Sean Thongsiri learned to cook alongside his mother and grandmother in Vientiane, Laos, but it was a lot of trial and error. Getting the best food for his dishes was easy, though. He frequented the town's market, where he culled relationships with local farmers and fisherman to ensure the best possible product. This is a practice he still clings to as head chef of Ele Fine Fusion restaurant, where his modern fusion style is alive in the food, as well as the decor. There, in the glow of handsome blond sconces and colorful landscape prints, guests sit on banquettes and enjoy sushi rolls, crispy duck, and steaming curry dishes, many fashioned with fresh organic vegetables.
The chefs at El Potrillo prepare authentic Mexican dishes using quality ingredients such as USDA-certified Angus beef, crisp vegetables, and housemade sauces. House specialties brimming with sweet scallops and pork carnitas arrive on sizzling molcajetes—traditional Mexican cooking tools made of volcanic rock. Healthy dishes include spinach enchiladas topped with green tomatillo sauce and chicken fajitas, all part of the massive nine-page menu that also features classic margaritas, wine, and imported and domestic beers.
Ever since it was founded a half century ago, Mitchell Farms has remained the beloved life's work of the Mitchell family. Situated on 1,500 acres of woods and fields, the farm produces crops such as peanuts, peaches, blueberries, and soybeans. It's also home to three century-old log cabins, each adorned with antiques, patchwork quilts, and other collectable pieces.
Throughout the year, visitors can tour the historic cabins, talk farming with the Mitchell family, or purchase homemade jams, jellies, and honey. The farm's peanuts have been a staple for more than 30 years and are now grown on a full 300 acres to accommodate demand. During the fall, guests can sample fresh-dug peanuts or take home dried nuts. The fall also brings with it the Mississippi Peanut Festival, as well as a slew of onsite autumnal activities. Families can tour the farm in a covered wagon or board the Pumpkin Express train. A play area keeps children active with rope swings, play equipment, and a scarecrow drill sergeant instructing kids to drop and give him candy corn.
Every day at Bruster’s Real Ice Cream, passionate ice-cream professionals craft fresh frozen treats while drawing from an arsenal of more than 140 recipes. At any given time, up to 24 different ice-cream flavors situate themselves on the shop’s menu, providing creamy canvases for a mélange of toppings including M&Ms, chocolate chips, fudge, and gummy worms. A lineup of yogurt, sorbet, and fat-free selections provide lighter yet equally satisfying alternatives to traditional cones, and chilled beverages such as iced coffees, shakes, and fresh-fruit smoothies challenge slurpers to sip until lips become permanently frozen in the shape of an ear-to-ear grin. In addition to dishing out treats from behind the counter, Bruster’s Real Ice Cream totes its refreshing repertoire to public functions and fundraisers, where the company typically donates a portion of its sales to the event’s cause.
Mazzio's Italian Eatery's staff rolls out a buffet for lunch and dinner populated with tasty Italian cuisine that they also serve à la carte. The restaurant's staff has been perfecting its culinary modus operandi for more than 50 years, long enough to evolve the pizza selection to include three levels of thickness. Chefs bake standard, deep-dish, and thin crusts—available in gluten-free form—and load each with toppings such as caramelized onions and giant pepperoni. The kitchen makes pasta plates to order, some baked in the oven, such as lasagna, and some tossed in sauce, such as the mainstay spaghetti and meatballs. The signature calzone radiates the ambrosial scent of pizza dough stuffed with meat and cheese, and it's meant to be shared, unlike a pogo stick.
Fred Cerami’s first venture into the food industry was selling hot dogs on the streets of Hattiesburg. He loved feeding people, but wanted to incorporate his Sicilian heritage and generations of family recipes into his work. So in 1977, he left the streets, came inside, and laid down his roots within the kitchen of Cerami’s Italian Restaurant. Today, Fred’s daughter Alissa runs the restaurant, but not much else has changed. The kitchen still churns out homemade ravioli, lasagna, and spaghetti with meatballs, Italian flags still adorn the walls of the dining room, and Fred’s old Hattiesburg hot-dog wagon is still there, enjoying its healthier second act as an all-you-can-eat salad bar.