Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Evacuation Feast

Even Isaac can't stop the Big Green Egg.
Greetings from 70 miles northwest of New Orleans. We hope that everyone riding out the storm in New Orleans is hunkered down (I am so sick of hearing that phrase) and staying relatively dry. Lord willing, Isaac will finally decide to second line his way out of here by Thursday morning. Let's keep our fingers crossed that he brings Jim Cantore along with him. That guy is like an unwanted Mardi Gras guest who keeps pushing his flight back long after he wore out his welcome by vomiting on mom's favorite rug.

Even though we are running on a natural gas generator up here at Blackened Out Baton Rouge Evacuation Shelter, we have decided to forego cooking with electricity out of respect for those of you who are without power down south. Therefore, the Big Green Egg has seen plenty of action over the last 36 hours. Yesterday a whole roaster chicken spent a solid 6 hours in the BGE along with a few Yukon golds, some onions, a bulb of garlic, and a couple of links of beef and poblano sausage and country sausage courtesy of Cochon Butcher. They made for a mighty fine feast along with a bottle of 2009 Maison Roche de Bellene Bourgogne Vielles Vignes which was evacuated from the wine fridge at home.

From reviewing his Twitter updates and seeing pecan french toast on today's breakfast menu, Rene seems to be taking advantage of generator power as well when it comes to hurricane cooking. So you can rest assured that despite the 90mph winds and potential flooding, your faithful bloggers are staying well fed during this unintended vacation period. We hope that you are all doing the same.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Winner, Winner, Spaghetti Model Dinner

After playing the role of Susan Lucci as the perennial second place finisher to the likes of and Lorin Gaudin, Blackened Out finally claimed the #1 spot in the Best Local Blog category in Gambit's Best of New Orleans 2012. While the rest of the city concerns itself with the cone of uncertainty, we're digging deep into the cellar and opening up bottles of the good stuff here at Blackened Out Hurricane Hunter Headquarters. Best to enjoy it now instead of running the risk of letting the good juice go to waste in a power outage.  And even though we expect a referendum to be called for by Uptown Messenger, in the mean time we are going to ride this high for as long as we can.

And of course by "ride this high" we really mean "take the week off."  In accordance with the Blackened Out Bylaws, we are required to abide by the hurricane closures mandated by the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Don't blame us - we didn't make these rules.  Well, actually we did, but we never thought that we would follow them.

So tie down the patio furniture, fill up that generator, and start planning your wine pairings. The Pope tells us that peanut butter and jelly pairs well with everything from rich, fruity California cabernets to lighter, more acidic reds from Burgundy.

And last but not least, thanks to all of you readers who voted for us this year. Your encouragment has renewed our enthusiasm for the little blog that could, and we hope to keep you entertained for many more years to come.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Lawyers Love Wine

Hopper's Carte de Vins.
Almost every lawyer dreams of one day leaving the practice of law, but Peter Weygandt hit the jackpot of making that dream a reality when he left the billable hour behind for a full time gig as a wine importer. This evening Hopper's Carte des Vins hosts a special tasting featuring 23 selections from Peter Weygandt's portfolio.

The Tasting is from 5:00-7:00 p.m. and is $25 per person. Reservations must be made in advance. The format is a “walk around” tasting so that you may taste all or just some of the wines, and come and go as your schedule permits.

The Tasting
  • J.L. Vergnon NV Brut Conversation
  • J.L. Vergnon Brut Resonance 2006
Vin Blanc:
  • Albert Mann Pinot Blanc 2011
  • Albert Mann Riesling Grand Cru Schlossberg 2010
  • Chateau de la Greffiere Macon la Roche Vineuse Vieilles Vignes 2010
  • Remi Jobard Bourgogne Blanc 2009
  • Remi Jobard Meursault En Laruale 2008
  • Remi Jobard Meursault Genevrieres 2009
Vin Rouge:
  • Juillot Mercurey 1er Cro Tonnere 2009
  • Domaine Fontenille Cotes du Luberon 2010
  • Tribouley l’Alba 2010
  • Tribouley Les Bacs 2010
  • Tribouley Orchis 2010
  • Charvin Cotes du Rhone Le Poutet 2009
  • Grand Nicolet Rasteau 2009
  • Domaine St. Damien Cotes du Rhone Bouveau 2011
  • Domaine St. Damien Cotes du Rhone Vieilles Vignes 2011
  • Domaine St. Damien Gigondas Vieilles Vignes 2011
  • Domaine St. Damien Gigondas La Louisiane 2011
  • Domaine St. Damien Gigondas Souteyrades 2011
  • Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Girard 2009
  • Usseglio Chateauneuf du Pape Cuvee Imperiale 2009
  • Chapelle St. Theodoric Chateauneuf du Pape Les Sablons 2009

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Thornton Watermelon Cocktail

Post-Tales of the Cocktail finds my bar is filled with all manners of liquors, cordials, mixers, and miscellany. The vast majority of which requires Googling and consultation with all manners of cocktail books to determine what to do with it. Normally, my favorite flavored vodka is gin; but this bottle of Belvedere Lemon Tea vodka has an interesting subdued flavor. Problem is, I couldn't think of anything to do with it.

The normal roster of vodka drinks (Greyhound, Screwdriver, Moscow Mule, etc...) would have obscured the citrus in the vodka. I needed something to contrast with the vodka.  I happened to be smoking some ribs and was already thinking of  traditional accompaniments to ribs. Iced tea and watermelon are two standards at a barbecue. Luckily, like any well rounded kitchen, I had a mason jar of homemade watermelon syrup in the fridge that we scored on a trip to the Delta. I assume you do as well.

This combination of flavors just made sense but with the added benefit of being delicious. The watermelon syrup adds a nice viscosity to the dink, while the orange bitters and lime juice help to sharpen the drink without enforcing their acidic will.

Thornton Watermelon

3 oz Belvedere Lemon Tea Vodka
1 oz watermelon syrup*
1/4 oz of lime juice
3 dashes of Orange Bitters

Combine the above in a mixing glass. Add ice. Shake for fourteen and one quarter revolutions of the Beatles White album. Strain into a chilled coupe.

* You probably don't have a mason jar of homemade watermelon syrup because you are an anti-Luddite. This is ok. Squeeze chunks of watermelon until you get a half cup of watermelon juice. Add a 1/4 cup of sugar and warm while stirring. Once mixture has reduced by half, strain and cool. That ought to be close enough.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Breakfast at Brennan's: Is It Worth It?

The very idea of waking up, getting gussied up, and settling in for a morning of indulgence is in my wheelhouse like the captain of the Titanic. Unending pitchers of Bloody Marys or brandy milk punches giving way to platters of unctuous runny eggs, crispy, salty pig parts, and soft, buttery biscuits sounds like a better way to spend Sunday morning in the weeks before football season than going to church. Off to Brennan's then.

Things started out well enough with a complementary virgin mimosa for Lindsay and a crispy gin and tonic. Then we were brought to our table. Let me rephrase: the absolute worst table in the city of New Orleans. Wedged in between a wall and the passageway between the bar, hostess stand, and dining room we became air traffic controllers.

I've purchased cars that induced less sticker shock than the menu at Brennan's. To wit, the standard breakfast at Brennan's is in the mid $30's and is offered as a Table d'Hote. But order the turtle soup and the signature Banana's Foster, and the price increases by almost 50%. So a three course breakfast of soup, eggs, and bananas flamed in rum will set you back $43.

The turtle soup is fantastic, a rust colored exploration of Creole flavors that shines both on the spoon and smeared with hot French bread. The oyster soup was overly vegetal and bitter on the edge lacking in any of the buttery richness or salty punch of Louisiana oysters.

Halfway through our breakfast, I made the switch to Ramos Gin Fizzes. Of the two I ordered, one arrived in a glass that still had the remnants of the previous tenant's Screwdriver. This is a little like kissing a girl who smells of  another man's cologne. I looked in vain for a waiter, server, or busboy to remedy the problem. Unfortunately one female manager was too busy letting everyone know that Ryan Phillippe was due in soon. The other manager had an issue with some of the waiters on the floor. Must have been urgent because he began dressing them down in the middle of the dining room. I found a straw and made do.

Soon enough came the entrees, which meant we were almost two thirds of the way done with this nightmare trainwreck on acid. Eggs Hussarde is a simple enough dish of poached eggs, hollandaise, Holland rusks, Canadian bacon, and Marchand de vin sauce. The Canadian bacon was flabby, the eggs cold, the Marchand de vin muddy, the hollandaise pasty, and the Holland rusk stale. After leaving, I swung by St. Louis Cathedral to make an offering to St. Jude for this dish.

Lindsay got the bargain of the century with her grillades and grits. A plate of instant grits milled personally by Mr. Quaker Oaks were gilded with some chopped parsley. To its right sat a watery gravy loaded with precisely two poorly braised fat slabs of veal. It was at least labeled as veal on the menu. We had our doubts. Just look below and tell me you can't resist this tempting offering at $43 a plate - a la carte. Someone get the President on line 1, the economy has rebounded, and good times are here again!

Bananas Foster are fine and well. But after the show of lighting bananas on fire, our pan sat off the heat for ten minutes as the sugars and fat congealed into a lukewarm mess. This delay may have been due to the arrival of the aforementioned Mr. Phillippe and his twenty year old consort. I hope they enjoyed their meal. We did not.

Breakfast at Brennan's: Is It Worth It? Absolutely Not.
417 Royal Street

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Photo Travel Log 2012: Fútbol at Bernabeu

Angel di Maria finds the back of the net.
Yesterday was a huge day for U.S. soccer. For the first time ever, the U.S. Men's National Team won a match on Mexican soil, in Azteca Stadium no less. Tim Howard's remarkable play in the final 10 minutes of play was truly astounding. And while the roar of victory was barely audible above the pre-season football chatter, this milestone will hopefully be the impetus for a new wave of U.S. soccer fever that has not been seen since the red, white, and blue hosted the World Cup in 1994.

Although I played soccer in my youth and have remained a fan of the game long thereafter, my experience with the professional game had always been limited to the English Premier League wrap up shows played on ESPN at 5:30am on Saturday mornings. Or at least that was the case until our recent Mardi Gras vacation when luck would have it that Real Madrid hosted Racing Santander during our stay in the Spanish capitol. Almost immediately after we booked our flights last summer, I checked the Real Madrid schedule and penciled it in on our itinerary. But a combination of procrastination and website confusion prevented us from securing tickets until our arrival in Spain, when we soon found out that two side-by-side tickets were impossible to be bought via the web. And instead of taking a chance on scalping tickets shortly before kickoff, after lunch we hopped the metro heading north to Estadio Santiago Bernabéu, where we were able to secure two side-by-side mid-level tickets behind one of the goals for face value.

With approximately 4 hours till kickoff and no desire to make the trek back into the city, we decided to kill time around the stadium. After a search for a recommended restaurant lead us to a shuttered store front, we made a quick pass through the logo shop for a team scarf and a onesie for the nephew (unfortunately there was no onesie available in my size). The next 3 hours were spent at a tavern just across the street from the stadium where we consumed an unhealthy number of bottles of Estrella and rubbed elbows with locals drinking rum and coke and gin and tonic from tall slender plastic glasses filled with exactly 3 ice cubes, no more and no less. Imagine Allegro's before a Saints game, except with far less hair gel, no Ying Yang twins blasting from the speakers, and no pre-formed frozen burgers on the grill.

Instead, there is jamón. The omnipresent cured leg of pig hangs in almost every bar and restaurant in Spain. I had witnessed first hand the undying devotion to jamón on previous visits, and the fanatical devotion to fútbol is evident to anyone who saw video footage of the nationwide celebrations which took place after Spain won the World Cup in 2010. I could never say which laid claim to the title of Spain's true love, until that game at  Bernabéu when I discovered that the only thing that the Spanish love more than fútbol or jamón is eating jamón while at a fútbol game.

We should have gotten the hint from hundreds (literally) of cellophane wrapped bocadillos which were stacked behind the counter of that no name bar across the street from Bernabéu. An hour before game time, the jamón bocadillos were all sold out, even though no one in the bar seemed to be eating. The tardy purchasers to either tortilla or queso bocadillos. Luckily for us, The Folks Singer snagged one of the last jamón bocadillos before the sell out and stuffed it inside her purse.

Once we finally made it inside the stadium, we were faced with two serious disappointments. First, the only beer available was Mahou Sin, as in "sin alcohol" or "no alcohol." That was a shocker. Next, the concession stands were all sold out of jamón. The ref had not blown the first whistle more than 10 minutes earlier, and they were already out of jamón. How could this be?

Fast forward to halftime. The Whites have a comfortable 2-0 lead and seem to be toying with the overmatched Racing Santander squad, when suddenly the world's largest outdoor picnic party breaks out. You see, Real Madrid fans focus squarely on the game between the first and final whistles, but when halftime rolls around it's all about the jamón. Everywhere we turned, someone was tearing open foil or plastic wrap and munching down on a ham sandwich. It was like one giant jamórgasm. Now we knew where all those bocadillos disappeared to earlier.

When the halftime whistle blew at Azteca Stadium last night, I smiled to myself in memory of that night at Bernabéu, wondering if the Mexican fans were all chowing down on tacos al pastor or tortas filled with barbacoa. Perhaps one day, fans in New Orleans will hold the world's largest muffuletta halftime picnic. I hope that I am there to join in, and I really hope that they are serving something other than non-alcoholic beer.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Pimento cheese has become something of an obsession in the Olde Metal Cabineted Blackened Out Test Kitchen. It all really began with Better Cheddar from Langenstein's then proceeded into the pimento cheese at Butcher; then the jalapeno fierceness of Whole Foods. But at the end of the day, pimento cheese is best made in su casa.

You may already know this but Hatch Chiles are the bomb diggity. They come from God's own garden and have an assertive note of ass kicking underneath of patina of sweet seduction. You can find them on the internet, in a black market, or at the aforementioned Whole Foods. They are best when roasted, but they are also fairly effective as a way to rid your garden of pests like neighbors. You can roast them under a broiler, on a barbecue pit, or on top of the stove. Once blackened, pop into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let "steep" for about ten minutes. Then peel and remove the seeds.

Allright so you have roasted Hatch Chiles, now what? Well, first you should make an aioli. Throw into a food processor about 3 tablespoons of chopped Hatch Chiles, a clove of garlic, a tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a few splashes of white wine vinegar, salt, pepper, and two egg yolks. Blend this mother until well mixed. Then with the food processor or blender running, stream in a cup of Canola oil.

Now, take a quarter cup of the aioli, a quarter cup of chopped roasted Hatch chiles, 2 cups of shreded cheddar cheese, and a few dashes of hot sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning. Stir all this to combine and then park in the fridge. Slather it onto celery, if you are into the whole health thing. Or saltines if you are cool and tough.

Camellia Grill: Is It Worth It?

Before New Orleans was a city filled with world class chefs, it was a city of waiters. In days passed restaurants were marked by the front of the house staff: the maitre'd, the waiters, and a bartender. These tireless warriors were more well known than even the executive chef. This is still true at the old grand dames in the French Quarter, where who your waiter is says more about you than your credit score. But those places aren't built for everyone or everyday. Camellia Grill is and your chose of waiter is of paramount importance.

For me, that means Marvelous Marvin, known to some as Word. Marvin has been serving me a cheeseburger with grilled onions, chili cheese fries, and a freeze for roughly two Mayan Glyphs. Regardless of the time, day, or level of sobriety, that is my order. Marvin holds court on stage left of this cinema verite, singing in food orders and offering Saints predictions, "We going 13-3 this year; only thing I worry about is when we get to the playoffs, and we have to beat the refs too. cause you know the Commish ain't looking for us to be inthe Super Bowl."

Camellia Grill is just a diner, but this is a good thing. You don't have to think to get a good omelet, a well-crafted waffle, or a club sandwich that puts the day after Thanksgiving to shame. Recently I made the switch from a chocolate shake to a vanilla one, and I suggest you do the same. A slice of pecan pie tossed on the grill and gilded with a scoop of vanilla ice cream manages to hover between the solid and liquid states of matter.

Sure, the fries are frozen and the sliced cheese is melted via the griddle, but the chili is chock full of read beans and soft ground meat. A few splashes of Tabasco help ramp up the flavor as well as giving you an excuse to give the fries a moment to cool down. The crowds grow for breakfast and the joint stays busy until around 3 p.m. But get their early and have a seat in front of Marvin. Don't worry you are in good hands.

Camellia Grill: Is It Worth It? Yes.
626 S. Carrollton Ave

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Feed Your Aura

The appetizer platter at Fatoush. Photo by renee b. photography.
Whenever I overhear someone discussing their cosmic energy, I am reminded of an anecdote from my sister's apartment search when she first moved to NYC. The Parisian Princess must have answered every Craigslist ad for roommates wanted, and she was introduced to quite a cross section of Manhattan crazies. But her most memorable prospect was a middle-aged, sari-clad Caucasian woman in Greenwich Village. After a five minute meeting and quick tour of the apartment, she told the Parisian Princess: "I really dig your aura. When can you move in?"

On my first visit to the New Orleans Healing Center, I half expected to see that same woman (or her local equivalent) offering discount directions to destiny or complimentary karmic cleansings. Instead, I found some of the best Middle Eastern food in the city and received renewed faith in my belief that the gyro can be something much more delicious than just a cheap lunch.

In the August issue of OffBeat Magazine, we review Fatoush, an organic restaurant which could easily convince a carnivore of the virtues of vegetarianism, if it were not for the fact that the kitchen does marvelous things with lamb. This is not your standard hummus joint - although the hummus is quite good, as is the atypical baba ghanoush (with a curious addition of diced tomato) and the white bean salad known as piyaz. Naturally raised, organic meats and breads baked in house are just a few of the other luxuries which come standard at Fatoush. Find out more in our Dining Out column.

Fatoush - Birdie
2372 St. Claude, Suite 130
(504) 371-5074

Monday, August 6, 2012

Photo Travel Log 2012: Madrid


Summer time in New Orleans is tough. Temperatures in the upper 90s. Humidity. Heat index in the 100s. Afternoon showers which evolve into afternoon flooding. Keeping track of the daily hurricane advisory reports. Pre-season football. Pimm's Cups. Sno-balls. Well, maybe it's not all doom and gloom.

But when August rolls around most of us are near the tipping point and could use a few days of escape. Many head to the beaches of the Gulf Coast, while some opt for cooler temperatures up north (my preference). Unfortunately, your faithful bloggers can't afford to foot the bill for you to spend a long weekend at Grayton Beach or a week in the Blue Ridge Mountains. But we can take you on a virtual vacation to a cooler time and place.

During the week of Mardi Gras, The Folk Singer and I hopped a plane to Spain and spent a week eating, drinking, and sight seeing our way through Madrid and San Sebastian (with a few more stops along the way). This was an officially sanctioned Blackened Out research and development excursion, but it's taken this long for me jog my memory from my notes to be able to author a worthwhile blog entry. Luckily, TFS took plenty of pictures.

Over the next couple of weeks, we will take you on a pictorial journey through northern Spain in February. Imagine yourself wrapped up in your warmest winter clothes, overdosing on jamon and tempranillo, and trying to use your 6th grade Spanish to navigate signs on the Spanish interstate system because you forgot to request a GPS unit from the rental car company. It was glorious.

The view from the veranda of our apartment, which was a stone's throw away from Plaza Mayor and directly across the street from a Museo de Jamon. What else could one want?

The first order of business on Day 1 was a walk to the Mercado de San Miguel for breakfast. There is nothing like oysters on the half shell and a glass of cava to start your trip.

Most of our eating in Madrid took place in La Latina, a neighborhood loaded with tapas bars, especially on the main thoroughfare of Cava Baja. Just one street over on Calle Almendro is the aptly named Taberna Almendro. From my research on the interweb, this looked like a worthy spot to check out. Taberna Almendro only serves clear beverages - beer, white wine, sherries, and the house specialty, barbadillo, a dry, slightly effervescent white wine which I fell in love with. With only a Spanish menu (always a good sign), I placed my order at the kitchen window not knowing exactly what I was getting myself into. Suddenly there appeared in the window a ginormous oversized bagel and a massive plate of freshly fried potato chips topped with chunks of crispy ham and two fried eggs. Upon witnessing this spectacle, TFS wondered aloud (knowing good and well the answer already), "I wonder if that's our order?"

Huevos rotos con jamon (above) is Taberna Almendro's answer to F&M's cheese fries. Rosca is the retort to lox and bagels, only this version is super-sized and filled with the world's best ham before baking in the oven.

At one point we met up with a friend of a friend of TFS who has been living in Madrid for the past year and teaching English in public schools through a program sponsored by the Spanish Ministry of Education. (NOTE - We met quite a few young Americans who were participating in this program, known as the Cultural Ambassadors: North American Language and Culture Assistants in Spain. It is a highly recommended alternative to law school.) Our friend of a friend was gracious enough to serve as our tour guide one afternoon, and one of our stops was the Parque de Retiro, where TFS was introduced to her new favorite Spanish beverage, tinto verano (translation "red wine of summer"), made of equal parts red wine and sparkling lemonade or sprite. I stuck with Estrella Damm.

Dinner at Taberna Matritum. We went for the patatas a las cinco quesos gratinadas (potato gratinee with five cheeses), but we stayed for the pasta artesana spaetzle con ragut de rabo de toro (spaetzle with oxtail ragu - pictured above).

The long walk up Pasadizo de San Ginés to Chocolateria San Ginés, the Cafe du Monde of Madrid. Much like beignets and cafe au lait, many Madrileños begin their morning or end their night with freshly fried churros dipped in bowls of melting bittersweet chocolate.

As luck would have it, we were in Madrid on Sunday February 20th, the same day that the entire country seemingly went on protest against recently passed labor reforms. The sight of hundreds of policemen in full riot gear gave us some pause for concern, and the hundreds of thousands of protestors flooding the streets made for an interesting walk to the Prado. As always, ACN's Will McAvoy was reporting on the protests and offering thoughtful, educated, and unbiased commentary while remaining firmly in support of the Democrats under the guise of being a registered Republican.

Back to La Latina and Cava Baja for dinner. We stopped at La Chata, which has a very inviting bar scene where each drink is served with a complimentary tapa.  The longer that we stayed in Spain, the more we grew accustom to this convivial style of dining. Little did we know that the bars of San Sebastian take tapas to a whole new level. More on that in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Delta Dining

Meet someone interesting or unique or just flat out weird with a Southern drawl and chances are that they are from Mississippi. Mississippi is the great cultivator of personalities and characters. A place with a wide range of history, people, and land which form something greater than the sum of its parts. To truly appreciate the place from which these characters are grown one needs to take a trip through the Mississippi Delta environs. We hightailed it out of town on  a Friday intent on making it to Yazoo City, and Ubon's, in time for lunch.

The Beeve, late as always, arrived just as a bowl of blackberry cobbler hit the table. But prior to that we polished off a plate of juicy pulled pork, pork sausages whose casings were as crispy as cracklings, brisket, and a mahogany colored quarter of chicken. There were also well spiced beans and a potato salad which was closer to mashed potatoes, but no less delicious. But allow me a moment of silence for that cobbler, which was the color of spilled black ink, tart and buttery sweet.

A few more hours up the road and we were checking into the Alluvian Hotel in charming downtown Greenwood. There is a fantastic bookstore just up the street called TurnRow Books. A drink in the bar, shower, and we were ready to go worship at the church of Lusco's. How best to explain Lusco's. The tendency is to compare places elsewhere to a place in New Orleans and add a qualifier. "It's like R&O's add the vibe of Tipitina's" or "Take Galatoires and remove the stuffiness".  Both descriptions fail because Lusco's is a restaurant that belongs solely to Mississippi.

You are greeted in the restaurant by a storefront and a stuffed squirrel smoking a cigarette. Yes, you read that correctly. You will hear voices and laughter peering but see no faces. This is because most of the tables at Lusco's are set in private rooms with curtains and buzzers which allow you to hide and summon respectively. It creates the feeling of being a blind person at a rocking party. They only sell beer, but you are welcome to bring in wine and alcohol and they will sell you mixers or open the wine for you. Corkage is a paltry $3, a plate of limes or lemons runs about $1, and a bottle of tonic is $2. You do the math, you come out on top.

A big plate of blond colored, battered onion rings led the way. They wouldn't sell me a vat of their blue cheese dressing or divulge the recipe, but I was willing to pay. Then fried chicken and pompano, the latter a whole fish scored and charred doused with a lemon butter sauce. I do not say this idly: this is the best fried chicken in Americana. The crust is flecked with black pepper, a squeeze of lemon on top transforms the chicken into a lemon pepper salty bite of bliss. This fried chicken should be in the Louvre.

Saturday morning, we set out for the Downtown Greenwood Farmer's Market to score a cheddar and chive sausage biscuit which outshone the hype. But in the corner of the lot an old beat up rig, manned by Spooney, puffed away delivering tender ribs wiped down with a well-balanced sauce. "I can't believe I am eating ribs for breakfast," said Lindsay. I couldn't tell whether she said this with enthusiasm or disdain, but this was the best breakfast I'd ever had.

Then a drive up to Clarksdale where we visited the Blues Museum, ate fried hot tamales (ehh), and fried pickles (fantastic) and sipped cold beer at Ground Zero Blues Club. Then a swing into Hick's Quality Foods for tamales overstuffed with beef chili and swimming in a fiery sauce. They serve tamales from a drive-thru at Hicks and before we even hit the highway, Lindsay was saying, "Don't even think about it."

Then on down to Cleveland and its quaint and well-preserved downtown. We looked in vain for a Fighting Okra t-shirt, settling instead for a half dozen tamales from Delta Fast Food. Half grocery store, half pool hall, half lunch spot, Delta Fast Food's tamales were thicker and creamier with a higher ratio of masa to chili. They were also spicier and our favorite of the trip.

There was another meal at Crystal Grille in Greenwood which was mostly forgettable save for the lemon ice box pie. But the next morning we headed northeast to the town of Grenada to seek out a biscuit from the Biscuit Pit. As we stood around deciding on what to get, they made us as aliens. "You aint from around here, are you?" asked the lady rolling out dough.

We ended up with a few sausage biscuits with cheese, one with country ham, one with fried pork tenderloin, and one with fried chicken. The sausage and cheese was perfect, and was just the snack we needed to send us back home. There are many more places in the Delta to explore, and we will on our next trip. Turns out, the people up here aren't that strange after all.