Thursday, March 15, 2012

Tastiest Town in the South

What's the “Tastiest Town in the South”

There are so many options. Beignets in New Orleans.  Barbecue in Birmingham. Bourbon in Kentucky.... 

After our trip to Charleston last year we'd have to give that city a nod for its great Thai food and delicious Shrimp and Grits.    But we're just a sample size of one (channeling my researcher husband here, though he'd say something really geeky like "It's not statistically significant because our N is only 1").  

Southern Living Magazine is backed up by an N of more than 500,000 when it declares "The Tastiest Town in the South" in its latest issue

Hot off the iron skillet presses: Lafayette, Louisiana, is the "Tastiest Town in the South". 

How They Determined That?  Southern Living editors chose the "Top 10 Tastiest Towns in the South” based on the following criteria:

Food as a culturalidentity: The unique food or ethnicity that defines a particular Southern region
Growth of a culinary-minded community: The influence that the culinary industry has on the local community and tourism
Diverse cuisine at a variety of price points: Accessibility to hearty, flavorful meals at any budget
Local, sustainable food practices: The focus on sourcing products from local purveyors to geographically define where each meal comes from
Hot chefs on the rise: The influence of the area’s culinary talent in the media and pop culture.
Abundance of buzz-worthy food events: The number of festivals in the area that celebrate all things food and drink

Their choices (published in the December issue) were: 

Lafayette, LA:                      Cayenne-spiked Acadiana
Baltimore, MD:                    Harboring Chesapeake flavor
Birmingham, AL:                Refined Southern comfort
Charleston, SC:                  A homegrown heirloom revival
Charlottesville, VA:            Toasting Jefferson’s Legacy
Decatur, GA:                        A suburb made from scratch
Houston, TX:                       A distinct ethnic twang
Louisville, KY:                     A bourbon-soaked renaissance
New Orleans, LA:               A gumbo of beloved excess
Raleigh, NC:                        Where farm fresh never expires

The magazine then let consumers decide the winner.  Sort of an American Idol of Food. More than a half-million votes were cast. 

Here's a clip from today's press release announcing Lafayette's top spot: 

In this month’s issue (avail 3/23), the magazine looks at the tastemakers, chefs, artisans and restaurants that give each food destination its distinct local flavor.  The magazine outlines “the perfect eating day” in each city, and includes recipes created by the Southern Living Test Kitchen thatfeature iconic ingredients from each of the 10 winning cities—from andouille-stuffed pork chops to “Jefferson” Virginia ham pasta.  
“Southern Living veered way off the hot sauce and barbecue trail to get at the deeper story of who and what is shaping the South’s incredibly rich, diverse and delicious culinary landscape,” said editor Lindsay Bierman. “We’re pleased to highlight the South’s vibrant food scene in each and every town we profile.”
“Lafayette’s distinct culinary identity as the capital of Cajun country, its spicy, sausage-laden roots, and a new generation of locals devoted to preserving their heritage while putting a fresh spin on tradition have made it an incredibly satisfying place to eat,” writes Senior Editor Paula Disbrowe in Southern Living.
 While our homebase, Birmingham (AL), didn't take top honors, it did get a particular shout out: 
Birmingham is known for its refined Southern comfort, according to Southern Living.
“Little did Frank Stitt know when he was cooking in the south of France in 1978 and falling in love with just harvested vegetables, tapenades and aiolis, that he wouldreturn home from Alabama to change the culinary landscape of the South,” writes Senior Editor Paula Disbrowe. 
“As one of the first chefs to reverently elevate Southern staples with refined French techniques, Frank’s kitchens became incubators for an armada of acolytes who continue to keep Birmingham bellies full of buttery grits and joie de vivre,” reports Southern Living.

Want to visit your own favorite Tastiest Town?  You've got until Monday, April 30th, to enter for a chance to win a $2,500 trip to Tasty Town of your choice.  


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