Monday, August 12, 2013

Memphis Nosh: Cooper Street 20/20

I'm lazy.

We all know this. 

I love cooking, but I have to be in the right mood. If I'm not, well...let's just say a lot of peanut butter sandwiches get eaten in my house. 

And I'm often busy, or at least have a kind of weird schedule.

So when I found out about Cooper Street 20/20, run by Kathy Katz, who used to cook for the Southern College of Optometry, I had to go. Kathy makes already prepared, frozen or refrigerated entrees, sides, soups, and sauces that you can basically grab, go, and thaw/cook at home. I was offered several things to try, plus it's super close to my neighborhood, on the northern edge of Cooper-Young (800 S. Cooper), maybe 5 minutes from Overton Square.

They have a pretty basic set-up: go in, to the right are fridges and freezers full of prepared foods, a jams and jellies display, and to the left there's a little counter with biscotti, crackers, and various other goodies, and the cash register. They also have a little table with a ton of Memphis magazines (including Edible Memphis, one of my faves - I even have a couple of their food illustrations hung in my dining room!), newsletters, and announcements. 

Next time, biscotti. I'm coming for you. 

Everything is in little containers that are microwavable safe and have labels with all the ingredients on them, as well as the cooking times and instructions. 

The menu board dominates the small-ish space; this is their core menu, food Kathy has available most of the time. 

So that's super cute. The day I went in they also had a ton of other options. Here's about half of the refrigerator: 

When I go back, which will probably be really soon, I'm going to try the various chicken salads; I'm just not a hummus fan, but I'll also be back to get some of those for parties - $4 for fresh hummus?!? And I don't have to see/smell/touch a chickpea! I'm in!

The other side of the fridge. I'm just amazed by the variety - it's a small shop, and so much love and care and attention clearly goes into each dish, so the fact that they have so much just shows the devotion to good, local, fresh food Kathy has. Also, anyone who illustrates their signs is okay in my book!

There are also two large freezers:

This looked so good, but it was the last one, and I didn't want to be that guy. It's next on the trying list. I love quiche, but I'm not so good at making it. How cute would this be to get for a brunch party? (Like the one I'm having the end of August! Yay!)

Bolognese Meat Sauce. I'm not sure why this is so shaky - maybe standing in the freezer door? Anyway it looked awesome. 

They also go to the Downtown Memphis Farmers Market on Saturdays, the St. Jude Market every other Friday, and the Botanic Gardens' Farmers Market on Wednesdays (which I just found out about - I can't motivate myself to get up early enough for downtown, but  I can definitely make it to one between 2-6!). 

Here's a sampling of the stuff they take, and some super pretty ingredients: 

Look at those beautiful peppers!

All kinds of pasta salads, soups, and (oh cheesus) pimento cheese ready to go to the Farmer's Market. Hooray blogger sneak peeks! :)

Here are the local jellies and jams, made by Carolyn Dodson (she sells these at the Downtown MFM too). 

And the shop itself is really cute. It's a great example of taking a kind of weird space (it's really long but narrow) and adding some cheery paint, paintings, and a good layout and making it something really special. 

*Paintings by Debra Edge, guitar by Bill Brookshire. 

And I'm really too short, but they have vintage lunchboxes, including this awesome Barbie one! I love love love vintage lunchboxes. I saw these in Paris: 

So what did I try? 

Well, I was kind of celebrating that night, since I had just (FINALLY) finished my comps.

Oh yeah. 

I forgot. 

I finished my comps!

So I knew there was going to be celebratory prosecco and I knew I was going to enlist Kirby to help me celebrate and eat some delicious food with me. So I got stuff that I knew would go well with celebration and bubbly. 

Like pimento cheese.

CHEESUS TAKE THE WHEEL. This was so good. And yes, I realize by saying that celebration, fancy booze, and pimento cheese clearly go together, I am officially the biggest hillbilly ever. 

I don't care.

At least it wasn't Mountain Dew. 


So the pimento cheese. I like pimento cheese, but sometimes the regular just tastes kind of bland to me. When I saw "Zesty" and "Southwest," though, I was in. 



I'm gonna say it. 

Sweeping declaration!

No, not that.

This was the best damn pimento cheese I've ever had in my entire life. 

Like I said, I'm not really a fan of the "vanilla" pimento cheese, but the level of spice, the texture, everything was amazing. Kirby and I ate a ton, I had some for breakfast the next day, I may have hidden it in the back of the fridge for the .00002 seconds it lasted until I decided I had to have more. 

So, so, so good. 

And $4. 

I'm cheap. 

I could have a lunch of PBR and pimento cheese for approximately $6, assuming knowing that I would eat the whole thing. 

Not that I would ever do that. 

Moving on. 

Tomato Basil Soup. Look at how many artificial ingredients there AREN'T in this soup!?!

So I'm not a HUGE soup lover. And it's a billion degrees. But this is pretty good. 

I like my food where I can see/taste all of the ingredients, and you definitely can here. I think as a soup it's a little too tomato-y for me, but we made some toast and dunked toast in (we were far too lazy for grilled cheese) and it was amazing that way. And I would absolutely use this as a sauce, with a grilled cheese in the winter, or to dip breadsticks in as a kind of marinara. 

*Side note: everything is too tomato-y for me. Especially bloody marys. Courtney, I'm talking to you. Gross. 

The torn labels are because I just got smaller sampler sizes (thanks y'all!) but this summer squash soup was really good. 

Squash and I have a complicated relationship, but this was one of the better squash soups I've had (it reminded me of the broccoli cauliflower one at Pret a Manger). I added a ton of pepper and some salt, and some cajun seasoning, and it was perfect.

That's one of the best/worst things about Cooper Street 20/20 honestly. 

I grew up in a house with a mom who grew up in the Southwest, and I'm addicted to spicy food. And I pepper everything within an inch of its life. When I go out to eat and I get bland or underpeppered/salted food it's irritating. 

So I was a little put off for a minute at the lack of pepper or heat in most of these dishes. The pimento cheese had plenty, even for me (and I make the guacamole of spicy death, so I like spicy), but everything else needed a liberal dose. 

But I'm a single 28 year old who really only has myself to please.

With a palate that craves the spiciest food possible. Ever. Like the hottest thing I've ever eaten, this chicken jalfrezi I had in London:

This was so spicy I drank three giant Strongbows. 

And went back 3 more times.

Not everyone eats like that. 

And if you're getting food to take home, you should have spices there. 

And if you have kids/picky eaters/a mouth that doesn't like regularly being set on fire, you probably don't want something super seasoned, or at least want to be able to do it yourself. 

That's the genius here. It's good, solid food that you can add to to make it your own with the tiniest amount of effort. 

If I had kids, or a husband, or a job that doesn't allow me time to cook dinner or make more peanut butter sandwiches than anyone should ever eat, this would be a blessing.

As it is, I added some spice, ate a ton, and then ate all the leftovers (with help from my roommate - boys eat a lot y'all) with plenty of time left to watch bad TV. 


I also got the Avgolemono Greek Spinach and Lemon Egg Drop

This was my favorite of the soups - it's chicken broth, spinach (which still tasted like spinach, hooray!) and lemon. Which is kind of odd sounding, but it was like a soupy lemon chicken with the texture of egg drop. I think this one would be great as a grown-up alternative to chicken noodle - like, I don't want to get sick, but I think that if I did, all the lemon and vitamins and just heartiness of this would make me feel so much better. 

For our entree, I got the Gorgonzola (yum) Chicken Fettuccini - again, I'm just so impressed by the lack of "stuff" that's in this.

Also ignore my dirty stove.  

This could not be any easier. It comes in a tin that you just pop in the oven.

And it's huge. That's a large-ish fork - easily enough to feed 4 people. 

Here it is baked. That's after Kirby and I had each gotten pretty large portions. I like that the cheese gets good and melty, and it gets little browned pieces. 

Here it is on my (PENGUINS!) plate:

Not the best lighting, but there's a ton of sauce and cheese, and a nice amount of spinach (which doesn't seem to be on the ingredient list, but it was a nice surprise!) and chicken. 

The chicken was really good, and I love that the noodles don't get slimy or mushy - even after freezing, they were just a hint above al dente. 

The sauce was good, although you could really really taste the wine. I like that, but if you don't like the wine taste in food, I'd skip this one. Also I would probably bake this a tad more than the recommended time, or at a tiny bit higher temp - I wanted more crusty browning and the sauce needed to thicken up a bit I think. It did that when I ate leftovers, and it was great. 

Overall, I think that if you, like me, eat a lot of snack foods, like hummus or pimento cheese, you've got to check this place out - it's inexpensive for the quality, and it's all so fresh. If you've got a busy schedule and dinner is a struggle, or you have picky eaters or kids, or just want something you can have in the freezer for emergencies, absolutely go see Kathy (who is the sweetest person - she and her husband were so helpful and are just good, community-minded people). If you want to impress your friends but keep sweaters in your stove, take the sweaters out, since you're going to use the oven, and go get something from the freezers at Cooper Street 20/20. 

Even better: with 48 hours notice, Kathy will prepare one of her dishes in your baking pan, so you can be a dirty liar and go out and get your shoe shopping done while she makes your friends food.

Because I can't find a "I keep sweaters in my stove" clip, here's an awful-quality clip showing how important shoes really are.

Then I'm barefoot on a New York City sidewalk in the middle of summer... from Karii on Vimeo.

I think I'm going to heat up some leftovers and watch Sex and the City tonight. 


Or something like that. 


  1. Yeah, I'm pretty sure I'm going there this week, now that I've read your review. Damn! The Chicken Spinach pasta looked incredible. And I want pimento cheese like yesterday.