national donut day!

recently, phillip and i have been big on celebrating all the national food days, and it would have been a shame if we had gone all day this past friday without celebrating national donut day.  in honor of these delectable, fried dough creations, i’ve decided to highlight some of our favorite donut shops here in the atlanta area.  warning:  this post may cause you to drool.  🙂

since moving to east atlanta late last year, we try to do our best and eat at local restaurants in the area that we cannot find elsewhere.  sure, we could hit up the local dunkin’ for a donut or two, but per suggestion from our eav neighbor lawrence, phillip ventured to happy donuts on friday to snag us a treat.  i was working away on my computer when he returned with a lovely variety that were made even better since it was a buy-one-get-one-free deal for the day.  don’t you just love when that happens?  i promise we did not eat all of these in one sitting, but don’t put it past us!  these donuts are plump and very flavorful.  my favorites include the red velvet, strawberry, boston creme, and maple icing.

another great local spot is the well-known sublime doughnuts.  i could not find a recent picture from our latest visit, but believe me when i say they are one of the favorite spots in town.  if you are in the city, especially on the west side, please go by and stay for a coffee and a donut.  this place will cheer you right on up and also fill you right on up.  🙂

down in fairburn, we love the king’s donuts.  this spot is on the way when we visit phillip’s parents in peachtree city, and if we are in town when they’re open, we almost always make a stop.  again, no pictures because we ate them all before i could snap one, but these donuts are just plain fun.  the other weekend we had one with grape-flavored icing, one with oreo cookie crumbles, and another with frosting and fruity pebbles!  if you’re young at heart or have young ones in your life, i think king’s donuts would be the perfect place to bring them.

last but certainly not least is probably our top spot for donuts:  duck donuts.  duck donuts opened up while we were still living at the condo and was barely a quarter mile from our neighborhood in buckhead.  i stopped in one morning after a workout to see what the buzz was about and became a fan almost instantly.  these made-to-order creations might be smaller than your average donut but are just as worthy of your hard-earned dollars as any of these other establishments.  they have suggested topping/flavor pairings, or you can build your own combination.  we almost always get a beach ball and blueberry pancake and then whatever else tickles our fancy.  they do have seasonal features, so visiting throughout the year is a must!  😀

i most certainly hope you are now craving something sweet, and the best part is you know where you can go to satisfy that craving!  i don’t doubt there are other incredible donut shops in our great state, so please share your personal recommendations.  we just might write about them someday!

national burger day!

last tuesday was national burger day, so after a grueling workout at orangetheory fitness, phillip and i decided it was only right that we join in the celebration.  i pulled up yelp, in search of a burger joint we had not yet tried.  as i scrolled through pages of results, i stumbled upon a burger place that is not only off buford highway (some of atlanta’s best restaurants are off buford highway) but is also inside a chevron gas station!  i asked phillip just how adventurous he was feeling that night, and he kindly obliged my curiosity, especially when i told him this spot has four stars.  so, we pulled out of the lot, drove about ten minutes north, and were ready to give burger baby a chance.

like many of the reviews state, two things are definitely true.  first, you most certainly will miss this place if you are not looking for it.  second, once you do know what you are looking for, things are going to look a little curious.  the signs are a bit beat up and nothing really looks official, but if you can get past that, you’ll find in the left back corner of the store the burger baby counter.  even before we ordered, i immediately knew this adventure and meal would be dedicated to anthony bourdain.  i’m most certain this is the type of place he would want us to try on such an occasion.

as we perused the menus, loads of fresh, delectable “wangs” were being dressed for some customers in front of us.  if i hadn’t come there with the mission of celebrating national burger day, i may have walked out of there with a basket of wings.  guess we’ll just have to come back another time!

it was our turn to order, so we asked the lovely patrice for some help in navigating the menu.  she made a few recommendations, and we ultimately decided on two orders of sliders (four sliders total), one with muenster and the other with swiss, and some french fries.  patrice was kind enough to hook us up with a side cup of parmesan garlic sauce for dipping, a creation she has self-named “patrice’s parm fries.”  spoiler alert – they did not disappoint.

all the burgers and fries are made fresh to order, so while we waited we jammed along to some “wild thoughts” by rihanna along with the lion king on the tv in the background.  doesn’t get much better than that!

along with the sweet tunes, here are other things you need to know about burger baby.  they do accept credit cards, something i mention because sometimes with smaller places that is not the case.  also, there is nowhere to sit and eat here.  there are a couple stools, but those are more for when you’re waiting.  so, definitely plan to eat this in your car (while it’s still hot!) or enjoy it elsewhere.

it wasn’t too long before patrice called out our name for food.  we thanked her for her friendly suggestions and wisher her luck at her birthday dinner later that week.  what can i say?  i can chat it up with just about anyone.  🙂

thumbs up, patrice!

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old fourth distillery

after a yawn or two and some time in the backyard for grace, i begin each weekday morning with a cup of coffee, my computer, and the fun, entertaining fox 5 news team.  they’ve become my regular news crew ever since i started working from home last spring, and it wouldn’t be a good start to my day if they didn’t catch me up on all things weather, traffic, and politics related.

one of my favorite segments is with paul milliken and his drop-ins to interesting attractions around the state.  of the many places i’ve seen paul go, his recent visit to the old fourth distillery caught my attention so that i planned a get-together there myself!  a couple saturdays ago phillip and i met up at the distillery with mercy, kris, tommy, kaley, eric, and claire.  it wasn’t quite tour time (which, by the way, they prefer you reserve online before arriving), so we let the bartender fix us a couple of cocktails.  i enjoyed the refreshing blackberry bramble, phillip and kaley loved the frozen lemonade, and tommy sipped on his gin and tonic.  what better way to begin a distillery tour than with some of their finest spirits?

the top of the hour arrived, and our tour guide wrangled us all together.  one thing to mention about the distillery is that it is quite compact.  the bar area can handle probably 10 people comfortably, and the work space really was probably no more than a thousand square feet.  makes for an intimate setting!

you can take your cocktails with you during the tour and enjoy it between nuggets of distillery education and shots of alcohol.  now, i’ve been to plenty of breweries in my day, and for the most part, once you understand one brew process, you get the general idea.  however, before coming to the distillery, i knew nothing about these processes.  i was incredibly intrigued as i learned about how this distillery came to be, what types of ingredients you can use, and what different boiling points mean to it all.  by the end of our hour together, we were experts on heads, hearts, and tails and what makes all these spirits so tasty and special.

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i personally enjoyed the gin the most, likely because it didn’t have as much potency as the vodka and was infused with tons of different spices and herbs.  the lawn dart was one of the crowd favorites, and mercy enjoyed the bourbon so much that she took a bottle home with her.  when its been aged for such a while and when the next batch won’t be available until the fall, she figured it was a pretty excellent souvenir.  i agree!

mercy and phillip loved the frozen lemonade, especially with a bourbon floater!

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presidential chicken

as you all know, i’m almost always up for trying a new recipe, and a few weeks ago was one of those nights.  my inspiration was from my dear friend jamie and his fiance caleb.  they have been dabbling in the podcast world and have multiple times mentioned the famous presidential chicken recipe from michigan state university, which is where jamie attended college.  after hearing them describe it as chicken with puff pastry, sour cream, and cream cheese, i demanded a copy of the recipe so that i could try it myself.

so, being the obliging podcast hosts they are, they sent me a link and off i went to kroger to get everything we would need.  as i took over the kitchen with pots and pans and knives and cutting boards, phillip walked in and asked, “what are you making?”

“presidential chicken!” i replied, as if he should have known all along.

he politely said “okay” and left me to my work.

making the stuffing was no big deal, but trying to get the puff pastry looking all nice and on purpose was not as successful.  i may have even ended up with some precious little mini pouches, over there, on the right…oh well!

while these bad boys baked away in the oven, i got to start on the sauce.  now, as i started on the sauce, i found myself confused.  my sauce was not thickening up at all and, with a taste here and there, was quite bland to me.  i double-checked the directions and was doing everything right, but perhaps there’s an msu trick to getting it to thicken properly.  i’ll just have to let one of you show me how it’s done!

eventually the puffs were baked to near-golden perfection.  ah, who doesn’t love a nicely browned, flaky pastry crust?

i plated the chicken up with some broccoli and a little bit of the sauce, but honestly, my sauce wasn’t even necessary (and promptly wound up going down the drain).  those heavenly pouches can stand on their own with piping hot chicken and a creamy, rich sour cream and cream cheese mixture.  this dish is easily one i can see us enjoying time and time again.  🙂

so, if you enjoyed this post, there are two things you need to do:

  1. go get the recipe and enjoy this dish yourself
  2. go listen to jamie and caleb’s podcast

for both, you’ll thank me later.

montana – day 4

hello, kelseyv.com blog followers!  phillip back here as a guest blogger with my dear wife, fellow companion, and my “amazingly uncommon” gal.  i am here to wrap things up from our big sky, montana trip and discuss the events and festivities we did during our last day on the slopes.  or, should i say off the slopes?  😊

kelsey and i decided, by nature of our bodies being sore and to save a penny or two on lift tickets, to take things a slope and a step back and enjoy our final day resting and relaxing (R&R’ing) around the resort.  we started off by sleeping in the cabin and ate the remaining breakfast that was prepared by some of our new friends that we met through kelsey’s work colleague, ben atkinson.  we ate scrambled eggs, toasted bagels with peanut butter, and one of our most important breakfast staples: bacon!  since the group still had loads of groceries in the cabin, they decided to exhaust the remaining breakfast items, including the massive box of bacon, so there was a lot to go around even after they left the cabin to go hit the slopes and snowmobiles for the day.  of course, being the meat aficionado i am, i was thoroughly impressed and excited to bring home the bacon by consuming roughly 8 slices!  i would probably guess that about half of those slices were consumed behind kelsey’s back, but hey, a man’s got to eat protein to keep energy and momentum for the relaxing day we were about to face together.

shortly after we ate our lovely breakfast, we sat down at the dining room table with our new friend, Ash.  Ash was studying on her laptop and catching up on personal emails while kelsey and i were reviewing our gopro footage we took during days 2 and 3.  everyone else either went to hit the slopes or took their day on a snowmobile excursion at yellowstone national park.

for kelsey and me, we decided to hit up one of big sky’s restaurants, the cabin bar & grill, and try out one of their popular entrée items, the elk/bison burger.  it was recommended from Jeanie, one of the employees from big sky’s ski and rental shop.  kelsey ordered her burger with blue cheese, and i ordered mine with swiss, and we both had fries, of course!  we must say that the burger was not as good as we expected it to be.  i think i enjoyed it more than kelsey; i thought it tasted like a pretty standard burger, but kelsey’s reaction was that the burger seemed to taste bland and dry.  we did, however, enjoy the beautiful scenery on the restaurant’s 2nd floor since it looked out at big sky’s iconic heated 8-seater chairlift, the ramcharger 8.

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after lunchtime, we went back to the cabin and relaxed for the remainder of the day.  everyone who went skiing came back around dinner time, so we all decided to go down to another big sky restaurant, M.R. Hummers.  those who went to yellowstone came back much later around 9pm or so.  kelsey and i went to Hummers to meet with Mohit, a friend and old coworker of kelsey’s.  he happened to be skiing at big sky for the week, and kelsey and mohit found out that same day that they were within walking distance from some of the most beautiful and biggest skiing that i’ve ever seen.  kelsey and i split a Hummers cheese waffle fries that were loaded with bacon, queso bravo, and scallions.  they were incredibly good, and i think that kelsey enjoyed them, too.

after catching up with mohit and team (yes, i say “and team” a lot since i work in HR), we walked back to the cabin with our crew and played werewolf again all throughout the night (puns intended here; werewolves could be howling during the night).  some folks had to leave the cabin around 3am since they had flights around six or so.  we went to bed and departed on a snowy “drive and fly” back to the warmer climate of atlanta a few hours later.

overall, the big sky trip was a “big” hit for us.  we enjoyed catching up with ben and some of his closest friends from work, school, and other walks of his life.  the crew was friendly, and the weather was perfect.  we’ll be back to big sky to ski down some more greens and possibly some blue slopes once we continue to become masters of the ski wedge.  😊

montana – day 3

with a whole first day of newly found confidence, we woke up saturday morning ready to take on the day.  i mean, i could just feel it was going to be a good day because it was loads easier to put on my boots.  🙂  once i got the rest of my gear all situated, the group decided to start things off together at the white otter lift since it was within skiing/snowboarding distance of the cabin.  in theory it sounded like a great idea, because this lift would take us up to a run that would get us to base a lot quicker than trekking through the snow.  plus, the crew felt i was ready for the white wing run, and i didn’t want to disappoint.

long story short, here is how things went on the white otter lift and white wing run.  i got onto the lift all by myself no problem.  i enjoyed the scenic and quiet ride up the lift.  i completely ate it when i got off the lift, one ski popping off but my energy still intact.  i watched as the crew, one by one, shooped down the very steep entrance from the lift onto the run.  i also observed, with much trepidation, as phillip made his way down as well, slowly but surely.  i took a big gulp of “i have to get down some way” reality, mustered all the spirit i could, and launched myself down the hill.  i’m not quite sure what happened, but the result was a quintessential wipeout right in the middle of the run.  the struggle was real one attempt after another as i tried to get my ski back on and get myself out of the way.  eventually i righted things and after a few more confidence-crushing falls, i shuffled my way to the finish line.  when i finally found phillip, all i could say was, “well, that is the least amount of fun i have had this entire time.”

there was good news out of this, though:  that i recognized what my abilities were and were not and, as such, spent the rest of the day back at bear basin.  phillip was a patient and positive cheerleader throughout the windy afternoon as i worked on weaving and faster turning and getting all the fresh mountain air that i could.

ultimately my goal for the second day of skiing was to end on a high note, and i think these pictures are evidence of just that.  🙂

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montana – day 2

after an extremely restful sleep thursday night, we were awakened by the wafts of something delicious coming from the kitchen.  steve had whipped up a good ‘ole american breakfast for the crew, complete with eggs, bagels, fruit, and, of course, bacon.  what a delightful surprise!  i couldn’t think of a better way to start the day before hitting the slopes.  oh, wait.  yes, i could.  setting the theme song for the day!  while we were enjoying breakfast, for whatever reason people couldn’t stop singing “africa” by toto, and just like that, it was the song of the day.

everyone cleared and cleaned their dishes and then piled into the cars to drive over to base.  before we could go shredding anywhere, we first needed to pick up our passes.  ben led the group right over to the lodge and stuck us in line to wait with everyone else.  i felt quite out of place without all my gear on yet but did my best to look the part and act like i knew what i was doing.  i knew it wouldn’t be long before we were ready to go, so we patiently waited our turn as we took in the surroundings.

first of all, it amazed me how much energy there already was in the crowd.  it was my impression that the typical person coming to big sky knows the skiing and snowboarding ropes pretty well, and these people were ready to get on those lifts and tear up the mountain.  the energy was infectious, and i found that i was eager to get into my boots and find my way to the bunny slopes.

it wasn’t long before phillip was strapping my lift pass to my pants and we shuffled aside to get all suited up.  i already had on my base layers, pants, and jacket, so the next order of business was the boots.  the nice folks at lone mountain sports had given me a quick tutorial the day before on putting on boots, so i slipped off my sneakers and grabbed the left boot.  for about a solid 30 seconds, i sat there struggling, unable to bend my ankle at all and get my foot all the way forward.  i glanced around to see if anyone else was in a similar predicament.  nope, only me.  i grunted and tugged and pushed but could not get that thing on.  i finally decided i was wise enough to realize i needed help, so i hollered at ben to assist.  i was quite grateful when he told me that ski boots can be tricky to get on and that he would be more than willing to help out.  with a little more wiggling and pulling, boom!  the left boot was on!  i felt like a champion already!  with some new-found confidence, i tackled getting on the right boot all by myself.  it may have taken me a few minutes, but soon enough both boots were on and i was more ready to go than ever!

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montana – day 1

a few months ago my friend and former coworker ben texted me, asking, “do you and phillip ski?”  i replied that phillip did when he was younger and living in michigan but that i never had.  that didn’t stress ben, who promptly invited us to join him and some friends on a ski trip to big sky, montana.  i approached phillip about the opportunity, not certain what he’d think, but the minute i explained it to him, he didn’t hesitate and said, “absolutely!”  pleasantly surprised by his quick decision, i told ben to count us in, and that is how we found ourselves on an early delta flight westward.

with no direct flights to montana (or at least to where we needed to be), our first leg of the trip was a smooth two hour flight up to minneapolis.  phillip slept and i did a little reading and writing and in no time we were deplaning for a brief layover.  if you’ve never had the pleasure of visiting the minneapolis-st. paul airport, i’d highly recommend it.  the airport was clean and spacious and fitted with nice shops and eateries everywhere.  even though we weren’t there for long, it was all-in-all a pleasant stop to make.

soon enough we were boarding our next plane, which took us to bozeman, montana, one stop closer to our final destination.  the airport definitely had the lodge vibe going for it, and everyone we encountered was just as nice as could be.  we didn’t have much time to mosey around, though, because the caravan of folks coming from butte was outside and ready for us.  we grabbed our suitcase from baggage claim, hustled into the cold, waved down our friends, and loaded on up.  phillip and i piled into an suv and met steve and fernando, friends and current coworkers of ben’s.

before making the drive down to big sky, we stopped for a little grocery shopping at the local albertson’s.  our digs for the weekend would be a big cabin right next to the resort, so we stocked up on breakfast food and coffee and snacks and, of course, some adult beverages.  it wouldn’t be much of a ski trip without a little fireside drinking, now would it?  oh, and i should mention the chips.  all the chips were ours!

three buggies later, we packed the cars a little fuller still and stopped for a quick bite at good ‘ole burger king.  over french fries and nuggets and whoppers the size of your head, more introductions were made and we met ashima and chris and james.  once all bellies were full and satisfied, we hit the road to big sky.  the drive wasn’t too long and was pleasant as the montana landscape revealed itself to us mile by mile.  i’ve never been surrounded by this kind of scenery and was quite taken with the mountain skyline and sturdy evergeens blanketed with soft white snow.  it was definitely quite a sight.

the views only became better as we pulled off of moose ridge road and into the driveway of our rental cabin.  ben did an excellent job finding this spot for us, and we all dropped our bags inside as we explored the main living space with its well-equipped kitchen, cozy leather furniture, and humongous wall of windows.  i mean, this shot isn’t too shabby, is it?

you’re so gorgeous.

we all picked our rooms and then took the cars into the resort to get all geared up by the kind folks at lone mountain sports.  employees steve and shelby assisted us in getting the right size boots, skis, poles, and helmets for our skiing experience, and before you know it, we were at least totally looking the part.  if you look good, you feel good, right?  i’m gonna go with yes.  🙂

with a long day of travel behind us all and our equipment all ready to go for the next day, the only thing left to do on day one was relax back at the cabin.  eventually curtis and kara arrived, and we cracked open beers, poured the wine, put on our bathings suits, and got the party started in the hot tub, complete with music and jets and light effects!  if this was any indication of how the rest of the trip would be, a great weekend was surely in store.

emerald city bagels

one day in the not so recent past, i had been craving a good bagel.  now, when we lived in buckhead, there were plenty of places around where we could go (and did go) for bagels.  however, we all know that feeling when the same old is the same old and we want to try something new.  as such i searched the internet far and wide for bagels in atlanta and emerald city bagels caught my eye most.  and what do you know?  it’s a pleasant twenty minute walk from our house in east atlanta!

phillip excited about his post-otf bagel.

this darling mother-daughter bagel shop is a charming combination of big city atmosphere and just the right amount of whimsy.  it isn’t too fussy, keeping the focus on what’s most important – those delicious bagels!

without a big line of customers behind us, we walked up to the counter and informed the cashier justin that it was our first time at emerald city and we wanted some recommendations.  thankfully he was also in a chipper mood, so he gladly took some time to give us the lay of the land and also make some personal suggestions.  we didn’t waste any time ordering two coffees, a rosemary sea salt bagel with fig cream cheese, and an everything bagel sandwich with egg, cheese, and pork roll.  yes, go ahead and be jealous.  🙂  with our hot coffees and toasty bagels, we grabbed a couple of seats at the counter inside and got to work.

we’ll start with phillip’s bagel breakfast sandwich with its perfectly cooked egg that oozed out just the right amount.  each bite was super savory between the rich egg and cheese and salty bagel and pork roll.  before i knew it, phillip had scarfed down almost the whole thing!  i somehow snuck a bite of it before it was entirely devoured.

it was time to try the rosemary sea salt bagel with fig cream cheese.  oh.  my.  word.  first, let’s drool for a moment about this incredible cream cheese to bagel ratio.  i mean, i’m definitely on team the-more-cream-cheese-the-better, and this place does it up right.  next, let’s talk about taste.  the fig cream cheese was incredible!  and this is coming from someone who actually likes figs.  they weren’t too much or too little; they were just right.  as for the bagel itself, it was a touch too salty for me and not enough rosemary at all.  don’t get me wrong, i still ate that bagel like it was the last bagel i would ever eat, but if i hadn’t known, i’d think it was just a sea salt bagel with all the big salt flakes everywhere.

likely to no one’s surprise, phillip and i have been back to emerald city bagels each weekend since moving to east atlanta.  and, to ensure we deliver the most to our loyal readers, here’s a list of all the bagel-spread combinations we have enjoyed so far and our ranking of each.

phillip’s rankings:

  1. inverted grilled cheese on rosemary sea salt
  2. everything bagel with egg, cheese, and pork roll
  3. rosemary sea salt bagel with toasted almond and fig cream cheese
  4. plain bagel with garlic herb cream cheese
  5. garlic bagel with plain whipped cream cheese
  6. sea salt olive oil bagel with veggie cream cheese
  7. cinnamon sugar bagel with peanut butter

kelsey’s rankings:

  1. rosemary sea salt bagel with toasted almond and fig cream cheese
  2. inverted grilled cheese on rosemary sea salt
  3. everything bagel with egg, cheese, and pork roll
  4. plain bagel with garlic herb cream cheese
  5. cinnamon sugar bagel with peanut butter
  6. sea salt olive oil bagel with veggie cream cheese
  7. garlic bagel with plain whipped cream cheese

so, if you’re ever in the mood for a killer bagel and some decent company, make the trek south of i-20 and phillip and i will drop whatever we are doing and meet you at emerald city.  after all, there’s a whole world of bagel-spread pairings we have yet to try, and we’d love to try them with you!

kyle and black eyed peas

like most folks, black eyed peas are a staple in our family around the new year.  i mean, if eating some of them will bring us good luck, then what do we have to lose?  this year i made my mom’s famous black eyed pea dip for phillip and me, and my brother kyle decided he needed some for his household as well.  he was following the recipe i posted a few years ago and recorded and shared his very own black eyed pea making experience for us all to enjoy.  i love this post because in it kyle sounds so much like our father milo; a fact that simply cannot be denied.  like father like son!  😀

“When preparing the Italian dressing mix, you notice the directions call for vinegar, but they don’t specify the type of vinegar.  Call Kelsey to get her recommendation, which is white vinegar.  Pray you have white vinegar in your pantry; prayer answered.

When preparing the Italian dressing mix, you notice the directions call for oil, but they don’t specify the type of oil.  Call Kelsey, again, to get her recommendation, which is vegetable oil.  Pray you have vegetable oil in your pantry; prayer answered.  Good Seasons company, please make the font on your packaging a little smaller and include these details!

Spend about 2 seconds opening the jar of pimentos.  I suppose the packaging company decided that whole zombie apocalypse was much ado about nothing.

Do the choppin’ and transfer all the ingredients using the new bench scraper your mom got you for Christmas.  Thanks, Mom!

Stand back and admire all the work you’ve put in.  Make sure to sample but resist the urge to eat the entire bowl in one sitting.  You need to share with family and friends when the clock strikes midnight!”