I had the privilege of attending the first Dishcrawl Memphis epicurean adventure in Cooper-Young on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
There were four stops total in the tour, which organizers explain as a pubcrawl but with food. Dishcrawl Memphis ambassador Paige Laurie let the 40 guests know about the meeting place and first stop, Alchemy, 48 hours in advance, but kept the rest tight-lipped, no matter how much we tried to guess. Each stop included food only, and alcohol was available for purchase.
Alchemy did the first course right. Chili roasted fish tacos with toasted cumin slaw, chorizo and Louisiana crawfish mac and cheese, and Donnell Century Farms (out of Jackson, Tenn.) beef sliders with pimento cheese. All of those items are on Alchemy’s regular small plate menu.
I really appreciated how chef Nick Seabergh greeted each table to see how his menu went over. He’s new to the Alchemy kitchen and appears settling in swimmingly.
Next up on the Dishcrawl was Cortona Contemporary Italian. The menu there was foiegras mousse with strawberry black pepper compote served over toasted baguette, Italian shrimp and grits with blood orange sauce, and truffle chicken meatballs with house-made fettuccini.
During our stop, I learned that Cortona had been closed last week for renovations, so I asked general manager Jennifer Dickerson (who came over from Erling Jensen: The Restaurant) to update me on the restaurant’s happenings. She said that chef David Cleveland was on a sabbatical and had been replaced with Fortunato “Nate” Oliva, also from Erling Jensen. Dickerson added that some additional staff had been brought on, as well as new computers.
Beauty Shop was third on our food fieldtrip. There we were treated to tempura avocado spring rolls with Vietnamese dipping sauce, pork carnitas with blue cheese and pear, and salmon gravlax with an avocado orange radish relish. This was definitely my favorite plate, presentation and taste-wise, of the evening.
Our grand finale turned out to be Imagine Vegan Café. I was pleasantly surprised by this; I’ve been meaning to try it out for the past two years that it’s been open. Chef Kristie Jeffrey introduced her husband, Adam, and their two little girls, Savannah (who served us our waters) and Sierra. She then reviewed the vegan dessert menu with us: lavender vanilla cupcakes, caramel vanilla cupcakes, triple chocolate cupcakes, cookies and crème cupcakes, carrot cake cupcakes (all of the cupcakes were mini), and also triple chocolate chunk brownie bites and whoopie pies – devil’s food cake sandwiched around vanilla buttercream.
Guests were instructed to pick three of the desserts from the buffet line. Jeffrey was the only chef to receive applause from the Dishcrawl audience.
Turns out we never crossed Cooper Street. I thought I had it all figured out – Alchemy, Sweet Grass, Tsunami and Imagine Vegan Café. I guess two out of four isn’t too bad.
Dishcrawl’s attendees were of all ages and all parts of Memphis. Our name tags, which also indicated what part of town we were from, included areas from Germantown to Southaven. The whole tour lasted a little over two hours.
Dishcrawl Memphis is having another food tour tonight, Wednesday, Feb. 6. That was actually the original night for Dishcrawl’s launch, but sold out so quickly that the Tuesday night slot was added. Laurie said three of the four restaurants will be the same tonight and will be serving the same food as last night.
Dishcrawl Memphis had been so well-received that there’s a similar event in the works for April 7 called Neighborfood. Laurie said that food tour is on a much larger scale, with eight restaurant stops and 100 to 500 attendees over several hours. Neighborfood is self-paced, meaning guests can stay as long as they want at each eatery, and five percent of the proceeds go to a charity of the ambassador’s choice.
Laurie added that Dishcrawl anticipates events every eight weeks. Possible locations include Downtown, East Memphis (Brookhaven Circle came up), Madison Avenue, Overton Square and Collierville.