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!

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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.

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the wedding chronicles | decision #3

THE DRESS

now that phillip and i are less than eight months out from the big day, things are really starting to kick into gear.  the to-do list hasn’t necessarily grown, but we’ve realized that it’s time to start making some more decisions.  the latest and one of the most exciting decisions?  the dress!

most folks consider the dress the crown jewel of the wedding day, and understandably so.  the bride is wearing the dress all day, she’s being photographed in it from sun up to sun down, and it’s the most important dress she will wear in her entire life.  so, it makes sense that people tend to make a big deal about it!  but, with all the expectations that guests have about the dress comes the pressure to feel like you are picking the perfect one.  as alluded to in other wedding chronicle entries, some brides have a specific vision for themselves and don’t sway from that at all.  this could be in regards to the venue, the meal, the cake, and especially the dress.  for those brides, i say, “more power to you!”

my situation for the dress, though, wasn’t exactly that.  i’d first tried several dresses on with my mom back in april, and this past weekend she and my bridesmaid kari and i made a return trip to birmingham to see if i could make a decision.  as far as dress shopping goes, we’re in crunch time and needing to order asap!  the good news was all the dresses i liked in april were still front-runners this time around – they were just so different!  then, our trusty consultant laura at bella’s bridal over in hoover was so good at her job that she pulled even more contenders, and it was then that i realized i might be in trouble.  with so many beautiful gowns surrounding me i now had quite a dilemma:  what part of me was my dress going to represent?  would it be the old soul part of my personality?  or maybe the fun quirky side?  what about a little romance?  and what would others picture me wearing?

if you’ve ever watched any wedding dress shopping shows, the emotion of this important choice can take two routes:  one of excitement and joy or, as we many times see, one of disappointment.  it breaks my heart when i see brides who aren’t surrounded by people who only want to see them happy.  it is the bride’s (and groom’s) day after all, and shouldn’t the bride be wearing something that makes them feel confident and at their best?  yes, and without any reservations or doubts!  so here is my message to dress-searching brides everywhere:  come with ideas, enjoy the experience, stand up for yourself, don’t try on anything outside your budget, and choose a dress that makes you feel like the most beautiful girl in the world.  if this means bringing only a few people to your appointments, then politely do so.  too much distraction and sometimes too many opinions can cloud things, and the last thing you want to do is make a deposit and walk out of the salon with a sinking feeling in your stomach.  this is the biggest day of your life an you deserve to feel great about each decision you make!

with the wrong crowd you can see how things could start to get very stressful very quickly.  and without supportive people around me, i might have spiraled into dress distress!  however, once i focused my thoughts, shut my eyes, and pictured myself walking down the aisle, i knew that my biggest inspiration would be coming from the church and the reception site, which led me to make the perfect dress choice for the occasion.  as the tears flowed and clapping filled the dressing room, i confidently said yes to the dress!  we celebrated and toasted with glasses of rose champagne, thrilled that another detail of the big day was coming into focus.  i feel lucky to have had a pretty easy time searching for and deciding upon a dress and cannot wait to reveal it to everyone in april!

viva las vegas!

this time last sunday, kiley, kari, and i were recovering from a fun couple of days out in fabulous las vegas!  besides being in desperate need of a girls’ weekend away, we also were in town to see the legendary britney spears in concert!  before we get to that, though, there are plenty of other things to share first.

after getting a good night’s sleep on thursday at kiley’s parents’ house (thanks, mr. and mrs. a!), we woke up and grabbed an energizing breakfast at craft kitchen before taking a smooth ride out east to our first tourist spot the hoover dam.  our trusty transportation for the weekend?  kiley’s dad’s souped up jeep wrangler.  how bada** do we look in this?!

a short 45-minute drive later we arrived in clark county, nv and joined the other masses of international and local visitors as we explored this american wonder.  unfortunately the dam tour was closed that day, but we had plenty of other seeing to do as we followed the roadway and sidewalks to get incredible views of lake mead, the colorado river, and the intake towers, flow gates, and spillways.

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if you ever find yourself in the area, i highly recommend making the trek to the dam.  there’s plenty of parking, plenty of fascinating information, and plenty of good photo ops to fill a few hours of your day.

something else that’s cool?  you can stand in two states at once – neat!

upon hiking back up to the car and chugging some water, we drove ourselves about an hour the other direction to check out an art installation off interstate 15 called the seven magic mountains.  designed by internationally renowned swiss artist ugo rondinone, this public installation is designed to represent the creative human presence in the desert with bursts of “form and color.”  pretty cool, right?

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one of the most fun things about visiting seven magic mountains was people-watching all the visitors who were trying to get the perfect filter-worthy photo for their social media posts.  not wanting to miss out on the entertainment, i snapped an inspiring shoot of kari against these brightly colored boulders.

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and kiley got in on the fun, too, with a model walk of her very own!

we were now in a pinch to get washed up and ready for the concert, so we hit the old dusty and headed back home.

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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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ponce city market & botiwalla – atlanta, ga

hello, fellow food lovers!  this post comes direct to you from the urban vibe of ponce city market!  the group was well overdue for a new restaurant night, so kyle helped us decide on pcm.  with stores and restaurants galore, it was the perfect spot for our tuesday night get-together.

phillip, kyle, kari, bank, and i all met up at the corner of ponce and glen iris to explore the wildly popular ponce city market that has basically exploded and become a local atlanta favorite, all within the past year or so.  i’ve been to the chelsea market in new york city and krog street market here in atlanta, but ponce city market took me by surprise.  i think it’s because it was my first time and i really had no idea what to expect.  this monstrous construction, though, is a feast for the eyes as much as it is for your appetite (and your wallet).

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pcm is floor after floor of atlanta’s finest shops (think west elm, anthropologie, binders) as well as up-and-coming restaurants trying to make a name for themselves.  there’s the main food hall that hosts most of the eateries, but if you take the spiral stairs up a level, you’ll find a fancy steak house and even more space just waiting to be claimed and developed.

pcm was bustling for a tuesday night, and considering the massive parking deck they have underneath it all, i can only imagine the chaos that ensues on the weekends.  ask any local and they’ll tell you the same, that when new things crop up in our city, we are all too eager to get a first glimpse and immediately make it our new favorite place.  it’s true!

the five of us took a stroll around to check out our options.  many of the restaurants have dining tables available, but like krog, you can order and then take your meal to a common eating space in the middle of it all.  it doesn’t have large, cafeteria-style seating like krog, but they’ve set it up so that everyone in your group can easily order from whatever place they like and still get to eat and enjoy the food and atmosphere together.

without any real direction, bank suggested we try botiwalla the indian street grill.  botiwalla is the latest adventure by the chai pani restaurant group out of asheville, nc.  chai pani has several different established endeavors, including their mg road bar & lounge and buxton hall barbecue.  and, if you want a taste of chai pani without having to travel out of state, you can find them right in downtown decatur.

well, with nothing else spinning our spurs that night, we all were in agreement.  indian street fare it would be!  time to eat!

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krog street market – atlanta, ga

it has felt like eons since we did an official restaurant review, so i promised myself i wouldn’t go two months into the year without changing that fact.  last wednesday kyle, kari, phillip, and i carpooled to the southeastern part of town to check out krog street market.

since it was the first time there for kari and i, we didn’t quite know where to start.  so, we let the experienced boys lead us on a loop of the place to check everything out.  this development has been around for a little while now and whoa!  it’s obvious why people all over town love it.  it kind of feels like a grown-up food court where you can pick from several types of cuisine depending on your preference that day.  there are also tons of store fronts for local artisans who are selling anything from dog treats to handmade soaps.  there’s even an adult beverage shop right next to the bar where you can go to get away from work, life, the kids, whatever it may be!  if you’re a small business supporter, krog street market is the place for you.

i had been craving greek food for a while and finding yalla! online is what actually led us here.  kari was on board for greek as well, but phillip and kyle wandered elsewhere for their meal.  the yalla! stall is very inviting if you ask me, and i guess other people felt so, too, because there was a little bit of a line.  kari grabbed us a couple menus and we joined them.

the yalla! menu is perfect because one side has all the menu options and the other has a little glossary of terms for you to ensure you are ordering something you will fully enjoy.  although i had been coming in completely convinced i was in the mood for lamb, my mind changed the second i saw falafel as an option.  done and done!

as we waited patiently, we both liked the fact that you get to watch as the chefs make your meal.  they take care with each dish, treating food like the form of art i truly feel it is.  as our orders approached, we heard one of the line cooks call out a lamb laffa.  we both looked at the tray in amazement.  the laffa is massive!  it’s a humongous flatbread that’s used as a sandwich wrap.  kari and i were both convinced the laffa is something you can easily share between a couple people.  it looked filling and delicious!

after retrieving our orders, we found the boys had done the favor of finding some seats for us.  to give to that “community” feel, krog street market has long tables perfectly designed to encourage conversation among groups.  this layout also obviously lends greatly to some stellar observing and people watching.  i bet it was intentional; what do you think?  😉

hungry boys!

hungry boys!

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let’s get organized!

last weekend my parents were in town to visit since they had monday off for the martin luther king, junior holiday.  jeeeaaalllous!  there’s no rest for us tech folks who keep the world running!  regardless, we were all glad to host them in atlanta for their little getaway and some quality family time together.

saturday was pretty lazy, so sunday (after licking our wounds from the packers’ heart-wrenching loss to the cardinals) we got a good night’s sleep and woke to a lazy afternoon full of coffee, fruit, orange juice, and homemade banana nut bread (this recipe is to die for!  i also highly recommend adding chocolate chips).

we chit-chatted between bites and sips and then eventually got all freshened up and ready for the day.  per mom’s request, we made a trip to the nearby container store for, as it would turn out to be, a much more exciting venture than any of us had anticipated.

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tv mounting 101

with phillip moved into the condo (how exciting!), we needed somewhere for his tv to go.  i already have a sizable flat screen in the living room, so it seemed the perfect place would be the guest bedroom.  now, if you’ve ever visited the condo, you know there isn’t a lot of space.  i mean, we have it perfectly decorated that not one more piece of furniture can really be purchased, which just means that if we can’t expand horizontally then we go vertical!  yes, that’s right, we decided to mount the tv on the wall in the guest room so that it wouldn’t have to sit on a crowded entertainment unit.

while the idea of a mounted tv sounds thrilling, the actual process of getting that thing hung became another item on the bucket list that i never knew was there.  and because i didn’t want all my fans to miss out on the fun, i invited kyle and kari over to assist/watch/laugh.  you know, help us create proof that the tv once was not hung and now is affixed perfectly to the wall.

so, in order to mount a tv, you obviously need the proper tools, right?  right!  first things first, the wall mount.

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the tools to get the job done.

a positive attitude accompanied by lots of enthusiasm.

and last but not least, very full glasses of wine.  cheers to home improvement!

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pho king – atlanta, ga

is it just me, or has it been nearly a lifetime since we did a restaurant review?  you’re absolutely correct, my dear.  the last spot we wrote about was the infamous guest blog by my father for bone garden cantina back in july, so, yes!  it’s been too long!  i decided to finally put an end to the madness, which is how we found ourselves last week at pho king just a few miles down peachtree.

phillip <3s pho!

phillip

for whatever reason, i’d been craving vermicelli desperately, so it’s no surprise what i would end up ordering.  however, no one else at the table except kyle and i had enjoyed vietnamese cuisine before that night, which means there was lots of fun in store.

as everyone flipped back and forth among the menu’s pages, i took in the atmosphere around me.  pho king looks like a small new york joint from outside, but you’ll actually find some decent seating once you walk through the front doors.  although i felt a bit cramped between kyle and alison, it could have just been the 20 million plates and bowls that would come to crowd me.  sure, we’ll go with that.

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however, that argument may be hard to make when your big brother is all up in your grill.  hey, bro!

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after i looked at the picture and had my fill of laughs, the classic song “private eyes” came to mind right away.  you’re welcome.

meanwhile, kari, phillip, and nathan were just whoopin’ it up on the other side of the table.  those little troublemakers.  🙂

okay, okay, enough about us (even though i could go on for days), let’s talk food.  first out were the eggrolls and soup.  we all started with something, and as far as the pho is considered, i think the general consensus is that it was a hit and that the bowls were quite large, even the small size!

phillip and i had a small bowl of the pho with brisket.  it came out piping hot and very delicious.  when i inevitably catch my first cold of the winter season, a big bowl of pho just might be the ticket to make me feel better.

p3 - pho with brisket.

p3 – pho with brisket.

kyle’s pho with round steak looked like a renegade after he topped it with fresh jalapenos.  this trooper, though?  he ate the whole bowl and then enjoyed some leftovers that the others of us had.  get it, son!

across and to my right, nathan had the fried rice with marinated tenderloin beef chunks, which was highly recommended to him by our waitress as the best meal on the menu.  it would turn out that there was truth in her statement:  nathan ate up every morsel!  not only did he say he’d get it again, he said, with much enthusiasm, that it was ridiculously good.

across from him and to my immediate right, nathan’s lovely wife alison went with the grilled pork rice plate and thoroughly enjoyed it.  she was a member of the clean plate club that night, no questions about it!

i only got a shot of the aftermath. whoopsies!

i only got a shot of the aftermath. whoopsies!

on my other side, kari tackled a small bowl of the chicken pho, number p7, along with a couple of fried eggrolls, item a2.  i didn’t really get a review from her, but she seemed to like dining out on something a bit different, and i bet with enough persuasion i could convince her to come back.  hehehe, let the planning begin!

across from me, my sweetheart phillip chowed down on menu item r3, the grilled chicken rice plate.  the rice only needed a splash of soy sauce to perfectly accompany the well-cooked and well-seasoned chicken.  although those chicken breasts may not have looked like much, i promise you they filled phillip to the brim.

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and now, the moment you have all been waiting for, my review!  okay, i know you haven’t been waiting, but i just have to talk about my experience!  let me first get something off my chest:  when i say i love vietnamese food, that really means that i’ve only ever had vermicelli and have been hopelessly devoted to the stuff from the first time i ate it.  my heart will forever be held by this irresistible rice noodle dish, no doubt about it.  the vermicelli here at pho king is on point, a very large and satisfying serving of which i almost ate every chopstick-ful (thank you for letting me make up that word right now).  the grilled pork was to die for, although i did miss the eggroll that the menu said should have come with it.  besides that, each ingredient was complementary to the others, and i spent the better portion of dinner with my face buried in my bowl as i slurped up each bite.

after paying the checks, we rolled out with satisfied, and very full, bellies.  to be honest, there’s absolutely no reason to not come back to pho king, and when the yearning for rice noodles strikes again, you’ll know where to find me.