06 March 2010


I can't decide whether to call what's happened during the last several hours today or yesterday because I've just woken up after four hours and can't seem to get back to sleep. So, I've decided to get some things "on paper". It's 2:55 AM.

So, Friday morning began just about like any other day for me. Coffee, e-mail, Facebook. Then I finished up some layouts for a client and made plans to meet click-boom for lunch. This was a meeting that our mutual friend option-d had suggested to both J.D. and myself a while ago. When I realized that his office was on the south side of Poplar off Germantown Road, I began to sweat because every time I drive to Germantown I get lost. This has been going on for years. Every Super Bowl party at my friend and former colleague's house? Lost. Trying to find the Apple store after it moved? Lost. You name it. If it's in Germantown, I'm adding a half-hour to my trip so I can drive in circles, look at a map on my iPhone and eventually end up where I'm supposed to be, often not without the aid of a telephone call.

The consternation starts long before I ever leave "the parkways," with me fretting over which route I should take to arrive at what part of Germantown Road, which stretches for some 25 or 30 miles from Brunswick (north) to Olive Branch, Mississippi (south). Oh, there's North Germantown Road, North Germantown Parkway, South Germantown Parkway and South Germantown Road, but it's all the same to me. Mind you, as I write this I'm beginning to understand where the "breaks" are, which might help me navigate this wilderness a bit better in the future.

The questions are: do I need to end up in Bartlett/Wolfchase/BFE? Am I trying to get to Cordova? Do I need to be near the Agricenter? Am I trying to get to old Germantown? Or, do I need to be in Olive Branch? For once in the more than 24 years I've lived in Memphis I made all the right turns and ended up in old Germantown but not without a call to J.D. to make sure I was headed in the right direction.

After I arrived at his office, we spent a little time getting to know each other and becoming more familiar with each other's work. We then climbed into his truck headed for lunch.
We stopped into the new Breakaway store to see some of Harvest's retail design, which was quite impressive, before walking over a couple doors to the Mexican deli. Before yesterday I'd never been to Las Tortugas Deli Mexicana, but I'd heard about it several times in conversation. In the past whenever somebody mentions Mexican, or even Tex-Mex for that matter, I feel less than enthused. Molly's LaCasita, a Midtown institution, and Café Ole are two Tex-Mex options that I can embrace, but they're not Chuy's. I've been to El Mare on Jackson which has decent Mexican food but is in a questionable area in a dilapidated space leaving me wondering what other creatures are dining there. Taqueria Guadalupana can be good, too, but there's still something lacking to me.

Inside Las Tortugas, where the smell of fresh, good food was almost as overwhelming as how crowded it was, J.D. offered some background about the place. We discussed the numerous photos, newspaper articles and letters from patrons framed and up on the wall. I saw Neola Farms, (local, organic, grass-fed beef found at Memphis Farmers Market, Saturday mornings) listed among the day's specials. I was really feeling good about this place. Then, I met Jonathan.

At J.D.'s suggestion, I told him I was a newbie. Jonathan explained that his father, a native of Mexico City, opened the restaurant, that they serve real Mexican food and that nothing is brought in on a food service truck. When he asked me what I'd like to have, I told him to surprise me, and that I'd like a freshly-squeezed Limeade. After our orders were placed and in between looking through the many signs and anecdotes posted on the glass around the kitchen, J.D. teased me, telling me that Jonathan told him what he was making for me and it was going to be very special.

Surprised doesn't begin to express how I felt when after having his name called, rather than the numbers on our receipts, J.D. returned from the counter with two baskets saying, "this is yours." He went back and picked up his brisket sandwich and we sat down to eat. During conversation I was embarrassed that until he mentioned it, I'd forgotten to congratulate him on his "Best of Show Award" at this years Addy awards. I can be such a dunce sometimes. I thought about congratulating him before I left the house, checking my copy of the winner's book to make sure I was going to call his award by the right name, but then I guess "shiny-object-syndrome" reared it's ugly head and I forgot. Dang it!

Anyway, Las Tortugas was out of take-out menus and their website says they're in the process of updating it, so I'm sure I won't be calling all of this correctly, but I'll try. In one basket there was an ear of corn, coated with what appeared to be grated cheese and spices, flanked by two lime wedges on a paper liner dotted with a deep-red pepper sauce. In the other basket was a shredded lettuce salad with marinated cucumbers, next to two soft white corn brisket tacos with avocado, a small container of what looked like guacamole but tasted of pepper and lime, a flat yellow corn tortilla covered with spicy, shredded chicken and avocado slices, some homemade tortilla chips and a small dish of white sauce that resembled sour cream but also tasted of cheese. Everything was incredible. And, I promise, this is not me overusing a superlative like I often do. "Incredible" doesn't do the meal justice. In fact, the whole afternoon was amazing. Thank you, J.D.

This reminds me that aside from picking up a birthday card for my sister this morning, I need to refresh my thank you card stash since I still haven't sent my custom cards to press. I see a huge flaw in thought here, but I'm going to have to let it go lest this post become so long that I lose you, if I haven't already. Because I'm not done talking about this amazing day by any stretch of the imagination.

After I came home I took my usual casual approach to Friday afternoon, workload permitting, and took advantage of the sunny, over 60°F day. I took the dogs outside, pruned some roses, sketched some ideas in my journal, pruned the rosemary, read e-mail, tweeted, roughed out an idea for another client, cleaned the brake dust off of my wheels, and ironed a shirt.

At six o'clock I went next door to visit with Gene and Cindie, our long-time friends (and neighbors of 14 years), before we headed to Interim for dinner. Cindie invited me join them, Thursday, when she brought me a cookbook pulled out of other books she planned to donate to the Library. I didn't realize until we sat down at the table last night that they had intended to take me to dinner to celebrate some of the amazing things that have been happening with my work. This meant so much to me. Not only were they taking me to a very special place for dinner, but they wanted to celebrate the success with which I've been blessed in the last five months and they wouldn't let me pay.

With the help of Interim's menu, I'll share. For starters, Gene and I both had Oysters on the Half Shell with preserved lime mignonette and house made saltines, and Cindie had Sweet Potato Soup with crème fraiche, and toasted hazelnuts. For salads, Gene ordered Baked Goat Cheese Salad with arugula, red wine poached pears, sweetened pecans, and raspberry balsamic vinaigrette. I don't recall Cindie ordering this, but since I don't remember poached pears on her plate she must've had the House Green Salad with orange and hazelnut dressing since the only alternative was what I had. The menu says that it was a Tuscan Kale Salad, but if that was kale it was a kale I've never seen. I wonder if the menu has changed in the restaurant but not online? Anyway, with Grana Padano, garlic-herb croutons, creamy Caesar dressing and white anchovies, the salad was delightful. Unlike that of a typical anchovy, the flavor of the white anchovy was somewhat reminiscent to lighter pickled herring. It wasn't salty at all. Noting that, is when I realized that there were no salt or pepper shakers on the table. And, honestly, I didn't miss them.

For dinner, Cindie ordered Fish of the Day, red snapper, with parsnip puree, braised fennel, roasted brussels sprouts & citrus brown butter. Gene ordered the Grilled Beef Tenderloin with roasted garlic mashed potatoes, haricot verts, crispy onions & red wine demi glace, and I ordered the Steak of the Day, a medium-rare rib eye, with parmesan truffle fries, sautéed garlic spinach, & wild huckleberry sauce. Absolutely delicious.

Finally, once we decided to have dessert we each chose something different so we could share. Gene had Warm Chocolate Cake with chocolate ganache & vanilla gelato, Cindie ordered a Chai Green Tea Crème Brulee with what they called Snickerdoodles. But these were amber colored confections that looked nothing like the cookie with which we're all familiar. It was a beautiful dessert. I asked for the Croissant Bread Pudding with blackberry sauce & dulce de leche gelato. I have never really understood the phrase I've heard and perhaps even used, "taste so good it makes you want to slap yo mama," but this bread pudding was unlike any I've ever had.

Once we returned home from this fabulous evening, I took care of the puppies and thought I might like to watch "Big Fish" on the bedroom TV, but I barely made it through the first few minutes. I fell asleep filled with gratitude for all the wonderful things that have happened recently, and the awesome, fantastic, spectacular (superlative) day I experienced today, and the incredible people that make my life what it is. At the risk of sounding greedy, there is only one thing I would have changed: that Cameron was home to share it with me.

It's now 5:53 AM. Time to make some coffee, tidy up the house and anticipate his return from Tokyo. Have a lovely day, everybody.