My Evening with the South’s Finest


This past Tuesday was a big night. Not only was I fed by some of the South’s finest, but I also enjoyed the company and conversation of several local chefs, restaurant owners, food writers, and food lovers.

Yep, it was my kind of night.

My friend Charmaine, my date for the evening, was the one that originally tipped me off about the benefit dinner. Her friend Thomas Williams was the mastermind behind it all, and I do mean mastermind! Kudos to Thomas for pulling together an amazing event that raised almost $60,000 for Mobile Loaves and Fishes and the Community Resource Center, two organizations on the front lines of Nashville Flood Relief.

The evening began with a cocktail hour of champagne, watermelon punch, and delicious passed hors ‘d oeuvres by Nick Seabergh of Giardina’s (at the Aluvian Hotel), in Greenwood, MS:

Benton’s Bacon Rillettes with Celery, Pickled Peppers, Homemade Soda Crackers

Smoked Pimento Cheese on Sweet Corn Callas, Crispy Sage
(YUM! I could have eaten like 10 of these!)

Salt and Pepper Charred Shrimp with Tomato Jam, Mint, Crushed Peanuts

Then we moved into the main dining room for dinner- 6 courses, all with wine pairings:
First Course:

Pate of Tennessee Foie Gras
“Salad” of Local Watermelon, Ginger, Chicken Liver

by Kelly English of Restaurant Iris in Memphis, TN
Second Course (pictured below):

Gulf Shrimp and Avocado
Smoked Bacon and Grilled Romaine
by Lee Richardson – Ashley’s Restaurant (Capital Hotel) in Little Rock, AK

Charmaine and I agreed, this was our favorite course of the evening. The grilled romaine was excellent. Who knew cooked lettuce could be so good?


Third Course (pictured below):

Buttermilk Glazed Sunburst Trout

Tomato and Cornbread Panzanella, Saffron Pickled Fennel

by John Fleer- Canyon Kitchen at Lonesome Valley in Cashiers, NC


This was another winner in my book. Beautiful to look at and delightful flavors.


Fourth Course (pictured below):

Heirloom Chicken Thigh

Creamed Sweet Corn, Lady Pea Salad, Giblet Jus

by Linton Hopkins – Restaurant Eugene, Atlanta, GA


Fifth Course:

Grilled, 24-hour Butter-Braised Chuck Short Rib

Horseradish/Big Bad Bacon Heirloom Grits, Summer Tomato/Fresh Herb Carpaccio, Pickled Red Onion, Asher Blue Vinaigrette

by John Currence – City Grocery in Oxford, MS



Cruze Farm’s Buttermilk Panna Cotta

Basil Syrup, Bourbon Poached Peaches, Honey-Graham Cracker

by David Guas – “DamGoodSweet” Washington, DC


There are so many details that I would love to share with you, but since my friend Chris Chamberlain over at the Nashville Scene Bites blog did such a bang-up job on his recap, I’ll point you over to him to get the in-depth coverage. He was the responsible one that night and actually went home to bed when the dinner ended, leaving him fresh and alert enough to write a thorough account. Some people (hmmm, wonder who?) decided to attend the “after-party” at Watermark, making things a little fuzzier….