Southern Comfort isn't just the noxious blend of raw sewage and corn syrup that Janis Joplin made famous; it's a major part of the South's culinary tradition.
Embracing the simple, local, seasonal thing long before it became the mantra of overpaid celebrity chefs who spend more time in front of a camera than a stove, Southern cooks created a body of dishes so soulful, flavorful, and just plain good eatin' that they've become part of the country's gastronomic DNA.
And let's face it, at a time when everyone whose name isn't Goldman Sachs is looking up to the sky, waiting for it to rain dogshit, doesn't a big plate of hearty, comforting, down-home Southern fare sound pretty good?
I thought so.
Fried chicken at Smith
& Jones. The Thursday-night special at Johnny Vinczencz's
arrives as an appetite-busting platter of mashed potatoes, gravy,
creamed corn, and corn bread. But the star of the show are the big pieces
of Southern-fried bird, all crusty and golden on the outside and
steaming tender and juicy on the inside.
Chopped pork sandwich at Tom
Jenkins'. The ribs, brisket, and chicken at this house of fine 'cue
all have their fans, but to me, nothing quite says Southern barbecue
comfort like a sandwich of smoky, succulent, slow-cooked pork. You don't
really need the bread, but it's more couth than shoving your face in the
plate and gobbling.
Oyster poor boy at Spoto's
Oyster Bar. When you can't make it to Casamento's or the Desire in
New Orleans, the next best thing is the Nawlin's-style poor boy at
Spoto's. Sweet-briny bivalves are given a cornmeal crust and deftly
pan-fried, then paired with lemon aioli and all the usual fixin's for a
real good-time roll.
Shrimp & grits at Gratify.
Plump, meaty shrimp; creamy, cheesy, achingly rich grits; chunky,
lusty, veggie-based sauce... so many good things to eat come together
in this Low Country classic that it's tough to put your fork down until
your plate looks like it's been steam-cleaned. It's worth a visit to
Gratify for this dish alone.
Peach pie at Harvest Time Market (94361 Hypoluxo Road;
561-641-6199). Really good homemade pies are something of a rarity,
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really great homemade pies even more so. Josie Garcia bakes really
great homemade pies at this Lake Worth farmers' market, none better
than this round of faintly vanilla-scented peaches in a light, flaky,