eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI - December/January 2023

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VOLUME 11, NUMBER 6 December/January 2023 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI Homemade sweets for every stocking Easy recipes perfect for snacking and gifting Fabulous Foodie Finds Gifts for every food lover on your list December/January 2023 DISPLAY UNTIL January 31, 2023 $7.95 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI Chicory Market * Elvie’s * West End Fresh Salads HomeSweetsHome

Cakes and Cookies and Breads, Oh, My! Jackson Restaurants Fill Every Wish on Your Holiday List

With Christmas, Hanukkah and New Year’s just around the corner, now is the time to scope out last-minute treats for every holiday occasion.

This family-owned and operated eatery specializes in, you guessed it, freshly made bagels!

However, Beagle Bagel isn’t all bagels; menu items include breakfast, salads, soups and sweet baked items.

Sweet treats on the menu include cookies, dessert bars, petit fours, cake by the slice and whole cakes. You can order a custom cake by calling ahead and choosing from the many flavors such as praline, coconut brickle, Italian cream cheese, and German chocolate. Beagle Bagel also offers cinnamon rolls, sticky buns, cream cheese Danishes and muffins, all perfect for a sweet holiday breakfast.

To see a full menu and order online, visit

Campbell’s Bakery - 3013 North State Street

What’s Christmastime without sticky-sweet baked goods? Campbell’s Bakery specializes in from-scratch and baked fresh treats year-round. However, their holiday treats are a huge draw for locals and visitors.

Campbell’s serves Christmas treats like sugar cookies, festively decorated petit fours, and even custom holiday cakes. However, the fun doesn’t stop there. Campbell’s also offers ten different cheesecake flavors (including baklava, PB&J and Oreo), brownies, chess squares, cupcakes and their wildly popular teacakes.

And as if all that wasn’t convincing enough, first-time visitors get a free cookie, so be sure to show your family and friends from out-of-town.

To learn more about Campbell’s Bakery or order online, visit

More than just a sweets shop, this old-fashioned candy store serves nostalgia with a side of cane sugar. Nandy’s Candy is the perfect place to pick up sweet stocking stuffers in the (old Saint) nick of time, from festive hot cocoa bombs to any flavor jelly bean you can think of.

Christmas-themed items currently featured on the Nandy’s menu include assorted chocolate boxes, foil-wrapped chocolates in the shape of Christmas presents and even chocolate-dipped marshmallows reminiscent of everyone’s favorite, red-nosed reindeer.

Nandy’s Candy also offers freshly made popcorn, peanut brittle, caramels, and gift baskets that are perfect for a last-minute gift.

To order online or see a full menu, visit

Over the years, Broad Street has made a name for itself in the King Cake world (and now carries the signature cakes year-round), and it was already a reigning champion of fresh breads in Jackson.

Each holiday season, you can count on Broad Street offering one-of-akind sugary baked treats, including seasonal cinnamon current bread and pumpkin bread loaves, iced sugar cookies, turtle cheesecake and byspecial-order-only three-layer cakes in festive flavors like mint chocolate and Oreo crunch.

Stop by for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, or check out the daily bread and treat offerings at

2 • December/January 2023
Beagle Bagel - 4500 Interstate 55 North Frontage Road #145 (Highland Village) Nandy’s Candy - 1220 East Northside Drive, Jackson Broad Street Baking Company, I-55 and Northside Drive (Banner Hall)



4 • December/January 2023 in every issue 6 From the Editor 7 What’s Happening 10-12 Fabulous Foodie Finds 14 A Taste of Magnolia 41 Recipe Index 47 Till We Eat Again 6 CONTENTS December/January 2023 Volume 11 Number 6 in this issue 43 40 12 SURPRISES FOR YOUR FOODIE FRIENDS 16 FRESH FROM THE FARM: Oxford’s Chicory Market: Fresh Produce and Open Arms 20 HOMEMADE HOLIDAY TREATS: 3 Delicious Homemade Holiday Gifts 26 Mouthwatering Feasts From Around the World 28 ENZO OSTERIA: A Taste of Tuscany in Ridgeland 30 VELVETY CHOCOLATES: Easy and Decadent Desserts to Light Up Your Tastebuds 32 ELVIE’S: Treating Employees to Retreats 34 FROM MISSISSIPPI TO BEYOND: Modern Southern Cuisine With a Spin 36 MISSISSIPPI MADE: West End Fresh Salads 38 RESTAURANT SPOTLIGHT: Mermaid Café 42 RAISE YOUR GLASS: Seven Winter Cocktails to Spice Up Your Holidays 44 FROM THE BOOKSHELF: Southern Living: Christmas All Through the South 47 TILL WE EAT AGAIN: True Tales of Roasted Chestnuts
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{ from the editor }

Join Me on this Winter Journey

It’s so appropriate that my first “From the Editor” column should be the December/January issue –in my opinion, the tastiest holidays happen in autumn and winter, and I’m excited to share those with you as we move forward together into 2023. (Thank you and good wishes for a new adventure, Rebecca!)

This issue of eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI is packed full of delicious seasonal recipes including incredible entrees, scrumptious sides, and luxurious libations. There’s a profile of chef Cameron Bryant from Oxford, holiday gadget gift ideas, and our usual Taste of Magnolia and Till We Eat Again. You can also learn a bit about how other cultures celebrate traditional foods during the winter holidays.

In the spirit of the great chef Julia Child – and drawing on my own French heritage – I wish you happy holidays and bon appétit!


Ingredients for Pork Loin:

• 2 tablespoons unsalted butter

• 2 large red or yellow onions, peeled and thinly sliced

• 1/2 teaspoon salt, to taste

• 6 cups beef stock

• 1/2 cup dry white wine

• 2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)

Image from Adobe Stock

• 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

• 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, to taste

• French bread, cut into rounds

• 3/4 cup Gruyère cheese

1. Melt butter in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add onions and salt; stir and cover, letting onions soften for 5 minutes. Remove lid and let onions caramelize until golden brown over medium heat, stirring occasionally (watch heat), 45-60 minutes.*

2. In a saucepan, warm broth over low heat.

3. Pour wine and sherry over caramelized onions and allow to boil. Add flour and whisk until thick (1-2 minutes). Slowly add warm broth and the pepper to the onion mixture and boil uncovered for 10 minutes. Adjust seasonings if needed.

4. Arrange ovenproof casseroles/soup bowls on a baking sheet. Ladle soup into dishes, top with bread slices, and sprinkle generously with cheese. Broil for 1-2 minutes until cheese melts and browns. Serve immediately. About 6 servings.

*Easy overnight caramelized onions: fill crock pot with 4-5 lbs. sliced onions; pour 1/3 cup olive oil over the onions and mix well. Cover with lid and cook on high for 7-8 hours. edm

EAT DRINK MISSISSIPPI (USPS 17200) is published bi-monthly by Connected Community Media Group, 10971 Four Seasons Pl. Ste. 211, Crown Point, IN 46307. Periodicals postage paid at Madison, MS, and additional mailing offices. POSTMASTER: Please mail changes of address to 10971 Four Seasons Place Suite 211 Crown Point IN 46307.

Chipotle Opening Madison Location

The citizens of Madison have begged for years, and they are finally getting their wish. Chipotle Mexican Grill is set to open in Madison on Grandview Boulevard next to Zaxby’s. The Madison location will be the second for central Mississippi, with another location currently being constructed on County Line Road in Ridgeland. Construction is set to begin in early 2023. e d m

Restaurant in a Caboose Opening in Long Beach

Juicy Caboosy, a restaurant that will be inside of a caboose, is set to open on the coast early next year. The train caboose was brought from Missouri to Long Beach and will house the restaurant that will serve fruit juice in the morning, pimento cheese dip in the afternoon, and a “boozy caboosy” and charcuterie boards at night. Co-owners Tomeka Bryant and Ailsa von Debeneck work in the railroad industry and have dreamed of opening a restaurant on the Coast. Along with restoring the 1944 caboose, they will add a pole barn for indoor seating and lawn games for outdoor entertainment. edm

Hal & Mal’s Under New Ownership

The iconic Hal & Mal’s restaurant and bar in Jackson is now under new ownership. The transition is an investment in the preservation of the Hal & Mal’s legacy. Damien Cavicchi and Mary Sanders Ferriss Cavicchi took the reins of the establishment in early November, with continued involvement and dedication from previous owner Malcolm White. For 37 years, Hal & Mal’s has been a staple of downtown Jackson, serving up tasty local eats along with live music and events. The new owners will bring their own new visions to the table and will also keep the traditions of Hal & Mal’s alive. The Cavicchis also recently acquired Campbell’s Bakery in Fondren. edm

Upscale Ramen Restaurant Set to Open at Silo Square

Silo Square in Southaven is home to several new restaurants and shops, and a ramen restaurant set to join the crowd. Kyuramen is an upscale ramen restaurant that will serve ramen, rice and ramen burgers, and dessert and bubble teas. Kyuramen will be the first of its kind in Southaven and is set to open this winter. For updates on an opening date, follow their Facebook page at edm

eat. drink.

MISSISSIPPI • 7 { what’s happening }


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eat. drink.


Debbie Hansen


Michele D. Baker


Paige McKay White

Contributing Writer & Advertising Associate

Lisa LaFontaine Bynum

Divian Conner

Evangeline Davis Susan Marquez Kathy K. Martin Jay Reed Contributors b b


Thank you for your interest in this magazine. We would love to hear from you. Please understand that letters submitted become the property of eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI and may be edited for length and clarity. E-mail us at, leave a comment on our Facebook page, or write to 10971 Four Seasons Place Suite 211 Crown Point IN 46307.

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8 • December/January 2023

Holiday Lamb Shanks

One of my favorite foods is lamb – it’s delicious, festive and makes great leftovers. At The Flora Butcher, to have great sources for locally raised lamb. Mississippi farmers take a lot of pride in their products, and it shows in their quality, so make the effort to find Mississippi-grown lamb. I promise you it will be well worth it!



• 4 lamb shanks, frenched

• 1/2 cup lamb tallow (fat)

• 1 carrot, peeled and split

• 1 yellow onion, chopped

• 1 stalk celery, chopped

• 2 bulbs fennel, sliced

• 1 large tomato, diced

• 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

• 2 cups sweet Riesling wine

• lamb stock to cover

• 2 bay leaves

• 1 sprig rosemary

• zest of 1 lemon

• 1/2 teaspoon chili flake

• Salt and pepper


Season the shanks liberally with kosher salt and fresh ground pepper. In a heavy pot melt the lamb tallow over medium high heat and brown the shanks on all sides; set aside.

Reduce the heat to medium and add the carrot, onion, celery, and fennel. Using a wooden spoon, stir often and scrape the bottom of the pan as the juices come out of the vegetables. Once softened, add the garlic and tomato, and continue to cook until all the liquid has cooked away. Still stirring often, add the wine and cook until the wine has evaporated.

Return the lamb shanks to the pot and add the stock until the shanks are submerged. Add the bay leaves, rosemary, lemon zest and chili flake. Cover and gently simmer for about 2 ½ hours or until tender but not falling off the bone.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool in the liquid. Once cool enough to handle, remove the shanks and cover with foil to keep warm. Strain the sauce, discarding the vegetables. In another pot, cook to reduce the sauce by half and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

To serve, place a shank on each plate and glaze with sauce, adding a little extra to that it pools on the plate. Pair with farro, risotto, lemony grits or a bed of pappardelle pasta.

8 Holiday Gift Gadgets For Getting (or Gifting!)

Winter’s colder weather and shorter days mean plenty of time inside for baking and cooking. These trendy gadgets make holiday kitchen time fun and also make great gifts!

Family Tree Personalized Bamboo Cookbook & Tablet Stand, $36.99

This cutting board/cookbook holder/tablet stand can be personalized with up to 22 names and any other text you wish. Made of eco-friendly bamboo, it measures 7.25” x 13.5” and folds flat for storage. Hand wash. Find this one-of-a-kind gift at Personalization Mall.

Stainless Steel 5-blade Herb Scissors, $12.97

The best recipes this holiday season call for fresh herbs but getting them perfectly chopped with a knife can be a real chore. The solution? Westmark’s specialized herb scissors with five stainless steel blades (and bonus cleaning comb)! Perfect for anything from scallions and chives to parsley and rosemary. Great stocking stuffer for the budding chef. Dishwasher safe. Pick up the version with holiday green handles on

Lid Sid: Pot Lid Lifter, $13.00

This holiday season, you need Lid Sid! When you need to vent, Sid dives in to keep the situation from boiling over. He’s infinitely reusable, always ready, and never complains. Whether keeping open a saucepan lid, or propping up your phone to read that recipe, Sid is ready to help: your own personal silicone handy man! Pack of two (red and white). Made by Monkey Business, a USA small business brand.

Available on

Cuisinart 13-Piece Cast-Iron Fondue Set, $49.95

This winter, heat up the fun with a sweet or savory fondue for the whole family. Cuisinart’s 13-piece set is crafted for lasting enjoyment, with a cast-iron cooking pot that can be used to melt chocolate or cheese directly on the stove, then transferred to its tabletop stand, ready for dipping. Comes with six (6) color-coded stainless-steel forks and a splatter shield to keep contents safely inside the 1.5 quart pot.

Available at Williams Sonoma in Christmas Red.

{ fabulous foodie finds }

Christmas Ornament Ice Molds for Making Festive, Slow-melting Drink Ice, $19.99

Decorative ice cubes add a touch of whimsical holiday cheer to your favorite cocktails! This set of 4 Tovolo Christmas Ornament Ice Molds delivers slow-melting, ornamental ice in large 2.5” spheres perfect for his favorite low- or highball glasses. Two-piece molds preserve the details of the ice shapes – a snowflake, Christmas tree, and two ornaments – and allow for easy removal. Dishwasher safe.

Available at Home Depot.

Compact Swivel Cheese and Tapas Board, $88.00

This collapsible round bamboo cheese board comes with special sockets for ceramic serving bowls, a groove that keeps your favorite crackers contained, and a secret drawer stocked with three cheese knives. It also folds down to half its size, so it’s easy to stow in your cupboard, too (the bowls fit inside). Wipe board and tools clean with damp cloth; bowls are dishwasher safe. Personalized version available for $98.00.

Available at

Indoor Flameless Marshmallow Roaster, $69.95

This indoor roaster produces campfire-worthy toasted marshmallows without an open flame, allowing you to enjoy S’mores all year round. The stainless-steel electric heater is safe and easy for children to use, and the divided tray holds chocolate, graham crackers, or candies. Hand wash.

Available at

Wooden Embossing Rolling Pin, $9.99 and up

These beautiful wooden rolling pins emboss holiday scenes into your cookie dough, creating gorgeous, themed cookies in a snap. Choose from nativity scenes, Hanukkah, Christmas wrap, snowflake patterns, reindeer, and more.

Available at

Surprises for Your Foodie Friends

We’ve curated this list of fabulous and unexpectedly fun holiday gifts for every food lover on your list. Check it twice and enjoy!

Belgian Chocolate Hot Cocoa Bombs, $24.95

These bombs create a flavor explosion when added to a cup of hot milk. Each 2½” sphere is hand-crafted by master chocolatiers with an outer shell of authentic Belgian dark, milk, or white chocolate and a delightful little surprise inside. Package of four. Visit

Christmas Brunch Hat Box, $99.99

Make Christmas morning merry with this delicious gift! Inside a festive and reusable hat box is a triple cheese and caramelized onion quiche, sliced Canadian bacon, cranberry orange loaf cake, English muffins, and raspberry preserves. Bon appétit! Available at

Uncommon Goods Cultured Cuisine Cooking Experiences, $30 and up

A clever, thoughtful, creative gift idea this holiday season: virtual cooking experiences! In the “Asian Cooking Subscription” ($85), chef Jannie Huang teaches you to make a trio of iconic dishes over a 3-class series. Or choose from “Chocolate & Coffee Tasting” ($95), “African Cooking” ($30), “Two Ways to Pizza” ($50), or dozens of others. Find out more at

Vanilla-Bourbon Bacon “Lollipops,” $39.95

Thick slabs of smoked bacon come with a tantalizing vanilla-bourbon glaze for a sweet, smoky treat that is utterly addictive. Rich and meaty, these will satisfy any bacon lover. Sign up for Chesapeake Bay emails and get a $10 coupon. Visit

{ fabulous foodie finds }

Signature Pancake Gift, $74.95

All the fixings for a delicious pancake breakfast: Maine maple and wild blueberry syrups; farmhouse, blueberry, and double chocolate pancake & waffle mixes; an embroidered pancake tea towel; and a “better batter” whisk tool. Available at

Deluxe European Cheese Crate, $129.95

Take a culinary tour of Europe with this expertly selected collection of premium cheeses from five significant cheese-producing regions: England, France, Italy and Spain and Switzerland. They arrive beautifully packaged in our reusable wooden crate, making them an excellent gift for cheese lovers near and far. At

Universal Yums International Snack Boxes, $15/month and up

Each monthly box of curated sweet and savory goodies introduces you to a different country. For chocolateloving Belgium, expect treats like hazelnut truffles and chocolate covered waffles. The Thai box might be filled with zesty fried seaweed and salted pineapple candy. No matter the country, you’ll always get a fun variety of snacks bursting with unique flavors and spices. Begin your world tour at

Magnolia a Taste of

Lemon Meringue Pie Bites

The winter months are always a time I look forward to. Although the cold weather can be unkind and downright rude at times, I still look forward to the warm cozy interiors that winter brings. Lighting a fire in the fireplace or snuggling up under a fleece blanket with a nice cup of hot chocolate is just so sentimental to me. Winter is a time of boots, thick jackets and barren trees but it is also a time of warm soups, hot drinks and filling meals that really invoke a time of family. It is a time when everyone comes in from the cold and the gathering spaces are full with friends and family.

Winter to me has always been a time of communion. Parties, fun indoor activities, along with tons of movie and game nights. It is a time of extended planning to get everything just right to make sure we all survive the Mississippi winter unscathed and still loving on each other despite being in the house for so long. Winter is also a time when I have more moments with my friends. Potlucks are a common theme with my group and we love coming up with different themes for dinners and sharing our plans and happenings with each other while gathered around together. We each bring a dish, lay it all out on the table, and sit around laughing, joking and catching up with each other while the winter wind nips at the windows. We are warm, we are together, we have made it through another year and we are thankful.

DIVIAN CONNER is a Mississippi mama of four ‘not so little’ little ones. Coming up with recipes, trying new ones, and feeding her crew of tweens and teens is her passion. Southern recipes, easy recipes, sorta hard recipes, but always delicious recipes is what you will find on her food blog, Now venturing into outdoor cooking over an open fire, Divian is fascinated with camp cooking and entertaining.

Winter is just that– time to be extra thankful. We are thankful for all that we have and the warmth that we continue to share. Planning times to be with my family and friends during cold winter months is a time for me to reflect back on the year and feel grateful for the continued time that I have with them. Dinner parties and special events in my living room or dining room with the air toasted just enough for comfort and the smells of good food floating, it is a way for me to show my appreciation. When it comes to parties and potlucks, small mini-foods are a plus for me. Bite-size pieces that you can literally inhale in a bite or something so cute and small, it is not overwhelming. Mini versions of foods can also help cut down on waste. People eat what they want without having to scrape plates off into the trash alongside other unfinished foods.

Mini pies are an extra special way to make your guests feel that every attention to detail has been carefully thought out and thinking of different ways to present them drives that point home even more. Pies in shot glasses, expresso cups or in mini pastry cups, provide your friends and family with bite-sized pieces of heaven. This winter may be cold, but the warmth of your attention to detail will definitely not be forgotten. edm

14 • December/January 2023
14 • December/January 2023



• Vanilla wafers (crushed)

• Butter, melted

1. In a bowl combine just enough melted butter for the cookie crumbs to stick together. Once done press firmly, a teaspoon or two of the crumbs into the bottom of your shot glass.

Lemon Filling:

• 6 egg yolks

• 1 ½ cup water

• 1 cup sugar

• ½ cup of lemon juice

• ¼ cup cornstarch

• ¼ teaspoon salt

• 2 tablespoons of unsalted butter

1. In a pan, mix sugar, water, cornstarch and salt over medium heat. Continue stirring until it begins to bubble and thicken. Once it thickens turn off the heat.

2. Take out about ¼ cup of this mixture and slowly add to your eggs, whisking/stirring continuously to prevent curdling. Slowly pour the egg mixture into the sugar mixture and turn on the heat. Add in the lemon juice and stir.

3. Once it bubbles, turn off the heat again and add in the butter, mixing well. Let the filling cool.


• 4 egg whites, room temp

• Zest of one Lemon

• 1/4 cup sugar

• ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar

4. Once egg whites are room temperature, whisk until fluffy, add in cream of tartar to help them maintain their form. Add sugar in a tablespoon at a time, continuing to beat the eggs. Beat until peaks are formed.


Add the lemon filling on top of the cookie crust and top with a dollop of meringue. Bake in oven at 350 degrees until peaks are golden brown.

eat. drink.


Oxford’s Chicory Market: Fresh Produce and Open Arms

There are people who see what needs to be done in the world and then decide to act. John Martin and Kate Bishop are two such doers, both interested in food from a policy point of view. “We are interested in health and nutrition,” says Martin. The couple lived in the Mississippi Delta – Greenwood, where Martin worked for the newspaper and Indianola, where Bishop taught school – before moving to the northeast. Martin ended up in the arts and nonprofit world while Bishop earned her literacy specialty degree and she trained other teachers, but Mississippi lured them back.

“We wanted to get back to the South,” says Martin. “Kate is from Oxford, and we had a friend who ran the Farmer’s Market. He talked us into taking it over.” Burlin Hollowell ran a produce stand out of the building – then an old service station – in the early 1990s. He sold vegetables that he and his friends raised and exotic produce that distributors had trucked in. When Frank and Liz Stagg took over, they expanded the grocery

offerings, continued tapping the local food movement, and began selling foods that appealed to Oxford’s growing immigrant communities. People soon learned that the Farmer’s Market was a hub for quality produce, and it was a place that welcomed all.

In 2017, Martin and Bishop renovated the store and changed the name to Chicory Market. “We are proud that our store has been a food space in Oxford for over 30 years,” says Martin. Martin and Bishop have made the space their own and have connected with a new generation of local farmers and producers.

Growing up in Oxford, Bishop was raised in a community connected by food, and recalls eating watermelons and pimiento cheese from the old James Food Center. Martin and Bishop “feel strongly about creating a special place that preserves and grows the spirit of Oxford as a place that nurtures creativity and welcomes newcomers and curiosity seekers.” The market serves people from all walks of life. “This is a place where

16 • December/January 2023 { fresh from the farm }

all feel welcomed. Here we are, five years later and we feel an overwhelming sense of responsibility. People are more interested than ever in eating local.”

With up to 75 local providers, Chicory Market not only provides fresh, locally sourced food to their customers, but also supports local growers. The benefits to all are apparent. “We are in one of the most fertile areas in the country,” states Martin, “but Mississippi still has issues with obesity and diabetes. Having ready access to healthy foods can make a huge difference. It can even make a difference financially.”

During the pandemic when national supply chains were falling apart, Chicory Market was able to source locally. “Even with our most recent inflation, a lot of local producers have been able to circumvent those forces,” Martin says. “Their prices have remained stable, and people are eating better. I think people are seeing the value and sustainability of buying locally sourced food.”

The store has a grand mission: to support the local food network by working with farmers and other local providers to source quality ingredients while improving access to healthy, local food for people of all income levels and lifestyles. They also aim to build a community around food involving people of all means, colors, creed and backgrounds. “We are fortunate

eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI • 17
Silver Star Hotel & Casino • Choctaw, MS 601.663.3800 •

that Oxford is still small enough to have a store like this. We also have the University here, which gives us a cultural perspective,” says Martin.

In addition to locally sourced produce, proteins and delicacies, Chicory Market offers fresh seafood. “We are one of a very few places in Oxford that sells fresh seafood,” says Bishop. “Three days a week we get a delivery of fresh gulf shrimp, salmon and some other gulf fish.”

Chicory Market now also offers prepared foods for sale. “Seven days a week, we have everything from traditional chicken salad to sides and entrees using seasonal produce,” says Martin. “That allows us to purchase even more from local farmers, and to avoid food waste by using produce before it goes bad.” The market also makes casseroles, soups and sandwiches. “During football season, we do a lot of tailgate catering, and for Thanksgiving we do a lot of sides. Then we’ll crank up our holiday menu.” The newest addition to the market is sushi. “We have a sushi chef who comes in three days a week.”

There is an outdoor seating area where people can dine on-site, and Martin says they are planning an expansion that will provide a larger place for the community to gather outdoors. For more information on Chicory Market, visit edm

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Homemade holiday

20 • December/January 2023

Not all holiday gifts come from a department store. Sometimes the best presents come from the heart … and the kitchen! Spread a little Christmas cheer with these three delicious homemade holiday gifts. edm

Homemade holiday TREATS

• 21
eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI

Cheese Straws

22 • December/January 2023
eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI • 23
Divinity Candy




• 1 ½ cups unsalted butter, softened

• 16 ounces sharp shredded cheddar cheese, room temperature

• 4 cups all-purpose flour

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and cheese until the cheese is evenly mixed throughout.

3. Add the flour, salt and cayenne pepper.

4. With the mixer on low, mix the dough until the flour is completely incorporated. Then turn the mixer up to medium and continue to mix until the dough comes together.

5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

6. Using a cookie press, form the dough into 2 ½ – 3-inch straws leaving ¼-inch of space between each straw.

7. If you don’t have a cookie press, roll the dough out to 3/8inch thick. Cut the strips 1 ½ inches wide and 2 ½ to 3 inches long.

8. Bake the straws for 12 minutes until they start to turn golden brown in some places.

9. Allow the straws to cool on the baking sheet for about five minutes before transferring them to a cooling rack.



• 4 cups sugar

• 1 cup light corn syrup

• ¾ cup water

• 3 egg whites, room temperature

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• 1 cup chopped pecans


and steady stream.

5. Once all the sugar has been added, continue to beat the egg whites until the whites have lost their glossy sheen and the mixture holds a shape, about 10-15 minutes.

6. Add the vanilla and chopped pecans. Mix on low speed until the pecans are evenly incorporated throughout the divinity.

7. Spoon heaping tablespoons of divinity candy onto waxed or parchment paper.

8. Top each piece of candy with a pecan half or a green or red maraschino cherry half.

9. Allow the divinity to dry at room temperature for a minimum of two hours, up to 24 hours. Store in an airtight container.


Ingredients for the cookies:

• 1/2 cup unsalted butter softened

• 12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

• 1-1/2 cups flour

• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder

• 1/4 teaspoon salt

• 1-1/4 cups brown sugar

• 3 eggs

• 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For the coconut layer:

• 1 cup sweetened condensed milk

• 4 cups flaked coconut

• 1 cup powdered sugar

• Toasted almonds

For the chocolate drizzle:

• 2 cups powdered sugar

• 4 tablespoons unsalted butter melted

• 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1/4 cup hot water

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Create the cookies:

• Additional pecan halves and cherries for garnish, optional

1. Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan. Heat over low heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar is dissolved.

2. Bring the sugar mixture to a boil over medium heat. Continue to boil without stirring until the sugar reaches hard ball stage, or 260 degrees F, on a candy thermometer. You may need to adjust the heat a little to reach the correct temperature. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

3. While the sugar is boiling, beat the egg whites at medium speed until stiff peaks form.

4. With the mixer running, add the sugar mixture in a slow

1. In a medium saucepan, melt the butter and chocolate, stirring frequently. Once melted, set aside to cool slightly.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt.

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the sugar, eggs and vanilla on low speed until well combined.

4. Add the cooled chocolate mixture and mix until just blended.

5. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture slowly and blend just until the dry ingredients are wet.

6. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then cover the dough and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours.

7. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F and prepare two baking

24 • December/January 2023

sheets with cooking spray.

8. Scoop out the dough one tablespoon at a time and roll into balls. Place the balls two inches apart on the baking sheets.

9. Gently press an indention into the center of each with your thumb (wetting your thumb helps keep the cookie dough from sticking).

10. Bake the cookies for approximately 12 minutes. Remove from oven. If the indentions have filled up during baking, gently press the center of the cookie back down with the back of a spoon. Allow the cookies to cool completely.

For the coconut layer:

1. Using an electric mixer, combine the sweetened condensed milk and coconut.

2. Slowly add the powdered sugar on low speed. Mix until


3. Spoon a dollop of coconut mixture into the indention on each cooled cookie. Wet fingers work best here to keep the filling from sticking.

For the chocolate drizzle:

1. Combine all the icing ingredients in a medium bowl and whisk together until smooth.

2. Place a wire cooling rack with cookies on it over a piece of aluminum foil or waxed paper to catch any excess icing. Spoon a small amount of icing onto the top of each cookie.

3. Top with a toasted almond.

4. Allow the cookies to set up for 30 minutes before serving.

Almond Joy Cookies

eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI

• 25

Mouthwatering Winter Feasts

As the days get shorter and the nights get longer, across the world people are getting ready for winter celebrations and the delicious dishes that go with them. In Britain and the USA, Christmas means roast turkey with all the trimmings. In France, they enjoy the lavish Réveillon on Christmas Eve. In South Africa, it’s all about outdoor braais, or barbecues. Here are just a few of the many luscious, food-filled holidays this season:

December 20: Kimtee Inmewit (United States)


18-26: Hanukkah (worldwide)

Throughout the eight days of Hanukkah, a festival of lights commemorating the reclamation of their temple in Jerusalem, Jewish families celebrate by eating latkes (fried potato pancakes) with sour cream and apple sauce, sufganiyot (fried jelly doughnuts), gelt (foil wrapped chocolate “coins”), beef brisket, noodle kugel, and chocolate babka. Hanukkah Sameach!

December 25: Christmas Day (Australia)

Christmastime in Australia is high summer, so Christmas dinner for many Aussies is a mid-day picnic featuring boiled prawns or a trip to the beach to go surfing with Santa. The holiday is an all-day affair, and Christmas lunches are relaxed, with lots of eating and breaks for playing a “spot of cricket” or a quick splash in the backyard pool. Christmas crackers – those gaily wrapped paper tubes that when pulled go BANG! – are a must. (Yes, you must to wear the paper crown inside!)

The Umatilla Native American tribes of eastern Oregon hold their “new year” ceremony just before the Winter Solstice on December 20 in a celebration called “Kimtee Inmewit.” Tribal history dictates that the first food that was created was the nusux (salmon), the second was the nukt (deer), and the third was a bitter root called sliiton. New Year is a time to celebrate the return of the sacred foods with singing, drums, dancing, prayers, and a shared meal of meat stew and fry bread.

December 6: Nikolaustag (Saint Nicholas Day) (Germany/ Netherlands)

On the night of December 5, children all over Germany and the Netherlands tidy their rooms, polish their shoes, and set them on the doorstep (or window sill, or by the fire) before going to bed. In the morning, good children wake to find Saint Nicholas has come and filled the footwear with fruit, nuts, candies, and small toys and gifts.

December 25: Christmas Day (Japan)

In 1974, a fast-food franchise famous for its chicken released a festive marketing campaign in Japan. Their slogan “Kurisumasu ni wa kentakkii!” (“Kentucky for Christmas!”) hatched a national tradition – including Colonel Santa, complete with red and white suit – that continues to this day. Although it isn’t a national holiday in Japan, each Christmas, families from all over the country celebrate with nearly a million pre-reserved, piping hot chicken dinners.

Feasts Around the World

January 1: Hogmanay (Scotland)

January 1: New Year’s Day (United States)

“Eat poor on New Year’s and eat fat the rest of the year,” says an old saying here in the South. Many of us eat specific foods on New Year’s Day to bring good luck and prosperity for the remainder of the year. All kinds of greens (collards, mustard or turnip greens, cabbage) symbolize dollars, and black-eyed peas symbolize coins, both of which point to money; yellow cornbread represents gold; and pork or ham brings “forward motion” or “advancement” in the year ahead.

Immediately after midnight in the first few hours of the Scottish new year, a darkhaired male or “first foot” visits nearby houses bringing with him symbolic pieces of coal (heat), salt (friendship), shortbread and a black bun – a dark, rich fruit cake wrapped in pastry (plenty of food all year), and a “wee dram of whisky” (good cheer and hospitality), ensuring that the house will experience abundance in all these things in the coming year.

January 6: Coptic Christmas Eve (Egypt)

On Christmas Eve (January 6, according to the Julian calendar), Coptic Christians attend a special church service that lasts until midnight.

Congregants share a specific type of bread called “qurban” (“offering”) marked with 12 dots symbolizing the 12 apostles of Christ. The priest distributes one loaf during communion, and the other qurban will be shared among the congregation after the service as a form of blessing.

December 26 – January 1: Kwanzaa (United States)

Inspired by a variety of sub-Saharan African harvest festivals, Kwanzaa gets its name from a Swahili phrase meaning “first fruits.” There are no menu rules; it all depends on family traditions. The focal point is often some kind of one-pot stew or braise: Ghanaian groundnut stew, West Indian or South African curry dishes, Philadelphia pepper pot stew, jambalaya, Nigerian jollof rice or Senegalese thieboudienne. Also typical are familiar foods such as catfish, collards, macaroni and cheese, jerk chicken, gumbo, accras (Caribbean fritters), candied yams, buttermilk biscuits and spoonbread, and fried plantains.

For many who follow the Orthodox religion, fasting for 40 days before Christmas and refraining from meat, dairy, and eggs is a common practice, so many of the traditional Russian dishes make the most of their return to the menu! A luxurious Christmas dinner might include pirozhki (stuffed buns), deviled eggs, kulebyaka (salmon pegach (stuffed bread rolls), (meat dumplings), golubtsi (cabbage rolls), blini, and tefteli (meatballs). Desserts are pryaniki (spice cookies), sbiten (a sweet and spicy honey drink), and Kiev cake with layers of cashew or hazelnut meringue and Russian buttercream. Nostrovia!

January 22 – Tet (Vietnam)

Tet, or Lunar New Year, is the festival of the first morning of the first day. (Usually, Tet occurs on the same day as Chinese New Year.) It’s an occasion for pilgrimages and family reunions, fireworks and lion dances, and huge bahn chung (sticky rice cake stuffed with pork and mung gio cha (sausage), thit kho (braised pork with duck eggs for good luck), candied fruit and melon seeds. The altar must be decorated with a five-fruit tray, and the colors of the fruit are important. Popular fruits are orange, banana, pomelo, green apple, papaya, mango, coconut, and dragon fruit.

January 7: Russian Orthodox Christmas Day (Russia)

Enzo Osteria: A Taste of Tuscany in Ridgeland

Robert St. John knows restaurants. He has opened and operated many in both Hattiesburg and now Jackson. He also knows Italian food. He spends three months a year in Italy. In March 2011, he opened Tabella, an Italian restaurant in Hattiesburg. “I did Tabella before I ever traveled to Europe,” Robert says. “My take on Italian food is night and day from what it was when I first opened Tabella.”

In late September, Robert opened his newest restaurant, Enzo Osteria, in the Renaissance in Ridgeland. “We are doing a mix of American Italian and authentic Italian,” he says. “Most of the time I spend in Italy is in the Tuscany region. The authentic Italian cuisine at Enzo will be very Tuscan in origin. The pizzas in Tuscany are very thin, with minimal ingredients. We’ll be doing some American-Italian stuff too. I like both. Both are great.” Some tweaks are made in the food prepared to please the American palate. “In Tuscany, they don’t salt their bread. We use salt in the bread, but not too salty.”

The restaurant is in what was originally Biaggi’s. Built 15 years ago, the restaurant had great bones. “We did some work to the interior,” Robert says. “The biggest change is in the bar. It is a lot darker. It’s a great ‘happy hour after work’ bar. We also have two dining rooms, a private room and a great outdoor area.”

The restaurant was closed for two weeks for the transition from Biaggi’s to Enzo Osteria. “My first and most important goal was to keep everyone on staff,” Robert states. “We paid them all while we were closed. We trained them, worked with the kitchen to teach them the new recipes, and many helped with deep cleaning and renovation. I’m happy to say we opened

with a full staff of former Biaggi’s employees.”

The restaurant is named after Enzo Corti. “Enzo is one of my favorite Italian friends. He lives in the small town of BarberinoTavernelle in the heart of the Chianti region of Tuscany. He and his wife, Annagloria, are the first people my wife and I met when we traveled to Italy in 2011. We stayed in one of their villas; and we still stay there when we go to Italy. I told Enzo I wanted to name a restaurant after him, and Annagloria asked why we didn’t name one after her. I told her that her name was too long. Besides, Enzo has a z in it, and z’s are cool.”

Enzo is a fourth-generation wine and olive oil merchant. “He embodies everything I love about Italian food and culture, and we have patterned our restaurant and its approach after his love of Tuscan food and wine, his zest for living, exuberant charm and infectious personality. At Enzo Osteria, we aim to live up to all those characteristics.”

After taking several tour groups to Italy over the years, Robert says now hundreds of people know him. “The Tuscany region is a lot like the American South. That really struck me. It is an agrarian society, but instead of cotton and soybeans, they grow grapes and olives. They love family, and they are very hospitable. They love good food, and they love to have long, leisurely dinners with friends and family.”

Robert says the menu includes recipes he has learned in his travels to Italy and recipes his son learned while working in Tuscany. “We chose to keep the inaugural version very limited to make sure all our staff members are on the same page during the opening days. We will be adding more authentic Italian recipes through a daily features program, and many of those items will eventually transition onto the regular menu in the coming weeks.”

Enzo Osteria is open daily from 11 am to 9 pm and Saturdays until 10 pm. It is located at 970 Highland Colony Parkway in Ridgeland. edm

28 • December/January 2023
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Less worrying and more living

VELVETY CHOCOLATE: Easy and Decadent Desserts to Light Up Your Tastebuds

These decadent chocolate truffles only take three simple ingredients and feature a soft ganache middle (2:1 ratio of chocolate to whipping cream). The basic recipe can be customized by rolling the truffles in unsweetened cocoa powder or coconut; dipping in white, milk, or dark chocolate and drizzling with tinted white chocolate; or even coating with gold leaf.

For the filling:

• 8 oz. high quality, semi-sweet chocolate (the better the chocolate, the better the truffles!)

• 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

• 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract or mint extract

For the Coating

• 6-8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate (more if needed)

• unsweetened cocoa powder for dusting, if desired

Make the truffles:

1. Roughly chop the chocolate into small pieces and place in a heatproof bowl; set aside.

2. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan (or the microwave), heat the heavy whipping cream, stirring constantly. Do not simmer or boil; just heat the cream until lightly steaming. Pour over the chocolate pieces and add the peppermint extract. Allow to sit 4-5 minutes.

3. Gently stir the mixture in one direction until smooth; if the chocolate does not completely melt, microwave in 15-second increments, stirring gently. Place plastic

wrap directly onto the surface of the chocolate and refrigerate until cool (2-3 hours).

4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a cookie scoop (or melon baller, or spoon), create individual truffles about 1” in diameter by gently rolling between your palms. Place on prepared baking sheet. Refrigerate while you’re preparing the coating. Prepare the coating:

5. Make the chocolate coating by melting 6-8 oz. of semi-sweet (or dark, milk, or white chocolate) in a microwave safe bowl. Microwave in 20-30 second increments until melted and smooth. Using a toothpick or skewer, dip each truffle into the chocolate coating and place on parchment paper. Refrigerate until chocolate coating is firm. Makes about 2 dozen truffles.

OPTIONAL: Melt 1-2 oz. white chocolate and add a drop of green or red food coloring. Drizzle across the tops of finished truffles.

OPTIONAL: Float a small square of edible gold foil in a small bowl of water. Using a skewer, quickly dip the truffle into the water, swirling to cause the gold to stick to the outside of the truffle. With a fork, gently remove the truffle from the skewer.


This recipe is the perfect holiday gift idea because it is quick and easy to make, and nearly any topping works, making the combinations endless. Try candy cane or pretzel bits, chopped peanut butter cups, red and green M&Ms, assorted nuts and raisins, cookies-and-cream pieces, sprinkles, toffee bits, candy bar pieces (anybody got leftover Halloween candy?), or just about anything else hanging out in the pantry as leftovers. And because it’s so easy to make, you can whip up a custom batch for each person on your holiday list!


• 11-12 oz. bag of white, dark, milk, or semi-sweet chocolate chips (about 2 cups)

• 1 tablespoon vegetable shortening or vegetable oil

• Toppings of your choice

1. Line a baking tray with waxed paper or parchment.

2. Place the chips in a microwave safe bowl and add shortening. Heat on 50% power in 30 second increments, stirring between each, until melted and smooth.

3. Spread the chocolate into an even layer on the parchment. Top with desired toppings, chill and cut into pieces. Store in an airtight container. (Remember, some toppings such as pretzel or cookie pieces will go stale more quickly than other toppings.) edm

Elvie’s: Treating Employees to Retreats

It is not uncommon for companies to take their employees on a retreat. Team building exercises help create a stronger and more cooperative work environment, and who doesn’t want to get away from the office for a couple of days? What is unusual is for a restaurant to shut down for three days to take employees to a farm in another part of the state. Yet that is exactly what Hunter Evans, chef and owner of Elvie’s restaurant in Jackson, arranged for his staff this summer. And it’s probably one of the reasons Elvie’s has been named one of America’s 50 Best Restaurants for 2022 by the New York Times.

Hunter shut down the restaurant for the weekend in mid-August so his staff could attend a retreat at Home Place Pastures, a farm in Como, Mississippi that raises grass-fed beef, pastured pork and lamb. “I wanted to educate them on what it’s like to be on a farm. Home Place is an amazing spot. They have their own USDA inspection facility on site, which is very unique.”

The staff actually stayed in a house at the farm. “My father came to join us. He has many roles, but at the retreat, he assisted with personality tests and breakout sessions.” Hunter

32 • December/January 2023

says it is important to him to spend time as a team. “We have people who work together in the restaurant who really don’t have an opportunity to talk to each other. Attending a retreat like this, learning hands-on about one of our vendors, helps drive creativity. It certainly directs our menu.”

Learning more about the vendors the restaurant uses makes it easy for the wait staff to inform customers about different items on the menu. “It was a time for them to get away from the restaurant, and to put their eyes on where our food comes from. Learning how the food we eat is raised helps them to understand the importance of sourcing from local farmers.” In addition, the retreat helped the staff to bond together as a team. “We did a quick, spontaneous trip to New Orleans a while back for a short hangout, and that let me know that getting away for a retreat would be a good idea,” Hunter says.

“It was fun to see how they hung out together in a different setting. The retreat provided a place for people to interact in a different way from when they are at work.”

Elvie’s is an all-day café in Jackson that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner. The restaurant’s ever-changing menu reflects seasonal fare highlighting Southern farmers. The retreat helps to make the connection to the restaurant’s commitment to using the highest quality, most ethically-sourced and besttasting ingredients available.

Home Place Pastures is a working farm that offers tours to the public, as well as camping, glamping and overnights in Cypress Place Cottage on the farm. Special events are hosted at the farm throughout the year, such as the “Boucherie and Blues Picnic” and the “Whole Hog Regenerative Ag Experience.” edm

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From Mississippi to Beyond

Modern Southern Cuisine with a Spin

When chef Cameron Bryant describes his food at The Sipp on South Lamar in Oxford he says, “It’s The Sipp’s food with my accent.” He offers this same advice to his own sous chefs: “Create the food that represents the restaurant, but put your own spin on it.”

This has been Bryant’s evolving philosophy for his cuisine since he began cooking in his hometown of Kosciusko, and after that in Colorado, New York, and Italy. Growing up, he learned to cook a hamburger when he worked as a busboy at the Rib Alley. He also experienced the power of food alongside his two grandmothers. “I learned so much around the dinner table and just the communal aspect that food brings to our lives.”

He studied at Ole Miss, but moved to Winter Park, Colorado, to work at a ski resort and figure out what he

wanted to do with his life. One day, the owners of a local taco shop offered him a job as a cook; his time there was the catalyst for his career path as a professional chef. He claims that even reading Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain didn’t deter him from his goal.

After returning to Oxford in 2006 to complete his degree, he grew even more passionate about food as he began to work at well-known local eateries such as Old Venice Pizza. His fondness for creating Italian dishes grew too, so he embarked on his next step – culinary school with further training in Italy. “It was a lot of fun, and I was very fortunate to be accepted into the program,” he says of his time at the French Culinary Institute in New York. His training included three months of classes stateside and three months of classes in Italy, followed by an unpaid internship at a two-star Michelin restaurant in Alba, Italy.

His first jobs after returning to the U.S. were in Brooklyn at the Diner and Marlow & Sons restaurants. “I’d call it modern American food, hyper seasonal, with their own butcher shop and bakery.”

However, Oxford tugged at him. With family in French Camp and his parents growing older, he decided to move back home. “I decided I could pursue my career and my family at the same time here in Mississippi,” he says. Bryant worked at the Ravine and then helped set up the menu for the Green Roof Lounge, both in Oxford. Before long he was approached by A.J. and Claire Kiamie, third-generation owners of Kiamie Package Store, to launch their vision for a wine, whiskey, and tapas bar called The Sipp.

Bryant describes the planning stage of the restaurant as many nights of hanging out and taste-testing recipe ideas until one in the morning. “I probably made about 40 or 50 Mae Helens during that time,” he jokes, referencing the menu item which features Texas toast, beef patties, cheese, grilled onions and chipotle-basil aioli with fries, all named for the legendary employee of Oxford’s historic Kiamie Bowling Lanes. Opening in 2019, The Sipp’s dishes feature small plates to taste and large plates to share, such as General Homie’s cauliflower wings, Latinspiced meatballs, beef empanadas, and other nibbles that pair well with a glass of wine or bourbon. The bar list is more than quadruple the size of the food menu, featuring over 50 wines and 100 whiskeys.

Bryant also owns YūGō Oxford, a modern fusion restaurant on the town square, which features dim sum and signature plates of stir-fry and fried rice dishes. The restaurants are very different, yet also similar in vibe and décor, “like two halves of the same coin,” Bryant explains. “I just put my spin on the food that belongs at that restaurant.”

This is one of chef Cameron Bryant’s favorite recipes from The Sipp. It is based on a timeless technique of marinating roasted vegetables in vinegar to preserve their flavors and freshness. edm

34 • December/January 2023


You’ll need:

• 6 cups button mushrooms, cut in half

• 1 tablespoon dry thyme

• 1 tablespoon dry tarragon

• 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

• 1 cup olive oil

• 2 teaspoons salt

• 1/2 cup aged sherry vinegar

1. Preheat oven to 400.

2. In a large mixing bowl, toss the mushrooms with oil, dry herbs, salt, and cayenne pepper.

3. Pour into deep baking dish and roast in the oven for approximately 20–25 minutes or until the mushroom water has evaporated.

4. Remove from oven and allow to cool to the touch. Stir in vinegar.

5. Pack into a lidded container and keep in the fridge until ready to use. Serve with crostini, aioli, and shaved sharp cheese, on steak, or tossed into a salad.

eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI • 35

West End Fresh Salads

When Bruce Parker and his brother opened a convenience store on a dry county line on the west side of Tupelo in 2003, he never dreamed he would one day sell their house made chicken salad and pimiento cheese to over 500 retailers in 12 states. The brothers were selling beer to folks across the road, and like most convenience stores, they served food. “We came from a food service background, and we wanted our offerings to be better than most gas station food.”

Parker says they cooked their own plate lunches and had seating in the store. “One Sunday a pharmaceutical rep came in with his family for lunch,” says Parker. “He asked me if we could cater to doctors’ offices. We had never done anything like that before, but I didn’t think it would be that hard.” They went to Sam’s and bought containers and began a catering business on the side. “We started catering for weddings and other events,” he recalls. “We called the catering business West End Catering, because people were paying us a lot of money to cater their events and we didn’t want them to know it came from a gas station.”

While they had a set menu, Parker says they would ask what people really wanted, explaining, “We could do anything, from petit fours to a whole hog.” One of their regular catering clients was a hospital that sponsored a monthly meeting of a women’s group at the First Baptist Church in Tupelo. “There would be anywhere from 200 to 500 women at the events,” says Parker. “One month we got a call saying they wanted chicken salad on a bed of lettuce with crackers and a croissant. Afterwards, ladies began coming into our store asking if they could buy the chicken salad; they loved it.” The chicken salad is a sweet relish-

based recipe. They began packaging it in one-pound containers and selling it in a deli case in the convenience store. “My mom began making desserts for us. We sold pie by the slice and other treats.”

Parker’s “aha” moment occurred when a woman came in and ordered six pounds of chicken salad. “I said, ‘that’s a lot of chicken salad, what kind of event are you having?’” The woman told him she was taking it back to friends in Oxford, a 45-minute drive away. “I was shocked that someone would

36 • December/January 2023
{ mississippi made }

drive 45 minutes to buy chicken salad. I realized then that we should probably get it into other stores.” Parker’s first stop was Palmer’s on the east side of Tupelo. “I asked if they’d stock it, and they said yes,” he recalls. “So I went to another store, and they said they had heard it was good stuff, and they’d love to carry it as well.”

Seeing the potential in a wholesale business, Parker soon split off from his brother and set up shop in an empty restaurant to start making chicken salad. They were rocking along until a call from the Department of Agriculture. “They told me we couldn’t do what we were doing. But they helped us get into compliance, a complicated process. We got licensed to sell products outside the state and picked up stores in Memphis and Alabama.” West End Fresh Salads are now available in Kroger, Piggly Wiggly, Cash Saver, Food Giant, Food Rite, Mac’s Fresh Market, Foodland and other stores in Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana Florida, Georgia, Texas Tennessee, and Illinois.

With business booming, they had to move into another building, allowing the company to expand to nine products. “We have the original chicken salad, and a dill relish-based chicken salad. My wife introduced her pimiento cheese recipe, and we’ve also added a jalapeño pimiento cheese. We also have a grab-and-go snack kit with either chicken salad or pimiento cheese, Captain’s wafers, and a wooden spoon.”

Since they’ve been through the process of learning about mass production, distributors, food brokers and such, Parker says his company is now working with other food manufacturers. “We are co-packers for several food products, including making bagels for Dave’s Bagels in Memphis; Arbo’s Cheese Dip, which is sold in several different states; Oxford Falls Bloody Mary mix; and products for Pimento’s, a restaurant chain in Memphis. “I love being part of making dreams a reality by developing and manufacturing other products and getting it into stores. There are a lot of people trying to get into the food business, so we are happy we can help.”

For more information on West End Fresh Salads, visit the company’s website at edm

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Daily Blue Plates | Brunch | Lakeside Patio 36 1 T O W N S H I P AV E R I DG EL AND , M S 3915 7 601 707 058 7 | A N J OUR EST AURAN T N E T

The Mermaid Cafe: Good Seafood in a Great Community

When Matt Taylor was 16 years old, he was given a hand-me-down car with no gas. “My parents told me that if I wanted to go somewhere, I needed to get a job.” A family friend owned a Subway sandwich shop, and he went to work. “Little did I know, that was the beginning of my career in food service.” Matt realized while working at Subway that food service was a good way to make a living. “We all have something in common,” he says. “We all have to eat.”

After graduating from Jackson Prep, the Flowood native went to Mississippi State. During his time in Starkville, he worked at a country club and various restaurants. With some experience under his belt, he went to work at the famed Rendezvous restaurant in Memphis for the next seven years. “I went to work for the Vergos family, which was my first exposure to Greek restauranteurs. I learned so much working there. It has a special place in my heart. They were such a good family to work for.”

But there is no place like home. “There is something about Jackson that pulls people back. I returned in January 2010 and started waiting tables at Nick’s.” Nick Apostle owned the white-tablecloth restaurant, and he became a mentor to Matt. “I grew up eating at Nick’s,” Matt recalls. “It was the celebration place, where we went for special occasions, like birthdays

38 • December/January 2023 { restaurant spotlight }

or prom.”

When Nick’s closed the doors at its Lakeland Drive location and opened in Fondren, Matt helped open the new restaurant. “I worked my way up the ladder there, and during that time I learned so much about the business from Nick. We had long talks, and he has easily forgotten more than I’ll ever know on my own.” Nick tried retiring a second time, closing the Fondren location, but he had one more restaurant in him.

The Lake Caroline community was developing, and Nick opened a neighborhood restaurant overlooking the lake. The seafood-driven menu was perfect for The Mermaid Café. “I moved to the Mermaid Café, but I had my doubts,” says Matt. “There wasn’t much out there when it opened in 2009. But Nick was a visionary. He saw what it could be.”

As Nick’s children began having children, he was ready to hang it up to spend more time with family. It was Nick’s hope and Matt’s dream for Matt to buy the restaurant. Two years ago, on January 1, 2020, Matt became the owner of The Mermaid Café. Three months later, the Covid pandemic caused the demise of restaurants across the country.

“We were fortunate,” says Matt. “We never closed the restaurant. We had to get up to speed to transition to curb-side service, but it worked for us. We had so many regulars coming by to pick up food, and they would tip hundreds of dollars. They wanted to be sure the staff was well taken care of so they would stay on. I was so touched. It’s our staff that keeps us going, so that meant so much.”

The Mermaid Café is in a unique spot, facing west across Lake Caroline. The long front porch is dotted with rocking chairs where folks enjoy watching the magnificent sunsets. Large enough to seat 170 people, the building is also used for private receptions,

from rehearsal dinners to wedding receptions, showers, birthday parties and the annual Bishop’s Cup held in conjunction with the Catholic Charities golf tournament.

The menu is broad enough for everyone, from small children to older guests, to find something they enjoy. “I have made very few changes to the menu since I have taken over,” says Matt. “I am smart enough to know that any changes I make need to be small. I don’t want to alienate the folks who keep the lights on.”

From seafood to steaks, burgers, sandwiches, salads and pizza, The Mermaid Café offers a good selection of dishes. “We also do nightly appetizer and entrée specials, and that helps bring creativity to what we do.”

Matt is comfortable with his staff, many of whom worked with Nick long before Matt came onto the scene. “We have a gentleman in the kitchen who worked with Nick for over 30 years, and he’s been with me since I started. We also have a couple of staff members who have been on board for over 20 years.”

Matt says that it’s been a lot of fun so far. “I love that it is different every day. I enjoy getting to know our guests, many of whom have become good friends.

I don’t think I could ever be content to work in a cubical day-to-day. I am one of those people who thrives with interaction with others and with chaos. I think that puts me in the perfect spot!” edm

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Roasted Kabocha Squash with Red Onions and Garlic

Recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma

Kabocha squash is a small, round flavor bombshell whose bright orange flesh tastes like a cross between pumpkin and sweet potato. If kabochas are not available, substitute Hubbard, butternut, acorn, or your favorite squash. (Note that delicatas will require shorter cooking times.) Recipe adapted from Williams Sonoma.



• 2 Kobocha squash, about 2 lbs., halved, seeded and cut into wedges

• 2 red onions, cut into wedges

• 3 bulbs of elephant garlic, tops cut off crosswise

• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)

• 2 tablespoons chopped fresh sage

• kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

On a nonstick baking sheet (or a silicone baking mat), toss together the squash, onions, 2 tablespoons of the oil and chopped sage. Spread out to a single layer on the baking sheet; season with salt and pepper. Nestle garlic bulbs in among the onions so they stand up, cut sides exposed. Drizzle garlic with the remaining tablespoon of oil. Roast until the squash is tender, about 30-35 minutes. Serve warm.

Recipe Index

French Onion Soup, 6

Holiday Lamb Shanks, 9

Lemon Meringue Pie Bites, 15

Cheese Straws, 24

Divinity Candy, 24

Almond Joy Cookies, 24

Decadent Mint Chocolate Truffles, 30

Easy & Delicious Chocolate Bark, 31

Herb Roasted Mushrooms, 35

Roasted Kabocha Squash with Red Onions and Garlic, 40

Classic Mulled Wine, 42

Candy Cane Twister, 42 Eggnog Cocktail, 42 Pomegranate Mimosa, 43

Sparkling Winter Punch, 43

Rum-licious Hot Chocolate, 43 Yule Mule, 43

German Chocolate Pancakes and Topping, 45

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• 41
MISSING AN ISSUE? VOLUME 10, NUMBER 1 April/May 2021 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI Shrimp Season Gear up for shrimp season with four phenomenal seafood recipes Spring Festivals Get in the “spring” of things with local festivals and events April/May 2021 DISPLAY UNTIL May 31, 2021 4.95 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI Two Brooks Farm | Ala Carte Alice | Dave’s Triple B Shrimply Delicious VOLUME 10, NUMBER 4 August/Septetmber 2021 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI 30-Minute and Under Meals Three all-star meals and lunches to get your family’s back-to-school season started right Festival Season is Just Starting Learn more about local festivals that are sure to be a great end to your summer August/September 2021 DISPLAY UNTIL September 31, 2021 $4.95 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI Queen’s Reward Meadery | Fat Mama's Tamales | Walnut Hills Restaurant Q uick & Back-To -Scho o l Meals Healt hy VOLUME 10, NUMBER February/March 2021 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI CELEBRATE MARDI GRAS Discover three great Cajun recipes using seasonal ingredients for Fat Tuesday ---------------------VALENTINE’S DAY Celebrate with homemade chocolate treats, date night in the city or a cocktail at home February/March 2021 DISPLAY UNTIL March 31, 2021 $4.95 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI Extra Table | Charcuterie Chick | Bilal’s EasyKale Tired of squash as a side dish? See 3 sides that use fresh, seasonal produce to accompany any main dish. drink. MISSISSIPPI Meats, Deli & Seafood | The Great Mississippi Tea Co. Seasonal Side Dishes See what kitchen items you need to cook to impress this season Fall-Must Haves Email us at Back Issues Available for Purchase

7 Winter Cocktails to Spice Up Your Holidays

We’ve collected an mouthwatering assortment of winter cocktails – from familiar classics like mulled wine to simple twists on eggnog and Moscow mules, to a delightful take on a mimosa perfect for New Year’s. Salud! edm

Classic Mulled Wine

This Thanksgiving classic will not only warm your tummy, but while it’s brewing, the wine, cinnamon, oranges, and cloves will make your house smell divine!


• 2 small oranges

• 1 bottle of red wine (affordable Merlot, Zinfandel or Garnacha; something dark, fruity, or “jammy,” not super oaky)

• 1/4 cup brandy (optional)

• 1-2 tablespoons maple syrup or honey

• 2 whole cinnamon sticks

• 3 anise stars

• 4 whole cloves

Candy Cane Twister

With a delicious blend of vodka, mint, chocolate… what’s not to love? For an added Christmas twist, try infusing your own candy cane/peppermint vodka (makes great gifts, too).


• 3 oz. Peppermint or Candy Cane vodka

• 2 oz. clear Crème de Cacao (the brown version creates a “muddy” – but still delicious – cocktail)

• Dash of Angostura bitters

• 2 classic red/white candy canes

Slice one orange into rounds; place in a heavybottom stainless-steel pot (or slow cooker). Squeeze juice from remaining orange into pot. Add the wine and brandy and 1 tablespoon of sweetener. Add the whole spices and cover. Warm over medium heat until steaming (about 5 minutes). When you start seeing bubbles, reduce the heat to very low. Taste; add the other tablespoon of sweetener if desired. If it’s not spicy enough, continue cooking over very low heat 5-10 minutes more. Ladle into mugs and serve warm with a cinnamon stick, orange slice and a few cranberries. Serves 4.

In a blender or chopper, process candy canes until they form a rough sugar for coating the rim of the glass; sprinkle onto a small plate. Wet only the rims of a 2 cocktail glasses with water or simple syrup and immediately dip into candy cane sugar, swirling back and forth to coat. Stand upright and allow to dry. Add the vodka, crème de cacao, and bitters to a cocktail shaker full of ice. Give it a good shake and strain into candy-rimmed glasses. Makes 2 cocktails.

Eggnog Cocktail

An easy and delicious twist on traditional holiday eggnog, this recipe can be customized by using any of your favorite liquors. And since it features storebought eggnog as a base, it is also quick, making it the perfect addition to your next holiday party.


• 1 oz. Amaretto*

• 1 oz. vodka (such as Cathead Vanilla)*

• 2 oz. prepared eggnog

• pinch of nutmeg

• pinch of cinnamon

• Caramel sauce

Rim a cocktail glass with caramel sauce. Shake the eggnog, Amaretto, vodka and spices in a cocktail shaker filled halfway with ice. Strain into prepared glass and garnish with more cinnamon. Serves 1. (*Or substitute any of your favorite holiday liquors like bourbon, whiskey, rum, Bailey’s Irish Cream, Kahlua, Crème de Cacao...)

42 • December/January 2023
{ raise your glass }
Image from Dessert Now Dinner Later

Pomegranate Mimosa

This classic, champagne-based cocktail is the perfect libation to ring in the New Year. You can also make the fruity base ahead of time, pour out into glasses, and top with champagne at the last minute, so it’s quick and easy, too!


• 1 oz. pomegranate juice

• 1 oz. orange juice

• 1/2 teaspoon honey (optional)

• dash of lime juice

Sparkling Winter Punch

This sparkling citrus and champagne punch is bright and zesty, sweet, but not too sweet. The rosemary simple syrup really melds the flavors together. This batch cocktail is built for winter gatherings (double or triple the recipe as needed). Rosemary Simple Syrup ingredients:

• 1 cup water

• 5 sprigs rosemary

• 1 cup honey (or sugar)

In a small pan bring the water and rosemary to a boil. Remove from the heat, add the honey and stir until dissolved. Let steep for 10 minutes, then strain and discard the rosemary sprigs.

Punch ingredients:

• 1 batch rosemary simple syrup

• 1 cup vodka

• 1 bottle champagne or prosecco

• 1 cup orange juice

• 3 oz. dry champagne

• pomegranate arils (seeds) to garnish

Place the pomegranate arils in the bottom of a 6 oz. champagne flute. (If using the honey, stir into the orange juice until completely combined.) Pour the ingredients into the glass, adding the champagne last. Serve immediately. Makes 1 mimosa.

• orange slices, rosemary sprigs and ice to garnish

In a large punch bowl combine the rosemary simple syrup, vodka, champagne, and orange juice. Garnish with orange slices, rosemary sprigs and ice. About 8-10 servings.

Rum-licious Hot Chocolate

If you’re used to cocoa from a packet, this decadent, rich hot chocolate will knock your socks off! A luxurious take on the classic, this adults-only version is a real cold weather treat.


• 1 cup milk

• 1.5 oz. dark chocolate (try 70% dark), chopped

• 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

• 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa powder

• 1 tablespoon brown sugar (or honey, or maple syrup)

Yule Mule

With flavors of cranberry and ginger, this holiday version of a traditional Moscow Mule is sweet and spiced with lots of holiday flavor.


• 4 oz. vodka*

• 1.5 oz. lime juice

• 4 oz. unsweetened 100% cranberry juice

• 6 oz. ginger beer (not ginger ale)

• fresh rosemary stems and cranberries for garnish

• 1-2 tablespoons of rum, to taste

• marshmallows (optional)

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the milk just until it starts to bubble. Reduce the heat to low and add chopped chocolate and cinnamon. Whisk until melted. Add cocoa powder and brown sugar and stir, about 1 minute. Turn off the heat and whisk in the rum. Serve warm with marshmallows. 1 serving. (For a kid-friendly version, use milk chocolate instead of dark and omit the rum.)

In a cocktail shaker filled with ice, shake together the vodka, lime juice, and cranberry juice. Fill two copper mule mugs or OldFashioned glasses with ice. Strain half of the mixture into each glass and top with ginger beer. Garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary and a few cranberries. Makes 2 Yule Mules. (*Use the traditional vodka or substitute bourbon, rum or gin.)

Find more delicious holiday drink recipes at

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Southern Living: Christmas All Through the South

Every holiday season, Southern Living releases its highly anticipated holiday cookbook that includes festive recipes and tips for how to perfect your holiday decorating and gift wrapping. This year’s book is “Southern Living: Christmas All Through the South.” Though recipes can be found all throughout the Southern Living book, readers will also enjoy thumbing through pages and pages of elegant decorations, Christmas stories and traditions, decor inspiration, and much more.

Once readers finish admiring the pages of Christmas decorations throughout the South, recipes can be found at the end of Christmas All Through the South. There are menus for several different Christmastime gatherings, from “A Hearty Picnic in the Pines” to “Christmas Morning Brunch.”

The menu for a “Hearty Picnic in the Pines” includes recipes like Rosemary-Scented Cold Cider, Skillet Fried Chicken, Sweet Potato Salad, and Caramel Drop-Banana Bread Trifle for dessert - the perfect spread for a cozy, savory meal.

Next, “Casual Cocktail Supper,” sure to be a family favorite. Recipes include Beef Tenderloin with Homemade Hot Mustard and Horseradish Sauce, Montgomery Punch, Mini Corn Cakes, Lump Crab Mornay, and Pecan Bourbon Balls.

The next menu is small but mighty, with dishes for a “Supper By the Sea:” Orange Thing Punch, Benne Seed Cheese Wafers, Shrimp and Andouille Sausage over Parmesan Grits, Garlic Roasted Asparagus, and White Chocolate Cranberry Creme Brulé.

For those with a sweet tooth and a love for libations, “Cookies & Cocktails” is the perfect menu. Recipes include Gingerbread Linzer Cookies, Spiced Sorghum Snowflakes, Almond Poinsettia Cookies, and Coconut Snowballs. Sip on drinks like Sparkling Cranberry Cider, Chocolate Cream

Martini, and Caramel Apple Cider. Any of these will keep you warm on a cold December evening.

If “Christmas Morning Brunch” is more your speed, recipes for this fun meal include Winter Citrus Mocktail, Cinnamon Coffee with Bourbon Cream and all sorts of pancakes - Hummingbird, Italian Cream, Carrot Cake, Red Velvet, German Chocolate, and Caramel Cake. No matter which flavor of pancake you choose, kids (and adults) will love this sweet breakfast treat.

For some, baking sweet treats is their favorite thing about the holiday season, and the “Christmas Cakes” menu has plenty to choose from. Cakes range from Red Velvet-White Chocolate Cheesecake to Merry Berry Cake, Bourbon Eggnog Cake, Peppermint Hot Chocolate Cake, Chocolate Toffee Gingerbread Cake, Pumpkin Praline Cake, and several others. Whether it’s for a gathering or just for fun, any of these cakes are perfect for the season.

After Christmas is said and done, bringing in the new year is next on the agenda. If you plan to stay in this New Year’s Eve, opt for the “New Year’s Eve at the Lake” dinner menu with dishes like Spiked Satsuma Champagne, Lemony Feta Dip with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Pickled Shrimp, Parmesan Crusted Crab Cakes, and German Chocolate Cake Truffles. Or, opt for the “Lucky Oyster Roast” menu with dishes like Grilled Oysters, Black Eyed Pea Dip, Collard Green and Kale Salad, Warm Country Ham-Cream Cheese Biscuits, Bourbon Ginger Punch, and Lemon-Glazed Fried Cherry Pies. No matter which menu you choose for New Year’s either will bring in 2023 on the right note.

Each themed menu in the book is carefully crafted to ensure a tasty and delicious holiday season. These recipes, among many others, can all be found within the pages of “Southern Living: Christmas All Through the South,” available at Barnes & Noble, Target, and on Amazon. edm

44 • December/January 2023 { from the bookshelf }

German Chocolate Pancakes

Makes about 20 pancakes

• 2 cups all-purpose flour

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa

• 1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder

• 1 teaspoon salt

• 2 cups milk

• 2 large eggs, lightly beaten

• 1/2 (4 ounces) sweet chocolate baking bar, finely chopped

• 3 tablespoons butter, melted

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

• German Chocolate Topping, recipe follows

• Garnishes: coconut flakes, chocolate curls

1. Whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. Whisk together milk, eggs, chopped chocolate, butter and vanilla in another bowl. Gradually stir milk mixture into flour mixture just until moistened.

German Chocolate Topping

Makes 1-1/2 cups

• 2/3 cup chopped pecans

• 2/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut

• 1 (5 ounce) can evaporated milk

• 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar

• 1/4 cup butter, melted

• 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten

• 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake pecans and coconut in a single layer in a shallow pan 5 to 7 minutes or until lightly toasted and fragrant, stirring halfway through.

2. Cook evaporated milk, sugar, butter and egg yolks in a heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly, 8 to 10 minutes or until mixture bubbles and begins to thicken. Remove from heat, and stir in vanilla, pecans, and coconut. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 1 week.

3. To reheat: Microwave syrup in microwavesafe bowl on high for 10-15 seconds until warm. Stir until smooth.

2. Pour about a quarter cup of batter for each pancake onto a hot, buttered griddle or large nonstick skillet. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until the tops are covered with bubbles and edges look dry and cooked. Turn and cook 3 to 4 more minutes or until done. Place in a single layer on a baking sheet and keep warm in a 200 degrees F oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve with German Chocolate Topping.

3. Note: If using a griddle, heat to 350 degrees F.

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• 45
46 • December/January 2023 Do you have a familyfavorite dinner recipe? Or a favorite dish that never lasts long at get-togethers? Eat Drink Mississippi wants to feature your recipes in future issues. Please send recipes to michele.baker@, or mail them to 10971 Four Seasons Place Suite 211 Crown Point IN 46307. Share your recipes Digital Subscriptions Available! Access issues on all your devices. Getting a Mississippi never been easier! Visit VOLUME 9, NUMBER April/May 2020 eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI eat. Old Digital Subscriptions Available! Access issues on all your devices. Getting a taste of Mississippi has never been easier! Visit to subscribe. SmokeGrilled Rack of Lamb Thyme and Lemon Loaf Cake Watermelon Arugula Salad eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI Old Waverly Farm Ham’s | Johnnie’s Drive-In French Hermit Oyster Company HoorayHerbsfor Digital Subscriptions Available! Access issues on all your devices. Getting a taste of Mississippi has never been easier! Visit to subscribe. SmokeGrilled Rack of Lamb Thyme and Lemon Loaf Cake Watermelon Arugula Salad eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI Old Waverly Farm Ham’s Johnnie’s Drive-In French Hermit Oyster Company HoorayHerbsfor Access issues on all your devices. Getting a taste of Mississippi has never been easier! ABOUT OUR Restaurant Mama ‘n’ Em Southern Table & Bar, at Golden Moon Hotel & Casino in Choctaw, MS, opened its doors in 2021. We are a casual style restaurant that offers Southern favorites with a twist. Our menu is diverse in regional cuisine, from fresh oysters to Shrimp and Grits. And, of course, a southern table wouldn’t be complete without dishes like our signature fried chicken, steamin’ hot biscuits and delicious, decadent desserts. Come spend a good Mississippi minute with us...and don’t be surprised if someone stops and asks, “How’s your mama ‘n’ em doin’?” Mama’s has an incredible selection of Bourbon, Whiskey, Beer, Wine, and Specialty Cocktails. Create your own Kentucky Bourbon Flight or enjoy our “Taste of Rye” and “Small Batch” flights. If that’s not up your alley, you’ll definitely want to try the refreshing Old Smoky Watermelon Cooler with Old Smoky Salty Watermelon Whiskey, Sour, Cranberry juice, mint, and lemon lime soda. TAKE Flight Scan Code TO BOOK A TABLE

Till We Eat Again

Jay Reed, a graduate of Ole Miss, lives in Starkville where he is a pharmacist by day and a freelance food writer by day off. He is a member of the Southern Foodways Alliance, co-hosts two podcasts and blogs at

True Tales of Roasted Chestnuts

“Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose….” It’s a great song, isn’t it? Nat King Cole is a velvety-voiced beast when it comes to Christmas music, which makes it easy to sing right along; though in Mississippi, Jack Frost’s nose-nipping issues are few and far between. And most of us have never eaten a fire-roasted chestnut. I, however, am an exception.

When I tell you I’ve had roasted chestnuts before, I’m not talking about water chestnuts from a can, nestled with liver, wrapped in bacon, and renamed “rumaki.” I’m talking about legit roasted chestnuts. Granted, not all were roasted in the Nat King Cole tradition. In fact, some never got roasted at all. Since The Christmas Song is a memory-invoking masterpiece of mistletoe music, I’m going to take a stroll down a snowy, evergreen-lined memory lane.

Truth: my first roasted chestnut was nowhere near snow, and the closest thing to an evergreen was a palm tree. I was in an enormous mall in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Not the mall with the indoor ski slope, though that would have been even more appropriate for the story. Rather, it was what I remember as the first really big mall in Dubai, with the movie theater and the Chili’s. We were wandering from shop to shop, and around a corner was a little kiosk that reminded me of a vintage popcorn cart. Except they weren’t popping corn, they were roasting chestnuts. In Dubai. In the mall. You can’t make this up. Of course, I had to try them. It was a long time ago, and I’ve already forgotten a lot of details about the flavor except to say that I remember thinking they were pretty good. Definitely no regrets.

Fast forward a decade or so and our family is now back on this side of the pond, spending the Christmas holidays in Williamsburg, Virginia. If you wander the streets of the historic area at night during the holidays, there are lots of fires. Torches light the streets, and bonfires warm the crowds. Jack Frost spends more time nipping noses up that way than he does down here, so bonfires are a good thing if one is wandering around outside. As we were sitting near a fire, probably drinking expensive hot chocolate, my brother-in-law appeared with a handful of roasted chestnuts, presumably roasted over one of those open fires. For all I know, they may have been roasted in a modern commercial kitchen hidden behind a colonial-esque wall, but I doubt it - they’re pretty good about actually doing things the old way. Again, the taste and texture memories are fuzzy, like the outside of a raw chestnut while it grows, but we ate them and they were good. Maybe an acquired taste, not for everybody, but something I would happily eat again.

A year or two ago, someone brought a bag of chestnuts straight off a tree in their yard to the place where I worked at the time. Sometimes people bring brownies or Christmas cookies, but this dude brought a grocery sack full of chestnuts. “Sure, I’ll take some!” I said, with plans to roast them over my fire pit at home, or however Google told me to do it. Then a few months later, I found the sack at the back of my pantry, a little musty, unroasted and sadly, never to be roasted. I’m not proud, but I did learn a valuable lesson: pantries eat chestnuts like dryers eat socks.

We don’t roast chestnuts much in America anymore. It’s not because we’re cooking them another way, or because a couple of years ago Charmin offered “free pound of chestnuts with toilet paper purchase,” or because the song inspired a rush on the chestnut market. It’s actually because of the blight that wiped out most all of the chestnut trees. Before that - well before the song came out, in fact - city street corners around the holidays were as likely as not to have a vendor roasting chestnuts over hot coals. These days you can still find them, but most are imported, though scientists have been working to engineer a chestnut tree that can stand up to the blight and give us our tradition back with a tastier, local nut.

Meanwhile, if your neighbor happens to have a surviving tree and offers you a handful, give roasting a try. It’s a long way to Dubai.

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48 • December/January 2023 Follow us on social media to see some of the tasty, local bites we’ve discovered! @eatdrinkmississippi eat. drink. MISSISSIPPI
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