millennial

A City Ignited.

A sold-out Ignite Memphis was held Nov. 18 at Bridges in downtown Memphis. The program was comprised of five-minute, swiftly-paced speeches that acquainted the 350-person crowd with topics from eradicating homelessness to the tribulations of owning a food truck.

Ignite Memphis is one installment of a world-wide movement that encourages cities to share inspiring and zany ideas in a format that’s reminiscent of TED Talks on speed. This was the eighth iteration of Memphis’ production that’s presented biannually by Undercurrent, the city’s monthly meet-up for young professionals.

“We always want Ignite to inspire people,” said Dan Price, a co-founder of Undercurrent and a producer of Ignite Memphis. “We work hard to pick talks and speakers from the submissions that are not only diverse and unique, but interesting, culturally relevant, and backed by passion,” Price added.

Wannabe speakers must apply and be selected to present. Presentations tend to highlight acquired hobbies, lessons learned, or experiences that are deeply personal.

“My heart got so much bigger, and I ended up loving people so much more,” said Joseph Miner while presenting ‘Everything You Aren’t Told About Grief.’ His story recounted the roller-coaster of emotions he experienced after his mother’s death. “As a culture, we don’t talk about grief that much, so talk about grief candidly and be open to share,” Miner said.

Because of the casual format, guests easily conversed with the speakers before or after the presentations while dining on hors d’oeuvres, wine, and craft beer. Some cherished the opportunity to connect with others through broad and meaningful dialogue.

“We live in a world that is so driven by connectivity and all things digital, so it was refreshing to do something that was, at least, a slight deviation from the norm,” said Jasmine Boyd, an Ignite guest. “Imagine, people actually talking about ideas instead of hiding behind Instagram posts and Twitter rants,” she said.

While the Ignite format has been replicated elsewhere, the Bluff City adds a distinct dimension, according to Dan Price. “It speaks volumes to the culture of change, creativity, and encouragement in Memphis right now.”

Here was the fall 2014 lineup. Follow Undercurrent or like them to stay afloat of ongoing events and next spring’s Ignite!

No-Holds-Bari

Bari Ristorante e Enoteca celebrated its 12th anniversary with a seafood-filled four-course dinner and wine pairing this past Veterans Day. The sold-out event, hosted by owners Jason and Rebecca Severs, delighted restaurant regulars and newbies (like myself) with an expertly-curated Mediterranean meal.

Located in Overton Square, Bari could be considered a fixture given its decade-long tenure in the revived arts, dining, and entertainment district. Typically known for skillfully crafted cocktails (Hey, Brad Pitts!) and artisanal cheese plates, Bari also offers noteworthy wines and high-brow fare.

The vino selection was moderated by Tiffany Werne of Frederick Wildman & Sons. Tiffany prefaced each course with a botanical and geographic description of authentically Italian wines. “Tonight is about giving and rewarding experiences…these types of dinners expose people to new things they won’t always get,” Tiffany said. “You end up learning about a new recipe and are able to be at eclectic and fun places.”

Her favorite pick? The pairing of the Le Ragose Amarone, Veneto with the pan-roasted barramundi and monkfish. A 1,200-foot elevated Ragose vineyard produced this bold, yet supple, red wine that complemented the pescetarian dish due to the owners’ “out-of-the-box thinking,” Tiffany said.

“They served red wine with two fish courses,” said Lee Eilbott, an event guest. “I was pleasantly surprised. I got to experience and taste things that you would never order on a menu,” she added.

The evening ended three hours later when Chef Jason Severs and his wife and co-owner Rebecca thanked the attendees for their support of the restaurant over the last several years. “I love it when the restaurant is full,” Rebecca said. “We host these dinners about twice a year. It’s always nice for others to get what you’re doing.”

While this was a special occasion, several items including the wines can be ordered on your next visit. But if you have a penchant for the connoisseur’s tour, be on the lookout for future wine dinners at Bari. This one cost $75 and was certainly worth it for the quality of rare ingredients, impeccably paired wine, and the familial ambience.

Special thanks to Lauren Edmonds for the food photography and Lisa A. and Catherine H. for this spontaneous house-warming gift.

Night-trippin’ to Tunica…for Steak!

Jack Binion’s steakhouse held its grand opening July 16 at Horseshoe Casino in Tunica, Miss. The addition is part of a multi-million dollar renovation by Caesars Entertainment to make Horseshoe a destination for the region and (of course), to attract gamblers old and new. I was invited to attend a media preview for the occasion. Here’s my review:

Atmosphere: I’ll admit that when I first heard of a Tunica steakhouse, I had visions of peanuts, rawhide, and Texas hold ’em. It couldn’t be further from the truth. While the restaurant is located on the whistling casino floor, one quickly feels transported to a wine bar in downtown SoHo. There’s “floor seating” for those who like to watch gamblers wince as they shoot craps, and then there’s the bar that’s downright classy. They didn’t just mask old trappings. They gutted the place and pulled out all the stops to create a relaxing and sophisticated experience.

The wine was fresh. “Barrel-fresh!” I ordered and stayed with the Mark West Pinot Noir. It was silky smooth and a few degrees below room temperature (Exactly how reds should be served!) Binion’s is the first establishment in the state of Mississippi to offer a selection of wines straight from the aging barrel. The distributor places the wine in kegs and so you drink straight from the tap, which keeps the wine fresher longer. Bacchus would be thrilled.

The menu offers hefty seafood and steak options, yet its tapas are diverse and intricately assembled. For example, the smoked duck with blackberries and three-onion marmalade (photo below) boasted a sweet and savory finish to warm up the palate.

The executive chef, Bruce Ford, spent months writing Jack Binion’s menu. Chef Ford, a coastal native from Savannah, has injected flair into the steakhouse that he hopes will strongly appeal to women. “A steakhouse is typically male dominated. I’ve added lighter food options primarily for women. They’re still flavorful and nice, and they can feel comfortable ordering,” Ford said.

And to prove his commitment to going against the grain of a traditional steakhouse, Ford told us that an adjacent party included a vegan. Now that’s a new joke to tell! ‘So a vegan walks into a steakhouse…’ (Post punchlines below.)

Did the chef cop out and safely serve a salad? No, he got creative and empathetic. “They usually only get served steamed vegetables. They still want to taste food,” Ford said. The result? Sautéed mushrooms and leeks inside of a roasted heirloom, Ripley tomato. Improv cooking on an opening night.

For the main course, I chose the filet mignon that was butterflied to medium-well. I’ve never gone wrong with this cut of steak. And it was a satisfying choice. The corn pudding was my favorite side, which is like eating a sweet cornbread casserole. I wasn’t a fan of the creamed spinach because of its soupy, soft texture. (I suppose I prefer it a bit more firm.)

Now for dessert. I have a massive sweet tooth and Chef Bruce told our table that dessert was not optional but mandatory. Bless him. Like good Southern citizens, we ordered four and shared. The key lime pie, chocolate torte, bread pudding, and the crème brûlée taster. Thank God the others weren’t as interested in the brûlées because I devoured every spoonful (photo below). Each flavor – coconut, chocolate, mocha, and saffron – was congealed and slightly torched to perfection. Whatever saffron is, I’m a believer.

The prices for steak entrees begin in the $40 range. One could get by with two drinks and a couple of appetizers for $50, but if you’re trekking from the Bluff City, you might as well be a Grizzly. In my opinion, Jack Binion’s attention to detail, charming service, diverse offerings, and fresh quality put it on par with other “special-occasion” restaurants. Thus, I wasn’t surprised by the cost to dine.

Whether or not you’re feeling lucky enough for Blackjack, give the new Binion’s a whirl.

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P.S. Here are more Jack Binion’s reviews from others who attended the preview:

Take 5: Caroline Carrico

Meet a millennial mom who’s into urban gardening, museums, and ethnographing Memphis’ past and present.

Canning Caroline

With baby in tow, Caroline can can!

Stage name: Caroline Mitchell Carrico

Starring roles: Pink Palace Museum Project Coordinator; Adjunct Professor; and Mother to Noah

Daily script: Caroline researches, plans, and helps launch exhibits at the Pink Palace. “I have a lot of very different interests and I get to explore all of them at work….be it aquifers, dinosaurs, basket weaving, chocolate, and even beer.”

Behind the Scenes? “I’ve been working on the redesign of the permanent Pink Palace exhibit. People can now walk up the grand staircase.” Visitors can learn about the mansion’s former owner, Clarence Saunders, as well as various accounts dating back to 1926.

Favorite part? “I love the people that I work with. You have anthropologists, historians, scientists, and educators all working together. There’s nowhere like it in the city…it embodies the spirit and history of Memphis.”

Canning? “I started three years ago but I was always intimidated by it – afraid I would blow up my kitchen. Canning is something I can share with the ladies in my life. My grandmother was always canning, it gives us something really great in common like trying out her dill pickle recipe.”

Where do you get your vegetables? “The Shelby Farms community garden. Greg and I have a plot next to my mom’s. We plant different things on them and help each other out. We’ve got so many green tomatoes on them just waiting to turn.”

Hobby or hard work? “I love going out there in the morning at 5:30; it’s invigorating. I’m using my body to do something. It’s very productive and we get a lot of food out of the garden.”

And bartering? “We trade with our neighbors. They have chickens so we never buy eggs in exchange for bread.”

Thanks, Caroline! For more on mommying, slow food, and historical tidbits, peruse her writings at “Ideas and Thinks.”

Guest Post: “Week of Trivia” by Elle Perry

I had never done a trivia night, but always wanted to.

Traditional wisdom says that restaurants and bars do trivia nights during the week when traffic is slower. The trivia, with promises of cash, gift certificates, and fun bring in people who may be more reticent to go out when they have to work the next morning.

I thought it would be fun to do an entire week of trivia. More accurately, Monday through Friday. I tried to pick a mix of restaurants and bars around town. All where ones I had been to before. In the future, there’s other trivia nights not included here that I would like to try including Blind Bear Speakeasy (because it’s a speakeasy! nuff said) and Flying Saucer.


On the first night (Monday) we went to the infamous adult trivia held by Slider Inn. Slider Inn, located at the corner of Peabody and Cooper, is one of my favorite restaurants/bars. However, I had only previously visited at lunch time (the have great specials and the wait staff are supremely friendly). Oh yeah, the have an awesome patio, that is zipped up when it’s cold outside.

Anyhow, I heard about the trivia from a former fellow graduate student who managed to stumble in with her dad one night they were doing trivia.

Our total group was made up of eight fearless citizens. We picked a great, evening-appropriate team name, which I will not mention here. Of the 11 teams that took part in trivia, there were several that cause the whole crowd to laugh uproariously when called out.

The questions were tough! There were several questions that came from recent news stories. The format is three rounds followed by half time then another three rounds. During half-time we were pleasantly surprised by getting small shots of an orange vodka poured in our mouths.

Though we fought valiantly (and bet the whole farm on the bonus question), we ultimately did not prevail.

Fortunately, though good times were to be had by all trivia participants. I will definitely be back and I suspect the same of my fellow trivia mates.

And I will never look at pop rocks in the store again without secretly cringing.


On Tuesday night we ventured out to The Cove on Broad Avenue. The Cove is an awesome pirate/oyster bar. They’re known for great made-from-scratch cocktails.

Out of all of the trivia nights that I found locally, The Cove has the latest time. Especially given that it takes place on a Tuesday night.

When I put the together the schedule, trivia was listed at 9. However it actually started at 9:30. Given experiences with Slider Inn and The Cove, it appears that the bars wait until as many people are in place as possible before starting. So the time trivia gets started seems to be fluid within about 30 minutes or so.

As it turned out, the trivia guy was the same as Monday night’s trivia at Slider Inn. I started off alone answering questions, because teammates had not yet arrived. I actually answered all of my solo questions correctly.

About four additional folks showed up. I do think that the late time was a deterrent.

Unlike Slider Inn, there were about six or seven teams competing. We were in first place after the first run, but ended up falling the fourth after the second. We wagered all of the possible points of the bonus question (which revolved around ranking the order of creation of toys from the 1980s). We ended up answering the question correctly and winning the whole game!

They actually played part of Bandz A Make Her Dance in honor of our team name (selected by me)

We ended up closing our tab too quickly however because the grand prize was $35 on our tab. So one of our team members got some pineapples soaked in tequila while the rest of us scarfed down deluxe shots of some sort of cinnamon flavored whiskey (not Fireball). I am pretty sure I teared up immediately after.

Due to the lateness in the evening, I ended up using Lyft service for the first time. It was great, except that the driver had not yet received her pink mustache for her truck, which is part of the appeal, to be honest.


On Wednesday we ventured to Tamp & Tap downtown. Tamp & Tap is a super cute coffee and brew (read: beer) restaurant. They also have soup and sandwiches. (And brunch!) Their trivia is hosted by MemphiSports’ Kevin Cerrito. There is an 8-person limit for teams, and the trivia changes themes every week.

That night the theme was Disney. I’m not a huge Disney person, but the questions were broad enough that generally someone on our team had an idea. In case you’re wondering there were about 6 or 7 teams.

We ended up in a tie for best team name (Books A Make Belle Dance), which had to be resolved via Mario Kart. One of our valiant teammates won, which gave us a free pitcher. We ended up saving that for a future trip.

At the end of trivia we ended up in a tie again. This time for second place. So more Mario Kart. Same teammate won again, which earned a $25 gift certificate to local t-shirt shop Sache. We gave him the shirt since he put in so much effort.

Upcoming trivia weeks at Tamp & Tap are Memphis trivia, logo trivia (sounds intriguing), and Friends.

I know my friends are particularly interested in the last one. 🙂

And they will have their trivia tournament in June.


On Thursday we went to Cooper-Young favorite Young Avenue Deli. (Known as “the Deli” by frequent patrons.)

The place was packed. Not sure if it was due to trivia or because it was Thursday. There were about 15 teams though.

Like the first two nights, there is no limit on team members. However, there is a limit on space at any given time. Deli trivia is part of Memphis Trivia League so things seemed more formal, with printed out slips of paper to keep notes on. The top five teams also went on to future rounds (carrying their points with them).

Out of all of the nights so far, these seemed to be the most difficult questions. The questions ran the gamut.

To do well here, a group would need to have a team with a lot of different expertise.


On Friday, me and a handful of friends headed to Ubees, which is located on the Highland Strip.

But alas, the trivia person had a tent down at Memphis in May Barbecue Fest and there wasn’t a backup person. To say the least, I was disappointed.

It was also two hours before their infamous Power Hour (insanely cheap drink specials, I’m talking 3-for-1 type deals).

The only other night I knew about was T.J. Mulligans, but no one was willing to drive to Quince or Cordova to take part.

And that was my week of trivia. It was a ton of fun, and honestly got a little bit tiring towards the end.

I definitely will be doing trivia again. Just not for a week straight. See you around town!

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Thanks to Elle Perry for initiating and enduring the “Week of Trivia.” Drinks were won, egos were shattered, and new friends were made. By day, Elle coordinates the Teen Appeal; every other second, she’s a Memphis super-connector. 

Take 5: Adam J. Maldonado

Meet an actor turned street poet who’s fascination with people’s stories has secured him a place in the hearts of mothers, scorned lovers, and many others.

Adam the Poet

Adam flawlessly strikes another’s inspiration into his Underwood Champion typewriter.

Stage name: The Poet Adam

Starring roles: Poet Laureate of the People; numerous Mid-South stage productions including Jerre Dye‘s debut of Cicada.

Daily script: Adam takes cues from philosophy, literature, and life as he welcomes each client with, “What’s your story?” He can bee seen around town at events like Tennessee Brewery Untapped,  Broad Ave artsy happenings, and poetry slams. Folks typically approach and hire him on-the-spot for “personalized poetry.”

Behind-the-Scenes: “All the writing done for events is stream of consciousness.” His hands glide across an antique portable typewriter to capture one’s thoughts and feelings onto a crisp page.

Yet, don’t mistake his talent for dictation or caricaturization.  Adam’s empathy guides him toward creating three-minute masterpieces.

How? “The shortest distance between two people is poetry. What separates people is the lack of speaking what is honestly on their heart.” According to Adam, there’s far too much sarcasm and cynicism that hinders relationships. Thus, he bridges sincere communication.

Cool typewriter but what about the web? “For millennials, the power lies within social media. We can have an immediate impact on the culture around us.”

His dream? “For poetry to be pervasive throughout our culture. Turn it into an industry. Something where you can make money, work hard for, and it benefits people.”

e.g., Think personal poet-consultant. Call upon Adam to provide perspective on that difficult life transition or for everyday humor. Only time limits the quantity of muses. So, give him a shout.

(P.S. I purchased my first poem at Overton Square’s Crawfish Festival. My inspiration? Getting lost in crowds. Here’s (part of) poem #981.)

Take 5: Veena Rangaswami

Meet an intercontinental non-profiteer who digs blogging, the Far East, and has a soft spot for Elvis.

Veena Rangaswami

Puzzles never get in Veena’s way, especially when they impede global progress.

Stage name: Veena Rangaswami

Friends call her: V., Veeno, Veener, Vienna (i.e., she’s too friendly)

Starring roles: Program Manager (and expert catch-all) for The Wandering Samaritan, a New York-based nonprofit startup; recent graduate of the Clinton School of Public Service

Daily script: “Connecting international travelers with a sponsored miracle bank – donations fund miracles around the world.”

Really? “Yes, if travelers find a need, then they can help fund it.” Veena mentioned a friend of the founder’s who was passing through Nepal and learned that power outages were preventing children from doing their homework at night. He sent word to Wandering Samaritan who subsequently sponsored a solar panel installation for that family.

Your inspiration? “After college, I worked in India and taught English at a home for working street children in Bangalore for four years. Child laborers, runaways, those begging…anytime you see a child alone, you can call a helpline that sends the police and a social worker who bring them to a transitional home.”

Behind the scenes of blogging: “I like to issue challenges to myself. It started when I was applying to grad school. It was a way to keep my friends everywhere updated on what was happening.” See Veena’s “Wonderful World.”

And the King? “I love going to Graceland. Whenever family would visit from India, they would always want to see Elvis’ house. I bribe people to come to Memphis so I can go; I like to share it with other people.”

Personal best? A conservative estimate of 27 visits.

(Thanks for introducing us, Dylan Perry!)

Take 5: Deidra Brooks

Meet the Queen of Commuters: That Girl who works two jobs and lives within a three-block radius.

Deidra Brooks

Deidra soaks up the mighty Mississippi in her rooftop oasis.

Stage name: Deidra Brooks

Starring role: Education & Classes Coordinator for the Memphis Development Foundation a.k.a. The Orpheum Theatre

Daily script: “Impacting the future of theatre. If you expose children to theatre at a young age, they’re more likely to continue appreciating it later in life.”

Behind the Scenes at the Orpheum: “We have tons of students from Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Missouri that travel for hours to see our Student Matinee Series. These are shows that are produced by international children’s theaters that come and perform.”

Moonlighting gig: Hostess at The Majestic Grille

Insider tip? “The roasted-chicken flatbread is my favorite. And the soups are always good.”

Any notable encounters? “I did take John Mayer‘s order one time. It was the night of his concert at the FedEx Forum, and there were several entrees. The grilled salmon was initialed ‘J.M.”’

What energizes you? “I could spend hours on end” being surrounded by music and the arts. “Everyone wants to do what they love.”

Social media muses: “Follow Mindy Kaling on Twitter; she’s effortlessly funny. Beyoncé, of course. And Pinterest. I basically decorated my whole apartment based around things I saw on Pinterest.”

Walking to work? “That’s the best thing ever! I love this city, especially the spirit to just grit and grind.”