Archives for posts with tag: Mississippi

I’m told that the first years of retirement are for travel, before your body or your mind gets too weak and you just don’t feel like making the effort any more. Before I get depressed by that thought, I’m thinking back over the wonderful places I’ve been in my life and wondering which way to go this year with almost an entire year stretched before me.

One thing I’ve learned is that you don’t have to go far to find beauty, history, and interesting people and stories. Last year, way back in 2013, I explored some areas of my home state of Oklahoma that I’d never passed through in my 68 years here. I also travelled to the northwest and the southeast. Maybe this year, I’ll go northeast and southwest. Or all of them. I’ve travelled to other countries in my lifetime and have plenty of places to add to my global wish list. Right now I’m loving our country, which I can never get enough of, so I spend my cold evenings with my iPad in hand, searching maps and places, trying to narrow down where to go, knowing that new opportunities will be there as the days progress.

For your winter dreams, here are sunrises and sunsets in various places. . .

Oklahoma sunset

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Naples, Florida sunrise

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Pass Christian, Mississippi sunset

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Smokey sunrise over the Grand Canyon

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Texas sunset

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Sunrise over Depoe Bay, Oregon

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Sunset over San Francisco Bay from Oakland

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Sunset over the Grand Tetons, Wyoming

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Sunset over Nye Beach, Oregon

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And, another Oklahoma sunset to top it off. . .

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May your 2014 be filled with sunrises and sunsets in all the places you dream of.

I’m not a food editor, but it’s hard to come back from driving through the southern states of our country without acknowledging the food. I’m trying to think of another trip I’ve taken where what I ate played such an important place in the travel. Most of the time, I don’t think about it and am happy to have a good meal here and there while I take my pictures and read up on the history. In the South, the food is so tied to the history and the geography that you can’t ignore it. Besides, it’s so yummy!

Bear in mind that my friend and I weren’t looking for anything in particular, but did try to sample each place’s best. We started with our first meal on the road, looking for a catfish restaurant that had been a wow on another trip, a place off the beaten path. We looked it up on my iPad while we traveled and found that it wasn’t open for lunch, so we settled for another one that was mentioned. Nick’s was right beside the interstate, which made us a little doubtful, but there were cars and trucks and locals, which is always a good sign. Best catfish ever! And our first taste of the hushpuppies and cole slaw that were the staples of the menus from then on…

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That night in Memphis, we cruised Beale Street, looking for some of the famous barbecue. I’d asked friends, but we were so tired, we just wanted to stop. We peeked into King’s Palace Cafe, loved the music, liked the menu and tried it out. We were early and it was quiet…nice after a day of driving.

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The music was great, not so loud as to drown us out, and we visited with the singer. The fried green tomatoes were divine, the pork was melt in your mouth and the sauce was great. I forget what else was there, but it was all good. I had asked the policemen on duty which was their favorite and they diplomatically didn’t pick a favorite.

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We drove to Kentucky the next day and stopped at this little gem in Silver Point, Tennessee along the way. I’m not kidding when I say this meal was scrumptious. Absolutely perfect. I love the columns in front. Once again, there were workmen parked all over the place. I should have bought the t-shirt.

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On Sunday, we were in Owensboro, Kentucky, having slipped off the highway to find breakfast. Again, there was a group of policemen talking in the downtown and we stopped to ask them. It was Sunday morning and the whole town looked shut down, so we were very grateful to them. They sent us to Ole South Barbecue, which was stuck in the middle of a bunch of chains and near the highway and across from a mall…nothing that would have caught our eye. When we got in there, we knew it was the right place…a buffet with everything and lots of old people and large families, all local. I can’t even tell you how good the ham was, but it WAS Kentucky. The fried chicken was great because it is the South after all. And I can’t begin to tell you how many biscuits I ate on this trip. They also had Burgoo on their deli menu and I’m intrigued by Kentucky Burgoo, a soup made of whatever meats all the guests throw in. Here was my breakfast, which ended up filling me up for the whole day!

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Before I go any further, let me tell you that I don’t eat like this at home, not every day, not even very often. But I felt a deep obligation to taste every biscuit I saw…my duty to my blog readers, I’m sure. I also don’t think there is anything the people of the South can’t do with a pig…bacon, ham, pork. All delicious. Maybe it’s my Kentucky roots speaking to me. I also didn’t gain any weight on the trip because I was walking all the time.

When we got to Nashville, we couldn’t find a local restaurant in the Broadway area. Everything was some kind of chain and they charged a cover if there was music. We were just passing through and finally settled for some great homemade ice cream! There was one barbeque place that would have been perfect, but they closed at 6 on Sunday. Too bad. Oh! We did get Goo Goo Clusters, which are from Tennessee. So are Moon Pies. Junk cuisine.

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The next day we drove to Gatlinsburg, Tennessee, doorway to Great Smokey Mountain National Park. We ended up walking the main street and having corn dogs. Did I ever claim to be a gourmet? It seemed right at the time.

The next day, we left the interstate in North Carolina and traveled a back road that took us through Saluda, a tiny town that actually has a thriving artist community. One of their local festivals is Coon Dog Day. We stopped at this place and had terrific barbecue because we were still in that mode and delicious Vidalia onion slaw. I think I could make that – marinated Vidalia onions with a slaw dressing.

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In Columbia, South Carolina, we ate at the only chain on our trip, and it’s local. The country breakfast was great and the southern drawls of the friendly waitresses started our morning nicely. I guess local chains aren’t too much of a compromise, really. The name was intriguing.

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By the time we got to Charleston, it was time to start looking for seafood. Our first meal was actually in a French restaurant on Broad Street that had been recommended by a friend. I bet it’s a local favorite with familiar atmosphere and a tasty Croque Monsieur, everything at reasonable prices.

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Later, after walking around the beautiful city, we stopped for seafood at Hyman’s, a few doors from our hotel. The hype was deserved. I imagine that the lines of people were tourists, but that’s ok. I think any restaurant or business that is 5th generation family owned must have something to offer.

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After the complimentary boiled peanuts, a Southern favorite that I was tasting for the first time, I ordered one of their signature dishes, Carolina Delight, which is fried grit cakes topped with crab cakes (there were other options) and covered in sauce.

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My friend had soft shell blue crabs. Along with the ever present hush puppies were some sides to die for. I even bought their little cookbook to get the recipes. There was the red rice, a special cole slaw, and a sweet potato soufflĂ© that made us both stop and go YUM! I’ve already made it since I got home. It involves walnuts, raisins, butter, cinnamon… Suffice it to say we had a very rich meal.

Oddly, the next day, I was walking around town alone and stopped at a hot dog vendor on the street. Very friendly owners who asked where I was from. When I said Oklahoma, they immediately said, “Oklahoma State football,” which warmed this OSU grad’s heart. They were fun to talk to on the street. Very cool guys. Nothing fancy this day other than some more homemade ice cream along the way.

Oh, I didn’t mention the homemade popsicles that I saw in a couple of places. King of Pops. Look at the flavors…

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The last day in Charleston we ate breakfast at Toast. Don’t you love that name for a restaurant? It can be used so many ways. I had the special French toast that had been written up in the New York Times and it was unlike any French toast I’ve ever had – in a good way. I also snuck a bite of biscuit because, well, it was a biscuit. Delicious food and very friendly staff. Reminded me of one of my favorite places at home. I went by later and there was a line outside.

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By the time we got to Savannah, I had to eat something that wasn’t fried, even though there are hush puppies with every meal. We were invited to dinner on the river front at a place that was just casual and fun. I had very delicious and huge boiled shrimp, fresh from the sea. Of course, they were good! I’m sure all the places along there were similar, unless they were fancier.

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My next stop is just for atmosphere. This is where the local boaters from the islands around Savannah come to hang out. There was a band setting up for later. I guess there was a way to get there by car – we just boated in.

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Before we left Savannah, we grabbed just a bite at The Pirate’s House. Great place to take kids because they have a shop with every pirate thing you can imagine and there are pirates walking around to tell you the history of the place. Who doesn’t love a pirate every once in awhile?

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Turning west, we headed towards home. Driving along the Gulf coast was heartbreaking from Biloxi to Gulfport where Katrina devastated the area and I don’t know if it will ever recover. We wanted someplace by the water to eat and, after driving miles along empty beach with only driveways where homes used to be, we found this oasis in Pass Christian, Mississippi. Perfect in every way. We ate just before sunset, overlooking the boats, with a great seafood dinner. The blackened redfish was yummy, one of the night’s specials. Of course, there were the staples of hush puppies and slaw. Grits, hush puppies and slaw. You find them everywhere with lots of variations. Very, very southern.

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A walk on the beach followed dinner so I could sink my feet in the warm Gulf waters at last! The next night we had dinner on the causeway across Mobile Bay and the special was fried mullet. I hadn’t tried mullet yet, so of course…it deserved to be the all you can eat for Monday night.

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I’m starting to think I really did just eat my way across the South, but there were complimentary breakfasts in motels and snacks instead of meals and one or two meals a day sometimes. I just can’t believe how much good food we DID eat. And, just wait…

The next stop was New Orleans and what else do you need to say? We started the day at Cafe DuMonde with beignets and coffee and moved along from there. I’m familiar with New Orleans, but didn’t go to all my favorite places this time. How can you? There are so many.

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For lunch I had what may have been my favorite meal of the trip. We stopped at Pere Antoine Restaurant on Royal and had Barbeque shrimp with a special sauce and seafood gumbo. I usually go to the Gumbo Shop, but this was just incredible. The shrimp were…I’m running out of adjectives for all this food…look at them!

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We finished the day taking Muffelatas from Cafe Maspero with us. This was my father-in-law’s favorite place when he lived here and it became one of my husband’s favorites also. An Italian New Orleans sandwich, created at Central Grocery, is a true sign of the jambalaya of cultures in this city!

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After New Orleans, we were in Cajun country and ended up for breakfast at this unlikely place, recommended by our swamp guide.

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It was clean, homey, and the food was delicious. Drop biscuits instead of rolled, served by the cook herself. It was a combination gas station, convenience store, cafe near Gibson, Louisiana. The ladies were so sweet.

We still hadn’t tasted alligator. My son used to go to a place in the French Quarter, but I’m not sure if it was still there and I hadn’t looked for it. What do you do when you pass this sign outside of Lafayette, Louisiana?

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You turn in the drive and see this…

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You head further and go through these doors…

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and enjoy a delicious dinner of fried and blackened alligator and awesome boiled shrimp. I’m sure there were hushpuppies and slaw involved, but we got other vegetables and homemade rolls, too. Since it was the last night, we had key lime cheesecake that was beyond good.

So, we headed home after two weeks of eating the food of the south…ham, biscuits and more biscuits, corn bread, fried chicken, fried catfish, all styles of barbeque, hushpuppies out our ears, all kinds of slaw, shrimp every way we could, crab, grits, cheese grits, grits, okra in all forms, tomatoes fried green or fresh, barbecue, sweet potatoes, boiled peanuts, mullet, gumbo, beignets, muffalettas, alligator and homemade peach ice cream, homemade popcicles, bread pudding, and I forgot to mention that I tried boudin, a Cajun sausage, at a stand at the Tabasco store on Avery Island, Louisiana. And there was more homemade ice cream and the Goo Goo Clusters and Moon Pies. You can’t imagine how much more there was to try.

See what I mean? The South is rich in rich foods, plain foods, and plain good foods. My trip diary wouldn’t be complete if I didn’t take you on this tour. And I pay homage to the original cooks, many of them slaves, who brought these recipes with them and perfected them through the years until the food is part of the culture, part of the history, part of this beautiful region of our country. I can’t think of the South without thinking of something yummy to eat. It’s one of the unique things that keeps us coming back.

What was the first thing I ate when I got home? A hamburger! A famous Goldie’s hamburger from right here in Tulsa. Because this is definitely beef country! Try it when you pass this way…