5.26.2008

at Home in Atlanta

It was our 10th Anniversary on Friday.

TEN YEARS!?!

That is just so crazy to type.

As we drove to our anniversary weekend destination, Atlanta, we realized that the last time we actually went somewhere to do nothing more than spend time with each other... was our HONEYMOON in Chicago.

So, here we are, ten years later, stealing away to explore a new city. Just the two of us. No gigs involved. No visiting family and friends (although that is fun, too!!!) No one but John and me.

We had a BLAST.

As fans of Top Chef, when we decided on Atlanta, I did a little Googling about Richard Blais, an Atlanta chef competing on the show (and one of my favs... Stephanie and Antonia are my other favs).

Well, that little web search lead to one of the highlights of the weekend: dinner at Richard Blais' new restaurant, Home Restaurant & Bar, just north of Atlanta in Buckhead. It had litterally been open one month to the day that we dined there!

First... as we used my trusty iPhone's mapping feature to guide us to our dining adventure, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the restaurant was actually located in a former "home". It was beautiful, classy and welcoming both inside and out. While the restaurant felt fine dining... it had a very casual atmosphere. Very comfortable.

The menu was just the way we like it... brief and focused. As we read through the menu, John and I could taste all the amazing flavors and textures. It was sooo hard to choose just one thing to try! I wish I'd taken a photo of the menu so you could see / imagine the options before us... and so I could better describe the ingredients!

For starters, John had a creamy onion soup... it sounds so plain and heavy when I type it... but it wasn't AT ALL. It was almost... fluffy. Light. Full of flavor but not overpowering.

I began my meal with Carolina fluke (sashimi style) with crispy chicken skin, sweet relish and aioli mayo. OMG. It was so friggin' perfect in my mouth. The textures, the flavors and the portion... simply perfect.

While we waited for our main course to arrive, biscuits and three little ramekin's with yumminess were brought to our table: sweet butter, pepper jelly and pickled okra. The biscuits were definitely made from scratch... if they weren't, don't tell me. Heh. They were crumbly, flaky... and the butter and jelly put them over the top.

As we ate our biscuits, I looked up to see Richard Blais standing across the room talking with another table. We were stunned... for some reason, we just didn't expect to see him there. Our waitress told us he was really cool and loved meeting people. She asked if we wanted him to come over and say "hi". Again, stunned, we said that would be cool, but not necessary... knowing he probably had tons to do and didn't need another set of people gherming on him! Heh.

To our surprise, a few minutes later, he was walking towards our table. Our waitress had asked him to stop by! He was soooo very nice. Of course, we told him we hoped that he won (since the show's taping is complete, but the final episode has not yet aired, he wasn't allowed to say). We talked about the starters we'd just consumed... told him how amazing they were, of course! (Seriously... that fluke was just a bunch of happiness in my mouth. )

Then, Chef Blais asked where we were from... we told him we lived in Nashville and he relayed a story about visiting a fellow chef who used to work at the Hermitage Hotel here in town... who also hooked his dog up with a room service steak bone while they ate dinner. How cool is that?!

Anyway... Chef Blais was very sincere, down-to-earth and impressive. It was so great to meet someone who was passionate about food... and someone who has the vision and determination to create his dreams. Inspiring.

After five minutes or so, the Chef disappeared into the kitchen. Soon, our main course was placed on our table. It looked soooo good, I forgot to take a photo before we started diving in! So... just know that the presentation was as amazing as the food I'm about to describe... and imagine we haven't already attacked our plates when you look at the pics. Heh.

Four fresh farm vegetable sides were served with our main course: baby carrots, baby potatoes, turnips and brussel sprouts. All were flavorful and cooked just right... cooked enough to be tender and flavorful.

Clocky had the fried chicken with cauliflower mac n' cheese. It was almost sweet crispy and the juices were ohhhh so sealed in. Our waitress said they use vodka to batter the chicken, which helps it with the crispiness. (gonna have to try that!) And, instead of just a milk base, the mac n' cheese was made with pureed cauliflower. It was baked in the oven and had a nice crusty texture on the top. Nummers.

My main dish selection was incredible as well. I had the NY Strip with creamed corn, sweet vidalia onion rings and a whiskey au jus. Seriously... THE best steak I've ever eaten in my life. Perfectly seasoned with an ideal smokey grilled flavor. Tender and juicy. I cut it into teeny bites in an effort to slow down how fast I ate it.

Of course, we could not pass up dessert! We chose the red velvet cake with cream cheese ice cream... and a couple cups of coffee. This turned out to be the only thing that wasn't absolutely perfect. The cake a little dry... BUT paired with the ice cream and coffee... it was still a great way to finish one of the most spectacular meals we've ever eaten.

So... as you may guess... if you're headed to Atlanta, be sure to make reservations at the Home Restaurant & Bar in Buckhead. Go as yourself... no pretense required... and enjoy Chef Blais's twist on southern cooking.

5.24.2008

Mesmerized by the Beluga

My favorite part of the Georgia Aquarium this morning were the Beluga whales within the Cold Water Quest.

We could have watched them for hours. They look so friggin' human... I swear they have a smile on their faces. Nikko, the male of the three in the Aquarium, weighs 1,700 pounds. (For those of us from farm country... that's definitely a bull. Heh.)

The glass for their tank is 13 inches thick and weighs 23 tons.

Why are there no other fish in the tank, you ask? Well... because the Beluga would EAT THEM. heh.

video

Georgia Aquarium

Clocky watching a whale shark in the Ocean Voyager section of the Aquarium in Atlanta. The glass is two feet thick and 61 feet wide. The fish of three different oceans can be found in this tank.

That big, long fish above John's head... that's a whale shark... the largest fish in the world. There are two of them in the tank. The Georgia Aquarium is the only aquarium outside of Asia that houses whale sharks.

Truly spectacular.

5.12.2008

Get a house in Idaho for $100 and a good story

My friend James is trying to sell his house in Idaho so he can move his family and himself to Nashville. (He's an amazing web designer who works remotely for us at Paramore | Redd.)

With the current housing situation, his house is now valued for less than he owes on it... and is having trouble selling it in the depressed market of his community.

So... rather than wait it out, he's gotten pro-actively creative about selling it himself with a $100 House Essay Contest.

For just $100 and an essay about why you should win his house, you've got a chance to get a house for just $100. If he can get around 2,500 entries... he'll make what he needs to make to cover his loan and one lucky person / family will have purchased his home for $100 and a story.

Pretty cool idea, huh?!

He's told his story to all the local media outlets... and I'm sure it is just a matter of time before the networks and NPR pick up on it as well.

Thought you might want to get the jump on it. *wink*

Please feel free to pass along and/or repost.

Thanks!

5.10.2008

Cafe du monde beignets

Just found this on my iPhone...took tia pic right before Mark and I
demolished this plate of beignets during a work trip to New Orleans.
Going back week after next... It will be tough... But we may have to
go to Cafe du Monde for this melt your mouth yumminess again. And...
I will not wear black this time! Heh.

It's gone...

Cause it tasted as amazing as it looks. Sorry... Sucks to be you...
Heh. Maybe we'll invite you over for some next time. *wink*

Perfectly brown...

Clocks's grilled 'za looks amazing.

Clocks rocks the grill

Smoked pizza on the grill made with six Italian cheeses, salami, fresh
mushrooms and pinneapple oh so thinly sliced.

Mmmmmmojito

5.08.2008

Cheers to Robin

So... about three weeks ago I was getting my hair cut. Bill Vandiver, my hair strategist *wink*, and I were talking about how incredible my friend Emily's paintings are... cause they are Emily... (don't argue with me young lady!) and how she'd donated some to help raise funds for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Foundation.

Anyway... the conversation lead to another conversation about an event Bill was hosting as part of his nomination for Man of the Year, "Cheers to Robin". Thinking that contributing a painting was a cool idea (thanks, Em!) I offered to donate a painting to the event.

Then, Bill says, "I want to tell you about Robin... and see if you can visualize something to paint for the Cheers to Robin Benefit I'm hosting next week."

So... he proceeds to tell me about Robin's big personality, her love for cheerleading (she was a Kat's cheerleader), her love for vibrant colors and zest for life. He said she was the kind of person who'd light up a room. Unfortunately, she lost her battler to Lymphoma a few years ago... and her friends want her light and legacy to live on.

Well... this is what I painted to donate to the cause. Not my typical painting... but it was fun to do something different. Hopefully it doesn't come off as irreverent... it is a celebratory martini glass... or... it is a person w/colorful pom poms. Was trying to capture the spirit of "Cheers to Robin" on all levels.
The actual event was amazing... and in true Bill fashion, he made me feel so special. He had prints made of the painting for me to sign and he had prints made to give to all of Robin's friends at the event. And, he hadn't told anyone about the painting until the night of the event. It was so heartwarming to see everyone's faces as we pulled the cover down and presented it.

Bill's got an amazing heart. It was an honor to be able to use my gifts to contribute to such a great cause. He's still in the running for Man of the Year... please help support him in any way you can.