Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memphis and San Antone

When you're in Memphis, you eat ribs. When you're in Texas, you eat beef. I didn't make the rules; it's just common knowledge. For 5 glorious days in the bustling cities of Memphis and San Antonio, my mom and I ate more meat than we had in all of 2015 combined. Being a born and bred Carolina gal, I'm still terribly partial to the red and vinegary goodness of Lexington and Eastern NC-style BBQs, but turning down any form of BBQ is just not in the cards for me. The culinary highlight of the trip though, was a life-altering taco in San Antonio. I don't know that I'll ever be the same.

Apologies for the poor photo quality! I couldn't wait to dig in.
Ribs at Rendezvous.
Visiting Graceland in Memphis has been on my bucket list for as long as I can remember. I'd be lying if I said I also wasn't tempted by their notable BBQ scene, specifically ribs. Memphis ribs. Where to begin? I got recommendations from several locals as to where the best ribs in town were, and in 18 hours, we had dined at 3 different joints. Charles Vergos' Rendezvous is no doubt one of, if not the most well-known BBQ establishment in Memphis, famous for their dry rub ribs. The spice is on point, but I prefer wetter ribs. And call me Mary-Kate Olson's boyfriend - I could have used some more meat on the bones. Next up was Central BBQ, where the Macaroni & Cheese outshone the Pulled Pork. The variety of sauces were a treat, but I've had way better in good ole NC. Lastly, and my favorite of the bunch, was BB King's (RIP) on Beale Street. For those of you who haven't been to Memphis, Beale Street is Bourbon Street, Jr. Get a table outside and enjoy the live blues and the sights of all the people roaming the street with their open containers. Order the Ribs and the Chopped Pork BBQ Platter, the best meat we had in all of Memphis. The sticky, sweet sauce is sensational and the meat just falls off the bones, but I said it before and I'll say it again - this has nothing on Carolina BBQ. Sorry, not sorry.
Pulled Pork, Ribs, Beans, Hush Puppies, Cornbread at BB King's. Life is good.

The taco that could change the world. Mad props, Mi Tierra.
We arrived in San Antonio and had a hankering for Mexican food, natch. In 1941, Mi Tierra Restaurant & Bakery opened its doors and hasn't shut them since. Several people suggested we try this spot first, and I'm afraid it set the bar to an unreachable level. This was not just the best Mexican food we had on our trip, it's the best Mexican food I've had in my entire life. Take a homemade Flour Tortilla (delicious on its own) and fill it with Carne Asada (Charbroiled Beef). Eat. This was a truly life-altering taco - the tortilla melted in your mouth and the simply seasoned meat was tender, no grissle, and this condiment-loving girl didn't even need to use the Guacamole and Pico.

Save room for dessert, because the panaderia (bakery) at Mi Tierra is incomparable. Everything is baked on-site, and someone is baking 24 hours a day - nothing sits on the shelf for more than 24 hours. The Oreo Tres Leches Cake is a modern American take on a classic Mexican dessert. Our server quickly picked up on our insatiable sweet teeth and brought us some of their best sellers like Cream Cheese and Pumpkin Empanadas. Yummy.

Acenar has the world's best homemade flour tortillas.
The Granary 'Cue & Brew is located at The Pearl, a hip area of San Antone with tons of bars and restaurants. You can't come to Texas and not get brisket. After getting hooked on Austin's La BBQ, I was excited to try the friend-recommended The Granary. It didn't disappoint. In fact, we preferred it to Memphis' but still found it second to NC's. Call us biased. Afterwards, head to Lick Ice Cream, which presents some of the most unique ice cream flavors I've ever seen. Think Sea Salt Caramel and Coconut Avocado makes a weird scoop combo? Guess again.

It wouldn't be a trip to San Antonio without dining on the tourist-adored Riverwalk. We chose Cafe Ole and experienced the most amazing Shrimp Fajitas with homemade Flour Tortillas (my new thing apparently) and Guacamole. I know when I should practice restraint, but this Guac was seriously to die for. I refused to let a scoopful remain in the bowl. Mom and I had a blast eating our way through and learning the history of these vibrant cities, but as far as the BBQ goes, Carolina is King.

Greetings from the Alamo!

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series!

It's that time of year, folks! In just a few short weeks (exactly 2 from today, actually!) Winston-Salem will welcome 16 chefs to the single-elimination tournament highlighting the best of the state's food, agriculture and culinary talent. By purchasing a ticket, you basically get to play the part of a judge on "Iron Chef," "Chopped," "Top Chef" and the like. It's the "Got to Be NC Competition Dining Series"!

At the Twitter board during a battle last year!
Foodies, you'll be in paradise at this event. You'll enjoy a 6-course meal featuring a North Carolina ingredient and believe me, you won't leave hungry or unsatisfied. When I've dined in the past, featured ingredients have been anything from the more mild and safe Gibsonville's High Rock Farm Chestnut Flour and Honey, to the more adventurous Ostrich and Rabbit! You'll want to have a very limited "do not eat" list for these dinners, but you'll also be amazed at the highly successful execution of these dishes, given that the chefs only have a few hours to prepare them!

With friend, fellow food blogger and official "Got to Be NC Competition Dining" blogger, Nikki Miller-Ka!
I'm thrilled to see some new restaurants and chefs included in this year's line-up - competitors even hail from Brevard and Cary! Old favorites like Noble's Grille, Graze and River Birch Lodge face new food truck The Screaming Radish and beloved Chef Dion Sprenkle from Lexington. Whichever battle you choose to purchase tickets for, they'll all be close ones.

And for the first time ever, the competition will extend to Greenville, SC this summer (my old stomping grounds)! Competitors vie for a grand prize of $2,000, a handmade chef knife by Ironman Forge and the coveted "Red Chef Jacket" provided by ALSCO.

All Triad events will be held at the Benton Convention Center in Winston-Salem. Tickets are a modest $55-$75 and you should get them while they're hot - seats for the semi-finals and finals will FLY. Click here to purchase them now! See you there!