Thursday, September 22, 2011

Felicia Suzanne
Another really good restaurant website..
135 South Main Street
Memphis, TN 38103-2438

About 100 feet North of the corner of Main and Monroe in the Brinkley Plaza Building. Get off the trolley at the Monroe Street stop. If you are driving, enter the Brinkley Plaza parking garage at 20 N Front St. between Monroe & Madison. The garage entrance is on Front Street on the Northeast corner of Front & Monroe.
Signs at the back of the garage will direct you to Felicia Suzanne's. Parking is $5 after 4:00pm or hourly before 4:00pm. Brinkley Plaza garage only accepts cash, but Felicia Suzanne's can add parking to your dining check if you are paying by credit card.

It is always pleasant at the bar and I do like the atmosphere. There is a great view of Main Street out of the 20' tall plate glass windows that front this restaurant. Entering the restaurant from Main Street, you encounter the hostess stand on your left. To your right are two stairs up to a beautiful and tranquil side garden - sometimes with live music. Always professional, funny (when he lets himself be) Steven Shipp runs the front of the house. This is a great people watching spot. Love the trolley's going by, the busy bar; separated gracefully from the elegant dining area. Check out the ceiling to get a vision of the old Lowenstein's Department store (Steven had to tell me) this once was. For those of you that went to school in the late 60’s and early 70’s, is this Alice's Restaurant? "You can get anything you want at Alice's Restaurant (exceptin' Alice)". Please substitute Felicia, where you see Alice. If you don’t understand what I’m saying, you missed a heck of a good time!
Ok, for those of you that have read my stuff & are expecting something "catty" I'm sorry to disappoint you... This will be more of a love sonnet-to the restaurant.

Felicia Suzanne Willet is truly an amazing woman & i am frankly honored that she treats me as well as she does. Here's how she blew me away the 1st time... I did a party in my home for about 25 on a Friday in Dec 2010. I had just moved downtown & was casting around for a caterer. I called Felicia Suzanne because I had eaten there twice. I picked out the menu over the phone off of suggestions by whoever answered (don't remember). They said “We'll take care of everything except… can you get us good ice?” I responded, “Sure, where?” They recommended “The Igloo at Summer & Perkins.”
On the appointed day- the staff shows & Felicia shows up herself! Are you kidding me!! No one does that!!! She starts cooking on my electric terrible-ass cooktop. What!!! WHO IS THIS MANIAC? She is pleasant, smiling, very professional, bandana covering her hair, wearing a black chef jacket, what the hell is she doing cooking in my lame-ass kitchen, an honest to goodness real chef, who has damn good creds, doing on a Friday night, when they are busy, in December for God's sake, HERE??

Yes the food was GREAT! Yes the service was GREAT! The party wasn't bad either-Pam & Terry played (more on these two in the future, more Memphis treasures in my [less than] humble opinion).
So on a Friday night, I arrive at the restaurant about 7:45 to sit at the bar and have a glass or three of good wine (they know their wine here), a little dinner and this is what it is like.

7:45 There is an 16 “top” at the window table in the front and they are working on appetizers. The word “top” is the number in a dining party. For example, an eight top is a dining party of eight. A three top is a party of three. It is somewhat unusual for a fine dining restaurant to accommodate large parties on Friday’s and Saturday’s especially without a prix fix menu.
8:20 A 6 top & a 15 top arrive together.

8:25 A five top arrives and there are 6 people eating at the bar. I haven't ordered-I’m fascinated by the immense amount of orders about to arrive in the kitchen all at once. Hummm, could be 32 orders arriving in the kitchen all together. That is a stretch for any kitchen!
9:00 The restaurant is humming. I met a very pretty woman from Tupelo (with her date-damn!) at the bar. Why are there SO many really pretty women from that town? The 16 top is leaving-looking happy.

I find out from a server that last night Felicia had 14 people at the kitchen table!!! The lady loves a challenge & working without a net. Plus she does a ton of good work for the Make a Wish Foundation. When you go to her restaurant, read her awards posted outside the restrooms. Is Felicia Willet, Memphis' most under recognized treasure?
Tonight I ordered…
Oysters Bienville
I’ve had this appetizer a number of times at the restaurant. It is a ‘classic’ appetizer in New Orleans and it is supposedly named for the founder of the City of New Orleans. Created at Antoine's Restaurant in New Orleans and Felicia’s rendition is delicious. If you like oysters, make sure you try this one.

Cantaloupe soup
I ordered this more out of curiosity than anything and wound up eating the entire bowl. Great balance in a slightly chilled soup. Loved it!

Shrimp risotto with heirloom tomatoes.
OK, I do love risotto and this dish definitely did not disappoint me. One of the great things about Felicia is her use of the freshest, in season ingredients and her support of the Memphis Farmer’s Market and our local farmers. This was a wonderful, fresh tasting, well crafted dish.

Newman Farms Pork Loin Roulade
Really, really great dish. Felicia takes a pork loin from one of the greatest producers of pork in the country, butterflies and stuffs it with a savory stuffing and then rolls, ties and roasts it. Wow! No kidding, Newman Farms supplies pork to some of the best restaurants in the country. The farm is based near the teeming metropolis of Myrtle, MO.

Smoked Cheddar Mac & Cheese
I just could not resist tasting this one. Nice crust, perfect pasta. Just this and a green salad could be a wonderful, ‘semi-light’ dinner. More!

Obviously, I love this place and the people. Felicia is very talented, uses local produce and producers whenever she can. She is truly a Memphis treasure and she is recognized as such outside of our city. I encourage you to try Felicia Suzanne’s early and often!!

See you at the bar!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

About The Grif-Frigerator

I’m a downtown resident (about six years) and not a native Memphian (that always sounds like something with gills to me). Prior to living in the MidSouth (13 years a resident), I’ve lived in several places in the country and have been very lucky to have eaten in several of the world’s greatest restaurants.

I was kind of a professional cook/chef way back when. I learned to cook fast in an IHOP and then well in a French restaurant operating under the brigade system. I learned French cooking the "old, hard way" - no culinary school, but the guy who taught me was an old school French chef (and you think Gordon Ramsey is bad? I think my teacher was FAR worse)! I have also written and published a cookbook AND received a royalty check. Please notice that I said ‘a royalty check’. Just one and not much of one either ($4.04 - no kidding. It is framed along with a copy of the book with a plaque reading 'The "Rewards" of Writing a Book'. Its hanging on my living room wall). BUT I am a published author!

One of my biggest challenges is being diagnosed as a type 2 diabetic in 2002. Probably stress induced and the extra weight and bad lifestyle choices didn't help (drinking too much, smoking). I've fixed the smoking - 11 years now. Not once! Not even a cigar until I smoked a hookah about 4 years ago (see the story). I now drink mostly wine instead of a LOT of vodka - always have been a happy drunk - thank you Lord! The weight is being worked on and I've changed the stress levels dramatically. How? I finally learned that it is OK to turn things over to God. I will be eternally grateful to the person that finally broke thru my sometimes way too hard-headedness.

Bragging rights: Two kids who live elsewhere. One wonderful grand baby (Sept 2010)! I still cling to the notion that I am WAY too young to be a grandfather. A BA in Political Science. Half way to an MS in computer science. Happily divorced for a LONG time, but "looking". I have two professional sports championship rings which I never wear-too big and gaudy-but good for casinos every once in a while.

Occupation: I’m an agency owner in health insurance – employee benefits specifically. I've been very lucky in my short career in insurance and I’ve had a lot of success very quickly.

Company Name                                                 Position                            When      
A National Insurance Company                                                          2003 - present
Arena Football league teams                           General Manager           1998 - 2003
A Professional Hockey team                           General Manager           1997 - 1997
A Consultant to Fortune 500 Companies                                              1994 - 1997
A Software Company                                     President and Founder   1981 - 1994
That's enough!

Westminster College, Missouri
Political Science plus computer science & a little comparative religion, 1972 - 1975
Bradley University
MS Computer Science-no degree, 1980 – 1981

Places I've lived:
Tulsa, OK; Pekin, IL; Fulton, MO; Peoria, IL; Southaven, MS; Memphis, TN. Unlike some in Memphis, I really both like and love this city. Often times Memphians don’t realize what great things their city has to offer.

Memphis Farmer's Market

Hi All,
This is the first of what may (or may not) be a series of entries on food and dining in downtown Memphis. I’ll try to write it until A) I run out of things to say, B) I’m tired of it, or C) you all are sick of me. So here goes…
I have gone to every edition of the Memphis Farmer’s Market and this morning was no exception. For those of you that haven’t yet made it downtown, this is either the best or one of the best Farmer’s Markets I’ve attended (being old, does not help my memory a lot). I’ve gotten to know several of the vendors (that’s what you call a farmer or a cook/chef at these things) and do maybe 30% of my weekly shopping here. Being a downtown resident with a trolley stop within 100’ of my front door makes this both fun and comfortable – and there is just nothing wrong when you can string those two words together!
I almost always buy a breakfast burrito from the Fuel Café food truck. Dee-licious! They roll up scrambled eggs, bacon, cheese and a little salsa in a flour tortilla wrap it in foil and you have a mobile breakfast! Or you can sit at one of the picnic tables scattered about for a little communal breakfast.
Try it!