When Bryce and I travel, especially on road trips, we load our iPod with podcasts of our favorite NPR programs – ‘Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me,’ ‘Weekend Edition,’ ‘The Piano Puzzler,’ and ‘The Splendid Table.’ On one of our more recent excursions, we plugged in to Lynne Rosetta Kasper’s ‘The Splendid Table.’ As usual, we were impressed with the suggestions she seemed to invent on the spot for call-in listeners faced with culinary conundrums. Even more enthralling were her return guests for this particular program – Jane and Michael Stern, authors of Roadfood.com. They shared their account of revisiting the Southern Kitchen restaurant in New Market, Virginia, singing the praises of the restaurant’s peanut soup, stewed tomatoes, country ham, and fried chicken. The tantalizing descriptions Jane and Michael provided made our mouths water. We longed to taste this food, or as Liz Lemon might say, “I want to go to there.”
Typically when we hear tell of such a place, we lack the ability to actually eat at the establishment due to geographical limitations. Having moved to Harrisonburg, Virginia, however, we could actually try out the Southern Kitchen, living a mere 15 minute drive away. How exciting! So, this past weekend, while our good friend Laura visited us from New Jersey, the three of us took the short jaunt northward. We made an afternoon out of touring the New Market Civil War Battlefield, checking out local flea markets, and enjoying an early dinner at Southern Kitchen. When you walk into this quaint diner, you are instantly transported back in time, surrounded by paneled walls, sea-foam green booths, and pink accents. Even the service harks from a different era. Then there’s the food. Everything Jane and Michael Stern said about Southern Kitchen rang true. The country ham was griddled to perfection and paired well with the stewed tomatoes, easily the best side dish any of us ate. The tomatoes maintained their bright flavor while the stewing process intensified the fruit’s sugar, making the sweet side a perfect accompaniment for the salty ham. The fried chicken featured a well-seasoned, crispy coating and moist, succulent meat which I will no doubt crave from time to time. The peanut soup was one of the most positively unique things I’ve tasted in a long time and definitely lived up to its reputation – the consistency silky on the tongue, the taste hard to describe. I could detect the peanuts, but they were not overpowering and tempered by the other contents of the soup, of which I could only identify onions. Suffice it to say, the soup proved tasty. We shortly decided we’d be returning to Southern Kitchen for the soup, ham, stewed tomatoes, fried chicken, and other menu items we have yet to try (such as the Coconut Cream Pie which I read is amazing).
Peanut soup picture courtesy of Jane and Michael Stern and Roadfood.com. Read more about the Sterns’ experience at Southern Kitchen.