bye, buckhead

well, folks, the time came for phillip and i to sell the condo in buckhead and look forward to new adventures elsewhere.  you might wonder why now?  the most simple reason is that we just need more space.  now that i work from home and that we have grace, it’s time to spread out a bit.  we need a yard so that she can really be a dog.  we need a proper office for even better work.  did i mention we’d also like a slightly bigger kitchen and maybe a garage?  yeah, all those adult things.  🙂

our home hunt really has just begun, so stay tuned for details on our very own version of house hunters.  and i promise to not complain about the colors of the walls because, as we all know, you can paint them whatever you want!

saying goodbye to the condo wasn’t as emotional for me as i expected, which was interesting.  i mean, i lived a lot of my early adult life in those four little walls.  from bachelorette-hood to clark living with me to phillip moving in and getting married – wooh!  maybe it’s a good thing walls can’t talk. 😉  but really, i did think i’d be more choked up at the closing.  i mean, how will i survive without the location and restaurants and neighbors and purple walls?!

i really think that because everything happened so quickly i didn’t have much of a chance to slow down and process.  barely a month passed between staging, listing, and closing, so most of our downtime was spent buying boxes and taping boxes and packing boxes and then taping them again!  you get the picture.  and even after the closing and us moving to our adorable rental in east atlanta village (thank you, matt, for saving us) i thought i’d be a wreck, but i don’t think i have been.  all the things in the condo are now in our rental, and it honestly feels just like home.  and i think deep down i just knew we had outgrown the condo and are ready for the next step.  yes, there were many good memories made in buckhead, but we are looking forward to exploring the village for as long as we are here.  so, if you ever find yourself south of 20, give us a ring and come on over!  we have a spacious kitchen and open floor plan ready for entertaining.  😀

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

flower child – atlanta, ga

last weekend tori was in town for some baby andrich festivities, and if anyone knows our family, they love going out to their favorite atlanta restaurants when in town.  don’t get me wrong:  birmingham has a buzzing food scene that is making waves these days, but we all have those must-have or must-try spots when we go to a new city or visit a familiar one.

well, last sunday we decided to take her to flower child, a new restaurant around lenox.  i’d noticed it when we were eating at another restaurant near there last month, and after taking a look at the menu online, i knew it would be the perfect spot for a delicious lunch on a hot summer afternoon.

we arrived right at noon on a sunday, hoping to beat the out-pouring of church crowds.  however, it seems that everyone else in buckhead had the same idea.  our wait wasn’t too long, thank goodness, but the restaurant was already full of folks and looked like it had been busy since open.  flower child is a “fast-casual” restaurant, where you order at the register and they bring your food to you.  don’t worry, though, with a long line you’ll have plenty of time to decide on what to eat.  plus, they had infused water available to help keep you hydrated in that lovely august heat.

to no one’s surprise, we all had trouble deciding what to have, as nearly everything on the menu made our mouths water!  we eventually made our selections, paid, and found a table right next to their charming and colorful “choose happy” wall.  if that doesn’t make you smile, i don’t know what will!

already excited about this new restaurant experience, our minds were blown when the bowls and plates started to arrive.  i’m not going to go through each dish one-by-one (mainly because all you need to know is that everyone loved what they ordered), so what i will say is that everyone was in the clean plate club that afternoon.  i kid you not when i say not a single morsel remained!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

can you find me back at flower child again?  most certainly!  and most likely after a sweaty soulcycle class.  further, do i recommend you yourself try flower child?  absolutely!  i already mentioned it to my friend marty and insisted he invite us when he wants to go.  🙂  if you are looking for fresh, fun fare that gets you excited to put aside your typical greasy meal out, please do yourself a favor and try flower child.  and tell me when you go.  cause imma wanna be there.

nrw – the imperial

earlier this month we finally got around to resurrecting nrw after a brief hiatus and kicked things back off at the imperial in decatur.  eric, claire, kari, phillip, and i met up at this local spot after being inspired by good day atlanta’s coverage of the restaurant during atlanta burger week.  buck langford was lucky enough to get to meet with owner aj and try the winning mac attack burger live on camera, and it was then i knew we just had to be there.

the imperial is located in what appears to be a somewhat tucked away and quiet part of town, but when we actually got to the restaurant, it was quite alive with customers of all kinds, from families with kiddos and dogs to singles enjoying half-priced bottles of wine to friends just catching up over good food.  it really feels like a “come as you are” place.

our group was seated just inside the main entrance, which gave us a great view of each other and our surroundings.  the imperial is nice and open both inside and out on its patio.  the bar is well-stocked and would be a perfect place to belly-up for a beer, some eats, and tv watching.

after being served a few pints of local drafts, the poutine eric and claire ordered for the table arrived.  now, i don’t know about you, but i’ve never in my life heard of poutine, and to the ears it first sounds like maybe a fancy french dish, right?  wrong, lol!  no joke, i looked up what poutine is and the definition i found was “a dish of french fries topped with cheese curds and gravy.”  not so fancy after all!  😀  however, a dish doesn’t have to be fancy to be delicious, and that could not have been more true of the imperial’s take on this dish.  their poutine actually has pimento cheese in place of cheese curds because, you know, in the south pimento cheese is quite the staple.  and our order of poutine was even more delectable because we opted to add the diced up bacon because if you’re going to be bad, why not go all the way?

POUTINE.

in fact, eric and claire were so happy with the poutine that they ranked it first out of everything they ate that night!  in their words it was simply “AMAZING.”

claire & eric.

we hungry kids scarfed up that poutine in no time, leaving some room for our actual dinners.  making the rounds, we’ll start with kari who ordered the plain burger and topped it with cheddar cheese and bacon.  as far as a basic burger goes, she said it was very good and a “SOLID” choice for those of you who prefer to build your own burger.  all in all, she enjoyed a great meal that night.

Continue reading

nam phuong – atlanta, ga

earlier in august i had picked up the local periodical creative loafing and was flipping through the pages when i came upon a story that highlighted and reviewed the best 12 wing joints in atlanta.  coined “the ultimate wing smackdown“, writers and contributors took recommendations from creative loafing loyalists to taste, savor, and ultimately decide which restaurant in the city boasts the best chicken wings.  with five criteria (including flavor, exterior texture, interior texture, value, and overall appearance) by which to evaluate, the judges trekked far and wide to, in the end, crown nam phuong the chicken wing king.

in a mostly unassuming building off buford highway, nam phuong is a spacious sit-down restaurant that, on the tuesday night we went, was quite busy with a very diverse crowd.  now, before i go on to review these chicken wings, let me say this:  buford highway is like the yellow brick road of authentic food in atlanta.  with restaurants that span cuisines from all over the world, the real foodies in this city know that la buford is the place to be, and nam phuong is a perfect fit for this reputable strip.

our group of seven was quickly seated and our water glasses were brought soon thereafter.  as i flipped among the menu’s pages, my eyes wandered around the tables near us, interested to see what other diners had ordered.  big, white ceramic bowls with steam rising out of them were most of what i saw, and even though a big helping of pho sounded tasty, i knew i would have to make a return trip for that.  this visit was for chicken wings and chicken wings only!  at least as far as i was concerned.

matt, anthony, janine, grant, eric, and claire all opted for the pho, which came out quickly and piping hot.  on a cold winter’s day, i could easily picture myself coming back here for a savory bowl of that stuff, but i waited patiently as my wings took a little longer to come out.  i took that as a good sign, hoping it meant they were being cooked to order.  🙂

thankfully i was able to keep my drooling under control once the waiter served me.  the wings were hot and covered in some kind of delicious fish sauce, and alongside was a heap of white rice and some sliced vegetables.  for about nine bucks, it looked like this “appetizer” was going to be more than enough to fill me up!

as the rest of the group happily slurped up spoonfuls of noodles and chicken and broth, i got down and dirty with my wings.  the wings were cooked in such a way that the skin was crispy but also a little tacky with the sauce that had obviously been brushed on at the right moment in the grilling process.  the sauce itself was sweet but also had a little zing at the end of each bite, so it was good i had the rice to help offset the spice.  the chicken itself was very juicy and not dry at all, and i greedily ate every single one of them!

if you’re a wing lover in any regard, i highly recommend you swing by nam phuong to give their wings a try.  this dish is a great value for what you get, the service is fast and friendly, and supporting a local joint just makes you feel good!  so, if you’ve got a hankering for something familiar but also something new, then this place is the spot for you.

peachtree road race 2016

(From Milo) It is an honor and privilege to write this blog/story about the 2016 Peachtree Road Race (PRR).

I’ll start at the end, then go to the beginning:  THE PEACTHREE ROAD RACE WAS A COMPLETE HOME RUN!

The Backstory.

In 2015 I was in Atlanta to watch Kyle, Kelsey, and Clark participate in the PRR.  I had never  been to or seen a 10k event.  WOW!  I was happy to be there for Kyle, Kelsey, and Clark and was amazed to see thousands of others run/walk down Peachtree Street in Atlanta.  Seeing folks my age and older running/walking got me to thinking.  Heck, if they could do this maybe I could also.

The Decision.

Shortly after the first of the year, I got to thinking and decided that I would participate in the 2016 PRR.  I told the kids and decided to start my “training.”  I was lucky; there is another member of my local YMCA who is a fitness junkie.  I told him about my decision and asked if he would help “coach” and prepare me.  Two big points here.  First, he told me to buy a new pair of “running” shoes; apparently my $12.00 Walmart special was not the proper footwear.  As my kids know, I tend to be on the thrifty side, but I went to my local sporting goods store and found a pair of running shoes that were on sale.  Second, my “coach” told me to get off of the elliptical machine I was using and told me to start on the treadmill.  I did.  OUCH.  The treadmill is a much, much different machine, using different and more muscles, so on and so forth.  The “coach” told me to put the treadmill setting on 15 (this is the steepest incline) and just start working.  I did.

2016 PRR.

Ah, the big event was finally here!

I drove from Birmingham to Atlanta the day before the PRR.  I was completed psyched!  The night before the PRR, Kari’s family hosted a group for dinner.  The dinner was terrific.  We had a private room where the food was served family-style.  Kari’s nephew and nieces were there, and we even created a brand new event, the Stark Family Green Bean Eating Contest!  Austin, Aubrey, and Kaley did a great job eating the green beans with their hands.  I’d say the event finished in a tie.  Next year I hope there will be the Stark Family Green Bean Eating Contest round #2, and we’ll get Elle and Evie in on the fun.  Stay tuned!

Maxx Gruber.  As you probably know, Kelsey’s boyfriend Phillip is a very, very talented piano player and singer.  I gave him his stage name of Maxx Gruber.  Sound of Music fans can probably figure out how I came up with this stage name.  Anyway!  Through divine intervention, a piano appeared in the private room that we had at the restaurant.  With a thunderous round of applause, Maxx Gruber, direct from his recent appearance at the Hilton in Barcelona, agreed to played a few songs.  Maxx was fabulous!  Kari’s sister-in-law Sara, with the support of several glasses of wine, joined Maxx for a few songs.  All the kids made appearances to join Maxx also.

Race Day.  I was out of my mind that race day was here.  Kelsey, Maxx, and I got up to enjoy a European-style breakfast (half an English muffin and half a banana).  We then made our way to the start of the PRR.  Cue the dramatic music!  We made our way to the start of our wave, a large group of people with approximately the same running/walking speed and skill.  Thousands and thousands of people!  People in front of us, people behind us, huge American flag.  The energy, enthusiasm, and anticipation were terrific!

Closer and closer we were approaching the start line.  I was already sweating but who cared.  Closer and closer.  The next thing I know we had crossed the starting line and were “in” the PRR.  Good news/bad news.  My training had all been uphill, and the actual PRR course is mostly downhill.  My knees and my ankles were not prepared for that, but I didn’t care!  Kelsey, Maxx, and I were in the PRR.  I then noticed many good things.  We were passing people!  We were passing people younger than me!  FYI, I was sweating even more now.  The participants and crowd along the PRR route were shouting and supporting us.  I responded by shouting out many of my classic 100+ phrases, sayings, etc…  We passed a Catholic church on the route where a priest was tossing “holy water.”  I said to him, “Come on Padre, hit me with the water!”  Such inspiration!

Luckily the temperature was warm but not oppressively hot.  A cooling, gentle breeze was also present.  Maxx surely brought this breeze with him from Barcelona.  Good for me, about 50% of the PRR course was in the shade.  While still sweating, these factors worked to our benefit.  A short time later, we were crossing the finish line.  I MADE IT!  I MADE IT!  I MADE IT!  I did the PRR.  Sharing the course with Kelsey and Maxx was great.  The other runners/walkers made it great.  The crowd supporting us throughout the course was great.

20160704_105339

The after-race.  I’m thinking that I set the PRR record for “ounces sweated off.”  Yeah.  I had a terrific time.  My knees and ankles were screaming for mercy, but it was all worth it.  Would I do the PRR again?  YES!

Suggestion.  if you live in or near Atlanta, you need to do the PRR.  If you have family/friends in or neat Atlanta, do the PRR as a group.  Encourage your parents to be involved – it was great.  If I can make it, anyone can!!!

A special note of thanks to Kyle, Kelsey, Kari, and Maxx for putting up with my witty banter, my sense of humor, etc…

Idea.  For 2017, maybe we could have a group of Kelsey’s blog friends join and run/walk as an entire group.  A brand “new audience!”

sublime doughnuts – atlanta, ga

so, i’ve got a mound of vacation days to use before the new year rolls around, so i recently took a week day off from work to let the computer and myself kick back and relax.  i thoroughly enjoy taking time off during the week in my town because it gives me a chance to explore and do things that don’t fit into my weekend schedule.

on the slate that day was a visit to my sister-in-law’s office, a hydra facial at phillip’s mom’s office, and then lunch with my man.  despite the strong desire to sleep in, i got my morning started so as not to waste the day.

with a little time to kill before meeting up with kari, a brilliant idea hit me like a ton of bricks:  get a quick bite at sublime doughnuts!  my dad had seriously told me about this place years ago, and my first visit was long overdue.  google maps directed me to 10th and hemphill, and after a few missed turns, i found a parking spot just for the kessie girl.

i had no idea what to expect but was delightfully surprised as i entered.  i think the word to describe it all would be happy.  the upholstered chairs and cheery colors are quite welcoming, and the staff reflected the atmosphere.  the ladies at the counter were helpful and pleasant and ready to answer my many questions.  they gave me the quick run-down of the selection, especially those that would travel well (i was going to birmingham that night with phillip to visit my parents and planned to bring a few back for them).  i picked out half a dozen with their help and showed myself to a table.

in a spot across from me was an employee who i assumed had to be the manager.  we chatted for a few minutes before he hopped up to help with the growing line of loyal (and maybe new) patrons.  if i’d had a bit more time to spare, i surely would have talked off his ear.  i don’t at all doubt he would have been fun to interview.  next time!

with a sweet tooth like mine, i knew something chocolate-y was in order, so i bit into one of the a-town creams.  every bite of this doughnut was perfectly balanced, from the flavorful dough to the subtle chocolate to the rich and decadent cream filling.  despite how i’m describing it, you should know that it isn’t at all too sweet.

i easily could have had another, but i refrained.  i didn’t want these strangers thinking i was a total junk food addict.  speaking of junk food, did you ever read the berenstain bears as a child?  i vividly remember the one titled junk food, the words in big, bulbous purple letters on the yellow cover as papa bear, brother bear, and sister bear gorged themselves on candies and chips.  oh, and we cannot forget mama bear, looking on in disdain and disgust.  does it mean something that i so clearly recall this specific adventure of the bear family?  probably so, but until those subconscious realizations surface, i’ll obliviously carry on in life.  join me, won’t you?

bear family

as i headed out, i thanked the manager kindly for the exceptional service and delectable treats.  “you’ve made the start of my day a great one,” i said.

“well,” he replied, “it’s all about spreading the doughnut love.”

nicely put!

the next day in birmingham we had the rest of the half dozen for breakfast.  mm, nutritious!  mom and dad loved the caramel apple fritter.  i had a nibble of the orange dream star that was utterly divine, and phillip practically was doing backflips after enjoying the reese’s peanut butter cup doughnut.

IMG_20151015_082747

all in all, i’m extremely glad i finally made a visit to sublime doughnuts.  the place and its staff are so genuine that you’ll have a hard time walking out of there without a smile on your face.  🙂

IMG_20151015_082608

the silver skillet – atlanta, ga

our dad came in town recently for a weekend getaway, and considering i hadn’t seen him since a hometown visit back in march, i was thrilled for the opportunity to have some quality family time.

we were nearly all together while he was here:  kyle, kari, phillip, and i spent those two days hosting dad at some atlanta classics like el taco veloz and the buford market.  when sunday morning arrived, we piled in the cars and made our way to the silver skillet.  dad had heard about this local institution about a year ago on the food network, and considering it had been featured in movies and tv shows like remember the titans and traveling man, he just had to go and see it for himself.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Continue reading

smokebelly bbq – atlanta, ga

IMG_1727

last weekend was relaxing and beautiful down here in georgia, and i spent as much time of that perfect spring saturday outside as i could.  phillip came over to the condo where i was happily chatting with my neighbors chris and suzy and their sweet little pup shorty.  the trees in our courtyard were providing the perfect amount of shade, and the slight breeze kept us cool.  we cracked open some bud lights and caught up on the latest.  it’s wild how much you don’t see your neighbors when the colder months are here.  i felt like i hadn’t visited with those two in months!

as the early evening crept in, i could feel my stomach rumbling.  we weren’t in the mood to cook, so phillip and i were trying to figure out where we should go for dinner.  we knew we wanted to dine alfresco since it was such a gorgeous night, and with that must-have, chris and suzy were quick to recommend smokebelly bbq just down the street off east andrews.  i’d gotten their flyers and coupons in the mail after their grand opening but hadn’t yet given it a visit.  suzy was armed with several suggestions, and since i never turn down good bbq, we knew just where we’d be going.  her fingers were crossed that we would like it just as much as she did; considering she’d been back several times after first going with chris, it sounded like a pretty good bet.

Continue reading

leon’s full service – atlanta, ga

since we took last week off from nrw, i decided we’d go for something indulgent this wednesday, and indulge we did!  leon’s full service in decatur was the pick of the week, and considering i’d only heard good things, i was excited that we were finally giving it a try ourselves.

the idea here at leon’s is that you are going to have the best part of your day at their tables and that you will be itching to come back again.  they strive to provide only the best service and hospitality in addition to a great meal and equally as great drinks.  after beginning brick store pub nearly 15 years ago, mike, dave, and tom took a new turn when they started leon’s in february 2009.  since then, chef eric ottensmeyer and sous chef robert lupo have been bringing “fun and seasonal aspects to neighborhood pub cuisine.”  the menu has a varied yet modest menu that should hopefully tickle your taste buds in some fashion.  we were a hungry crew that night, as always, so we were ready to dig in!

Continue reading

the big ketch saltwater grill – atlanta, ga

IMG_20150204_205055

this week i wasn’t sure where i wanted to venture to for nrw, and as it turns out, i didn’t venture very far, at least as far as mileage is concerned.  after meeting at my condo, we all made the short walk down roswell road to try out the big ketch saltwater grill.  i pass it all the time on my runs, and since seafood sounded like the perfect dinner choice, we found ourselves gathered around a couple of tables and ready to eat.

Continue reading