Faine Opines

Southeast Asia, liberation technology, drones, and pontification

Month: January 2013

Why Having No Smartphone For a Month Was Awful or How I Outsourced My Brain

I am nothing with you.

I am nothing without you.

I have recently been re-reading the historian Barbara Tuchman, who back in 1986 posed this rather topical question: “Are we smarter than our technology?”

The eminent historian was worrying about teleprompters, at the time a still relatively new technology that some worried gave undue advantage to dim Ken dolls harboring aspirations of ultimate power and access to harems of emotionally unstable women. This would not do.

Tuchman called the humble teleprompter “a technological instrument developed to such wondrous perfection as to be actively harmful, because it can make a candidate for public office appear twice, no, 10 times, as intelligent as he really is and seemingly worthy to be entrusted with the complex and difficult decisions of national policy.”

She may have been right: more so, I suspect this worry applies somewhat disturbingly in the modern era to smart phones.

Perhaps most saliently, it applies to me and smart phones, something that was brought into stark focus after my Samsung Galaxy Note SIII was unceremoniously stolen in Saigon, an event that sounds like the sort of thing you’d warn your wide-eyed gap year student about before putting him on the plane to Djibouti.

You see, I didn’t just feel bad when I lost my phone. I felt considerably stupider — and not just because I’d been using it on a busy Saigon street in the first place. Here’s a brief look at why I felt this way.

Recent research and academic thought postulates that in the modern era, an intelligent person is not someone who can quickly recall copious quantities of information when called upon, the sort of skill that is widely applicable in both Jeopardy and in certain applications within the Supreme Court.

Instead, the supremely intelligent person of the 21st Century functions instead as a kind of brilliantly competent librarian, able to use the Internet to quickly summon up the entire human experience on a little glowing screen.

This modern genius can turn to the now-widely-accessible Internet to supplement their own knowledge, freeing them from the burden of retaining and memorizing scads of information. They need only a keyword to cogitate, and require only a well-appointed hive mind to draw conclusions, make references, and infer about their own situations.

That little jerk thought he was hot shit.

That little jerk thought he was hot shit.

The truly intelligent Millenial is thus an outsourcer par excellence. We have all somehow managed to become Encyclopedia Brown. In this, then, I am typical.

All who know me are aware I fall firmly into the category of people who have been rendered marginally intelligent largely by their mastery of glowing and increasingly tiny boxes: it has been so almost since I remember, as one of those loathsome Millenial whelps born into the Apple-and-learning-software zeitgeist.

If I buy into the logic promulgated by by both intelligent sounding editorial writers and Al Gore, then it stands to reason that I do not just feel smarter when I have got my smartphone with me at all times.

 I am smarter.

Yeah, it's probably not wise to wander around in this with a new phone.

Yeah, it’s probably not wise to wander around in this with a new phone.

AND THEN MY PHONE VANISHED INTO THE ETHER

When my smartphone was lost a few weeks ago in Vietnam, it was in a bizarre way akin to a amputation, or perhaps a memory-loss inducing brain injury.

When your phone goes missing in Saigon, there is jack-all you can do about it, as the cops have bigger things to worry about, and Vietnamese gangsters are capable of removing the SIM card and selling off a phone to a Laotian dirt farmer in the time it takes most of us to turn on our televisions. Recovery was not an option. Nor was buying another one in Asia, where they are quite expensive as compared to in the USA.

There was nothing for it: I was going to have to spend at least a month with a considerable chunk of my brain, in essence, missing. I had been suddenly kicked off the grid, and I suspected I would not much enjoy it.

This is OK I guess.

This is OK I guess.

PROFOUND EXPERIENCE FAILS ME

I did not anticipate enjoying it, but much of our culture would like me to believe that I would find it an enjoyable experience, sort of a delightful little vacation.

We live in an era in which going off the grid has become something of an act of remarkable nobility and bravery — and in which actually pulling such a thing off is becoming more and more difficult.

RV advertisements note that the purchase of their lumbering comfort-vehicles will help your kids reconnect with both nature and the manifold pleasures of hooking up a septic tank while your father shouts at you.

Office drones and executives alike brag to one another in the break-room about spending entire weekends without checking their Blackberry’s e-mail.

Ask me what I didn't do when my phone was missing!

Ask me what I didn’t do when my phone was missing!

Students idolize the smelly real-life protagonist of Jon Krakeur’s “Into the Wild,” who boldly went off the grid in the 1990s and delved into the wilderness alone, filled with the belief that “it is enough that I am surrounded with beauty.” (He was later found dead and emaciated in a sleeping bag in a bus, but we can handily forget that.)

There is a common theme to all these efforts to disconnect, to become unreachable: a search for the profound, a return to simpler times when man could know himself, could hear the thoughts rustling around inside his own head — a voice that crieth in the wilderness, or something like that.

It has become a part of our modern mythos that to disconnect from technology is more than a little akin to reaching out and touching the divine. It is this same impulse that provokes the occasional naysayer to speak out against efforts to connect the third world to the mainframe, claiming that giving the noble savage access to Apple’s App Store and the Daily Mail will render him disconnected and pathetic, just like us.

The reasoning goes that we’d all be better off if we were rolling around in fields of clover and living off of the land, or at least organic co-ops. But is this back-to-nature impulse really that good for us? Is this really that fun?

paradise-lost-milton

It’s a lot like this, not having a phone.

NO, IT’S NOT FUN IN THE SLIGHTEST, ACTUALLY

Allow me to quote Milton, who might have had a thing or two to say about the digital revolution if he was actually alive:  “The mind is its own place and in itself, can make a Heaven of Hell, a Hell of Heaven.”

I would apply this particular, profound Milton quote to the quotidian experience of waiting quietly in a car for someone to come back in from the store, for someone who has spent their entire life (somewhat) plagued with a rip-roaring case of ADHD.

That would be me.

The modern era is a remarkable balm for the ADHD afflicted and inventive: with the advent of smartphones, it is now almost impossible for us to ever experience boredom, which used to be our Kryptonite, our fateful heel.

One of the many delightful things one can buy in SkyMall.

One of the many delightful things one can buy in SkyMall.

Since I obtained a smartphone, I have looked up WWII facts while waiting to taxi off the runway at the New Orleans airport, live-Tweeted from a Cambodian bus, and drilled myself on Khmer words while waiting for interminable minutes in a ophthalmology waiting room: these were moments before my smartphone-d life that would have been spent either gazing out a window having neurotic and miserable thoughts, or reading the SkyMall magazine for the 12th-millionth time.

Instead, I am able to use this time learning things. I do not see this as a net loss. Further, I am accorded considerably last time to battle with my own neuroses, which I can only see as a net benefit.

So no: you can keep your quiet times of the soul. I much prefer to stave them off with mobile Chrome, the Kindle app, and a smidgen of Instagram.

I have at times enjoyed being disconnected, I will admit. It is easiest to enjoy such things when one is anticipating being cut off, and further, it is even easier when one is actually IN the wilderness, not when you’re still, on the surface of things, continuing to hang around suburbia and consume packaged food.

It is not quite enough to keep up all the trappings of modern society and computers and to just cut off a single, rather piddling aspect of life: for example, deciding heroically that one will forsake Facebook is probably not going to cut it. I want my repudiation of technology to be all or nothing.

I was off the grid for a bit over a week while trekking in India in 2010 and I recall that the experience was enjoyable, reliant as I was on conversation and books for entertainment: I mostly missed eating food that hadn’t originated in a can. And getting back to the Internet still felt as good — well, better — than that first civilized shower. Is this normal? It might be more so then we’ve been led to believe.

The allure of the Internet goes deep, deeper than many of us may wish to admit. Which leads me to my next point.

BUT WHY ARE YOU OK WITH RELYING SO MUCH ON A LITTLE MAGIC BOX?

Some, such as Nicholas Carr in his 2008 “Is Google Making Us Stupid,” admit that they are a little frightened by the prospect of our ever-increasing reliance upon artificial intelligence, with the substitution of smartphones for our own organic intellect.

What Would Socrates Do? (Complain).

What Would Socrates Do? (Complain).

Carr feels that the Internet lobby considers the “human brain is just an outdated computer that needs a faster processor and a bigger hard drive” —  but then goes on to cite Socrates famous discomfort with the very invention of writing, which would allegedly cause them to be “filled with the conceit of wisdom instead of real wisdom.”

This gets at what I feel is the crux of the matter: we are deeply uncomfortable with these cognitive advances, but it is increasingly hard to formulate concrete reasons just why the very concept bothers us. Further, we have been complaining noisily about these cognitive advances since they began.

It is often merely neophobia: there are few arguments against this outsourcing of our minds, other than, I suppose, the reality that a person without a smartphone (such as myself) is suddenly rendered stupider.

It is also arguable that if the smartphone had not been invented, I would not have compensated with more inherent intellect. I firmly believe that I am more than myself when I have access to a smartphone or the Internet: I am cognitively enhanced.

It’s not just me who’s firmly embraced this shift from intrinsic intelligence to a reliance upon the hive mind.

Google is quite open about its ambition: founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin wish to re-wire our brains by means of little glowing magic boxes, or at least provide the convenient apparatus by which we can outsource our inquiries.

Indeed, world IQs appear to be rising around the world something of a refutation to the idea that those hours I spend gazing intently on Wikipedia in the car are rendering me pallid and idiotic.

Researcher James R Flynn speculates that this world IQ rise might be because technology has taught us to view the world with analytical “scientific spectacles”: our glowing little boxes have, relatively painlessly, managed to teach us to the test.

I feel ya, you creep.

I feel ya, you creep.

Some observers, such as Clark and Chalmers in their deeply prescient 1998 “Extended Mind,” argue that the gap between external and internal reasoning is tenuous at best: the two finallt conclude our minds are singularly well adapted “for reaching out and making the world, including our machines, an extension of itself.”

By this logic, we are not denying our true natures by embracing technology’s effect on the human mind: we are instead following the natural tendencies of the human mind.

By this logic, further:  it is more unnatural to entirely repudiate technology then it is it to embrace it, as the natural consequence of a constantly-improving human intellect.

These are all lofty rationales for my distinct discomfort when something as seemingly unimportant as my smartphone went missing.

The reality is that I am willing to embrace my reliance upon a glowing box made by slave-labor in China to the fullest: because I am somewhat disgusted by the weak and wholly organic mind I am left with without it.

I may be in trouble if the universe ends and I am dropped into some sort of Cormac McCarthy dystopia: as things currently stand, and as the thrust of history indicates, I suspect I am instead batting for the right team.

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Consider the Southern Sandwich: Dairy Center, Mt Airy

dairycentermtairy

Dairy Center – Mt Airy, North Carolina
407 W Lebanon St, Mt Airy, NC 27030

Consider the Southern sandwich.
Dairy Center is a North Carolina burgers-and-sandwiches joint that would be absolutely heaving with bored-looking foodies if it were located in a major metro area, the sort of folks who of a weekend find themselves seeking Americana, grease, and a rootsy addition to their food blog.

Located as Dairy Center actually is in small-town Mt Airy, it’s instead a circa-the-1950s part of the scenery — the sort of place where local high-school kids get after school jobs and stand behind the counter looking alternately nervous and perky, the walls are plastered in North Carolina errata, the owner/chef is gamely manning the fry-counter, and the decor has not perceptibly changed in at least 20 years (which is as far back as I remember it).

dairycentergroundmeat2

Dairy Center specializes in the ground steak sandwich, which has become one of those culinary specialties that Mt Airy people have flown in for their far-away weddings, or at least reminiscence about sadly past a certain hour in distant locales. This is really all you should be bothering with here, burger be damned.

What’s a ground steak sandwich? It’s a Great Depression-friendly combination of ground beef, flour, and milk, which creates a distinctly creamy and smooth filling — somewhat like a dairy-centric Sloppy Joe, with a much more pleasing texture.

They come dressed with chili, lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise, as well as onions, and only a total degenerate would order one plain. It costs $2. Andy Griffith was rumored to have loved them, but it’s worth contemplating that Andy Griffith has been somehow associated with essentially every bush, shrub, and old lady in Mt Airy in one way or another.

mtairymeatsammich

The chili is the meaty, smooth-in-texture stuff that pops up often in the Smoky Mountains. It’s chock full of cumin, not particularly hot, and widely applicable in all manner of culinary contexts, including on the more famous porkchop sandwich found at Snappy Lunch on Mt Airy’s main drag.

mtairydairycenter

There’s also North Carolina coleslaw, an exceptionally finely chopped and delicately dressed condiment to rival the world’s finest — not the mayonnaise choked and vile disaster that coleslaw so often becomes. It is superb on sandwiches, especially those involving smoked pork, and I am not sure how Yankees, the wretched creatures, stomach the alternative.

The fries on offer here are best described as the Wavy Kind: I find them a bit undercooked, but my uncle is very fond of them. They are what they are.

Dairy Center also makes small, eye-bleedingly-red hot dogs with the same chili on them, wrapped in paper and squished beyond recognition. They can be consumed in about 4 bites if you’re ambitious, and would probably be sublime if one is hung over.

Indeed, that nearly-translucent Paper You Wrap Fast Food, unprinted with slogans or cartoon art, is becoming something of a rarity in today’s America, unless it is used ironically.

There’s also ice cream: I remember eating the strawberry ice cream in the parking lot here over a couple of summers, out of a white Styrofoam cup. In the warmer months, the parking lot and picnic tables outside are a nice place to be, if you can stomach the humidity of a Mt Airy summer.

Here, you can be certain you are not eating anything flavored with irony. You are simply eating a good Southern sandwich in small-town North Carolina. This is more than enough.    dairycenter3

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Help Me Identify These Alabaster Sculptures from 1979 Kabul, Afghanistan (please)

My grandparents visited Afghanistan in 1979, during perhaps the last possible burst of leisurely travel possible before the Bad Years descended.

They purchased a number of interesting items, but have never been able to find out much about these small alabaster heads, which alternately fascinated and concerned me since I was 3 or thereabouts.

Anyway, I thought I’d ask the Internet. So here you are:  2013-01-26 11.22.53 And another angle: 2013-01-26 11.25.05And here are some highlights from a circa-77 Afghanistan tourist brochure. I will upload the whole shebang later in higher quality than cellphone camera; it’s quite fascinating.

2013-01-26 11.32.49 Say “Afghanistan,” and you think of the friendliest country…arianaair

That is quite the coat. Can you still buy these, Afghanistan types?afghancoat

NBD, just a fancy swimming pool and inordinately tiny 1970s-style bathing suits. In downtown Kabul. interconkabul  And here’s Bamiyan, pre-2001 Taliban cultural atrocity.  bamiyan

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Dark day for free speech in Vietnam: 13 activists jailed

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A rotten week for freedom of speech in Vietnam. Wrote about it for GlobalPost and hoping to do something else for UN Dispatch today.

Vietnam Convicts 14 Activists of ‘Anti-State’ crimes After Two-Day Hearing – GlobalPost

Fourteen bloggers were convicted of “anti-state” crimes today in the central Vietnamese city of Vinh, after a swift two-day-trial that many human rights defenders have been swift to condemn.

Read more from GlobalPost: Vietnam: Girl suspended over Ho Chi Minh joke

Thirteen of the convicted were given jail sentences between three and 13 years, coupled with house-arrest sentences of varying lengths.Twelve of the convicted are men, and two are women, while the majority are affiliated with the Catholic church, according to Human Rights Watch sources.

“I pray and hope that soon the society of Vietnam will have truth and justice. I fully accept and will endure any and all suppression under this regime,” said 24-year-old Catholic activist Tran Minh Nhat in his final testimony on Wednesday, which was posted on the Thanh Niên Công Giáo blog.

Read more over at GlobalPost….

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Ruminations On The Horrors of Frozen Quesadillas

(Reposted from my Tumblr).

Dear Internet: why would anyone buy a frozen quesadilla?

Is it that difficult to make one? I have made many quesadillas in my time, and the basic procedure involved is: frying pan, tortilla, cheese, butter or cooking spray, 5 minutes.

Is that too damn hard?

If all you have is a microwave, might it be best to eat a sandwich?

Am I just asking these questions because I live in Cambodia?

Evidence:

image

“Tender white meat chicken, pepper Jack, mozzarella and cheddar cheeses with salsa in fresh flour tortillas.”

T.G.I. Friday’s sells multiple flavors of frozen quesadillas, indicating this is a growth industry. Note that these are sold in “party” size, conjuring up images of winter-time Midwestern gatherings involving fake sombreros, an inflatable burro, and existential despair.

image

“Tender strips of grilled steak, real Monterey Jack, cheddar and mozzarella cheeses, zesty salsa and authentic seasonings & spices, all stuffed in oven-baked flour tortillas and grilled to perfection.”

The Jose Ole PR minions really lay it on in that description, don’t they? There are so many adjectives, meant to conjure up a kindly abuela who greets you when you return from 4th grade swim practice with a nutrient-rich and hot meal. Except there is only 3:00 AM, and the sudden, mechanical ding of the microwave. There is only this.

image

Tyson doesn’t just sell chicken parts in shrink-wrap—no, they’ll also sell you a shelf-stable and nutritionally analyzed quesadilla for your home-eating pleasure, complete with some bits of poultry protein. It’s called a Fajita Seasoned Quesa-Dipper, because it’s special, in the Any’Tizer line, because naming things what they actually are is apparently bitter anathema to the American snacker.

Tyson will also cheerily sell you a bag of Homestyle Chicken Fries, which is quite interesting, because insofar as I am aware no one’s grandmother has ever plonked a big freshly-made batch of chicken fries in front of your younger self at the old Arkansas homestead. Although I could be proved wrong.

Frozen Quesadillas – A Taste Test

Those well-paid and jolly journalists at the Tampa Bay Times saw fit to conduct a taste-test of frozen quesadillas last spring, concluding that T.G.I. Friday’s offers a “yummy” shelf-stable choice.

Why bother to review a freezer version of one of the easiest recipes man has ever bothered to write down, you may inquire—you Coastal bourgeois jerkoff, you?

Says Times Correspondent Kathy Saunders: “I sometimes find myself wincing at the thought of grating cheese, dirtying a pan and then cleaning up the kitchen after producing a stack of the cheese-filled tortillas.”

The nightmare never ends when you’re making quesadillas, does it, Ms Saunders? The goddamn nightmare never ends.

Napoleon Dynamite’s grandmother, speaking on this important matter.

THE AMERICAN NIGHTMARE

Perhaps we shall use the frozen quesadilla as a diagnostic tool, of sorts: the culmination of the path which our collective American culinary sickness has taken us.

The seed of the frozen quesadilla was first patted into the ground by 1950s housewives and their nuclear cuisine: it germinated in the 1980s, when eating things flavored in Blue Raspberry became standard amongst children, and was just about to sprout in the 1990s and 2000s as fast-food drive throughs became the standard fare for pretty much everyone consigned to a minivan or a soul destroying job (or both).

What next, then? Shall we herald the frozen quesadilla as a sign of apocalypse? Shall we teach children how to—at least—make their own damned quesadillas, if nothing else?

Would I be able to receive grant money from an unwitting government institution to complete a nutritional and anthropological study on the very topic, culminating in a documentary?

Perhaps not.

image

HOW TO MAKE A QUESADILLA

Acquire a tortilla. It can be an organic tortilla. It can be made by your almost-dead Mexican grandmother, who shuffles up to her stove once a day and pats out corn tortillas for the benefit of her tired family, only able to see out of one clouded and cataract-filled eye. You can buy it at the local grocery store, a pack of 12 for $3.00 on special. This is unimportant.

Acquire cheese. Velveeta is fine, and does not require the dreaded grating. You may also use Cotija, blue cheese, string cheese, or the shit you spray out of a can. This too is fairly immaterial. When has anyone judged you for a quesadilla? You may ask yourself this. When has my quesadilla lost me friends?

Get a tortilla out of the bag (important). Place it on a flat surface. Put cheese on it. You may have to grate the cheese, which will likely cause emotional distress, but you will eventually recover from the strain. You could also slice the cheese. It’s your life.

If you would like to put in other ingredients—peppers, salsa, ham, bacon, mushrooms, Pop Rocks—sprinkle them on top of the cheese. Cover this with another tortilla. Press.

image

Acquire a frying pan. Acquire a stove. Place the frying pan on top of a burner. Turn on the heat. Put: cooking spray, oil (canola, olive, peanut), or butter into the pan so the quesadilla does not stick. Wait for the oil or spray to heat up, or for the butter to melt into a lugubrious, Paula-Deen esque slick.

Put in the quesadilla. This is a dangerous procedure: you could lose some grated cheese on the floor, for example. And then your life might be over. (Not really. This is where having a dog comes in handy).

Cook the quesadilla. About 3 minutes on each side. Perhaps more if you like it crunchy.

Put the quesadilla on a plate. You could slice it! You could eat it like a pizza! Total freedom is yours!

Eat it. Wait until it is cool.

You have officially rendered the frozen quesadilla lobby obsolete.

MASTER CLASS: Serve with: guacamole, sour cream, salsa, corn chips, refried beans, Pop Rocks. Only for the accomplished.

 

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Narwhals, dangerous motorcycle riding, and Beate Gordon: Recent Globalposting

Narwhals_breach

It’s been a banner week for my GlobalPost work.

I would expect January 3rd to be a lousy news day, but instead I’ve got narwhal smugglers, modest Indonesian motorcycle usage, man-biting-dog, and the woman who helped draft the Japanese Constitution at the tender age of 22.

Not to mention the Year in Women (not the sexy year in women—don’t even ask), a piece which has received a rather surprising amount of Internets play, including from the Women’s News Network. (Hey there, ladies!)

Let’s make next year even better, shall we? Perhaps less with the arch comments about rape—including this gem from Eric Cantor.

Anyway.

A year in women: notable female achievements of 2012, from Malala to Hillary

American woman who helped to draft the Japanese Constitution dies at 89 – Jan 3

Narwhal smuggling ring busted by American and Canadian authorities – Jan 3

Naked man attacks dog and his owner in bizarre Miami attack – Jan 3

Indonesian city demands women not ‘straddle’ motorbikes  – Jan 3

Other Things I Found Online Today:

Narwhal Tusk Discoveries – A website devoted entirely to figuring out why male narwhals sprout a whopping tooth right out of their upper lip, which everyone agrees is inconvenient as hell, but looks really cool.

Third Reich Ruins – A marvelous website that compares Nazi-era photos of Germany with their modern counterparts, from Berlin to Dachau to the Eagle’s Nest. A treasure trove for the World War II geek. Potential career ruin for the World War II geek who ever so occasionally procrastinates.

And finally, the only image you needed to see last year:

2012cat

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22 Square: distinctly un-Paula-Deen eats in Savannah

22 SQUARE
14 Barnard Street
Savannah, GA 31401

Website
Facebook page—with a copy of the menu

Savannah’s culinary scene is inextricably linked with Paula Deen, the slightly wild-eyed Empress of Butterfat whose culinary stylings wage gleeful warfare against the forces of heart-healthy diets and tempeh. This means that tourists in Savannah almost invariably find themselves washing up at Deen’s flagship “The Lady and Son’s” restaurant, reveling in dishes that involve a pound and a half of sour cream–and that’s after plating.

But contrary to popular international opinion, Southern cuisine actually isn’t all about butter, cream, and eventual artery explosion. The history of the Southern table is rooted in fresh and local ingredients, and some young chefs—even here in Savannah—are exploring the possibilities of farm to table food, right in the dragon’s den of caloric, ever-so-slightly trashy delights.

That’s the philosophy driving 22 Square, a new farm to table restaurant in downtown Savannah, located in the new Anchaz hotel. Shed all your perceptions about hotel restaurants: this place is a real find.

The menu, put together by new chef Lauren Teague, focuses on local ingredients readily found around Savannah’s temperate climes. Dishes are listed by ingredient and not by course, meaning that pork belly, oysters, and local preserves (for example) all have 3 or 4 dishes listed underneath them, ranging from appetizers to entrees. It’s an unusual format that lends itself well to exploration and sharing, though you can go the conventional route if you must.

Teague is a Culinary Institute of America Hyde Park graduate and brings a stylish aplomb to her food: it’s Southern, all right, but not of the slapped-on-the-plate variety. Portion sizes are eminently reasonable, and the prices are perfectly manageable as well—a boon in a tourist town that’s experiencing no small amount of culinary inflation.

22squareveggie

22 Square prides itself on working with local farmers, and that’s reflected in this deceptively simple vegetable plate ($7), incorporating produce from nearby Walker Farm. Served with a garlicky and good hummus dip, the plate comes with simple sliced seasonal vegetables (including some remarkable yellow carrots), pickled specialties (fantastic haricorts verts) and a couple of creamy, delicate deviled eggs. Making a crudites plate interesting is a helluva feat: Chef …. pulls it off.

22squareoysters

A special appetizer, these twice-baked Bluffton, South Carolina oysters were served in a new potato, then topped off with breadcrumbs for a reasonable $10. There was a bit of detectable curry in there, and the whole affair reminded me of a very high-end sports bar snack. A bit starchy for my tastes—but an interesting combination. 22 Square rotates out oyster preparations daily.22squareporkCrispy Brooklet, Georgia pork belly with brussel sprouts, pumpkin ravioi, and pork jus ($17) was a surprisingly delicate dish, with an interesting broth that cried out for a spoon. I liked the earthy, extremely seasonal combination of brussel sprouts and freshly made, not-too-sweet pumpkin ravioli. When combined with the fatty pork (seasoned with just a little 5-spice powder), it was something like a very sophisticated look at breakfast flavors.

22squareoxtail

Hunter Cattle Company grass-fed beef oxtail with with sun-dried tomato polenta cake and buttered veal gloss ($13) was rich, meaty, and a bit messy—as an oxtail should be. A small enough portion to be comfortably shared, the meat was nice and tender, and the veal “gloss” had a pleasingly intense flavor. The polenta cake was a bit too intensively oily for my tastes—I might suggest an interesting mashed potato variant for me.

22squarecheese

House made raspberry preserves with local cheeses and berries ($14). Included an excellent Irish-style sharp cheddar and crackerbread, as well as those delightful pickled carrots and haricorts verts. No, I didn’t write down the cheeses. I rarely remember to write down the cheeses. It is my curse. However, some of the Savannah cheesemakers are linked here.

22squarebacon

Candied bacon at the bar at 22 Square—as one does.

Don’t miss the cocktail list. 22 Square’s Manhattan, constructed by Food and Beverage manager Garron Gore wins contests—largely due to Gore’s use of a totally surprising hickory-smoked maraschino cherry in the brew. We kept on delicately requesting more from the back, and we go em’. My dad is hoping to figure out how to do this himself, to use that distinctive, sweet-and-hickory flavor as a dip for BBQ ribs.

I thoroughly enjoyed my Manhattan, a slightly sweet, robust mixture that was something like a very adult, complex, swig of alcoholic Coca Cola. I also tried a cocktail with peach, mint, and bourbon, which was—remarkably enough—not particularly sweet, a real boon for someone curiously born sans sweet tooth. My mom enjoyed a pitch-perfect gin and tonic with house-made soda.

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