Posts Tagged With: Tupelo Mississippi

Tupelo Time

 

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.)

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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.

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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.

Mother and Child

Mother and Child

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.

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The South in a jar?

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.

Friends of the Farmers

Friends of the Farmers

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Random Summer Eats

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.

Breakfast at the Community Market

Breakfast at the Community Market

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.

I know I've got a big mouth but...really?

I know I’ve got a big mouth but…really?

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.

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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.

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