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Monday, March 28, 2011

smokie joe's cafe, hushpuppy bento


Hi bento pals! Sunday here was quite chilly--we awoke to a dusting of snow and decided it would be a good day for a drive for a cozy, warming meal in an interesting place. Our destination: Warrenton, a cute town about one hour west of us in the direction of the Shenandoah Mountains.



The  main attraction: Smokie Joe's Cafe, a restaurant we'd read rave reviews of. We were not disappointed! A high point of the visit was enjoying a relaxed conversation with proprietor Joe Carter, touching on food, travel, history and the importance following one's creative vision--in the kitchen and in life.


Mr. Carter is retired from a career in research and development and now pursues his lifelong passion for cooking full time. Growing up on a farm in Warrenton where everything was cooked with loving care, Joe learned the classics of southern home cooking and now enjoys sharing his own interpretation of dishes including barbecue, fried fish, hush puppies and a menu of other favorites.

Careful spicing and seasoning, never using shortcuts and a light hand with salt is his culinary philosophy. It shined through in the wonderful dishes we enjoyed, including hands down the best hushpuppies we've ever had (perfectly crisp, ethereally light, with a slight sweetness and pure corn flavor) and excellent, deeply flavored ribs.


Joe explained that every aspect of the food and its presentation is subject to the same creative rigour he brought to his former career--down to inventing a special serving container for the hush puppies and the sweet butter they arrive with!

He makes everything from scratch and all food is cooked to order, including singularly good homemade sausage with sage. It had a lingering, subtle delectableness...a true
 "Slow Food" regional specialty:


Celery leaves is one of the seasoning secrets of the excellent coleslaw, perfectly crisp and refreshing:


Jamison's combination platter (his photo of it, below) featured amazing ribs and fried chicken. Difficult to describe the lip-smacking mellow sweet savor of the ribs, but the house made BBQ sauce (we brought bottles of it home) offered some hints: its special blend includes white vinegar, hickory smoked habanero peppers, mustard, molasses, curry, honey and garlic. Quite delicious!


my pulled pork sandwich:


savory collards



We left with very full bellies and a deeper understanding of the complexities of a town where black and white history is inseparably intertwined in ways both bitter and sweet. Looking forward to visiting again to try the homemade biscuits and sausage gravy and continue the conversation with our new friend!


The building where Smokie Joe's is located has always been African-American owned, and hosts an active Mason's Lodge meeting of long standing:


We visited on a Sunday and found many shops lining Warrenton's quaint Old Town to be closed--great excuse to return on an upcoming Saturday! Here's one place whose window captured my interest:








Happily, just outside of the historic part of town Fox Antiques was open, offering an eclectic selection of interesting housewares from bygone decades.
Some fun items I spied: a kawaii apron...


spring fresh embroidered linens


vintage spice containers


and a pretty casserole in vibrant colors


Today's bento contains edible souvenirs of our visit, most especially one of the magic hushpuppies:


A crisp piece of fried chicken, baby lettuce greens, sweet corn, yummy coleslaw from Smokie Joe's, a golden tomato, blackberries, preserved peach and a mini vanilla cupcake also for lunch.


Have a great week and let's keep the bento4japan spirit going!
(my auction items can be seen here)


32 comments:

Megg said...

What a fun adventure! Those hush puppies look divine.. it's been so long since I've had one!

megan said...

that hush puppy interior shot is making me DROOL... a.ma.zing. i think you did joe proud with your thoughtfully-arranged bento and informative/respectful write-up... what a fab excursion, and now you get to sort of do it again with the leftovers!

Bentobird said...

Hi Megg, thanks for coming along :D It's amazing when you get to encounter a perfectly made version of a classic like these. Have a good afternoon!

Bentobird said...

hello there megan, awww thanks! what would the world be without crispy delights? the flag pick is a perfect crowning touch for the hush puppy ;D, that set makes me so happy! have a super week ^^!

tofugirl said...

What a great post--thanks for bringing us along on the trip! And my god do those hush puppies look good....

Bentobird said...

Hi Carol, what a pleasure to have you come along! Yep, they were dee-lish! Hope it warms up for both us this week :)

Tiffany Yang said...

All I wanted to say was.....you made me hungry! Nice photos!

Bobo said...

Got to try the Hushpuppies one day!

How nice to retire to do what we love to do..

sheri fujihara chen said...

Love the golden hues! So sweet and sunnily bright :)

Robin said...

Oh Honey! 1) Smokie Joe was my grandfather's nickname, 2) My mother's ancestral history stems from Georgia, 3) I LOVE me some Hush Puppies! Ask me sometime about a trip to Savannah! Jenn, I absolutely love going along with you on this adventure. Rings all the right bells for this misplaced southern girl. Just wonderful retelling of how special your engagement is with those you meet. WoW friend!!!!

Lia Chen said...

Gorgeous bento in your magewappa box! Love it Jenn ♥ I would love to have that mini cupcakes for dessert :)

Journal Mommy Yenny said...

Beautiful bento with beautiful pictures, Jenn...
thank you for sharing :b

Bentobird said...

Hi Tiffany, thanks for sharing! Have a great Tuesday with cute food fun :D

Bentobird said...

Hi Bobo! Do you also have a weakness for crispy treats? I agree, what could be better than spending one's time developing long-time interests and passions?

Bentobird said...

Thanks Sheri! Wishing you a golden-bright day ^^!

Bentobird said...

Awesomeness, Robin! So tickled to read your comments, and that Southern connection sheds light on the great warmth and hospitality you bring to cookin'!

So glad you came along for this trip, buddy!

Bentobird said...

Hi Lia dear! Thanks so much. I'm very partial to this versatile magewappa ;D Have a great day~

Bentobird said...

Dear Yenny, always so nice to read your sweet comments, thank you for sharing them!

Lexi said...

My mouth is watering just reading the descriptions, let alone looking at the photos! Sounds amazing!

Bentobird said...

Hi Lexi! I really appreciate your coming along for this little trip and sharing the experience of visiting this place :D

Edible Art said...

i use to live in Texas, it makes me miss the southern food, -sigh-
your pictures look great, and i love the hit of nostalgia i got of my childhood ! (:



Mmmm cant beat southern BBQ.

Bentobird said...

Hi Stephanie :D so cool, I'm glad you enjoyed this tour and the nostalgia of yummy remembered flavors! have a wonderful day ^^

Angeleyes said...

Everything look so interesting! I have no idea hushpuppy is a kind of food!!! And do you know that Hushpuppy here is also a clothing and shoe brand here??? It is pretty popular among Singaporeans and Malaysians.

Bentobird said...

Hi Angeleyes! Yes indeed, its a popular shoe brand here, too! Have a really nice weekend, buddy :D

Fluteloop said...

This sounds amazing! The way you describe food and compliment it with photos is really a joy to read. The cupcake is so adorable, you have me planning some for next week!

babykins said...

Haaahh these treats are just catching my heart and soul! simple, hearty goodness, good old style yet new, close to my American cooking image. Thank you Jenn, really really love them all, enjoyed so much!! :D

Bentobird said...

Hi Fluteloop, what a lovely compliment--thanks so much! Cupcakes are fun to decorate esp. on a mini bento scale :D

enjoy the weekend!

Bentobird said...

Yay babykins, it warms my heart to read this!!

KidsDreamWork said...

The bento look so refreshing and colourful! Just like Angeleyes, when I first read the title of the post I thought you are making the bento for some event of Hushpuppy brand! Never heard about hushpuppy food before, but it looks good! :)

Bentobird said...

Tee hee, thanks so much Ai Ping! Thanks for sharing your sweet comments, it so fun to share corners of my world with you!

Lyndsey said...

What a great visit! I love me some ribs mmm...mmmm! I get biscuits and gravy every chance I get when we go out for breakfast. I can tell you where the best ones in town are. I can't believe I've never made them myself. I have some vintage embroidered linens just like those! I love them! This was fun!

Bentobird said...

Hi Lyndsey dear, just seeing your comment now...thanks so much! Love sharing these little daytrips with you :D