Every time, and really, it’s never often enough, that I escape the ankle-deep slush and relentless face-paralyzing gusts of wind that New York City is so fond of thrusting at us for warmer climates, I’m always bewildered when I arrive. Wait, it is spring here? It’s usually like this? Did the weatherman just say to take out your winter coat because it’s going to be 50 today? And then, there’s always the great undressing, so much less exciting than it sounds unless you were me on Saturday, stepping outside without a sweater, tights, tall boots, scarf, hat, gloves and thick down jacket for the first time in months, light as a feather, happy as a clam, albeit with the skin cast of someone who had just crawled out from under a rock. Ah sunshine. How we’ve missed thee.
Savannah and Charleston were as pretty as could be. We spent from Saturday through Monday afternoon in Savannah, and until Tuesday afternoon in Charleston. It didn’t give us time to do “everything” but we felt like it was more than enough. We’re not big on guided tours or museums —troglodytes, indeed—we just want to wander. In Savannah, we walked through all 24 squares on Sunday, and I took a picture of a leaf, flower, path, sculpture or fountain in each one and in Charleston, we walked up and down the river and wandered through the old, pastel-painted neighborhood. 177 pictures later, I need a nap, but that has more to do with the unplanned Orlando leg of our trip home than the torture of sifting through sparkly, leafy pictures.
- The Mansion on Forsyth Park, our hotel in Savannah, and boy, does Alex know how to pick ’em. Every angle, wall, detail on every floor was stunning, like a boutique. I loved the geometric chandeliers with cascading beads as much as our goofy convex mirror and garish white headboard. Did I mention they have cooking classes there? Sigh.
- Mrs. Wilkes Dining Room in Savannah, where we had lunch on Sunday. I at first shuddered at the line outside, certain that any place with a cluster of tourists outside couldn’t have anything worthwhile inside, but the food erased all of my doubts. We sat at an 8-top with a group from Minnesota, where the snow apparently reaches the tops of their windows, and all agreed that while the fried chicken was phenomenal, the pork cooked in barbeque sauce stole the show. The waitresses’ t-shirts read “if the Colonel made fried chicken this good, they’d call him the General.” Lunch was $15 per person.
- 700 Drayton, the restaurant in the Mansion on Forsyth Park. Phenomenal food, from my chicken on grits with a glorious mess of saucy vegetables to Alex’s crab-encrusted red snapper on top of sweet potatoes, with the kind of details that smack of a chef who really relishes his work. In addition, I would like to redecorate our apartment to match the restaurant’s decor.
- The Peninsula Grill in Charleston. I was certain that we’d had the best meal of our trip at 700 Drayton, until I had the duck breast that you could cut with the side of your fork at this restaurant. I feel that to get down the rest of this meal in words, silly words, would cheapen it. Suffice it to say, this place could give a good chunk of the better NYC restaurants a run for their Michelin stars, and I wish it would.
- Boiled peanuts in Charleston, as well as that cute little cooking store which sold the most perfect pralines. Leopold’s Ice Cream Parlor in Savannah, an oasis of openness, devoid of tourists except us, on a day in which everything in that town was closed.
- Alex won’t agree with me, because his red rice with sausage and mixed seafood was apparently phenomenal, but I though Elizabeth’s in Savannah was hideously overrated. I can’t even think about my pork tenderloin with blue cheese sauce on top of sauteed cabbage with slices of fresh ginger (why, Elizabeth, why?) without my stomach turning. Our desert tasted like it came from a freezer case and Sandra Lee could have made a better black-eyed pea patty; I’m sorry to be so outright mean about a restaurant some people apparently love, but you’re not the one who bit into nearly raw ginger when eating something as harmless as cabbage. Our wine, however, was perfect and I can’t wait to find it again.
- The impossible hours and schedules of many places in Savannah. Almost nothing open on Sunday (hence the meal at our hotel’s restaurant, though we have no regrets about this), the bakery closed all weekend and Monday too, another place only open for lunches on weekdays. Finding something to do was like navigating a very complicated map, one not written to serve the reader in any way. New York’s 24/7-thing is very spoiling, I know.
- I had deleted my original comment here, because I promised I wouldn’t get into what the hotel clerk said about going to a certain place for food because it was in a “neighborhood, you know, a neighborhood place, that mostly serves people in the neighborhood.” Oops, I did it anyway.
The Kick-Ourselves For Not Getting There’s:
- Tybee Island — We didn’t rent a car until we were en route to Charleston
- The bar downstairs from the Old Pink House — We were too full on good food and tired from walking all day to get there after dinner on Sunday night.
- 99 percent of your recommendations in Charleston. Everything looked so good, but we were only there for about 23 hours. Did I thank you? I was overwhelmingly grateful for all those comments. I dutifully noted all of the places you mentions, their addresses and their phone numbers, even when I knew full well we’d have time for two things only.
Alas, we’ve been home less than 24 hours and already gone out for a birthday dinner and missed many hours of sleep, all of which means no new recipes for you! For me! At least not today. I hope to be back in the swing of the things shortly, as I have a blissful Southern-inspired recipe I’m tweaking just for you. I mean, us. Until then, I will do my best to lure that great thaw a few states north.