The Newest Bakery in Savannah: Mad Mac’s

The Newest Bakery in Savannah: Mad Mac’s

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Original article can be found here.

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The New Menu at The Diplomat Luncheonette

The New Menu at The Diplomat Luncheonette

The Diplomat Luncheonette has rolled out new and extended hours. But when I popped in last week to get a boat-sized sandwich for a semi-late lunch, I was thrilled to also find a new menu, new prices, and a new face behind the change.

The prices are small and the sandwiches better than ever, but the biggest change of all is the man behind the menu, former chef at the now-closed Our Daily Bread and experienced baker, Joshua Holland.

I’m saddened to see a Savannah staple close its doors, but as a foodie I’m excited to see a Savannah chef continue on with his work. What can be better than two of this town’s powerhouse sandwich shops combining forces?

My first question to Chef Holland is how he approached creating this new and improved menu for The Diplomat, Chef Holland tells me, “The current menu is a lot of what we were doing at Our Daily Bread Cafe and what The Diplomat was doing but with a more fun approach and some things that everyone can relate to.”1X4A9786Because Chef Holland is creating all of the baked goods for The Diplomat Lunchonette, they alone shine as some of the best things offered on the menu and for good reason.
Chef Holland tells me, “The baked goods we are doing here are mostly the favorites I was doing at Daily Bread, and some things we just come up with on the fly.”

The bread that encloses each sandwich is so expertly executed, it almost becomes the star of each of the walk-up’s creations.

Three varieties of Bahn Mi sit on the large menu board at home on the Luncheonette’s wall, pork, beet, and avocado. For those who have never experienced the joy of eating a bahn mi sandwich, bahn mi is a Vietnamese street food with a bit of French influence. The sandwich, that originated in Saigon, traditionally comes with pork, pickled vegetables, and cilantro all encased in a baguette.

I opted for the traditional pork version available on the Diplomat’s menu, and was not disappointed. I have sampled my fair share of traditional bahn mis and can spot a bad one from a mile away.

If you close your eyes while eating the Diplomat’s Pork Bahn Mi you can almost imagine yourself walking through a street market in Asia. Their pork version is the most traditional of the three available options.

Tender roasted pork lay underneath a bed of crispy pickled vegetables, green and spicy jalapeños and citrusy cilantro, the blanket is a cool yet fiery sriracha mayonnaise. Enveloping it all is Chef Holland’s remarkable baguette featuring its great chew and crispy crust.

For both the avocado and beet version, the pork is substituted with your choice of roasted beet or creamy ripened avocado.

On the other side of the continent—or menu—you will find the Cuban sandwich. It too is true to the classic version of the sandwich and features all of the right ingredients. Two types of pig, smokey ham and juicy pork, work together to coat your palate with a succulent pork bomb. To balance the piggy pair, kosher pickles cut through the fat and bright yellow mustard adds a bite.1X4A9767Let’s talk sides. The Diplomat’s new prices includes a sandwich and small side or a half of a sandwich and large side for only ten bucks. If you are smart, you’ll order more than one side. Not because you need a larger portion, but once you see the list of sides they boast, you won’t be able to select only one.

 

 

You should start with the Mac n’Cheese because as Chef Holland puts it, “We can’t seem to make enough mac and cheese to keep with with the demand. It’s made from scratch and has been a popular item for us.”

Do not expect to get that weird gelatinous block of baked mac and cheese found on a few too many Southern tables. The Diplomat’s Mac n’Cheese is a lake of creamy sharp melted cheese surrounds al dente pasta.

Chef Holland adds a tiny sprinkle of fresh grated cheddar to the top, which upon looking at it seems like a simple little garnish, but turns out to be one of the best parts of the entire bowl of Mac n’Cheese. His use of fresh, unmelted, cheddar gives the side item a bit of texture and second dimension of cheese flavor.

I will let you decide for yourself whether the Cheesy Grits or Mac n’Cheese are the better side; it was a task too large for me to accomplish.
First of all, how often to find grits with cheese already cooked in them on a menu. Second, Chef Holland adds the same care in composing and finishing the dish as he does everything else. So, my conclusion is The Diplomat’s grits stand up to any other grits around town.1X4A9786The final side I tried was their soup of the day, a turkey tikka masala soup. The flavor so deep and layered, it tasted as though it took hours to cook.

 

As to be expected the turkey layered within the soup was fall off your fork tender and balanced out the large amount of spices used to create tikka masala.
The store’s new hours means a breakfast is on the menu, but the late night hours are still the same. After hearing about the items featured on the late night menu, I have found myself looking for a reason to stay out and catch it.

The item that stood out the most was the Pigs-In-Blankets, so I had to find out how Chef Holland makes them. He explains, “Pigs in a blanket is an item that I made for Pinkies a couple of years ago for an event they were doing. I decided to make it fun and put them in our house croissant instead of the traditional dough they are usually found in.”

On the late night menu you will also find their Quesadilla, Grilled Cheese On A Stick, Thai Beef Tacos, and Pork Dumplings. You have until 2 am on Saturday.

Original article can be found here.

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 New Menu at World of Beer

The New Menu at World of Beer

World of Beer has been a Savannah staple for more than seven years by offering over 500 brews from around the world and stellar sports on the televisions in-house.

The store has been so successful that they opened the doors to a second location in Pooler in 2014.

Beer and sports make for a perfect pairing, but food and beer can be only be described as soul mates. Until recently, patrons of the World of Beer location downtown were allowed to bring in their own grub but could not purchase food directly from the store. That has now changed.

The New Year has brought a brand new menu to the Broughton Street World of Beer that includes burgers, tacos, bowls, shareable starters, and a ton of specials. Because I cannot resist sampling a new menu, I stopped by last week to scout it out. To say the least, I was not disappointed with the options available on the pub style menu.

I asked General Manager Philip Crump how World of Beer pulled off adding food to their menu as buildings within the historic district often lack the space needed for a restaurant kitchen: “Through new ownership and extreme renovation, the Savannah location of World of Beer was able to incorporate a kitchen,” he told me. “It has always been our mission to bring delicious food and excellent craft beer to our customers. We are excited at the opportunity to now provide both to the public.”

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As for creating the food menu, the “menu was designed by our corporate culinary expert, David Belliveau. David crafted the menu to represent the numerous beer styles that we provide,” Crump said.

“Each item, spice, and sauce is made in-house, most with beers incorporated directly into their recipes to reflect the love and care that goes into the craft beer we pour daily,” explained Crump.

You read that right—not only do they serve beer but they now incorporate various beers into the food itself.

The most popular shareable item is the German Pretzel. It comes dripping with butter and hanging on a stand because it is too large to fit on the tray on which it is served. A sight for sore eyes, the tender yet chewy-shelled oversized pretzel is finished with a sprinkling of coarse salt and two dipping sauces.

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I feel like I need to warn you, the pretzel could fairly feed four people, do not make my mistake and try to tackle the Everest-sized bread alone.

If I have not convinced you to order the pretzel then let Crump do it. He told me that the German Pretzel “has outsold every item on the menu almost certainly because of the house-made brown ale beer cheese paired with it. Our other popular menu items include the Black and Bleu Steak Flatbread Pizza, the Chimay Burger with caramelized onions, mushrooms, and aged Chimay cheese, and our Beef Barbacoa Street Tacos.”

For my main, I went for the Beef Barbacoa Street Tacos because I know of no other place in our low country town that offers them. Barbacoa tacos are a specific type of taco that can be found in Mexico. The meat featured inside is cooked low and slow over an open fire and oranges are incorporated to tenderize the meat.

Although it is not possible for World of Beer to fully adhere to the traditional method of cooking barbacoa, they came very, very close. The pork is braised for several hours before it reaches your plate as tender as any meat that you’ve ever had in your life. The pork is so delectable I would have been just as satisfied eating it on its own.

Putting their own twist on the traditional taco, World of Beer serves their version with fresh sliced avocado, crisp lettuce, chopped cilantro, crumbled queso fresco, roasted corn and tomato salsa, and a drizzle of sriracha lime aioli. The finishing touch is a quick grill to the flour tortilla to deepen its flavor.

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Other taco options include mahi mahi, beer battered shrimp, beer brined chicken, chipotle ground beef, and blackened chicken.

For lunch you can get the tacos and side item for less than eight dollars, or you can wait until Taco Tuesday and get them for even less. Crump told me about all of their specials. “We offer daily lunch special items including a ‘Pick 2’ option in which one can pick and entree and a side for either $7.99 or $8.99. We eventually intend to add some items to the menu and incorporate a brunch menu after the New Year.”

Beyond tacos, the new menu features a build your own burger plus two specialty World of Beer Burgers, the Chimya and the Beerunch Burger.
Four different sandwiches, three various flat breads, and three unique bowls can also be found on the menu. For the health conscious, several scrumptious salad options are included as well.

With so many beer options it may be difficult to select the appropriate hoppy drink to accompany your meal, but World of Beer thought of that problem and addressed it.

Crump explained “Each item on the menu has paired beer-style accompanied with it to provide the perfect palate. Because our taps rotate so often, there is never a fixed beer for each item, but our brilliant bartenders can help each individual pick the right craft beer to match their meal.”

Taking Crump’s suggestion, I asked the bartender to recommend a beer to accompany my mammoth pretzel. She first inquired as to my preferred type of beer, stout and ales, and then brought me a sample of her stellar suggestion. The limited release Highland Cold Mountain Spiced Ale was deeply flavored but did not overpower the subtle nuances of the pretzel.

Original article is here.

Toasted Barrel

Toasted Barrel

I can’t think of two more delicious items than cheese and bourbon. Everyone (save a few picky eaters) loves rich, decadent flavors that deliver the paradigm of what Southerners have been taught that good food is supposed to be.

Luckily for Savannah, Michelin Star-trained Chef Thomas Ciszak felt the same. Last weekend marked the beginning of his ideal whiskey/cheese mash-up with the opening of the low country’s newest casual dining bar and restaurant—Toasted Barrel. Toasted Barrel is the creation of delectable food maestro Chef Ciszak.

As Chef Ciszak put it, “Toasted Barrel is an ideal place to enjoy a cocktail or a light meal, featuring fresh, [and] delicious ingredients.”

The location is perfect for locals and visitors alike. The artfully decorated restaurant sits on the corner of Oglethorpe and Montgomery, within the SpringHill Suites and just a short stroll from the new Cultural Arts Center.

If you have not figured it out by now, “Toasted” refers to the long list of toasted sandwiches and dishes available on the menu, and “Barrel” represents the over forty available high-end bourbons.

The stand out cocktail for me was the Smoky Deal—a bacon-infused bourbon-based mixture. Head bartender Jordan Sox explained how the insanely unique infused dark liquor is created:
“We take bacon fat and we take Four Roses bourbon, we put them together and we freeze it.”

The mixture is, of course, strained before it is used, and the final flavor tastes like the most concentrated (and delicious) maple bacon essence you’ve ever tasted. Overall the finished cocktail tastes like a smokey sweet bourbon dessert.

The recommended sandwich pairing is the Bacon Schmelz—because one can never have too much bacon in their life.

One Hot Cucumber is the ideal cocktail to balance the richness of each gooey cheese sandwich. Citrus forward and piney Hendrick’s gin is combined with fresh lime and light coconut water for a smooth and easy-to-drink companion that pairs well with a lot of Toasted Barrel’s rich, savory sammies.

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The Monkey Barrel was created by Sox for the grand opening of Toasted Barrel. “It is a variation on a daiquiri, but with overproof Jamaican rum, Four Roses bourbon, creme de banana, and fresh lemon juice,” Sox explained as I sat at the bustling and beautifully adorned bar.

The reason for the addition of bourbon into a rum drink is due to Toasted Barrel’s focus on bourbon, but the additive is not anything but complementary to the base drink.

As the name would suggest, the grilled cheese selection is robust. I am confident in saying there is a toasted masterpiece perfect for any toasty dairy connoisseur.

Chef Ciszak selected Auspicious Bakery bread to adorn each one of his cheese filled artworks, and as anyone who knows grilled cheeses knows, the bread is extremely important.

Starting at the very top of the list, the Classic Cheese grilled cheese sandwich is just as bold as any of the unique combinations listed on the menu. Often times the simplest dishes are the most difficult to execute well, but The Toasted Barrel has simplicity figured out.

A river of melted cheddar cheese flows between slices of buttery grilled Auspicious toasts, and the robust serving of cheese inside is created by the use of double the amount of cheese of one of their other sandwiches. Simple yet well seasoned, this rendition is the quintessential toasted sandwich.

Fluffy scrambled eggs, sweet sausage, and sharp cheddar cheese make up the Breakfast Melt. Any good cook or chef knows just how difficult a good scrambled egg is to perfect, yet Chef Ciszak has done so. The succulent eggs add moisture to the spiced sausage and salty cheese.

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My favorite was the Toast “Monsieur,” a grilled cheese upgraded with salty sweet maple glazed ham, ultra savory gruyere cheese, and tangy grain mustard. The grain mustard serves to add texture and cut through the richness of the ham and cheese combination.

I saved the Crispy Goat for last because it could almost be dessert. Fork tender roasted beets come layered with sticky fig jam, tart balsamic, and velvety chèvre cheese. Any earthy flavor of the beets were cooked away with the roasting leaving behind a delicate root vegetable that held up well to the sweetness of the fig jam. Chef Ciszak’s use of balsamic vinegar rounded out all of the sugary notes, while the smooth chèvre cheese brought the entire dish home.

If you do not end up trying multiple sandwiches, a side item or two accompanies any main dish properly.

I grabbed multiple servings of Toasted Barrel’s Hand Cut Fries, and I do not know which tasted better, the fries themselves or the sriracha mayonnaise accompanying them. The Belgian style fries, cut thicker than most, are pillowy on the inside, crisp on the outside, and speckled with just the right amount of salt. The mayonnaise was not too spicy, instead working to coat the mouth with silky savory taste of sweet vinegary pepper.

When you find the Tater Tots listed on the menu of sides, do not be fooled into thinking you will be served modest rounds of white potato. Chef Ciszak created his own version using sweet potatoes and parmesan cheese. Tender, tiny pillows of silky sweet potato are fried until they have an outer shell of crunchy goodness. The petite crunchy clouds are then served with salty and nutty parmesan cheese to balance it all out.

Finally, because what is a grilled cheese without tomato soup to dunk it in, the restaurant offers their San Mariano Tomato Soup accompanied with five spice croutons as a side item.

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Like any succulent homemade tomato soup, their version is thick with seasoning and spices visibly floating about the savory soul warming concoction. The five spices on the crouton only deepen taste of the vivacious dish.

Original article is 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.

The Black Rabbit

The Black Rabbit

If you have lived in Savannah for any time at all, it is likely you have noticed the unique black rabbit art painted on the metal door of a building that sits on Barnard Street.

Time and time again I have driven by that very spot and wondered, “What could be behind those rolling doors and who is responsible for the artwork?”

Well, my questions were answered in September. As a food lover, I could not have been more excited with the news that The Black Rabbit bar and restaurant opened its doors—big metal garage doors—to the public.

The surrounding district has gained another unique and approachable joint whose aim is to cater to locals. The responsible parties are partners David Hutchison and Patrick Zimmerman.

The story began about fifteen years ago when a friend of Hutchison spotted the building that now holds The Black Rabbit, which was originally a two-stall store front.

“The building literally had been a salon, a cobbler, a hotdog stand, a record store, and there was a vintage picker,” Hutchison explained as I waited for several sandwiches to come out of the kitchen.

Hutchison’s family purchased the building, and he quickly opened a gallery and intended on filling the second side of the building with a coffee shop. After several years of sitting unused, Hutchison began looking for a business partner to start building their local spot, and that’s where Patrick Zimmerman came into the mix.

The building received its name as The Black Rabbit over ten years ago, when Hutchison commissioned Miguel, a traveling artist from Texas, to paint the black rabbit on the door of the building.

As for business partner Patrick Zimmerman, he is no stranger to the local food scene. He has worked behind the scenes at both Betty Bombers and Butterhead Greens Cafe. So as you can imagine, the sandwiches he is currently putting out are nothing short of delectable.

“We wanted to keep [the menu] pretty straightforward,” Zimmerman said in explaining his thoughts behind creating the new menu. “I was going for kinda comfort food but also stuff people would like, even vegetarians.”

Let’s start at the very top of the list—the Smoked Turkey sandwich. Perfectly toasted sourdough bread that is perfectly buttery but not greasy encases paper thin slices of salty smoked turkey, melted havarti cheese, and Zimmerman’s Asian inspired pepper jelly.

This sandwich is destined to be a local favorite, simply because I know just how much Savannahians love pepper jelly. The twist on this sandwich is Zimmerman’s recipe for pepper jelly. Taking inspiration from Asian cuisine, his sauce is more balanced than classic pepper jelly.

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Each type of pork on the Three Piggies contributes its own flavor profile to the sandwich, while working in harmony, creating one of the juiciest deli sandwiches I have ever tasted.

“We have a little fun, like the Three Piggies with Spam, pit ham, and sliced pork shoulder, which you do not see very often,” Zimmerman told me.

I understand that using juicy as an descriptor to explain a cold cut sandwich is odd, but the juices of the pork actually ran down my hand as I chomped down. Although included, this cold stack does not need mayonnaise to lubricate any dryness that usually comes from fresh bread.

To balance the sandwich, fresh thinly sliced onions are layered with a thick cut of tomato and crisp lettuce. The cherry on top is the extremely soft bolero bread that encases the entire thing. Gottlieb’s Bakery is responsible for all of the bread used at the The Black Rabbit.

For a side with your sandwich, I would opt for the in-house pickled vegetables, which come as spicy or regular.

“Radishes, green beans, turnips, carrots, onions, and garlic,” are cooked “real straight forward with sugar, salt, vinegar, peppercorns, water, and bay leaf. I add jalapeños for the spicy one,” Zimmerman explained when I asked how he makes his pickled vegetables.

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More on the Southern side is the cucumber, tomato, and onion salad. It is just like the bowl of garden fresh onions and tomatoes you will find included on the dinner table during many Southern meals. The idea behind this side was to offer something lighter to complement the hearty sandwiches.

Finally, the German Potato Salad is available as a side. For his version, Zimmerman cooks the onions tossed with the tender potatoes in bacon fat, which results in an additional layer of flavor.
The Black Rabbit also offers dessert—King of Pops popsicles or a big slice of cheesecake from Fork & Dagger.

As for what readers, especially locals, are probably wondering the most about, the specialty cocktail menu is concise and to the point. You will find one cocktail for each type of liquor and nothing more.

No matter what your preference you will surely be satisfied with the preparation for that type of liquor. Even more so, you will be especially satisfied after reading the price of all of the house created and made cocktails.

Being a fan of bourbon, I opted for the Grandpa’s Kisses, a title that makes perfect sense after reading the ingredient list. Both bourbon and scotch are blended with apple brandy, honey, and bitters. Served in a crystal old fashioned glass, the profile of the dark liquors are prominent yet rounded out by the addition of sweet apple and aromatic bitters.

Zimmerman and Hutchison were kind enough to let me try the Room 225, a gin cocktail that is made silky by the use of sunflower seed orgeat, a nut milk.

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The cocktail is shaken with lemon juice and a few dashes of bitters before being poured into a coupe and adorned with lemon rind. It is fragrant and subtly flavored, a cocktail that would tempt you into drinking it all night.

Next year, patrons will have the opportunity to grab lunch at The Black Rabbit when Hutchison and Zimmerman expand their hours to become reachable to the entire neighborhood.

Original article is here.

 

Coyote Oyster Bar

Coyote Oyster Bar

Last week marked the end of a saga for El Coyote’s team—Brad Syfan, Chef Tony Seichrist, and Executive Chef Landon Thompson—with the opening of their latest storefront, Coyote Oyster Bar.

When the doors of El Coyote opened just this year, they promised not one, but two additional food concepts for Savannah to enjoy within the large industrial building. You will find the chic yet beautiful oyster bar at the very top of building overlooking the west end of Victory Drive.

I asked owner Brad Syfan, who is experienced in running local seafood restaurant the Wyld Dock Bar, why open another seafood spot?

“We love raw seafood and felt like doing something to showcase that passion, that was definitely something we definitely wanted to do,” Brad said.

Since the brand new restaurant is an oyster bar, you must try at least one type of oyster offered. For me, I ordered every mollusk on the menu.

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Six different varieties are available served raw and on the half shell. Two types, the May River and Helena Salt, come from South Carolina.
Both of these oysters stood up to their northern counterparts on the tray, and could easily put the South on the map for offering quality briny and fresh oysters.

A bit further north in Virginia, you will find the Blackberry Point Oysters. They are sourced from the waters of the Northwestern Prince Edward Island before arriving at your table in Savannah. They will stand out among the others you order, because they are characterized as being larger and plumper than most.

The menu currently also offers oysters from Massachusetts, the Nasketuckets, and Maine, the Moon Dancer. Both of these variations are a flavor house of clean salty juice that can be attributed to their cold origins.

Finally, the Beausoleil oysters are from the coldest waters of them all—Canada. The characteristics of these highly prized oysters are meaty in size yet clear in taste.

To be expected, the raw oysters are served with a mignonette, lemon, horseradish, and cocktail sauce. The tin of crackers, made by Auspicious Bakery, are delicious on their own and rich in flavor because of the addition of lard.

Before ordering my first course of raw oysters, I was sure to select a specialty cocktail that would work in harmony with the subtleties of oysters in the raw. The Forsyth Park Picnic was a homerun, and tasted almost as delicate as the saltwater delicacies.

White rum is infused with lime then paired with grapefruit and blanc vermouth. The final touch is a skewered Luxardo cherry, which was the heaviest flavor of the entire cocktail.

All twelve of the craft cocktails offered at Coyote Oyster Bar were created by Syfan himself. He told me the “twelve unique craft cocktails were made especially for the upstairs and priced so that everyone can come try a thoughtful, meticulously made drink.”

The Isle of Hope Afternoon is Syfan’s “riff on a Caipirinha,” he elaborated as I glanced through the lengthy cocktail list. The addition of aperol sets his version apart, and makes the overall flavor of the cocktail reminiscent of a those red snow cones many Savannahians enjoyed as kids at Seaweeds after a hot summer day on Tybee Beach.

Because my husband grew up on Bonaventure Road, he insisted on ordering the Bonaventure Fox. I would describe this cocktail as a twist on a classic Old Fashioned, the twist being the use of Japanese sake alongside rye bourbon and cherry.

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“The Oysters Wyld are something we’ve played with for a long time. They are simple but so delicious. Roasted oyster with fresh thyme, garlic, and bacon fat flash roasted and served hot,” Brad explained, but he forgot to mention the fresh lemon that is served with the dish as well.

Although topped with ultra savory and rich components, the delicate sea-flavored meat of the oyster sitting underneath its topping is not lost. The combination hinted at the flavor of a scampi but with a crunch on top, which was the best part of the entire dish. The texture of the topping was like that of a streusel you would find on top of a blueberry muffin but the taste was much more savory.

The menu has the largest selection of crudo that can be found around town. Crudo, a preparation of raw seafood dressed with oil and/or citrus, is one of those dishes that I order anytime I am lucky enough to find it on a menu. I devoured two of the three preparations, the Fluke and Hamachi. The final option was the Tuna Crudo.

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The Fluke Crudo was served with an arrangement of apricot, coconut milk, thai basil, and green chili. Taking your first bite, you will experience the silky, subtle characteristics of the raw white fish. Next the the slight tinge of pepper hits your tongue before being swept away by the sweet and creamy coconut milk.

The sweetness of the apricot works with the sweetness of the coconut milk, while the apricots tangy notes lift the dish up. The last sensation to coat your nose and palate are the floral notes of the fresh Thai basil.

The Hamachi Crudo is just as delicate as the Fluke Crudo, but the flavors are balanced by a completely different combination of ingredients. Hamachi is slightly fattier and a richer fish, but it still maintains all of the delicate characteristics of a white fish. The raw preparation is served with a topping red Serrano peppers, pickled pineapple, cilantro, and ginger.

The most surprising dish of all was the Salmon Tartare. I can almost guarantee that most local menus offer some version of salmon or tartare dish that you have tasted or seen before. This oyster bar’s Salmon Tartare is unlike any tartare or salmon I have sampled before, which is attributed to one ingredient—green apple.

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The pungency of the green apple hides any “fishy” qualities of the salmon, especially considering salmon can have a bit of an oily taste. What remains in the dish are all of the mild flavors that most love about the fish, tangy crisp apple, acidic lime juice, and fresh green cilantro.

The large crostinis, served on the side, add a bit more fattiness that some may want with how incredibly bright and light the dish is on its own.

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.