Pizza that Packs a Punch

by adwells on April 16, 2014

Screen shot 2014-04-16 at 1.08.14 PM Believe it or not, this guys makes a mean pizza and you can grab a slice of boxing legend Sal Cenicola’s pie at Sal’s Neighborhood Pizzeria on St. Simons Island, Georgia.

First, head over to Eat Y’all for a taste of my interview with the man behind the pizza, Sal himself. Torn between his love for the Italian food he grew up on and the South, this Jersey boy brought his beloved New York style pizza to Dixie.

So when in Sal’s neck of the woods, do as he says – grab a slice and “let the romance begin.”

The Spirit of St. Simons

by adwells on April 10, 2014

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Sometimes you come across little places that just take your breath away. This weekend, I did just that.

Nestled on plush green grounds surrounded by towering live oaks on the charming island of St. Simons, Georgia, sits Christ Church, Frederica.

The charming and scenic setting is made even more appealing by the history found within the church’s walls and on the grounds. John Wesley preached here and the story goes that he had a “Moses moment” while in prayer under a Spanish moss draped oak, and as a result, sailed off to England to help start the Methodist Church.

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In 1820, the first church structure was built here before being destroyed during the Civil War. In 1884, along came Reverend Anson Dodge, who built the existing structure in memory of his wife, Ellen, who was tragically lost at a young age. Now visitors to Christ Church can view the final resting places of Anson, both of his wives and Anson, III, who died at the age of three.

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The interior of the church is quaint yet majestic. Constructed of Georgia heart pine, the rich tones of the sanctuary are natural – no stain was used to give the wood its deep hue. What you see is the natural patina of aged heart pine. Using no nails, the church was constructed to form a trussed Gothic roof and steeple. Intricate stained glass windows let in vividly hued natural light, including one Tiffany window.

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The cemetery surrounding the church is the resting place of many of Georgia’s most beloved, including author Eugenia Price, who made her home on St. Simons. Headstones at the Christ Church cemetery date back to as early as 1803, although it’s believed that there are much older graves on the grounds.

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Today, many St. Simons Episcopalian residents gather to worship in the historic sanctuary of Christ Church and four U.S. Presidents – Bush, Sr., Carter, Coolidge, and Wilson – have worshiped here (the most besides the National Cathedral). Christ Church has become a landmark and a must-do when visiting the Golden Isles. Be prepared to lose your breath. It’s that beautiful.

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Christ Church, Frederica is open to the public for tours every day (except Tuesdays, Easter & Christmas) from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. Visitors can walk the grounds for free. Services are held each day at 5:00 p.m., on Fridays at 11:30 a.m., and every Sunday from 8:00 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.

Setting Up Shop: Anna of Hoot + Louise

by adwells on April 4, 2014

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Meet Anna Avant. She’s the stylish and innovative mind that’s bringing not only vintage, but edgy new style to the streets of Memphis. I stumbled into her shop, Hoot + Louise while on a story assignment on the city’s South Main Arts District, an area of downtown that’s experiencing quite the revitalization, thanks in large parts to people like Anna. Here, in the second installment of Setting Up Shop, Anna (a born and bred Mississippi girl, I might add) lets us in on how Hoot + Louise came to be, why she loves her city and the must-have wardrobe staple you must have for Spring. Enjoy!

AW: Tell me why you decided to open Hoot + Louise.
AA: As a little girl, and to this day, I spent a lot of time at my Granny and Granddaddy’s house, which was only a few blocks from my house in small town Greenwood, Mississippi.  Granny paved the way for my fashion sense.  I loved going to her house because she let me play dress up in anything and everything in her closet and jewelry box.  I remember making mud pies in the back yard in all her jewels and high heels.  I also took tap and ballet for 13 years and loved the costumes – that was probably why I took lessons for so long.  Granny also made me dress up clothes. I had sequined blouses and satin skirts.  When I got older – high school and college age – I started getting into vintage accessories.  I couldn’t really fit into my Granny’s clothing – she’s very statuesque and had that amazing 50s bombshell figure.  I, on the other hand, am 5’3″ and have tiny feet.  So, since I couldn’t wear her clothing I would add vintage purses and brooches to my “going out” outfits.  My love of vintage has just grown and evolved since then. 

So, when I suddenly found myself completely miserable after seven years in the corporate world (where I was often looked at a little funny when I’d come to work in my 1970s secretary dresses), I told my husband my dream of opening a clothing store that would carry both vintage and new clothing.  I knew exactly how I wanted it to look and had so many visions in my head.  My husband loved the idea!  So, we started working on a business plan, and a year later I quit my job to focus completely on opening the store, and ten months after that we opened the doors!  A dream come true!

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AW: Where does the name Hoot + Louise come from?
AA: The name comes from Granny.  Her nickname is Hoot and her given name is Louise.  It was only fitting to the name the store after her.  And, if you came shopping here the first week I was open, you most likely bought something she’d pinned the tag to.  She was a big help (along with my parents and husband) in getting the store ready! 

AW: Why in the South Main Arts District?
AA: I knew I wanted an old space and I love downtown Memphis.  I used to live in the South Main area so it had a special place in my heart anyway.  Also, the grit and character and history of the area is a reminder of how wonderful our city is.

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AW: What makes your shop special?
AA: Well, everything in my store is hand selected by me.  I’m very picky and spend lots of time in and out of the store finding pieces that I think are timeless.  I don’t go to market because I like to find things that no one else has and I love obscure, indie lines.  I love to mix modern and vintage pieces together and I think I have provided that attention to detail for my customers in a way that is found no place else.  Also, as for the new clothing lines, I pick lines that to me are not too trendy.  I like lines and looks that have staying power.  I also like clothing that looks like a wearable piece of art.  There is art in clothing and putting together a certain look, and I love that.  And, you will never find more than seven pieces of any new piece of clothing in the store. I do not want you to see yourself walking down the sidewalk.

AW: What is a must-have for every girl’s closet this Spring?                                                AA: a great pair of jeans and good ole navy schoolboy blazer goes with literally everything – a classic with gold buttons. Don’t be afraid to wear your navy blazer with all black either.  Like I said, it literally goes with everything.  

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AW: When shopping vintage clothing, what should you look for to ensure you’re getting a good piece?
AA: The tags tell everything about the quality and the decade.  Also, I look for anything that screams a certain era (you know, the 80s are very obvious – shoulder pads and ruffles!).  If it screams a decade, I grab it (as long as it’s in good condition, meaning no stains or tears).  Sometimes I can overlook a few small stains if it’s something I just can’t let out of site.  With vintage pieces, you have to accept the conditions of wearing something 20 years+ in age.  Also, vintage clothing that is handmade is always amazing and usually made so well that it will be in great condition forever.

AW: If you had one night in Memphis, what should you do?
AA: Eat good food (too many good places to pick just one), go to the Peabody for a drink (and go up to the roof where you can see all of downtown Memphis and the Mighty Mississippi), and of course at least walk down Beale Street if for no other reason than to hear The Blues. 

AW: Tell me what makes Memphis unique.
AA: This is a great question.  Memphis is unique for the obvious reasons like the Civil Rights Museum, Beale Street, the Blues, and BBQ.  But also, being a small town girl, I love that Memphis is a giant city with so much to offer and to do, but it still has a small town feel to it.  Anybody who lives here will tell you that.  I have met so many amazing people since opening this store and have made life-long friends just by chatting with everyone who walks through my door.  I am a Delta girl, and I cannot tell you how many folks (from all over) walk in here and start talking, and there’s always a Delta connection!  It’s crazy and awesome!   

Stop in to Hoot + Louise (109 GE Patterson), if you find yourself in downtown Memphis, or visit the web site at hootandlouise.bigcartel.com. Follow Anna on Instagram @hootandlouise for photos of her awesome finds and the occasional Instasale.

What’s Brewing: Bittermilk

by adwells on April 2, 2014

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Steve Jobs. Thomas Edison. Whoever invented the Internet (a subject up for debate, or so I hear.) Some people just make life for the rest of civilization easier. MariElena and Joe Raya are those kind of people (my kind of people).

Screen shot 2014-04-02 at 4.11.20 PMWhile their mission is perhaps more simple than that of say, the Wright Brothers, the Rayas are making a splash in the reemerging world of classic cocktails and helping to make that often much-needed nightcap much more attainable.

The Rayas are the owners of the nationally recognized and celebrated Charleston, South Carolina watering hole, The Gin Joint, where they specialize in quality, well-thought-out, carefully-crafted cocktails. “We decided that we wanted to be able to bring those same style cocktails to people’s homes,” explains MariElena. “We wanted people to be able to enjoy their guests, their time off, and their drink without all the fuss that one goes through to make a proper cocktail.”

While business at The Gin Joint was booming, the Rayas desired a more family friendly work life and more time at home with their kids. “We knew The Gin Joint could only go so far, but our idea for Bittermilk could reach people anywhere,” says MariElena.

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Hudson Raya, Master Crafter

After two years of brewing ideas and tweaking recipes, Bittermilk hit select shelves in August of 2013, allowing customers to mix unique, quality cocktails following a simple ratio of Bittermilk to their choice of spirit.

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“It’s a bigger impact on the cocktail scene, and we are doing something that no one else is,” says MariElena. “A proper cocktail is balanced. So we add the missing ingredient to all other mixers – the bittering agent, hence the name Bittermilk.”

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The process of making Bittermilk is unlike that of any other “packer,” according to the Rayas. “These are multi-step processes, just like we match cocktails in our bar. Steeping, burning, barrel aging. We are doing it in much bigger batches and of course making it bottle safe.”

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Bittermilk is available in three varieties: Bittermilk No. 1 – Bourbon Barrel Aged Old Fashioned, Bittermilk No. 2 – Tom Collins made with Elderflowers and Hops, and Bittermilk No. 3 – Smoked Honey Whiskey Sour.

“We hope that these compounds will replace the overly sweet, extremely tart, and overwhelming flavors of other mixers out there,” says MariElena. The Rayas are looking forward to adding other compounds to the Bittermilk line.

Thanks to the hard work of the Raya family, the labor is in the bottle. All you have to do is just add booze, sit back and enjoy.

Find Bittermilk at select retailers or order online at www.bittermilk.com.

Photos by Andrew Cebulka

 

The Lovely Kate Freeman

by adwells on March 28, 2014

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Photo by Laura Meek

 Meet Kate Freeman. Kate’s a native Jacksonian and a talented artist that’s steadily gaining steam and making quite the name for herself. In fact, she was recently named one of Portico Jackson Magazine’s rising artists. Plus, she’s cute as a button. I had the chance to pick her brain a little, so enjoy.

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Tell me about yourself.
I grew up in Jackson, Mississippi along with my twin brother and a younger sister. I received an art scholarship to Delta State in Cleveland, Mississippi. A year later, I transferred to Ole Miss and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts, emphasis in painting.  After I graduated college, I worked as a manager at Anthropologie and then moved to a boutique that is a bit smaller with a more intimate environment.  I currently manage a clothing store in Fondren, called Mulberry Dreams and paint full time on the side. Fondren is my favorite part of Jackson because it’s filled with so much creativity and talent.

How did you discover your artistic nature?
I started taking painting lessons from Bob Tompkins when I was probably 16. After a few years of painting and selling (in high school and college), I knew I wanted to do this forever.  I had my first art show in high school while I was Jackson Prep. I haven’t stopped doing art ever since! I received a BFA in painting in 2012 from Ole Miss. I think I get my creative talent from either my Aunt, on my mother’s side of the family or from my grandfather, on my dads side of the family.

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When and how did you decide to start painting as a profession?
Well, since I am still pretty young, I haven’t fully made painting my profession, but that is my goal! I wanted to start as young as I could, so I could get my name out there in the public and just grow as an artist. When I was completing my thesis, I told myself I was going to keep doing this even after college. There are so many artists that are filled with talent, but quit producing art after school. That kind of saddens me. So I told myself I would never be that person. I am going to keep doing what I love until everyone sees it!

How do you nurture your creative side?
My creative mind is always working away, grabbing inspiration whenever or wherever it can. I manage a clothing boutique, so I am surrounded by colors, textures and patterns. That in itself nurtures my creativity!

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What inspires your work?
I grab inspiration from anything and everything. Here lately I’ve been inspired by spring apparel. Women and men are getting bold with their color choices and matching colors. I love that idea. Since I’ve worked in fashion for many many years and work as a manager and stylist, I use that to help inspire my work. Music has always been a huge influence as well.

Who are your favorite Southern artists?
Some of my favorite southern artists are William Goodman, Erin Abbott, Britt Bass, Kate Roebuck, Justin Schultz and Ginger Williams.

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What might we find you doing if you’re not painting?
If I’m not painting, I’m either going on a walk in Belhaven, looking through fashion blogs or drinking green tea with my cat, Tom.

Check out more of Kate’s work on her web site or see it in person at Lounge Interiors in Jackson or Lagniappe in Greenville, Mississippi. Stay tuned for her show coming up in May at Mulberry Dreams.

It’s Swimsuit Season, Y’all.

by adwells on March 26, 2014

I know, I know. That statement is usually met with a big, resounding sigh, the loudest of which comes from this girl right here. But, I’ve made it my mission this year to invest in quality (ahem, supportive) swimwear to ease the blow a bit.

Enter Albion Fit.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 11.28.42 AMI just ordered this awesome Venice Beach Swimsuit and can’t wait to get it in. The subtle 80s vibe (and, let’s be honest, the underwire) had me at hello. This family-owned company has made it their mission to provide women with quality, easy-to-wear swimwear and fitness attire that lasts, is comfortable, and well fitting.

Lucky for you blog readers, you can usher in the season with 10% off at Albion Fit. Just use code amandadove10 at check out! Happy Summer, y’all!

A few more of my favorites from their current swim collection:

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 11.34.07 AMThe Antique top and bottoms. Classic vintage style done perfectly right.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 11.36.13 AMBonjour L’e'te’ Suit. Now to only in the South of France…

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 11.38.43 AMA lady in red can’t go wrong. The Heartbreaker.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 11.39.59 AMFor all my perfectly petite readers – the tuxedo suit is adorable.

Which is your favorite? Head over to Albion Fit and get ready for a sunny summer.

Get Bullied.

by adwells on March 26, 2014

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 9.12.46 AMSoul food fans, rejoice! I’m letting you in on one of Jackson’s (and the entire Southeastern region’s, in my opinion) best-kept secrets – Bully’s. I’ve lived in the Jackson area since I was a kid and somehow never have heard of Bully’s, where the ribs melt in your mouth, the cornbread is baked perfectly and the cobbler is the ideal combo of flaky, sweet and tart.

I’ve never considered myself much of a soul food fan, but then I went to Bully’s – and now I’m a believer. Amen. Hallelujah.

Read about the best soul food in all the land over on Eat Jackson.

The Big D

by adwells on March 24, 2014

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I just returned from an awesome trip to the Big D! I hadn’t been to Dallas in years and the city has grown and evolved, to say the least. Most of all, it’s apparent that Dallasites are just as serious about their cuisine as we Mississippians are. The Big D didn’t disappoint!

Here are a few pics, but, as always, stay tuned for a more in depth recap of what to do and see deep in the heart of Texas!

Perfectly portioned dessert at one of Dallas' newest and hottest spots, Savor.

Perfectly portioned dessert at one of Dallas’ newest and hottest spots, Savor.


Dallas Blooms, with the most tulips outside of Holland, is going on now at the Dallas Arboretum.

Dallas Blooms, with the most tulips outside of Holland, is going on now at the Dallas Arboretum.


The tasty VIP roll at Abacus

The tasty VIP roll at Abacus


Honoring JFK.

Honoring JFK.


The Dallas Museum of Art is a masterpiece in and of itself.

The Dallas Museum of Art is a masterpiece in and of itself.


A breakfast of Texas proportion at Smoke.

A breakfast of Texas proportion at Smoke.


Couldn't leave the Lone Star state without some authentic Mexican fare. Komali knocked it out of the park!

Couldn’t leave the Lone Star state without some authentic Mexican fare. Komali knocked it out of the park!

Please share! What’s your favorite thing to do in Dallas?

Don’t forget to follow me as I hop around the South!

Where to Eat: Dragonfly Food Bar

by adwells on March 19, 2014

 

Screen shot 2014-03-19 at 3.47.31 PMWhen in Fairhope, Alabama, I was lucky enough to stop in for a quick lunch at Dragonfly Food Bar. Located on the main square downtown, Dragonfly is unassuming, casual and inviting, but the food is what really packs a punch.

Owner and chef Doug Kerr opened Dragonfly nearly four years ago, when the economy was tanked, in a storefront where businesses historically had trouble succeeding. “Everybody thought I was nuts,” he laughs. But, Doug obviously had the secret recipe for success and has seen business boom at Dragonfly.

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After cooking around the country, from coast to coast, Doug came home to the Mobile Bay with a vision for bringing the flavor profiles of fine dining in a simple, casual, and modestly priced dish. “I wanted to have a bar where you could get better food than any other restaurant in town,” explains Doug. “When you go into a fine dining restaurant and order a filet, if it’s cooked wrong, you’re screwed and out a good $40. I didn’t want that to be my place at all.”

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At Dragonfly, Doug and his wife Brie bring food to the table with a different attitude and flavor. “I feel like we have been successful because we are taking familiar ingredients and serving them simply, we aren’t ‘losing the food,’ so to speak. Plus, we’ve made it where people feel like they can actually afford to eat good food. We want to be every person in town’s favorite place to go.”

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The Asian fusion menu brings dishes like short rib and rabbit to tacos and bowls. Fresh ingredients give a whole new reputation to tacos. “Our flavors are predominately Asian made with a classic French cooking technique,” explains Doug.

In addition to an approachable, tasty meal, diners can try their hand at being a “PBR Prophet,” by guessing the card under the cap of their Pabst Blue Ribbon. Don’t miss $2 tacos and $2 beer happy hour Monday through Thursdays at Dragonfly. If you’re in South Alabama on a pretty day, stop in to Dragonfly, sit outside and enjoy some of the best in good, casual food.

Seeing Green

by adwells on March 17, 2014

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

I had a conversation yesterday about how we all have no idea what we’re celebrating when we celebrate St. Paddy’s, but happy day to you nonetheless. I was pinched this morning for not wearing green, so I’m making up for it with this post about being green with envy over the following gorgeousness.

I’ve been drooling over rainforest and emerald shades (particularly in a plush velvet) for some time now, especially since emerald was 2013′s Pantone Color of the Year, but have yet to figure out where or how to incorporate it into my own house. The wheels are still turning. But, for now, here’s a little St. Patrick’s Day inspired eye candy for you.

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(Source)

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Happy St. Pat’s!

 

 

Travel Essentials

by adwells on March 10, 2014

Happy Spring Break if you’re in my neck of the woods! While I’m actually staying put for the most part this week, Spring Break always gets me thinking of getting away sooner rather than later. I used to think what you carried in your luggage was all that mattered, but I’ve come to appreciate a good piece of luggage. Here are a few of my favorites if you’re needing some Spring Break inspirations.

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 9.41.45 AMTexas-made Jon Hart luggage is sophisticated yet colorful. Please, I beg of you, don’t trudge through the airport with a sparkly hot pink suitcase if you’re over the age of 21. This is your grown up functional, fun and hardworking go to luggage. Plus, if you’re local, grab it up at Fresh Ink!

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 9.54.10 AMFilson is quality done right. This rucksack, waterproof and durable will last you a lifetime. If you’re like me and often traveling with kids in tow, a carry on you can throw over your shoulder is the best, allowing your hands to be free in case you have to sprint through approximately half a mile through the Atlanta airport after a two year old (true story).

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Bric’s Esmeralda Luggage Collection (on sale right now at Neiman Marcus, by the way) is just plain pretty. Here’s hoping wherever you’re headed with this rolling behind you is a place where the water is just as blue.

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 10.24.20 AMThe Brics Life Tuscan Cosmetic Tote is the Mac Daddy of toiletries and cosmetic organization. The warm leather isn’t too prissy and you have room for everything, even gigantic bottles of shampoo and conditioner (my travel Achilles Heel).

Screen shot 2014-03-10 at 10.29.52 AMThe weekender bag is my favorite piece of luggage. Mine goes just about everywhere with me. One night away or a carry on for a long trip. A weekender bag is the perfect size and no one should be without one. I’m loving this one from Canvas Leather Art for a great price of only $55!

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The color of sunshine. I love this Dooney & Bourke Cabriolet Weekender if the look of worn and weathered leather doesn’t do it for you every time (because for me, it does). Again, though, this is fun yet sophisticated.

Happy Travels!

 

For the Love of Southern Food

by adwells on March 7, 2014

The saying goes that you are what you eat. In that case, it makes total sense why Southerners are often just plain good people (and sugary sweet.) Right up there with the accents and hospitality, our food is what captures people from all over.  From Gulf seafood to fresh vegetables straight out of Southern soil to fried, well, anything, Southern food is pure magic. It’s how we communicate, how we congregate and often how we show we care.

Amber Wilson. As pretty as her food!

Amber Wilson knows this all full well.  From her Nashville studio loft she works as a writer, photographer and recipe developer.  Growing up in the “deep, deep bayous of Louisiana” cultivated a love of Southern cuisine, and really, if you’ve ever been blessed enough to eat in that part of the country, you know this was surely inevitable.

Photo by Amber Wilson

Photo by Amber Wilson

“I fell in love with cooking by having an appetite,” says Amber, whose very first words included “cookies” and “pizza.” “More than once my mother found me in the pantry as a toddler, gorging myself on anything I could find!”  Being surrounded by a bevy of great cooks also helped to shape her unshakable passion and confidence in the kitchen. “Making lemon meringue pies, yeast rolls and gumbo were not intimidating because I was blessed to watch my grandmothers prepare these dishes every Sunday after church,” explains Amber.

When it comes to the secret of what makes Southern fare so special, Amber believes it all comes down to comfort. “It’s what I grew up on,” she says. “I believe that’s the true meaning of comfort food, food that is familiar. It should take you back to a better place with wonderful memories connecting you with that particular dish.”

But all of you outside of Dixie, don’t be mistaken. Amber wants you to know that while we are fans of a breading, Southern food doesn’t necessarily translate into unhealthy food. “I didn’t grow up in the part of the South that had chicken and biscuits daily,” she says. “I grew up on chicken and sausage gumbo, homemade yeast rolls and blackberries drizzled in local honey. Those dishes are magical to me.”

Photo by Amber Wilson

Photo by Amber Wilson

Amber has taken her fervor for Southern fare to the Internet with her blog, For the Love of the South, where her recipes are matched with some of the most beautiful food photography you may ever lay eyes on. “I believe we eat with our eyes first,” she explains. “That being said, I’ve eaten my share of horrible yet beautiful food. It’s important for a dish to look wonderful and appealing, but above all, it must deliver in flavor.”

“I never meant to be a blogger,” says Amber. “I was a senior in college, struggling to come up with a thesis topic. Being a geography major, the obvious choice for my thesis was to create a map, which in my opinion was completely boring. So, I pitched an idea to my professor about a thesis based around Southern food and how food defines the South. Being in Birmingham and surrounded by some of the best Southern food, the project took off. My professor encouraged me to meet with her friend, who just so happened to be an editor for a national Southern food magazine and she encouraged me to start a blog. I did and the rest is history!”

Being Louisiana bred, Amber’s favorite thing to cook is gumbo, naturally. “The steps to make gumbo are second nature to me by now,” she says. “Whenever I share this dish with other people their eyes light up. I like that.”

The love of the South runs deep through Amber’s veins. “I love the wonderful sense of community the South embodies,” she says. “Some of the nicest people I have met are from the South, Louisiana in particular.” When it comes to where she sees herself in ten years, that sense of community she holds dear is evident. “I would like to live in a small cottage with my family and have a lovely backyard filled with laughter, music and fireflies. I want to have a small garden where I can teach my children to pick fresh vegetables, just as I was shown. And most of all, I want my home to feel like a place of refuge for those who need a cup of coffee and a chat, a lovely family meal or just a place to kick off their shoes and call a home away from home. That’s my goal.”

Photo by Amber Wilson

Photo by Amber Wilson

Visit Amber’s blog for some great Southern recipes, all with a story behind them. Amber’s number one tip for cooking: “Never bring intimidation with you in the kitchen. Be bold. Try new things. If you are intimidated, it will show its ugly head in the dishes you prepare. Trust me.”

Some favorites from Amber’s blog you must try:

Photo by Amber Wilson

Photo by Amber Wilson

Chicory Coffee Rituals

Bourbon Bacon Brittle

Photo by Amber Wilson

Bourbon Bacon Brittle

Photo by Amber Wilson

Photo by Amber Wilson

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Get Away to the Bay!

by adwells on March 5, 2014

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Shameless self promotion alert.

Ok, I look at it as promoting my work, which in turn promotes a destination, so I’m going with that. But really, it is what it is. To get more wor you gotta put yourself out there and be willing to promote yourself, so I apologize in advance if my saying, “Please go read my story” makes you roll your eyes, but please go read my story.

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The travel section of the March/April issue of Social South Magazine features a piece I wrote on one of my favorite little Southern towns, Fairhope, Alabama. A perfect little artsy spot nestled on the Mobile Bay. Pick up a copy if you’re local or go read the digital version here.

Setting Up Shop: Erin of Amelia

by adwells on March 3, 2014

Welcome to a new little blog experiment, “Setting Up Shop.” Oftentimes when I’m traveling for a story, I find some of the most amazing locally owned shops. Being, well, myself, I dive in and try to find out who owns these places and what their story happens to be. That’s the beauty of locally owned places, it’s usually interesting people following their very own interesting dreams. While I love asking a million questions and finding out the story of the people behind the shop, it’s a shame not to share it. So here you go, round one.

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 Meet Erin.

She is pretty awesome and has impeccable taste to boot. In 2009, Erin opened Amelia, a perfectly little curated shop in Oxford, Mississippi that has unique art, paper products, gifts, jewelry, kids’ clothes, you name it. Right next door to The Lyric Theatre on the Oxford Square, you’ll step into one of the most beautiful little shops I ever did see. Screen shot 2014-03-03 at 12.51.49 PM

You can shop Amelia online, too. Plus, follow Erin on Instagram @ameliapresents for her series, Studio Stories featuring the artists and artisans she carries in her shop and for #mymorningswithtomotis for awesome pictures of Erin’s little dude, Tom Otis.

Erin sat down with me for a quick little Q&A about Amelia and Oxford (one of my favorite Mississippi spots).

AW: Tell me about Amelia and how it came into being.
EK: Well, Amelia is a shop I always wanted to run. The shop that I was always looking for when I was traveling for work. So, as I was changing careers and not traveling as a nanny anymore, it was the perfect time to open the shop I always dreamed of owning. Around that same time, a childhood friend had a tiny room, with a street entrance, available. It was all just meant to be.

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AW: So, who is Amelia?
EK: Amelia is no one person. When I was thinking of a name, I wanted one that reflected the handmade aspect of the items that I sell. I have makers from all over the world in the shop and I blend that with a hand-picked selection of children’s items. Two iconic Amelia’s popped into my mind – Amelia Earhart and Amelia Bedelia. Amelia seemed to be a perfect fit.

AW: Tell me about yourself, where you grew up, everything!
EK: I was born in Mississippi and grew up in Oxford, until 1985. We then moved to Florida. After college, I moved to Boston, then Seattle, San Francisco, Memphis, New York City, and finally, when I just couldn’t get Mississippi out of my mind, I moved back, to Water Valley in 2005. I also lived in Los Angeles for awhile, splitting my time between Water Valley and LA. When I gave up my place in LA, I moved back full time and opened Amelia.

AW: How would you describe your aesthetic and the aesthetic of your shop?
EK: I feel like Amelia is an extension of my home. I am drawn to vintage mixed with art. That can be broad but one visit through the shop, you see how the 100 + artists that I carry mix well from one to the next. It’s cohesive, like a group art show, building one body of work. That’s the art curator in me talking.

AW: When looking for what to carry in your shop, what is it that you look for?
EK: Cohesiveness with what is already there. I want to be able to rearrange the shop and have anything that is already there to stand well next to any other item already in the shop. I never want it looks like it’s just thrown together, because I personally work really hard to find the items that I carry, and someone worked really hard to make the items that I carry and I want my customers to value the items that they can find in the shop. I also want to know that you can’t always find the items that I stock at just any old shop. Some of the items that I sell, I’m the only shop in the country to carry. I want you to walk in and have that feeling that you are getting something special and will make you remember your time in Mississippi.

AW: What’s the one thing in your store you can’t resist?
EK: That’s so hard and a two part answer. For myself, it’s hands down jewelry and paper goods. Since having a child, it’s children’s items. I only carry clothes in my shop that I would love to put on Tom Otis or a little girl if I had one. Same for the toy selection.

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AW: Why did you choose Oxford as the place to set up shop?
EK: I chose Oxford because of the proximity to the University of Mississippi. It’s a walking town and walking traffic is great for business. I grew up in Oxford and it will always be a special place for me. So the mix of college students that are drawn to my shop, mixed with all the young artists and families that are moving to the area all the time, it just seemed like the best fit.

AW: If someone had 24 hours in Oxford, what should be on their not-to-miss list?
EK: For breakfast, I’d grab a humble pie and coffee from Bottletree, then walk to Amelia, Square Books (all three locations) and Southside Gallery. Then take a drive out to my little town of Water Valley for lunch at The BTC Grocery. Afterwards, walk over to Yalo Studios and Bozart’s Gallery. Then back to Oxford to make sure to see Rowan Oak (the home of William Faulkner), The University Museum, which was rated in the top 20 of University Museums in the country. After that stop into The End of All Music for the latest in vinyl records. After that full day, grab a drink on the porch at City Grocery and finish with dinner at Snackbar. Whew!

AW: Favorite activities for your mornings with Tom Otis?
EK: Oh, we have many… lately we have been going on walks in the morning before I take him to school. We don’t get far because we stop to look at everything, but we talk about the moss growing on the walls or what animals eat the acorns on the sidewalk. We look for birds and gather leaves. I got my B.S. in Early Childhood Education and taught Montessori school in Seattle. I also nannied over the span of 27 years. I can’t help but make everything a learning experience. It’s ingrained in me. On really cool days, we will read books together and he loves to color, so I sit with him and we soak up the short time we have between waking and work.

If you’re in Oxford, stop in and see Erin at Amelia at 1006 Van Buren Avenue.

Thanks, Erin! Stay tuned for more Setting up Shop!

Currently Crushing On: Overdyed Rugs

by adwells on February 27, 2014

Obsessed. An overused word, yes, but it fits the bill here.

While our latest phase of home renovations have wrapped up (Don’t be fooled, there are more to come), I’m doing a little sprucing up decor-wise when the budget allows. Usually, I know in my head exactly what I want for a space and wait FOREVER until I find it at a good price, which sometimes results in totally changing my mind before I find said object and jumping straight into another rabbit hole. Such is the life of an OCD decor addict. Sigh.

My current obsession is scouring the internets and thrift stores for a perfectly priced, perfectly sized overdyed rug for our formal (I use that term very loosely) living room. We have modern furniture and white walls in the space and the vintage, worn in look of an overdyed rug will warm the space up and add a perfect pop of color. This girl is a sucker for a color pop.

A little inspiration:

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What’s your favorite way to add a pop of color to an otherwise neutral room?

A Warm, New Orleans Welcome

by adwells on February 24, 2014

9193558451_268cd479bb_bThis weekend, I welcomed Spring in a big way – Mardi Gras in New Orleans, how else?  While bright colors, loud noises and the bustle of the most fun city abounded, it was nice to have a peaceful and calm place to lay my head.

While I rendezvoused once again with the jewel that is New Orleans, I met a new love in the Audubon Cottages. With the old world feel that is uniquely New Orleans, the cottages offered a perfect little respite amid the lively city.

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Old New Orleans reigns supreme at the Audubon Cottages, located in the French Quarter. I was lucky enough to call Cottage Three home for the weekend and enjoy a true French Quarter retreat, complete with our own private courtyard and complimentary breakfast. How very New Orleans, y’all.

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This particular cottage is rumored to have been a favorite of Elizabeth Taylor when she visited the Big Easy and I can see why. Creaky wood floors paired perfectly with up-to-date bathrooms and comfy beds. But perhaps the most famous of the cottages’ tenants was John James Audubon, one of New Orleans’ golden boys. Audubon lived in Cottage One from 1821 to 1822, where he worked on meticulous illustrations for his color-plated Birds of America.

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Needless to say, the history of the place, like lots of other places throughout the city, was quite remarkable, although the Audubon Cottages had me at “French Quarter Butler” and “exposed brick walls.” I’m a sucker for details like those.

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If you’re looking to do New Orleans right, look no further than the Audubon Cottages, where the convenience of being smack dab in the middle of the French Quarter mixes with the quiet feel of truly “getting away.”

Laissez les bons temps rouler! Happy Mardi Gras, folks!

 

Photos courtesy of the New Orleans Hotel Collection.

Jackson’s Most Overlooked Dining Establishments

by adwells on February 19, 2014

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Two things that are no secret about me – I love Jackson, Mississippi and I love to eat. The South is known for its food, of course and Jackson is no exception. I’m over on Eat Jackson talking about the city’s most overlooked places to grab a little grub. Whether you’re local, visiting, or just want a little mouthwatering pre-lunch enticement, check it out!

Asher Riley GIVEAWAY

by adwells on December 9, 2013

One of the many reasons I love what I do is getting to constantly meet people that I likely wouldn’t have met otherwise – interesting people with big ideas and big guts to follow their dreams. Talk about an inspiring line of work.

Some of those people are Elle & Virden Hargrove. Last year, I did a story for Mississippi Magazine on Elle & Virden’s Birmingham-based company, Asher Riley. Inspired by preppy styles and prints, the Hargroves took a leap of faith, followed their dreams and went all in on their new company, where they sell handmade, high-quality needlepoint belts, bowties and dog collars.  DSC_0100dogmallard_largeSo in the spirit of following your dreams and in the spirit of the season of giving, Elle & Virden are giving the gift of this needlepoint dog collar to one lucky reader. All you have to do is like Asher Riley on Facebook and leave a comment here telling us what dream you’re chasing! It’s that simple! Winner will be chosen at random. This giveaway closes Friday, December 13th at noon central time. In the meantime, go do some shopping at Asher Riley for all those preppy people on your list!

Died and Gone to Heaven: Mystery Pier Books

by adwells on December 6, 2013

Last month, we had the chance to go to Los Angeles. It was my first time in the City of Angels and I have to admit, I’m not totally sure what my expectations were. I knew that I’d love the weather (I did) but was pretty sure I could do without the traffic and crowds (I can).

The Hollywood sign, the fantastic restaurants, the bottled oxygen in our hotel room that you could take for a mere $25 a puff in lieu of, you know, a snack (yes, not kidding), the celebrity homes and hot spots – Los Angeles was pretty much what I expected. That is, until we followed the faint smell of cigar smoke down a little alley and flight of stairs off the Sunset Strip and happened upon what I’m sure will remain my favorite piece of Los Angeles.

Once the little dark alleyway opened up, we were greeted by this little abode, complete with what could possibly be the nicest man I’ve ever met lounging outside with his cigar – and a British accent to boot.

Screen shot 2013-12-06 at 3.14.54 PMWhat we came to find out is that our little “discovery,” or Mystery Pier Books, is actually a pretty famous and beloved little place and it didn’t take any time to see why. Stepping in the door, the smell of old books envelops you. The smell of old books always, always has me at hello.

The charming man I mentioned was actually Harvey Jason, who, with his equally charming son Louis, owns and operates Mystery Pier Books, one of the most celebrated first edition book shops in the country. I was blown away when they showed me first editions of essentially every classic, beloved book and/or author my little heart could ever desire. Think Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Lee, Steinbeck – I could go on and on.

And I must mention, since it’s L.A. and all, that Mystery Pier is quite beloved in the celebrity community. Johnny Depp is a regular and Harvey even mentioned his “good friend Tony.” It took me a few minutes but I soon realized he was simply referring to Antony Hopkins.

While my budget wouldn’t allow for me to take any of the treasures home (nor do I think my heart would have been able to handle it), we found a treasure in Mystery Pier for sure. The icing on the cake was meeting someone in Harvey and Louis that gets as (or more) excited about books as I do. I always find it refreshing to find someone who loves what they do the way this pair obviously does. Plus, they were so friendly that it was like a little dose of Southern hospitality (ok, so maybe British hospitality).

So the next time I jet out to L.A., be ready for a visit, Harvey & Louis. Now if only we can arrange for Johnny or Tony to drop in while I’m there….

Visit Mystery Pier Books at 8826 Sunset Boulevard, Los Angeles, California.

A Cure for What Ails You

by adwells on December 4, 2013

IScreen shot 2013-12-04 at 10.18.12 AM‘m a pretty excitable person, as anyone that knows me can probably attest, but two of the things that get me the most excited is writing for new publications and good things happening in Jackson, Mississippi. Combine those two and I’m on Cloud Nine.

Such is the case today. I’m thrilled to have my first piece published at Deep South Magazine on The Apothecary at Brent’s Drugs. Check it out here for a little history lesson in the ties that bind classic cocktails and soda fountains and swing by when you’re in Jackson!



© 2014 Amanda Dove Wells