DISCLOSURE: I have no material relationship to any brand(s) or person(s) mentioned in this article. [See full disclosure at the end of this article]
There’s just something about the south. The laid back way the sun rises and sets like no other place; the genteel ways of those who call the south home; and the endearing terms of “sweetie pie” and “honey” that are uttered by total strangers. Life seems to move just a skosh bit slower, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing because, at times, we need that. One of the greatest things about the south, however, is the time-honored signature flavors that have unfolded onto the dining scene and taken hold of our taste buds. Just as there’s nothing like the south, there’s nothing quite like southern cuisine.
Here in the northeast we’ve found our little piece of the south in the form of Mama’s Boy Southern Table & Refuge. If owners Greer Fredericks and Amiel Dorel were striving to put a little south in the mouth of the north, they’ve triumphed. Since the opening of Mama’s Boy in May 2013, they’ve provided southern favorites in a warm and welcoming environment.
It takes someone intimately familiar with southern cuisine to prepare food the way it’s done at Mama’s Boy. Executive Chef Scott Ostrander is just such a person. Although geographically far removed from the south, Chef Ostrander honed his passion for southern cuisine in such notable cities as Washington, D.C.; Charleston, SC; Savannah, GA; and Jacksonville, FL. Now he brings that enthusiasm to Mama’s Boy.
There’s no denying the fact that southern cuisine—despite the whispers of fat content, artery clogging properties and the like—is delicious. Add to that the pleasure of enjoying such treasures from the supper or lunch menu as smoky Deviled Eggs with Mama’s Boy’s own smoked Tasso and pickled okra or crispy Chicken Skins that represent the very best of fried chicken and you’re working your way towards a meal of down-home goodness.
Mama’s Boy wants to satisfy the southerner that may be lurking in all of us, and they’re hoping a heaping handful of Redneck Edamame, boiled Georgia peanuts from the Starters menu, will kick things off. Boiled in their house spice blend, I have to admit that, for me, boiled peanuts are an acquired taste … one I never caught on to, even after living in Georgia for nearly 21 years. As they say, to each his own.
If ever there were an award presented for the most creative reimagining of a dish, the prize should go to the BLT Salad. Yes, there’s bacon, lettuce and tomato, but the magic began with the presentation. Artisan lettuce lightly dressed with buttermilk-herb dressing anchors the plate, followed by a slice of fried green tomato. The pièce de résistance was a decadent topping of candied bacon. The magic continues when fork reaches mouth; it was pure pleasure, with a mélange of flavors comingling peacefully in one bite.
The Charleston Crab Cake was yet another dish that played well in the mouth. Filled with a respectable amount of crab meat and accompanied by creamed corn infused with red pepper, green onion and bacon, it packed quite the powerful flavor punch.
It was now time to see everybody in the pool … in the form of the Low Country Bouillabaisse. There was so much controlled chaos going on in the pot, and it all worked. White shrimp, mussels, grouper, Andouille, baby corn and potatoes soaked up a richly flavorful broth (which, by the way, was so sinfully delicious, I could have had it served in a tall glass with a long straw). This dish was a hodgepodge of goodness from first bite to last.
The white shrimp was also featured in the Shrimp & Grits dish. Buttery, luscious grits were the backdrop to shrimp that had found its calling. The smokiness, compliments of Tasso, gave the dish a rustic feel yet kept the overall theme of the south with the slightly piquant pimento cream gravy.
While relatively smaller than Mama’s Boy’s regular three pound serving, our one pound portion of the Crispy Pork Shank, branded the “mini stegosaurus,” was indeed crispy. Unfortunately, the fat content was far too much to contend with and took away from the wonderful flavors that were otherwise traipsing around the plate.
The Little Yardbird was Mama’s Boy’s answer to chicken and waffles. A marinated and crispy fried game hen is paired with a cornbread waffle. The end result is finger lickin’ good, and then some. Served with braised collard greens, it’s a dish to make any southerner proud.
Mama’s Boy was on a mission on that evening: to fill our bellies to the point of bursting, just the way a well-intentioned southern grandmother would. Well, they succeeded. And after nine courses, they still had one more trick up their sleeve. Dessert.
As if my stomach weren’t already stretched to the limit.
My regards to pastry chef Natalie Duplessy. She dazzled our group with the evenings’ sweets: a Trio of “Home Made” Cakes—Carrot Cake, Red Velvet Cake and Spice Cake with chocolate hazelnut ganache. When enough is enough, you know it. Still, sometimes you push the boundaries, test the limits and go overboard. That can be said for many people on that night. Bloated bellies did not preclude us from getting a taste of each cake. The one which rang true for my proclivities was the spice cake. While each cake was incredibly moist, the spice cake stood out from the rest and left an indelible mark on my taste buds.
Southern is as southern does. Chef Ostrander does southern cuisine the way a southerner appreciates. However, it’s more than that. Great food transcends the invisible lines of regions. What works well in South Carolina can work just as well here in Connecticut. Chef Ostrander, and Mama’s Boy, have proven that.
Mama’s Boy Southern Table & Refuge
19 North Water Street
South Norwalk, CT 06854
DISCLOSURE: I have no material relationship to any brand(s) or person(s) mentioned in this article. The opinions expressed in this dining impressions article are my own. This was a complimentary promotional meal, and I received no further compensation from Mama’s Boy, their representatives or any related entities.