Saturday, March 19, 2011

Not-Sketchblog 14: Food, Glorious Food

It's no secret I love my food.

Friends know that if I don't eat every couple hours I turn into a horrific she-devil beast that will likely tear your face off and eat it as a replacement for meat.

This fact has driven people to consistently ask me, "What's a good place to eat in Savannah?"

Well, it's about time I did this.
It's time for a restaurant review.

I will now list off to you the top ten restaurants (in my opinion) exclusive to downtown Savannah, and why you should eat there.

Here we go!

10. Juarez
Juarez and I have had a love-hate relationship. I love their food, but occasionally their food hates me. Their cheap, delicious burritos were a staple of my poor grad student diet, especially since they were so close to the building I found myself locked away in on a regular basis. However, after a while, this delicious tex-mex food gradually wore away at my stomach and I became unable to eat there every day. As delicious and cheap as their food is, you should take this word of caution and eat Juarez in small amounts, especially if, like me, your delicate stomach can only handle so much rich cheesy greasy goodness.

9. Saigon
A good friend of mine practically lives at Saigon, and turned me on to the unique variety of Vietnamese and Thai dishes. A little on the expensive side, Saigon is smack dab in the middle of downtown Savannah, and serves some very good food. The soups, like Tom Ka, are some of the tastiest I've had, but my personal favorite is the Masaman Curry. This is a good restaurant for an occasional indulgence with close friends.

8. Barnes
I've had Barnes quite a few times, and it's always a good day. As to be expected from a southern city, Savannah has a good selection of barbecue places, but if you want something quick and filling and cheap, Barnes is definitely the place to go. The staff is well-mannered and the food is just what you'd expect from southern cuisine: rich, fried, and tasty. I've tried many items on their menu, including their tender pulled pork sandwich, and their juicy chicken strips, but my usual has become the Grouper Finger Basket, which comes with your choice of 2 sides. I always get a side of hush puppies to go with it, and never regret the decision. Barnes is definitely a nice place to go if you're a tourist on a budget and with little time to do everything there is to do in Savannah.

7. Mellow Mushroom
Anyone in Savannah can tell you in a heartbeat what the best pizza place is: Mellow Mushroom. Run by hippies (no lie), Mellow Mushroom's dough is to die for. Hand-tossed, and coated in special seasoning, the special dough definitely makes the pizza. They also have a wide variety of pizza toppings and special orders, and a great drink list to boot. The appetizer list isn't shabby either- the pretzels are the best. My favorite pizza has quickly become the loaded potato pizza, topped with special sauce, sour cream, potatoes, chives, cheese, and more. I'm cheating a tad adding Mellow Mushroom to this list, since it's not particularly exclusive to Savannah, but it definitely holds the title of best pizza in my heart.

6. Al Salaam Deli
I'm not certain even natives of Savannah know about Al Salaam Deli. Tucked away in a small corner shop on Habersham Street, the Al Salaam Deli is by far the best middle-eastern cuisine place in downtown Savannah. Sure, it's a little off the beaten path, but it's well worth it. Their gyros are wonderful, and the fries are the greatest of any place I've eaten at in Savannah (with a hint of special seasoning). It also serves as a small convenience store, selling middle-eastern food items and drinks. One thing that also won me over about the restaurant was that they sell aloe drinks, which has become a new obsession of mine quite recently. It may look like a hole-in-the-wall sort of place, and the "wallpaper" made from old National Geographic magazines may look cheap, but the tastiness of the food and the friendliness of the cook quickly makes up for it. Definitely give it a shot... if you can find it. ;)

5. Angel's BBQ
Like Al Salaam, Angel's is a little, tucked-away shop sandwiched between two giant churches, so it's easy to miss. Despite this fact, it has a solid reputation in Savannah for being some of the best BBQ in town. I've only been there once, but I'm definitely planning to go again. Their pulled pork sandwich is excellent and their service is great. There's not much seating room, though, so go sometime when they're likely to be less busy, like on a weekday afternoon. The menu isn't the best as far as variety goes, but the atmosphere is pleasant and the small-business style is one worth supporting, especially since they work together with other local businesses like Papillote (which you'll hear about later in this post) as companions, not competitors, a principle I put deep faith and value in.

4. PJ Corner Store- Thai Cuisine
Originally a gallery-turned-convenience store, PJ Corner Store recently went through some renovations to become a convenience store shop/Thai Cuisine restaurant, and the transition couldn't have been better. There now exists in Savannah an eatery it was desperately lacking in: a good, cheap, Thai takeout place. I went there just last night for the first time and ordered the Bangkok Chicken, which I then ate leftovers of for dinner tonight, and couldn't be more pleased with it! The portions are big enough to stretch three meals from, which is good if you're a poor art student like me. The herbs used to flavor the chicken were perfect, and the rice was sweet and sticky, just the way it should be.
My friends had the vegetarian spring rolls and the pineapple fried rice and both of them were more than satisfied and expressed a desire to go back as soon as possible. Their menu has variety and their convenience store is... well... convenient to say the least. If you feel like having dessert afterward, they sell ice cream items as well! The next time I go, I plan on trying the Chicken Satay. Definitely go here if you like the food at Saigon but can't afford to eat there on a regular basis!

3. Sammy Green's
Sammy Green's has quickly become a favorite of mine. I discovered it with my friend when we were desperately searching for a cheap, quick restaurant close by to my house, and lo and behold, Sammy Green's appears in a restaurant guide. Small and quaint, this hot dog and slider restaurant is not what you'd expect. It puts value on the ingredients and affordability of its items, which is a nice change of pace from a lot of fast food restaurants. You can get almost anything on the menu (except salads) for under $3, and they have a surprisingly wide variety of sandwiches and hot dogs. As simple as hot dogs are, these are by far the best I've tasted. They split and grill the dogs to a nice crispy outer layer with juicy tender meat maintained on the inside. They'll also customize items if you ask, and are quick to serve.
Their menu is straightforward and they have weekly specials which, which can be anything from green beans to couscous. The fries are also quite delicious, and their sweets are scrumptious when they have them. Don't be deterred by the fact that this is a hot dog and slider place. They also have vegan and vegetarian-friendly items. The warm cozy atmosphere and delicious cheap food makes for a great regular place to eat at.

2. Back In The Day Bakery
Back In The Day has long been a favorite of local and temporary Savannites. Their policy of making everything in-shop doesn't fail to impress, and certainly shows in the deliciousness of their food items. From cupcakes to sandwiches to bread, everything on the menu is sheer perfection. You have to travel just a little out of the way from downtown, but it's still worth it.
The cute and comfy atmosphere and friendly employees make the experience all the better. They frequently cycle through a variety of special sweets, so you should make it a point to stop in on a regular basis to see what they've got, and so you don't miss out on anything good. They have a nice drink selection, including various coffees and teas, and the sandwiches are fantastic. The Super Chicken remains my usual order, paired with a cold glass bottle of Coke, and the occasional cupcake, Star Brownie, or piece of pie.
Their ingredients are natural, their prices are fair, and their service is more than friendly, so make sure you give them a try if you find yourself in the area.

1. Papillote

Hands down, Papillote is the best restaurant in downtown Savannah. The sheer quality of food and friendliness of service you get for the price is incomparable. In case I haven't mentioned them enough, I will reinforce my love for this place yet again. The owners are adorable and all the employees serve you with a smile on their face. The head chef, Hervé Didailler, has been professionally trained and is world-renowned for his delicious dishes, so you know you're going to get something tasty when you go there.
I've tried many things on the menu, including their own recipe of tomato soup, the Croque Monsieur, the La Parisien, and the Bouchée a la Reine (my personal favorite). Every time I go into the shop, they acknowledge me and smile, "Hello, Emily! How are you today?" They then ask if I want the usual, the Bouchée and a Mexican Coke, and I nod. Every one of the employees says hello, even if you've already been greeted and served, and are more than willing to make recommendations and friendly conversation. The environment is also inviting and the decor is warm and comfortable.
Even though it is a genuine French restaurant, it makes no attempts to be fancy or overdressed. They go on the ideals of keeping it simple so that they don't lose focus on the quality of their food, which can't be beat. Don't go thinking that it's just filling main courses, either. They sell bread, cakes, cheeses, special sauces which they make right there in the shop, and, of course, what French restaurant would be complete without a vast dessert menu?
The first dessert item I tried at Papillote was their chocolate brownie with 24karat edible gold leaf on top. You heard right. 24k edible gold. On chocolate so rich you'd think it was straight-up fudge. All for only $3.99 a bar, which isn't small to begin with. Other desserts I've sampled have included the macarons, the chocolate lava cake, and another personal favorite, the chocolate mousse, probably the best chocolate mousse I've had in my life.
The drink variety is also splendid. French and other European drinks readily available in the cooler, and their own store-made lemonade. They have seasonal items, too, based on demand, and currently the Duck Burger is a popular item (which I'm going to get next time I go in). What's also interesting about Papillote is that you bus your own table, but don't let that deter you. They'll make rounds every once in a while and ask how you're doing or offer you free samples. They're always ready to freshen your water pitcher (which is more like a vase), and chat with you about your day.
If all this doesn't encourage you enough to try Papillote out, I don't know what will.

It was extremely hard to narrow down the list to just ten places, but these are my prime locations, and will forever remain so. Savannah is full of delicious eateries, so the best option you have is to just hoof it around and don't be afraid of exploring nooks and crannies. A downside is that many places are expensive, and many places have unusual hours of operation, but if you can find some of the tucked away treasures like the ones listed above, it's well worth the trouble to eat there.

Other places that didn't make it to the top ten list, but are still worth checking out, include: Starland Café, Blowin' Smoke, T-Rex Mex, The Soda Pop Shoppe, Café Gelatohhh, Carlito's, and Wasabi's. There are, of course, dozens of other great places, but these are the ones that hold a special place in my heart during my stay here, and I will miss them all sorely when I have to say goodbye. :(

Anyway, I hope this will serve someone well, and I hope you take the time to give these amazing places your business, because they certainly deserve it. I especially believe in supporting local businesses, so I hope this encourages the business owners and encourages you to eat there.

Thanks for reading!

Love you all,
and goodnight!

Emily J. Sampson

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Not-Sketchblog 13: The Theme of Revolution Is Love

If you've already read my post on facebook,
you have my permission to ignore this post
(it's copy-pasted anyway).

So, according to Google, today is the 100th Anniversary of International Women's Day.
Whatever the heck that means.
Oh wait, that's right. Google.

Ohhhhh. Well, cool!

I've always been about empowering women, raising them up with a strong mindset that they can be just as powerful as men in this world.
I'm by no means a "Feminist" (going by the definition of the term:
Oh wait...
Maybe I am a Feminist after all.
Well, call me whatever you like,
I've always stood by the belief that ALL humans are created equal.
Our society has come a long way, giving women the right to vote, the right to a career, the right to own their own property and body and whatnot.
But somehow there's still something amiss.

Much of the world still views women as the weaker race.
Is it because we typically are not as physically apt to hard labor as our male counterparts?
Or is it because we don't have that harsh, brutal warlike mentality?
Perhaps we are seen as weaker because we fall to our emotions easier than most men do.
But those are still all soaring gender stereotypes.

True, women have the better "mother" quality,
the soft, caring touch that babies and children need to grow with values and
gentleness toward the world around them,
and men have the strong "father" quality,
in which the child learns strength (emotional and physical), and work ethic.
But the child can learn both these lessons from each parent, not just one or the other.

We still live in a heavily male-dominated society.
The workplace is still a harsh place for a woman,
and it is mostly men involved in politics and government affairs.
There are exceptions, but they are few and far between.

Then there's the issue of rape.
The way our country deals with rape is quite curious.
It wasn't until very recently that we began to change the approach to the subject of rape.
Where before, we only warned women and told them to prepare themselves with self-defense classes or carry mace,
or even told them, "Don't go out after dark alone,"
we have started to tell everyone to be cautious, not just women.
The problem isn't just with women who go out into the night alone and put themselves in danger,
it's also with the men of the world who haven't learned to control their own primal drives.
that's the bulk of the problem.
There was a campaign I heard about that specifically spoke to the men of the world,
telling them that they too must be held accountable on the topic of rape.
They too have a choice to prepare themselves before going out into the world,
but not with mace or self-defense classes.
Rather, they must prepare themselves with restraint and responsibility.
While this is a good campaign, it isn't pushed enough.
Men of the world, you must take responsibility and teach yourself to control your desires.
Women of the world, you must ensure that you don't put yourself in a situation that could harm yourself.

Rape isn't the only issue on the gender equality table that has yet to be addressed correctly.
The idea that women are the ones to raise children is still highly flawed.
Yes, we've touched on the fact that women are more gentle and caring,
which is important to a child's development,
but the man has to be present in the equation as well.
An imbalanced household is likely to crumble quickly.
So, men, make sure you step up and raise your child proper.
And women, make sure you pick the right man.
Don't fall for the guy that runs around and parties all the time,
and if you want to have kids, make darn sure he wants to have kids as strongly as you do,
otherwise he will only raise them half-heartedly.
Of course, these are generalizations.
Sometimes having a child can make someone turn around and change into a drastically different person,
but mostly, women have to know what to look for in a guy.
This brings me to my next point:
Don't follow your fleeting emotions.
I could talk for ages on this topic, but instead I'll direct you to my blog post on the subject:

There are still so many things wrong with the gender equality table.
Too many to discuss,
but these are the major ones.

There's a big problem, too, with girls being raised to be almost "too girly."
Beauty pageants, cheerleading, girls' sports, fashion, celebrities, home economics,
all are portraying this idea that a woman has to be completely separated from a man's world,
and that femininity is a thing of delicacy and fragility.

There are still so many girls that are afraid to ask a guy out because it's "the guy's duty."
I'll admit, I feel the same way.
I want the guy to chase me,
make me feel important and unique,
as if I'm something to be desired.
I want the guy to ask me out and treat me to dinner and a movie or buy me gifts and food and serenade me and whatnot.
But when I sit back and think about it,
where does that put me?
I'm objectified.
I'm a thing to be obtained or bought.
I must sit there and look pretty until someone notices me in the window and casts his lot in.
If there are multiple men, I must sit and wait for them to fight over me and find out who the victor is.
I can't intervene.

if I take the role of the "guy" and ask him out;
if I chase HIM,
I become a thing of desperation.
I turn into some sort of beast that strips away the manhood from someone and wears it like some sort of horrific wolf in sheep's clothing.
I've asked my fair share of guys out,
and it always ends up sour.
The guy tends to think,
"Oh... she's so forward.
She's impatient and desperate.
I don't want to be involved with someone who won't let me do what I want."
Rejection after rejection in this manner has taught me to keep my mouth shut,
put on my makeup every morning,
buy nice clothes,
do my hair up pretty,
paint my eyes and lips,
cross my legs,
act delicate,
be feminine and proper in public,
and wait for the man to make the first move.
the guy needs to have the courage to ask me out.
I don't want to have to be the one instigating everything all the time.
But there's a serious problem when I feel guilty,
when I fear that I'm overstepping my boundaries when I ask a guy out.

Then there's the time you're actually in a relationship.
The guy has to be the one to hold you, because he's strong and able-bodied,
and will protect you from the horrors of the world.
The guy has to open the car door for you,
so you don't chip a nail or break an ankle.
The guy has to buy all the meals,
because he's the one making the money with his job,
unless you're eating in,
and in that case the woman has to make the meals,
because obviously she knows how to cook,
because she's a girl.
That's what girls do, right?
They cook and clean and pop babies out and take care of them till they're off to college?

Sure, we can read that above paragraph and say,
no, absolutely not,
those things aren't the norm anymore,
we've surpassed those stereotypes.
But when you think about it,
we really haven't.

A woman loves to be held by a man, because they're warm and big and comfortable.
A woman feels flattered when a man opens the door for her, because he's being a gentleman.
A woman enjoys getting treated to dinners and receiving gifts, because it makes her feel special, wanted, and princess-like.

These things are all true as well.
It's great when a man is affectionate, when he's courteous, when he's willing to sacrifice for his woman,
but he doesn't have to do it all of the time to prove it.
The woman should return the signs as well.
She's entitled to prove that she cares for her man in the form of holding him when he's down, buying him a dinner when his wallet is getting a little thin, or, heck, helping him carry or move his stuff... even build something with him!
These are not out of the question for a woman to do,
but there's still a stigma about it.
If we women try any of this, we get a little wave of the hand and a "no, no, I got this."
It's as if we are treading on the man's territory.
But aren't we allowed territory as well?
Can't we share it?
Haven't we surpassed the primal instincts to protect and fight for our territory because we now acknowledge that the world belongs to everyone, not just ourselves?
Maybe we haven't.

In this heavily male-dominated world,
pointless wars are still waged,
murders and rapes and hate crimes are still committed,
and greed and selfishness still prevails.

Women were built with strong emotional instincts,
and men were built with strong survival instincts,
this is natural.
But it doesn't mean that the men have to rule the world in order for our race to

What if women ruled the world?
What if countries were run based on emotions of love and understanding,
instead of greed and selfishness?

It has always been my belief that love is the solution to all problems,
and that remains unchanged.
Love allows us to see past ourselves to the whole of the universe,
and gives us the patience to try and understand our so-called enemies.

Women can be strong and powerful just as men can,
but we have something amazing that gives us an extra edge:
emotional power.
It's a very strong power, in my opinion.
Wars have been waged for women.
So it is my belief that women can stop wars.
We can end the cycle of hatred and abuse and greed and selfish behavior that has been recurrent in this male-dominated world.
But we need to be strong and believe that it's possible.
We can't submit to the image of the "beautiful woman" who is delicate and sweet and loving and caring and affectionate.
We can be all those things, but we can be so much more.
Beauty can also mean power.
And power can mean change.
And change can com from love,
and only love.

Love is not some mushy, touchy-feely emotion.
It is a passionate, intense, strong, overbearing, life-changing source of power that,
at this moment, women have the higher playing field on.

I always strive for a world of understanding and equality,
educated and selfless,
where everyone cares and nobody fears,
and I believe love is the path to that.
Men can do this too,
but they need to observe and learn from the women around them.

Here's our voice:
we are strong,
we are powerful,
we are world-changing,
because we are lovers,
and not fighters.

There will be a day when wars are intellectual,
and fought with discussions and not guns.
If we love each other and come to understand that all humans are equal,
all can achieve greatness in the world,
and all impact it in a great way,
then perhaps we can reach that day soon.
But we all have to make the effort.
Man and woman alike.

I propose a new kind of femininity:
the masculine feminine.
A woman of stature and high position,
maintaining the beauty and emotional instinct of a traditional female,
but independent and driven to change her world.
Powerful and delicate,
strong and gentle,
firm and caring.

There is a balance to the world,
and as it is now, we are teetering on the edge of demise.
We can shift the table,
if we all work together and instigate change as a unit.

Down with the self,
forward with Love.

Thanks for reading!

Love you all,
and goodnight!

Emily J. Sampson

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Not-Sketchblog 12: Proper Investments

I find it easy to be swept away by my emotions.
I love too easily, and lose control.
Then it takes me an extremely long and painful time to regain myself.

So here's a word of warning to women similar to me:
don't depend on someone else to make you happy.

Don't invest all your time and emotions in someone who may not return your feelings,
may not share your dreams and hopes,
and absolutely one-hundred percent,
DO NOT invest your time and emotions and hopes and dreams and life
in someone who doesn't share your core values,
or your general opinion of the way the universe works.

This past year and a half has been an enlightening one for me.
I've gone through many changes,
and more pain (physical and emotional) than anyone should ever have to know.

For a solid 4 months last summer, I had either spent every night tossing and turning or crying myself to sleep,
because I had gambled everything I had and knew on a return on my emotional investment in someone.
I let myself believe that they could change and that I could prove to them that you don't have to spend your entire life alone in the universe.
But some people don't change that easily.

I did learn one thing from the entire experience, though.
I have to focus on my own dreams,
joining together with a group of talented artists and forming a studio of our own,
which happens to be coming true,
and not depend so much on someone who can't understand that dream.

So, women of the world who love easily and fall for the men that smooth-talk you and play romantic,
take these words to heart:
You are strong,
you are beautiful,
you have your own life,
and you can be independent.
If you are attracted to someone,
don't put yourself in a position where you depend on them for everything
(like, with me for example, rides to and from places,
food, affection, physical contact, or recreation).
You can find all those things in the many friends you could have if you live your life outside of yourself,
and you will no longer need to feel necessary to someone in order to survive.

You are important in and of yourself.
You impact the world around you,
and can affect change on it if you keep your head up and stay focused.

Now, I leave you with the words of "I See The Light," as sung by Rapunzel in the fabulous film Tangled:
"All those days
Watching from the windows
All those years
Outside looking in
All that time
Never even knowing
Just how blind I've been

Now I'm here
Blinking in the starlight
Now I'm here
Suddenly I see
Standing here
It's oh, so clear
I'm where I'm meant to be

And at last, I see the light
And it's like the fog has lifted
And at last, I see the light
And it's like the sky is new
And it's warm and real and bright
And the world has somehow shifted
All at once
Everything looks different
Now that I see you."

Take heart and open your eyes to see someone for who they really are,
and life will be a whole lot easier for you.

Thanks for reading!
Love you all,
and have a great day!

Emily J. Sampson

p.s. I should clarify that in no way was this whole situation not my fault.
Even though I had been warned that the relationship would probably go no further than casual dating,
I neglected this fact, and let my emotions overwhelm me.
I let my hopes get the better of me,
and I invested in a relationship I imagined was possible.
Time and again I let this happen, even when he made it clear he was not interested,
and only wanted to be my friend (and was a very good one, at that),
but try as I might, my emotional attachment to him had grown so deeply bonded that I saw him as both a friend and more.
We will always be friends,
but it's taken a long time to get to that point,
and a lot of struggling and disagreements and misunderstandings.
But I wouldn't trade any moment,
because they all led me here.