Well, hello, again, again! from Savannah, Georgia! I’m here for the Savannah Rock and Roll Marathon with my coworkers Rebecca and Matt, and we’ve had a grand time so far. (Check out our first day, and our second day, if you haven’t read them yet.)
Today we had a limited itinerary, because our goal was to keep our legs as rested as possible. Of course, being someone with a usual travel itinerary pages long, we still managed to do quite a few things.
We started off with coffee. Rebecca had woken up early to get her shake out run in (I don’t shake out, because I’m neurotic, and am terrified that I’m going to break my leg on a shakeout run, and then DNS. (Racer acronym for “did not start”). I cheered her out the door and took a long shower. When she returned, Matt and I went out for a quick first cup of caffeine, a Long Black at The Collins Quarter. (If you read yesterday, you may see a pattern here.
We then of course, picked up Rebecca, and headed back to The Collins Quarter for a tasty breakfast. I got the very same dish I had ordered yesterday, but asked for an extra egg. For some reason, our dishes only came with one slice of toast, instead of yesterday’s two slices, so we ordered another round, just because.
After the bookstore, we stopped into an old book store: E. Shaver, which boasted a large selection of books of all kinds. I was especially appreciative of my two favorite topics being situated in a section next to each other. (Architecture and Cookbooks). It’s a hard road as a bookstore these days, and I’d be curious to know how they manage. (I heard titterings in the store that the owner might consider selling the building (a huge house), and store in the near future. Sadness.
We then made our way over through several squares to Forsyth park, where the end of the marathon celebrations will take place.
On our way, we made a special shop to ShopSCAD – the Savannah College of Art and Design store! So many great things for sale! Here are some of the (many) pictures I snapped in the place.
For several hours, we found a spot on the lawn to read our books. We made three stops into Brighter Days Natural Foods at the end of the park, to use the bathroom (we were drinking a lot of water), buy more water (we needed to drink a lot of water), use the bathroom (again, all the water), where they undoubtably found us very weird. Our last trip in we picked up groceries to bring home and make for dinner.
The park was great – the Rock n’ Roll folks were setting up, so we had to listen to Sting on repeat for an hour. There were kids out skateboarding being pulled by their dogs, a guy riding past on one of those 8 feet tall bicycles, hippies abound, a few folks playing guitar, some guy playing a Berimbau (a bow shaped instrument). And then there was this ridiculous Golden puppy who made a b-line towards us. After some major belly rubs, it found a little husky friend and tried to chase her.
At five, we started heading back with our groceries, and made our way home to cook dinner. We stopped by Starbucks for some coffee for the morning, Panera for a bagel and banana (for breakfast), and a convenience store for Rebecca to get some wine. Priorities people. I contemplated a snickers for my race bag, but thought better of it.
When we got back, Matt did his quick shakeout (during which he ran to World of Beer to pick up his beer – a Southbound Secret Shared PRO AM), again, priorities, and we started cooking. That big pot on the right has two pounds of pasta.
Rebecca and Matt made pasta with tomato sauce, and arugula.
I went for my ultimate comfort food: Annie’s Macaroni and Cheese. I was planning on getting a baked potato and some chicken, but whenever I get an excuse to eat a whole box of Annie’s to myself, I take it. (Plus, I know from experience that I can eat it and not get a stomach ache.)
Finally, the race set up! I’m still half convinced that I’ll forget something, but that’s not too likely, since when I run, I’m a sherpa, and carry ALL THE THINGS.
This marathon is just one sleep away! Goodnight, y’all!
Well hello from warm Savannah, Georgia!
Usually I don’t blog while I’m actually on a trip, but I’m here for five days for the marathon, and judging from how much we’ve done on day one, I thought I’d start keeping a log here now, otherwise I’m never going to keep up!
Our flight was an otherwise smooth one from Boston, despite a little bit of turbulence. I happened to be sitting in a window seat, where both my front and back neighbors decided that the windows that shared a crack with their seats should be closed immediately, leaving me windowless for most of the flight. That left me with plenty of time to finish reading Laurie Colwin’s Home Cooking, and get started on a new book: Cowboys and Indies, a so far captivating history of the music industry.
We arrived to an airy southern airport, and shared at taxi to downtown. It ended up being a little steep $39 (they tacked on $5 for each extra person, and I wasn’t looking to haggle on my first day here.) We drove through strip suburbia, saw an air force base. When I travel I’m always on the lookout for interesting fast food chains, or other local specialties, but the ride from the airport wasn’t the most busy.
Instead of staying in a hotel, we decided to rent an apartment, which ended up being both more affordable, and really adorable! After getting settled, we immediately headed to our first meal of the day: Zunzi’s, a local sandwich shop with a following. (It’s one of the most reviewed places on Yelp in general, but several locals recommended it to me. After hearing the guy behind the counter selling the African tea to the woman in front of me, I accepted the sample … which tasted like sweet lip gloss. I actually really like sweet tea, but when you are expecting unsweetened, and you get what will put someone in a diabetic coma, it’s a shock to the system.
Rebecca had the falafel, Matt ordered a salmon sandwich, and I went with Oliver’s lunch: a bed of mashed potatoes with chopped grilled chicken, and chopped house made sausage and smoked sausage. And a roll. And a spinach salad that I ended up passing on. It was quite a meal to start the day! Here’s a close-up of Oliver’s Lunch:
After consuming much of the meal, we headed for a good long walk down Broughton Street, one of the main drives. We popped into a handful of shops, with so many cute details. Here’s one from a gift shop called Sylvester & Co that had a coffee shop in the back.
And here are a few photos from the lower level of Paris Market & Brocante, a shop primarily with gorgeous French housewares and gifts, with some delightfully bizarre decorations around each and every corner. I should have taken more photos, the place was gorgeous, but as usual, I’m drawn to the weird.
Near the end of Broughton, we stopped into Chocolat by Adam Turoni, seduced by the wafting scent of chocolate that they were tempering in house, and crafting into individual truffles. I absolutely loved this quirky looking chocolate shop, and will be heading back for more before I leave. I had a single blood orange Grand Marnier truffle that was the perfect bite.
Of course, by late afternoon, we needed to fortify ourselves again, so we headed to Leopold’s for some good old fashioned ice cream. Rebecca went for the historically significant “chocolate chews and cream” flavor, Matt got pistachio, and I had a perfectly done butter pecan. We then took ourselves on a walk, down by the waterfront, and then back up to Colonial Park Cemetery. I’ll take more pictures before we leave, but the cemeteries here are so interesting!
And then we did more walking, so we had to caffeinate. We stopped into The Coffee Fox, a coffee shop owned by a Texan (I couldn’t help but notice the kolache in the case). I drank espresso with milk, Rebecca had a cortadito (sweetened, cuban style), and Matt got the “eye-opener” nitro milk stout with a shot of espresso, yep, coffee and beer combined. Magic!
Finally, after resting for a few hours in our apartment, we headed out for a good Southern meal at The Olde Pink House. How could we not? I must admit, I was a little skeptical, but when good friends (including one who went to school in the south and hit up the Kentucky Derby this year) recommended it, I knew I’d have to keep it on my list.
The Olde Pink House is exactly that – but possibly it should be called The Olde Very Large Pink House with lavish rooms that made me feel like everything was magical.
We all ordered beers from Georgia, and gorged on their cornbread and biscuits. The room was lively, filled with people, and one of the hostesses was going from table to table, breaking into song.
Rebecca prudently started with a salad, while I went for the she crab soup, which was similar to a clam chowder, but smooth, silky, and rather elegant. To my utter delight, the waitress asked me if I’d like some sherry *sherry!!* to stir into my soup, to which I could not possibly refuse. It makes the crab sweeter – and she was so very right.
For dinner, Matt ordered the deep chicken pot pie, which came with a splendid buttery crust, and Rebecca had the sweet potato ravioli, with oyster mushrooms. For my meal, I knew I had to go bold, and not look back: deep fried chicken livers with grits and fried spinach. (Actual fried spinach!). It was rich. It was delicious.
I wish I could tell you of the pecan pie, or key lime we devoured after dinner, but wisely we decided to tap out early. We went for a very long walk to counter the meal, found everything closed (including CVS… they close at 9pm, apparently), and now we are back. Sleep soon, there will undoubtably be so much more tomorrow!
70 degrees outside! Can we have a Hallelujah?! It’s finally cooled off around here, which is a good thing, because I’ve been genuinely worried that I’ll overheat and die. I’ve always been resistant to air conditioning because we’ve never needed it before, but for the first time in my life I learned just how bad it can get when there is no escape from the heat.
Last week, after a month of reaching the high 90‘s in the house, we finally got a ceiling fan, rigged up a screen in our big Victorian window, and got some air flow! It’s not perfect, but it works. Our windows don’t actually fit traditional air conditioners, so we’ll be saving up for one of those outrageously expensive robot rolling air conditioners for next summer. (If we make it through the winter without freezing to death, that is.)
As the summer has progressed, I’ve been eyeing the okra, hoping to catch it before it got too late in the season. You really have to get them small before they get woody and tough. Okra is one of those foods that people seem to either love or hate, and I fall squarely into the love category. There are many things I like to do with these little green pods – pickle them, or add them to chili, or simmer them in a tomato and olive oil based sauce Turkish style, or dredge them and deep fry them – but one of my favorite ways to prepare okra is in this Southern-ish Slow Cooker Gumbo. Okra benefits from long slow cooking to reduce some of its trademark mucilaginous qualities (slime!) But in the summer, who wants to turn on the oven for a long braise? Enter the savior slow-cooker: long slow cooking times, with the added bonus of not heating the house up like a sauna!
Southern Gumbo you ask? Okay, so I finished reading Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, and for the past two weeks all I can think of is how long it’s been since I’ve been below the Mason-Dixon.
The last time I was in Louisiana was winter of 2001. My family had gone on a trip to an eerily empty Disney World – it was just a few months after September 11th, and people weren’t traveling. This of course meant outrageously cheap flights, a hotel upgrade at the Grand Floridian, and no lines. No lines.
After a week of the best Disney experience ever, I flew to meet my best friend Sara and her mother and grandfather in an equally empty New Orleans. Her mother was there for the Modern Language Association annual convention, and we were skipping along, free to do what we pleased. We hit the necessities. Café Du Monde for beignets. We gleefully ate crawfish fondue in front of her visibly displeased grandfather (an observant orthodox Jew), which still fills me with guilt more than a decade later . We ate in a Kosher restaurant as well, but I’ve blocked the memory of that meal. We ate at Emeril’s flagship. I want to tell you that I hated it on principle, but truthfully it was one of the best meals I’ve eaten in a restaurant. Seriously, there was smoked salmon cheesecake.
So, about this slow-cooker gumbo. It’s kind of a cheat. The best gumbo takes hours and delicate care and attention, preferably with one of those Southern grandmothers manning the stove and beating you with her wooden spoon if you come too close. I love grandmothers!
But I had okra, and some good base flavors: rotisserie chicken, Cajun Seasoning that I was sent by Teeny Tiny Spice Co. (a mix of cayenne, paprika, fennel, mustard, cumin, pepper, thyme, oregano, sage, onion, garlic, and salt!), the holy trinity (bell pepper, onion, and celery), Trader Joe’s Chicken Andouille Sausage, and a roux. Well, not just any roux. A real cheeky roux if I do say so myself: instead of flour, I used cornbread mix.
Braving the heat of my kitchen, I did not skimp on this roux. I cooked it as slowly as I could handle. I stirred until it reached a dark reddish hue and smelled like heaven. Then I put together the ingredients in the crock-pot and slunk out of the kitchen and sat myself down right in front of the fan for the next three hours.
But that’s the beauty of the slow-cooker – you don’t really have to do anything. And you know what? It was pretty damn great.
Slow Cooker Gumbo
This is one of those dishes that it actually does make sense to organize before you start – because essentially, once you make your roux, you’ll layer everything in the slow cooker, turn it on, and walk away. I use a small slow cooker, but you could easily double the recipe to fit it in a large one. If you can’t find fresh okra, you could use frozen here, no need to defrost.
Time: 20 minutes prep, plus 3-4 hours to cook.
For the roux:
- 1/4 cup fat (lard, oil, clarified butter – I used ghee)
- 1/4 cup flour (or, in my case, cornbread mix)
For the stew:
- 2 links Trader Joe’s Chicken Andouille sausage
- 1 cup chopped cooked rotisserie chicken
- 1 shallot, chopped (you could also use 1/2 an onion)
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1 large stick celery, chopped
- a large handful okra (about 1.5 cups), chopped
- 4 cloves of garlic
- a Turkish bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons Cajun Seasoning
- 1 (15 oz.) can fire roasted tomatoes + 1 can of water
- a dash of Worcestershire
- salt, to taste
Gather and prep your main ingredients – chop your sausage and chicken, and put them in a bowl. Then, chop your shallot (or onion), celery and bell pepper, and put those into another bowl. Rinse off your okra, chop – don’t be put off by the slime – and put those into the third bowl.
Then start your roux. On medium-high heat, heat up your fat in a heavy bottomed pan. Then dump in your flour. It’ll start sizzling, and you’ll want to stir immediately and reduce the heat to medium. Then, you’ll stir. And stir. And stir – for about 10-15 minutes, more if you can handle it. The idea is to slowly cook the flour paste so that the roux gets rid of it’s raw edge, and becomes a magical flavor base for your dish. But, you have to watch it. The second it burns, you are done for, and you have to throw it out – don’t even think of using it.
Once your roux reaches a deep hue, take it off the heat and assemble your crock pot. Layer! First the roux, then the trinity (your celery, pepper and onion or shallot bowl). Then your meats. Then your okra. Then, add your Cajun Seasoning, nestle in your cloves of garlic, and your bay leaf. Finally, pour on the can of tomatoes, fill the same can with water, and add that on top. Add a few dashes of Worcestershire, some large pinches of salt and cover. You can stir it now, but usually I wait until it heats up to touch it.
Cook: Turn the heat onto high, and cook for 3-4 hours, stirring every hour or so.
Serving: Traditionally, this would be served over white rice, but since we aren’t very traditional, and I’m a little lazy, I just serve it as is. You can brighten it up with some chopped parsley if you’d like, and pass around a bottle of Tabasco. I also like it with a small dollop of plain yogurt to temper the heat.
Storing: like all stews, this tastes great the next day, and for several days after that. Usually, I chop up a few extra andouille sausages into moons, and add them to the soup as I reheat to make it extra meaty.