“May you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you’re dead.”
This is just one of many Irish blessings that can be found surreptitiously placed in Ed Riley’s “new baby” Mo’Cara. Many of you have probably already sampled some of Ed’s culinary creations, as he has operated his catering service, Two Fat Men, for over nine years. The concept and goal of Mo’Cara, which translates to “my friend” in Gaelic, is to bring fine Southern-influenced food, made from the freshest possible ingredients from local sources, whenever possible.
And even though many of his patrons who have a Southern heritage or an Irish heritage (or BOTH as I do) might recognize many of his food offerings by name, Ed says, his won’t look like what our mothers cooked.
I asked Ed where the origins of his culinary skills sprung from, expecting him to talk about days spent in the kitchen with a grandmother or something
similar. His response with a wry smile on his face was, simply “hunger”. And that is a good enough motivator for anyone to come try some of Ed’s delicious creations. And seriously, if you come to Mo’Cara’s, you better come hungry!
I have already sampled several things on the menu, and the majority has been listed as “Starters”, but a couple of Ed’s starters constitute a full meal! The first things I ever tried were the Deviled Eggs. There are six of these served in three unique ways, each very delicious. His Southern Egg Roll is very unique as well. It is homemade and stuffed with collard greens, chicken, smoked corn, julienne onions, and local Kenny’s Farmhouse white cheddar cheese, with some peach mango salsa, roasted red pepper sauce and spicy mustard. His Bonnie Blue Fried Goat Cheese is not to be missed.
Ed’s “Sides” are also something I have to write about. I love mushrooms and I love root beer (IBC cold in the bottle is the best), and Ed combines these two in his one-of-akind Root Beer glazed mushrooms. His corn casserole is incredible, with just the right kick provided by the jalapenos that are present. And many are already raving about his fried mac and cheese, but I think I like his “One of a Kind Mac and Cheese” even better. It is horseradish havarti mac and cheese topped with Benton’s bacon. And for those who do not know or have never tasted Benton’s bacon, you are in for a real treat. Allan Benton is a farmer in East Tennessee who used to drive around in his pick-up truck peddling his bacon and hams. He got his “big break” when the chef at Blackberry Farms (consistently one of the top-rated bed and breakfasts in the U.S.) discovered his unique and delicious smoked bacon. My nephew Matt Gallaher, an accomplished chef who got his start at Blackberry Farms and is now the Executive Chef for Governor Haslam and his wife, told me that now ALL the top chefs from New York to Los Angeles use Benton’s bacon. My nephew still talks to Allan (he insists that my nephew call him by his first name) every few weeks. On one of their last conversations Allan told him that he answered his cell phone, and Bobby Flay was on the other end praising his product and asking how he could get more!
As for the “Supper” items, people are already talking about Mo’Cara’s Meatloaf with fried mac and cheese as well as the blue corn dusted catfish. Ed’s country fried steak is made like no other. It is prepared sous vide, which literally means cooking under vacuum, but actually means low pressure cooking. And low and slow it is because Ed will slow cook it in this manner for 48 hours before it is breaded and pan fried … hungry yet??? And if you want to try any of the dinner items mentioned so far, don’t hesitate very long because Ed plans on having an ever-changing menu, depending on what is fresh and in season. I cannot wait for strawberries to start coming in because Ed promised a dish of blackened scallops with a strawberry jam/balsamic reduction.
I haven’t even talked about one of my favorite things about Mo’Cara, and that is the atmosphere and decor. When you enter, you will see a beautiful mahogany-finished bar with a black quartz bar top. You can sidle up to the bar, and you will promptly be greeted by Scott, who is very friendly and very knowledgeable in ALL your food and drink options. But if you would rather dine at your own table, then you will be escorted into the main dining room with its exposed brick and beautiful decor.
Mo’Cara is open 5 p.m. – 10 p.m., Monday through Saturday. They also hope to eventually be open for lunch. And I cannot wait for their outdoor covered patio to open as well (which probably is there by the time you read this). I will end my writing with another Irish blessing; this one I found printed on the back of my menu.
May the sun shine, all day long,
Everything go right, and nothing wrong.
May those you love bring love back to you,
And may all the wishes you wish come true!