oh my bagels

there’s nothing better than a good icebreaker, and one of my favorites (albeit a little weird/maybe morbid) is to ask folks what their last meal would be if they could choose. you’ll learn a little bit about someone and, more than likely, foster further conversation around food, which is typically a pretty safe topic.

my answer has always been and, unless my tastes change dramatically between now and whenever, will always be a bagel with cream cheese. that’s it, kelsey? that’s all you would want? yes, no questions asked, no second thoughts, no regrets. equal parts cream cheese and bagel, sliced and toasted, that’s all i need.

as a self-proclaimed bagel and cream cheese superfan, i always welcome the opportunity to indulge this craving, and i think phillip and i have uncovered two spots in town that really have just set the bar high. part of me is glad they’re both a 20-minute drive away; otherwise, i’d need to be working out way more to burn off all these dense calories.

first up is the bagel hole in cumming. they’re a no-fuss, we-have-bagels-and-cream-cheese kind of place. i will say they do have fun flavors and also serve lunch, but their bagel and spread selection is fair, and the folks are friendly. they also have homemade bagel chips that i highly recommend! this place gets points for having an egg bagel (which has become my all-time favorite) and teaching me what a bialy is (our recommendation is to get it toasted with butter, simple and delicious). oh, and their coffee is fantastic.

next up is bb’s bagels, a spot known and loved by many. i think i heard about them on the local news (like i do so many places we try), and i can confidently say phillip is glad i recommended we check it out. this place has the diner vibes at 100 with a huge menu that will be sure to satisfy everyone in your party. the staff were very friendly when we went, and the portions made the drive well worth it. the bagels were wonderful and the strawberry spread scrumptious, and the sausage links were mouthwatering (and are flown in from new york, from what i hear). whenever the line is out the door (like it was when we went to bb’s), that’s usually a good sign. i’d say you can’t go wrong here!

do you have a favorite bagel place in town? what would your last meal be if you could choose? i need a new spot to try!

louisville – day 4

our fourth and final day in louisville started out like most last days on vacations begin, with some quick goodbyes. dad had driven up from alabama and needed to hit the road early so that he could get home at a reasonable hour. so, clark, phillip, and i woke up just enough to give him a hug and wish him safe travels and then got a couple more hours of sleep before checking out of the hotel ourselves.

the three of us had plenty of time to kill before our late afternoon flights, so we agreed a sunday like this one was the perfect excuse for some brunch. we put in our names at highland morning and walked next door to grab some lattes at day’s espresso & coffee while we waited. supporting local businesses is important, but i have a soft spot for coffee shops. reminds me of the cambridge coffee and jittery joe’s days, simpler times for sure.

before too long, we got the call that highland morning was ready for us, so we brought along our beverages and settled in at our table. you know the best places always have a wait, so we were already encouraged before we even ordered.

like i said, we had a lot of time before our flights home, so i wasted no time and ordered us the mimosa bucket. now, the mimosas were delicious – i mean who doesn’t love some bubbly on a lovely sunday afternoon? but what was almost better was something else new clark taught me. yesterday was “camera eats first” and “influencers in the wild.” could today possibly top it? pretty close!

so, i asked clark to take a picture of me with the champagne bottle. he sweetly obliged and then showed me the picture, to which i gasped in pleasant surprise. “what’s wrong?” he asked.

“nothing!” i said. “i’m just impressed by how great this picture makes me look!” nothing like tooting your own horn. ūüėÄ clark then proceeded to explain portrait mode on the iphone to me (i have only ever owned android devices), to which i was amazed again at how technology and social media just rule our world some days. today was one of those days, clearly.

i didn’t have much time to gush over my beautiful portrait because our food soon arrived. phillip and clark both had the baja benedict on recommendation from the waitress. i had the stuffed french toast and a side of crispy bacon. the boys decided that although their dish was good, the amount of chorizo was underwhelming. i, on the other hand, could not get enough of my french toast. i don’t typically go for the sweet breakfast plates, but this one was delicious bite after bite!

like all good things, our trip did come to an end. clark flew west, phillip and i flew south, and we all went back to our normal day-to-day. looking back on it all, though, i’d say we made the most of our few days in louisville. folks were friendly just about everywhere we went, and it was easy to get to. if you ever find yourself driving through the bluegrass state, carve out a little time in louisville. i think you’ll be happy you did.

urban grub – nashville, tn

a couple weekends ago i made the 4-hour drive west on i-24 to see my high school friend luke wed his best friend bailey.  the wedding was lovely in a lush estate outside the city, and the band played us into the night as we danced and laughed under romantically lit tents, reminiscing with old friends about our teenage years.

earlier that sunday, though, i had strolled into town in the young afternoon¬†and needed something to eat, for the reception was quite a ways away. ¬†i asked my kind airbnb host meg for a local recommendation, and she was quick to reply that urban grub had a good brunch and wasn’t too far from the apartment. ¬†sounded good to me!

after parking over on gilmore avenue, i dodged the drizzle and was warmly greeted by the hostess.  she quickly seated me at a table for one on their covered patio, a perfect spot among the industrial fans, space heaters, and cool autumn winds.

my waiter chris approached with a glass of water, prepared to take my order.  i informed him that i had only about an hour before i needed to go get all dolled up for the wedding, and he was quick to get to business.  i told him i had been eyeing their eggs benedict with crab (they call it the oskar bennie), and he was happy to say it was one of his favorites, a great choice for a first-time visitor.  done and done!

chris hurried over to put in my order and then was back in a flash with the most darling basket of homemade buttermilk biscuits i’d ever seen. ¬†they were accompanied by freshly salted butter and from-scratch blueberry jam. ¬†uuhhhh, yes, please! ¬†these little pouches of heaven were the perfect starter, and i enjoyed them throughout the meal with dem preserves and butter. ¬†mm!

mm, bizkits.

mm, bizkits.

in nearly no time at all, my brunch was swiftly served in front of me. ¬†looks tasty, doesn’t it?


i wasted no time digging in, mainly because i was short on time but also because i didn’t want my dish getting cold. ¬†the hollandaise was not too hollandaise-y and had a nice spritz of lemon that was pleasing to the palate. ¬†the eggs were poached to perfection, not too runny but not too cooked. ¬†now, i have never personally poached an egg, so i don’t know what makes me a poached egg expert, if anything, but the only experience i have myself is when i watched mary willa do it up in greensboro.

the english muffin was nice and crispy and didn’t get soggy from all the sauce. ¬†the only thing that truly seemed to be missing was more crab. ¬†i was expecting generous lumps of crab piled atop each side of the muffin, but there was only a spoonful sitting in between, not enough if you ask me. ¬†i would love to have had a bit of crab with each bite of the muffin and egg, but that day was not the day for it to happen.

the grilled asparagus was a welcome addition to the plate, but if i’m being completely honest, those gouda grits were the star of the show. ¬†i couldn’t shovel them in my mouth fast enough, giving no second thought to how all that cheesy and buttery indulgence wasn’t doing my waistline any favors. ¬†as my mother would say, “apply them straight to my hips!” ¬†hehe.

overall, the atmosphere here at urban grub is a bit of hustle and bustle. ¬†it’s a big restaurant, so there are lots of tables, which means lots of hungry customers. ¬†it was a touch louder than i would have liked, but since i was by myself, i didn’t mind too badly. ¬†plus, with nothing to really hear, i was able to watch as the falcons marched on to victory against the local tennessee titans. ¬†rise up!

i could easily picture myself spending a lazy sunday afternoon here with the girlfriends, nursing mimosas and snacking on biscuits all day long.  aw, yisssss!

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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austin – day 3

the final day of our austin trip arrived way too quickly for me. ¬†we just have so much fun when we’re all together that time truly does feel like it’s flying by. ¬†nonetheless, the packing began early in the morning so that we could head out for one last meal before the planes started whisking us all home.

since some of the crew was on a time crunch, we walked across the street for brunch at hillside farmacy.  this darling spot was already packed with locals, so we sipped on espresso and iced coffee as we waited for our tables.

this neighborhood restaurant serves up brunch, lunch, dinner, and happy hour to its hungry (and thirsty) austin patrons seven days a week. ¬†it’s always a clear sign when folks are waiting outside the door that it’s gotta be good.

since we were a larger group, the host split us between two tables. ¬†kari got things going on the right foot by quickly ordering us a beaker of mimosas. ¬†yes, folks, there’s now an even cooler way to serve up everyone’s favorite adult brunch beverage. ¬†it’s not a champagne glass, it isn’t a carafe, it isn’t a pitcher. ¬†no, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a beaker of mimosas.

along with those pictures, this gem from the internet comes to mind.


oh, and then this one that kari sent me a while back. ¬†i’ve not a clue to whom the credit should go, so to the original creator, thank you! ¬†nothing makes me happier than cute, clueless golden retrievers acting like they hold human jobs.


our table ordered in decent time, but the amount of time it took to get our food was not reasonable at all. ¬†erin, shawn, ali, and mike were finished with their meals, checks paid, before we got anything. ¬†we had some words with the waitress, and eventually we were served. ¬†i don’t know if she forgot to enter our orders, but regardless, the service pretty much ruined our one, and maybe only, experience at hillside farmacy. ¬†our food was pretty decent, but i don’t think it made up for the fact that poor kyle and kari had to take their brunches to-go…in the uber…with their luggage…to the airport. ¬†what an unfortunate way to end the weekend!

those of us who remained dropped our luggage off with the kind concierge at the hampton inn (christian and sara were staying there for one more night in austin, so we sweetly took advantage) and then we hoofed it over to south congress. ¬†we lingered in and out of thrift shops and candy stores, not so much to souvenir shop but more so to stay out of the heat. ¬†i know the texas summer wasn’t there just yet, but that doesn’t exactly mean it was cool that first weekend of may.

happy but tired from the whirlwind weekend, a few of us ended up at amy’s ice creams¬†for a treat. ¬†you can bet i was very ready for something cold after the sun bore down on us while we waited in line. ¬†i usually take a while to make up my mind, but i was quick to order a cup of strawberry ice cream with chocolate chunks. ¬†that sweet fruit hit the spot, and i was very glad with my choice as i slurped up the last few bites. ¬†i can only imagine how business booms here in the hot summer months.


as they say, all good things must come to an end, so travel group by travel group peeled off to catch flights home. ¬†it seemed too soon when it was time for clark, phillp, and i to go, so i reluctantly hugged my cousins, feeling a bit sad to be leaving them already. ¬†hadn’t we just arrived? ¬†it felt like the first annual cousin trip had come and gone in the blink of an eye. ¬†good thing 2016 isn’t too far away, right? ¬†sure! ¬†i mean, in all seriousness, it will probably be here before we know it.

the pinewood tippling room – decatur, ga

after finishing the publix half marathon and full marathon a couple sundays ago, you can bet we runners were ravenous.  we met up with everyone in the neighborhood of decatur at the pinewood tippling room, unexpectedly coming across the perfect restaurant review opportunity.

known by the locals as the pinewood, this spot is a cozy neighborhood bar serving up “extraordinary cocktails and reinterpreted regional fare.”¬† their space is clean without much fuss, and although they equally support what they call the high-class and “home-spun,” i felt a touch out of place in my running tights and sneakers.¬† the other customers were dressed to the nines, it seemed, after maybe just having left church service with their family and friends.¬† perhaps if i were coming on a different day i would have felt a little more comfortable.¬† maybe that’s why they seated us way in the back…?¬† nah, i don’t think so.¬† i think it had more to do with the fact that we were a party of 12 and that was where they had room.¬† i should have positioned myself on the other side of the table so that i could really take in the ambiance, for i was stuck facing a white-washed brick wall.¬† oh well!¬† good thing atmosphere is only one element of a restaurant, right?¬† sure!

although i probably needed a couple gallons of water to rehydrate my body, i didn’t wait a moment to order a mimosa.¬† something refreshing and crisp sounded like the perfect ticket, and these glasses were a great balance of orange juice and champagne.¬† cheers!

mimosas for everyone!

mimosas for everyone!

the pinewood closes at 2:30 p.m. on sundays, so we all had to somewhat hastily make our selections.¬† with a decently sized brunch menu, though, i don’t think it was hard for many of us.

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greensboro, nc – day 3

well, my final day in greensboro arrived early sunday morning.  i thought all the crazy fun had already passed, but what little did i know!  we had planned to go out for brunch, but seeing as how there was freezing rain steadily building up all around the house and our cars, we went nowhere fast.  good thing mary had stocked up on bread and eggs, because a homemade breakfast is just what the doctor ordered.

first things first on a lazy and relaxing sunday?¬† mimosas!¬† well, i take that back.¬† we didn’t have any orange juice, so we made ourselves some berry bellinis.¬† step one was to make a little berry puree to complement the champagne.¬† mary whipped out her blender and got a little raspberry-strawberry concoction going.¬† it’s silly how simple it was!

step two is to over pour the champagne so that it goes all over the cutting board and chopping block, wasting about a fourth of the bottle.¬† whatever!¬† we never said we were perfect, just a few friends trying to have a good time, and that isn’t too hard with champs and sweets.

i think at about eleven o’clock we finally started cooking actual food.¬† first up, sausages!¬† mary had a moment of inspiration and let me in on her sausage-cooking secret:¬† use a panini skillet of some kind, the ones with the ridges.¬† you can place those little sausage links right in between so they don’t roll all over the place.¬† your links will be perfectly browned and juicy, a great side to any breakfast dish.

wait, though.¬† what was our breakfast dish of choice that sunday?¬† eggs benedict!¬† this mary lady just does it all – homemade strawberry puree, eggs benedict.¬† man, was i spoiled this weekend or what?¬† mary got out her pioneer woman cookbook and turned to page 16 to find the eggs benedict recipe.¬† this particular recipe, to quote mary, is not particularly “figure friendly.”¬† i mean, there are two sticks of butter in the sauce alone.¬† good thing i’m not on a diet!¬† before we get there, though, let’s take a look at the adventure that was poaching the eggs.

i’m sure there’s some exact science to poaching an egg, but we kind of just went on memory and instinct for ours.¬† after the water came to a slight bubble, mike used a wooden spoon to get some good circulation going.¬† mary plopped that first egg into the water and, oh!¬† look at that!¬† that’s not what a poached egg should look like!¬† it looked like some weird mess caught up in an f5 tornado!

sooooooo, with that disaster, we dumped the water and started from scratch.¬† this time we brought the water to a very low boil, didn’t stir as quickly, and gently slipped the egg right into the water without causing too much of a commotion.¬† the white of the egg delicately fell in on itself, creating a little envelope for that yolk to cook perfectly.¬† ah, quite the success!

mary served them up on soft toast with generous spoonfuls of the hollandaise.¬† the sweetest breakfast ever served!¬† the egg was rich and helped cut out the overly sour lemon in the sauce.¬† now, the hollandaise calls for the juice of two lemons, but the lemons we were using were a bit larger, so i think we probably didn’t account for that.¬† i also thought the sauce was a touch too runny, but that’s just my opinion.¬† regardless, i sopped up all the yolk and sauce with my toast and didn’t leave a morsel on the plate.¬† a great adventure with a great result!

just when we thought all the handiwork was done for the weekend, another surprise came our way.¬† we couldn’t get a truck to tow the mazda to the dealership for its bum tire, so mike, the hero that he is, put the spare on my little hatchback.¬† you never know what life will throw at you, but when you’re given lemons, you’ve got to make lemonade!¬† never stop learning, folks.¬† never stop learning.¬† ūüôā

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we pretty much spent the entire day in the kitchen, drinking and eating our way through the afternoon.¬† we had a hoot of a time reliving the weekend’s already wild happenings as the radio played.¬† all of a sudden, “king of wishful thinking” by go west came on and mary squealed, nearly scaring mike and i off our chairs.¬† “i love this song!¬† i just cannot control my body when i hear it!”¬† after listening and dancing to it, we pulled up the video online.¬† i think we love it now even more, but i’ll let you be the judge!

aaahhh, the early evening was suddenly upon us, so mary and i switched to wine for the rest of the night.¬† she’s a white wine lover and i’ve come to love red.¬† good thing she had plenty bottles of both!

more vino!

more vino!

even though we’d had a late brunch, our stomachs were starting to growl.¬† well, just what would we have for dinner?¬† mary had started a pork tenderloin in the slow cooker that morning, so after some serious thinking, we decided pulled pork sandwiches, mac’n’cheese, and brussel sprouts would be a great idea.¬† am i, right?¬† yep!

since the pork was already cooking, the brussel sprouts were up next.¬† i’m warning you now.¬† i took many unnecessary photos of pretty much the same thing over and over again.¬† i mean, i had enjoyed almost that whole bottle of red by myself at that point.¬† give a girl a break!¬† ūüėČ

mary had some red onion she needed to use up, so we figured we’d throw ’em in with the sprouts.¬† mary armed herself with her onion glasses, looking like a regular pro.¬† just check out those perfectly chopped chunks!

next we got the pan sizzling and browned the bacon (because bacon makes everything better) and softened the onions.  the kitchen started to smell divine, as i am sure you can imagine.

mary gave the brussel sprouts a rough chop and tossed ’em in with the bacon and onions.¬† it’s such a shame brussel sprouts get such a bad rap.¬† they just needed to be served with fatty bacon all this time!

dinner 1

here is what brussel sprouts look like after you add salt…

after salt

…and here is how they look when you throw in some pepper…

after pepper

…and then after you add garlic powder…

after garlic powder

…and then when they’re all ready!

dinner 8

we finally had everything ready, so we dug in and spent the rest of the night watching old home videos that mary’s dad mark had filmed at the 1996 olympics in atlanta.¬† ah, we were so young!

om nom nom.

om nom nom.

eventually we rinsed our plates, filled the dishwasher, and headed to our beds.  i cannot express enough thanks to mary and mike for a fantastic weekend, and my heart swells just thinking about how much i love these dear friends of mine.  without any plans written down, we let the days take us where they would, which was, as i had hoped it would be, a lot of fun.

dc december – day 4

at last! ¬†our final day of fun in dc ushered itself in on sunday morning. ¬†our flight wasn’t until the early evening, so we had plenty of time together before everything came to a close.

after getting our packing done, we headed out the door for brunch, but wait!  not before i can coordinate these adorable photos on the stoop of our chinatown home!  aah, i looked at them and could hardly contain myself.  what a great trip because of these gems!

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sun in my belly – atlanta, ga


so, check this out, mis amigos.  last weekend our uncle craig was in atlanta before taking a whirlwind tour of the southeast for some client visits.  we got to spend some fun time with him as we gave him the local tour of the city, and considering he had never been here, it was great getting to show him around town.

of the many fun things we got to do while he was here, one of them was grabbing brunch at sun in my belly before he had to hit the road for the carolinas.¬† uncle craig is from the fair city of san pedro, california in southern los angeles, so we just couldn’t pass up the chance to show him how the south does food.

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tupelo honey cafe – asheville, nc


this past weekend¬†i trekked up 85 north, through traveler’s rest, and past the biltmore estates to the cozy town of asheville, north carolina.¬† it was kristen’s bachelorette weekend, and with eight high-energy, beautiful women in one house, you can bet we were ready to take on the town.

after a relaxing walk saturday morning, we boasted our best bourgeois mountain outfits and ubered into the city.  the first stop was brunch at tupelo honey café per many recommendations, so we filed in line with the rest of the locals.  well, we may not have looked like locals, but who cares!

a good looking bunch!

a good looking bunch!

tupelo honey caf√© has become a bit of a national icon for creative southern foods with accolades from the new york times, southern living magazine, and the food network.¬† they strive to serve up spirited and inventive dishes that leave you satisfied, and i’m going to ruin the surprise for you right now and say that they certainly satisfied this group of very real and very hungry ladies.

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