Friday, June 24, 2011

Ice Cream Contest Excitement - Amy on Food Wins!

On Saturday June 18, 2011 I entered Slow Food Atlanta's 5th Annual Ice Cream Social fundraiser. Here's the scoop (yes, pun intended): contestants bring 2-3 gallons of homemade ice cream packed in a cooler with dry ice and an ice cream scoop. Slow Food Atlanta supplies the rest. The rules stated that you must use at least one locally sourced ingredient.

After testing out a few recipes, I decided on my flavor: Lemon-Basil Chocolate Chunk. The lemon-basil is one herb, not a combo of regular basil and lemon. I was fortunate to have neighbors donate the lemon-basil and our friends Dana and Jonah supplied me with local, fresh eggs. The fresh eggs really made the ice cream shine and the lemon-basil gave it a fresh, different taste. The chocolate chunks (dark) added to the mix and gave it that satisfying crunch. It seemed that folks liked my flavor mainly because it was unique, but not too over the top. One man came back for thirds!

I had a blast making all the ice cream and my family really enjoyed the event. About 25 contestants participated. Most of the contestants were restaurants and professional ice cream makers. Miller Union, The National, Canoe, Empire State South, Sean Doty, Ron Eyester and Julia LeRoy, among others, participated. Some of the other flavors: sweet corn ice cream with blueberry compote from Miller Union (won "fan favorite"), toffee crunch from The National (won "classic flavor"), horchata sorbet, watermelon sorbet, Thai iced tea, blueberry pie, blueberry cheesecake, coconut curry, strawberry rhubarb, chocolate mint and more.

With such stiff competition I was not expecting to win. When Judith Winfrey announced that "the winner of most innovative flavor is an amateur", the crowd went wild and I could hardly even hear my name! It was very exciting. I will forever remember this day and look forward to making more ice cream.

I made about 3 gallons of ice cream for this event. I love making ice cream but I am glad to take a break for a couple of weeks!

Lots of interested tasters.

Serving and serving... I think about 220 samples of lemon-basil chocolate chunk were distributed.

My prize - a really nice pink ice cream scoop.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Pig of the Month Club

Baby Back Ribs and Pulled Pork.

The folks at Pig of the Month were nice enough to send me the above samples. They came packed in dry ice and kept fine for a few days in my refrigerator. I wanted to make a proper meal to go with this delicious meat so I opted to make a simple homemade sweet cornbread along with my grandma's slaw and okra, corn and tomatoes. The results were extremely satisfying and the Pig of the Month items held their own. I particularly liked the pulled pork, but the ribs, (I sampled Key West style) were also really delicious. This would make a neat gift (wedding present?!) for those who would like to give a gift that lasts all year.

Pulled Pork from "Pig of the Month" with homemade cornbread, cole slaw and okra, corn & tomatoes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Cellar 56

Strawberry Salad paired with Les Jamelles Sauvignon Blanc and Spinach Salad paired with Stuhlmuller Chardonnay.

I was recently invited to a wonderful tasting event at Cellar 56 on East Andrews Drive in Buckhead. I really enjoyed this event and it is clear that this place tries very hard to deliver good customer service. The strawberry salad was a bit bland but the spinach salad, with bacon, boiled egg and dried cranberries more than made up for it. I also enjoyed the seared tuna - I love sushi so anything close usually appeals to me. We tasted a blackened salmon dish (not pictured) which was fine but the tuna was better in my opinion.

Seared Ahi Tuna paired with Burgans Albarino.

I was pleasantly surprised by the BBQ pork egg rolls. At first I thought there would be too much going on with this dish, or that it would be too greasy, but it was great, wonderfully accented by vinegar slaw and BBQ sauce. The spicy mac & cheese was my favorite dish of the evening. Cheesy, creamy with just the right level of spice. I definitely recommend adding it to your order.

All of the wine pairings were really nice as well. I especially liked the Gruet Brut Blanc de Noirs served with the decadent desserts. Krispy Kreme bread pudding: need I say more?

Cellar 56 is a fun, well-executed restaurant where you don't have to spend a fortune. Tapas range from $5 to $7.50 for plates and $10 - $16 for larger share dishes. They have a very diverse wine list. Definitely a place for a fun evening for couples, friends or groups.

BBQ Pork Egg Roll paired with Montoya Cabernet Sauvignon with Spicy Mac & Cheese paired with La Postaa Malbec-Cocina Blend

Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding and Flourless Chocolate Cake paired with Gruet Brut Blanc de Noirs.

Cellar 56 on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Family Visit: Bo Bo Garden and Super Brunch

Wonderful tofu with minced pork in spicy sauce and crispy garlic chicken.

Another trip down Buford Highway with out of town relatives brought us to Bo Bo Garden, a Cantonese restaurant I'd tried once before with my Dad after it first opened. This time the experience was much improved and we enjoyed our meal at a large, round table - bring friends so you can try more! Standouts include the 3 kinds of dumplings, the crispy garlic chicken and the fried tofu with minced pork in spicy sauce. Although lobster sounded like a good idea, it is always so difficult to eat when cut into tiny pieces. The duck was a bit greasy for my taste, but the salt & pepper squid was satisfying as usual. This is definitely a great place to check out if you have not yet been. They have awesome lunch specials, which include authentic Chinese dishes. So often restaurants that have good authentic menus do not offer those selections at lunch. Bravo to Bo Bo Garden for including these on the lunch menu.

Coming in the next few weeks: a review of Gu's Bistro, which I think is one of the best Chinese restaurants around.

Lobster with ginger and scallions.

Superb dumplings.

Duck with sauteed vegetables.

Family favorite: Salt & Pepper Squid.

On Sunday morning our cousin Craig prepared a bountiful and beautiful brunch. His pancakes are AMAZING! They involved whole grain mix from Whole Foods (aka Whole Paycheck), mashed bananas and nuts. Sausages, eggs with feta cheese and chives and fruit salad rounded out the meal.

Fruit salad.

Pancakes and sausages.

Eggs with feta.

Bo Bo Garden on Urbanspoon

Friday, June 17, 2011

The Family Dog - Media Tasting

I was invited to a media preview event at The Family Dog, the new bar concept by Ron Eyester. The bar is located directly across the street from Eyester's flagship restaurant, Rosebud, which I have enjoyed several times for lunch and brunch. Although I am not typically a bar person I really like the atmosphere of The Family Dog. The long bar, dark tones and fun art as well as a patio play positively into the mix.

Unfortunately I found the food mostly mediocre and although I find the "Angry Chef" bit that Eyester has become infamous for mildly amusing, as a customer it doesn't make a lot of sense. For example, the burger comes only one way. No exceptions. Of course this is Eyester's choice and I understand the dilemma he faces regarding preparation time and speed of orders, but this is a bit excessive. I'd rather see fewer toppings on the burger and/or have toppings come on the side. Another option: a topping bar.

I did really enjoy the playfulness of much of the menu, including lobster spaghetti egg rolls and house made Cheetohs. I was really excited about tasting the Cheetohs as well as the duck fat chips and onion dip. However, unfortunately I saw very little lobster meat in the egg rolls and in my humble opinion neither the Cheetohs nor the chips and onion dip tasted as good as upper-end store-bought varieties.

My favorite menu items that we sampled included the steamed mussels and the crab dip. The mussels, plump and juicy after being steamed in beer with serrano peppers and leeks, really took on the flavor of their cooking stock. I wanted to lap up the remaining broth but restrained myself since we were sharing plates! The crab dip is rich and creamy, served with tasty bread sticks. The burger (served its one way) was also good - I personally am fine with the way it is served. I also like the nostalgic tint of the fried bologna sandwich with cheese and crushed Fritos. It is definitely flavorful although that flavor screams unhealthy! The crispy rock shrimp with maple-sambal glaze had a great flavor, but the breading was so think I could barely taste the shrimp.

Crab dip.

Spaghetti lobster egg rolls.

House made Cheetohs.

We also sampled some of the tasty drinks including the Morningsider (gin, fresh squeezed lemon and maraschino juice) and the Angry Elk (adult fruit punch in a Mason jar) - both quite delicious. There is a huge selection of liquor including an especially impressive list of whisky. In addition, there are six other custom cocktails made using fresh ingredients, around ten draught beers and several wine options. I also really appreciate the selection of non-alcoholic options, including Mexican Coke (no corn syrup) and Cheerwine, the beloved soda from my home state.

7 Spice Duck Fat Potato Chips and Onion Dip.

Joe's Fried Mozzarella.


Fried Bologna and Cheese with crushed Fritos.

Disco fries with marrow gravy and fried egg.

Overall I think The Family Dog is a neat addition to the neighborhood since it is open late, which is hard to find, and it provides an atmosphere not previously available in Morningside proper. Those seeking out good drinks and a fun atmosphere will really enjoy it and the food will satisfy their need to eat something after inhaling all those drinks. I would like to try some of the other options we were not given, including the wings, fried oyster sandwich, pimento cheese and crab-stuffed shrooms.

The Family Dog on Urbanspoon

Thursday, June 16, 2011

PP Event at Buckhead Westin

Calvin's new favorite celeb: Lizz Winstead.

Calvin and I were lucky enough to attend the Planned Parenthood Living Legends Celebration at the Westin - Buckhead. In addition to a lovely meal, we were treated to the hilarious political comedy of Lizz Winstead, co-creator of Comedy Central's "The Daily Show". Boy was she funny and I think Calvin has a new favorite celebrity!

We were served a delicious dessert including an edible chocolate cup that I found blog-worthy.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Wedding and Family Honeymoon Musings

Flowers in front of Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden where our wedding and reception was held.

Walking into our reception.

View from our room at Loew's Royal Pacific Resort where we took our family honeymoon - we will take our official "just the two of us" honeymoon later this year. See the roller coasters in the background? We definitely recommend this place, especially if you have kids. The service and activities, as well as the pool, were amazing. It was definitely worth it to stay on the club level, as unlimited soft drinks, coffee and tea, breakfast, snacks and early dinner were all included. It was really awesome not to have to worry about parking, and to be able to walk back to the hotel to take a break, then return to the parks for more time in the evening.

Entrance to Harry Potter area of Universal Studio's Islands of Adventure. Love this place!

When you stay on-site you get in 1 hour early to Harry Potter and Express Passes too - basically we never waited more than 15 minutes for anything other than Ollivander's Wand Experience - and that was SO worth it!

Potter fans delight!

Yay for butterbeer - and they have frozen butterbeer too! It was kind of like cream soda with a marshmallow cream topping.

Ducks in the hotel pool - so cute!

Islands Dining Room inside the hotel.


Although we took advantage of the "free" food offered on the club level as much as possible, we did dine at several restaurants including Islands Dining Room in our hotel. The food we had there was good, although just as expensive as expected at a resort restaurant.


Mahi Mahi salad.

Fish & Chips.

Tasty nachos and Grilled Chicken sandwich at Bula Bar & Grill at the pool.

In addition to tasty food and excellent service by the pool (setting up your chair, bringing samples of smoothies) they had fun games for kids every hour on the hour. These included water balloon toss and find the rubber ducky. They also had movies by the pool every evening. We truly had a wonderful time and would recommend any of the Loew's properties at Universal Studios.

One evening we ordered take out from the Orchid Court Sushi Bar. The sushi was much better than I expected - a nice change from the typical American fare served in the club room.

Islands Dining Room on Urbanspoon

Bula Bar & Grill on Urbanspoon

Orchid Court Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brunch at Parish Foods and Goods

Beignets - a nice touch for Parish's Sunday Brunch.

After a full bachelorette weekend back in March I took a couple of my bridesmaids to Parish Foods & Goods for Sunday brunch. We must have been hungry because I neglected to photograph anything other than the complimentary beignets, which were quite tasty. I also had the Shrimp & Grits, a worthy version with a poached egg on top - I love poached eggs. My friends seemed to enjoy their selections as well - French Toast, which I tasted and the American Breakfast. This was my first time eating in the dining room, although I've eaten in the cafe downstairs several times. I definitely enjoyed it and hope to have the chance to return soon.

Parish Foods & Goods on Urbanspoon