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January CONTENTS 2016 • VOLUME 13 • NO. 1

features 50 An Oyster Lover’s Paradise Sample the Hangout’s Oyster Cook-off

64 A Bigger Society Join a food tour with Chef Michel Leny

58 Mississippi’s Craft Beer Learn the science, taste the art

departments 14 Living Well The benefits of super foods

42 A Day Away Ridgeland, Mississippi

18 Notables Memphis’ Jeff Johnson leads restaurant revolution

46 Greaters Goods 70 Homegrown Savory Sugar Taylor Sauce

22 Exploring Art Meet Sarah Robertson

72 Southern Harmony Rockin’ with Jason D. Williams

26 Exploring Books Cooking Hill Country Cuisine

74 Table Talk A date with Delta Bistropub

30 Into the Wild Climbing to new heights

76 In Good Spirits The Memphis Belle

34 Exploring Cuisine Southern catfish farming

78 Exploring Events

38 Exploring Destinations Craft a culinary vacation


80 Reflections Big Food



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editor’s note }


At the Table Years ago, a table made the greatest lifelong impression on me. As a teen, I found myself sitting around a table in Les Issambres, a small French coastal town. It was nearly midnight and my host family had been talking and laughing over dinner for nearly three hours. It was during that summer I saw someone eat a whole tomato like an apple. Or barbecue and grill anchovies. We drank aperitifs-and even the kids had a bit of wine with dinner. Food was central to life, not an appendage or an after thought. Putting together our annual food issue, I couldn’t help but think about how the American food scene is slowly changing. It’s exciting to hear more stories of start-ups, new trends, and micro food economies in contrast to the chemicallyladen industrial machine. Case in point: Mississippi’s craft beer industry. With the change in alcohol laws, Mississippi is playing catch up to other states who have long ago embraced microbreweries and whose work is a mixture of science and art. Before 2012, it was hard to even have a conversation about these brewing entrepreneurs. Now, we’re talking about a craft beer trail! Eric will tell you more on page 58. With the advent of aquaculture, southerner’s have enjoyed fresh catfish. While the industry has experienced peaks and valleys, the one remaining truth is nothing beats the quality. Unlike other international imports, the American

January 2016 • Vol. 13 No.1



EDITOR Karen Ott Mayer

catfish farmers hold a high production standard. Andrea gives us a closer look on page 34. Meanwhile, following our other writers could be difficult. Blair set off for the Delta while Chere takes us to the Texas Hill Country for a taste of the regional cuisine. The word innovation stuck in my mind this month. Restaurant-apreneur Jeff Johnson is taking the Memphis culinary scene into a new space, literally and figuratively. His Green Room is a new restaurant but it’s also a new concept. Check it out. If nothing else inspires you to seek a new table in 2016, this story may do it. Here’s to 2016 and the road to new tables, friends and food! Bon Appétit,


CONTRIBUTORS Jill Gleeson Charlene Oldham J. Eric Eckard Robin Gallaher Branch Devin Greaney James Richardson Cheré Coen Andrea Brown Ross Clint Kimberling Blair Jackson Adam Mitchell


2375 Memphis St. Ste 205 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 Fax 662.449.5813

ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell - 901-262-9887 Paula@DeSotoMag.com

DeSotoMagazine.com Get social with us!

on the cover Our January cover features one of thousands of delicious oysters at The Hangout Oyster Cook-Off & Craft Beer Weekend. This event showcases the talents and tastes of the best chefs from the Southeast for a decadent afternoon of oysters and spirits on the beach in beautiful Gulf Shores, AL.

©2016 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein to be reproduced in any manner. Any advertisements published in DeSoto Magazine do not constitute an endorsement of the advertiser’s services or products. DeSoto Magazine is published monthly by DeSoto Media Co. Parties i n t e re s t e d i n a d v e r t i s i n g s h o u l d email paula@desotomag.com or call 662.262-9887. Visit us online at desotomagazine.com.

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living well }

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super foods

Black Bean and Quinoa Salad

Simple is Super By Robin Gallaher Branch. Photography courtesy of foodwinethyme.com and topfoodfacts.com

Here’s a categorical statement: Diets don’t work. How many agree? Evidently 95 percent of those who have dieted do, said Blair Mize, a registered and licensed dietician/nutritionist at Schilling Nutrition Therapy, in Memphis, Tennessee. “It’s not ethical for us to prescribe diets with that failure rate,” Mize said. So what’s the alternative? Choosing foods that can do double duty, meeting our needs but adding to health--rather than just eliminating pounds. In this respect, these foods are often referred to as superfoods. Mize and her two colleagues recommend a return to

basics. They counsel clients about healthy foods, good eating habits, and recognizing the signs of hunger and fullness. They advise clients to “listen” to their bodies. “The ‘thin ideal’ is not realistic or attainable for many people,” Mize said. Instead of promoting a current weight-loss trend or “religiously counting calories and weighing ourselves, we focus DeSoto 17

on real food, what is grown or killed. But we’re realists, too; sometimes we buy prepared food,” Mize said. Fruits and vegetables are integral. “We have a little bit of fat at each meal and some carbohydrates,” she said. Fats come in natural and tasty ways like avocados, nuts, and butter. Vegetables like peas, beans, and potatoes contain carbohydrates. Whole grains abound in fiber and minerals. Quinoa (pronounced KEEN-wah) is a grain crop grown for its seeds. Consumed for thousands of years in South America, quinoa combines anti-inflammatory compounds and heart-healthy fats. Blueberries have one of the highest antioxidant capacities of all fruits, vegetables, spices, and seasonings, studies show. “Greens are a superfood. They don’t get as much media attention as goji berries, but they are local, simple and affordable. Greens are rich in micronutrients, and they are sitting on our tables. Too often, we see people over cooking and over salting greens, removing their “super-ness,” said Jason Autry, the healthy eating educator with the Germantown, Tenn. Whole Foods. When prepared in healthy ways dark leafy greens are the nutritional powerhouses of the kitchen. Low in calories and high in nutrients, greens are an excellent addition to a healthy plate. Greens can do more than double-duty for your health, they can offer multiple benefits when cooked in healthy ways. “The insoluble fiber in greens can help support healthy cholesterol levels and healthy blood pressure. Greens may help control blood sugar by slowing the absorption of carbohydrates 18 DeSoto

into the bloodstream after meals. Greens, particularly kale and collards, are good sources of calcium, which is needed for strong bones and teeth, and they are an excellent source of the powerful antioxidants vitamin C, lutein and zeaxanthin,” added Autry. According to a study in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health and cited by Time magazine online, eating seven or more servings of fruits and vegetables a day “can lower your risk of dying by an astonishing 42 percent.” The study included this additional good news: People who ate these seven or more servings daily “reduced the risk of dying from cancer by 25 percent and heart disease by 31percent.” Mize tells of a client she calls Mary, a professional woman in her 30’s. Mary had tried diets that restricted calories. She followed them faithfully during the day but was ravenous when she came home at night. She raided the cupboards and binged. This pattern discouraged her. “She needed to eat more throughout the day,” Mize said. “We worked on getting her balanced meals and snacks. When she got home, she didn’t binge.” Mary is thrilled with her progress. “She has more peace and freedom,” Mize said. Mize calls her nutrition advice “not too complicated. It’s basic. It’s eating the way your grandparents and parents ate.” “Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program that Works.” By Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. www.nutritionleslie.com

Easy “Have It Your Way” Chili by Blair Mize Ingredients 1 pound ground beef, turkey, venison, OR veggie crumbles (the protein of your choice) 8-ounce can tomato sauce 1 can Rotel tomatoes with peppers (10 oz) 1 can red beans (16 oz), drained & rinsed 1 can navy beans (16 oz), drained & rinsed 1 can kidney beans (16 oz), drained & rinsed 1 can pinto beans (16 oz), drained & rinsed 1 cup water 1 box 2 Alarm Chili Kit (see notes below) Add salt to taste. Personally, I’ve never used the whole packet. Add red pepper to taste. Mild: Skip the red pepper. Medium: Use 1/3 to 1/2 of the packet. Hot: Use at least 1/2 of the packet. Super spicy: Use the whole packet. Omit masa (unless the chili needs to be thickened). Directions 1. In large pot, brown ground beef. Drain if needed. 2. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for five to 10 minutes. 3. Top with cheese, sour cream, avocado, or other toppings of your choice. 4. This recipe makes quite a bit of chili. Freeze the leftovers. The chili will taste even better the next day.

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notables } jeff johnson

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Pop-up Talent

Memphis Chef Jeff Johnson, Innovator & Visionary By Devin Greaney. Photography courtesy of Devin Greaney and The Memphis Flyer

Even the optimistic may have to wonder if the southwest corner of Overton Park and Willett has been hexed, watching as restaurants have come and gone from the building. New owner Jeff Johnson has plenty of reminders of the past eateries, but this innovative chef isn’t spooked. In fact, he’s changing the very idea of dining, food and restaurants while standing amidst construction at the site of his future Green Room.

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Johnson knows Memphians’ palates. He was a 10-year employee of Newby’s, a bar/restaurant on Highland, then bought Sauces on Main Street just south of Union in 2008 and operated it for about a year. Now his company, Jeff Johnson Restaurant Group, is changing the culinary landscape, having opened the Parish Grocery Food Truck, Agave Maria, Local Restaurant, Oshi Burger Bar and Main Street Catering to the city. He is also consulting with the owners of the old Newby’s who are in the process of bringing the University of Memphis hangout back to life for a new generation of Tigers. Just pondering how many restaurants and customers he needs to keep happy equals a workload that makes him sound as much like a server on a busy Saturday night as an entrepreneur. “Perhaps ignorance is bliss. Maybe if I really knew what I was doing I’d be freaking out and having sleepless nights!” Cleaning out the place at Overton Park and Evergreen, they found the Evergreen Grill’s paperwork from 2012. Evergreen replaced the Pizze Stone and their name is still scratched into the cement outside. It was preceded by Roustica, which was preceded by Marena’s Gerani, which was originally under a new owner and just named “Marena’s” which opened in 1991 serving Middle Eastern food. The handpainted wall art and the Mezuzah in the door frame from Marena’s still graces the walls. There is a charm to the building which opened in 1922 and a lot of the charm exudes from the neighborhood that surrounds it. Next door in the same building is Evergreen Yoga, a fixture for almost a decade. Almost directly across the street is a classic brick apartment building and everything from bungalows to near mansions are within walking distance. That design started coming back in the 1990s with the terms “smart growth” or “new urbanism.” Whatever the vogue term, Johnson’s concept is newer. This new restaurant will serve a rotating cuisine. The menu will be like the weather--Don’t like the flavor? Give it a few weeks and it will change. “One month we may be featuring our take on Indian Cuisine. Then let’s say a weekend a chef is visiting from New York and we serve his food. We’re having fun and putting our spin on it.” 22 DeSoto

In addition to the pop-up restaurant concept, the facility may be used for receptions, whiskey tasting or other events. He says the concept of the pop-up restaurant is not new to the area, but he is not aware of a place designed specifically for such a venue.   Johnson hopes to open in January but that is preliminary he says--as he surveys the restaurant moving through the building. The new sinks have just come and are being put together but cook José Reyes is already using the kitchen for one of Johnson’s other places, Local. Reyes has worked with him since he bought Sauces.   Though nothing structurally will be done to the building, the 1990’s handpainted wall art and outdoor awning will be replaced and a few broken ceiling tiles reveal the old high ceilings from the pre air conditioner days. He walks through the restaurant which still needs work. “No pictures of me today!” he says in his well-worn blue sweatshirt. “We’re going to put a new coat of paint on it. Dining is theater and totally sensory and when you keep the same thing as the restaurant before, it just kind of lacks.”   His first pop-up idea starts with the French. “We’re talking about a French brasserie for the first pop-up. I love the idea. It’s classic but it also brings some new school ideas to traditional ways of cooking and I think it will be fun and well received.” Johnson chose the name the Green Room because “that’s the backstage area where the actors are taken care of, welcomed and accommodated.” He almost used the name for his restaurant Local, but changed his mind at the last minute. Now that a place in the Evergreen neighborhood became available, it was a logical choice.   With so many places in downtown, midtown and on wheels, Johnson is bullish about the future of Memphis. Construction on the Crosstown Concourse is happening down the street and he’s happy about all the new customers that will come to the area. And his final word? “As for the future there’s nothing set in stone. It’s really exciting for Memphis and the restaurant scene.”


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exploring art } sarah robertson

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Boat Pond - Central Park

A Painted Passion Story and Photography by James Richardson

According to Sarah Robertson, her artistic intentions can be summed up by Aristotle who said, “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inward significance.” That statement has served her well in the 10 years she has been publicly selling her artwork. But she has been painting longer than that. “Growing up, my mom painted, so I was around that a good bit. She has always been a huge cheerleader for me. So it all goes back to Mom. Both my Mom and my sister paint. We do the Double Decker Festival in Oxford every year.”

Robertson’s work appears in private and public collections throughout the country. Her subject matter focuses on what she knows best - works of various religious themes and landscapes of the American South. “A lot of my ideas come from what I know. I grew up in Oxford and we were in different rural parts of Mississippi, visiting family and that sort of thing. The Mississippi Delta. DeSoto 25

Proud and Humble

Southern people. It all interested me so much. Southern people are so strong.” For those reasons, much of her work involves pastoral scenes, florals, and Southern scenes. Her primary medium is acrylics on canvas. “I guess my style is impressionistic with a lot of texture. There are probably about six different layers that go into the process. Most of my work is done with a painting knife. That’s the fun part. The technique is something I experimented 26 DeSoto

with. I like the texture that the pallet knife gives.” While the South has played a large role in her work, living in a completely different landscape inspired her as well. “Traveling has been a big influence. My husband worked for Pfizer a few years back and we actually lived in New York City while the boys were little. And we weren’t too far from Central Park. When I would meet people in New York, they could tell by my accent that I was from the South. They would

say that they could always tell a Southerner because the Southern people were the ones that wanted to be outside.” She and her boys would spend a lot of time in Central Park. Hence, some of her artwork features the major green space in New York. “We also lived in the Midtown area here in a tiny apartment. Our boys and I were always trying to get outside and we were lucky that our apartment had some green space.” Robertson’s background is in interior design, and she had painted while her children were growing up. “I was at home and we had three boys. When they were younger, of course, I painted during the day while they were in school.” But now her boys are older and all drive. “My family is very easy-going. My boys don’t complain, even when I am painting and not cooking a fine dinner. Now, they are so good...they help me deliver my artwork. Even my son that is in Alabama. I do have a gallery in Atlanta and he is good to take a load in that direction.” Several galleries across the Southeast represent Robertson. “I first started selling here at the house. People were coming to the house more and more often, so I had to find another place for them to see my work. The first place I touched base with was Palladio Antiques in the Midtown area. From that people have contacted me. I feel very privileged. It is amazing that it turned out this way.”    Her artwork can also be seen at at the Huff Harrington Fine Art in Atlanta, Ga., Bella Vita in Collierville, Tenn., the Blu D’or in Memphis and Jonesboro, Ark., and at the Atelier Gallery in Charleston, South Carolina. She shows annually in Atlanta at the Trinity School, which is by invitationonly for about 350 artists. “It is the end of January and the first week of February. So, my husband and I will take a U-Haul there. My mother and sister also participate in that show.” Robertson paints from her studio. “The creative process takes place here in my studio, but the mental part is half the battle -- getting my mind made up to what I want to do. Then I come in here and paint. I have about 60 blank canvasses in our garage that I have to work on. Better get busy.”

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exploring books} hill country cuisineÂ

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Chef Ross Burtwell

By Cheré Coen. Photography courtesy of Adam Mitchell and whatareyoudrinking.net

Chef Ross Burtwell is the quintessential Texan chef, having spent his career in Texan kitchens before purchasing the Cotton Gin Restaurant and Lodging outside of Fredericksburg, Texas. Today, rustic rooms at the Cotton Gin Village are still available for overnight getaways but Burtwell reorganized the restaurant into the elegant Cabernet Grill, which TripAdvisor ranked one of the best in the nation in 2008 and OpenTable included in its top 100 in 2012.    Visitors often come to relax in the 19th century log cabins furnished with rustic accessories and log-burning fireplaces, or watch the sun set in rocking chairs amidst Hill Country native plants. And Burtwell’s restaurant, which reflects the Hill Country ambiance and history in his cuisine, is only a short walk away. The Cabernet Grill utilizes local products and a 100

percent Texas wine list. Because he has established what is known as “Hill Country Cuisine,” Burtwell has also published a cookbook aptly titled “Texas Hill Country Cuisine: Flavors From the Cabernet Grill Texas Wine Country Restaurant,” that marries his recipes with gorgeous photographs and information on local producers. “Most local cuisines are developed based on what foods grow best or is most plentifully sourced from that particular area, and the Texas Hill country is no different in that respect,” Burtwell wrote us by email due to a chef ’s busy schedule. “Game such as venison, wild boar, quail and turkey are plentiful and used often. Texas has long been known for cattle DeSoto 29

and we do indeed love our beef. Both goats and lamb do well here as well and while limited in use, you will find many a recipe using either. Hill Country farmers produce a wide variety of fruits, vegetables and nuts such as peaches, melons, tomatoes, squash and pecans that keep a Hill Country pantry well stocked and varied.” But what makes the Texas Hill Country cuisine unique, Burtwell wrote, is its collection of people and cultures. “The hill country is truly a melting pot of people, cultures and cuisines,” he explained. I think of it as a long-simmered stew.” He explains that the foundation combined the indigenous peoples from the area and the early European settlers, both German and Czech, who brought their own cuisines with them and adapted them to what was available. “Add in a bit of Texas cowboy cooking and chuckwagon favorites to the mix. Of course Spanish cuisine with our proximity to Mexico is introduced as well as a bit of spice from New Mexico. Stir that all up with a bit of Cajun or Creole influences and you have what has become a Texas Hill Country style of cooking. When you take all these influences together and place them in the hands of talented folks such as restaurant chefs, artisan cheese makers or bread bakers as well as the emerging Texas winemakers and we find that Hill Country cuisine is still defining itself in a most delicious way!” Some of his favorite local flavors are Fredericksburg peaches (“There are simply no better peaches grown anywhere, sweet, plump, juicy and flavorful.”); Hill Country pecans from San Saba, Texas; lavender from Becker Vineyards, which hosts a lavender festival every year and offers cooking demonstrations; and oak smoke from Hill Country trees (“Nothing like the taste of true Hill Country smoked beef brisket to make any Texan feel at home.”). Of course Texas wines are included, with the Hill Country being one of the largest and fastest growing wine producing regions in the country. “It took awhile for Texas grape growers and winemakers to figure out what grapes grew best here in Texas with our varied and often hot climate,” Burtwell explained. “While there are exceptions to the rule, varietals which California is known for such as merlot, pinot noir or chardonnay simply are not as well suited here. I have found the most outstanding wines are being produced with grapes better suited for Southern climates: tempranillo, sangiovese, viognier, montepulciano and vermentino, to name a few.” 30 DeSoto

These Texas wines are winning a great deal of awards presently at wine competitions and are popular with his restaurant patrons. Burtwell incorporates many of these wines in his cuisine. “I love using wine for cooking, especially for long slow braises of hearty meats that can really develop complex flavors,” he told us. “Be it a wild boar stew with porcini mushrooms and malbec or pork shoulder with rhubarb and Texas port. I also like to use wine for quick deglazing of a sauté pan after searing some Texas shrimp. Toss in a little butter, shallots and herbs like Texas tarragon or rosemary and you have instant sauce.” Burtwell’s cookbook is chock full of delicious recipes, such as Texas tarragon shrimp scampi with jalapeno three-cheese grits, rosemary grilled and malbec-braised Dorper lamb; Texas rabbit cakes with Rio Red grapefruit beurre blanc, scallion coulis and radish slaw; and, of course, a Fredericksburg honey-lavender peach crisp. “Simply put, the Texas Hill Country — unlike many areas — is not limited to a handful of culinary treasures from which to choose from,” Burtwell explained. “We have an exceptional array of food, wine and the skilled artisans to breathe passion into the cuisine we produce.” DeSoto 31

into the wild } rock climbing gyms

Robert Foster

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p o T e h t g in Reach By Jill Gleeson. Photography courtesy of High Point Climbing and Fitness

It’s just like climbing a ladder you tell yourself as you place your foot carefully on the first hold and reach upward, grabbing over your head toward the next. You know you’re safe – the harness sitting snug around your waist and looping between your legs is attached to an auto-belay rope. If you take a tumble it will slow your fall, depositing you gently on the ground. But it’s one thing knowing and another believing and even though you’ve climbed a few times before you’re a little nervous. DeSoto 33

That feeling quickly fades as you ascend the wall, which is like nothing else you’ve ever seen. It’s made of some kind of super-strong transparent material, nifty enough, but what really amazes is that it’s set outdoors, right in the middle of Chattanooga. As you ascend it, 20 feet, then 30, and still higher, you stop here and there to admire the view. Broad Street stretches behind you, and the Tennessee Aquarium is just around the corner. With the sun shining on your back and a breeze ruffling your hair, you reach the end of your journey. You ring the little bell at the top of the wall signifying your triumph and rappel back to earth. Upon its debut two years ago, the downtown High Point Climbing and Fitness garnered much love from the press and passers-by alike for the ingenious transparent climbing panels – LED-lighted at night for extra fun – that rise some 60 feet up the edifice of the parking garage High Point is tucked beneath. But the gym, which “Climbing Magazine” called “the country’s coolest,” is more than its exterior. With a jawdropping 30,000 square feet of climbing space, it truly offers something for everyone according to owner John Wiygul. “When you enter the facility you’ll probably notice our auto belay devices,” he said. “We have more than 38 of them, enabling climbers to climb without having to tie a knot or use a partner to belay them. As you walk further into High Point the walls become taller and more challenging. During construction we dug a 16-and-a-half-foot pit underneath the parking garage, which allows us to offer 40 vertical feet of climbing, a must for the more experienced climbers. The facility caters to beginners 34 DeSoto

all the way up to professional rock climbers training for the next outdoor climbing route.” In addition, High Point features two large bouldering areas, lead climbing, top roping, weight and aerobic rooms, yoga and spin classes, a Kid Zone and a climbing school that serves up classes, coaching and guiding services. It’s a dazzling array of offerings, but there is more. Last August Wiygul and his partner bought Urban Rocks in Chattanooga, rebranding it High Point Riverside and giving High Point members access to another 10,000 feet of climbing space. Come spring the company will expand to Alabama with the opening of High Point Birmingham, which will boast a stunning 52 feet of vertical height in a roughly 35,000-square-foot facility. If that seems like a whole lot of climbing space within a relatively small radius, consider that climbing is – pardon the pun – a sport on the rise. At the end of 2014, there were 353 climbing gyms in the United States, according to the “Climbing Business Journal,” with 29 built that year. The publication is expecting a 15 percent jump in facilities when it tallies figures for last year. “Climbing is gaining popularity because great quality climbing gyms are being built,” Wiygul noted. “Climbing facilities allow folks to learn the sport of climbing in a convenient, controlled location.  High schools and colleges now have climbing teams. There are even bids for climbing to be in the Olympics. But almost half our members are families. Climbing is fun for everyone!” For more information, visit highpointclimbing.com

Other Gyms Where You Can Get Your Climb On Little Rock Climbing Center Located in Arkansas’ capital, Little Rock Climbing Center features more than 5,000 feet of 30-foot climbing walls, including 20 top-rope belay stations and a lead climbing area. There are also 10 auto-belay stations, great for beginners, that don’t require a partner or special training to use and three bouldering walls with multiple angles to sharpen skills. Little Rock Climbing is open seven days a week and offers gear rentals and a variety of classes. Prices vary; visit www.littlerockclimbingcenter.com or phone 501-227-9500 for more information.

ClimBridges There isn’t much indoor climbing to be had in Memphis, but three or four times a week the non-profit youth organization BRIDGES opens up the 1400-square-foot wall in their center to the general public. At 30 feet tall, it features both auto-belay and top rope climbing. In addition to regularly setting new routes, the staff occasionally holds workshops on topics like climbing knots. Prices vary from $10 for a single pass to $65 for a 10-punch membership. For more information, visit facebook.com/ Teambridgesclimbing.

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exploring cuisine } catfish farms

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Farming Filets By Andrea Brown Ross. Photography courtesy of The Catfish Institute of America and Charlie Godbold, Godbold & Company Photography

   Long considered a favorite in the southern diet, the catfish filet is being rediscovered as a healthy option, as it evolves from the long-time fried favorite to a healthier contemporary cuisine. “Many people probably have fond memories, like myself, of fishing with their grandfather with a pole with maybe some chicken gizzards or livers. Part of the fun of fishing was eating what you caught. Catfish have long been a staple in the southern diet, particularly fried catfish. However, people today are expanding their catfish palate,” said Jeremy Robbins, vice president of The Catfish Institute, in Jackson, Mississippi.   When one goes fishing, it may seem like an eternity before the fish bite, but the lengthy process to raising commercial catfish helps guarantee a tasty and healthy option. “During the 1950s when the southern farmer looked for ways to diversify their row crop, the concept of aquaculture materialized. It can be considered a long-term investment as it typically takes 18

to 24 months before the catfish are food size. Nevertheless, the majority of our seafood is farm raised fish,” explained Robbins. Approximately 350 million pounds are produced annually in the U.S. with catfish being the single largest produced species grown in aquaculture. Mississippi leads the nation in total sales and the number of acres in catfish production. Undeniably, there are noticeable differences between the taste of farm raised fish and wild fish.    “With farm raised fish, their diet is the biggest factor in flavor distinction. They are not bottom feeders. They are top feeders, eating grain based pellets off the top of the pond.”   In addition, there are health benefits associated with eating catfish. “Catfish are an excellent low-fat protein source. DeSoto 37

Bill Battle, owner of Pride of the Pond

They are safe to eat everyday with no limits on intakes, even for children and pregnant women. Plus, there is basically zero percent mercury contamination,” Robbins said. Bill Battle, owner of Pride of the Pond in Tunica, Miss, offered a similar opinion. “Sometimes fish can taste muddy, or have a pond, or chemical taste. Our fish are grain fed with no antibiotics or hormones. We even use local farmers who help produce some of our feed. This way we are confident about the integrity of our products. As the industry prepares for USDA regulations in upcoming months, we feel confident we can meet the standards,” he said. Battle explained the importance of flavor when determining the appropriate time to harvest catfish. Processing over 200,000 fish a week, the ponds are in various growth cycles. “We pump fresh water into our ponds each year as the algae growth can affect the taste. We then have multiple flavorings before we begin processing. We have a lady at the plant whose job it is to sample the fish. Everyday she samples fish from the various ponds. She will even sample fish from the same pond multiple times as the fish go through the harvesting process and are prepared to be shipped out. If she is sick or has a cold, we then use multiple employees to ensure our fish are of the highest quality,” he said. Battle explains the industry has a standard flavor profile. “We follow a flavor profile at our farm. We then nuanced that profile to meet the demands of the approximately 50 percent of consumers who have highly sensitive taste buds. We feel it’s the best in the industry,” described Battle. Battle explained the latest cooking trends with catfish. “It’s more than just frying catfish. Catfish can pick up the flavor of whatever you cook it with. We are harvesting fish 38 DeSoto

specifically for grilling and sautéing, and running that bigger fish filet through a specific machine. We are essentially deep skinning the filet which takes out that strong taste. Because there is less fat on the fish, it stays together better on the grill,” he explained. Mississippi, Alabama, and Arkansas are the largest aquaculture providers, in that order. “We are fortunate in this area to have easily accessible dining options for farm-raised fish. The soil in this area is conducive to retaining moisture. We have a sustainable atmosphere for the aquaculture system, just like other types of farming. In addition, these farms also benefit local economies as they provide jobs,” commented Robbins. For those who want the ease of ordering fish without having to bait a hook, or grabble in Mississippi’s muddy waters, they are in luck.   “We do sell directly to the public out the company’s back door. We also supply fish to wholesale restaurant suppliers and work specifically with some restaurants, such as Middendorfs in Akers, La. on particular cuts of fish. Consumers should feel comfortable asking their restaurant servers where their food came from,” said Battle. For fish foodies in this region, they will be fortunate to have family-owned farm to market choices. The famous Mark Twain is credited for saying, “The catfish is a plenty good enough fish for anyone.” With all the cooking options and health benefits to eating catfish, who could disagree?

To learn about farm raised catfish and recipes, visit www.uscatfish.com. To learn more about purchasing local farm raised catfish, visit www.prideofthepond.com or find them on Facebook.

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exploring destinations } southern culinary schools

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L’École Culinaire, Memphis

Blackberry Farm, Walland, TN

Cook Away! By Karen Ott Mayer. Photography courtesy of Karen Ott Mayer and Blackberry Farm

Lately, it seems many good vacations start in the kitchen these days. While that may not seem like the most exotic locale, it wholly depends on perspective. What if that kitchen window looked out upon the French countryside or an East Tennessee mountain range? Traveling for strictly pleasure still ranks high on many lists, but more seasoned travelers seek places that compliment an existing hobby or interest. And for many, food tops the list. Combine an amateur foodie interest with a culinary school and many a traveler comes home with more than a sunburn. And the best part? A culinary experience can take up only a few hours or can be the entire focal point of a trip.

If paying thousands of dollars or traveling far seems too risky for the culinary newcomer, the good news is local culinary schools like L’ecole Culinaire located in Memphis, Tennessee, St. Louis, Missouri and Kansas City, Missouri offer the novice a good entreé to formal culinary training. “Unlike some cooking classes, here it’s all hands on. You make everything under the direction of a chef instructor DeSoto 41

L’École Culinaire

who takes you step by step through everything,” said Candice Baxter, event coordinator and adjunct instructor at L’Ecole Culinaire Memphis. Wanna-be chefs can get their feet wet with an array of cooking classes from knife basics to Sushi 101. Even children can get a taste with the school’s destination field trips during which kids take a 30-minute tour and sample the chef ’s fare. When ready to travel, it’s easy to find culinary vacations and destinations of all sorts. Until then, sample a few of these ideas to get started.

could desire. Covering 9,200 acres of the Smoky Mountains, Blackberry Farm combines highly-tailored culinary experiences that move way beyond the kitchen--and to the heart of a guest’s desire. The Field School led by Jeff Ross can lead a guest to the garden and through all manner of growing talks. Otherwise, join a class on just about anything tied to the Farmstead from making butter to observing a cooking demonstration or baking bread. With an on-site brewery and culinary artisans, it’s only a matter of making a choice. “Nothing is beyond a guest’s request. We’ll create it,” said Sarah Chabot, director of marketing. www.blackberryfarm.com

The Culinary Institute of America

It’s hard not to look straight South to New Orleans and the surrounding areas when talking about food. With plenty of culinary destinations and the cross between cajun and creole styles, there’s plenty to learn.

With locations in St. Helena, Calif., Hyde Park, N.Y., and San Antonio, The Culinary Institute of America makes it geographically possible to reach one of their sites, no matter where you live. San Antonio’s school sits in the heart of the growing historic Pearl Brewery District filled with shopping, eating and entertaining. Their student-run NAO Latin Gastro Bar offers an exciting chance to see learning in action. For those interested in spending time wearing an apron, the Saturday Kitchens program run the gamut from wine to breads. www.ciachef.edu

Blackberry Farm, Tennessee

It’s just about as upscale epicurean as any premier chef

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Langlois, New Orleans

Named after Madame Langlois the purported “Mother of Creole cuisine”, Langlois also taught the first cooking class in North America. Today, Langlois feels more like a large family dinner than a restaurant. With seating maxed at 20 and with a highly-interactive dinner experience, guests will feel like they’ve participated in a cooking class instead of dinner. But if that leaves you craving more, Langlois does host private cooking classes as well. langloisnola.com

Blackberry Farm

Louisiana Culinary Institute, Baton Rouge An award-winning culinary school, LCI offers Leisure Classes, a way for those looking to hone their skills to enjoy short courses on everything from Italian pastry basics to low country cuisine. lci.edu

Closer to home once again, L’Ecole Culinaire Memphis brings cajun to the local tables with their 2016 Big Easy Cajun Classics class. Guests can learn the art of roux making over a three-course meal and wine. Finding the ideal destination in 2016 for yourself, friends or even kids may only be as far as the kitchen. Whether it’s at home or where gastronomic geniuses gather, culinary escapes aren’t an end, but rather the introduction to a whole new world of travel.

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a day away } ridgeland, mississippi

Ridgeland, Mississippi

t or 9:00 Breakfast at Anot her Broken Egg. Whether you are in the mood for swee dict , savory it is easy to find something on their large menu. Order a specialty bene unique omelet, blackber ry grits or cinnamon roll french toast. , Jackson 10:00 Ridgeland is known for wonderful shopping. Renaissance at C olony Park latest Street District or Township at C olony Park offer the best home decor, the fashions, jewe lry, accessor ies and vintage finds. ect spot 1:00 Fresh ingredients and authentic food and drinks make Sombra the perf huev os for lunch. Favorites include black bean and goat cheese tamales, fish taco s and ranchero s with made-fr om-scratch corn and f lour tort illas. ld of 2:00 Tour the Mississippi Crafts Center. For 41 years the Craftsmens Gui quilts and Mississippi has been promoting regional crafts. From trad itional pieces like calendar so baskets to modern works made of clay and fused glass. Be sure to check the you can catch an arti st demonstration. takes you 3:00 Take a ride along the Natchez Trace Parkway. This 444-mile long road can enjoy through Tennessee, Mississippi and Alabama. Mot orists, bikers and hikers the beautiful scenery year round. l River 4:00 Visit Ross Bar nett Reservoir. Formed in 1965 by impoundi ng the Pear ting, between Mad ison and Rankin counties, the reservoir is an outdoor retreat. Boa ors visit saili ng, water spor ts, camping and fishing are just a few activities that bring to this beautiful area. st steaks 6:00 Dinner at Shapley’s. For 25 years they have been serving some of fine to and seaf ood in the area. Enjoy a delicious filet , ribeye or porterhouse cooked perfection alongside roasted new potatoes or creamed spinach au grat in.

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For more information:

Another Broken Egg

visitridgeland.com anotherbrokenegg.com renaissanceatcolonypark.com thetownship.com sombramexicankitchen.com craftsmenguildofms.org scenictrace.com therez.ms.gov shapleysrestaurant.com

Renaissance at Colony Park

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2016 Ridgeland Events Ridgeland Fine Arts Festival April 2 - 3 Renaissance at Colony Park Enjoy a weekend of events that showcase some of America’s finest artists. Chosen by a panel of independent jurors, selected media include clay, drawing/pastels, fiber, glass, jewelry, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and wood. Santé South Wine Festival April 2 Renaissance at Colony Park 7:30 pm - 10:00 pm Santé South Wine Festival is a destination event and international showcase of the world’s premier wines and some of Mississippi’s most succulent culinary delights. The festival benefits the Alzheimer’s Association® Mississippi Chapter. Natchez Trace Century Ride May 7 Old Trace Park Go the distance this spring at the Natchez Trace Century Ride in Ridgeland and enjoy a scenic bike ride through the beautiful countryside in Madison and Rankin counties, then finish up on the historic Natchez Trace Parkway. Dragon Boat Regatta May 21 Ross Barnett Reservoir at Old Trace Park 9:00 am - 4:00 pm Teams of 20 will work together in the brightly colored dragon boats to make it to the finish line. Heatwave Classic Triathlon June 4 This year’s race will consist of a half-mile swim in the Ross Barnett Reservoir, a 24.5 mile bike ride along the historic Natchez Trace Parkway and a 10K run. Euro Fest Car & Motorcycle Show October 1 Renaissance at Colony Park 10:00am - 6:00pm Stroll around the Renaissance and view gorgeous autos and motorcycles. For European auto enthusiasts, this is a wonderful opportunity to enjoy the beauty of British, Italian, German, and many other European vehicles. 46 DeSoto

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greater goods } serving pieces and platters

Serving Pieces and Platters

Blessing Ladle $37.45 The Blue Olive 210 E Commerce Street # 4 Hernando, MS 662-449-1520

Coontown Pottery Mississippi Platter $60 Cynthia’s Boutique 2529 Caffey Street Hernando, MS 662-469-9026

Serving pieces and cheese knives $32 The Square Cupboard 328 W Commerce Street Hernando, MS 662-449-2686 Arthur Court Serving pieces $35 Bon Von 214 W Center Street Hernando, MS 662-429-5266

Mud Pie eat board $35 Merry Magnolia 194 E Military Rd. Marion, AR 870-739-5579

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Three E Designs Pottery $49 Paisley Pineapple 6542 Goodman Road Olive Branch, MS 662-895-2111

greater goods } grills and smokers

Grills and Smokers Chef’s Delight Hardwood Charcoal $10. Mojobricks Bar-B-Cubes $9 Red Square Market 427 E Commerce Street Hernando, MS 662-449-3311 Uncle Pookie Drum Smoker Made in Southaven, MS $375 The Butcher’s Block 5960 Getwell Rd #122 Southaven, MS 662-874-6966

Kamado Joe Ceramic Grills Quality Landscapes and Garden Center 5845 Goodman Road Olive Branch, MS 662-342-2815 Grilla Pellet Smoker-Grill Red Square Market 427 E Commerce Street Hernando, MS 662-449-3311 Big Green Egg Products Complete Home Center 32 E Commerce Street Hernando, MS 662-429-0400

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greater goods } cold weather warmth

Cold weather Warmth

Duvet Down Jacket $86. Hats $24. Center Stage Fashions 324 W. Commerce Street Hernando, MS 662-429-5288

Head and Ear Warmer $15 Paisley Pineapple 6542 Goodman Road Olive Branch, MS 662-895-2111

Scarves $12 The Bunker Boutiue 2631 McIngvale Suite #106 Hernando, MS Men’s Southern Marsh 662-469-4400 Pile Pullover $99 SoCo 2521 Caffey Street Hernando, MS 662-298-3493 Vera Bradley Cozy Booties $48 The Pink Zinnia 134 West Commerce Street Hernando, MS 662-449-5533

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Beanies $35 Merry Magnolia 194 E Military Rd. Marion, AR 870-739-5579

Men’s Drake Fur Aviator Hat $30 The Bunker Boutiue 2631 McIngvale Suite #106 Hernando, MS 662-470-4843

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By Charlene Oldham. Photography by Adam Mitchell

Of the more than 57,000 oysters consumed at the 2015 Hangout Oyster Cook-Off & Craft Beer Weekend, executive chef Ryan Bell and his team from Hal & Mal’s shucked around 1,100 themselves. Still, Bell preaches patience when it comes to preparing oysters, whether in a home kitchen or in a highvolume competition. DeSoto 53

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“Too many times I have seen people rush through shucking and completely demolish the delicate oyster itself. This is a marathon in these types of events,” he said. “It’s best to take your time and pace yourself.” The strategy helped make the Jackson, Miss., restaurant one of the winners of that marathon. Bell and his team took home the Hangout Oyster CookOff’s chef ’s choice award. But participants say the cook-off is more about culinary camaraderie than competition, even though it’s grown to be one of the largest food events in the region. “If I had to find one thing that gave me an edge, it would have been the help I received from a couple of local culinary students who were walking around the grounds and Devin Wellborn, a member of the Signa’s Grille team who came over last minute when a couple of guys were forced to back out of the weekend,” Bell said. “Devin’s help was priceless and there are not enough thanks in the world.” The Hangout Oyster Cook-Off & Craft Beer Weekend drew more than 40 restaurants, 18 breweries, 13 celebrity chefs and a host of other food and beverage purveyors to Gulf Shores, Ala., on Nov. 6 and 7, where thousands of foodies gathered to sample and slurp beers, bloody marys and, of course, oysters. Prizes and bragging rights went to an overall winner, a chef ’s choice winner, and a people’s choice winner as well as winners in three individual categories – raw, Rockefeller and Cajun — according to Sean O’Connell, one event organizer. Hal & Mal’s was chosen as the chef ’s choice winner by a panel of critically-acclaimed chefs, while the people’s choice was selected by cook-off attendees. Other prizes were awarded by a juried competition, administered by the Kansas City Barbeque Society, in which celebrity chefs, guest judges and master judges from the barbeque society rated oysters based on flavor, presentation and creativity in a double blind taste test. O’Connell adds the cook-off has become much larger and more diverse since its beginnings. “The event was started in 2009 by the Hangout Restaurant as a way to celebrate great restaurants, chefs and oysters from the Gulf Coast. Over time, the event has evolved into a national food event,” said O’Connell, who also serves as director for DeSoto 55

Publisher, Adam Mitchell with a large oyster

Outdoor stage at the Hangout in Gulf Shores, AL

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the Hangout Music Festival. “This year, we expanded the event to include the North American Oyster Showcase so attendees could try the best raw oyster from across the continent.”    This year’s cook-off and craft beer weekend also featured a beer specially brewed for the event. Four Alabama craft breweries came together to conceptualize the beer, Hoptub Bath Machine, at the Oskar Blues Brewery facility in Brevard, N.C. Although Oskar Blues is headquartered in Colorado, it was founded by Alabama native Dale Katechis more than a decade ago. Since then, many Alabama brewers have followed in his footsteps, and the collaborative effort was a great way to share ideas and shine a spotlight on the state’s burgeoning craft beer industry, according to Lauren McCurdy, head of marketing at Good People Brewing in Birmingham. “The collaboration process was a lot of fun,” she said. “Each brewery got to pitch  ideas for the direction of the beer. Oskar Blues was a great host. They were so kind to take time out of their busy brewing schedule to allow the participating breweries to come to the brewery and help out.” The second day of the event featured workshops by celebrity chefs including Jay D. Ducote and Philip “Ippy” Aiona, who both made names for themselves on the reality show Food Network Star, but brought unique regional takes to their workshops. “Every year that I do this event I try and bring a little Pacific flair to my dish,” said Aiona, a Hawaii native who appeared on season eight of Food Network Star and is an international Iron Chef winner. “This year it was Japanese pickles (sunomono) and a sweet mirin soy aioli. I always want to bring something that is not common in the South.” Ducote, the Louisiana native behind the Bite and Booze company and blog, shared his love for both his state’s cuisine and its college football during his workshop, in which he prepared a Cajun tasso and corn maque choux over a chargrilled oyster while tossing LSU-themed taunts at fellow chef, Alabama native and Crimson Tide fan Martie Duncan. “As a chef, doing a demo at an event like the Hangout  Oyster  Cook-Off is a great way to get your name out there DeSoto 57

and show off your cooking style. The publicity that comes from being a featured chef at an event like this is huge. Coming off Food Network Star, it has been amazing to meet fans all over the country who watched me on the show and now want to taste my food,” said Ducote, who made it to the final three of the show’s latest season before being eliminated. “The Hangout Oyster Cook-Off is positioning itself as a flagship culinary event on the Gulf coast. The caliber of celebrity chefs, James Beard-nominated chefs and other local chefs is hard to match.” One of those local chefs is Ron Stone of Wolf Bay Lodge, which has locations in Foley and Orange Beach, Ala. After taking home top honors in the Cajun and people’s choice categories with his team, he’s already eager to show off their skills again next year. The Omni Grove Park Inn

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“It shows that the restaurant has diversity. It has consistency. And, most of all, it shows that we have a quality product. It’s always a crowning glory when you can win something like that as a group for your restaurant. Plus, you get to hang that really pretty silver platter. We’re going after it again next year. We’re ready.”

Ryan Bell and the team from Hal and Mal’s won the chef ’s choice category with recipes that took a creative twist on classics. Bell made a green bloody mary mix to sit in the shells with the freshly shucked raw oysters and garnished with micro cilantro. For the Rockefeller, Bell substituted green cabbage for the traditional spinach to make a Norwegian-style Creamed Cabbage. He topped each oyster with it before placing it on the grill to cook and melt the cheese. “Cajun was my biggest hit. I made a Sauce Piquant and fried my oyster in a simple seasoned corn meal. I flash fried the oyster just long enough to crisp the corn meal and heat the oyster through. Of the roughly 1,100 oysters we shucked, 500 were easily the Cajun oyster.”

Sauce Piquant 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons olive oil 3 tablespoons chopped onions 3 tablespoons chopped green bell peppers 1 tablespoon seeded and minced jalapeno peppers 1 tablespoon minced garlic 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme 1 tablespoon chopped fresh oregano 1 cup peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes 3 bay leaves Creole seasoning Pinch of crushed red pepper 2 cups chicken stock Salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley

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Brewing at Southern Prohibition

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Southern Prohibition

Mississippi’s Brewing Boom By J. Eric Eckard. Photography courtesy of Southern Prohibition, Mississippi Brewing Co.and Lazy Magnolia

Four years ago, Mississippi statistically ranked dead last in the United States for just about anything related to the craft beer industry: economic impact per capita, breweries per capita, overall number of breweries. Mississippi also showed up last on numerous Internet lists that rank breweries, indicating how bad things were there for the industry compared to other states. DeSoto 61

Alex Vasquez - Co-owner of Mississippi Brewing Co.

Lazy Magnolia

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But when legislators changed the laws that allowed beer with a higher alcohol content to not only be made in Mississippi but imported there as well, many beer drinkers and would-be beermakers rejoiced. “That was the tipping point,” said Emily Curry, director of public relations/ marketing for Southern Prohibition Brewing Co. in Hattiesburg. “It brought attention to the industry.” From the end of Prohibition in 1933 until 2005, no breweries existed in Mississippi. In 2005, Lazy Magnolia Brewing Co. in Kiln opened, but it could only brew beer with a content of below six percent. Then when the laws changed in 2012, and the legal alcoholic content for beer was raised to 10.2 percent, breweries popped up across the state. “The Mississippi law change not only allowed beer with a higher ABV (alcohol by volume) to be distributed within the state, but it also allowed it to be exported outside the state,” said Leslie Henderson, who started Lazy Magnolia with her husband in 2005. “But it’s still a huge challenge to operate in Mississippi.” The “old guys” in the Mississippi brewing world, the Hendersons, started making beer as a hobby. But when they realized there were no breweries in the state, they decided to go pro. “We knew there was definitely a market in Mississippi,” Henderson said. “We knew there were plenty of reasons to criticize the state, but we wanted to do one thing – make life here better in Mississippi.” Lazy Magnolia started out with five beers. And even now, with law change, most of its beers are below six percent. “But with the ability to brew beers up to 10 percent, we have the opportunity to brew more interesting style beers,” she said. In addition to being the oldest brewery in Mississippi, Lazy Magnolia also is the largest in the state. This year, the brewery made 20,000 barrels of beer and had 12 beers on the market, distributing to 17 states in the South, Midwest and MidAtlantic. And the Hendersons’ business philosophy definitely adheres to the old adage that a rising tide lifts all boats. Now with a dozen or so breweries in the state, Lazy Magnolia no longer is the only game in town. But that’s OK, Henderson said. “It helps to have a growing number of breweries because that will give us a DeSoto 63

stronger voice in the legislature,” she said. “This is an industry I believe in. More voices mean more power in the legislature.” Southern Prohibition, or SoPro as it’s called around Hattiesburg, was one of eight new breweries that opened in Mississippi in a two-year period after the law change. “The industry is snowballing,” Curry said. “It’s probably snowballing faster than we expected. “But more and more people are embracing this culture in the South.”    Many parts of the South have been reluctant to let go of its Blue Laws, particularly those related to alcohol, beer and wine. And because of that, states like Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and Oregon are far ahead of Mississippi in the craft brew industry. Raise Your Pints, a non-profit organization, is credited for the new laws that have given rise to what has turned into what the Mississippi Brewers Guild says is a $7 million industry in the state. And although Raise Your Pints is a consumer group that started its campaign so that beer drinkers could enjoy a wider variety of beers within its state borders, it’s clearly helped the beermakers, as well. The Mississippi Brewers Guild study in 2014 indicates that in the first year after the law change, production of craft beer in the state jumped 30 percent and another 40 percent in the second year. The study predicted that in five years, Mississippi would have a $25 million craft brew industry. SoPro will celebrate its third anniversary in April 2016. 64 DeSoto

Quinby Chunn worked at a brewery in Texas before coming to Mississippi in 2008 to open up shop. Teaming up with head brewer Ben Green, “they immediately started making magic,” said Curry said. They began small with Suzy B, a dirty blond ale, and Devil’s Harvest, an American pale ale. Since the opening, SoPro has brewed 23 beers, including four year-round offerings, five seasonal beers, four barrel-aged brews and five specialty brews. SoPro, which distributes throughout Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee, tripled capacity in its first year; doubled capacity in its second; and it’s expected to double capacity again next year. This has been a common theme for breweries in the state. Paul Blacksmith began planning to open a brewery in 2009 in Ocean Springs. He even scaled back homebrew recipes to adhere to the old laws. But when 2012 rolled around, Crooked Letter Brewing Co. opened, and Blacksmith was able to adjust several of his beers to accommodate the law change. “Although we did open right after the law changed, the law change was not the reason we opened,” he said. “We were in planning since 2009 and had every intention of opening sooner than November 2012, but federal, state and local laws (made) it a very complicated and lengthy process.” Crooked Letter, which started with an output of 700 barrels of beers in its first year of production, made 3,000 barrels this year. The Mystery Romp, a mocha porter, and the

Crooked Heffy, and American Hefeweizen, are its two most popular brews. But with all the recent growth in the craft beer industry in Mississippi, brewers have had to deal with beer palates that are used to macrobrews like Bud Light and Miller Lite. Blacksmith said he would describe Mississippians taste for craft beer as new, but on the rise. “Education has always been a large and dramatic part of our business plan,” Blacksmith said. “I go to local libraries and do homebrew and craft beer classes as part of our educational program. “We are constantly educating Mississippians on craft beer, whether it’s at local charity events, beer runs, beer festivals, art festivals, brewery tours, concerts, bars, restaurants, grocery stores and many other outlets.” In addition to its own beers, Crooked Letter also brews beers for other breweries. A common practice in the industry, contract brewing allows breweries to have its beer made in another, already established brewery. Crooked Letter brews beers for Mississippi Brewing Co. in Gulfport. Alex Vasquez and his cousin Samson Vasquez started with a brew pub and six beers. Earlier this year, they decided to close the brew pub and began contract brewing. At first, they made just the Southern Light blonde ale and Courage pale ale, but last month, they began offering the Red Headed Stepchild, an American red ale. Alex Vasquez said Mississippi Brewing Co. might be moving its production of Courage to Lazy Magnolia’s plant to increase output. “We are late to the game,” Alex Vasquez said of the state’s craft beer industry. “But not only do we have more breweries now, we’re also getting more craft beer from outside the state that weren’t available before. “Lazy Magnolia set the standard, but once everybody saw the others open, it just took off. I hope it keeps growing.”

Take off and see for yourself what’s happening in Mississippi! brewtrail.com/mississippi-breweries DeSoto 65

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Pack Your Fork Travel with Memphis Chef Michel Leny

By Jill Gleeson. Photography Courtesy of Michel Leny

    Spend a few moments chatting with Michel Leny, Café Society’s former owner and current manager – with his usual warm wit he describes himself as having been at the Memphis eatery so long he’s “part of the furniture” – and you wish immediately you had more time to spend with him. DeSoto 67

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He exudes a rare combination of charisma, sophistication and genuine bonhomie that is absolutely enticing. So much so that when Leny begins to tell you about the spectacular, 12-night trip to Europe he took a few very lucky clients on last fall, you find yourself envying not the marvelous sights the travelers saw, or the incredible meals they ate, but that Leny was their guide. “He is charming, well-traveled, speaks multiple languages and loves to roll out the red carpet to all around him,” confirmed Tricia Peacock, proprietor of Peacock Travel Group, which has partnered with Leny to offer the new bespoke, smallgroup luxury tours. “He is definitely the shining star that makes the trips unforgettable in every way.” But if the excursions are a blessing for well-heeled, discriminating travelers for whom the usual tourist traps hold little interest, you’ve got to wonder what the appeal is for Leny. The Belgian native, whose father was a master chef at the famed Parisian restaurant Maxim’s, is now 70 years old. In addition to delighting customers at Café Society, Leny owns 60 acres of land in Senatobia, Mississippi, where he and his wife Carla have horses and help oversee an organic farm that produces veggies for some of Memphis’s finest bistros. And with four children and six grandchildren – the family’s Thanksgiving table had 19 gathered around it last year – it’s reasonable to suspect that Leny’s personal life is as full as his professional one. So why put more on his plate? “This is a new adventure for me,” Leny declared, with no small amount of glee. “I’m getting old and I’m very thankful and I felt like this would be a great idea, to take people to where I’m from – Brussels and Paris – and show them where I grew up. I wanted to share it with people. And it also makes you appreciate what we have here, too…once you go over there, it’s fantastic, you love it, and then you come back home and say we’re lucky here!” Leny, who moved to Memphis when he was just 20, by all accounts still knows his way around his homeland. With nary a hitch he guided four couples across Belgium, including a stay in Brussels and a trip through Bruges, and down into Aix-enProvence, in the South of France, finishing up with a five-night sojourn in the City of Lights. The itinerary featured a diverse DeSoto 69

assortment of delights, including a horse-drawn carriage ride through Bruges that ended with a visit to Michelangelo’s sculpture of the Madonna and Child. In Paris the group wandered through Musee d’Orsay, for a peek at the Renoirs, Monets and Manets; hopped a boat for a ride down the Seine; and made a pilgrimage to Montparness, the legendary Moulin Rouge district. But most impressive was Levy’s ability to tailor the trip to the individual desires of those taking it. “Michel was so considerate,” said Patti Smith, who traveled with her husband, Memphis attorney Jerry Easter. “From the time he got up to the time he went to bed he focused on everybody’s wish list. For example, somebody wanted to stand in the Mediterranean, so we went to Cassis, a town in France on the Mediterranean and spent the day. I’m allergic to mussels, and of course, they’re a French dish, they’re everywhere, but the one shellfish I can eat is clams. Well, Michel searched the whole restaurant scene all the way from Bruges to Cassis to find me some wonderful clams. They were steamed and came with thin noodles in olive oil and herbs, very simply prepared, but so delicious. That was a highlight.” Speaking of culinary pleasures, the most famous food region in the world has plenty, with no need to visit the restaurants usually patronized by visitors. In fact, Leny avoided taking the group to Maxim’s, which he now finds too touristy. Instead, they dined at Le Petite Chaise, the oldest eatery in Paris, and Le Bistro du Perigord, where the specialties are dishes made with mallard, such as foie gras and duck a l’orange. 70 DeSoto

In Aix-en-Provence, the group feasted on bouillabaisse, the traditional Provençal fish stew; at La Brasserie Le Saint-Hubert in Brussels they sampled Belgian stew, made with beef braised in dark beer, and waterzooi, a thick, creamy fish stew with potatoes. “We also had lunch at Le Metropole in Brussels. My father was the chef there as well,” Leny said. “That was quite impressive to them because the building is made of old, beautiful marble and of course the service is impeccable. But most of the time, the restaurants we chose were just neighborhood places. It’s a way of living over there. Going out to dinner, that’s very important to both the Belgians and the French. It’s hard to describe…they don’t rush, they just sit there and relax. And don’t use your telephone! That is another thing we don’t do over there. We have a tendency to use our phones too much and over there it was just no rushing.” Since Leny’s first outing as a guide went so well it’s inevitable there would be more journeys on the horizon. Leny is currently custom designing a tour this year for a group to Brussels, Paris and Bordeaux, the legendary French wine country. Also in the works is a summer jaunt to Nice, where he’s renting his clients a five-bedroom house. He plans to take them on day trips via the train to idyllic locales like Monaco, St. Tropez and Cannes. Upon their return in the evening, Leny’s son, Phillippe – an esteemed Memphis chef in his own right – will have dinner waiting. “Then I have another group,” Leny added, “I’m going to take them through Benelux, meaning Belgium, the

Netherlands and Luxembourg. And we’ll see how different these small countries are from one another. The scenery is so different! I know the region, that’s the best thing I can offer, and I’m always open about what they’re looking for. But people should get their own groups together, because they will feel more comfortable with their friends. That’s why I’m doing small groups.” According to Jerry Easter, Leny’s knowledge of Western Europe is only one of the remarkable skills he brings to his new adventure. “Michel took four couples to Europe – including two trial lawyers, a high-powered corporate executive and a physician, all of whom presented extremely strong personality types – and managed to make us all happy and satisfied at the same time, which is virtually impossible. I’ve been to Europe five or six times, but I’ve never had a better trip. It was just a great experience.” For more information about Michel Leny’s customized small-group luxury trips to France, Belgium and beyond, phone the Peacock Travel Group in Memphis at 901-527-1991.

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homegrown } sugar taylor sauce

Bottled Success By Andrea Brown Ross. Photography courtesy of James Bates Photography courtesy of Eat Y’all

  For Andy Chapman, the secret to success involves family, food, and one’s own backyard. Four years ago, Chapman was by day doing public relations and food marketing, and working as a web consultant. By night, he was the king of barbeque in his neighborhood. Frequently experimenting with ribs, he ran out of sauce on one occasion. And necessity is the mother of all invention, or so the saying goes. Expecting guests to arrive shortly, he described what happened next. “I called up a few friends. They gave me some guidelines on what in their opinion made a good barbeque sauce. Harkening to a Carolina style sauce with mustard and vinegar, I concocted my own recipe with ingredients from my kitchen. My daughter, Kate, who was only 6 years old at the time, assisted me with the stirring. Her nickname is “Sugar”. So for fun, we called it Sugar Taylor Sauce,” said Chapman. 72 DeSoto

Sending guests home with extra sauce to use on other meats, such as chicken and shrimp, was a hospitable gesture to which Chapman didn’t give much thought. The results of that gesture and that last minute concoction were something that neither Chapman nor little “Sugar” could have anticipated. “Not long after, I had guests from the party call up and ask for more of the Sugar Taylor Sauce I had served at the barbeque. Demand quickly grew to the point that we would find empty barbeque containers left on our porch,” he reminisced. After doing some research and refining his recipe for bottling

purposes, Chapman sent his three children out to scour the neighborhood and take orders for the sauce. They gathered enough orders to fill a single batch at a bottling company in Ocean Springs, Miss. “And that’s how it started, “explained Chapman. “Sugar Taylor Sauce is now sold in 20 states. People from across the country have tried our product(s) at various food show markets. Kate, or Sugar, never knew she would one day be autographing bottles for customers,” he said. Chapman described what he thinks makes his sauce unique. “Our golden sauce is vinegar based and sweetened with Mississippi honey. It has a little kick from a blend of peppers, but is not overly hot or sweet. And it’s not necessarily like honey mustard. People who are not big fans of honey or mustard seem to like our sauce, too. It’s definitely not what’s expected out of this type of sauce,” he said. From stovetop to retail sales, Chapman soon began working with a few Mississippi apiarists, or beekeepers, to meet the growing demand for the sauce. “I work in conjunction with a few sources to insure we have enough honey. We use honey typically harvested late in the season which gives it a dark and earthy tone,” he explained. Sugar Taylor Sauce has even caught the attention of national food industry professionals. Simon Mudjamar, food expert and frequent judge on The Food Network, commented on what he likes about the sauce. “One of the great things about the sauce is the high viscosity. It really holds on to the meat,” said Mudjamar. Chapman agrees.

“Whether smoking or grilling meat, it creates a nice glaze that is thick enough to adhere to the meat instead of running down the sides,” described Chapman.   Whitney Miller, Season one winner of Master Chef and Poplarville, Miss. native, created her own recipe using the sauce.“I created an original Sugar Taylor Sauce recipe. It is Grilled Chicken Salad Kabob Lettuce Wraps. It is a unique take on chicken salad,” commented Miller.   Chapman explained that his sauce is a great addition to a variety of dishes. “We like to add it to slaw with a little mayo and serve on fish tacos. It’s great with seafood. We sell our sauce wholesale to customers, such as the Beau Rivage, located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast,” Chapman explained. “Another favorite is nachos. For parties, I often use smoked pork, and sprinkle chips with cheese, jalapenos, onions, sour cream, you name it. They’re great with Sugar Taylor Sauce drizzled on top,” he said. Chapman also sells another culinary product, June Bugg Rub. Like the sauce, the name of the rub was inspired by the nickname of one of his children. “My son, Miller, has the nickname of June Bugg. The sauce and rub work great in tandem. They’re very popular on ribs,” suggested Chapman. And with his third child nicknamed “Lulu”, another product with a catchy name may be in the works.

To find recipes, local retailers, or purchase online, go www.eatyall.com, or find them on Facebook. DeSoto 73

southern harmony } jason d. williams

Rockin’ Along with

Jason D

This dynamic piano-playing showman who has drawn comparisons to Jerry Lee Lewis--and not just for their comparable musical styles and attitude--but right down to their looks. For Memphis’ notorious Jason D. Williams, playing has always equated to entertaining.   74 DeSoto

Lafayette’s Music Room, Memphis

Photography courtesy of PLA Media and Adam Mitchell

While he doesn’t shy away from those comparisons and counts Lewis among his biggest influences, Williams prefers to think of himself as an equal parts mixture of Jackson Pollock, Joe Namath and Vladimir Horowitz. Pollock is responsible for his spontaneity (which he has in spades), Joe Namath embodies his spirit as an entertainer, and Horowitz represents the technical aspect of his piano playing. His musical style cannot be summed up easily. Rockabilly, Americana, boogie woogie, blues, jazz, and rock n’ roll are just a few genres that Williams covers. So, it’s actually very fitting that he draws influence from three disparate men like Pollock, Namath and Horowitz. The mixture makes for an original character. And that certainly describes Jason D. Williams Williams says he first began playing piano at the age of three. The story goes that he climbed up on a neighbor’s piano and began playing almost perfectly the big band music he had heard. Although he’s had formal piano lessons and training, Williams doesn’t read music. He plays not just by ear, but what he calls playing by sight. “I began by watching his mother play and I could mimic her and later I could listen to Fats Waller or Horowitz and closely copy their playing.” Over the years Williams has developed a wildman persona on stage. His act includes playing the keys with his feet, from on top of the piano, and even while doing a handstand. “My showmanship is actually inspired by vaudeville performers. Back then it wasn’t good enough just to sing, you had to entertain the crowd.” And that’s how he approaches his shows, with the mindset it’s not enough to just play. This is something he sees lacking from today’s performers. Singers he sees on The Voice or American Idol bore him. “There’s no creativity, no entertainment from them. I’m very big on entertainment value,” he says. “People like Jerry Lee Lewis, Joe Namath, Bozo the Clown, Sammy Davis are all inspiring to me as entertainers.” Getting back to Jerry Lee, he pronounces, “I think Jerry Lee Lewis is the greatest entertainer that ever lived. Even

in today’s times. He didn’t just open the door, he kicked it down and opened it for guys like me.” In the 1989 Lewis biopic “Great Balls of Fire,” Williams played Dennis Quaid’s piano double. This included not only close-ups of his hands playing piano, but instructing Quaid on how to play like Lewis. Of the experience, Williams said, “Jerry Lee is as spontaneous on the piano as you’ll ever see. I had to watch his spontaneity and try to recreate it. I got as close as humanly possible to recreating Jerry as anyone ever could.” At 56 years old, Williams says his shows and performances are more energetic than they were 20 years ago. He attributes this to improved health which is the result of running three to five miles each day and limiting his alcohol consumption. “I’m able to funnel all my energy into one 90-minute show. Twenty years ago, there was no funnel. I was just high energy all the time.” In the last few years he’s re-recorded two albums, the most recent being a collaboration with singer-songwriter Todd Snider that includes original songs. For someone who doesn’t read music, writing a song is an inexact science. “That’s the Jackson Pollock side coming through. “I haven’t’ perfected it enough yet, to explain it. The process is a little bit manic and still evolving.” Incongruous with his onstage persona, Williams is an avid bird watcher.  A passion that he’s had since 1968 he says he knows more about birds than music. Even as we talk, he names four birds he sees out of his window, citing the scientific names for house finch and weeping willow.   Jason has a busy spring ahead of him. He plays regularly at Lafayette’s Music Room in Memphis. And he has new albums due out that will include a live recording from Sun Studios, as well as a new album full of original recordings, that he promises is very different than anything he’s ever done. After almost four decades on stage, Williams still seeks inspiration, putting on high energy shows and finding ways to reinvent himself. DeSoto 75

table talk} delta bistropub

Bistro Bliss By Blair Jackson. Photography courtesy of Delta Bistropub

On a busy but not unusual Thursday night, Delta Bistropub is full of life, warmth and laughter that fills the outside brick sidewalk when the door opens. A step inside reveals a high-ceilinged, airy room lined on the left by a sleek bar. Modern, white chairs circle wood tables in this space that is both comfortable and sophisticated, capturing perfectly the grit of the Mississippi Delta with a sort of pride and elegance. Taylor Bowen Ricketts, executive chef and co-owner of Delta Bistropub, is known for her fresh southern cuisine with an upscale flare. A cocktail party in the upstairs room combined with a full restaurant keeps Ricketts busy. But this fast-paced night has become typical, and she is in control and calm as she whips around the kitchen checking on dishes and telling her story inbetween spoonfuls, measurements and time-checks. “You can definitely cook from the heart, and I’m one of the lucky people who gets to do what I love,” Ricketts explains as she arranges crawfish etouffee cups on a silver tray. “I first learned to cook intuitively then learned in school,” she 76 DeSoto

said. “Everything I do is my specialty. It’s all in the details.” Ricketts has now been with Delta Bistropub for 10 years. She and her husband, Darby Ricketts, were recruited to Greenwood in 2005 by Fred Carl Jr., the founder and former CEO of Viking Range, LLC, who opened the restaurant, first called Delta Fresh Market, as one of many projects intended to revitalize the town. Over the years, Carl has sent Ricketts to take classes at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley, all for the purpose of making Delta Bistropub a top-notch dining experience. A plate of sliced green tomatoes sits next to the

bubbling fryer and chicken skewers sizzle on the grill as Ricketts tells her adventure which has been highly rewarding, but not easy. “I cried for three days when we moved here, but now, when I leave I can’t wait to get back. When I moved here, one thing I realized that I really liked about this town was that people were proud to be from here. You either get it or you don’t,” she said plainly. Ricketts was born in Oxford, Miss. and grew up in Jackson, Miss. She was a painter before she was a chef. In fact, many of the oil paintings in the main dining area were created by Ricketts herself. She attended the University of Mississippi and received a Bachelor of Arts in Art, but migrated to the restaurant business because it paid more. In college, she worked at The Harvest Café and The Hoka in Oxford. “I learned a lot working at The Hoka. This place had an innovative way of thinking and doing things; I use now much of what I learned there,” she said. Plates clink together and metallic skids fill the kitchen as the chefs work quickly. The smell of crab cakes, frying shrimp, pizza and toasted pimento cheese sandwiches waft in and out with the servers. In her whirlwind of cooking and talking, Ricketts pauses and sets a lone pimento cheese sandwich to the side. “No, don’t throw that one away,” she said to the other chefs, “Someone might eat it… I might eat it,” she laughed. Taylor is the perfect person for this environment. In one sweep around the kitchen she checks on the chicken

skewers, cracks a few jokes, and gives the next cooking direction. She wears all black, cotton clothes, comfortable shoes and a friendly but serious “get it done” attitude. “Whether they want to or not, if they work here, they’re an artist,” Ricketts said of her chefs. “They work hard and I work hard with them.” Lucas Cannon, a chef at Delta Bistropub, has been working here for nine years. He points to a smoking cup of liquid gold. “That’s corn and crab bisque, I make it myself,” he said with a big smile. “I love what I do, and I try to make it better every day. It’s a gift”. Ricketts, like many of Greenwood’s locals, understands the heartbreaking beauty and devastation of the Delta outside the restaurant’s walls. “It’s maddening because there are a lot of things still very broken around this area. It’s really hard when you care and you want to try to fix it,” Ricketts said. She wouldn’t admit it, and probably doesn’t even believe it herself, but her creative cooking is doing a lot of good for this area. Realizing Carl’s original vision, Delta Bistropub now symbolizes more than food in Greenwood. Beyond celebrating the goodness of fresh southern cooking, DeltaBistropub is plating up Greenwood’s signature taste of culture and pride for visitors and locals alike.


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in good spirits} memphis belle

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By Cheré Coen. Photography courtesy of wikipedia

It’s a plane. It’s a movie. It’s a Maryland restaurant. Above all, the Memphis Belle is a cocktail that comes in many variations depending on where you enjoy the drink, but most contain Southern Comfort, brandy, bitters and lemon juice. The slightly tart drink usually arrives at your table topped with a dramatic cherry or other garnish. The cocktail’s believed to be named for the Boeing B-17F nicknamed Memphis Belle, which ran combat missions over Europe during World War II, the first of its kind to make 25 runs with its crew intact. The plane’s story was the basis of the 1944 documentary “Memphis Belle: A Story of a Flying Fortress” and the 1990 feature film starring Matthew Modine, Eric Stoltz and Harry Connick Jr., “Memphis Belle.” The Hollywood film detailed the B-17’s crew and its 25th and last mission. And if you want to get high with a different kind of buzz, The Liberty Foundation uses the actual Memphis Belle airplane for educational purposes, taking people for rides in the historic plane for a fee. Below is a recipe for Memphis Belle from “Southern Cocktails: Dixie Drinks, Party Potions and Classic Libations” by Denise Gee, which offers the traditional brandy, Southern Comfort and juice combination. Other variations have included Bailey’s Irish Cream and a bourbon, peach flavored, as a standalone.

Memphis Belle 1 1/2 ounces brandy 3-4 dashes Angostura or orange bitters 1/2 ounces freshly squeezed lemon juice 3/4 ounce Southern Comfort Garnish lemon twist


Add all ingredients except the garnish to a shaker filled with ice; shake well. Strain into a chilled martini or cocktail glass. Add the garnish.

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exploring events } january 57th Annual AutoZone Liberty Bowl January 2 AutoZone Liberty Bowl Stadium Memphis, TN 2:20pm For ticket information call the AutoZone Liberty Bowl at 901785-7700, email tickets@libertybowl.org or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Greg Allman January 3 Bluesville Horseshoe Casino Tunica Tunica Resorts, MS For ticket information call 800-303-7463 or visit www.ticketmaster.com. Elvis Birthday Celebration January 7-10 Memphis, TN For a complete list of events and ticket information visit www.graceland.com or call 800-238-2000. Mississippi Blues Marathon January 9 Jackson, MS The 9th Annual Mississippi Blues Marathon will take place on January 9, 2016 in downtown Jackson, Mississippi’s capital city. With live music before, after and throughout the course, the Mississippi Blues Marathon proves to be one-of-a-kind. Since the inaugural race in 2008, the event has worked to showcase Jackson and the rich Blues history of the state, with a portion of proceeds going to the Blues Foundation and its efforts to support local Blues Musicians. For more information visit www.msbluesmarathon.com. Larry Gatlin with Jason D. Williams January 9 Germantown Performing Arts Center Germantown, TN 8:00pm Country music’s chart-topping legend Larry Gatlin performs a rare solo, acoustic set in GPAC intimate listening hall. Setting the stage for the golden-voiced singer-songwriter Gatlin is Jason D. Williams, the rockabilly sensation who has been dazzling crowds live for three decades. For more information visit www.gpacweb.com or call 901-751-7500. Matilda January 12 - 17 The Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN Based on the novel by Roald Dahl, Matilda comes to life with all her imagination and vigor on the stage of the Orpheum Theatre. Matilda the Musical is part of the Orpheum’s 20152016 season. Tickets can be purchased by calling (901)5253000 | Fax (901)525-5499. Get your tickets at the Orpheum Theatre Box Office, 203 S. Main, Memphis, TN or Booksellers at Laurelwood (387 Perkins Rd., Memphis, TN), and all Ticketmaster ticket centers. 80 DeSoto

16th Annual Crystal Ball January 16 The Arena Southaven, MS 6:00pm The Crystal Ball, featured as the largest social event in northwest Mississippi, benefits the Community Foundation of Northwest Mississippi attracting attendees throughout Mississippi and surrounding states. The theme this year is “Mr. Gatsby’s Crystal Ball.” The black-tie optional event will provide an excellent dinner, live music by Party + Planet, dancing and auctions. Tickets are $150 per person and can be purchased online through January 8, 2016. Tickets will be mailed to the shipping address provided at checkout. There is NO WILL CALL for tickets. For more information or to buy tickets, visit www.crystalballgala.org or call 662-449-5002. Rhonda Vincent and The Rage in Concert January 21 HCC Corey Forum Grenada, MS 7:00pm The Grenada Arts Partnership: Grenada and Holmes Partner for the Arts proudly presents the Queen of Bluegrass, Rhonda Vincent and The Rage in concert. Rhonda Vincent and The Rage are the most award winning band in Bluegrass Music with over 100 Awards. Tickets: $30 Reserved, $20 Advance, $25 at Door. For more information: HCC Business Office 662-227-2302 Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Kudzu Playhouse presents “Hairspray” January 22-31 Hernando Performing Arts Hernando, MS Kudzu Playhouse presents “Hairspray” Jan 22-31, 2016 Fridays & Saturdays 7:00pm; Sundays 2:00pm Hernando Performing Arts Center, 805 Dilworth Lane, Hernando. Presented with special arrangement with Music Theatre International. Single show tickets are $12 adult, $7 Seniors age 55 & up and students/children; children under 3 are free. Kudzu Kard Season Flex Pass is $40 for four shows, valid for one year from date of purchase. For more information, call 888-429-7871 or visit www.kudzuplayers.com. Clarksdale Film Festival January 29-31 Clarksdale, MS Clarksdale Film Festival features Mississippi, Southern and blues music films with special guests and live music. For more information visit www.jukejointfestival.com/film_fest

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reflections} big food



It all began with doughnuts. Or at least in my mind. Truly, I think it began way before the 1970s which is when my child’s memory began to gel. Some people believe bigger is better; basically the theory that more makes you happy and more can lend an intangible credibility or power. Such was my grandfather’s case. While as an adult, I understand this theory no doubt has caused more than one marital scuff as bruised checkbooks empty and houses fill up. But as a child? His largess cracked us up. Visiting felt like Disney World. Apparently, my parents don’t feel the same because when I ask them about this time, they stare blankly at me with zero humor. Once again, my memory circles around the old brown Chevrolet station wagon with no seat belts, sticky vinyl seats and too many dogs. None of that would be bad except when a family of six drives from Kentucky to Minnesota. No matter when we arrived at my grandparents, food arrived as well. It could be 3:00 a.m. and we’d hear my grandfather boom, “Colletta, let’s make pork chops!” Never mind a light bowl of soup or some crackers before bed. The kitchen would awake, meat appeared and the cooking began. We’re not talking six pork chops...more like 60 by the time he was done. Having run a meat market for 18 years in Ohio, my grandfather knew meat. 82 DeSoto

By Karen Ott Mayer. Photography courtesy of thedigestersdilemma.com

But then again, he definitely knew doughnuts. During one visit to the farm, I remember a day when those same words came a-bellowing. “Let’s make doughnuts!” Over some time, doughnuts appeared and we kids helped. I remember hard circular little guys dipped in cinnamon or sugar. Forget the Krispy Kreme fluff, these doughnuts came from some dense German bread recipe meant to keep fat on your bones. So we made doughnuts. And more doughnuts. When it came time to leave, my grandparents always packed food for the family. On this visit, I distinctly recall bags of doughnuts in the car. Once again, not like wimpy baggies but garbage-bag size sacks. We thought it was the coolest thing in the world until about Wisconsin. Then, we were tired of them. By Illinois, we couldn’t figure out where to put the things as we kids embarked upon our regular fights and bickering. When we arrived in Kentucky, I remember doughnuts were everywhere. I think I sat on a bag. They were in the sleeping bags, our hair and I’m pretty sure the dogs consumed a sack or two. I never wanted to see a doughnut again. To this day, I’m not sure I’ve ever eaten a doughnut like my grandfather made. When they sold the farm, they moved to Florida. Not to a retirement community where they played tennis or gardened. Noooo, no….they bought a motel and bar. After all, why go small?

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Profile for DeSoto Magazine | Exploring the South

DeSoto January 2016  

Culinary Arts - Regional cuisine, great chefs, kitchen designs and the latest gadgets.

DeSoto January 2016  

Culinary Arts - Regional cuisine, great chefs, kitchen designs and the latest gadgets.