Friday, February 27, 2009
I was a little unsure how bike-friendly historic Savannah would be, but I needn't have worried. The streets that have squares in the middle (Bull Street, for example) are quieter, probably because traffic goes slower from all the interruptions of the squares. And those streets are the most beautiful anyway, lined with elaborate homes and huge trees.
Every time I biked past a trolley filled with tourists and a man on the intercom lecturing, I was so thankful I was on a bike, in the breeze, going on my own pace.
For more things to love about Savannah, click on the video below.
This was Blair's House Salad at the Marinated Mushroom, a cozy lunch cafe/catering company in a strip mall in Tallahassee about 10 minutes off I-10. It's the sort of place that has poodle people wearing pink clothes in the black/white/pink bathroom and key lime pie, coconut pie and pecan fudge pie as the dessert options. Adorably Southern, I think.
It's also the sort of place that is not on an Interstate exit sign. But I am determined not to eat most of my meals at Mickey D's and Burger King. What to do?
Urban Spoon came to the rescue this time. That's an iPhone application that lets you pick one or two of three things: location, price or cuisine. The category or two you don't "lock down" is randomized, and like a slot machine where only the last icon rolls, you shake the iPhone and it delivers you a response.
(PHOTO CREDIT: www.urbanspoon.com)
For example: You could pick Ghent (a neighborhood in Norfolk) and Italian and the phone would randomly select $ or $$ or $$$ or $$$$ and then give you the name, address and review rating of a place. You can see an example here.
Into Urban Spoon, I locked in Tallahassee and Vegetarian and out spun Marinated Mushroom. (While I'm not a vegetarian now, I still find places under that category to be restaurants that take their food seriously... and usually it's carefully prepared, locally sourced and delicious.) The review rating was 100 percent "Liked it" — though the sample size was small at 9 people.
Hmm. I should make that 10.
2753 Capital Circle N.E.
Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Take lunch. I wanted to not eat at a fast-food chain (i.e. a restaurant with the same food I find in Norfolk), so I did my Google research. I looked for BBQ spots off I-95 and wrote down an entire list. I looked at chowhound.com; I looked at yelp.com; I narrowed my options. I picked out a bbq restaurant that looked intriguing and cheap.
But ugh, lunch was a disaster. Gooey okra, cold hush puppies, many indeterminable dishes on a large buffet. I survived on fried chicken. (There's no such thing as bad fried chicken, I think.)
Now take dinner. I just showed up in Savannah and asked the hotel clerk. She pointed me to Cha'Bella, and I ended up in goat cheese heaven.
Check out this marvelous $7 salad.
Here's the menu description:
Grilled, Organic Local Harvest Eggplant & Oven Warmed
Plum Tomatoes with Farm Fresh Sweet Basil
gently marinated and topped with pan fried “Sweet Grass Dairy” goat cheese cake (Thomasville, Ga. award winning artisanal cheese producer)
If that sounds good to you, let me tell you, it tasted a hundred times better.
The entire salad was warm. I thought that was a little unusual, but it worked beautifully. The tomatoes were roasted to a level of perfection I've never tasted before. Rich and deep and like biting into a gush of the most delicious Italian sauce you've ever had. The marinade is so lovely. The eggplant is warm and tender, stacked under the pile of greens.
And the goat cheese. Oooh, the goat cheese. It was crispy on the outside, lightly fried, and creamy, buttery and smooth on the inside. When you take a little of the goat cheese with a little of the tomatoes and a little of the eggplant, it is a blissful explosion.
And for $7!
So far, I rather like Savannah.
102 E. Broad St.
- signs informing me I was crossing Little Pee Dee River.
- and a bit later, Great Pee Dee River
- a pickup truck pulling ... is that what I think it is? Oh my. Yes. Three caskets (The truck read "grave vaults") wrapped in plastic.
- an Army tank on the back of a flatbed. Yes, a giant tan tank. It was pointing at any car that dared tailgate.
Tomorrow: I check out Savannah, which looks at this nightly hour like a pretty nifty little college town.
drink. And saw this.
Cinnabon iced lattes? Really?
I would have tried one but honestly, it sort of grossed me out. Has
anyone else tried one? Do you feel like you are instantly in the mall
sipping a 1,000-calorie sticky bun?
Tuesday, February 24, 2009
Later this week, I'll be headed across America on a trip to visit friends, see new sights and sample tastes of cities. Think of this diner post as an appetizer before the multi-course meal.
In the long stretch of U.S. 301 between I-95 and civilization, your dining choices are mainly limited to KFC, McDonald's, Wawa's and Sheetz.
I know this because I have driven that route 462 times, give or take. On one end is Norfolk, Virginia, where I've lived for 8 years. On the other end is the home where I grew up, in Calvert County, Maryland.
And about halfway in between, where U.S. 301 crosses U.S. 17, is a gas station with a big sign: HORNE'S. I have no idea how to pronounce it. I don't dare try.
I passed it for a long time, in the way that you pass 1950s-looking gas stations with bright yellow roofs, in the age of pristine signs of corporate America. (Dumb, dumb, dumb, I know.)
So don't be like me. When you slow down as you enter the tiny town of Port Royal and spy the big red Horne's sign, I highly recommend you pull over, peel yourself from your seat and go inside for a milkshake. A real milkshake, with real milk and scoops of ice cream churned up with one of those old-fashioned machines. The nice waitress will give you a tall glass along with extra in a metal cylinder, creamy gobs of deliciousness. It will be rich and decadent, and you'll think: I'll never finish all of this!
And then you will.
The restaurant inside has a counter with bar stools along with a dozen or so booths. The other half of the building is a gift shop, where you can pick up trinkets like stained glass to hang on your window or personalized key chains or gummy bears.
I stopped there the other day for lunch. Got the grilled cheese special for $2.99. Just American cheese between two slices of toasted bread with chips and two bread-and-butter pickles. And a root beer float, also $2.99. Nothing fancy. But somehow, something simple about a little break on the monotonous road in an old-fashioned diner (not the glare of McDonald's) made me smile.
U.S. 301 & U.S. 17
Port Royal, Virginia