Search & Destroy Dining Guide

It's Judgement Time!!!

Based in Memphis, TN - We travel the U.S. in search of exceptional food at festivals, cooking contests, farmers markets, restaurants, dives, juke joints and even our friends houses! From 5 star dining to road side lemonade stands, we're eating everything.

We are die hard foodies, Certified BBQ judges, contest and festival organizers, food journalists, food photographers, caterers and members of a Memphis in May Competition BBQ Team.

We don't rate with stars. We rate with SKULLS.
Our rating system goes like this:

5 SKULLS = Orgasmic!
4 SKULLS = You're Making Yo Momma Proud.
3 SKULLS = Ahhh...Living the Life of MEDIOCRITY.
2 SKULLS = Uh, we think your cheese has slid off it's cracker.
1 SKULL = It just plain BLOWS (or should be blown up)!

**We would like to say that these are strictly OUR personal opinions and are in no way intended to harm any establishment or their buisness. We eat it like it is and tell you what we think!

Search This Blog

Friday, May 21, 2010

Texas de Brazil - DT Memphis

We visited Texas de Brazil at Peabody Place in Downtown Memphis in May 2010 to celebrate our son's 17th birthday.  We let him choose the restaurant and bring a this was his choice.  Turns out, it was a great one!  We had 6:30 p.m. reservations and arrived right on time.  We were greeted by a pleasant hostess and seated immediately.  Our server was also very pleasant and greeted us promptly after we were seated.  As the children had never been there before, he explained how a Brazilian Steakhouse operates.  You know, green card means 'bring on the meat' and red card means 'Oh please stop and let me recover.'

My son and my nephew were warned not to fill up on the salad bar items so they could mostly eat the meat.  I on the other hand, go everything from Lobster Bisque to button and portabella mushrooms to grilled eggplant, squash and zucchini to fresh mozzarella to fresh California Rolls to....well, you get the picture, right?

Skull and the boys stuffed their guts with very little from the salad bar and very MUCH from the gauchos.  They indulged in perfectly cooked (medium rare) filet, tenderloin, beef ribs, sausage, lamb chops, bacon-wrapped chicken and a plethora of other meaty yummies.  The garlic tenderloin was the table favorite.

As I always do, I had to inquire about the desserts.  Our server quickly brought over a giant tray with an array of spectacular looking desserts.  There was a vanilla creme brulee, a chocolate mousse layered pie, apple pie, key lime pie, cheesecakes and that was only half of the choices.  After much deliberating I decided on the creme brulee.  It was so very delicious.

Skull and I were informed by the kids that our bill was more than both of their salaries in a week.  Too funny...but true.  After dinner we took a short stroll on Beale Street to check out the sights.  We went into a few gift shops and watched the street tumblers for a bit, then the kids were off to do their own thing (as usual).

Overall TDB was a great experience for the family and if you're willing to pay the price, it's a very good place to get excellent food.

Southaven Springfest 2010 - Snowden Grove (MS)

This past weekend we attended Southaven Springfest in Southaven, MS at Snowden Grove.  It should come as no surprise that the weather was really, really crappy, as is common in years past.  That's just the price we pay for hosting festivals in the Mid-South in April. 

We decided to go to the event on Friday since we had agreed to judge Ancillaries.  Co-hort ( also referred to as Skull)  judged Sauce and Seafood.  Skull's SAUCE table had 2 completely non-experienced judges and 1 very experienced judge (but a little too experienced judge for her won good).  Tip:  Even if you have been a judge for 20+ years, if you only judge one contest per year (as stated), you might want to consider a 'refersher' class.  Just sayin'.  Skull feels that judging sauce is a mute point because the sauce can taste great but until it's cooked on an doesn't really count.

Skull's SEAFOOD table was comprised of 5 judges.  First of all, unless all of the Seafood tables have the same # of judges, whatever table has the highest # of judges, the winner would come from that table.  But bottom line is, judge #5's scores were dropped anyway.  The food was very good.  Very impressive.  Salmon w/ lemon butter, seasoned grilled shrimp (seasoned and really good), cups of cocktail shrimp in a Cajun sauce (too black peppery) and bacon wrapped scallops w/ a hand carved orange bell pepper (very good presentation but the sauce overpowered the scallops).  All judges agreed on their 10 on the table.

I (now referred to as Bones) judged Sauce, Beef and Dessert.  There were 4 experienced judges at my SAUCE table and all samples were very tasty entries.  2 of the 6 samples tasted like metal - or like they were from a can.  2 of them had too much Worcheshire sauce in them and the other 2 were excellent and it came down to appearance and consistency.  Only 1 can have a 10 so I had to make the cut.  My BEEF table was a unanimous decision of 10s from all 4 judges for a filet that was so perfectly cooked medium rare and melted in my mouth like butta!  The other entries on the table were a marinated filet that was a bit too salty and a little overcooked, a beef taco that was great and brisket that was a little overdone.  Beef is difficult to get right and hold for the judges.

My dessert table only had 3 samples but they were rockin!  There was a creamy strawberry cheesecake, cream cheese stuffed strawberries with raspberries and cheesecake squares with caramel/toffee drizzled atop.  Let me just say YUM!  I ate a lot of dessert, ok.  Big props out to Debbie Storley for organizing ancillary judging.

After judging we went to visit with the teams.  47 teams competed this year.  47 GREAT teams!  Then came the storms - the rain, the thunder, the lightening, the wind.  WOW!  Then the tornado sirens.  Hmmm...we started thinking, "Should we leave?"  I think not.  A little rain won't hurt us, right?  So we stuck it out til the weather had passed (temporarily, of course). 

After a good nights sleep at a friend's house nearby, we were about to return to the contest when suddenly the rain started and the hail came crashing down.  Skull made the most appropriate comment ever -  "And right then, GOD showed up."   When we arrived at the contest, we were quite surprised to see as that so many loyal judges had shown up ON TIME!  Kudos to all of them!

Saturday morning:
Skull drew on-site SHOULDER judging.  Of the 3 teams he drew, 1 team was a drop.  Rumor has it that their smoker caught fire and can guess the rest of that story.  Team 1 Remarks:  a perfect presentation.  The presenter does the majority of the presentation.  Very rapid-fire and she covers EVERYTHING...very humorous, nothing seems pre-rehearsed, it seems very matter-of-fact and at that moment.  Shows off their expertise and knowledge of prepping, cooking and presenting their award winning BBQ.  VERY well cooked shoulder and the bold sauce really complemented the meat very well.  Made from scratch, that sauce makes you want to drink it!

NEXT:  Team 2 SHOULDER.  Skull says reputation precedes them but he is an experienced enough judge to know better than to judge on that face value.  The presenter is a very lively character but didn't have a lot of liveliness about him this day...but the shoulder did the talking for him.  Absolutely spectacular shoulder, from end to end, top to of the best he has ever had...THAT DAY...and ever...and we've had a bunch.  The 2 sauces were radically different.  One spicy and then one sweet.  Every part of the shoulder was cooked perfectly evenly and all had the same tenderness and texture.

Skull also judged Blind RIBS.  2 were crappy, 1 was OK, 1 was slightly better than OK.  Nothing that would have stacked up to the normal 10 in a competition.  And no, he wasn't judging Patio.

I (Bones) was lucky enough to judge on-site RIBS.  TEAM 1:  Only their 5th competition so far.  Smoker was very interesting and their methods were unique.  Great ribs.  Sauce and rub totally complemented the meat.  TEAM 2:  Veteran team.  Excellent ribs.  Very tender.  Appearance could have been a bit better if ribs were caramelized a little more.  Flavor was great.  TEAM 3:  Veteran Team.  Ribs were beautiful.  They were perfectly tender and tasted awesome.  Best of the day - in spite of the pouring down rain and their tent collapsing just after I left my seat.

All in all, it was a great contest and festival.  I wish that the weather had been better so that more patrons would have attended and the Midway rides would have been packed...but there's always next year.  Don't miss out or you'll be sorry!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Brooklyn Bridge Italian Restaurant- Memphis, TN

We have heard great things about Brooklyn Bridge for many, many years and for some unknown reason had just never squeezed it into our schedule.  However we finally went this month and here is what we discovered.

It's in a very odd location near Poplar and Kirby, tucked back into a very small shopping center.  Like little eager, lost sheep wandering into a forbidden pasture we eased through the door...and to our surprise, into a small, dimly lit bar area.  Looking at each other we thought, "Where the hell do we go now?  Is this it?"  Oh, ok - there was a doorway to our left and we chose to take the road less travelled (to the best of our knowledge).  Hey, whadda ya know - there was a hostess stand and seconds later, a cheerful hostess welcoming us and ready to seat us.  Hmmm, no waiting.  We like that.  We followed her through one dining area into another small dining area where we were seated, nestled in a cozy little corner.  Very romantic and quaint.  No one at the tables on either side of us.  Hmmm, we liked that too.

Our server greeted us promptly.  A cute little blonde with a very sweet innocence about her.  Service was excellent.  (We give her 5 SKULLS).  The wine list was adequate but limited.  Blogger-in-crime ordered Legado Malbec and it complemented his meal very well.  I forget what Riesling I ordered because I was focusing on what to eat.  The menu covered everything we love about Italian food.

We ordered the Mussels fra Diavavolo as an appetizer.  Black mussels sauteed in a spicy tomato sauce.  My better half liked them more than I.  As we (he) devoured the mussels we gazed around the room...noting the decor.  Classic Italian restaurant scene.  Murals on the walls, historic photos, shadowboxes and paintings.  Very romantic and not crowded when we visited on a Saturday night.

I caved and ordered the Lobster ravioli and added on additional scallops.  Ravioli stuffed with lobster and poached with shrimp in a tomato sauce.  Let me just say...OMG!  My new favorite dish.  I happen to like my pasta al dente...and it was perfectly cooked that way.  If you prefer it a little more soft, just ask.  The sauce was so rich it tickled going down.  I will definitely get that again!  It's hard to branch out when you have something that awesome at the maiden voyage.

My cohort ordered Beef and Shrimp Sergio.  Pan seared filet with shrimp and mushrooms in a 3-pepper demi-glace.  Excellent!  Filet was perfectly cooked to a nice med-rare.  We asked our server to make sure the chef knew what an excellent job he had done.  Side of angel hair pasta paired well with the demi-glace.  MMMM-mmmmm.

Stuffed as we were, I HAD to try a vanilla cannoli - just because I had never had one.  It was just ok - should have ordered the chocolate one...or that awesome looking cheesecake. 

We'll definitely go back very soon.

**5 SKULLS**

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

8th Annual Southern Hotwing Festival - DT Memphis, TN

  Ahhh...warm weather and Hot Wings.  The sexy clothes are finally out again.  We were very honored to be invited to judge this event and had a great time doing it.  The organizers and volunteers get huge props all around.  The festival was very well organized, the entertainment was top notch and the weather was excellent.  The Judges' meeting was held in the back of Earnestine's & Hazel's (a former brothel, now restaurant/bar) and you would be just crazy to walk past that bar, smelling those hamburgers on the grill and NOT get one with a cold beer.  The judges were 'styled out' POST-judging with party favors, etc.  Kudos to whomever made that call.

We arrived a little early so we could size up the crowd and teams.  A mere $5 entrance fee and  $1 for samples fromt the booths. A luxury you can't get at Memphis in May. 47 competing teams (up from 33 last year) were ready for an eye-scratching, hair-pulling, chicken fight! The new location on S. Main at GE Patterson was a prime spot.  The area was spacious, people and pet friendly.  Good assortment of vendors.  The spray-on tattoo vendor booth was rockin!  Hot chicks vending beer.  Roller Derby girls skating about...gothy-HOT!  (  My blogger-in-crime can't wait to go to a game and sit in the suicide seats.  He's hoping for one or two of them to fall right into his lap.  I'll be sitting further back, out of the collision course with a very big stick. HA!

The FOOD:  We both drew on-site judging and set out individually for our wing adventures.  We were asked to keep our judging in line with the MBN guidelines (Memphis Barbecue Network -  Greet the team, introduce yourself, tell them you are one of their judges, repeat their team name, ask if you're in the right place, check to see if the area is clean (you know, no passed out team members or guests lying around in the booth), listen to their story (how they formed as a team, where they came up with the recipe, who does the cooking, etc), taste the wings, ask questions or encourage them to keep chatting while you eat as much as you can, thank them very much for hosting you.

We each judged 3 teams.  I was fortunate to have 3 very good teams with delish wings.  My co-hort was not as lucky.  We both had one team that put a match to our asses.  WHEW!  And we like heat!  But too much hot goopy sauce killed it for us.  Wings were perfectly cooked though...we just couldn't taste them because our taste buds were burned off!  It was NOT surprising that one of the teams I had the honor of judging won 1st place!  YAY for The Ranch Beneath My Wings!!!!!  2010 Southern Hot Wing Festival Champions!  I'm standing and applauding because their wings got 5 SKULLS from me!

In conclusion, we really think this festival ROCKED and are very certain that it will be much larger next year and will continue to grow.  Mark your calendars for next April won't want to miss it!

Festival, Food and Entertainment get


Bardog Tavern - DT Memphis, TN

2nd best Bloody Mary we've ever had!  Only 2nd to the spicy Bloody Mary @ The Alpine in the French Quarter, New Orleans.

BUT the staff and patrons were snotty and seemed really 'clique-like.' They sorta looked at everyone as they entered (that wasn't a regular) like "what the hell are YOU doing in here?" Also, we were meeting a group of people there who had not arrived yet and decided to sit at a table near... the front window/door...but we were promptly told that we were not allowed to sit there unless we had 5 or more people with us and that we had to sit at the bar (where there were no seats of course!) or stand.  There were a few scattered tables across from the bar with scattered patrons - but not enough room for a group left.  Interestingly enough, a group of 3 came in 15 minutes later and were allowed to sit at that table (obviously because the bartender knew them). Just rudeness! We didn't eat so I can't comment on the food but the menu did look very inticing. After a while we met our group, left shortly afterwards and returned later that night - to our surprise, same treatment, if not worse. DOUBT very seriously that we will ever go back there.   If we do...we'll let you know how it was.

***2 SKULLS***