Ate It and Liked It 2016

There’s been quite a bit of complaining about 2016 lately. You log on to social media in any form and it doesn’t take any time at all before someone is filing a complaint about the events of the past year. Yes, of course, we lost a shocking number of legendary artists and public figures. We also lived through one of the most contentious political battles in American history. Regardless of what side of the room you sit on. Ugly. Ugly. Ugly.

Personally, I feel very fortunate to hide out in ‘toy department’ of journalism. When you see real life tragedy on the news every day, it has a way of rendering my take on a particular meal somewhat insignificant. Still, I believe diversions-like sports-are necessary to help us get through the days and weeks that make up this thing we call life. Not a day goes by that I don’t consider myself the luckiest man in the world for carving out a little niche here in our area, being able to share with you where you might just Eat It and Like It.

So with that as a backdrop, I thought I’d share my top 7 things I ate in 2016. Some are local, some are not. My job takes me on the road quite a bit. I find some great eats here there and everywhere. So, I thought I’d share them with you. If you are a regular reader, then you know they are not a ranking. Simply a list of 7 things that should you have the opportunity to enjoy, you very much should. And I will start with one of Savannah’s most consistent restaurants.

Shrimp and Grits at Cotton and Rye

Shrimp and Grits are tricky around here. To be truthful, I’ve had people recommend their favorites to me, I try them and absolutely hate them. Still though, when they are good, they are so incredibly good. To the point where I ordered some in Orlando earlier this month just to see how that particular spot spun it and they were awful. $26 awful. My point is when you find great shrimp and grits, they can become addictive. I’ve made no secret this year of how much I love what they do at Cotton and Rye with theirs. Although you can ask for a special entree-sized portion, it is listed as an appetizer on the menu, it is the perfect balance of creamy, tasty and shrimpy bite. You might even be wise to wear yoga pants when you go for it. Guys or girls. Now there’s a visual, huh?

Dry-aged New York Strip at Hall’s Steakhouse

By now most people know I am a steak guy. They sure do come up a lot when I am out to eat. That is fine. Not going to hide it. If I have a say on what my final meal on this planet will be, it will be a New York Strip. Probably broccoli or brussels and a great glass of wine. I’ve enjoyed some great ones over the years. My favorites being some of the iconic joints in New York City. Earlier this year, I had the dry-aged strip from Hall’s Chophouse in Charleston. Very easily one of the best cuts I’ve had South of Sayerville, New Jersey. Absolutely fantastic. The entire dining experience equally as fantastic with a member of the Hall family always at the door to great their guests and walk them to their table. It’s old school service at its best. Loved everything about it. Locally, I should mention that the dry aged steaks at Smith Brothers Butcher shop are very very good. I’ve purchased them a couple of times to grill at home. Quality product there. Lastly, I will give a shout out to the espresso rubbed rib eye I enjoyed at 45 South on Broughton Street. That was very good and certainly worth a mention here.

Donuts from A Squad Bake Shop

I’ve heard a lot of people in Savannah mention to me that we don’t really have “A donut game.” This is true. We don’t really have a “brunch game” either. Getting there, certainly, but not quite. That’s a story for another day. A couple of months ago, it was suggested to me I try the donuts that were being sold at PERC Coffee on Broad Street downtown. I got there to find out they are only sold on Fridays. Long story short, I found myself slithering around Savannah like the Grinch in search of these donuts. I found them at the aforementioned Smith Brothers Butcher Shop. A Squad Bake Shop has a Facebook page and she has a phone number. Not much else. You can certainly special order some, but to try them first you will have to stop in at one of the spots I’ve mentioned. All they are are some of the best donuts I’ve had in the last 5 years. Don’t tell anyone, but there is an episode of Eat It and Like It coming up on donuts. I think A Squad will be feature. I know the host, he told me. Trust me. Please try them.

La Casa del Mofongo -New York City.

Those of us that get to New York with any regularity and love great food can find ourselves OD-ing on great stuff every time we are in the city. Don’t believe me, ask either of the Gottlieb Brothers the next time you see them how many places they can hit in one day while eating their way through Manhattan. I would say its kind of gross, but I’ve done it myself. This past October, a friend took me around to try a few of his favorite spots. We had Korean Spicy Cumin Lamb with handmade noodles. We had a Cuban sandwich with cilantro sauce (yeah, I did laugh at him on that one), we had some kind of Indian street sandwich made with chicken and vegetables. All of it within 2 hours. Then we went to the pub for pints and Liverpool football. A grand afternoon. The highlight of the day though was dinner that night at a very popular Dominican spot in Washington Heights. La Casa del Mofongo is like a TGI Friday’s of dominican food. Succulent pork, red beans, yellow rice and a few other things I don’t remember. One of the best meals I’ve had in years. Let alone, 2016. I had to mention it.

Burger at the Omni Resort  -Hilton Head Island

Yeah, I know, it’s all the way over there on Hilton Head. Most of us know there is great food on that island. A lot of great food. Sometimes you find it in the hotels. I will be honest, I had no expectation for this burger I was given inside of the sports grill at the Omni resort. Beautiful space by the way, 20 seconds off of the beach. One bite and I was hooked. My daughter took a bite of hers and started to laugh. Yes, it was that good. Very much worth stopping in for one if you find yourself on the island for one reason or another. On this side of the river, if you haven’t tried the Patty Melt Mashama Bailey offers for lunch at The Grey, shame on you.

Whiskey Wine and Wildlife -Jekyll Island. April 2016

I think we know by now that I wouldn’t mention an entire food festival if it wasn’t off the charts good. The 1st “W3” as we call it was back in April. Bad weather forced Friday nights events indoors down at the Westin Jekyll Island. It turned out to be maybe the best thing that happened to that event. From Southern Soul BBQ’s perfection to the Jekyll Island Club’s magical scallops, the night was nothing short of amazing. When the Saturday main event was wife approached me and said “I attend a lot these events with you, but I have to say this one was the best by far.” It was that good. And it just so happens to be back February 9-12, 2017. whiskeywineandwildlife.com for details.

Ribs at B’s Cracklin’

I’m going to use this space to offer up a confession. I like B’s Cracklin’ BBQ. I really do. The first time I went I tried the pulled pork. Very good. The second time I went, I had the brisket and the chicken. Very much enjoyed them both as well. But it wasn’t until the BBQ Masters event at the Savannah Food and Wine Festival that I had the chance to try their ribs. To be fair, I was offered some that had just come off of the fire, so they were piping hot and about as tender as your might expect. Yes, I thought I’d like them, but those are the best ribs in Savannah. The. Best. Ribs. Period. If you haven’t tried them yet, don’t be a Jesse. Take a ride to the South side and getcha some.

See you on TV,

Jesse

Eat It and Like It launched in Savannah, Georgia with television personality Jesse Blanco as the host. His passion for food and travel has made Eat It and Like It a two-time EMMY nominated program about contemporary and traditional Southern food.