Tupelo was not on my radar when I woke up that Monday morning. Nor was it in my weekend plans. But by the end of the day an opportunity had come our way to spend the better part of the weekend there in the All-America City. Just The Wife and I. Sans the kids. So we loaded up the truck and took off. (Not this one.)
The first meal of our whirlwind journey was the Feast for the Farmers put on by the Tupelo Main Street Association, a kick-off dinner for the Farmer’s Depot, featuring ingredients from the local farms. Waiting for us on the table were baskets of yeast rolls made by Simply Sweet by Margarete. We ended up meeting Margarete at the Farmer’s Depot the next day, and she told us they had rolled up each one by hand. Lots of work and lots of love went into those rolls, and I lost count of how many I ate.
The salad was a thick slice of St. Bethany Fresh tomato, with Ralph and Evie greens, Neon Pig house-cured bacon, and preserved grapefruit vinaigrette from Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen; slices of tiny turnips were also hanging about. The Wife is not normally someone who craves a big slice of tomato, but this one received rave reviews. I’m quite sure I’ve never had a vinaigrette with preserved grapefruit, but wow. And the bacon. Oh the bacon.
Our entree was a chicken quarter from Zion Farm, wonderfully seasoned, served on a bed of Grit Girl Black-Eyed Pea Grits flavored by Beaverdam Farm sausage. It’s still a bit tough to wrap my mind around a black-eyed pea grit, but I managed to wrap my mouth around them just fine. Native Son Farms bok choy was served alongside, under a drizzle of Neon Pig White Gold sauce.
And don’t forget dessert: Memory Orchard fresh mint pound cake with Mayhew Tomato Farm strawberries and Estes Honey. The cake had just the right amount of mint to let you know it was there, without overpowering the sweetness of the cake. But just to make sure, I may or may not have sent The Wife back for another piece. And I may or may not have eaten some of hers, too.
After dinner, the nice ladies across the table helped us pick our meals for the next day. I asked for their favorites as locals, and we got around to talking about a burger at Blue Canoe and a bread pudding made with blueberry donuts from Connie’s Fried Chicken. They had my attention.
I thought it would be a good scientific study to have the blueberry donuts in both forms, so breakfast at Connie’s was an easy decision. To get a balanced meal, we also ordered a tenderloin biscuit with gravy, and an open-faced chicken biscuit with lots more gravy. Biscuits: great. Donuts: highlight. They were a little lighter on the inside compared to cake donuts, a little crispier on the outside. The Wife called it a deep-fried blueberry muffin.
Between meals we cruised Main Street and did a little snacking with our friends at About the South, a gift shop with a great selection of gourmet food items. Those kept me busy while The Wife looks at candles and jewelry. I tried the Caramelized Onion Dip and White Bean Hummus from The Debutante Farmer, and we both got a couple of bite-sized Dinstuhl’s chocolates for the walk. That was just enough nourishment to tide us over through our visit to the King’s birthplace.
Lunch – or whatever you call a meal at 4 pm that follows breakfast – was at the Blue Canoe. I knew I would be getting a burger – the tough part was choosing. The BC burger was a traditional burger dressed (or “pimped out” as the menu said) to your heart’s desire. For a little extra, you could get it slathered with Crack Dip ( spicy sausage cheese dip). Another option was the Smash Burger, a mix of ground chuck, filet, and Benton’s Bacon which they get from the Neon Pig – I already knew that was good. I chose the Surf and Turf Burger, which mixed in a little crawfish and “love” (which the waitress said was actually cheese – and I get that). When it came, in it’s double-pattied glory, I knew I wouldn’t be able to eat it all, even that late – but what I could manage was well worth the wait.
I convinced The Wife to get the daily special, the meatloaf mac-and-cheese pot pie, but we found out it wouldn’t be ready until dinner time, so in a rush, she ordered the first thing she saw on the sandwich/entree section: the Hot Brown. And we learned something: sometimes the oh-shoot-it’s-time-to-order-and-I’m-not-ready panic selection is the right thing to do. I’m pretty sure it was the gravy that cinched it.
It was interesting that we began and ended the weekend with black-eyed peas gone wild. At Blue Canoe we got an appetizer, also recommended by the nice ladies at Feast for the Famers, called Fried Black-Eyed Peas. Served in a Mason jar with a side of sweet, chunky chow-chow, these were just crispy enough on the outside to confirm their swim in hot oil, yet didn’t come off as a seriously heavy dish. Loved it.
We topped off our time in Tupelo town with the Connie’s Blueberry Donut Bread Pudding I’d been looking forward to all day long. This concoction was served in a tall mug with a dollop of whipped cream, accented by some extra blueberries. I shared it, of course, and just to prove I can eat in moderation, I left two bites. Then I figured, my head probably won’t spin any faster if I eat another – so I left one bite for the Blue Canoe busboy.
Thanks to my Tupelo friends, old and new – we will be back, and we will come hungry.