The Summer Never Tasted So Good: The Atlanta Food & Wine Festival 2014

 

Atlanta Food and Wine Festival 2014

I am an avid reader of Food and Wine Magazine and during  the last weekend in May, it was as if the best articles from the publication leaped off the pages and came to life in my hometown during the 4th Annual Atlanta Food &Wine Festival.  The festival comprised three magical days of all things food and beverage from interactive classes to three massive tents packed with the sumptuous food from all over the south.  Not to mention  the wine, beer, moonshine, bourbon, vodka  and everything in between that seemed to be in endless supply.  It didn’t take long for me to forget all about the brutal summer heat.

We started the day by taking a series of classes to improve our overall knowledge of food and cooking skills.  The class I enjoyed the most was “The Brothers Grill” hosted by Kent and Kevin Rathbun.  Kevin, the successful Atlanta chief and restaurateur ( Kevin Rathbun Steak, Krog Bar, Rathbun’s and the KR Steak) and his older brother who is a talented chief and Texas restaurateur (Rathbun’s Blue Plate Kitchen, Abacus and Jasper”s) served up the goods.  The pair made grilling the perfect piece of meat and brotherhood look effortless!  Kevin and Kent shared tips and tricks and dished up lots hearty laughs along with Kent’s baked potato salad and pork tenderloin and Kevin’s salmon with baked corn mash.

Atlanta Food and Wine Festival 2014

 

Atlanta Food and Wine Tasting Tents 2014

The tasting tents opened in the mid-afternoon and we ate and ate until we could eat no more.  There were so many things to explore in the tasting area.  The tents were set up according to rough categorizations.   BBQ tents welcomed festival goers at the entrance.  As we ventured further we faced a fork in the culinary trail: do we bear left to the Coca-Cola tent for an ice cream float and then on to the largest tasting tent? Or do we bear right and start with the seafood and farm to table selections?  Either way was a win!

We chose left and dove face deep into the most overwhelming tasting experience I have ever encountered.  There were old classics  like traditional peach cobbler with ice cream and Brunswick stew.   To the truly creative such as caramel and bacon doughnuts as well as crunchy  Philly cheese steak  spring rolls.

Festival Faves:  La Bonne Vie’s cheeses were a treat, especially the  mild goat cheese and smooth rich brie; Davio’s Philly cheese spring roll was fun and different and packed robust flavor;  One Hot Mama’s Fried Chicken had a crunchy breading and a sweet and savory flavor profile; Revolution Doughnut’s offered a delicious Caramel and Bacon Doughnut that presented the perfect balance of salt and sugar; Pearson Farm peaches were  so juicy and refreshing, King of Pops’ Dark Chocolate Patron Popsicle was rich and full of flavor; Orpheus Brewing‘s  Summer Ale, the Ale was light,refreshing and easy to drink.  There were so many great dishes represented you really couldn’t choose wrong.

AFWF 2014

Tips:

Buy the multi-day pass! There is so much to see and do during the festival and it is difficult to take it -all -in during the course of just one day.  Spread it out and pace yourself.

Wear conformable shoes and a sun hat.  Shield yourself from the sun to conserve your energy so that you can eat and drink the most possible.

Take time to really taste and enjoy the food.  Resist the urge to start shoving food down just to get to the next vendor.  Savor the flavors!

Did you attend the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival this year?  Share your experience with me here.

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Photos Courtesy of Eatbreathetravel and AF&WF/Rafterman Photography

Atlanta, Georgia Preimere of “Chef”: A Movie About Food, That Feeds The Soul

chef pic

I am a firm believer in shaking things up and doing things out of the ordinary to break the monotony of the work week.   So when I heard about a special movie premiere happening on a Tuesday night, it sounded like the perfect mid-week date night to me!

It’s quite rare that I walk out of a movie theater feeling inspired and ready to make changes in my life, but that is exactly how I felt after viewing the movie Chef.

Taste of Atlanta and Cinebistro at Town Brookhaven teamed up for the Atlanta premiere of the movie to raise money to benefit Chef, Terry Hall’s “Legacy Lives On Fund”.  Hall, the late owner of Happy Belly Food Truck, passed away on February 11, 2014.  His fund was established to ensure that his two children would receive a college education.

Chef is about a man’s who’s career and private life have stalled.  As he loses everything he finds that family, loyal friends and fearlessly following one’s passion are the keys to success.  The all-star cast featuring Jon Favreau, Sofia Vergara & John Leguizamo make the movie come alive.

As a foodie, I would be reminisce if I didn’t mention that one of the biggest stars in the movie is the amazing food.  From Cuban sandwiches to beignets, the movie left me hungry for more.  Good thing I was at Cinebistro and could order great drinks and amazing food.  I especially enjoyed the beef sliders which were cooked perfectly.

Check out Chef in theaters now and follow Taste of Atlanta for more exciting events to come!

 

Keep Exploring Your World!

 

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1st Annual Andrews Wine Festival: Spring Has Offically Begun!

Despite suffering from jet lag after a ten-day South African vacation, my husband and got up and out last weekend to celebrate spring at the inaugural Andrews Wine Festival!  If you missed the 1st Annual Andrews Wine Festival, don’t make the same mistake next year!  The festival, held in the Andrews Entertainment District, was a lively affair!  With over 150 wines, beers, and spirits available to be sampled, how could one not have a great time?  The event had something for everyone from the inexperienced to the wine connoisseur.

Andrews Wine Festival

In addition to tasting outstanding wines from all over the world, attendees were also treated to a number of amazing seminars.  The seminars covered everything from wine selection to making the perfect cocktail.

Alex Sher, of Proof & Provision shared his time-honored techniques in a class titled Cocktail Mixology.  During the class, he demonstrated each technique as he prepared two cocktails: The Classic Aviation and The Manhattan.

Alex Sher: Proof & Provision
Old World vs. New World and Wine 101, taught by Master Sommelier, Michael McNeil, covered wine basics, paring techniques, and wine selection strategies.

Michael McNeill: Andrews Wine Festival Artisan Spirits, taught by Will Atkinson of Corsair Distillery (Tennessee) covered the fundamentals of producing high quality spirits.  In addition, he allowed us to sample the best gin I have ever had! Atkinson shared the secrets behind his company’s award-winning  whiskey and explained why quinoa really is a super food.

Corsair Distillery: Andrews Wine Festival

The final class of the day titled Craft Beer 101, was taught by Matt Olson, Vice President of Quality Wine & Beer’s Craft Beer Division.  During the class, Matt allowed us to sample seven beers ranging in style and taste.  He provided instruction on how quality beers are crafted and what distinguishes great beers from the rest.

Matt Olson
All of the classes were fun, informative, and highly interactive with hosts that were professional but laid back; which created an awesome experience.

Andrews Wine Festival

My personal favorites from the festival are:

Corsair Distillery – Barrel Aged Gin

Cleto Chiarli – Brut Rose Spumante

Matchbook – Chardonnay Musque

Matchbook – Tinto Rey

Bonanno – Cabernet Sauvignon

The 2014 Andrews Wine Festival was amazing and 2015 is sure to be even better!

The Andrew’s Entertainment District , in the heart of Buckhead, is a world-class regional entertainment destination, with first class dining, entertainment, and nightlife scene. The premier destination for Atlanta’s nightlife! The place to be and be seen, and it’s all conveniently located under one roof! Featuring 8 diverse and distinct venues.

What festivals prepare you for spring?

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How To Eat At A Bunch Of Awesome Restaurants On A Budget: Restaurant Week 2014! Let’s Go!

 

Want to try the country’s best restaurants for half the price?  Well then you have to get out to your city’s upcoming Restaurant Week!  stroy pic 3

Restaurant Weeks are hosted by cities all over the country. In Georgia, we host several  each year.

It works like this: a group of participating restaurants in a city offer a variety of 3 to 4 course prix fixe meals at a reduced price; for a period of time, usually seven days but some run for longer periods. Often, but not in every case, a potion of the proceeds from sales during this period are donated to a local charity. Interested diners can make reservations directly through the restaurant or by using Opentable.

story pic

Below is a list of the popular Restaurant Weeks being offered in metro Atlanta and a few across the country.  Check with your local Convention and Visitors Bureau to find out about your specific location:

Atlanta Metropolitan Area

Inman Park Restaurant Week March 17-23 (Spring)

Buckhead : May 17-25

Downtown Atlanta-August 9-14

Midtown September 6-14

Inman Park (Fall) September-TBA

Vinings- October 5-13

 

Other Great Cities

Detroit, MI, April 11-20

Washington DC-TBD

San Diego, CA (fall) TBD

Dallas Fort Worth August 11-17

 

Check these out next year! We were too late this go round  Sad face

New York City, NY (January)

Savannah, GA (January)

San Francisco (January)

Charlotte, NC (January)

Los Angeles, CA (January)

San Diego, CA (winter) (January)

Baltimore, MD (February)

Chicago, IL (February)

Las Vegas, NV (March)

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Running, Screaming, and Playing At The Museum? The Children’s Museum of Atlanta

 

Are you looking for a place that is kid friendly, easy on your pockets, and educational too?  Well,  The Children’s Museum of Atlanta is the place to go!  Dedicated to making learning fun for children of all ages, this place is packed with things to see and do.  I started going to the museum with my nephew when he was about three years old.  At ten, he still loves going and has a new appreciation for the exhibits.  Moreover, I now take my two-year old daughter, Brooklyn, and she loves it!

From creating works of art on a whiteboard that spans the length of an entire wall, to fishing in a giant indoor pond, my daughter explores the museum by touching everything!  Fortunately, that’s the way it was designed to be enjoyed. Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA During our most recent visit, Brooklyn discovered the infant toddler area, complete with soft blocks and tunnels perfect for children 6 months-2 years old.  She spent quite a bit of time there.  Then it was off to the massive interactive Farm to Table exhibit. Imagine It : The Children's Museum of Atlanta

The exhibit explores how food goes from the farm, illustrated by a life-sized tractor and ceramic cow, to the supermarket, and finally to our homes.  Kids are able to fill shopping carts with plastic loaves of French bread, cartons of milk, eggs and everything in between. Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

This exhibit is a crowd favorite.  There is also a train depot, a large sand box, and a huge exhibit dedicated to engineering and logistics.  But not to worry, it is big fun!  The exhibit uses colorful balls and simple machines to teach these complex principals in an enjoyable way.   By the way, don’t miss the dance parties and story time during your visit.  (See the activity schedule when you arrive for details.)

Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

There are also temporary exhibits that come to the museum throughout the year.  Check out the current exhibit: Sonic Sensation, running now through June 1, 2014This new, highly engaging exhibit offers a fun and informative opportunity for children to understand the anatomy, measurement, and science of sound.

The exhibit features a variety of interactive, hands-on activities for children to see, feel, and hear sound. Visitors can experiment with pitch, test their listening skills, make a movie soundtrack and much more! As children engage with multiple learning stations throughout the exhibit, they will discover key listening skills through the science of sound and hearing.

Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA Imagine It Museum, Atlanta, GA

Visiting the museum is always a great experience…. especially when it is free!  Check out Target Free Second Tuesdays.  Thanks to the Target Corporation, admission for the museum is free from 1pm-7pm on the second Tuesday of every month.  Otherwise, tickets for visitors ages one and above is $12.75 per person.  The museum is also available for birthday parties and special events.

Tip: There are several paid parking options near the museum and the prices range from $5.00-$12.00 depending on the day and length of your visit. The lot located on Baker Street directly across from the museum is the most convenient.  On weekends, parking in this lot is generally a flat rate of $5.00.

Have a fantastic time at  The Children’s Museum of Atlanta.

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Relationship Drama At The Center For Puppetry Arts: Stan The Lovesick Snowman

 

Did you know that even snowmen and snowwomen experience relationship drama?  Well… I didn’t either until I took my family to see Stan the Lovesick Snowman at the Center For Puppetry Arts.  What better way to kick off the New Year then by visiting a new place?  Neither I nor my family have ever been to the Center, so it was a new and exciting experience for us!

The delightful production tells the tale of a hopeless snowman named Stan, who learns a thing or two about life and love when he falls hard for the endearing warmth of a wood-burning stove.  Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, GA

I won’t give the ending away but let’s just say that Stan realizes that although love can sometimes hurt, it should never reduce one to mush!

 

Go see Stan the Lovesick Snowman this weekend.  It is entertaining and educational.  At the conclusion of the show, the immensely talented puppeteers give an informative behind the scenes look into how they make the puppets come to life.  We especially enjoyed seeing all of the different types of puppets and special effects.

The play is recommended for children ages four and over but my two-year old enjoyed the show and there were younger children in the audience who were also fine.

In addition to the show, a tour of the on site museum is also included with the price of admission.  The museum is filled with puppets that have been used in past productions.  It was interesting to see the different types of puppets used which vary greatly in size and style. Center for Puppetry Arts, Atlanta, GA

The show runs from now until February 2, 2014.  On weekends there are three shows (11:00am, 1:00pm, and 3:00pm) and on weekdays two shows are offered (10:00am and 11:00am).

Tips:

Seating is general admission.   There isn’t a bad seat in the place but if you want to sit near the front of the theater, arrive early.

Complementary parking is available at the center.

Have you been to the Center for Puppetry Arts?  Share your experience with me?

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The featured image was provided courtesy of the Center for Puppetry Arts.

 

 

The Iberian Pig: Travel to Spain Without Leaving Atlanta

So my dining club “The Dining Divas” ventured over to the east side of Atlanta (downtown Decatur) to check out famed Spanish inspired restaurant The Iberian Pig and we had a fantastic experience!  As we escaped the crisp night air and stepped into the lively dining room filled with welcoming aromas, we were immediately transported across the Atlantic Ocean to Espana. Iberian Pig Atlanta, GA The dark wood and dim lighting were reminiscent of the restaurants that I frequented while studying in Madrid.  The owners Frederico Castellucci and Chad Crete successfully recreated that “old world” feeling through the menu and ambiance.  They captured the european dining spirit that makes it ok for people sit down for a meal with friends, order multiple courses, and stay a while.  One thing I love about european dining is the lack of pressure  to “eat and leave”.  Instead, patrons are encouraged to linger over wine and bread and savor fine cheeses while discussing the day’s events. 

My friends and I did just that as we tried fried pork belly, bacon wrapped dates, and slow roasted beef. 

Iberian Pig

Lomo Di Cerdo: Grilled Pork Tenderloin

We drank wine, shared small plates, and enjoyed each others company in the warmth of what I consider the closest thing to Spain in Atlanta.  Frederico stopped by our table to chat.  During our discussion he shared that his vision for the restaurant was not only to provide impeccable service but to get back to the basics of the dining experience, which equates to great food, amazing drinks, and plenty of conversation among friends.

Mission accomplished!

We enjoyed dining at The Iberian Pig and we look forward to visiting again. 

Tips:

Free parking in downtown Decatur is limited.  Be prepared to pay at least $5.00 in the surrounding lots Thursday-Sunday when that area is busiest.

Make reservations. 

 Have you been to the Iberian Pig?  Share your experience.

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The Man Behind Five of Atlanta’s Best Restaurants: Ford Fry

On a chilly Friday evening with my hands stuffed in my pockets, I waited patiently to Ford Fry, Taste of Atlanta 2013 meet the man who I consider one of the greatest contributors to Atlanta’s culinary scene in the past decade, Ford Fry.  Fry is the owner of an impressive portfolio of Atlanta’s best restaurants to include:  JCT Kitchen, No. 246, The Optimist, King + Duke and St. Cecilla.  Both the Optimist and King + Duke have been listed among Esquire Magazine’s “Best New” with the Optimist being named as the 2012 Best New Restaurant in the country.  Food and Wine Magazine, Jezebel, and others have praised his establishments for being the new standard of culinary excellence.  With such an extraordinary list of accomplishments, I wasn’t sure what to expect from our meeting: would he be too busy to engage with me?  Would he be exhausted from all the fanfare and media requests?  Well, interviewing Ford Fry was like talking to an old friend.  His approachable personality helped me understand why his restaurants are so successful.  I asked him why he chose Atlanta as the home to so many of his restaurants.  According to Fry, he moved to Atlanta while working for Eatzi’s Market and Bakery and fell in love with the City.  The Texas native said that after the birth of his first child he started to see Atlanta as “home” long-term.

According to Fry, after making the decision to remain in Atlanta, it only made sense to pay homage to southern food and JCT Kitchen was born.  He admits that he sees southern food beyond just fried chicken and he expresses that belief through the seafood infused menu served at the Optimist.  With Gulf shrimp and oysters, southern food takes many forms that all begin with amazing flavors and a feeling of togetherness.

Fry has tackled many cuisines and done so seamlessly: southern, Italian, and now a Tex-Mex restaurant slated to open soon.  He also shared with me that he has set his sights on opening restaurants in his home state of Texas.  He is currently considering three sites and Houston and Austin are high on the list.   

I enjoyed speaking with Ford almost as much as I enjoy dining at his restaurants!  Ford Fry is definitely one to watch.

Have you dined at one of Ford’s restaurants?  Tell me about your experience.

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Exploring North Georgia: Apple Picking At B.J. Reese Orchard

Wow! We had an amazing time at the B. J. Reese Apple Orchard!  It really feels like fall is upon us now.  The orchard sits on acres of rolling hills tucked into the North Georgia Mountains.  The fresh mountain air and the hovering trees filled with red and yellow Ellijay, GAleaves created a picturesque setting.  We enjoyed hot apple cider, made fresh daily on the farm and if that wasn’t enough, the farm’s market offers an assortment of other goodies from apple butter, peach and apple bread, and many other delectable treats.

On apple picking days, guests are offered classic “country fair” treats like corn dogs, fried Oreo cookies, fresh apple turnovers, and funnel cakes.  Along with good eats, there were great activities for the kids to enjoy.  Chickens, pigs, goats, and ducks ran wild as the kids attempted to feed the animals while posing for the occasional picture …lol and what trip to the farm would be complete without a hayride? Ellijay, GA Oh and did I mention they have adorable ponies too?  Ellijay, GA

Hanging out at the Reese Orchard was a great way to spend a lovely Sunday afternoon. Ellijay, GA is located about 90 minutes outside of the perimeter.  It was nice to get back to nature and support a local farm.Ellijay, GA

I had one of the apples as a snack today and it was amazing! I look forward to making homemade apple sauce and maybe even a pie with the apples that we picked ourselves.  As a new mom I am always looking for new traditions for my family.  Visiting B.J. Reese Orchard to kick off the fall season will be an annual event for us.

Do you have fall traditions?  We would love to hear about them.

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Power Couple Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter: Visiting the Carter Center, Atlanta, GA

Photographs of Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter.Jimmy Carter has always been an interesting person to me.  Although his Presidency pre-dates me, I have been fortunate enough to witness his life long fight to make the world a better place.  Out one afternoon with some free time, Xeric and I found ourselves at the Jimmy Carter Center.  We had driven by hundreds of times and vowed one day to visit.  Well that day had finally arrived.  The Carter Center is an amazing collection of political and cultural treasures.  Say what you want about President’s Jimmy Carter’s White House career but I would venture to say no president has had a greater impact post presidency.

The Center covers President Jimmy Carter’s early life in Plains, GA.  It also highlights key instances and relationships that shaped his humanitarian philosophies.  The site follows Carter’s journey from Plains, GA to the White House.  It covers all of the major issues during Carter’s Presidency.  It also provides interactive activities that allow visitors to experience history in a new way.  Visitors can walk through a replica of the Oval Office during the tour and view the Presidents personal family photos.

The Center also highlights Mrs. Carter’s impressive career.  Rosalynn Carter is not only a staunch supporter of her husband but a trailblazer in her own right.  I was inspired by her support of mental health awareness and her efforts to end illnesses that plague populations world-wide.

The Center is beautiful and is a wonderful way to spend a day in Atlanta.

 

Tips:  Parking is free on site, adult tickets are $8.00, kids 16 and under are free

 

 

 

 

 

Lead photos courtesy of the Carter Center website