Restaurant Review: Encore

Last Friday night we went out to dinner at Encore in Peabody Place, to celebrate La starting her last year of grad school. We have been wanting to eat there since they opened in late-2005. This was a highly anticipated dining experience for us.

Encore is the brainchild of Master Chef José Gutierrez, who was the long standing Chef de Cuisine at Chez Pilippe in the Peabody Hotel. He is a local culinary hero with a laundry list, as long as your arm, of awards & accolades.

We have an affliction that I call "Early Bird Syndrome", as in early bird like your grandparents. We showed up at 5pm & we had the place to ourselves, which was nice. The decor was fresh, hip & relaxed with an eclectic mix music being piped in. The dining room has a weird layout with all the tables over on one side of the room, rather close together, I might add. I would like to see the place when packed but I am not sure I would like to eat there with a full house.

To start things off, we each had a glass of Bouvet Rosé while we looked over the menu. This sparkling rosé hails from the Loire region in France & is made from Cabernet Franc grapes. It was an excellent aperitif that sufficiently whet our appetite with its dry, mineral & berry notes. Later, we found this wine at the wine shop & had to get a bottle to enjoy later, we liked it so much.

For dinner La decided on soup & salad. The combo was a one, two punch of Spring Asparagus Soup with Onion Soufflé & Caesar Salad with Roasted Red Pepper Dressing & Warm Garlic Shrimp. We have no idea what made the asparagus soup 'Spring' but it was really light & had a very nice asparagus flavor. The onion souflé floating in the middle of the green concoction, is what made the soup though. It was sweet & buttery & it melted in your mouth.

I went with Caramelized Salmon with Cauliflower Risotto & Balsamic Reduction. It was really good but not knock your socks off good. The salmon was a little more on the well-done side than I like my salmon, but it was far from being dry. The glaze gave it a nice sweetness that was not overpowering & complimented the fish very well. I feel the risotto stole the show though. It was so creamy & chock full of cauliflower that every bite had me wishing for a big bowl of it. The balsamic reduction set every bite off with a nice tart sweetness.

La's salad was an excellent twist on an old classic. The red pepper dressing was piquant with a touch of sweetness that covered just enough of the whole head of romaine lettuce. The shrimp were there to bring it all together with it's garlic soaked, buttery flavor. For just soup & a salad it was quite a meal.

We only have one beef....or three beefs that is. As I mentioned earlier I studied the menu on-line, as well as the wine list extensively earlier & knew what wine I wanted to have with my salmon, so I ordered a glass of Burgundy, the Joseph Drouhin Chory-les-Beaune. Guess what they were out.....& guess what else, they were out of the wine La ordered too, the LePin Viognier. We had to regroup & choose again. After much perusing of the wine list, again. We made our decision, La went with the Joseph Drouhin Saint-Veran that our waiter recommended & I went with an old favorite, Gundlach Block 13 Pinot Noir. Not two minutes after we placed our wine order for the second time, our waiter emerges empty handed. No Gundlach Bock 13. Strike three. Our waiter went over the list AGAIN with me & suggested some other wines, but it was just "blah-blah-blah" to me. I specifically wanted a Pinot Noir to go with my salmon, because it is one of my favorite pairings & I wasn't about to drink a bargain red I'd had many times before (Mirrasou) & for the price of a glass I could have bought a whole bottle. I was ready to stick with S. Pelligrino when our waiter came back again with a taste of Aquinas Pinot Noir from Napa Valley. This was a nice gesture & after a taste, it proved worthy of my glazed salmon. I really wanted to try the Burgundy and the Aquinas was no Block 13 but it was god none the less.

We choose to dine at Encore because they supposedly had a respected wine program. It may have been an off night, I don't know, but I was extremely put off by this snafu. It did not ruin the meal, though as the food was excellent & the service was stellar, but we will think twice before heading back to Encore...or at least call ahead to see how well their cellar is stocked.

On a five point scale we would have to give Encore a 3.5


Coming Soon....

Stay tuned!!!


The More I Run, The More I Eat

I started running a few months ago & boy, has my already ravenous appetite gone through the roof. Now I am not going to get all "health nut" on you, although I do believe it is important to keep in shape & I can honestly say I like tofu, but damn I feel so good when I run.

The point being, I have been ravenous lately. I eat two breakfasts, one at 5AM, after I have already been at work for three hours & one around 9AM when I take my lunch break (I know...pitty me, I work some crazy hours). Then, I usually go home around noon & eat a pre-run snack, usually a sandwich. But the real treat comes after my run.

When I need to refuel & am too tired to really cook, I grab a handful of pasta from the pantry, boil it up al dente. Meanwhile I raid the fridge for leftovers. Last week we had grilled herbed chicken leftover for most of the week. It made an excellent companion to some angel hair pasta. Of course it needed some company, so I picked some cherry maters from the garden, along with some purple basil & spicy globe basil. Now I had the makings for a nice 2nd lunch. I sauteed two cloves of sliced garlic (two too many according to La) in some extra virgin olive oil with a quarter of an onion, then added the chicken & the 'maters & fresh herbs at the end with some salt & pepper. Voila! What a treat. I don't know whether I eat to run or run to eat, as long as I get to do both, I am happy.

This fine concoction is just what a tired body needs. Add a nice chilled glass of Viognier (try the 2005 Cline Viognier it is outstanding...tasting notes coming soon) & this meal will satisfy the soul too.


Five Things To Eat Before You Die

La & myself were both tagged by our friends, the Squirrel Family to participate in the blogging event Five Things To Eat Before You Die. This was a tough task & we spent a whole morning coming up with our lists. Of course we ended up with a few of the same dishes, so we revised our lists, making sure there were no 'repeats'. I have to say, we could have easily come up with a list as long as Suge Knights wrap sheet, so we put a lot of thought into it narrowed it down to five a piece.

Collin's List

1. Whole Fried Catfish. It has to Mississippi Farm Raised catfish too, not that cheap stuff from Vietnam. Fried fillets do not do this fish justice, although they are still excellent. Whole catfish should be crispy on the outside & moist on the inside. Dredged only in cornmeal, salt & pepper. Served with a slice of Vidalia Onion, ketchup & Tabasco Sauce...& you can't forget the hushpuppies.

2. Stone Ground Grits. Cooked slow. With cheese. Or with out. For breakfast. Or for dinner. The epitome of Southern Soul, however & whenever you eat them.

3. Blue Crab 'You' Caught Yourself. Store bought crabs are good....but NOWHERE near as good as crabs you caught yourself. All they need is some drawn butter & the sound of the ocean crashing near your dinner table. There is something about watching the little buggers crawl in to your net at the bottom of the ocean that excites you & whets your appetite.

4. Fresh Hogfish Snapper. With a roasted red pepper zabaglione. I have only had this once & it was at Cafe Sole in Key West. It was THE best fish I have ever had the pleasure of enjoying. It is delicate & flavorful & it has to be caught by divers adding to the 'cool factor'.

5. Tik-in-Chick. A Yucatan specialty of grilled red snapper with achoita sauce (spicy mayan sauce made with achoita). We had this on Isla Mujeres in Mexico & I have to say this was one of our top dining experiences. The fish caught minutes before it was grilled of an open fire right on the beach. Our table was literally 10 yards from the emerald blue Caribbean...Best. Dining room. Ever.

Laura's List

1. Salt Fish and Ackee. On a beach in Jamaica. The Ackee is scrambeled like eggs with the salt cured cod. It sounds gross but it is the best breakfast ever. (pic of Ackee on the left)

2. Raw Vidalia Onions. You really could eat them like an apple they are so sweet.

3. Pork Ribs....Done Right. If you think you've had them "done right" you are probably wrong. 10 or more hours smoked. Dry rub only. Beautiful.

4. French Fries in a Cone aka Vlammes Frittes. A treat we fell in love with in Amsterdam. With a little mayo, preferably when it's so cold outside, that the cone steams.

5. Good Chile Verde ¡Mucho Gusto! On anything...a plate of scrambeled eggs, a burrito, enchiladas, with tortilla get the point.

Now time for the tags.
-The gals at one of our favorite Food & Wine Blogs, Everyday Wine Pairings.
-Sean, who has another favorite blog we read at More Is Less.
-Michael, who also blogs from beautiful Midtown Memphis at Midtown Stomp- A Memphis Wine Journal.
-Last but not least, another fellow Memphis Food & Wine Blogger, Benito at Benito's Wine Reivews.
Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.