Drew Barton brewed his first batch of beer when he was a student at the University of Memphis. He was hooked immediately — not on a hobby but on a career.
Last week, he was headed home to Memphis from Ashville, North Carolina, to introduce three new microbrews from the French Broad Brewing Company, where he works as head brewer, producing 1,600 barrels of beer every year.
"I'm going to the Flying Saucer," he explained from the road. "Our beers have been in eastern Tennessee, and now we are making our way across the state."
ESB, or "Extra Special Bitter," was highlighted last Friday for the Saucer's monthly cask night, a promotion that features the traditional containers that siphon beer with a hand pump.
"Casks are having a resurgence all over the country," Barton explained. "A cask gives beer a different flavor and a smoother body."
ESB, a pale ale with dark fruit notes and big hoppy finish, is also available in bottles, along with Barton's other introductions: Kölsh, a German-style golden ale with lively carbonation, and Alt, a smooth and malty amber ale.
"People think Kölsch is smoother than Alt because it's lighter in color," Barton said. "But just the opposite is true."
The Flying Saucer Draught Emporium,
130 Peabody Place (523-7468)
Here's an entertainment tip for food, fun, and philanthropy: Buy a ticket to 3 Course Feast, dress up and show up January 25th at the University of Memphis Holiday Inn, make a quick bid at the silent auction, and then head straight for the event's 21 tasting stations from the city's most accomplished chefs.
Try appetizers, entrées, and desserts (there are seven choices for each course) or stop by one of five open bars for wine, boutique beers, and pomegranate vodka martinis.
Hosted by Circa's John Bragg, the fund-raiser is a new spin on the United Cerebral Palsy of the Mid-South's Great Chefs' Tasting. "We've revamped our organization this year, and we wanted to do something special to bring attention to our new programs," explained Jordyn Matthews, development associate for events and marketing.
Matthews is most excited about the evening's center-stage demonstrations, where chefs showcase food preparation and signature dishes. In addition to Bragg, demonstrations are planned by Erling Jensen of Erling Jensen in East Memphis; Kelly English of Restaurant Iris in Midtown; and Patrick Reilly of downtown's Majestic Grille.
"Demonstrations will last about 30 minutes each and continue throughout the evening," Matthews said.
Demonstrating chefs will host tasting tables, as well, along with chefs from other locally owned restaurants, including the Beauty Shop, Bluefin, Napa Café, Equestria, Ciao Bella, Café 61, Orleans on Front, Grill 83, Café Toscana, Jarrett's, Mollie Fontaine Lounge, Andrew Michael Italian Kitchen, Bari, McEwen's on Monroe, Felicia Suzanne, Dish, and Chez Philippe.
3 Course Feast tickets are $65 per person and available by phone (761-4277) or online at ucpmemphis.org.
Roustica, a family-owned restaurant in Midtown known for its charming ambience and delicious food, closed last weekend, the latest victim of the national economic meltdown.
Despite efforts by supportive staff and loyal customers, the restaurant couldn't ride out a drop in business that started in October. "We had a good thing going until the economy took a dive," owner Larry Rains said earlier this week. "Unfortunately, not enough people are spending money on fine dining."
Roustica, located at the corner of Willett and Overton Park Avenue, opened in September 2007 under the direction of Kevin Rains, who had been chef de cuisine at Equestria for five years. Rains quickly established a reputation for simple but well-prepared food with a menu that changed every few weeks.
Other owners have operated restaurants in the same location since 1991, when Jack and Rena Franklin opened Marena's. Ten years later, the Franklins sold Marena's to Chef Mortez Gerani, who now operates Marciano on Brookhaven Circle.