DeSoto Magazine January 2019

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January CONTENTS 2019 • VOLUME 16 • NO. 1


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Steak-Out Our Destination Steakhouses

Food Walking Tours A Walkable Feast

Southern Caviar Pimento Cheese

departments 14 Living Well Food Allergies

42 On the Road Again Savannah, Georgia

18 Notables Chef James Boyce

44 Greater Goods 66 Homegrown Grumpy Man Foods

22 Exploring Art Oxford Fiber Arts Festival

70 Southern Gentleman Winter Grilling Tips

26 Exploring Books Southern Snacks

72 Southern Harmony Byhalia’s Rachel Wise

30 Southern Roots Beauty of Houseplants

76 In Good Spirits Spiked Hot Chocolate

34 Table Talk Houmas House Plantation 38 Exploring Destinations What’s Cooking in Greenwood


78 Exploring Events 80 Reflections Food for Thought



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editor’s note | JANUARY

Food: The Universal Experience The late James A. Beard, champion of American cuisine who taught a generation of chefs, believed food is the common ground for people of all cultures. Think about the important occasions in life – they all involve food in some way. As Beard said, food is a universal experience. When we put together our annual culinary issues, we always find people love to talk about food. It’s hard to pick an iconic dish to represent Southern cuisine, but one choice stood out above others this year: pimento cheese. Most people associate the cheesy spread with the sandwiches they took to elementary school. However, today’s pimento cheese is not your mother’s pimento cheese as writer Pam Windsor found when she went searching for new recipes. Steakhouses have also evolved from what we remember as kids. The Bonanza franchises have given way to destination dining where ambiance is as important as the food. Mississippi has a wealth of legendary steakhouses where a meal is an experience to remember. Karen Ott Mayer explored the stories behind some of the state’s best-known places to order steaks. When traveling through a city, it’s always hard to pick just one place to eat. Walking food tours around the South are solving that problem by guiding visitors to several restaurants for a bite at each. It’s a great way to learn about a city and its food culture.

JANUARY 2019 • Vol. 16 No.1


As we kick off the New Year, DeSoto Magazine is excited to welcome P. Allen Smith as a regular contributor. Smith, an author, television host and conservationist, is one of America’s most recognized gardening experts. He will write for DeSoto’s newest department, Southern Roots, about gardening, decorating, and more. We think you will enjoy this mouth-watering issue, packed full of stories by a talented group of writers. Happy New Year!

Mary Ann on the cover

The photo of the Marshall Steakhouse Filet with Crabmeat Oscar was taken by Megan Wolfe, a freelance photographer and writer who returned to Mississippi after 11 years in San Francisco. With a past life in fine art, she finds her favorite stories highlight the pursuit of mastery through craft, including those called to culinary excellence. See more of her work at

CONTRIBUTORS Robin Gallaher Branch Deborah Burst Cheré Coen Mary Ann DeSantis Jackie Sheckler Finch Jason Frye Michelle Keller Karen Ott Mayer Connie Pearson Andrea Brown Ross P. Allen Smith Kevin Wierzbicki Pam Windsor PUBLISHED BY DeSoto Media 2375 Memphis St. Ste 208 Hernando, MS 38632 662.429.4617 ADVERTISING INFO: Paula Mitchell 901-262-9887 ©2019 DeSoto Media Co. DeSoto Magazine must give permission for any material contained herein t o b e re p ro d u c e d i n a n y m a n n e r. 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 interested in advertising should email or call 901-262-9887. Visit us online at

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living well | FOOD ALLERGIES

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Are You Allergic…to Food? By Robin Gallaher Branch | Photography courtesy of and

Food allergies and food intolerances are becoming more common, even among adults who develop symptoms later in life. A food allergy can be sudden, scary, and lifethreatening. Dr. Joseph Fahhoum, an allergist-immunologist at Allergy & Asthma Specialists of Memphis, tells a story about an unexpected patient, a hospital emergency room referral. Fahhoum listened as a young man recalled enjoying a filet mignon the night before. After arriving home, the man became quite ill, and his girlfriend took him to an emergency room. He received an epinephrine injection to combat his reaction. Epinephrine is used to treat life-threatening allergic reactions caused by insect bites or stings, foods, medications or other causes.

Fahhoum says the young man, who might have died without this quick action, must avoid red meat and carry an epinephrine autoinjector. Will he outgrow this sudden food allergy? “Perhaps with time,” Fahhoum responds. Allergies – for children and adults – are becoming more common. “They’re on the rise,” Fahhoum says. Two factors, according to statistical research, include differences between urban and rural environments and the trend among parents to delay exposing their children to various foods. Fahhoum suggests that trend needs a re-evaluation. “The earlier we introduce new foods to children, the DeSoto 17

less likely they are to have food allergies,” Fahhoum says. He also believes people who live in rural areas or on farms have fewer allergies because of exposure to more things in the air. “An urban environment is more sterile,” Fahhoum explains. “Good advice is to send your kids to camp.” Fahhoum separates what the public calls allergies into three broad categories: Celiac disease is a gluten sensitivity and is not an allergy. Gastro-intestinal symptoms include bloating, diarrhea, and nausea. Treatment is 100 percent avoidance of foods containing gluten. A food intolerance, such as lactose intolerance, occurs when a person cannot digest a certain food. Lactose-free products are available as are other kinds of food intolerance products. Allergies are more serious. Symptoms can be hives, rash, and shortness of breath. Fahhoum stresses the need for a proper diagnosis along with considering the patient’s personal history. To illustrate how serious food allergies can be, Fahhoum gives an example of a young patient who has a peanut allergy. While riding his bicycle near his home, the boy stopped to chat with neighbors, who gave him a popular chocolatecovered confection with peanuts. The child had never seen that candy and eagerly ate it. “The result was one of the most intense reactions I’ve ever seen,” Fahhoum says. “I had to give him several epinephrine injections.” Will he outgrow this allergy? “Very likely, not,” Fahhoum says.

allergy and are going to a catered banquet to talk to its organizers in advance. Consumers, especially those with allergies, need to read menus and labels carefully and ask questions. Leake tells of a guest’s near-death experience at a black-tie event for 650 people. Finely-ground hazel nuts flavored the dessert’s crust. After several bites, the man experienced severe symptoms. “His throat started swelling and he couldn’t breathe,” Leake says. “An epinephrine injection saved his life.” Luckily, the man fully recovered. For the group’s gala the following year, Leake says nuts were eliminated altogether. Leake knows about food intolerances first hand. When his extended family gathers at his home, he cheerfully cooks everybody’s favorites but his niece and her children cannot have milk or eggs. Leake makes their birthday cakes with egg substitutes and everyone still has a good time. Gluten sensitivity and celiac disease can also restrict lives for those who suffer. Deborah Blanchard, a Memphis marketing and communications specialist, was diagnosed with celiac disease 13 years ago. “I can’t go to Memphis breweries because of the grain in the air; make a cake from scratch for my grandchildren; or go to a pizza place that’s throwing pizza dough,” says Blanchard. Years of gastro-intestinal troubles preceded her diagnosis. Gluten-free since 2006, Deborah explains she went “cold turkey” from breads; switched to rice, veggies, and fruits; started reading labels and immediately changed her diet. “Within two weeks, I felt 200 percent better,” she says. Blanchard is also happy to report that gluten-free pizzas are readily available. “There were none in 2006,” she says with a smile.

CATERED AFFAIRS & FOOD ALLERGIES Steven Leake, culinary program coordinator at Southwest Tennessee Community College, frequently serves as a chef for galas and other exclusive events. Leake advises people who know they have a food

Robin Gallaher Branch, a Fulbright scholar, teaches adjunct classes in the Department of Religion and Philosophy at Christian Brothers University in Memphis.

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Waste Not By Connie Pearson | Photography courtesy of Boyce Restaurant Concepts

Eliminating food waste motivates Chef James Boyce to find creative ways to “re-purpose” ingredients on his menus. Chef James Boyce, owner of four flourishing restaurants in North Alabama, has several passions in his personal and professional life, but one that is gaining in intensity for him is avoiding food waste. He describes a feeling of being “irritated with our culture.” Several years ago, Boyce noticed the bins full of bruised fruits and vegetables being thrown out in some popular grocery chains. In his mind, what made it worse was that two blocks over, there was a food bank with 200 people waiting for anything they could get to put a meal on the table for their families.

“The big thing,” says Boyce, “is that we identify all of the people (farmers and ranchers) who produce the proteins and food products for us, so we can build a relationship with them. The staff sees these people bringing their items in; then, when they use those things, they know what it takes to create them and how much time and effort went into getting them to us. “It helps to give them the proper respect, so they will use it well and not waste it,” he adds. “We also let them know how much everything costs, and we educate them on the DeSoto 21

feasibility of using these items. Our whole mantra is quality, not quantity.” Boyce is involved in donating leftovers to charity when the opportunity arises, and his staff cooks for charities several times a year. They solicit produce from their farmers that might not be perfect enough for general sales but can be used in these cases. Even though his are comparatively small restaurants, they are happy to donate any overabundance that accumulates. They are also involved in gathering food for about a hundred families that have been identified as food insecure through local churches. Boyce is concerned that so many area children don’t receive adequate food when they are out of school. He would love to see a central kitchen set up where all of the area restaurants could work together to feed people, especially children, who are food deprived and often go hungry. As for repurposing ingredients in his restaurants, his standard procedures include turning stale bread into bread pudding or bread crumbs; scraps of vegetables go into soups and purees. He wishes there were more items that could have dual purposes. With proteins, Boyce explains, “It is possible these days to order very specifically with finite instructions. That way you don’t really have a lot of excess. Fish, for instance, can come in with the belly and tail off. You use certain pieces for soup and stock and then serve the filets. Our overarching rule is ‘what we order, we use and what we use, we use purposefully.’” With his Garden and Galley restaurant in Birmingham, a bounty of blackberries, lettuces and herbs are grown right on the property and are then taken directly to the kitchen for garnishes and flavor enhancement. Ashes from the woodburning stove are scattered throughout the garden. Boyce believes the keys to avoiding food waste are properly educating his culinary staff, astute ordering, and purposeful use of everything that enters his kitchens. Eleven years ago, the opportunities in Huntsville, Alabama, lured New Yorkborn Boyce and his California-born wife Suzan, also a trained chef. Until then, the couple had never lived more than five years in one place. Now it is safe to say that Alabama has captured their hearts, and they have no plans to leave. They love the quality of their children’s education, their 22 DeSoto

neighbors, the sense of community, and their customers. Alabama has embraced the family as well. Boyce’s restaurants – Cotton Row, Pane e Vino and Commerce Kitchen in Huntsville and Galley and Garden in Birmingham – are invariably listed among the best in those cities. When Boyce first set foot in the South, he thought the cuisine would be very simple, leaning toward heavy and homespun. In the past five or six years, he feels that the regional cuisine has become more elevated, more farmer-driven, single-ranch driven and seasonal, depicting the true origins of the South. In addition to his passion of eliminating food waste, several others emerge quickly in conversations with Boyce. He is committed to a process ensuring that every dish coming from the kitchens of his restaurants reflects superb preparation with the best regional ingredients. Another passion he shares with his wife is training their two children to appreciate fine food and to have impeccable table manners. The end result is that this family of four can walk into the finest restaurants around the world and enjoy great cuisine with knowledge and confidence.

Connie Pearson is a freelance travel and food writer and blogger based in Hartselle, Alabama. Her blog is

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A Universal Craft By Karen Ott Mayer | Photogrpahy courtesy of the University of Mississippi Museum

The Oxford Fiber Arts Festival began as a way to have fun and has grown into a culturally significant event. Join the festivities Jan. 24-27 as knitters and spinners share their talents. Following the fan-packed football season in Oxford, Mississippi, a January event brings an unexpected mix of guests to the historic square. A four-legged guest wearing a warm, wooly coat could arguably be more important to kids than any team jersey. During the Ninth Annual Oxford Fiber Arts Festival on Jan. 24-27, visitors may have a chance to mingle with a sheep or llama while learning how to knit or spin. After all, fiber does mean wool. The festival will be held at the Powerhouse arts venue, located at 413 S. 14th Street in Oxford. Started in 2011, the event grew from a working

collaboration between the University Museum and the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council and Knit 1, a local yarn shop. What began also as a reason for fun has grown into a culturally significant event. “I like to say we’re the largest and oldest fiber works festival in the state, because really, we’re the only one in the state,” says Lynn Wells who has been involved with the festival since the beginning. “We had no idea what we were doing; we just knew what we knew and thought it sounded fun!” Originally from Memphis, Wells has lived in Oxford for more than 50 years and laughs when talking about the festival, DeSoto 25

and of course, all the fun. “The first year was really small and homegrown, but we did have a national antique garment lecturer, vendors, animals and spinners.” This year, all types of fiber arts demonstrations will be underway such as knitting, felting, quilting, spinning, and machine arts. A knitter herself, Wells learned later in life and has taught others. “My sister taught me to knit. She came to my house with a bottle of wine, needles and yarn. What’s funny is she taught me to cast on, knit and pearl but I kept adding stitches with every row. I asked her what I was doing wrong and she said to keep knitting. When I told her I still had more stitches than I was supposed to, she replied she forgot to teach me how to frog it.” Confused, Wells asked her sister what that meant. “She took the knitting from me and said ‘rib it, rib it’, then unraveled the whole work!” It’s that type of fun camaraderie that a group of knitters or spinners can find together, especially when sharing their craft with newcomers. At the festival, guests can learn to knit and even little kids can pick up finger knitting. On a more serious note, Wells explains the importance of her own craft which she taught to her grandchildren. “I told them first it’s women’s work. Men took it up then walked away. Second, I told them this is something everyone has been doing somewhere, forever. When you knit, you’re doing the same thing someone in Peru or China or Norway is doing. It’s a universal community.” Another key point she makes is knitting isn’t just a craft to keep someone warm. “There are some breathtaking works and master knitters who create knitted art, too.” As of 2016, festival has continued under the leadership of Andi Bedsworth, a well-known artist and vendor in the community. Specializing in costume design, Bedsworth formerly taught in the theater department at the University of Mississippi. Today, she continues to teach at Northwest Community College in Oxford. “I didn’t want it to end,” she says. She explains how the Powerhouse became the venue for the festival. “Years ago, there was a Gee’s Bend quilt exhibit at the University of Mississippi Museum and they began talking with the folks at the Powerhouse about future exhibits.” The museum has served as host to the lecturers and other experts tied to the festival. 26 DeSoto

Like Wells, Bedsworth believes there is renewed interest in homesteading and traditional art forms. But that doesn’t mean the crafts are old fashioned. “We see a lot of cool, contemporary art work. This year, we’ll have a textile conservator.” Bedsworth is excited about this year’s event. “It’s become even bigger. We have more than 20 vendors doing amazing work with yarn and wool. Visitors can explore new tools and products or buy a finished piece. We also have demonstrations.” Beth Shafer, co-owner of Three Creeks Farm with her husband Steve, has been a vendor for many years. “This is a very nice small festival. It’s very artsy and they have beautiful art and a wide variety of vendors.” A spinner, Shafter specializes in producing wool, roving and natural fiber dyes. During the festival, she will be selling different fiber products for spinning, dying, and felting. She will also be giving a demonstration. “Spinning is so simple it’s difficult,” she says. “It’s very Zen. Adults today have a hard time slowing down enough to learn the technique. Children learn quickly.” And as if to echo Wells’ earlier words, Bedsworth adds, “It’s winter, it’s January and it’s fun to do!” Karen Ott Mayer is a freelance writer from Como, Mississippi.

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exploring books | SOUTHERN SNACKS

Perre Coleman Magness

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Small Bites with Big Flavors By Michelle Keller | Photography courtesy of Justin Fox Burks

Memphis cookbook author offers classic to contemporary recipes for delicious and unique snacks for any occasion. DeSoto 29

Country Ham Cheesecake

Dedicated to the truth that Southerners are just as skilled and generous with snacks as they are with their bounteous, overflowing meals, Perre Coleman Magness brings us sweet, savory bites in her “Southern Snacks: Small Bites with Big Flavors” cookbook. With a down-to-earth, yet eloquent persona, Magness’ approach to food preparation is as intricate as a white tablecloth menu, yet as traditional as cornbread is to the South. “I think I am like most people, somewhere in the middle between food snob and food schlub,” she says. “Sometimes I pull out all the stops; sometimes speed and convenience win out. I love to eat at white-tablecloth restaurants; I love small, neighborhood places with good, simple, honest food; I love fresh, new cuisines from around the world.” You’ll find her at the noisy, busy Mexican joint that serves decent, filling food at an affordable price. She also frequents a simple mom-and-pop Vietnamese place that won’t win any stars, but offers fresh, different food at a reasonable price. “I love street food – corn dogs and funnel cakes at the fair or rice flour pancakes with taro in Thailand or corn fritters in Burma,” she says. With 77 recipes that range from classic to contemporary, Magness embraces the Southern approach to snacking, including all the small bites you’ll need for any event, whether a football game, a party, or, even a funeral spread. Many of the recipes are inspired by community cookbooks, home cooks, and chefs who put new twists on Southern flavors. Magness studied food and cooking around the world, 30 DeSoto

including coursework at Le Cordon Bleu London and intensive courses in Morocco, Thailand and France. Candidly she says her knowledge came mostly by eating but also through serious study. Her kitchen of choice is at her Memphis home, cooking like most people, experimenting with unique but practical ideas. When asked about her love of cooking and recipes, she attributes her inspiration mostly to her childhood. “I’ve been cooking since I could reach the counter top,” she says. “I come from a family of cooks, both my parents and my aunt influenced and taught me to love food and cooking. My Dad had phases – a bread baking phase or a Chinese cooking period – and he opened my mind to experimentation and different cuisines.” Her mother put a great meal on the table every night and gave her confidence in the kitchen. Her aunt used to cook with her from her childhood Betty Crocker cookbook. “We’re talking teepee cakes and pears that looked like bunny rabbits. She taught me to be creative,” Magness says. “I grew up around great food too, grand meals and lovely picnic lunches with my grandparents and lots of family meals at home.” Highlighting local ingredients and traditional techniques, snacks such as Fried Dill Pickles with Delta Comeback Sauce to Louisiana’s Natchitoches Meat Pies and Charleston’s Benne Wafers shine a light on the diversity of regionally distinct Southern cuisine. The contemporary recipes work ingeniously with familiar Southern ingredients, from Field Pea Hummus and Country Ham Paté to Smoked Catfish Spread and Sweet Tea Pecans. The recipes are enriched with

delightful stories and lore as you turn each page. Magness has a background in public relations and owned an eventplanning business for years, but her roots have always brought her back to her love of cooking. “I started writing a column on entertaining for a local magazine and I loved developing recipes, so eventually I started a blog and doing freelance work and that led to my first book,” she explains. “I love sharing stories about food and memories, and I’m lucky I get to spend my life doing it. I spend my days in the kitchen, which is my happy place.” When pressed to choose a personal favorite from her new cookbook, the author says, “I love all the recipes. It’s a little hard to choose, but I am particularly fond of the Country Ham Cheesecake. It gets rave reviews every time I serve it. It’s unique, and it can be made ahead. It serves a big crowd, so it’s perfect for parties. And I absolutely adore country ham, it’s part of my most vivid and best childhood food memories and it is so wonderfully Southern.” Magness also wrote “Pimento Cheese: The Cookbook: 50 Recipes from Snacks to Main Dishes Inspired by the Classic Southern Favorite” and “The Southern Sympathy Cookbook: Funeral Food with a Twist.” She is also the cook behind the website The Runaway Spoon, which focuses on creative recipes with a Southern slant.

Southern Snacks Author: Perre Coleman Magness Publisher: UNC Press Copyright: 2018 Suggested Retail Price: $30

Michelle Keller is a freelance writer based in Memphis. She also writes for The Austin Times, On The Links Magazine and National Hardwood Magazine.

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southern roots | HOUSEPLANTS

Look for plants with leaves and flowers that complement the colors in your home.

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Greenery will give your room a lift and help bridge the gap until spring returns.

The Beauty and Benefits of Houseplants By P. Allen Smith | Photography courtesy of Jane Colclasure and Hortus, Ltd.

Not only do houseplants add beauty to a home, but they also have health benefits. Houseplants are seeing a resurgence in popularity, but honestly, at my house they never went out of style. I have them in different rooms to add ambiance, help cleanse the air, and bring a little nature indoors, which is especially important to me in the winter months. A well-placed plant can soften harsh lines in a room, and when arranged thoughtfully, can be an important design element. In addition, studies show that exposure to nature -including houseplants -- can have health benefits, like reduced stress and lower blood pressure. Who would have thought a philodendron could be so powerful? Take that a step further, and we find that many of these plants actually clean the air around us. Common items

found throughout the home, like cleaners, building material, paint, and even dry cleaning, can emit toxins. I don’t know about you, but I feel my blood pressure going up just thinking about it. To combat this, I recommend placing one mediumsized houseplant for every 100 square feet in your home. An average-sized house will need about 15 to 20 plants. To make the most of your indoor plants, there are a few key rules of thumb. Most houseplants do not do well in direct sunlight, and in fact, thrive in bright indirect or even low light situations. Also, avoid placing plants in areas where the temperature fluctuates drastically, like near a radiator or by a front door. DeSoto 33

If you are grouping several houseplants together, select those with contrasting foliage and textures

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And probably most importantly, don’t over water your plants. I once heard a homeowner say that he waters his plants once a week whether they like it or not -- maybe not the best attitude to have when it comes to plant care. Most plants require drying out between watering, which makes drainage in your pots important. Using good quality potting soil and making sure your containers have drainage holes will go a long way toward success. And if you’re not sure whether your plant needs water, stick a finger in the top inch or two of potting soil. If it’s very dry, then water well -- it’s that easy. Some of my favorite, easy-to-grow varieties include Mother-in-Law Tongue, Pothos, Dieffenbachia, Schefflera, and Ponytail Palm. But don’t limit yourself to the tried-andtrue. I’m often tempted by an unusual plant with an exotic leaf pattern or unusual variegation. That’s part of the fun. So experiment with different plant shapes, textures, heights, and leaf color. Adding a new houseplant is an easy way to change the look of a room, and it’s good for you, too.

Houseplants that are non-toxic to dogs and cats African Violet (Saintpaulia spp.) American Rubber Plant (Peperomia obtusifolia) Asparagus Fern (Asparagus densiflorus cv sprengeri) Blue Echeveria (Echeveria glauca) Boston Fern (Nephrolepis exaltata bostoniensis) Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera bridgesii) Haworthia Ivy Peperomia (Peperomia griseoargentea) Nerve Plant (Fittonia verschaffeltii) Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans) Polka Dot Plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) Ponytail Palm (Beaucarnea recurvata) Prayer Plant (Calathea insignis) Spider Plant (Chlorophytum comosum)

Make Sure Your Houseplants Are Pet Friendly As a pet owner, it’s important to be aware of any animal hazards in your home, and that includes houseplants. For many pets this is not an issue, but if you have a chewer in your house, you’ll definitely want to make sure your plants are nontoxic to animals. If in doubt, consult your veterinarian. (List source: Houseplants that are toxic to dogs and cats: Aloe Vera (Liliaceae) Amaryllis Begonia Chinese Jade (Crassula arborescens) Dieffenbachia Dracaena Geranium (Pelargonium species) Hurricane Plant (Monstera deliciosa) Indian Rubber Plant (Ficus benjamina) Mother-in-Law Tongue or Snake Plant (Sansevieria) Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum) Philodendron Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima) Pothos (Epipremnum aureum) Schefflera

P. Allen Smith, an author, television host, and conservationist, is one of America’s most recognized gardening experts. Smith uses his Arkansas home, Moss Mountain Farm, as an epicenter for promoting the local food movement, organic gardening and the preservation of heritage poultry breeds. He created his farm to serve as a place of inspiration, education, and conservation and provides visitors from around the country with tours of his property, which may be booked at pallensmith. com/tours. He is the host of three national, award-winning television shows: “Garden Home” (which has enjoyed 15 seasons on PBS), “Garden to Table,” available on Create TV, and “Garden Style,” now in its 17th season of syndication. Check your local listings.

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A Culinary Kingdom Story and photography by Deborah Burst

Houmas House Plantation, one of the South’s oldest and most beautiful plantation estates, is home to several restaurants where guests can dine in 1830s elegance. Chef Jeremy Langlois didn’t grow up in the kitchen, but at 16 years old, he needed gas money for his car. By the time he graduated from high school, he was organizing large culinary events. His career began as a dishwasher with White Oak Plantation in Donaldsonville, Louisiana, owned by the iconic Chef John Folse. In seven months Langlois was promoted to prep cook, and Folse was so impressed he awarded Langlois a full scholarship to the Chef John Folse Culinary Institute at Nicholls State University. “I never cooked a thing in my life,” he says with a chuckle. “Thought it was cool working with knives, fire and cooking.”

In 2005, at the age of 25, Langlois joined Houmas House Plantation and Gardens in Darrow, Louisiana, as the executive chef. He worked with Kevin Kelly, owner of Houmas House, in building the estate’s culinary empire. Perhaps their finest achievement was the opening of Latil’s Landing Restaurant, named by Esquire Magazine as one of the top twenty best new restaurants in America. Houmas House was purchased and completely restored by Kelly, in 2003. Once the largest plantation in America, it was nicknamed the Sugar Palace in the late 1800s, producing 20 million pounds of sugar on an annual basis. Kelly brought back the grandeur of the property’s architecture and ambiance. Today’s guests enjoy the same grand pursuits DeSoto 37

of dining and imbibing along with overnight stays at the newly finished cottages at The Inn. After a brief absence in spreading his culinary wings, Langlois is back home ready to continue his legacy at Houmas House. He owns a homegrown spirit filled with Louisiana pride that compliments his delectable menu. He works hard stirring that creative spirit with a dash of local influences. Chef admits it’s an art in creating a menu, the feelings, passions and even the seasons. More than taste, it’s the art of the meal, along with the history and ambiance. Latil’s must reflect that experience, dining in a mansion much like the sugar barons did centuries ago. “Everything is tied together, local ingredients, straight up classic, the presentation, color, height and textures,” Langlois says adding the art comes naturally for him. “The roasted beet 38 DeSoto

salad must have different colors, and the fried oysters on the half shell are topped with the state’s own brand of caviar from the Louisiana bowfin.” Each dish owns a Langlois signature, a piece of his home state, those Louisiana treasures. On the Latil’s dessert menu, the basil syrup on the Bouche Noir is a delightful change to the mint syrup while a cayenne-infused whipped cream adds a charming addition to the Lemon Panna Cotta, Strawberry Carpaccio. The kitchen is a well-seasoned machine, a family to be exact. Everyone works in unison, from the dishwasher to the sous chef; they are all a critical piece of that preverbal pie. “I’m a restaurant guy through and through,” he says with a smile adding he came back with a new perspective, a fresh set of eyes, and a premier staff. “I used to be the young guy, now I’m the old man, and all my best people are in their 20s.”

Chef works closely with Craig Black, the Houmas House longtime gardener, in stocking the kitchen with fresh herbs and vegetables. Black is also an artist and well-schooled in growing unique blends that thrive in Louisiana’s climate. “He can grow anything; I lean on Craig more than he leans on me,” Langlois explains. “I know how to cook with it but know nothing about what grows best.” Guests savor homespun favorites surrounded by wood-burning fireplaces and candlelight dining at Latil’s Landing Restaurant. It is there among the exposed beams and earthen colors guests enjoy the finer side of dining. The “prix fixe” fixed price menu offers some of the chef ’s most distinguished plates with a three-course and five-course selection. With the newly added Houmas House Inn, guests enjoy breakfast and dinner at the Carriage House Restaurant, which opened in 2013. Langlois played a prominent part in its design and menu. It’s an elegant room in concert with the plantation’s décor. Deep crown moldings join exquisite chandeliers with a long table in the center and smaller tables fixed throughout the room. A traditional breakfast can include a savory plate of grits and grillades, or for those with a sweet tooth, the French toast topped with bananas foster is a perfect choice. No matter the size of appetites or the time of day, Houmas House hosts several venues and multiple menus to accommodate tastes. Visitors touring the home and strolling the grounds also can enjoy lunch at Café Burnside with the option of ordering from the menu or indulging with the buffet. Or for those who wish to relax with a drink, the Turtle Bar is the place to sip wine or cocktails, including the estate’s esteemed mint juleps.

Author, speaker and award-winning freelance writer/photographer, Deborah Burst is a New Orleans native who enjoys writing outdoors at her Mandeville home. She has written five books featuring travel throughout the South.

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exploring destinations | GREENWOOD, MISSISSIPPI

Viking Cooking School chef instructor Loren Leflore

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Mile-high cream pies are a specialty at Crystal Grill

What’s Cooking in Greenwood? By Jackie Sheckler Finch Photography courtesy of Jackie Sheckler Finch and the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau

Greenwood, Mississippi offers plenty of opportunities to unwind and to sample the Delta’s legendary flavors. With a smooth swish, chef Loren Leflore spreads mile-high whipped egg whites on coconut cream pie. Then she invites a class member to use a culinary torch to brown the meringue. “You’re doing great,” she encourages the tentative torcher. Next, Leflore demonstrates how to make parmesancrusted catfish and Delta hot tamales. All the while, we are snacking on fried dill pickle slices while awaiting the meal our instructor is preparing in the famous Viking Cooking School in Greenwood, Mississippi. Taste buds are delighted to be educated here.

Leflore widened my food world when she talked about Delta hot tamales. I had no idea the hand-held meals were a Southern delicacy although famed bluesman Robert Johnson once invoked them in his song “They’re Red Hot.” At Viking, we learned how to roll, stuff and steam the tamales. “They are such a big part of the Delta,” Leflore says. “There are many variations and family recipes for them.” Once “The Cotton Capital of the World,” Greenwood has become a popular dining mecca after undergoing a major renaissance. It now has upscale shops, galleries, museums, a boutique hotel, top-notch dining experiences and welcoming DeSoto 41

Blues legend Robert Johnson is reportedly buried at Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery.

Hot tamales were part of our Viking Cooking School class.

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hospitality, says Danielle Morgan, executive director of the Greenwood Convention and Visitors Bureau. What surprises many first-time visitors, Morgan explains is, “the warmth of our people whose hearts are as wide open as the horizon…You don’t find that everywhere. That’s why we say Greenwood has a Delta spirit and a Southern soul that makes us unique.” The impetus for much of that modern-day culinary popularity goes to Fred Carl, founder of the Viking Range Corp. In the early 1980s, Carl decided to locate Viking in his hometown along the banks of the Yazoo River. The heartwarming story goes that Carl founded Viking in the 1980s to fulfill his wife’s quest for an oven that was no longer being made. Along with the success of the Viking company in Greenwood came the four-diamond Alluvian Hotel and the Viking Cooking School. Opened in 2003 in the shell of the abandoned 1917 Hotel Irving, the 45-room boutique Alluvian gets its name from the local rich alluvial soil. Tennessee Williams once called folks from the Delta “Alluvians” because they live in the alluvial flood plain. Renovated by Viking to preserve its historic ambiance, the hotel’s restaurant Giardina’s carries on dining traditions originally founded by a Sicilian family in 1936. Savor such classic Southern dishes as Baked Oysters Giardina with Benton’s Bacon along with traditional Italian favorites and, of course, hot tamales. Giardina’s offers 14 private booths, plus a large dining room that opens onto a beautiful courtyard. At Lusco’s restaurant, fresh seafood and succulent steaks headline the menu. Originally a grocery store opened by Italian-Americans in 1933, Lusco’s is well known for its private dining alcoves complete with buzzers for summoning waiters. A local told me that the curtained booths were originally so diners could imbibe in bootleg hooch. It might seem strange that a town with a population of about 14,000 would have a 250-seat dining spot, but Crystal Grill draws plenty of locals and visitors to fill those seats. Family owned and operated since 1933, Crystal Grill offers Delta dishes like lemon pepper catfish, followed by Lemon Icebox Pie. For a new experience in an old site, dine at Station 222, formerly the Delta Bistropub with its yummy fried green tomatoes. Or try Fan and Johnny’s in the old Delta Bistro where James Beard Award-nominated chef Taylor Bowen Ricketts showcases her culinary skills.

To work off some of that hard-to-resist Greenwood food, take a stroll around town. Once named one of America’s 10 most beautiful streets, Grand Boulevard is lined by almost 300 majestic oak trees. The award-winning 2011 movie “The Help” was partly filmed in Greenwood, and the Greenwood CVB offers a free map pointing out the locations of 16 homes, churches, shops, and other sites in the movie – including the house that served as Skeeter Phelan’s home. “The Viking Cooking School’s most popular class features southern specialties from The Help,” Morgan says. “As Minny Jackson’s character said, ‘Frying chicken always makes me feel a little better about life.’ So it’s a great skill to have.” Greenwood also is linked to famous blues pioneer Robert Johnson who legend says sold his soul to the devil for his extraordinary talents. Johnson died in a shotgun shack just outside town and is buried in Little Zion Missionary Baptist Church Cemetery about two miles north of Greenwood. “People come from all over the world to see it and you never know who you may run into while you are there,” Morgan says. The story goes that Johnson was having an affair with the wife of the owner of the Greenwood juke joint where he was playing. Unknowingly accepting a poison-laced drink that was sent to him, Johnson became deathly ill and died Aug. 16, 1938. He was 27 years old. “There is truly a little something for everyone as Greenwood is steeped in diverse history and culture,” Morgan says. “Greenwood has a laid-back atmosphere with plenty of opportunities for unwinding without the big city pressures.”

An award-winning journalist, Jackie Sheckler Finch has covered a wide array of topics – from birth to death with all the happiness and sorrow in between. One of her greatest joys is taking to the road to see what lies beyond the next bend.

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, h a n n a v a S gia

on the road again | SAVANNAH, GEORGIA



8:30 Enjoy steaming hot-and-powdered-sugar beignets with decadent praline sauce at Huey’s on River street, a local favorite that also specializes in creole and seafood omelets. 9:30 With so much to see and do in Savannah, you will want to spend a day focusing on Savannah’s historic riverfront district. Begin with a leisurely stroll along the landscaped river walk, watching the ferries and container ships as you plan a shopping expedition. 10:00 More than 75 boutiques, galleries, and artist studios are located on River Street. For whimsical gifts and souvenirs, don’t miss Bob’s Your Uncle & Fannie’s Your Aunt, familyowned and operated since 1972. Find pottery, jewelry, original art and photography at Gallery 209, then make your way down to the open-air market at 502 E. River Street. 11:15 Grab an early lunch at Vic’s on the River, where you can enjoy Southern classics like shrimp ‘n’ grits, po-boys, and meatloaf in a former 19th century warehouse. Reservations are recommended. 12:45 Hop aboard a Savannah Riverboard Cruise for an unforgettable tour of the historic waterfront city. The boat departs at 1 p.m. sharp and cruises down the river to Old Fort Jackson and back for a 1.5 hour round trip. If you are in town on a Sunday, be sure to ask about the Sunday Brunch Cruise. 3:00 Take an Instagram moment or two at several iconic Savannah monuments on River Street, including the African-American Families Monument, the World War II Monument, the Waving Girl Statue and the Olympic Cauldron, which has been burning since the 1996 Olympics. 4:00 Peruse a few more shops along River Street and then grab a cocktail and snack at the Tavern at River Street Inn, one of Savannah’s most historic and elegant inns. 5:00 As the most haunted city in the nation, don’t miss a Blue Orb Tour, named Best Savannah Ghost Tour by the well-respected Savannah Destination Guide. Professional storytellers create suspense for 90 minutes through Savannah’s most haunted locations 6:30 Enjoy a cozy fire pit, live entertainment, and a tapas-style menu at Rocks on the Roof, Savannah’s newest hotspot with fantastic views of the city.

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To plan your visit:

Upcoming Festivals: 30th Annual Black Heritage Festival February 1-21

Celebrate 30 years of history, culture, and art.

Savannah Book Festival Feb. 14-17

Some of America’s most noted authors, including Mary Kay Andrews, Elizabeth Berg, and Jack Carr, will speak at this prestigious and popular book event.

St. Patrick’s Day Parade March 17

One of Savannah’s most famous events, the St. Patrick’s Day Parade is one of the largest in America and draws people from around the nation. Plan ahead because rooms sellout during this totally Irish celebration.

Savannah Music Festival March 28 – April 13 Since 1989, music lovers have flocked to Savannah during peak Azalea season to hear the broadest palette of music in one place, ranging from country to folk to jazz to chamber.

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greater goods | BABY, IT’S COLD OUTSIDE

baby, it’s cold outside









1. Midi Soft White Coat, Upstairs Closet, 136 Norfleet Drive, Senatobia, MS 2. Winter coats and vests, Center Stage Fashions, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 3. Scarves, Center Stage Fashions, 324 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 4. Sherpas, SoCo Apparel, 300 W Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 5. MudPie Plaid Wrap, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 6. Faux fur vest, The Pink Zinnia, 134 West Commerce Street, Hernando, MS 7. Scarves, The Bunker, 2631 McIngvale Road #106, Hernando, MS 8. CC hats and smart tip gloves,, Commerce Street Market, 74 W Commerce St, Hernando, MS

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greater goods | IN THE KITCHEN

in the kitchen












1. Salad servering set, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS 2 MudPie Mac N’ Cheese serving dish, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 3. McCarty Pottery pasta bowl, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 4. Etta B Platter, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 5. Maple Leaf At Home Cutting Boards, The Wooden Door, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 6. Le Creuset Batter Bowl, Mimi’s on Main, 432 Main Street, Senatobia, MS 7. Peter’s Pottery baking dishes, Cynthia’s Boutique, 2529 Caffey Street, Hernando, MS 8. Mudpie Initial Napkins, Paisley Pineapple, 6542 Goodman Road, Olive Branch, MS 9. Captain Rodneys Boucan Glaze, Merry Magnolia, 194 E Military Road, Marion, AR 10. Golden Rabbit Enamelware, Ultimate Gifts, 3075 Goodman Road E, Southaven, MS 11. Crossroads Pottery coffee mugs, Bon Von, 214 W Center Street, Hernando, MS DeSoto 47

i pp i ss i ss i m

s t u O Steak

By Karen Ott Mayer Photography courtesy of Adam Mitchell, Karen Ott Mayer, MM Shapley’s Restaurant, Doe’s Eat Place and Tico’s Steakhouse

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Marshall Steakhouse’s T-Bone and Lobster Tail

Mississippi’s well-known steakhouses dot the landscape and offer mouth-watering prime cuts along with local ambiance. We’ve opened the doors to a few of our favorites, and we think you’ll be ready to order soon, too. DeSoto 49

MM Shapley’s Restaurant

Across Mississippi, curious carnivores can indulge their cravings for beef and nostalgia in one serving. The Magnolia State is home to some of the most iconic and original steakhouses, which in some cases, have been open for decades. Everyone has their preference or choice cut. In this case, we have chosen a steakhouse sampling from our memories (and friends) to fill our appetites and peak your interest. The only problem? We just know there is more beef out there, sizzling on a grill waiting to be discovered. MM Shapley’s Restaurant Ridgeland A FAMILY HOMECOMING At MM Shapley’s Restaurant in Ridgeland, Mississippi, 2018 represented a homecoming of sorts for the Shapleys. Opened in 1985 by Mark and Mary Shapley, the restaurant quickly became a favorite destination for those in the Jackson area. The couple’s culinary dedication was only outranked by their dedication to family. “When our girls arrived, we decided we really wanted to raise a family so we left the restaurant business for 20 years,” says Mark Shapley. The restaurant remained open for the next two decades under the care of another chef/owner. When an opportunity presented itself to re-enter the business this year, the couple took the plunge. “Our girls are grown and our son-in-law is now part of the restaurant.” Today, the couple couldn’t be more excited to reconnect with the community and friends. Like other independent steakhouses, MM Shapley’s can’t be replicated because each place reflects each family’s personality and history. 50 DeSoto

“We are a very friendly, accommodating environment. We focus on making our guests a priority and offering a pleasant experience beyond just eating a steak,” says Shapley. But what about the beef ? “We have an exceptional product that originates from a closely graded and healthy production environment. We consider ourselves a high-end steakhouse but still serve a one-plate dinner where everything is included.” Guests can order cut-to-order filets and most any popular primal cut. MM Shapley’s also serves seafood and another well-known Mississippi Delta fare: tamales. “We are known for our tamales.” Oddly, another iconic and nearly legendary place just down the road in Greenville, Mississippi, makes the same claim. When asked what’s the deal with steak and tamales, Shapley laughs. “I have no idea, but it’s a Southern thing. And I know Doe’s and come from that area, but I’ll just say our tamales are three times the size of others.” His friendly rivalry may not explain the tamale/steak connection, but it does give us another reason to eat our way to the answer.

The Como Steakhouse Como EVERYBODY KNOWS THE NAME Como, Mississippi’s Main Street runs south to north, tying together a collection of turn-of-the-last century brick storefronts. While the walkable street offers a good view, locals know the best spot is from the balcony of the Como Steakhouse, where the Oyster Bar serves light fare and small plates until a steakhouse table opens up. On a fall evening, the handful of tables fills up quickly where those wanting fresh oysters or waiting for a table in the alwayscrowded steakhouse can enjoy a drink and views of the town. “Everyone knows the Como Steakhouse.” These words emanate from strangers’ lips: from Gulf Coast residents and even from Washington, D.C., visitors. Well-established for nearly three decades, this steakhouse is a workhorse. Quaint, vintage and the original steakhouse in north Mississippi, the Como Steakhouse serves steaks in a building that is full of black and white photos of local women, men on horseback, and stout Herefords. Like clockwork, the cooks fill the grills with charcoal every afternoon, and by early evening, throngs of people line the sidewalk waiting for a table. Reasonably priced with baked potatoes the size of a mini-football, supper at the Como Steakhouse feels like dinner among friends from 100 years ago.

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Doe’s Eat Place Greenville TAMALES WITH THAT STEAK Talk about history and contradictions. How does a simple white block and wood building in Greenville, Mississippi, become one of the nation’s most recognizable places for steak? Maybe by accident or design. Opened in 1941 as restaurant, Doe’s Eat Place has evolved from a family hang out to a grocery store to a renowned eatery. The family first arrived at the location in 1903 when Dominick “Doe” Signa opened a grocery store with his wife, Mamie. Today, Doe’s is a James Beard Award-winning restaurant where the only thing that rivals the porterhouse is the hot tamales. Doe’s has served tamales since opening decades ago. Run by sons Charlie and Little Doe, Doe’s has now franchised across the South at more than a dozen locations. There just may be a tamale lurking near you.

Marshall Steakhouse Doe’s Eat Place

Marshall Steakhouse Holly Springs RUSTIC AND RUGGED The newest restaurant on the scene, Marshall Steakhouse in Marshall County between Red Banks and Holly Springs, definitely ranks as a dining destination. The rural setting inspires guests driving from Memphis or Oxford to make an afternoon of it, savoring every bite and enjoying the area. With the recent opening of I-269, accessibility is even easier near the I-22 junction and the restaurant. The interior belies the exterior metal building. Filled with reclaimed wood crafted into tables and paneled walls, the interior itself can be described as rustic and rugged. The Western décor lends a Colorado flavor to the north Mississippi establishment. Owner Randall Swaney and his crew serve lunch as well as dinner. When the weather is nice, guests can even choose to grill their own steaks on outdoor pads similar to those found in state parks. And if you’re really brave or just into massive food challenges, Marshall Steakhouse challenges guests to eat a 72-ounce sirloin in an hour to earn a free dinner.

Tico’s Steakhouse

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Tico’s Steakhouse Ridgeland ATTENTION TO DETAILS Another Ridgeland favorite, Tico’s has been serving steaks and seafood for more than 30 years. Guests can expect an a la carte menu filled with Tico’s signature steaks, seafood and list of accompaniments like Asparagus au Gratin, broiled tomatoes, sweet or regular baked potatoes, and, of course, hand-cut French fries. In addition, Tico’s wine list is extensive with some of the best labels from California’s Napa Valley and Sonoma County. Jackson area locals love the attention to details as well as Tico’s friendly atmosphere. When not visiting with guests at his restaurant, owner Tico Hoffman is known around the area for his golf swing, having been a player on the amateur golf circuit. Rumor has it that the personable Hoffman has never met a stranger, so perhaps the best way to test the theory is to head to Tico’s for supper.

Karen Ott Mayer is a freelance writer from Como, Mississippi.

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o t n e m i P Southern Caviar:

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e s e Che

By Pam Windsor Photography courtesy of Christy Lynch Designs, Nathan Kirk Designs and Joseph Woodley

Everyone remembers pimento cheese sandwiches in their lunch boxes, but today’s chefs and cooks have taken the iconic Southern staple to a whole new level.

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Sassy and Brian Henry and family

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Most of the guests at Sea View Inn on Pawleys Island have been visiting for years. They come to enjoy the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean, the view of the South Carolina marsh, and Sassy Henry’s famous pimento cheese. Henry and her husband, Brian, have been serving the delectable cheese since they bought and began running the inn in 2002. It started as an appetizer during Wednesday night shrimp boils and the guests loved it. It became so popular neighbors were asking for it. In fact, that’s how they came up with the name, even before it evolved into a business. “We’d have parties,” Henry explains, “and one time our neighbor came over and asked, ‘Y’all have any of that Palmetto Cheese?’ My husband and I looked at each other and were like, that’s the name.” Today, Sassy Henry’s Palmetto Cheese can be found in stores across the country. Known as “the Caviar of the South” or “Pate of the South,” pimento cheese is made with cheese, mayonnaise, and pimentos. Many remember it as a family staple growing up. There’s been a longstanding tradition of eating pimento sandwiches at the Masters Golf Tournament in Augusta. Henry created her own version of pimento cheese while in college. “When my husband, Brian, and I started dating we would go visit his mom and she always made pimento cheese, especially one with jalapenos, and he just loved it,” she recalls. “That was in the early 90’s. So, I started thinking nobody makes pimento cheese anymore, unless you’re going on a family vacation to the beach or something special, so I started playing around with it.” She developed her own recipe. They were living in Atlanta at the time and going to a lot of tailgating parties at Braves games. “Our friends would always bring fried chicken and say, ‘You’re bringing pimento cheese, right?’ And that’s kind of how I started making it my thing.” O n c e t h e y m ov e d t o S o u t h Carolina and it became a hit with guests at Sea View, Henry and her husband began selling their pimento cheese at a local seafood store. Soon, grocery stores picked it up. DeSoto 57

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“When our local Piggly Wiggly began selling it, it kind of went to another level because so many vacationers would take it home with them to Charlotte, Atlanta, Greenville, and elsewhere.” Now, all three flavors, original, bacon, and jalapeno, are produced by Duke Food Productions in Easley, South Carolina. Each container features a picture of Vertrella Brown, a family friend and cook at the Sea View Inn. “We’re in 47 states, and in about 9,500 stores, and in terms of how much we sell a week, it’s probably about 250,000 tubs a week,” says Henry. While pimento cheese may be iconic to the South, it didn’t start there. North Carolina-native Emily Wallace, a writer and illustrator, did her master’s thesis on pimento cheese. “It definitely didn’t originate here,” she explains. “You can find some early advertisements for it all over, and early recipes for it in New York or California. One reason it became so prevalent here is that pimento peppers were a big industry, particularly in Georgia, but also in other areas of the Piedmont South.” Wallace moved away, then developed her interest in pimento cheese after returning home. While going to graduate school at UNC Chapel Hill for a Master of Arts in Folklore, she took a documentary food class where students were told to study something or someone in the food industry. “I’d grown up with these tubs of the bright orange pimento cheese in our refrigerator like the Ruth’s brand or Star Foods you see in every grocery story in North Carolina,” she says. “I’d never given it much thought until I’d left the South, then came back, and started this grad program where you were taught to question everything. I wondered, what is this stuff I’ve always taken for granted?” She says pimento cheese became popular because it was an inexpensive food people could easily carry with them. “My grandmother had a recipe she always made. Then my mother, who worked in the textile industry, always had those brands I was talking about in the refrigerator. It’s what they would use for sandwiches to take to work.” But while the cheese spread might have been inexpensive, the pimentos added something special. DeSoto 59

Chef Katie Coss - Husk in Nashville

Chef Lasater - HattieB

“Pimento cheese was considered a fancy food at one point because of the pimento peppers,” adds Wallace. “They helped elevate it, so this was a way to eat a cheap food that also had a fancy air, I guess.” Now considered a true Southern comfort food, many restaurants offer their own specialty pimento cheese. The Husk in Charleston has used Chef Sean Brock’s recipe for years. Katie Coss worked at the Husk in Charleston before moving to become executive chef at the Husk in Nashville. “I guess you could say we’re very proud of our pimento cheese recipe,” Coss says. “Everyone has their own variation.” While they use Brock’s well-known recipe in Nashville, Coss says their dedicated farm-to-table approach using only fresh, local ingredients, has it tasting slightly different. “When I came here from Charleston, I noticed the pimento cheese here didn’t taste quite the same as it did in Charleston. It was because we’re sourcing locally, so the smoked cheddar’s going to taste different because the cows that we raise here eat different grass. There are so many variables that can affect your product even going state to state with the same recipe.” Since cheese is the key ingredient, her best advice for anyone making pimento cheese is to splurge on the cheddar cheese. Many restaurants finding new and different ways to

feature pimento cheese. It’s often added to burgers, grilled cheese sandwiches, deviled eggs, biscuits, English muffins, and much more. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville now serves pimento mac & cheese as one of its side dishes. “It’s a great Southern dish that goes along well with fried chicken,” notes co-founder, Nick Bishop, Sr. He spent years in the restaurant business, getting his start with Morrison’s Cafeteria, so sides were a priority when he and his son opened Hattie B’s. He credits son-in-law, John Lasater, Hattie B’s executive chef, with helping developing the dish. “We had a family gathering at the house, and John came over and we made a scalloped potato pimento cheese. I said, you know, there’s nothing more Southern than pimento cheese and macaroni and cheese, so why don’t we bring those two together and see what it looks like.” Pimento Mac & Cheese ranks as one of the restaurant’s top sellers. The possibilities are endless. “I had a friend who made a tomato and pimento cheese pie,” says Wallace. “It was almost like a traditional tomato pie, but had pimento cheese in there, also. It was awesome!” “It’s very versatile,” says Henry. “You can use pimento cheese for anything that requires cheddar cheese.” Some 12 years after launching the business, Henry remains surprised by how quickly it’s grown. She attributes it,

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Pimento Mac & Cheese at Hattie B’s

in part, to pimento cheese being a ‘memory food.’ “When we started selling it, and still today, we get these awesome letters from people saying they haven’t had pimento cheese or a pimento cheese memory like this since they were younger and their grandmother made it.” She finds that very rewarding.

Pam Windsor is a Nashville-based freelancer, who writes for AARP Magazine, Forbes, Country Weekly, and other publications.

Look on our wesite for Hattie B’s Pimento Mac & Cheese recipe!

Tips for Outstanding Pimento Cheese

Some of the best tips for making pimento cheese include using plenty of pimentos, the less mayonnaise the better, blending in cream cheese, and adding onion, jalapenos, or other spices based on individual tastes. As with most comfort foods, there’s always room for variation. That’s what makes it special. Sassy Henry’s Pimento Cheese Pinwheels Serves 6 Ingredients • 12 oz. Palmetto Cheese – Original, Jalapeno, or Bacon • 1 pkg. Pillsbury® Crescent Dough Sheet • 1/4 cup Pesto Instructions Roll out one package of Crescent dough onto a floured surface. Spread Palmetto Cheese evenly over the dough. Cut the dough in half down the center and begin rolling from the center. Wrap rolls and freeze for at least one hour. You can keep the rolls in the freezer and pull out for any occasion, but make sure you wrap them tightly. Cut the rolls into 1/2″ thick slices and place the slices into a lightly greased small muffin pan. Bake at 400F for 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oven and brush with Pesto.

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Red velvet waffle at Tavern, Nashville

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A Walkable Feast By Mary Ann DeSantis Photography courtesy of Mary Ann DeSantis (Ocean Springs and Nashville) and Angela Myers (Memphis)

Progressive walking food tours have become a popular way to experience a city’s culinary scene and food culture for one set price. DeSoto 63

Karen Lee Ryan

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Tastin’‘Round Town owners,Carol and Lance Silkes

Skip Bibb, owner of Elliston Place

Line outside Hattie Bs

Elliston Place, Nashville

Getting a real sense of a place often comes through the culinary experiences. If you are in a town for only a day or two, it’s hard to visit more than a couple of restaurants. Popular in Europe for many years, walking food tours are springing up throughout the South, allowing visitors to sample many foods and establishments in just a few hours. Each restaurant on a tour serves a dish – usually a specialty – then the group walks to the next eatery. Just like a progressive dinner, tours usually start with appetizers in one place and finish with dessert about four or five restaurants later. There’s no need to worry about going hungry… the food is always plentiful and the portions are generous. After all, the chefs hope you’ll return for a full meal. An added bonus of these food tours: walking off all those calories! “rooted in comfort” Walk Eat Nashville The line of people waiting to get into Hattie B’s in Midtown Nashville was snaking down the city block by 10:30 a.m. Everyone was there for the famous Nashville Hot Chicken, but it was a tour group with Walk Eat Nashville that slid in through the side door, relatively unnoticed. Tour owner Karen-Lee Ryan knows the tricks for seamlessly navigating the crowds at Nashville’s trendiest restaurants on her walking food tours. Hattie B’s and its next-door neighbor, Gigi’s Cupcakes, are usually on Ryan’s Midtown/Vanderbilt University area tours. Just like other similar food tours, though, restaurants can vary depending on a restaurant’s schedule.

“Nashville is a city about relationships, and I take advantage of that,” says Ryan, who founded the company in 2014. “Musicians like to be creative and collaborate and that’s what chefs want, too.” In fact, Ryan says creativity, collaboration and comfort are core to her success. The food on the tours showcases dishes that are creative and chef-inspired, while the camaraderie Ryan and her guides have with the restaurants is genuine and respectful. “And all our food is rooted in comfort,” she adds. Indeed, a red velvet waffle at Tavern – also on Walk Eat Nashville’s Midtown tour – brought back childhood memories for participants who remembered the Southern classic red velvet cake – only this time with a new twist for brunch. Grown-up flavors included a “Music City Spritz” at the Mason Bar, recently voted as Nashville’s best restaurant bar. The Elliston Place Soda Shop, listed in the book “1,000 Places to See Before You Die,” is a frequent stop of Ryan’s, just as it is for many of Nashville’s legendary stars. Singer Jimmy Buffett even wrote about the diner in his liner notes for his first three albums. Elliston’s owner, Skip Bibb, bought the place five years ago and reminds people of its importance in Nashville’s history. “I have a sense of stewardship to the community to keep it open,” he says as his staff brings out the world-famous milkshakes for food tour participants. History is an important part of any Walk Eat Nashville tour, according to Ryan. The shady campus of Vanderbilt University is considered an “urban oasis” as Ryan told a tour group on an unseasonably hot fall afternoon. DeSoto 65

Wendy Fairley

Chef Milton Joachin

A former journalist, Ryan knows how to tell a story and make history come alive on her three-hour tours in between bites at some of Nashville’s most popular and often historic restaurants. Walk Eat Nashville tours are located in East Nashville (the first tour Ryan launched), the Midtown area, and downtown. “All of the tours tend to sell out, so it’s hard to say which is the most popular,” she says.

them in and out of the itinerary. “I always ask a chef or someone from the restaurant to speak to the food tour groups,” she says. “I like for them to give an overview of how the dish is made.” One of Ocean Springs most popular restaurants is Charred, where Chef Milton Joachin talks about Mississippi’s seafood industry while he serves fried oysters with house-made onion marmalade. Down the street, the Tasty Tours groups often stop at Mosaic Tapas Restaurant, which survived Hurricane Katrina. Owner Arturo Zarajas rode out the devasting 2005 storm and lived at the restaurant until he could reopen it. Today, the awardwinning restaurant offers a multitude of cuisines from Brazilian and Cuban to Greek and Mediterranean. Mosaic also offers the largest specialty drink collection on the Gulf Coast, and some tours will include one drink to sample. After visiting Tato-Nut, home of the “real donut” using potato flour, and the French-inspired Mason du Lu, my Tasty Tour ended at the colorful French Kiss Bakery near the Walter Anderson Museum. Although I had eaten my way through Ocean Springs, I still enjoyed a strawberry Bavarian custard.

“KEEP IT TASTY” Tasty Tours of South Mississippi Shortly after leaving military service, Wendy Fairley took a short vacation to Memphis with her sister, Jessica, and was trying to decide her next career move. Before her progressive walking tour of restaurants along Beale Street had ended, Fairley already knew what she wanted to do: return home and showcase the cuisine of the Mississippi Gulf Coast. In 2016, Wendy and her sister started Tasty Tours of South Mississippi, focusing on restaurants in Ocean Springs and Gulfport. In addition to the ever-popular seafood tour in Ocean Springs, she also offers a “garden” tour for vegetarians. The Gulfport tours hit some of that city’s most historic downtown restaurants, featuring both meat and seafood. Fairley’s bubbly personality fits her signature tag line, “Keep in tasty.” She greets her restaurant partners as enthusiastically as she does her tour customers. Restaurants vie for a spot on the Tasty Tours, so Fairley often has to rotate 66 DeSoto

“FOLLOW THE GIANT WHISK” Tastin’ ‘Round Town – Memphis If you think Memphis is all about barbecue and nothing else, just ask Tastin’ ‘Round Town, a food tour company founded in 2010 by Carol and Lance Silkes. The iconic barbecue tours are

usually the most popular, but other options – like the Spit Decision or the Downtown Memphis tours – give visitors another taste of chef-inspired dishes. You don’t have to sacrifice – you still taste barbecue but also get to sample other signature dishes, such as exquisite Tuscan Butter at Spindini and delicious desserts at Café Pontotoc. “Our philosophy is to share the experience of Memphis through food,” says Carol Silkes, who is classically trained chef and a professor of food management at the University of Memphis. She and her husband, Lance, adopted Memphis wholeheartedly after moving to the city for her position. Lance, who has a doctorate in optometry, flirted with the idea of opening a restaurant. “We ate out a lot,” remembers Carol, “and we liked all the restaurants. We couldn’t find a niche we could fill. They were all local and we weren’t.” The couple became judges for the Memphis in May barbecue competition and were constantly asked, ‘what is the best barbecue’. Their quest eventually led them to create Tastin’ ‘Round Town food tours. “A food tour brings together chefs, restaurants, the community, local guides and visitors,” explains Carol. “It gives visitors and locals a shared experience.” She says walking food tours have become increasingly popular because of Food Network and Instagram. “There are more pictures of our food tours and giant whisk on Instagram than ever.” Tastin’ ‘Round Town is usually a walking tour – about 6,000 FitBit Steps for those keeping track – but the company also has a bus tour when covering larger areas. In addition to the public tours, Tastin’ ‘Round Town also builds customized tours. The Silkes have inspired others around the country – like Wendy Fairley of Tasty Tours – to start their own food tour companies. “Their stories are the reasons I still love doing this,” says Carol. “We made our dream their dream.”

A native of Laurel, Mississippi, Mary Ann DeSantis serves as the managing editor for DeSoto Magazine.

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homegrown | GRUMPY MAN FOODS

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Creating a Legendary Salsa By Andrea Brown Ross | Photography courtesy of Nathan Sanford - Grumpy Man Foods

Made in Mississippi, Grumpy Man Foods unusual marketing approach has proved successful for their family-owned business. After graduating from college, Nathan Sanford was working but not yet set in a particular career track. When his father approached him about creating a business with a beloved family salsa recipe, Sanford agreed. The Sanford family had been making the unique salsa recipe for more than 20 years. In 2013, under the guidelines of the Cottage Food Law, they began selling their products at area farmers markets. In 2014, they picked up a few grocery stores. Then they decided to try another strategy a few years ago when they attended the Mississippi Market in Jackson, Mississippi. The chance

to sell their products to retail shops expanded their business throughout the state and to other Southern states including Tennessee, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Currently, products made by Grumpy Man Foods are most commonly found in boutique stores. Melvin Crockett, owner of Main Street Antiques in Como, Mississippi, shares what caught his attention. “We try to support businesses with products made in Mississippi. I met Nathan a few years ago at the Mississippi Market. Besides just being a nice guy, the legend behind the DeSoto 69

company name really got my attention,” shares Crockett. Undoubtedly, the name and logo are a bit unconventional when compared to the typical industry marketing model. It’s not glamorous nor is it too cute. Sanford explains, “When my father and I were discussing our business plan, he had a few old family photos we were looking at. We ultimately decided to use my grandfather’s image and name it after him.” “We then created a legend that has some of my family history mixed in with it,” elaborates Sanford. What isn’t fiction about the legend of the grumpy man is the Sanford family’s use of the datil pepper in their products. “Datil peppers are not found everywhere and are in limited growth,” says Sanford. “In order to meet today’s current demand, we are now using local farmers to help grow them instead of just my family. We’re also growing other hotter peppers we want to experiment with future products.” Utilizing a rented commercial kitchen, Grumpy Man Foods has expanded from using 3- gallon stock pots to 10-gallon pots to now more than 40-gallon pots. A typical day in the kitchen is creating 400-to 600-jars for distribution. “We do not puree our tomatoes like other brands. Customers will find our products have a different consistency 70 DeSoto

and the occasional chopped diced tomato in our salsa,” shares Sanford. Customer favorites include the pecan pepper jelly and the seasonal cranberry pepper jelly, both of which are popular served on crackers with cream cheese. The top seller, though, is the medium salsa. “In the salsa line, the medium flavor is popular,” shares Crockett. “But hands down at our store, their sweet pickles are the favorite. They remind you of what mama made.” While Grumpy Man Foods expands their online shopping options, several retailers in north Mississippi carry their product line. For customers looking for locations, reaching out to the company via email will provide the most up-to-date information. For general information about their product line, customers may reference their website or follow them on Facebook or Instagram.

Andrea Brown Ross is assistant editor for DeSoto Magazine and a freelance writer based in Como, Mississippi.

A Legend is Born

The legend of the Grumpy Man begins in the 1700s when the Spanish landed on the shores of what is now St. Augustine, Florida. The Spanish came in search of new riches; however, they brought with them a great treasure in the form of a tiny pepper, called a datil. These brave conquistadors explored the new-found land and eventually arrived in the Mississippi River basin where a single pepper fell unnoticed from an explorer’s pocket. Some 400 years later, an old man – known by many as the Grumpy Man – was farming behind his cabin in Mississippi when he came across a strange seed on the ground. He planted the seed in the corner of his garden. When he awoke the next morning, he saw a bush had appeared overnight and was blooming with little green and golden peppers. Plucking a single pepper from the magic bush and popping it into his mouth, he was instantly filled with great delight. Knowing in his heart it would be wrong to keep such a great secret to himself, he began making delicious salsas and pepper jellies to share with friends and family. From these legendary beginnings is how the Sanford family began making Grumpy Man salsa, and today they still make it just like the Grumpy Man did.

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southern gentleman | WINTER GRILLING

Seven Tips for Winter Grilling By Jason Frye | Photography courtesy of Traeger Grills

Don’t let January’s frigid temperatures deter you from grilling or barbecuing. Just button up your non-flammable coat and get on with it. I was standing in a sweltering tent in Gulf Shores, Alabama, this past November when I broke out in a pretty bad case of the chills. A Canadian in town for the World Food Championships was showing me a picture of his backyard grill setup (not the big competition rig chuffing away in competition barbecue area, but his smoker, gas grill, and the little counter between them) somewhere far north of the Mason-Dixon Line. 72 DeSoto

His setup was covered – and I mean covered – in what looked like a foot of snow. Just looking at the picture I started to shiver. “That’s 28 centimeters of snow,” he said. “My son measured it this morning.” “How do you cook on that in the winter? Where I live – in North Carolina – the whole county shuts down for an inch of snow,” I said.

Across the South we respond to snow or even temperatures in the upper 30s in the same way: panic. If it snows, the county shuts down one day for every inch on the ground. If the temperature dips below 45, there’s a 30 percent chance school is delayed. If there’s a snowflake in the weather graphics, good luck finding bread, milk, or toilet paper in a twocounty area. There’s little I can do to keep a lid on the region-wide panic that snow induces, but I can tell you this: it’s easy to feed yourself, your family, your friends and neighbors when it’s cold out, snow or no snow. All you need is a grill. Even when it’s cold out, take heart, Southern Gentlemen. Here are a few tips to keep you cooking throughout the winter.

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Dress for the job. It’s cold, but you’re dealing with fire, so no scarves, no puffy coat from Patagonia, no fuzzy fleece, nothing that will catch fire or have a hole burnt in it when a spark flies your way. Dress warm enough to do the job without hypothermia, but keep it as non-flammable as possible.

Have your tools at the ready. This is a rule for

cooking anytime: keep the tools you need and the ones you might need close at hand. This also means your winter gloves aren’t meant to pick up a hot grate or help you turn a big old pork butt on the grill; for those jobs you still need heatproof gloves, oven mitts or towels.

“Have some bourbon to keep you warm if you’re going to be outside too long,” advises my

friend Rodolfo Sandoval, sous chef/pitmaster-in-training/ woodsplitter and butt- seasoner at Southern Smoke Barbecue. His boss, Matthew Register, echoed it: “Plenty of bourbon,” as did a half-dozen chefs, pitmasters, barbecue enthusiasts, and other foodies. It’s cold out, so a little nip of something to warm you up isn’t a bad idea. Just keep it between the lines so you can focus on the grill.

Matthew Register (who offered up that bourbon tip), owner of Southern Smoke Barbecue and author of the forthcoming “Southern Smoke: Barbecue, Traditions, and Treasured Recipes Reimagined for Today” (in bookstores this May), says to use some extra insulation on your grill to keep the temperature steady. His go to – moving blankets. They’re thick enough and burly enough to keep your smoker that much warmer without catching fire. Though have a little something (not bourbon) nearby in case you get a stray spark or two.


“MORE FIRE!!” Bud Taylor, chef-owner of The Bistro at Topsail, offered up this gem, but it’s true. When it’s cold out, you’ll have a hard time keeping your temperature up and you’ll need to cook a little longer. For every five degrees it drops below 45 you should add 20 minutes to your cook time. Now that depends on several variables – wind (we’ll get to that), humidity, what you’re cooking – but add in some extra time, throw a few more coals on the fire, and warm up with your bourbon, you’ll be out for a while.


Move it. Not the meat on the grill, but the actual grill. Keep it out of the wind and you’ll have an easier time cooking.


Lookin’ ain’t cookin’. If you’ve been around barbecue pitmasters enough you’ve heard this said a thousand times, and it’s true. Every time you lift the lid to look at the grill, you’re losing heat and tacking on time to the cook. So, don’t look. The solution can be as simple as getting a remote thermometer. The probe goes in the meat, the meat goes on the fire, you get to go inside and keep an eye on your temperature from afar.

Jason Frye is a freelance writer from Wilmington, North Carolina. Jason has authored three travel guides for Moon Publications and written for Southern Living and the Dallas Morning News.

Prepare for the cold. If you’re cold, your grill’s cold too, and that means you might have a hard time keeping a steady temperature, which is not so serious when you’re throwing on a steak or a couple of burgers, but when you’re making barbecue, it’s a real problem.

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southern harmony | RACHEL WISE

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Singing the praises of “Southern Life” By Kevin Wierzbicki | Photography courtesy of Steve Roberts

Byhalia native and Memphis resident Rachel Wise releases new album with songs about the things she knows – her faith and the South. It’s easy to hear with just one listen to “Southern Life,” the title track from Rachel Wise’s new album, that the singer is proud of her upbringing in rural Mississippi. A rowdy, country-tinged rocker that sounds like something Lynyrd Skynyrd might do if they were fronted by a woman, the song references dirt roads, guns, bonfires, sweet tea and finding Jesus. But Wise, who co-wrote the song with her guitarist Steve Corbett, is well aware that the South sometimes gets a bad rap, and the lines “Whatever you heard/

Don’t believe a word” addresses that notion. But the negativity is quickly brushed off, countered with “It [the South] sure lives up to the hype!” Reminiscing about life in and around her hometown of Byhalia, Mississippi, Wise says “Where I grew up people are just friendly. Everybody waves as you’re driving by, and people smile and greet you. I feel like life moves more slowly in the South. And it’s just calming to be out in the country.” Wise now lives in Memphis and she often performs in DeSoto 75

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the clubs on Beale Street and beyond, but the Tennessee city is only half an hour’s drive from her Mississippi roots, the place where a love of music and a deep Christian faith were instilled in her simultaneously. “I’ve always been told to write about things I know and that are true to me,” Wise says. “I’ve written some Christian songs because my faith is the biggest part of my life. I am very involved with the worship band at my church, and I definitely credit this voice of mine as a gift from God. He could have chosen to give this gift to anyone, but He picked me, and I’m very grateful for it, and I’m going to use this voice to bless as many people as I can.” The Southern Life album contains two songs of faith; the rollicking and blues-tinged “Washed” and the quiet “Above the Clouds,” a song about missing a departed loved one and looking forward to an eventual reunion on the other side. The star of Southern Life is Wise’s big and emotive voice, which she puts to good use on a set that goes well beyond the Southern rock title track. “Shoulda Known Better” is a foot-stomping, fiddle-enhanced cut that sounds inspired by Dolly Parton; “American Dream” has a bit of a Springsteen vibe to it; and “Come on Home” is set to a Hammond B3 organ groove that nods at the Memphis sound. The variety is no surprise considering that the music Wise heard at home while growing up was equally varied. “Everyone in my family loves to sing,” Wise says. “There was always some kind of singing or humming happening in our house whether or not music was playing. When music was playing, you never knew what it might be. It could have been anything from classical to contemporary Christian, heavy metal to oldies, and everything in between. We weren’t picky!” As you might expect from hearing the earthy Southern Life, Wise was strongly drawn to the bluesy and Southern rock genres, and she cites artists like the Allman Brothers, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Bonnie Raitt, the Marshall Tucker Band and the Georgia Satellites as influences. You can throw the hard-rocking group Mountain in, too, quite possibly because their biggest hit was the South-referencing “Mississippi Queen.” Noting some of her favorite covers like Raitt’s “Something to Talk About” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s twangy “Things Goin’ On,” Wise adds that she likes “good driving music,” a fact that’s quite obvious with “Southern Life.” Wise and her frequent co-writer Corbett have a real knack for bringing characters to vivid life in their vignettes of the South, but visuals are always a good thing, too. To that end Wise is currently working on a music video for “Southern Life.” “It’s the first music video I’ve ever been involved in,” Wise states. “There’s a lot of work and organization that goes into it, and I’m really looking forward to seeing the finished product. It’s sort of this all-encompassing Southern video to go with the song – wooden bridges, dirt roads, big trucks, the whole bit. It’s been fun!” Wise often plays out around Memphis and fans wanting to see her perform live should check the upcoming concert calendars at the Hard Rock Café Memphis and Lafayette’s Music Room, two of her favorite venues. Southern Life is available from CD Baby. Follow her on Facebook at

Kevin Wierzbicki is a longtime resident of Phoenix, Arizona. He writes about music for and about travel for various publications.

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in good spirits | SPIKED HOT CHOCOLATE

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Taking the Chill Off Story and photography by Cheré Coen

New cookbook offers modern twists to classic favorites, including peppermint-spiked hot chocolate. January means different things to Southern residents. For some, it’s a dreary month full of rain and cold making us doubt August once existed. For others, it’s ideal weather to sit inside by a fireplace and enjoy a hot drink, make plans for the upcoming Carnival celebrations. If you’ve never visited Louisiana and the Gulf Coast for a Mardi Gras parade, here’s some words of advice. The fickle weather may be warm and balmy — what they call along the coast “parade weather” — or turn brutally cold, the humid air seeping into your bones with a chill that won’t abate. When considering visiting Mardi Gras, it’s good to have a hot cocktail recipe in hand. Food writer Pam Wattenbarger discovered the value of a warm drink when visiting Shreveport last year. The two of us were in town to write about food and Carnival season when rain rolled in for our first parade experience, followed by a cold front. The day Pam and I were to ride in the Highland neighborhood parade, we were greeted by a drizzle and wind that rattled the teeth of even the hardiest. With hand warmers in our pockets and foot warmers in our shoes, we braved the cold, sitting in the back of a convertible throwing beads to onlookers. Wattenbarger recalls the experience in “The New Southern Cookbook: Classic Family Recipes and Modern Twists on Old Favorites” that she wrote with her daughter, Brittany Wattenbarger. She remembered the short parades in her Georgia home and imagined the Shreveport Carnival version would likely last the same amount of time. In Louisiana, they take Mardi Gras parades seriously, and the Shreveport Highland Parade lasted almost three hours. Afterwards, chilled to the bone and attending a VIP party without much heat, Wattenbarger asked the bartender for something to warm her insides. The mixologist suggested whiskey, not Wattenbarger’s spirit of choice, then created a coffee drink flavored with liquor. Wattenbarger was so inspired by the drink, she created her own. Because of allergies in the Wattenbarger family, her Spiked Peppermint Hot Chocolate recipe from her cookbook includes ways to work around certain ingredients, as does all

the book’s recipes. To make this drink dairy free and vegan, for instance, use vanilla almond milk and vegan chocolate and skip the whipped cream. For a non-alcoholic version, omit the vodka and add one-fourth cup crushed peppermint candy to the chocolate mixture and stir until dissolved. Spiked Peppermint Hot Chocolate

2 cups whole milk 1-2 tablespoons sugar, depending on the variety of the chocolate (use more sugar for bittersweet or dark chocolate and less for milk chocolate) 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/4 teaspoon salt 6 ounces good quality chocolate, coarsely chopped (your choice of dark or milk) 1/4 cup peppermint vodka Whipped cream (optional) Directions: In a medium saucepan over low heat, combine the milk, sugar, vanilla, and salt. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring constantly. Do not let the milk boil. Put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Pour the hot milk over the chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Stir in the peppermint vodka. Pour the hot chocolate into 4 cups and top with whipped cream (if using). Note: If you’re in a hurry, use 6 ounces of good quality semisweet chocolate chips instead of chopping the chocolate bars. Cheré Coen is a freelance food and travel writer living in Lafayette, Louisiana, but her Mississippi roots run deep. Read her quirky stories at

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exploring events | JANUARY Memphis Arts Collective Through January 3 Crosstown Concourse Memphis, TN Artists and artisans will be showing work in mediums including: painting, photography, pottery, jewelry, woodworking, metal working, fiber and textile arts, soap and candle making, cartooning, mixed media, retro collectibles, printmaking, glass work, and holiday ornaments among others. For more information visit or call 901-833-9533. Elvis’ 84th Birthday Celebration January 5 - 8 Graceland Memphis, TN Join us in Memphis as we celebrate Elvis’ birthday with four days of events, including an unforgettable fan experience featuring one of Elvis’ closest friends, Jerry Schilling. It is a special time to be in Memphis as Graceland will still be decorated for the holidays and there will be an epic birthday cake on display on January 8. For more information visit or call 901-332-3322. Elvis Presley Birthday Celebration January 8 Elvis Presley Birthplace Tupelo, MS 1:00pm Join the Elvis Presley Birthplace and Museum as they celebrate the 84th birthday of Elvis. They will be serving birthday cake, coffee, drinks, and water. Free. For more information call 662-841-1245. Justin Timberlake January 12 FedEx Forum Memphis, TN 7:30pm For more information visit, or call 800-745-3000. WWE Raw January 14 FedEx Forum Memphis, TN 6:30pm For more information visit, or call 800-745-3000.

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“Waitress” January 15 - 20 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN Brought to life by a groundbreaking all-female creative team, “Waitress” tells the story of Jenna, a waitress and expert pie maker who dreams of a way out of her small town and loveless marriage. For more information visit or call 901-525-3000. Author event with Mesha Maren: “Sugar Run” January 16 Turnrow Books Greenwood, MS Noon Mesha Maren is an award-winning writer whose gritty debut novel “Sugar Run” is already one of the most anticipated new books of 2019. Maren, recipient of the 2015 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize, as well as numerous other prestigious writing fellowships and awards, has crafted an at once contemporary and timeless story of a woman’s challenging return to the world after an eighteen-year stint in prison. For more information visit or call 662-453-5995. Kane Brown: Live Forever Tour January 18 Landers Center Southaven, MS 7:00pm Kane Allen Brown is an American country music singer and songwriter. He released his first EP, titled “Closer”, in June 2015. A new single, “Used to Love You Sober”, was released in October 2015. After Brown signed with RCA Nashville in early 2016, the actual song was included on his EP Chapter 1, which was released in March 2016. He released his first full-length album, the self-titled Kane Brown, on December 2, 2016. The single “What Ifs” was released from this album and, in October 2017, Brown became the first artist to have simultaneous number ones on all five main country charts. For more information visit or call 800-745-3000. Unforgettable: Celebrating the Nat King Cole Centennial January 21 Duling Hall Jackson, MS 7:30pm - 10:00pm Nathaniel Adams Coles was born in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1919. In 1937 he became known as Nat “King” Cole. In the early fifties, he began to conquer the charts with ballads like “Mona Lisa,” “Love,”

“Smile,” and “When I Fall in Love.” In 1990, he received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, and in 1991, his daughter, Natalie, recorded “Unforgettable” as a duet with her father, which won seven Grammy awards! Join performers David Walker and Latisha Hamilton as we celebrate the centennial of the birth of one of America’s musical icons. Admission: $25. Tickets are available at the door, by phone at 601-960-2300, or online at 9th Annual Oxford Fiber Arts Festival January 24 - 37 Powerhouse Oxford, MS Oxford Fiber Arts Festival showcases exhibits by local fiber artists, a fiber market, workshops, and demonstrations. Over 20 classes and curated vendors. 1-day pass $2. Weekend pass $5. Children free to exhibits and markets. For more information and a full schedule of events visit Kudzu Playhouse presents: Neil Simon’s “Rumors” January 24 - 27 Hernando Performing Arts Center Hernando, MS At a large, tastefully-appointed Sneden’s Landing townhouse, the Deputy Mayor of New York has just shot himself. Though only a flesh wound, four couples are about to experience a severe attack of Farce. Gathering for their tenth wedding anniversary, the host lies bleeding in the other room, and his wife is nowhere in sight. His lawyer, Ken, and wife, Chris, must get “the story” straight before the other guests arrive. As the confusions and mis-communications mount, the evening spins off into classic farcical hilarity. For more information visit or call 888-429-7871. Mary Wilson January 26 Orpheum Theatre Memphis, TN 7:30pm It was a vision of musical stardom as a Detroit teen that inspired Mary Wilson, along with Diana Ross and Florence Ballard, to found one of the most successful female singing groups in recording history — The Supremes. For more information visit or call 901-525-3000.

Cirque du Soleil Corteo January 31 - February 3 FedEx Forum Memphis, TN The clown Mauro has passed, but his spirit is still with us. Instead of mourning, the funeral cortege celebrates the here and hereafter with laughter and exuberance. Rich, extravagant memories frolic with the senses. The sound of laughter peals around the stage, visions of joyous tumblers and players fascinate the eyes. Regret and melancholy retreat in the face of a cavalcade of lively recollections of a life gloriously lived. A festive parade that entertains; the perfect accolade for an artist whose life was dedicated to revelry and making merry. For more information visit, or call 800-745-3000. Kelly Clarkson: Meaning Of Life Tour February 9 Landers Center Southaven, MS 7:00pm With Kelsea Ballerini and Brynn Cartelli. For more information visit, or call 800-745-3000. Justin Timberlake: January 12 at FedEx Forum. Memphis, TN

“Waitress” January 15 - 20, Orpheum Theatre. . Memphis, TN

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reflections | FOOD FOR THOUGHT

Food for Thought By Karen Ott Mayer

The other morning while waiting on my coffee, I poured a glass of apple juice. I couldn’t help but notice the big bold letters on the front of the bottle that proudly proclaimed: Gluten Free. Apples? Apple juice? Huh? Once again, Americans have taken hold of the latest food craze and have run with it like the bulls in Pamplona. And in return, our food marketers have taken careful heed and plastered a safe response on labels, boxes and anything else we read to make buying decisions. Years ago, when working with the Hernando Farmers Market, I witnessed this same volleying when it came to meat, beef and grass-fed terminology. More than once, I’d stand across from someone who had just digested the latest consumer magazine with pretty pictures of cows grazing in serenity and insist they wanted grass-fed beef or a grass-fed hog. It was too much to explain that a hog doesn’t really prefer grass, so I tried to steer the conversation around origin. Did they know where their meat came from? Walmart? A local farm? Did they know the farmer? For years, my father and I have read labels. What’s all the guar gum in ice cream? Why do pickles have food coloring like Yellow #5? Mr. Yellow #5 is a popular guy, showing up in chips, candy, pasta, and even salad dressings. Reading the label of a Catalina dressing bottle is like reading the crayon box. And that’s the good news. Most of us need an undergraduate degree in food science to even understand the ingredients on labels. Americans have become culinary hypocrites. We focus 82 DeSoto

on the popular buzzwords and lose sight of the whole picture – which is a pretty sad affair. It’s nearly impossible to find bread that doesn’t have a paragraph of ingredients. Last time I baked, I used flour, water, yeast, salt and sugar. Speaking of bread, I still tease my sister over her Subway addiction, following up on the whole azodicarbonamide scandal, otherwise known as yoga mat bread. “Hey, where are you?” I ask. “At Subway with the kids, enjoying a yoga mat sandwich,” she replies while munching in my ear. As many point out, this chemical compound is found in hundreds of food products. The real question is how much of a chemical thing is a bad thing? I’m not smart enough to answer that question but I’m also not willing to sign up to be the guinea pig either. Being reasonable seems to be key through all of this food business. Years ago, I about choked on my Fritos when I saw a Frito ad professing to locally source ingredients for their Fritos. The source? A huge image of a corn field. Since I didn’t know if the field was outside of Des Moines or near Buenos Aires, local seemed a stretch. What I’d really like to know is from where does a Cheeto come? Is it dug from the ground or picked from a tree? And more importantly, is it gluten free? Karen Ott Mayer is a freelance writer based in Como, Mississippi.

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