Tag Archives: The South

The Pork King

The smell alone was enough to drive me away. The pigs and slaughterhouse were located in an adjacent building at the Nahunta Pork Center, somewhere in southeastern North Carolina. After laughing at the billboards for about 50 miles, we decided to find out what exactly “America’s largest pork display” looked like.

Inside was literally the largest selection of pork products that I’ve seen in one place. I mean, the whole store was pork!

You walk in and encounter a fresh pig head looking at you, next to the pig tongues and pig’s feet. Behind the counters, employees sawed off various other parts of the swine to make country ham, sausage, bacon, etc.

Gah!

You knew there would be chitterlings. That’s right – pig intestines! Not only did they have a large selection, but they were conveniently molded into bricks (I imagine lard held them together). I just love the sign: “Chitterling Loaf (Heat & Serve!)”

Just when you thought you didn’t have enough lard…

More lard!

We were bummed that they were out of T-shirts, but they did have gift cards! Grant got an awesomely bad trucker hat. I was holding my breath at this point to avoid becoming nauseous.

To make the trip complete, we stopped by one last porky store before we left:

Can't find these in the PNW!

Sometimes I really think The South has a “special” relationship with pork.

xoxo

Savannah

Forsyth Park

Savannah, Ga., is a haunting beauty. Walking through the neighborhoods, you can imagine oil lanterns and Tiffany lamps illuminating the huge windows, parties spilling out onto the two-story porches that wind around the house.

Savannah is very hot, but it is also very shady. Looking up, huge live oaks reach from curb to curb, covering everything with a leafy canopy. Dripping from every limb like old cobwebs is Spanish moss. Spanish moss everywhere! I love it – the soft sage color, the way it sways in the breeze like seaweed – it cultivates an other-worldly feel in this already spooky city.

It’s no wonder General Sherman gave it to Lincoln as a Christmas present, then burning down every other city on his merry march. The town is organized around many pretty green squares, where old trees and fountains offer relief from the heat.

The famous Bonaventure Cemetery (anyone read “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil”?) looks like a scene from “Interview With a Vampire,” as my mom pointed out.

Bonaventure Cemetery

Bonaventure Cemetery

And then there’s the food. To beat you to the punch, no, I did not eat at Paula Deen’s restaurant. I just can’t justify standing in line for three hours to eat a stick of butter. So instead I bought pecan-pie flavored chapstick at her store and called it a day.

The seafood in Savannah was wonderful – if you ever travel there, try Garibaldi‘s, which is near The Lady & Sons restaurant (Paula Deen). After oysters on the half shell, I ordered the seared scallops served over country-ham risotto. Goodness, it was good!

Garibaldi's Cafe

I don’t have any pictures from our favorite meal at Elizabeth on 37th, but let me just say it is a MUST. Set in a renovated old mansion with food prepared using local ingredients and herbs from its own garden, this is one of the most memorable dinners of my life. From service to flavor, it was superb.

Another day, we had an afternoon snack at the Olde Pink House, which is supposed to be haunted. We ordered cocktails and the “Southern Sushi,” which was shrimp and grits rolled in a nori wrapper and then deep fried! Yes, it was good.

Southern Sushi

There is a small, but growing, population of hipsters in Savannah. We enjoyed a few breakfasts at organic cafes where art-school kids served us bold coffee in recyclable cups. I felt right at home.

Cafe 37 was where we had the fontina and ham crepes served with a fresh-greens salad:

Ham and fontina crepe

And my organic lox-bagel with cream cheese, capers and red onion. This might be the best lox bagel I have ever had. So soft and buttery. Fresh and delicious.

Lox bagel with cream cheese, capers and red onion

All said, I would declare Savannah a wonderful and romantic place to visit. Great parks to jog around, great places to eat and a little bit of history and mystery. I recommend renting a suite in one of the old homes near Forsyth Park, where you will have your own little porch to relax with a Hendricks gin & tonic…

Southern charm

Hydrangeas

I went on a run through a nice part of town recently. It was pouring down rain and thunder threatened from above. But everything was so warm and beautiful … and I was overwhelmed by the smells of gardenia and magnolias. Hydrangeas in a rainbow of pinks, whites and blues decorated every yard and the bright green leaves and bamboo stalks sagged with the weight of the summer rain. I was soaked and never happier because it was so gosh-durn pretty all around me.

In honor of Memorial Day, and a special guest I entertained over the long weekend, I give you … reasons why The South fits me like a glove (as one friend says):

Fried pickles at Mozelle's

The magnolias are blooming!

We had breakfast on the patio, with Reynolda Farm Market sage sausage, farm organic eggs, heirloom tomatoes and Ollie’s Bakery bread with sweet-potato butter. Oh, and Stumptown Coffee, for a taste of Portland, Ore.!

A farm breakfast on my patio, watching the cardinals play

A nice trip to the farmers’ market yielded a bounty of flowers and vegetables…

Heirloom tomatoes!

Do you look for faces in the tomatoes?

Fresh okra!

Fried pies!

You know you're in The South when...

We also tried, for the first and hopefully last time, real Appalachian moonshine! The poison was made smooth and sweet with the introduction of fresh berries.

XXX

I’ll let your imagination take you where this evening ended…

This was the only rational solution to a night of moonshine.

More to come, friends! xoxo

Jalapeno-cheddar cornbread

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Whenever I think of cornbread, I think of that “Arrested Development” episode with the corn-baller fryer that keeps burning people and when they couldn’t sell it in the U.S., they started selling it on Mexican infomercials.

This cornbread is baked safely in your oven, not deep-fried, but it still has spice that anyone will appreciate.

All you do is buy cornmeal and follow the cornbread directions on the back. Why not? Once you’ve mixed the wet ingredients with the dry ingredients, stir in:

1 seeded jalapeno pepper, minced

4 green onions, chopped

3/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese

Sprinkle the last 1/4 c. of cheese over the top of the cornbread and bake it according to the instructions, adding at least 10 more minutes to account for all the cheese in there (at least, mine took an extra 10 minutes). It should be moist but not mushy in the thickest part. As soon as you cut the bread open, you’ll know if you cooked it long enough! And it won’t hurt to go back in for a few minutes, if you need it.

I served this cornbread with Hoppin’ John,  which I’ve made many times, but this time used fresh ingredients in place of canned – I have all this farmers market food to use up!

I used 1 minced jalapeno instead of the canned green chilies, 2 chopped heirloom tomatoes in place of the canned diced, and chicken stock instead of water (increase the water to 1 c. to account for the fresh tomatoes).

We were very pleased with this comforting and satisfying meal. (And yes, that is a big piece of butter oozing out of my slice in the picture. Butter is a must.)

Good luck having only one serving, friends!

A story about chitlins

The day before the end, lightning danced across clouds in a dimming sky. Two 20-somethings watched it, bleary-eyed and hungry, while a black cat between them grew restless in her cage.

They were rounding out 2,800 miles – from the juniper forests of Central Oregon, through the Grand Tetons and ending in a southern state on the Atlantic coast. Their meals consisted mainly of cold-cut sandwiches from the coolers, Goldfish crackers, Wheat Thins and granola bars. This is what people eat when they quit their jobs and move across the country.

But when the heat lightning welcomed these travelers to their new home, they promised to treat themselves. Finally.

The next night, after a full day of unpacking the truck in soggy heat, they went to a local microbrewery in downtown Winston-Salem. Foothills Brewery, presumably named for the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Or the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The brewery was like Deschutes Brewery meets Merenda Restaurant & Wine Bar. They ordered a few brews:

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And an appetizer of onion rings (thick slices of sweet yellow onion):

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And dinner of buffalo chicken wraps, which tasted just like buffalo wings (yum!). Later, they bought peaches, just because, you know, it’s The South.

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Also at the grocery store: an entire refrigerated case of chitlins, or chitterlings. Pig intestines. Some body parts just shouldn’t be eaten.