Welcome back from the holidays! Like many of you, I got to take a few weeks off and enjoy some time with my family. My boys and I headed to Southwest Missouri to meet up with my sister and her family, and some of my best memories of the holiday were cooking together. We made Springfield-style cashew chicken as our Christmas Eve dinner and had our traditional Christmas Day breakfast (with cheese grits and orange rolls), followed by a big ol’ pot of chicken and homemade noodles.
I’ll blog some of those recipes later this week, but first, a quick recap of some of the food-related adventures we took while we were up there, just in case you ever find yourself in that neck of the Ozarks.
First and foremost, I know a few Austin restaurants that could take a cue from Aviary Cafe and Creperie, an eatery with two locations in Springfield. Just weeks after a server here upsold me on fries that were most certainly not “the world’s best French fries,” as she’d promised, I had what were probably the world’s best French fries, no hyperbolic pitch needed from the staff. Thinly sliced crisp wedges were almost more like potato chips than fries, but nobody cared what they were called. We just wanted more. Even without the aioli on the side, these fries, which I ordered with a giant salad on the side, were worth seeking out.
One more observation about Aviary, this time from my sister (creator of the world’s best chocolate chip cookies, you’ll remember): “It’s very Pinterest-y in here.” Yes, Pinterest is now an adjective to describe a certain whimsical, hand-crafted aesthetic at place like this. Interior design will never be the same.
(I also chatted with the chef, who said he is planning on opening another concept in Springfield this year and hopefully an outpost of Aviary in Sugarland, where he has family.)
Right around the corner from Aviary’s newest location at Farmers Park in South Springfield is 5 Pound Apparel, a retail store that has a donation tied to every purchase. The company started out as a screenprinting shop that would donate five pounds of food for every shirt purchased, but they’ve now expanded the philanthropy to include international hunger relief and other charitable efforts. If you’re looking for a “Missouri is Awesome” shirt or bottle opener, this is the place to get one.
On another trip to the big city, my dad and I dropped off the rest of the family at the movies and hit the distillery. Not that there are many distilleries to choose from in the Ozarks (hard to believe, I know), but Copper Run in Walnut Shade, just north of Branson, makes some really fantastic moonshine, whiskey and rum that you can sample at their woodsy tasting room from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. seven days a week.
The distillery, the first legally operating still in the Ozarks since Prohibition, has been open since 2008, but the tasting room is somewhat newer. We enjoyed a tasting flight of the moonshine, two whiskeys and two rums, followed by a beer-whiskey combination of Three Blind Mice brown ale from Springfield’s Mother’s Brewing and Copper Run’s small batch house whiskey.
I’ll be enjoying more of Copper Run’s whiskey this winter, alongside the Piney River Brewing Company‘s Missouri Mule, another Southwest Missouri libation that makes that feeling of being home linger a little bit longer.