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Archive for December, 2008



December tea times

Gryphon Tea Room, Savannah, GA

Earlier this month, we were down at the Gryphon Tea Room in Savannah, where they serve a dozen or more teas in fat porcelain pots. The afternoon we were there, a cold front was blowing in. Outside on Bull Street, people on bicycles and walking dogs were buttoned up against the gusts. Inside, sitting at one of the marble-topped tables, two women spoke softly, sipped slowly, but they were immensely noticeable. Likely in her 70s, one was dressed head to foot in fire-engine red – lipstick, sweater, pants and shoes – and carried the bright color with elegant confidence.  When she stood to go, her blonde, full-length fur coat nearly slipped from the back of her chair. One of the wait staff – most there are students from Savannah College of Art & Design (SCAD) – swooped in to help.  “Thank you,” the elder woman said. “Would you believe I’ve had this mink for more than 35 years?” And her friend added, “We’re both artists. We meet here and then go to the museums.” With that, they pulled on their coats, made their way to the door. I wish I could tell you who the two women were. But I can’t. My own pot of tea had just been brought to the table. It just wasn’t the time to break into a scene that wasn’t mine. There was food, drink, art and a southern lilt and grace in that 100-year-old former apothecary. It was a Savannah composite, to be sure.

Then this past weekend, I invited some friends to the house for tea around the aluminum Christmas tree. Peter Frank took some pictures of the cookies I made from a recipe in this month’s Gourmet, a walnut shortbread that you spread with blackberry jam to make sandwich cookies. (Butter, toasted crunch, jam… I loved them as much as anyone.) We also had chicken salad and cheese crackers, and I brewed American Classic tea, which is made from the tea hedges that grow a few miles down the road on Wadmalaw Island.  (Their black tea is also very good in a punch with ice, blackstrap rum, sugar and lime juice… we found that out at Thanksgiving.) Here’s to tea.

Walnut shortbread with blackberry jam

 – Sandy Lang, December 2008

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Food, Home & garden, Travel

Austin cocktail

The hot night in a pecan grove began with a cocktail that involved a lemongrass-infused vodka, white wine and tiny Mexican limes grown in Texas… and it just kept getting better.  There were skewers of grilled lamb sausage, fried rabbit, Gulf shrimp wrapped in allspice leaves, and on and on, all the way to the Texas-sized wedges of local cheese.  Everything was organic or artisanal (or both), just-picked, just made, just-seared, just-sauced.

The occasion was a Saturday night and another Dai Due supper club dinner with founder Jesse Griffiths leading the cooking effort – and telling stories – with his wife, Tamara, and the rest of the team prepping food and plates and serving the 43 guests seated in the lamplight of one long table… all just a few yards from the lettuce rows.

Austin table

I’ve been checking out supper clubs since the spring as part of an assignment for Garden & Gun. I should know more about the print publication date soon.

 – Sandy Lang, December 2008

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Food, Travel

T-Model Ford 2008 Clarksdale (PFEPhoto)

The music never seems to stop in Clarksdale, Mississippi. One morning there earlier this year, the first person we met on Delta Avenue was bluesman T-Model Ford, who was sitting in a folding chair eating eggs and toast from a foam tray, waiting for the Cat Head Delta Blues store to open.  He told us he’d been hired to play a sidewalk concert, and would sing and play guitar again at a festival later that day.  Right then though, it was just T-Model Ford, his wife, Stella, a couple of grandkids, and us. “When they find out I’m here, they gonna fill this place up,” the 80-something bluesman said. “Everybody wants to play with T-Model.”  And he was right.  As soon as he lifted his black Peavey guitar from the case (he calls it “Black Nanny”), a crowd started to fill from the just-empty streets, walking up and waiting for the music, which came slow, with devilish smiles, rasp and soul… like a mix of mud and fire.

I’ve written a story about our three nights in Mississippi to be published in early 2009.  While there, photographer Peter Frank Edwards and I also visited William Faulkner’s Rowan Oak and spent part of a pleasant morning with William Griffith, the curator there. I wanted to see more of the Mississippi places that have inspired so much writing and music.

Rowan Oak, bottletree 2008 (PFE)

Last week I was finishing final edits on the story when somehow, old T-Model turned up to play in a bar five miles from our house in South Carolina.  Of course we went to see.  This time he had a back-up band, and it all didn’t start until near midnight with amplifiers loud. The vibe was completely different, the crowd completely white. And in the dim and whiskey all I kept thinking was of other times, other places… the morning sun on a Mississippi sidewalk.

– Sandy Lang, December 2008

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Art, Craft, Literary, People, Travel


I haven’t even seen a printed copy yet, but I’m pleased to have a couple of food stories in the December issue of Charleston Magazine (the annual Food issue), which is now out in print and online.  One piece that got cover billing is titled “Epicurious,” and is about the new wave of ethnic grocery stores in Charleston.  Peter Frank Edwards and I spent a month of Saturdays visiting the stores this fall, including the H&L Asian Market, Euro Foods, La Tapatia, and KC International Mart.

Click here to read the feature and see some of PFE’s images.

Epicurious, Charleston Mag. 12/08

 – Sandy Lang, December 2008

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