March 31, 2011
Before reading further, there are a couple of things you should know: (1) It is generally the rule-of-thumb in travel writing that only the good is described. If you don't like something, you don't write about it. (2) I am the sort of person who says the thing that no one else will say. So, if you have a booger hanging out of your nose or spinach dangling from your teeth, while everyone else in the room politely averts their eyes, I'll be the one who tells you that you need a Kleenex/dental floss and a bathroom mirror. Some people love that about me, many don't. Dolphin Tales has been highly anticipated--by many folks, including me. Its opening has been delayed several times since November, which just added to the fervor and hype. I watched the show with great expectations and high hopes. I loved the physical space. From any seat in the large auditorium you can see the glass walls of the swim tank, which provides a unique chance to view the dolphins' (and humans') underwater maneuvers before they leap into the air. As they rush and dive they create white trails in the water reminiscent of how airplanes mark the sky. It's hard not to appreciate dolphins' skill and strength, and their perpetually-smiling faces are just so gosh-darn cute it's hard not to love them. There are surprising elements to the pool mechanics, including side fountains, an overhead rain shower, drop-down video screens and colorful lighting. I loved watching the dolphins perform. I'm very glad that the Georgia Aquarium has dolphins now. But honestly, I thought the show could have used more dolphins and less of the off-off-Broadway cheese. I think the dolphins should be the stars, not some you-never-heard-of-him-before singer of not-at-all-catchy tunes tied to a thinly-plotted fictional story that has the potential to scare young children with its dark stormy theme. I am concerned that the show can cause nightmares and that it does not encourage repeat visits--once you've seen it, why suffer again? I hope that particular storyline is just one option and that there is also a more straightforward performance option where you can just see the dolphins doing tricks and learn about the individual animals. I'd pay to see a show with a more relaxed atmosphere and dolphin-oriented script along the lines of something like, "This is Tina and she is particularly skilled at high jumps and swimming upside down. She loves sardines and is best friends with another dolphin named Susie. The two love tandem jumps. Let's see them do it now...." I should note that my husband Dean loved the show and thinks I'm too harsh a critic. But I've talked to some other travel writers who agree with me, though they may never say so in writing.
Bottom Line: Much of the $110 million investment was well-spent, but the overdone and potentially scary theatrical elements of the show get a thumbs-down. Adults with sensitive children are advised to preview the show before taking those youngsters to see it.
March 24, 2011
Rank of agriculture as an economic generator for Georgia:
Rank of tourism as an economic generator for Georgia:
Rank of jams and jellies as a preferred souvenir:
Number of Georgia wineries:
Number of counties in Georgia where grapes are grown or wine made or both:
Tons of grapes produced in Georgia in 2010:
Economic impact of agricultural and nature-based tourism in Georgia:
Number of jobs supported by agricultural tourism:
Amount of state taxes generated by agritourism:
Amount of local taxes generated by agritourism:
Agritourism directly generates wages and benefits of:
Number of Georgia farms:
Average acreage of farms in Georgia:
Acres of Georgia cropland:
Percentage of the nation’s peanuts produced in Georgia:
Rank of Georgia’s pecan production for the U.S.:
Rank of Georgia’s broiler chicken production for the U.S.:
Number of Georgia counties involved in poultry-egg production:
Number of people who enjoy fishing, hunting and wildlife watching opportunities in Georgia:
March 23, 2011
That was all I needed to know to agree to give it a try. I sampled two varieties: cola and ginger root beer.
First off, you should know that I'm a fan of Coca-Cola -- original and caffeine-free, but not Diet Coke. The Zevia cola did not offer much in the way of traditional "cola" flavor, but it didn't have that nasty tin-can taste of Diet Coke. So I'd definitely grab it long before I'd grab a Diet Coke. It was sweet and somewhat reminiscent of Tab on the finish. (It might taste more like Pepsi than Coca-Cola, but I haven't tasted a Pepsi in years. I'm not alone.)
The Ginger Root Beer won me over with the first few sips. It was more complex on both nose and tongue compared to typical root beer and pleasantly sweet-yet-spicy. By the end of the can, however, the stevia taste dominated over other flavors. That issue may be mitigated by sipping slowly, something I'm not apt to do when thirsty.
Zevia is sold at Whole Foods Market, Kroger and many other natural and specialty food stores and grocery stores across the U.S.
Bottom Line: A sweetened drink with less guilt.
March 16, 2011
Unlike the Food Network show where the Chef’s have 45 minutes to ponder their creations prior to the event, the King of the Mountain Chef Challenge keeps the mystery ingredients a secret until the very moment that each heat begins. The chefs then go to work, making notes, grabbing ingredients and equipment, and assembling their menus in their heads. The gas-stove flames jump to life, and the heat is on.
In the first round, Chef Johannes Klapdohr secured his spot in the finals by defeating Chef Jonathan Reid, Executive Chef of Gamekeeper’s Tavern. Chef Johannes created a full five courses around flank steak and other mystery ingredients, each of which amazed the judges with their originality and focus on the distinct flavors—a signature talent of the German-born, field-to-table chef.
In round two, Nick Figel of Cyprus Restaurant successfully defended his 2010 crown against newcomer challenger Chef Mitch Sheppard of Ruka’s Table. Figel created three courses around the pork tenderloin and Brussels sprouts theme that the judges called “exquisite, masterly prepared and a culinary delight.”
That left the two 2010 finalists—Figel and Klapdohr—duking it out over scallops and shiitake mushrooms. Figel pulled out all the stops in his signature showmanship style in an attempt to overcome Chef Klapdohr’s meticulous clean and classic method of what he calls “honest food.” When awarding the crystal Sam’s Cup and the King of the Mountain title to Chef Klapdohr, the judges announced, “Such an exceptional meal in this short a time is an unbelievable culinary achievement of which we have never seen before.”
Event host, co-creator and “Sam’s Cup” Sponsor Matthew Eberz of Sam Call Productions says, “Watching these chefs battle each other and create these stunning dishes was exhilarating. I was amazed at the audience engagement and excitement throughout all rounds of the competition. And, just when you thought the event couldn’t get any better, the talented chefs provided a four-course meal that rocked your taste buds. I’m in awe of the culinary talent that we have on the Highlands-Cashiers Plateau.”
All three culinary competitions were judged by three exceptionally talented and accomplished culinary experts including:
•Ms. Shelley Skiles Sawyer, Managing Food Editor, Flavors Magazine
•Chef Hugh Acheson, owner and Executive Chef 5 & 10 Restaurant and The National in Athens, Georgia, and Empire South in Atlanta
•Chef Daniel Lindley, St. John’s Hospitality Group, Chattanooga, Tennessee.
Janet Poleski, Food Contributor TALK Greenville Magazine, provided color commentary. After the competition the audience enjoyed a four-course meal, each course prepared by a competing chef.
Chef Klapdohr will defend his title at the 2012 King of the Mountain Chef’s Challenge on April 14, 2012 in Highlands North Carolina. One competitor vying for the crown will be James Beard Foundation Award finalist Chef John Fleer of Canyon Kitchen in Lonesome Valley.
--Written by Amanda Sullivan
March 12, 2011
It becomes clear in the entrance alcove--where you're faced with a painting of Jeff Bridges as The Dude in The Big Lebowski and a (surprisingly tasteful) Elvis on velvet painting while your nose is tickled with intoxicating whiffs from the kitchen that start your mouth watering--that this is a place where the food is taken seriously, but the people don't take themselves too seriously.
Located in the former JOËL space, it can be a bit of a challenge to find Local Three unless you're familiar with the location. There are few signs, but if you're armed with a reliable GPS and a keen sense of smell or hearing, getting there is just part of the adventure. If you come alone opt to sit at the end of the bar, which wraps around like a U-turn so you face other patrons and not just the back wall of bottles: Odds are you'll make some friends.
We opted for a rather leisurely tour of the menu, which still showcases Fall ingredients but will soon switch to Spring. The prices are surprisingly affordable, so you can dine here and spend as much or as little as you'd like--assuming, of course, that you can resist temptation. But each delicious bite invites another, so that isn't necessarily easy to do.
Duck fat fried hushpuppies with sambal aioli ($6): Crispy Brussels Sprouts ($3):
Don't think you like Brussels sprouts? Try these. They are so yummy and thus so popular that the restaurant goes through 50 pounds of Brussels sprouts a week!
A sample serving of "Hot Crab on Crab Action," fresh Alaskan King Crab, Charleston She Crab Soup and cream sherry (an entree portion of this special-of-the-day would be $17):
Spicy Crawfish Risotto with andouille sausage and saffron ($12):
Oven roasted mushrooms with creamy polenta and truffle jus ($9):
Braised beef short rib with kimchi ($12):
Spicy Crab Spaghettini with garlic, preserved lemon and pecorino ($20):
Grilled Cervena Venison with black pepper spaetzle, spring Vidalia onion and huckleberry jus ($27):
Chesapeake Bay wild striped bass with honey-roasted turnips, rutabega, escarole, lemon and dates ($21):
Banana crème brulée ($6):
Apple pie ($6):
Bottom Line: A contender for best new restaurant of the year.
My first impression of the place was that it would fit right in on Tybee Island, because it reminded me of a good restaurant there. My friend said it reminds her of neighborhood restaurants in New York City. Either way, it has a relaxed welcoming vibe.
The menu is approachable with sandwiches built of quality ingredients and priced affordably at $4 each.
"They're small," my friend said based on previous experience. "I always get two." Her husband orders three.
I tried the "Lamborghini" made of salami, cappicolla, speck, fontina cheese and salsa verde and "The Hambo" made of roscuitto, mozzarella, arugula apple and reduced balsamic. They came with chips:
Bottom Line: This welcome addition to the Atlanta dining scene serves delicious upscale sandwiches at value prices in a casual setting.
March 6, 2011
A new pub in Dunwoody gives Atlantans a new option.
Firkin is a British term describing a nine-gallon measure usually associated with beer. Inside the front door a helpful wooden plaque offers up that definition and also says that Firkin Pubs were founded in 1987. (The Canadian-based company opened this location just a few weeks ago.)
A gryphon is a winged monster. I guess if you drank a whole Firkin you might see one.
The interior décor style is an amalgam of British, Irish and Scottish pubs, but when dining on a weekday evening at about 6:30 p.m. its vibe is less bar and more family-friendly restaurant with an Applebee's/Bennigan's sensibility. Kids abound. It is Dunwoody.
The staff is friendly and eager to please. The space is clean, bright and comfortable.
The excecutive chef is Chad Guay, who previously worked with Concentrics Restaurants as executive pastry chef and head baker, the Restaurant Associates as executive pastry chef--during which time he was named "Rising Star Pastry Chef of the Year" by StarChefs--and most recently as a sous chef at Wildfire.
The Rueben on marble rye was tasty. It comes with a choice of sides including sweet potato fries, which appeared to be batter-fried but our short-skirted waitress said they weren't:
The cottage pie (often referred to as Shepherd's Pie) was especially delicious. I'd definitely get this again:
Bottom Line: A family-friendly pub-themed restaurant that serves up tasty fare in a casual setting. Give it a try--it just may be the pub you've been looking for.
March 5, 2011
Pleasantly crisp with bright acidity, this dry white wine sniffs and tastes of green apple, lime, lemongrass and a hint of honeydew melon. It's pleasant on its own and pairs well with light meals such as salad, fish, chicken or vegetable stew.
This wine retails for approx. $13.
Bottom Line: Thumbs up.
I was not worried. I had tasted this wine when I met winemaker Russ Jones at his winery in Truckee, which is a beautiful town near Lake Tahoe and home to some very friendly people who I met through work and continue to think of as dear friends. (In short, it's a place you must visit and won't regret you did.)
The wine was very young when I'd tasted it (even though it had been aged in 60% new oak barrels), so I thought could benefit from time in the bottle.
Oh my, was this ever tasty! This wine was a well-balanced blend of jammy fruit, spice and tannins. It had a dreamy long finish.
Sadly, it was our only bottle, but that gives me the only excuse I need to revisit Truckee. Odds are, neither you nor I will track down a bottle of this particular vintage--only 3,600 bottles were produced. But if future vintages are half this good they're worth drinking.
Bottom Line: Thumbs up. Best Pinot we've had in eons.
This wine retails for approx. $13.
Bottom Line: Thumbs up.