Oxford’s After Hours Hangout: Square Pizza

square pizza 2By Danny Toma, staff writer

If you find yourself on the Square on any given Friday or Saturday night, especially during a football weekend, you might imagine you were suddenly dropped into the middle of a big metropolis. The sidewalks are full of people shuffling from bar to bar, and there’s an exciting buzz to all the activity taking place. It feels like a smaller version of Bourbon Street or even Times Square.

But then, when the clock strikes 10:00 p.m., and you feel like getting something to eat, the big city illusion fades away. Nearly every kitchen on the Square closes down for the night. Nearly every kitchen, but not all of them. Staying open every night until 30 minutes after the bars shut down is Square Pizza, which offers a simple menu of pizza (either whole or by the slice), sandwiches (roast beef, turkey-bacon, and meatball), salads, and chips.

Square Pizza owner Tate Moore used to play in the rock-and-roll band Kudzu Kings (and still makes occasional appearances) until he decided he needed, in his words, “a real job.” Originally hailing from southeast Ohio, he decided to open a place that served the kind of thin crust pizza topped with provolone cheese that he grew up with, and which is common to Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia. He confidently believes that his pizza is the best for 1,000 miles.square pizza 1

Whether because of his late hours or because they share his sentiment, Oxford’s nighttime party goers seem to agree, as Moore says that it’s this crowd that “pays the bills.” But Square Pizza is not just a quick stop for the after-hours crowd. Sporting a cool-funky interior that was inspired by the Hoka, Square Pizza can be a quiet refuge from the outside world during times when the bar crowd hasn’t arrived yet. The pizzeria sports a 1980s Ms. Pacman game in the back and even a fully stocked bookshelf with everything from magazines to crime novels to travel books (I was particularly intrigued by the Victor Book of the Opera, a work last published in 1976). The walls are an encyclopedia of Oxford band posters with some advertising gigs in such long-lost locales as Opal’s and Syd and Harry’s. Framed over the kitchen area is a New Orleans Saints jersey once belonging to Ole Miss legend Deuce McAllister.

square pizza 3Square Pizza is open for lunch every day except for Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., while evening hours are a bit more eccentric. On Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, the restaurant opens at 6:00 p.m., while from Monday to Wednesday, it doesn’t open until 9:00 p.m. In all cases, they are there when the downtown starts to shut down, and if you are one who likes to be at your local watering hole until closing time, you still have a half hour for that late night (or early morning) slice before heading on home. Square Pizza will take a short break between December 24 and 29, but will return to help you ring in the New Year.

About Danny Toma:

After spending time exploring Italy, Ireland, Poland, Israel, Iraq, Germany, and, perhaps most exotically, Washington, Danny Toma is now back in Oxford to stay after a 22-year career with the U.S. Department of State. He enjoys dining out, as well as cooking in, and contributes to EatingOxford.com on a regular basis.

Kroger Imports Italian Mozzarella

mozz articleBy Danny Toma, staff writer

One of life’s great pleasures is to travel to the Campania region of Italy (Naples and environs) and eat fresh mozzarella di bufala (or, in Neapolitan dialect, muzzarella ‘e vufara), produced that very day, or, at most, the day before. It’s often served with fresh tomato and basil (the insalata caprese) or with thinly sliced prosciutto, but is delicious on its own as well. Even in other parts of Italy, like Milan or Florence, one would be hard-pressed to taste real mozzarella at its finest.

This authentic mozzarella cheese is made from the milk of the water buffalo (think rice paddies, not Great Plains) and, due to the fact that it is one of the most fickle of cheeses, it was rarely found in the U.S., until recently. It simply does not travel well, and once refrigerated, changes texture and taste almost immediately.

That being said, mozzarella that has been refrigerated is still quite good if relatively fresh, and is a completely different experience from eating most of the rather tasteless cheese that has the “mozzarella” label slapped on it. And now, you can try it for yourself. Kroger has recently started carrying authentic Campanian mozzarella in its cheese department, and while most of the current supply was quickly bought up, Kroger management has assured me that they will restock their shelves as soon as they receive a new shipment from the warehouse.

It is not cheap–around $7.95 for a four ounce ball–but if you’ve never had it, it will change the way you think about cheese forever. One word of caution: this is one cheese you don’t want to purchase on sale. The longer it stays on the shelf, the less firm it becomes, and it will develop a rather acrid taste. Buy it as soon as it comes in, take it home, let it drain for a minute or two, and then just cut it into a few slices to serve as a snack or an appetizer while imagining fishermen casting their nets into the sea with lemon groves on the land at their backs and the shadow of Mount Vesuvius looming above.

About Danny Toma:

After spending time exploring Italy, Ireland, Poland, Israel, Iraq, Germany, and, perhaps most exotically, Washington, Danny Toma is now back in Oxford to stay after a 22-year career with the U.S. Department of State. He enjoys dining out, as well as cooking in, and will be contributing to EatingOxford.com on a regular basis.

It’s Collard Time in Oxford (Recipe Included!)

collardsBy Danny Toma, staff writer

Nothing screams “South” so much as a big plate of collard greens, and this is the perfect time of year to find fresh collards across Oxford. Whether one shops at Kroger, Wal-Mart, Larson’s Cash Saver, or Farmers’ Market on North Lamar, one can add a batch of collard greens to the grocery basket at a very reasonable price (the Oxford average is less than 40 cents for a bunch).

Unlike some of our favorite Southern specialties, collard greens are actually quite good for you. Rich in vitamins C and K, and an excellent source of fiber, some studies have hinted that collards may have anticarcinogenic properties as well. Only those on blood thinners need to be cautious around collards (the high levels of vitamin K is associated with blood clotting), but for the rest of us, we can have as much as we want. On top of the good nutrition they provide, collard greens only have about 50 calories per serving.

While we claim collard greens as our own peculiarly Southern dish, the fact is, collards have been eaten across the globe as far back as ancient Greek times. A member of the Brassica oleracea family of plants, which includes such things as cabbage, kale, kohlrabi, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cauliflower, collard greens are eaten across many parts of Africa and Latin America as well.

One of the simplest and most traditional ways of preparing collard greens is simply to boil them with a piece of cured, salted meat, such as fatback or bacon. The rich green broth, or pot liquor, is delicious soaked up with a piece of cornbread. Many people, this writer included, believe that the only thing one needs to enhance the flavor at this point is a bit of pepper sauce sprinkled over the top.

As hard as it is to imagine, not everyone is a fan of boiled greens. Thankfully, the number of ways you can prepare collard greens is limited only by the imagination. Below is a recipe that I created for collard green-olive pesto; an easy and tasty recipe that appeared in Gourmet magazine in 2004 (see it here) and went viral, mainly due to its use by Community Supported Agriculture newsletters outside the South whose members had no concept of what to do with the batch of collard greens that showed up on their doorstep with their vegetable basket. Use it when you want to make that mess of greens a bit more “high tone.”

Collard Green-Olive Pesto

Recipe by Danny Toma

Ingredients

  • 1 ¾ lb. collard greens
  • 7 large brine-cured green olives (2 ¼ ounces), pitted
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
  • Scant 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 oz. finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1/2 cup)

Directions

Bring a 6- to 8-quart pot of salted water to a boil. Meanwhile, cut stems and center ribs from collard greens and discard. Stir collards into water in batches, then simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 15 minutes. Transfer collards with tongs to a colander to drain, gently pressing on greens to extract excess water. (If making pasta, reserve water in pot for cooking pasta.) Coarsely chop collards.

Blend olives and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped. Add collards, water, vinegar, salt, cayenne, and pepper and pulse until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil in a slow stream. Turn off motor, then add cheese and pulse to combine. Yield: About 2 ¼ cups

 

About Danny Toma:

After spending time exploring Italy, Ireland, Poland, Israel, Iraq, Germany, and, perhaps most exotically, Washington, Danny Toma is now back in Oxford to stay after a 22-year career with the U.S. Department of State. He enjoys dining out, as well as cooking in, and will be contributing to EatingOxford.com on a regular basis.

Winner List – Oxford’s Best Eats 2014

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A few months ago, we asked EatingOxford.com readers to participate in a 40-question survey to help choose the best in Oxford’s restaurant scene (best burger, catfish, sandwich, shrimp & grits, chef, customer service and more).

The votes have been tallied and the winners are listed below. In addition to finding the list here, you can locate it easily at any time via the “Oxford’s Best Eats” page on EatingOxford.com.

We hope this will inspire you to explore some new restaurants in Oxford; let us know your thoughts about the winner selection in the comments section below.

–Liz

 

Newk’s Eatery

newks banner

  • Best Sandwich
  • Best Soup
  • Best Salad
  • Best for Healthy Eating

My Michelle’s

my michelle

  • Best Catering/Tailgating

Ajax Diner

  • Best Plate Lunch
  • Best Vegetarian Selection
  • Best Country Cooking

Snackbar

  • Best Restaurant
  • Best Restaurant for a Date

Boure

  • Best Customer Service
  • Best Restaurant for Hanging with Friends
  • Best Restaurant for a Business Meeting

Handy Andy

  • Best Burger
  • Best Barbecue

Oxford Grillehouse

  • Best Steaks

Ember’s

  • Best Biscuits

Tre Amici

  • Best Italian

Soulshine Pizza Factory

  • Best Pizza

Tequila’s

  • Best Mexican

Jinsei

  • Best Sushi

Rice & Spice

  • Best Asian

Bottletree Bakery

  • Best Bakery

Big Bad Breakfast

  • Best Breakfast
  • Best Brunch

Popeye’s

  • Best Fried Chicken

John Currence

  • Best Chef
  • Best Restaurateur

Buffalo Wild Wings

  • Best Wings

High Point Coffee

  • Best Coffee

Ya Ya’s

  • Best Frozen Yogurt

City Grocery

  • Best Shrimp & Grits
  • Best Bartender (Chip Moore)
  • Best Bar

Oxford City Farmer’s Market (loop)

  • Best Farmer’s Market

Chick-fil-A

  • Best Fast Food

Lamar Lounge

  • Best Fries

McAlister’s

  • Best Sweet/Unsweet Tea

Chevron 4-Corners chicken on a stick

  • Best Late-Night Snack

Taylor Grocery

  • Best Catfish

 

Be the first to know Oxford food news. Click here.

Attention restaurant winners: If any of you still need winner certificates, please contact Liz@EatingOxford.com.

 

 

 

Class Wrap-Up: Juicing for Health and Energy

IMG_5027Our first class in the Eating Oxford Institute series was held Wednesday night at The Powerhouse.

Attendees learned the benefits and techniques of juicing from Melody Sharp, owner of Living Foods (formerly Local Flavor).IMG_5096

Melody showed the difference between styles of juicers, how to get the most bang for your buck out of fruits and vegetables, tips for any fruits that need to be peeled/cored before juicing, and more.

The class sampled fruit and vegetable juices, participated in questions and answers, and all departed with a full-size juice, recipe card and coupon.

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We loved having Melody share her knowledge at a fun evening of culinary learning!

Check out the great write-up by LaReeca Rucker in today’s Oxford Eagle, too!

Don’t miss next month’s class, Southern Foods Done Light, taught by Tim Woodard on July 15 at the Activity Center. Details Here.

 

***Eating Oxford Institute is a collaboration between EatingOxford.com, the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council, and the Oxford Park Commission.

(Thank you to Giana Leone IMG_5021of the Daily Mississippian for sharing her photos from the event.)

New Thai Restaurant Now Open

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Setting a Local Table in Oxford

In honor of last week’s Earth Week and the second season of Oxford City Market, I asked Betsy Chapman from Yokna Bottoms Farm to submit a post about Oxford Farms and Farmers. Check out her post below, and say hi the next time you see her at the farmer’s market. –Liz

We’re All in This Thing Together

betsyBy Betsy Chapman

It might come as a surprise, but there’s not a whole lot of “mudslinging” among Oxford’s community of growers and producers. Mud, yes. Slinging, no.

Despite our differences in philosophy and farming practices, the prevailing theme among local farmers: We’re all in this thing together

Whether we’re all under the big tent at Oxford City Market or side-by-side at Midtown, there’s a strong sense of mutual respect, support, and admiration. We know better than anyone the tremendous amount of hard work, time, and dedication it takes to bring thousands of pounds of food into town twice a week to feed our friends and neighbors.

Sure, more farms mean more competition, but it’s healthy competition and that competition is what will drive the market as we work together to build a strong local food economy. Simply put: No farmer wants to sit alone at the market….Fewer farmers means fewer customers.

That said, let me introduce you to the Multi-Farm Dinner my family and I enjoyed after last Tuesday’s first Oxford City Market (OXCM) of 2014:

On the menu:

yokna post 3

Yokna Bottoms spring salad mix with mild, crisp radishes from Charlie Dawson of Canebreak Farm tossed with Yokna Bottoms Green Garlic Vinaigrette – sweetened with Mardis Honey.

Sauteed kale from Will and Amanda Reed of Native Son Farm mixed with Yokna Bottoms collards, seasoned with Yokna Bottoms green onions and spicy peppers, slow-smoked on the farm.

Yokna Bottoms Chow Chow deviled eggs with the farm’s green onion and smoked sweet peppers and my freakin’ awesome homemade chow chow from neighbor and friend Stacey Sanford of the Yoknapatawpha Arts Council.

Delicious homemade whole wheat bread from Christy and Marie of M&J Farm.yokna post 2

Peas from Bost Farm of Mid-Town Market, frozen from last year – still really good!

Iced sweet tea with Yokna Bottoms mint and Mardis Honey.

Dessert: Native Son strawberries with M&J Farm chocolate sauce!

See what we just did there? We made an incredible meal from the collective efforts of several local growers….

What’s on your local plate?

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Betsy Chapman works at Yokna Bottoms Farm and cooks up a storm in her tiny, ill-equipped Oxford, Mississippi, kitchen. Find her and her farmer friends at OXCM Tuesdays from 3-6:30 p.m. on West Oxford Loop and Saturdays 7-11 a.m. at Mid-Town Market, in the Sears parking lot off of North Lamar. For more information on Yokna Bottoms, give Betsy a call at 662-380-2367.

 

***On the subject of our community of local farmers, Will and Amanda Reed (Native Son) are facing a tough time. Their baby Magnolia Jane was recently diagnosed with a rare cancer and is undergoing treatment at Lebonheur in Memphis. Find out how to help support these incredibly hardworking Tupelo farmers: Thoughts and Prayers for Magnolia Jane.

 

Opening Soon: A Food Truck with No Wheels

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Open: New Cafe and Market on College Hill Rd.

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7 Things You Need to Know About My Michelle’s

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New Menu Items at Lenny’s

italian lennysHave you been to Lenny’s Sub Shop lately?

It’s a rare occasion when they change the menu, but it happened in January. They added fresh deli wraps, which are under 500 calories and available on flour or spinach tortillas.

If you haven’t been into Lenny’s for the past couple of years, you also don’t know about the Ultimate BBQ Melt, Black Bean Veggie, or Buffalo Chicken Philly they added in April of 2012.

Have you tried any of these additions to the classic menu? Let us know your thoughts.

 

February 13: Empty Bowls 2014

empty bowlsDon’t miss the annual Empty Bowls fundraiser for The Pantry happening Thursday, February 13, from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. at the Oxford University Methodist Church at N. 9th St. and University Ave.

More than a dozen Oxford restaurants will bring soups to the event (last year, Mayor Pat Patterson even made a soup to share). You’ll receive a collectors bowl crafted by the University of Mississippi Mud Daubers and local potters along with bread and a bottle of water in exchange for your $15.00 donation.

The event’s purpose is to remind us all that someone’s bowl is always empty.

Some of the soups you’ll find at this year’s event include:

Chicken tortilla; loaded potato; asparagus potato; chicken noodle; shrimp and okra gumbo; steak and loaded potato; black-eye pea chicken stew; creole tomato basil; Brunswick stew; vegetarian vegetable; butternut squash bisque; broccoli and cheese; Charleston she crab; tomato basil; and jambalaya.

Restaurants that have signed up so far include:

  1. Ajax
  2. Applebee’s
  3. Boure’
  4. City Grocery
  5. Country Club of Oxford
  6. Lamar Lounge
  7. Lenora’s
  8. McEwen’s
  9. McAlister’s
  10. Newk’s
  11. No Time 2 Cook
  12. Oby’s
  13. Old Venice
  14. Oxford Grillehouse
  15. Panini
  16. Proud Larry’s
  17. Ravine
  18. Snackbar
  19. Taylor Grocery
  20. University Club
  21. Volta

***Stay up to date on all upcoming food-related events with the EatingOxford.com event calendar found here.

 

My Michelle’s Introduces Lunch Buffet

my michelle buffetHave you been to My Michelle’s/Nations’ Best at 1308 N. Lamar to try the new lunch buffet?

If you’ve been looking for a healthier option for lunch, look no further. Today’s buffet featured fresh salad; fruit and dip; white chicken chili; three bean soup; meaty pasta bake; BBQ chicken; twice-baked sweet potato casserole; smoked turkey breast; garlic mashed potatoes, asparagus; spinach; baby carrots and squash; mushrooms; and red onion medley.

The buffet is available from 11 a.m. through 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, and each day’s menu is posted on My Michelle’s Facebook page here.

 

 

Only a Few Weeks Left of Farm-Fresh Produce

popsicleA couple of weeks ago, friend and EatingOxford.com reader Sandra Summers sent me some beautiful photos that she took at the Midtown Farmer’s Market. I’m sharing some of them with you here as a reminder that there are only a few weeks left to take advantage of nature’s bounty.

The Midtown Farmer’s Market is open every Saturday from 7:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. and Wednesdays from 8:00 a.m. until 1:00 p.m. through October.

Vendor updates can be found on the market’s Facebook page here.     pumpkinsokra

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Where is Two Stick?

two stick“Where is Two Stick?” That’s the question I’ve been asked by several people since last Friday when the restaurant suddenly closed its doors and locals were left wondering what happened.

It turns out that Two Stick is in the process of moving locations and hiring new management. You can find them working on the new location behind The Lyric, which was formerly inhabited by Hullabaloo, and before that, Red House.

No opening date has been announced. Follow the progress on the Two Stick Facebook page here.

Two Stick on Urbanspoon