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Just back from a conference in Biloxi, Mississippi. At the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. A different feel then most government meetings.

Not a lot has re-opened post-Katrina and the area is still in shambles. We asked for recommendations outside the casino for dinner and were given a list of chains as they have corporate backing to help with rebuilding. After some more asking around, we were sent to McElroy's in Ocean Springs (one exit east on I-10). This is an informal seafood place right on the bayou. I went with the daily special of broiled shrimp. They seemed far too small for the fresh Gulf shrimp a lot of local places usually feature but they were very tasty. Just done and well seasoned. Served with a baked potato and salad for $15. McElroy's had a Biloxi location that was still in shambles. The sign out front said re-opening soon but there were no signs of construction work.

I walked out on the commercial fishing pier, the first one rebuilt after the storm. The others still have pieces of dock missing and a lot of visible debris in the water that would make navigation hazardous. There were about a dozen shrimpers at the docks. Room for more then twice that. The fisherman I spoke with said it has been a good season so far but that the shrimp are running on the small size. I told him about my dinner and he pointed to one of the other boats and said they were the ones who sold to McElroy's and that they were definitely fresh Gulf shrimp.

Went to a fish fry another night and the light cornmeal breaded fried shrimp there were the sort of bigger Gulf shrimp I expect. These were right off the boat and unbelievable. Had my first pickled crab claws. I'd never seen this before. A bowl full of tiny claws with the first knuckle of meat exposed. They were prepped like ceviche in lime juice with a splash of vinegar and garlic. Very, very tasty. The rest of the crab is picked for lump meat. Eaten at a park with a platform over the bayou in D'Iberville. Couldn't ask for a better setting. Almost, but not quite, made me want to like oysters. The marine patrol guys were scarfing those down.

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I've spent too much time in these parts to not share, if y'all should ever find yourself in a Delta hamlet or travel thru the "bigger" places like Oxford or Jackson:

Greenville: Doe's Eat Place: The one, the only (thank you Ann):http://www.doeseatplace.com

Greenwood: Lusco's Restaurant: Prohibition-era joint (replete with "private" tables, curtained and partially-walled off from each other and the service staff) beloved by the fam, wrong side of the tracks, byob, tremendous steaks and even better fish and sauces: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Luscos-Restaurant/167968569465

Delta Bistro: Real Delta cooking, personal and creative yet always firmly entrenched in the alluvial plain from which it came; a community revitaliser, Beard Award-Semifinalist; a real gem: http://www.deltabistro.com/

Alluvian Hotel/Giardina's: Never been, neither has anyone else, well for a long time; something of a "supper club" since the move to the Alluvian http://www.thealluvian.com/giardinas.php

Indianola: The Crown: If you find yourself in BB King's hometown (perhaps to a fine museum dedicated to him), you should find time for a fine lunch (no supper) here, again, another small town/downtown jewel. Ask nicely and they will pile on the tomato or zucchini bread; a fine selection of deep south regional classics; DO NOT MISS THE PIE BAR or the delightful book and toy store thru which you must enter and ask for a table (they will tell you to wait, no matter what, not to be rude but only so you may taste the spread they provide while you wait- hope it involves the catfish pate) http://www.thecrownrestaurant.com/

Oxford: Any and all of John Currence's places, honestly they're all that good http://citygroceryonline.com/

Jackson: Parlor Market: A hell of a restaurant, in any city, anywhere. The obsessive local sourcing, exceptional, focused Southern cooking and downright fun of this place makes it one of my favorites anywhere,

Mayflower Cafe: Haven't heard from anyone bout this joint recently but fondly remembered, often missed and dying to try next time in Jackson http://www.mayflowercafems.com/

Natchez (just cause): Pig Out Inn BBQ: Just some damn fine 'que, not as fine as the hell of the town its in but, hey!?! What the hell, food tastes better outside, overlooking the churning rumbling Old Man, with a simply stunning pre-Grant town smiling down on you and mess o' ribs and greens and a cold one http://www.pigoutinnbbq.com/

And lastly, eat ALL the Comeback Sauce you can, on anything you can. Seriously

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