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.
Is there anything more comforting and yummy on a chilly and rainy January day than a bowl of creamy tomato soup? I’m going to go ahead and answer my own question with “No. There is not.” And I know that this love we all have for tomato soup goes back to childhood days when the sound and the smell of Mom opening a can of Campbell’s best meant we were loved and taken care of. Or, alternatively and equally as true, that Mom had better things to do than to peel and seed and cook down a bunch of tomatoes just so we could rush through supper and then go watch Gilligan’s Island. Fast forward to 2011, and cream of tomato soup in all its forms still warms us up. If it’s on the menu when Husband and I go out, then I’ll usually order it, just to see how this classic gets treated. And at Pizza Grocery in Corinth, Miss., — one of our all-time favorite places — the tomato soup is a hit. As befits a pizza place, it’s reminiscent of pizza sauce, with subtle spices that blend perfectly with a dollop of garlic aioli on top and a crunchy parmesan bread stick. And, it’s true — you’ll notice that talking about cream of tomato soup leads me straight into talking about restaurants instead of talking about the wonderful recipe I’ve got for making this classic at home. I know it’s simple and satisfying to do at home and in fact I do have a great recipe that I’ve looked at and thought about … uh, I mean, that I’ve tried a couple of times. Okay, honestly? I’ve never made tomato soup at home. But I have opened a lot of cans.