Every Thursday, we grab this particular section of the Savannah Morning News and give some thought to the things we'd like to "do" this weekend.
There's music, arts, entertainment and new spots in which to eat, drink and be merry. Especially this time of the year.
If you will forgive me, however, for one week, I am going to take a moment to reflect on something already done.
The third Savannah Food & Wine Festival wrapped up a few days ago with another magnificent brunch at The Westin. That setting punctuated what was a near-perfect week in our beautiful city.
From the record-setting World's Largest Lowcountry Boil back on Nov. 7 to the absolutely triumphant Taste of Savannah at the Georgia State Railroad Museum the following Saturday, this city swelled with civic pride, culinary pride and thousands of smiling faces. I know this as fact. I saw them all. (It feels like it, anyway.)
The city's best week of food is exhausting for a good many of us. The people who put this week on barely sleep. Those of us who document the dinners and attend almost every other function and serve as pseudo ambassadors are right behind them, making sure it all goes off with as few hitches as possible. It is a ton of work, but really, it is so much fun.
The James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour Dinner on Nov. 11 at The Mansion on Forsyth Park was the best dinner I have experienced in three years of the festival. Clearly, I have not attended every wine dinner in Savannah during the week and I am sure there have been some phenomenal dining experiences, but the buzz in that main ballroom was palpable. The whispers moved from, "This is taking too long," as in previous years, to "This is one of the best dishes I have had in Savannah." Over and over again. Yes, it was that good.
Just as good as the food were the wines and the atmosphere. Anyone who thinks this dinner is a stuffy affair may want to re-evaluate. As exhibit A, I offer you a chef who stepped out of the kitchen to describe his dish, twice mentioned the work "sex," one time referred to a pistol and never once described his dish. Exhibit B is a wine distributor leading the entire room in a short version of Johnny Cash's "Ring of Fire." Yes, it was a great time.
The Secret Savannah Speakeasy on Nov. 12 was equally up to the task. A beautiful venue filled with some of Savannah's best restaurants. Elizabeth on 37th, Noble Fare, The Florence, Circa 1875 and Tybee Island Social Club were just some of the spots that agreed to join us for great food, cocktails and some live music. There was a cocktail lounge under a tent and there was food as far as you could see. There was also a cake that may have stolen the show. Davy Crockett Murray with Coastal Confections in Richmond Hill delivered us a cake that will be talked about for months: a full-sized liquor barrel made to look like a cake. Yes, a good bit of it was edible. It was absolutely the most photographed item at the event.
An event, by the way, that was the result of a ton of hard work and planning that also went off without major hiccups. I can't wait to do it again next year.
Finally, the grand finale - Taste of Savannah - was everything it should be. I did predict months ago that despite some setbacks in the first two years, this one would hit it out of the park. Well, I was right. When the only complaint you heard regularly was about the lack of restrooms, then you know you got it right. So many of the logistical issues that came with trying to host such a massive event in one of Savannah's historic squares were very easily resolved by moving the event to the historic Georgia State Railroad Museum.
the only complaint you heard regularly were the lack of restrooms, then you know you got it right. So many of the logistical issues that came with trying to host such a massive event in one of Savannah's historic squares were very easily resolved by moving the event to the historic Georgia State Railroad Museum.
The backdrop was perfect. From our spot at the Eat It and Like It/24e Lounge, we watched guests enjoy all the festival had to offer while draped in our city's historic charms. Take a look at any of the photo galleries floating around from various publications. The brick, the trains, the Spanish moss - those photos scream "Savannah." As well they should.
From the very comfortable and inviting VIP area to the comforts of the Georgia Grown Village way across the compound, Taste of Savannah was created to be the signature event that welcomed anyone who enjoyed food and drink at a very moderate price. They nailed it.
How can I best describe the scene? Do you know that feeling when your football team of choice is playing the game of the year and you are up 24 points in the fourth quarter? (It's been a while for me.) That giddiness that comes with knowing you've done it but you have to wait until the clock reads zero? That mood adequately describes the feeling behind the curtain at Taste of Savannah. Was it 100 percent perfect? Of course not. There were a couple of issues that can very easily be addressed next year.
Speaking of next year? I had more than one person approach me at Taste of Savannah and tell me this event could soon be among the best in the South. I heard comparisons to Charleston and yes, even Atlanta. At one point I was struggling to find someone who was from the Savannah area. Nearly everyone I spoke to was from out of town. Atlanta, Florida, even Canada. The weather certainly helped, but the event and the week as a whole were just that good.
I'm looking forward to watching all of this grow. Word will get out how much fun Savannah can be during Taste of Savannah. Frankly, the people who may have been turned off by traffic and overcrowding the first two years are going to come back. They absolutely will come back. I see a number of sell-outs in this event's future. Truthfully, at its current rate, the Savannah Food & Wine Festival may within five years of its creation end up as one of the top two or three food festivals in the South. The kind of event that will draw people from around the world to eat it and like it. Ain't that a hoot?
See you on TV,