Sunday, August 5, 2012

Ciao Bella - Memphis, TN

Ciao Bella, has quickly become our go to for everything Italian. They are Project Green Fork, certified and using local ingredients from our local farms, which makes all the difference, as you well know.  In the past, we tend to find a quiet corner in the bar & settle in for an evening.  But this time we decided to get the full dining experience, which only made us fall more in love.    

Executive Chef, Jonathan Steenerson, has been in the kitchen since he was 14 yrs old.  Learning from his father & grandfather. He has even had the honor of cooking for Paula Deen & her husband. And we (hubby & I) were honored to have him cook for us.  We gave him free reign to bring out whatever he wanted.  No menus ever touch our hands.  So, everything that came out, was a complete surprise (and Chef came out, each time to explain each dish) & it was all beyond our greatest expectations.  He brought out things that we might not have even thought about ordering but they were all things he loves to create (and eat) & that's what made this evening so special.  Let the food begin!! 

Octopus Carpacio

Thinly sliced bed of Octopus, topped with salty/vinegar combination from the capers, this dish is light but packed with buttery lemon goodness.  

Chopped Salad

Fresh romaine lettuce, basil, diced tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions,  kalamata olives, mozzarella (just to name a few) & then lightly tossed in house champagne vinaigrette...this is the way salad should be.  You get a mouth of flavors in every bite...hmmm, so good. 

Kobe Beef Brisket Gnocchi

Even as a (recent) vegetation, I tossed it all out for this & I can say it was all worth it.  This is a classic steak & potatoes taking to the next level.  Slow-braised beef brisket, sitting on top of parmesan gnocchi topped with fresh basil & pine nuts.

Old World Chicken Carbonara

Homemade bucatini pasta (which is twice as thick as a regular spaghetti & absolutely cooked to perfection), salty pancetta, fresh basil all tossed in a this luscious cream sauce & topped with a soft fried egg.  The thrill I got from poking that yoke & then stirring it onto the dish, is like the rush you get from riding a roller coaster & going upside down...yep, it's that good. 

Chicken Skewers with Orzo & Spanakopita

Chicken Skewers, breaded & fried, almost like a southern fried chicken, sitting on top of tangy orzo pasta & adorned with the best homemade Spanakopita, in town.   

Watermelon Gelato

Watermelon, a summer favorite, turned into this creamy dessert that just melts in your mouth.   You can't feel guilty eating this for dessert, it's fruit!!  We could even taste the rind, it was that fresh. 

Ciao Bella Italian Grill on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Summer Arugula & Tomato Pasta

I made this the other night because I wanted something that exhibited bright, Summer-like doses of full flavor.  Well, this hit the spot.  Fresh heirloom tomatoes, that are sweet & give this dish a hearty feeling.  The beautiful arugula that becomes milder in flavor, when cooked & wraps the pasta in gorgeous green colors, while maintaining it's classic spicy peppery flavor.  Then you bring in the lemony garlic olive oil, which coats the pasta & brings it to life.  And the heat from the cayenne, really rounds it off.  There's no better way to celebrate the great foods that can be found in any garden.  

8 oz Ziti pasta
1 tablespoon kosher salt (to season pasta water)
2 medium heirloom tomatoes (1 yellow & 1 red), diced 
2 cups Arugula
1/4 - 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons pasta water
1/2 organic lemon juiced & zested
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup walnuts, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh basil, garnish
season to taste with salt, pepper & cayenne

In a 5 qt dutch oven or pasta pot, filled up halfway with water, bring to a boil & add 1 tablespoon salt.  Add pasta & I always add a little olive oil to the water, too.  Cook according to package directions.  Meanwhile prepare your sauce.  In a bowl, add 3 tablespoons pasta water (remove while pasta is cooking), stir in olive oil, lemon juice & zest, garlic, season to taste with salt, pepper & cayenne.  Set aside.  Drain pasta  & return it to the pot, on the stove (burner should be off).  Toss in arugula & the heat from the pasta will cook it down.  Add lemony-garlic sauce, tomatoes & finally your parmesan cheese.  Garnish with fresh basil, walnuts & a sprinkle of parmesan, season to taste.  Serve & enjoy!!!   

Makes about 3-4 servings 
(could be more like 4 if you serve it with a salad) 

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Otherlands Coffee Bar- Memphis, TN

Congratulations to The Otherlands Coffee Bar for being the Action News 5 Andy Wise, Project Green Fork Restaurant of the Month!!!!  My husband & I had the pleasure of visiting them for the first time.  You can cozy up at a table or on a comfy couch, which makes you feel right at home.  Add some warm lighting, local artwork and it's the perfect place to relax in an eclectic atmosphere.  And did I mention that our entire meal with less than $20?  You must see what all we got for that.  I bet you won't find a better deal, anywhere in Memphis & they are PGF certified!!!

Lox with Bagel & Cream Cheese 

This actually brought me back to the good ole days, Sunday Brunch at The Ridgeway Inn.  No one has been able to duplicate that, until now.  The smoky salmon, on a toasted onion H&H Bagel (New York's famous H&H will ship to your home), with their house made, fluffy cheddar & olive cream cheese, served with a side of capers & a was heaven on a plate. 

Breakfast Burrito

Savory eggs, lightly seasoned potatoes with cheese & all wrapped up on a warm tortilla. Then served alongside a tangy salsa, oh yeah!!!  You could opt for Turkey Sausage for those meat lovers.  

Chips & Hummus

We love the fact that none of the items we picked, came with a side item.  It gave us the freedom to pick something we both love & could share!!!  Other options include, spicy cheese grits, scoop of pimento cheese/egg salad & best cinnamon toast in the south (that's what they call it).  Can't wait to try them all.

Any questions?

For more information, please visit them on Urbanspoon. 

Otherlands Coffee Bar on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Russo's New York Pizzeria - Memphis, TN

Russo's New York Pizzeria is not your ordinary pizzeria, they provide traditional Northern and Southern Italian favorites but they also feature classic New York style pizzas.  Plus, their menu options include gluten free pizza's, pastas, organic items & local produce from our farmers markets. They are a very ingredient oriented establishment, with an entire menu page, dedicated to explaining all about the type of ingredients that go into their classic Italian dishes.  On a side note, they could be a great candidate for becoming Project Green Fork certified.  Which you all know is huge, right now, in Memphis & will be for years to come!!  

Spinach & Artichoke Dip
This dip comes together with a creamy roasted garlic Alfredo, served with 
toasted Foccacia bread, lightly sprinkled with parmesan cheese

Prosciutto Wrapped Buffalo Mozzarella 
Like a crazy Caprese Salad, with it's creamy Buffalo mozzarella, wrapped in basil & grilled crispy prosciutto & resting on a bed a crunchy romaine (this dish received top billing from everyone at the table, a must try)

Ravioli Pomodoro
These gorgeous pillows are filled with savory cheeses, then topped with a delightfully chunky & hearty pomodoro sauce

Chicken Portabella Pizzotto
This unique dish, it's the offspring of a quesadilla & a pizza.  A pizza crust on top & on bottom stuffed with meaty Portabella mushroom, chicken, creamy mozzarella cheese & spinach.  Might I suggest serving it with a side of marinara for dipping?  Oh yeah baby!!!
Speaking of offspring, meet Caleigh (ain't she precious?!).  She found out that a knife is not only good for cutting your food but also helps soothe when those pesky teeth are starting to come in.  I promise she was using the dull end of that knife & being supervised the entire time.  Too funny not to share...  

Thank you to entire staff for your stellar service & tasty cuisine.  Especially to the owner, Brett, who ensured our dining experience, surpassed our greatest expectations.  We had a great time & will definitively be returning.  

Russo's New York Pizzeria and Wine Bar  on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 7, 2012

Sweet & Spicy Coconut Curry

Looking for an easy weeknight meal that's packed with tons of great flavor?  Well, look no further you just found it!  Would you believe that this meal only takes about 30 mins to whip up?  You could even add some shredded chicken to this, if you wanted to.  So, this recipe came to life when I tested it the second time.  The sweet onion flavor from the leeks, raisins & the coconut milk, perfectly compliments the earthy shiitake mushrooms.  Then add in the bold flavors of the  curry powder & garam masala.  And finally, I added just the right amount of the heat from the sriracha, which really makes this dish one that I know you will love!!  It's not overly spicy just a nice balance.  As I am trying to find the balance between my day job & cooking great meals, we are finding more & more ways to cook up quick & easy meals like this one, so I can't wait to hear what you think.    

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, sliced & soaked in bowl of water to remove dirt
2 garlic cloves, grated
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated
6-8 oz shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup raisins (golden or Thompson)
1 1/2 tsp maharajah curry powder
1 tsp garam masala
8 oz organic coconut milk
1 tsp sriracha
1/4 cup vegetable broth or water
zest of 1/2 lime
season to taste with salt & pepper
garnish with cilantro 

In a skillet, over medium high heat, add butter & oil.  Stir in leeks, season lightly with salt & cook til tender.  Add garlic, ginger & shiitake mushrooms, season lightly again.  As the mushrooms begin to cook down, add raisins, curry powder, garam masala & coconut milk, stir til everything is incorporated.  Stir in sriracha, a little broth if you prefer a thinner sauce (optional), the lime zest, finally seasoning of salt & pepper.  Garnish with cilantro.  Serve of rice or egg noodles.  

Makes 3-4 servings

Friday, May 4, 2012

Open Letter To Fellow Food Bloggers

Dear Food Bloggers,
I praise God everyday for each of you. I have met some really great folks along the way, we have formed fantastic friendships & yet we have never even met face to face.  But it seems like there is a slight misconception about who we are. We are our brands.  I, Angie Stewart Forester am Angie's Big Love of Food.  There is no difference between me & the food I post on my food page.  And what we create in the kitchen, means to love the person behind that creation. Years ago, when this journey began, I accepted that my personal & profession self would morph into being, one in the same.  And there are many culinary professionals out there, that will tell you the same thing, like Virginia Willis, whom I met back in October 2011.  So, when we go out into our communities & attend local events, we are our own individualistic brands.  We have built something very unique & we should be very proud of that.

We are a community of support but lately, something has been happening & I feel that it needs to be addressed.  Some of you have decided that being friends with personal FB pages, is not your thing, well that's ok.  I respect that.  But de-friending a personal page & still wanting to keep up with that person's food page, is essentially saying, they are 2 different things & they are not.  It's like hearing someone say, "it's not your food, I want to de-friend, it's just you."  Sounds pretty funny, doesn't it?! Plus, it means that you are walking away from those who have given their support to you.  And if that's the image, you want to put across that fine but that's not what our foodie community was founded on.  It was founded on love, support & appreciation for the special gifts, we share.  And Facebook, has been the foundation that allowed us to forms these connections in the first place.  Especially since we all live in different parts of the country.  Also, we do not need to hold each other accountable for how many times we "like" posts/comments.  And then use that as a measuring tool for who our closest friends are.  That is not your, who gets de-friended today tool, that's just silly folks, we are adults.  A lot of changes have occurred in the last 6 months on Facebook & chances are, what showed up in our news feeds 6 months ago, is just not showing up today.  We all know there's a science that is behind our news feeds & most certainly a lot we don't even know.

In conclusion, my hope is that by sharing this, it will help us show love and support for each other, the very best way we know how.  Our doors are always open, a welcome mat is always out & freshly baked cookies are always waiting.  In the beginning, it took some time to find all of you but we now have a solid circle of foodie friends, for which I am truly thankful.  Many of you are on my personal page because I love you, want to keep up with you (and your family) & how you are doing. Even if we don't get an opportunity to talk much, I am still here, reading as many of your posts as possible.  And I hope that we will be able to continue this community of support for years to come.

Blessings & love,

Monday, April 16, 2012

Central BBQ - Memphis, TN

First off, I have a confession to make, Central BBQ has been open for 10 years & this was our first visit.  I know right?  But let me say this, there are a lot of BBQ restaurants in Memphis & when a new one opens up we have a tendency to assume that they are just like all the others.  Well, let me set the record straight...Central BBQ is NOT like the others and with each bite, we quickly realized why they have been around for more than 10 years.   This place is TOP PIG!!!  They are making everything from scratch, from their homemade potato chips to their BBQ Caesar house dressing (not pictured).  And when my eyes fell on Mac & Cheese, as a side item, my heart knew I had found a new home.  They are of course, Project Green Fork certified & composting just outside in their backyard, yeah!!!  

Homemade Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dressing

We started off with their homemade potato chips.  These crunchy, lightly salted delicious bites, perfectly complimented the savory blue cheese dipping sauce.  We consider potato chips a great exercise technique for the belly, you have to stretch out those tummy muscles to prepare them properly for what's coming next.
Pulled Pork Sandwich

And next...this more than a mouthful BBQ sandwich (buns are huge, you will love them) was so tender & smoky. And my hubby added some of their "hot" bbq sauce on top.  Get this, their "hot" is made with just a hint of bourbon, oh yeah!!!  And it's by far our NEW favorite BBQ sauce, not too spicy at all and packed with all the right spices.  And they do sell both their regular & hot BBQ sauces, so I highly recommend picking up a few bottles, to keep in your fridge, for your next BBQ.
Potato Salad

My hubby & I do not agree on Potato Salad.  I love American Potato Salad & he loves Mustard Potato Salad (which for me usually has too much of a bite).  Well, finally our 2 tastes came together in harmony.  And we both fell in love with theirs.  Just a slight hint of mustard, mostly for color.  Very creamy, bite size potatoes, a little celery for a great crunch and a some creamy mayo that brought it all together, so good. 

BBQ Portabella Sandwich with Mac & Cheese
Awww, now for the piece de resistance...the Portabella BBQ sandwich.  I have heard so much about this sandwich, that even though I do in fact eat pork, I decided there was no way I was leaving without trying this.  Funny thing is, I have actually made this at home, thanks to The Chubby Vegetarian-BBQ Portabella Sandwich, which is a tribute to this magnificent masterpiece.  And Justin did a really fantastic job of recreating this so that we can make this at home.  But anytime you need the real thing, it's only a few miles down the road & you will be in great company.  

The way this restaurant is laid out, contributes to it's overall success.  Let me explain, you stand in line to order, don't worry it goes by super fast.  They even handed us our appetizer before we ever left the counter.  They gave us a # & then we went to sit down.  You get your own drinks & beside the drink station there are dispensers of warm BBQ sauce, waiting for you to pour, oh yeah baby!!!!  As we waited for our # to be called, we munched on those yummy homemade potato chips & before we knew it, our food was ready.  They don't have servers & in my opinion they don't need them.  The manager, Scott, (who I worked with at Rafferty's many years ago) was great & we really appreciated him taking the time to make sure we had everything we needed.  We will certainly be back, very soon, can't wait!!!!

Central BBQ on Urbanspoon
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