Bucket List: Judging The Memphis Italian Festival

I get to do some pretty cool things as the Yelp Memphis Community Manager…and today was no exception. Mark it off the bucket list, because I got to be a judge at the Memphis Italian Festival!

Meatballs in a Gibson's Donut at the Memphis Italian Festival
Meatballs in a Gibson’s Donut at the Memphis Italian Festival

It must have been fate that led me to my prized judge’s appointment. Because there I was, sitting in the green room of Local Memphis Live, just like any other Friday morning, when I met Kenny Gonzales, the CEO. Long story short, I got the gig on the spot and actively tried to contain my giddiness and maintain a professional attitude (totally failed by the way, but fortunately he didn’t back out).

Memphis Grizzlies at the free charging tent
Memphis Grizzlies at the free Charging Tent (i.e. lifesaver for dead iPhones)

Upon arrival, I was whisked away (via golf cart…score) to the free Charging Station, which had Grizzlies presence (grit ‘n grind, y’all!). They were spinning the wheel for Grizz gear and what I’m about to say will shock some people (well, not those who know me well)…but I got my first pair of Grizz anything *insert embarrassed emoji*. BUT I did sign up for their newsletter and for more info about tickets. See! I’m trying! I could totally end up liking sports…

Believe Memphis Shades
Believe Memphis Shades

And just so you know, the rumors are true…the judges’ tent is a magical place…this group is exclusive…plus the word “honor” was emphasized a lot. And it undoubtedly is an honor. Now, I’ve judged a lot of food competitions…but between you and me, I got a little nervous. And with good reason. This isn’t just any run-of-the-mill festival or food competition…this thing is legit.

I ran into one of my Elite Yelpers (and fellow judge), Frank C!
I ran into one of my Elite Yelpers (and fellow judge), Frank C!

For starters, the food is mind-blowing. The presentation is perfection…and you actually get to go to the tents and meet the teams. I love this. For every other food judging I’ve done, it has been blind samples brought to the tent. There are just numbers, no names. But at the Memphis Italian Festival, I got to hear these guys’ stories…shake the hands of their family members…see where the preparation all went down. This is the stuff that foodie dreams are made of. This festival environment has history, culture, and most importantly, love.

Food porn
Food porn

So hurry up and go tomorrow. It’s the last day!

I Asked 6 Guys To Dinner…And They All Said No

Joelle Pittman, awkward turtle

If a semi-attractive girl with a fun job, sparkling personality, and killer (or so I’m told) smile, asked you to be her date for a 5-course wine pairing dinner at a “fancy” restaurant, what would you say?

The answer wasn’t what I hoped…to say the least.

I was rejected by six guys for this thing. There I was, all excited to date like a man, be assertive, embrace my womanhood, thinking “what’s the worst that could happen?” Ha. Well, they could all say no. Didn’t think that one through, did ya, Joelle?

The first one (and preferred – I even had butterflies, y’all) originally said yes, and then backed out due to “work.” When I said OK, how about a rain check…he never responded. Ouch. Guess who got defriended on Facebook? Immature on my part? Perhaps – but warranted. AND I have to see him this weekend…eek!

The second, and to be fair, I’d only met him once (he wandered into my office one random day looking like a total hottie), has a girlfriend…yikes. Embarrassing. Although I must mention he was very lovely about the whole thing.

After two ouchies, I turned to good ole match.com. I’d been chatting with a very attractive doctor and invited him over text. He said yes…but four days later. By then, I was already over it. I don’t play the three day rule, let alone four.

Speaking of four, I had a lovely first date that I thought went well and was excited about the possibility. He was cute, funny, attractive…but then I never heard from him again. So while I didn’t technically ask him to the dinner, he definitely counts because he was supposed to text me about meeting up Saturday at the Food Truck Festival…and just never did. Although, he did accept my Facebook request two weeks later. Awkward.

By this time, my ego was bruised, my self-confidence shattered, so I turned to my best guy friend in the whole wide world. We dated years ago, and from time-to-time have discussed getting back together…I brought that up, and how I’d be open to a reconciliation…and lo and behold, he said no. Can’t catch a break, y’all!

And the sixth? Well, I just have to throw the sixth in, because I got dumped at the beginning of this month and it just counts. It does. Don’t argue with me. He went to this monthly dinner with me in March, so I get to be bitter about his absence in April.

People told me that when I turned thirty that my dating world would change. But I didn’t think that it would literally change the minute I turned thirty. I was quite the player in my twenties. But since I’ve turned thirty (a MONTH ago, I might add), I’ve been dumped….and then rejected FIVE more times in THIRTY DAYS! I.E. Thirty ain’t looking pretty, y’all.

P.S. I just tagged this post with “spinster.”

Joelle Pittman, awkward turtle
Joelle Pittman, awkward turtle

An Apology To Every Friend I’ve Bullied Into Cheating On Their Diet

Joelle Pittman, food lover

Dear [insert probably every person I’m close to],

I’m sorry for not understanding why you couldn’t have dinner or drinks while you were on your diet. I also sincerely apologize for nagging/blowing up your phone/showing up at your doorstep with wine until you gave in.

Please understand that I love sitting down over dinner with a loved one and just talking and talking…and drinking and talking. This is my favorite thing to do ever. I consider it our bonding time, the equivalent of family dinner, and a personal affront when you say no.

Plus I’ve never been on a real diet before (well, one that has lasted more than a week…or hour), and now that the goals are set and I have my game face on,  I realize what a jerk I was. In my defense though, I loved y’all just the way you were and thought it was silly that you wanted to lose weight (I don’t necessarily choose my friends based on their looks, it just so happens they are all hotties). So maybe it is just the wisdom that comes with 30 (that sounds better than me simply being uninterested until I faced the same situation), but now I know how unappealing and nerve racking facing a restaurant menu/bar can be when you’re trying to be good.

In conclusion, I still want to see you. If you’re up for a walk on the greenline, I’m your girl! If you want to eat a Lean Cuisine or protein shake, come on by for dinner! Just please don’t make me go out…we all know I have the will power of a 5 year old. And I’ve got to fit in my wardrobe once again…the black sweatpants are getting old.


Joelle Pittman, food lover
Joelle Pittman, food lover


The Happy Wanderer

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “The Happy Wanderer.”

For starters, I have a 72 page bucket list. I know exactly what I want to see and don’t have time to dilly dally. Therefore, I’m a total itinerary girl. Everything is booked months in advance to ensure that I have a reservation. I don’t understand people who wait until the last minute only to find whatever they came there to see is full!

My itineraries are legendary and I’ll squeeze as much as possible into the day…with the caveat that I’ll have one or two “relaxation” day(s) to leisurely wander and explore…or just lay on the beach and soak up that sun! But I have to say…the best memories are from my itinerary days…

The One That Got Away

To say that I’ve had a bad run with dating recently would be the understatement of the century. I can barely take myself seriously anymore when asked about my love life, and I’m starting to wonder if my friends can either.

For example, there I was, perched on a barstool at my favorite local haunt, when one of my best friends inquired about the “boy du jour.” Yep, she asked it just like that – which stung – a lot.

It’s not like I like or even want to date. I’d kill to have met my Prince Charming; and frankly, I’m super pissed that he seems to be taking his sweet time. I confessed my feelings were a bit hurt that she poopooed my ability to be in a relationship, and she just laughed, saying, “If you wanted to be married, you could. I don’t know why you’re single. But then again, I haven’t liked anyone you’ve dated since…well, you know.”

Yup, I do know. And I hate when he’s mentioned because in a lot of ways I feel like he’s The One That Got Away. Ironically, I broke up with him because I wanted to get married, have babies, and live in Memphis (the 901 was the ultimate deal breaker). Well, guess whose on their way to the altar? Hint: it’s not me.

To add insult to injury he met her a whopping ONE month after we parted ways. I was still mourning our two-and-a-half year relationship (not to mention our time together in our early twenties), and there he was, out-and-about meeting the love of his life. And you know what? She’s perfect for him. I couldn’t imagine a better pair. I’m happy for him…and I don’t mean that in a clenched teeth, forced smile sort of way (OK, maybe 1% of me feels that way…fine, more like 3% but that’s all I’ll cop to).

And how did I find out they were getting married, you ask? Well, we’re still friendly and say happy birthday/holidays now-and-then, so when I didn’t hear from him on my 30th birthday, I was a little surprised. I moseyed on over to his Facebook page…and there it was. He was out of the country proposing. **His hand reaching out of the computer and slapping me across the face would have hurt less.** Welcome to your thirties, Joelle!

To be clear, I don’t still pine over him. That would be weird, and I’ve definitely moved on. (Oh, and we never would have worked out.) But I do miss how he treated me, which says a lot about who I’ve dated after him. He is the only man (other than my father), who believed in me more than I believed in myself. He didn’t try to change me, or “fix” me. There was only support. He sent me flowers for no reason and told me I was the most amazing/beautiful/funny/*insert any positive adjective* girl in the world…and made me believe it. I liked who I was with him, and more importantly, he made me want to be a better person because he was so clearly my better half.

But maybe I idealize him because he got me through my father’s passing, and then my grandfather’s a few months later. My entire world was falling apart and he held me up. I often think about that saying that God puts people into your life for a reason…well, he definitely kept me sane.

So he’s not really The One That Got Away…but he is the one who taught me what a healthy relationship is…and what positive traits to look for.

Do you have a The One That Got Away?

The First of the 50th Anniversary Wine Dinner Series at Ruth’s Chris: Veuve Clicquot Dinner

Veuve Clicquot Rose

There are a lot of things that I love about my job (#Yelp901 Community Manager), but attending specialty dinners are my favorite. And the dinner that Ruth’s Chris Steak House just had…well, it is a new favorite.

All across the land on Thursday, March 19th, 2015, Ruth’s Chris Steak House hosted the first of their 50th Anniversary Wine Dinner Series. And first up? The Veuve Clicquot Dinner. This excited me for a few reasons…well, two to be exact: steak and *excellent* champagne. Because I could solely live off steak and champagne for the rest of my life…oh wait, I basically already do. And if you follow me on any social media, you know this to be true. I feel like I should be embarrassed…but I’m not. I’m a total lushy hedonist and proud of it!

Grand Marnier Smash
Grand Marnier Smash

Upon arrival, I was excited to see that there was a private dining room for the dinner and all 20 (or so) guests were seated around a large table – perfect for socializing with strangers (my favorite thing!). And before I could even sit down, I was offered a Grand Marnier’s® Smash (1 1/2 oz. Grand Marnier®, 4 chunks fresh lemon, and 6-8 mint leaves) and salmon tartare on a crisp cucumber – the perfect thing to get this party started.

Salmon Tartare on Crisp Cucumber
Salmon Tartare on Crisp Cucumber

The first course was chilled jumbo shrimp with honeycrisp apple, haricot vert (otherwise known as green beans), and dijon vinaigrette paired with the Veuve Clicquot Brut Yellow Label.  I would never think about putting shrimp with apples or even green beans but it was spectacular…and beautiful!

Chilled Jump Shrimp with Honeycrisp Apple, Haricot Vert, Dijon Vinaigrette
Chilled Jump Shrimp with Honeycrisp Apple, Haricot Vert, Dijon Vinaigrette

Next up? Lobster Bisque En Croute with the Veuve Clicquot Rosé…and I’m still thinking about that delicious pairing. There is something about champagne being pink that just makes me happy (OK, yes, I’m girlie and silly).

Lobster Bisque En Croute
Lobster Bisque En Croute

Oh, and I *may* have devoured that bisque in two seconds flat…and in then in the very next breath asked my date if he was going to finish his (he did, much to my dismay).

Veuve Clicquot Rose
Veuve Clicquot Rose

As expected, a filet mignon was the entrée (with black truffle and foie gras butter, served sizzling) with pan roasted cremini mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes as the accompaniments. And just when I thought it couldn’t be more perfect, I drank the Veuve Clicquot Vintage 2004. My new favorite drink…unsurprisingly, it is around $72 a bottle…I do have expensive and exquisite taste!

Filet Mignon with Black Truffle & Foie Gras Butter, Served Sizzling and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Filet Mignon with Black Truffle & Foie Gras Butter, Served Sizzling and Garlic Mashed Potatoes
Pan Roasted Cremini Mushrooms
Pan Roasted Cremini Mushrooms

For dessert, there was a pear and almond tart with chamomile tea whipped cream. They were kind enough to accommodate my hatred of nuts and brought me one without it. We then sipped the Veuve Clicquot Demi Sec to finish.

My favorite part of the evening was surprisingly learning the history of Veuve Clicquot. I’ve always enjoyed history (I mean, I give tours at a cemetery for fun), but wine and champagne have eluded me, because while I enjoy it, I never understand when someone speaks intelligently about it. However, our host for the evening (please forgive me as I have forgotten your name) spoke eloquently (aka simply, which I appreciated) and was absolutely hilarious. He even gave me a powerpoint that I could take home to study…I swear, I’ll read it…eventually.

Future Dates:

April 30th, 2015: Caymus Wine Dinner

June 11th, 2015: Golden Anniversary Dinner

August 20th, 2015: 1965 Cocktail Party

October 18th, 2015: “Best of the Best” 90+ Rated Wine Dinner

Update: HOW COULD I FORGET that I won the giveaway of the evening! Well, technically, my date won the giveaway…but I took it from him…I let him keep the sunglasses though (aren’t I nice?!)!

Pear and Almond Tart with Chamomile Tea Whipped Cream
Pear and Almond Tart with Chamomile Tea Whipped Cream
Veuve Clicquot Basket
Veuve Clicquot Basket

I Spent 15% Of My Salary On A Relationship “Coach” And All I Got Was This Lousy List

I spent 15% of my annual income (BEFORE taxes) on a dating/relationship coach. I won’t tell you the exact amount because A) You’ll know how much I make a year, and B) I’ll look like a total idiot.

What I thought would be an intensive three-month program that would completely change my life was really six one-hour long phone calls, a CD, and a handful of emails…for 15% of my yearly salary.

And what is so frustrating about this is that she came highly recommended. Chances are, you’ve even heard of her! But alas, there was no aha moment…other than the realization her exact advice was in every dating book I’ve already read (or watched on Millionaire Matchmaker)… and most upsettingly, I could have bought a few Chanel purses and Louboutin stilletos with that money instead (much more practical).

At least, that was my initial reaction. Then I started thinking about why I was so angry and it dawned on me that I already knew this stuff…and if I already knew what she told me to be true, why wasn’t I applying it? Why did I keep wasting my time with “exceptions”?  Because that’s what it really came down to…I’d meet someone, make an exception, and then wonder why I got hurt.

So what prompted all of this in the first place?  We have to pop back to the summer of 2014. I had just ended yet another disaster of a relationship and realized my picker was not just off…but on another planet. This wasn’t the first time I’d chosen incorrectly and thought I could use a new perspective…or an ass-kicking to stop the pattern.

To be fair, I really enjoyed talking to my dating coach. She had this soothing voice that instantly made me feel safe and like I could tell her all of my problems. And even when I went onto the call grumpy, I left our calls feeling like I could take on the world. But then I’d think about all the money I spent and wonder why I wasn’t experiencing this immediate change and get more and more ticked off…well, Joelle, the shift had to come from within…and would have to be an actual, active (and continuous) decision. But it wasn’t until I reread my notes from our calls that I understood that.

I ended the program in early December 2014. And while this  is definitely a journey and not a destination (I’m not in a relationship, but at least I’ve been on/going on dates with truly nice guys), I’ll save you whatever percentage of your salary, and share what I learned about dating. Chances are, you’ve heard it before (a million times), but it is worth repeating…because this advice makes sense…and as we know, you get what you accept in life. I like bullet points best, so here it goes (please excuse any first-person as they are my notes from the calls):

Men In General

  • Men’s needs are simplistic
  • Men don’t value things they get for free or don’t pay full value of
  • No real man would let a woman take care of him
  • Be aware of who he spends his time with
  • If a guy presents his body as the value trigger, run
  • Listen to what he says – men say what they mean, especially in the beginning
  • Find a man who wants to protect you and keep you safe
  • Let the man take the lead (it is how you see their character)
  • You cannot change a man

First Dates

  • Don’t be the project manager/event planner for dates – don’t do anything – stop driving the bus and sit on my hands – make him do the work
  • There are no excuses for bad behavior
  • No more than two drinks on the first date – i.e. don’t get smashed on the first few dates
  • Don’t invite a man to do anything for the first six dates – he plans and pays
  • Throw my cards on the table – men respond well to it
  • Notice the little things – does he guide you through the restaurant with his hand on your back? Open doors?
  • Find out if he’s family-oriented
  • Look for a PARTNER
  • Show layer and depth on the first date
  • Never date someone who needs you for financial or social reasons
  • Don’t false advertise
  • Ask questions that matter
  • Focus on philosophical and meaningful conversation on dates
  • Don’t dumb myself down – you want to be with someone you can talk to when you’re 80
  • Is he emotionally stable?
  • Going back in time (i.e. getting back together with an ex) never works
  • Stop being the alpha, let the man take the lead
  • Specificity of what I want is critical – write a list

Later in the Relationship

  • Follow your gut
  • Does he make me feel safe? If no, run
  • If it doesn’t feel good, it’s not right – if a guy cares about you, you know, there is no confusion
  • Don’t settle
  • Loyalty cannot be at my expense, OK to end things instead of trying to make it work


  • Live in my independence and womanhood
  • Walking on the wild side has always broken my heart
  • “Loneliness” is not a bad thing
  • Who you spend your time with is a reflection of you – take a real look at my friends
  • All we can do is live and be honest with everyone, but especially yourself
  • Everything is a choice. What is most important to me?
  • My choices reflect my readiness
  • Know what is a non-negotiable for me
  • Life isn’t about dating stories – it’s about building a life with someone
  • Be aware of how amazing you are
  • Clarity and specificity
  • You can have your life be whatever you want it to be – design your life

Good advice, right?…but 15% of my salary to hear something I already knew to be true?…Absolutely…if I finally follow it.