High-end comfort foods in Memphis | Rock Candy

Thursday, August 26, 2010

High-end comfort foods in Memphis

Posted By on Thu, Aug 26, 2010 at 9:18 AM

A SIMPLE DEVILED EGG:  Reinterpreted by Felicia Suzannes
  • Kat Robinson
  • A SIMPLE DEVILED EGG: Reinterpreted by Felicia Suzanne's
There’s a Jonesboro girl making good in Memphis. Did you know that? No? Good, because I’m going to tell you about Felicia Suzanne’s.

Felicia Suzanne Willett, this powerful young woman from northeast Arkansas went to school in Memphis and culinary school in Savannah, spent seven years interning with Emeril Lagasse and ended up in Memphis with her own restaurant. That’s saying something.

What’s saying something more is that she’s damn good at what she does. Her restaurant along Main Street is a space full of scents and flavors, quiet elegance and comfortable foods that belong in the setting. She cooks up stuff that seems exotic, but every dish has its roots in southern cuisine.

Which is why I’m starting this piece off with that egg up there. That’s a deviled egg. No joke. But it’s a deviled egg like I’ve never had before. It’s a House Smoked Wild King Salmon Deviled Egg with a dollop of Arkansas White River Caviar — from sturgeon grown on the White River, right here. How best to describe it?

DSCN1847.JPG
  • Kat Robinson
Think of it this way… take the best deviled egg you ever had, blend it with smoky salmon and omit the mustard. The saltiness of the salmon brings the whole dish to a creamily smoky level. Add the extra salt from the fish eggs, and there you go… wow.

That was the starter for the marvelous dinner I had at Felicia Suzanne’s last night. I don’t do much upscale dining, but this was extraordinary. How many Arkansas natives do I know who have made the big time like this? Not a whole lot. I want to brag on her.

I must have taken 20 photos of that egg before I ate it. It was damn good. I could have been happy with a big order of the eggs. They come from Westwind Farms, near Memphis. In fact, most of the stuff that comes out of Felicia’s kitchen is locally grown or raised.

CREOLE DELIGHT:  Shrimp & Grits
  • Kat Robinson
  • CREOLE DELIGHT: Shrimp & Grits
So… I dunno, you have to see her menu, it’s full of reinterpreted southern favorites. I was lamenting the idea that I’d have to skip her popular Shrimp and Grits because the shrimp are sautéed with Andouille… and I passed along that lament to my server. Well, I got my Shrimp and Grits, specially prepared by the chef herself without any essence or consideration for pork. Was the Andouille missed? Not a bit. The soft and creamy yellow corn grits were so well matched with the deeply spiced, slightly piquant Creole sauce and the firm yet tender sweet shrimp in the dish, I couldn’t tell that anything was missing. Having experienced a dish like this, I truly wonder how anyone can’t like grits — but I’m a southern girl, that sort of question comes naturally to my mind.

DELICATE PERFECTION:  Chicken Crepes
  • Kat Robinson
  • DELICATE PERFECTION: Chicken Crepes
On to the next course, which was a delicate Chicken Crepe, served in a lemon butter with tomato jam. Delicate doesn’t even really start to describe it. Creamy, tender, soft, everything about the dish sighed like an autumn wind, made brighter by that sweet and slightly tart jam. The eggs and the chicken in the dish also came from that Westwind Farms. The flavor of the chicken was prevalent, and you could barely taste the lemon in the lemon butter. Nicely balanced.

DSCN1916.JPG
  • Kat Robinson
Dessert? There are many to choose from, but I am glad that I was able to try the Peppermint Patty. It’s not quite what you think. It’s a mound of baked fudge covered in chocolate sauce accompanied by Peppermint Gelato. The fudge in the baking process takes on a brownie-like crust, and I can’t even describe the perfection of the gelato, except to say if you like peppermint you will fall in love with it and beg for more — if you happen to have any room left. The chef herself came out and told us about the recipe for the baked fudge — it came from her grandmother, and it was really a way of saving something left over… ah, I’m boring you. Never mind. Just look at the pretty picture.

I could go on about how her restaurant has been certified by Project Green Fork, or that it’s become this awesome place-you-must-go in its seven years in Memphis, but I’d rather give kudos to this Jonesboro girl who done good. Seriously good.

You’ll find Felicia Suzanne’s on Main Street at the corner of Monroe in downtown Memphis. Go check out the rather extensive website — there’s a menu there, too. Awesome stuff, Maynard.

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