Have you ever driven down a dirt road and thought to yourself, "I think I've gone too far. I must have past my destination?"
Just after asking myself that exact question, I saw the entrance to Lone Pine, a campground at the Mississippi River State Park just outside of Marianna, Arkansas (about an hour south of Memphis).
Lone Pine is one of several campgrounds at the state park, but it is the only primitive campground with no potable water and no electricity. Surrounded by a lake on three sides, the campground is quiet, nestled away from the RVs (and noisy RVers) at the campsites with water and electricity. In fact, it was the perfect place for me to brew a cup of tea on my sterno burner and read a book.
While you are in a primitive site, each campsite does have a fire pit and grill sitting next to a picnic table. An outhouse sits in the middle of the campground and the campsite does have a place to put garbage into strong metal receptacles with lids to keep any wildlife from scavenging garbage.
While I only spent one day and night at the campsite, but it was a great, relaxing experience surrounded by trees and peace. In retrospect, I would have spent some extra time at the state park. I would have gone swimming in the lake. I would have gone on a hike along one of the trails. Unfortunately, I was concerned about possible thunderstorms coming in that afternoon (they never showed up, btw). I was concerned about traveling to the site and putting up my tent during a downpour, so I opted to hit the campsite as soon as I got to the park. Then, once I had my tent set up, I didn't want to leave it unattended. So, for the next trip, I'm going to explore before I burrow in for the night.
I'm pretty sure if you want to win on Chopped, throwing a fried egg on top of your main course is a great way to get yourself to the dessert round. And I know that, personally, I'm pretty much a sucker for a fried egg stuck on top of my food. So, when I ordered at ZaZa's in Conway, I had to go for the arugula, prosciutto pizza with a fried egg stuck on top of it.
Wood oven pizza with a nice, thin crust topped with fresh arugula, prosciutto, and a fried egg? Yes, please.
The pizza comes out hot, with arugula and prosciutto added after the cooking process along with some grape tomatoes cut in half (that I could have done without, in all honesty). I found myself eating the tomatoes separately from the rest of the pizza. I get it, Parma ham and tomatoes is great, but the tomatoes just weren't for me this time around.
On my other visit to ZaZa's I tried the Zupreme, another wood oven fired beauty topped with Pepperoni, House-Made Italian sausage, a 3 Italian Cheese Blend, caramelized onions, Mushrooms, kalamata olives, and tomato sauce. Equally delicious as the pie from my first visit, and the fried egg on top still would have worked (although I didn't have one)
My companions ate salads, wing, gelato and other pizza choices including one with a beautiful ball of Burrata and a drizzle of balsamic that looked amazing. I was very tempted to try it on my second visit, but decided to go in a different direction.
The salads are topped and tossed in front of the customer, and the wings looked really nice. I'm usually skeptical of pizza restaurant wings, but these got great reviews from the other guests at my table.
The only real complaints I have are that:
1. The delivery time for one entree to another left something to be desired. On my second visit, several of the people at my table were half way through dinner before I got my pie. It isn't the end of the world, but leaving people to get hangry watching others isn't the best look.
2. Some of our pies got a little too much love from the high heat of a wood fire oven turning the bottom of the pizza skin black in places. My guess is that some new cooks were learning about the wood oven and high heat that week.
Neither of those things will keep me from coming back. Nobody and no restaurant is perfect, and the pizza at ZaZa's is worth of a couple minor hiccups.
David Thornton is a two time national award winning writer, chef, husband, father, and fitness enthusiast.