ROLLING ON THE RIVER: Mississippi River Country

The event was at Cirillo’s Academy in Toronto, and the invitation was tempting “Chefs Sam and Cody Carroll will bring their culinary talents and expertise as Louisiana restaurateurs and former Food Network stars to showcase the farm-to-table cuisine of the Mississippi River Country States.” Naturally, we would also learn the stories of the people, places, history and attractions from states bordering the river – Minnesota, Illinois, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana.

Well, that was certainly of interest, and the evening got off to a quick start with a featured cocktail: French 75. I’d never heard of it, but turns out it’s a tasty combination of gin, simple syrup, champagne, lemon juice, and a lemon twist. More than one media type tasted more than one French 75.

The Chefs Carroll explained that each state had been asked to suggest three components or ingredients typical to their local cuisine and the Carrolls prepared a six course dinner each course featuring a different state. Everything was delicious – from the pumpkin pierogis (Illinois) through the Seafood Gumbo (no prize for guessing Louisiana), to the Nashville HOT Chicken chop salad (Tennessee), Arkansas’ cornmeal fried catfish with sweet and sour collards and chow chow, followed by Minnesota’s Venison Filet, with wild rice, blueberry bordelaise and bent river sauce. Dessert was Mississippi Mud with Cathead Vodka cream (surely no cats were decapitated for our gastronomic delight).

Of course, the states have lots more to offer than just epicurean delights.

The Mississippi begins as a “small stream” in Minnesota before it grows and flows 1,800 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. Along the way there are sights and sounds galore. It meanders through music country – Tennessee, Mississippi and Louisiana. Elvis Presley fans get a double banger – Graceland, his home in Memphis and Tupelo, his birthplace in Mississippi. All three states are worth exploring and not just for the music and the cuisine – though truthfully, that’s reason enough for me.

For those of you who watched and Ozark – that was filmed in Georgia, the gorgeous Ozark mountains are actually located in Missouri and Arkansas. From wild forests to beautiful parks and scenic backwaters, this region offers beauty and adventure. The Clinton Library an interesting piece of architecture also located on the banks of the river in Little Rock, Arkansas, is I know, having visited it, interesting, engaging and well worth a visit.

Illinois means not only can you drive part of the famous Route 66, but you get to visit Chicago, with its fabulous waterfront, art galleries, culture and cuisine. And the music – not every city has its own sound. But Chicago has its own local brand of blues that flows throughout the city, and there are live performances at local blues clubs every night of the week.

And, why not actually take a cruise on the Mississippi River itself. The choices are numerous, whether you want just a day trip or a luxurious cruise experience, there are plenty of options for cruising the Mississippi.

Frankly, we’ve all been cooped up for so long, the idea of a cruise sounds wonderful, but so does a leisurely drive along The Great River Road, a historic, scenic route that traces the course of the Mississippi River for 3,000 miles (4,800km) through 10 states from northern Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico.

And the best part is you can break it up and stretch your enjoyment of the Mississippi River Country over several visits, or, if you’re ready for a long summer adventure – you might want to start packing.

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First published at Travel Industry Today