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The Weekly Dish
Take a trip back in time on The Tennessean
August 30, 2007
By Jennifer Chandler

Dining in Collierville railcar is repast from the past

By Jennifer Chandler
Special to The Commercial Appeal

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

I have to admit, I am not one for theme-based restaurants. Usually the decor is hokey and the food is bad. But on a recent trip to Collierville, my preconception was proven wrong.

Marshall Criss and Tom Powell have taken a passenger train and renovated it into a dining destination worth visiting.

Step into The Tennessean, 125 N. Rowlett St. in Collierville, and you're transported back to the days of elegant train travel.

As we stepped aboard the renovated passenger car, we were welcomed by a train conductor in full period garb. While perusing our menu, the modern day seemed to fade away with the hum and oh-so-slight vibration of the original air conditioning system.

"The Tennessean ran daily from Memphis to Washington, D.C., from 1941 to 1966," explains Powell.

"We got the original blueprints from the Smithsonian and rebuilt these cars just as they were in the 1940s."

For lunch, we enjoyed a delicious she-crab soup, on the menu as a nod toward Criss' days in Charleston, a refreshingly light salad tossed with oranges, spiced almonds and a tarragon vinaigrette, a pecan-fried grouper sandwich as well as a piping hot chicken pot pie that tasted like my grandmother had made it. (And she is a good cook.)

The dinner menu is a little more adventurous, boasting such dishes as pompano Louisian and Muscovy duck.

Criss and Powell are adding a tavern car, which should open early in September.

Weekend desserts

Remember Cafe Expresso at the Ridgeway Inn? It was the place to go on the way home from the movie or an event Downtown. Since it closed, East Memphis has sorely missed an evening place to go and enjoy a sinful dessert, a cup of coffee and a nice conversation.

Beginning this weekend, The Bagel Co., 6698 Poplar Ave., will be open on Friday and Saturday from 7 to 11 p.m. to satisfy that longing for late evening treats.

Serving dessert only, their weekend evening menu will feature premium cakes, pies, ice cream, and coffee.

Chocolate-friendly wines

Tonight at 7 p.m., Circa, 119 S. Main St., will have a special wine event pairing wines with chocolate.

General manager and director of adult beverages Randy Caparoso will demonstrate that it's not just port and champagne that go with the fruits of the cacao tree.

Chef/owner John Bragg has collaborated with Blues City Pastry Shop's manager and chocolatier Carol Whitmore to prepare five variations of truffles and European-style hand rolls to match the chocolate-friendly wines.

The tasting is $30 per person, plus tax and gratuity. For reservations, call 522-1488.

Inn at Hunt Phelan

Chef Stephen Hassinger at the Inn at Hunt Phelan, 533 Beale St., has introduced some new seasonal items to his menu.

A seared black grouper with field pea-sweet corn succotash, farmers market tomatoes and asparagus is one new item that caught my attention.

At a recent dinner, I thoroughly enjoyed his new, and definitely worth the calories, sticky toffee pudding with Clarksdale figs, homemade ice cream and a caramel rum sauce.

If you are looking for something a little lighter and a less formal atmosphere, head to the inn's veranda, where Hassinger is offering such dishes as seared rare yellow fin tuna with fingerling potato salad and olives as well as a fresh poached lobster salad over mango, cucumber, avocado, basil and mint.

The Grove Grill lunch

The Grove Grill has changed its lunch menu.

The new menu features dishes like jumbo lump crab and shrimp remoulade, Chinese BBQ chicken salad with creamy wasabi dressing and a Cuban pork sandwich.

Please share your fabulous food finds and restaurant news with me at jennifer@cookwithjennifer.com.

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