This was the worst meal of the trip. The service was horrible – We arrived at 11:30pm and even though we were 1 of 3 tables there, the kitchen was “running 20-30 minutes behind,” It our waitress 3 reminders and 30 minutes to bring Mike his Coke (Nate, the Diet Coke addict, would have left by this point). They asked if it was okay to use paper plates for our meal (I guess the dishwasher was also behind?). I would have easily forgiven the slow service and lack of plates and silverware if the food was the “best soul food,” in Memphis as reported, but my pork chop was dry and they didn’t have 2/3 of the menu, including the pie I ordered. It’s too bad, because the hoe cake did show promise.
Little Tea Shop, Memphis
The Little Tea Shop is only open 11-2pm, M-F. It’s the oldest restaurant in Memphis and it serves some serious soul food. I got the seafood gumbo with broccoli puff, and turnip greens. I’ve never heard of broccoli puff, but it’s a southern casserole of broccoli mashed with rice and cheese – it was as warm and comforting as mashed potatoes, but less guilt inducing because of the broccoli. The greens were great, but even better were the cornbread sticks. The owner asked me how my meal was and I told her it was delicious – “like a hug from the inside,” She proceed to embrace me, so I was getting hugged from both directions.
I went to grab a quick bite here, between sets. I wasn’t expecting much – I was only going there because it was a block away from the playing site and someone random told me they had fried biscuits there. My waitress was super sweet and extolled the virtues of the catfish, so I got the po’boy. It was delicious. The portion was huge, really a plank of thick, crispy, fried catfish. The sub came with tator tots which were fried perfectly. (I think more places should offer tator tots instead of fries) I was so stuffed I didn’t even have room to order the fried biscuits. They are also open to 3am, 7 days a week.
Steve and I have a tradition that we play the early game on Saturday, so that we can have a nice meal at a normal time Saturday night, before leaving early on Sunday morning. I chose Restaurant Iris; its’ chef, Kelly English has won several awards, including Best New Chef in F&W and a James Beard nomination.
The restaurant is in a large Victorian home, so we were originally seated in a parlor with a table for 6 and a table for 8 in it. They explained that a birthday party was coming in to share the space. It was clear from the moment they entered from their Hummer limo, they were ready to party. The staff responded immediately and offered to move us. We sat at one of the two bar tables in the front room – a little squishy, but adequate.
The amuse bouche was a tasty bite of crab crostini. We shared the ravioli “neola” to start. It was one large ravioli filled with short rib in a wine, brown butter and mushroom sauce. I enjoyed it, but Steve thought it was only ok.
Next we had a salad of arugula, pork belly and sweetbreads, because it’s important to have greens. The sweetbreads were perfectly done and the pork belly nuggets were delicious. Again, Steve thought it was only ok.
We had the trout, which was a thin filet, completely overwhelmed by the mountain of almonds on top. Luckily, the cauliflower puree had a silky smooth texture.
The last course was the duck, a perfectly seasoned and cooked duck breast. We both enjoyed it immensely.
The portions are large and we were quite full by the end of the meal. Steve told me that I was on my own for dessert. I ordered the lemon crème burlee for myself and a single scoop of peppermint mocha ice cream for him. He loved the ice cream – he declared it the best ice cream he has ever had and that he was tempted to “go Zelda on the bowl,” (Zelda is my lovable cocker spaniel). My lemon crème burlee was also excellent and the earl grey shortbread had a perfect crumbly texture and a hint of bergamot.
The bread was a crusty French baguette. The service was quite good and I appreciated the quick table moving. They ended up comping up dessert as well.
Steve was still raving about the ice cream the next day.
Tortas Frontera, O’Hare Airport
As you know, I drove down with Kim and Robin. To get home, Steve and I drove 9 hours to Chicago to fly home. Hungry and tired, I pondered my food options in the Terminal 1 food court. Steve opted for a burger and fries at a faux Irish bar. I went with a Cuban sandwich from Rick Bayless’s Tortas Frontera. It was pricey ($12) but well worth it for outstanding airport food. The pork was tender and juicy and I watched the woman cut a fresh avocado for my sandwich.
That wraps up the million calorie trip. I’m going to take a nap and hope I dream of Gus’s fried chicken.