When I opened the heavy wooden door to Flight I knew at once that this was a culinary hotspot, and I thought perhaps I should have made a reservation. At the maître d’s desk I was told it could be as much as an hour before a table was available. The place was packed, with suits raising a glass to their dates, groups of business partners celebrating the latest success, and girl’s night out in full swing.
There was no chance of relaxing with a drink while I waited, as every seat at the bar was taken, and more customers hovered close by with glasses of wine or a cocktail in hand. On a whim, with nowhere else pressing to be, I said I’d wait. Five minutes later I was flagged down and informed that the host had “moved things around”, and there was a table ready for me right away. Well, thank you!
“We do things a little bit differently here at Flight,” says a confident, composed, twenty-something waitress, as she sets a food menu on my table, and displays the wine list at eye level. She’s dressed in all black, to seamlessly take care of diners without drawing too much attention away from their conversations. She wears a long black apron, cinched at the waist, and long, highlighted blonde hair pulled tightly back into a neat, stylish bun. She seems to be going for the “red-lipped classic thing” that “he” likes, and that Taylor Swift sings about.
Taking her time, she reviews the “flights” outlined in the thick black, leather-bound menu, with its inset bronze version of the restaurant’s logo on the cover. The logo is the name of the establishment, sitting atop a pair of wings that remind me of a 1950s stewardess’s pin. (It brings to mind about the movie “Catch Me If You Can”. If you haven’t seen it, do.) The center of the logo consists of a knife and a fork, flanking a full glass of red wine.
While I’ve had my share of wine flights, across my 10 state territory and internationally, the concept here is that everything is served as a “flight” of 3 dishes – this includes a variety of soups, savory and sweet salads, all manner of entrees, and desserts paired with sweet wine. It is a uniquely clever concept, especially for the foodie who wants to try a little bit of everything, yet finds herself traveling solo. It reminds me of a Spanish tapas bar, except I’m not expected to share my small portions (tastes really) with anyone else.
It’s early on this winter evening, just getting dark, and the restaurant is dimly lit. Candles grace every table, and a chandelier is mounted to the high ceiling in the center of the dining area, providing soft light. Outside, Main Street Pedestrian Mall is lit similarly, by lampposts that dot the sidewalk to illuminate trolley tracks running down the center. Inside, the restaurant is full of the pleasing chatter of satisfied customers, and I’m glad I’m still in the pinstriped black pants, geometric black & white suit jacket and heels I had on at work.
The atmosphere is actually quite romantic, and I wish (not for the first time) that I weren’t traveling alone.
Let’s Drink: Just a Taste at Takeoff
My wine flight is called “Fire & Ice”. It’s a collection of 3 small glasses of Pino Noir. The deep, dark red wine is warm, and perfectly suited for the atmosphere at Flight, with its dark wood, patterned floors, and a second story loft meant to expand the dining space of this intimate restaurant. Each Pino in the flight is just 2 oz, and the miniature stemmed wine glasses are seated together in a line, atop a cherry wood carrier. It’s just enough wine to get a taste, and to help you decide which Pino Noir you’d like to order a full pour of (see a list of wines below).
My favorite is the earthy flavors of the Belle Glos (“Meiomi” Pino Noir). I’d enjoyed a bottle as a Christmas gift, from a dear friend, after I pointed it out at a local wine shop. She knows my tastes, as does one of my coworkers, who had recommended it to me months before. It takes the chill off of winter in Memphis. To my palate, it was a great match for the meal to come!
Bon Apatite: The First Course Lands
With the first sips of wine it’s time to indulge in a starter of Baked Brie. I’m served a warm puff pastry, full of soft melted cheese, sitting atop gooey, flavorful blackberry sauce. This is my appetizer, but I could easily have ordered it as dessert. It is so ridiculously delicious, with its melted blend of sweet and savory. The mild brie is given a tart twist, not too overly sweet, from the blackberries. The Pino Noir’s black cherry cola, strawberry and plum flavors work with the savory pastry perfectly.
Let’s Fly: Getting Off the Ground
The restaurant has suggested combinations of soup and salad, but diners are free to turn a 3-item flight into a meal of four, five or more options. A “regular” to the restaurant might have a favorite dish, and opt to order a larger, standard restaurant portion. The way the meal is served, you eat slowly, savoring each bite, and I start to fill up quickly, yet don’t want to waste a single bite.
My meal takes off on a strong note, with Flight’s interesting take on one of my favorite dishes – caprese salad. I’m intrigued by Strawberry Caprese . If the mere thought doesn’t make you drool, then you truly don’t know what you are missing. What an amazing flavor combination. My lack of a sweet tooth is surprised and pleased with the strawberries. Their sweetness is tempered by the balsamic reduction, and the two ingredients work together, with the help of thin strips of basil, to flavor the fresh mozzarella cheese. In the summer months, I grow my own Roma tomatoes and basil, for an endless supply of a more traditional caprese. This spring I may need to consider planting strawberries on my small patio. The dish is one I hope to recreate.
Taking up the spot next to my salad is a Lobster Bisque that adds a creamy aspect to the meal. Thick and full of large lumps of real crab meat, this was the only part of the flight that I did not finish. It was just what you would expect from a lobster bisque. Perhaps I shouldn’t fault the dish for its being somewhat ordinary, but with balsamic drizzle in the dish to the left, and blue cheese atop the wedge salad to the right, the soup faded into the background. I was starting to fill up on a simple meal of an appetizer and a soup/salad trio, and I wasn’t about to not finish my glass of Pino Noir.
Torn between too many tempting options, I tell my waitress to choose a third dish that would complement the two I’ve already selected, and thereby finish out my flight. She takes the reins, and tells me I have to try their Wedge Salad. As an experienced diner, a traveler who seeks out all sorts of cuisine, and an overall foodie, I’ve followed some unwritten rule to never order a wedge salad. It just seems as though I end up doing most of the work, and it’s iceberg lettuce after all, which seems like nothing special. Surprised by the recommendation, with rave reviews, I went with her suggestion, hoping that she hadn’t made it just because there was a crate of iceberg threatening to spoil at the back of the restaurant.
It was a simple salad, but worth writing home about. Anchored by a wedge of iceberg, it arrived with red onion, cherry tomato, and the most amazing blue cheese dressing. The credit for the dish goes to the dressing, or possibly to my typical aversion to the calories it adds to a meal. I decide to leave the dish as is, instead of asking for the dressing on the side, and my anti-dressing resolve is shattered by a rich, creamy blue cheese. Every ingredient is fresh, which speaks volumes for the restaurant.
There is a time and a place for dinner by candlelight, with white table cloth and fine food and wine. I might crave this combination more often than some, but I’m happy to indulge. Cheers!
On the way out, I notice the overhead music above the din of my fellow diners, for the first time. The music is played low, just barely audible above the white noise of silverware against small, white plates. It is almost swallowed up by the laughter and conversation of romantic couples, food-loving travelers, and business deals. It’s upbeat, yet subdued at the same time. It’s Coldplay. I imagine their Super Bowl appearance has done something for their popularity afterall, despite skepticism leading up to the 50th anniversary game.
Come along for the next adventure!
Footnote: My wine flight is as follows:
Mark West (California Pinot Noir) – A pleasant marriage of black cherry cola, strawberry & plum flavors that are complimented by soft tannins.
Belle Glos (“Meiomi” Pino Noir) – Ripe berry & cranberry aromas carry through to a palate layered with earthy, sweet oak flavors & cherry cola notes.
Duckhorn (“Migration” Pino Noir) – A vibrant & beautiful wine, with high-tone red fruit flavors of strawberry, cherry, cranberry & enticing hints of orange-cinnamon spice.
Flight Restaurant: http://www.flightmemphis.com/