot" is set for 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. at its original Poplar Avenue location in East Memphis. Look for the big tent and the extended Pelts family.

"Our family will be out to show our thanks to our customers," says Pelts, who owns and operates Corky's ribs and barbecue with father and founder Don Pelts and brother-in-law Andy Woodman. "We've had customers tell us that it's nice to have something positive to do on September 11th. We think so too."

In addition to food and merchandise giveaways, Corky's will donate to the March of Dimes a portion of restaurant sales on Friday and 20 percent of restaurant gift cards sold all week. "Memphis has been good to us, and we want to give something back," Pelts says.

Since Corky's opened in 1984, it has been recognized by local and national media for its slow-cooked (24 hours!) barbecue and expanded to locations in Cordova and Collierville. Original recipes developed for the former Public Eye in Overton Square — the family's first restaurant — are still used today. In fact, only half-a-dozen menu items have been added since the restaurant opened, including hand-breaded catfish, barbecue burgers, and baked potatoes loaded with chicken or beef.

"At the Poplar location, on a typical day, we cook 3,000 pounds of shoulder, 1,000 pounds of ribs, and 200 pounds of chicken," Pelts says, crediting longtime pit master Robert Moye. And does Pelt have a favorite? "Hands down, it's our dry ribs," he says. "I eat them two or three times a week."

Corky's, 5259 Poplar, (685-9744)

The Endless Feast, a series produced by American Public Television on local farmers and regional cooking, is coming to Arkansas.

During the second week in October, the show's production crew will visit Whitton Farms in Tyronza, where they will film Jill and Keith Forrester's family farm, Peace Bee Farm in Proctor, Nine Oaks Cattle Company in Brookland, and Godsey's Grill in downtown Jonesboro. No filming will take place in Memphis.

"I've tried to get them to come to farmers markets in Memphis, but they can't because of funding restrictions," Jill Forrester says. "The funding source is in Jonesboro, so filming has to stay inside Arkansas."

Memphians still can participate — and maybe be filmed for the episode — by attending two events at Whitton Farms on October 11th. The first, a gourmet, five-course meal, takes place from noon to 2 p.m. For $75 a ticket, participants dine on locally grown food in an elegant outdoor setting for the show's "endless feast." Starting at 2 p.m., filming moves to the farm's pecan grove for October Feast, a celebration of music, food, and farming. Tickets are $30 for adults and $5 for kids ages 10 and under.

"We're going to have pumpkin carving, apple bobbing, hay rides, a cake walk, a pick-your-own pumpkin patch, bonfire, and food from local chefs," Forrester says, listing early commitments from Miles McMath (Kay Café); Jackson Kramer (Interim); Reinaldo Alfonso (Chez Philippe); Rick Saviori (Ciao Bella); and Patrick Reilly (Majestic Grille).

Forrester expects a crowd of 500 people, based on the farm's first Feastival in July and the subsequent number of calls and e-mails. "We are big into agri-tourism right now," Forrester says, laughing. "It's an awesome way to spread the word about locally grown food, and it's fun."

Whitton Farms, Tyronza, Arkansas, (870-815-9519)

click to enlarge Scott DeLarme of Owen Brennan's - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

When Yia Yia's Euro Café in Germantown closed, executive chef Scott DeLarme, sous chef Jody Moyt, and pastry chef Emily Greene scattered to new jobs. They didn't stay separated for long. Less than a year later, they are working together again to update Owen Brennan's in East Memphis with a new menu.

The restaurant in the Regalia Center still offers Creole favorites such as gumbo, catfish beaudreaux, and crawfish étouffée, but new dishes showcase healthier food made with locally grown ingredients.

"We've kept a New Orleans focus, but there's more to Creole cooking than spicy jambalaya and heavy cream sauces," DeLarme says. "Now the menu is lighter with a more eclectic blend of flavors."

He explains these seafood entrées to illustrate the menu's new full-flavored combinations: salmon fillet with spinach and artichoke-heart risotto topped with crawfish tail buerre-blanc sauce and jumbo sea scallops pan-seared and served over crabmeat-chive risotto with wilted spinach and roasted-garlic tomato sauce.

The menu's crispy, organic roasted chicken is another new dish prepared with simple, but creative, flair. "The sauce is made with a reduction of black olives, roasted garlic, caper berries, and dried chili," DeLarme says. "It's a rustic dish with a great combination of flavors."

Appetizers, side dishes, and desserts also are part of the menu mix-up. Duck spring rolls, lobster ravioli, and fried green tomatoes join oysters Rockefeller on the appetizer list, and spinach wilted with olive oil and fresh garlic replaces the restaurant's traditional cream-based side.

click to enlarge Owen Brennan's new salmon fillet dish - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Other new offerings include five-course wine dinners the first Tuesday of every month, along with the restaurant's first beer dinner scheduled for October 20th. "We will have local and regional beers served in wine flutes," DeLarme says. "We will match the beer with the food courses, just like wine dinners."


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