The Gourmet Highway: Summer Dining Down South

Summertime down South is a glorious season for culinary adventures. Al fresco dining with friends, a slower pace that provides more time for enjoying lunch while encouraging good conversation between bites and sips. This is no time for sparse menus: salads do have their place but are not the only options.

It’s time for some culinary excitement. Let’s meet for brunch in some old standbys and then mix up everything with a new kid on the block showcasing creations and variations from other cultures. The dining experience is a universal ritual where friendships are celebrated.

Crab Cakes Benedict is Tujague’s popular interpretation of a brunch classic.

New Orleans Mister Mao Restaurant from Cambodian-American Chef Sophina Uong features a menu of eclectic global-meets-southern cuisine like brunch favorite Kashmiri Hot Chicken Benedict, a spectacular combination of free-range chicken seasoned with ancho, Szechuan peppercorns and black salt lime cream served on a Hawaiian pineapple roll with a slice of Vidalia onion, milk gravy and sunny eggs. A multicultural miracle that will leave you breathless.

Kashmari Hot Chicken Benedict blend Asian and New Orleans Creole traditions.

Tujague’s, New Orleans second oldest restaurant, is the birthplace of brunch and the heritage Grasshopper cocktail. The cuisine is Creole and the charming French Quarter space is home to executive Chef Gus Martin’s Crab Cake Benedict: peppery blue crab cakes with poached eggs, roasted corn sauce and chive hollandaise.

Tujague’s in New Orleans is the birthplace of brunch.

Another Tujague’s specialty is Chef Martin’s Grilled Gulf Fish, served with baby potatoes, caramelized onion hash, topped with a creamy citrus beurre blanc and seared shrimp.

Travel to Music City for a brunch surprise, Fried Oysters Benedict. Marsh House is inland Nashville’s hot-spot for elevated Gulf coast cuisine. Chef Brian Landry has created a masterpiece, a balanced combination of oysters, spinach, his original remoulade and classic Prosciutto. The Smoked Fish Dip, a blend of Pompano filets and a flavorful cream cheese sauce made with shallots, Dijon mustard, horseradish, chives, lemon, capers, and sour cream is a popular starter. The stellar wine program is one of the finest in the South.

Enjoy Fried Oysters Benedict in Nashville.

Nashville attorney Karen Blake divides her time between Music City and coastal Southeast Florida. Her culinary discoveries has, for almost a decade, led me to a new world of flavor adventures including dishes inspired by her Ukrainian heritage. Ms. Blake recommends brunch at The Sandbar Grill at Fort Lauderdale’s Sun Tower Suites which she describes as “a hidden gem [on] a raised dock right on the sand with an unobstructed view of the ocean.  Laid back, quality brunch fare, [ ] a little slice of old Fort Lauderdale.” She suggests ordering the lobster or regular Eggs Benedict. 

Nashville attorney Karen Blake is a reliable source for outstanding restaurants.

Another of her favorites is Bouchon du Grove,  a small French Restaurant “that transports you to a bistro in Paris, instead of Coconut Grove. Share an order of mussels and some French wine. You might need more bread for dipping, the broth is so delicious. Finish with the Chocolate Mousse.  You’ll be glad you did.”

Lynne Brandon, a gifted writer blessed with a sophisticed palate, is my time-proven source for reliable dining discoveries particularly in her North Carolina home base. She shared a dining experience that merits a visit to the Tar Heel state soon.

“The New York Times,” according to her,  “has hailed Kindred Restaurant as among the best in the country,” adding that the small family-owned eatery in downtown Davidson brings travelers from across the state “for the special dining experience. The North Carolina Flounder Crudo with serrano pepper, grapefruit and al pastor (Spanish marinade), is colorful and delicious; and [the] asparagus with stracciatella, bueurre noisette, rhubarb and bottarga bring the feeling of springtime to the palate. The crispy oysters are a perennial favorite and are served over dill yogurt, calabian chile oil, and prove that seafood . . . can thrive away from the coast.”

The living is easy down here. The essentials for good, fresh food are in place: a huge coastline, long growing seasons, diversified agriculture, abundant and accessible markets. Combine this with traditional inventiveness, a growing number of visionary, influential restaurants and the results are delicious.

Good food, prepared with daring and a respect for tradition, leads to a higher life.

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Old school journalism describes the style and stories produced by Doc Lawrence. “In everything I do,” he says, “there is a beginning, middle and an end.” One of the top travel writers in the country, Doc is steeped in the heritage of the deep south. Traveling the back roads from Texas to Virginia and on down to Key West inspires stories about local food and wine preferences, community theater, folk art and music often leading to clues for a good story. Heroes include Faulkner, Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, Ralph Ellison, Dorothy Parker and Willie Morris. An Atlanta native, Doc keeps a well-stocked wine cellar and bar and two outdoor grills. He enjoys entertaining and believes that the greatest challenge for a writer is to keep searching for a higher life. |[/author_info] [/author]

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