A Review of Savannah’s Newest Teahouse: La Petite Abeilles

A Review of Savannah’s Newest Teahouse: La Petite Abeilles

Hospitality is one of the major qualities that defines being Southern. For many of us, anytime we host a guest we immediately offer them a glass of iced tea or some warm food. The same applies when we are guests in our another Southerner’s abode.

When I heard about the concept of a new tea house in Savannah, La Petite Abeilles, I thought the restaurant would be nothing short of a perfect fit in our town.

Chef and Owner Mia Guerin opened the doors to her home and La Petite Abeilles only a few short weeks ago. The Teahouse and restaurant sits within the walls of a classic and beautiful historic Victorian home on Barnard Street.

Guerin is doing the Southern thing and offering her guests the opportunity to sit on her wraparound porch and drink some tea. She relocated to Savannah from San Diego because her daughter began studying at SCAD. Before her short-lived move to San Diego, Guerin operated Miss Guerin’s Tea House and a full size bakery in Mesa, Arizona.

As for the name, Guerin explains why coming up with that was the easy part:“My dad is French. Growing up there were three daughters, and my dad used to sing that to us, La Petite Abeilles — the little bees. It is actually spelled incorrectly…but my dad used to sing the La, so it is personal.”

The menu of La Petite Abeilles pays homage to parts of Guerin’s menu at Miss Guerin’s Tea House while incorporating new creations as well.

Guerin explains how she approached creating her new menu as college English major: “Jane Austen is one of my favorite authors, so you will see there is Jane Austen characters within the menu. Everybody who is not from Jane Austen is either one of my kids or one of my nieces or nephews.”

As Guerin puts it, almost every single item available is made in house. She says “there are very few cans, tomatoes and beans I think we have in cans.”

To properly execute each dish, Guerin hired two Chefs that just graduated from The Virginia College, Tyler and Maddie. Every single baked good used by the restaurant is baked in their kitchen, even the sliced bread.

I asked Guerin where she sourced some of her local ingredients and her response doesn’t disappoint: “We use all fresh herbs, and I grow those here. From the rosemary, thyme, sage, mint, and pretty much everything. Tyler will walkout with a pair of sissies to clip the rosemary for his rosemary bread”.

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My husband and I went to try the brunch menu. He spotted the Grand Mariner Stuffed French Toast and could not resist. The menu offers more than just brunch or tea—lunch is available as well.

Four thick-cut triangles of toast are dunked in an egg wash before being seared to a golden brown, artfully arranged on a delicate plate, and finished with strawberries and a citrusy Grand Marnier infused cream.

The finished flavor is that of a classic French toast with grown-up kick of orange liqueur. On the side comes crispy fried bacon, the ideal kick of savory, salty seasoning to balance the overall sweetness of the dish.

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I ordered the Emma’s Breakfast, a plate of vegetable-jammed crustless quiche, rosemary roasted potatoes, and a warm scone. The vegetable to egg ratio in the quiche was mind-boggling, as it takes a skilled chef to be able to fill a quiche with so many items yet be able to keep the eggs from falling apart once baked. And although brimming with fresh vegetables, the eggs remained perfectly cooked and delicate.

As for what patrons have ordered the most, “quiche has been the number one thing, and it was the number one thing from before. It has three different types of cheese in it and it is veggie,” Guerin tells me.

Sarah’s Belgian Waffle was my husband’s second choice breakfast, and we decided to go for it too. For this creation you get a plate-sized airy waffle topped with your pick of candied pecans and maple syrup or a berry sauce and whipped cream.

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He opted for the candied pecan version, due partially because of the Southern in him, and it did not disappoint. The sprinkling of crunchy roasted pecans added the right amount to texture to the weightless waffle.

To partake in one of La Petite’s Afternoon Tea Luncheons, you must make a reservation in advance. There are seven available options in meals to devour with your tea. The tricky part is deciding the tea to drink, because La Petite offers over fifty different varieties of tea.

Guerin hand-selected the various tea options through her worldly travels. “I really was fortunate that I got to go to Africa and all these places to got to tea farms and see how it is rolled, how it is made, how it smoked, how it is dried,” she explains as we sit in the ornate dining room of her Victorian.

High Tea Service is available from 4-6 p.m., by reservation only. The service is enough for two people and comes with a choice of two teas and various delectables; including scones, puff pastries, bruschetta, and a crostino.

The final trick up Guerin’s sleeve is her catering skills. La Petite has not limited itself to breakfast, lunch, and tea service, but also offer locals catering options.

And even if you are not catering a big party, this holiday season the store is opening up its baking services to fill any holiday baking goods.

In fact while I was there, I took home a mini pumpkin loaf painted with chocolate, an ideal treat for any holiday table.

Original article can be found here.

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A cake tasting with The Topiary Cake Design

A cake tasting with The Topiary Cake Design

While attending a specialty-coursed dinner at Cotton and Rye a few short weeks ago, I found myself sitting at a table with several foodie strangers.

As the night progressed and the alcohol flowed, those strangers quickly turned into acquaintances through our shared love of food and baking. We bantered back and forth, over food and about food, and the conversation quickly changed to baking as I learned more about my neighbor, Calley Sholder, the owner and baker of The Topiary Cake Design.

It was brought to my attention that the seating arrangement was intentional. Cotton and Rye’s Chef Zach Shultz and his girlfriend Caroline Bradley think highly of Sholder’s baking skills and arranged the meeting.

As an at-home baker of many years, I was quick to take the opportunity to write about a fellow baker since I know just how difficult it is to be successful in the oven.

Chef Shultz and Bradley were correct, The Topiary creates utterly delectable yet beautifully layered cakes — two qualities that are so often not found together when purchasing a cake for a special occasion.

It is extremely difficult to maintain the moistness of a layered cake without compromising its design, because the more moist the cake, the less sturdy the finish will be.

Sholder began her cake journey after moving down to Savannah from Rhode Island. She struggled for several months to find a job with any local bakeries, so Sholder did the brave thing and started her own.

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It was divine intervention that made Sholder take her first step, and as she put it “I finally got a catering job, but it made me realize that I wanted to focus strictly on specialty cakes. In 2018, the Topiary Cake Design was born.”

My favorite flavor of The Topiary was The Corn Field Cake. A cake that is completely original and nothing like a cake that I have tasted before. I enjoy seeing and tasting unique flavor combinations that bakers come up with, partially because it inspires my own baking.

The flavor combination and recipe is Sholder’s own creation. She proudly told me the story behind the cake: “In high school, I had my own cupcake business. My sister and I were experimenting with unique flavors. Because we were living in the south in Mobile Alabama, we thought why not do a cornbread inspired cake?,” she recalls.

“We wanted to make sure that the cake was not as coarse and dense. It still had to have that lightness that all cakes have…I would honestly say this is my specialty.”

A cornmeal and flour mixture is used to create the delicate cake that taste like a distant cousin to sweet Southern cornbread. In between each layer you will find tart raspberry compote and a hot (as in spicy) honey buttercream. The hot honey is created by cooking red peppers into the honey.

Although Sholder described the cake as rustic, while I was eating a slice, I have to disagree. The overall finish and flavor of the cake is a culinary dream, completely balanced without being oversweet. I would describe the cake as sophisticated yet southern.

Another fruity favorite is the Blackberry Chip, a super moist blackberry cake created with fresh seeded blackberries, vanilla, and chocolate chips. Each layer of vibrant violet cake is filled with silky smooth vanilla Italian buttercream.

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Sholder explained the origin of her unique layered treat: “My blackberry chip is a play on Black Raspberry Chip from Graeter’s Ice Cream in Cincinnati, Ohio. As a kid, I would always get their ice cream and that flavor was by far my favorite. I decided to use blackberries instead of black raspberry to put a slight twist on it.” Adding a slight twist to things seems to be The Topiary’s calling card.

All of the frosting slathered onto every cake is created using the same method. Sholderd told me, “I make Italian style buttercream which means you cook sugar and water on the stove to make syrup, then whip it into egg whites. Once it is cooled you add your butter. Even though this technique takes the longest amount of time, it is better than any other frosting you will taste…It is not overly sweet but so silky smooth!”

The Cookie Dough Cake is one that I am certain will appeal to everyone alike. Sholder browns butter before adding it to the cake batter, creating a brown butter cake. This takes a typical vanilla cake base to the next level by adding an extra note of taste, which is reminiscent of the deep butterscotch flavor found in the base of a chocolate chip cookie.

Sholder doesn’t stop there — she adds even more cookie flavor with a hearty layer of eggless cookie dough jammed in between each cake round. The final addition is her classic vanilla Italian buttercream.

The most modern flavor was The Creme Brûlée Cake. Soft white cake is seasoned with a wisp of fresh vanilla bean. The use of vanilla bean creates a more floral experience of vanilla flavor than just using extract alone.

Sticky homemade caramel is painted onto each cake before it is filled with airy vanilla bean buttercream. The moistness of this cake is created with the use of lots of sour cream and butter.

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Finally, the last cake slice I ate was The Chocolate Lover, my all time favorite traditional cake flavor. Like all of the cakes I tasted, this one was as moist as the last. Light layers of deeply flavored chocolate cake are layered with rich chocolate buttercream.

Although this cake is a take on a classic flavor, the overall finish was far from a classic chocolate celebration cake; this was moist and had the correct balance of chocolate.

The Topiary is not just limited to cakes, they also offer cake pops and plan on expanding to more desserts in the future. Sholder even mentioned the desire to expand into ice cream creation.

Original article can be found here.

Why Rhett has become my favorite new Savannah restaurant

Why Rhett has become my favorite new Savannah restaurant

River Street has commonly been a place many locals avoid because of the saturation of tourists. And though most locals love what tourism brings to the community, they love their own local watering holes more. 

Many days it seems as though there are more new buildings popping up than tourists roaming the streets of the Historic District. So it never comes as a surprise to see a shiny new hotel joining the ranks among the others in town.

A true surprise is to find a delicious new restaurant nestled inside one of the many downtown vacation spots, especially one that sits near River Street and will quickly become a new favorite for many locals.

Rhett, on the lower floor of The Alida Hotel, opened its facing doors only a few short weeks ago. Although there has been no official press release, the word has been that many locals already adore the beautiful restaurant. 

Director of Restaurant and Bars Arthur Sertorio sat down to chat with me before my meal, and explained the menu: “It is a pretty simple menu, it does not have that much selection but we really focus on the quality of the ingredients. All of the ingredients we get we get them from local vendors, and we are pretty proud of that. On top of that we make everything from scratch.”

The House Made Ricotta is a dish I have not stopped speaking about since the day I visited. In fact, I went back a second time to eat it before this article ran. 

Upon your first bite you can taste the care that was placed into creating this dish. ”We make our ricotta from scratch. We press and we filter the cheese, we add some Georgia olive oil, and some za’atar spices to it,” Sertorio elaborated as we chatted. 

Creamy is an insufficient term to describe the texture of the delicate homemade cheese. The delicate cheese gives way to the fresh grain flavor of the bread, resulting in a bite that taste as though you are sitting on the porch of a farmhouse.

Just as gentle as the cheese is the addition of za’atar seasoning—the appropriate amount is used so it does not overwhelm the flavors of the cheese and bread.

Luckily for patrons, the ricotta is featured on the menu two ways—for breakfast and as a starter. You can try this amazing dish no matter the time of day, and for breakfast you can expect the addition of seasonal fruit preserves. 

The Fried Cauliflower is Rhett’s homage to the south’s love of fried food, by elevating the fried dish through balance of flavors. The dish almost does not taste fried, but we Southerners can spot any fried dish from a mile away.

Sertorio summed up the dish perfectly: “We wanted to add something that is a little more refined. We have a cauliflower puree on the bottom and we add a lot of zest of lemon to fight the fatness of the dish.” You will also find a showering of briny fried capers which gives you palate a jolt of salt with each bite. 

The final starter I devoured was Rhett’s take on macaroni and cheese, the Macaroni Gratin. As someone who has made and eaten a shipping container’s worth of the staple Southern side, I can state with confidence that Rhett’s version did not disappoint.

“We did a lighter version of it [macaroni and cheese]. The Monet cheese is like a bechamel sauce…we made it the french traditional way, super light, and we add flavor with the thyme bread crumbs on top,” Sertorio told me in explaining the starter. 

As for the pasta, which may be the best part of the plate, it is made in house without eggs. Which also helps reduce some of the decadence, resulting in a more balanced dish. 

My favorite part of the menu, besides the food, is the use of the term Supper to  describe the entrees available after 5 pm, it is a wonderful nod to the southern touches added to many of the dishes. 

For Supper I recommend you step out of your steak or fish comfort zone and try the Celery Root Dumpling. The menu describes the dish as “country captain” flavors, which actually means the dish includes a coconut curry butter, Fresno chilis, pistachios, apple, and fresh parsley.

The celery root inside of the dumpling, which is more southern than Asian, adds a nuttiness to the finished dish. And although there are a ton of ingredients, every single one has a place in the dish, working together as one but still distinguishable as an individual element. I would call this entree magical. 

The most Southern dish on the entire menu is the Roasted Pork, a large portion meat and three. Juicy herb crusted slices of roasted pork sit atop a Stone Mountain sized heap of roasted fingerling potatoes, fresh jalapeños, and tender fermented collard greens. A large sprinkling of boiled peanuts, a thick cut slab of bacon, and a beef sauce is used to finish the dish.

To ferment the collard greens featured in the entre, leftover whey from the process to make the ricotta is used. As for the sauce, Rhett attempts to waste very little and uses caramelized beef scraps to create the gravy. 

I have not forgotten about the most important part of any meal—the drink pairings. The wine list was created by Sertorio, and features a well rounded yet concise group of wines.

“We try to go on the origin of the grape, so if you are going for Pinot Grigio we usually try to get the Pinot Grigio from Italy,” Sertorio told me. 

A homage to Savannah, the Savannah Smash is the cocktail on their list that I will order time and time again. Bourbon, rainwater Madeira, lemon, peach shrub, and a large bundle of fresh mint are combined to create the cocktail. The hint of peach is just enough to cut through the throat-grabbing flavor of the bourbon.

Original article can be found here.

The Grey Market

The Grey Market

IT WAS only last month that Netflix announced that its award-winning documentary series Chef’s Table would feature local Savannahian and prized chef Mashama Bailey and her business partner John O. Morisano.

The episode, premiering next year, is set to tell the story of how the two created the Savannah’s The Grey, and how Chef Bailey is the first African American woman nominated for and a finalist in the runnings for the James Beard Award for Best Chef: Southeast.

Chef Bailey ventured all the way down to Savannah from New York after connecting with Morisano, the brain behind the revamp of the old Greyhound bus station that now holds The Grey.

It goes without saying that The Grey and the team behind The Grey have helped put Savannah on the culinary map—finally! Chef Bailey showcases local ingredients and culture while bringing in inspiration from global influences.

The Grey houses two seating areas, each with their own menu, yet both offering patrons one of those dining experiences that you don’t forget.

Morisano is also from New York, so the idea to bring Savannah a third concept from The Grey team originated as he sat at a lunch counter in his home state.

“I went to a place in Washington Heights, a Dominican lunch spot, and I was like Savannah needs something like this,” he told me as we chatted at a high-top in his bustling new store front.

After visiting the one-of-a-kind new location, I couldn’t agree more that Savannah had a hole that is now filled by The Grey Market.

The concept of The Grey Market is simple—part store with high quality food related products and part restaurant with a food counter where you can perch and eat your lunch. Morisano explained the concept to me perfectly:

“Everything about this is a little familiar to Mashama and me, sort of like the bustling lunch counter with people almost throwing food at you.”

As for the bodega side, the thought was to aid those that work downtown and may need to stop into a store to grab one or two items.

You can also forgo stopping in to grab one or two items you forgot to pick up for dinner, and grab an entire precooked dinner created by The Grey. The market offers grab-and-go dinners (for an extremely reasonable price might I add) that usually features a meat, two sides, and bread.

“We tried it on the first night and it sold out immediately,” Morisano said, referencing the popularity of the family meals. Some of the items Morisano and Chef Bailey are considering featuring with the take-away meals include baked pasta, pork tenderloin, whole roasted fish, meatloaf, ribs, and fried chicken.

“All of the products that are in the market we [the Grey’s team] use. When we were talking about dry pasta, there was only one dry pasta in [his] grandmother’s Italian kitchen. Everything is picked that way,” Morisano explained describing the process of selecting products available for sale in the market.

Modeled after a true New York food hall counter, the menu is divided into breakfast, after 11 a.m., 4 p.m. to close, and all day items. You will also find baked goods and fountain sodas.

Also, the bagels are a big deal. “They are straight up New York bagels. Our baker is from New York, from the same borough of New York City I grew up in,” Morisano told me. I asked Morisano about why they chose New York style bagels over the rest.

He said, “in a way we don’t have a choice, we are all New Yorkers and do not know any other kind of bagel.”

Keeping true to The Grey’s northern roots, lox is offered alongside the bagels that are baked fresh daily. Chef Bailey’s version of lox is beet cured and served alongside cream cheese, red onion, and watercress.

Every single baked good, available in the store and both restaurants, is baked in-house on the top floor of the new marketplace.

I was told by Morisano that their NYC, a bacon, egg, and cheese sandwich, is another menu item that is 100 percent authentic to the big city. A true NYC bacon egg and cheese is served on a kaiser roll, and not a bagel or toast like so many southern versions.

“One of the thing Mashama and I knew had to be on the menu was a New York bacon egg and cheese,” said Morisano after I mistakenly asked if their version was served on a bagel. He told me you can get the sandwich on a bagel, but the true New York way is on a kaiser.

The Sizzlin’ Smoky Pig is a sandwich, on the All Day side of the menu, based on one of the original menu items served at The Grey, the Sizzlin’ Smokey Pig. It was pork served sizzling in a cast iron skillet with a cracked egg on the top. The new version features smoked pig, pepper relish, and a fried egg all served on a kaiser roll.

I asked Morisano what he personally picked to feature on the menu:

“I was interested in seeing how Mashama could take some of the things we cooked over at The Grey and use that as inspiration for doing things here…I was really interested in connecting the DNA of The Grey with The Grey Market.”

The Grey Market has a list of approximately thirty wines that was curated by the wine and beverage director Caleb. Per Morisano, “there are more fun and big wines here, we are not limiting ourselves to the old world wines like The Grey.”

So far The Market has hosted a few impromptu wine tastings, and plan on hosting more at the standing counter.

Original article is Here.

Beachview Java & Juice

Beachview Java & Juice

Part of Tybee Island’s allure, to both locals and visitors, is its qualities that have withstood the test of time against its potential to become saturated with high-rise condos and chain businesses.

With that being said, it is a rare occasion that a new place pops up on Tybee, and in many cases it is a familiar Tybee business that expands its resume.

As of this summer, Beachview Bed and Breakfast now falls into that category, opening their very own coffee, juice, and breakfast shop.

Beachview Bed and Breakfast is located on the south end of the Island, and has been a Tybee staple for some time. Owners Frank and Karen Kelly expanded the bed and breakfast in 2015 by opening a wedding venue next door.

After operating the venue for sometime, Frank and Kelly decided to switch gears and focus their energy on coffee and juice—an easy model considering the team’s love of coffee and Karen’s love of juice, Karen tells me.

The storefront itself epitomizes Tybee Island—rustic wood walls, a white washed wood ceiling, seashell chandeliers, and wall to wall windows for that beachside airy feeling. Walking in, you immediately take in everything our tourists love about our quaint and rarely-changing Tybee Island.

When it comes to the menu, “the entire team spent time researching coffee shops, small cafes, and juice bars, and they just started throwing different items together to come up with their always changing menu,” explains Karen.

Let’s start with coffee, which is in my opinion the most important part of any morning. After trying several coffee roasters, Beachview settled on Rev Coffee from Smyrna, Georgia.

Karen tells me: “We really loved Nick, the owner of Rev Coffee, and his personality and coffee.”

The flavor of the coffee is smooth and subtle, a great canvas for any sugary or creamy accompaniment that may get stirred in.

The “Beachview Turtle is our signature coffee drink and it’s served either hot or cold,” Karen explains.

I went for the cold version because the morning I visited was a typical toasty Tybee day. Two shots of fresh brewed espresso are layered in a tall glass with milk, hazelnut syrup, caramel, chocolate, and whipped cream.

Turtle could not have been a more fitting name. The drink is sweet, almost tricking the palate into thinking you are drinking a milkshake, but not before your tongue is tickled by the slightly bitter tinge of roasted espresso.

The restaurant offers several other specialty coffee drinks, including a caramel macchiato, a white mocha, and something dubbed The Don, which is served with steamed milk and a dark chocolate syrup.

For those a little more traditional in their coffee selection, drip coffee or a French press is available. The espresso options are just as plentiful, ranging from an americano to a Cuban, which may be my favorite way to drink espresso.

A Cuban is a double shot of espresso served with raw sugar at the bottom. You stir in the hot shot, which creates a warm pungently sweet shot of rich, dark coffee.

Equally as delicious is the store’s robust selection of fresh fruit smoothies. Every single ingredient is fresh, which makes the price of only $6 unbelievable.

The Berry Chill smoothie was my first choice because the list of ingredients featured every ingredient that is right about summer. Fresh bright blueberries are layered with syrupy sweet pineapple, tangy thick yogurt, and refreshing coconut water.

The emulsion is almost too beautiful to drink, and goes down quickly due to the balanced yet quenching and light flavor.

The Blueberry Kiwi smoothie also features blueberries, but has the addition of kiwi, almond milk, and honey—extremely unique pairings that give the smoothie a heartier and creamier texture and taste.

On the healthier side, although I am not sure you can get much more beneficial than what is already offered, is the Mango Kale Smoothie.  The lightest of them all, the Skinny, is blended with cucumber, spinach, mint, and orange juice — a smoothie that would be easy to drink beachside bearing the summer warmth.

Although named Java and Juice, Beachview offers more than just good coffee and refreshing smoothies. Karen tells me “all baked goods are made in house” and “she does the majority of baking.”

You read that right: The menu includes fresh moist baked breakfast treats ranging from muffins to French toast.

Karen also mentions The Nest, which is a dish that was created “one day when we [Beachview] had some extra ingredients.”

It is easily the most unique item offered at the quaint restaurant. Served in its own individual dish, shredded hash browns, eggs, and ham are baked together, which are essentially all of my favorite breakfast ingredients. You will find little salty bites of ham floating amongst tender and fluffy eggs, and the bottom adds a bit of texture with crispy hashbrowns.

“Our Swiss Eggs have been a been a Beachview Bed and Breakfast favorite and has quickly become a Java Juice favorite as well,” Karen boasts.

Like the Nest, this breakfast dish is prepared and served in its own individualized dish and is created with a combination of breakfast meat, cheese, and eggs.

On the more classic side of bed and breakfast food offerings is the Oscar Quiche, but the preparation is in no way classic. The order comes as a single slice of cloud-like egg quiche; floating amongst the robust wedge is a bounty of wilted vegetables of spinach, carrots, peppers, onions, and more.

As to be expected, the bottom is a tender flaky pastry crust that is buttery without being soggy. The bold quantity of ingredients is what makes this version far from classic.

Original article can be found Here.

Smith Brothers Butcher Shop’s Supper Club

Smith Brothers Butcher Shop’s Supper Club

The ultimate way for a restaurant or store to showcase its skill and imagination is by hosting a supper club, a temporary pop-up restaurant with a specialty menu. A recent new kid on the block of Savannah’s thriving trend of pop-ups is the beloved local Smith Brothers Butcher Shop.

The idea behind their supper club is to not only allow Chef April Spain to experiment and showcase newly inspired dishes but to also feature food from Smith Brothers’ popular suppliers.

I was lucky enough to attend Smith Brothers’ second supper club, which featured Grassroots Farms pork and produce from Canewater Farms. Chef Spain created and prepared the four course meal, which also featured wine pairings with a theme of rosé.

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To start the evening, the supper club hosted a cocktail hour filled with various hors d’oeuvres and a paired rosé. The rosé, paired by Matt Roseman with Ultimate Distributing, was Rosé All Day—a sparkling rosé that you could literally drink all day.

The wine “comes from the south of France and is a wonderful way to start the day,” Matt explained to the group. I agree completely.

A big beautiful wood cutting board was covered in various cheeses, all of which can be found at Smith Brothers, and of course a selection of various crackers sat next to the plate.

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Thick cut Beetroot Cured Salmon was artfully arranged on the table. Unlike most smoked salmon, this was served in thick slices which lended a heartier feel to the delicate fish.

Overall, the smoke was as subtle as the texture of the tender salmon, and the fish itself was lightly sweet.

Paying homage to the popular hors d’oeuvre bruschett was Smith Brothers’ rendition of tangy goat cheese smeared over toasted bread rounds with a topping of candy-like roasted red grapes — an upscale version more suiting for its counterpart of pink wine.

Also among the accoutremonts were Grassroot Farm Fried Pork Belly Skins, basically a pork rind on steroids. The fried pork was served simply with a dusting of salt and pepper.

It’s an appetizer that would have been easy to eat in excess, like when you open a bag of potato chips and cannot stop.

IMG_8463My favorite of the snacks were the Canewater Farms’ Fried Padron Peppers, which upon the first bite tasted like okra —and us Southerners love our okra. The savory little waxy peppers were tender and with a deep roasted flavor, a heavy dose of flaked salt sprinkled on the outside hit your mouth with a tiny jolt. I found myself going back for more and more because they were so poppable.

The first course, a smoked fig salad with Canewater Farms candied peppers and fresh watermelon atop a manchego cheese crisp was like nothing I have ever tasted. The figs had a whisper of smoky flavor, just enough to cut through the sweetness. The manchego crisp gave the dish a deeply nutty profile, and the watermelon freshened everything up.

This was a first course that I could eat again and again. The pairing, Brotte Rosé Cotes de Rhone, was the perfect accompaniment to complement the sweetness of the fig and watermelon, “Rome valley is where this rosé comes from…and is a blend of Grenache and Syrah,” Matt told the table before we devoured the first pairing.

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Smith Brothers owners Robert and Brenda Anderson were present and welcomed everyone as the meal started. Robert introduced Canewater Farms’ co-owner Rafe Rivers who explained that they “farm about twenty acres of vegetables over in Darien, Georgia. We are certified organic and we grow vegetables for about 50 restaurants.”

The second course, a play on surf and turf, was a perfect summer dish for any dinner party. Grassroots Farm pork belly and pan seared sea scallops were presented atop a bed of vibrant summer sweet corn puree.

The corn reminded me of the creamed corn that many Southern mothers make, creamed not by the addition of cream but by scraping the husks to extract the corn’s natural milk. The scallops were prepared the way every local loves them — crusted with a tender center — and the pork belly was rendered ideally.

For the third and main event, a massive slab of slowly roasted pork loin supplied by Grassroots was presented with velvety polenta from Canewater, grilled peaches, and basil butter. Chef Spain, in a way that I am certain was magic, rendered the fat and skin of the pork in a masterful way creating the crunchiest crust while maintaining a succulent fork-tender center.

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The polenta was most surprising, and had a flavor similar to that of peach pie from the addition of vibrant summer stone fruit. The rosé, Le Rocher Des Violettes Rosé, accompanying the pork was much darker than the rest due to ratio of red wine used in the blend, ideal to stand up to an exuberant main course such as luscious swine.

Though I am certain no one at the table saved room to eat dessert, hesitation was quickly relinquished after everyone tasted how delicious the “stuffed french toast” was. Two slices of buttery lemon pound cake were prepared using the method you would apply to french toast, and stuffed with blackberry compote and rose macerated cherries. Plopped on top, a semi-savory herbed cream, Chef Spain’s way to cut through the classically bold cake.

The pairing of port, made from a rose to with the theme, was just as spectacular as the final course itself. Matt explained he picked a port from Portugal, Quinta Do Tedo Rosé Port, that is made from “red wine grapes fortified with brandy, and aged for only six months.”

I plan on returning for as many of these suppers as I can, and if you would like to join me at one of their future supper clubs, Smith Brother’s emails the details with their mailing list.

Original article is here.

Savannah Spirits Chop House

Savannah Spirits Chop House

Classics renewed, from the menu to the building, is the best way to describe Savannah Spirits Chop House.

Upon stepping into the massive building that sits on the corner of Whitaker and West State streets, you will notice original Savannah Grey brickwork, art deco inspired fixtures, and wood that has been refurbished and repurposed from the old buildings.

I say “buildings,” because the restaurant and distillery of Savannah Spirits comprises four separate structures that initially, built around 1860, housed several different businesses.

The first two floors hold seating for hungry patrons. The first floor is where the main kitchen can be found along the with distillery. On the second floor is a private dining area and an upscale whiskey bar. The top floor, complete with its own balcony, will be a site for private events.

Executive Chef Peter Schott is the brain behind the menu, which can only be described as a modern approach to chop house classics. Do not expect to dine at the Chop House and get tired, boiled shrimp cocktail sitting atop a martini glass of bottled cocktail sauce, or a butter drowned steak plopped beside a foiled over-baked potato and some runny creamed spinach, which everyone has probably experienced.

Chef Schott’s menu starts innovative and fresh and ends similarly—a product of the fact that he “has been cooking for over thirty years,” he explains.

He has cooked in a wide array of kitchens including Savannah Quarters, the First City Club, and even owned his own restaurant in New York.

The shrimp cocktail you’ll enjoy is inspired by the Chef’s love of Hispanic cuisine. He says he is “really into tacos,” and a nod to this love is obvious in the style of shrimp cocktail he created.

Dubbed the Baja Style Shrimp Cocktail, the starter arrives at your table bright and bold in both flavor and appearance. Giant sweet coastal shrimp are coated and cooked in a special sauce and served atop bright avocado mash and cilantro with a melody of pickled red onion, fresh jalapenos, radish, and cucumber.

This dish has everything you could want, crunch, creaminess, spice, sweetness, tang, and all of the fresh flavors of the vegetables.

Just like the shrimp cocktail, the Tuna Tartare is nothing close to a boring. For his rendition, Chef Schott says he “played with the flavors of borscht,” which is apparent in the use of beetroot and hard boiled eggs.

The beets were selected as the co-star to the tuna because they can stand up to the rich meaty fish, and in-fact become the star of the dish. Cooked down, removing all of the earthy notes, the beets are tender and melt away in you mouth in an identical manner as the delicate raw fish, making the two almost indistinguishable.

The starter is tossed in light horseradish creme fraiche that coats your palate with just enough fat without overpowering anything else. To finish the dish, a sprinkling of grated egg and dill.

The Lamb Meatballs offer a heartier starter than the two counterparts mentioned above. The plateful is served artfully arranged with an array of accompaniments that almost resemble a Pollock painting, almost—and I mean almost—too pretty to eat.

Your fork will glide through the delicate lamb meatballs before loading it up with the layers of punchy pesto, crispy cabbage, aromatic almonds, earthy eggplant, golden raisins, and a ton more. Although there are more ingredients than I can include each one works in harmony with the other, not overpowering the last.

For one of the mains, Chef Schott has included a meatier fish that can take just as much as a leading role as a steak. The Grilled Atlantic Swordfish Fillet looks picturesque, served with grill marks created by Chop House’s six-foot woodfire grill, which I’m told by Chef Schott “is the anchor of the kitchen” and menu.

Chef Schott’s current use of wood with the grill is “red oak” because it a “good burning” wood, meaning that it burns slower than most.

Plated next to the fish is a side that is influenced by caponata, a Sicilian eggplant dish comprised of a cooked vegetable salad. The swordfish itself is juicy, with a tickle of smoke, but is only boosted by the complex and deep flavors of the caponata which brings a warm homey feel to the entree.

The final touch, which you would expect from a seasoned chef, is a grilled half of a lemon, the addition of which brings brightness to slice through the warmth.

Chef Schott’s approach to steak is awe-inspiring with a lack of dilution and a textbook preparation. It says a lot about a Chef (and a restaurant) willing to serve their steak with very little to accompany it on the plate.

Out of all of the  beef, I tried the Prime Center Cut Filet, but as you can imagine, the Chop House has plenty of beef options to satisfy your taste. Simply prepared, which is bold for any chef, the filet is salt and peppered with a thoughtful hand, seared exquisitely on the woodfire grill, and finished with a careful amount of herb butter.

The wood fire adds a whisper of smoke and a textbook charred crust while keeping the center of the steak delicate and tender. Plated with the steak, a lightly charred onion and tomato, both acting to balance any fat the steak presents.

Of course, if you want more food to go with your steak, the restaurant offers plenty of delectable options as side items.

Chef Schott puts it perfectly: “The food is a lot more than just steaks, it is more about clean crisp flavors.”

Which means you will come in for a steak and be pleased to discover the depth and complexity of Chef Schott and Chop House’s menu.

The original article can be found Here.

Vedette Creperie

Vedette Creperie

Savannah is known for its beautiful squares that are surrounded with historic homes and filled with moss-laden, low-hanging trees.

Much credit for Savannah’s growth and continuing beauty can be attributed to the Savannah College of Art and Design, and the college’s efforts to preserve and restore many buildings within the Historic District.

Now the same thing can be said for the ever changing culinary scene in Savannah. SCAD not only renewed many buildings that can be found all over the city, but the school has also opened five culinary shops around town.

As part of their efforts, SCAD has opened Vedette Creperie and Sweets within the Lucas Theatre. Vedette is Savannah’s newest crepe and baked good shop that serves patrons of both the Lucas and all of Savannah alike. You can grab a quick crepe and drink to enjoy as you enjoy the Lucas’s latest offering, or pop in just for a crepe itself.

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First on the menu you will find Vedette’s sweet crepes, and at the very top of the list is the Red Velvet Cake Crepe. Upon reading the menu, I imagined the crepe batter itself to be red and made to taste like red velvet.

Vedette outsmarted me, and when the crepe arrived at the table I was delightfully surprised to find that instead they layer the crepe with fresh moist crumbles of actual red velvet cake, mascarpone cheese, and chocolate chips.

The red velvet cake is baked specifically for their special crepe. The mascarpone cheese keeps the dish lighter than its traditional counterpart, cream cheese, while the chocolate chips add the perfect crunchy texture.

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As for the star of the dish, the cake, it is light and moist, just like your mom makes it.
Beyond the decadent fillings, the size of Vedette’s crepes truly sets them apart. I would consider theirs to be two to three times larger than your average crepe, and to accommodate their size the store has a special paper holder for taking the crepe with you and eating it on the go.

Vedette also offers kid size crepes which “are smaller and slightly easier to hold,” says Director of Auxiliary Services Lauren Bell.

Next on the menu you will find the Bananas Foster Crepe, which tasted even better than you can imagine. Banana bread pudding and fresh bananas are piled inside of this crepe.

For the crunch factor, banana chips are added to the top along with whipped cream and a sticky rum sauce. The mixture of fresh, dried, and bread pudding bananas contribute a deep banana flavor to the dish without overpowering the palate.

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The Blueberry Lemon Crepe features classic flavors of summer dessert, lemon curd and fresh blueberries. Ricotta is the cheese of choice to fill this sweet treat, which is a mild flavored cheese that adds a creamy airy balance to a the tangy lemon curd.

Just like most everything featured on their menu, the lemon curd is made from scratch and not poured from a can. The blueberry lemon crepe has been their “most popular just because it is great for summer, it is light and fresh. If you like lemon it is the right amount of tart,” Lauren explains.

My favorite of the bunch was the Italian Crepe, and no, it does not come stuffed full of meats like you’d find in an Italian sub — it’s much better than that.

Layered inside the delicate crepe is salty sweet prosciutto ham, nutty tangy manchego cheese, bright yet sweet fig jam, and spicy fresh arugula.

To finish the dish is a dark sticky drizzle of balsamic vinaigrette. Manchego cheese, my favorite cheese, is Spanish cheese made from sheep’s milk.

Like I said, this version trumps a typical Italian sub by using elevated ingredients to create a more adult version. As you cut into the crepe, or just pick it up and bite it, the fig jam immediately oozes out.
Next your tongue is coated in the salty flavor of pork before being washed away with the bright peppery flavor of the arugula and warm melted manchego. As for the balsamic, it adds just the right amount of tang.

If you are looking for a crepe that is a bit more classic, the Croque-Monsieur should be your go-to. For Vedette’s version, they stuff their oversized crepe with ham, bechamel, Gruyere, and arugula.

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The opposite of classic is the Banh Mi Crepe, which takes inspiration from the spicy Vietnamese sandwich. Traditionally a banh mi is layered with pork or chicken, pickled vegetables, cucumbers, and a spicy mayonnaise, all atop a sliced crunchy baguette.

Vedette gets rid of the clunky french bread and layers their crepe version of the Vietnamese sandwich with fresh, tender shrimp, making the entire dish feel light — perfect for a summer lunch in our Savannah summer heat.

Other unique savory crepe creations you will find available is the Mediterranean crepe with hummus, red pepper, cucumber, and feta, and the Korean BBQ jammed with pulled pork and pickled vegetables. Both of which I will be back to try.

Vedette’s menu is not limited to crepes, as of a few weeks ago the store began offering fresh smoothies.
“The yellow smoothie is President Wallace’s favorite” smoothie, I am told by Lauren. She explains that SCAD President Paula Wallace has come into each restaurant operated by SCAD to taste the dishes.

In the store you will also find an assortment of delicate baked goods made in-house at their sister store, Gryphon Tea Room. Also available is an assortment of fresh hot brewed coffee drinks, because what goes better with dessert than coffee?

The menu changes with the seasons, and “has something for every part of your day,” Lauren says. You can come in for a morning coffee or smoothie, stop by for a light savory lunch crepe, and finish your day with a sweet unique crepe.

My original article can be found here.

Service Brewery

Service Brewery

THE FIRST THING I loved when I moved to Savannah a few years ago is that most locals like to enjoy a cold one, especially after a stereotypically hot day.

So, it was no surprise that Serving Brewing Company was a quick and long term success, especially after sipping down any of their thoughtfully crafted beers.

The story of Service Brewing began in 2012 when a local SCAD graduate, Meredith Sutton, gifted former Army commander and Iraq veteran Kevin Ryan a home brewing kit. A short two years later, they expanded their love affair to a partnership and a love affair with beer, opening Savannah’s Service Brewing Company.

Meredith focuses on events, branding, and marketing, while Kevin handles logistics, operations, and recipes, but each also focuses on giving back to our community and veterans.

Year round the brewery sells their Ground Pounder India Pale Ale, or IPA, Compass Rose IPA, Rally Point Bohemian Style Pilsner, Scouts Out Honey Saison, and Battlewagon Double IPA.

The Compass Rose IPA is their “best selling year around beer on the market,” says Kevin.
To create the signature India Pale Ale Service brews each batch with grapefruit, pear, passion fruit, and orange. Although the addition of fruit adds a touch of sweetness, the beer is extremely aromatic and balanced by both the hops and tangy kick of citrus. Out of all of Service’s IPAs, the Compass Rose is Kevin’s go-to IPA.

Rally Point, a session beer, is a great beer for drinking “year round…chefs love Rally Point after being in a hot kitchen all night. At the end of the day, that is what they want,” Meredith explains when I ask for a summer beer recommendation.

The lower alcohol level and light refreshing flavor make it a perfect beer for sipping while enduring the sweltering Savannah summer heat. Rally Point Pilsner has become

Kevin’s favorite beer “is always the most recent beer [they’ve] brewed” because the brewery has a rotation of seasonal and limited release beers.

On tap for the limited releases list when I visited was the Gun Bunny Witbier, the Savannah Bananas Cerveza, the Old Guard Biere de Garde, and an Imperial Raspberry Blonde.

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“Gun Bunny is a witbier that has Indian coriander seed, cardamom, tangelo peel, and mandarin orange, which is the reason it is summer seasonal,” Kevin tells me while explaining how light and refreshing the beer is.
While I sat at the bar of the tasting room chatting with Mike, I tasted (or gulped down) one of their research and developing beers — the Cafe Macchiato Porter. The porter was rich in chocolate flavor with ideal amount of roasted espresso, and although created with deep decadent flavors, the beer was not heavy at all.

Service Brewery creates small batches — dubbed their research-and-development beers — taking inspiration from anywhere to create new and unique beers. This process allows the brewery to fine tune their process while offering exciting new things to the locals, but the beers are only available in the Taphouse.
One of their research and development beers brewed every year for the Ossabaw Island Pig Roast is the Ossabaw IPA. To create the beer, Yaupon holly from the Asia tea company is used in the brew, and the proceeds of the beer sales are donated to Ossabaw Island Foundation.

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To celebrate their fourth year as a thriving local business, Service brewed a special batch of IPA that will be available at their Anniversary party this coming Saturday, July 21st.

I was lucky enough to try the Imperial Milkshake India Pale Ale after it was poured straight from the tank, and let me tell you that I have never felt cooler or more honored in my life. The hospitality of Kevin and Meredith was a perfect reflection of the way they run their business and treat their guests.

The special brew is a beautiful, milky, glowing shade of light amber, and the milky part is important. A growing movement in the brewing community is the milkshake style IPA which lends a cloudier, but not in a bad way, type of brew unlike the traditional clearer IPA. The result is a full bodied mouthfeel and a reduction in the hoppy bite that many IPAs have.

Milkshake IPAs are not only characterized by their hazy appearance but also the addition of fruit or vanilla. For their version, Service went with fruit and honey — not just any honey, but Savannah’s loved and local honey from Savannah Bee Company. The choice in fruit, perfect for summertime, was passionfruit.

The fragrance is sweet, and when drinking it your mouth fills with the creamy flavor of passion fruit, next comes the honey, and the finish is a slight kick of hops. The beer is one that goes down as easily as juice, but be careful because it boats an alcohol content of ten percent.

If you do not catch the delicious hazy IPA at Service’s anniversary celebration, you can find it around town, like many of their limited releases, canned and available to purchase.

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The beer can containing the beer is as unique as the beer itself and will feature original art created by local artist, and friend to Kevin and Meredith, Will Penny.

This year, the anniversary party will be free of an entry cost and will kick off July 21st at noon. Not only can you drink as many Imperial Milkshake IPA’s as you can stand, literally, but the party will include music, food, and more.
The first part of the day will feature food from Chazito’s Latin Cuisine and music from DJ Jose Ray. As the day goes on musical guests the Hypnotics and CUSSES will play, and Big Bon will be there to fill your bellies. I hope to see everyone there.

Original Article can be found here.

The “Art of” Salon at Andaz Savannah and 22 Square

The “Art of” Salon at Andaz Savannah and 22 Square

THE ANDAZ Hotel and its featured restaurant, 22 Square, are not newbies to the local culinary scene. In fact, when I moved to Savannah a few years ago, 22 Square played a part in making my transition a bit easier.

It was one of the first restaurants I visited as a newly dubbed local, and it reminded me of some of the restaurants I adored and missed from home.

Savannah’s Andaz Hotel is not the only branch of the company’s hotel chain, and as part of the boutique hotels’ local flair, they host a Salon event to feature and partner with local members of the community.

The aim of each Salon, usually held quarterly, is to showcase local artists, chefs, photographers, and the like to the public. The Salon is free, open to everyone and anyone, and features interactive stations with each featured local.

For the latest Salon held at our local Andaz on June 28, the hotel showcased people from within the store. Sarah Menard, the director of sales, events, and marketing, told me that “instead of looking outside of Andaz Savannah [they] decided to partner with [their] colleagues that each have a very special talent.”

The Salon was dubbed the Art Of, and would feature demonstrations and talks from each artist.

The featured cocktail was inspired by a classic Pimm’s Cup, a Pimm’s liqueur-based cocktail made with ginger beer, cucumber, and citrus. For their version, the 1970 Cup, 22 Square featured locally made vodka from Savannah distillery 1970.

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Ikeda Feingold is the creator of Savannah’s 1970 vodka which includes nineteen different fruits, herbs, and botanicals. Jane Fishel, beverage supervisor at 22 Square, worked with Feingold “developing cocktails that highlight all nineteen of the botanicals and fruit that [1970] is infused with.”

For the cocktail at 22 Square, she said that they use “1970, fresh cucumber juice, and our house-made ginger beer, along with mint and lemon.” The idea behind the Salon’s signature cocktail was to feature a slightly reimagined classic.

The overall flavor of the cocktail was light and refreshing, one that would be easy to slurp down quickly while sitting on a porch on a hot southern summer day (or cruising the squares downtown on foot). Each ingredient worked together, the last not overpowering the next.

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Two main dishes were featured by Executive Chef Chris Cummer: smoked scallops and a quinoa salad. The inspiration for his menu was to be “refreshing, piquant, flavorful, and light — perfect for the dog days of summer,” Chef told me. After tasting the dishes I understood exactly what Chef Cummer was referring to.
The smoked scallop was the perfect bite of light yet briny seafood. To smoke the scallops, the chef uses alder wood, characterized by a light and sweet flavor that pairs well with seafood, and cold smokes them for approximately ten minutes.

At the Salon, Chef Cummer demonstrated the smoking technique as his feature. To finish the scallops Chef seared to give them crispy golden brown crust before being topped with avocado, Thai basil, candied bacon, and a sliver of Serrano pepper.

Naturally scallops are a seafood that have a buttery sweetness, the addition of avocado amplified the buttery notes of the scallop. Similarly, the candied bacon, both sweet and smoky, boost the same flavor profiles of the smoked scallop. The Thai basil brightened the dish, while the pepper cut through the fat so your palate was not overwhelmed by the full flavors of the beautifully composed dish.

For normal dinner service, the scallop is served under a smoked glass. Recommended pairing is a French 75, poured tableside into the glass used for smoking. Drinking the cocktail from the glass used to smoke and serve the scallop allows the connoisseur to take in the effervescence of the wood as the drink is enjoyed.
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Chef Cummer has his own garden on the roof of the Andaz, and I was lucky enough to receive a tour. As to be expected, some ingredients featured in the dish were grown in that very rooftop garden; specifically, the Thai basil and Serrano peppers.

A complete juxtaposition to the seafood symphony was the featured quinoa salad, and in no way was this salad something you would imagine being forced to eat to comply with your summer diet. The quinoa, which was prepared perfectly tender yet firm, was encased with a rose vinaigrette and tossed together almonds, blackberries, wilted greens, and pickled green strawberries.

Overall, the flavor was nutty, sweet, and tangy, all while being light yet hearty —a perfectly balanced dish to be expected considering Chef Cummer’s feature included a talk on balancing cuisine. The 1970 Cup, due to its refreshing profile, paired perfectly with both dishes.

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Local artist Jordan Smith, who also works at 22 Square, painted a unique piece of art as his portion of the Salon, the Art of Painting. The art included the three wise monkeys, a common theme that can be found throughout the rooms of the Andaz Savannah.

Smith also had small canvas and supplies for attendees to participate. If you are ever in the hotel you can see many of Jordan Smith’s original works hanging in the lobby and near the restaurant.

Tracy Scarlatti, a host at the front desk, presented the Art of Photography, not only taking photos of the event but giving guests tips on photography.

The Art of Florals was hosted by Ana Duggar, who assists in the banquet department, which not only discussed techniques for making a floral bouquets, but allowed guests to participate. Many attendees made their own flower crowns to wear throughout the event and take home.

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Through the year you can expect new and exciting Salons at the Andaz Savannah because there is no better way to bring a community together than through good food and drinks.