Saturday, December 20, 2014


Atlanta is nirvana for grab-and-go delights, magnificent meals and global fare. Next time you experience an edible OMG moment, share a pic and some words with a like-minded community, @bestfoodatlanta, using the tag #myfab5. Travelers can scope out options in various cities using the app. 

MLA on the Town

All is merry and bright at Melissa Libby and Associates this yuletide season. Our radiant faces reflect the good cheer, reflections and laughter we enjoyed (not to mention Aria's exquisite cuisine) during our holiday party at Aria. Thanks, Atlanta, for a fabulous 2014 and all the best for 2015! 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Your Foodie Friends Will Polish Off These Local Gift Ideas

There are desire in your heart and jingle in your pocket, but you can't wrangle a notion of what to give foodie friends and family. Maybe you're looking too far and wide. Dote and delight with gifts from your own backyard -- ATL and GA.

Turn to Chef Kevin Gillespie and his General Store to pick up jolly jolts for coffee-fiend friends. His own "Red Beard's Delight" blend coffee out of Jittery Joe's in Athens is $14 a canister. Add a mug ($10), Gunshow T-shirt ($25) or any of the other novel ideas. Procure a signed copy of Gillespie's new cookbook, "Pure Pork Awesomeness: Totally Cookable Recipes from Around the World" ($30), for your porcine-partial friends (to be released and shipped on March 31, 2015). 

White Oak Pastures in Bluffton, Georgia, offers incredible one-of-a-kind holiday gifts through its convenient online store. The shop transports farm-fresh meats in Gift Pack and Samplers from farm to front door. Meatier than four calling birds, the "Holiday Gift Box Four" ($300) packs a pastured duck, pastured goose, grass-fed tenderloin roast, grass-fed prime rib roast, a medium pastured turkey and a pastured guinea hen. Browse the online shop for other farm-inspired items like Campessino whole bean coffee ($11), grass-fed beef tallow candle in vanilla scent ($4.99), White Oak Pastures clothing and Madeline Smiles handmade grass-fed jewelry.  

Whole Foods Market locations are well stocked with thoughtful host gifts such as prepared foods, Georgia wines, regionally produced cheeses and other locally produced products. It's easy to fill a basket with healthy stocking stuffers here.

The Pig & The Pearl keeps bottles of chef Todd Richards' spunky barbecue sauces handy -- just the right size and shape to stuff stockings. Depending on your recipient, buy Hot, Hotter or Bourbon Hot Sauce at the Atlantic Station restaurant for $8 a bottle; three for $21. 

No one will turn you down when you hand them brews from Midtown's Orpheus Brewingand these beers will be a hit at your own party. Flagship beers Atalanta and Lyric Ale are now available in cans decorated with commissioned designs from Atlanta artists Brandon Sadler and Peter Ferrari. Buy six-packs at local retailers and package stores. 

Gift card deals throw in something extra for the giftee or the gifter! At Aqua blue, receive a $25 bonus card with purchase of a $100 gift card.

The golden egg at Bantam + Biddy is an additional $10 gift card with every $50 gift card purchased through December 31 at all locations. The same deal flies at Chick-a-Biddy.

If Midtown's their hometown or hangout spot, consider Communitas Hospitality gift cards, good at 10th& PiedmontG's Midtown and HOBNOB Neighborhood Tavern and receive an extra $20 with each $100 of gift cards purchased. Buy here. Cards cannot be used the day of purchase and expire on March 23, 2015.  

FLIP burger boutique flips an extra $10 gift card your way with each $50 gift card purchase or an extra $20 with $100. Bonus cards expire on March 15, 2015 and are not valid on the day of purchase.  

Hearth Pizza Tavern tosses in an additional $10 gift card with each $50 gift card purchased through January 1, 2015.

In Buford, Parma Tavern bestows an extra $10 gift card with each $50 gift card purchased through January 1.  

The Pig & The Pearl shells out an additional $20 when you buy $100 in gift cards through December 31.

Neighborly Marlow's Tavern hands out an additional $20 gift card with each $100 gift card purchased through December 31. 

Roll into RA Sushi through December 31 to receive a $10 bonus card with every $50 gift card purchase. Bonus gift cards are valid from January 2 to March 31, 2015.  

Ray's Restaurants is giving out a special gift ($25 value; while supplies last) with all in-restaurant gift card purchases of $100 or more at Ray's on the RiverRay's at Killer Creek and Ray's in the City. Through the end of January, the restaurant group also is offering a 20 percent bonus on all gift card purchases of $25-$975 and a 25 percent bonus on all gift card purchases of $1,000 or more.   

Ted's Montana Grill gift cards earn their stripes as stocking stuffers, and you'll receive 15 percent off when you purchase $500 or more. 

The Shed at Glenwood adds $20 in gift cards with a $100 purchase now through the end of the year.  

Go with the pho at Tin Drum Asiacafe. Purchase a $25 gift card and receive a free entrée. Offer is valid now through December 28 at all Atlanta-area locations. 

Tin Lizzy's sends glad tidings of more FlexMex your way. Purchase a $100 gift card and get an additional $20 gift card. Offer is available only with a $20 minimum gift card purchase at a Tin Lizzy's location now through December 31. Redeem bonus cards January 1 through February 28, 2015.

Bantam + Biddy Now Open at Lenox Square

Visitors and shoppers will have a piri piri holiday season when they dine at the newest Bantam + Biddy location in Lenox Square. Shaun Doty and Lance Gummere's casual, all-natural eatery is now open on the mall level near Neiman Marcus, and a patio is part of the picture. Atlantans can look forward to savoring the same menu they love at the Ansley Mall, Crescent Avenue and Avalon restaurants: regional fare prepared from seasonal, organic vegetables and locally raised pastured poultry (accompanied by piri piri, wasakaka, beer mustard or sweet BBQ sauces) and White Oak Pastures grass-fed beef. Sure, you can order a vegetable plate ($12.50), chicken and cheddar waffles ($12), a Southern Breakfast All Day ($12), a Power House salad ($8.50) or a gluten-free selection. The new Lenox location also boasts a Batdorf & Bronson espresso bar to help get those shopping juices flowing. Breakfastlunchdinner, drinks -- lots to crow about here!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

No Slumber, Just Party at The Shed's Pajama Brunch

The spiffy jammies, slippers or cozy robe that clearly said, "buy me" on your holiday shopping list should see more than sheets or Santa coming down the chimney. They're begging to attend the Holiday Pajama Brunch Buffet that The Shed at Glenwood is hosting on Sunday, December 21 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m. The bountiful buffet is only $22 per person. Fried chicken with bourbon hot sauce and biscuits, maple-glazed bread pudding "French toast," jalapeño and cheddar grits, smoked brisket pajama hash and roasted vegetables are a few of the items filling plates. While away the afternoon with friends over pitchers of mimosas, poinsettias, Dark & Stormies or palomas. A signature bloody mary ($7) adds a spirited touch of red and green to selfies and group shots. Reserve your seat today by calling 404-835-4363. 

Falcons vs. Saints Tailgate Party and Backyard Games on December 21

Hold up on the reindeer games. At Atkins Park Restaurant & Bar in Virginia-Highland, a tailgate party, Atlanta Falcons vs. New Orleans Saints football viewing and backyard games will be going strong on Sunday, December 21 beginning at 1 p.m. Hoisting Goose Island beer at the pre-game tailgate and during the game keeps your throwing arm limber for the cornhole, ring toss and KanJam competitions that kick off in the tavern's backyard when gridiron action ends. Winning teams take home an official Falcons smoker, a Bud Light cooler and a KanJam set. No cover or fee to play games.

Poncey-Highland Tacky Sweater Block Party Spans FLIP burger boutique and More

Give your LBD and navy blazer a night off. Out-of-fashion Christmas attire is the fashion statement of the evening at the Poncey-Highland Tacky Sweater Block Party on Saturday, December 20. Festivities commence at 8 p.m. in the Highland Ballroom lounge. Merrymakers can then set off to party and enjoy live entertainment at nearby FLIP burger boutique, Sweet Auburn BBQ and Cafe 640. Ticket covers party admission and a drink ticket to redeem at each of the four participating venues. Prizes for the tackiest? You bet, along with bragging rights, if you really want to tout wearing the tackiest sweater in Poncey-Highland. Read the nitty gritty and buy your $25 ticket here.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Celebrate the Season at Parma's Tacky Christmas Sweater Party on December 19

What? That old thing? Perfect! Bedazzle the crowd at the Parma Tacky Christmas Sweater Party rocking Buford on Friday, December 19 from 9 p.m.-2 a.m. Don your fa-la-la-loudest holiday knit-nack (used, new or DIY-adorned), and perchance you'll win Parma house cash. DJ holiday tunes and Fireball eggnog keep the festivities spinning. Antlers optional.

Last Day! Nominate a Special Someone for Marlow's Tavern Golden Giver Award

Do you know someone who embodies that holiday spirit year-round? Quick, nominate him or her for the Marlow's Tavern Golden Giver contest, and he or she might win a $100 Marlow's Tavern gift card. Nominations are being accepted through the end of today. If your nominee wins, you'll also be eligible to win a $100 gift card. The contest has nothing to do with decking the halls 365 days a year. It has everything to do with folks living beyond themselves to happily help others -- a community spirit Marlow's Tavern embraces. Enter your contest nominee's information here or via Twitter or Instagram by tagging your entry #goldengiver. You don't have to write a Dickens of a novel, just briefly explain why your giver deserves to win and upload a picture.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Asante Now Open in Downtown Atlanta!

The doors are open at Asante, celebrity chef Marvin Woods' captivating new restaurant in the Luckie Marietta District of downtown Atlanta. Asante's Coastal Soul menu maps a culinary tour that glides seamlessly from the west coast of Africa to Europe, Caribbean shores and the Americas -- geographic areas bound together by a common thread of cooking methods and healthy, seasonally driven ingredients. Asante is open daily for lunch, dinner and weekend brunch and offers a reasonably priced menu of plates and shareables, handcrafted cocktails, beer and wine.

Asante Opens Downtown, Bantam + Biddy Opens at Lenox Square and More in This Week's Dish!

Looking for a new place to bring your foodie family this holiday season? With several new restaurants opening this month, you now have even more options to explore. Asante brings a Coastal Soul menu to Atlanta's booming Downtown neighborhood. Be sure to try the pimento grilled culot steak, low country shrimp and grits and colombo dust covered diver scallops. Meanwhile, the newest Bantam + Biddy post is now open inside Lenox Square in Buckhead. We suggest the the gluten-free chicken tenders paired with a Power House salad loaded with mixed greens, roasted broccoli, tomato, radish, sunflower sprouts, organic almonds and a jB Farm egg. All that and much more in this week's Dish!

Monday, December 15, 2014

Season’s Gr-Eatings from Our Kitchens to Yours

Restaurants are our specialty. We adore wining and dining at some of the best restaurants in our city and beyond -- and keeping our readers in the know. Don’t write us off though when it comes to dabbling in the kitchen. We have our own stash of recipes and traditions that sing holiday-time to us, and we’re happy to share. Eat, drink and be merry, from our kitchen (and bar) to yours.

Alex: Turtle cookies will bring anyone out of his or her shell to obtain several before the cookie tray’s empty. It’s hard to give these up at a cookie exchange.

Turtle Cookies
(Makes about 30)

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 stick butter (1/2 cup), softened
2/3 cup sugar
1 large egg, separated, plus 1 additional egg white
2 tbsp. milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Caramel Filling
14 soft caramel candies (like Kraft Traditional Caramels)
3 tbsp. heavy cream

Chocolate Drizzle (optional)
2 oz. semi-sweet chocolate
1 tsp. shortening

Prepare the Cookies: 
Combine flour, cocoa and salt; set aside. With electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg yolk, milk and vanilla; mix until incorporated. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture until just combined. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Whisk egg whites in a bowl until frothy. Place chopped pecans in another bowl. Roll chilled dough into 1-inch balls, dip in egg whites and then roll in pecans. Place balls about 2 inches apart on a baking sheet. Using a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon, make an indentation in the center of each dough ball. Bake until set, about 12 minutes.

Caramel Filling
Microwave caramels and cream together in a small bowl, stirring occasionally, until smooth, about 1 to 2 minutes.

Once cookies are removed from the oven, gently re-press the indentations. Fill each indentation with about 1/2 teaspoon of the caramel mixture. Cool on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

Chocolate Drizzle
Place chocolate and shortening in a small zip-top plastic bag. Set bag in a bowl of warm water to soften. Gently knead the chocolate with your fingers until melted and smooth, placing back in the warm water for a minute or two as needed. Snip a very small hole in the corner of the plastic bag. Drizzle chocolate over the cooled Turtle Cookies.

Amy: These cheese potatoes remind me of my grandma and Christmastime. They are the perfect side dish with a HoneyBaked ham.

Grandma’s Easy Cheese Potatoes
2 lbs. frozen potatoes (Ore-Ida diced hash brown potatoes work best)
1 standard can Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup
1 standard can Campbell’s Cheese soup
1 pint sour cream

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Mix all ingredients together in pan. Bake for 1 hour. Take foil off and cook 1 more hour.

Brandon: Chocolate peanut butter no-bake cookies are my favorite cookies ever! They’re 
fast and easy for a quick fix and downright delectable.

Chocolate Peanut Butter No-Bake Cookies
2 cups sugar
4 tbsp. cocoa
1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup milk
1 cup peanut butter
1 tbsp. vanilla
3 cups oatmeal
Waxed paper
In a heavy saucepan, bring the sugar, cocoa, butter and milk to a boil. Let boil for 1 minute then add peanut butter, vanilla and oatmeal. Drop mixture by teaspoonful onto a sheet of waxed paper. Let set until cooled and hardened. (Recipe from Food Network)

Emily: After we open presents on Christmas morning, my family heads to Waffle House for breakfast. We always bring the staff a box of homemade cookies. This recipe is from my great-grandmother and is always a hit with our favorite Wa-Ho waiters.

Tea Time Tassies
1 3 oz. package cream cheese
1½ lb. butter
1 cup flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 egg
1 dash salt
1 cup nuts (pecans, chopped)

Blend cream cheese, 1 stick of butter (½ cup) and 1 cup flour over low heat. Put in refrigerator for 1 hour*. Preheat oven to 325ºF. Pinch off balls of pastry and spread with fingers into small muffin tins. Beat 1 lb. soft butter, brown sugar, vanilla, egg and salt; add nuts. Spoon mixture into pastry shells. Bake about 25 minutes or until light brown.

Erin: December means layers and bulky sweaters. Thus, there’s no better time to indulge yourself. Ditch the diet, have a few too many pieces of Texas sheet cake and promise yourself you’ll exercise that gym membership in the new year.

Texas Sheet Cake 
Serve with a scoop of ice cream. Serves 12. Easy and freezable.

2 sticks (1 cup) margarine
1 cup water
4 tbsp. cocoa
2 cups sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. salt
2 eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1 tsp. baking soda

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Bring margarine, water and cocoa to a boil. Remove from heat and add sugar, flour and salt. Beat in eggs, sour cream and soda. Mix very thoroughly in a mixer. Pour into greased and floured 10”x15” jelly roll pan. Bake for 20 minutes or until sides of cake pull away from pan.

1 stick butter (1/2 cup)
4 tbsp. cocoa
4 tbsp. milk
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract

While cake is baking, put all ingredients in heavy saucepan. Over medium-low heat, allow butter to melt, stirring ingredients together with wire whisk. Do not allow to boil. Keep warm over low heat until cake is baked. Pour icing over cake immediately after removing from oven.

Gretchen: Spinach balls roll some festive greenery onto a holiday table. A yummy epiphany led me to set each ball on a slice of tomato and provolone cheese before baking, and I’ve never looked back.

Spinach Balls
10 oz. package chopped frozen spinach, thawed and drained
2 cup herb-seasoned dry bread stuffing, finely crushed
1⁄2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
2 tsp. garlic powder
1⁄2 tsp. black pepper, ground
1 tsp. Italian seasoning
1⁄2 cup butter, melted
3 eggs, beaten
Optional: tomato slices and provolone cheese slices

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl. Shape into walnut-sized balls and place on a baking sheet. (Note, at this point you can set each ball on top of a base slice of tomato and a middle slice of provolone. Be sure to use nonstick spray on the baking sheet.) Bake for 20 minutes, or until heated through and browned. (Inspired by AllRecipes.)

Mandy: This is a new family favorite since we are always looking for delicious ways to use up bananas that are getting too ripe. It's sweet but still feels wholesome enough for a holiday breakfast.

Banana Gingerbread Muffins
(adapted from a Chiquita Bananas recipe)
1 tbsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. very finely ground fresh pepper
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup white whole wheat flour
1 tsp. ground flax seed
3/4 tsp. baking soda
2 egg whites
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup sugar
3 very ripe bananas, peeled and mashed
1/4 cup molasses

Preheat oven to 350º F. Spray a muffin tin with nonstick baking spray or insert paper muffin liners. Add spices and salt to a bowl with baking soda and flour and set aside. Beat egg whites in a large bowl until frothy. Add in sugar and oil and beat a little more. Stir in mashed bananas and molasses and beat for 1 minute more. Add in dry ingredients and stir until combined. Spoon into muffin tin and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in a muffin comes out clean.

Melissa: I have never made my friend Gretchen’s Awesome, Amazing, Addictive Sugar Cookies, but I have inhaled many. I’m claiming this recipe as my holiday favorite and hear Santa is partial to them, too.

Gretchen’s Awesome, Amazing, Addictive Sugar Cookies
Cookie Dough
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 egg
3 tbsp. whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. of lemon extract or other flavored extract
3 cups of all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine sugar, butter, egg, whipping cream, vanilla and lemon extract. Beat with mixer until light and fluffy. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt and gradually mix into the bowl of wet ingredients until a firm dough forms. Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 400ºF.

On floured surface, roll out dough and cut out desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place about 2” apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until edges are a light golden brown.

When cookies have cooled completely, ice the cookies with Royal Icing (recipe below) and decorate as desired. Allow to dry completely, before stacking (approximately 8 hours).

Royal Icing
1 lb. confectioners’ sugar
3 tbsp. meringue powder
4 tbsp. warm water
Food coloring

In a small bowl, mix meringue powder with warm water. Let set for 15 minutes.

In a large bowl mix confectioners’ sugar and meringue mixture to desired consistency. If you prefer a thinner icing, add water 1/2 tsp. at a time. Divide icing in small bowls and stir in food coloring for desired colors.

After icing the cookies, keep cookies flat/untouched to air dry. Icing will take approximately 8 hours to harden for stacking.

Tuan: Holidays mean family time. Sometimes that’s all the more reason to have a drink in hand. Cheers!

Family Time Cocktail
1 lowball glass
2-3 whiskey stones, chilled
3 oz. Woodford Reserve bourbon

Place 2-3 chilled whiskey stones into lowball glass. Pour 3 ounces of Woodford Reserve bourbon into glass. Find a relaxing chair by the Christmas tree and a roaring fireplace. Drink, relax, repeat.

Audrey: My mom and I have been making Gooey Dessert Bars together since I was very young. Anyone who’s notorious for eating cookie dough before baking will find these hard to resist. For a festive spin, swap red and green M&M’S for the chocolate chips.

Gooey Dessert Bars
1 18.5-oz. box yellow cake mix
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 stick (½ cup) butter or margarine, softened
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 6-oz. package semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350ºF. In the large bowl of an electric mixer, combine cake mix, brown sugar, butter, eggs and vanilla. Mix on medium speed until well-blended. Pour into a greased 9”x13” baking pan. Sprinkle chocolate chips on top. Bake for 30 minutes. Do not over bake. Gooey is the goal, even though bars may not appear to be done. Cool and cut into bars.

Nicole: This apple cheese casserole is all kinds of unhealthy and delicious. All good recipes start out with lots of butter and cheese!

Apple Cheese Casserole
2 sticks of butter 
1 lb of Velveeta 
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups self-rising flour
2 cans of Comstock apple pie filling

Grease a Pyrex dish and spread the apple pie filling on the bottom.  Mix together the (softened) butter and the rest of the ingredients and spread on top.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 20 minutes.  Uncover and bake for 10 minutes more or until top has browned.  Let cool and enjoy!  

Sunday, December 14, 2014

What's New on Pinterest

Pour it on! We're Coo-coo for Cocoa on this week's Pinterest board, and our cup overflows. Pick your passion -- paleo, non-dairy peppermint, copycat Starbucks salted caramel hot chocolate or cayenne-spiced Mexican cocoa -- to name a few. Double up on the cocoa factor with chewables of no-bake dark chocolate truffles, thin mints or flourless chocolate almond cookies. And, before you swear off chocolate for Lent 2015, we've pinned 16 sinful hot chocolate recipes you have to try!