Who doesn’t love a good wedding? I mean, you’ve got food & drink & cake & music & friends & mingling & can-you-believe-what-she’s-got-on all in one space — and when the bride and groom truly love each other and are looking forward to beginning a life together … well, that’s even better. Like a recent wedding Husband JP and I went to in Oxford, Mississippi — Ole Miss territory. It was sweet and simple and festive. Not over- or under-done. The young couple were joyously delighted to be getting married and sharing their day with their special people, and that spirit shone through every detail. At the ceremony — held in an Oxford church north of downtown — the bride was beautiful, the groom was adorably nervous and the church’s minister blended humor and faith with a dash of irreverence and a healthy respect for marriage that resulted in perfect officiating. Then came the mad dash and eternal quest for parking space in Oxford’s downtown square as folks drove back for the reception at the Oxford University Club. The gorgeous fall evening meant the party took full advantage of the club’s outstanding second-floor outdoor space for dancing, dining and drinking al fresco, while the inside dining room was just right for cozy meeting and greeting. Despite a minor mishap at the mashed-potato bar — who knew a pyramid of martini glasses could be so unstable? — it was a fun night and a lovely wedding and we were honored to be a part of it.
When it comes to bookstores, we all have our favorites. Some folks like small and cozy. Some folks like bright and airy. Some want chairs and tables for group chatting. Some want soft curl-up-by-yourself chairs. Some want a full menu of coffee, tea and munchables. Some think cups and crumbs should be banned. But no matter what your bookstore preferences, you can’t help falling in love with Square Books in Oxford, Mississippi. This is the mecca of book lovers everywhere. For more than 30 years, Square Books is where you go for that quintessential bookstore experience. It’s where unknown indies and multi-million bestsellers mingle happily. It’s where you can find the titles everybody’s talking about and the ones nobody’s even noticed … yet. It’s where you can blow the budget on rare editions or fill your basket with bargains Plus, the folks at Square Books so kindly painted their stairs with practically all of my favorite things — except for “Survivor,” chocolate-covered cream-filled doughnuts and (this week) LSU. Geaux, Tigers!
I don’t know what it is about Mississippi and restaurant names, but any eatery in the Magnolia state that has the word “grocery” in it is bound to be a winner. Examples: City Grocery in Oxford, Pizza Grocery in Corinth. And Romie’s Grocery in Tupelo. A meat-and-three by day, Romie’s turns into a warm and friendly dining experience at night featuring a creatively eclectic menu of fresh Southern favorites. And then of course there is the ladies’ room — you know that’s one of my top priorities for a restaurant. And Romie’s gets top grades for its home-like decor, cozy lighting and whimsical art work. Also: I sort of want to take this sink and the bathroom counter home with me, but a) that would leave a huge hole in the Romie’s ladies’ room and b) my Dear Husband consistently turns his nose up at bowl sinks. I say they’re an imaginative way to add some personality and style to a bathroom. He says, “They’re just weird. And wrong.” But I believe, with all due respect, that in this instance he is wrong. I mean, doesn’t the contrast of textures among the sink and the mirror and the counter just make you believe that the whole world should be this cool? Imagine, if you can, what it would look like with your typical white bathroom sink. Ugh. However, Dear Husband and I do agree that Romie’s is delicious and we should eat there as often as we can.
Oh my goodness, y’all. Run, don’t walk, to Oxford, Mississippi and eat at City Grocery on the square. Or drive. However you can get there, just go. I was in Oxford this past week with friends for a day of shopping and eating and sightseeing, although we all agreed that the eating part was the best. My husband John Pitts even took a long lunch break from newspaper-sports editing in nearby Tupelo to join us — nobody passes up a chance to go to City Grocery. Owned by New Orleans-native chef John Currence, City Grocery embodies the best of Oxford: Fun, funky, imaginative, leaning toward upscale but never ostentatious and always honoring fresh, local and authentic. Every dish our group ordered, from the roasted garlic and lentil soup to the smoked crawfish salad to the day’s special of pork tenderloin with roasted okra — my new favorite vegetable — was delicious. Plus, the wait staff was the perfect blend of friendly and professional and put up with our somewhat rowdy table. (Hey, we were just excited to have a day off.) My husband even spotted a celebrity on the way out and shook his hand — TV journalist and author Bob Schieffer was in town to give the Ole Miss commencement speech and of course he went to City Grocery for lunch. You have to, too. Check it out at http://www.citygroceryonline.com and put it on your must-go-soon list.