Savannah’s Oldest Bakery,Gottlieb’s, Starts Dinner Service

Savannah’s Oldest Bakery,Gottlieb’s, Starts Dinner Service

THERE ARE certain restaurants that could be designated cornerstones of Savannah’s food scene. For a BLT salad you go to the Olde Pink House, for ice cream it’s Leopold’s, and for decadent oversized baked goods, specifically for me the caramel roll, Gottlieb’s Bakery is the choice.

At least that was the way until a few weeks ago, when Gottlieb’s decided to expand their repertoire to include brunch on Sunday and dinner on Friday and Saturday nights.

The second I heard, I zoomed over to check it out. I visited on a Friday evening, and sat down to chat baked goods with Laurence Gottlieb while his brother Michael Gottlieb cooked dinner in the back.

The rest of the patrons filled the side of the shop where Laurence bakes, sitting at the actual tables where he rolls out his dough on every early morning. Eating at this table provides an experience that allows you to daydream of kneading, twisting, and filling pastries while you eat.

In the back sits a modest kitchen in which Michael impressively cranks out dish after dish for the influx of patrons that fill the family shop.

The fourth generation Gottlieb brothers re-opened the more than 100 year-old bakery and brought their own experience and tastes to the table.

“We are slowly incorporating old school bakery products into the mix as well as having fun creating new bakery items based on inspiration from old family recipes,” Michael elaborates.

The two work together like peas and carrots—Laurence the baker and Michael the cook. With their powers combined, the resulting food is well thought out and prepared exquisitely.

Most locals know and love the institution that has been Gottlieb’s Bakery, so speaking to the quality of their food didn’t require many questions on my end; the reputation speaks for itself. I was, however, curious to learn why the family bakers decided to expand to dinner service.

Michael explains, “Dinner was brought on by our desire to showcase our passion for food influenced by bakery products and ingredients found around us. Baking is our second calling (well first really as we grew up in the bakery), working in kitchens serving fun foods is where Laurence and I both started in our careers.”

Just as surprised as I was to learn about the ever growing and changing bakery, I was surprised to find a well rounded menu. You’ll find anything from fluffy gnocchi coated in pesto to an earthy roasted mushroom burger.

Up close of the mushroom burger

Michael educated me on how bakers with a lifetime of experience go about creating a savory dinner menu:

“Laurence and I talk about weekly bakery production and see what items, doughs or desserts will be floating around and then the menu is created based on those influences. We also look at seasonal products that are coming into play and showcase those based on our menu writing experience,” he says.

To create each recipe, old or new, the process is simple according to Michael:

“The dinner and brunch items are based on our love of food, travel and past work experiences. We enjoy a free flowing menu that incorporates foods from all over. Currently we are having fun creating and paying homage to our favorites and the challenge of recreating a dish that would normally cost $30 plus in a more formal setting but figuring out how to serve the same quality at a $15 – $17 price point,” he says.

I started with a shareable dish, the Foie-nut. For this rich starter a warm sticky sweet donut is served with seared Hudson Valley foie gras. A hint of texture is added to the outside of the velvety delicacy.

The salty/sweet combination is finished with a sprinkling of nuts and a sticky sauce. Foie and doughnuts is what chicken and waffles wants to be.

It is the right time of year to find soft shell crab featured on the brand new menu. Gottlieb’s offers theirs spewing over its bun.

The bread—tender with a chewy outside—was the perfect vessel to deliver the meaty flash fried soft shell crab. As you bite into the sandwich, the expertly baked bread gives away just enough to let the crab shine. The finished sandwich had all the textures and flavors of a stellar deli sandwich but with a salty fare flare.

The Grilled Charleston Cheese Curd Sandwich was recommended to me, probably because it is one of the more unique items on the menu. Creamy curds are paired with a spicy sweet apricot horseradish and floral herbed olive oil. The dish comes together like an upscale sandwich version of that pepper jelly covered cream cheese party dish that so many locals make.

In lieu of staple Savannah shrimp and grits, the brothers serve red fish over creamy grits with basil and a corn cream. The fish is well seasoned, cooked delicately, and serves as the perfect counterpart to its base of custard like ground southern corn.

The mushroom burger will make you forget meat. A gigantic slice of mushroom is layered with charred onions and sharp melted cheddar between the same handmade bun that serves the crab.

The best part of my meal was how warm and welcoming the Gottlieb duo was. Their hospitality truly pays homage to the legacy that is the Gottlieb family.

The restaurant does not have a liquor license, so don’t forget your favorite bottle (or two) of wine to pair with your meal. You can replace the empty space in your bag with a take home box full of fritters, cookies, and danishes.

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The Newest Bakery in Savannah: Mad Mac’s

The Newest Bakery in Savannah: Mad Mac’s

My favorite kind of article to write is the one where I stumble upon a new place—literally.

Several weeks ago, while walking through Wright Square after lunch, I noticed an open sign in the space that once occupied Our Daily Bread.

Intrigued, I immediately walked in and asked the lady behind the counter, “What is this?” She promptly responded, “Mad Mac’s Bakery.”

A quick glance around and my eyes were filled with colorful French macarons, cookies, muffins, and everything in between. I knew immediately I wanted to write about my lucky find.

That lady turned out to be Dee Gibson, mother to owner of Mad Mac’s Bakery, Logan McDonald. While I was in the bakery buying more baked goods than I could stomach, we chatted quickly and without hesitation set me up an interview with McDonald.

I was elated, because a second trip to Mad Mac’s would give me an ample excuse to buy even more sweet treats, which I did.

During my first visit I purchased a six pack of macarons. The price is quite possibly the best in town — you get a half a dozen for only ten bucks.

A few of the flavors I took home included Mexican hot chocolate, confetti, and pistachio. Each macaron had a textbook execution with a light crunchy shell that gives way to a tender and chewy inside.

I also grabbed a few Cup Cookies, which was by far my favorite cookie offered at Mad Mac’s. Cookie dough is mushed into a muffin pan before being baked. The result is a baked good with the perfect cookie texture—a crunchy shell and an ooey gooey soft cookie center. The Cup Cookies have everything you could love about a well baked cookie warm out of the oven.

Mad Mac’s did not stop at simply baking a cookie. Each cup is topped with a hefty piping of soft buttery icing. The chocolate chip was my favorite (mainly because I feel as though a chocolate chip cookie is the ultimate cookie), but the snickerdoodle was just as scrumptious.

I am told by McDonald that the Heath Bar Cup Cookie is their most popular. A third trip may be in order to hunt down the Heath Bar version.

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When I returned to learn about Mad Mac’s from McDonald, I first asked him several questions about the place, then purchased a few more treats to round out my experience.
My first question was, “Where does Mad-Mac’s come from?” McDonald shed some light saying, “My last name is McDonald and McDonald’s is already taken, and of course it works with macarons.”

Of course, I then followed with a series of questions about his recipes and all of the baked good available.

McDonald is the great-grandson of Mabel Francis Potter of Mabel’s Cupckae Emporium. Baking and working with Mabel’s, the idea of Mad Mac’s was not a new one, and had been thrown around before. When the storefront became available, McDonald seized his opportunity to branch out from his family.

Although McDonald is doing his own thing, he explains, “A lot of the recipes come from my great-grandmother Mabel Francis Potter with the cupcake emporium. I am have a little bit of a different take, keeping her naming going and modernizing it a little bit.”

I next ask McDonald about all of the macarons since French macarons seem to be the cornerstone of the store. He tells me that they “make them in house and a lot of places do not…we are constantly making new flavors. We probably have around thirty flavors of macarons.”

Even though there are enough variations of macarons to make anyone happy, the second case of treats in the store is well round and rotates like the macarons.
According to McDonald, “the menu changes, but you can always expect it to include French macarons.”

Because of the ever-available macarons, my second visit I decided to take home some cookie sandwiches and a muffin. The muffin did not make it home.

I never eaten a muffin and expect to be totally wowed. Was I pleasantly surprised with the muffin from Mad Mac’s? Yes. Completely taken aback.

I state this without hesitation—the apple muffin at Mad-Mac’s was one of the most enjoyable muffins I have ever eaten. Large chunks of apple added into the batter make the finished muffin so moist it is almost sticky.

Somehow a super-fine and delicate cake crumble is created by their recipe. McDonald also mentions having a berry and mango filled muffin available as well. The addition of mango into a classic berry muffin highlights his modern take on his family recipes.

As for the cookie sandwich, like all of the other treats in the mountain of baked goods I tried, it was heavenly. Inside of two classic chocolate chip cookies you will find a slathering sweet silky icing. The Red Velvet Cookie Sandwich is a deep dark red cookie with coated with a white glaze and filled with a classic frosting.

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Finally, the case had a Magic Bar, which McDonald says has been extremely popular with patrons. It is created using graham cracker, coconut, chocolate and a few other things. “It’s a gooey coconut chocolate bar. It is glorious,” McDonald says.

McDonald plans to open a comic book shop in the back of the bakery. Which begs the question—why open a comic book store in a bakery?

McDonald elevated my wonder by saying, “Whenever I go into a comic book store it is almost a scary thing. It is a dark place with water dripping down the ceiling. I always wanted to have a high end comic book store.”

Patrons can expect the paper portion of the storefront to open its doors between March and April.

Original article can be found here.

Review: Pie Society

Review: Pie Society

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‘TRADITIONAL’ is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the food industry. I must say, if I was forced to pick a single term to describe the menu, ambiance, and attitude of Pie Society, I would be remiss to not describe it using that pesky term.

I ain’t talking about saying the blessing while holding hands before a meal, I am talking the type of tradition that makes the food of our ancestors so delicious.

Founded in 2013, Pie Society opened its first location in Pooler, and only a year later opened a second location in the historic district of Sa

vannah. This restaurant and bakery is steeped in tradition and is owned by a family, the Wagstaffs, born and raised in England; they relocated to Georgia to bring Savannah its only authentic British bakery.

Co-owner Gillian Wagstaff, mother to the other co-owners, brought a refrigerator from her home in England and placed it in the store — you cannot miss it behind the counter with a giant flag on the front.

The walls of the Pooler location are adorned with photos as time-honored as the recipes  cooked daily within the confines of the business. Most notable is a blown up picture of the Wagstaff’s family’s shoe shop, in Birmingham, England. Pictured in black and white, you can see their great grandfather, Thomas Sylvester Wagstaff, second to the right. Co-owner Melissa Wagstaff proudly poses in front of the picture.

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The Pooler location “is much bigger…and we sell more things such as British groceries and frozen items like English bacon and sausages” says Melissa, setting itself apart from the sister location in City Market.

Those are not the only things that make the Pooler location unique, they now offer traditional (in the truest sense) British Fish and Chips. Even if you don’t live near Pooler, these fish and chips are worth the short drive to experience the most authentic British Fish and Chips around.

The dish is so authentic, any Englishman would be proud to dub Pie Society a Chip Shop or Chippy, a title given to most fish and chips shops across the pond.

Each plate is cooked to order to ensure optimal flavor and that it arrives at your table piping hot, which only takes about five minutes. With the full portion of fish you get an eight to ten ounce deep fried filet of Alaskan cod that is balanced atop on a mound of thick hand cut “chips,” or fries as we defectors call them here in the States.

According to co-owner Emma Wagstaff, “the fish is fried in beef tallow (fat) in accordance with the traditional British method” to make these fish and chips as proper as the Queen herself.

The tallow is what lends the fish its unique flavor. The cod is meaty yet moist with oversized flakes, and coated in thin crisp batter that makes an audible noise when you tear off a chunk.

The fries that sit beneath are golden brown with a crunchy outer layer, and a pillowy, salty potato inside. At lunch the restaurant offers a half portion of fish that still comes with chips, a sauce of your choice, and a drink.

If you are of the belief that fish and chips must include a cold frothy beverage to wash it down, Pooler’s Pie Society offers several options in beer in wine, including Stella Artois and Newcastle.

As for sauces, the choices of pairings for your fish and chips are limitless considering each accompaniment is as good as the last. The extra creamy tartar sauce, a classic southern pairing for fish, is robustly chunky with bright parsley, sharp shallots, and briney capers.

The second option is preferred by most Brits: fresh mushy peas that are made from lightly blanched garden peas and finished with a touch of mint. It’s sort of a British version of refried beans.

Gravy, a third sauce pairing, is served warm with tiny chunks of steak floating about. This gravy is made using all of the leftover pie gravy from each morning’s bakes, and is hearty like a steak sauce but with a deep flavor of beef.

Lastly, yellow curry is available as an option to dunk your fish and chips in. Again, made from scratch in-house (like most everything on the menu), the curry is studded with caramelized onions and has the ideal amount of spice.

Emma Wagstaff recommends mixing the curry and gravy, her favorite way to eat fish and chips.

To finish your meal, a pastry and some tea is a must considering the head baker and co-owner, Ed Wagstaff, along with his team, begins baking every morning at one am to ensure both stores have the freshest baked goods available.

 The millionaire shortbread, an upscale take on a Twix candy bar, comes layered with chocolate and caramel resting smoothly a top a base of shortbread.A true bake of love, the caramel is just thick enough to ensure it does not overpower the slightly bitter chocolate. Each bite finishes with the sandy texture of a textbook shortbread that dissolves in the blink of an eye leaving behind the sapor of butter.

To wash it all down, the Wagstaff’s recommend the PG Tips tea, a tea that can be found in every English home. The drink is reminiscent in flavor of an Earl Grey, but coats your palate in a subtle floral flavor.

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I ask Emma her recommendation on how to dress up the tea:

“Absolutely with milk…sugar if you like, but you must first let the tea sit and brew,” she says.

As for the optimal amount of milk is almost a science,but the right amount results in a subtle caramel color.

As the recent winner of Best Savory Taste at Savannah’s Food and Wine Festival, Pie Society will have much more to come in the future considering they beat the competition with a Thanksgiving meal featured in a pie.

Melissa says her family would “like to open another place in Savannah that’s more accessible to locals.”

Find the original version in print with Connect Savannah, or online here.