Savannah was a magical city for me when I visited there this past spring. I found it captivating in the way it embraces its somewhat checkered past. The locals tell the story that it is the most haunted city in the country — then explain that it’s because their forefathers didn’t really have a true respect for the dead. The old Cotton Exchange was the sight where King Cotton ruled in all of its glory — but the accompanying misery is well documented in the city’s history. Savannah’s first female African-American mayor, Ms. Edna Jackson, tells of her struggles as a young girl from the “wrong side of the tracks” who didn’t even have running water as a child just a few short decades ago.
Yet Ms. Jackson’s story, like the others, is so representative of Savannah, and that’s what I fell in love with in the city: the people have a grit, a strength, a determination that defines them, but they still make time for long conversations, an appreciation of beauty, casual strolls along elegant city streets and a love of good food.
It was that combination that made me truly appreciate the four inns I visited in Savannah, all part of the Savannah Inns group of distinguished bed and breakfast inns. I was fortunate to stay in one, the Zeigler House Inn, but was able to sample the delicious wares from all of the innkeepers, four incredible women who embrace the spunk with charm that defines Savannah. Here is a look at the four Savannah Inns through the foods that I fell in love with at each.
Azalea Inn and Gardens
Azalea Inn and Gardens is a new member of Select Registry, Distinguished Inns of North America. The beautiful Forsyth Park mansion is run by a feisty redhead, Teresa Jacobson, who has a rare skill for being the perfect blend of hostess, comic, chef and someone you feel as if you’ve known forever. The gardens at the inn are incredibly beautiful, cared for tenderly by Teresa’s husband Jake. The food at Azalea Inn was rich and filling, a true testament to Southern cooking. It was hard to pick a favorite recipe to share. I fell in love with the Southern Style Shrimp and Grits and I could eat the Chocolate Torte all day, but my favorite was probably the steaming basket of Ginger Scones she served for breakfast.
2 1/4 c. all purpose flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 Tbls. baking powder
1/4 tsp. lemon zest
11 Tbls. unsalted butter, chilled, cut into small pieces
3/4 c. plus 2 Tbls. heavy cream
2/3 c. crystallized ginger, diced
Prep: In a food processor, blend flour, sugar, baking powder and lemon zest. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Make well in center; add 3/4 cup cream. Using a fork, stir dough until just moist. Mix in ginger. Transfer dough to floured surface and gently knead until smooth, about 8 turns. Roll to 1″ and cut out scones using the third smallest cookie cutter. Place on a baking sheet and freeze. When they are frozen, place all in a gallon Ziploc bag labeled correctly and dated.
Morning: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place scones in a lightly greased round stone. Brush tops with remaining 2 tablespoons cream. Bake scones until light brown, about 18 minutes.[/fancy_box]
Dresser Palmer House
The Dresser Palmer House, built in 1876, is the largest of the four inns and has the most beautiful little spaces tucked in every corner outside for sitting and enjoying the Savannah air. The back patio, with its wisteria arbor and little twinkling lights, is something out of a fairy tale. General Manager Shannon Romine has a smile that lights up a room and is the perfect hostess for guests who need information about what to see and do during their stay in Savannah. Shannon has an easy-going personality and the Dresser Palmer seems to reflect her gentle nature. How lovely to wake each day to such a beautiful, smiling hostess. My favorite recipe from the Dresser Palmer House was a Pea Pesto Crostini. It was light and fresh and tasted like springtime in the South.
[fancy_box]Pea Pesto Crostini
1/2 c. frozen peas (defrosted)
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1/2 c. shredded parmesan
1/3 c. olive oil
Prep: Add all ingredients except olive oil and lightly mix in food processor. While mixing, gradually add olive oil. Stop and push down ingredients. Taste and add salt/pepper as needed.
Serve: On crostini and garnish with cherry tomato slices.[/fancy_box]
Green Palm Inn
The Green Palm Inn is the smallest of the Savannah Inns, fully restored from an 1897 seaman’s cottage. The inn is only about four blocks from the Savannah Riverfront and in a quiet neighborhood. Diane McCray is the innkeeper in this four-room little inn and judging by the genuine welcome she offers and the kindness behind each hello, you would never guess she was a transplant to the South. Diane served the most delicious mini quiches for an afternoon reception. While she does serve them for breakfast, she says they are perfect for an appetizer with a nice Pinot Noir or Chardonnay.
[fancy_box]Crustless Mini Quiches
2 c. shredded Swiss cheese
1/2 c. half and half
1/2 c. reduced fat mayonnaise
2 Tbls. all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. seasoned salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
1 c. diced cooked ham, bacon or shrimp
1/4 c. diced button mushrooms
1/4 c. finely chopped sweet onion
1) preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat standard muffin pan with cooking spray.
2) Combine cheese, half and half, mayo, eggs, flour, slat and pepper in a blender. Process until well blended.
3) Fill each cup with about 1 1/2 tablespoons ham and 1 teaspoon each mushrooms and onions. Pour equal amounts of egg mixture over each. Cups will be about 1/2 full. Bake 22 minutes or until quiches are lightly golden and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. [/fancy_box]
Zeigler House Inn
I was fortunate enough to stay at Zeigler House Inn. Owner Jackie Heinz is the quintessential Southern hostess. I have stayed in 5-star hotels around the world that haven’t offered me such a warm and genuine welcome as the one I received at Zeigler House Inn. Rather than serving a full breakfast downstairs in the dining room at a set time, Jackie stocks each room with treats for breakfast, along with a selection of beverages and snacks. All of the rooms have refrigerators, microwaves, toasters. I stayed in the Giverny suite and even had a full size range. Magically, each evening, baked goods appeared for the next day, all prepared fresh each day in the kitchen. I couldn’t begin to eat everything Jackie left for me and everything was tasty, but my favorite was the Almond Breakfast Pastry.
[fancy_box]Almond Breakfast Pastry
1/2 c. softened butter
1 can (or roll) of Almond Paste (8 oz) broken into small pieces
2 Tlbs. all purpose flour
1 – 2 tsp. lemon zest (optional)
1 box refrigerated pie crust (for double layer)
1 egg with 1 Tbls water, beaten to make egg wash
2-3 Tbls sugar
In the bowl of a food processor, pulse the almond paste till the pieces are smaller than a pea, add the butter and process till completely blended. Add the eggs one at a time with the processor running till they are completely combined. Add the flour and pulse a few times to mix (you can add the lemon zest at this time as well). Transfer the filling from the processor to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap and put in freezer for 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 400 degrees F.
Unroll one of the pie dough rounds onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush the edges of the dough with the egg wash. Spread the filling over the crust to within about 2 inches of the edges. Roll the remaining round of dough over the filling and press edges in place. Go around the edges and fold it back onto itself and crimp the edges to hold in the filling and make it look nice. Cut a small vent hole about a half inch in diameter in the center of the top crust. Brush the top with egg wash and sprinkle with sugar.
Bake about 25 minutes or till golden brown. [/fancy_box]
My trip to Savannah was an experience that touched on all my senses. The food, the flowers, the Spanish moss-laden trees, the gardens, fountain, cemeteries, river front, iron works. I can close my eyes and smell the heavy scent of the flowers floating through the air, the thick smell of grass in the Georgia evening, the slight lingering hint of oil in the old buildings from the wooden floors that once held so many eager footsteps. I can hear the cries in the trees of the birds, the clicking of the horse hooves on the cobbled roads as they pull the carriages along and the gentle call of the past that made me want to return to discover what else might be hiding in this riverfront jewel.
For more about what to see and do in Savannah, be sure to read Savannah offers unforgettable escape.
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