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Gazpacho question

I don't think you need to add juice either, especially if you are not using roma tomatoes (just keep all the juice from your diced tomatoes). But if your tomatoes are really sweet, you might want to add a jalapeno or two for some kick as this recipe indicates. And, if your tomatoes are really meaty, you may need to add some fresh tomato juice to get the soupy texture you like.

Here's how mrdiva and I do it, and while it might not be super-authentic, we like it this way. I learned to make it and adjusted it in TX, so it's a little spicy:

For this recipe I puree just half of the vegetables, giving the soup a nice, chunky texture

Yield: 6 servings

8 garden tomatoes, with juice and seeds
1 English hothouse cucumber, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 sweet medium onion, chopped
1-2 jalapenos, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
Palmful of cilantro, chopped
1 T. red wine vinegar
1 T. capers
1 T. chili powder
2 T. olive oil
2 limes, juiced
1 slice of bread, torn into pieces
Salt and pepper

In a large bowl, add half of the chopped vegetables, the cilantro, vinegar, capers, chili powder, olive oil, lime juice, and torn bread pieces. With an immersion or regular blender, coarsely puree. Stir in the rest of the chopped vegetables, and season to taste with salt and pepper. If you would like a spicier gazpacho, add pinches of cayenne until the heat level is to your liking. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Serve garnished with avocado slices.

Jul 28, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking

cooking for yet another party of mixed food needs

I like the taco idea too, where people can just add their fixings. You could make fajita style veggies for everyone, and then a few proteins, including legumes. Super-ripe tomatoes hollowed out and filled with spicy black beans and corn can be festive. If you have a grill pan, why not do some stone fruit kebabs for dessert? Peaches and plums work great, drizzled with a little honey.

I don't know if you are doing cocktails, but if you make a pitcher or two of half limemade (store-bought is fine) and half watermelon puree, it is delicious iced over vodka and would kind of match with your food. You could garnish the glasses with some mint. Good luck, and I agree that this sounds kind of like a GRE analytical problem!

Jul 28, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking
1

When you were starting out in the kitchen what did you make?

I started cooking in college, and many of my friends were also interested in learning how to cook plus were vegetarian. One of those friends made me eat raw onions and shredded cheddar melted into some refried beans and jarred salsa with tortilla chips, and that made me want to one-up her.

I had one of those *tiny* studio apartments with half a fridge and maybe two feet of counter space plus two burners that I shared with my boyfriend. I first did vegetarian chili (sacrilege to Texans, I know), but it filled up a bunch of my friends along with some Wisconsin beer. I also tried to make some spoon bread, but it collapsed like a sad midwestern souffle left out in a thunderstorm somewhere once one of my friends slammed the door upon entering my apartment.

I then made hot stuffed peppers with a homemade tomato sauce accompanied by fresh corn risotto, which, at that point, was one of my proudest accomplishments. Then, (so I thought), I made up the idea of buying baguettes, slicing them crosswise, and topping them with homemade tomato sauce, goat cheese, and finely chopped artichoke hearts. That bruchetta made my friends like me even more, as it was quite tasty.

I also made a lot of dishes with lentils and veggies, lentils and harissa, beans and veggies, and so on.

Now, I know how to make a lot of things, including meat, but it is really tantalizing to revisit these memories. Thanks, tinabeans, for the memories! I never would have thought about those first cooking experiences if you wouldn't have posted!

Jul 27, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking

At the end of my rope -- please help

You're being way too hard on yourself. As others have said, start with a beginner's cookbook, like BH&Gs. Just like any other craft, learn to do a few things well, and then add your own enhancements. Taste everything that is safe to taste as you go, and adjust to what you like.

Once you have a few things down, then try to get more sophisticated, but don't be intimidated. I grew up with a mom who was a pretty good cook, but she never did anything very innovative, and now I do pretty much all the cooking for family gatherings. I think my sister-in-law could have written your posting, and I know she feels intimidated when she cooks with me because she doesn't just *know* why I'm thinking about doing what I'm going to do next. I tell her, "you can't just *know*, you gotta learn by doing." Just like I tell her, learn how to do a few simple things, and then branch out. You can do it! I learned how to cook in a way scaled-back apartment-sized urban kitchen with a few knives, a cutting board, two bowls, and two feet of counter space.

Try to pay attention to everything that is going on, (hard with a baby, I know), and just stick with it! PM me if you want any more specific advice--you can do it!

Jul 27, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking
1

Kick-azz pickpled peppers?

I've got a lot of jalapenos and serranos coming in, and I just started home preserving this year. Do any of you have a good recipe and method for putting these up? I think I'll have enough to make two half-pints, so small scale tips would be welcome. I've got a recipe from the Ball _Home Preserving_ Book which also calls for yellow banana peppers, but I'd be interested in hearing what you all have to say. Thanks!

Jul 27, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking

What to do with unripe tomatoes (and skin is split)

You could make them into refrigerator pickles. I like pickling green tomatoes because they stay crisp. Simmer up a solution of about half and half water and white vinegar, chop up a little white onions, smash a few garlic cloves, and then pour the hot vinegar over your packed green tomatoes and/or cukes along with the other veggies. In each jar, put about a tsp of dill seed plus pickling spice, and you should add pickling salt to the brine mixture, maybe a tsp. or so.

These will keep in the fridge for a good three months, so you can enjoy pickles until the end of October! Good luck!

Jul 24, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking
1

Jamming, canning and preserving 2014

Hi all--I just started canning this summer because mr. diva and I finally got space for a garden, and I love it! I've made refrigerator cucumber dills, spicy jalapenos, and green tomatoes with no problems.

A few questions--how do you know when those Weck jars seal when waterbath canning? I have gotten used to hearing the Ball jars ping, and then checking the seals by removing the bands after cooling.

As far as jam goes, I have made black- and blueberry, peach, and mixed berry (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and a few strawberries from the garden--this tastes great). I am kind of making my jams more like preserves by keeping some of the ingredients roughly chopped or crushed so there is some texture, which has seemed to work fine. My question here is: what is the difference between instant and classic Ball pectin? At first, I was using the instant even though I wasn't supposed to because that is what I found in the store.

I have also put up jars of 3-bean salad, green and red salsa, herbed tomatoes, and red-hot sauce, which is kind of like a grown-up spicy ketchup with lots of serranos and jalapenos. Tomorrow I'm planning to jar some BBQ sauce. I've mostly been using online Ball recipes and the Ball _Complete Book of Home Preserving_.

My other questions include the following: so long as I don't mess with acid ratios, can I tinker a bit with approved recipes, such as adding more hot peppers to suit our tastes for salsas and hot sauces? Is it OK to reduce the amounts of called for sugar slightly in jams, say by 10% because I like tasting the fruit more? Most of the Ball recipes for processed tomatoes call for blanching, peeling, and dicing tomatoes and *then* pureeing them, but wouldn't it be a lot easier to blanch the tomatoes at first, run them through my food mill, get the required liquid cup measure, and then reduce and proceed with the recipe as usual?

TIA for any advice from those more experienced, and I am happy to report that all my jars have sealed so far.

We know we shouldn't use lids twice when canning, and we have extra lids on hand. But how do you know if you need to replace your bands and jars? I am going through these faster than I thought I would, and I've just been putting them in the dishwasher and using them over. I never thought I would be getting so interested in home preserving, but as my aunt said when she saw a picture of all we've put up, "my grandmas would be proud," and that both made me happy and made me want to do a good job.

Finally, is there another home preserving book folks here would recommend? I don't see myself buying a pressure canner, although the idea of putting up stock is intriguing, so just water-bath resources would be appreciated.

Jul 23, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking

Peeling plums for jam

Thanks everyone. I have the Ball _Complete Book of Home Preserving_, and I'm using the online Ball pectin calculator for jam, which helps you quickly figure out how much sugar, pectin, and, when needed, bottled lemon juice you will need based on the volume of fruit you have. Based on your answers, I'll just keep the peels on when I chop up the fruit.

I do think I will get a food mill though, as it seems it would make processing tomatoes a lot faster, eliminating the need to blanch, peel, and core them by hand. Thoughts on that from experienced canners?

Also, I made peach preserves the other day using the said pectin calculator, and I peeled the peaches. It turned out well, but can you also just leave the peel on for peaches? I'm all for retaining fiber and nutrients.

Jul 20, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking

Peeling plums for jam

Just started canning this summer because of our garden, and I have a question. Well, two: what is the best way to peel and get the flesh off of plum pits, and how many should I buy at the farmers' market to yield @ 4 half pints? I'm not sure what the local varieties here are, but they are pretty small--I'm in southern MS.

Jul 20, 2014
diva360 in Home Cooking

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

I got really busy at work, but now I've got a tiny bit of time to review local restaurants Overall, we've been impressed by the variety of dining options that are available in this small town. I also relize that the designation of "small town" is relative; for mr. diva and I, this is the smallest town we've ever lived in, though I do realize that others may not share that experience, and I'm trying to be mindful of all who might be a part of my audience.

I think Sake Cafe might be the best choice for sushi in the area. We've tried a few other places, and their roll choices aren't very good, plus they don't seem to be very busy. We went to Oishi the other night, and neither the salad nor the "miso" soup were any good. I put "miso" in scare quotes because it wasn't really miso soup, but rather a beef consomme of some sort with a bit of mushrooms and scallions in it. Likewise, the weird dressing on the salad was more like a Russian dressing than the somewhat grainy, gingery, and bright orange concoction one might expect from a sushi restaurant. As an added affront, the iceberg lettuce was wet when dressed, a mistake which rendered the whole affair faintly slimy and less than edible.

Mr. diva's sashimi deluxe was passable, as was my entree, although barely so as an order of hibachi steak. The problem was that my meat, vegetables, and rice were woefully underseasoned. I doubt that any healthy dose of salt and pepper ever graced the surfaces of the components of my meal. We took my leftovers home, and I know that with a bit of sesame oil, salt, pepper, and hot peppers, we can turn these leftovers into a tasty meal. Too bad that it couldn't have happened the first time.

Apr 15, 2013
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

We did try Chesterfield's, and we shared some gumbo, a salad, and the huge seafood platter (we like to graze). Everything was passable to good except for the crab cakes which came with the seafood platter. They had way too much filler and tasted more of bread crumbs and diced onions and red bell peppers than anything else. A friend had recommended the deep-fried pecan pie, so I had to try it, and while it was good, it was so treacly that it really made my teeth ache. I'm not sure why people around these parts think that if you have a good idea for dessert, adding an extra cup or so of sugar will make it better. I could have been eating walnuts, pecans, cashews, pieces of shredded blown out tires in between the layers of fried fatty crust: who could know when all flavors were obliterated underneath a taste-obliterating layer of sweetness? When I was a kid, my hyperactive little brother would suck on sugar packets at restaurants. I thought it was gross then, and I still do. Hattiesburg, stop abusing your adult patrons' tastebuds by treating us like we are perpetually ten years old.

Apr 15, 2013
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

I'm sorry that I've neglected making new postings. We did try the one on HWY 49. I've got pretty high standards for Tex-Mex because Mr. diva and I lived in Texas for a while, and you pretty much can't throw a rock there without hitting a decent hole-in-the-wall Mexican restaurant, much in the same way that there is good Italian around virtually every corner in NJ and NY. That being said, we have really found both cuisines to be really lacking in these parts, with the exception of, say, Compadre's for Menudo and Mama Rosa's for tamales. The things I really crave, like TX-style migas and breakfast tacos, are largely missing around here. For example, for about three bucks, I used to be able to go to a corner taqueria and order two big breakfast tacos with righteous salsa on homemade tortillas in any number of places. But, there is really good fried seafood and po' boys all over this town, so we are adapting to what there is. Do y'all have thoughts about Half Shell Oyster House? I'll post a more detailed review later.

Apr 15, 2013
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

Thanks for all the posts! We really do appreciate getting local feedback, and we'd like to see Hattiesburg and its environs achieving a more prominent place on the local 'hounding Central South map.

We tried Tabella, and I really have mixed feelings about the place. I understand what they are trying to do, but there are some problems with execution. That being said, you may want to take this review with the proverbial grain of salt, because we are spoiled. You can't throw a rock in Northern NJ. where we moved here from, without hitting a serviceable locally-owned Italian restaurant.

We got some warm mixed olives to start, and those were just fine, though not great. They seemed a little bit old.

On to the entrees. Mr. diva got the roasted salmon which came with cappelinni dressed with garlic, olive oil, and parsley, along with garlic green beans. The sides were goodt, although we though that the prevalence of garlic on the plate got a bit tiresome. Although he requested his salmon medium rare, it came out closer to medium, but he was still happy with his dish.

I ordered the beef tenderloin medallions with fried artichokes and a Gorgonzola cream sauce. The problems with execution were on display here. The medallions were sliced very thinly to allow for the construction of a tower of beef fillet, fried artichokes, beef fillet, more fried artichokes, and another skinny beef fillet on top. That presentation pretty much makes it impossible to serve the beef at any temperature below medium well. I appreciated what the chef was trying to do, as I would assume he or she wanted their guests to have a bite of the filet, the fried artichoke, and the bleu cheese sauce all at once. It just would have been much better if the dish could have been served as an actual cooked-to-order filet that was then topped with the fried artichokes and the Gorgonzola sauce. The presentation of this dish, which trumped its potential flavor, is something that we have found lacking around here. It wasn't terrible, but it also wasn't great. There is no reason to take a dish apart to the extent that those who are cooking it can't get its basic elements right. If I want a medium-rare steak, then the presentation of that dish shouldn't be a hindrance.

We also tried Fiesta Brava. Maybe it was an off night, and I'm adding the caveat that we used to live in TX, but man, if this is what passes for good Mexican food in H'burg, then I should be able to start a good business selling tortillas, tacos, and tamales out of the back of my house.

The drinks were cheap--they offered two for one margaritas, but they were pretty sub-standard: weak, watered-down, and inundated by Rose's Lime. The waiter got my order wrong twice, and once I finally got what I thought I wanted, it still wasn't right. I ordered one of their combo platters, hoping for a cheese chile relleno and a guacamole tostada. I was first served the guacamole tostada with no reference to the chile relleno I had ordered. I wanted the whole meal to be vegetarian, which would mean that I wanted a cheese chile relleno. What was delivered to my table was a beef chile relleno, which is not even typical in either Tex-Mex or Mexican cooking. And, to add insult to injury, the lettuce that came upon my tostada was soaking wet, which is not appetizing our chow-worthy at all.

Happily, Mr. diva enjoyed his T-Bone with shrimp, but that was one of the most expensive offerings available.

We may give this restaurant another chance, but IMHO, there are a lot more options to try. While Compadre's doesn't havve the same Tex-Mex offerings, their taco options beat this place hands down. Go to Compadres!

Oct 18, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

We went to Southbound Bagels for lunch today. I had a curried chicken salad sandwich on white bread that was quite good. The bread, that is--the chicken salad itself wasn't quite to my taste as it had sizable slivers of ginger in it, and I don't like that intense ginger flavor you get when biting into ginger if it is not finely minced like I do at home. Mr. diva, in contrast, really liked his lox and bagels. He thought the sandwich was a bit stingy on the lox, but he liked everything else and remarked that the bagel, while not as good as those you can get on the East Coast, was really quite good. It's a cute little place, and exactly the kind of local business we like to support. I'm all for supporting downtown Hattiesburg spots; the area has potential.

I also recently tried Jiang's kitchen, which is in the back of the biggest Asian grocery store I know of in Hattiesburg whose name escapes me now, but it's in the same shopping area as Best Buy. They have lemongrass, bok choy, Napa cabbage, Thai basil and peppers, and other vegetables that are hard to find in area grocers, plus a fresh seafood counter. I got the Tokyo Chicken to go, which I requested spicy, and the kitchen delivered. I'll post a more thorough review once we return and sample more offerings.

Oct 04, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

Thanks for the replies! I need to post a couple of reviews soon. I will add that we returned to E & L Seafood and the oyster po' boys were great and the red beans and rice were solid.

Oct 02, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

Here are a variety of recent Hattiesburg eats reports:

Grand China Buffet: don't do it. Mr. diva had been told by co-workers about how wonderful this place was, and maybe it is OK at lunch time when they are very busy, but I doubt it. Given all the good recommendations by locals, we decided to give it a try.

The best part of the meal was the hot and sour soup, which was decent once we stirred it up on the buffet line to make it hot and added some chili oil. Everything else was pretty bad. Everything was cold, bland, oddly prepared, and seemed to have been sitting around for a while. The egg foo young was cold and deep fried in some kind of a batter, and that was a regrettable iteration of a dish that is actually really hard to screw up. Because it was allegedly a Chinese buffet, I found it somewhat disconcerting to see southern BBQ staples on the buffet, like brisket (which they falsely advertised as prime rib), mac and cheese, and non-Chinese-style BBQ ribs. I guess they are trying to please everyone. Maybe people like it because they can eat as much as they want and it is cheap, but we thought it was mediocre at best, and the sushi offerings were scary bad.

We returned to Cotton Blues for dinner, and that was also pretty forgettable. I think the highlight of the meal was the selection of dips they serve with the breads, which include cornbread and a crusty Italian-type selection. The dips included a black-eyed pea hummus which was interesting, some allegedly homemade sweet cream butter, and some herb-infused olive oil. The corn bread was OK, but the Italian bread was markedly stale.

I wanted to try a few different things, so I got the picnic sampler intending to share it with Mr. diva, who got a cup of gumbo and the small plate sized fried chicken plate, which included a southern-fried thigh, lima beans, and mashed potatoes and gravy. My plate came with two deviled eggs with hollandaise sauce (a clever idea), boudin and andouille sausage, grain mustard, homemade bread and butter pickles, and a small slice of brie, baby swiss, and blue cheese, as well as rabbit pate. The weird thing about this southern picnic plate was that I was supposed to eat all that meat and cheese with two small crackers and two small pieces of the toasted stale Italian bread. If a restaurant wants to serve a good sideboard with cheese and meat, there should at least be enough starches served to support it.

The gumbo Mr. diva got was pretty good, with a nice dark roux, but the fried chicken was terribly bland. The gravy on the mashed potatoes was similarly bland, and it needed a good dose of salt to wake it up. Be mindful that neither of us like salty food; the fare here was just not thoughtfully seasoned, and it wasn't thoughtfully-plated or well-accompanied either.

I want places like this to succeed in my newly adopted home. These people have obviously spent a lot of money outfitting the restaurant; the patio and the interior are beautiful and very well furnished. By the Manhattan and NJ standards we are used to, a person could drive a car up and down the rows of tables they are so far apart. But that spaciousness, charming decor, and warm southern hospitality can't make up for lackluster food. I'm waiting to be wowed by the food options in Hattiesburg, but for the most part, I've ended up being merely satisfied. I'll post a review of the Walnut Circle Grill shortly, but I'm afraid the news will be more of the same.

Sep 15, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

The following is a Purple Parrot brunch report. All in all, brunch here was very good. I had the eggs Benedict, and the eggs were properly cooked with runny yolks and a good Hollandaise. The country ham was super good--it was kind of like a cross between American-style bacon and Canadian bacon? This could be a southern thing that I'm not aware of. My entree was served with reasonably good cheese grits (they were a little lumpy) plus fresh fruit.

Mr. diva got the snapper done gulf fish style, with a corn and lima bean succotash and Tasso ham. He really enjoyed it, and I could barely get a bite in edgewise. Judging from the bite I was able to steal, the fish was very well-cooked, and the succotash was yummy. The variety of breads was also quite good: sweet potato biscuits, scones, and cheddar/jalapeno cornbread. I opted for the bottomless Mimosa supplement for $9.00, and Mr. diva got a couple of bloody Marys about which I heard no complaints and which were generously garnished.

So far, we have liked the Purple Parrot, Mahogany Bar and Grill, Crescent City, Leatha's BBQ, E. and L.'s Seafood (great po' boys--it's a hole in the wall, but don't let that stop you!), Compadre's, though I have to try some tamales I got at the farmers' market on campus, and C'est La Vie. Petra Cafe is also worth trying; I'd just avoid ordering the chicken, stick with some appetizers, and make sure to order your lamb med-rare. Once again, thanks to littleman for posting suggestions, and I'm still hoping we can get some MS food-curious posters here. Would we attract more postings if I said "educated, sexy, skinny, sophisticated, omnivorous, and city/country-friendly white female in search of good vittles of any variety. Although I have a life partner of Asian extraction who hails from San Antonio, we are both world travelers who are intrigued by intellectual, gustatory, and sensory pleasures. Seeking like-minded eating companions who have traveled or wish to do so, as well as those who don't mind eating locally and supporting home-grown businesses."

OK, I will admit that my Chowhound venture into personal ad writing wasn't that great, but I'm hoping to find a few more players :)

Aug 29, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

Thank you for all the links, littleman. I subjected mr. diva to an undue amount of post-move shopping today, so I took him to Leatha's BBQ and a couple of drinks afterwards as a reward. As former Texans, we now both officially think that this style of BBQ is too sweet, but the smoke ring presence is great. Really, the meat is very good, and you can tell how long it's been smoked by how pink the meat is. These people are super-friendly and nice too, so I can't diss them just because they happened to grow up with a tooth-achingly-sweet BBQ tradition. Come to TX and we'll show you how to do brisket and ribs right, with no sugar and plenty of jalapenos in that sauce :)

We had drinks at Cotton Blues, a new restaurant in Hattiesburg, and this place has a very pleasant patio/screened in porch area that is smoker-friendly. There was a guitarist singing and playing for the mostly disinterested crowd while we were there, and I couldn't help but think that he should give up singing but play more of a back up role for more talented singers. His guitar chops were actually very good, but he didn't have a very good voice. One would think that Pine Belt artists could get together to showcase their best talents, but I might be wrong about that. In any case, I made sure that we sated ourselves on ribs at Leatha's, I had to go shop at Sam's Club and Walmart for a potluck obligation, and then I had to go to Target. It was chain store overload and I was very happy to go to Cotton Blues, even if it was for only a y a couple of drinks. I'll be posting a review of the Purple Parrot for brunch in a minute, and I'd appreciate hearing whatever y'all have to say

Aug 25, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

This is a review of C'est La Vie bakery in Hattiesburg, MS. As promised, I will post reviews of Hattiesburg restaurants as I try them, in the hopes of not only disseminating information, but also generating more traffic on this board, in particular for local users and travelers alike. (I'm used to the NYC/NJ/tri-state boards which users constantly update with current reviews.)

This bakery is a little gem that Hattiesburg is lucky to have. I had a chicken salad sandwich on a croissant here with a fruit salad, and they were both excellent. I bought a couple of plain croissants to try in the morning for breakfast and lunch, and I hope that they are equally buttery and delicious. They have a lot of sweet pastries and cakes here, including truffles and petit fours as well as an assortment of cakes. I look forward to trying their egg dishes like breakfast sandwiches, quiches, and omelets, and I only wish that they made bread, because the bread around here that I have tried sucks.

I am thankful to Littleman for responding to my posts and I'm putting all his responses in my places to try, but I'm hoping to hear from more of you. Let's pull together to put Hattiesburg's restaurants on the food map!

Aug 23, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

Compadre's Taqueria Grill was much better for authentic Mexican tacos than for Tex-Mex, as the cheese was of the white processed variety. The lengua tacos were very good, served on fresh corn tortillas with cilantro, onions, and lime slices, as they should be, and the beans and rice were also very good, as the beans had a sufficient pork quotient.

We took some menudo to go from here, and while it wasn't as good as the menudo you can find in central TX because the broth wasn't quite as good, this version was quite suitable. It came with reasonably good tortillas and all the standard garnishes. The soup included some pigs' feet, which could be a regional variation. All in all, I would recommend this place, but I would suggest that people stick to the Mexican as opposed to the Tex-Mex options on the menu. I would love to hear about what others think about the best Mexican in the Hattiesburg area.

Aug 23, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

As promised, I will be updating this thread as we try new places, hoping both to inform passersby and to generate more interest on CH in this area. We tried Petra yesterday, and overall, it was good to very good.

We ordered the labneh to start (they spell it labana), and it was properly made with lemon, mint, olive oil, and some sumac. The pita that they served it with tasted like store bought, but it was still fresh enough, and I'm not sure if it's possible to find freshly baked pita down here.

I ordered a chicken shwarma sandwich for my entree so I wouldn't get too full, and this is where the kitchen made a miss-step. The chicken was overcooked and kind of dry; I rectified this problem by slathering on the leftover labneh. Mr. diva's lamb kebab, on the other hand, was very good. It came with a salad ahead of time (romaine, tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, green bell peppers) that had a nicely tangy lemony vinaigrette as well as some hummus which was dressed with olive oil that tasted strongly of green bell peppers and garlic. (I ate most of the hummus with more of the labneh).

The lamb kebab itself arrived cooked to about med/med-well (I'd recommend ordering medium-rare, but we didn't know the SOP), and it came with some nicely seasoned basmati rice, and this dish was again garnished with sumac and some zahtar, and, despite the level of doneness, it was quite good.

This little restaurant also has a teeny market in the back with Middle Eastern spices, multiple kinds of lentils, rice and bulghur, and canned and jarred goods such as grape leaves, sardines, dates, and other sweets. They are open late, and I think this place is well worth trying, especially given the glut of chains in the area.

Please, Mississipians, start posting! I want to read what y'all think! I'm going to try the Purple Parrot for brunch shortly as well as Compadre's Taqueria 2 for hole-in-the-wall (hopefully yummy) Mexican. I'll post reviews once I've dined. Anywhere for Vietnamese (preferably pho or bahn mi), Korean, or other Asian? I'm willing to go to Gulfport/Biloxi for chow!

Aug 18, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Hattiesburg, MS: Where To Eat?

Hi All: mr. diva and I are new to Hattiesburg, and we need suggestions on where to eat and shop for groceries. We will go anywhere, from hole-in-the-wall places to more upscale so long as the food is chow-worthy; we've lived in central Texas and in metro NYC, and we'd rather find what's good locally than vainly try to find, say, Jersey-shore style pizza in southern MS. I will be adding to this thread as we try places in the hopes of generating more Hattiesburg traffic.

For now, I'll say that I like the garden patio at the Mahogany bar, and the late night food options are solid. The specialty cocktails are also quite good and properly mixed/shaken with fresh ingredients.

I picked up some gumbo for mr. diva at E and L's Seafood, and he quite enjoyed it. The roux was nice and dark and had good color. It came with some whole blue crab legs in it, and it had chicken and andouille. I plan to return and try po' boys and seafood platters.

I went to Leatha's BBQ when I was house hunting and thought it was very good, though the sauce was much sweeter than I prefer. The meat, however, was very good, as were the yeasty rolls they bring you.

I was not super impressed with 206 Front, though I'm willing to give them another shot or two. I had the spinach salad and the duck crepe appetizer and found the salad dressing bland. The duck had good flavor, but the meat was somewhat dry. I did like the outdoor seating upstairs on the balcony. This could be a good choice for a late-night drink and sandwich.

Is the Corner Market the best place to go for specialty cheeses and produce? Are there any other groceries that offer more than Winn Dixie or Super Walmart? I went to the CM on Hardy and 38th Ave. today, and was happy to see a small olive bar and a cheese case stocking more than the typical Kraft/Sargento/etc. (blech) varieties.

Aug 15, 2012
diva360 in Central South

Is South Street Seaport a complete tourist trap?

Thanks all. Foodwhisperer, the reasons you mention are exactly why mr. diva wants to go, plus he read some stuff about the old Fulton St. FM and wants to see that building in particular. So here's a tentative plan:

Take PATH to WTC and see memorial.
Eat a big lunch en route to the Seaport.
Have drinks and snacks at the Seaport.
Go to LES for a more substantial meal if we need to, or have pizza/pasta at your suggestions nearby.

Now the question is: where to eat between the memorial and the Seaport? This is the area of Manhattan I'm least familiar with. Is this neighborhood still the FIDI?

This outing will likely happen on a week day. A lunch prix fixe could be nice, maybe between $20-$30, though we'd also be happy to go to food trucks that FIDI workers or whoever else go to--I've just no idea where such trucks park. Cuisine open, and, thinking about it more thoroughly, creative food trucks could be just the ticket.

Jun 23, 2012
diva360 in Manhattan

Is South Street Seaport a complete tourist trap?

Mr. diva really wants to go, but should we plan to eat elsewhere and maybe just have a drink there, perhaps after a visit to the WTC memorial? Is there anything worth eating at the Seaport itself? (We're in NNJ--not hard to get to any part of NYC).

TIA

Jun 22, 2012
diva360 in Manhattan

Looks like we'll be leaving the Garden State

Thanks everyone--we're not retiring, but relocating for a new job (me). Unfortunately, we can't live in NOLA or the bay area directly, those are just the closest metros (within 1-2 hours). As for DeLorenzo's, isn't there another location somewhere?

Jun 11, 2012
diva360 in New Jersey

Dinosaur Barbeque in Newark is open!

I see my mistake--I'll talk to mr. diva and see what he has to say, since he is usually the person that buys meat in our household--he cracks several beers and says, "hey, honey, you should make some potato salad and ranch-style beans while I tend to this meat!." Then, usually, I finish up the sides and end up finally conquering whatever 'que we are cooking, and he makes me a nice stiff martini while we both chow down. I'm wondering if the Pork Store in Union might offer smaller briskets. I really like the sausage they make, and I'm thinking they might be able to order in some small hunks o' beef for your barbequing pleasure. In any case, cheers!

Jun 09, 2012
diva360 in New Jersey

Dinosaur Barbeque in Newark is open!

You're right--I haven't really seen beef ribs on a menu around here. And I've never been to Hill Country in Manhattan, though I'd like to go. Mr. diva and I went to Blue Smoke, and we were not super impressed with the meat, though I did like the sides. (You might say, "who cares about sides?" But I'm a petite 100 pound hound, and I just can't eat copious amounts of pure protein, so sides matter to me.) I'd love to have a tour of Dinosaur or one of the other Manhattan places that are growing in popularity--it's nice to see that a formerly localized food culture is getting some real traction!

Mr. diva has been able to get big briskets here in NJ--especially at the Costco in Union. They generally contain both the fat cut and the flat cut (I am kind of weird in that I like the flat cut). These take about a full day to smoke, and while the meat isn't the best quality to start with, once we smoke it well on low heat for a day or so, it is comparable to true TX BBQ. In any case, best wishes in your search for the best smoked meat! It is an admirable quest.

Jun 09, 2012
diva360 in New Jersey

Looks like we'll be leaving the Garden State

Hi all--I've enjoyed reading your reviews while we have lived here, and you have steered me toward many great places to eat. It seems that we will be leaving for either the NOLA or the San Francisco/San Joaquin Valley area at the end of the summer, so I'm looking for spots in NJ that you think mr. diva and I cannot miss before we leave! We live in Summit, and we will travel for good food. Just for points of reference, here are some favorites, and this is just a partial list:

Milburn Deli or Zappia's in Summit for Italian/Deli sandwiches
Mompou in Newark for tapas
Seabra's in Newark for Portuguese seafood
Casa Maya in Meyersville for Mexican (we don't think it's great by Texas standards, but it fulfills intermittent cravings--we'd love to find a place with traditional tacos ([garnished with cilantro, onions, and lime slices] and homemade tortillas outside of Manhattan)
Stamna for Greek in Bloomfield (disappointing the last time we went, overcooked and dried out meat)
Dinosaur BBQ in Newark (or Harlem, for that matter)
Above Bar (quasi new American)
Marjan in Morristown for Persian
Taka Sushi in Summit (this place is just OK, but the best we've found in the area)
Shanghair Bun in Edison
Grand Sichuan in Jersey City (good spicy beef soup and soup dumplings)
La Pastaria in Summit (pretty good local Italian; their extensive daily specials menu is good)

There are a lot of restaurants we go to in Manhattan and Brooklyn, but I am trying to limit this list to NJ. Where should we go?

Jun 09, 2012
diva360 in New Jersey

Dinosaur Barbeque in Newark is open!

Of course this mini-chain started in Syracuse with outlets in Troy and Albany, both of which opened before the Harlem location; I first sampled Dinosaur's fare at the tulip festival in Albany a couple of years ago. Having lived in TX, I find it closest to the BBQ one can find in Lockhart, Luling, and Tyler, among other places, though not quite as good. Even so, it is mighty fine, and it reminds me of my once-adopted home. I must disagree a bit with tommy, whose opinion I respect greatly on these boards. As the owner of a barrel-style off-set pit-smoker myself, I can say that meat tenderness has a great deal to do with the relative temperature of the off-set smoking process, including its length of time. The person manning (or womanning, in my case) the pit should be concerned with maintaining a constant temperature for a long period of time as well as fending off excess creosote build up and less about turnover. Of course, if the meat is pulled off of the heat source too early in the service of turnover, quality will suffer--that happens in BBQ meccas like TX. I once had the worst BBQ imaginable at a joint in TX at a party during a college graduation weekend because they had clearly pulled the meat off far before it was ready just because they were slammed; it was the grayest, grossest brisket I'd ever seen or tasted, and the ribs were inedible. Pork ribs should take at the very least three hours, while brisket should take at least sixteen with a temperature of about 225. One can speed up the time for brisket by braising, although the chosen liquid will change the brisket's flavor.

Jun 09, 2012
diva360 in New Jersey

Dinosaur Barbeque in Newark is open!

We went last night at 9:15; the restaurant was pretty full. We started with the fried green tomatoes, which were as good as the Harlem location. Mr. diva had a combo plate with ribs and brisket--both meats were maybe a notch below Harlem in terms of tenderness, but still very good. Perhaps the pitmasters need a bit more experience. He also had the gumbo and wedge salad as sides--both very good. I had the sausage sandwich with potato salad--the potato salad is very similar to Harlem's. The house made pickled cukes and onions seemed to be so too. One thing I noted is that many of the 'que sandwiches come on Portuguese rolls from a local bakery. Overall, this is a very welcome addition to the scene.

Jun 08, 2012
diva360 in New Jersey