Tag Archives: eggs benedict

RT2014: Savannah History & Bonaventure

I keep repeating myself but we wake to yet another beautiful, sunny day in the south. Expected to climb into the 90’s today. We want to head out early to capture Historic Savannah before the sun becomes too harsh for photos…and people.

Yesterday’s hop on hop off tour was excellent for knowing where we wanted to be today. For breakfast we are trying the well recommended Clary’s Cafe. Right downtown in the historic district and open for breakfast, Clary’s seems ideal. We elect to sit outside on the sidewalk.

SavannahD3 016

Many other patrons choose to as well and we meet a few roadtrippers like us and many many canines, travelers and locals. Our waitress drops by for our drinks order. OJ is not fresh squeezed and she notes probably for the first time that yes this is a shame. I opt for it anyways, coffee as well. I’m going to go with their specialty Crab Cakes Benedict, after asking if the Chicken Fried Steak was fresh or frozen. Frozen. Rob is having the corned beef hash.

Everybody but us has a dog or dogs with them. Waitresses are prepared with treats and all the the furbabies are well behaved. Savannah is dog friendly. I walked by at least one business with a gorgeous long haired kitty preening in the window. This speaks well of a city.

SavannahD3 013

Sitting in the warming shade, chatting with fellow travelers and dog lovers is a pleasant start to our final day in Savannah. Coffee arrives, lukewarm. It is refilled generously several times but it never gets hot. Breakfast is served and we dig in. My benny is fine. The eggs are well poached, nice and runny. The English muffin is perfectly toasty and chewy. Breakfast came with the choice of grits or homefries. When in the south I choose grits. Unfortunately these grits were tasteless and unseasoned, but nothing a pat of butter and salt and pepper couldn’t fix. They turned out okay after all. The crab cakes are merely fine. Maybe it’s my expectations. I think big chunks of luscious, white crab barely held together with egg and potato and I get shredded crab held together with a lot of potato. I don’t fault Clarey’s, but I think I’m over crab cakes. Also I’m confused about something. My eggs benny comes with “Canadian” bacon. In Canada, Canadian bacon is peameal bacon. We don’t call it Canadian bacon but Americans do. But when you go to the States and get Canadian bacon it is this round of over processed, pale ham-like substance. Anyways anything less than salty, cured pork tenderloin with a layer of juicy fat and a peameal crust is unacceptable. I digress.

SavannahD3 008

Rob’s breakfast is quite good. Clary’s calls corned beef hash one of their specialties. They corn their own beef briskets and it shows. Rich with corned beef, onions and potato, it’s a winner. Served with two cooked eggs, the aforementioned heavily-adjusted grits and a good biscuit. All in all, the food in Savannah has been fine. Nothing exceptional, nothing we will gush about to future dinner guests. We have done our research, talked to people, taken the advice of the hotel, been to highly recommended places, but we have not found the real Savannah dining wise. If it indeed exists. (Stay tuned).

SavannahD3 014

After we settle up, we park Moby and head into the Historic District to take pictures. Downtown Savannah is as charming and quaint as they come. Architectural detail abounds, gaslights flicker, gardens are lush, alleyways are secret treasures, planters and topiaries are exquisite.

sav 002

sav 001

Row upon row of colourful homes delight the viewer. The lush green park squares allow you to sit, reflect and refresh.

SavannahD3b 009

The cicadas serenade. Many squares feature fountains or statuary usually dedicated to a military hero. Some have bodies interred within. One square is a legitimate cemetery. Savannah is a fabulous walking city if you are mindful of your footing. Sidewalks are old and paved with bricks. I could walk for hours.

SavannahD3b 010

After a very pleasant morning spent in the Historic District, we head to Thunderbolt to the Bonaventure Cemetery, famous for being featured in the film Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The cemetery is also the final resting place of two confederate generals and Little Gracie Watson, a six year old who died of pneumonia in 1889. A top her grave is a life sized sculpture of her rendered by then up and coming sculptor, John Walz. It is rumoured that if you place a penny in her hand and walk around her grave three times it will be gone. The much visited grave site now has a pretty wrought iron fence around it.

SavannahD3b 012

Bonaventure is peaceful and serene. You can drive through in a car and pull over along the way to walk and snap photos. The cemetery is noted for its beautiful statuary. Live oaks and Spanish moss grace the plots. Gravely paths have to be navigated with some care as ancient tree roots have broken through the surface. It is less orderly than Oakland in Atlanta but every bit as charming and lovely.

SavannahD3b 013

Rob digs around a little more on the internet, determined, and finds a dinner place walking distance from the hotel. Vic’s on the River. We set off despairing of finding a meal to write home about.

Vic’s is on Bay street. Part of the building faces Bay Street and part faces the river. A piano man tinkles the ivories as we enter and we are seated at a lovely table for two by the 12 foot window looking out onto Bay and an exquisite live oak.

SavannahD3c 009

Vic’s oozes southern gentility, with black linens, silver and warm, light peach walls. Blonde wood floors show generations of wear, window boxes overflowing with hostas, sedums and soft, silver wormwood boldly underline the magnificent old windows. So very simple, so very elegant.

Warm buttermilk biscuits with whipped, honeyed butter appear on the table while we refresh from the day’s heat with gin and tonics. We are enjoying watching our neighbour, “Pebbles”, a strawberry blond 18 month old with her wispy curls piled on top of her head in a fountain tail, eat with great gusto.

SavannahD3c 012

The menu is inspired but we manage to settle on two apps. I’m having the Crawfish Beignets and Rob, reminiscing his childhood, orders the chicken livers. Both are excellent choices.  The improperly named crawfish beignets are  more of an empanada. 3 soft, flaky, delicious half moon pastries were filled with a lightly sweet crawfish filling and dressed with a sweet hot tabasco drizzle. Excellent, inspired, but one would have sufficed. Ok, maybe two.

SavannahD3c 013

The chicken livers were exquisite. Perfectly cooked (overcooked and they get tough and chewy) and bathed in a luxurious sauce of sauteed onion and bacon in a wine and stock reduction. They brought Rob back to his childhood where he got to eat the cooked liver from that night’s chicken and loved it.

SavannahD3c 008

Mains come with a salad course and we both opt for the classic iceberg wedge with blue cheese dressing. The salad comes nicely chilled with an excellent, mild, blue cheese dressing. Cucumbers and cherry tomatoes accessorize, as do home made buttermilk biscuit croutons. Bacon would have added a nice smokey, salty punch but was absent from this classic. This wedge was a nice, manageable size unlike some of the monsters I have been served.

SavannahD3c 010

Mains arrive in a nicely paced fashion. Rob orders a steak with truffle butter, accompanied by a corn grits souffle and sauteed spinach. The steak is a delicious medium rare and the truffle butter is entirely superfluous and gets scraped off to the side. The grit souffle is cheesy and light with a slight smoky edge from some smoked chile.

SavannahD3c 011

My southern fried pork chop is a thing of beauty, golden, crisp, crunchy coated, bathed in a luscious, rich, creamy wild mushroom sauce and nestled on golden mashed potatoes with perfect tender crisp green beans. This was Southern comfort on a plate. I will be thinking about this dish for sometime to come. Perfect on all counts.

SavannahD3c 019

We slowly sip the remainder of our rosè and stroll back in the evening light to our hotel. End of a perfect day.

SavannahD3c 018

We have really enjoyed the beauty of Savannah. I continue to admire the cleanliness and civic pride in the city and within Georgia as a whole. Tomorrow, we cross the Talmadge Memorial Bridge into South Carolina and head north to Hilton Head.

Road to Savannah

We wake to another fine, sunny Georgia day ready to hit the road for Savannah. Breakfast will be at the Flying Biscuit in Midtown. The front door of The Biscuit displays a rainbow flag. I have come to see that the pride flag on an establishment represents a friendly, inclusive place. It reminds me of the time when a traveler marked a cat on a nearby fence post to indicate that the home beyond was hospitable.

ToSavannah 001

And so it is. The hostess greets us like we are already friends, worried about where we parked. She does not want us to get “booted”. We settle into a cheery four top and order coffee and fresh squeezed OJ, and two orders of their Southern Biscuit Benedict.

ToSavannah 002

The Benny comes out quickly. A very well made biscuit topped with two poached eggs, pimiento cheese sauce, fresh basil, two slices of turkey bacon and a side of grits.

ToSavannah 003

This is a creative, tasty meal, with one notable exception. Turkey bacon is just wrong. It tastes of fake, chemical smoke. Why use turkey bacon? Most people choose it as a healthy option, but with a biscuit, pimiento cheese, two eggs and grits, yer all in anyways so give me real bacon…or at least the option.

That said, this Benny is very good. The biscuit base is perfect. The eggs are nicely poached so that when you break into that runny yolk it soaks into that delicious biscuit. Pimiento cheese? It’s a Southern thing. Cheddar cheese shreds are mixed with mayo, pimiento and hot sauce. Makes a great dip for crackers or spread it on toasted Wonder bread, slap some iceberg lettuce on it and you have a seriously awesome trailer park sammy. The Flying Biscuit’s pimento cheese has a nice little heat. Altogether it creates a good marriage of flavours. Talking Heads and The Romantics on the soundtrack made this a great breakfast stop.

We climb back into Moby and fire up the tech, Stella and our rootsie Americana soundtrack. We are breaking one of our rules today. We are headed to Savannah via the interstate for several reasons. The other route does not take us through Macon and try as we might, nobody on any forum could tell us of any places of interest to visit off of the interstate and basically it would add an hour to the trip with no benefit. So we decide to just get on into Savannah and start soaking it in. Some rules are meant for breaking. I am however imagining Sherman’s troops making this journey on foot and horseback sans interstate.

As we wend our way towards Savannah, we can’t help but notice how trash-free Georgia freeways are, except for the countless tire treads discarded like so many toe nail clippings. Aside from that fact, the drive is much like the 401 without the magnificent rock faces. We have been warned by previous travelers to watch for speed traps. We are using cruise control but note that the speed limits fluctuate between 55, 65 and 70 miles per hour with little notice. That’s how they get ya. Shortly we enter the dusty, grimy outskirts of Macon an hour into the drive and it’s really just a pit stop for us. We had intended to visit the Allman Brothers museum but it is closed Mondays, and most days.

As we continue on, we pass town after town beckoning to us with  golden arches and Waffle House in block letters stretched to the heavens. I can’t pass a Waffle House without giggling and thinking of Jeff Garlin and Garlin’s infectious giggle. (Not PC).

A lot of the highway we are traveling is being repaired. The surface is concrete. Looks like a lot more work than blacktop. Workers are out there in the hot sun leveling each stretch of about 15 feet by hand. Soon we are nearing Savannah and the scenery changes to more farmland, cotton and a dried corn crop. Hand made signs and towering billboards announcing fresh peaches, peach jam, peach salsa and peach bread call you off the highway. Mmmm…a sun ripened still warm Georgia peach. Yes we will.

ToSavannah 004

We stopped at a little road side kiosk manned by a teenage boy. He directed us to the peaches that in his opinion were the best. We selected two golden, lightly fuzzy, sweet, juicy, fruits that yielded to the bite without being mushy. Pure sunshine. Messy and perfect.

ToSavannah 006

We are all checked into The Bohemian in Savannah, rested up and thinking about dinner. Lady and Sons, Paula Deen’s resto is just a short walk up the street. We decide to check it out, ’cause the lady CAN cook y’all. Lady and Sons is in a quaint antique brick building, with a retail store attached to flog her wares.

ToSavannah 008

This resto in no way resembles the place she opened as a young widow. Now an enterprise, run like an army unit and three stories high, it has an elevator and staff communicating on walkie talkies. I hate it instantly.

The first thing we walk by on the way to the second checkpoint is a small buffet. I am buffet phobic. Just on a germ front alone. I have a full on hate for this place now. We check in with the second station and then head into Paula World to shop while we wait for our table.

We are called about 15 minutes later (on time for our 7 pm res) and seated on the first floor. Apparently my silent prayers not to get on the elevator with the party of 14 were heard. Our waiter brings huge glasses of ice water and lemon. Much appreciated. You sure work up a thirst in the south. I order a peach julep and Rob chooses a hefweizen. While we wait, the bread course comes. A hoe cake, much like a corn pancake, and an angel biscuit with cheese. Angel biscuits are made with yeast instead of soda. It was light, flaky and delicious. I am starting to warm up to the place a bit. No, wait! My cocktail arrives and it is horrible. Bitter. Very bad choice.

Apps are ordered. Paula’s famous pepper shrimp and fried green tomatoes. I am determined to hate this place but…these are both really excellent. The tomatoes are well fried, not greasy. They have a nice spot of pepper jelly on top and are served with diced pickled onion. Really nice.

ToSavannah 012

The pepper shrimp are swimming in a light sauce with a bit of butter and a ton of lemon and some pepper. Garlic butter toasts are served on the side. This app was surprisingly simple but well prepared and very good.

ToSavannah 009

Mains arrive next. We both chose the grouper fillet with BBQ peach sauce. A good piece of fish finished with a lightly sweet sauce  that does not overpower the mild fish. The grouper comes with a salad of asparagus and fresh corn, and creamy, cheesy deep fried, light as air, well seasoned grit cakes.

ToSavannah 013

This is probably blasphemy but we did not even look at the dessert menu. Sorry Paula. I’m sure it was quite excellent as was most of the food we sampled. Time to head into a lovely Savannah sunset and prepare for tomorrow. Think we will do a hop on hop off tour and then head to Tybee Island for some crab.

 

 

 

Atlanta Day 2

We sleep in a bit today. No furry alarm clock. Breakfasting this morning at Ria’s Bluebird, across the street from Atlanta’s famed Oakland Cemetery, where we will be spending a good part of the early day before the heat becomes to oppressive. I think Southerners must pride themselves on their heat tolerance like a Canadian prides themselves on wearing flip flops at least until the first snow. I like the heat but I am melting.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 001

Bluebird is a short drive from the W. No reservations. The small parking lot is full and there is a significant lineup out front. The wait is 45 minutes we are told, but it’s more like 25. They move people through well but don’t rush you. Soon we are ushered in and brought fresh squeezed lemonade on ice. Icy cold, lemony sweet-tart. Perfect.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 004We have had a minute to peruse the short menu in the hipster meets summer cottage surroundings. I note here that they have several veggie options and they are creative and not second thoughts. Tattooed service is friendly and efficient.  The vibe, noisy and fun. Lots of young families, couples and friends meeting up.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 001Rob and I decide on the brisket breakfast but then he is swayed by today’s special when the server returns and reads it off to him. Eggs Benny with pickled shrimp, melted lardons, fennel, onion and chile peppers on toasted French bread with a side of very good, peppery grits. Very Scandinavian. ‘Cept for the grits.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 004We also choose a short stack to share because the NY Times declares these pancakes to be the best in the world (not fact checked other than for us eatin’ them).

Bluebird&DaddyDz 005

Breakfast arrives and we tuck in. My brisket breakfast is melt-in-your mouth beef soaking in a dish of beefy, salty, rich sauce with two poached eggs and toasted baguette on the side. The short stack does indeed have world class aspirations. I am not a fan of sweet breakfasts for the most part, but these were delicious….especially when you dipped a forkful in maple syrup and then into the beefy sauce. It reminded me of a dish Alton Brown created on a road trip (big inspiration to us getting going). He went to the kitchen where the old cook was making rib tips for dinner service and he told her he wanted the rib tips on pancakes. She fussed a bit but finally gave him what he wanted. Then his whole crew wanted it. Then it ended up on their menu. Rob makes it from time to time. But I digress.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 005Breakfast was wonderful and the portions were not crazy. Just satisfying. It is hard not to waste food in the south, but Bluebird has it just right. As we head off into the sweltering sun, our server offers us icy lemonade to go. Free refills he says. They go down good.

We hop into the white behemoth hereafter to be referred to as Moby, and head over to Oakland, Atlanta’s historic cemetery founded in 1850 and our entertainment for the day — cruising leisurely through an old graveyard. It is a great place to take pictures, beautiful, serene and tells the story of a place. Some people like city halls and other attractions. We like cemeteries. The architecture, the history, the ghosts. It says so much about an older city. This cemetery is unique because it’s also an open city park that has art shows, concerts, culinary events and other fundraisers. It’s a gathering place in the city, which is a beautiful thing for a cemetery to be.

It is the final resting place of notables such as Bobby Jones and Margaret Mitchell. Oakland is also home to many ancient oaks and magnolia trees, art and sculpture. When the cemetery was first established, it was designed in the “new” rural garden tradition that was a forerunner of the public park. It still operates today as a park. People in the early 19th century picnicked and communed there. Sunday was a day where families gathered to tend their dead. More acreage was added to accommodate fallen confederate soldiers as the civil war raged through Atlanta. At this time, Jews were buried apart from Christians and African Americans apart from them. The last sites were sold in 1884, but we saw a grave as recent as 2012 in a family plot. The cemetery fell into serious disrepair some time in the 20th century as people moved away and lost touch with their ancestors. In the seventies it was declared a historic landmark and government and public funding has restored a large part of it to it’s former glory. The cemetery has a 10 stage refurbishing plan, dependent on funding. As we walked through today, we could not help but notice that the African American section is in serious decline.

Oakland 001

Oakland 002

Oakland 003

Oakland 004

Oakland 005The sun is now pretty much directly over head and molten. Still we persevere and decide beers are in order and maybe a little BBQ. This is silly because there is no such thing as a little BBQ. In any event, we spied a place on the way over this morning, Daddy D’z.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 006Daddy’s is hard to miss. It is total homemade shack. Gaily painted with African American culture and a hammered together smoker out back it screams “Good BBQ Inside!”

Bluebird&DaddyDz 010We order a couple of beers and some small plates. 4 ribs and two sides. I ask for just one side of mac and cheese as it is seriously almost too hot to eat.

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 008I get six ribs and a double order of mac and cheese plus a huge chunk of really good cornbread…sigh I really hate to waste food especially when an animal died to provide it, but I just can’t eat these quantities. Rob orders the small plate as well, with really good collards and yams as sides. It comes piled high and he can’t finish it either.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 012Ooh yeah. The ribs. Excellent, beauty pink smoke ring, perfect bark. Comes with either spicy or sweet sauce. We chose sweet. It was everything you could want in a sweet sauce, thick and tangy.

Bluebird&DaddyDz 014

Bluebird&DaddyDzB 009Back to the hotel to escape the heat and regroup and maybe a siesta. For our final evening in Atlanta, we choose a Triple D joint, Varsity, the world’s largest drive-in. Food is cheap and homemade. Rob whispered earlier that I could eat in the car! This is one of my dirty secrets. I hate going into fast food places to eat. I love to eat it in my car. Rob hates to eat in the car.

Varsity 001Varsity is not too busy this Sunday evening as we pull into a parking spot. Immediately a young carhop, #47 comes by shouting “What’ll ya have?”

Varsity 004Rob’s having the chili slaw dog and I’m having the hamburger. We both try the homemade, hand dipped onion rings, a fried peach pie and a small frosted orange.

Varsity 007

Varsity 006

Food arrives window side quickly. I only order onion rings if they are fresh not frozen. These don’t disappoint. Classic. My burger is a simple house made patty with mustard, ketchup and dill pickles. Nothing fancy. Exactly what I was looking for. The burgers are on the small side, but at $1.89, if you are still hungry you could order a second and be able to finish it.

Varsity 008Rob’s chili slaw dog was terrific. Good dog, good chili and creamy slaw, yet not messy and easy to eat. The frosted orange was amazing. A dreamsicle in a cup. Icy cold. The fried peach pie was not terribly memorable. The peaches we good quality in a sugary syrup, but the crust was quite thin and didn’t hold together very well for eating by hand.

Varsity 009I long for the old days of McDonald’s fried fruit pies. (Editors note: Ignore that last sentence — she’s a loon.)  #47 pops by to pick up trash. Tomorrow we head for Savannah.

Varsity 003