Thursday, September 22, 2011

Saturday, September 10, 2011
Felicia Suzanne
www.feliciasuzanne.com
Another really good restaurant website..
901-523-0877
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 (Steven too, I think he is just as amazing). 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 (Steven? 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 shit!!! 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 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. 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 Steven that last night Felicia had 14 people at the kitchen table!!! The lady loves a challenge &working without a net. Plus all she does 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?
Steven Shipp-perfect (?) compliment to Felicia? Orchestrates the waiters and bussers seamlessly. Always professional & tightly controlled.

Steven Shipp is everywhere. Running orders to the bar. Taking orders. Making sure I am aware that the kitchen will be BUSY. Running desserts and organizing the servers to deliver simultaneously to the 16 top AND starting "Happy Birthday". Thankfully he stops quickly, Steven can't sing worth a crap. Steven runs the front of the house at the restaurant and may be the perfect complement to Felicia. He is always professional.
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 the best restaurants in the country. Mark and Rita Newman are from the teeming metropolis of Myrtle, MO and I see them every Saturday at the Memphis Farmer’s Market.

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!

And a ½ bottle of 2005 Eagles Trace (recommended by Steven). This wine has a great, classic cabernet nose. This tastes a lot like young Bordeaux wine from a great vintage. 75% cabernet sauvignon, 18% merlot and 7% cabernet franc, a very Bordeaux like blend. If you like big red wines, this one is delicious!
Overall
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!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Friday, June 10, 2011 Bluefin Restaurant

Blue Fin

This is a really good restaurant website. They have good photos and a reasonably up to date menu on there. The music that plays is unnecessary, but someone must think it is cool.
901-528-1010
135 South Main Street
About 100 feet North of the corner of Main and Peabody Place. Get off the trolley at the Peabody Place stop
I had a date (another miracle) with a lady that has lived in Memphis for a couple of decades and like many in Memphis, consider downtown some strange other world. This continually surprises me. But that is a topic for another time. I had her park at my place (secure, gated parking) and took her to dinner via trolley. This is one of my personal favorite things; get on the trolley and get off somewhere on Main Street; stop in any bar or restaurant that looks good at the moment. Have a glass of something (normally wine for me – but there are some beers that I like a lot).  Look at the menu and have a little conversation with whomever I’m with or the folks there. Decide to eat there (normally at the bar) or head to the next spot. Repeat until satisfied or distracted.
We got off at the Peabody Place trolley stop and checked out the Majestic Grill (good spot) and then went in Blue Fin. I’ve been to Blue Fin a couple of times prior to this night and had Sushi every time before. I didn’t know about their remodel until I went in. Well, they have converted the bar into a Sushi bar. Very nice. The previously open kitchen was now much more evidently open. My date commented that it had a very “New York feel”. She was right but if Blue Fin was in New York, the tables would be about 9 inches apart (got to pay for that expensive ass real estate). The tables are nicely spaced.
So where did the bar go (I was nearly having withdrawals)? They have expanded into a long, narrow space next door. Very light and inviting. Great beer list, big list of sake’s. I say a big list, because I don’t know a damn thing about sake. (I’ve tasted some that are mildly interesting, but I just don’t get it. Lord, I’ve tried to drink everything on the planet, but sometimes you just cant get to everything!)
Good martini list. My date ordered something called “Ichi The Killer”. Cute. Made with a bunch of stuff I don’t recognize. Light green on top, and a reddish, cranapple-type color on the bottom. Honestly, it looked damned suspicious sitting there. Kind of like nuclear waste. She tasted it and didn’t fall over dead so I decided I could risk it. Good, not (too) sweet. Surprisingly light.
Nice choices on the wine list. Whoever picked these wines out has pretty good taste. Everything (except for a couple bottles of semi big time champagne) appears to be available both by the glass and the bottle. Something I like a LOT! Nope, there are no bargains, but there seldom is. Also, since this is primarily a fish restaurant, don’t expect a broad line of reds. They are there and they’re decent. There is a Malbec Rose from Argentina that is pretty damn tasty and a Ferrari Carrano Fume Blanc from California you might like.
By the way, Fume Blanc is a marketing term for Sauvignon Blanc invented by Robert Mondavi in the 70’s when he couldn’t sell wines made from that grape.  Means “white smoke”. You can pull that one out with your friends and impress everyone within 50 feet.
The menu is really interesting, here is what I ordered:
Barbequed Oysters with Wasabi Butter.
Came in a wooden box with hot stones. Fantastic flavor (have you had the droolingly delicious barbequed oysters at Pearl’s Oyster House? These might be better!!!) and a really nice presentation.
Chef Nick's Mixed Grill Special
This one is a ‘trio’ of three preparations of fish (all three served left to right on a long, narrow plate) and they are:
·         Pan Seared Mussels - house-made parpadelle pasta and grilled tomato and clam nage
·         Pan Seared Grey Snapper - with grilled zucchini and squash, roasted olive butter
·         Opah Crudo - preserved lemon, capers and olive oil, with a grilled baguette
The mussels were delicious over the pasta (think a wider fettuccini noodle). If you want to really impress your server, you pronounce this as par-pah-deli. The juice (that’s a nage, which comes from the French cooking term ‘à la nage’. This means poaching food, usually seafood and then serving the whole thing like a stew) in the bottom of the bowl was terrific.

The Snapper was a nice portion of fish; just a little overcooked. It is damn hard to get fish cooked just right and there is a very narrow window of perfectness doneness. I’ve cooked a lot of fish and you have to stand over it and constantly check it to get it perfect. Its hard to do at home, much less a busy restaurant kitchen. I was pretty happy with it and I’m a picky bastard.

The Opah Crudo was simply sliced raw fish (Opah is a type of Pacific Ocean fish and Crudo means ‘raw’ in Italian). If you like sashimi, you’ll love this one. The lemon and capers give it a nice balance.

My date ordered:
A sushi roll (I can’t remember what this one was called)
Crab stick (fake crabmeat) wrapped in cucumber and served with Ponzu. I’m not a big fan of fake crabmeat. It is made from fish, but there is virtually no crab in it. I’ve had this kind of sushi roll before (Rain Restaurant does a nice rendition of this one, but they use lightly grilled tuna). If you haven’t tried this type of roll, you should. It’s light, soft in the middle, crunchy on the outside. The Ponzu (a combo of citrus juice and soy) is a really nice balance.
Kusu Wagyu Strip – with shitake potato risotto, pearl onions and a veal demi glaze.
Don’t you love it when your date orders the most expensive entrée on the menu? Anyway this is a New York strip steak from the same breed of cattle that produces Kobe beef. Very rich, very tender, VERY good. The risotto was well prepared as were the pearl onions and the demi glaze (this is NOT a glaze, the word is glacé [glah-say] and it is a sauce reduced until it is a glaze. I told you I’m picky. I was trained in a French restaurant and my old teacher would have kicked my ass for that!)

Overall

I was really happy with the cooking. What I don’t like are some of the errors that I saw with the expediter and the front of the house staff (i.e. bartenders and servers). Here’s an example; there were six oysters in the appetizer. One of them was about the size of a marble. I can understand (just barely) a busy cook sending that to the expediter (who calls all of the orders and then checks every plate before it leaves. This is sometimes the ranking chef in the kitchen, but always someone senior). I don’t understand how he/she misses it, and then the runner from the kitchen to the bar misses it and then the bartender who served me the plate missed it.

Once I sent the one oyster back, it was quickly replaced with two perfectly cooked ones (bonus!) and the front of the house (?) manager came over to see that everything was all right. The servers and bar tenders were pretty clueless on the specials and parts of the menu. This is staff training and making everyone feel like they are part of the team. Is there a problem in the making?

Anyway, I’m going back to this one… with or without a date!!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

About The Grif-Frigerator

For the very few people that might figure out who I am, I would appreciate you keeping it to yourself. I have been “moderately famous” in another city and I find I love the anonymity (took me three tries to spell that one) that Memphis has provided me. Thanks in advance friends.

There is just one person here (I think) that really knew me well where I lived previously and she won’t tell. There are also a very limited number of other people in the MidSouth that can connect all of the dots here. So if you do, please give me a call and I'll bribe you!


I’m a downtown resident (about a year) and not a native Memphian (that always sounds like something with gills to me). Prior to living in the MidSouth (8 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 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! So there. Treat me with some respect!

I am thinking about writing another book and have started some informal type research on it. Something a lot more technical - cooking wise. If you know anything about the term “Molecular Gastronomy” you’ll have an idea where I’m headed and it is “How to put these concepts and techniques to use in homemade dinners”. Not much of “Molecular Gastronomy” has hit Memphis as yet (June 2011), but I think it will. I don’t know how these blog things work yet, but if you do AND you have some knowledge of Molecular Gastronomy (there are better descriptions of what it is on the Internet than I could ever give you), PLEASE write me! You can find write me at Grif.Frigerator@gmail.com.

I'm a physical work in progress. Three months ago (this is June 11, 2011) started a diet and exercise regime that has resulted in me losing 35 lbs total. I've probably lost 40 lbs of fat and added 5 lbs of muscle. I'm really damned proud of myself and I'm feeling pretty good. I still have 40 - 50 to go to get where I want to be. I'll know it when I get there.

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 - 6 years now. Not once! Not even a cigar until I smoked a hookah last night (see the story). I now drink only 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 brand new 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. Some think I played in a Super Bowl-Not!

Occupation: I’m a sales manager at a pretty high (regional) level in Health Insurance - 94% chance you have seen a commercial and/or heard of the company. I've been very lucky in my short career in insurance and I’ve had a lot of success very quickly. I am currently in transition between jobs, but the insurance industry is great for residual income.

Employment:
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!

Education:
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-Saturday, June 11, 2011-The Uptown Grocer

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…
Saturday, June 11, 2011
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 80% 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’ve sampled a few items from Jennifer McCullough’s “The Uptown Grocer” and no kidding, this lady can cook! She ‘forced me’ into buying her “Company Meatloaf” this morning. OK, I know. Meatloaf? Really? “I make a great meatloaf at home”! Well, so do I kids and Jennifer’s is a LOT better than mine. Can a meat loaf taste light? For goodness sakes it’s a “loaf” after all isn’t it? Mine is very flavorful and so is The Uptown Grocer’s but MINE IS NOT light. How does she do that? Jennifer's meatloaf is not dense and absolutely delicious. She uses nothing but fresh ingredients (except for a little tomato paste) and the vegetables in the loaf still have a little crunch. Great stuff. I’d almost be embarrassed but it’s so very easy to pass this off as something you made yourself, I’ll just claim it! Sorry Jennifer.
So how do I know? For information on me, please see the post script to this article (I really am old, this is still an article to me; not a blog. Whatever that is).
The meatloaf comes frozen in a foil pan at a 30 oz size. Heat and serve! Yeah!  Jennifer says there are four servings in this. Those are big-ass servings. A standard restaurant serving is about 6 ounces of protein. That would give you 5 servings. Jennifer prices this at $16. $4.00 a serving and better than if you got it in a restaurant. At 5 servings, that’s about $3.20 for the arithmetically challenged. My sandwich (see below) had 2 oz on it. Yes I weighed it. Does that make me a geek? Probably.
If you are single like me, you either have to eat the whole thing over a period of 3 – 4 days (do refrigerate it between meals for goodness sakes – unless you have a fondness for food poisoning) or cut it into 4 portions while frozen (carefully – you might want to retain all of your fingers) and refreeze. I’ve done a little experimenting with partial thawing, reportioning and then refreezing. While I’m still alive and I’ve never gotten food poisoning from it (I have been food poisoned several times, but that is another story), it is not a generally accepted practice.
Today, heated up the pan according to the package directions (well pretty close. After taking off the cover, I threw the pan in a cold oven set at 350 for 45 minutes. I then covered it for the last 12 minutes. The correct way is 1) heat the oven to 350. 2) cover the pan with foil and cook for 50 minutes. 3) remove the foil and heat for an additional 20 minutes) and then sampled some just plain. Yum! Then I made a meatloaf sandwich on fresh ciabatta bread from Cucina Breads which I also bought at the Farmer’s Market (more on them in the future. Great stuff!) with a little Helman’s mayo (my secret vice). Jennifer would probably be horrified.
Anyway, aside from being really attractive (nope, not “coming on” to her – I could be her Dad), did I tell you this lady can cook? For a picture of Jennifer, check out her website at www.theuptowngrocer.com (the picture does not do her justice in my opinion). She is also undeniably intelligent, but like most creative types she’s worthless when it comes to marketing (it is a struggle to find a substitute for “worth a crap”. I think I can help her out on the marketing though).
Jennifer was also sampling a Tomato-Basil soup today. Bright taste, fresh tomato and basil flavors. Simply dee-licious and it was cold. So many of the people there were surprised that soup can be eaten cold. Common! Cold soup on a hot day? What can be wrong with that? No not frozen and not as cold as milk from the refrigerator. Let the soup thaw in the refrigerator. Take soup out, place portion in bowl, place remaining soup in the refrigerator. It will last for several days. How long? How long do fresh tomatoes last in the refrigerator? Also, add a little vodka and you really got something there!
Yes, Aunt Marge, it can also be heated up in the microwave or on the stove top.
This one comes in a quart. So how much is that? Well a standard restaurant serving of this would be about 4 oz. Thirty-two ounces in a quart; 8 servings. The quart costs $12.75, so that’s $1.59 a serving for something you would be really happy with in a restaurant. Hot or cold.
Jennifer is a bright young woman that owns a fledgling business here in our city (no, I’m not a Memphian, but I love it here and I’m working on staying) starting a new business. We need more of her. Try it, you’ll probably like it.
The Uptown Grocer
To contact Jennifer, you can use her website. She tries to return all emails the same day she gets them (she did for me). She lists a phone number on her website of 901-219-8475. I haven’t tried it.
Thanks!
The Grif-Frigerator
PS For a little more about me, you can find a profile on me in the "About Me" post on this blog.