I’m not exactly sure how to describe the past week or so. Aside from Forks and Corks a couple of Saturdays back, I didn’t go into it with a lot of high culinary expectations. But it still turned out to be a tasty – and memorable – week.
Forks and Corks rounded out our Saturday evening, but the day actually started at the Starkville Community Market early that morning. My usual habit is to get breakfast there – the specifics depend on the wares of that day’s vendors. Could be a chocolate chip scone, could be a cinnamon roll, could be a sausage-bacon-cheese muffin, could be a bag of biscuits. Usually not all of the above. Usually. To wash it down, could be mint lemonade, strawberry limeade, blueberry juice, or free coffee. But you have to get there early or all the fun drinks disappear.
This week one of my favorites showed up: glazed orange scones from The Way to Go. I carried that and a mug of coffee down to the demo tent where Veranda Chef Jay Yates was setting up his temporary kitchen. He took pink-eye purple hull peas and green beans from Lancaster farms, added a little onion and pork belly, and served that over a semi-genuine hoecake. (It was genuinely good – just not cooked on a hoe.) Next up was a pasta dish – tortellini tossed with a variety of local tomatoes and a little parmigiano reggiano cheese grated on top. Not your ordinary breakfast fare, perhaps, but still not a bad way to kick off the day.
Fast forward to Sunday night. I went to a party that featured watermelons and MSU ice cream. After eyeing the ice cream options, I knew which one I would choose first. Muscadine Ripple. I haven’t done an exhaustive search for this flavor, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say there is a good chance you can’t get it anywhere else on the planet. And it’s good stuff. Besides the fact that MSU helped pay my way through the first 23 years of my life, I am also thankful for the cheese and ice cream. As for the watermelon, I ate a piece towards the end of the evening, then – out of the corner of my eye – I spotted the host cutting up one with yellow meat. (Who decided that we should call it yellow-meated, by the way? Yellow “flesh” doesn’t sound much better. We should work on that.) Regardless of the terminology, I am a big fan of watermelons with yellow edible innards. I was happy to see it, as were some of the international students at the party who saw one for the first time.
On to Tuesday. I had a lunch appointment and was given the option of choosing the location. The topic of discussion was to be food-related, so I wanted a place that was a notch or three above run-of-the-mill. It just seemed right. As it happened, Brian Michaels Burger Company was directly between our two places of business and it had been way too long since I had eaten there. I was impressed with the extensive menu but decided to stick with the standard, and ordered a cheeseburger. When it arrived, I’m sure my eyes told the tale of my disbelief. Never, ever have I been served a burger that tall. Sometimes with a skyscraper-like burger you can push it down to a manageable level from the top bun. Not this one. I pushed, and I tried to get my mouth around it. Nothin’ doin’. I had to hit the first few bites from an angle just to get anything. This is not necessarily a bad situation. Though there can be something special about getting all elements of a burger in one bite, it’s not a terrible thing to get a different taste experience in every bite as long as said taste experiences are all good. And with a Brian Michaels burger, that’s the way it is. What I didn’t realize until halfway through the meal was that this might be the last Brian Michaels burger I would ever have. By the time this is published, it will be closed. And it will be missed.
Late Tuesday afternoon I had to go to Tupelo. When my business was done, it was about dinner time. Though I wasn’t starving (thanks to the Goliath-inspired burger at lunch) I decided to go ahead and eat dinner in Tupelo so I wouldn’t be eating too late. (Somewhere in that decision was hidden a health-conscious choice.) I happened to be on the same street as Johnnie’s Drive-In, the oldest restaurant in Tupelo, so I headed that way. Johnnie’s has a history which I have mentioned before: Elvis ate there, and my mother did, too – never at the same time, as far as I know. I’ve had a Johnnie’s dough-burger before, but it had traveled far and had to be warmed up. I wanted a fresh one, and I wanted the experience. Elvis’s booth was full, but I did get the booth next to his. The dough-burger, (which features flour and water in the beef mix to extend it – similar to Corinth’s slug-burgers) was much better in person.
I had a fun discussion with Craig, the current owner’s son-in-law, who told me that the Dairy Kream just down the street was owned by another family member. I stopped there on the way out of town, because soft serve from a dairy bar seemed the right thing to do after a dough-burger. I surveyed the menu and discovered they had something called a Purple Cow. In my early days, Granny made Purple Cows by pouring Nugrape soda over vanilla ice cream (or ice milk, as she was prone to purchase). This one was a shake made from vanilla soft serve, grape soda, cherry soda, and Sprite – a different texture than Granny’s, but very similar in flavor. And a pleasant ending to a historic day of eating.