Northeast Mississippians offer unique and delicious goodies, including over-the-top tailgate fare perfect for any game day.
Written by Leslie Criss | Photographed by Joe Worthem
Whether having dinner at the family table, with a large group of friends in a restaurant, or having a multitude of mouth-pleasing munchies while waiting for the kickoff of a football game, the power of food is evident. Food builds community.
With fall just around the corner, it’s time to think about a new football season, the coming holidays and other special gatherings you might be planning. Culinary goodness in northeast Mississippi abounds, and this trio of relatively new offerings is no exception.
In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, single mom Stephanie Hall was trying to figure out a way to make ends meet financially. She invited some friends and her daughter over to help brainstorm. She put together a large platter of snacks on a broken coffee table.
“In the middle of the brainstorming, my son called,” Hall said of Cade, her college student son. “His computer had died, and I didn’t have the money to get him a new one. In front of everyone, I had an ugly cry.”
Then her daughter Sera pointed to the goody-laden coffee tabletop and said to her mother, “Mom, I think you could sell this.” Hall thought the idea was ridiculous. But then she put a photo of herself — eyes puffy from crying — with the snacks, and within 24 hours, Hall had 19 orders with 14 of them prepaid.
“I could buy my son a new computer,” she said.
That was in August 2020. Thanks to the pandemic, small groups of people were gathering in homes, and they’d place orders for Hall’s charcuterie boards, which she was putting together in her home kitchen.
“I didn’t know I wasn’t supposed to be doing that,” said Hall, who’d worked 14 years in sales and marketing for the Mississippi Radio Group. “Someone apparently turned my name in to the health department and, honestly, it ended up being a big favor.”
Hall did her research and teamed up with Casey Knight and Clay Knight at Uptown Grocery. Hall handled bookings for them, and they let her use their commercial kitchen. She ran her new business, Charcutie, from there a few years until moving into her present location at Clayton Avenue and West Jackson Street in July 2022.
There, she has held classes on making charcuterie boards, wine and cheese pairings, bourbon pairings and other ticketed events. Hall also hosts private parties in her shop as well as catering events in customers’ homes. With help from employee Zondra Moore, Hall makes custom boards (including dessert boards) for a multitude of events and occasions, and her Grab & Go boxes have become popular lunch items and may be picked up to go or eaten in the shop.
In time for the holidays, Hall plans to offer charcuterie subscription boxes that can be shipped as gifts.
A native of Houston, Mississippi, Hall has lived in Tupelo 17 years. She grew up on a farm and spent time working as a kid in her grandparents’ (Sarah and Bobby Brooks) Houston restaurant, the Mug ‘n’ Cone. She swore she’d never work in the food industry again, but here she is.
Now open for more than a year in her current location, Hall says she is ready with some new and improved offerings for football season. All tailgating orders come on a disposable board that will be boxed for easy transport and stacking.
“Last year, half of my tailgating orders were for people who were watching the games at home,” said the 50-year-old Hall. “The other half were heading to the Grove or the Junction.”
Serious tailgaters can now order Charcutie’s portable grazing runners, which are multiple boxed charcuterie boards that can be unboxed and lined up to form a 6-foot or 9-foot charcuterie table runner. The tailgating snacks might include sausage balls, a football-shaped bacon-ranch cheese ball, homemade pickles from Hall’s grandmother’s recipe, fruit, cheese, bread — and that’s just to name a few.
“I am having the time of my life,” she said. “I am so happy. I can’t believe this is what I get to do.”
Native Son Farm
Native Son Farm has become a mainstay for those in search of fresh, seasonal produce. Since Will Reed returned home to Tupelo in 2010 with his wife Amanda with farming on his mind, Native Son has thrived as a Community Supported Agriculture program. The Reed family has grown as well — Will and Amanda are now the parents of four daughters and a son. Their growing farm stand offers fresh-picked and locally sourced items. There is rarely a time during business hours the stand is not bustling with customers.
Since April, Native Son loyalists have been able to shop for more than fresh vegetables to cook at home. Thanks to J.D. Dill and his kitchen crew, the farm stand is loaded daily with freshly baked breads of many kinds, cookies, cobblers, muffins, pies, quiches and many more delicious foods made with fresh fruits and vegetables from Native Son Farm and sourced from a few other places.
Even if you stop in for just a tomato or two, the smells coming from the kitchen will magically make you seek the source. You’ll likely leave with a snack for yourself or supper for your family.
“It was crazy in the beginning,” said Dill, 34, whose resume impresses with his cooking background. “And the wave has been fairly consistent. Keeping up with the seasonality is key. In the summer, we deal with a thousand pounds of tomatoes at times and tons of squash. So, we find ways to put it all to good use. It’s kind of like a race and sometimes the veggies win.”
During the summer, the kitchen crew usually numbers around five each day; in the winter, there may be a few less. The summer crew included Dill, his partner Maggie Peck, his brother Michael Dill, Ramona Scott and Leigh Michael Cannon.
With football season a hot ticket in the South, Dill has given thought to what he might put together for tailgating, and there are ideas he plans to kick around for future seasons. For now, there are plenty of goodies folks heading to the game can pick up that will be welcomed additions to their tailgate tables.
While summer’s tomato pies were a favorite, apples will be in season starting this month, so be on the lookout for Native Son to offer homemade apple pies.
“And our quiches are always popular,” Dill said. “They’re almost like a salad cooked into an egg crust. With so many vegetables, they’re packed with lots of nutrition, and they taste good too.”
Moondog Makers & Bakers
Moondog Makers & Bakers in Corinth is the brainchild of Joey Thompson, who was associated with Pizza Grocery for 13 years, nine years as head chef. Moondog was a nickname given to Thompson: The Moon Dogs were a professional wrestling tag team in the early 1980s. In the early days of Moondog, Thompson made jams, jellies and pickles to be sold at Corinth’s Green Markets. He continues to add to his Moondog seasonings which can be found in shops in north Mississippi and west Tennessee.
A native of Ingomar, Thompson had a job at J & J Grocery there when he was 14.
“I made sandwiches, but I made them how I would want them to be,” he said. “I realized at some point I had a growing interest in food, especially local food.”
Thompson’s making of jellies and jams grew into smoking lots of meats and trying to hone those skills. He did not require a high-dollar, professional smoker for his experiments.
“I went out and bought a cheap little Kingsford grill,” he said.
Thompson and his three-man cooking crew have now cooked and catered in six states, so far. The Moondog crew is Wayne Richardson, Bradley Davis and Jeremy Hayes. Sometimes Thompson gets help as well from his 11-year-old son, Gordon. He and wife Kaylin are also parents to Elliott, 7, and Adalyn, 4.
In July, Thompson had the opportunity to cook for an event in Wisconsin, where his food received high praise from Chef Emeril Lagasse.
Thompson has catered weddings, holiday parties, corporate gatherings — and then there’s Tree Street Pizza Night. Last winter when Corinth had a big snow, Thompson decided to cook pizza for his neighborhood in which the streets bear tree names.
“I put out the word by text to some of the neighbors that I was going to cook pizzas, but I needed cheese,” Thompson said. “Not long after the texts were sent, neighbors with cheese started showing up on foot, or they had their kids bring it in golf carts or four-wheelers.
“Keep in mind, we were completely blanketed in snow and ice. And that was the birth of Tree Street Pizza Night. We’ve also done several Tree Street Burger Nights.”
The pizzas are cooked in Thompsons’s wood-fired pizza oven in the family’s garage. He normally offers several kinds of pizza for the evening, including a specialty pizza he’s created.
Even Corinth residents outside Thompson’s neighborhood call and order pizza on pizza nights.
With football season on tap, Thompson has given thought to a tailgate menu.
“For tailgating, I would most likely offer a preorder menu focused on game day snacks and smoked meats,” he said. “Then just have people grab and go on the way to the games.”