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Three Days in Savannah

A few days before the long, Memorial Day weekend, my little family impulsively decided to book a flight down south. Savannah, Georgia is so wildly picturesque. It was impossible to take a bad photo with such gorgeous background props as Spanish moss, Federal and Victorian Regency architecture, verdant squares, sunny skies, and live oaks. I felt like a better (more zen) person, mostly because everyone was so kind (it also probably didn’t hurt that I was in ‘vacation mode’).

Case in point: at an intersection when the pedestrian crosswalk sign was OFF and the cars had a GREEN go signal, traffic still stopped for my husband and I to cross the street. Hours after checking in to the romantic and historic Gastonian Bed & Breakfast, my husband I were approached to be filmed in a segment on “Romantic Georgia” tourism. Basically, we’re silver screen celebrities in the state. It was too magical!

We stayed in The Gastonian, located just blocks from Savannah’s beautiful Forsyth Park, consists of two adjoining luxury mansions built in 1868. The experience feels like a charming time-warp, replete with communal breakfasts made-to-order daily, afternoon hors d’oeuvres, conversational concierges who are local experts, period style furnishings, and a perfectly manicured lawn. We slept in a room called the Julia Scarborough, named for the wife of a nineteenth-century British-American businessman and cotton broker who became one of the wealthiest people in the southeastern United States. The inn was also incredibly walkable to everything in the historic district.

Must Visits:

  • Leopold’s Ice Cream – A restored marble soda fountain with a storied family history, featuring regular and seasonal flavors, as well as classic sandwiches like Pimento Cheese and Olive.
  • Local 11 Ten – Situated a block south of Savannah’s Forsyth Park, the restored 1950’s-era downtown bank houses a casual, elegant restaurant devoted to popular southern flavors using local ingredients such as fresh seafood caught from Georgia’s coast. We went crazy for the warm marinated castelvetrano olives with prosciutto, candied ginger, orange juice, and cornbread. Don’t miss dining in front of an historic Mosler co. bank vault.
  • Bonaventure Cemetery – Though not Savannah’s oldest cemetery, Bonaventure is certainly its most famous and hauntingly beautiful. Quintessentially Southern Gothic, it has captured the imaginations of writers, poets, naturalists, photographers and filmmakers for more than 150 years. Part natural cathedral, part sculptural garden, Bonaventure transcends time. My husband and I were proud to visit during Memorial day and to pay homage to our nation’s soldiers.
  • SCAD Museum of Art – The museum’s collection of more than 4,500 pieces includes works of haute couture, drawings, painting, sculpture, photography, prints and more. The museum building itself is a work of art, demonstrating a commitment to historic preservation and adaptive reuse. Constructed in 1853, the original walls feature handmade Savannah gray bricks, forming the oldest surviving antebellum railroad depot in the country. In 2011, this National Historic Landmark was transformed into an award-winning, modern museum building by architect Christian Sottile, a SCAD alumnus. During our visit, we saw clothing by Vivienne Westwood and massive installation Xu Bing.
  • Congregation Mickve Israel – Originally founded in 1733, this house of worship is the third-oldest Jewish congregation in America. Forty-two intrepid Jews set sail from England aboard The William and Sarah with little more than their beloved Torah (which the Congregation still uses annually in our anniversary Shabbat service). They arrived in Savannah, a border colony town with an innovative vision for religious tolerance, to start their lives anew in a land of freedom. The story of its congregants is the story of America. Not to mention, the impressive gothic revival architecture!
  • The Collins Quarter – This must be the best coffee in Savannah. Serving cold brew, Toby’s Estate coffee, this concept cafe brings Australia’s café capitol to Georgia. The service is a bit lax, but the fresh fare is worth the wait. I humbly suggest a mint lemonade or a lavender mocha.
  • Tybee Island – A small beach town, with an even smaller artist enclave, this island is a perfect Savannah day trip, just 18 miles from the city. The barrier beach is around a 2 mile stretch and didn’t even feel crowded on Memorial Day weekend. Housed inside a vintage trailer at 1209 Highway 80, we stopped for delicious, from scratch, gelato near the Seaside Sister, and then double-treated ourselves to cold drinks at the charming Tybean Art & Coffee Bar.
  • Angel’s BBQ – This snug mom-&-pop offering is tucked away on a side street. The hours are simple, they remain open from 11:30 am until whenever they sell out of ‘cue for the day! The homemade sauces cleverly titled like, ‘Jedi Mind Trick’ and their collared greens with peanuts and mac n’ cheese are exceptional. My favorite taste of the day were the ‘Angel Drops,’ a North Carolina vinegar-based sauce, made with Savannah Bee Comany honey – sweet and tangy.
  • Red Clover – The best friend opened boutique is named after a unique bloom found in nature, because those who shop at the eclectic store are just that. The nicely curated and sourced shop doesn’t breaking the bank!
  • Circa 1875 – Simply put, it’s an unpretentious Parisian bistro and pub serving traditional French cuisine, with full flavor, and a friendly staff. Get a glass of wine.

As one of the oldest cities in the nation, Savannah exudes old world charm.

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Thai Food that isn’t Pad Thai

My husband and I just returned from a trip to Thailand and Cambodia. In Thailand, we visited Lampang, Chiang Mai, Doi Inthanon Mountain in Chom Thong District, and the capital city of Bangkok. We literally booked round-trip tickets within a week of watching the Thailand episode of Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown featuring Andy Ricker of Pok Pok fame (even going to his favorite haunts in Chiang Mai). Through tasting preserved fish jerky to morning rice congee to Thai-iced tea to Dtam Som Oo (Thai Pomelo Salad), one constant that is obvious in almost all Thai cuisine are the vibrant colors.

Thailand’s flavor profiles and spices vary greatly in each region: this is due to many factors including palates of its own royal Ayutthaya or Lanna empires to Chinese, Vietnamese, Khmer, Malaysian and Indian influence. Western impact, beginning in 1511 CE with the Portuguese, also brought now common crops like the chili pepper. At Santa Cruz Church on the banks of the Chao Phraya River in Thonburri district, Portuguese influence is apparent.  Narrow, winding passageways meander through the Kudeejeen Portuguese Village where a special bakery remains that conjures treats as they were enjoyed centuries ago.

Common flavors in Thai food come from garlic, galangal (Thai form of ginger), coriander, cilantro, lemongrass, shallots, pepper, and kaffir lime leaves. I could not stop consuming Pandanus (also known as Screwpine!) teas made from pandan leaves,  a tropical plant replete with tons of medicinal benefits.

Some of my favorite dishes and street snacks were the savory green papaya and salted crab salad (som tum pu pla raa), “dry” Kuaytiaw Sukhothai noodles, and the sweet Coconut Rice Pudding Cake with Scallion (kanom krok). As they say in Thai:

เสน่ห์ปลายจวักผัวรักจนตาย – “English version: The way to a man’s heart is through his stomach.” (Meaning: When a wife cooks well the husband will love her until the end of life.)

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Betsy Ross

In honor of this past Fourth of July weekend, and also to pay homage to my hometown of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, I bring you a series of items inspired by our most patriotic seamstress. Although there is a bit of controversy regarding who exactly did make the first flag for the, then new, United States of America, I blissfully work under the assumption of Betsy Ross as the creator of our Stars & Stripes.

No one does quirky Americana quite like Tommy Hilfiger

No one does quirky, Americana better than iconic fashion designer, Tommy Hilfiger. Jourdan Dunn, Jacquelyn Jablonski and Toni Garrn model as sailors, socialites, and Cape Cod wasps, posing in nautical (undeniably patriotic) looks.

The man credited with designing the current 50 star American flag is Robert G. Heft. The exact red, white, and blue colors to be used in the flag are outlined in the CAUS Standard Color Reference of America, 10th edition. Specifically, the colors are “White”, “Old Glory Red”, and “Old Glory Blue”.

Since 1777, the flag design has officially been modified 26 times. Without being too literal, peruse items inspired by the freedom of my great country – particularly salient as the daughter of an Israeli immigrant, and the fiancé of a second generation Moroccan immigrant. America, I salute you – melting pot of the world.

Decorating with USA themed items!

// 1 Nothing is quite as American as Apple Pie ala Mode with Vanilla Ice Cream (and if you’re a real traditionalist, cheddar cheese). This unique frame print is called Americana and is by the artist K. THRO via Society6

// 2 – Picnic Pie Set with 10 forks, 10 parchment rounds and twine from Anthropologie.

// 3 Limited Edition Miss Statue of Liberty by Merci Gustave from AhaLife. The great irony of the Statue of the Liberty—the symbol of American liberty and independence—is that it is just as French as it is American.

// 4 – You’re a grand old flag, you’re a high flying flag even when sitting atop this Star Spangled American Flag Kilim Cube pouf ottoman. A striped, starry blend of earthy wool and recycled jute from Kathy Kuo Home.

// 5 – Put your patriotic style on display with this colonial inspired, metal, tea-light candle holder from Kohl’s.

// 6American Hotel Stories coffee-table book by Francisca Matteoli. From Big Sur to Boston, this enticing volume follows in the footsteps of Jim Morrison, Marilyn Monroe, Tennessee Williams, Al Capone, Clint Eastwood, and some of America’s most famous personalities and hotel guests – from Assouline.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – The Declaration of Independence (US 1776)