culinary

Eating Through Memphis

Memphis is deceitful. Maybe that is their plan, to remain quiet and inconspicuous so they can keep the city just the way they want it. Living in New Orleans can leave you unknowing of the other festivals and events relatively close cities produce. On a Saturday that was filled with the first crawfish boils of the season I boarded on GLO airlines to head to Memphis. Thankfully it was not raining as I made my way down the airport boardwalk, onto the twin propellor plane, and into my cozy, single window seat. In less than two hours I was going to be in a city very much like the one I love. A city where music, food, and booze is only second to the people who create the feel of its culture.

Now, you can go to Memphis just for beers at Wiseacre Brewery or to taste the original works of the New Orleans Ace Hotel’s newest chefs at Hog and Hominy or Porcellino’s. You can venture around to Overton Square or Cooper Young areas to see some action. However, in order to soak up the most of Memphis here are a couple of festivals that will solidify your love.
 

Gus' Fried Chicken with Bass Pro Shop in background while on the river.

Memphis in May

This is the big one with a marathon/5K, a BBQ contest, an International Week, and of course, the Beale Street Music Festival. It takes over much of the city in the same way Jazz Fest does with New Orleans, but the more the merrier in this instance.

Whether or not you are running the race downtown choose to complete the morning with lunch at Gus’ Fried Chicken. It will be packed so order a full meal with a drink, walk the couple of blocks to the river you just ran by, and have a picnic. It’s a beautiful scenery if you can manage the lightening-white glare from the Bass Pro Shop glass pyramid. I cannot talk about this chicken enough because it’s too killer to put into words. It’s as if hot sauce was baked (fried) into the tender chicken itself and the only way you can get to the meat is to crack the deep brown crust of skin. I messed up and didn’t even order a drink, but the chicken was so tender and moist it wasn’t a problem.

Overton Square Crawfish Festival

Question, why would you go to Memphis to eat crawfish? Answer, because trying new boils and judging the ever-living-hell out of them is what we do best. While you’re in the area stop by Lafayette Music Room: think of a cleaner version of Maison with a live music bar at night and family friendly brunch spot by day.  Overton Square is a nice place to walk around, bump into friends from last night, and soak up some sun while playing corn hole. It gets better when you add crawfish.

A few festivals spread throughout the year are:

The Bacon and Bourbon festival. Think lots of people from Kentucky, but every restaurant does something special for it.

The Southern Hotwing Festival is the bomb and self-explanatory.  Go there. Eat. Be happily disgusted with yourself.

The Lucero Family Picnic is totally bizarre (it centers around an eccentric band from Memphis) and will feature St. Paul and the Broken Bones (of Birmingham, AL) this year.

901fest is new and a part of Memphis in May, but is a paid event that mimics the “locally sourced” feel of French Quarter Fest. This is on my list, but not at the top.

In between all of the music and revelry you may get hungry or thirsty in Memphis but don’t worry, it’s not Cleaveland. They have a set-up that truly inspires gluttony.

There is breakfast and then there are doughnuts. Gibson’s is basically the place you want to be 1) because of the melt-in-your-mouth doughnuts of all varieties, and 2) for Don DeWeese the proprietor, orator, and community magician. You cannot enter the shop even once without a hello from Don, a few suggestions about Memphis, and getting to know him personally. He is the personification of Memphis; personable, demonstrative, and insightful.

At Gibson's Doughtuts with Don DeWeese, February 2016.

In between doughnuts and music you can meander into almost any bar and learn the name of the bartender. Some of the best bars to get acquainted with, and fast, are: Earnstine’s and Hazels, Bar Dog, and Wild Bills. Writers note: Wild Bills will treat you like college with 40s of domestic beer and a red solo cup. It’s a perfect late night stop before you go home.

This is more than enough reasons to go to Memphis, but if you need just a little more nudging visit here. It will provide a full list of every big and obscure festival happening. So, don’t wait. Pack up the car or hop a heavily discounted plane ride and have fun one weekend. Get out and explore!

riginally written for Where Y'at.

Beers of Summer

It’s 100-degrees outside and already a nap sounds tempting. It would be wrong to waste such a beautiful day, but biking or paddling or even walking outside sounds grueling and unappealing. So, like everyone who needs encouragement to get up and get moving you promise yourself a summer treat. Not a child’s sno-ball or sweet tea, but an ice cold beer.

Drinking beer in the summer has taken on a form of finesse. With the rise of so many beers and breweries you label yourself automatically whenever you hold a can or bottle. For the adventurous kind we tend to lean towards cans because they are more environmentally-friendly and won’t break in our backpack or dry bag. For those who are more leisurely with their activities the options become almost limitless.

So, what are the beers for this summer? Keep it low in alcohol since the heat already is a burden. Make it crisp and refreshing, and yes, extremely cold. Do not waste your time sipping the beers you hate no matter how cool the can looks.

Let’s not forget about the holy invention of the mini-can. Of course, these beers are mainly from macro-breweries so tiny soldiers from Corona, Michelob Ultra, and Coors Light will grace your cooler this season. Do not let anyone give you heat for this. They are informing you that they are inexperienced drinkers. Chances are they have not lasted hours on hot sandy beaches, mosquito-infested kayak trips, or simply live in the South.

I compiled a list of my favorites summer sippers, but then asked Lauren McCurdy, Marketing Manager for Good People Brewery in Birmingham, AL, to let us in on her seasonal specials. Below is a great starter package for summertime. (My sole recommendations are listed with a ** while her input is in quotations.)

 

  • Good People Bearded Lady (American wheat) and Good People Pale Ale— “Even if I didn’t work at the brewery, I seriously would make these two brews my top two choices for summer drinking. Since Good People people are huge fans of hops, this American Wheat ale is light, bright, with a slight bite of citrusy hops at the end. Good People Pale is my ride or die. It’s what I choose to drink no matter what mood I’m in or what the weather is like.”

    • ABV: 4.2%/5.8%

    • Activity pairing:  Festivals, BBQ contests, rock climbing

 

  • Anchor Lager— “This is what made me love lagers. The can is super sharp looking (the California flag), but the beer is so easy to drink that you don’t even realize that you’ve had the whole six pack.”

    • ABV: 4.9%

    • Activity pairing:  Camping, BBQ, mountain biking

 

  • Westbrook Gose— “This was my go-to when I first started working at [Good People Brewery]. No A/C in Alabama during the summer and a million people to pour beer for? You’re going to need something to satisfy your thirst, but maybe also get you buzzed after that crazy shift you just had!” (Writer’s note: this is also my go-to beer when I want something to sip on, but don’t want to feel like I’m gearing up for a Saturday crawfish boil.)

    • ABV: 4%

    • Activity pairing: festivals, Sunday Funday

 

  • Shiner Ruby Redbird— “Really refreshing and easy to drink with a nice kiss of ginger.”

    • ABV: 4.01%

    • Activity pairing: crawfish boils, kayaking, running

 

  • Sierra Nevada Otra Vez— “I may just really love goses, but Sierra Nevada really hit it out of the park with this one. There’s nothing overly salty/tart/cactusy/etc about this beer, but it’s really well balanced.” (Keep goses away from saltwater activities as they are already quite salty tasting.)

    • ABV: 4.5%

    • Activity pairing: mountain biking, rock climbing, trail running

 

  • Carton Boat Beer— “Shoutout to NJ! Grab some tall boys, get on the boat, and you’ve got a pretty perfect day in my mind.”

    • ABV: 4.2%

    • Activity pairing:  fishing, skiing, kiteboarding, sailing

 

  • Bells Oberon— “My mom is not a huge beer drinker, but she LOVES Bells Oberon. It’s a beer that we can both enjoy.” (This is a beer anyone can find refreshing. Michigan takes on Canadian beer.)

    • ABV: mixed

    • Activity pairing: camping, hiking, boating, canoeing

 

  • Oskar Blues Pinner— “I actually got to try this for the first time at the Oskar facility in Brevard, NC. I had a great experience there and this beer was definitely one of the highlights.”

    • ABV: 4.9%

    • Activity pairing:  kayaking, SUP, biking, camping, hiking, just about anything

 

  • **Big Wave Golden Ale—A great way to get the saltwater out of your mouth after water sports.

    • ABV: 4.4%

    • Activity pairing: SUP, surf, beach day, hiking

 

  • **Endless River: It is bright, crisp, and everything you need in a summer beer. Drink it ice, ice cold for ultimate refreshment.

    • ABV: 5.0%

    • Activity pairing: any damn day

 

Now pack up the dry bag, backpack, overly-expensive Yeti, and head out! Have you completed the “New Orleans 52” bike ride yet?

Originally written for Where Y'at.