That’s what I like about the south; the food and my family
A week ago I attended my granddaughter Kelsey’s Homecoming and Family weekend at Sweet Briar College.
Friday, the scenery on the drive to Virginia was beautiful. Just enough fall foliage was still showing color to contrast with the evergreens through the mountains. Since it’s gotten to be traditional to decorate for different holidays throughout the year, I saw a few ghosts, goblins and temporary small cemeteries along the way.
On Saturday the college had a luncheon set up outside in a grove of trees. It looked like a hunt brunch, with tables covered in white tablecloths, and a buffet waiting under a long green and white tent. A soccer game was being played in a field just beyond the picnic grove. The weather must have been requested for the occasion, complete with temperatures in the low 70s, abundant sunshine, and a gentle breeze.
After lunch, we toured the lab where Kelsey is taking insect biology and met her professor, walked to the far corner of a field to see the bee hives that were moved onto the campus over the summer, sought out and petted various dogs also there for Homecoming, and enjoyed ourselves all day. Dinner was in Lynchburg at an eye-popping Chinese buffet, where we both ate until we were glassy-eyed — a college student’s delight.
After a quick trip on Sunday morning to buy a couple of bright rugs for her dorm room, Kelsey and I parted ways. Kelsey had crickets to dissect and I was headed south for an overnight visit with family in North Carolina.
It’s always nice to be with my extended family. I don’t get to travel south as much as I used to. For this short stay, my cousin Mimi and I were on our own for meals. She keeps up with local restaurants, of which there are many in Winston Salem. Thus it was we hit two places downtown that I’d never tried.
The Old Fourth Street Filling Station was laid-back, elegant and casual. On Sunday night we opted for dining al fresco on their patio, brick-walled around the edges, rimmed with tiny white lights and cocooned by heavy, clear plastic drapes to ward off the October evening chill.
The eclectic menu offered some dishes and presentations new to me. The sesame ginger vinaigrette, a slightly sweet version that used sesame oil in place of olive or canola oil, was outstanding. I had crab wontons, and would definitely order them again.
We met Mimi’s sister Sally for lunch at Sweet Potatoes before I left for home. Sweet Potatoes has been reviewed and acclaimed nationally. It was a culinary experience I’d recommend to anyone who can get there. True to its name, sweet potatoes were featured in several incarnations on the menu, along with such southern favorites as fried green tomatoes, fried okra, country ham and spicy greens. Sweet potatoes are a particularly versatile veggie. They’re in the biscuits, cornbread, julienned as a side, as a build-your-own monster with multiple toppings, and sweet potato aioli. Everything is made from scratch, including some of the best sweet tea around. I never turn down a meal in a local restaurant when someone who lives in town tells me how good it is. In fact, some of my best recipes have evolved from restaurant meals when I’ve had to figure out what was in a dish I’ve really liked — like that Sesame Ginger salad dressing.
4 tablespoons soy sauce
4 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons peanut oil
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1/2 tablespoons honey (more or less to your taste)
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Place all ingredients in a pint jar with a tight-fitting lid (canning jars work well). Shake vigorously to mix well. Chill.
Makes approximately 12 tablespoons dressing (enough for 10-12 cups salad greens). Just before serving, toss with salad greens. Add roasted pecans, crumbled bacon, and/or 1/4 cup Craisins as desired.
To dilute strength, add 2 tablespoons cold water. Shake vigorously.
Linda Conway Eriksson can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.