plate of shredded pork and slow-cooked collard greens

Last Thursday night, Corks and Forks Supper Club was at it again; and like always, Chef Cassie and Domke Market owner Brooke Goff knocked it out of the park. Their “Parading Through Mobile’s Palate” Mardi Gras dinner party was a perfect way to kick off the beginning of this Mardi Gras season.

The Mobile Carnival Museum was an ideal venue for this sumptuous ride through Mobile’s culinary history. Serenaded by a fantastic saxophone player, we began with some classically Mobile and oh-so-Southern hors d’oeuvres: freshly fried pork rinds with pimento cheese and cornmeal-fried oysters with remoulade.

Fried pork rinds with pimento cheese
Freshly fried pork rinds and pimento cheese

IMHO, there’s only one way to fry an oyster, and that’s after you batter it in cornmeal. The pork rinds were crisp and ethereal. Brooke paired our apps with a 2017 Milbrandt Reisling–as Chef Cassie noted in her introduction to our dinner, the slight sweetness cuts beautifully through the salt and the fat of the food.

Fried oysters with jar of dipping sauce
Fried cornmeal oysters

We then moved on to course two. It was a crisp-on-the-outside, fluffy-on-the-inside grit cake atop a smear of sweet corn puree, adorned with popcorn. One of the best things about Corks & Forks is the history lesson that comes with each dinner. As we learned on Thursday evening, in the early 1700’s, Mobile’s French settlers learned agricultural methods from the native people here before. They planted the “three sisters” (corn, beans, and winter squash) crops that grew together in a symbiotic symphony. Bean plants climbed corn’s tall stalks and enriched the soil, while the squash’s broad leaves and prickly vines provided shade and protection from pests. Corn was the hardiest crop and therefore planted widely (and gained many culinary uses, from flour to grits), and this dish and the wine accompanying it, a 2017 Michel Vattan Sancerre, highlighted its versatility beautifully.

local sweet corn puree, cornmeal crusted grit cake, popped corn, microgreens

There’s something wonderful about knowing exactly where your food comes from, and in this case, dining with the farmers who raised it. Jolly Roger Ranch, from Vancleave, Mississippi, provided the pork for our third course. Chef Cassie smoked it, braised it with collard greens, and topped it with a tangle of crispy, fried shoestring winter squash. A glass of 2011 LAN Rioja Reserva, a mini buttermilk biscuit and a dollop of heirloom tomato jam completed a dish worthy of a (Mardi gras) queen.

plate of pork, greens, biscuit, and tomato jam
Jolly Roger Ranch smoked pork, braised collard greens, shoestring winter squash, buttermilk biscuit, and heirloom tomato jam

A parade through Mobile’s palate would not be complete without some gumbo, and we would not be disappointed. Served with a glass of 2016 Ancien Carneros Pinot Noir, this shrimp and sausage gumbo was rich and satisfying–a perfect transition to dessert.

I’m not sure if there’s a dessert more southern than pecan pie. This one was in slab form, which means it was crunchier and more pecan-laden (yaaass) than a wedge of a pie baked in a pie dish. It was rich and decadent, topped with a dollop of whipped and sweetened cream. An ideal finish to a lovely meal, along with the accompanying glass of 2016 Victor Hugo “Quasi” Late Harvest Zinfandel.

As if the five courses weren’t enough, Cassie and Brooke sent us home with a little lagniappe (French for “something extra”): a homemade banana moon pie. Graham cookies sandwiching homemade marshmallow with a subtly-banana flavored coating? A much-needed snack the day after.

Corks and Forks opened up to new membership a few months ago, so check their website to see if they’re accepting new guests. You don’t want to miss out on the next one!

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