March 7, 2011
During last summer’s fateful Atlanta training session, the firm booked our conference rooms in a hotel down the street from the World of Coca-Cola. For those who have never been, the World of Coca-Cola is essentially a museum; it has exhibits filled with Coca-Cola memorabilia, shows and galleries with Coca-Cola characters in them and, most importantly, it has a tasting room where you can taste every single international and domestic beverage produced by the Coca-Cola Company.
(It’s a happy land, filled with sugar, caffeine and carbonation!)
Due to scheduling constraints (training and dinner reservations and all), I only had half an hour to go through the entire World of Coca-Cola. And, after taking the mandatory intro tour and quick 3D World Cup movie into consideration, I essentially had half of that time in the glorious Coca-Cola tasting room.
Now I if I had all the time in the world, I would have gone into that room, slowly sipped every soda, then created mental notes about the flavors in each beverage…but given that I only had 15 minutes left at that point, I just ran around like a kid in a soda shop and pounded sample after sample. All 45+ of them. (I was on a sugar high after that one, for sure.) I did take pictures of all the labels (cause I’m a dedicated food blogger like that!) but, honestly, I really have no idea what most of them taste like. No idea EXCEPT for one:
(Avoid drinking Beverly at all costs!)
Side tangent: During the introductory tour, you watch this short animated film where one of the characters mentions something about looking like we had just tasted Beverly. I didn’t get the reference at the time but once I took a swig of this stuff, I understood – without a doubt, Beverly is the most foul soda on the planet. Absolutely and utterly disgusting. I can’t tell you what flavors are combined in order to generate Beverly but whatever it is, Italy can keep it.
(Unfortunately, this post is going to end really abruptly as I can’t tell you anything else about the World of Coca-Cola…but I had fun! Does that count for something?)
February 2, 2011
During my Atlanta trip in the middle of 2010, I spent approximately:
- 24 hours by myself
- 72 hours with coworkers
I love my coworkers to death but I’m not going to lie – I’m a little leery of their dining choices. Some of them are like me, and are willing to explore the city to find that one good restaurant. Others are much more culinarily conservative – ask them where they want to go for dinner in Atlanta and there’s a 99% chance they’ll suggest “Waffle House”. That’s why, whenever I go on a work-related trip, I always make a list of my “must-go”s and hit those up before anyone else shows up…Who knows where I’d end up otherwise!
Now, 24 hours isn’t a lot of time to check out restaurants and there were a lot of places that I really wanted to go to but just couldn’t squeeze in, as much as I tried. Top Flr was originally one of these places. However, thanks to a little bit of luck (and because my foodie coworkers are better group organizers than my non-foodie coworkers), I was still able to try Top Flr that week.
Before I get to the food, just gotta say that service at Top Flr was great considering the circumstances. Our group of 25 descended upon that restaurant with no reservations, just a phone call saying “We’ll be there in an hour. Be prepared.” They had a space ready for us when we got there and took care of our needs as best they could (given there were, from what I could see, only 3 of them working the entire restaurant). They were troopers! I gotta give them credit for that.
Anyway, onto the food! Although most of our group ordered for themselves, my little table quartet ordered family style so we were able to try a larger range of dishes. (I’d highly recommend doing this if you end up going yourself – the portion sizes are perfect for sharing.)
We started with the beet salad: Sweet beets, goat cheese – it’s a classic combination. I appreciated the orange vinaigrette, which added that tinge of citrus to the salad.
The tuna tartare was next, piled high on a crispy flat bread and layered with avocado. The dish was good but the flavors were standard – nothing out of the ordinary.
The last of our starters was the Top Flr mac and cheese. I already adore mac and cheese made with orecchiette because the indentations in the pasta capture more flavor than normal macaroni. Top Flr’s version has an additional twist – jalapenos are strewn about the dish, giving it a kick of spice but not so much to ruin of the taste of everything else to come.
As for the entrees, we tried to mix it up with a beef dish, a duck dish and a fish dish. (The salmon – not pictured – was beyond boring compared to these other two plates on the table so I’m not going to touch upon that.)
For a duck confit pizza, they definitely aren’t skimping on the duck. Atop dough smeared with pesto were piles of duck, applewood bacon and grilled portobello mushrooms. Totally savory and completely satisfying.
The oxtail gnocchi was just as satisfying as the pizza. Although the gnocchi themselves were a bit chewy, the flavors were good and I remember trying to steal the last bite from the plate. (I obviously didn’t mind the texture too much!)
We ended our meal with the pineapple panna cotta – a light ending to an enjoyable meal.
What I loved most about Top Flr was that the food wasn’t the only thing that was good – the drinks here are AMAZING. I even told the bartender afterwards that he made some of the best cocktails I’ve ever had. My favorite was a drink composed of pistachio milk, a house-infused rosemary vodka, agave nectar and egg-white froth. Originally skeptical of the combination, once I tried a taste of their lavender infused vodka – floral, aromatic and not at all overbearing, perfectly incorporated into the rest of the drink – I knew they knew what they were doing and ordered it.
I still rant about this drink now. Creamy, hints of cinnamon (although I later discovered that “cinnamon” taste was actually from the bitters in the drink), with just the right amount of sweetness – absolutely delicious.
So, in the end, I still got to dine at Top Flr while in Atlanta. (So happy I didn’t miss out!) Not only that, I had a great night with my coworkers/friends…and what’s better than good food and good company?
674 Myrtle St NE
Atlanta, GA 30308
August 18, 2010
TV celebrity chefs: You watch them week after week on TV. Based on 30-60 minutes of edited video, you come to conclusions about their food. You build expectations. Then when you finally get the opportunity to try their food, they either meet or don’t meet those expectations.
For those that meet them, everything’s fine and dandy.
However, for the ones that don’t, you leave more disappointed than you normally would because of those stupid expectations.
Flip Burger, started by Top Chef’s Richard Blais, is one of those restaurants that falters because of preconceived expectations. It was one of two restaurants I absolutely HAD to go to while in Atlanta (the other one, Woodfire Grill, was also chosen due to its link to TV stardom) so yes, I had expectations for Flip Burger. I don’t think they were unreasonably high - I wanted a good burger and, as with any restaurant, I wanted exactly what I ordered.
(And I got the good burger…it just wasn’t what I was expecting.)
Honestly, the downfall in this entire burger was the inclusion of the word “Korean” in its description. If it hadn’t claimed to be a “Korean BBQ burger”, I may have considered the burger a success. However, as a girl who has been to her share of AYCE KBBQ, I expected to taste (what I consider) distinct Korean flavors, ones reminiscent of gochujang (i.e. Korean red pepper paste), sesame oil and salt or that tangy Korean salad dressing. (I realize now that I basically expected Kogi in burger form. Is that unreasonable for Atlanta? I don’t know.)
However, topped with pickled carrots and radishes (like those found in Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches) and sesame krispies (similar to Japanese sesame/rice crackers), the burger I received seemed to be influenced by all of Asia, rather than just Korea. It was supposed to include a kimchi ketchup – I didn’t get any hint of kimchi anywhere in the burger. And although its American wagyu patty was moist and juicy, I couldn’t judge the burger for the beef alone.
While the burger didn’t quite live up to its description, the nutella and burnt marshmallow milkshake was exactly that. This milkshake is not for the faint of heart (or, more accurately, for the lack of sweet tooth). I could detect the the scent of toasted sugar as it was being brought out and I could taste the heavy nutella flavor in every spoonful. Delicious as it was, it was overwhelming halfway through the glass – I just can’t consume that much sugar. Plus, I didn’t see a drop of liquid nitrogen during my meal! (I thought all the milkshakes at Flip Burger were supposed to be made with liquid nitrogen – you know, as an homage to Blais’ molecular gastronomy background – but maybe I was mistaken.)
You know, I really feel bad (almost guilty) that the above review is all based on expectations – I understand that some experiences are best when taken at face value, without all this background hype floating around. But at the end of the day…Flip Burger just didn’t meet my expectations. There’s nothing more I can say but that.
July 9, 2010
To start off, just an FYI: You know how Atlanta is nicknamed “Hotlanta”? Well, there’s a reason for that – It’s effing hot in Atlanta. We’re talking 90 degrees and humid hot. HOT.
…That said, I walked 1.3 miles from my downtown Atlanta hotel to Highland Bakery and another 1.3 miles back in the above described HOT Atlanta weather. (It was totally worth it.)
When I first got wind that work was shipping me off to Atlanta for training this year, I was ecstatic for multiple reasons:
- I wasn’t going to Orlando. (Thank god I wasn’t going to Orlando!)
- I’ve never been to Atlanta before.
- Southern food!
I was so pumped to eat a real Southern breakfast. I had visions of ham and biscuits and gravy and eggs over easy and GRITS. (We’re talking a lot of grits. Like, I wanted to swim in a pool of grits.) When I first arrived in Atlanta, I had that Southern breakfast, complete with eggs and biscuits and grits and it was…just okay. Almost slightly disappointing.
The next morning, I almost skipped breakfast because the idea of walking 1.3 miles in Atlanta’s hot-as-hell heat to another mediocre breakfast destination was not something I considered “fun”. However, seeing that my coworker/friends weren’t scheduled to arrive until dinnertime, I decided to trek there to kill some time. (As you can tell by the start of this post, I am so thankful I did.)
I arrived at Highland Bakery around 1PM, with the Father’s Day brunch crowd just starting to die down. After waiting about 15-30 minutes (I was so hot and sweaty, I couldn’t focus on how much time had passed), I snagged a seat by their back counter. I ordered a glass of sweet tea and an order of their cilantro corn pancakes, cursed the fact that I left my copy of “Garlic and Sapphires” at the hotel room (I always forget a book when I dine alone!) and instead chatted up the nice man sitting next to me. (Note: This conversation would later become very useful…) As we talked, the wait-staff walked by with a plate of their french toast – it was larger than my head and looked amazing. (Large, delicious looking food always bodes well for the future.)
Then they brought out my pancakes…
(These pancakes are larger than they look.)
These cilantro corn pancakes might have to go on my list of favorite brunch food. The naturally sweet corn and cilantro pancakes were light and fluffy, the eggs were runny, the salsa was tasty and the black beans were surprisingly necessary to bring everything together.
Now why I was thankful I forgot my book in my room: During my conversation with my new-found dining companion, he offhandedly mentioned my special word for this trip: GRITS. Highland Bakery is known for their stone-ground grits, produced in-house.
The difference between the grits above and the ones I had the day before were like night and day, similar to the difference between instant oatmeal and steel-cut oats. Whereas the ones I tasted the day before were bland and runny, Highland Bakery’s were hearty and had tons of texture. (Yes! Southern breakfast redemption!)
…And with those grits, I was happy. Highland Bakery may not serve the traditional Southern breakfast I had in mind but, in the end, it was exactly what I was looking for.