Not-to-be-Missed Mexican Food Along a Mississippi Highway | southernbeets

Horchata & Tamales in Mississippi

There’s a whole hot tamale culture in Mississippi.  In fact, Anthony Bourdain ate some tamales when he visited the Delta region earlier this year on his show Parts Unknown, and CNN did a little story on tamales in the Delta online at Eatocracy.com.   One day when I was venturing around at local fruit stands, I drove by a little Mexican restaurant just off Highway 49 near Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  To my surprise, I had some of the best Mexican food that I’ve had in a long time.

 

Not-to-be-Missed Mexican Food Along a Mississippi Highway | southernbeets

Not-to-be-Missed Mexican Food Along a Mississippi Highway | southernbeets

To start, the chips and salsa were awesome.  They used flour tortillas instead of corn, making for a thick and lightly crunchy chip (I prefer this over corn chips), and the salsa was homemade.  I also ordered a glass of horchata, which is a rice milk drink flavored with spices and vanilla, and one of my favorite summertime drinks (but hard to find down here).  The horchata here was thick and full of flavor, and I keep wondering why mixing it with iced coffee hasn’t become a thing yet.

As usual, I ordered way too much food.  After the chips, I had a pork tamale and seafood ceviche.   The cornmeal of the tamale was moist, the meat juicy, and the sauce spicy.  The ceviche, which is fresh raw seafood cured in lemon or lime juice, was awesome.  It had fresh tomatoes and avocado, and was a lighter alternative to the traditional Mexican dishes.

I ended up taking home half of my meal (plus a piece of amazing chocolate cake that was baked in house) and enjoyed it the next night for dinner.  The tamale was even better the next night after soaking up some of the sauce.

Amazing Mexican Food Along a Mississippi Highway

Not-to-be-Missed Mexican Food Along a Mississippi Highway

Do you have any favorite places for Mexican eats in the South?  Comment below, or send me a tweet @southernbeets.  Happy eating!

Advertisements

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee in New Orleans

“Banh mi” is the Vietnamese term for bread, and Dong Phuong Bakery in eastern New Orleans is known to have the best French bread in the city.  When I saw people leaving with shopping bags full of bread, it was clear that this place is no secret.  They’re also known for banh mi sandwiches (readers of Eat NOLA named it the best bahn mi in New Orleans last year).  These start with their house-made bread, which is filled with lightly pickled carrots, cucumber, jalapeño slices, homemade aioli, and your choice of meat (I get the #4, which is Chinese barbecue pork).  The bread is soft and crusty on the outside, and the fillings are fresh, crunchy, and flavorful.  My cravings for these sandwiches is to the point that I take a 20-minute detour home from New Orleans to pick up a few of these to go (it’s located along Chef Menteur Highway).  Another bonus:  at under $4 a sandwich, this is probably the best lunch deal in the city.

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee in New Orleans| southernbeets

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee at Dong Phuong Bakery

Dong Phuong consists of both a bakery and a restaurant.  The banh mi and sandwiches are served up on the bakery side.  I also go crazy for their Vietnamese iced coffee, which is sweetened and strong, and you can buy at the counter on the north side of the restaurant (if you’re in the bakery, walk though the doorway into the restaurant, then continue walking straight along the front of the restaurant).  You won’t see a menu, but they’ll know exactly what you’re talking about when you order it.

There are lots of other goodies, both savory and sweet, and they make their own King Cake during carnival season.  I usually get some cinnamon rolls to warm up the next morning, or coconut rolls to make into French toast.  I wish there were more gems like this, or at least Vietnamese coffee stands that sell banh mi sandwiches.

 

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee in New Orleans| southernbeets

Dong Phuong Bakery in New Orleans

Banh Mi and Vietnamese Iced Coffee in New Orleans| southernbeets

Hours and other bakery items at Dong Phuong Bakery in New Orleans.

Easter on Bourbon Street

New Orleans knows how to celebrate, so this year I spent Easter weekend in The Big Easy.  I ran in the Crescent City Classic, one of the country’s largest 10k races that is held the Saturday before Easter every year.  The race was a beautiful tour by foot through the French Quarter and City Park, but it was also a great way to work up an appetite for Easter brunch.

There are three parades through the French Quarter on Easter Sunday, so I started my day with the Historic French Quarter Easter Parade.  The parade started at Antoine’s (and from what I’ve read, it used to start at Arnaud’s) and was made up of women dressed in their Easter finest, which includes those fabulous hats.   Rather than use floats, the women traveled in the back of convertibles and carriages drawn by mules.  While they made their way to church at Saint Louis Cathedral, I made my way to brunch.

Easter on Bourbon Street| southernbeets

Dressed in their Easter Best in the Historic French Quarter Easter Day Parade

Easter Parade in the French Quarter

Easter Parade in the French Quarter

There are a few places in the French Quarter for a classy creole Easter Sunday jazz brunch (reservations are always recommended).  I chose Arnaud’s because I love the food and service, and because it’s along the parade route of the second parade of the day.  I started out with a mimosa made with fresh orange juice, then savored oysters, filet, and my favorite dessert in the world, Strawberries Arnaud.  As with all of their jazz brunches, there was a jazz trio taking requests around the dining room.  And on this day, the Easter Bunny was handing out sweet treats to everyone.

Easter in the French Quarter

Easter Brunch at Arnaud’s

Arnaud’s also has a Mardi Gras museum upstairs that’s free to enter (just as the hostess).  On the way to the collection of ball gowns, you’ll see a collection of Easter hats from past historic parades to your right.

After brunch, I walked outside to Bourbon Street just in time to catch the Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade.  It’s full of floats, entertaining acts, and plenty of bead throws.  And like the official Mardi Gras parades, this is a family-friendly event, so only hands were being raised for beads (tourist tip: flashing is frowned upon by the locals and grounds for arrest despite what you’ve seen on tv!).

Easter in the French Quarter

The Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade

Easter in the French Quarter

The Chris Owens French Quarter Easter Parade

There was also a Gay Easter Parade in the afternoon on Easter Sunday that I heard is fantastic, but I was ready for an Easter nap by that time.  Overall, I thought New Orleans was a great place to celebrate the holiday weekend.  You can get more information here to plan next year’s Easter adventure.

The Most Satisfying Starter in New Orleans: Herbsaint does Pasta alla Carbonara

I love spaghetti alla carbonara.  Italians proved you can never have too much deliciousness when they put pasta, egg, cheese, and bacon into one hearty forkful of goodness.  So I was excited and intrigued to see a version of this dish as a starter at Herbsaint in New Orleans.  On the menu, look for “Housemade Spaghetti with Guanciale and Fried-Poached Farm Egg.”

This restaurant is one of the gems of Chef Donald Link (Cochon, Cochon Butcher, Peche).  It’s located in the Central Business District on Saint Charles Avenue, which is right along the parade route during Mardi Gras.  If you visit New Orleans and stay downtown, in the French Quarter, or in the Garden District, you can take a streetcar or a short cab ride.  When I went it was a beautiful not-to-hot day, so we enjoyed a walk.

After we arrived, got seated, and browsed the menu, I thought, “This dish is so decadent, I really don’t NEED to eat more than starter-sized portion, right?” (By the way, the answer is “No, you always need more pasta alla carbonara”).  And if the traditional dish isn’t decadent enough, this small plate is topped with a fried-poached egg AND a crispy piece of cured pork cheek (which is called guanciale in Italy).  After just half the dish (I shared, believe it or not), I felt so joyous and satiated that I almost forgot we had lamb neck and duck leg coming.

The Most Satisfying Starting in New Orleans is at Herbsaint | southernbeets

(top left) Housemade Spaghetti with Guanciale and Fried-Poached Farm Egg, (top right) Slow Cooked Lamb Neck with Saffron Fideo and Tomato Confit, (bottom) Muscovy Duck Leg Confit with Dirty Rice and Citrus Gastrique

Do you have a favorite oh-so-satisfying dish?  I know I’m always looking for new eats (in New Orleans or elsewhere).  Please share any recommendations by commenting below, or send me a line on Twitter (@southernbeets).