Wednesday, February 1, 2023

OXFORD DISHES >> Date Night At Ravine

Ravine potatoes are locally sourced.

Welcome to a new series titled Oxford Dishes. Oxford is full of foodies from all walks of life, and our food scene is dynamic. So we have gathered a team of Oxonians to write about their dining experiences in the community’s many food establishments, from gas stations and food trucks to cafes and fine restaurants. The stories will be as varied as the writers and establishments. 
Our first piece is from Melanie Tatum Thompson and Billy Thompson. Melanie, a native Oxonian and hubby Billy, a native of Hawaii, met as Ole Miss students while working in the kitchen of City Grocery. Billy also cooked at Nacho Mama and Kalo’s.
After graduating with a major in hospitality management, Melanie ran her own catering company before serving as catering director for Rhodes College in Memphis. Since 1999 she has been a marketing consultant for Wimmer Cookbooks, and joined Oxford’s FNB (friendly neighborhood bank) in 2013.
After graduating from Ole Miss, Billy worked in special-events planning and coordination in New Orleans — including Mardi Gras and themed parades around the world, and corporate hospitality events for the PGA, LPGA and Senior (golf) Tour. He later worked in sales and management production for Ameripure Oyster Company before joining Windmill Nursery out of Folsom, LA. in sales.
We are two home cooks with adventuresome taste buds.
We maintain a food share with Yokna Bottoms Farms, and have friends over often to dine with us. On most nights, we would rather cook at home than be disappointed and poorer from dining out at a restaurant.
Calamari and Anchovies are a perfect blend of flavors.

BUT! Last week we needed a date night, and decided to let Joel, the owner-chef of Ravine do the cooking for us. Our choice of Ravine was simple — we have dined at Ravine on a number of occasions, including special events such as a fundraising dinner for The Pantry, Oxford’s food bank for people in need. Every meal we’ve ever had at Ravine has been a good experience.
The journey from our house was a quick one. The Ravine is only seven minutes from the Square in downtown Oxford … closer than Walmart. As we walked in the front door, the delicious-smelling aromas brought a smile to Billy’s face. That is always a good sign because he is one tough cookie.
Deviled eggs for a starter.

The crowd that night was totally eclectic. We saw professors from our college days, young couples celebrating birthday dinners, and even some family friends that we’d love to see more often.
It was Tapas Wednesday at Ravine, so we went with the theme. As soon as we glanced at the menu we had to order the deviled eggs. The locally sourced eggs were deviled with house smoked salmon — a perfect hint of flavor — and a surprising and tasty crunchy element … we had to ask the chef for the secret, but promised not to tell anyone.
Next came the dishes of calamari and anchovies. The calamari was lightly fried with the added touch of red onion and capers. Delightful! I love a little onion ring! Billy loved the anchovies, which had lemony flavor, served on crostini toasts.
(Mel) I have to say my favorite dish of the night came next. The Patatas Bravas were a Billy request. They were the bomb! Next came my second favorite dish, perfectly salted and peppered duck and pork meatballs with a peanut sauce. Billy said the flavors in the meatballs were complete. He almost always adds salt and pepper to everything I make. Was I jealous? A little, but then again, Billy is stuck with me.
One of our last dishes was the seared veal sweetbreads served on a buttery brioche. We had questioned whether the strawberry gastrique made of caramelized sugar deglazed with vinegar, drippings and strawberries would overpower the delicate and creamy sweetbreads, but the sweet-and-sour flavor totally worked. Great flavor combo! We think they ought to be on the brunch menu.
By the way, the wine list is broad enough to satisfy most tastes.
Sweetbreads at Ravine are a hit.

Billy and I came home both happy and satisfied, with the opinion that our night at the Ravine was worth every penny. Our whole meal, including a bottle of wine and eight tapas dishes, was only $85, and came in right at $100 with tip!
Pretty reasonable, I think, especially considering the effort Joel makes to use local produce and meats instead of ordering mass quantities from the cheapest commercial sources.
Ravine relies on local sourcing as much as possible, including produce, meats and dairy from Yokna Bottoms, Zion Farms, Browns Dairy, Delta Grind, and Stan’s Meat Market. They even support the local arts by commissioning the restaurant’s appetizer plates from Ashley Chavis.
That personal touch is a big part of the Ravine. The effort to keep it local was noticed by this Oxford girl.
On top of that, we were fortunate to have Whitney as our server. She gave excellent menu guidance and service throughout the evening. Plus, like us, she is a baseball fan. Great conversation, Whitney!
Date night for the Thompsons was a success. Thank you for a lovely evening, Ravine.
Special thanks to food writer and contributor Laurie Triplette who is organizing this project. Laurie writes On Cooking Southern on our website. She is a writer, historian, and accredited appraiser of fine arts, dedicated to preserving Southern culture and foodways. Author of the award-winning community family cookbook GIMME SOME SUGAR, DARLIN’, and editor of ZEBRA TALES (Tailgating Recipes from the Ladies of the NFLRA), Triplette is a member of the Association of Food Journalists.