Saturday, April 20, 2013

If You Happen to Be in Savannah Next Weekend: Sidewalk Art and Another Lure

One of the great features of a trip to Europe is its history. Especially noteworthy is its art history, from its centuries-old architectural wonders to the manifold statues and frescoes preserved for present-day appreciation.

When I was a young art student I went through a phase where each painting I worked on had to be the most significant statement, story or object I'd ever made, as if it were going to be my last. The idea behind this was the belief in the importance of permanence so that if the painting was going to be around for a long time it should be worthy of this, like the Sistine Chapel, for example.

The natural bi-product of such a philosophy is that it became a rather weighty proposition. Instead of just painting for the sheer enjoyment of expression or discovery, one is bound by a conviction that stifles rather than invigorates.

How liberating it is, then, to discard these shackles and go back to just having fun and sharing what you make, no matter how impermanent. Last summer I did about a hundred such paintings on 22"x 34" sheets of paper that will almost assuredly not last a decade. Half ended up in the trash, but there were quite a few pieces that were quite striking and I even sold a few.

Well, guess what? When it comes to impermanent art there's nothing quite like the Savannah College of Art and Design's Sidewalk Arts Festival. Next Saturday, April 27, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. SCAD Students will once again be filling Forsyth Park with chalk paintings, a tradition almost as old as the school itself. Admission is free and taking photos is invited.

This Restaurant Has Artists, Too

It's ironic that when my son was looking at colleges, one of the schools we considered was the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). Micah was into claymation (clay-animation) at the time. Instead the career he pursued is another form of 3-D art. He's a culinary artist. That is, art you can eat... and even more impermanent than chalk on a sidewalk. As it turns out he ended up in Savannah by an alternate route, the restaurant trade.

So, if you make it to the SCAD Sidewalk Art Festival and need a place to eat afterward, I recommend a.Lure, a four-star gem of a restaurant in the City Market district. Here are a few online reviews about a.Lure that capture the spirit of the place.

(1) This restaurant does everything well. The service was friendly and professional (thanks Emily!). The decor is attractive. And, most importantly, the food is very good! I had the shrimp and grits and my wife had the seafood ravioli. Both were excellent. The wine selection is good and covers a range of prices. We would definitely return.

(2) Excellent food, diverse menu. Felt the food/experience matched the price range. Was a "splurge" for us. We usually are a little more of "budget travelers". Server was extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and professional. 

(3) Crab cake appetizer was excellent. Low country boil and carrots and peas (scallops) dish were both tasty. Wait staff is very good, ambiance is very pleasant, with paintings and a variety of tables. Goat cheese souffle was incredible, with a variety of flavors all of which complemented each other. Wine is indeed on the expensive side, but worth it for... 

Here's my take on a.Lure after stopping there in March to see my son the sous chef. Everyone was friendly, the atmosphere suitably upscale and the menu utterly inventive. The wine list was very select, and though pricy the connoisseur does have real opportunities here. And if you just want appetizers at the bar, the barmaid was nice, too, warm and attentive without being too aggressive.

While I was there I had the pleasure of meeting Dan Berman, the owner, who stopped in briefly while we were whetting our appetite. Here are a few insights about the restaurant and the restaurant trade I gleaned from him.

EN: Savannah has a fairly extensive number of restaurants. How does a.Lure set itself apart?

Dan Berman: a.Lure is unique in its quality of local ingredients, prepared and served with an inventive, sometimes whimsical approach. We are also the only contemporary LowCountry restaurant in Savannah specializing in local seafood.

EN: How do restaurants get ranked? Is there some kind of "authority"?

DB: Unfortunately, there are only a handful of credible, non-biased food based rankings. Most of them are national, i.e. Zagat. Since so many food blogs and rankings websites are out now, I believe asking a local is the way to go!

EN: How do restaurants devise their menus? Yours has some quite alluring dishes.

DB: We wanted to present traditional LowCountry cuisine that emphasized quality of local ingredients as well as a creative new approach to their interpretations. So much of Savannah's restaurant scene serves Southern food, which as you know, covers a large swath of the U.S. Our cuisine is more appropriate to the lowcountry area.

EdNote: Savannah is one of those places what a lot of history of its own. So if you're serious about making a few memories while you're here, and want a restaurant to match the rest of your Savannah experience, this is the place.

P.S. The scallops are to die for. 

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