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Tasting and Toasting

Phillip Ashley Chocolates tastings at Napa Café; Molly’s celebrates 30 years.

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Memphis chocolatier Phillip Rix isn't settling for traditional flavor combinations. He's whipping up the "Memphis Barbecue" chocolate, a truffle with a barbecue-spiced dark chocolate ganache; the "Mama Jean" dark chocolate truffle with a milk chocolate and sweet potato ganache; and the "Geisha," with dried cherries and rose water.

And starting December 11th, Rix, who recently transformed his business, Chocistry, into a luxury chocolate brand, Phillip Ashley Chocolates, will be teaming up with distilleries, breweries, and wineries for a monthly chocolate pairing at Napa Café.

The December tasting will pair five Pritchard's rums and bourbons with five complementary chocolates Rix has prepared especially for the occasion. Napa Café will provide accompanying hors d'oeuvres. In the future, Rix hopes to work with a variety of craft spirits and beers, pairing his chocolates with port wine or local beer from Ghost River.

"I've been wanting to do something more formalized," Rix says. "I've been doing tastings at people's houses, but I wanted to create something on a monthly basis — nothing too fussy but something that would give people looking for something really cool and unique to do on a regular basis."

Rix already has an extensive line of designer chocolates, from mango habanero to spiced pumpkin, but he plans to keep seeking out unique flavors and combinations — the very kind of experimenting that piqued his interest when he began the business in 2007. He recently developed a custom chocolate for Gould's Day Spa and has done the same for Lipscomb Pitts and businesses outside the Mid-South.

The tasting series is called "The Chocistry Experience." The first tasting runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on December 11th. Tickets are $40 each and can be purchased online at eventbrite.com, under "Phillip Ashley Chocolates."
Napa Café, 5101 Sanderlin (683-0441)

In its 30 years on Madison Avenue, Molly's La Casita has watched everything around it change: Businesses have come and gone; bike lanes have gone in; Overton Square thrived, then struggled, and is now resurging.

"When we first started, we were just one of four Mexican restaurants in the city," manager Kelly Johnson says. "Now there are who knows how many. Hundreds."

In 1974, after a time selling tamales out of a small cart downtown, Molly Gonzalez established Molly's La Casita in a small building on Lamar. On December 12, 1982, Gonzalez and her business partner Robert Chapman moved the restaurant from Lamar to its current location on Madison — where it has been serving some of the city's most popular margaritas and tamales ever since.

"The restaurant business is so volatile, but we've been able to sustain our business," Johnson says. "Our food is just so different from everyone else's. Molly's spice blend is very complex. All the main ingredients have their own spice blends. Plus, we have consistency in our food and a great staff."

Johnson and her staff will celebrate Molly's 30th anniversary on Madison throughout December with two food specials every day. On December 12th, they will have an all-day happy hour, a birthday cake, and a $7 "T-Man Special," two cheese and onion enchiladas with beans with mole sauce or chili gravy. Gonzalez named the special for Chapman, who later became owner of the restaurant. Chapman passed away in 2010, and Johnson still tears up when she talks about him.

"It will be a bittersweet celebration," she says. "But he'll be here."
Molly's La Casita, 2006 Madison (726-1873)
mollyslacasita.com

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