Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Memphis Nosh: Battledish!

On Saturday, I got to be a judge at Battledish, a competition run by Dishcrawl that took place this weekend across the country.

Basically, Battledish pits 6 chefs in each city against each other for various titles - Most Delicious (King of Battledish), Most Creative, Most Authentic, Best Cocktail, and Best Modern.

(Results here: Memphis Battledish Results)

Kim, the Dishcrawl ambassador in Memphis (who is awesome, y'all), asked me to be a "celebrity" judge, and, although I'm pretty sure my dog and my roommate (who tells everyone when we go out that I'm a famous local blogger...) are the only people who think I'm a celebrity, I jumped at the chance.

Things I love:
Pictures of yummy food

I got to do all of those Saturday.


So on Saturday at 1ish, I headed down to Jerry Lee Lewis's Honky Tonk/Twelve Bar to get started.

*It's a cool building, down Beale kind of by Dyers, Alfreds, and Coyote Ugly. 

That same day, Tap 'n' Run was happening, so it was pretty crowded on Beale. 

*It's a 4K with beer. Love. 

One of the best things about any Dishcrawl event is how incredibly friendly, helpful, and just NICE the volunteers and staff always are. When I got upstairs, I got my tickets, my ballot and map, a t-shirt, some downtown dining stuff, and a bag of grits. 

As Kim said, where else are you going to get grits as swag? 

I was really excited about the grits. 

*They're good grits too. Not the mealy kind you get sometimes, but actual, stone ground, I could really make something edible with these, grits. Delta Grind rules, y'all. 

Here's my map, shirt, and ballot: 

*Pic blatantly stolen from Kim, since I haven't taken a pic with mine yet. I do love a badass shirt.

*I had some pen difficulties. 

I met up with a couple of awesome ladies, Sue and Tamara (@_BIGSUE and @tameranik - seriously, check them out, they're great) and we decided to hit the eating circuit.

Yes, we walked all over, eating the food in the restaurants, rather than just having it all served to us at once. It was hot, and we absolutely took the trolley down to Rizzo's, but I really think that that made the experience so much better. We got to try the food in the environment it was supposed to be eaten in, and it was all hot and delicious because it hadn't been sitting around waiting for us. 

Plus all the walking kept us from getting too full/drunk (maybe that was just me...).

First stop - Lunchbox Eats!

Now I love Lunchbox Eats. It's got a really cool interior and I like the schoolhouse theme - it's just enough kitsch to be fun, but it doesn't overpower the incredible food. 

We had "Short Rib Chili, nestled in a Buttery Cornbread Cup, with spice from Chilies, sweetness from Cinnamon, depth of flavor from Chocolate, and body from Short Ribs" from chef Kaia Brewer. 

Here's the deal. 

I hate beans. HATE. And I picked out most of the beans in the chili. But I got a bite of one, and this is the first dish in my entire life that, after eating a bean, has not made me want to/actually vomit. 

It was really good. 

I still hate beans, and if I were to ever recreate this I would make it without (since beans are evil and add nothing but sadness to the world) but this was good enough that I didn't really notice them. 

And it came in a cornbread cup!

*Note on the photos - some of the places had really low lighting, so I have applied filters to some of the food, but not to make it look better so much as to make it visible and try to get a closer approximation of what it actually looked like. 

This was super tasty. I kind of want to try making cornbread cups for stew or something myself - they're a great way to serve little individual portions. 

Also, none of this was little. Be prepared to be horrified at how much I ate. 

Next, we walked back up to Main and took the trolley to GE Patterson, to Rizzo's Diner

*The trolley is the shit. 

Rizzo's has been on my "to eat" list for awhile - I saw it on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives (which I have an unhealthy addiction to) and have wanted to go and try pretty much everything on the menu. 

I was not disappointed. 

At Rizzo's we had the "Grit & Grind," a great name for a Memphis dish, which was Duck Confit and goat cheese wrapped in grits, rolled in panko, deep fried, and then served with this honey-sriracha sauce.

Holy (goat) cheesus. 

It was amazing. One of the best uses of grits I've ever had. 

Our cocktail was pretty good too - the South Mango Mimosa (although our server called it something different): 

*This had great flavor, and was deceptively tasty for the amount of alcohol I'm sure was in it, but it was kind of....flat? I liked it, and would drink it, but it needed something - more mint maybe? Maybe made individually they're better. 

After we finished, took a ton of photos (eating with people who don't complain when I take a million pictures of food is nice! Most of my friends don't, but it's fun being with people who expect that!), and talked to Chef Michael Patrick for a few minutes, then headed back to the trolley to ride up to 2nd/Gayoso/Union for some more food. 

Next we stopped at Tamp & Tap

If I could have a slightly obsessive romantic relationship with a restaurant, this might be the one. 

It's so good. 

And I just feel...cool...eating there. 

(And I finally got to meet Bekah from Matters of Merrymaking, who is just as cool in person as she is online!)

*This is the contraption they use to make the iced coffee. It's super concentrated so that when they put the coffee in ice, it won't get diluted like regular coffee would. I think I would feel like a mad scientist at all times working here. 

*Just like this. Exactly like this. Yes.


At Tamp & Tap, we had the most amazing thing I think I've ever eaten: the Autumn Napoleon.


This was "Horseradish Brioche French Toast, Roasted Butternut Squash Puree, Quinoa, Heirloom Tomato Relish, Fried Shiitake and Prosciutto with Lime Chimichurri."

So a little piece of french toast (with just a subtle hint of horseradish, not enough to knock you over or anything), not-baby food puree, quinoa (which I would never have thought to use here), heirloom tomatoes, these amazing little crunchy gems of shiitake (sort of like fried onions, but so much flavor, and really delicate), and nice salty prosciutto on top, with a "so crazy it works" sauce on the side.


I can't even. 

So good. 

I want to eat all of the food they have, but this, this was phenomenal. 

I didn't want to leave. 

But onwards and upwards and cocktails and more food and all that!

Next we walked around the corner to Automatic Slims.

Now I wasn't super impressed with Slims when I was there for last Dishcrawl I did. It was fine, but not great. 

They made up for it this time.

This was the Pan-Seared Tuna encrusted with sesame seeds with Spiced Rice and Wakame (edible seaweed). It had 4 sauces - a green onion and wasabi one, one that had raspberry, a reduced strawberr and balsamic one, and one that must have had honey. (Our server told us but I was in a delicious coma at this point). 

The tuna was cooked just right, and the rice/sauce/tuna/wakame combo made every bite different. So good. 

And the cocktails!

*The Cranberry Lemongrass Martini. This DID NOT taste like alcohol, and it wasn't bitter like cranberry can be. It was dangerous. 

*The Mango Mojito. I love mojitos in pretty much all forms, and this did not disappoint. 

I'll also say that our server at Automatic Slims was one of the best I've ever had, there or anywhere. So nice, so welcoming, and look at the atmosphere we got to eat in!

*I do love the decor.

*Beautiful flowers for us to look at while we stuffed our faces and drank two cocktails. 

Next we went to Belle Diner, which, I sort of ashamedly, had never even heard of. 

It's a neat little diner, with kind of a country kitsch vibe. 

And some pretty damn good food. 

*On Union and Second, right up from the Peabody. 

*This was really good actually. It wasn't my favorite, but it's something I could see myself eating on a regular basis. 

Their dish was the "Braised Short Rib with Grit Cake and Sauteed Brussels Sprouts." There were a couple of minor problems (my short rib was really difficult to cut, and I couldn't get a waitress to bring me a knife, and the brussels sprouts needed some salt) but overall the flavor of this was great. Nice sauce, really good grit cake, and those fried onions brought a much needed salty aspect to the dish. 

There was also a bloody mary. Which I did try. 

I still don't like bloody marys. 

But if I had to drink one, this isn't one I'd say no to. 

*As you can see, no one was skimping on portion sizes. Great googly moogly. 
**I ate it all. 

At this point I was kind of waddling, so it was nice that we had to walk back to Beale and down it, back to Jerry Lee's. 

*Beale Street during the day is way different than at night. I kind of prefer it this way. Too many 21 year olds at night. 

When we got to Twelve Bar (the restaurant above the Honky Tonk, where, as promised, an Elvis impersonator was performing), we had 3 tickets left. The waitress asked us whether we'd like the Margarita or the "Trishalicious." Everyone else ordered the Margarita. 

I said "Will you judge me if I get both?"

Yes I'm that person. 

Whatever, I had to try everything. 

And I'm glad I did. 

*The view from upstairs, looking across Beale towards FedEx Forum. It's a really cool little hideaway. 

Behold, The Trishalicious: 

This was, without a doubt, the best cocktail I've ever had. The Farmer's Daughter at Local comes in a very close second, but I could see myself making this and sitting on the patio, having them at dinner, drinking them on a night out...

They're dangerous too. 

It's (and Trish, if you're reading this, correct me if I'm wrong): Cranberry Vodka, Cranberry juice, Orange Juice, Apple Pucker, and Red Bull. 


That's right. 

Red Bull. 

Trish (the awesome bartender at Twelve Bar) told me that they're better when they make them individually, but I thought this was great just like it was. I drank it, and the delicious Margarita, along with this, Flammkuchen: 

Flammkuchen means "flame cake" in German, and it's kind of like a savory tart almost. It's super thin pizza dough (or just dough, really) fried in butter and, in this case, topped with creme fraiche, gruyere, bacon, sage, and carmelized onions (which were not on the ingredient list but which I absolutely think were on there - and I love carmelized onions so I was happy). 

The crust was a little chewier than I usually like for Flammkuchen, but it was nice and buttery and creamy. 

After we finished, we filled out our ballots (which was excruciatingly difficult), said our goodbyes, and took a picture: 

*My hair had gotten bigger as the day went on. But as Sue said, the closer to hair the closer to God, so I guess I was good!

Battledish was such a great experience. Of course, it was awesome to eat a bunch of food and drink cocktails, and I love giving my opinion on things, so that was nice, but it was also really helpful for me to go into an environment where I pretty much knew no one and be a part of a larger community. Memphis bloggers are the best, and we have some great people, chefs, and food here. 

(Memphis blogger meetup soon? Booze? Coffee? Fun?)

After Battledish I thought, well, I'm downtown anyway, why not drive around and take some pictures!? So I'll share those with y'all tomorrow!

****If I got any ingredients wrong, just let me know - I promise it wasn't on purpose!****


  1. AMAZING. Anything you mentioned with grits had me drooling. I'll be honest, I'm not much into duck/tuna, but otherwise I'd have chowed on it all. The french toast thing almost made me hate you, it looked so amazing.

    1. We should try to make grits - I've never made them into the little cakes before, but they were so good!

  2. Great post. You gave a lot more detailed information than I did :( I guess I need to take notes..lol. The food was delicious. I really did enjoy myself. I was just telling my friend I would love to attend a bloggers event with memphis bloggers. lol at what Sue said about big hair..

  3. Amber, we have a Memphis Blogger's Facebook group if you are interested! Every now and then ladies post info on get togethers and such. You might already be in it, but if not let me know and I can add you to it. :)

    Glad you had fun! All this food looks delicious! I love the idea of using cornbread as a portion-sized bowl! What a good idea!

    1. I'd love that, thank you - that sounds super fun!

      Yeah, I'd love to make the little bowls. My mom is coming to town this weekend so maybe I'll con her into helping me. :)