Who doesn’t love a quirky hometown pizza place, especially if you value creative menus, local flavors and non-corporate atmospheres? Husband JP and I have several favorites scattered around, although we still mourn the loss of Tomato Tomato in Murfreesboro, Tenn., where we first encountered the trend of naming pizzas for streets and thus enjoyed eating our way through the downtown ‘Boro. Luckily, Younger Daughter introduced us to another Tennessee pizza place that quickly moved toward the top of our list: The Tomato Head, in downtown Knoxville. Of course you’ve got yummy pizza (and appetizers and burittos and salads and sandwiches and …) and good local beer in a funky and hip (without that annoying “-ster” addition) setting. Those things are required. But The Tomato Head goes further — it’s created its own Tomato Head culture. The owner and staff support local art, music and poetry. They recycle. They use as many responsibly grown local and/or organic ingredients as possible. They make their own dressings, desserts and breads. They opened their own bakery, The Flour Head, which supplies a local school with fresh and nutritious baked goods for lunch. This is local pizza at its best.
As so often happens, once you open your heart and fall madly in love, the object of your desire is cruelly yanked away and you’re left only with the crumbs of passion and teasing reminders of happier times. Not that I’m comparing the loss of Mellow Mushroom‘s seasonal Homegrown Harvest Pie & Drunken Fun Guys & other yummy menu items to an intense but doomed love affair … oh, wait … that’s exactly what it is. Mellow Mushroom craftily got us hooked on this absolutely delicious pizza, made with nutmeg-seasoned roasted butternut squash nutmeg on an olive oil and garlic base & topped with parmesan and Montamore cheeses and a swirl of Arugula pesto. And then there were the Drunken Fun Guys — little pillows of pizza dough served with three beer-infused sauces: a spicy cheese dip with Abita Turbodog brown ale, a stout and honey glaze and a Rouge Dead Guy ale spicy mustard. And there there were the Magic Mushroom Soup and Holy Shiitake Pie — also gone but never forgotten. I only mention these now-unattainable treasures because 1) I’m fascinated with how Mellow Mushroom has merged a successful capitalistic business plan with its counter-culture too-cool-to-care laid-back attitude, 2) maybe you’ll be inspired to try to recreate these taste treats at home and 3) maybe the next round of limited-time offerings will be just as good. Fingers crossed.
Oh my goodness! Husband and I recently had a wonderful meal at Five Senses restaurant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee quick overnight trip, and after a late and satisfying lunch on the way at Miss Annie’s Rustic Park Restaurant and Beer Garden in St. Joseph, Tennessee, it was later in the evening before we started thinking about eating again. (Oh, who am I kidding? When we’re on the road, I always think about eating.) The ‘Boro has some great choices, and since we still mourn the loss of downtown pizza place “Tomato, Tomato,” we picked its upscale sibling Five Senses. Or, rather, JP picked it and I agreed. It was either Five Senses or Red Robin, and while I always enjoy working my way down a tower of fried onion rings, we made the correct decision here. We went with small plates instead of entrees and so started with three appetizers: fried oysters, Readyville Mill grits and a crabcake, all flavorful and with lovely sauces and little salads. Then Husband JP had a wedge salad, which he was delighted to see came in deconstructed form so he could play with his food, and I had a salad with fresh local lettuce. And then, dessert. Oh my oh my. Usually creme brulee is my go-to, but JP talked me out of it with a suggestion to try something new. Thank you, dear sweetie, because this trio of sorbets — pomegranate, mango and pink grapefruit on crispy lace cookies “glued” to the plate with homemade whipped cream — was absolutely divine. Every bite was cool, creamy, tart or sweet. And, honestly, to tell the truth, as much as I adore creme brulee and would eat it every day except that it’s like 10,000 calories per bite, the best part is the contrast of the crunchy sugar top with the smooth richness underneath. When that’s gone, it’s still good but bordering possibly on sameness. However, every bite of this sorbet — every single bite — was an adventure. As it always is when I go out with my husband.
Corinth, Mississippi, has a lot to celebrate. This historic town in the northeast corner of the state is full of good eats and good shopping as well as old Southern houses and a fun downtown. And on Friday, Corinth’s Belk department store will reopen after it was flooded in early May from the same weather system that devastated Nashville that same weekend. The store reportedly had more than two feet of water and mud. Store employees and other work crews have been cleaning and repairing; it won’t be completely back to normal for the reopening, store managers said — but close enough. A Southern town without its Belk store is a sad, sad place. It’s where you go for everything you need: Clothes, shoes, jewelry, linens, place settings, handbags, makeup — and the latest news. You see friends and neighbors there and catch up on what’s been going on. If you don’t have a Belk in your town, then go to Corinth this weekend and borrow theirs. They’d love to have you! Learn more about Belk at http://www.belk.com/. And while you’re in Corinth, you’ve got to go downtown for a fig pizza at Pizza Grocery. Dear Husband and I were there, preparing to get our usual two-slices-and-a-salad lunch special when “Fig Pizza” caught my eye as part of the seasonal spring menu. Yes, please. DH sort of shrugged and I knew I was on my own. But after my third or fourth “This is sooooo good,” he had to try some, too — and all I can say is that we had to split the leftovers. With gorgonzola and mozzarella cheese and a balsamic reduction, this is a fantastic combination of sweet and savory all wrapped up with a big mouthful of yummy. Go try some, right now. http://www.pizzagrocery.com/
Don’t you love eating out in good local pizza places? I think it goes back to when I was younger — before Pizza Hut and Domino’s and Papa John’s were on every corner — and going out for pizza was a much-anticipated treat. Today for the adult me, there’s something so cozy and comforting about a restaurant that gives you melted cheese and cold beer in abundance — along with real silverware and plates. One of the best local pizza parlors is Pizza Grocery in Corinth, Mississippi. It’s in an almost 100-year-old warehouse close to the Corinth square and is a popular local gathering spot. Besides specialty pizzas (my husband especially likes the Cajun Cowboy with blackened chicken, jalapenos and pepper jack cheese), the menu has calzones, deli sandwiches and sandwiches. The lunch special is a slice (or two, maybe?) of pizza plus a salad, and the non-pizza dinner entree special comes with fresh vegetables and upscale additions such as a pea puree or mushroom ragout. There’s also draft and bottled beer but it’s bring-your-own wine — the left-behind bottles decorate the brick walls downstairs. And if you want dessert to go, grab a pizza sugar cookie. Green peppers never tasted so good!
Go here http://nems360.com/pages/full_story?article-Pizza%20Grocery%20% 20=&page_label=results_content&id=2133541-Pizza+Grocery+&widget=push&open=& for a review of Pizza Grocery by Ginna Parsons, food editor of the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo.
If you’re hungry for pizza and you’re in Mississippi, look for an Old Venice Pizza Co. (There’s also one in Memphis, Tennessee, but we all know that Memphis is really north Mississippi.) My husband and I eat at the one in Tupelo, and it’s on our ever-lengthening list of favorite places. This is pizza with style. Old Venice began in Oxford, Mississippi, about 10 years ago. It combines Southern hospitality with Old World ingredients for an upscale yet friendly experience. One of the best things about Old Venice is its imaginative pizza menu. There are all sorts of specialties: Daddy Crawdaddy, with sweet red peppers and crawfish tails; the Mardi Gras, with andouille sausage; and a couple starring Memphis-style pulled pork. Or create your own from a list of almost 50 ingredients. You can order the lunch special of two slices from the four daily featured pizzas plus a salad. It’s a lot of food, but that’s a good thing, because my husband says Old Venice pizza is the best he’s ever had … cold — an important consideration for pizza lovers who look forward to leftovers! There are also pasta and sandwiches and a nice wine and beer selection (any place that has Blue Moon is a winner for me). Old Venice believes in wine with pizza and offers recommendations for your meal as well as wine tastings and other fun evenings in its sleek and stylish bar. And that’s the other attraction: Old Venice’s ambiance. The interior of the Tupelo restaurant is sleek and calming, with muted grays and purples — perfect for a peaceful mid-day break in the restaurant or a fun night out in the bar. Old Venice’s bars are called Burgundy Rooms. The Tupelo bar includes a high-tech-looking wine-dispenser that lets you sample 1-ounce pours of various wines for a sort of do-it-yourself wine-tasting. Now why did somebody wait so long to come up with that super idea? I love it! Visit the Web site at http://www.oldvenice.com to learn more.