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Friday, August 19, 2011

Tasty summer travels, part two

My favorite town in Mississippi to visit is, without a doubt, Oxford. Not only is it home to my beloved Ole Miss Rebels, it has tons of great places to eat.
As much as I love Ole Miss football, I really enjoy visiting Oxford when there's not a football game being played. Summer usually takes us to Ole Miss and Oxford for camps at least twice, and this year was no exception.
Old Venice Pizza
One of my favorite places to eat in Oxford is Old Venice Pizza. We eat there almost every time we go to Oxford, mainly because of the Tiramisu. It is outstanding! If we don't go sit down to eat there, we at least swing by and get just Tiramisu to go.
Their savory dishes are excellent as well. Their menu offers several appealing appetizers, soups, sandwiches, classic Italian pastas and entrees, as well as a unique selection of homemade pizzas. My family's favorites include the trio appetizer - a combination of Dynamite Shrimp, Crawfish Roll, and Hand-breaded Mozzarella Sticks; Ranchero Pizza - ranch base, chicken breast slices, bacon, roasted garlic, Roma tomatoes, mozzarella, and a drizzle of ranch dressing; and Chicken Tuscany Pizza - garlic cream sauce, chicken, roasted red pepper, Roma tomatoes, sweet red onion, oregano, and a sweet balsamic glaze.
Trio Appetizer
Chicken Tuscany Pizza
My husband is a brownie and ice cream fanatic, so his dessert of choice at Old Venice is the Chocolate Explosion. Look at the photo below and you'll see why they call it that.
Brownie Explosion
Now, before you Bulldog fans get bent out of shape thinking you'll miss out since you're NEVER going to Oxford, there's an Old Venice in Starkville, too, as well as Tupelo and Memphis.
Old Venice Pizza Co on Urbanspoon
Chef John Currence made a name for himself in Mississippi with his first Oxford restaurant, City Grocery. In recent years, he has added additional restaurants to the Oxford dining scene and has put Mississippi on the culinary map.
Tucked away in a strip mall off North Lamar Avenue, right next door to a yoga studio, is Snackbar. As soon as you step into the dining area, you feel like you've stepped into an English hunt club.
The cozy bistro features a raw oyster bar with fresh oysters from all over the country arriving daily. In addition, their charcuterie menu is serviced from the smokehouse out back. Charcuterie offerings include pates, hard sausages, and ham, to name a few.
The menu changes with the seasons. Fortunately for me the menu changed after I dined there in June. When I returned in July, they had switched to the summer menu, so I got to partake of the new options.
The most popular item in the menu is the Truffle/Parmesan Frites. One bite of these fancy fries and you'll see why. Daily specials are offered as well as small plate and not so small plate entrees. Dishes we've tried include Lobster Mac and Cheese, Royal Red Shrimp Fricassee, Steak Frites, and Sliders.
Lobster Mac and Cheese
Royal Red Shrimp Fricassee
Steak Frites
Desserts at Snackbar are exquisite. The Opera Cake is a layered chocolate and vanilla cake with coffee ice cream and chocolate sauce. During blueberry season, a Frozen Blueberry Souffle was a light, refreshing treat.
Opera Cake
Frozen Blueberry Souffle
Snackbar on Urbanspoon
Big Bad Breakfast
Next door to Snackbar is Currence-owned Big Bad Breakfast. Lard have mercy, they dish out a mean breakfast.
Most ingredients are fresh and local. All their bacon and sausage is smoked out back in the Big Bad Smokehouse. Eggs are from cage free suppliers. Dairy products are from a family run dairy in nearby Yocona. Jellies, jams, and preserves are made fresh daily. When possible, herbs and produce come from the chef's own garden.
The bacon is like no other I've ever tasted. It's tied on my list with ABE's. Cured with Tabasco and brown sugar, it's available for purchase by the pound to enjoy at home.
If you're really hungry, go for the Big Bad Breakfast Plate. Two eggs are cooked to order with a side of meat, home fries or local stone ground grits, choice of gravy, and toast or biscuit. There are leaner options as well as fancier options.
My favorite is the Pain Perdue, a brandy-spiked French toast with powdered sugar, whipped cream, and fresh strawberries. It's an entree and dessert all-in-one.
Pain Perdue
Lunch is also also available with offerings of burgers, BLT sandwich, and the Elvis sandwich - peanut butter, bananas, bacon, and mayo griddle fried between white or wheat bread. This combination may get you all shook up.
Big Bad Breakfast on Urbanspoon
Bottletree Bakery
I first heard of Bottletree Bakery on The Oprah Winfrey Show many years ago. She featured their Apple Ruffle Tart as the best pie in America. Several years passed and I never stopped by to check it out until a Mississippi State friend of mine told me I could bring him a croissant from there any time. Well, I figured that if a State fan liked it, I had to try it out. So, the next time I was in Oxford, I did just that. It was love at first sight. Now I have to go EVERY time I'm in town.
When you walk in the door, if you can get in the door, you're greeted by a big glass case of freshly baked pastries - croissants, chocolate croissants, focaccia, danishes, humble pie, muffins, brioche, scones, and the list goes on. They also have open racks of homemade breads, including baguettes, sourdough, bagels, and more. Every time I go, I feel like I'm getting a glimpse of Paris. I just imagine what it's like there with all the delectable pastries and breads on every corner, and grabbing a croissant for breakfast and a loaf of bread on your way home from work every day.
Bottletree Bakery pastry case
The funny thing is that I've been Bottletree Bakery numerous times and have yet to see the infamous apple tart. The pastry that made them famous keeps evading me. I'm just going to have to ask about that next time I go.
My order is pretty much the same every time I go - chocolate croissant, humble pie, focaccia, and a couple loaves of bread to take home. The chocolate croissant is best eaten there since they warm it and drizzle more chocolate on top. The humble pie is usually strawberry or blueberry or both. It consists of a shortbread cookie with fruit in the middle. My favorite thing is a particular focaccia they make. It's basically like a mini pizza. They take focaccia bread and top it with chicken, applewood bacon, red onions, apples, cheese, and I don't know what else, and bake it to make it crispy on the bottom. It is to die for. And my daughter, Anne Morgan, is ready to kill somebody if they don't have it when we go there. Next time, I'm bringing extras home for the freezer.
Chocolate Croissant

Pecan Sticky Bun
Bottletree is more than just a bakery. They have a gourmet coffee bar and offer sandwiches for lunch. The walls are covered in funky art, making it an art gallery, too.
I've never been to Paris, but I hope to go there one day. For now, I'll just have to settle for frequent trips to the Bottletree, which is fine by me. I think that's why I'm so excited about football season kicking off soon - more pastries and bread.
Bottletree Bakery on Urbanspoon
Next time you're ready for a culinary getaway, look no further than Oxford. With a wide variety of cuisines to choose from, you won't be sorry. (Even if you are a bulldog.)
Stay tuned for the final chapter in my summer travels. Up next are some more dives within a short driving distance you'll want to give a try.


  1. Hi JJ,
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