Thursday, January 26, 2012

Were talkin bout the China Grove, Oh China Grove

Before you launch with me into a tirade of lyrics ala Doobie Brothers (and if you remember Rerun trying to bootleg one of their shows double your points!), know that China Grove is a small community located in West Tennessee. It is also home to a really cool country store owned by a local Mennonite family that is an amazing place for foodies.

If your familiar with my writings here, you know that I am not big on 'southern food' in this blog. I was raised on fried chicken and black eyed peas but I prefer a bowl of Kimchi or a plate of lechon over southern food on any given occasion. So when my friend Glenn suggested I visit China Grove Country Store you can imagine my lack of enthusiasm. (I know I could eventually be 'run out of town on a rail' in rural West Tennessee for liking Chef Lee Ann Wong over Paula Dean but them's the breaks!)

As we drove through the country roads of Gibson County Tennessee I secretly dreaded going to eat at any place deemed a 'country store'. It conjured up thoughts of jars of pickled eggs, old men sitting around bickering over politics and heavy fried something...But alas we were on our way.

China Grove Country Store is not what I expected! This clean and well stocked little market is filled with  the smell of homemade breads and sweets. As you enter several rows of colorful jams, jellies and seasonings catch your eye. I purchased some of the homemade strawberry and elderberry jams which were AMAZING. Ditto for the homemade candies and desserts. The really neat thing was that I could look at a product and read the label and see nothing but raw, natural ingredients. No #5 anything, no sodium hydroclotite whatyacallit. Just ingredients like sugar, milk, butter,etc. And for those folks with special needs like sugar free or gluten free there are several items specially made for you!

For those who like to cook, there is a fantastic selection of herbs and seasonings and a very affordable price. You can find everything from dried lemongrass to pine nuts for your cooking needs. There are several homemade items like a homemade dried cheese seasoning and homemade bbq rubs. Jars and bundles of fresh herbs are available at a really good price. I purchased a jar of Amish made molasses which when mixed with melting butter on a hot biscuit is so good it should be a felony....

There is also a nice selection of meats from the Yoder Farms folks in Paris Tennessee. The Yoders are producers of beef and pork products that have no antibiotics, no added hormones and are fed a total vegetarian diet. The Yoder farms sausage is really good stuff!

The store is also filled with cooking tools, cookbooks and assorted gift items. However all of this can be skipped over and bypassed in order to get to the deli. A group of young ladies bakes fresh baked breads and stands waiting to take your order behind the deli counter. My friend suggested some of the Virginia ham with a slice of something called 'Amish butter cheese' on fresh made sourdough bread. The entity known as 'Amish butter cheese' is a rich and creamy cheese made from cow's milk that has not been given any artificial hormones. The cheese is smooth and silky and melts in your mouth!

He also picked up a bag of homemade (yes you read it) homemade potato chips and a cold sarsaparilla soda. We feasted inside on all of this inside the cab of his pickup truck. (Yes, the only thing I was missing was a pair of overalls and a straw hat. Country indeed.) Just when I was going on about how stuffed I was from the sandwich (yes it was that big!) My friend produces a small paper box and says " you must try this!"

He opened the box to reveal a beautiful brown round cake oozing with white icing. It was a piece of homemade pumpkin roll with cream cheese frosting. I'm not a fan of pumpkin rolls but this was not the typical dried out sponge with drab icing over it. This was a moist, sweet spicy delight covered in a creamy vanilla buttery frosting. You must try this when you visit!

When you want to try some really good food, made really clean and served really fresh, check out China Grove Country Store!

China Grove Country Store
445 China Grove Rd
Rutherford TN 38369

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