Much of the nation is suffering with exceptionally hot weather this summer. No one wants to turn on their oven and it’s hard to want to go outside to use the grill. Instead of serving big meals, we’d rather have something cold and tasty ready to eat for snacks. Pimento Cheese is the perfect summer staple to keep in the fridge! Never heard of Pimento Cheese? Your momma didn’t grow up in the South like mine did!
Every two years our family of 6 would pile into the sedan and drive from Vermont to Mississippi to visit my mother’s family. While we were in Tupelo, we would be invited to a tea party at “Miss Susie’s House”, which meant we would be expected to dress up to visit a sweet elderly lady for some real Southern gentility and hospitality. I have to credit our mother for teaching us to be gracious and to use our manners in a situation that was not typical of our life in rural Vermont.
As children, we knew that customs were a bit different there, and expectations of proper behavior were explained before each social encounter. Say “thank you, Ma’am” and be extra well behaved at the table. We were happy to comply because we knew that there would be pimento cheese sandwiches, served on white bread with the crusts cut off, along with small tomatoes stuffed with tuna salad. I’m sure there must have been pound cake or coconut cake on the table as well, but I honestly don’t remember much besides those tangy-cold-creamy-sweet pimento cheese sandwiches.
Rediscovering Pimento Cheese: On a Biscuit!
Last fall I rediscovered my love of Pimento Cheese when I was in Charleston, SC for the Les Dames D’Escoffier conference with Mary Platis of California Greek Girl. We walked for many blocks to find Callie’s Hot Little Biscuit (and it was hot that day!) but OH how tasty was that flaky buttermilk biscuit filled with creamy pimento cheese!
Down Home Kitchen in Montpelier, Vermont
Imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Pimento Cheese has arrived in Montpelier, Vermont – the capital of the Green Mountain State! This is the town where I was born, where real maple syrup is served with pancakes. The buildings and streets haven’t changed much since I was a preschooler, eagerly expecting a lollipop every time we went to the bank. Right around the corner from that old bank building is a new eatery called Down Home Kitchen.
“Real Southern Soul Food – Scratch Made with Love” is the perfect description for Down Home Kitchen. Meet Mary Alice Proffitt (coming through the door) who established this charming restaurant after renovating an building that had housed a bookstore for many years.
We enjoyed looking through the photo album of the renovation while we were waiting for our food in June, and Mary Alice plopped herself down on a chair to visit with us for a few minutes. She explained that she hoped to get a grant to help recover the costs of the renovations. We had our picture taken together to put into the grant application! As customers came through the door, it was easy to see that she has established a family-friendly, community-minded treasure in downtown Montpelier where locals and tourists alike can enjoy homestyle southern breakfast, lunch, dessert or a beverage and snacks – wholesome food with quality ingredients. We hope she gets that grant!
We had been to Down Home Kitchen once before, on a chilly March morning, when they were very busy serving hearty breakfasts. We could have ordered pancakes with real maple syrup or an omelet, but the Blue Plate Specials were calling our names. Check out their menu here and see if you wouldn’t have a tough time making a choice!
Every Fridge Deserves a Bowl of Fresh Pimento Cheese
Did you happen to see the Pimento Cheese finger sandwiches on the menu? When Mary Alice heard that my mother came from Tupelo, Miss. and that we grew up eating Pimento Cheese sandwiches in central Vermont, she had a taster plate sent to our table — and Oh was it good. Not only is it good in a finger sandwich, but Mary Alice serves a burger that includes a generous layer of Pimento Cheese as a condiment! Now we’re really talking comfort food!
Are you convinced yet that every refrigerator deserves to have a bowl of fresh Pimento Cheese ready to serve? How about a grilled Pimento Cheese sandwich! How about Pimento Cheese with crackers! Pimento Cheese quesadillas with sliced avocado! Tiny fresh peppers stuffed with pimento cheese! Celery sticks stuffed with pimento cheese!
Mimi Avocado’s Recipe for Pimento Cheese
By now I’ll bet you are wondering how to make your own pimento cheese! There are plenty of recipes online with instructions for using several kinds of cheese, a dash of Worcestershire sauce, a little red pepper, sometimes even cream cheese or sour cream, and one even adds pine nuts — and I’m sure those are very good. The Pimento Cheese we know is the simple kind, so I’m going to share that recipe here – there’s no reason not to make some when the ingredients are already in the pantry! Note: keep a small jar of red pimentos in your pantry at all times!
- 8 oz. block sharp cheddar cheese
- ⅔ cup good Mayonnaise
- ½ jar sliced pimentos, drained
- dash of lemon juice
- Grate the cheese yourself. (Packaged cheese won't taste the same.)
- In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the grated cheese, mayonnaise, pimentos, and lemon juice.
- Refrigerate for several hours to let the flavors blend.
- Options: use different combinations of cheeses, add your favorite seasonings, herbs, a little dijon mustard, or subsititute sour cream for the mayonnaise. Be creative!
The World Needs More of This
As we were leaving Down Home Kitchen, we stopped to watch as some children were playing a game of hopscotch on the sidewalk next to the restaurant. Me: “Wow! That’s the biggest hopscotch I have ever seen!” Child (overflowing with delight and self-satisfaction) “It goes all the way to 86!!”
And look: it’s Mary Alice trying out the hopscotch board!
If you travel to Montpelier, Vermont I hope you’ll stop in for a meal at Down Home Kitchen and tell Mary Alice that Mimi Avocado says Hi! Try the old fashioned homemade banana pudding!