Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Mystery Trip : Savannah and Amelia Island September 3 - 6, 2010

Overview of the Trip

Savannah had a lot more to see and do than we though. We will definitely be spending many more three day weekends there. Here’s the best of the trip:

Best beer: Bourbon Barrel Ale by Kentucky Ale

Best cocktail: Tanquery Ten Gin Martini at Salt

Best signature cocktail: Pinojito at Salt- A hyped up sangria with rum, mint, lemon and lime, Pinot noir and club soda

Best appetizer -Smoked tuna tartare – It arrived on top of a tube filled with smoke so the smoky aroma tricked your palate into thinking the tartare had a slight smoky flavor.

Second place - Crab Cakes by Chef Joe Randall

Best entree - This was a tough one because we weren't really blown away by any of the entrees we had at Elizabeth on 37th or at Chef Joe Randall’s cooking class. They both suffered from putting too many competing flavors on the plate so the prize had to go to Lady and Sons cheesy meatloaf- even though we had just a taste.

Best dessert - We have a split decision. Glenn's favorite was the angel food cake dessert from Elizabeth on 37th. They took pieces of angel food cake, added custard and then let it set up into a load pan and topped it with whipped cream. It was a successful twist on angel food cake. Angie's favorite was the rum bisque ice from Leopold's. It was creamy, flavorful with a bit of crunch.

Best bar- The bar at our hotel – Holiday Inn Express. The chairs were comfortable, the bartenders were friendly and the drinks were strong.

Most Unexpected Moment- Glenn saw a woman who had lined up four kids to pee in the bushes - just steps from the actual bathroom at the Ritz Carlton in Amelia Island.

Tied for second place - The fire alarm at 5 am and when another tour bus hit our tour bus.

Best store – The Peanut Shop, River Walk, Savannah. Hands down the best snack shop ever!

Mystery Trip Day 1

Glenn opened the first envelope and revealed that we were going to Savannah for the mystery trip. He wasn’t too surprised as Savannah was one of his guesses. We hopped in the car and headed out on the six hour drive. We stumbled across the Burger Barn for lunch. It delivered delicious burgers, tator tots and onion rings. We drove thru and then grabbed a spot on the nearest picnic table.

After another quick stop at the gas station to pick up the trifecta of snack foods – Arizona Iced Tea, Munchos and cheesy peanut butter crackers, we pulled into the Holiday Inn Express – Savannah Historic District. The location is awesome – right across the street from the River Walk. It is a gorgeous hotel with a beautiful lobby and bar. We had a great King Corner room with a couch, two really nice arm chairs, a desk and a wet bar. The Front Desk was really friendly and helpful. The only negative was that the Valet Parking was a little slow.

Elizabeth on 37th

After a quick clean up, we headed to Envelope #2: Elizabeth on 37th. The restaurant is in a historic mansion. The d├ęcor inside was appropriate to the period. We ordered the seven course tasting menu. The service was impeccable. The wine list was a bit on the high side. The wine list was a bit on the high side for the price point of the entrees. As for the tasting menu:

Glenn’s thoughts – All the food was prepared properly and executed according to the chef’s vision. The flavors in the dishes were a little unsettling. The appetizer was tuna tartare on top of the scallop. The tuna tartare was amazing and the overcooked scallop took away from it. It would be better served by itself with the wasabi aioli.

Angie’s thoughts – The menu attempted to innovative and really pushed toward interesting new flavor combinations. The crab cake was really good. The scallop was dried out. For most of the entrees, it did end up being too much on the plate.

River Walk
Saturday, we started the day with a walk on River Walk. The River Walk was super cute with a good mix of restaurants and shops. The Peanut Shop was a fantastic snack shop. They live up to their name with more types of flavored peanuts, peanut brittle and peanut butter than we have ever seen. The River Walk also had a nice little market with local crafts, sunglasses and purses as well as an Art Fair.

Foody Tour

After our walk – it was time for Mystery Envelope #3: The Foody Tour. Savannah Movie Tours hosts a Foody Tour that visits and samples food from six different Savannah restaurants:

Distillery – A great bar with over 20 craft beers on tap. We sampled their slider with French fries and a remoulade dipping sauce and a couple beers.

Harris Bakery – It was a little weird to go from burgers and beer to pastry but the apple tart was very good. It lived up to our pastry expectations: flaky, sweet and sticky.

Farmers’ Market – It was a small market with a good selection of local produce. Due to a miscommunication, the much hyped tomato sandwich was replaced by a disappointing piece of watermelon.

Angel’s BBQ – This was a really cool spot because we would have never found it on our own. It was a tiny hole in the wall in an alley behind a church. The pulled pork was great.

Lady and Sons – This is Paula Dean’s restaurant. This was the perfect way to experience it. We were in and out in a matter of minutes with no need to wait for hours in the morning for a reservation. We sampled the fried chicken and cheesy meatloaf. The meatloaf was the real star due to it spicy cheese sauce.

Leopold’s Ice Cream Parlor – We ended the tour with a sweet treat. We tried the signature flavors: Rum Bisque and Lemon Custard. The lemon custard flavor was good. The flavor would have been more custard-like. It was not as good as Glenn was hoping. Angie found the Rum Bisque to be outstanding. It was smooth and sweet with a little bit of crunch. Fantastic!

Savannah Craft Beer Festival
After the Foody Tour, we moved on to Envelope #4: Savannah Craft Beer Festival. The festival featured thirty four breweries. It was well organized. Each brewery had at least two brews to sample. We got a small glass and went from tent to tent sampling beers. We never had to wait long and every one was really friendly. The best beer we tasted was the Bourbon Barrel Ale from Kentucky Ale. It was surprising how much of the whiskey flavor was imparted into the ale. We loved it!

Chef Joe Randall’s Cooking School

After a little nap, we headed out to Envelope #5: Chef Joe Randall’s Cooking School. This cooking school had been featured in Rachel Ray magazine. We pulled up. It was a small house and we walked right into the kitchen that had about twenty seats around a counter. Chef Randall had a great personality. It was interesting because nothing was pre-made so he made a four course meal for 20 people right in front of us. Because of that, we waited an hour and a half for the first course. Good thing we had a big lunch. The courses were good. The crab cakes were great and the best that Angie had ever had. The second course was fried green tomatoes over Bibb lettuce with a buttermilk dressing. The buttermilk dressing was really good. Third course was baked chicken with fried corn and red rice. We were both surprised to find that red rice is very similar to jambalaya as neither of us had had it before. Dessert was a pecan and peach tart. Overall it was a really fun experience. We ended the night hanging out at the hotel bar.

Sunday – Ritz Carlton, Amelia Island

Glenn was finally surprised when he opened Envelope #6: Ritz Carlton Amelia Island. We hit the road again. We were really impressed with the property. They had a great room ready for us at noon. We had our own balcony. We immediately headed down to the pool. The pool was great. It had tiered seating with rows of plants in between the tiers. Each set of chairs had its own umbrella. It really gave a sense of privacy. We could also see the ocean from the upper tiers. We had some great snacks and drinks by the pool. Then we headed up and changed for dinner. We decided to go the bar at the fine dining restaurant Salt. We ordered drinks and appetizers. We were blown away. The Gin Martini was the best Glenn had ever had. The tuna tartare appetizer was amazing. It came on top of a tube filled with smoke. We also had the scallop and foie gras. It was just awesome. Monday morning, we enjoyed the buffet breakfast and then hung out by the pool. It was sad to leave.

It was another great adventure.