Southern food has a style all it’s own. Take the ubiquitous Pimento Cheese spread you might find on most southern tables.  It screams fun in all it’s cheesy  goodness with flecks of pepper just begging to be but on a cracker. And just like the people and the atmosphere in Montgomery , Alabama, good Southern food is friendly, comforting and most of all just really fun.

I was lucky enough to have dinner at Central Restaurant in downtown Montgomery, Alabama. Montgomery is realizing a renaissance; old abandoned buildings are being re-purposed with galleries, outdoor cafes, and casual and fine dining. Central is conveniently located just across the street from the Renaissance Montgomery Hotel and Spa,  a hotel I will cover at a later date.

Speaking with Executive Chef Leo Maurelli III of Central, he mentioned that “I don’t do farm to table, this goes back to my upbringing when my mom or grand mom would simply go out into the garden and make what was fresh for dinner. And that’s what I do.”

Chef locally sources the highest percentage possible he can for his menu. he has a favorite urban farm nearby that teaches children and adults how to grow their own food sustainably and organically called E.A.T.  South( more on that later too).  I like his philosophy, not trendy or cool, just good, fresh and vibrant food.

I have to mention the seafood. He served incredibly fresh Yellow Fin sashimi from the Gulf of Mexico,  and it was a revelation. I lived in Hawaii for ten years, and know fish, this was as good if not better than what I had in Hawaii. It was in my humble opinion the best meal of my trip. In fact Montgomery’s food  and tourism scene is surprisingly vibrant. So plan a visit soon Y’all!

Here is my take on Central’s Pimento Cheese Dip.

Pimento Cheese Dip, A Little Bit Of Southern Comfort
1 Lb. Extra sharp Cheddar shredded, Use the highest quality you can find, I used Tillamook Vintage White aged 2 years
4 Ounces Cream cheese softened
½ Cup Mayonnaise, you can sub in yogurt here if you prefer
1 Jar 4oz. Pimento’s finely chopped
½ Teaspoon onion powder
½ Teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
½ Teaspoon Garlic powder
½ Teaspoon Cayenne pepper
Optional: ½ Teaspoon Chipotle powder for additional heat and a smoky touch
Instructions
  1. Use an electric mixer to get the ingredients fully incorporated. Just let the cream cheese come to room temperature for ease of mixing.
  2. Combine all of the ingredients in the mixer and fully blend. Some recipes call for salt, but I would taste the dip before adjusting any seasoning as the Cheddar does add a salt component.
  3. Make the dip ahead of time and refrigerate it so it firms up. Serve with your favorite crackers, lavosh or some lightly toasted artisan sourdough.