It was so flaky, buttery and light I had to suppress a loud “mmm” sound and the urge to stash a couple more delicious biscuits in to my purse for later.The experience of eating these heavenly light brown rounds was enhanced by sitting on the elegant porch of Mississippi’s Biscuit Queen herself, Chef Regina Charboneau, in Natchez, the Biscuit Capital of the World.As a child of the South and a lifelong biscuit lover, I am saddened by the state of what most places call a biscuit—they’re too often dry, tasteless and a waste of butter. But in my passionate pursuit of biscuit perfection, I’ve been lucky enough to encounter a few gems. Here are five biscuits worth a road trip.
There just maybe isn’t a bigger little food town below the Mason-Dixon Line right now than Oxford, Mississippi. After all, this is the wee burg Southern Living dubbed “The South’s Best Food Town of 2018.” This is where James Beard Award-winning powerhouse John Currence built his empire, beginning in 1992 with City Grocery, famed for its dazzling shrimp and grits. It’s home to joints like Saint Leo, a 2017 James Beard "Best New Restaurant" semifinalist and purveyor of some of the country’s finest pizza, and chef Corbin Evans’ Oxford Canteen, beloved for gut-busting goodies like beef brisket grilled cheese.
You’ve probably heard the expression “working for peanuts.” Once considered animal fodder not fit for human consumption, the peanut is now a jewel in the crown of American culture and cuisine, and since March is National Peanut Month, we’re sharing the history of this tiny legume from “soup to nuts” as the saying goes.
Farm-to-table dining is a term most popularly used to describe restaurants that source ingredients from local or regional producers—in such relationships, the executive chef proudly sources ingredients directly from food producers (from farmers to winemakers, ranchers to cheese makers, and so on). It’s an arrangement that can yield fresh results.
Salt is the stuff of life. It infuses our oceans, which average 3.5 percent salinity. It’s in our bodies, too: a typical-sized adult is comprised of around 100 grams of sodium chloride. Of course, salt has long been used for preserving and seasoning food, but it’s responsible for more than keeping grub fresh and flavorful. Humans need to ingest salt to live, something our ancestors must have guessed; salus, the Latin word for health, originated from sal(salt). Among other bodily functions, sodium helps our muscles to contract and our blood to circulate. It’s crucial to preventing dehydration, too.
To celebrate The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel’s 125th anniversary, its historic in-house bar, The Sazerac Bar, is now serving a commemorative “Sazerac 125” cocktail, offering a few discerning guests and locals a chance to take a sip of history.
Beginning in Natchez, Mississippi and running 444 miles to Nashville, Tennessee (or vice versa), the Natchez Trace Parkway follows the historic Old Natchez Trace through three states. Initially used by Native Americans who were following the tracks of large game such as bison, the Trace became an important trail for settlers, slave traders and soldiers. Today, it makes for a gloriously scenic drive filled with opportunities to stop and sample some of the South’s best food.
The tamale really is an odd little food item. Stewed meat is wrapped in some sort of mushy corn meal and rolled up in inedible corn husks. Don’t try to eat the whole thing like a dolmathakia, the Greek delicacy of stuffed grape leaves. There are better ways to get your daily fiber allotment. But to some foodies, especially those who grew up eating tamales, they’re an object of obsession. Most folks probably associate tamales with Mexican food and those tamales usually use masa flour as the main ingredient and are served at both breakfast and dinner. In the Mississippi Delta, however, a uniquely American brand of tamales is made using cornmeal and pork, beef, chicken or turkey. These tamales are often packed by the dozen in plastic jars or coffee cans and sold on the front counter of convenience stores or gas stations.
Every state has an iconic food. Think of Maryland and your mind goes to crab cakes, Pennsylvania and it’s a juicy Philly Cheese steak, West Virginia (yes, West Virginia, hey, it’s my home state, I have to show it a little love) has pepperoni rolls, and in North Carolina, it’s barbecue. While these foods may be the first to come to mind, they’re by no means the only foods worth note. Take North Carolina, my adopted home state, as an example. Yeah, we’ve got barbecue—two styles and a dozen great places for each—but with more than 300 miles of coastline we have exceptional seafood, and every ethnic group that’s called this state home has left a greasy thumbprint on our food culture. So, if you’ve got a hankering for some of the iconic foods of North Carolina, here’s my list of where to start.
Once you pass underneath the gateway arch at the foot of Federal Hill, you’re in Providence, Rhode Island’s Little Italy. Classic red sauce restaurants—some of which date back a century—line Atwells Avenue. In between, there are Italian specialty shops where dried sausages hang in the windows while songs by old crooners are piped out into the street. There are bocce courts, and an Italianate fountain in DePasquale Square with twinkling lights hanging overhead. This time of year, there’s also a huge Christmas tree illuminating the piazza. If you can catch it during one of the season’s first snowfalls, you’re not likely to find a more magical scene.