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Table Talk: From whiskey to beer, it’s a boozy one

Welcome back to Table Talk, where Daily Memphian food and dining editor Jennifer Biggs sends the latest food news (along with a dash of this and that) to your inbox every Wednesday.

Hard to believe that it was five years ago when I had dinner sitting next to whiskey legend Jimmy Russell, the master distiller at Wild Turkey who has held that position for more than 65 years, longer than anyone in the world.


Wild Turkey Master Distiller Jimmy Russell with Jennifer Biggs at a whiskey dinner in 2016. (Submitted by Jennifer Biggs)


He told stories, sort of homespun, a little bit bawdy, all entertaining and educational. I learned more about bourbon that one night than I had in the years leading up to it — it was a leaping-off point for me.

On Sept. 29, Sweet Grass is hosting a Wild Turkey dinner and I love this twist: Russell’s granddaughter JoAnn Street will present the whiskeys and Sweet Grass chef/owner Ryan Trimm is turning the kitchen over to his chef de cuisine, Marisa Griffith, to make it a “Women in Whiskey” night.

It starts at 6 p.m. with hors d’oeuvres and cocktails, and is followed by three courses and three whiskeys. It’s $50 plus tax and tip, and you can get your reservations (I’d get on it as space is limited) by calling 901-278-0278 or emailing Men are welcome, too. Trimm says he thinks he might even take a seat in the dining room and just enjoy this one.

Quick story about that Jimmy Russell dinner, something I’ll never forget. A guest stood too close to a candle and the back of his shirt caught fire. A friend of his and mine, a professional whiskey drinker (truly, it’s his job), quickly doused his shirt with the contents of his glass but had the presence of mind to sniff his glass first. Bert Smythe of McEwen’s was sitting by me and our jaws dropped; that was impressively quick thinking as some of the whiskeys that night were high proof and could’ve made a bad situation much worse.

Sticking with events and drinks: Gonerfest is coming up Sept. 23-26 and Memphis Made has brewed its annual beer. Gonerbrau, a light and easy drinker, will be available at the festival and is also at the Memphis Made taproom while it lasts. Find out more about Gonerfest here


While you have your calendar open, make sure you don’t skip this: The Soulful Food Truck Festival is Sept. 26 at Tiger Lane and if you’re going, might as well get your tickets online and save a little money. It’s a great event, with two dozen food truck or tents and about 60 vendors so you can shop, plus live music. 

Yay for more business in the South Main district, The Daily Memphian’s neighborhood! Two Girls and a Whip reopened this week, this time under new ownership and with new bakers. And it’s no longer a cakery (which it was before), but a bakery, offering a lineup of sweets plus savories, even bread a couple of times a week. Congratulations to Anna Beatty and Jenny Riley; I wish you great success. 

Hats off to the three Bartlett couples who ponied up to save Bartlett’s oldest steakhouse. The Side Porch, which opened in 1976, was closed indefinitely because of COVID and staffing, and these guys said hey, let’s do this. And they did. Read Omer Yusuf’s story about how it happened. 


A group of notable Bartlett residents came together to save The Side Porch, seen on on Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021.  (Mark Weber/The Daily Memphian)

Dan Conaway presented his annual Tasteful List 2021, with the caveat that the “list is definitely not blessed by my physician or the American Heart Association, bless their hearts.” It’s lengthy, it inspires hunger and the mention of the Thai Toast at Bhan Thai takes me down memory lane and reminds me of this:


Here’s a Kitchen Talk video Wally Joe and I made a couple of years ago. I’m giving you the recipe we used, along with a few tips from me that make this a super freezer-ready appetizer. Perfect pairing, by the way? A Manhattan. It works. 

Well, it turns out this is a pretty boozy Table Talk. Check out the latest in our Cheers for Beers series, which is about Hampline Brewing Co., a great little place just off Broad where the people are friendly and the beer is tops. 


Lucas Olsen pours a flight of beers while working at Hampline Brewing Co. (Brad Vest/ Special to The Daily Memphian)

It seems wrong to finish this with anything except more liquor, having come this far, so let’s wrap it up with this week’s Sound Bites. McCauley Williams, the CEO of B.R. Distilling, joined me in the studio and while we talked, we also sampled whiskey. It set the bar high for future guests, that’s all I’m sayin’.

Hug your people, feed them well, and have a wonderful week.

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