Caramelized Apple Mempops

I never thought the day would come. I co-branded a popsicle. And no, not just any popsicle--a Mempops popsicle.

Crafted with homemade caramel and Jones Orchard golden crisp apples, the recipe contains an apple core-infused simple syrup, a golden apple puree, and freshly squeezed lemon juice. No artificial sweeteners or supplements--the Mempops philosophy of all-natural, all-local ingredients is applauded by local customers and especially by the Caramelized brand.

I stepped in the Mempops kitchen last week to taste-test the Caramelized Apple recipe and watch the popsicle process come to life. We toyed with citrus and sugar levels, identifying that this pop shouldn't be too sweet nor too savory; and I personally wanted to stay away from the artificial pumpkin space fad flavor (sorry, Starbucks friends).

The end product is a culmination of mild autumn flavors, calling toward a new season without parting too quickly from the last one. The Caramelized Apple pop reminds me of a lovely apple cider that refreshes the palette and pleases the sweet tooth (without overwhelming it). 

Just because summer is over doesn't mean your popsicle craze has to end. Cool off a heated day at work or a brisk autumn jog with a Caramelized Apple Mempop! Available at the brick-and-mortar store, on the mail truck or among carts around town, this popsicle is calling your name, ladies and gents. Let them know Cara sent you!

The Best Memphis Frozen Treats

The Best Memphis Frozen Treats

I know I'm not alone when I vent about this humid heat wave. High temps are admittedly preventing me from enjoying the outdoors and prompting me to eat more ice cream than a Ben & Jerry's breakup. However, I've chosen to satisfy my frozen fix with local scoops and sips. Try these and out let me know who to add.

The Best Memphis Cheese Boards

Ask anyone who knows me--My last supper will forever be a cheese and charcuterie spread. The quintessential appetizer that draws together dinner guests and gets the evening going, a cheese board takes many forms but holds true to its foundation. I enjoy experimenting with different spreads, jams, cheeses and meats; though the magic is truly in the pairing. My best cheese board bets are below; which is your preference?

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1. BARI RISTORANTE The luxurious antipasti opportunities are extraordinary, offering a la carte ordering service with two full pages of salumis, cheeses and accompaniments. Let your waiter help craft a perfect palette for two, four or eight. And don't skip the prosciutto.

2. LOFLIN YARD Perhaps it's the rocking chair and Coach House porch view, or the French bottle of red that I plucked from the shelf of the Safe House--Nonetheless, it's a package deal at Loflin Yard. The cheese plate offerings are selected collaboratively between Loflin's executive chef and bar lead to ensure wine and barrel-aged cocktails match appropriately. Earlier in the Spring, I especially enjoyed the picked red onion and watermelon with the brie.

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3. ECCO ON OVERTON PARK The cheese and antipasto plates--offered separately or together--pile high with rich berries, cheese blocks, nuts and tapenades. The starter is truly a feast in itself...And we don't mind it.

4. ANDREW MICHAEL ITALIAN KITCHEN I usually boast about the cheese; but in this case, the freshly baked bread slices and irresistible olive tapenade make this appetizer a home run at the original Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman establishment. Andrew Michael's new-ish bar lounge is a can't-beat backdrop for this cheese and charcuterie plate.

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5. 387 PANTRY (do-it-yourself) I love to take inspiration from restaurant experiences into my home. Thus, I cannot finish this list without recommending an outpost to create a show-stopping cheese board in the comfort of your own abode. I trust 387 Pantry on South Main to hand over the fresh cheese, salumis from Porcellino's, fancy crackers and spreads (like Flo's tomato jam). You might even walk out with a cutting board.

6. SOUTH OF BEALE SOB's seasonally inspired snack plate offers pre-cut cheeses with hearty sides--a hummus of sorts, fried deviled eggs (hello), glazed pecans and toast points. Their Downtown patio calls my name on an almost weekly basis, and I can never go wrong with this snack of champions.

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Loflin Yard (Memphis)

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset My autumn move to a Downtown Memphis townhome was met with the realization that, like most of my neighbors, a stereotypical "backyard" wouldn't exist. In exchange for the traditional green lawn I had once enjoyed in my childhood suburbs, my backyard is now defined as the mighty Mississippi River. I fall in love with the neighborhood more and more each day; but just last week, I realized I would no longer need to sacrifice the nostalgic backyard feeling.

Loflin Yard instantly became my backyard.

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The inviting and invigorating environment epitomizes Southern comfort. Time stops when one takes a step on the Loflin Yard grounds. I have twice already intended to "stop by" after work or on a weekend afternoon and, two hours later, find myself in deep conversation with new and old acquaintances. It's wonderful, truly.

And, of course, the drink options are incomparable for the Memphis landscape. Barrel-aged cocktails are practiced and, in my opinion, perfected by bar lead Mary Oglesby from Milwaukee. Though she's been in the craft cocktail business for years, Memphis is now her new home (and drawing board) in the category. I'm especially fond of the Barrel #2, the rested gin martini with lemon.

If you're with a friend or group, curated wine bottles are available inside the original Safe House building. Pick out a bottle of rosé, take it to the bar to be corked and chilled in a galvanized tin, and tote it around. The freedom is exhilarating and authentically hospitable.

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The menu is succinctly Smoke House-focused--smoked pork tenderloin (above) and smoked trout are the shared main course stunners. Crispy peanut slaw, grilled corn and the grilled romaine salad are a few other menu stand-outs. I'll be frequenting the cheese board on Wednesday and Thursday late afternoons, as well. It's refreshing to watch the preparation from the screened-in kitchen and, upon ordering, take the trays out to the lawn or under the Coach House porch.

I already find myself craving the smoky flavors, and I've already decided the Smoke House will be my new fragrance of the season since I inhabit the lawn so often. Apologies, Prada.

Join me in my and Memphis' backyard later this week?

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Porcellino's Oregon Wine Dinner

Though my weekly routine visit to Porcellino's varies in forms and fashions -- from a quick butcher shop pick-up to a weeknight dinner date or Sunday brunch -- I leap at the opportunity to indulge in the restaurant's rare specialty evenings.

The restaurant group's rich relationship with wineries and wine distributors prompted a "Passport to Orgeon" concept with Joe's Liquors, Elk Cove and Beaux Fréres. Just as the Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman existing three concepts lie within one Brookhaven block of one another, the two Oregon vineyards lie within six miles of one another. The neighborly vibes could be felt from first introductions to final course.

I attended with a small group, and we staked our claim at a farm table toward the back of the establishment. Since I am used to minimal four-top tables, the long rows of farm tables overwhelmed yet added an instant atmosphere of coziness.

The plates, adorned perfectly and with such attention to detail, were paired with Northern "Oregonian" textures from pinot gris to "ultima." I enjoyed the winemaker's rendition of the first pinot gris, especially, who shared that the acid-drive, farm-raised harvest "loves fat." Our packed-house Porcellino's audience enjoyed 8 of the 30 labeled bottles available.

THE MENU

Butternut squash, meyer lemon, chorizo, pecans, apple, sorrel 2014 Elk Cove, Pinot Gris

Risotto with peas, ham, pickled peanuts 2013 Elk Cove, Pinot Noir

Duck with beets, turnips, citrus, carrots, marsala 2013 Beaux Fréres, Pinot Noir

Brisket with rutabaga, mushroom sofrito, romaine 2008 Elk Cove, Roosevelt Vineyard, Pinot Noir (Library Selection) 2008 Beaux Frères, Beaux Frères Vineyard, Pinot Noir (Library Selection)

Pavlova with pistachio, tangelo sorbet, cadramom yogurt, dark chocolate 2012 Elk Cove "Ultima"

My palette was refreshed with green apple, beet and crab in the first course. Next, an al dente risotto brought upon rich, savory tones with bright green pops of peas and pickled peanuts.

I am not ever one to crave duck, though the presentation was particularly simple and approachable. The paired Pinot Noir was heavenly.

Brisket was finely roasted with an addictive mushroom sofrito and crisp leaf of baby romaine. The dessert was surprisingly large compared to earlier courses, but I quickly remembered that sugary sweet Pavlova is light as air!

We look forward to the next opportunity to dine among Memphis' finest dining and Oregon's finest wine-ing.

The Best Memphis Burgers

These, my friends, are the best Memphis burgers. I cannot select just one, as my hometown unsurprisingly challenges the identity and definition of an American classic. Whether Asian-inspired, French-inspired, or dive-bar inspired, you'll be blessed to bite into one of these during your weekend in town. Which do you most prefer?

1. KWIK CHEK, Bibimbap Burger Korean bibimbap takes new form -- Burger style. Spicy red Korean sauce and mayo are spread on either side of the grilled bun, then layered with steamed cucumber and bean sprouts, a slice of cheese cheese, and a sunny-side-up egg. The patty itself is most impressive and thoughtful -- chopped ribeye with a teriyaki-style marinade.

2. BABALU TACOS & TAPAS, Baba Burger Oddly enough, I prefer the burger over the "tacos" or "tapas" namesake. The fluffy sourdough bun hosts roasted roma tomatoes, truly divine caramelized onions, ripe avocado slices, applewood smoked bacon, and chipotle aioli alongside the natural angus beef.

3. EARNESTINE & HAZEL'S, Soul Burger Best enjoyed after midnight, the soul burger draws tourists and neighbors regularly in the South Main dive bar and lounge. Cheddar cheese, pickles, grilled onions, "soul sauce," and juicy patties grilled on the bar back define the establishment's rule, "Keep it simple, stupid."

4. FOLK'S FOLLY CELLAR LOUNGE, Gourmet Burger Taste the legend in a more casual form than the steakhouse's ribeye. A blend of renowned ground prime beef from Humphrey's Prime Cut Shoppe is prepared exclusively on weekend evenings in the Cellar Lounge (or for take-out).

5. CAFE 1912, 1912 Burger Spread with aromatic roasted garlic aioli, this hearty French bistro-style burger melts in your mouth, especially with crumbles of bacon and Maytag blue cheese. Parmesan pommes frites pile high on the side.

6. OSHI BURGER BAR, Oshi Burger Though other burgers on the menu are tasteful, this burger is named for the restaurant for a reason. Wagyu American Kobe beef is topped with soy glaze, shiitake tapenade, Swiss and housemade Umami mayo.