Dining News

 

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large ham hock

1 cup onion, chopped

1/2 cup celery, chopped

1/2 cup green pepper, chopped

4 ears of corn, grilled and kernels removed

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

1 pound black-eyed peas, soaked overnight and rinsed

1 quart chicken stock

1 Bay leaf

1 teaspoon dry thyme leaves

Salt, black pepper, cumin and cayenne

3 tablespoons finely chopped- green onion

3 cups steamed white rice

Directions:

Heat oil in a large soup pot, add the ham hock and sear on all sides for 4 minutes. Add the onion, celery, green pepper and garlic; cook for 4 minutes. Add the black-eyed peas, stock, bay leaves, thyme, corn and seasonings. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, or until the peas are creamy and tender, stir occasionally. If the liquid evaporates, add more water or stock. Adjust seasonings, and garnish with green onions. Serve over rice.

For Hoppin’ John Cakes:

Purée 1⁄2 of the mixture in a food processor. Add to other 1⁄2 of mixture with 2 eggs and enough breadcrumbs to bind. Make into small cakes and sear on both sides. Finish in a 350° oven for 7-9 minutes or until warmed through. Serve hot with sour cream and green onions.

Superlative Professional Executive Chef Mary Beth Lawton-Johnson was recently ranked #21 on the “Top 25 Women with Moxie in America” rundown by LifeMoxie! Enterprises. Other list making movers and shakers were democratic frontrunner Sen. Hillary Clinton, CBS journalist Katie Couric and ubiquitous entertainer Madonna. Chef Lawton-Johnson is a Certified Executive Pastry Chef and Certified Chef de Cuisine through the American Culinary Federation, and is also the executive chef aboard the 119-foot mega yacht Rebecca. She has earned an intimidating list of titles, like Chef for Upscale Living Magazine, Chef for The Triton Magazine, Chef

for Manhattan's The Spotter, Chef-Columnist for YachtChef.com and contributor to many other significant publications. Toques off to her hard work, inspired attitude and well- deserved award.

New Owner/Executive Chef Matt Roher has moved in to Cha Bella with considerable imagination, and brings along his experience in a seven acre biodynamic farm at the ultra-exclusive Hampton Island Preserve, whose members include affluent actors Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Cha Bella’s space has always been appealing but underused, and the restaurant’s recent restructuring suits the new menu of entirely organic cuisine. Roher’s emphasis is on the sustainable, natural and local, and Cha Bella will now be making goat cheese and mozzarella in house, and all fish will be locally caught. Roher talks enthusiastically about how the “mush- rooms were literally springing out of the ground everywhere” this past season, and recommends the wild porcini ravioli with brown butter, morels and chanterelles, sautéed endive, truffle oil and Fontina cream sweet fondue.

Cha Bella, 102 E Broad Street. 912.790.7888, www.cha-bella.com

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Tangerine Fusion & Sushi Bar is now running $1 nigiri sushi lunch specials, so loosen your belt; but don’t take it off, because there is a limit of five nigiri per person with purchase of a drink. Some pieces to look for are maguro, yellowtail (or hamachi), ebi, masago, mackerel, whitefish and more. Their peppercorn seared tuna entrée comes recommended and they have a nice, lightly seasoned 6 oz. Kobe filet mignon served with chef’s vegetables and rice for those on the hunt for a quality slab of steak. Tangerine presently features a house martini called Pink, which hakes up Level’s silky vodka with guava juice. Bright colors and flavors to put some sun back in your winter.

Tangerine Fusion & Sushi Bar,11215 Abercorn Street. 912.920.5504, www.tangerinefusion.com

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Troy Mediterranean Cuisine is now open on the Southside, located across from the Savannah Car Wash, and is a classy, family-run eatery that serves diners looking for some dishes of diversity an alternative to down- town. The flavors are predominantly Greek, Turkish and Italian, with chick- en and lamb kebobs, lamb shanks, seafood risottos, hummus, grape leaves, pastas, filets and scaloppinis, along with some tasty house specials like Turkish Shepherd Salad. Homemade desserts are always in, and feature gooey deliciousness like chocolate lava cake, and some refined takes on baklava and tiramisu.

Troy Mediterranean Cuisine, 10510 Abercorn Street. 912.921.5117.

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Zunzi’s Express, the eclectic take-away window with Savannah’s only parking lot dining room, is bottling two of its homemade sauces for whole- sale. One will be their House Dressing, which is a tangy take on the traditional Italian vinaigrette; the other will be the Conquistador, their “secret slightly spicy sauce” whose recipe is a closely-guarded affair. I dropped in to try them both on their signature chicken sandwich, and sat out front enjoying the sunlight and crisp air while I gobbled down the goods. Zunzi’s is one of the few places in town baking a proper crusty French bread, and with fresh sliced tomato, lettuce and boldly seasoned chicken breast, sandwich fans are in for a treat.

Zunzi’s Express, 108 East York Street, 912.443.9555.

Downtown businesses can clear a space off their speed dial, as lunchtime favorite Debi's Restaurant has recently added online ordering, available through their website (www.debis- restaurant.com). Customers can peruse the list of daily specials and then place orders from the comfort of their desktop, and can even specify what time they'd like their food to be ready. The online ordering system was created by local web firm Nicasio Design and Development (www.nicasiodesign.com), and allows the restaurant to keep a record of orders, track sales and free up the time of their busy staff by allowing them to get away from the phone for a minute.

Debi's Restaurant, 10 West State Street, 912.236.3322, www.debisrestaurant.com

Pino Venetico, owner of Savannah’s Mediterranean mecca Il Pasticcio, is breaking new ground with the forthcoming Bull Street Chophouse. Pino describes the restaurant as the city’s first “upscale steakhouse that will serve US Prime and Kobe beef, and an array of seafood dishes focused on local ingredients.” It will accommodate 120-150 diners and pro- vide a private dining room for special events. Menu highlights include an all-American wine list and some exotica items, like a selection of lobster tails representing the crustaceans’ tastiest global hotspots. Desserts will, of course, be made in-house, and the restaurant will provide a few culinary surprises and a chic atmosphere to boot. I’ve glimpsed the blueprints and it appears to be pure class; look for the lines at Bull and Broughton starting mid-January.

Il Pasticcio, 2 East Broughton Street. 912.231.8888, www.ilpasticciosavan- nah.com

Saddle up, y’all, ‘cause Longhorn
Steakhouse on Abercorn has been remodeled. Jovial Manager Mark Bailey reckons they “didn’t add too much more space than before, ‘bout 20 additional guests can get on in there now,” but the additions improved general aesthetics and dining should be a much more comfortable experience for everyone. They’re still running their same Happy Hour, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.

Monday – Friday, during which you can throw back half-priced drinks in their new bar area. In the back of the house, they’ve put in new kitchen enhancements that will give guests more efficient service. Bailey recommends the lobster shrimp dip with tortillas, a “creamy cheese appetizer that guests just seem to love,” he says. Longhorn also has a new Chocolate

Stampede dessert, where two peaks of chocolate cake [are] packed with six types of chocolate, including chocolate mousse, fudge icing and chocolate shavings. It’s served with vanilla

bean ice cream, fudge sauce and whipped cream.” Gift cards are available in any denomination for the holidays.

Longhorn Steak House, 7825 Abercorn Street. 912.352.4784.

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Old Savannah Diner is now open in the shopping center at Waters

and Eisenhower, where the Burger King once resided. I drove by one weekday night, and the parking lot was absolutely packed at 10 p.m., so I yanked the car over to stop in for a cup of coffee and a quick look. Owner Nick Tsironis greeted me at the door and insisted that I stay for more than mere joe. Soon, I was up to my ears in home-style moussaka (one of my favorite Greek dishes in case you’re inviting me over), spanakopita and the largest chocolate chip cookie in town. The moussaka is a tasty potato variation of the traditional eggplant-based dish, with ground beef, thinly sliced lamb, tomato, cinnamon and other spices, with béchamel baked on top. The spanakopita has all the classic flavors you’d expect, with butter-brushed phyllo layers, garlic, onions, spinach and the copious quantity of fresh dill that completes the pie. Nick is well-versed in the New York diner scene—a restaurant style all its own that is steadily gaining steam in the South—and he provides a menu with enormous versatility to quell finicky eaters. Some singular highlights are their homemade Challah French toast, lamb shank, egg cream soda and the jukebox. Explore

Event Chef Christopher Hewitt, of the Olde Pink House Restaurant and Planters Tavern, recently won the Shrimp and Grits Wild Georgia Shrimp Fest with his “Southern Sushi.” The roll is smoked shrimp and grits rolled in coconut-crusted nori and drizzled with wasabi vinaigrette and sweet soy reduction. The dish debuted at the Olde Pink House as a menu item upon Chef Hewitt’s arrival in the Coastal Empire. Call the Olde Pink House in advance and Chef Hewitt will prepare an intimate “family style” dinner, an hors d’oeuvre reception or elaborate party just for you.

The Olde Pink House Restaurant and Planters Tavern, 23 Abercorn Street. 912.232.4286.

Savannah Menu is starting SavannahCatering.com, a full-service resource for event planning and concierge services. This will create a hub network for caterers, which is a great help to smaller local businesses that work so hard to put the “special” in our special events. B Backyard Burgers on Abercorn has closed up shop after two years. B The Pita Pit chain is opening a new restaurant on Coastal Highway 17. The company has expressed interest in adding four more locations to Savannah in the coming year. They bill themselves as providers of quality, healthy fresh food—fast! “A lot like Subway, but with pita bread,” says one customer. B Supreme burger masters of the universe, Fuddruckers, started work on their Broughton Street location in November. Put on your rally caps, B&D! B Bagel Café on Wilmington Island has changed ownership. New owners Eden and Steve are thinking something more of a coffee house. Drop in and tell them what you’d like to see, and don’t leave without trying one of their delicious homemade bagels. B There’s a new Italian restaurant on Wilmington Island called Aldo’s. It’s located in the Kroger Shopping center, and will hopefully add to the growing list of good restaurants on Wilmington. B Cosentino’s has reopened its doors on Skidaway and 39th Street, capisce? B A developer from DC has purchased the 606 Building in City Market. Sources say a three-story bar with food, dancing and more is in the works. This is a too long-vacant spot with a history of offering neat food in a hip atmosphere.