Foodie Travels: Phillips Grocery, Holly Springs, Miss.

Fifteen years after America’s Civil War in the 1800s, Oliver Quiggins built a saloon across from a Mississippi Central Railroad depot and hotel in Holly Springs, Miss. Business boomed until prohibition, when the saloon transitioned into a grocery store and new owner Walter Curry started making hamburgers. W.L. Phillips and his wife acquired the old saloon building and store in the 1940s, and it has served up the popular local hamburger ever since.

img_1135You can picture the small town’s busy past when you drive up to Phillips Grocery in northern Mississippi, but life is much different in these parts now. Though there’s consideration of restoring the old hotel and depot across the street, the neighborhood is quiet, far different I’m sure than its days with a saloon.

The inside of Phillips Grocery has the feel of an old country store, with relics of the past on the walls, snacks and bottled drinks for sale and just a few tables set up in the back. When you step to the counter, you’re greeted by a hand-written menu above a small window into the kitchen.

img_1136Our visit to Phillips was a cheeseburger trail stop for me, so I knew what to order. I sampled a Phillips single, served with unique toppings of mustard, onion, pickle and muenster cheese. The juicy burger patty was no doubt freshly homemade, and the toppings were a delightful mix that offered such wonderful variety from the typical lettuce, tomato and mayo we experience most places in North Carolina.

My side of seasoned fries were crunchy and, well, tastily seasoned as well. And Molly was very pleased with her thick-cut bologna sandwich (one of her favorites) and side of tater tots.

img_1127After our meal, we ventured back out into the street, and as I snapped a few pictures, I imagined the saloon and grocery past. On the way to the car, we encountered a local Mississippi photographer. After exchanging pleasantries and learning he was in Holly Springs to talk to the owner of the depot property, he wished us well on our journey. “Welcome to Mississippi,” he said. Welcome, from both the past and the present at the wonderful Phillips Grocery, indeed.

 

Phillips Grocery

541 E. Van Dorn Ave., Holly Springs, Miss. (if following GPS, be patient, it may take you along a few turns and lead you to believe you are lost…this is a local place tucked off the main roads of town for an out-of-town traveler)

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Info Credit: History of Phillips Grocery inside the Holly Springs location

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Yucatecan Shrimp Tacos

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One of my favorite things on TV when it comes to food is Rick Bayless’ fabulous PBS show “Mexico – One Plate at a Time.” Not only does Bayless have a bottomless energy and enthusiasm for traditional, authentic Mexican food, he also provides fascinating historical and educational commentary about Mexico’s culture and traditions, while creating mouthwatering dishes that cause me to enviously stare at the screen. He is so fantastic at describing the tastes and smells of his cooking that you can almost taste and smell it yourself. Enough said, the guy’s a genius.

A few years ago, my family bought me one of his cookbooks – “Fiesta at Rick’s” – and I tried a few of the recipes, but found many of them a little too difficult for my busy lifestyle and limited access to authentic Mexican ingredients. This past Christmas, I received “Mexican Everyday”, which, to compare the two, is a fiesta without the fuss. Matthew and I couldn’t wait to try our first recipe from it, “Seafood Salad Tacos with Tomato, Radish and Habanero.” We made a few changes: we didn’t have habanero in our grocery store, so we substituted half of a jalapeno; we changed a few of the amounts to suit our tastes; and whereas the recipe allows for preparing it with any type of fish, we decided to focus on shrimp, since we love shrimp tacos. As an added coincidental plus, I had just been watching Bayless on TV talk about Yucatecan cuisine, and the introduction to this recipe is all about the market in downtown Yucatan! Cool stuff. I can’t wait to try more recipes from this awesome book, and share our takes on them (a bit simplified for us and for you) here on FoodieScore.

Ingredients

1 pound of small shrimp (about 40) (We always buy the small bag of frozen raw shrimp at Walmart; inexpensive and easy to cook, because they are already de-veined and peeled.)

1 tbsp. butter

2 tbsp. fresh lime juice

1/2 cup chopped onion

3 radishes

1 jalapeno chile

1 large tomato

1/4 cup cilantro

1 tsp. salt

12 corn tortillas (Walmart has a variety of brands that smell incredibly fresh and homemade.)

Directions

  1. Put the shrimp in a non-stick pan and add the butter. Saute until pink. Remove and place in a small bowl to cool.
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  2. Prepare the salad ingredients/vinagreta:img_1388
    • Pour the 2 tbsp. of lime juice into a medium-sized bowl. (You can use a bottle of lime juice, or squeeze a little fresh.)
    • Finely chop the onion.
    • Thinly slice the radishes.
    • Cut off the stem and finely chop about 1/2 of the jalapeno pepper.
    • Core and chop the tomato.
    • Finely chop the cilantro.
    • Add all ingredients to the bowl, along with the cooked, cooled shrimp.img_1391
  3. Stir with a large wooden spoon and season with about 1 tsp. of salt.
  4. Warm the tortillas. (Bayless has a strategy for this, which we also saw in action on his TV show. Dampen a stack of about 6 paper towels. Wrap the tortillas inside. Place inside a large plastic Ziploc-type bag, but do not close. Fold the top over and microwave on defrost for 4 minutes. This will make your corn tortillas softer and fresher.)img_1393
  5. Assemble! After our first try, we suggest using two tortillas for each taco for added strength to the integrity of the taco.

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Matthew’s Take: In a world that moves too quickly and stressfully, food preparation and consumption have turned into rat race processes of the dining out or heat-and-eat variety. This dish bucks that unsettling trend. There’s nothing already-processed or drive-through like about these Yucatecan tacos. You freshly prepare your ingredients. You slow down to savor the extraordinary flavor that gives your tastebuds pause. And you save this recipe to make again. Rick Bayless is the modern master of authentic Mexican cooking in America. I’m lucky my wife discovered him so I can now enjoy his tried-and-true recipes, too.

Molly’s Take: These tacos were cool, refreshing and bursting with crisp, fresh flavor. I suggest if you don’t like spicy things at all, maybe leave out the jalapeno, because it definitely added a kick. All in all, a very simple, delicious recipe that I’d suggest for any summer or winter night.

Foodie Travels: Prince’s Hot Chicken, Nashville, Tenn.

When a food dish has a city in its name, it seems perfect for a diner to try that dish for the first time in its namesake city. That’s exactly how we experienced Nashville Hot Chicken.

History tells us the story that Nashvillian Thorton Prince was what you would call a ladies man. Well, one night he came home from a night out on the town with the scent and lipstick of a woman on him. That didn’t make his significant other too happy, so she concocted a spicy chicken to punish him. Her plan, as the story goes, backfired, and Prince used the recipe to open a restaurant and serve up the hot chicken to others. Prince’s Hot Chicken was born.

img_1018Nearly a century later, the people of Nashville continue to eat up the hot chicken, and “Nashville Hot Chicken” is served far and wide, heralding the city’s name.

There are many options for sampling hot chicken in Nashville, Tenn. Most local restaurants offer a variation of the dish on their menu. But after researching the city’s foodie spots, I decided we should try the place credited with starting the hot chicken craze.

Prince’s offers a lengthy scale of “hot” options for its chicken. You can start with mild and increase many sweat-inducing levels beyond. Not connoisseurs of spicy food, Molly and I tested out the mild chicken tenders on our visit. It was a wise choice, as the so-called “mild” still seared a few tastebuds while popping a few beads of sweat on our skin.

Despite our struggles with the heat, the chicken was delicious, perfectly tender and juicy on the inside, crunchy and sauced to perfection on the outside. And we enjoyed the presentation of the tenders per the custom of Nashville Hot Chicken – on top of white bread and topped with pickles.

In addition to our chicken, we enjoyed a side of fries (recommended to help curb the heat sensation) and a cup of baked beans, some of the best beans we’ve eaten anywhere due to their sweet and smoky mix.

Nashville natives are the experts, but we suggest you start with mild to test the spiciness first, and we suggest you steer away from carbonated beverages with your hot chicken. Molly loves Coke, but we opted for sweet tea at Prince’s.

It’s too bad Thorton Prince is known for his unfaithfulness, but Nashville and foodies everywhere have him to thank for the legendary flavor of his hot chicken.

 

Prince’s Hot Chicken

123 Ewing Drive #3 or 5814 Nolensville Road Suite 110, Nashville, Tenn.

Princeshotchicken.com

Homemade Snow Cream

My mom always made us snow cream. Living in the South, we didn’t get the right kind of snow often, so when we did, it was imperative that we break out the sweetened condensed milk (brand didn’t matter), regular milk, sugar and vanilla. I would help, and eventually, be the one to make it in our family. Really, all you needed to know was the ingredients. And of course, what exactly is the right type of snow.

You’ll need the soft, fluffy, clean kind. (No yellow or orange.) The kind that crunches softly beneath your feet as you pack it down when you walk. The best way to gather it is by taking a large bowl or two outside, along with a large spoon, and scooping it from a flat surface high off the ground. If it looks clean, the ground will do in a pinch. But you’ve probably got a car around, and the hood or top of a car is usually a clean enough place. You don’t want to scoop the bottom layer of the snow anyway. Scoop off the clean top layer. Bring it in the house, after you’re finished playing outside, and get out your ingredients. I’ll tell you how to make it, below. It’s very simple, but I never measure. Today, I did, just for our readers. It helps to measure when you’re starting out with something new. You can tweak from there. 😉

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Snow Cream Ingredients

Ingredients

1 can sweetened condensed milk (14 oz.)

1 1/2 cups regular milk

1/2 tsp. vanilla

1-2 large bowls full of snow

Directions

  1. Fill a large bowl about 3/4 full with snow.
  2. Add the can of sweetened condensed milk and the regular milk. Stir.
  3. When the mixture becomes more runny, add more snow until the bowl is about 3/4 full again.
  4. Add sugar and vanilla.
  5. Add more snow as desired, if you want it less sweet, but you don’t have to.

Enjoy!!

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Fresh snow on Jan. 7, 2017

Foodie Travels: Lexington BBQ, Lexington, N.C.

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When you’re in sight of a restaurant on a Friday night and see a full parking lot, that’s a good sign. When you’re walking toward the building and you spot a smokehouse with multiple chimneys and a rack inside with countless levels of fresh meat, that’s a good sign.
I’ve traveled across the state of North Carolina for years, often passing Lexington without stopping for a taste of their barbecue. On a recent trip, I decided I’d passed up the opportunity too many times, and Molly indulged me with a stop at Lexington BBQ, right off the old Business 85 in town.
We lucked out that we arrived just a few minutes before the Friday night dinner line started forming (and that was even after having to sit in terrible traffic on I-85 north of Charlotte). So we got to stroll right in and find us a seat.
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I started the meal with a Cheerwine on crushed ice. Then I followed with my favorite way to start sampling any kind of North Carolina barbecue: chopped sandwich on a bun with the slaw on the side.
Let me tell you, I’ve experienced North Carolina barbecue from the mountains to the coast. I’ve tasted all sorts of flavors and textures of barbecued pork meat. The thing that strikes me about my barbecue at Lexington BBQ is that it delivered a combination right in the middle of a western North Carolina style I’ve had many times (smoky meat without a mixed-in sauce) and the eastern North Carolina style I dined on when I lived in New Bern (soft pork with a vinegary sauce).
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I liked the combination, and I liked this eating spot. We could sense we were among the few non-locals in the place, and I liked that feeling. The place had an old-school feel to it: non-fancy, local art with barbecue themes hanging on the walls, and food served on disposable plates.
If you’re not a barbecue eater or have one in your group, maybe someone would enjoy the fish sandwich. Molly’s not quite the barbecue fan I am, so she likes when BBQ restaurants offer other options. Her fish sandwich was very good: flaky, fresh (and not greasy) fish on a soft and flavorful bun.
Lexington BBQ offered good food, good and efficient service, and a great local atmosphere. It’s the kind of place where strangers hold the door open for you. And we’d recommend it to you if you’re interested in sampling central North Carolina barbecue during your travels through the area.
Lexington BBQ
100 Smokehouse Lane, Lexington, N.C.
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