Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Snarfing my way through the South

The thing I love best about traveling is the chance to stuff my face with new and interesting food.

I’m in the middle of a week-long trip exploring Georgia, Florida, and Washington DC with various writing pals while pestering them to introduce me to their favorite regional cuisine. They’ve all been willing, and to the best of my knowledge, haven’t tried to poison me yet.

Some of the culinary highlights so far:
  • She-crab soup and jicama slaw at the Boor’s Head Tavern in Savannah, Ga. This was my first Georgia meal, enjoyed in the company of the lovely and talented Elizbeth Flora Ross. As if that weren’t fabulous enough, I paired it with a delicious Captain’s Porter from Moon River Brewing Company in Savannah. I think I left drool marks on the table.
  • I’d be filthy rich (as opposed to just filthy) if I had a nickel for each time critique partner Cynthia Reese has gushed about low country boil in the 6+ years we’ve been working together. It’s something I’ve always wanted to try, so I swooned when we got to order it at The Crab Shack on Tybee Island, Ga. low country boil is a mix of corn, potatoes, shrimp, and sausage, served with a whole lot of Old Bay Seasoning and butter. Ours included the addition of crab legs, mussels, and crawfish. Words can’t adequately describe how much I loved this meal. I would have taken off all my clothes and rolled in it, but didn’t want to miss getting even one morsel in my mouth. Here are the photos:
  • The aftermath of the low country boil.

  • Not to be outdone, the delightful and hilarious Harley May took me out for Cuban sandwiches upon my arrival in Florida. I’d never heard of Cuban sandwiches before, and they blew me away with their beautiful simplicity. Made with ham, roasted pork, Swiss cheese, pickles, and mustard on Cuban bread, this was a perfectly scrumptious sandwich I might even be able to replicate at home someday if I could figure out how on earth to make that amazing bread.
This little culinary tour has me thinking about when my Italian brother-in-law visited the U.S. several years ago. When he asked us to introduce him to typical American food, we were stumped. Is there such a thing? Or does it vary so widely from region to region that it’s impossible to nail down?

We eventually concentrated our foodie overview on highlights from the Pacific Northwest. We stuffed him with grilled salmon, razor clams, Oregon bay shrimp, and lots of fresh local produce. In the end though, I think his favorite meal was the big lumberjack breakfast at Camp 18.

What sort of cuisine defines your region? Or let’s cut to the chase here – what will you feed me if I come visit you?


Sarah W said...

Our area, for a long time predominantly German and Hispanic, now has growing populations of Vietnamese, Bangladeshi, Koreans, and Chinese.

So I'd introduce you to potato pancakes and schnitzel at the Bier Stube, ginger chicken at Le MeKong, the lunch buffet at India Gate, tamales at Azteca (they're off menu for those in the know), and then take you on a tour of the microbreweries in the area, most of which also serve great pub food.

And then we'd take a cab---or possibly two cabs---to the local ice creamery.

My husband wants me to mention that most of the restaurats also do a fried pork loin sandwich that he thinks should be a regional specialty.

I think I'm going to go eat breakfast now . . .

Jenna Wallace said...

Margaritas and enchiladas verdes, of course! or Chicken Fried Steak... or breakfast tacos... or biscuits and sausage gravy... San Antonio has no end to choices. Come stay!

Matthew MacNish said...

Well I don't live that far from Savannah, and I love the river walk there. I've never been to the Boor's Head Tavern or The Crab Shack, but I've had plenty of low country boil.

Interesting fact: I don't know about down in the coastal region, but up here in Deliverance country they call crawfish mud-bugs. I'm not sure I could come up with a nastier name for such a fun little food.

You should be able to get some decent Cuban bread at Trader Joe's, or maybe even Thriftway. Do they still have those up there?

Also, is your necklace made out of a fork? I have a friend who makes jewelry like that and Kelly has a cool bracelet.

Tatum Flynn said...

I'm English and the first thing that springs to mind when I think of American food is the amazing breakfasts - I would give anything to have Waffle House or IHOP over here!

Danica Avet said...

We don't have low country boil here in south Louisiana. We boil our crabs, crawfish, and shrimp with spicey boil. Throw in some corn, sausage, potatoes, onions, really anything you can think of and you have yourself a good boil! Other than the boiled seafood though, we have gumbo, jambalaya, excellent red beans and rice, boudin (a rice dressing type stuffed sausage), etouffee, etc. Then there's the beignets, king cakes, and everything else not good for your hips, lol

If it's bad for your heart, but good for your taste buds, we have it ;)

Linda G. said...

Damn. The peanut butter and jelly sandwich on squishy white bread I was planning to serve you now seems strangely inadequate...

Actually, I'm trying to decide between two restaurants. They will both add booze to your milkshake upon request, so it's a tough call. ;)

Teri Anne Stanley said...

I am quite adept at White Trash cooking, the Fried Bologna and Velveeta sandwich is a household specialty...but if we made it out of the house with out arteries intact, we would have to get some Goetta, which looks NASTY but is really tasty...a mixture of pinhead oatmeal and pork with spices, sliced and browned. And then some Skyline Chili...which is very disappointing to anyone who expects tex-mex. Cincinnati chili is actually a sweeter, less tomatoey mix, served on spaghetti with shredded cheddar cheese (three way, ahem)...add onions and beans and it's a five way (ahem).

Taymalin said...

I'd take you out for donairs and poutine.

Here's some pictures of donairs: http://shawarmaking.com/2010/12/king-of-donair-halifax-2/

And some poutine: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poutine

Mmmmm. Now I'm hungry.

Ricky Bush said...

I'll bet that you blew at least one of your New Year's resolutions on this trip.

Summer Frey said...

I live in the Appalachian region of north Georgia, but I've spent a lot of time in Savannah. One of our good friends was born/raised on Tybee. He still has a house on Captain's Row, with a beautiful view of the beach. He and his wife got married down there, and we had low country boil for the rehearsal dinner. Good stuff!

My favorite Southern vegetable is boiled okra, though. Gooey and slimy...yes.

Liana Brooks said...

Oh, gosh. Do I have a region?

I'm a Cali ex-pat living in the Deep South with my New England husband. We eat everything! Well, except boiled okra. I suppose we have our limits. (Sorry, Summer.)

We're in South Carolina at the moment, and BBQ is always an option. At our house, BBQ, traditional Slavic recipes you've never heard of, and everything Asian are on the menu. Sometimes at the same time, but usually not.

I do an amazing chili that's spicy and sweet (and not vegetarian at all).

Everywhere we go, we have a favorite restaurant. We travel so much we have favorite local places on some of the major highways in the South. I've planned trips to stop in Monroe, LA for dinner at Warehouse 1. And since we moved in my hubby has been promising to take me to the local burger place called Fatz, which supposedly has the most amazing burgers.

I'll let you know when I go. :o)

Bryan Russell said...


Wait, that's a local delicacy, right?

Christina Auret said...

My first thought was biltong, my second was that that was probably not a good idea. Regional delicacies and all that.

I would urge anyone to try Malva Pudding or Mos Beskuit. The only problem is that you have to get someone to make you some, not buy it in the stores or get it at a restaurant.

Most South Africans are big on having a braai (barbecue, but mostly we don't call it that even when we are speaking English) every now and then, but once again this is not a restaurant deal.

The short and the long of it is that if you visit South Africa, you will have to visit someone who can cook.

Michelle Miller said...

Here in Minnesota, in the depths of winter, it's comfort food all the way. If you wanted my best heritage meal (which is German) I'd feed you mashed potatoes with sauerkraut, sausage from one of the small, family-owned-and-operated butchers that are everywhere here, and of course Grandma's Apple Streudel. Throw in some Minnesota cheese, beer, and wine and we'd be set for whatever cold and snow Mother Nature cared to throw at us.

Oh, and I've been to Camp 18. Not for breakfast, though. But they had a table big enough for 14 of us to fit around with room to spare and that hospitality was definitely represented in the quality of the food.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm down here in AZ, but I'm a freak, because I'm not much into food. Not real adventurous when it comes to eating. My hubby is, though, and he makes a mean guacamole so I guess we'd feed you some of that with a nice fajita dinner. :)

Great pictures. Looks like you had tons of fun!

Bookewyrme said...

I love Cubans. Very tasty indeed. I think the bread is usually some sort of ciabatta but I could be wrong.

I do think you're right that "traditional American food" varies widely from region to region. I don't think there's any such thing for the whole country. Unless you count hamburgers, I suppose. :P


Dana Strotheide said...

Here in CO, we've got the largest number of breweries per capita, so we'd definitely have to go out for some beers. Aside from that, we've got awesome mexican food and excellent corn and grass fed cow. :)

Squeaky said...

If you come see us on a Wednesday evening, we'll take you out for the English national dish - a chippy tea (that's battered cod, chips and mushy peas - usually with salt and malt vinegar, but i prefer white balsamic on mine)
Food. Of. The. Gods.

Steph Schmidt said...

I'm an hour away from Napa and I live in Sonoma County. So it's not really a matter of what I'd feed you but what type of wine would you like to drink?

The best part of my recent trips has been finding the wineries that aren't available in stores.

lora96 said...

There's a damn fine mushroom and pepperoni pizza at the local joint and beyond that, I'd make you my killer macaroni and cheese gratin with fresh grated nutmeg.

Kari Lynn Dell said...

Indian Tacos, natch


Patrick Alan said...


Jessi said...

In Boulder, Colorado, I'd treat you to the world's best veggie burgers. And of course, awesome microbrews (it is a college town, after all).

Jason said...

Well, my region is your region, but in Portland I would have to say a food cart tour would best define Portland's style. That would follow a hearty brunch.

I don't know that Portland has a specific food...but we have a lot of good everything.

I know people always think fish when it comes to the Northwest, but interestingly enough Portland doesn't really have many good seafood places. We have restaurants with a couple decent fish dishes...

Anonymous said...

I was born and raised in Alabama, but have since transplanted to Pennsylvania (which strangely is very similar to Alabama). Just wanted to give you a couple of hints on the local language:
y'all is singular, all ya'll is plural;
"bless her heart" is an insult, not a prayer;
and "fixin" means you're about to do something, not repair something.
"Yonder" means over there,
and you pronounce "pen," "pin." Actually, "pi-in." Two syllables.
Hope this helps. Enjoy the South!
Lesa Stember


Wow, thanks for all the great tips and food suggestions. Man, ya'll are making me hungry (you like that proper use of "ya'll?!") I think I'm going to map out a good route to all your houses and spend the next year just stuffing myself.

Thanks for reading!


Elizabeth Flora Ross said...

Man, I am so bummed that I missed out on the low country boil. That is my fav! And The Crab Shack looks like my kinda place. Oh yeah, I live in FL and can eat that dish at places like that any time. OK, I won't whine. But I'm sure it would be much more fun to eat it w/you! ;)

Anonymous said...

Wanna try haggis? I promise it's really quite tasty. :)

If not haggis, then would scrapple work?

Kathi Oram Peterson said...

What fun! Let's see, I could take you to the Lion House for some of their tasty, mouth-watering rolls dripping with honey butter. Something to think about.

Zai Abd Rahman said...

Malay foods - Nasi lemak, rendang, satay, lemang and so many more that I can list here but one thing, they are all hot and spicy.

Jeffe Kennedy said...

Have I mentioned Santa Fe has more four and five-star restaurants per capita than any other US city?

C.E. Wood said...

If you visit the very center of the United States, I will be happy to take you for World Famous Kansas City Barbeque!!

Love your blog, gave you a shout out this weekend: http://cewood320.blogspot.com/2011/01/shout-out-weekend-day-2.html

Kim Mullican said...

We live in a tiny town with horrid cuisine - so your post made me yearn for another trip to New Orleans...

My husband and I are famous for our cooking...he's a grill master and I'd have him make you ribs that are practically orgasmic! My favorite meal to make is Chicken Pad Thai...there's nothing better than a meal made with love ;)

I'm not a regular poster - but I am an avid reader of your site and you never fail to make me at least chuckle!

(I'm extremely jealous of your touring activities at the moment!) Travel safely!

Patty Blount said...

No offense to anybody but that photo...gag!

I hate seafood. The only fish I eat is either Starkist tuna or Pepperidge Farm crackers.

If you ever do a #northerntweetup and hit New York, Jeannie Moon and I will take you out for Nutella.

Unknown said...

Well, since Patty brought me in here... I love seafood and we have some wonderful fresh seafood on Long Island, but if you were to come here I would take you out for Italian. Really good Italian. There are some super restaurants on the Island, but Little Italy is where we would go. You would not be disappointed.

Then we can have Nutella for dessert. :-)