Readee’s Bees

Readee’s Bees

As a carpenter turned bee whisperer, Read Nichols, the owner of Savannah’s Readee’s Bees, is a dedicated, hardworking purist that started his small business over a decade ago.

He said it best when I sat down with him to learn all about the pure Southern gold he sells around town:

“I got into it to serve the public the best honey in Savannah. The best!” Although Nichols gained experience working with bees growing up in West Virginia, he got back into the bee business while working at Hunter Army Airfield.

A co-worker who had worked with bees got with Nichols to transfer some bees onto his very own property on Wilmington Island.

From there things grew by the gallon of honey, which is easy to do when a producer takes as much pride in his product as Nichols does.

Within the first year of business, Readee’s Bees was accepted to sell his product at the Forsyth Farmers Market. “I sold all of it the first day,” he chuckles.

“I started the bees out here at the house, and I got ten or fifteen hives out here, and it was really good until the mosquito sprayer came,” Nichols recalls.

“Three years in a row they came and annihilated my bees, so I moved them over to South Carolina. Ever since then it’s been blasting off. We have over five hundred hives over there now, separated in maybe six or eight different lots.

Readee’s Bees’ farm sits next to a wildlife refuge in South Carolina, which is why it produces wildflower honey—a type that can be said to be his signature

Wildflower honey is the result of bees who come in contact with—as you probably guessed—wildflower nectar.

“A lot of people misunderstand about honey, that you put flavors in it. You cannot flavor honey unless you want to flavor it,” he explains.

“The only flavors I have are the cinnamon and peach cream honey, and that is it. The other honeys are all actual natural nectars that come off of the flowers that the bees bring back, they put it into the hive, and they turn it into honey. It takes one bee to go get it and bring it back to another bee who transforms it into honey and puts it into the hive,” Nichols says.

So if you buy orange blossom honey you can expect the natural flavor to come from the nectar of the orange blossom plant that was close to the bees’ home.

As for the rest of the honey sold by Nichols, he carefully sources the honey from only the best grade A farms around the country.Tupelo, sourwood, blackberry, blueberry, cotton honey, orange blossom, clover, and buckwheat are the other types of honeys bottled locally. Each type has its only subtle variance of texture, color, and flavor.

The buckwheat I sampled was almost like molasses, thick and pungent, while the wildflower had delicate floral notes.

After his quick success at the Forsyth Farmers Market, Nichols was given the opportunity to provide his honey to local restaurants and stores around Savannah.

Going through the proper channels, Readee’s Bees gained its wholesale license through the Department of Agriculture. He designed his own one of a kind processing trailer, which was approved by the Department of Agriculture, to kickstart the growth of his business.

To this day, Nichols works in that same trailer where he hand pours every bottle of honey and hand cuts each square of honeycomb. Nichols showed me his process.

Large wood frames stuffed with honey comb, delivered directly from his South Carolina farm, are brought to his processing property, where he perfectly measures out each square and slices them before packaging the dense rich comb into its individual container.

Inside the trailer sits an extractor where he places honeycomb to be rapidly spun and all of its sticky sweet syrup removed. Gallons of floral natural honey line the walls, ready to be poured into their individual bottles then labeled. All of Readee’s Bees’ honey is pure raw unprocessed honey.

100% honey means just that, nothing else is included. I ask Nichols how he achieves his pure natural gold, and the answer is far from simple.

Getting truly pure honey into a bottle means controlling the environment in which the bees live. If the bees come into contact with hummingbird feed, the processed sugar syrup can ruin the honey.

The bigger the property to keep the hives, the less likelihood interference from outside sugars can occur. Some farms have at least fifty acres to ensure the utmost purity.

If you have ever purchased honey that crystallized soon thereafter, it is often the result of buying impure honey. Nichols explains, “When one molecule of sugar gets in a five gallon bucket, it is history.”

The boutique bee company has a few extremely unique and original products. The jalapeño honey is extremely popular, with its expertly balanced heat followed by sweetness to cool down your palate.

The peach and cinnamon cream honeys are hand mixed by Nichols, and are a top secret recipe. The peach is made by combining a peach extract which results in a honey spread that smells like fresh peach ice cream.

For the bee pollen, according to Nichols, “The pollen comes off of the flowers, which is balled up on the bee’s legs. We collect it also. The bee goes through a finger catch in the front hive, it [the pollen] drops down onto a tray, and we collect it everyday.”

Since 2007, Read has been selling his honey at the Forsyth Farmers Market. And unless he is sick, you can find his booth on any given Saturday morning. He sources to several local restaurants including The Grey, Husk, and Elizabeth on 37th.

But if you would like to find it in a store, try Brighter Day, Lucky’s Market, or Fresh Market.

Original Article

Advertisements

A Story about Savannah’s Native Yaupon Plant

A Story about Savannah’s Native Yaupon Plant

EVERY SAVANNAHIAN has had his or her fair share of sweet tea. However, long before the sugary cups of brown “Savannah Water” were served alongside deep fried seafood treats, the natives of our area enjoyed the taste and healing properties of yaupon—a leafy plant that has been brewed for a very long time.

Luckily, Savannah has two visionaries bringing back the use of the ancient plant.
Owners Lou Thomann and Lori Judge are true pioneers in the world of Savannah’s native yaupon holly. What started with a dream has now turned into Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary.

I was lucky enough to sit down with the pair and enjoy Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary’s ceremonial brew exactly as the Native Americans once did.

“Different tribes would share the tea, and it would create a bond. When Oglethorpe came to Savannah, Tomochichi gave Oglethorpe a cup of this tea,” Judge told me.

As we shared the light, earthy, warm tea, Thomann, who could be considered a self-taught expert on the subject, educated me on the history of yaupon.

On a getaway to Ossabaw Island with the owners of Service Brewery, the two were introduced to the yaupon plant by John “Crawfish” Crawford who, according to Thomann, is one of the most knowledgeable naturalists in the coastal area.

After hand picking and brewing fresh tea over their campfire, Thomann instantly fell in love with the tea and its history.

Thomann returned home and immediately began researching the native holly.

“It opened up this whole world; I realized that this is a huge treasure. This was the most sacred plant in North America amongst indigenous people for thousands of years, and nobody knows anything about it. We started making little tea bags, hand picking it, giving it to people, going to charity events serving it,” explained Thomann.

He started small by harvesting the native plant and distributing it in different forms—tea bags, bottled tea, and more. I’m sure that most locals are very well acquainted with his tea company and its products, ASI Tea Company, even if they may not know it.

The next phase of growth for Thomann occurred with implementation of two yaupon farms, one in Metter, Ga., and one in Florida.

“We have ten thousand plants that we planted. We are doing it in row crops to see if they can be grown that way because right now it is just grown in the wild,” Judge says.
Thomann elaborates:

“The farm in Metter is the research farm. The entire farm is not growing yaupon. We are growing probably about fifteen acres. We first started harvesting yaupon on Heard Island, which is a little barrier island off of Darien, and we propagated,” he says.

“We were genetically selective with which plants looked good and healthy. We propagated them, and we planted about ten to twelve thousand of those plants on the farm in a row crop. No one has ever done that before.”

As America’s only indigenous source of natural caffeine, the yaupon plant has magical properties. Beyond caffeine, the plant contains theobromine, an alkaloid of the cacao plant.

1X4A9978

Together the two natural stimulates give drinkers a slight boost while imparting many believed health benefits such as better digestion, lower blood pressure, and immune-boosting properties.

Thomann‘s goal is to further explore the many benefits of the tea. “We were just awarded a phase two USDA small business innovation research grant, which is to study the feasibility of yaupon for food,” he tells me.

They are pushing even more by reaching for a National Institute of Health grant, which will catapult the duo and their local farm to work towards clinical trials, the purpose being to document the true health benefits of the magical plant.

The most recent, but not final, phase of expansion for the two is their official storefront, which opened April of this year. Sitting inside beneath a large open sunlight that fills the space with warmth is a tall busy yaupon tree that the two brought from their farm.

While Thomann is the yaupon master, Judge has begun to study up on herbalism. The Teahouse has brought the two together, through its mission to recreate traditional uses of yaupon and share natural yaupon products with local Savannah.

Tourists and locals can stop in and enjoy their ceremonial tea—just like I did. The brew is served in a handmade replica of Cahokia civilization’s ceremonial cup.

As the in-house expert on the subject, Thomann tells me the story. “It was one of the largest settlements of Native Americans in the 1700s or 1800s; it was a bigger city than London, as a comparison. In that village they found earthenware similar to this with yaupon and cocoa residue in the cup that was tested. They found it in thousand year old cups.”

Again, honoring the native traditions of yaupon, Yaupon Tea House serves Cocoa Yaupon Tea.

If you feel it is just too warm to drink your tea hot, iced is the modified classic southern version. Yaupon Tea House sells house blended functional teas to take home and brew yourself.

On tap are two original and exclusive yaupon brewed organic kombuchas, which vary from time to time and are available by the cup or by the growler.

“Yaupon has natural sugars, probably in the saponins, so when you make kombucha you do not have to put in as much sugar to ferment it,” Thomann explains.

As for the layout of the apothecary in Yaupon Tea House & Apothecary, on the right of the store you will find rows of exclusive and unique to the store products. The tea house sourced high quality small artisanal businesses to work with and create the unique wellness products.

Customers will find things such as handmade yaupon soap, CBD and yaupon blended products, essential oil balms, facial steams, seasonal skincare products, and much much more. Yaupon pairs well with CBD because, much like CBD, it has natural anti-inflammatory properties.

By blending yaupon with other natural plants and herbs, Yaupon Tea House is offering items that contain ingredients that harmonize and boost the properties of each ingredient.

The hardworking duo will keep pushing. Thomann said it best when he told me that they “are going to start lectures. We are looking for people in the health and wellness space to do either workshops or lectures.”

Savannah gets its own Food Truck Park

Savannah gets its own Food Truck Park

By now the rumors of Savannah’s first food truck park have been confirmed. One may even say dispelled because what is actually coming to Savannah’s Starland District is so much more than a food truck park.

If you drive through the bustling Starland District, you will not miss the expansive space which now holds stacked shipping containers. These containers make up the spot that will soon be called Starland Yard. The creators, which include Guy Davidson, Pila Sunderland, Niko Ormond, John Benhase, and Ava Pandiani, wanted to bring locals a shareable space that would bring all of the Starland District (and Savannah) together.

The focus is local fool and local art plus the accumulation of community to create a truly local Savannah experience.

Q: Tell me the story of Starland Yard.

A: The whole idea was that Starland District, for a long time, has had this dream of the come up: It is going to be great, this is going to be where Savannahians hang out, this is going to be where all these restaurants are going to be, it is going to be all of these different stores. For me, when I first moved here four years ago, my first job was at the Florence, so I heard that all the time: if we get one more restaurant down here, if there is one more thing to do down here, it is really going to happen. Then the Atlantic opened and that was great. But anyone who lives here knows that it has always been maybe this time, maybe now. I think this [Starland Yard] is the push that is really going to make it happen. Between us and Victory North, this is really making [Starland] a destination.

Q: What are some of the features that are going to be included?

A: We have a covered area that can be a private event space. We can hold up to fifty people just in the top. So we are thinking weddings, we are thinking if you want to have your corporate party for something or someone is retiring, you can have your own space.

We can fit four trucks in the rainbow drive area. And just as easily we can flip one to face [the event space]. If your group just wants Pie Society’s food truck, you can close [the event space] off easily and make it to where you can still see everyone.
There is going to be a kids area. It is going to have four foot walls so the kids are not running into trucks. If you are a parent you can sit in a covered area, you can have your kids running around. They can eat a hot dog, have a view and a beer. The idea is to make it very comfortable for everyone.

We will have bocce and cornhole. Things like that for people who want to drink a beer and play a game.

There is another container in the back that will have televisions. There will be televisions there but not the bar. If you want to watch a UGA game on a Sunday there is a space for you to do that. Then the bar isn’t just sports bar vibe.
Jimmy from the Butcher is doing a big mural. We have been talking to a few other artists. Part one is we want [Starland Yard] to be inclusive of the community that we are in. Especially when we are hiring, we want everyone to feel like this is their space, and they can come here. Part two is we want it to represent local artists too, which is important. That is the vibe of Starland so we want to keep that going.

Q: How will Starland Yard work?

A: We are going to be a cashless, and when I say cashless it is with an asterisk—of course some insist people on paying with cash. A cashless establishment so you can come here and open a tab immediately [at the entrance]. So now Starland Yard has my credit card swiped in with my name and my number. I can now go to Vittoria and get a pizza and put it on the tab. I can go to the bar and get a drink and put it on the tab. I can go to Pie Society, get a blueberry cobbler and put it on the tab. The exit will be on the other side of the entrance, so when people are coming out they will checkout, they will get one check, and they pay at one time.

The one exception to the rule is that Kyle is quasi-independent. If you want to come in and just get a pizza then leave, we will still check your ID to make sure you are 21, but if you just want to pay at Vittoria you can.

1X4A1971

Click here for original article

New York’s the Fat Radish comes to Savannah

New York’s the Fat Radish comes to Savannah

VEGETABLE forward with meat options—surely a first for Savannah, to say the least. Not only a first, but a first in all of the right ways.

Natalie Freihon and Phil Winser are part of the team that runs a very successful restaurant in New York City, The Fat Radish. The idea is simple: seasonal locally sourced ingredients presented in a simple yet masterful way.

The next step for the Fat Radish came naturally by expanding to serve as the managing partners at Basic Kitchen in Charleston, S.C. There, Executive Chef Nick Wilber joined the team and they branched yet again to our changing town to bring even more innovation.

Savannah’s The Fat Radish opened last week and brought with it a noteworthy buzz and beautiful food.

I sat down with Freihon while the restaurant was still a construction zone to learn about the team’s vision and their story.

Freihon, a Los Angeles native and New York local, informed me, “New York is a very tough market as everyone knows. However, what I found is that by moving down south and starting to work in Charleston, that there is a real opportunity to be on the ground when it comes to developing the hospitality community.”

Since the team looked towards Charleston and began operating a second restaurant there, I asked Freihon why they branched towards Savannah, a sister city that is further south and less developed.

“I really like the dichotomy between Charleston and Savannah,” she says. “I reference it a lot to people that are in New York that Savannah is kinda the lower east side to Charleston’s upper east side of New York, and our restaurant in New York is on the lower east side. This kind of community, with a lot of young people, that is a bit more diverse, I find inspiring.”

To say the least, the food at The Fat Radish is inspired. Inspired by the South, the British roots of Winser, the farmers who provide the produce, the community of Savannah, and by the people and chefs who run the restaurant.

We have seen it time and time again here—Southern food served as a revamped version of the old, tired Southern fare. The difference in The Fat Radish is that while presenting food that nods to the South, the restaurant pays respect to the ingredients and where those ingredients came from. This isn’t your grandma’s Sunday supper.

“We don’t like to be overly fussy with our food,” Freihon elaborates, “We try to keep less than five ingredients on the plate. If you are getting great ingredients, you really don’t need to fuss over them.”

And although the primary focus of The Fat Radish is to bring sustainable farm fresh food to the locals and tourists of downtown, just as much mindfulness is put into their meat options.

I want to talk about the most memorable vegetable dish (at least as it was super memorable for me). The reason is simple: I can’t think of a time that I have eaten a carrot and thought that I really loved it; I probably withstood it at best.

The true test of good food is whether or not you want to eat it again and again, and these carrots I could eat for eternity.

The sweet root vegetable is cooked to absolute tenderness. Pungent goat cheese goes hand in hand with sugary vegetable, and benne seeds are added for crunch.

As a local, I have eaten more fried oysters than anyone should within their lifetime. You can find them almost anywhere in town, the good, the bad, and the greasy.

A simple dish in theory, but when done right, fried oysters can be one of the most sumptuous parts of any meal. Yet, all too often the delicate meat is over battered and over fried.

The Fat Radish’s oysters are so delicate they almost disappear as you eat them. Other than with a deft hand and expert precision, I’m not sure how The Fat Radish pulls off a fried oyster that melts like butter once you place it on your tongue. You will find a light cucumber salad and crème fraiche paired with the mollusks.

The Scotch Egg puts every legitimate Irish pub in town to shame. It is a staple dish that has been on the menu since the beginning, which means you can find it on the menu in New York.

Generously wrapped in sausage, the center features a sumptuous soft boiled egg. The sausage is coated in breadcrumbs before receiving a hard cook.

The cornichon, a small tart French pickle, is something I would never think to add to a scotch egg, but I will now never eat a scotch egg without one. The tiny little sour vegetable cuts through any heaviness that you would find from an egg covered in sausage.

I saved the absolute best dish to talk about last. The Pastrami Brined Chicken Schnitzel. It puts our Southern fried chicken to shame.

By first brining the chicken, the end result is a tender and moist white meat that could make you pass on even the best cooked steak. The schnitzel batter is light yet crisp, while the pickled vegetables served with the bird is the perfect counterpart to the bone sticking meat.

I did not forget to ask (and sample) the cocktails—one of the more important menu items for locals. Freihon, the creator behind it, tells me, “We are doing a cocktail program that is very similar to New York. It represents the same ethos that our food menu represents in that we try to make them simple, delicious, and fun, use local ingredients that we source locally and we try to make it low waste.”

The team wants to bring change to Savannah, and in their few short weeks of operation have already implemented more than this town has seen in a long time.
I look forward to seeing what The Fat Radish brings to our community and how it will also inspire others within the neighborhood.

Original article is here.

Savannah Smokehouse: The newest BBQ to hit Savannah

Savannah Smokehouse: The newest BBQ to hit Savannah

BONE-STICKING barbeque for a low price that you can get downtown—that’s the aim of Savannah Smokehouse BBQ & Brew.

David and Christine Cutlip and their family quickly set themselves apart as serious restaurateurs in this bustling town. They first opened Below Zero, inspired by a trip to Thailand, which was followed by Savannah Seafood Shack, and now Savannah Smokehouse.

For the new digs, David drew inspiration from his love of cooking barbeque at home. He also spent some time cooking while serving in the Air Force.

The restaurant sits in what used to be Super Taste and before that a music store. When Savannah Smokehouse got into the place, they lucked out and found the original beautiful brick of the building hidden behind layers of wood and drywall. A bit of art adorned the walls by local SCAD student Jessica Jiang, and the space completely changed.

 

The giant music shaped sign outside of the restaurant is original as well. David explains that it’s only one or two original signs left in the historic district.
Even the long line of taps behind the counter that pours Georgia made craft beer is artful. What better way to wash down the smoky sweet food than a frosty glass of local brew?

1X4A1846

Hired to back the team in the kitchen and collaborate with David on recipes is Chef Curtis Morris. They came up with and make almost everything in house, even the super-secret dry rub used to coat the meat.

The team even put a ton of thought into what they would use to cook their meaty meals. Savannah Smokehouse uses a Southern Pride smoker which circulates the smoke. This cuts down on the ventilation needed during the cooking process, ideal for a downtown restaurant.

As for how they cook the food, David says, “Everything is smoked daily. The big meats, like the brisket and the pork butt, are going to be smoked overnight. We put them on in the P.M. and then when we arrive in the A.M., the suckers are good to go. Nice and juicy.”
The choice in wood used to permeate the meat is hickory. It gives the low and slow cooked pork a mild smoky sweetness.

All of the sides are made from scratch, and the barbecue brigade took some time and effort to get every one just right. You can expect the BBQ classics like mac ‘n’ cheese, good Southern cole slaw, vinegary collard greens, beautiful baked beans, hearty Brunswick stew, and fluffy, slap-your-mama cornbread.

Keeping true to the Lowcountry, the restaurant included red rice as well. It’s worth mentioning that the baked beans are meatless for those patrons that do not eat meat.

Even the French fries stood out, made fresh to order and finished with a sprinkling of Savannah Smokehouses’ secret and signature dry rub. Once you try one, you’ll undoubtedly be unable to stop yourself from eating the entire serving.

For David, creating the menu was a no-brainer. “We just wanted good traditional barbeque with a little bit of new funky things. That’s why we have the cornbread bowl on the menu and the Southern egg rolls,” he says.

1X4A1896

For your meal, start with the Southern BBQ Egg Roll—a small plate on the new menu. They were so delectable, I wasn’t very graceful when I sat down with David to eat the finger-licking food and to talk about his new spot.

Two giant egg rolls are stuffed with tender smoked pulled pork and briney braised collard greens. On the side you will find a traditional sweet sticky chili sauce.
As I hogged all of the egg rolls, I was sure to tell David how surprised I was that the deep fried rolls were not the least bit dry. I attribute it to the use of the expertly cooked low and slow cooked pork jammed inside.

Another amazing small plate (perfect for sharing if you are feeling generous) is the Cornbread Bowl. Two oversized slices of cornbread sit as the base. Piled on top is a heap of mac and cheese and pulled pork. A light sprinkle of green onions and a dousing of peach barbeque sauce are included as the finishing touches.

 

If you can fit a bit of each item onto your fork, your bite will have a little bit of every flavor you want: savory, sweet, salty, smoky, and spicy.

For your main, there is no other option than the Sampler For 2. It embodies what Southern food is all about, sharing your food with those with whom you are sharing your supper.

This gargantuan meal is served on a sheet pan which comes stacked with your choice of four meats and three sides. And of course there are slices of cornbread thrown in too.

Just like any true barbeque fan, brisket will always be one of your first choices. For the remaining three meats, I say go for the smoked turkey, smoked sausage, and the ribs.

The smoked turkey stood out compared to the other meats. To serve sliced turkey that is as moist as the brisket it sits next to is no easy feat. And this brisket ain’t no joke.

As for the three sides, truly anything you pick will accompany all of the meats like peanut butter and jelly (or peas and carrots for you Forrest Gump fans).

If you are feeling stingy, and do not want to share your food, a classic barbeque sandwich is ideal for you. But I do insist you get their fries as your side.

David plans to keep innovating the menu and pushing himself and his team more and more everyday, especially considering it is only been a few weeks since Savannah Smokehouse opened.

He says that not only will Savannah Smokehouse push their menu to be better and better, but he hopes that they will keep growing into other avenues.

1X4A1909

Savannah’s Newest Pop-Up: Eden Supper Club

Savannah’s Newest Pop-Up: Eden Supper Club

BREAKING BREAD at the dinner table is the ultimate unifier. The passing of good food across a bountiful spread knocks down walls and creates community.

Sitting down for a reservation at a local hotspot does not always give patrons the opportunity to connect within the community. The chefs remain in the back, cooking away, while patrons enjoy course after course that is meticulously created by those chefs. The relation between the two remains distant, at best.

The same can be said about patrons of a restaurant. It is rare that you find a community table or the opportunity to connect with your fellow foodies at a restaurant. I am the first to admit that I am too often guilty of linking with only those seated at my dinner table.

Last month I purchased tickets to a brand new pop-up supper club in Savannah—Eden Supper Club—and after attending the inspiring feast, I have cataloged the supper club as one of the few places in town that affords guests the opportunity to connect with the chefs, fellow patrons, and the food that is served.

Creator of Eden Supper Club, Chef Jared Jackson, started the unique dinner experience with a purpose that goes beyond the food that he is creating and serving. “I started a supper club because I wanted to create something that other young chefs and go getters could use as a platform to be creative and let their ideas finally have a voice — an opportunity to build a network and community of creative bodies who wanted to do something different,” he explains.

1X4A1530

“The idea is to expand this beyond just the kitchen and into something that strengthens the cord between the smaller farmers and a new market of opportunity for them. The idea is just about connection.”

The new supper club entails all of the characteristics of popular pop-ups found all over the country: a secret location, a surprise set menu, and food that you can only get for one night; yet it is so much more.

I would summarize the Eden Supper Club experience as going to your coolest friends house to enjoy an intimate and thoughtful dinner created by expert hands, instead of that one friend that can “kind of” cook.

Chef Jackson explains his creation better than I can by saying that “each menu honestly starts with an idea surround the season we are in. This last Eden we had was based on the idea of spring through the eyes of Eden. The birth of a new season, which leads to the rebirth of new identity and new ideas.”

1X4A1495

The night began with a cocktail inspired by a snow cone and a big beautiful cheese plate for sharing.

All of the cocktails were created by Andi Osby, including the first snow cone like drink called the Low Country Sipper. The thoughtful details executed throughout the night were evident in the use of the “Fancy Parker’s” chewy ice poured into the Low Country Sipper, which emulated the childhood experience of eating a snow cone.

After relaxing with the first drink, gorging yourself on cheese and meat, and introducing yourself to the strangers you would soon share a meal with, the guests were asked to pick a community table to have a seat. Although sharing a meal with someone new is always apprehensive at first, sitting at a big table and sharing a meal with new faces is how food brings a community together.

The first course (and my favorite) was presented as a hearty bowl of gooey yet al dente Anson Mills Carolina Gold risotto speckled with fresh north Georgia field peas. Atop the pile of exquisite rice sat a perfectly poached quail egg and a crispy point of Auspicious Bakery baguette.

I cannot decide which part was more enjoyable, savoring the soul filled Low Country Risotto or watching Chef Jared Jackson and Chef Evan Bruen work in perfect unison like an expertly timed orchestra to create the thoughtful locally procured dish.

 

1X4A1589

The night continued with the main, Georgia Plums and Cream, and was followed a delectable dessert called the Garden Doughnut. For the main, a roulade was created with mushrooms rolled inside of tender chicken. The dish featured locally gathered ingredients like fiddlehead fronds, king trumpet mushrooms, and a mystifying savory plum sauce.

Here is Chef Jackson’s explanation:“Some of the best time sourcing ingredients has been foraging for mushrooms or edible flowers,” he says.

“Our good friend Ancil, with Swampy Apple Seed at the farmers market, who not only grows his own, but does mushroom walks and teaches people about foraging and truffle hunting, collaborating with people in a way that’s long lasting and bigger than what’s on the plate. It’s about sitting next to someone you don’t know, and enjoying a conversation about something bigger than the little bubbles we normally exist in.”

The dessert was a show stopper. Two oversized handmade doughnuts graciously shared a bowl with blackberry compote, smoked vanilla gelato, and a hibiscus and rose espuma. The finishing course could only be described as an expertly crafted inside out doughnut.

To round it out, again creating an experience, Osby paired the dish with a coffee inspired dessert cocktail called the Java, Java, OK…

Before we left that evening, full of food and fellowship in true Southern supper fashion, I made the decision that I will buy tickets to the next available pop-up. If after reading this you feel the same, Chef Jackson can tell you what the next Eden Supper Club will entail:

“This next Eden is really about building a community. It’s geared towards our fellow food and beverage peers (although anyone can grab a ticket from the website) because we wanted to take a second to say thank you to us.”

Link to original article.

Savannah’s First Farm to Truck Food Truck: Strangebird

Savannah’s First Farm to Truck Food Truck: Strangebird

AIRSTREAMS are super cool, but an Airstream that sells seasonally inspired food all around Savannah gives this one quite a leg up on the rest that I’ve seen.

The 26-foot 1967 Airstream Ambassador I refer to is the newest food truck to take our town by storm. Strangebird, the sister food truck to Bluffton, S.C., restaurant FARM Bluffton, has quickly become a grub mobile that I seek out anytime it comes over the bridge.

I think it’s fair to call Strangebird Savannah’s first farm-to-truck establishment.

Strangebird Chef and partner Brandon Carter told me the story of how the truck came about.

“We’re an extension of FARM Bluffton. We purchased the Airstream as a way to test out new concepts, do off-site catering and as a way to do community outreach events. Strange Bird is our new baby and we’re super excited about the possibilities,” Carter says.

How exciting is it for Savannah to get its own taste of one of Bluffton’s most popular food destinations?

The Strangebird truck is the first Airstream I have encountered in our port city, naturally making me curious as to why the team settled on a tin trailer.

“We bought one to fix up and then came across this one, which was already converted. We couldn’t pass up the offer. We wanted to have greater mobility so we could bring our experience to different venues. We like the airstream because of the aesthetic,” explains Chef Carter.

The foodies who seek out our new local restaurant on wheels can expect a constantly rotating menu that uses only the freshest farm ingredients.

According to Chef Carter, “We have an extensive network of farmers and artisan producers that we use at Farm. It made sense to continue supporting the people who support us with Strange Bird.”

A guest being served from the truck
Some of the purveyors include well known and loved local farms like Canewater Farm, Georgia Olive Farms, and Rainwater Mushrooms.

Because the ingredients used are locally sourced, the root of each menu always has a southern side. The use of butter beans in lieu of pinto beans as the base of their refried beans demonstrates just that.

A past menu even had a fried bologna sandwich, which is something I always relate to the truly Southern, and handmade tater tots.

Bringing on extreme nostalgia, the inner child in me almost cried upon discovering I had missed the fried bologna sandwich, a treat that is so often prepared for family by Southern grandmothers.

The ingredients themselves are not the only consideration put into the creation of each menu by Chef Carter.
As he puts it, “We create menus based on what’s growing and where we’re popping up.”

As more vibrant and readily available produce becomes available with the warmer months, it will be thrilling to see the new dishes that are created.

Another important question I wanted answered was how the title Strangebird came about.
The answer is simpler than you think.

“Our chef de cuisine Burns Sullivan has been experimenting with a marinade for our grilled chicken. It combines flavors from Sichuan Guaiwei seasoning [this translates to ‘strange taste’ so you can see the connection] and jerk. It is unbelievably good grilled on charcoal,” says Carter.

Past menus have included a Strange Chicken Taco, a Green Chorizo Taco, and a Cauliflower Macha Taco.

Their chicken taco is plated with cool cabbage, tender beans, punchy onions, and a creamy white barbecue sauce.

The spicy chorizo taco is cooled by the addition of pineapple and cotija, and finished with onion and avocado. And as for the cauliflower taco, peanuts are added for crunch along with cabbage, onion, and avocado.

One of the trucks latest pop ups was at Service Brewery for the brewery’s release party of their Old Guard beer. I was not lucky enough to taste their signature Strangbird chicken when I caught the truck at one of its latest stops, but everything I was able to try was stellar.

As I sat sipping my beer, I kept hearing other patrons rave about the Crispy Beet Taco that was available on their menu that night. Although I am a self-admitted beet basher, I figured it was worth a try.

A close up of the beet taco
I quickly jumped up and order some tacos. Because the price was so reasonable, two tacos for twelve bucks, I figured even if I did not love the beet version I would not be out much.

Well, it was a penny well spent. The vibrant purple beets that sat on top of the fresh corn tortilla were crunchy and roasted to the point of sweetness.

Sprinkled over the top were deep fried corn kernels, fennel, cilantro, and a smear of avocado. This was as balanced as a taco could ever be, crunchy, creamy, salty, and sweet.

My second taco choice was the Carnitas Taco, because I wanted to opt for a bit more tradition. Cotija and a sofrito adorned this little round treat. The non-traditional portion, the use of sliced rounds of carrots and a sauce that is dubbed “your mom sauce.”

For my side I was immediately drawn to Grilled Street Carrots, Strangebird’s take on street corn which is also known as Elote. Colorful rustic carrots are chargrilled until fork tender then served smothered in a white barbecue sauce and cotija cheese.

The overall effect is a treat that reminds you of an earthier version of the classically decadent dish.

I expect that a brand new menu will roll out at their next stop, which shouldn’t be too far into the future.

Original article can be found here

Authentic Upscale Italian hits Savannah: La Scala

Authentic Upscale Italian hits Savannah: La Scala

IF YOU’RE a local, you have probably noticed the magnificent pink Victorian that sits on East 36th Street by now. What looks like a grandiose home of Savannah’s elite is not that at all, instead housing Savannah’s newest upscale authentic Italian restaurant, La Scala Ristorante.

The bold duo behind the massive undertaking, Donald Lubowicki and Jeffrey Downey, have been a part of the food scene of Savannah for over a decade. So when the two located this particular empty home, the restoration of the historic space began.

What would prove to be quite a challenge was stalwartly conquered by the two who have now ran Circa 1875 for many years.

“Our love is food and libations. We were getting phone calls from people asking to take parties of 50, and we had no room there for that [at Circa 1875]. Right then and there, we outgrew the place. At that point we started looking for places around town and, three and a half years ago, this came on the market. We purchased it and the rest is history,” Lubowicki’s remembered on La Scala’s beginnings.

During my visit, I was given a tour of the immaculate three story Victorian, which emanates that Savannah feel from the very foundation. Lubowicki proudly guided me through each room, narrating the work that it years of research and preparation to accomplish.

I could have stayed for hours learning about all of the zeal that was placed in picking every single adornment by Lubowicki and Downey. Nothing was forgotten—even the powder rooms are orante.

When you walk in, the towering staircase, reminiscent of the old home’s vertebrae, strikes you. Each room has a speckling of dressed tables, antiques, imported European fixtures, and almost all have mantles. As you pass under each archway, you are transported to a different region in Europe. Even the downstairs bar, which I would consider the most important part of any restaurant, was made just for La Scala.

Besides the cool, cave-like wine cellar that sits below the grand space, the most breathtaking room of all is the chapel on the second floor—a vestige from the Catholic Diocese that once inhabited the home. The space is rentable and would make for an intimate wedding venue.

Executive Chef David Landrigan is from New York and has been working in kitchens since the age of thirteen. After gaining experience from various northern kitchens, Chef Landrigan completed culinary school at The Culinary Insitute of America. After moving to Savannah, Chef Landrigan worked with The Olde Pink House before joining the Circa 1875 family.

When the team behind Circa decided to open its second endeavor, Chef Landrigan’s right hand man and now La Scala’s Chef de Cuisine, Chef Stephen McLain, joined the team.

Chef McLain worked as the Executive Chef at Alligator Soul, a Sous Chef at Leoci’s, and many other local well-known Savannah kitchens. He was quick to inform me that he owes all of his culinary education to his grandmother, who owned several restaurants south of Nashville.

“We always try to do a seasonal menu. With the seasonal menu approach of this restaurant, we are trying to focus on regions of Italy. On the autumn, winter menu we have been focusing on the northern regions, coming into the spring we are going to focusing more on the central regions like Tuscany and Emelia-Romagna. Summertime will be a lot more Calabrian, Sicilian, Southern Italian.”

The ingredients are procured from local sources including Russo’s, Vertu Farms, Savannah River Farms, Joseph Field Farms, Ed Fields Coffee, Kachina Farms, and Canewater Farms. Lubowicki elaborated that their “pasta is also sourced locally, from Frali. We are really trying to tie into the community.”

A quick glance at the menu and you can see that every single locally procured ingredient was calculated in its application and expertly used.

Fettuccine Fruitti di Mare includes a beautiful, night-sky-black squid ink fettuccine pasta layered diver scallop, Georgia shrimps, Little Neck clams, and octopus. Each piece of seafood your fork finds is more tender than the last. The scallop is hard seared to create a crunchy shell, yet the inside is sweet and delicate. My favorite shrimp are our coastal shrimp because their meat is sweeter than most, and these did not disappoint.

The Branzino Arrostito is one of La Scala’s more popular dishes. A hearty roasted sea bass is served with artichoke, risotto peppered with fresh herbs, charred broccolini, and lemon.

Just as popular with loyal patrons is the Osso Bucco, a true Italian classic of roasted veal shank. The Chefs serve their version featuring roasted squash and cippolinis, a type of onions, risotto milanese, and gremolata.

Lubowicki was quick to tell me about the Pollo Mattone, saying “the roasted chicken will blow your mind.” Not only is the chicken extremely juicy but it is well balanced through all of its accompaniments. Sweet figs, briny olives, peppery arugula, and creamy polenta are paired with this superstar.

As for the preparation, Chef McLain explained that they “beer brine it overnight. The beer brine has oranges, coriander, bay leaf, and some cinnamon sticks. You get a lot of those spices’ notes inside of the chicken as well as all of the maltyness of the beer. The cooking technique is really simple—it is an old Tuscan cooking technique. We put it on the grill and put a brick on top of it. It flattens it out as it is grilling and gets the skin really crisp.”

The Chefs are even making their own desserts. Chef McLain gave me the rundown on the dessert menu.

He said, “Right now we are making all of our desserts in-house except for our sorbets. We make tiramisu, panacaot, a really nice Meyer lemon cheesecake, chocolate torts, and biscotti.”

The building may be the gorgeous Victorian architecture that you probably pass every day, but inside of La Scala, you are transported to a villa in the hills of the Italian countryside with a dish in front of you that would make any Nonna exclaim, “Bellisimo!”

Original article can be found here

For more guides to our local food, click this link!

The Diner Bar at The Grey

The Diner Bar at The Grey

Being a food writer, I’m often confronted with the question, “Which restaurant do you recommend?” As you can imagine, that question has never proffered a straightforward answer.

There are so many variables to consider before lending proper advice: price range, cuisine type, location, ambience, the list goes on. What I can tell you is that my list of contenders almost always includes the same cornerstone group of restaurants, the places I’ve visited multiple times and where I’ve always experienced a consistent dinner service.

The Diner Bar at The Grey has perpetually stayed on my shortlist of go-to’s. The reason is simple—The Diner Bar, which sits at at the front of the old Greyhound station that houses The Grey Restaurant, gives patrons a laidback taste of The Grey without the need for a reservation or a more formal dining experience.

Last year, when I sat down with owner John O. Morisano for an interview on The Grey’s latest venture, The Grey Market, he revealed to me that The Diner Bar would soon be changing its menu.

Although disappointed because I would be losing access to my favorite fried chicken sandwich in all of town, I was elated to have the opportunity to try even more delicious recipes from the mind of truly talented executive chef and Morisano’s business partner, Mashama Bailey.

For those who have had the chicken schnitzel sandwich over at the Diner Bar, do not fret—the new menu of the Diner Bar features Chicken Biscuits & Gravy. Now your list of favorite Savannah chicken biscuits can squeeze in a new contender.

The biscuit is textbook, delicate and fluffy, and includes whole grain mustard that is slathered on top. The idea is to cut through the richness of the oversized crispy chicken thigh that sits between the decadent Southern biscuit that would surely make your grandmother proud.
I asked Morisano about the change and his explanation expedited my grieving of the schnitzel.

He said, “When Mashama and I started The Grey the thing we said is, the thing we want to be known for is not being known for anything. We did not want to have that dish that people came for and you lived in fear of taking it off the menu. It is called the ‘riot dish.’ You take it off and it causes a riot.”

As a lover of all things food, his response excited me. Avoiding a stagnant menu not only keeps the kitchen engaged, but it excites the customers as well. Knowing you’ll receive a consistent experience with the team at The Grey means that you should feel comfortable letting go of your go-to menu item.

Morisano explained the second reason behind the change in menu at The Diner Bar. “The idea was to use ingredients that we have in-house, so that we can streamline the food we are making for the [The Grey] dining room with the food we are making in The Diner Bar.”

Originally The Diner Bar ran its food service with just the charcuterie station and a few other things. As time passed, and the restaurant group became more successful, the ability to expand the menu of The Diner Bar opened.

The Tartare Tartine, a beef tartar created with dry aged beef that is served with crusty house baked sourdough and pickled ginger, is the perfect dish to get a taste of The Grey without the need for a reserved table.

You will find a more refined version of the beef tartar on the dinner menu of The Grey, but as Morisano puts it “this is a down and dirty, slap-it-on-a-piece-of-toast version, and it is delicious.”

My favorite story told by Morisano is how new menu item the Big Dog, a chili, slaw, and mustard smothered beef
One of the new menu items, the Big Dog, named after a rather memorable incident in which a disappointed patron had a few choice words for Morisano, consists of chili, slaw, and a mustard smothered beef hot dog.

Morisano explained that Chef Bailey never considered adding a hotdog to the menu until she tasted the hotdog that sits at the base of this dish.

The Spicy Fried Oysters is a Lowcountry play on Nashville hot chicken.

“The hot oysters are the hottest thing that Mashama has ever had on a menu anywhere. It is a ridiculously delicious plate of food,” Morisano told me, and I am confident in his word on it.

The crispy fried oysters are served with milk bread to cut through the heat of Chef Bailey’s comeback sauce.

A few things have stayed the same at The Diner Bar. The Diner Bar offers raw oysters from all over the eastern American coast. The presentation is simple, a wedge of lemon and mignonette.

With such fresh, clean-flavored oysters the accompaniment does not have to be over the top. I recommend starting your meal with a dozen of each kind offered, especially considering Morisano told me that their raw oyster happy hour is back on the menu.

The cocktails rotate seasonally, but the care and attention placed into each luscious libation has not changed. No matter which cocktail list is available, you will find a happy hour prices until 6 p.m. and a weekly wildcard cocktail offering.

During my last visit I was able to try the Blush wildcard cocktail, a delicate refreshing pink adult beverage shaken with gin, Campari, vermouth, and lime. Past wildcard cocktails have included a spin on a negroni and a spin on the bijou.

Just like our last meeting, during this sit down Morisano filled me in on yet another changing menu. The Grey Market launched a new menu last week.

The first thing Morisano mentioned was the burger—“We are changing the burger around. We are messing with the ratio of beef to bun,” because as Morisano explained it, “What makes the perfect burger is the perfect ratio.”

Other notable new options at The Grey Market include their potato wedges turned into disco fries, lamb birmingham, a pan perdue, and a rotisserie chicken flatbread.

Also, I would be remiss to not mention Chef Bailey’s appearance on the Netflix series, “Chef’s Table” premiering Feb. 22.
You may want to make your reservations or belly up to the Diner Bar before then. Something tells me that it may get a little more difficult to get in after that.

Original article is here.

Leoci’s is back in Savannah: Leoci’s Mercato Italiano

Leoci’s is back in Savannah: Leoci’s Mercato Italiano

There’s something about Savannah that keeps people coming back. Whether a multi-visit tourist, a student that comes back here to live after being away at college, or a soldier looking forward to their station at Hunter Army Airfield, the charm of Savannah seems to get a grip on folks from all walks of life.

Luckily for Savannah, there’s a name among those come-backers that you may recognize, and he’s brought back with him his incredible and locally famous Italian cuisine—Roberto Leoci.

If you’ve lived in Savannah for any length of time, the likelihood of you having eaten Chef Leoci’s food or seeing his sauces in the local Whole Foods on Victory Drive is pretty high.

Upon closing up Leoci’s Trattoria in 2016, Leoci wanted to do a bit of traveling. After going from New York to the Carribean and everywhere in between, Chef Leoci decided to come back to Savannah and open up a new restaurant—Leoci’s Mercato Italiano.

My very first question to Chef Leoci is—why come back? I should have been able to guess his response: Family is a huge part of Italian culture. As he held his son he smiled and said, “I came back to Savannah for my son Nico. It is my first child, and I was very excited and wanted to be part of his life.”

Be not confused, Leoci’s may have a new name and a new location, but much of the same food you knew and loved at Leoci’s Trattoria is reflected in some way on the new menu at Leoci’s Mercato Italiano.

Leoci told me that “the menu is very similar. Every Chef evolves and gets better and better. If you do it year after year, you get better and better. There are classic dishes I have been doing and they are more refined.”

Although the new menu is similar, yet refined, the new name Leoci’s Mercato Italiano is not. As you probably guessed, the Italian translation of mercato is market, and the new restaurant features just that.1X4A0218In the dining room you will find an entire wall filled with Leoci’s handmade and unique items to take home. Strawberry rhubarb jam and peach jalapeño jam are just a few of the unique creations stacked for sale.

Keeping with the theme of the neighborhood Italian market, Chef Leoci told me that the ingredients are sourced from the areas surrounding where we live, “Hunter Cattle, Vincent Baker Farms, Southern Swiss Dairy, and some stuff I go to the market and get.”

The dinner menu features almost any type of pasta you can imagine, yet every pasta dish is created with a bit of flare. You cannot go into Leoci’s Mercato Italiano and expect to simply see spaghetti and meatballs and lasagna. (But if that’s your thing, Leoci has you covered too.)

Almost every single pasta available is created by hand. Leoci explained the process:
“We have an extruder from Italy, and we extrude all of our pastas. The only pasta we do not do is the angel hair pasta. It is fun because you get to do any flavor you want.”

To me, this is what makes Italian food legitimate—if they make their own pasta, and the pasta is good, the dishes are going to be much more authentic, and “authentic” is a great word to describe these pasta dishes. Keeping with tradition, the recipe for the Italian restaurant’s pasta uses semolina flour unlike many versions which use all purpose flour.

The final result is a pasta that is slightly chewier, which is ideal to stand up to a coating of hearty sauce.“It is more al dente than people expect because semolina is a harder grain,” Chef Leoci told me.

If you cannot find something new on the menu or have already tried it all, I suggest going for a daily special. “My specials that I do are dishes that I work with my peers [to create] or [other] Chefs that I look up to. Some of the dishes are my take on what I learned from them.”

There were two pastas on the specials menu when I stopped in for lunch. A salmon orecchiette paired with a cream sauce and spinach, and pasta tossed in a red sauce and jammed with green beans and Hunter Cattle sausage.

I also asked Chef Leoci how he uses the beautiful giant red woodfire oven sitting in view from the dining room, his response was “there are only three pizzas on the menu because I use the woodfire oven for everything else.”1X4A0230The Brick Oven Olives and the beets in the Burrata Salad are just some of the items you will find on the menu that are charred in the woodfire oven.

During my visit, I tried the Margherita Pizza, a traditional Italian pizza made simply with fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. The crust was chewy on the outside yet tender inside, with a heavy char from its bake in the woodfire oven.

A huge amount of sweetness was lended to the dish from the tomatoes. As you bite into a slice the fresh torn basil cut through the richness of the cheese.

The Quattro Formaggi is a white pizza that is served with creamy mozzarella, nutty parmesan, tangy Gorgonzola, and delicate ricotta cheese over the top.

Finally, the last pizza on the menu is the Arugula e Prosciutto. Leoci’s version is created using a tomato sauce, mozzarella cheese, arugula, and sweet and salty prosciutto di parma.

Much like the rest of the menu, the dessert menu features traditional Italian desserts like cannoli and tiramisu but you can also find something like Leoci’s sinfully delicious chocolate layered cake.

So, if you’re in the Southside area and wanting some traditional, authentic Italian food, don’t forget about Leoci’s new spot in Twelve Oaks Shopping Center. The address may be on Abercorn Street, but when you walk in the doors, be prepared to be transported by the love and aroma to a quaint Italian kitchen in Sicily.

Original article can be found here.