Tom Flournoy is committed to spreading the pimento cheese gospel.
"A lot of people ... their only experience with pimento cheese is the stuff you get in the grocery store, which is generally not very good," Flournoy says. "If that was the only pimento cheese I'd ever had, I'm not sure I would try pimento cheese again."
Tom's Tiny Kitchen, the business Flournoy started earlier this year, aims to change all that. After selling batch after batch of pimento cheese at the St. Agnes Gingerbread House Holiday Sale last December, Flournoy decided to package and sell the distinctly Southern treat on a more regular basis.
"We sold a tremendous amount," Flournoy says. "We've gotten a phenomenal response. People who say they flatly don't like pimento cheese, when we give out samples they say, 'Oh, well, I like this, though.'"
Tom's Tiny Kitchen is a newcomer to local farmers markets, so the first part of this year was spent getting approval from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture and settling into a production system: He makes the pimento cheese (his mother's recipe), his daughter helps package, and his wife helps sell at the market.
Look for Tom's signature pimento cheese on Saturdays at the Agricenter and on first and third Thursdays at the Delta Market in West Memphis. An eight-ounce container is $4.50; a 16-ounce is $8.
Tom's Tiny Kitchen (tomstinykitchen.com)
Ladurée, the Paris patisserie with a signature green and gold facade, has long been an institution for luxury pastries and decadent displays of multicolored macarons.
And it was Ladurée that inspired Memphian Erica Thewis to open her own macaron shop on the e-commerce website Etsy. She named her venture Pistache French Pastry — "pistache" for that pistachio-colored institution in Paris and "French pastry" for the passion she developed in culinary school at Kendall College in her hometown of Chicago.
"When I was in France, I thought these cookies are so beautiful, so mysterious," Thewis says. "In culinary school, when we did a sweets table, we made macarons and tarts, and from then on, I knew."
Thewis started buying ingredients in March and began test baking in April. Some ingredients are, not surprisingly, hard to come by, like the raw pistachio purée she uses for her pistachio macarons. She orders as much as she can in bulk and says, "I pay a lot in shipping."
But the results are exactly as Thewis requires: a crispy shell and smooth filling that become chewy after your first bite.
So far, Memphians have had a lot of questions about macarons: how big they are, what they taste like, what texture to expect. Each cookie is a two- or three-bite treat, Thewis says, and very sweet.
The shells are a meringue-type cookie made with almond meal, and the filling is a silky Italian butter cream or smooth ganache. Thewis has experimented with 15 flavors — from rosewater and mango lime to a rich dark chocolate and milk chocolate-hazelnut. Custom orders of all sizes are available. (Thewis recently made 132 neon macarons for a graduation party.) But standard sizes include a six-piece box for $10 and a 16-piece box for $24.
Thewis' home kitchen serves as her bakery, but she hopes to open her own pastry shop with macarons, croissants, and tarts. In the meantime, she works at a local cupcake shop to keep her culinary skills honed. Visit her shop on Etsy or her Facebook page to see photos and learn more.