Many of you may have seen my photos on social media and picked up on the fact that I was in the south for a few days last week! I returned back to my old stomping grounds in Oxford, MS to visit one of my best friends and her husband for a much-needed-extended-long-weekend getaway.
In case some of you do not know, my dad was a professor of engineering (ME) at Ole Miss and we had the privilege of living in the bubble that is Oxford. I say bubble because Oxford is nothing like the rest of the state of MS. It’s actually pretty liberal, has a diverse demographic on campus, a big Indian community (surprisingly) and it’s turning into this little hipster-chic city. I couldn’t believe how much it has changed over the years. I’ve been back to visit a few times since moving back up to the north, but it always blows me away when I see what changes its gone through, and this past trip was no different.
DISCLAIMER: It’s going to seem like all we did was eat for 5 days…but I assure you, we did a lot more other things. I just happen to chronicle the food the most…
The day I landed, they picked me up from MEM and we headed to the Indian grocery store to stock up on some spices and produce. We had already agreed earlier in the week that she and I would cook an Indian feast one day during the weekend, so we stocked up. We also did this to kill time before the pizza place we were going to eat dinner at, was open. Dinner that night was at Tribeca Alley Cafe in Sardis, MS just a little past the border into MS.
They’re known for their wood-fire pizza so that’s exactly what I ordered. I also indulged and ordered some sweet tea, because that only exists south of the Mason-Dixon.
This pizza was out of this world. I got the Margherita but everything on their menu sounded really good. After we were stuffed from pizza, we drove the rest of the way into Oxford (The Oxpatch!) and ended the evening with some hot chocolate and a tribute to Bowie by watching Life Aquatic.
The next morning after getting ready, feeding the many animals that live on the property they share with Max’s family, Max and Allison prepared barista-quality coffee for me (complete with latte art!) from their coffee machine. After that, we chilled for a bit and then headed downtown to the legendary Oxford Square. It’s a very cute and charming area of Oxford filled with boutiques, restaurants, and the beautiful courthouse. I immediately felt like I was back home upon stepping onto the square. We had lunch downtown at South Depot Taco Shop where I ordered a burrito bowl with marinated tofu and black beans and we split some dips and chips for the table. TONS. OF. FOOD.
After inhaling our food, we decided a walk around the Square was in order to help burn off some of those calories. One thing that’s great about the Square? It has hills! Odd, but true. Our stops included: Southside Gallery where I saw some of Allan’s work (Allan is Allison’s twin brother and an amazing artist/painter. He’s actually quite big in the south and I’m proud to own some of his original pieces!)
We also made a pit stop at the clothing store so I could buy some Rebel gear for my sister and nephew, and also walked by the random London phone booth that resides in the Square.
After walking around the Square, we headed back to the compound and started watching Man in the High Castle – which I am addicted to now! We watched a few episodes and then headed back out to have dinner at Ravine. You guys, I was looking forward to this meal for weeks. That is no lie. Ravine is located in the outskirts of Oxford and is contemporary southern food that is totally embracing the farm-to-table mentality. Basically: A hipster-nonsense-hotspot!
I can’t say enough nice things about Ravine. The service was exceptional, the staff so polite and the food was some of the best I’ve had. We all got drinks (I got an old fashioned. Because obviously), shared an appetizer of homemade falafel (delicious and light!), and I ordered their butternut goat cheese ravioli with veggies. It was insanely good! They actually had another vegetarian offering (which is at market price for them) but this dish sounded better to me. Dessert was a no brainer: southern pecan pie.
I was reunited with southern pecan pie and it was the most glorious pie ever. Because me and pie. And the south. And pecans grown in the south. And pie.
All in all – that dining experience will be a memorable one for me for a long time! I think for Allison and Max too! After we rolled ourselves to the cars and then back to their place, we watched more High Castle and I literally passed out from either a food coma, the drinks, or both. Who knows.
But I didn’t get to rest for too long because we had to be up early to beat the church rush for BBB – Big Bad Breakfast. One of the things I miss most about living in the south is having grits and biscuits for breakfast. And grits made the right way: full of milk, butter and coarse in texture. Allison and Max were gracious enough to let me try some of the grits they ordered, because I opted to get the biscuit with my meal.
What I did order was delicious though: much-needed coffee, egg white omelet, that buttery biscuit and some sweet potato hash. All were delicious and not too heavy! I also bought some homemade strawberry jam to bring home with me because I probably ate like 1/4 cup of it with breakfast.
After breakfast, we decided we needed a legit walk and not just walking around town like we had been doing. We decided to head out to Holly Springs National Forest and hike for a bit, and hike we did!! I think we spent about 2+ hours hiking around the woods, which at times was kind of scary because we found out the land is pretty heavily inhabited by wild hogs. And you do not want to come across a wild hog. We saw some fresh wild hog poo all over the place, and evidence of where they burrowed through the leaves and ground.
The forest, however, was beautiful. I forgot how the backwoods of MS could really be beautiful and very quiet. ….At times a little too quiet, but still nice! As the sun was setting, we decided to be smart and head on out before we got stuck in the dark with some peccaries!
After a much-needed nap, we realized it was well past dinner time and we were ready to cook our Indian feast! I made some mango pickle for the two of them (which should be ready to eat soon!) and we made: dal, channa and aloo mattar complete with mango lassis, rice and naan. While the food continued to cook, Allison and I snuck away to watch the weekly episode of Downton.
My last full day in Oxford included visiting the Ole Miss campus, which instantly felt like home. I can’t tell you the amount of times I wandered through the halls of Carrier Hall (where my dad’s office was and where he taught) and just remembering my way through it again! Or walking through the famous Grove or Circle and walking by the Lyceum. Ole Miss really is a beautiful campus.
Allison and Max both work for the university – she’s a geologist and he’s an EE who works on autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV’s) on the gulf. They both showed me their offices and some of the work they do, which always fascinates me. I always tell her she needs to come explore the UP and see all the geological splendors up here – hint hint ;)
After walking around Ole Miss we met up with a mutual friend I haven’t seen in 20 years, Emilie.
It was like no time had passed with us, which is one of my favorite things about having friends who live far away. It never really feels like they are far away! Thanks for making time for us, Emilie! It was so, so good to see you and meet the animals. Let’s not wait another 20 years before we see each other!
After a quick sushi dinner at Toyo where we also met up with some other friends, we headed back to Allison and Max’s and I helped them make some mead from honey they harvested from their bees! We even to try some of the mead they had bottled from three years ago. They also sent me home with a bottle of honey they harvested this year, which is delicious. It’s amazing how knowledgable they are about beekeeping and all that comes with it. The mead making process was so interesting and actually quite simple — honey, water, some yeast and food for the yeast, ferment for a month, then bottle and let it age!
The next morning we kind of lounged around, I packed up and we headed to Memphis so I could fly home.
I know I haven’t seen Allison and Max since my wedding in 2011, but it didn’t feel like it’d been that long. I can’t thank them enough for taking time off work to drive me around, drive me to and from Memphis, treating me to some delicious meals and just welcoming me into their home. They definitely have the southern hospitality thing going and I’m so grateful that even after all these years, we’ve remained as close friends as we are. Here’s to the next adventure the three of us might have!
What fun trips are you looking forward to this year?