#SouthernFoodRoadTrip: the last leg | Eat | Charleston City Paper

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Monday, May 21, 2012

#SouthernFoodRoadTrip: the last leg

The King to the kings of Italian fare

Posted by Stephanie Barna on Mon, May 21, 2012 at 9:36 AM

Angel Postell wraps up her epic Southern food road trip with an epic experience at Memphis in May and Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen.

Last meal
  • Last meal

While this trip has been a once-in-a-lifetime experience, we are definitely ready to be back home. We have eaten some amazing food and hung out with some great people.

We ended our trip with our friends Kelly English and his wife Angela at Restaurant Iris, an incredibly warm and welcoming place that looks like a home. Angela welcomed us at the front door, and the two came over several times throughout our meal to catch up.

We also met up with chefs Andrew Ticer and Michael Hudman, whose restaurant Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen was highly recommended by Mike Lata and John T. Edge. We stopped by early in the day, before service, to meet them and get a tour. When we arrived, Michael was butchering some meat for dinner like it was a daily occurrence. These two chefs/owners have been best friends since they were in sixth grade. They studied at Johnson & Wales in Charleston and worked there for a few years.

We also had one more stop at Memphis in May to say goodbye to our pitmaster friends. Neither of our teams won, but they should have. We heard the judging is political, but their lost was our gain as we got to eat the leftover pig. Great way to end this wild journey.

Besides dinner at these two places, we also went to Graceland and paid respects to the king.

It's been quite a trip, here's a recap of our favorite dishes from our last meals:

Fish at Iris
  • Fish at Iris

Angel's Favorites: I thought everything at Iris was flavorful and comforting. You could taste Kelly's New Orleans influences in most dishes. He brought us several items to try and I wish we could have finished them all. I especially loved the sweetbreads over dumplings covered in fresh fava beans. I loved the soft-shell crab with greens served over warm toast. And the gulf crabmeat over local tomatoes topped with avocado and herbs was super refreshing. My favorite of the main courses was the St. Peter's fish which was over a rice custard and surrounded by local butter beans. It was perfectly cooked and a great new fish to try.

Sunflower seed polenta!
  • Sunflower seed polenta!

Andrew Michael's Italian Kitchen is going down as the best new restaurant. It was such a great environment. Andy and Michael served us each course together explaining in detail what we were experiencing and why they were serving it. I have too many favorites from the meal to list but to narrow it down I would say the sunflower seeds polenta (which tasted like a risotto) topped with soft-shell crab and fava beans was amazing! One of the greatest things I have ever tasted. The sweetbreads over collards and topped with pancetta, apple, and pickled mustard seeds were tasty. The mussels with foie gras, the maw maw ravioli, the charcuterie plate with pickled ramps....I could go on. Everything was bad ass, and I want to go back tonight. We were treated to a popcorn caramel ice cream in cones as one of the final items — my hands are still sticky from the gooey goodness. I would run, not walk to check out this place! It is worth the 12-hour drive.

Randi's Favorites: Where to begin, Memphis was a blast and I look forward to returning soon. Nothing, nothing can prepare you for Memphis in May. From a logistical side, it is insane — I can't imagine the planning that goes into it. Every barbecue team has a completely different set up, and they range from simple inviting tents to tri-level scaffolding setups.

porkosaurus.jpg

We dined at Restaurant Iris and It was wonderful to see Kelly English in his own home. He was gracious and an all-around great guy. Angela his wife as well was equally as warm and welcoming. The items that I really enjoyed were the gulf crabmeat, avocado, local tomatoes and herbs, it was light and refreshing. The "salad" of tempura fried okra, pimento cheese, local cucumber, and Greek yogurt was also scrumptious. The amandine of speckled trout over whipped cauliflower was also perfectly cooked.

On Saturday night we ate at Andrew MIchael KItchen and it was quite a treat. Andy and Michael have incredible energy and are a dynamic team. The charcuterie platter with pickled veggies was great. Bone marrow crostini was yum! The pecorino sformato with neck-bone gravy, braised celery, and a fried egg melted in your mouth. The pickled carrots and radishes with a perfectly balanced vinaigrette was a great way to begin. I have to say the dish that captured my heart was the sunflower seed polenta. It is slowly cooked to taste like polenta but it's made out of the seeds, without any cheese. It was topped with grilled soft-shell crab and fava beans. Life changing. We ended with a popcorn caramel ice cream cone that was probably the best dessert I've ever had in my life. Be on the lookout for these guys; they are talented, passionate and personable, the perfect trifecta for success.

On a personal note, I have spent 14 days traveling, eating, drinking with Angel and Sara and could not think of better companions to travel with. I love them both and can't wait till we are on the road again. Cheers!

Sara's Favorites: Between Nashville and Memphis I am sold on Tennessee. Some of the best moments of the trip took place in this state. Memphis in May was the ultimate way to end the trip — good fun with good people. It will be a few days for smell of smoke to leave my hair.

Restaurant Iris was hospitality at its best. Our server Jeff represented the top tier of all the amazing staff and servers we have encountered on this trip, and Kelly definitely knows how to feed a girl — every dish had more than just enough for us to enjoy. Everything on the menu is just so interesting.

For our last night in Memphis we truly went out big. Dining at Andrew Michael Italian kitchen was the perfect way to end our trip — everything about that place says welcome to our home and all we want to do is cook you amazing food. It was also a treat to enjoy some Italian for the first time this trip.

Their food is simple, as Italian food should be. The charcuterie was amazing and the pickled ramps alongside were a favorite along with the lardo and pork rinds. And there must be something in the water because the bread at both restaurant iris and Andrew michael was top notch. The pecorino sformato with a fried egg and neck-bone gravy was off the charts, luckily they sent out two of those.

My favorite pasta was the tortellini with mortadella, peas, tarragon and pistachio. I agree with Angel and Randi about the sunflower seed "risotto" with soft shell — just incredible. It all was great, and I could go on forever. They ended it right with a Fred Flintstone-sized steak, grilled to perfection. And, yes, that popcorn caramel ice cream was memorable.

I am in love with everything theses guys do and cannot wait to go back.

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