Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Tasted ~ Rizzos Diner

“I want it to be a neighborhood restaurant not just a restaurant in the neighborhood.”
-Chef Michael Patrick on Rizzos Diner in the South Main Arts District

After only opening 6 months ago, Rizzos Diner has already garnered several great reviews and write-ups from most of the local publications and blogs, all unwarranted including this one. Chef Michael Patrick feels blessed for all this good exposure, but with his focus on his southern inspired menu, the exposure has been earned as more and more people leave praising his creativity and the restaurant’s great service and affordability.

Listening to Chef Michael’s history and background in the restaurant industry, it was clear he had earned every bit of his respect and has proven his culinary passion will never wane. A Cleveland native, Chef Michael arrived in Memphis to help with the themed restaurant Elvis Presley. As he spoke of this restaurant’s short life and the following fourteen years of moving from established restaurant to established restaurant, such as McEwen’s where he learned to “cut his teeth”, he felt it was time to start his own restaurant to finally showcase his own style he’d developed over those years. Rizzos Diner, though derived from his Italian-sounding former nickname, envelopes his vision of traditional southern food with a finesse that infuses his own personality.

Also a downtown resident, Chef Michael could not see his new restaurant located anywhere else but downtown. Right across the street from the legendary Arcade Restaurant, Rizzos seemed to already be setting some deep roots like its neighbors. Although the current space holds only about seven tables, they are expanding into the empty lot with a larger kitchen and an even larger seating space that will be all patio seating, set to open May 1st.

With its one block proximity to the farmer’s market, Chef Michael plans to serve a “Farmer’s Market Breakfast” sourced directly from these local vendors. Other upcoming specials include a Meatless Monday serving vegetarian and vegan dishes, although vegan options are available anytime especially when requested.

My fellow food photographer Chip Chockley, who had already eaten at Rizzos numerous times, suggested the cheeseburger soup on my first visit for lunch. We also ordered the Trolley Stop Special and Avocado Salad not knowing how beautiful it would be to photograph. Although the Trolley Stop sandwich was called the special, the avocado salad was truly something special. I would order it every single visit. Along with the appetizing cheeseburger soup, the combination was perfection. See the chef's descriptions below along with some dinner items I can’t wait to try soon.

~Cheeseburger Soup – "Cheeseburger in a bowl"
~Trolley Stop Special – Barbeque pulled chicken breast sandwich on an onion roll.
~Avocado Salad – Quinoa avocado and chow chow on radicchio 

Select Dinner Items to be Tasted
~Lobster Pronto Pup with dijon mustard aoili
~Roasted Duck Confit – Duck cooked to tender with Asian sweet potatoes served in a cream made of coconut and yellow curry.
~Chorizo Meatloaf served with green tomato gravy and garlic mashed potatoes
~Ice Cream Sandwich Banana Split

Rizzos Diner
106 GE Patterson
Memphis, TN 38103

Rizzos Diner on Urbanspoon

Photos by Sophorn and Chip as noted.

Friday, March 23, 2012

In Memory of Great Grandmama Lib

Atticus' Great Grandmama had a magnetic personality and warmth you loved to be around. I'm convinced Atticus inherited every bit of her spirit. We will miss you Grandmama.

Photo by Sophorn. Poloroid photo taken with a Mamiya RB67. Atticus at 3months old.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Habitat for Hope Portraits - The Vidrine Family

I'm sure the idea of a family of nine kids amplifies an expectation of chaos but in the case of the Vidrine family, it amplifies lovable and irresistible sweetness.

The Vidrine family flew in from Germany after 13 year old Kirby was diagnosed with a brain tumor. During Kirby's treatment, Habitat for Hope has provided them with lodging in a home environment at their Shelby Forest retreat just north of downtown Memphis. As another "gift"to families they support, they've brought in photographers to document the family's time together. I was honored to participate and photograph such a wonderful family.

My afternoon with them was less of a photo shoot and more of a play date where I was instantly welcomed as part of the family. Here are some of my favorite shots from that afternoon.

Learn more about Habitat for Hope and how you can help here.


Photos by Sophorn.

baby zellee

zellee - a beautiful name for a beautiful baby.  /  Congrats Becky and Tucker. Thanks for having me capture your absolute little miracle.

Photos by Sophorn.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lunch Date with Annabella at Eighty3

There’s always been something a little magical in a nostalgic sense about that little bustling section of downtown Memphis on Madison Ave between Main and Front Street. Framing the view from Main Street of the grand law school building is the historic Madison Hotel with its vintage lit sign. The well-preserved exterior and architectural scale as you walk by the Madison Hotel sort of makes you fall in love with downtown, truly alluring. Even more alluring is the modern interior of the newly renovated Eighty3 restaurant housed in the hotel’s ground floor. It’s a swanky little spot with a mouthwatering menu I’ve always wanted to try.

Reviewing restaurants has essentially been my opportunity to practice photography and particularly food photography, so when looking for a suitable lunch date for Eighty3, I instantly thought of local photographer Annabella Brandon who also wanted to practice her food photography, though practice is hardly the right word. She’s exceptional at shooting portraits and details, and when she says she wants to eventually shoot for Martha Stewart, that’s not wishful thinking, it’s more of a prediction. / I included some of her amazing shots in this post but see more of our lunch at her blog here.

Our lunch started with drinks so the bartenders had a chance to show off their skills, then we requested a visit with newly appointed executive chef Connor O’Neill, a transplant from Los Angeles, who has noticeably infused a new kind of energy and passion into the restaurant. Chef Connor spoke about his love for all types of food especially Korean, his venture in bottling and selling his own line of sauces, and his thoughts on every item on the menu so we knew what to order. A quick tour of the kitchen allowed us to meet the hardworking staff that helps pull all the beautiful dishes together. It’s amazing what exceptional food a seemingly standard kitchen can produce.

{Favorites marked with an asterick*. Suggestions by Chef Connor marked with a plus sign+}
*Pineapple Upside-down Martini
Memphis Cup with Gin and Cucumber
**+Eighty3 Signature Cornbread with Honey-Jalapeno Butter
+Crab & Shrimp Spring Rolls
*{ Special } Pull Pork Wrap with Cole Slaw, Crispy Fried Onions, and Sweet Potato Fries
{ Special } Asian Salad with Duck

Wished We Tasted
+Grilled Cheese Panini with crisped cheese on the outside of the bread
+Deep Fried “Oreo” Cookies and Cream
Kobe Burger with Gorgonzola marmalade
Prime Steak Sandwich with Brie, Forest Mushrooms, and Caramelized Onions

Make sure to also visit them during lunch to try Chef Connor’s featured sandwiches of the day. Click here for a list of this week’s sandwiches. Find them on Facebook to keep up with more specials.

Thanks Eighty3, Chef Connor, and Annabella for this rare experience of the restaurant. Loved every part of it. / You can view supplement photos and other lunch date photos here.

Eighty3 Food & Drink
At the Madison Hotel
83 Madison Ave
Memphis, TN 38103
Ph 1.901.333.1224

eighty3 on Urbanspoon

Photos by Sophorn. Photo of martini by Annabella of Annabella Charles Photography and where noted.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Tasted ~ Mosa Asian Bistro with Irina McGuire

Calculating that Mosa Asian Bistro has been serving Memphis for over ten years and I’ve been in Memphis eight of those, I have regretfully missed out on 2,920 days I could have eaten there. I truly wish I had tried Mosa so much sooner than my first time last week. With so many great choices in Memphis and one’s natural tendency to frequent only a handful of restaurants, the choice to venture out is rare. Mosa was definitely worth my time to venture outside of my usual choices.

Accompanying me for this first tasting was the lovely Irina McGuire, graphic designer and web developer for St. Jude, who I first knew as the founder of Totally Memphis magazine. You’ve probably seen her behind the camera at almost every social Memphis event last year, but as a busy wife and mother, Irina placed the magazine on hold. Definitely something to be admired. With time and quality held to the highest priority, we both agreed our social and family life should focus only on the best that Memphis has to offer, which is particularly why we were delighted to have tried such a grand selection of delicious Asian fusion cuisine without a long wait.

See what we tasted below with descriptions by Mosa co-owner Michelle Pao. The favorites to try again and again are marked with an asterick*

*Salmon Teriyaki Roll: Jumbo Roll with fully cooked salmon teriyaki with jasmine rice, julienned Japanese cucumber, sliced carrots and avocado, served with Eddie's homemade Asian aioli sauce.

Pan- Seared Potsticker: Traditional Chinese dumpling stuffed with marinated chicken, vegetables, scallions and ginger, served with a soy-ginger dipping sauce.

*Thai Rainbow Panang with Grouper: A signature Thai curry dish made with lemongrass, lime leaves, panang curry, coconut milk, served over a medley of sliced zucchini, snap peas, baby corn, mushrooms, and carrots. In your case, I believe you had it with the grouper but it can also be made with chicken, shrimp or tofu, served with white or brown steam rice and made mild, medium, or spicy, Flavorful, sweet, and savory!

Korean BBQ Beef: Also known as "Bulgogi" it is a staple Korean dish that is made in this case with tender marinated sliced beef flank steak, sautéed in our original bulgogi sauce, served with sliced button mushrooms and scallion strips, served with crispy chow mein noodles, accompanied with white or brown steam rice and made mild medium or spicy.

*Mrs. Pao's Homemade Cupcakes! Made in her own pastry kitchen onsite at the White Station location, she makes (all by herself) a variety of delicious standard size cupcakes ranging from her signature Fresh Strawberry with Strawberry Cream Cheese (she uses a an entire pint of strawberries just in one batch), Chocolate Chip with Strawberry Cream Cheese, Chocolate Chip with Mint Cream Cheese, Red velvet with Vanilla Almond Cream Cheese, Strawberry with Mocha Chocolate Cream Cheese, and my favorite, her Banana Coconut with Pineapple Cream Cheese.

Thanks so much everyone at Mosa, Kristen Waddell, and Irina McGuire for a great meal.

This month, Mosa is co-sponsoring with Service Master and Make-A-Wish a fundraiser from March 8th - 16th. When families and friends of Service Master employees dine in or take out anytime during that week, Mosa will donate 15% to Make-A-Wish. Anyone can participate.

Mosa Asian Bistro
850 White Station
1825 Kirby Parkway
Memphis, TN

Mosa Asian Bistro  on Urbanspoon

Photos by Sophorn.
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