The Montague-Tanner Rehearsal Dinner at Southern Craft Stove + Tap, Oxford, Mississippi

The reason we were in Oxford, Mississippi, was the wedding of my youngest nephew, David Tanner, to the lovely Taylor Montague.  The bride and groom to be had reserved Southern Craft Stove + Tap for their rehearsal dinner.  I’ve written about Southern Craft as a restaurant, and just loved it, especially the turnip green and artichoke dip and what I have decided is the World’s Best Pimiento Cheese Burger.

A restaurant is one thing, but a large group dinner is a special challenge, as anyone who has ever been to a large group dinner will recall (assuming you haven’t suppressed the memory).  I imagine that it represented a real challenge to Chef Gross, talented though he is, and his staff.  They regularly do more informal group meals, but this one was high end for a demanding client (as anyone who has ever met Debby and David Tanner will agree).

The place was packed — I’m not sure how many people were there.  80?  100?  More?  It was a mix of Tanners/Griffins (Dear’s side were Griffins), Montagues, and David and Taylor’s college friends.  I’d never met any of Taylor’s family, so I spent a lot of time talking to them, and found them as nice as you could hope.  The rest of the time I talked to the swarms of Tanner relatives, and sampled the food and drink offerings.  I will not belabor the various beverages and hors d’oeuvres that I tried.  Suffice it to say that I was sedulous in my sampling, and that everything was remarkably good, better than it had any right to be.

I will, however, mention the dinner.  As I said, it is really hard to do such a large dinner well.  At best, everything arrives cold, and at worst, orders get mixed up or, God forbid, you run short of something.  Amazingly, nothing at all bad happened at David and Taylor’s rehearsal dinner.  Chef Gross is amazing, both as a chef and as an organizer, which I guess is a large part of being a chef, and the reason most restaurants fail.

The salads were cool and fresh — my watermelon, tomato, and feta salad (shown in progress)

rehearsal salad j

was delicious, as was Nancy’s poached pear, fresh greens, and feta salad (also shown in progress).  Chef Gross is a bit more organized than I.

rehearsal salad n

And both Nancy’s salmon

rehearsal n

and my filet

rehearsal j

arrived warm and perfectly cooked.  How does he do that?   Sous vide?  Ken’s Creative Kitchen pulled off a similar tour de force at Liza and Michael’s wedding, but …. How many times have you seen that?  I’ve been to famous restaurants that can’t serve food hot to a party of eight.

It was a lovely dinner, and a great start to a wedding weekend.


I won’t do a separate post on the wedding and reception.  I had eaten at three different places that day before the wedding, as readers will soon discover, and I was in an enjoy-myself mode, not a note-taking, picture-taking mode.  Suffice it to say that the wedding was lovely.

Taylor and David were married a few miles southwest of Oxford in the Chapel at Plein Air in Taylor, Mississippi ()2010 population, 322).  Taylor is the home of the redoubtable Taylor Grocery (I ate catfish and turnip greens at the Taylor Grocery back before people ate there), and a nice new Oxford subdivision that apparently wandered down to Taylor as a child and was unable to find its way home.

The wedding itself was lovely.  The bride was lovely.  To be sure, I’ve never seen a bride who wasn’t lovely, but then I’ve never seen Taylor when she wasn’t lovely, and she knocked it out of the park.  (It’s a family tradition that Tanner men marry up.)  The wedding party was well turned out and looking great.  Both Ella and Lily behaved themselves during the ceremony, as did I, if I do say so myself.

After the ceremony, we all strolled over to The Mill at Plein Air and had a wonderful time.  Lots of very good food, very good company, and very good music.  It gave me a little time to talk more to the Montague side and to sundry of my kin.  As at all weddings, you never have enough time to talk to everyone — to anyone — as much as you would like.  Ella played with cousins and danced the night away.  Both the ceremony and the reception were great.   Everyone had a great time.  They did the job, and did it right.

God bless David and Taylor as they start their life together.  Wish them well.


And while you’re at it, click “follow” on our front page to receive blog posts in your email box.  Or bookmark us and check in from time to time.  If you’re planning a trip, you can “Search” the name of the city, state, or country for good restaurants (in Europe, usually close to sites, like the Louvre or the Van Gogh Museum, that you’ll want to visit in any event).  Comments, questions, and suggestions of places to eat or stories to cover are very welcome.  And check out our Instagram page, johntannerbbq.



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