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Fratelli's tapas: lick-your-plate delicious - JUSTIN FOX BURKS

Let me say this up front: I'm not a big fan of sangria.

Until last week, I hadn't touched the stuff in 30 years. (Blame it on too much fun in Syracuse, New York.) But after seeing Joe Ferguson's sangria recipe for Fratelli's at the Garden, I decided to give the fruity concoction another try.

Ferguson, who coordinates beverages and rentals for the Memphis Botanic Garden, makes his sangria for Fratelli's new tapas bar. The café, which normally serves only lunch, now opens its patio for tapas, wine, cocktails, and sangria on Wednesday and Thursday evenings from 5 to 9 p.m.

Ferguson mixes a red wine like Merlot or Shiraz with oranges, limes, lemons, peaches, a little Triple Sec, and cherry juice. After marinating overnight, the sangria is poured over ice, topped with a splash of club soda, and garnished with a skewer of fruit. It was the garnish that hooked me when my husband Tony and I stopped by for tapas last week.

"In Spain, dinner isn't served until 9 or 10 at night, so tapas are the snacks that people eat after work," says Fratelli's Sabine Baltz, who created the tapas menu. "They are perfect for talking and sharing."

Here's how the menu works: For a fixed price of $12, you pick one tapas from three different groups. Checking off the boxes is a little like ordering sushi. Tony went with pork tenderloin with chorizo sauce, chicken breast roulade stuffed with goat cheese and sun-dried tomatoes, and mushrooms in garlic sauce. (The potatoes in garlic aioli already was sold out.) I ordered seared salmon in puréed red-pepper sauce; vegetable pâté made with carrots, cauliflower, and zucchini; and chickpeas and spinach. All six were lick-your-plate delicious.

In addition to tapas, Fratelli's serves a cheese plate with fresh strawberries, soup (we had tomato with cilantro and Gorgonzola), and desserts such as cheesecake, gelato, and sorbet. An added treat for customers is free admission to the gardens, which stay open for nighttime walks until the café closes.

When you visit the newly renovated Kroger on Poplar and Kirby Parkway in East Memphis (a must-do), here's a suggestion: Pick up the glossy brochure near the front door. The brochure has a store map — you'll need it.

The store, which expanded into the former Walgreens on its east side, now offers a mind-blowing assortment of fresh and prepared foods, kosher items, and imports in addition to standard grocery-store fare. It took me 20 minutes to make it out of the produce department, where between 75 and 100 organics join about 600 more fruits and vegetables: bins of baby artichokes, purple wax beans, tomatillos, and enoki mushrooms, to name a few.

Don't feel like cooking? Then keep walking because a full-time Kroger chef prepares packaged meals-to-go along with hot and cold food buffets. Priced at $5.99 per pound, the "chef-on-the-run" buffets offer lots of options like pesto pasta, smoked pulled pork, and garlic mashed potatoes. There also are a pair of sushi chefs who man their own station, a fantastic Mediterranean bar with olives and hummus (try the edamame), and 300 varieties of domestic and imported cheeses.

More renovations and expansions are planned for Memphis stores, but when asked for specifics, Kroger spokesman Joe Bell answered, "We don't give that out."

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