The South's Grand Hotel Delivers Grand Hospitality
Listed on the U.S. National Register of Historical Places, the Peabody Hotel opened as a symbol of wealth and prestige in 1869. Named for philanthropist George Peabody, it quickly became the business and social hub of Memphis, and in 1925, was rebuilt on its present Union Avenue location.
Known as the “South’s Grand Hotel”, it is legendary for its charm, elegance, gracious hospitality, and rich history. This luxury hotel has always remained faithful to its past while keeping an eye on the future. They now boast 464 guestrooms and suites.
As we recently embarked on a nostalgic tour of the historical hotel - visiting the upper balcony floor going through all of the memorabilia, the art and history of time - a sense of familiarity washed over us, for it seemed that not much had changed since our last visit.
The elegant ambiance of the lobby beckoned us, and we couldn’t resist the allure of starting our evening with a refined aperitif at the lobby bar, where the famous marble fountain is situated - home to the famous Peabody ducks.
The Legend of the Ducks
Back in the 1930s Frank Schutt, General Manager of The Peabody, and a friend, returned from a weekend hunting trip to Arkansas. After a few too many drinks, the men thought it would be funny to place some of their live duck decoys in the beautiful Peabody fountain. Three small English call ducks were selected as "guinea pigs," and the reaction was nothing short of enthusiastic. Thus began a Peabody tradition which was to become internationally famous.
In 1940, Bellman Edward Pembroke, a former circus animal trainer, offered to help with delivering the ducks to the fountain each day and taught them the now-famous Peabody Duck March. Mr. Pembroke became Peabody Duckmaster, serving in that capacity for fifty years until his retirement in 1991.
Nearly 90 years after the inaugural march, the ducks still visit the lobby fountain from 11am to 5pm. each day.
Oh, the Charm
Savoring our drinks, we immersed in the timeless charm of the surroundings, taking in the exquisite details that had captivated us before. The soft glow of the chandeliers, the treasured art adoring the walls, and the gentle melodies of live music intertwined to create an atmosphere of understated elegance.
As the appointed hour approached, our anticipation grew, knowing that a culinary adventure awaited us at Chez Phillippe. We had heard the whispers of the gastronomic marvels that were destined, our taste buds danced in anticipation, adding to the enticement of the evening.
Chez Phillippe – located off the Grand Lobby, honored with Forbes Four-Star and AAA Four-Diamond, plus “Award of Excellence”, serving as ‘Best Hotel Restaurant’ in the country.
Crossing the threshold of the hallowed halls of Chez Phillippe, we were greeted by an ambiance that exuded sophistication and refinement. The gentle flicker of candlelight set a warm glow, illuminating the beautifully set tables adorned with fine linens and delicate crystalware. The soft murmurs of delighted diners created an atmosphere of conviviality.
Our very attentive and charming server, Byram guided us through the menu, his knowledge and passion evident in every word and gesture, ensuring that our evening would be nothing short of extraordinary. He took note of my special dietary requirements and intolerances. Recognizing the importance of ensuring a seamless experience for every guest, Byram promptly informed the Chef about my specific needs.
To further personalize our dining experience, much to our surprise, Chef Clinton himself graciously made his way to our table. With genuine concern and curiosity, he sought to learn more about my dietary needs, wanting to ensure he could accommodate without compromising taste or quality.
Needless to say, in those moments, as the chef and I exchanged thoughts about ‘kohlrabi’, ‘gel agar’ and the vast world of gastronomy, I was reminded of the transformative power of food and the symphony of flavors that await those who dare to explore the boundaries of culinary artistry!
French Cuisine with Southern Roots
Chef Keith Clinton is fondly known as “the first Memphis born and trained chef who takes the helm at Chez Phillippe”. Naturally I was not surprised to learn that Chef Keith also curated the tasting menu.
Showcasing expertise in classic French cuisine with Southern roots. A professional, personable, and friendly chef, he is driven by his passion for cookery excellence. Clinton thrives on the challenges of sourcing rare ingredients and crafting innovative recipes. His preferred taste profile revolves around acidity, which he believes invigorates the palate.
Hyper focused on seasons and produce, he enjoys trips to the markets for inspiration. Moreover, he understands the significance of delivering a complete package, encompassing both culinary prowess and business acumen. His tenure at Erling Jensen afforded him the privilege of working alongside renowned chefs, further honing his skills and knowledge.
Carefully curated by the culinary talents of Executive Chef Andreas Kisler, Chef de Cuisine Keith Clinton, Executive Pastry Chef Konard Spitzbart.
Chez Signature Offering: Introduced for The Peabody’s 150th Anniversary in 2019 and back by popular demand.
“Royal Wagyu Truffle Burger”
We opted for four course Prix Fixe, mine as the Vegetarian Option.
Amuse Bouche: Nectarine Tart- pistachio parmesan filo.
Bread: Japanese Milk bread (known as ‘Shokupan’)
Trio of Butter; Fermented Black Garlic, Pomegranate, Miso Honey.
Second Amuse Bouche: Brioche with Truffles, Mushroom Tuille.
Roasted Maitake, Cassoulet, Sherry Pistachio
I was impressed with this composition, a combination of the otherwise known “dancing mushroom”, maitake, a Japanese mushroom with a long history of food as medicine in Japanese culture. Highly valued for their unique sapor and texture, appreciated for their versatility in cooking. Combined with white bean cassoulet, a humble dish originated from southwest France. I particularly enjoyed the acidity, possibly from the sherry used here to balance the earthiness and umami of the maitake as well as the creaminess of the white beans!
Grilled Satsuma, Bonnie Blue Farms Feta, Pecan Crumb, Fennel, Mint
Satsuma imparted a tangy, citrusy flavor with a subtle smokiness, the balance of the feta’s creaminess and saltiness added to the texture, the pecan crumble brought a delicate nutty crunch adding a rich earthy impression, fennel and mint contributed to a refreshing and cooling sensation, an aromatic flavor that complemented the main ingredients.
Lobster Caramelle Pasta, Fennel Fumet, Smoked Trout Roe, Dulse, Peau De Poulet
Caramelle Pasta known as ‘wrapped candy’, is handmade here, filled with delicate and rich lobster. The fennel fumet is a fine broth, fragrant and slightly sweet essence of fennel, enhancing the overall sapidity of the dish and complementing the seafood. Smoked Trout Roe otherwise known as caviar was a welcome garnish. Small, exquisite beads provide a satisfying pop of texture and a hint of saltiness, elevating the seafood profile.
The finale is dulse, a type of seaweed with a mild umami and oceanic flavor. A visual striking element and a hint of sea-like essence!
Kohlrabi Mustard Pearl Onion Nasturtiums
Gently poached/steamed tiny batons of sweet creamy kohlrabi matched with a perfect confit of pearl onions providing a subtle fruity taste with a mild undertone. The peppery and zesty nasturtiums elevated the vibrancy of this chameleon that yields a variety of flavors depending on how it is cooked. A well rounded and balanced taste profile.
Elk Tenderloin, Confit Pearl Onion, Plum, Daikon, Crispy Garlic
Daikon puree Grand Marnier Jus
Dessert: Brûlée; Orange Cream, Marmalade, Coconut Tullie
Not a typical brûlée, I adored the harmonious blend of luscious citrus, and sweet. The herbaceous edible florals added nuances of tropical coconut garnish.
Dessert: Ricotta Cake with Raspberry Champagne Mousse.
The silky cake with an airy and velvety champagne mousse lended a lightness and a hint of effervescence.
Reciprocity of Hospitality
At its core, hospitality entails give and take - reciprocity. The reciprocity of hospitality encompasses the essence of civility, involving an interchange of stories, recipes, culture, and cuisine. Hospitality plays a crucial role in facilitating the exchange of customs and traditions by creating an environment of openness, curiosity, and mutual respect.
There was an obvious display of hospitality at Chez Philippe was an air of hospitality. We lapped it up, as we had our delicious dinner.
After the third course Byram came over to deliver an invitation from Chef to his kitchen. He escorted us back to a pristine kitchen with a welcoming team wearing smile and cheer.
We had great conversations and Chef offered to show us some of his favorite vessels. Afterwhich, we were invited to partake in a delicious unctuous palate cleanser, this act of hospitality will always be embedded in my heart!
Leaving Chez Phillippe, we carried with us memories of a truly remarkable gastronomic adventure. The restaurant had retained its crown as the epitome of excellence, a place where flavors danced, and artistry thrived.
As we bid farewell to this gourmet haven, we knew that our evening had been nothing short of extraordinary, a testament to the enduring lure of Chez Phillipe.
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