Thursday, August 27, 2015

Atlanta's Got Balls - Meatballs!

Did someone say meatball? Living in an Italian household with hubby and two carnivorous boys, I think it is fair to say that I am somewhat of an expert on this topic. When I was invited to a preview event for the 2nd annual Atlanta Meatball Festival, I could not refuse.

Executive Chef Linda Harrell invited four chefs from other Atlanta restaurants that will participating in this year’s Atlanta Meatball Festival into her kitchen at Cibo E Beve. Each chef prepared a signature meatball.
Photo credit: Henri Hollis 
The first meatball to arrive at the table was a perfect little package created by Chef Drew Belline of No. 246. A wonderful example of a traditional Italian meatball plated with a splash of pomodoro and a basil leaf. Yum.

Next up was a gluten-free meatball made with Springer Mountain Farms' chicken. This morsel created by host Chef Linda was lighter than its beefy cousins with a chunkier style marinara.

A “smoked” meatball from 7 Lamps Chef Drew Van Leuvan was a nice surprise. The meatball was made with beef and pork braised in a sincerely smoky puree of tomato and eggplant; a very nice adaptation on a classic.


The biggest revelation of the evening came in the way of the duck meatball with a hoisin-style glaze served atop kimchi collards presented by Chef Justin Keith of Food 101. This was truly an exceptional meatball!

The last sample of the evening and winner of the “size matters” award was a humongous meatball in a well prepared tomato gravy came from Top Chef Ron Eyester of Rosebud who delivered his offering to the table with a mischievous grin as he said, “Ready to taste my balls?”

If these meatballs are a sample of what’s in store at this year’s Atlanta Meatball Festival, you better go buy your tickets now to join TasteATL at Belle Isle Square in Sandy Springs on Sunday, August 30 from 1:00 - 5:00pm for a mighty selection of meatball dishes, sweets, limoncello and more from more than 20 of Atlanta's hottest restaurants.

While the food items we sampled were complimentary, we received no additional remuneration. The opinions included herein are honest and unsolicited.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Wicked Lemon Lavender Mojitos

As if we needed an occasion to drink more rum…  Tomorrow is National Rum Day! To help us celebrate, the folks from Wicked Dolphin Rum sent us a bottle of their Florida Silver artisanal rum, which is handcrafted using 100% Florida sugar cane in small batches and aged in bourbon barrels to give it a warm vanilla undertone. As many connoisseurs know, the true test of any distilled liquor is to drink it neat. The first sip revealed it to be a good sipping rum; smooth with a polished finish without the burn that many spirits leave behind.

As the menfolk were gathering to enjoy some brews at a local pub, I was looking forward to some girl time with old friends. As happens most often, we take inspiration from things around us. Working in the yard, I brushed against some lavender. The heady scent captured the essence of the dog days of summer. My mind instantly went to a mojito with muddled lavender as the starting point. An experimental rendition with lime and lavender was too tart and not quite right. Subbing in lemons was the ticket; creating the perfect late summer concoction!

Lavender Simple Syrup
¾ cup water
1 cup sugar
5-6 lavender sprigs or 2 teaspoons food grade lavender flowers

Make the simple syrup in advance to allow it to cool sufficiently before using. Over medium heat, bring the water to a boil and the sugar and lavender stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let sit for 5-10 minutes to steep the lavender. Pour the syrup through a strainer and allow to cool completely.

Lemon Lavender Mojitos
Juice of ½ a lemon, freshly squeezed
1½ oz. lavender simple syrup
2 oz. Wicked Dolphin Silver rum
1 oz. soda water (give or take)

If you want a true mojito experience, you can muddle some fresh lavender in the bottom of the cocktail glass before pouring. In a cocktail shaker, mix lemon juice, lavender syrup and rum with ice and pour into a cocktail glass. Top with soda water and give a quick stir. Now get wicked!

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Taste Of Atlanta Returns in September 2015

Taste of Atlanta, the city's biggest food event, is returning to TECH Square September 25th through 27th. Below are some tips to make your tasting experience the best that it can be!
  • Take advantage of early ticket discounts: tickets are available online and at the Cook’s Warehouse. Taste of Atlanta gives many opportunities for you to save. This year codes look for special codes on Taste of Atlanta's social media channels or subscribe to their newsletter.
  • Choose your ticket level carefully: VIP tickets are more costly, but you have access to a special area with wine, beer and cocktails tastings as well as exclusive restaurant tastings (no additional tasting tickets required). You may feel the extra money is worth the benefit.
  • Do your Research: participating restaurants are listed well in advance. Research so that you know ahead which restaurant’s sample you simply must try.
  • Make a conscious decision about where you plan to park: Expect to pay $15-20 to park close to the event. Consider taking Uber especially if you have decided to purchase VIP tickets that way you can enjoy as many wine samples as you please.
  • Check the weather forecast: Taste of Atlanta is held rain or shine. It is better to be prepared than to be too hot, cold or wet!
  • Wear comfortable clothes and shoes: Do not wear your skinny jeans; you will need some breathing room. The terrain is not optimal for high heels. They may look great but you will struggle to maneuver through the crowds with ease.
  • Consider taking a bag: While frequently there are vendors handing out reusable bags of some sort, you may not have a bag when an opportunity to collect some take home samples presents itself. I take a plastic grocery store bag folded tightly enough to fit in my pocket to use until that better bag presents itself.
  • Get there early! Although most restaurants are fully prepared for the crowds, some have been known to run out of popular items.
  • Allot plenty of time. This is not a “I’m just gonna stop by” kind of event. There will be crowds and there will be lines.
  • This year, Taste of Atlanta is launching a new cashless payment system with RFID technology that will make it easier and faster to enter the festival and make purchases which means no more printed tickets, "taste coupons" or cash needed. Attendees will now be able to pay for their bites, brews and other merchandise by registering their wristbands and loading "Taste Points" online in advance or at select Taste Point Banks located throughout the festival.
  • Maximize your ticket to appetite ratio: with your entry ticket you will receive 10 “taste points” which allow you to purchase samples. If you go with a friend, you may choose to combine tickets and share tastes thereby conserving not only tickets but stomach space! Be on the lookout for bargains. For example, last year Woody’s Cheesesteaks offered generous servings of their famous sandwiches for only one ticket.
  • Splurge on a bottle of water: You will have to buy water separately, but trust me, you will need it.
  • Take advantage of the cooking demonstrations and competitions: You can rest your feet and your palate, and who knows you might actually learn something.
  • Don’t waste your last few tickets: Many of the restaurants “mark down” samples towards the end of the day, so you can grab a mini cupcake or zeppole on the way back to your car. Other items are portable making it easy to take home a treat for later such as a giant pretzel to nibble while catching the last half of your home team’s football game. While the new RFID wristbands allows for unused "taste points" to be credited back, you also have the option to donate your unused points to "Share Our Strength's Cooking Matters," Atlanta project, a cooking-based program that provides a strong foundation in nutrition, cooking, and household budgeting for adults, kids, and teens.
  • Lastly, cancel your dinner plans! You will not leave hungry.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

9 Reasons to Shop Earth Fare at Emory Point + Giveaway

Yesterday, we visited the new Earth Fare at Emory Point. The store’s grand opening is scheduled for July 8th and we got a sneak peek at all the goodies before the location’s opening to the public. Of course, the produce department was completely empty, since they will fill that at the last minute to ensure the ultimate freshness of their items. As we toured the store, we learned all about the benefits of shopping at Earth Fare. Here are our top nine:

1. Their Food Philosophy
The foundation of Earth Fare is built on their food philosophy that the food they sell is as close to the ground as possible. Earth Fare has extremely high quality standards.
  • Free of added hormones
  • Free of antibiotics
  • Free of artificial fats and trans fats
  • Free of high-fructose corn syrup
  • Free of artificial sweeteners
  • Free of artificial preservatives
  • Free of bleached or bromated flour
  • Free of artificial colors or flavors
In fact, if you find a product on their shelves that contains any “banned” items in the ingredient list, they will remove it from their shelves and reward you with a $50 gift card.

2. Earth Fare Teaches Healthy Lifestyles
Earth Fare has initiatives for promoting health through healthy eating. Their high quality organic produce speaks for itself. Earth Fare constantly updates their website and provides helpful links about the basics of organic foods, healthy eating, a comprehensive food guide on lots of ingredients, to name just a few. Many educational resources (recipes, cooking tips, local initiatives, etc.) are regularly posted to the Earth Fare Facebook page and their Twitter account. Earth Fare employees pride themselves on their knowledge with their products. If a customer asks them about a product that they are unfamiliar with, they will open the product and try it with you.

3. Organic Options
Looking for organic food? Just look for circle-shaped symbols on packaging. This makes identifying organic options foolproof. Eating organic products reduces health risks. It’s common sense – well-balanced soils produce strong, healthy plants that become nourishing food for people and animals. Added bonus: organic agriculture reduces the chemicals released into the air, earth and water that sustain us.

4. Gluten-Free Selections
While there are a great many foods that are inherently gluten free, and increasingly more gluten-free alternatives for foods that commonly contain gluten (such as gluten-free pasta and cereal) are available in conventional grocery stores. Careful reading of food labels is absolutely necessary when adhering to a gluten-free diet. Sometimes gluten-containing ingredients are obvious, and sometimes they are not – such as with modified food starch, thickeners, natural flavorings, etc. Earth Fare has read the labels for you. Earth Fare offers many breads, cookies, crackers, salad dressings, and other products which are packaged in gluten free facilities, and each is clearly marked with a pretty blue label dot to make your gluten-free shopping easy.

5. Earth Fare Supports Local
Earth Fare seeks out products that are raised or made within 100 miles of your local store. That means that each store has a different local selection -- which is how it should be. Earth Fare supports local farmers by expanding and creating new markets for organic products. Earth Fare Family Producers are small, family-owned or artisan-operated producers. Whenever we can, we love to support the little guy. Look for locally brewed beers from Second Self, Monday Night Brewing and Orpheus as well as peanut and almond butters from Atlanta-based Georgia Grinders.

6. Natural Medicine and Wellness 
There is an entire section of the store dedicated to “Wellness” items. There are a dizzying array of natural cosmetics, deodorants, lotions, soaps and even toothpaste! There is a gorgeous island of  Biggs & Featherbelle handcrafted soaps and bath salts that draw you in with their tantalizing aromas. There is also a vast selection of natural medicine options with natural and holistic treatments for common ailments.

7. Fast Healthy Meal Choices
Earth Fare is your one-stop-shop for a quick meal anytime of day. With a variety of healthy options for every meal of the day, Earth Fare has an all-in-one hot and cold food counter, a deli shop, a pizza parlor, a sushi station, a juice and smoothie bar, and a scoop-your-own ravioli station.  So when you have the munchies or are just pressed for time, check out their healthy fast food options guaranteed to be better quality than the fast food chain restaurants and certainly better for your waistline.

8. Tomato Bank Rewards Program
Earth Fare has a rewards program called “Tomato Bank.” Every 100 points equals $1 of Earth Fare credit towards anything they sell, except alcohol and gift cards. You earn points by purchasing items on the “Get List” (which offer up to 200 points per week,) and bringing your own grocery bag. Email updates inform you of special point opportunities each week. Sign up online or at the store, and receive 100 points just for joining, then enter your Tomato Bank ID number at the register each time you shop to bank or redeem your points.

9. There’s An App For That
Earth Fare's mobile app for iPhone and Android is a simple and useful tool for Earth Fare shoppers. Download the app and sign in using your Tomato Bank account to browse deals available at your local store. Save deals that you want to use on your next visit and receive reminders before saved deals expire. So easy to shop, grab your deals, and show the app at checkout.


Earth Fare graciously shared a $25 gift card to giveaway to a lucky We Like To Cook! reader! To enter, simply follow the instructions below! I look forward to seeing you in the aisles of Earth Fare at Emory Point. Good Luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Want more chances to win? Visit my fellow members of the Atlanta Food Bloggers' Society to enter their giveaways:


One Glam Day
Red Velvet Confections
Shana Was Here
The Cardigan Kitchen
Diva Foodies

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July 4th Menu Planner

Stay relaxed while you celebrate our nation's independence with some easy cookout ideas. When it's time to eat, remember to say "thank you" to all who have sacrificed for our freedom. We have put together a list of our favorite 4th of July recipes. We hope they will become your favorites as well!

It's too hot to cook inside, so fire up that grill:

And these chilled sides are excellent accompaniments that can be made ahead:

And what summer party is complete without a frozen dessert?
Lastly, don’t forget something to keep the kids from underfoot and away from the fiery grill. Yard games of bocce, corn hole or horseshoes are always popular and you can NEVER go wrong with bubbles. Try our mixture for the Ultimate Bubble Elixir and get ready for the squeals of delight!

Be safe and enjoy a safe and well deserved three-day weekend! And, don’t forget to designate a driver or enjoy the night air by walking home when possible.

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