Saturday, January 24, 2009


Jess' Take
Last night we hit Supper, a cozy and welcoming restaurant at 9th and South. The restaurant was actually a last minute decision. We were originally planning to hit Memphis Taproom, but the group decided we just weren’t into greasy bar food and beer so Supper it was. We started the feast with a charcuterie plate, complete with a variety of pates and mousses. It was delicious, especially the duck prosciutto. It was also the first time that I’ve had boudin blanc and I have to say, although a little scary looking – very tasty. Our waiter was not shy with the bread (and as a result I have a special place for him in my heart).

For the appetizer I broke tradition and ordered the same thing as Dave, the smoked butternut squash soup with cinnamon marshmallow and sage. It arrived in an oversized bowl with what looked like a schmear of fluffanutter along the inside that was just browned with a kitchen torch. Although I’m not a big fan of anything too sweat, this was a perfect combination of sweet and smoked spice. There were bits of cooked apples at the bottom of the dish that added just a little tartness. It was delicious.

Unfortunately I cannot say the same about my entrée. I ordered the chili dusted skate with crab, mango, red onion and yellow mole. The presentation was impressive, but the fish was way over spiced and the crab salad atop was very cold and would have been more at home atop a bed of green with a creamy dressing. The mole, which is one of my favorite sauces, was disappointingly flavorless (is that even possible?).

Although I was pretty full at this point, I couldn’t resist ordering a selection of cheese for dessert. I was very glad I did. I can’t recall the exact cheeses, but they definitely included a goat and a guere. They were served with smoke paprika crisps and some local honey that was out of this world.

I really wanted to like this place – and I did, aside from my main entre. It was great when the chef came out to see if we liked everything (luckily I didn’t have to lie at that point) and our server was friendly and not pushy. Would I go back? Probably. The soup was good enough.

I give it 2.5 out of a possible 4 schmears of fluff.

Dave's Take
Jess did a great job of describing the app and the soup so I will just expand on my entree.

I ordered the slow roasted pork belly with spiced yams, greens and pineapple mustard. The pork belly was great. Seasoned just enough to accentuate the flavor, it was rich and tender just like pork belly should be. Fantastic. The pureed spiced yams were good, but really heavy on the cream and butter. This made them too rich for my taste, especially since it is being served with pork belly after all, and masked the great natural flavor of the yams. The greens were crisp and tasty and maybe gave it a little health benefit? (OK, maybe not). Overall though, I was very pleased.

I was a little apprehensive on ordering the dessert. First, I noticed the inconsistency of the previous dishes. Sure, I was lucky but my compadres were slightly disappointed. Next, my cholesterol was already peaking since I just had, charcuterie, a creamy soup and pork belly. But I was outvoted so we ordered the cheese plate (which I mostly avoided) and split a dense chocolate cake (big surprise). It was good enough but this standard dessert was lost in my memory with so many others. Nothing to expand on here.

I loved the feel of Supper- comfortable and just trendy enough. The staff was not pushy, helpful and very nice. The chef made a effort to talk with the guests which was a really nice touch. The prices were reasonable. The entree's were inventive and creative. If they could only consistently execute the taste, this would be one of my favorites. As it stands now, I'll give it a 3 out of 4 tasty piggies. I certainly want to give it another try.

Wade’s Take:

January’s dinner brought a last-minute switcheroo, as we ended up going to Supper instead of Memphis Taproom (I pledge to thee, Memphis Taproom, we will grace and thrive in your beer selection soon). The advantage to this change in plans is that I didn’t have time to read-up on Supper, get online advice for what to order or find out anything about the chef. I was going in blind… no room for potential bias.

The appetizer course involved us ordering Dave and my old pal, the charcuterie plate. This one included a boudin blanc, country pate with pistachios, pickled okra, shoestringed spaghetti squash, duck prosciutto and an odd, somewhat pickled brussel sprout. The pates were right up my alley, and would be worth ordering again.

It was hard for me to focus, though, as I was having a love affair at the table with the complementary breads. I should have been complementing them. Garlic-infused and whole wheat breads, combined with their homemade supple and creamy butter, were tremendous.

I hardly ever order a special. I’m always suspicious. Is it leftovers they are trying to dump on unwitting customers? But I strayed from my norm, and ordered a Tuscan white bean soup with croutons and a whole egg on top. Let’s see… random seemingly leftover ingredients, an abundance of salt, oddly textured… is this Drexel’s cafeteria on a Sunday at lunch? Honestly, the soup was fine. It needed an exotic, tanged twist at the end to finish its straightforward flavor. Plus, during the whole bowl, I was enviously glancing over at my friends’ (much better) soups as they licked the bowls clean.

My small plate was the short rib with pearl onions, cheese polenta and some greens wispily coated in not enough horseradish oil. I agree with Dave, the short rib was surprisingly not as moist as would be expected. The pearl onions were superb, but the polenta was beyond strong. The overdose of salt, creamy buttered richness and intense flavor were too much. I expected Supper’s dishes to be more subtle, but after the soup and then this, my palate was overwhelmed.

Then, a phenomenon happened that I very much equate to a dissatisfying meal. Jess (also disappointed with her meal) and I revisited the bread and butter, left on the table from our first course. My belief is that we sought out the beginning of the meal again, when we had been happier and full of hope. Or perhaps we just wanted to bring balance back to our tastebuds after the mild unpleasantness of our dishes.

The dessert course was superb. I had a dense chocolate cake with dulce de leche on the side that was perfect. The cheese plate was excellent as well. Jess picked a gruyere that I am still thinking about, some 12 hours later.

Dave’s review will be more favorable, and his dishes were good. I think he may have a bit of a prejudice, though, as he ate tiring travel food (at hotels, airports) all week prior to the meal at Supper.

Two out of four butters.

Post script – I did try Memphis Taproom, finally. Not as good as I thought! I really wanted to like it, but ended up with greeeezy food that, although delicious and high-class bar food, wouldn’t lead me to wander back to Fishtown.

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Friday, January 09, 2009


Jess' Take
Last night we hit Zot in Head House Square. You can’t miss this restaurant as the sign is enormous and bright – whether you should miss this restaurant is another story. The bar is a perfect spot to hop into on a blustery winter day to enjoy a full-bodied Belgian beer, of which there is a selection to rival Monks. Wade was especially happy to see Le Chouffe available. The dining room is also cozy, with exposed brick and wood beams, you just have to try and ignore the seriously freaky print of what is possibly a tripped out Richard Simmons.

I started the evening with an Allagash White (yes, an American beer – I know) and perused the menu. While the offerings aren’t extensive, the set up of the menu is time consuming. First you choose a meat, of which there is a very interesting variety, then pick a sauce, of which there are about 20 too many choices, and finally decide on a side. If you’re not in the mood for meat, there are mussels – many, many mussels. I couldn’t even begin to navigate through the mussel menu, so I started with escargot for an app and then went with a filet of bison, black peppercorn sauce and two sides: Brussels sprouts and sauteed mushrooms.

The escargot arrived nestled between a fluffy biscuit. Instead of the usual rich buttery flavoring, this dish was served with a smoked sauce and fabulous paprika undertones. The biscuit was perfect to sop up the extra sauce. Although a hearty dish, it was a nice portion, so I wasn’t too full when my main dish arrived. Very satisfying.

The bison arrived cooked to a perfect medium-rare, which I really appreciate. So often restaurants overcook red meat, which is totally disappointing. The best part of my dish was the black peppercorn sauce, which I had them put on the side. It was spicy and not too heavy – the meat, very similar to steak, was a perfect compliment. The Brussels sprouts were swimming in bacon fat, which meant that they were inherently tasty, although not very impressive. Ditto on the mushrooms (sans the bacon fat). Overall a tasty dish – but nothing I can’t make myself, probably even a little better.

Dessert was certainly nothing to write home about. Berries and cream and a pot de crème that was more like dense chocolate mousse.

If I find myself back in the neighborhood I would happily stop in and grab a beer, but I’ll probably save my appetite for Xochitl, which is a block away and a world tastier.

Zot gets 2 out of 4 possible brews from me!

Dave's Take

Jess hit Zot pretty much dead on. One thing about the decor that could be a turn off for some but really appealed to me was the front bar. It had old school skiing memorabilia on the wall. Think a hard rock but for skiing which is much cooler. That combined with the looping Warren Miller videos will make we want to go back for a drink. If I'm there for a drink, I might get some food again, but certainly wouldn't make the trip for the food especially since I have to pass Bridget's and Monks to get there.

My first course was the bone marrow. Now, my other run-ins with bone marrow have been spiritual. That could be from the stem cells packed in there or the delirious feeling of my cholesterol tripling with each bite but whatever it was, Ansil and Distrito pack so much rich flavor into each bite it is amazing. I call bone marrow meat butter and if Ansil is the Kerrygold, this was the parkay. Sure, it was rich and warming but lacked the flavor of the others. Not bad, just a little bland and not worth it here.

I also had to create my modular main meat (MMM). I love the idea of exotic meat. I think it's cool to eat crazy stuff (probably why I like "Strange Foods" on the Travel Channel). Zot did not disappoint there (Kangaroo, Boudin, Bison, Boar Sausage, etc). I got the ostrich med rare and it was cooked perfectly and very tender for such a lean meat. Here is where I take issue. The 20 sauces Jess mentioned came with no guidance. Looking at them, I knew that all 20 would not work. When I asked which one would work best I got a few choices but the server did not recommend anything with confidence. I go to a place to be guided by the chef on how to best experience what they envision a dish should be. This was more like- hey, yeah sure you want that meat. OK- now you have to decide what will taste best on it. Sure, there is an optimum choice or two but we aren't gonna tell you what they are. You have to guess. That's seems like more work than I need. Also, if you get one of the less exotic or cheaper meats, you're totally getting ripped off since they are all the same price. Even with my complaints, my perfectly cooked ostrich did go well with the mushroom cream sauce.

I wanted to skip dessert. Jess & Wade fought to include it. I should have remained strong but gave in. The berries and cream were just fair as you could tell the berries were not in season by the mushiness and lack of flavor. As we ate to the bottom, the lack of taste issue changed but for the worse. Some type of distilled liquor was waiting to sicken us. I think it may have been Aquavit. OK for a shot but nasty when you want the taste of berries. The other dessert was a Pot de crème. It looked way too big for a pot de crème when it came out and was only a partial success. Once I was making a Pot de crème for a dinner party and I screwed it up by cooking it too long. It got a little more dense like Crème Brule often does. I called it Chocolate Crème Brule and my guests were none-the-wiser. Zot should have done that on us. Tasted good but too firm.

If you live in the hood, put it on your rotation. Go for the bar. Go for the beer and possible stay for the food. If you live in another area, I wouldn't make a special trip unless you want to drink while watching Warren Miller films at some other place than your friends couch.

2 out of 4 Après-Ski's

Wade’s Take:

Here’s the thing with Zot. It’s a free market economy. The menu is wide and open for you to invest in however you’d like. There’s no egomaniac chef forcing you to subscribe to his communist pairings. It’s all on you, baby.

What’s that you say? Your hungry for a piece of wild game, perhaps bison, with some sort of sauce… maybe bearnaise or caper sauce, and something starchy… not sweet potato fries, not gnocchi… garlic frietes, that’s it! There you go, you’ve just designed your own dinner. You have the power, you see, because Zot let’s you mix it up. They have over 15 meats on the menu (many exotic – bonus points there!), 20 plus sauces to add-on and then a dozen plus starches to finish your plate.

I opted for the kangaroo (I’m new to kangaroo) with a blue cheese sauce and some garlic frietes for the side. Kangaroo Jack was a long cut of meat, grilled medium rare. I enjoyed it, and the blue cheese sauce was straightforward, but good. My garlic frietes were no Monk’s fries, let’s get that straight. A bit soggy and lacking the garlic I so desired, they perked up when I swiped them in Jess’ black peppercorn sauce.

I had a first-rate onion soup that was my appetizer. The onions were caramelized and oh-so-sweet, cutting the normal sodium-fest of onion soup down to a minimum.

Technically, I suppose, my real appetizer was the smooth extra large bottle of La Chouffe I had as my first course. Brimming with an 8% APV, this strong Belgian pale ale is a new favorite of mine. If this were my world, I’d be sitting on a hilltop in Switzerland right now, eating a tasty apple, some raclette and with a bottle of La Chouffe at my side. Instead, blogging about it is cool, I guess.

I went to the upstairs bathroom bar after dinner to check it out. It’s a great event space with an actual bar made out of bathroom pieces. The countertop is all mirrors (yahoo for all you coke heads out there), a massive claw foot tub houses the bottles and atop that is a spigot/tap of beers. The whole thing rests within a shower basin, with various rub-a-dub-dub accoutrements flanking it. I want to go back. In an odd way, though, it reminded me of one of those shooting galleries that Knoebels is famous for. You know the type, the ragged hillbilly home exterior with the outhouse, squirrels in the broken down car and bullseyes all around to aim your air pistol at.

Final answer… Zot is a fun place, don’t miss it. It’s good food, not the best around in this town of great eats, but a great hang out spot, nonetheless. Go, drink beer, makes food selections, be happy.

Two out of four exotic meats.

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