My best present of 2012 arrived just before Christmas. Though the official pub date of “Eat Drink Delta” isn’t until January 25, books arrived much earlier into the warehouse than expected and the good folks at UGA Press were able to arrange a tour with stops in Jackson, Greenwood, Clarksdale, Charleston and Indianola. My mother, Nancy Puckett, was a trooper and agreed to come along for the ride. We had a fantastic time and I took lots of pics which I will be sharing in posts to come. In today’s Atlanta Journal-Constitution, I offer some dining tips for anyone traveling in the Delta. Below I’m sharing a handful of some of my most recent taste discoveries on this book tour alone. Got more Delta dining tips? I’d love to hear about them!
One: Multi-flavored cupcakes baked by Delta Delicacies
(sold through Mississippi Gift Company). The schoolteachers-turned-cake-bakers-extraordinaire from Money, MS, are famed throughout the region for their caramel cakes in particular, but their fresh strawberry cakes rock, too. Both flavors were in this sampler that graced the table at my Turnrow Books signing.
Two: (Right) Tamales on Saltines from Abe’s Bar-B-Q in Clarksdale.
Normally they’re served in the husks, but for cocktail parties it is not uncommon for them to be unrolled, cut up, and passed on crackers, with Tabasco on the table for guest to shake on at will.
Four: (Above) Catfish Topped With Lump Crabmeat at Lusco’s.
I was slightly disappointed that they had sold out of the broiled pompano, the dish I always order at this Greenwood institution. But this dish was a most satisfying compromise: delicate catfish fillets sauteed and served in a light lemony butter sauce with fresh herbs, and generous chunks of sweet lump crabmeat.
Six: (Left) Grilled Cheese Sandwich and Tomato Basil Soupat Turnrow Cafe.
I love the bustling little cafe above this terrific bookstore in the heart of Greenwood. It is a great place to meet and people-watch, and the homemade soups and sandwiches are prepared by Chef Kenny with quality and care. The three-cheese grilled cheese on artisanal bread rocked, especially accompanied by a steamy mug of his delicious Tomato Basil Soup!
Seven: (Right) Chocolate Creme Brulee at Rust.
This fun and cozy restaurant, so named for its stylish displays of old junk and artifacts on its walls, was a satisfyingly sweet ending to fun, full day in Clarksdale. It began with lunch at Ground Zero and a surprise meeting with Morgan Freeman (who got an autographed copy of my book!), followed by a book signing at Miss Del’s, a funk general store and gift shop in the small business district. Afterwar, a group of nw friends and I mosied down to Rust for a delicious dinner that included this luxuriously decadent dessert.
Nine: (Right) Fried Dill Pickles at the 3 Way Restaurant.
Throughout the Delta, fried dill pickles are as common as french fries. The 3 Way Restaurant does an excellent job with theirs — crispy and not too greasy with homemade ranch for dipping. We passed around several platters before digging into our entrees. (My mom was the thumb model here.)
Three: (Below) Rabbit and White Bean Stew at Delta Bistro.
Chef Taylor Bowen Ricketts serves some of the most sophisticated and innovative fare in the region at Delta Bistro in downtown Greenwood. On the chilly day I ate there for lunch, this bone-warming and homey rabbit and white bean stew really hit the spot.
Five: (Above) BBQ Nachos at the Blue Biscuit.
In Indianola, my mom and I stayed at the Blue Biscuit, a funky little B &B (Bed & Beer) where Trish Berry rent out her pool house or a cute refurbished shotgun house to guests. She is also a terrific chef, producing some of the finest BBQ in the region. You can get it on a bun, or heaped over chips and smothered in cheese and jalapenos — which we opted for in a weak moment. Great with Lazy Magnolia Southern Pecan Nut Brown Ale brewed in southern Mississippi…or with a good ol’ Bud Lite.
Eight: (Left) Broiled Whole Flounder at the 3 Way Restaurant.
After a signing at the Charleston C.A.R.E.S. community center in this tiny town’s lovely old restored bank building, a group of us dined at the nearby 3 Way Restaurant, in a re-purposed former John Deere showroom. Chef/owner James Paul Williams makes regular trips to the Gulf Coast to bring back fresh seafood for his specialties, and to sell to landlocked locals. My broiled flounder was super-fresh and expertly cooked.
Ten: (Left) Creole Catfish Cake Salad at The Crown.
For my final stop before heading back to Atlanta, I signed books at The Crown restaurant and gift shop in downtown Indianola. I sold quite a few books, and my mom and I also did much of our Christmas shopping and had a lovely lunch in their tearoom which specializes in catfish “anyway BUT fried.” For my entree, catfish was flaked and formed into a patty with Creole spices, sauteed and served over greens.