We were to stay in Savannah for two nights, the second of which was New Years Eve. This put a bit of added pressure on me to make our dinners in this "Queen of the South" memorable. The last thing I wanted, was to end up in a Paula Deen tourist trap, and thankfully I had a couple friends to help point me in the right direction, in addition to the usual consulting of Trip Advisor.
Even with the added assistance of friends, however, I still debated with myself on the best choices for dining. I knew the pressure would be on following the four awesome meals in Asheville, and I didn't want to end such an awesome trip on a down note. In addition, I only had two nights with which to work, which accentuated my desire to make these choices count. Finally, I bit the bullet and put together a plan...I think it turned out pretty well....
Since we wouldn't arrive in town until the afternoon, our only real activity for our first day would be dinner. After checking into the lousy Marriott Riverfront, and walking the equally unimpressive River Street, we decided to head back to our room for an hour or so to rest up before dinner at 700 Drayton.
When consulting friends who had been to Savannah, the consensus was that we should check out two places, one of which was the Mansion on Forsyth Park. I was already quite familiar with the property, as it is another Kessler Collection hotel, and opened shortly before I left the company. Being that I already had the desire to see the hotel itself, it made sense to dine in their restaurant and kill two birds with one stone. Thankfully, its #23 ranking on TripAdvisor brought it within my requirements for booking...if only barely...
Having developed a love for them in Asheville, I started with the fried green tomatoes, which were prepared slightly different from their counterpart at Red Stag Grill. Between the two, I preferred the version here at 700 Drayton, I only wished there was more of it on the dish. For my main, I went to the opposite end of the culinary spectrum, electing for a cashew crusted salmon with a red chili mandarin glaze, which was paired with baby bok choy and basmati rice. The flavors were amazing, and was a nice departure from the mostly southern style fare I'd enjoyed for most of the trip.
700 Drayton is located in the main portion of the mansion which is connected to the hotel building. While the location is convenient to Forsyth Park, the hotel is actually a bit out of the main downtown area, and is best accessed by cab. The decor is straight out of Kessler's handbook, with a mixture of contemporary and traditional furnishings rolled into one. In addition, the usual array of fantastic art adorns the walls, many by artists I recognized from other Kessler properties.
Arriving a bit early for our table, we opted to head upstairs to Casimir's Lounge for a beverage and to pass some time. It was here that I fell in love with a new concoction....the Arnold Palmer. This wasn't your grandmother's version of the beverage, however, as rather than a mixture of lemonade and sweet tea, it utilized lemonade and sweet tea flavored vodkas. It was awesome, and after returning home has become my beverage of choice. I'm told that the real name for this drink isn't an Arnold Palmer, but one that's a bit more dubious...John Daly.
When the time came for our reservation, we made our way downstairs, where we were seated in a comfy banquette. I selected a bottle of the restaurant's private label "Red Stag" cabernet, and began to peruse the menu. Right away I was impressed with the number of unique dishes, as compared to the seemingly homogeneous menus found at the other Kessler Collection restaurants. One thing I did appreciate which is found throughout the brand are the illuminated menus, which to date I've never seen in another restaurant.
Finally, it was time for the main event of any meal...dessert. However, this evening I wasn't in the best of dessert moods, and really just wanted something simple. Not satisfied that the menu choices would do the trick, I opted to go for my old stand by....a plain old hot fudge sundae. What I expected was just a simple bowl of ice cream, with a bit of chocolate fudge topping. What I got was a far more elaborate version of my favorite dessert. Sure it was just vanilla ice cream topped with chocolate, but the serving in a nougatine bowl and the chocolate pralines made all the difference in the world. One of the top 5 biggest mistakes of the trip...not taking a picture. It wasn't till later that I learned they had an ice cream dish which is pictured below, they just tweaked it by replacing the caramel with chocolate....
With the arrival of New Year's Eve, we started our day by exploring the many historic squares in downtown Savannah. Our plan was to have an early lunch, so we would be sufficiently hungry in time for our final dinner of the trip. We stopped into yet another Kessler Collection hotel, the Bohemian Riverfront, and decided to have lunch at their restaurant Rocks on the River.
Rocks was the perfect place for people watching, as the restaurant was directly on River Street. The glass wall which fronted the street was actually a series of giant roll up doors as are often found in a warehouse. According to our server, when the weather is nice the doors are rolled up, creating an open air experience, but today they were down given it was a bit cool.
Since it was still morning, I decided to try a dish which I had always heard about, but never had the pleasure of trying...chicken and waffles. Fried chicken tenders served between two miniature waffles and garnished with spring greens and powdered sugar...seriously, what's not to like? As it turned out, nothing. They were phenomenal, and it left me wishing yet again that there was some place back home where I could find this amazing take on the chicken sandwich.
Following our "light" lunch, we continued exploring the downtown area, and eventually made our way back to the hotel to rest and get ready for dinner. Earlier I mentioned that everyone I spoke to regarding Savannah made two suggestions, first was the Mansion on Forsyth Park, and the second was The Olde Pink House. Given that I held these opinions in high regard, and the restaurant weighed in at #4 on TripAdvisor behind three barbeque joints, it was an easy decision to make it our choice for our final dinner of the trip, and on New Year's Eve to boot.
As per our routine, we arrived at The Olde Pink House about a half hour early for our reservation so we could first enjoy a beverage in the restaurant bar. Having fallen in love with Arnold Palmers the night before, I decided I'd make it my drink of choice for this evening also. The TVs around the bar were featuring the Liberty Bowl between my alma mater, the UCF Knights, and the Georgia Bulldogs. Now just because I'm a UCF grad doesn't make me a fan, as my heart has always belonged to the Florida Gators. It was quite nice, however, to watch these annoying Georgia fans sulk as they watched their beloved Dawgs lose to what most would agree is a second tier football school. I took this pleasure in silence, fearing retribution from the barking Bulldog fans....literally, barking. But again, I digress...
Right about the time the game ended, the hostess came and informed us our table was ready. She led us to a great table in the center of what she called the Grand Ballroom. The room was enormous, with beautiful chandeliers, and frescoes on the walls depicting scenes which to me seemed to be straight out of "Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil."
While there was no special New Years Eve menu as is common in many restaurants, there were multiple specials on the evening. We started with the fried green tomatoes topped with a crab cake, and continued with a shrimp and crab spring roll. Both were great options, and pairing a crab cake with the tomatoes only served to enhance my new found love for this dish.
When it came time to order our entrees, I was faced with a bit of a dilemma. I had made an effort to try new things the entire trip, and the one time I regressed and ordered steak I had regretted the decision. However, on this evening I was definitely in a steak sort of mood, and the fact that surf and turf was one of the specials for the evening wasn't helping any. I decided since this was truly what I wanted, as opposed to a lack guts to try something new on the menu, I went with it. Yet again...bad decision.
For the second time on the trip, I was faced with a bout of "entree envy." My wife had ordered the whole flounder, and the first clue to my mistake was when the server mentioned it was the house specialty and the most ordered thing on the menu. The next clue, however, was when the dish emerged. It was, in a word, amazing...
Needless to say, she enjoyed it, and in a strange repetition of our dinner at Fig in Asheville, the person who ordered the flounder walked away much happier than the other.
And with that, it was time for dessert. As had been the case our entire trip, there was no holding back in this regard just because we were a little full. Yet again, we were unable to narrow our choices down on desserts, so we opted for three. I selected the chocolate cheesecake, and my wife the bananas foster. In addition, the key lime tart had sounded fantastic, so we opted to share that as well. Given that it was New Years Eve, and the last evening of our vacation, we also ended the meal with a celebratory glass of champagne. It seemed our indulgence was less than conspicuous, as the couple next to us commented that we really knew what we were doing.
While we were a bit sad to return home the next morning, it was probably a good thing we were, as I'm not sure either of us could have handled another meal like we had enjoyed for six nights straight. I wasn't happy about returning to hamburger helper and Papa John's pizza, but if we ate like we did on vacation every night, the experiences would be less enjoyable, and we'd also be broke.
So until the next adventure, I'll survive on the memories of the great meals we've enjoyed, and the foods I had no idea I loved.
~Insert Dude-like Closing Here~