Museum cafés have thankfully moved beyond generic cafeteria fare and are offering up delicious dishes. They have become spots that are serving food so artful and at a caliber that makes them dining destinations of their own.
“Visitors have asked for a café at the museum for years, and we’re happy to keep them at the Dixon a little longer when they visit,” explains Kevin Sharp, the Linda W. and S. Herbert Rhea Director of the Dixon.
When deciding who was the right person to run the café, Kevin turned to frequent museum event caterer CFY Catering. “We loved their work as caterers, and they’re terrific people. We knew they would do an excellent job.”
Turns out, it was the perfect partnership for both the museum and CFY Catering.
“This is just such a natural fit for us. We’ve catered many weddings at the Dixon, and it really just became a second home for us on the weekends. That led to more opportunities for us in our catering business and with the Dixon,” adds Kevin of CFY Catering and Park + Cherry.
The café is located adjacent to the museum shop. This casual spot was designed in calming shades of grey that offer the perfect respite from a day of walking around the exciting colors of the museum and the vibrant plant life and sculptures of the gardens.
“We want Park + Cherry to provide a comfortable, casual atmosphere for Dixon guests to enjoy good food, baked goods and coffee in between browsing the galleries and gardens,” adds Kevin.
Both Kevin and Kristi have been in the kitchen for years. “Ever since I was allowed to work, I’ve been involved in the food business. I’ve been in the back of the house and the front of the house, and I enjoy taking excellent care of our guests and clients. We always have a chef on site at events, and we take a fine dining approach to all we do. We were both working in restaurants 10 years ago when we were newlyweds with a baby on the way. Kristi took some time off, and my boss at the restaurant asked us to make desserts, and our catering business took off from there,” Kevin explains.
About his wife and partner in culinary crime, Kristi, Kevin says, “Kristi went to college first and then culinary school. She’s constantly coming up with new dishes! Kristi’s family has so many great cooks; we have had so many amazing meals at her family’s house. We’re both so inspired by the way food brings all of us together.”
The level of their expertise is apparent in the quality and creativity of their offerings at Park + Cherry.
“At Park + Cherry we have sandwiches – both hot and cold. We have salads, and then we also have things like a cheese plate, and we do a quiche of the day. And then we also have a dessert case filled with pastries,” adds Kristi.
Her description may sound like standard fare, but each dish has a unique and tasty spin. One of Kristi’s favorites on the menu is the pickled avocado toast. A toasted piece of buttery brioche bread is topped with cream cheese, pickled avocados and local micro-greens.
And you may ask, what are pickled avocados? “The way we pickle the avocado is that we take vinegar and crushed red peppers, black peppercorns, lemons and rosemary, and then we brine it for a couple of days,” Kristi explains. “The flavor is still creamy like an avocado but is much brighter from the vinegar and the lemons, and then there is heat on the back end from the crushed red peppers.”
Kevin is a fan of the pork & cherry, a hot sandwich made with pork loin, cherry gastrique, chicharrones and lemon aioli. The flavors and textures in this sandwich work together perfectly.
“Our inspiration is definitely seasonal! We’re also inspired by the art and gardens all around us,” Kristi says. Kevin agrees, adding, “I really like one of the new menu items we’re rolling out in October: the pear & prosciutto sandwich. You won’t find it anywhere else, and it’s a nice change of pace for the fall.”
Thanks to the Dixon Gardens staff, Kristi and Kevin now have two big groupings of pots of herbs and Meyer lemons right outside the door on the patio. “We recently made a roasted tomato and goat cheese quiche with Dixon herbs, and we’re looking forward to incorporating our own garden pansies, Swiss chard and kale this season,” adds Kevin.
Amy Lawrence, Dixon Communications Associate, says, “Many of my coworkers say their favorite is the citrus chicken salad croissant; some like it exactly the way it’s served on the croissant, and some request whole wheat or gluten-free bread. The Munch & Learn lecture crowd on Wednesdays at noon also loves the chicken salad.”
In addition to lunch, Park + Cherry also serves coffees and freshly baked pastries throughout the morning and afternoon.
“There is usually a while after lunch when many Dixon employees stop by Park & Cherry for a cookie dough sandwich, macaron, brownie, blueberry muffin, cookie or some other amazing house-made pastry,” says Amy. “And then it starts a chain reaction because it all looks so wonderful, and we all must try whatever is new that day.”
In addition to their offerings at the café, Kristi and Kevin also prepare innovative dishes for events at the Dixon. For Art on Tap in September, they served “hopsicles.” These beer-flavored popsicles were a nod to the theme of the event. “When Rebecca Dinstuhl [of Dinstuhl’s Fine Candies] spoke at the Dixon, our lunch special was a dark chocolate, apple butter and white cheddar grilled cheese,” says Kristi. “Also, for the solar eclipse this year, we made moon pies that greatly changed my previous opinion on the packaged ones.”
So, when you visit the impressive gardens of the Dixon and lunchtime or snack time rolls around, you don’t have to go any further than Park + Cherry, where the culinary artistry is alive and well. Savor the creative flavors from these talented chefs, then mosey into the galleries for an afternoon filled with more art and creativity!
Park + Cherry is located at Dixon Gallery and Gardens at 4339 Park Ave., Memphis, TN 38117. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with lunch served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Sundays, 1 p.m. to 4:30 p.m. for coffees and pastries only. For more information, visit dixon.org or call (901) 761-5250.
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