When I was a kid growing up in Birmingham, Alabama, my favorite food in the whole wide world were sugar cookies from Savage's Bakery in Homewood. Made fresh daily, from before I could even walk, I used to go in there with my mother to buy bread and other baked goods, knowing that every trip to Savage's always ended with a big fat old-fashioned buttery cookie, cooked to the perfect yellow consistency and coated with the best flakes of sugary sweetness that would melt in your mouth.
Old Mr. Savage used to laugh everytime I came in the door saying he remembered me coming there when I couldn't even open the door by myself, always wide-eyed in hopes that there was a fresh batch of cookies hot out of the oven. Whenever he or one of the women behind the counter saw me walking down the street, they would usually greet me holding one out for me as soon as I walked inside.
Mention New Orleans and anyone who's been says, "The food's so great. And the music. If you go, you'll love it."
With so few days in town, I asked for suggestions on Facebook and Twitter, read guide books and got recommendations from friends who are NOLA aficionados.
Certain restaurants appeared on multiple lists:
Acme Oyster House (724 Iberville Street, New Orleans 504/522-5973) in the French Quarter (for oysters although I was advised the place is so crowded, a good workaround to get in is to sit at the bar between 3:00pm-4:00pm).
Donald Link's restaurants are popular, especially Herbsaint (701 Saint Charles Avenue, New Orleans 504/524-4114) and Cochon (930 Tchoupitoulas Street, New Orleans 504/588-2123) I made it to the latter, but more about that in a minute.
Fried chicken at Willie Mae's Scotch House (2401 At. Ann Street, Seventh Ward, New Orleans, 504/822-9503). Not close to anything, tucked away in a suburb, but well worth the 10 minute cab ride or 30 minute walk from the French Quarter.
The Salty Dog Cafe in Hilton Head, SC is not your typical place to take Mom for Mother's Day. However, I think all Mothers should eat exactly what they want on their big day and nothing foots the bill for my Mom more than The Salty Dog.
It's located at South Beach Marina on the island of Hilton Head in South Carolina and conveniently located next door to our beach house. It's a working marina, with lots of fishing boats, and everything else from an old fashioned ice cream shop to a bait and tackle shop. There's several restaurants, outdoor bars, musicians at night. But the big attraction is The Salty Dog Cafe.
Growing up, we rented a house there in the summer and I remember the 2 hour waits we would endure just to eat there and buy a t-shirt. We'd make a night of it and spend the evening strolling around the marina, listening to music, eating ice-cream and hoping to spot 'Jake,' the great-grandson of the legendary 'Salty Dog.' Jake was a fisherman's dog and one night, many years ago their boat capsized and Jake paddled for 3 days and nights with his owner hanging onto his collar until they reached the shore. Sounds like a bit of a folktale to me but it sure has sold a lot of t-shirts.
The Waffle House is sort of the unofficial flower of the Southern Interstate exit. Driving North from the Gulf Coast on I-65 for the past two years, I have seen the yellow signs blossoming in hamlets from Alabama to Kentucky, and been intrigued, imagining fluffy waffles with real syrup, folksy waitresses with coffee pots, and an enlightening cross section of humanity. My path to Waffle Nirvana was blocked only by my mother, who has a phobia about unclean public bathrooms which I believe is a gene-linked trait in Jewish women of her generation. Having been a teacher, she is able to “hold it” like a camel retains water in the desert, but during the long trip home from Florida she insists, not unreasonably, that we choose lunch stops at restaurants where she can use the restrooms without sedation.
What does traditional Southern cooking, and traditional Jewish cooking have in common. One word. BEIGE!
I was in the Great Smokey Mountains over the weekend, visiting the part of my family who settled there many years ago. My sister-in-law is a world-class cook, so I knew I was in for some yummy home cooking. I rarely taste home cooking any more. It's just me at home. And I've taken to referring to my kitchen as that room with all the white stuff that I used to be in all the time.