Friday, October 28, 2011

Eat, Drink, Boogie. Repeat....

....thats the moniker of the Rum Boogie Cafe on Beale Street in Memphis

However when I visited recently I could only manage two of the three; drink and boogie. The eating was more than taken care of with BBQ at the Rendezvous. Too bad, because the menu at Rum Boogie was tempting, with everything from Cajun specialties to Southern cuisine and quirky items like the Fried Green Beans with Ranch Dressing and BBQ Baloney sandwiches.

The popular James Govan and The Boogie Blues Band was jammin' as we made our way to the bar. You  probably guessed by the name, the Rum Boogie had an ample selection of rum to sip or mix while listening to the legendary blues.

As we checked out the hundreds of guitars on the walls, a couple with empty seats at their table extended some Southern hospitality. We sat down and watched the show; not just the one on the stage. We were at the bottom of circular stairs that seemed to trip people up. Within 30 minutes two revelers had spilled their drinks and a third spilled his guts while trying to make it outside. Then there were the girls who forgot to gather their skirts close to their legs when on stairs above us.

Our $5 cover also gave us access to Mr Handy's Blues Hall, commonly referred to as the last real juke joint on Beale Street. We entered through what looked like a secret door from the bar in Rum Boogie. It was tight, loud, rockin' and I didn't want to leave.

I was asked by friends in New Orleans how Beale compared to Bourbon. They both sell "Big Ass Beer", the historic streets are packed with party people and there's a great music vibe but the overall vibe is totally different. At 10:00 Memphis police put up barricades, checked ID's and waved metal detectors over everyone before allowing passage. I politely questioned the cops and they assured me this was for my safety, which I hadn't really questioned, until that moment.

If you are a music lover, Beale Street should be on your bucket list. One of my favorites; Marc Cohen sings about it here......

***COMMENTS: Thanks to all my Facebook friends for posting so many great comments. I would LOVE it if you could also post your comments here on this blog site. I've had dozens of people tell me they posted and it never showed up. Disappointing for us both. So click comment, type your comment, check the box that says "comment as" then hit post. If a word verification box does not appear next (a scrambled word to retype), your comment did not post. Thanks!

Friday, October 21, 2011

A "Rendezvous"....With Ribs

Before I went to Memphis last weekend, I was told by two different people to to check out Rendezvous. This wasn't my first time to the River City but I can't recall anyone ever suggesting the Vous.

I was also told it would be hard to find, in some random alley off of Union Street. I had to laugh because when I looked out of my hotel room of The Peabody, guess what greeted me? See that sign on the right with yellow print? The Rendezvous! I could also see smoke wafting through the alley from the coal grill; and when I walked through it, it was intoxicating.

As small of a dive as it appears to be, Rendezvous is enormous inside. The main seating area and bar is down a half flight of stairs, the rest is up. The sign on the hostess stand reads, "Not since Adam has a rib been this famous."

We started our feast with the signature appetizer of cheese sticks, sausage and pickles. The three are apparently meant to be stacked on a Saltine cracker, sprinkled with Rendezvous seasoning and BBQ sauce, then shoved down the hatch. The side of Coleslaw was not creamy; the dressing was more like vinegar with lots of seasonings. The baked beans were full of pork, spices and totally addicting.

But the star of the night was the dry rubbed ribs; basted in diluted vinegar and Rendezvous's famous rub. I tried them on their own and also drenched with BBQ sauce. The rub had a distinct taste of Coriander and when I went back the next day (to purchase some seasoning), a bartender confirmed it. He actually sprinkled some spice on a paper plate for me to sniff, taste and guess the other ingredients; since very few are listed on the bottle. I tasted celery seed, garlic, salt, paprika and I could see mustard seed. While I was studying the plate I was told there were a number of sites on the internet with people devoted to the same thing, unraveling the mystery of the Rendezvous Famous Spice. For some reason I think there may be a slightly different version used on the ribs, conspiracy!

Final observation on the Rendezvous Famous Seasoning; Bloody Mary's.....'nuff said.

Our night of dining also included the pulled pork and pulled chicken. I was in a BBQ induced coma when we stumbled back into the alley and meandered three blocks to Beale Street for some Blues.

If you're a wine lover like me, you might be disappointed by the cheap house brand offered at the Vous. Bring your own bottle and pay the modest $6 corkage or just get a pitcher of  Michelob. More beer selections are available by the bottle.

When in Memphis you gotta do blues and BBQ, you gotta do the Vous.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Wait Is Over

Fort Myers (FL) residents who drive McGregor Blvd on a regular basis have been watching the progress of a new restaurant on the corner of Royal Palm, just across from the Alliance of the Arts. I can report it is finally open and officially sanctioned; by me! I can't wait to write more about the history of this structure, crazy parking, it's owner and chef; but for now lets start with this....

Christof's has the look and feel of an old, Southern home or tea room; surrounded by lots of trees, green landscaping, and a beautiful wrap around porch for seating. A brick paved patio offers even more outdoor seating. With this look I was expecting some form of Southern food and I wasn't disappointed. I was even happier to see the menu had lots of Italian dishes and some French cuisine as well. The fusion works.

I arrived after working late and shared a few appetizers with a friend. We started with a fresh Cesar Salad and homemade dressing. All of the dressings at Christof's are made with Grape Seed Oil. The salad was consumed, it seemed, in seconds. Next we enjoyed Fried Green Tomatoes stacked with Mozzarella, bacon and corn salsa ($6.95). I predict it will be the most popular appetizer on the menu with just the right balance of flavors and textures. Don't share this, get your own.

The Stuffed Portobella Mushroom ($8.50) was as big as my hand; stuffed with fresh vegetables on top of a tomato coulis that I wanted to drink. We ended with a Tuna Carpaccio ($8.50) that was dressed with onions and thinly sliced celery for a fresh, light treat. Right now there are only three red wines by the glass but the bottle selection looks to be more well rounded; more glass selections are available for whites.

I've been to dozens of restaurant openings and have experienced all kinds of problems with service, long waits for food, food that wasn't right or just wasn't good; thankfully this was NOT one of those experiences. Everything came with ease (from my perspective) and was delectable. The servers were attentive, excited and that excitement was passed on to me as a diner.  That being said, it's only day three and I missed the dinner rush. If you go in this weekend at prime time and don't have the same experience, be understanding that things are still being worked out and be sure to return for a second chance. I think Christof's on McGregor will quickly become a new Southwest Florida favorite.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

A Screamin' Good Time

I was among the first in the nation to get to ride the  Cheetah Hunt, when it opened in May at Busch Gardens Tampa. A nice perk for being a part of the 'media', I got to take a test drive before it opened to the public. I never finished blogging about it because I was having trouble uploading the video below. And it really tells the story best. Some of my friends and colleagues are going to Hallo-Scream this weekend and will be riding it in the dark. So, I thought now is as good a time as any to share my experience.

The Cheetah Hunt is the only triple-launch roller coaster in Florida and it is FAST. It's also fun, not one of those rides that brings you to your knees when you disembark.

The staff at Busch Gardens rigged the front seat of the coaster with an elaborate camera set up. Zip ties, straps and all manner of things were used to keep the camera secure for the drops and loops while recording our reactions.

The launches were exhilarating and surprising. In between the twists and turns we were treated to great views of the park. This video is not of my first ride. I had to take on the Cheetah Hunt twice, back to back, because of a technical problem with the initial recording. The audio guy said I blew the mic screaming. I choose to believe it was something else; that is just way too easy of an excuse. The first time was a blast, the second time I was definitely ready for some fresh air.  For sure, I'll return to Busch Gardens for more of the Cheetah! Great coaster.