When I wrote about the Ripley Tomato Festival and the start of tomato season last month, a CA reader approached me and said that while I might think Ripley tomatoes are good, I haven't tasted anything until I have had one of Farris Fletcher's tomatoes.
So I sought out Mr. Fletcher at our local farmers markets and I have to agree that his tomatoes are truly in a class by themselves. These tomatoes, grown just a few miles north of Millington in the community of Gilt Edge, are the reddest and sweetest tomatoes I have ever tasted.
Fletcher and his wife have been growing these tasty Sunbeam tomatoes for over 12 years and can't say whether it's the soil or the picking stage, but that they just know their tomatoes are the sweetest around. Look for Fletcher Farms tomatoes on Saturdays only at both the Memphis Farmers Market Downtown and the Agricenter Farmers Market.
Also of note in our local tomato world is Whitton Flower and Produce Co.'s sweet cherry tomato medley. These grape-size tomatoes are so sweet you can eat them like candy. Co-owner Jill Forrester wouldn't let her husband give away all the secrets, but I did get Keith to divulge the names of a few varietals in the blend: Sungold, Sun Sugar, Mexico Midget and Sweet Million. They are available Wednesdays at the Memphis Botanic Garden Market and the Memphis Farmers Market on Saturdays. Just be sure to get extra for snacking.
Barring any unforeseen change of weather, we should be able to enjoy juicy local tomatoes through September.
You be the judge
For the seventh summer in a row, Great Wines and Spirits is asking customers to choose their favorite wines for a special "Customer Picks" display.
On six Saturdays this summer, customers dropped by to vote for their favorite wines during an informal blind tasting. This Saturday is the second of two "finals" where you can choose the best of the best from the finalists of the six previous tastings.
The tasting is from 1 to 3 p.m. at Salsa Restaurant, also in the Regalia Shopping Center at 6150 Poplar. It's $5 per person, which can be credited toward a purchase at Great Wines and Spirits that day.
Be sure to stop by Great Wines and Spirits after Labor Day to see which wines customers preferred.
New caterer in town
Chef Jose Gutierrez is venturing into the catering business with his new company, Entourage Catering by Encore Restaurant and Bar.
Gutierrez will remain at the helm of the restaurant and Nancy Kistler, who is leaving as executive chef of Cordelia's Table, will assist with the catering company. For menus and information, call 528-1415.
Slow Food dinner
On Aug. 29 at 7 p.m., Slow Food Memphis hosts a five-course dinner at the Inn at Hunt Phelan featuring meat from local beef purveyor Michael Lenagar of Neola Farms, who will be on hand to speak about the adventures of ranchers who provide locally raised pastured beef.
The cost is $60 for Slow Food Memphis members and $70 for nonmembers, tax and tip included. Wine pairings are available for an additional $25. For reservations, call 525-8225.
Wine tasting fund-raiser
The ninth annual Spirit of SRVS: A Wine Tasting & Silent and Live Auction is Saturday at the Hilton Memphis.
Hosted by Shelby Residential and Vocational Services (SRVS), this fund-raiser will feature wine and beer samplings from around the world, food from area restaurants and unique auction items. Tickets are $50 each. For tickets and more information, contact 869-9261 or visit srvs.org.
Tamale master honored
On Saturday the town of Rosedale, Miss., renamed the section of Miss. 1 through town Joe Pope Boulevard, in honor of Joe Pope and his White Front Café, often referred to as Joe's Hot Tamale Place.
Next time you're in the Delta, go to Rosedale and try some of Pope's famous tamales (which are the only things on the menu). Joe is no longer with us, but his sister, Barbara Pope, continues to make his famous dish just as he did for so many years.
Looking for something different to do with your tomatoes? Try my lighter version of a cheesy tomato pie.
Please share your fabulous food finds and restaurant news with me at email@example.com.
1 9-inch tart pan lined with pie crust (store-bought is a great shortcut)
3 large tomatoes, cut into 1/2 -inch thick slices
1/4 cup Dijon mustard
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyere cheese
2 tbsp. chopped fresh basil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Line the pastry with parchment paper and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until the crust is set, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake until golden brown, 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Leave the oven on.
Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt and drain in a colander for 10 to 15 minutes.
Turn up the oven to 400 degrees.
Spread the mustard over the bottom of the pie crust and sprinkle the cheese over it. Arrange the tomatoes over the cheese in 1 overlapping layer. Bake until the pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes are very soft, 35 to 40 minutes.
In a small bowl, stir together the basil, garlic and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the pie with this mixture while hot and spread out gently with the back of a spoon. Serve the pie hot or at room temperature. Serves 6 to 8.
Source: Jennifer Chandler