Hot Dip from Cafe Olé

Cafe Olé on University Avenue in Oxford was a popular eatery in the 1990s. I worked there briefly when I returned to Oxford after several years in Florida, and man, was I a mess.

The dip, served as a complimentary side with a basket of warm tortilla chips, is typical of most good Mexican restaurants. We made gallons and gallons of it.

Converting a restaurant recipe to one easily made at home presents problems both with the scaling-down process and the ingredients. Bear in  mind also that this recipe is my adaptation of the one I copied down some twenty years ago.

So make a batch according to these directions and then modify it as you see fit. I have scaled down the more distinctive ingredients (lime juice, vinegar, jalapeno “juice”, onion, garlic, and cilantro) in this version, because once these are added, you can’t very well remove them. If you want more, you can add it later.

The dip should be on the thin side, very sharp, redolent of garlic, cilantro, and lime.

1 12-oz. can tomato puree
1 cup water
1 12-oz. can whole tomatoes (with juice)
1/2 cup lime juice
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup canned jalapeno juice (or any hot pepper vinegar)
1 cup jalapenos (half that if you’re using fresh)
1 large white onion, chopped
1/4 cup granulated garlic (I recommend dried/minced as a substitute)
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Process until smooth

Photo by Lester Ferrell

Historic Dishes of Oxford, Mississippi Restaurants

Long before Oxford became a locus of Southern foodie hype, the busy little city fostered and  sustained a lively variety of hometown restaurants. This list was hammered out by a bickering, nit-picking flock of Oxford residents both current and former.

The dishes, the places, the times themselves are loved by thousands of people from Oxford, Lafayette County, and Mississippi, and millions of Ole Miss alumni and drop-outs from around the globe.

The Beacon: Big Bubba burger, “meat and three”
Busy Bee Cafe: oven-fried pork chop
Café Olé: cheese dip, chimichanga
Dino’s: salad dressing, pizza
Downtown Grill: Eli’s praline pecan ice cream pie
The Gin: fried mushrooms, Bernice burger
The Harvest: black bean chili, vegetable lasagna
The Hoka: hot fudge pie and cheesecake, Love at First Bite
Holiday Inn: grasshopper pie, hot fudge pie
Hurricane Landing: fried catfish, hushpuppies and fries
Jitney Jungle/James’ Food: chicken salad
Kream Kup: grilled chili cheeseburger
Marie’s Lebanese: Marie Husni’s Lebanese casserole, baklava
Mistilis: hamburger steak smothered in cheese and onions
Ruby Chinese: hot and sour soup, twice cooked pork
Sizzler Steak House: steaks
Smitty’s: tuna melt, breakfasts
Starnes Catfish: fried catfish, hushpuppies and fries
Ruth & Jimmies: Southern “meat and three”
Pizza Den: muffuletta, sub sandwich, stromboli
Warehouse: snapper en Mornay, salad bar
Winter’s Store: hamburgers
Yerk’s: Philly cheese steak

Glennray Tutor

Warehouse Buttermilk Spread

At the Warehouse in Oxford, we had this prep guy who was from the outlaw boonies way out toward Tula; total stoner with a hot car and a girlfriend with a great rack and a space between her teeth. He used to sell homegrown in the parking lot.

He mopped the floor, proofed the bread, switched out the soda canisters, and made a whipped spread with buttermilk and margarine. I loved watching him do it. He’d crank up our big-ass Hobart with a perforated blade the size of a hubcap and start throwing one-pound blocks of margarine straight out of the cooler into the barrel-size bowl. The chunks made a whomp-bump racket until they began to soften. Then he’d start pouring in buttermilk, and the noise became a sliding hiss as the margarine and milk began to meld. The final product was a creamy, fluffy, flavorful spread the waiters served with warm loaves of bread on cute little wooden paddles.

We used margarine and low fat buttermilk for economy, but butter and whole milk buttermilk are worth the expense. Set your mixer on low speed; use the whip attachment. Begin adding softened butter one stick at a time. After the second stick is creamy, slowly begin adding buttermilk in a dribble. You should be able to incorporate about a little over a half cup of buttermilk to a pound of butter. As the mixture begins to meld, put your mixer on high and toss in about a teaspoon of salt.  Whip until nice and fluffy. Refrigerate immediately.