Sunday, August 25, 2013

Gluten Free in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

On a recent road trip from upper New York State to Southeastern Texas, I stopped to eat at all the usual gluten free choices -- Outback, Chipotle, PF Chang, -- but on the last night on the road I stopped in Hattiesburg, MS to have dinner at  the Purple Parrot Cafe. The Purple Parrot is not really a cafe.  It is a very elegant restaurant with warm wood and mirrored walls and candlelight on the cloth-covered tables.

The restaurant shares a building with the Crescent City Grill. Both of these restaurants are owned by Robert St. John who has written several books about Southern Cooking.  He recently blogged about lump crab meat and, as it happened, I ordered two dishes in which lump crab-meat was an ingredient.  My appetizer was a beet salad, something I have been ordering all summer.  This was the first though to include crab-meat, along with the greens and goat cheese.   This one was also the first to include maple syrup and sherry in the vinaigrette.  I don't know if it was either of those two ingredients that gave the dressing a slightly smoky taste or if it was something else, but the effect was great.  I am going to try that.  I caution you though that, should you go to the Purple Parrot, do not depend on this salad as anything other than a light appetizer.  It was tasty, but the smallest salad that I ordered this entire season.

Before the appetizer came, Megan, my very kind and cheerful server, brought a little pre-dinner "amuse bouche."  This presentation was a compressed watermelon ball served on a porcelain Chinese style spoon, and it was served with balsamic vinegar, a spring of basil, a bite of goat cheese, and some chopped sugared walnuts.  Because they were not sure if I could eat walnuts, Megan brought two, one with and one without nuts.  Since I could eat the nuts, she let me have both of them.  Thank you, Megan.

Dinner was grilled redfish topped with lump crab meat.  Exquisite.  The vegetables, which included sliced fingerling potatoes and asparagus chopped into small pieces, were excellent, and I think the asparagus may have been the best ever.  I want to try to duplicate that too.

Dessert was the gluten free diner's usual (and often only) choice, creme brûlée, but I have to say that I could easily have shared this one.  It was a large portion served with whipped cream in a small oval baking dish on top of a large dinner plate that was criss crossed with thin lines of chocolate and a delectable raspberry sauce.  I did not lick the plate, but I definitely scraped it clean.

Thank you, Purple Parrot and Hattiesburg.  Hope to see you again. 


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