Friday, June 1, 2012

Yankees in the South

My recent trip to Mississippi involved one good meal after another. Basically, we woke up, ate until we induced a food coma, went back to sleep, and woke up to do it all over again. This is my idea of a vacation.

I had some terrific Southern food. The best catfish I have ever had in my life was at Cock of the Walk, a dive-y spot right on the Mississippi River where everything was served in tin containers.

I don't know what it was about the fish. Normally, I find catfish pretty bland. I think it really comes down to there being a better tasting catfish in that part of the country. Their coleslaw was delicious. I normally prefer a vinegar-based slaw over one doused in mayonnaise, but this one had a nice balance of both. Their fried pickles were outstanding. I love me a fried pickle. I didn't care for the turnip greens, but that's just my aversion to their slimy texture. An added bonus is that the tin cans make the soda extra cold...which really helps in the Mississippi heat.

I was also introduced to comeback sauce, a condiment you can only find in the South apparently. It's comparable to a thousand island dressing, but the variations I tried were not as creamy. Most places put their own spin on it, so it's hard to say what's really in comeback sauce. At any rate, it's pretty tasty. They put it on everything, like these fried green tomatoes:

Fried Green Tomatoes in Comeback Sauce - Two Rivers, Canton, MS

Here's what I had after those tomatoes:
Ohhh yeaaaaa.
And here's what I had after that ribeye:
Homemade Peach Ice Cream - I will never be thin again.
My best meal in Mississippi, though, was at a new foodie establishment in the heart of downtown Jackson: Parlor Market. When I say foodie, I mean that they're putting stuff like bone marrow on the menu. The place is garnering buzz and a few local and statewide awards for best new restaurant. There aren't that many places in the area that are playing with food the way the chef at Parlor Market is. I'm really glad we got to dine there. My party went for brunch...which happened to be the very last brunch that the restaurant is offering. There simply isn't a market for brunch in the Jackson area. It's a shame because it was spectacular. 

Boiled peanuts. Pronounced Balled.

We started with another Southern staple that I'd never had before: boiled peanuts. The boiling water is seasoned with anything you can think of. Ours tasted like they'd been boiled in earthy, spicy water. The shell (you don't eat it, but I licked it because I was trying to figure out the seasoning) tasted briny and like it had been infused in oregano and bay. The peanuts themselves become slightly soft. I can envision smearing them onto a piece of toast and it being delicious.

We then had a second appetizer: warm biscuits with three different spreads. The first was a fig spread that I preferred because it had a very aromatic, nutty flavor. The second was an apricot butter that was silky smooth and slightly sweet. The third was a jelly made of the mayhaw fruit, yet another thing I had never tasted before. It was similar to a strawberry preserve but slightly sweeter. The three spreads were amazing but each person in my party sort of grabbed their favorite so there wasn't much to share.

Egg in a hole

Our third appetizer (that's right, third) was a tower of toasted French bread that had been pierced so that each piece of bread had a hole in it. What was in that hole? An egg. What was the dish called? Egg in a Hole.  What's that on the side? Comeback sauce. My mouth just watered typing about this dish. It was so unbelievably perfect--the soft, chewy bread to soak up the creaminess of the egg as you cut into it. Yum.

Brunch burger. Hence, the egg.
Parlor Market's brunch menu offered two entree choices: a burger or their chicken pot pie. Thanks for making it simple, Parlor Market. We got one of each so we could sample both. The burger looked like a challenge after all the food that came before it. It was juicy and scrumptious but I had enough on my plate with my pot pie. I offer a magnified snapshot because it was just that good.

Somehow, we made it to dessert. It didn't amaze us, but it didn't disappoint. It was a biscuit with a bunch of fruit sauce on it. Nothing spectacular, but their biscuits are nothing to turn down.

And that, friends, was the highlight of my MS food tour. Retelling it has made me relive it and now I need a nap.