It Was A James Beard Kinda Chanukah Supper in Oxford, Mississippi

We had the best time this past weekend at the Farmstead on Woodson Ridge where the Jewish Federation of Oxford hosted a Chanukah supper with food from chefs Alon Shaya, Zach Engel, John Currence, Kelly English and others from Pom Hospitality (it’s the new group Alon established since his break with John Besh).

Av took Shugie (who dreams of having his own restaurant one day serving his world-famous chocolate sauce) in to meet Alon and Zach and everyone.

There were three latkes: this one with apple by Kelly English

this, with sour cream and caviar by John Currence

…and the one that seemed to be everyone’s favorite, Alon Shaya’s latke with whitefish topped with herbs and everything bagel seasoning (we will absolutely be having this next week at our family’s Chanukah supper):

John Currence made this dish of vinegar-roasted brussels sprouts, spiced yogurt, pickled chickpeas, shiitake ‘bacon’, and sumac — that was great:

Kelly English prepared this slow-roasted lamb belly with speckled beans and zhug. It was woooooow:

and the meal ended with crispy buttered kanafeh with orange blossom honey. Shugie wasn’t feeling it so Shug and I devoured his once we got done with our own servings. Just fab:

Have to say, we go to a lot of events, and this was just perfect: family friendly (so often, these things are just for adults), delicious, and lovely. We sat at long tables and made friends with our seatmates. Oh! And there was a great band & we all did the hora at the end. Lovely, lovely, lovely.


Hoop and Brunch Dreams

The boys loved their first NBA game! Av had a gala to attend, so he dropped us off at Smoothie King Center and we got to see the Pelicans play the LA Clippers. First, though, they wanted to get their picture taken with a couple of cheerleaders:

We ordered our tickets as part of a “Pierre’s Party Pack” which included our seats, a meal combo, and an opportunity to go onto the court after the game to shoot a basket. Our seat location wasn’t that great, but it wasn’t bad either. We had a great time, and the Pelicans beat the Clippers!

…at one point in the game, the cheerleaders threw t-shirts to fans, and they tossed one right to Shugie. He was super tickled.

Shug and Shugie loved getting to go onto the court and try to get a basket

Afterward, we Ubered over to Av’s event venue, then altogether went back to the hotel — the places we usually stay were booked for the weekend since some big conventions were in — so I used some old my Expedia points and got the Holiday Inn Express way out by the airport.


Last year, there was a week we needed to stay, so I took a chance on Expedia’s hidden hotels — the option they sometimes offer for rooms in which they won’t reveal the hotel name until you’ve paid. It feels a little Priceline-eque, without the Priceline. You get whatever hotel it is — there’s no going back, because in effect, you’ve paid for the hotel when you confirm the last screen.

The thing is, though, you’re able to specify what star rating, what neighborhood, and so on, and in many cases, you can mostly figure out what hotel they’re offering. In this instance, I said I would accept any 4-star hotel in a certain area of the (mostly) Quarter. From the map, I was able to decipher it could only be a handful hotels, and even if it were my least-favorites of the bunch (the Astor Crowne Plaza or the Sheraton), I was still going to get a 4* hotel for…ready?…less than $75/night. I could have never done that using either the direct hotel website or Expedia without this opaque pricing. And who, and where, can you get a hotel room pretty much anywhere for that little? In effect, we saved over half each night.

And it did turn out to be the Astor Crowne Plaza on Canal and Bourbon, which wasn’t what I was hoping for, but it was fine. Of all the dozens of hotels we’ve stayed at here, we’ve never been inside:

Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans LA

Lobby, Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans LA

Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans LA

Astor Crowne Plaza, New Orleans LA 

Sunday, we went over to Metairie to wrap presents for JCRS

and then had brunch at Apolline, which has to be one of our fave brunch places.


Pimm’s Cup. Av had the grilled hangar steak with poached egg and hollandiase over potato hash (which was all delish). Shug had the hamburger, and Shugie went breakfasty with eggs and potatoes.

I had the confit duck bowl, and they were so kind in subbing broccoli for the potato hash. It was topped with duck crackings and poached eggs with hollandaise.


Lunch Steaks: Desi Vega’s, Doris Metropolitan, And You Can’t Do That At The Table

One day for lunch, Av and I made reservations for Desi Vega’s Steakhouse, which is a nice, light and bright space — not heavy and laden with so many dark woods like other steakhouses

And just as a complete aside…a complete, *complete* aside…there was an older gentleman sitting over there by the front window dressed in his lovely suit, holding court. He was so elegant, so fabulous, you could tell just in an instant that everyone was just at rapt attention to what he was saying. At the end of the meal, I looked over to where he was, and he started flossing his teeth there in front of everyone. Cue the side-eyes of his tablemates. I get it: I wear Invisalign so I have a special affinity for a new box of Oral-B unflavored too, but right at the table? You can be a million kinds of wonderful and not be able to get away with flossing in public.


ANYway, we started with the Who Dat Shrimp, which are Gulf shrimp stuffed with crabmeat and wrapped in bacon, served with a sweet Thai sauce

They sent an amuse of a meatball after the app. I like the idea of drinks served / order placed / amuse before apps, but I guess this is their custom here.

Av had the mixed grill, which is described as ‘marinated chicken breast, medallions of filet mignon and sweet Italian sausage’ but doesn’t the chicken look as though it got really charred, the chef cut off the worst of it, and then put it back on the grill for some marks? Also, among ugly plates of food, this is pretty far up there. Even the steak looks unloved and raggedy. What even.

It was what it was: not particularly good. The service was great, but the food itself, not so much. Even the Caesar salad I had for my entree was just ‘whatever’. And you’re tickling me when you’re channeling the 80s and sprinkling things on the border of a dish. It’s so retro it’s just almost made the complete circle of life and swung back around to be charming.

Another Friday, we had lunch at Doris Metropolitan in the Quarter, which was fun in part because Av knows the people who own the restaurant

Their aging room

from what I understand, they offer their butchering services so that patrons may bring home what they like

Here’s one thing I really, really liked. Not only are you given a cloth napkin for your lap, but the silverware is placed on its own napkin so that it never touches the table. Fellow germ-phobes (germaphobes? germophobes? how about just ‘my people’?), I know you see the beauty and wisdom of this.

bread = amazing

Av was not in the mood for a huge T-Bone or NY Strip, so he ordered the minute steak with chimichurri salsa which was just incredibly delicious. This is one of those dishes you could put on the rotation every single week and never get tired of. So delicious.

I wasn’t big on having a steak like Av was, so even though it’s uncommon for me, I was in the mood for a hamburger. This was one of the great hamburgers ever — the menu describes it:
Wagyu Fat, Gorgonzola, smoked Gouda, mushrooms, caramelized onion, black garlic and garlic aioli, served with truffle fries yes yes yes yes yes. Even (I have to say it) better than the hamburgers at Chez FonFon.

BTW (thinking of fab hamburgers), the 60 Minutes profile of Danny Meyer last monthwas excellent. He talked about what goes into the success of Shake Shack — much of it still a mystery to him — and how every single minute detail is thought out…how much goes into the consideration of the experience at each of his restaurants from Gramercy Tavern across the board, and he talks about his no-tipping policy which makes sense when he explains it:

Meyer says he’s found that the front of the house staff sometimes makes 300 percent more than the kitchen staff. So he has increased the base pay of servers and kitchen staff to balance things out and increased menu prices by nearly 25 percent to compensate.  He eschews the “no-tipping” phrase.  He calls it “hospitality included.” “It’s basically saying, ‘You see that price that it costs to get the chicken? That includes everything. That includes not only the guy that bought the chicken and the guy that cooked the chicken, but it also includes the person who served it to you and how they made you feel.'” 

Menu prices are higher, but in the end, checks are roughly the same as if the diner had added a tip, Meyer tells Cooper. “By the time you get your bill, whatever shock you did or didn’t feel when you saw the menu prices,  should completely dissipate, because you should say, ‘That’s exactly what it would have been if they hadn’t had this new system.'”‘

Yes to fairness and love to the kitchen.

Thanksgiving Pies

Last year, the number was 42 and this year, it’s 49!

We made pecan, chocolate pecan, pumpkin, sweet potato, sweet potato – praline, buttermilk coconut, chess, chocolate meringue (and just one that’s chocolate pecan bourbon that we save for the fam). Av and the boys delivered them to Jimmie Hale Mission, Jessie’s Place, Firehouse Shelter, and Community Kitchens at Grace Episcopal.

Hope you all are having a *wonderful* Thanksgiving! xoxo!

Art of William Edmondson, New Documentary

One of the largest collections of William Edmondson‘s art is at Cheekwood Estate & Gardens in Nashville, and last month filmmaker Mark Schlicher spoke there about the artist and the fundraising he’s doing to finish his documentary entitled “Chipping Away: The Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson” that he’s devoted work to over five years. (Trailer below)

William was born to Orange and Jane Brown Edmondson sometime in the 1870s — perhaps December 1874 — in Tennessee, and was born and died within a three-mile area. His parents were freed slaves who had been at the Compton Plantation (now Green Hills) in Davidson County, continuing to work there after emancipation as sharecroppers.

William moved into the city of Nashville when he got older, and suffered a leg injury from a railroad job. Unemployed, he started making tombstones for sale using old railroad spikes and hammers to make shapes.

Smithsonian Magazine August 1981 published a quote from him about the inspiration:

‘First He told me to make tombstones; then He told me to cut the figures. I do according to the wisdom of G-d. He gives me the mind and the hand, I suppose, and then I go ahead and carve these things.’ 

In 2011, I visited Mount Ararat cemetery in Nashville, though it’s known that very unfortunately all of Edmondson’s work is no longer extant there. Further, it’s no longer known where in the cemetery he is buried. Nashville dedicated a park in Edmondson’s honor a few years ago and commissioned Thornton Dial and Lonnie Holley for sculptures.

In 1935, Sidney Hirsch, an art faculty member at George Peabody College for Teachers found Edmondson’s place and was intrigued, telling his friend Louise Dahl-Wolfe about it. She worked for Harper’s Bazaar and thought it worthy of a feature, but William Randolph Hearst did not want to feature it in the magazine. She showed pictures of the work to Alfred H. Barr Jr., director of MoMA, and William Edmondson became the first African American artist to have a solo show there, in 1937.

Besides angels and animals (one of his lions was sold by Christie’s in January 2017 at $511,500), he began to sculpt famous people like Eleanor Roosevelt. He even sculpted Sidney Hirsch at one point, and that piece is in the collection at Cheekwood. Note: though Cheekwood has many pieces of Edmondson’s art, they don’t keep it on permanent exhibit. Their current exhibit calendar is here.

Above, one of Edmondson’s eagles I photographed in the collection of the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston. The last time I visited the Edmondson exhibit at Cheekwood — which was a few years ago — they did not allow photography. 

As an aside, Sidney Hirsch himself was a renaissance man in his own right: he was a  model for Auguste Rodin (!) and Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney. He served in the Navy. He studied ancient languages. He was a member of Vanderbilt’s Fugitives group of poets and other creatives (Robert Penn Warren was one member), and he was a playwright with varying degrees of success.

Edmondson achieved a certain amount of celebrity after the MoMA show, but had little interest in it, and cared less about the positive or negative criticism of his work. During his lifetime, the art never commanded appropriate market prices.

His ‘Boxer’ c. 1936 set a new world record for his work and for Outsider art when it sold for $785k in 2016 at Christie’s.

“Chipping Away: The Life and Legacy of Sculptor William Edmondson” is slated for a Spring 2018 release, fundraising to complete it here:

Rag Bologna and Hoop Cheese

The Jefferson Country Store outside Demopolis, Alabama — Hoop Cheese, Souse, Rag Bologna

Inside, an old store with wooden floors and glass coke bottles, Moon Pies, boiled peanuts, chips (your choice of Golden Flake and Zapp’s), Little Debbies, cans of Manwich and salmon…there’s probably some 10W30 and windshield washing fluid in there somewhere — you name it. And they’ve got this grill area for making hot ham & cheese, fried bologna sandwich or Conecuh sausage dogs…

If you’re there after the grill closes, there’s always rag bologna (called that because of the cloth sleeve) and hoop cheese with the red wax in the fridge

If you pick up a copy of the latest Southbound (it’s published by Atlanta Magazine and comes with their subscriptions), they ran one of my pics of the Simmons-Wright Company country store in Kewanee, Mississippi

but the most interesting part isn’t the outside but the inside

Folk Cemeteries of South Alabama, Some Including Graveshelters

In the Jackson, Alabama area, we found this swept cemetery with a graveshelter at Pleasant Grove Baptist:

Here, curbing with gravel:

Other graves have mounding, and if you look closely, due to rain…

The surface gets these odd little rises where the pebbles/shell bits are:

The graveshelter here is for Pugh Perdue Rotch, who lived from 3/21/1919 to 7/11/1922

Newville, Alabama had this Baptist Church cemetery pretty much in the middle of town, and it was also a swept cemetery (grass is not allowed to grow; the sand is swept to keep anything from growing). The oldest known grave here is from 1891, and a historic marker notes that in 1947, burial spaces were sold for $.25/sqft.

The graveshelter at Ramah Primitive Baptist in Houston County, Alabama is no longer extant, but the cemetery has many folk elements in that many of the family plots have the gravel and curbing:

and these ‘head and shoulders’ wooden markers, 

This is where the graveshelter was at one time. It’s for (can’t quite be certain) Maggie or Margie Whitehead, daughter of JNO. & Nancy Whitehead, born Aug 5, 1889, died Nov 4, 1890 ‘gone but not forgotten’ — and features this line of shells to make a cross:

Mosley Cemetery in Choctaw County, Alabama has this tabernacle just outside the gates:

Inside the cemetery, a graveshelter for Jasper C. Carlisle, who served in the CSA, Company F, 54th Alabama Infantry and lived 3/9/1842 – 8/27/1916