Ah yes. America. The land of the free and the home of the brave. Allegedly.

America with not the best reputation for good food. Which is exactly the best reason for visiting it on our virtual culinary tour of the world. Bring it on, I say.

My experience of USA

When I was living in the UK, Karma and I flew to New York for a weekend. I love saying that – I went to New York for the weekend. Absolutely no way to think about doing that when you’re DownUnder.

We had a great weekend and saw all the sights that New York has to offer. And there are lots of them! One of the most poignant for me was seeing the brown door at the Dakota, where John Lennon was murdered. But there were so many positive and exciting things to see.

We went to the Meatpacking District and had the best cocktail ever. It’s a big call, I know, but it was amazing. It was called a Cookie Monster and I recall that it had ice-cream and Oreos in it. I cannot recall what the alcohol was, but crikey mikey, it was amazing. And I haven’t been able to find the recipe.


We had decided to have lunch in the USA on Sunday 1 December, but there were concerts to attend, so we had dinner in the USA on Saturday 30 November.

The ingredients were relatively easy to find. I was afraid that I’d have to find time to go to the USA shop in Cheltenham but was able to make do with local ingredients. Jess gave me a recipe for “the best cornbread on the planet” which needed a skillet and American corn muffin mix. She lent me the skillet, and her local Coles has the muffin mix – can’t get that at Bogan Coles in Mitcham, I can tell you. More about the best cornbread on the planet later, but I’ll give you a heads-up – I think it was possibly the best cornbread on the planet.

The menu

Here’s the menu (it’s a huge one!):

  • Mint Julep (cocktail)
  • Hamburger sliders
  • Reuben sandwiches
  • Cheese grits
  • Hot dogs
  • Cornbread
  • Southern black-eyed peas
  • BBQ pork ribs
  • Fried chicken
  • Shrimp creole
  • Shrimp and sausage gumbo
  • Waldorf salad
  • Wedge salad
  • Mississippi mud cake
  • Apple pie
  • Pumpkin pie

Here are the recipes for our faves – USA best recipes

Click here to see all our favourite recipes.

The food

As is becoming the norm, the food was fabulous.

Well, most of the food was fabulous. America, you can throw your grits in the long grass. It’s just polenta, which has no flavour and an unpleasant texture. But who am I to criticise unusual food – I’m from the country that considers vegemite a major food group.

We had a few dishes of the day. The most popular were the ribs, although they were a bit too spicy for me. Also popular were the Reuben sandwiches, which were a revelation – they were my equal favourite dish of the day.

But the cornbread. I’ve never had cornbread and didn’t know what to expect. Jess had told me to make sure I put the honey, salt and butter on the top, as the recipe instructed. I wouldn’t have bothered if she had not told me to. But, boy oh boy, it was delicious. The honey, butter and salt made it extraordinary. I’m quite happy to second Jess’s motion that this cornbread is the best on the planet – it’s hard to imagine how it could be improved.

The gumbo was also very popular, and I was very happy to have the leftovers for lunch the next day.

We didn’t love the black-eyed peas, and the chicken was just chicken. I’d like to try it again soaked in buttermilk and the trimmings but perhaps baked in the oven rather than fried.

Whenever we have these international lunches, I get cocktail frankfurts for the kids in case they don’t like the real food. This time we were able to kid ourselves that they were authentic to the country we were visiting.

The salads were nice but got overlooked with the volume of other food. But I just cannot think about Waldorf salad without thinking about Fawlty Towers – it’s celery, apples, walnuts, grapes!! In a mayonnaise sauce!!!

The desserts were great – Karma’s Mississippi mud cake was sublime. Liam couldn’t get enough of the apple pie and people surprised themselves by discovering that pumpkin pie was actually quite tasty.

The recipe for the apple pie included a recipe for flaky pastry. Some people say that life is too short to make pastry, but I’m in the other camp – life is too short to eat frozen store-bought pastry. The recipe suggested using half water and half vodka on the basis that the alcohol evaporates and makes the pastry crispier. Worth a try, I thought. Except that I didn’t have any vodka so I used some Pisco that I had in the cupboard. It worked a treat! I’ll try it again next time with real vodka rather than using up my good Pisco!

The drinks

The cocktail was a little disappointing. We had Mint Julep but none of us loved it. Even I only had one. If only we could find that Cookie Monster recipe.

The ambience

The ambience was great. Rob played to his strengths and compiled a play list for us. There has been a lot of good music come out of the US so we enjoyed a wide variety of musical styles – the Beach Boys, Cranky Franky, James Taylor. And, of course, the best song ever written – American Pie. Thanks, Rob!

I had lots of USA table trinkets from a 4 July dinner a few years ago, so there was an awful lot of red, white and blue, and stars and stripes around the place.

It’s a pity that it was such a cold day that we had to eat inside again. Truly, it’s the last day of spring and the temp was 17° (I’m looking at you, Melbourne!). We’ll get outside one day.

The quiz

Yes, Will won the quiz. Again. I came second, which was a fairly good achievement, I thought. Thanks Jan, for writing the questions.

We played a couple of games of Scattergories. The absolute star of the day was Elysia. She thumped us all. Well done, my love!

Here’s the factsheet – Factsheet_USA

Here’s the place-mat – Placemat_USA

And here’s the quiz – Quiz_USA

The highlight of lunch in USA

Easy peasy – ribs, Reuben sandwiches, cornbread, Mississippi mud cake. Not grits.

Where to next?

We’re off to Lebanon on Sunday 29 December. Love, love, love Lebanese food!

Will is going to make breads and dips, Liam is going to write the quiz, Rob is going to make us a Lebanese play list and Lauren is going to find a Lebanese cocktail. Good luck with those jobs, Rob and Lauren!


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