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City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP
City & State or ZIP Tonight, this weekend, May 5th...
City & State or ZIP

Road Food: Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama

Mayflower Cafe, Jackson MS

Mayflower Cafe, Jackson MS

I’ve just returned from spending a few days in Avoyelles Parish, Louisiana, where I had the  pleasure of meeting Alice Waters — the great chef, cookbook author and inspiration for the good food movement. Waters was in central Louisiana to celebrate the first harvest from the Avoyelles Charter Public School “Edible Schoolyard” — one of many such school vegetable gardens that have opened around the country since Waters first developed the program for the Berkeley, California, school system.

Waters shared top billing at this event with the Parish’s best known native-son chef –  Joe Truex of Repast Restaurant, whom I accompanied. (Joe and his wife/co-chef Mihoko Obunai are my neighbors and good friends, which is why I have never shared any opinion about their restaurant in this blog and always disclose the relationship when his name comes up in a news story).

I’ll write a piece about this event next week, but in the meantime I wanted to share some  images of the food I tried along the way.

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Soft shell crab special

"Broiled" oysters

"Broiled" oysters

We were trying to make tracks, but hunger pangs hit as we were passing through Jackson, MS. On the advice of a friend, we stopped at Mayflower Cafe — a Jackson institution that has been around since 1935 and claims to be the city’s oldest restaurant. It looks like a funky, old diner, with wooden booths and a tile floor.

The broiled oysters were what I’d call meunière — floured, sauteed and sauced with spiced butter. They were fantastic, so fresh and juicy-wiggly in the center, but crisp on the edges. On the waitress’s recommendation, we got the daily special soft-shell crab with the same preparation. Best, freshest soft shell I’ve had in years.

photoOnce in Louisiana, we had to hit Daiquiri Island and get some drive-thru daiquiris or, channeling the inner Dude, White Russians. The blender drink comes in a styrofoam cup with a straw. As Joe explains, they don’t open the straw so this doesn’t break the area’s loosely defined open container laws. We drank them at a friend’s house.

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Boudin

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Hog's head cheese

We stopped in the next town of Cottonport and went to a fantastic meat market called T-Jim’s for some hot boudin. It was mighty tasty just squeezed from its gut tube, but Joe says the best thing to do is crisp it in a skillet and serve it with syrup. We also picked up a slab of spicy, fantastic hog’s head cheese for a mere $1. I have to admit that I don’t like eating obvious chunks of things that look like they were once inside a head, but this coarse, spreadable pate didn’t make me at all squeamish.

photo 4The next day we went to the event at the school, where we watched a presentation by students. Joe Truex and Alice Waters both made speeches. Pictured above, left, is Paige Rabalais, the Slow Food dynamo who spearheaded the Edible Schoolyard initiative here. Next to her are Waters and Truex.

photo 3After the speeches and performances, we went to the garden where local cooks had set up tasting stations of local foods. WesMar Farms of Moreauville brought some sweet fresh goat’s milk. They also brought along some baby goats and bottles for the kids to try feeding.

photo 3That evening, Joe and I visited an old high-school friend of his who raises his own pigs and cows on a small farm on the outskirts of town. He gave Joe a frozen bag of mixed offal to make grillades. Unlike in New Orleans, grillades here are served with rice, not grits.

Ribs at Dreamland BBQ

Ribs at Dreamland BBQ

On the way home, we stopped at the original Dreamland BBQ in Tuscaloosa for a mess of ribs and a smoked sausage. The ribs are better here than at the Roswell spinoff. I wonder why.

16 comments Add your comment

Jealous Hunger pains....

March 19th, 2010
1:22 pm

while i truly enjoy reading your articles john, sometimes i just need to ignore….this is one of them. i am quite envious of both the event you went to and the eats along the way. sometimes i just need to surf on by……

Blue Chunkes

March 19th, 2010
1:28 pm

“just squeezed from its gut tube” – thanks so much for that phrase I read just as I was finishing up my lunch…………….

jimmy

March 19th, 2010
1:48 pm

Well if you can’t mention it due to your friendship, I will! I think Joe and Mihoko have one of the best restaurants in town. The octopus carpaccio, ever-changing macrobiotic plate, and the chocolate terrine with olive oil and salt are incredible. Not a huge wine list, but great selections.

They also do their own PR. Next week they have self declared it “Repast Restaurant Week”. :)

Just wanted to mention it to give them some love; they deserve it.

Lisa

March 19th, 2010
2:01 pm

The Tuscaloosa Dreamland is the original. Used to be ONLY pork and white bread and it was wonderful. Then the kids took over and things got out of hand. Nice to know that the original is still best.

Hungry Gringo

March 19th, 2010
2:03 pm

There was a Dreamland BBQ by my parents house in high school that was so good my buddies and I invented a verb to describe the act of going to dinner at Dreamland. Have you been to Fox Brother’s BBQ yet John? They’ve got some quirky specials that seem right up your alley: Fritos Pie, pulled pork empanadas, mac’n'cheese + Brunswick stew, BBQ egg rolls etc.

F-105 Thunderchief

March 19th, 2010
2:15 pm

Love your trip. One of the best meals I ever had was at Dreamland in Birmingham with the Iron Bowl game on the tube. Pure heaven. Never been to Mayflower, but have friends in Jackson … so, maybe some day.

Corky

March 19th, 2010
2:34 pm

Back when I used to travel around Louisiana, nothing better than stopping at just about anyplace and getting a boudin tube or fried boudin balls and continue on down the highway, either squeezing the “gut tube” or eating the boudin balls. Many a hunger pang has been done away with like that.

Beelzebubba - Demon of the South

March 19th, 2010
2:52 pm

Did you partake of any mountain osyters? Be careful of eating sardines in the car. If you spill the juice in your lap, it is almost impossible to explain the smell later to your wife…believe me.

John Kessler

March 19th, 2010
7:10 pm

I’m very sorry if I made anyone lose his or her lunch.

S.C. Foodie

March 21st, 2010
7:45 pm

Oh, I’d loved to go on a food road trip. I’ve gotten to be quite a fan of the show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives.” Some of the food I think I would never order, but I get great ideas.

katie o.

March 22nd, 2010
7:39 am

The original Dreamland is head and shoulders above the sad off-shoots we have here in Atlanta. Luckily, my parents still live in Tuscaloosa….I have an excuse to pick up a slab of ribs, some white bread, and a jar of the sauce to bring back with me.

Art

March 23rd, 2010
7:14 pm

John, just love your style… and open and honest respect and restraint for your neighbors… You are 1CFD… one, cool, food dude… LOL! Keep it comin’….

Random Wine Geek

March 24th, 2010
6:33 pm

“The ribs are better here than at the Roswell spinoff.”

Could you have set the bar any lower? The only thing I learn from this comment is that the ribs approach edibility.

John Kessler

March 25th, 2010
8:29 am

Thanks, Art!

Paddy

March 25th, 2010
8:50 am

John….Love boudin. You can even buy it at Wal-Mart. Next time you make stuffed bell peppers try it with boudin and ground beef et el. It is a wonderful combination of flavors.

Cynical Cook

March 25th, 2010
12:38 pm

Glad to see you decided to stop in Jackson. If you’re passing through again and need any help with recs, I’d be more than happy to help.