Beer and Peanuts

Where to eat in Starkville, Miss., home of Mississippi State University, bulldogs and cowbells? For the best college-town experience — and some great beer and burgers — head to Mugshots Grill and Bar, in a restored brick house on a downtown historic-district corner. Husband JP and I headed here recently after a basketball game, based on several recommendations that all mentioned the good food and the iffy service. We agree on both counts. Love the decor and atmosphere — exposed brick, gorgeous woodwork, fireplaces and authentically worn floors. And then there’s the menu. You’ve got all the usual suspects, but with a twist. The fried cheese wedges are made of actual real cheese lightly breaded in maybe panko crumbs so you get more of a cheese flavor than a greasy taste. Sandwiches are on fresh-tasting sourdough buns and come with crunchy and potato-y beer-battered fries. (Why is this the first time I’ve ever eaten beer-battered fries?) Burgers come in all your favorite variations: blue cheese,  sauteed mushrooms, barbecue sauce, hickory-smoked bacon … and peanut butter. Yes, peanut butter. Stop laughing. I now will never eat a good real-meat grilled hamburger again without spreading on some rich and creamy peanut butter and maybe some sweet berry-filled jam.  Also, plenty of decent draft choices. Was all this worth waiting more than an hour for and listening to two — TWO! — stories of kitchen woes from our waitress to explain our missing food. Since the end result was beer-battered french fries and a peanut-buttered hamburger, the answer is “yes.”

Bowling for Fashion

We’re making our way through college football’s bowl season leading up to Monday’s Bowl Championship Series once-in-a-century twice-in-a-century showdown between SEC West powerhouses LSU and Alabama. And the most pressing question is not “What? Them again?? When is ‘Dancing with the Stars’ coming back on???” but rather “How can I look stylish and exhibit team spirit while squashed between screaming drunk people while it’s 35 degrees outside?” At the recent Music City Bowl, Mississippi State fans pretty much took over the downtown area of host city Nashville, Tenn., and swamped the LP Stadium at game time with maroon and white. But opponent and eventual loser Wake Forest showed up with a few fans who braved the freezing temps in black and gold.

 

Snow and Ice is Really Nice

Here down South, we’ve been doing a lot of un-Southerly things lately. Like trying to figure out how to get 6 inches of snow off our cars. (“Do you have an ice scraper, by any chance? You know, it looks like a little squeegee thing.”) Trying to dress for 20-degree weather. (Layers.) And watching hockey games in real live person. Well, OK, it’s true that you can watch hockey throughout the South almost anytime during the winter, but the threat of snow and ice outside seems to add to the authentic hockey experience. A couple of nights ago, Dear Husband and I watched a hockey game in Tupelo, Mississippi, between Mississippi State University and Louisiana State University — schools better known, admittedly, for football than hockey. The teams were club teams, not NCAA-sanctioned, but the young men on the ice had all the heart of top NCAA athletes. Maybe more. There was no glory. No TV cameras. No big fat checks. (In fact, the games were fundraisers for the hockey programs.) But there was an enthusiastic crowd and plenty of MSU cowbells. And to readers still puzzled by the idea of ice hockey in the South: Arenas and coliseums, such as the Bancorp South Arena in Tupelo, turn their floors into ice rinks during the winter for hockey and public ice skating. Sadly, though, Bancorp South had to cancel its ice-skaing sessions this past weekend … because of, you know, snow and ice.