Monday, March 9, 2009

Savannah, Georgia

I know this is a food blog and not a travel blog, but usually a large part of my traveling is food-related. Plus I just like sharing things that are interesting. I'm also still shy about taking pictures of food in public, so I don't have any. Please forgive me!

Joe and I traveled to Savannah and spent four nights there. Somewhat unfortunately, we left the morning after it had snowed in Nashville, and we were looking forward to warm weather. It snowed all the way through Atlanta, which was a little unnerving for two people who are not used to driving in snow. But we arrived in the flat we rented through VRBO and were nicely surprised. The owners had left us a bottle of wine and some Boursin cheese and crackers. That night we recuperated from traveling and just relaxed at our flat and did a little grocery shopping.

The kitchen in our little apartment

The next morning, we had a tour scheduled with Bobby Davis of Explore Savannah. For us, this was the ideal tour experience: on-foot, just the two of us and Bobby. We could go at our own pace (probably much faster than many of the other tourists we saw) and see fun little things like private gardens that Bobby would point out to us. He even took pictures of the two of us and sent them to us that evening. Bobby was highly entertaining and offered many suggestions of what to do and where to eat. If you go to Savannah, definitely tour with Bobby!

Photo by Bobby, Joe and I in front of St. John the Baptist Cathedral

For lunch that day, Bobby recommended the Gryphon Tea Room (337 Bull St., Savannah, GA) and ensured Joe that they had "man food" as well as lighter fare. We split a pot of delicately flavored orange and cinnamon tea and a bowl of the corn and crab chowder. I ordered a portobello mushroom sandwich with roasted red peppers and herb aioli, which was phenomenal, and Joe had the chicken salad sandwich. Our bill was around $30.

Once fortified, we did some shopping at Shop SCAD (340 Bull St.), the store that sells works by students and alumni of Savannah College of Art and Design. I picked up some funky square melamine salad plates for $8 each, though much of their wares are considerably more expensive. I'm all for supporting local artists though, and there was some great stuff! We then went to E. Shaver, Bookseller (326 Bull St.), a great local bookseller that offered many books on Savannah as well as autographed copies of other books. I ended up getting a cookbook of desserts from Savannah restaurants that also included some lovely photos of Savannah. Then, we walked up to River St. and split some pralines and caramel clusters but found the area rather busy and touristy. We decided to try out a bar we had passed called McDonough's (21 E. McDonough St.) since they had some happy hour deals. For some reason, after one beer, the bartenders ignored us, so we just left. That night we drank wine and I pan-seared some swordfish steaks and steamed some broccoli for dinner.

Tuesday morning we ventured out for breakfast to Express Cafe & Bakery (39 Barnard St.), an adorable little European-style cafe with French posters on the walls. Joe and I split an almond croissant and a chocolate croissant, and I had egg and cheese on a bagel. The croissants were delicious! We shopped up and down Broughton St., home to many furniture and home design stores, as well as clothing boutiques. On the advice of Bobby, we headed out in the car to Bonaventure Cemetary, the burial place of many famous Savannahians including Johnny Mercer. It's also a beautiful place to visit with all of the live oaks and Spanish moss hanging down. If it hadn't been such a sunny day, it would've been a little creepy.

Bonaventure Cemetary

Bobby had steered us away from Paula Deen's restaurant since she is rarely there anymore, and it's full of tourists, towards another home-cooking restaurant called Geneva's Home Plate (2812 Bee Rd.), not too far from Bonaventure. Our lunch started off with a loaf of fresh cornbread, and the paper lining of the basket was soon damp from the buttery bread. I ordered the crabcakes with a side of red beans and rice and macaroni and cheese. The crabcakes were simply amazing: very moist and flavorful. The macaroni and cheese was nicely baked and also had a great creamy flavor. The red beans and rice were a little bland though. Joe ordered the seafood gumbo, which arrived with half a stone crab sticking out of it. It was also absolutely fabulous. We split the bread pudding for dessert. The service was a little spotty and slow, but Geneva herself came out and asked how our meal was. I would definitely recommend this restaurant for home-cooking if you want to avoid tourist traps.

After a few hours of rest, we decided to ride the bikes our condo had provided for us to happy hour at LuLu's Chocolate Bar (42 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd). With $7 fancy martinis and free cookie bites, this seemed like the perfect way to kick off our evening. Joe ordered the pomegranate white chocolate martini which was bright pink and came with a flower. He always tries to out-girl me with cocktails! I got the raspberry truffle martini which came in a chocolate syrup-lined martini glass. We would've loved to try more of the different cocktails, but they were maybe best saved for after dinner.

We biked up to River St. to see what was going on and maybe get some oysters for me. Huey's (115 E. River St.) had $.50 steamed oysters and buffalo wings until 6:45, as well as some drink deals. I ordered a dozen steamed oysters and enjoyed the fresh briny taste with white wine, while Joe ordered the buffalo wings. After that, we called it a night because we were exhausted and biked home with an incredibly full stomach.

Forsyth Park

Wednesday morning, after a breakfast at our flat, we drove off to Tybee Island, even though it was about 50 degrees. It was even colder and windier on the beach, so we didn't stay long. I had planned on a seafood lunch, though after the oysters the night before, it didn't seem as pressing. We opted for a bike ride and lunch back in Savannah at Firefly Cafe (321 Habersham St.). We split a bowl of the corn chowder "Firefly style" with crab meat, cheese, croutons, and scallions and the Caribbean shrimp baked with habanero pepper butter sauce. The Caribbean shrimp were the perfect degree of spiciness and came out hot from the oven. It was the perfect light meal. Then we rode our bikes through Forsyth Park and around historic Savannah a bit. We stopped into Low Country Gourmet (123 E. Liberty St.) and sampled some olive oils and vinegars. Joe selected a black cherry balsamic vinegar that will make a delicious salad dressing.

I was craving a cupcake and had heard good things about Back in the Day Bakery (2403 Bull St.), which required a quick car trip, but ended up being a delicious little break in our day. Joe and I split a black and white cupcake (chocolate cake with white frosting) and an Old Fashioned (butter cake with buttercream frosting). The cake was moist and very sweet, though we were hoping for a few more options.
Since it was our last night in town, we went out to The Distillery (416 W. Liberty St.) for drinks before dinner. We are definitely beer people, and The Distillery featured many American craft beers on draught. It is Prohibition-themed and had many ads from the 1920s as well as showing old beer ads and Charlie Chaplin movies on the TV screens. The building was initially a distillery, established in 1904, so it was really neat to see the alcohol theme resurrected. I had a Brown Ale brewed in California with 9.9% ABV, so it was an interesting bike ride home! I made pasta with shrimp and an improvised white wine butter sauce and steamed broccoli.

Thursday morning we packed up and headed off to Atlanta, which I will talk about more in my next blog post!


- I would highly recommend doing a vacation rental by owner. We were able to stay in a much nicer place and location than if we had rented a hotel. Plus you can save money (and calories) by making your own food. We made all but one breakfast and two dinners at the condo. Plus, it was beautifully decorated and a great space to come back to and relax.

- I would also recommend staying in the historic district. It's definitely a little pricier, but we only got back in the car a few times once we arrived. Plus we never had to pay for parking.