- CHARITY BENEFIT
When Queens resident, Sophia Goodman, read on Twitter that Pat & Gina Neely (hosts of the Food Network’s “Down Home with the Neelys”) were celebrating the one year anniversary of their restaurant, Neely’s Barbecue Parlor in Manhattan on July 11th, she called her friend, Lisa-Michelle Kurcharz, and told her that she was taking her out for a treat. At first, when Lisa-Michelle heard the invitation was for that very night, she was not enthusiastic, but once she heard that Goodman was taking her to the Neelys’ New York City restaurant, she changed her mind in a flash.
“We are both Neely and BBQ fans,” said Kucharz. “And besides, how could I miss an opportunity to have ribs and meet the Neelys?”
“That is exactly what I thought said Silver Ritton, a FedEx executive and part-time milliner. Ritton, a Memphis, Tennessee native, now living in Riverhead, Long Island, brings clients, friends and family to the restaurant at least once a month because the food represents that of her childhood.
Ritton who treated herself and a client to the Neely Anniversary VIP experience, paid $300 ($150.00 per person) for a meet-and-greet the Neelys prior to the party, also received a copy of their autographed cookbook. Ms. Ritton is a staff favorite and Chris, the establishment’s general manager, suggested that she help navigate me through waters of the Memphis food experience and the restaurant selections for the evening.
Prior to eating, I asked Ms. Silver if she was concerned about the high calories in southern comfort food. She assured me she was, but not enough to forego it. “I love the food, but I have learned to love it in moderation,” she said.
After, she talked about how eating at the restaurant is an authentic experience. “In Memphis, like here at the restaurant, we prefer the ribs that are dry smoked with sauce on the side. And you see, unlike in the north, we make the macaroni and cheese with the larger elbows. But my favorite is the Catfish.”
According to Richard Cohen of Merchants Hospitality – the partner in the restaurant venture with the Neelys, everyone has a favorite. Cohen enjoys the Candied Thick Cut Slab Bacon. “I like the Candied Bacon, it’s addictive, and if you will like bacon, you will too. But most importantly, there is something on the menu for everybody.”
Cohen explained that the challenge in creating the restaurant was to cater to the Neely fan base and add more to it. “Fans come from the tri-state area, Philadelphia, Maryland and Washington D.C. ….and sometimes with large families, but we also had to consider BBQ enthusiasts and residents of the neighborhood as well. As a result, we offer the Neely’s cuisine as well as their spin on New York favorites, such as a great salad. And, while working with former Chopped champion, Chef Wade Burch, CEC, we have been able to achieve our goal.”
Cohen was right. Not only did I love the glazed bacon coated in brown sugar but Chef Wade treated me to a big bowl of his coleslaw with its clean-finish. The coleslaw is a perfect compliment to so many items on the menu like the great selection of ribs, tasty fried chicken and yummy pulled pork sliders on brioche rolls.
But to wash it all down in southern style, Bartender Michelle suggested that I try The VIP. The VIP is a sweet tea spiked with Firefly Vodka. Let’s just say no summer will ever be the same again once a get hold of that Firefly flavored Vodka . (When Garnett opens this morning, I will be ordering a case.)
After enjoying all the southern delights at the Anniversary Party, I got a moment to speak to Pat and Gina whom are as charming as they are on TV. When I asked, “What’s next?” Pat remarked “The third book, of course is well underway, and whatever good opportunities come our way.”
So stay-tuned for more Neelys. And me, while I didn’t have the chance to taste the Shrimp and Grits, the Blackberry Cobbler or Fried Pickles, I can promise Chef Wade and the Neelys, I’ll be back!
Fascinating Girl About Town Charlotte Reed and Patrick and Gina Neely.
Traditional Memphis Style ribs are smoked “dry”, meaning that only a dry rub is applied.
How surreal to be having a culinary adventure – sharing Neely Mac & Cheese with Cooking Channel’s Baron Ambrosia!