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August 25, 2006

Daily Candy: The Road More Graveled (Savannah)

Savannah is a shopper's dream, with plenty of room for historians, ghosthunters, and gourmands. And I can say "road trip" faster than anyone. So read my short travel piece for Daily Candy, and make your own getaway.
August 25, 2006
The Road More Graveled
sweet georgia!

Fiddledeedee. Labor Day around the corner and one long weekend left to your name. What shall you do? Slink off to Savannah for some R&R, B&B, and a little T&A. (As in travel and architecture. Duh.)

Good Eats
Jump-start the day with homemade coffeecake from The Sentient Bean (13 East Park Avenue; 912-232-4447). Then hit The Lady & Sons (102 West Congress Street; 912-233-2600) for fresh seafood, hoecake cornbread, fried chicken, and sweet potatoes by Paula Deen and clan.

Moon River Brewing Company (21 West Bay Street; 912-447-0943) gets creative, with beers like Wild Wacky Wit (a white variety spiced with Curacao and bitter orange peel). Elizabeth on 37th (105 East 37th Street; 912-236-5547) is some of the best old-guard fine dining around.

Counting Sheep
The themed rooms at The President’s Quarters (225 East President Street; 912-233-1600) will have you asking “Millard Fillmore who?” before your head hits the pillow. Catch the vapors at The Kehoe House (123 Habersham Street; 912-232-1020), where the daily tea service will restore you.

Fine Treats
Hipster boutique James Gunn (112 West Broughton Street, 912-790-7500) carries Arden Amelia, Nügaard Designs, Single, Corey Lynn Calter, and others.

Shop Skylark: Fine EuroDesign (319 West Broughton Street; 912-234-4454) for Scandinavian silver, but don’t miss the corsets and peignoirs at the other end of the shop. The Paris Market & Brocante (36 West Broughton Street; 912-232-1500) stocks vitrines, chandeliers, and vintage jewelry by Lulu Bird.

Feel free to be a brainiac among the dusty shelves at The Book Lady (6 East Liberty Street; 912-233-3628) and get the jump on new designers at shopSCAD (340 Bull Street; 912-525-5180), where you’ll swoon over the lovely wares by Cuyler Hovey-King and Working Class Studio.

Hip Beats & Haunted Streets
Mingle with cute waiters and hear live music at Jazz’d tapas bar (52 Barnard Street; 912-236-7777). Double up on spirits on the Savannah Haunted Pub Crawl, a bar-hopping, ghost story-swapping tour of the historic district. Channel your inner Girl Scout (minus green dress and cookies) at their birthplace, the Juliette Gordon Low Birthplace (10 East Oglethorpe Avenue; 912-233-4501).

Well, we declare. Southern hospitality never looked so good.

August 23, 2006

Daily Candy: What a Catch

Brodie Lang is an amazing transplant -- she hails from Alaska, where she grew up helping her dad haul in the catch. Somehow she made it to this corner of the country, but as they say, you can take the girl out of Alaska, but you can't take the Alaska out of the girl. She's now selling fish to the best of the best in town, and now home cooks can get in on the act. Read my short about her Catch Packs in Daily Candy.
August 23, 2006
What a Catch
something's fishy!

The sitch: you, Mr. Lame , and a weeeeeeak excuse for what’s obviously an “I’m just not that into you” deal.

The impulse: Invite your comrades over to eat, drink, and list for you (again) the reasons it was never meant to be.

The reality: You were too busy hanging out with said lame-o to stock the fridge.

No worries. Sea Witch Seafood catch packs will have you dishing it out (in more ways than one) soon enough. Owners Brodie Lang and Tomi Marsh purvey fine Alaskan seafood to all the best restaurants in town — Woodfire Grill, Bacchanalia, Seegers (how we’ll miss you, Guenter), to name a select few.

The fish is caught in season using hooks and lines, then it’s flash frozen and overnighted from Alaska. Everything gets packed into individual portions (we love the Wild Salmon Trio), with spice blends and savory recipes to make your meal a cinch.

Thus freeing you for those other fish in the sea.


Sea Witch Seafood (404-992-8088 or seawitchseafood.com).

August 16, 2006

Writers Weekly: Beyond Short and Scannable... Writing for Corporate Web Sites

I'm a lucky IA who started as a writer, moved into IA (both corporate in-house and consulting), and shifted again into writing after having a baby. Expect more of these sorts of articles -- who stays in one career their whole life anymore? It's important to talk about the hybrid people we are, and it's especially important to learn how to work well with others who influence the writing team. Cheers to everyone who can enjoy that journey. Read the article below, or find it over on Writers Weekly here.

August 16, 2006

Beyond Short and Scannable: Writing for Corporate Web Sites By Melissa Bradley Diskin

Good web copywriters arm themselves with a thesaurus, a style guide, and maybe even some books on emotional intelligence in the workplace. But if you write for the web, you know that there's more to successful copy than the old standbys of knowing your audience and keeping copy short for easy scanning. The following questions will help you navigate an early interview and also help you avoid hidden pitfalls after joining a corporate writer pool.

Who's on the team?

Corporate web sites aren't the province of a single person. Gone are the days of a single Webmaster - it can take hundreds of people to keep a site up and running. Writers need to keep abreast of how a site is structured and how it's changing over time, and these three people are most likely to be part of your (sometimes invisible) team. You may want to request a meeting with them if you aren't formally teamed up together:

+ Information Architect - an "IA" establishes a site's user experience and information design, from a high-level, site-wide view down to a page view, including wording and placement of buttons and other controls. Their templates, or "wireframes" for sections and pages, will often restrict copy length, and their primary focus is on how a user will navigate through the site to accomplish tasks. IAs are analytical, detail-oriented types who often come from creative backgrounds (including writing).

+ Graphic Designer - these right-brained folks are responsible for the look-and-feel of a site, but they're more than eye-candy vendors. The best ones have a background in user-centered design, and it's often their visuals, not your words, that grab corporate deciders by the lapel and say "this is it."

+ UI Programmers - don't dismiss these left-brained types as coding robots. As a writer, you won't be mixing with the database guys or the back-end coders, but user interface programmers or "front-end" coders will be dropping your copy into their code as they create demos and other interactive content.

Who's behind the team - who "owns" the site?

Anyone who works in a corporate environment knows that it's not just your direct boss who sees and approves your copy. The org-chart doesn't tell the whole story, so it makes sense to find out who the person is that you really need to please. The power-behind-the-throne could be a marketing executive higher up in the food chain, a product developer whose new product is about to hit the market, or the wunderkind in the chair next to you. Tread carefully, and adapt your written words as needed.

What's at stake?

Time and money are the watchwords of almost all corporate endeavors. Try to prevent loss of either by asking to see your predecessors' failed campaigns as well as successful ones, to find out what worked and why. As you work, keep a file of rejected copy, organized by product or site section - a sea change in an advertising campaign may send you scrambling for last-month's pitch file, to reuse headlines, phrasing, or a stray idea that didn't quite make it to the table then, but would work now.

Egos are fragile, so don't forget to work well with others. At the intersection of corporate in-house interests and external, user-centered interests, web copy needs to be strong, yet subtle, and the "buy now" tipping point is always hotly debated. There's nearly always a power play between marketing and the user-interface departments when a new product launches - it's practically an in-house joke! You'll need to align yourself with your group (for writers, this is usually marketing communications), but respect the other side and make overtures whenever you can, so that you can sidestep future squabbles.

Advice on rejection and moving on: Absorb, don't deflect, criticism. Remember, edits of your work are almost never personal. If site statistics determine that a phrase or product description isn't working to get users to click through and buy a product or service, it's not about you - it's just that the user hasn't responded as predicted. Be flexible, alter your phrasing, and see what happens over the next day or week on the site. This is when it pays to talk to the IA or other user-experience professional, who often keeps track of these stats.

You probably already know to tailor your words and think in sentences, rather than paragraphs. But don't forget to use the vocabulary of the corporation and its products. Study up on user interface concepts such as "findability" or "information scenting." Balance your inside, word-oriented view of the company with a sense of what a user needs to accomplish when he visits a site. And always remember that corporate success demands a willingness to work as a team, even if that team seems invisible at first.

Melissa Bradley Diskin is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and information architect who writes about food, fashion, and travel for Daily Candy, Not For Tourists, and others. She can be reached via her site, http://www.melissadiskin.com.

August 12, 2006

New client: Aoki Denim

Aoki Denim is a premium denim line (jeanswear, cargo pants, tees and jackets) designed by Starr Dailey Webb. Press releases and designer bio to come soon....

August 08, 2006

Not For Tourists: Beat the Heat Road Trip -- Atlanta to Savannah

I took a fantastic weekend trip to Savannah in June and wrote it up for Not For Tourists. I feel like fanning myself already. Where's my fainting couch?

Or just read more after the jump.

Beat-the-Heat Road Trip: Atlanta to Savannah

By Melissa Diskin

 

At a certain point, Atlanta’s summer identity loses its charm. For some, the glitter fades in the glare of too many windshields crawling far too slowly along far too many crowded freeways. For others, the unrelenting heat of June, July and August can’t be kept at bay, even by a constant stream of the town drink, Coca-cola. Summer is the sly destroyer – unraveling hairdos, wrinkling linen, and alternately wilting animal and vegetable alike. Revival comes in the form of a road trip that follows the watersheds as they meander south, and east, until they slide gently into the swamps and the sea at the state’s edge. A trip to Savannah.

 

Possessed of the good fortune to attend a weekend wedding in Georgia’s first city, we made haste getting there. City-dwellers, we took a what-good-from-Nazareth position about the rest of the state once we got outside the Atlanta city limits, stopping for no roadside attraction or beckoning neon sign – not even the hand-painted ones that said “Boild P-nuts.” So: 4 hours driving time, first heading south on I-75 to Macon, looping around the home of the Macon Whoopees and the Nu-Way hotdog, and finally catching 165 into Savannah proper. If you follow our lead, you’ll take MLK Drive along the west side of town and pull into the Doubletree Hotel on Bay Street, at the northwest edge of the historic district, to rest from your driving labors. Once unpacked and refreshed by a blast of hotel air-conditioning, you’ll stand at the hotel counter fretting at the super-abundance of maps and brochures to city attractions. If you’re smart, you’ll grab a map and start walking -- Savannah is still at the mercy of a bellicose southern sun, but it’s also a city punctuated by shady squares and oak trees that invite pedestrian scrutiny. The secret to staying cool as you traverse the streets between the squares is to find the nearest café, such as the Express Café and Bakery at 39 Barnard St. Fortified by their Summer Sandwich -- Vermont cheddar, Vidalia onion, tomato and basil on baguette -- with a large cup of pellet ice, lemon slices, and sweet tea for sipping as you stroll, you set out.

Savannah’s squares are legendary, part of the largest National Historic Landmark District in America. The city was laid out by General James Edward Oglethorpe in 1733, divided into 28 park-like squares (each about an acre) fronted by residences, churches, and businesses. Directionally-challenged visitors can thank Oglethorpe’s ghost, since nearly all streets run east-west and north-south. Franklin Square, at the northwest corner of the historic district, is one of the 21 remaining squares that step sedately through the city. Bounded on one side by the City Market, a strip of candy shops, cafés and trinket marts reborn from past lives as feed-and-seed warehouses, Franklin Square has a less manicured air than some of the tonier residential squares to the south, but the relaxed atmosphere invites people-watchers who are worth watching themselves. A few horse-drawn and trolley tours pass by the drifters and tourists mingling in the shade near the cash-only Vinnie Van-Go-Go’s, Savannah’s signature New York-style pizza joint, favored by students as well as well-heeled locals. Franklin Square is also home to the First African Baptist Church, a large edifice of brown and cream stucco, the home of the first African-American Baptist church in North America. Built by torchlight, by slaves who were members of the congregation, the present edifice dates from 1859 and was a key stop on the Underground Railroad. The church offers guided tours (10:00 A.M. - 4:00 P.M., Monday through Friday) that reveal artifacts and architecture significant to escaping slaves, including tribal marks carved into the pews and disguised air-holes carved into the floor to provide air to slaves hiding beneath the sanctuary.

 

A less somber reminder of Savannah’s history can be found on River Street, a couple of blocks north. Originally a row of warehouses, merchant offices, and custom houses associated with the bustling international cotton trade, the below-street level area now houses a multitude of seafood restaurants, ice cream parlors, and souvenir shops. The row is bounded by the Savannah River, and the broad river walk provides entry to riverboat tours as well as a view of modern shipping traffic. Look past any tacky signage to focus on the warehouse architecture, but watch your step – the cobbled ground and the ramps leading up to Bay street are made of rough ballast stones, left behind in the last century or two by ships who would replace the stones with cotton bales on their way back to England. The steep stone stairways leading back up to the street are easy replacements for the hotel gym’s Stairmaster.

 

For breakfast or lunch, avoid the hotel coffeepot and follow the crowds to Belford’s Savannah, located in City Market at the corner of Congress and Montgomery streets, next to Franklin Square. Belford’s champagne brunch offers the usual eggs and omelets but adds up-market coastal touches, such as jumbo lump crab cakes and a shrimp and grits plate blessed with collard greens. Those with a more casual repast in mind should walk or drive several blocks southeast on Abercorn Street to Clary’s, a former drugstore-turned diner populated with world-weary (but friendly) waitresses. On Sundays the line runs out the door for hours as churchgoers find balm for the soul in plates of grits, eggs, bacon and biscuits. Traditional platters, such as the “Oglethorpe,” are made for sharing; the “Hoppel Poppel” (scrambled eggs, kosher salami, potatoes, onion, and green peppers, with the ever-present grits and bread) nods to Savannah’s centuries-old Jewish population as it pays homage to all carbohydrate-friendly southern diners.

 

Earnest types – or just java junkies -- can head to The Sentient Bean on Park Avenue for a dose of eco-friendly community spirit along with their fair-trade coffee. Come for the activist social commentary, acoustic singer-songwriter sets, or local poetry slams, but stay to sample the stellar baked goods. Grab a mango scone, a slice of blueberry lemon poppy seed bread, or a piece of espresso coffeecake, and either park on a comfy sofa for an event or step across the street into 30-acre Lafayette Park to stroll down an allee’ of century-old live oaks for a look at the park’s famous white cast-iron fountain, tiered and frothy as a wedding cake.

 

Walking off meals is a serious pastime followed by locals and visitors alike, and a dose of retail therapy can help erase any lingering guilt over your caloric intake. Just above River Street’s taffy shops and Savannah t-shirt shops, Bay Street offers a view of the front of the factors’ warehouses, including several antiques showrooms, such as Jere’s Antiques, with 33,000 square feet of antique European imports. Savannah’s main shopping thoroughfare, Broughton Street, is home to a multitude of boutiques. Paris Market & Brocante channels an airy, gothic spirit with a kooky flea-market vibe – offbeat chandeliers swing over French bistro furniture, loopy jewelry sets, dainty china, and tiny vintage ledgers, while passersby order cold drinks and sweets at the corner soda counter. At James Gunn, luxury prepster clothing mingles with hippie-girl jewelry and loopy, retro-print home goods. Further north, Skylark gives life to the saying “business in the front, party in the back” – Scandinavian silver pieces near the store’s entrance discreetly point to racks of sexy lingerie and loungewear at the rear. A few blocks toward the center of the historic district, on the corner of Bull Street and Charlton, ShopSCAD offers artists and students from Savannah College of Art and Design a place to sell their wares, including handmade jewelry, paintings, housewares, and even unique screenprinted onesies for kids. Often art mingles with the artsy, as in Pamela Wiley’s playful buckwheat-hull-stuffed pillows of vintage wool, embroidered with sweet-creepy animals.

 

Visitors who would rather read than shop can walk further up Bull Street to E.Shaver, Bookseller, where twelve low-ceilinged rooms create a bright warren of books. Proprietor Esther Shaver focuses on architecture, the decorative arts, regional and Savannah history, children’s books, and maps from the last few centuries. The Book Lady, on Liberty Street, is a below street-level bookseller specializing in Southern books – a paradigm of a bookstore, with low ceilings, bright but unobtrusive lighting, well-tended bookshelves snugged up against rough brick walls, and plenty of nooks for reading.

 

When hunger pangs strike, if you want to escape the heat but avoid the tourist crowds on River Street, make your way back up to Bay Street to Moon River Brewing Company to try the beer sampler (five small glasses of the house brews). A seat at the bar offers a clear view of the inner workings of the brewery, and the sampler includes Wild Wacky Wit, a white beer spiced with Curacao, bitter orange peel and coriander, as well as Savannah Fest Bier, coppery and sweet. Moon River’s menu is a step above the usual pub sandwich list, with seafood vying for top place among burgers, quesadillas and grilled chops; most plates are big enough for two. Paula Deen’s Congress Street juggernaut The Lady & Sons offers lunch and dinner to the crowds clamoring for early tickets to the dining room seatings, but we felt ourselves lucky to find the New South Café, open for lunch and a very early dinner on weekdays (it closes at 6pm). The reinterpreted southern faves are all here, but it’s the corn pudding that hits the spot -- silky and light as a flan, with a hint of natural corny sweetness, it’s the perfect counterpoint to the pecan-crusted fried chicken and sweet-potato chips made famous by chef Matt Cohen. The café lies on Skidaway Road, outside the historic district, but if you drive southeast and follow Victory Drive to Skidaway, you can goggle at the miles-long line of palm trees planted in the median as a memorial to the servicemen killed in World War One.

 

Savannah’s old reputation as a lady gone to seed (or as a poor-man’s Charleston) has evaporated in recent years. The city’s Miss-Havisham-esque gentility has been refurbished and kindly set to rights, helped by a steady stream of moviemakers, local boosterism in the wake of the 1996 Olympic games, and the long tail of tourists following the publication of John Berendt’s gossipy novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. The Spanish moss still sways, but the historic preservation committees are balanced by the youthful design energies and modernist sensibilities of SCAD students and faculty. A weekend trip might find you drinking shade-grown coffee in the shade of oaks hundreds of years old. Just don’t forget to pick up a creepy animal pillow from shopSCAD to haunt your dreams.

                                                                                                                       

Places Mentioned:

Belfords Savannah

315 W. St. Julian Street, Savannah, GA 31401

912-233-2626

Hours: Breakfast Mon - Sat 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Luncheon Daily 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Dinner Daily 5:30 p.m. - 10:00 p.m.
Sunday Brunch 11:30 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

 

The Book Lady

6 East Liberty St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-233-3628

Hours: Mon-Sat, 10 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

 

Clary’s 404 Abercorn St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-233-0402

Hours: Mon-Fri, 7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.; Sat-Sun 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

 

Doubletree Hotel Historic Savannah

411 West Bay St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-790-7000

Fax: 912-790-7070

 

E. Shaver, bookseller

326 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-234-7257

Hours: Mon-Sat, 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m.

 

Express Café and Bakery

39 Barnard St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-233-4683

Hours: Mon-Fri, 7:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.

Sat and Sun, 8:00 a.m. - 3 p.m.

 

James Gunn

112 Broughton St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-790-7500

Hours: Mon-Sat, 10:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m

Sun 12 noon – 5:00 p.m.

 

Jere’s Antiques

9 N Jefferson St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-236-2815

Hours: Mon-Sat, 9:30 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

www.jeresantiques.com

 

Lady and Sons

102 W Congress St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-233-2600

Hours: Mon-Sat: Lunch: 11:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.; Dinner: Begins at 5:00 p.m.
Sunday: Lunch Buffet only 11:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

www.ladyandsons.com

 

Moon River Brewing Company

21 W. Bay St Savannah, GA 31401

912-447-0943

Hours: Mon-Thu: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Fri-Sat: 11:00 a.m. - midnight
Sunday: 11:00 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.

www.moonriverbrewing.com/

 

New South Cafe

2601 Skidaway Rd

912-233-7568

Hours: Mon-Fri, 11:00 – 6:00pm

 

Paris Market and Brocante

36 W. Broughton St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-232-1500

Hours: Mon-Thurs, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Fri-Sat 10:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

Sun 11:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

theparismarket.com

 

Sentient Bean

13 E. Park Ave, Savannah, GA 31401

912-232-4447

Hours: Daily, 7:30 a.m. -10:00 p.m.

www.sentientbean.com

 

shopSCAD

340 Bull St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-525-5180

Mon-Wed, 9:00 a.m. - 5:30 p.m.

Thurs-Fri 9:00 – 8:00 p.m.

Sat 10:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m.

Sun 12:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m.

www.shopscadonline.com

 

Skylark fine euro designs

319 W. Broughton St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-234-4454

Hours: Mon-Sat, 10:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

Sunday noon-5:00 p.m.

www.skylark.bz

 

Vinnie Van Go-Go’s Pizzeria

317 W Bryan St, Savannah, GA 31401

912-233-6394

Hours: Mon- Thurs, 4:00 p.m. - 11:30p.m.
Friday, 4:00 p.m.- 1:00 a.m.
Saturday, 12:00 p.m. - 1:00 a.m.
Sunday, 12:00 p.m. - 11:30 p.m.

www.vinnievangogo.com