Monday, June 27, 2011

The Best Pizza Outside the Perimeter in Atlanta

About a year ago, I happened into this place almost by accident.  Between one of Crabapple's iconic grain silos and a fitness center, I saw the words "Alpine Bakery."  The baked goods displayed in this place rival those anywhere:  everything from cannoli to biscotti to prettily ganached cakes.

You can see a glimpse of it here:

Picture from Reid Casey, a local realtor.

While I was enraptured, gazing at the pastry cases, I saw a few guys walk in and leave with pizza boxes, so I asked about the pizza and ordered one.  I don't even remember what was on the pizza now, but I remember the crust, OH I remember the crust.  Thin and crispy as your teeth hit the top, chewy as you bite down, hot and slightly sweet, the crust pairs with "just enough" sauce and toppings like artichokes and slices of italian sausage.  Yum.

I went back the other day, and the owners have turned half of their space into a restaurant.  The menu includes an array of traditional Italian favorites and a few restaurant creations.  The average dinner entree price is fifteen dollars.  I ordered a pizza and brought it home with me.  :)

I noticed there's a lovely outdoor seating area, and when I stopped by, it was pretty full of people enjoying a bite of the evening breeze with their pasta.

If you find yourself in Atlanta's northeast suburbs and you like New York-style pizza and pastries, try the Alpine Bakery.  :)

Another review with pics of the restaurant and the pizza:

Another great review:
Restraint.  Pizza.  Delicious.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

On a Better Bite, Sugo, Iberian Pig, Castellucci Review
I'm not sure how to find words to express how much I love the Castelluccis!  They're an Atlanta-area hospitality group who could open a sardine dessert shop, and I'd try it!  I'm so impressed with everything about their style.

Let's start with Sugo, shall we?  :)  The first time I went, it was my birthday-- a Monday night, incidentally.  The pillowed benches were peppered with business people getting after-work-cocktails.  I was absolutely floored by the unique Greek-Italian flavor combinations!  Little bites of bacon-wrapped dates-- sweet and salty, a giant meatball--fresh and bright.  After sampling a variety of small plates and drinking a few glasses of wine, my friend and I noticed it was near closing time-- which in my experience in food service-- especially on a Monday night, finds servers glancing at their watches.  Not here.  Stephanie Castellucci, who was hanging at the bar, seemed unconcerned about time-- the staff seemed more like family hanging out than a group of harried wait staff ready to clock out.  Before I left, my server brought us dessert and a glass of a light moscato, and I was in Heaven-- I mean it.

The next year, again on my birthday, I decided to try another Castellucci establishment--The Iberian Pig-- in the ultra-hip part of downtown Decatur.  I ordered a cheese plate and a whiskey old fashioned while I waited for my stuck-in-traffic dining buddy.  My server was very knowledgable and friendly.  Again, the food was amazing and creative-- different from anything that you'll find anywhere else.  Again, the service was exceptional-- and I say that as someone who has waited tables for years-- it was exceptional.

"Mr. C." the head of the Castellucci clan and Nancy, his wife, are a class act and such a dynamic duo.  Northeast transplants, we're really lucky to have them and their kids running these beautiful restaurants in the Atlanta area.

If you're looking for a "sure thing" for drinks-after-work, an impressive first date, or a culinary adventure, these restaurants are just a reservation away. 

Love.  Castelluccis.  Spine-Tingling-Greatness

Thai Star Restaurant Review-- Norcross

Friday afternoon, I was on a mission to explore another area Thai restaurant.  I immediately thought of Thai Star as its yellow sign winked at me for a year when I lived near its home on the intersection of Peachtree Industrial and Medlock Bridge in Gwinnett.  Though it's an hour from where I live now, I buckled up and decided to try it.

I cruised through the quirky revolving door and was seated immediately.  I ordered the rat naa, expecting this version as I had too many times from street shops in Sakhon Nakhon ราดหน้า.  Thanks, Wikipedia for the photo.

I asked about som tam, and my server's eyes narrowed, "No, we don't have that."  ส้มตำ

I asked for a Thai iced coffee and never got it.

Meanwhile, the Thai server girls working at the time rolled silverware and chatted about someone's "jai dahm"--black heart . . . or black skin. 

I got my rat naa gai --which was a stir fry with steamed rice on the side in about 2-minutes.  The vegetables were crisp-tender and bright.  The sauce was slightly sweet.  The food was good.  The bill landed on my table after the second bite.

If you have no expectations when it comes to Thai food or service, try this place.   If you want an authentic Thai experience, don't.  In Thailand (and good Thai restaurants),

  • the table is set with a quad of condiments which might include:  fish sauce, chilies in vinegar, siracha, sugar, peanuts, dried chili powder, etc.  Not here.
  • the place setting includes a fork and a giant spoon.  Not here.
  • the shop keepers are accomodating, sometimes to the extreme, and after a few visits, can feel like family.  Not here.
I see many of the reviews for this restaurant are positive, so maybe I'll go back and see if the service is better, but what a disappointing lunch.


Saturday, June 18, 2011

Happy Father's Day, Dad!

To a guy who . . .
1.  Manages to be artistic while wearing steel-studded boots.
2.  Answers the phone with a daily "Jimmy John's Flower Shop" or "Jimmy John's Racecar Emporium"
3.  Keeps life balanced with a ready array of spicy candies and jars of red pepper flakes.
4.  Spent a 6-hour drive as the navigator--inventing crazy band names with me.
5.  Is so silly sometimes the glimpses of deep wisdom he dishes are sometimes shocking.
6.  Saved a lady from a giant cheese grater . . . and refuses to take credit or tell me the story (again).
7.  Loves my mom more than he did when he met her.
8.  Mows his lovely cottage-sized yard in 4.5 minutes with a Orange Husqvarna Zero-Turn Lawn Tractor (full speed ahead)
9. Is more "Jimmy Stewart" than Jimmy Stewart.
10.  Has been a really great dad.

Thanks, Pops.  You're one in a billion!  I'm really glad you guys came to town.  :)

Love.  Father's Day.  Daughter.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Chain Link

So, today I've been thinking about unintended consequences.  The sermon this morning was about Noah and his Ark, and honestly, I only half listened.  I was stuck in my mind again---thinking about fear--- and how I've let it make me think I'm chosing the safest, most responsible option, when actually I've been cowering and kowtowing to ugly fear.

What if Noah had chosen the "safest" option?  What if  he had run from the tigers?  What if he had been more responsible and gone to work instead of building a giant hobby ship?

Sometimes, I wonder how my life is different from the girls who seemed to have it all planned out by sophomore year in college.  By graduation, they'd be married.  By the next year, they'd be finished with grad school, and when Timmy started kindergarten, they'd open a consulting firm and buy a motorcycle.  And yeah, it's five years later now, Timmy is in school, and I've seen Susie cruising around town on her motorcycle in her powder pink chaparreras.

What are these Perfect Plan-istas afraid of?  What do they struggle with?  Do people ever look at them like they're aliens?  I have no idea what their kind of life must be like.

It's an interesting place being single approaching thirty.  People aren't sure how to make polite conversation without being able to ask about my strong, strapping husband or my healthy babies.  So, they ask about the gym, the weather, the school assemblies, and the who-I'm-dating-now. 

I have learned so much being on my own for these years.  I've learned about good parenting from some awesome friends.  I've learned about good communicating from some patient roommates.  I've learned about loss-and-letting-go from some sisters who've gone.  I've trudged through the sludge in the bottom of my heart and found some jewels there, too.  I've wandered from God, and I missed Him so much.  It has been fun to have the freedom to explore all of these things on my own calendar.

I think the hardest thing about being where I am, as the one who doesn't fit expectations in our society . . . is that I am the oddball in my family. My parents and my sister walked the Married by Twenty Path.  They really speak the same language.  Maybe someday, I'll learn it.  Until then, there are going to be times I'll be on the outside. 

I just read Genesis Six again.  I wonder if Noah had fun building the Ark?  Cypress wood, pitch, rooms, decks, animals . . .They say he was 500 when he started the project and 600 when he finished.  I wonder if he and his sons sanded the decks together?  I wonder if his wife painted and hung curtains?  :P  I wonder if there were times Noah looked up at the sky and thought, "Pfft.  Water?  From where?  God? Did you change your mind?  God?"   And then, maybe he looked down at his sons and thought, "I trust."

Lord, show me what it means to be obedient.  I've been as obedient as I know to be, but show me more.  Show me what to do with all this alien freedom.  I don't want to waste it.  Show me how to be courageous. 

Love.  Rain.  Ready.