Friday, March 28, 2008

Enjoying the fruit of the South

I'm in Savannah this week, so no Philadelphia-centric market report until after my return.

There's nothing even resembling a public market here. The one place called that, City Market, is an attempt to bring back the days when there was a central gathering place for grocers, produce sellers, etc., and it's a fine place to meander into the souvenir and candy shops, but a public market it ain't.

There was a sure sign of spring in a produce market around the corner from my accommodations: local strawberries. Well, nearly. They came from Metter, about 65 miles west along I-16. Red color nearly all the way through, good strawberry flavor and a touch of sweetness, nothing a minimal addition of sugar couldn't help along. And a $2.50 a pint, not exorbitant. Not peak season berries, just a tad early.

I have been eating a lot of shrimp, even if the local shrimping season doesn't begin for another month with the blessing of the fleet; in the meantime, there's nothing wrong with frozen local shrimp. Tuesday was shrimp, greens and grits (in the form of a fried cake) at a tourst restaurant at City Market, and done very nicely. Yesterday on a trip to Tybee Island, a family beach community about 15 miles west of downtown Savannah, I indulged in a Low Country Shrimp Boil: half a pound of shrimp, half an ear of (frozen) corn on the cob, a couple of red new potatoes, and thick slices of a kielbasa-like sausage (along with a beer). Fun meal to eat by the bay; each table at the restaurant (The Crab Shack) had a hole in the center above a trash can so you could dispose of the shrimp shells.

I've visited three local bakeries with mixed success. The first, Harris Baking, is just a short walk from the flat we're renting in the historic district. Excellent croissants, as good as any I've had in Philadelphia. Very buttery. Good strong coffee, too. Other than the croissants and savory breakfast tarts, though, Harris Baking concentrated on sweets, with the accent on pastries rather than cakes. The concentration on sweets was the case at the two other bakeries visited. Though the Back In The Day Bakery makes an excellent baguette, their bread offerings are limited to just two or three varieties a day (they also had a sourdough round when I stopped by, and would be putting out ciabatta a bit later). Cupcakes, however, are another matter: a rotating variety as well as everyday standards. She Who Must Be Obeyed complained that the Chocolate Dream cupcake (which appears every day) was a bit on the dry side, though the crumb was tender and the frosting rich. Back in the Day also featured plenty of cakes. The third bakery, Baker's Pride, was not worth the visit: again, 90 percent of the items were sweet, and overly sweet at that: it was hard to find an item that wasn't over-sugared, over-glazed and over-frosted.

I occasionally make greens at home and or order them out (at Fran DeBreaux's, for example), but they sure do know how to make them hereabouts. The collards served with my shrimp and grit cakes were as tender as could be and tasty with that decided hint of pork fat. Another restaurant, Sweet Potatoes, showed a lighter touch with the Southland's favorite green vegetable, using lemon to perk them up, but apparently omitting the pork for a lighter touch, which was true in all the dishes we tried there, including the eponymous salad (just like regular potato salad, but lighter and better) and the sweet potato-apple mash. And, this being Georgia, the bbq sauce served on SWMBO's chicken and my meat loaf were both peach-based.

No comments:

Post a Comment