Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Elizabeth on 37th in Savannah delivers a powerful opening night!

While on a business trip to Savannah we opted to dine at Elizabeth on 37th for dinner one evening.  It was my first visit but I’ll admit I heard some wonderful stories of the cuisine and service at Elizabeth’s well in advance of this visit.  I was looking forward to dinner but was distracted a little since it was a long day and we were arriving for a 9:00 PM reservation.  The late reservation was by choice.


Elizabeth on 37th opened in May, 1981 by Chef Elizabeth Terry and her husband Michael, a wine steward.  Elizabeth began a vision of a restaurant dedicated to cuisine established on classic old Southern recipes.  She investigated in depth the gastronomy of 18th and 19th Century Savannah to find a thriving culinary scene has existed during much of that time.

Chef Terry was delighted to find that her talent and ability to contemporize the old standard Southern recipes while keeping their essence was hit among the residents and visitors of Savannah.  A new Southern Star was born.

In 1988, the Butch Brothers, Greg and Gary, partnered with the Terry’s and established a vibrant base on which to maintain a lasting legacy.  The benchmarks of award winning cuisine and high service standards while dining in relaxing Southern enchantment were the norm for Elizabeth’s.
Greg and Gary Butch
A commitment to offering excellent wine and spirits that harmonize well with the haute cuisine of Elizabeth’s while offered at a good value is well-known.  The restaurant’s cellar holds around 10,000 bottles, yet the wine list is small in comparison at about 250 wines that are drinking at the optimum.  Elizabeth’s truly believes in cellaring the wine until it is ready to serve with their plates.

The wine captains may not have Sommelier after their name but you will never know it to discuss wine with them.  They understand the wine on their list and how it pairs with their food.  The have a deep history in pairing wine and food together just as deep as the recipes Chef Terry created from the rich Southern history of Savannah.

While Chef Terry has retired her cuisine continues to thrive under the direction of Executive Chef Kelly Yambor.  Her recipes and dedication to the use of fresh coastal seafood, local produce and the herb garden on the grounds at Elizabeth’s carry on the heritage that Chef Terry began over thirty years ago.  Chef Kelly remains committed to offering her guests the same expression of Southern culture that Elizabeth’s is so well known.


We parked on the street and walked up to an imposing turn of the century mansion.  The stately Southern elegance of the entrance gives away to Southern charm as we are welcomed in a sparsely furnished foyer that is open to dining rooms on both sides.  While staff is seen bustling back and forth I don’t get the impression that they are ‘in the weeds’.  All the wait staff are dressed in black pants, long sleeved white shirts complete with black bow ties and long white bistro aprons.

We were seated in the dining room to the right of the foyer at a comfortably sized, white linen covered, four top offering plenty of space.  Little did we know how much of that space we would eventually need for our dinner.  Soon after service began, Chris, the head wine steward, stopped by and poured us each a glass of 2000 Trimbach Riesling Clos Ste. Hune, Ribeauville, Alsace to open up the evening and pair with the amusé.  The amusé, a single mussel topped with tomato purée and herbs, was paired well with the 2000 Riesling which had an intense mineral and herbal aroma that opened into a palate of mineral, spice, smoke and candied lime with a medium body.  This was a beautiful start to an incredible dining experience.

Next was chilled pea soup served with crème fraiche and fresh lump crab placed in the center which was paired with 1997 Geheimer Rat Dr. Basserman-Jordan Forster Jesuitengarten Riesling Spätlese from Phalz, Germany.  The soup was creamy with lively flavors accentuated by the crab and a hint of saltiness and contrasted with the sweet filmy and floral characteristics of this elegant Grand Cru showcasing a finely incorporated acidity and lively mineral body.

There were three of us and we asked the Chef to send out her choice for starters.  For our next course we received an order of Crab Cake balls atop fresh corn and a fresh tomato and herb reduction.  With this Chris brought out 2004 Ökonomierat Rebholz Weisser Burgunder Im Sonnenshein, Phalz.  The fried crab cakes offered a creamy crab cake surrounded by a golden crisp surface set off by the fresh corn and tomato flavors.  The Weissburgunder offered light citrus and stone fruit balanced with clear minerality with subtle wood notes and a fine juicy body.  Again, Chris and Chef Kelly were making some big points with us.

 Chef Kelly lightened the next course with a small salad of fresh garden greens with feta, watermelon rolled in a simple vinaigrette.  Chris paired the 2005 Emrich Schönleber Monzinger Halenberg Riesling Spätlese out of Nahe.  The garden fresh flavors ranging from sweet to sour and salty was a nice compliment to the pale golden Riesling.  This Spätlese was a beautiful bouquet of wild herbs, lemon zest, creamy apricot on a firm balanced body with a salty minerality and a long finish.

I was interested in the House favorite, Coastal Grouper Celeste, and Chef didn’t let me down by making this my next course.  A firm grouper filet with a crisp white and black sesame and almond crust made complete with a creamy peanut sauce and roasted potatoes.  The grouper was cooked perfectly and the nut flavors from the sesame to the almond to the peanut sauce set it high atop my list of favorite dishes.  The pairing Chris brought was the 1999 Franz Künstler Hochheimer Stielweg Riesling Old Vine (or in German, Alte Reben).  Again, a perfect pairing!  The Flintstone and fruit nose was overcome by the deep, mature slightly sweet and mineral fruit of this amazing wine.  The mature fruit of this wine was so well balanced that I kept going back to it again and again.

I do remember that one of the party received some phenomenally fresh little neck clams for his entrée and how wonderful and flavorful they were.  Unfortunately, I was so dumbstruck by my own dish that I was useless with anything else.

We enjoyed talking about the wines and pairings with Chris.  Since he could tell we were really geeked out about wine he thought to provide an interesting side tasting while we were finishing our entrées.  He brought two chardonnays to taste side by side.  The first was an attractive 2009 Etienne Sauzet Puligny-Montrachet Premier Cru La Garenne.  Of course, I love chardonnay from Puligny-Montrachet, Chassagne-Montrachet and yes Montrachet itself!  So here was a crisp young Puligny with fresh herbs, rich fruit and lemon with a stone mineral backbone and balanced complexity.  Its counterpart in this tasting was an Australian Chardonnay from Margaret River, 2000 Cullen Chardonnay.  I am not normally driven to drink much New World Chardonnay, but this little baby renewed my interest.  The 2000 Chardonnay is known as one of Cullen’s best vintages showing a multifaceted blend of cohesive citrus, vanilla, ripe melon, pineapple, mineral, oak and earthy lees inspiration.  I was thrilled that Chris gave me a refreshing look at New World wines again.  I haven’t tried an inspired New World Chardonnay like that since I drank the 1997 Talbott Sleepy Hollow Chardonnay.

You would think we would have quit at this point … but no, we’re professionals!  So, now let’s share dessert.  We selected the Savannah Cream Cake with angel food and sherry laced custard cake with berry sauce and custard sauce on the side.  It was a slice of heaven!  We’ve now established that we are professionals so one pairing apparently just will not do.  Again, Chris brought out two selections to astound us with our heavenly dessert.

The first was 2006 Sine Qua Non - To The Rescue - Roussanne (in half bottle).  This is a wine that literally has decades of life in it with the depth of orange marmalade and the grace rose petals.  It’s a viscous wine that shows off its brown sugar sweet side in a glaring way but entices you with the subtler hints of honeysuckle, acidity and vivacious fruit.  The second wine was 2002 Weingut Robert Weil Kiedrich Gräfenberg Riesling Auslese out of Rheingau.  While not as ‘in your face’ delicious as the Roussanne, this animated Riesling surged with flavor from botrytis.  It contained a smoky deep profile with dried apricot, honey, stone mineral and a tantalizing acidity.

Shameful, I know - this is our table at the end of the evening,
and yes they had already cleared part of the glassware.
What a performance for the opening night for me at Elizabeth on 37th!  You bet I want to go back and YES I highly recommend that you do as well.  It can be pricey but this is one of those meals that you want to forget about the cost and just enjoy the performance that the staff at Elizabeth’s will give you.  It’s worth every penny!

Contact Information
105 East 37th Street
Savannah, GA 31401

Elizabeth On Thirty Seventh on Urbanspoon

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