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Red Medicine is the infamous restaurant where famed food critic Irene Virbila was outed  (i.e. photographed) and refused service. While I agree with many opinions on both sides of this incident, I had not been keen to go to this restaurant until a fellow foodie friend said it was high on his list of places to try.

Fortunately I am not famous enough to be either recognized or refused service for my “power” as a food critic, so I was seated and served without incident with two of my friends who are both as critical of food as I am. 

Since the menu is meant to be shared, we ordered several small plates, the first one to arrive was the brussel sprouts with caramelized shallots, fish sauce, and vermouth for $9. The crunchy chips on top were a nice way to present this dish and some of the brussel sprouts were fabulous, while others (especially at the bottom of the dish) were overly salted. When using fish sauce, it is very important to use a light hand when salting and apparently the kitchen didn’t understand concept yet.

We also tried the beef tartare for $15 which was made with water lettuce, water chestnut, nuoc leo (peanut sauce), chlorophyll, and peanut. This was such an unusual version of beef tartare that we all said “Whoa!” after the first bite. But we all took second and third bites until we finished the dish. Combining all the ingredients on the rice chips was essential to getting the full flavors this dish incorporated. I’m not sure I would order this again, but I was glad I had tried it.

The most disappointing dish of the entire night was the white asparagus with fried burdock root and coated in tapioca salsify, with spot prawn roe, on top of almond milk. It was completely tasteless, with no seasoning whatsoever, and the asparagus was so stringy that we had trouble eating it (or even biting through it). It was a shame since we all loved asparagus, but none of us wanted to eat this.

It is hard to tell from the photo, but the sweetbreads under the charred cabbage were wonderful. This was one of our favorite dishes of the evening, with perfectly crispy and tender nuggets. Once again the salt was a bit overdone on the charred cabbage, but the sweetbreads made this dish a winner.

For our final hot course, we chose the rice porridge with the uni supplement for $27 made with egg yolk, hazelnuts, ginseng, butter and Santa Barbara Red Uni. This was a very rich dish which we all loved. The combination of flavors made this the ultimate comfort dish of all time. This was definitely not your run of the mill home made or even restaurant quality rice porridge. It should definitely be shared unless you want to eat only one dish here.

For our desserts we shared the Green Gage plum with frozen cream, sorrel, elderflower, wild chervil. It was an interesting (as in neither good nor bad) alchemy of flavors both tart and sweet, but no one like this enough to finish it.

The dessert winner of the evening was the birch ice. It was THE most unusual dessert I have ever tasted and it beckons me to come back to Red Medicine with it’s scintillating composition of textures and flavors. The presentation was beautiful.

But upon cracking open the crunchy top layer, the cold, sweet, and creamy secret treasures below were absolutely addictive. Made with birch ice, almond praline, red currants, green almond, and jasmine, this was a palate pleaser. 

I’m glad I was not on their “hit list” and able to taste their unique fare. Although I loved all their presentations, I was not impressed with all their flavors, especially since over salting food is a big faux pas that was repeated in two of their dishes. At prices that hovered around $60 per person, this kind of amateur mistake should have happened even once. People care more about tasting their dishes than looking at them, so the execution of recipes must be precise to elevate the food to the same level as the plating.

We all remember a flavorful dish long after it is eaten, but no one will remember a beautiful plate after they have seen it.

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I admit I am an addict; I can not say no to either great champagne or great chocolate.

Last night, the gracious Madame Chocolat (aka Hasty Torres), invited me to her Decadent & Delicious event to introduce her new champagne truffles. Her new milk chocolate truffles are infused with Domaine Carneros Champagne, a winery whose founder, Eileen Crane, thought she knew me from one of my former lives on the East Coast. As women who follow their passions, it is very fitting that they have now combined their talents into a new unique treat for the senses just in time for Mother’s Day, the day of celebration for women who create and nurture new lives.

The truffles are dusted with gold glitter which add a very festive note reminiscent of the bubbles in sparkling wine. I’m normally not a milk chocolate fan, but the the smooth creamy 43% Belgian chocolate ganache filled truffle was a smooth compliment to the balanced brut champagne. I ate two in about two seconds and had to move away from the table to restrain myself from eating the entire tray.

Gift boxes with 12 champagne truffles and a bottle of 2007 Domaine Carneros are available for delivery on Mother’s Day (or any other day) for only $55 and will begin shipping May 4, 2012, so place your order here now.

It was fun to be behind the counter of the shop for the first time! The new glitter heeled shoe chocolates were also beautiful to behold (they had literally just been finished that day).

The heavy duty machines kept working even though all the guests were drinking and eating chocolate!

There were delicious savory bites catered by Chris Brugler which were not only beautiful to behold but delectable to eat. The Watermelon Feta Mousse Bites with Aged Balsamic was both refreshing and rich with complexity.

The Sesame Encrusted Ahi Tuna Topped with Sweet Chili Avocado Mousse was one of my favorites.

The Sweet Potato Cake with a Black Bean Salsa and Chipolte Aioli was a surprisingly sweet and savory delight with a nice smoky flavor.

My favorite of all the small bites was the aged Prosciutto with Burrata served on Crostini finished with Aged Balsamic. I loved this so much I ate three!

I didn’t taste the Black Mission Fig Challah Grilled Cheese with Caramelized Onion & Thyme with Brie Cheese, but it looked amazing.

Chris is the Challah King and sells his breads at Nate n Al in Beverly Hills, but his catering is impeccable and professional.

Thank-you and gros bisous to Hasty and Eileen for a fun, festive, and fantastic event launching their new joint venture of decadent and delicious champagne truffles!

Gladys may have taken the midnight train to Georgia, but I took a private jet to Memphis last week 🙂

For the first time, I actually got to spend some time on Main street, watching “Cinderella” carriages amble along the trolley tracks.

Trolleys along Main Street are picturesque ways to promote “mass transit” in Memphis.

I even walked along Beale Street.

Clubs like B.B. King’s were open during the day.

Clubs like this were open during the afternoon, but I’m sure the atmosphere at night was much livelier after dark.

Since I had already tried both Interstate BBQ and Corky’s BBQ on my last trip, this time I went to Central BBQ (based on a local’s recommendation). Central was voted by locals as the best BBQ place and the week-end I was in town, it was their anniversary, so a half rack of ribs was only $10 (normally $15.25)!

They are a “green” restaurant, so they compost and recycle. Products are biodegradable as much as possible and in keeping with this philosophy their sauces are all available from pumps. Vegetarians have the option of a Portobello sandwich here for $4.99, served like a pulled pork sandwich, but I would say 99% of the customers come here for the BBQ meat.

I ordered my ribs wet, but got some vinegar sauce on the side. The meat was tender, and the rub and sauce were both good, but my preference is Corky’s, although this comes in at a close second. Since everyone in Memphis has their favorite BBQ place, I’m still on my hunt for “the best”. Another local told me to try Tops, but I didn’t have time to get there this trip.

My fine dining experience was at Flight. If you’ve ever tried a flight of wine, the restaurant concept is the same, offering smaller bites of different dishes so you can sample and compare different variations side by side.

They offer wine flights and I could not resist the “Make Wine Not War” Bordeaux flight for $11.50. The St. Estephe was my favorite, but the other two complimented my meal very well.
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I began with the Salad flight for $10 which had a small serving of a grilled pear and Camembert salad, made with baby arugula, roasted walnuts and maple walnut vinaigrette (my favorite of all three); a mixed greens, roasted corn, dried cherries, crispy bacon, tomatoes, goat cheese, and cajun pecans topped with a white balsamic vinaigrette; and a baby iceberg salad topped with Maytag blue cheese, applewood smoked bacon and grape tomatoes (my least favorite because it was actually bland, especially compared to the outstanding version at Sixth and Pine in Los Angeles).

The special of the day was Jerk seasoned wild boar, so I chose the small plate for $12, the large portion was about $30 and if you want to try a flight, they offer flights of fish, fowl, meat, or seafood from $31. The wild boar had a very nice depth of flavor, but the jerk was not spicy at all, and the tziki like topping was a strange contrast to the robust cumin flavored medley of succotash. It was not noteworthy and not unpalatable. Perhaps I should have stuck to a meat the locals know well, but I so rarely see wild boar on any menu that I had to order it.

It was a memorable trip simply because it was my first trip in a private jet, but the beautiful dispositions of the people in Memphis reminded me that the most important part of any trip,  no matter where you go or how you get there, is the company you keep.

There are very few places I will gladly frequent several times a week, but Sixth and Pine is one I would happily return to on consecutive days (and I have). Sixth and Pine is the new concept cafe inside the Westside Pavillon’s Nordstrom’s department store which features a more complete restaurant experience, including a hostess, wine list, tablecloths, and daily specials.

Every table receives an inventive crudite of pickled vegetables.

The chicken noodle soup includes not only a comfort factor, but a delightfully robust and complex flavor.

The chicken “pot pie” is basically a creamy chicken soup with a rosemary biscuit. I found this less appealing than the chicken soup, but once you broke up the biscuit in the soup and added some salt and pepper, it was a fair version.

The best wedge salad I’ve ever had was here! I’ve actually ordered this at least three times as of this writing and every time it has been spectacular. The quality of the blue cheese, the sweet crunch of the candied pecans, and the perfectly ripe roma tomato wedges, make this a stellar salad. You might want to order extra salad dressing on the side because the portion is so big, you will probably want more. The picture is a HALF order, which came as a “side” to our entree!

On the regular menu the roast chicken is the ultimate comfort dish. This version had tender moist meat and crispy skin, seasoned with only salt and pepper; simplicity at its best! The grilled vegetables were perfectly done, and the portion was so big my friend only ate half and took the rest to go.

One of the daily specials is the flank steak, served with fries, a cilantro chimichurri sauce and horseradish sauce. We ordered it rare, and it came that way (always a plus for a piece of meat this thin). The fries were perfectly crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Both sauces were complimentary to the meat and the meat was good enough to be eaten without any need for either sauce.

The fish and chips was less of a success, with a fairly thick batter and fish that smelled slightly “fishy”.

The braised short rib daily special was a good effort, with marvelous jus and perfectly fried onion rings, but the meat was not as tender as it could have been. The sauteed spinach side, mashed potatoes, and the roasted carrots were all decent, but nothing stood out as exceptional.

The chocolate chip cookie sundae was as good as it looks. The cookie was tender and freshly made, the ice cream was a quality brand, and the whipped cream was fresh.

Wines from France, Argentina, and CA are all offered ranging from $7-$14 per glass and all the entrees range from $10-$16, so this is truly a quality find for the price. Everyone on the staff is professional and has a great attitude.

What more could you wish for except perhaps a bigger stomach so you could fit in more menu choices 🙂

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