Bulldog Bites: Three teams deserving of praise, plus cheese logs and pie at The Veranda

On a somewhat weekly basis in this space, sports and food will be brought together to run through the happenings in Mississippi State athletics and talk about places to eat in Starkville. If you’re only interested one, feel free to scroll right past the other. Sports first, food second.

Sports Stuff

ONPSDWRQJXQJPSS.20150331212109Women’s Golf: Outside, perhaps, of football last fall, not many teams on MSU’s campus have been more deserving of praise than the Bulldog women’s golf team. They’re on pace to make their fourth-straight NCAA Tournament after finishing in the top five of last year’s NCAA Championships. The follow up to that performance has been an increasing level of success.

MSU finished No. 2 in the country after the regular season concluded this week and they’ve got two weeks off to recover and prepare for the SEC Championships. The 2015 spring season was by nearly all accounts the best season in the history of the program as MSU finished in the Top 10 of every tournament it played in, including six top-five finishes and two first-place trophies.

To hear the quote from head Ginger Brown-Lemm, however, it sounds like her goal is much higher than finishing No. 2. Well, one spot higher, anyway.

“We have a great team, and I’m very proud of them,” she said. “We can’t focus on rankings. We have to keep focused on the SEC Tournament coming up and perform well like we have been all season.”

We’ll have more from them as the postseason nears.

Men’s Tennis: Under first-year head coach Matt Roberts, MSU’s tennis team had a somewhat up-and-down start to the season, but they’ve been on absolute tear lately, jumping back up the rankings all the way to No. 26 with a 15-5 overall record, 6-2 in the SEC.

The Bulldogs are 4-1 since toppling Auburn on March 15th, including a streak the last week in which they beat Ole Miss, Tennessee and Kentucky all in a row.

“This is another huge win for us and shows how much we’re growing as this season goes along,” Roberts said after beating UK Sunday. “The SEC is an extremely tough conference to win in, especially on the road. Our guys have come through in the clutch lately and delivered some big wins and I could not be more proud.”

Following State’s 3-0 week, junior Mate Cutura was named the SEC Player of the Week for his role in the success.

Next up, MSU hosts No. 6 Georgia at 5 p.m. on Friday and plays No. 45 South Carolina at 1 p.m. on Sunday in Starkville, as well.

Women’s Tennis: Hey, speaking of good tennis teams! It seems as if MSU has turned the proverbial corner in head coach Daryl Greenan’s rebuilding process, entering the rankings early this season and working their way up to No. 44 in the country.

MSU started the season 13-3 before a rough skid in conference play brought the record to 14-7. However, they got a huge and drawn-out win yesterday, winning a five-hour marathon over No. 42 Auburn in Starkville.

“Our girls have done an unbelievable job rebounding after close losses,” Greenan said after the win. “Today, their efforts paid off.”

Next up, MSU closes out the regular season with matches on the road against Tennessee, Georgia and Ole Miss.

Softball: Just so you don’t think I’m ignoring them: I’m working on a long story on the success they’ve had this year, particularly the incredible strides they’ve made offensively. A teaser: MSU has upped it’s batting average from .257 last year to .326 this year and already has as many triples (10) and home runs (34) with 17 games left this season as it did the entirety of 2014. Impressive stuff.

Football: Same story here, in that the stories are elsewhere. I’ve written a few things about spring practice so far if you scroll down on the blog, and MSU has it’s first big scrimmage in Davis Wade Stadium tomorrow morning (9:45, open to the public), so we’ll have a lot more following that.

Food Stuff

Sports and food often have parallels that make the two seem like they were meant to be together, and I firmly believe no couple was ever more pre-ordained, save perhaps Adam and his lovely wife Eve. But occasionally the sports/food dynamic gets a bit, well, off.

Courtesy: The Veranda

Courtesy: The Veranda

For example, the apple of the baseball world’s eye is the starting pitcher, while appetizers, the starters of the culinary world, are given as much importance as the Diamond Girls. (Don’t get me wrong – they’re nice, but they’re complimentary, not what you’re there for.).

Conversely, the main course is the center of the menu at any establishment, but its baseball equivalent is, what, a long reliever? I suppose dessert is the closer in this poorly-constructed analogy, held in seemingly high regard despite the fact that people can only name a few of them.

I’ve written about plenty of entrees before, and we showcased around a dozen of them on video back in the fall, but it’s time the starters and closers of the restaurant industry get a little credit.

In this instance, such an exercise takes us to The Veranda, one of the most popular and well-known restaurants in Starkville. Owner and Chef Jay Yates is all about flavor on his steak (and it’s a really, really good steak), but he’s got more than pasta and well-cooked meats at his place. When it comes to ancillary dishes, he has some of the best.

What I like about appetizers and desserts is the feeling that you’re getting away with something or that you’re splurging a little bit. They’re great on dates or in groups, and particularly fun when you decide to skip the main dishes altogether and just get some snacks. If you’re at The Veranda, there is one clear choice for each category.

On the appetizer side, we can debate who has the best cheese sticks in Starkville for days (I’ve done it), but one thing is true: you won’t find cheese sticks like The Veranda’s anywhere else in town. Yates calls them cheese logs, and that’s what they are. Where most establishments go heavy on breading and deep fry ‘em ‘til the cheese is boiling hot and the breaded crust is thick and crunchy, The Veranda goes the other direction, completely reversing the ratio of cheese and batter.

These logs of cheese are over 90 percent mozzarella (or pepperjack, if that’s your preference), with a light and buttery breading to give it the needed crunch and extra flavor.

I’ve got a group of friends who want nothing more after football, baseball or basketball games to go straight to The Veranda and get some cheese logs off the late night menu. If cheese is what you want, cheese is what you get.

Now, for the dessert, there are few if any concoctions that can match The Veranda’s key lime pie. Some people tell me they don’t like key lime pie, but I don’t care. Eat this. Eat it with your mouth and go straight to Nirvana. The key lime filling is great, first off, but it doesn’t stop there. That filling is set on top of a crushed Oreo crust, then it’s topped with a thick layer of Belgian chocolate ganache. My goodness, it’s the kind of thing I would trade family members for an unlimited supply of.

So, the moral of the story: treat yourself. Not only is it OK to get an appetizer and dessert, it’s encouraged.

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