Chaos Theory Ghost Pepper Sauce

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Jul 072015
 

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As you all know, I spend a lot of time at Bardog Tavern. I have seen this sauce, the ghost pepper sauce from Crazy Good, in the racks when people have ordered food, but have never tried it. I have also seen Crazy Good products sold at Memphis Farmers Market. If you walk all the way to the back at the market, like you’re going to the food trucks, there’s a Crazy Good vendor just as you step off the main aisle.

I was thinking about this hot sauce as I walked home tonight. “I wonder if City Market sells it?” City Market, the local grocery store which is a convenient place to duck into when you need to get away, did indeed, and I snagged a bottle. Now I just needed something to apply the ghost pepper sauce to.  The market’s grab & go is one of my regular stops but tonight nothing much in there appealed to me. My quest for food continued,

Eventually, the quest led full circle back to Bardog Tavern, where the Monster Burrito seemed like the perfect food on which to try out my new sauce. I got it to go because the hour was getting late. By default it’s vegetarian but I added shrimp.

The verdict: That sauce is hot but good, but let me warn you of one thing: The bottle does not have a slow-pour mouth! If you do not have a slow, steady hand you are gonna have ghost pepper all over your food! I poured far more than intended. I can handle it because I love spicy food, but I would venture a guess that many can’t!

Give this sauce a try, but only if you’re into spicy. In my opinion it is worth taking a bottle home.

Shrimp & scallop enchiladas @ Agave Maria

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Jul 012015
 

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A huge group of us converged on new Downtown Mexican restaurant Agave Maria for our friend Tony’s birthday tonight. We all got menus and as usual I wanted the most expensive item on there. I ordered the shrimp and scallop enchiladas, which came in a skillet, as an entree. It did not disappoint. So rich and luscious and good. I couldn’t finish it.

Friends of mine at the table ordered the Queso Blanco, white cheese dip. Having grown up in Little Rock, widely considered one of the cheese dip capitals of the world, I was expecting to be disappointed, as I usually am with the plain white dip the authentic Mexican restaurants of the Memphis area usually trot out. Agave Maria’s was different and better though; it could hold its own in Little Rock, even challenging Mexico Chiquito, home of the best cheese dip in the world.

They don’t have PBR. :(

PRO TIP: There’s hot sauce on the table in a medicine-looking bottle. If you get the shrimp and scallop enchiladas and aren’t scared, try some. Don’t try too much though or you will regret it.

The restaurant is not even a week old and could be expected to be ironing out some kinks. The service was not a kink. They got a party of 25, not all of whom arrived at the same time, in and out in an hour and a half. I was quite happy with that. The one thing I would suggest they work on is their air conditioning. It was not bad in there but it was about 75, warmer than a lot of patrons like it.

Mainly, though, it was a real treat to hang out with this group of people on a Tuesday evening. Tony, the birthday boy, is a member of my Sunday brunch crew, along with Rahul, Nate, and our Sunday bartender B-RAD and his lovely wife Phaedra. After dinner we walked over to Blind Bear.

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That’s Tony, the birthday boy, in the middle. B-RAD is to his right. Rahul who whines if the Bear does not put enough fruit in his drink is at the far right.

B-RAD claims he’s going to grow his hair out as long as mine. He also tried to take a selfie. Phae ushered him out of there and I can see why.

One of the most classic Sunday Fun Day quotes happened sometime during this conversation (on a Tuesday) but I am not allowed to blog it.

But seriously, Agave Maria. Worth checking out. Give it a try.

It’s 51 minutes into July and I have to renew my now-expired car tags before I go to work in the morning. Guess I should go to bed. Back with a post at lunchtime. Maybe.

Bacon cheeseburger pizza @ Double J

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Jun 212015
 

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2015 is the year I rediscovered South Main. About 5 yesterday I was at Blind Bear, my favorite pair of librarian glasses behind the bar, when I thought, “Hey, Max’s Sports Bar is open. I think I’ll head down there.” So I tabbed out and began the walk south.

I had been going for 6 hours already at that point, and I realized I needed to get something to eat. Max’s has great steamed sandwiches, but I just wasn’t in a sandwich kind of mood yesterday. “Double J is across the street,” I thought. “They have great food. I’ll eat there.” I pulled up their menu on my phone. Back when they rolled out the Loft Bar, they had three pizzas exclusively upstairs. I guess the pizza business went well, because Double J expanded to a full lineup of pizzas available both up and down.

There was a bacon cheeseburger pizza. That brought back fond memories. Anyone remember the Italian buffet at Poplar Plaza, in the location that is now a Chinese buffet? I was a grad student at the University of Memphis at the time and would go there between classes. They had several pizzas on the buffet and one of them was a bacon cheeseburger pizza. So good. I decided to see if Double J’s take on the pie would measure up.

Indeed it did. Cheesy yumminess with hamburger, bacon, cherry tomatoes, onions, and just a hint of mustard. It was a 9-inch pizza, slightly more than I could finish but I put a good dent in it. I want to try more of Double J’s pizzas. Of particular interest is “The Undertaker,” which has several meats, pineapple, and jalapeno. Normally I don’t like pineapple on pizza but I think the jalapeno would balance it out and make for an interesting taste. I will get back there soon to try The Undertaker, maybe as soon as today.

PRO TIP: Let your pizza sit and cool off for about 3 minutes after it comes out. Much easier to eat if you do this.

I didn’t know the bartender at the Loft Bar, and when I came in I’m pretty sure she wondered if I was a bum. I was sweating from the 3/4-mile walk down there and my hair, 4 months since cut, was going this way and that. I looked like a beach bum who had just stepped off the Greyhound from San Diego. Not sure I convinced the bartender I was not a bum by the time I left, but at least she now knows I’m a bum who leaves 30% tips.

Across the street to Max’s I went, where I got to hang out with four of my favorite people – Gary and Boo, Bad Shane and Leigh. A few weeks ago I mentioned on Facebook that I felt like I was in a rut in my life, and Gary suggested I spend more time in South Main. I have done just that. It was an excellent suggestion. This is the first month ever that I have spent more time at Max’s than I have Flying Saucer. Walking down there is good exercise and I enjoy getting to see my South Main friends as much as I do my Downtown core friends.

Thanks to Bad Shane and Leigh for the ride home. If I had walked it, that could have been a bit scary, especially with all the sidewalk construction in South Main. I need to re-do my list of top five Fireball pushers. Michele at Max’s has made the list for sure and might even me number 1 now.

You know, I have a holiday suggestion. We have Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Valentine’s Day. There needs to be a holiday where you honor those who helped you find where you fit in. I remember back in March 2003, when I was invited to Sunday brunch at Sleep Out Louie’s. Bad Shane and Leigh were there. I was introduced to them, and they immediately made me feel welcome, as though I had been part of the gang for years and years. I couldn’t wait until the next Sunday to hang out with them again. I will always be grateful to them for making me feel like I belonged – and I do belong.

(And yeah, I have selfish reasons for suggesting this holiday, because I know a lot of people found where they fit in because of my blog. I like presents!)

On to the news… Yo Gotti and Friends 3rd Birthday Bash happens tonight at the Mud Island Amphitheater. 7:30 PM is the start time.

Historian Jimmy Ogle leads one of his free walks today at 2 PM. Meet at Crump Park (take exit 12C, Metal Museum Drive, off I-55). Learn about the Mississippi River, the bluffs, the bridges, Chickasaw Heritage Park, Metal Museum, railroads, and river barge traffic.

Daytime music recommendation if you have tomorrow off work: STAX Music Academy graduates, now in college and home on summer break, will perform at B.B. King’s at 12:3o tomorrow afternoon.

BRIDGES unveils its new outdoor rock climbing wall and challenge course tomorrow at 2.

All right. After all the pizza ‘n beer yesterday, it’s time for a juice cleanse to repent for my sins. The good thing about living Downtown is that there’s a health clinic called the Blind Bear right down the street. My cleanse will be supervised by nutritionist B-RAD and the juice will be PBR flavored. B-RAD also has a health drink called the duck fart which combines three all-natural ingredients and which is said to be excellent for colon health. I will probably poop more than all the dogs in my apartment building combined, but that’s OK. Happy Father’s Day to all the dads reading this blog, and here’s to a day of healthy living!

Gator tail @ Double J, plus Friday news

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Mar 062015
 

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Yesterday was a snow day, so I hit all the spots in the Downtown core then wandered south to Max’s Sports Bar to see my South Main friends. As I began the walk back I decided I was hungry, so I popped in Double J for dinner. I had the gator tail, served on a bed of rice pilaf with Texas toast. It was excellent and as you can see in the photo above, the portion of gator you get is far from skimpy.

Maybe we should get a gator and enter it in Anything But this year. I will mention it to the BBQ team at the meeting this weekend.

I usually eat only one meal a day, but yesterday was the rare day when I had two. Around lunchtime I wandered over to the Flying Saucer, figuring I’d have a hot chick to look at behind the bar. Instead I got Nate. Nevertheless, I ordered the lunch beer cheese soup/side salad combo. In the 12 years I have been going to the Saucer, it was the first time I have ever had the beer cheese soup. Not bad at all.

The Memphis Comedy Festival is this weekend and one of the festival venues is Downtown. Kudzu’s hosts “the 4:20 show” this afternoon but apparently they will be running late because the start time is listed as 4:30. The show features Kate Lucas, Josh McLane, Mo Arora, Ashley Huck, Scott Eason, Jason Earl Folks, and Andy Fleming and admission is free.

There is a musical parody of Fifty Shades of Gray tonight at the Orpheum at 8. Tickets are $29-55.

If you’re in the mood to watch a basketball team that is a mere shell of its former self, you’re in for a treat tonight because the L.A. Lakers are in town. The play the Grizzlies at 7 at FedExForum.

Beginning this weekend the Arcade will stay open late Thursdays through Saturdays. Closing time will be 11 PM. Speaking of which, there’s a Groupon for the Arcade running right now. $12 for $20 worth of food, or $24 for $40 worth of food.

The Tigers got an important win over UConn last night. The top five teams in the AAC get first-round byes in the tournament, and the Tigers now hold a tiebreaker over UConn as a result of sweeping them in the regular season.

Plans for today: Well, let’s see… the office is closed again today, and I am terribly disappointed because I was really looking forward to sitting in a cubicle for 8 hours. Instead I am going to have to settle for sitting at the bar at the Blind Bear, where my favorite pair of librarian glasses usually works Friday day bar. I plan on staying out well into the evening. Hopefully there won’t be another episode of “When Cougars Attack” this weekend. We’ve already had at least two that I am aware of in 2015. Let’s see… it’s 9:15 and the Bear doesn’t open until 11… guess it’s Bardog then. Outta here for now, but you never know, could be a drunk post later.

“You eat this with a fork.”

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Feb 242014
 

That’s what it says on the Green Beetle’s menu, in regard to the chili cheeseburger. I have been meaning to give it a try for a while. Yesterday, I finally did.

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It’s not the first time I’ve seen a chili cheeseburger so messy that picking it up is not an option (Westy’s has a really good one), but this is the first time I’ve seen a restaurant just put the chili and cheese on top of the burger, rather than inside the bun. It works though. Man was this thing good. It’s a huge 8-ounce patty, so you won’t leave hungry. The steak fries were delicious too. I will be back for another one soon.

The Memphis @ Aldo’s Pizza Pies

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Aug 192013
 

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After the Bardog alley party ended yesterday, I needed to get something to eat, having only had a small plate of jambalaya at the party. Bardog itself was super packed, and had a limited menu yesterday, so I didn’t bother trying to eat there. As I walked down Main Street deciding what I wanted, I noticed there were bar seats open at Aldo’s Pizza Pies, something that rarely happens because the bar almost always stays packed. I thought to myself, what better way to thank Aldo for all he does for St. Jude and the community than eating at another of his restaurants? So I went in.

The Slice of the Day was The Memphis, a BBQ pizza. Now, normally I am not a huge fan of BBQ pizzas, because I find most of them to be subpar. However, Aldo’s take on BBQ pizza comes topped with pulled pork from Central BBQ, along with mozzarella and onions on a base of BBQ sauce. With pork from Central, I knew the pizza was bound to be good. I was hungry enough to order two slices.

The pizza was as good as I expected it to be. I like it that they put the slaw on the side, because not everyone wants slaw on their pizza (or their BBQ sandwich for that matter). I myself have no problem with slaw and spread it atop my slices. The pizza was absolutely delicious and all the ingredients worked together perfectly. This is a pizza I would most certainly consider ordering as a whole in the 12″ or 18″ sizes that Aldo offers.

Thumbs up to Aldo and his staff for an excellent party followed by some excellent pizza. I’ll try to get the Bardog alley party photos up later today.

Picadillo with Congri rice and boiled yucca @ Havana’s Pilon

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Aug 112013
 

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I have a bad tendency to find one dish I like at a restaurant and stick to it. I could eat the ropa vieja, the Cuban shredded beef, at Havana’s Pilon forever. Seriously, if I were on death row I might very well request it as my last meal. And for my third visit to Havana’s Pilon yesterday, I would have had it again if not for my friend Bob. He ate there Monday and told me “the ground beef dish is excellent.” Bob and I have similar tastes in food, so I decided to take his recommendation. I got Congri rice and boiled yucca as my sides.

Bob was correct. The ground beef dish, known as the picacillo, is excellent. The meat and veggies play perfectly with one another, and while it has some spice to it, it’s not melt-your-stomach spicy. Havana’s Pilon’s meals are probably your only chance to get a green olive Downtown outside of a martini or a Bloody Mary. And the sides… I could eat that Congri rice all day. I can’t even describe the consistency of the boiled yucca other than to say if you’re a fan of mashed potatoes, you must try it. Ten times better than mashed potatoes. I remember driving back to Memphis from San Diego and seeing those stupid plants all over the side of the road. They look like retarded palm trees. I had no idea they tasted so good.

I move into a place Downtown and a few years later, I find I have Bardog, Raiford’s, the Brass Door, the Mad Earl, and now a fantastic Cuban restaurant all within a one block walk. Am I the luckiest guy in the world or what? If you don’t live Downtown, Havana’s Pilon is worth the drive down here. Come check it out!

Ropa Vieja with Congri rice and fried plantains @ Havana’s Pilon

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Jul 112013
 

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Havana’s Pilon is a tiny restaurant serving authentic Cuban food that opened in the Downtown core a couple of months ago. Located on Second just east of Madison, across from the Mad Earl, the restaurant serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Owner Maryalis Gonazles promises on the restaurant’s website to bring Cuban food to Downtown while saving her customers money and time. Based on my first experience today, she has lived up to that promise.

I checked out the restaurant’s menu before I went down there, and I really appreciated the photos of the food since I had never heard of some of the dishes before. However, I let Foursquare choose my meal. My friend Justin had left a tip about the place recommending the ropa vieja with rice and fried plantains. I decided that sounded like a fine lunch, although I selected the Congri rice (rice with black beans) rather than the regular rice as a side.

As I mentioned, the restaurant is tiny. I counted 18 seats, and you’re going to be real cozy with your lunch and dinner mates if you dine in. Since I live less than a block away, I asked for my food to go. With tax, it was only $8.19, very reasonable for quality Cuban food. They had my order out to me in only about 5 minutes. I expected a 10 to 15 minute wait and was pleased to get my food so fast.

Ropa vieja is shredded beef in a light tomato sauce with green and red peppers and olives. I first had this dish several years ago when the Rumba Room had a lunch buffet, and loved it. Havana’s Pilon’s ropa vieja was every bit as good, and the Congri rice complemented it well. The fried green plantains were similar in taste and texture to fried bananas, and their sweetness was a nice counter to the flavor of the shredded beef and rice. Overall, I was very pleased with my lunch in terms of both taste and value. I will be back soon. Next time I will probably try the picadillo, a Cuban-style hash made with ground beef.

I’m very happy this restaurant is here and I wish them success. If you haven’t tried Havana’s Pilon yet, you are missing out on some delicious food.

Brooklyn Local 1 and 2 @ Flying Saucer

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Apr 072013
 

It’s well known that I hang out at the Flying Saucer nearly every day, and my beer of choice there is Dos Equis Lager with a few limes. For a while the managers have been telling me, “When you want something different you should try Brooklyn Brewery’s Local 1 and Local 2 beers. They’re a bit pricey but they’re really good.” This week I was in the mood to experiment.

“Which one should I try?” I asked, and got two different answers. Owen, who is one of the managers and who used to bartend the Cordova Saucer, thought Local 1 was better. Drew Barton, who is bartending part-time at the Saucer while he opens Memphis Made Brewery on South Cooper Street, prefers Local 2. “You don’t drink a lot of dark beers, though, so maybe you’d like 1 better,” he said after thinking for a minute. So I went to the UFO Club computer and printed off a ticket for Local 1.

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I probably can’t do a better job describing it better than the description in the Saucer’s computer, so I just took a photo of my beer ticket for you to read. (If you’re wondering why it says “Paul Ryburn #8,” it’s because I’m working on my 8th plate on the wall.) This beer was delicious and I enjoyed every sip of it. It comes in a large 25 ounce bottle.

Yesterday I decided to try the other one. “I may not like it as much as Local 1, but it still seems to be highly acclaimed by everyone who has tried it,” I reasoned. “And at any rate, I’ll knock out another beer toward my next 200.” I printed out the Local 2 ticket.

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The verdict: Local 2 was every bit as delicious as Local 1! It’s a much different taste, of course, but it tasted nothing like the porters and stouts I usually shy away from at the Saucer. As the ticket says, there are hints of chocolate and dark fruits. A thoroughly enjoyable beer!

If you prefer to try these at home, you’ll have to go to liquor stores to find them: Both are well over the 6.0% threshold that separates beer from liquor by state law. If you drink these while you fly the Saucer, keep in mind that large bottle + high alcohol means that you probably shouldn’t drive home right after drinking one of these.

After having both, I agree with the managers and Drew: When you’re in the mood to step up and try something a little bit nicer than your usual beers, Local 1 and Local 2 are good options.

Hula poppers @ Flying Fish

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Apr 012013
 

Lately I’ve been making an effort to explore all the items on the Flying Fish’s menu. Yesterday afternoon I tried something new. The Hula Poppers are jalapeno peppers stuffed with cheese and shrimp, and then wrapped in bacon.

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Just about anything wrapped in bacon is a hit in my book, and these were no exception. You get six of them for $8.99. With a name like “hula” poppers, you might expect a tropical ingredient like pineapple or coconut, but the Hula Poppers don’t have anything like that and don’t need it. They are excellent just the way they are. The jalapenos were hot but not enough to overpower the taste of the bacon and shrimp.

Seeing the Hula Poppers as an appetizer, I decided to order an entree too. I picked the jambalaya, one of the few remaining dishes at the Fish that I have never tried.

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Out came a big ol’ plate of jambalaya loaded with Andouille sausage, shrimp, and shredded chicken. It was pretty good, although thinking back, I wish I’d stirred in one of the several hot sauces on the tables at the Fish. I’m used to the level of spiciness of the jambalaya from Court House Deli, and the Fish’s version didn’t quite measure up. If you’re a fan of the heat, you might want to choose the Gumbo & Grits instead when you dine at the Fish. Their gumbo really has a nice kick to it. On the other hand, if you like milder, tamer dishes, I think you will find the jambalaya more than acceptable.

A fine dinner, and as an added bonus I became “mayor” of the Fish when I checked in on Foursquare. I now concurrently hold six mayorships in the Downtown core, the most I’ve ever had. (Edit: Oops, down to five, I lost Huey’s today.)