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!

The Adventures of Kiwi Kyle | Part 3

One of if not the most important activities I plan for when traveling is eating!  What is <insert name of destination> best known for?  Where do the locals go?  Most of the time you can find those places via a quick online search, but sometimes you find them just by looking around and keeping your eyes open.  I’ve found a couple places like that in Christchurch, so here are my recommendations for future travelers!

First things first, breakfast, the most important meal of the day.  Unfortunately it’s not a meal I usually have while traveling for work because I’m so focused on getting to the client site.  A quick run to the local ‘bucks is usually all I have time for.  However, since this trip has me staying over weekends, I have ample opportunity to enjoy breakfast, and I found a good spot to do so at Tap N Grind.  While busy, it didn’t have the hustle and bustle, get-out-of-my-way-I-just-want-my-coffee feel to it.  Much more relaxed and casual.  My desire for my Waffle House Peachtree Road Race waffle must have been sending me subliminal messages, as I spotted the waffle and bacon and decided that was the dish for me.  As you can see, it looked awesome and it also tasted awesome.  The waffle was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  The citrus mascarpone acted like butter to make the waffle soft but not soggy.  The caramelized banana gave it that little something extra and the variety of nuts a little crunch.  It was so good that I made a point to tell the waitress, who sheepishly said, “We just assume everything in America is better than what we have here.”  I told her she was dead wrong on this; it was hands down the best waffle I have ever had, and even in the top three as far as breakfast dishes go!  When I went back the next week, I had the same waitress and she smiled and asked if I would be having the waffle again, which, of course, I did!

For dinner, I recommend you check out O.G.B. (aka Old Government Building), as it hosted various government departments from 1913 to the 1980s.  After being vacant for some time, the building was threatened to be demolished but eventually made it to a real estate developer.  Today, the bar and Heritage Hotel call this place home.  They have a traditional restaurant space with the bar being in a separate area.  Eating in the bar is the way to go with a speakeasy feel consisting of a wood bar, dark colored walls, and the staff being dressed in 1920s and 1930s attire.  I had the beef rib burger, but just to be clear, we would call this a sandwich in the States.  In New Zealand they call a burger anything where protein (beef, lamb, chicken, etc…) is served between two pieces of bread.  The protein doesn’t even necessarily have to be formed into the traditional patty shape.  To flip it the other way, what we call a pulled pork sandwich, a Kiwi would call a pork burger.  Enough on semantics and onto the food!

The “burger” was cooked very well and had this molasses-like sauce that put it over the top.  It was paired with potato wedges and a house-made ketchup that tasted much more tomato based than American ketchup and, to be honest, tasted better than American ketchup.  The final reason you should go to O.G.B.?  Well, any place that uses a sousaphone as part of its decor is well worth the trip!

equal parts cream cheese & bagel

for those of you who maybe don’t know me well, i have a confession to share:  i love bagels and i love cream cheese and i love them even more when they’re together.  i don’t know when my obsession really started, but it’s been around for ages.  i remember even back in college when i’d have breakfast with kari and brett on tuesday and thursday mornings before class.  we’d meet up at snelling hall on uga’s campus for a quick bite to eat.  i would get a couple of scrambled eggs, some fruit, and then half a bagel.  now, like many restaurant establishments, snelling provided the little philadelphia cream cheese single-serve tubs for use.  most normal human beings might use the logic that “since i have half a bagel, i only need half the tub of cream cheese.”  well, no such logic exists in my world.  i shamelessly smothered that half bagel with ALL the cream cheese for the tub and enjoyed every single bite.  the 1:1 ratio of bagel to cream cheese was the best part of my morning.

well, i’m happy to report i have yet to outgrow this appetite obsession.  ask anyone around me and they’ll tell you the same.  these days, though, without a dining hall to satisfy my bagel-cream cheese cravings, i stop about once a week at goldberg’s.  it just happens to be on the right side of the road on my drive into work; it’s a miracle i don’t stop in there more, actually.

anyway, i typically order an egg bagel toasted with plain cream cheese.  this might not sound so exciting, but trust me when i say that EGG BAGELS ARE EVERYTHING.  anyway, a couple weeks ago i made my regular stop, ordered my regular order, but was slightly disappointed when i got to the office and opened the bag.  there was a measly spread of cream cheese between the two slices of bagel, and it nearly ruined my morning.  okay, that is an exaggeration; i still enjoyed the bagel, but it was obvious with each bite that there should have been more cream cheese.

so, this past friday i stopped in as i usually do and when they took my order, i said, “now, last time i ordered the cream cheese was a bit skimpy.  this time can you be sure there’s a generous amount on there?”  after asking i held my breath, slightly terrified the employee was going to judge me and then proceed to talk about me to everyone the moment i left the restaurant.  however, a smile grew on her face and she said, “i’ll be sure to take care of you.”

i thanked her, waited at the check-out line, and paid.  once the bagel was ready, she reached over the counter to hand it to me and i was instantly satisfied.  wait, how could i know, without opening the bag, that she had done me right?  i’ll tell you how.  the bag felt heavy.  oh yes, i knew she had heard a sister’s cry for cream cheese and delivered!

see?  look at that cream cheese to bagel ratio.  nearly equal, as it should be.

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then, then!  the real test was passed.  you always know you have the right amount of cream cheese on a bagel when you can see your teeth marks in the cream cheese after taking a bite.  i was in heaven!

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do i really think i’ll ever outgrow my cream cheese-bagel obsession?  likely not.  in fact, i hope i pass it down to my children!  if you’ve got any good bagel suggestions that would rock my world, i would love to hear them.  this request especially goes to my friend jamie who is on a one-man mission to try new bagels and cream cheeses in his town of new york city.  you go, boy!

#marryingmontoya #lakearrowhead #waffles #mylove #blessed

Back by popular demand, it’s me, Kelsey’s dad.  yes, that IS a picture of my fine looking “dome” that you are seeing.

my father's head, everyone.

my father’s head, everyone.

In the highly unlikely chance you happen to go to Lake Arrowhead, in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, I have the perfect place for you to go for breakfast or lunch, Belgian Waffle Works.  Note, from your friendly friends down here in the south, THIS IS NOT SIMILAR TO THE WAFFLE HOUSE THAT WE HAVE COME TO KNOW AND LOVE.  Nevertheless, this place is terrific and well worth the visit.

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For those of you wondering, “What’s the occasion for why you were in Lake Arrowhead?”  Well, we were all there for my niece Alison who was getting married.  More on that to come later.

Now, back to the restaurant.  First, arrive early.  Second, the menu is huge.  Probably too many choices, actually.  In addition to breakfast items they have a large lunch section of sandwiches, etc…We had a group of six:  Phillip, Clark, Kyle, Kari, my cousin Linda, and me.

The food is fantastic.  We all had different waffle selections.  In addition, Phillip ordered a biscuit with sausage gravy.  Even though we were in the mountains outside of Los Angeles, this gravy was very, very good.  The gravy might have come from a can, might have come from a box.  Who knows.  All I know is that Phillip, Kyle, and I shared it and we all loved it.

Probably the best part of Belgian Waffle Works was the staff.  All of them were witty, charming, and had terrific “patter.”  As all of my children will tell you, I’m big on the “patter” and these people had it.  I would hire all of them in a minute, their “patter” was that good.

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Terrific food, terrific staff.  If you happen to be in Lake Arrowhead, CA, go to Belgian Waffle Works!  And, even though this time I didn’t get to go to In-N-Out, Belgian Waffle Works made up for it.

editor’s note:  in addition to all these delicious waffles, take a look at some of the other fun stuff this weekend entailed.  congratulations again, mike and ali!  we love you both!

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p.s.  thank you to all my facebook friends/family for letting me use your pictures.  i only had to include them because you did such a good job taking them, lol!

bon glaze – buckhead, ga

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yesterday morning phillip and i opened the windows in the condo to let in the newly arrived fresh autumn air and then i hustled out the door for a couple errands.  after dropping off the dry cleaning, i crossed roswell to try out bon glaze, a darling donut walk-up just up the street from us here in buckhead.

their sign went up several months ago, and within the past couple of weeks they celebrated that they are now open for business.  i pass by bon glaze every day i drive to work, so you can imagine i was intrigued by the name and also their slogan:  doughnuts – bacon – coffee.  once i saw that they were open at last, i knew i needed to check it out.

first, bon glaze is not a sit-down kind of place.  it’s just like a street vendor you might find in a big city:  you walk up, order, and await your scrumptious food to be prepared and delivered.  perhaps if it’s possible they can install some benches around the area so that folks are invited to have a coffee and a donut, chat it up with friends, and then order more donuts.  i mean, i’m just saying…

anyway!  it’s a good thing i got there when i did because after i ordered folks came flocking as though a beacon from atop the store was beckoning them to come eat.  i mentioned to the cashier that it was my first time at bon glaze, and i was grateful that his cheery demeanor was more than happy to make some recommendations.

wanting to go for a combination of sweet and savory, i ordered the breakfast sandwich, a blueberry sour cream cake donut, a classic vanilla bean glazed donut, and the boston cream.  do be advised that the breakfast sandwich and waffles (yes, they have waffles) are made-to-order, so you can easily devour one or two of the other donuts while you wait or even order more.  i think these guys know what they’re doing. 😉

anyway, i managed to keep my hungry paws off the donuts until i made it back home to share them with phillip.  we first tried the breakfast sandwich since it had a warm egg, bacon, and cheese between two halves of a classic glazed donut.  the sweet icing from the donut with the salty bacon and melty cheese made for a fabulous combination.  although i wanted more, i’m glad i only had half because there was more to enjoy.

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among the remaining three, each of them was indulgent and sinful in their own way.  the blueberry sour cream was flavorful and perfectly cooked – not too overdone and not too sweet.  i would gladly order this customer favorite again.  the vanilla bean glazed was outstanding.  it melted in my mouth with each bite and certainly sets the standard for a traditional glazed donut.  as for the boston cream?  well, let’s just say eating one of these could be your dessert.  the chocolate is rich and the donut, again, perfectly cooked.  however, phillip and i both agreed it needed a touch more cream on the inside.

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even though donuts don’t tend to be my breakfast food of choice, i would gladly go to bon glaze again for a sweet treat.  it’s close by, the donuts are handmade, and the quality of their product is undeniable.  each of the donuts we had this weekend i would certainly order again, but you can bet i’d be more than happy to try some of the bon bons, the espresso cream donut, or the chocolate-glazed bacon next time.  if you find yourself in the buckhead area and have a sweet tooth that needs to be satisfied, stop on by bon glaze and treat yo’self!

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o-h-i-o, ohio!

this past thursday morning i boarded an md-88 with several coworkers to fly to columbus, ohio for our annual company meeting.  between team gatherings, putt-putt golf, and drinks at brazenhead, the event was quite the success in melding many offices together as a united front for the successful business years ahead for which we are striving.  go team!

most folks flew back to atlanta friday night, but i had the wonderful pleasure of staying the whole weekend.  as it would be, phillip has family only minutes from our dublin location – such a small world!  so, it was a no-brainer for phillip to take some time off work and join me.

once work things wrapped up friday afternoon, phillip picked me up and we checked into the local embassy suites.  we rested our feet for a little bit and then were in the car again.  where to?  well, seeing as how our stomachs were grumbling, it was a good thing we were headed to dinner with grandma lorraine and cousin tony at the local favorite the rusty bucket.  they were seated at a booth just inside the restaurant awaiting our arrival.  both greeted me warmly as we scooched into our seats and got to know one another.  conversation came easy among the group among local brews and delicious food.  i highly recommend the wedge salad to start and then the buffalo chicken sandwich – it was massive!  the chicken parmesan that grandma lorraine had was a generous serving also.  tony’s quesadilla and phillip’s philly cheesesteak didn’t disappoint either.  so much else on the menu looked so appealing that i guess we’ll just have to visit again!

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after paying the checks, grandma lorraine called it a night.  tony, phillip, and i, though, were in the mood for another drink, so tony led us to a local bar called the dub pub.  most certainly a favorite dive bar of those who live nearby, we grabbed a high-top and continued visiting while enjoying some whiskey-gingers and a few ipa’s from the columbus brewing company (referred to by ohioans simply as “cbc”).  soon tony’s friend sean joined us, and i think eventually we blended in with the regulars as we chatted, cheered on team usa during the olympics, and took in some preseason nfl games.

as our glasses emptied and the early evening grew into the later night, phillip and i were about ready to call it a day.  we bid tony and sean farewell and hopped in the rental.  as we cruised along to the hotel, phillip pointed out the grater’s right nearby and the convenient fact that they were open until eleven p.m.  it was only 10:30 at that point.  phillip swung the camry into the parking lot and we helped ourselves to the counter.

now, any of you who know phillip know that he has quite the sweet tooth.  i used to “blame” his mother because she is an ice cream lover, but now i know it is grandma lorraine who started it all.  she revealed that each night she either has an ice cream or a cookie with some milk before going to bed.  old habits die hard, i suppose!  😀

with many more choices at the store as opposed to just the grocery aisle, i did a bowl of strawberry cheesecake and mocha chocolate chip.  whoa, that stuff was unbelievably good.  the strawberry cheesecake was undoubtedly my favorite, and it was lucky i even got to try it since it is a limited summer flavor!  phillip considered his options for a while and then settled (to no one’s surprise) on a scoop of the buckeye and a scoop of the peanut butter chocolate chip.  i am telling you, this boy could eat only reese cups for the rest of his life and be satisfied.  i suppose it’s hard to deny a man his ice cream when it makes him this happy.

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it was finally after over-eating on quite possibly the best ice cream ever created on this beautiful earth that we hit the hay.  with two more days to go in ohio, we needed our beauty rest!

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andrich invasion – chicago!

WOW.  What a trip.  It had a bit of almost everything:  travel drama, meeting famous athletes,  BYOB, etc…!  I hope that you enjoy reading about the trip as much as we had living it.  Kyle, Kelsey, and Clark know how important chronological order is to me, so, in the famous words of Jackie Gleason, “Away we go!”

Travel Drama #1.  Wednesday Night.

My original flight plan was Birmingham to Chicago.  Sounded easy and simple enough, but NO!  Flight was re-routed from Birmingham to Minneapolis (no extra charge for the stop in Minneapolis or the overnight stay in the Minneapolis airport, LOL!) to Chicago.  The overnight stay in Minneapolis was an “interesting” adventure, so I tried to make the best of it.  The Minneapolis airport at 1:29 A.M. was interesting and very, very deserted.  Anyway.  The next morning I was on a 5:15 A.M. flight to Chicago.  Early but okay with me.  The flight would have been even better if my baggage was with me but, again, NO!  Clark met me at the L and the baggage arrived on Thursday at about noon.  A nap and shower and I was ready to explore Chicago!

Chicago – Day 1 – Thursday

Clark suggested I try Dry Hop for lunch.  I took the L from Clark’s apartment to the Belmont stop on the Red Line.  After about a 15-minute walk, I was there.  A very, very good restaurant call by Clark.

In the early evening, I went to check our group into an apartment that Kelsey had booked for Kyle, Kari, Phillip (AKA Maxx Gruber), and I to stay in during the rest of the weekend.  In the famous words from the TV series Dragnet, “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”  The location of this apartment was terrific, only a single block from the Belmont station.  Kelsey booked this apartment via an online service named very similarly to “ground B-N-B.”  I think the owner described this location as a condo, but it is NOT a condo.  It really was a large one-bedroom apartment.  Quirky and different but fine for the five of us.  I won’t mention anything about having to dodge the exposed pipes that were hanging below the ceiling…plus, the owner seemed surprised that three sets of keys were needed for our group.  Yikes!

Anyway, back to Clark.  Clark and I walked to dinner and then took the L to Target to do some light shopping.  Very, very important point here:  As Clark pointed out, Chicago is a very pedestrian town with lots of walking, which is okay because Chicago is very, very flat.  I did not see a hill the entire time I was there, but walking is walking.  Shopping at Target was very, very strategic because we had to carry all the items that we bought.  Plus, we then walked 4.8 miles back to Clark’s apartment.  Did I remember to mention that by now my FEET WERE KILLING ME?!

Later on Thursday night, Kyle, Kari, Kelsey, and Maxx arrived.  The humor started almost immediately!  Apparently Kari had packed her suitcase and then someone decided to unpack some of her delicates…Yikes again!  This someone explained how this unpacking occurred, which was interesting but still difficult to understand.

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da vinci’s donuts – sandy springs

i was on my way to work this morning and had every intention to make a quick stop and grab a bagel to eat for breakfast.  it was after i accidentally passed the light to go to panera bread, though, that i had to be spontaneous and make a change in plan.  as i leisurely cruised up roswell, it dawned on me that there is a donut place right on the way to the office, and i hadn’t yet tried it.  even better, i had a coupon!  well, that made the decision easy!

i took a left off glenridge, swung into a parking spot, and opened the door to the sandy springs location of da vinci’s donuts.  with that first step, i was in donut heaven.  the donut smell was so authentic that i felt like i had been transported to another place.  i don’t know where exactly, but i imagine it’s a place filled with puppies and chaise lounges and lots of windows and donuts stacked on platters on every surface you can see.  sure, we’ll call that donut heaven!

anyway, the whole idea here at da vinci’s is to make a really great donut that you can top yourself or enjoy with one of their specialty creations.  their cake-like donut is a great base for whatever you’re going to put on it.  and one of the best parts?  they’re small!  i know, a small donut?  how can that be a good thing?  well, when you’re eating it with chocolate icing or maple bacon, less is more.  and since i had a coupon, i was ready to try nearly every option they put in front of me.

i quickly decided on the da vinci’s dozen, 16 donuts placed in a donut box that actually looks quite similar to another type of food delivery box.  interesting…

with so many to select, i was able to practically get one of each specialty flavor they had out that morning.  how nice that it worked out that way!  i couldn’t help but smile as i looked at those cheery donuts peeking back at me.  almost too cute to consume!  almost.

when i got to the office, i immediately dug in, as i was pretty hungry.  i chose to go with the cinnamon and chocolate glaze on my first round.  the first thing you’re going to notice about any of their donuts is how light they are.  this place has cake donut making down to a science, and you may come to believe they have that recipe just about perfect.  the cinnamon donut was soft and scrumptious and not too sweet.

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the chocolate glaze, though, for me personally was a step above the cinnamon.  the chocolate glaze is the perfect consistency for this little donut, not overpowering.  after the three bites it took me to finish it off, i concluded that their version represents the quintessential chocolate glaze donut.  how’s that for a review!

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and since there were a few donuts left in the box, i decided a third mini donut couldn’t hurt.  this one was by far my favorite, the strawberry shortcake.  i mean, come on!  how precious is this little cutie pie!  the smell alone was enough to make me drool.

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if you feel your sweet tooth itching for satisfaction down here in the atlanta area, i highly recommend you take a chance on da vinci’s donuts.  if these pictures and adjectives aren’t enough to convince you, here’s the last argument i’ll make:  they also serve jittery joe’s coffee!  noms!

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.

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