Three Places to Celebrate Chinese New Year in Atlanta

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of Makan

Photo courtesy of Makan

This Thursday (February 19, 2015) marks the turn of the Chinese calendar, or as we here in the States know it: a day filled with dumplings, noodles and dancing dragons. It’s Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year), and if you’re looking for a fun way to commemorate the occasion, be sure to check out these three Atlanta spots for a celebration to remember:

  • Makan: This Decatur gem, a Chinese-Korean hotspot beloved for their pork belly buns, will not only host an eight-course feast on Wednesday, New Year’s Eve, (think housemade noodles symbolizing long life, dumplings representing wealth and seafood galore), but they’re also offering a dumpling and wonton cooking class on Thursday, followed by a family-style dinner complete with a whole duck and whole fish to share. Get your tickets ($50/person) here.
  • Mandarin Oriental Atlanta: Head to this famed Buckhead hotel on Thursday to usher in the year of the goat—expect festive décor, authentic Chinese specialties (don’t miss the whole roasted Peking duck and the barbecue pork), live dance and drum performances and a huge giveaway (a trip for two to China with two business class tickets on Cathay Pacific to Shanghai and three nights at Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai). Tickets are $65 each and available when you call (404) 995 7500 or email moatl-restaurants@mohg.com.
  • Tin Drum: With a dozen locations throughout Atlanta, this local chain is paying homage to China’s traditional festival with two limited-time dishes: crispy orange chicken spiked with ginger and spicy Mongolian steak with crispy onion strings. Every Friday during the celebration, diners can get these dishes along with a fountain drink for just $6.

KateKate is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications. Click here to read more culinary content from Kate

Discover Atlanta’s Black History Aboard the Atlanta Streetcar

By Eileen Falkenberg-Hull

Photo courtesy of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

Photo courtesy of the National Center for Civil and Human Rights

With the recent addition of the Atlanta Streetcar as a transportation option for locals and tourists. Atlanta’s part in America’s black history is more accessible than ever.

Free to ride through March, 2015, the Streetcar has several pick-up points throughout Downtown Atlanta, the Old Fourth Ward, and Sweet Auburn districts of the city.  Here’s where to get off and explore history:

Edgewood at Hilliard – A few blocks south of this stop is Historic Oakland Cemetery, the centuries old burial place for people of Atlanta from all classes and races. Graves of Maynard Jackson, Atlanta’s first African American mayor; Bishop Wesley John Gaines, founder of Morris Brown College; and Carrie Steele Logan, 19th Century founder of Atlanta’s first orphanage for black children which continues today as the Carrie Steel Pitts Home.

King Historic District – This stop is at the Martin Luther King, Jr, National Historic Site where visitors will find multiple sites paying tribute to the civil rights leader including the Birth Home, Ebenezer Baptist Church, The King Center, and the National Park Service Visitor Center.

Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Sweet Auburn Curb Market

Sweet Auburn Market – The Sweet Auburn Historic District is an African-American neighborhood centralized on Auburn Avenue.  On the list of the U.S. National Register of Historic Places and as a registered U.S. National Historic Landmark District, Sweet Auburn offers up history alongside modern Atlanta foodie haven the Sweet Auburn Curb Market which offers up cuisine for every palate including my favorite place to grab a burger in Atlanta- Grindhouse Killer Burgers.

Auburn at Piedmont – Just a short walk from the intersection of Auburn at Piedmont you’ll find the APEX Museum, a museum dedicated to presenting history from an African American perspective.

Centennial Olympic Park – Pemberton Place, next to Centennial Olympic Park, is the home of the Georgia Aquarium, World of Coca-Cola, and the recently opened National Center for Civil and Human Rights. The center connects the American Civil Rights Movement to today’s Global Human Rights Movements through interactive displays and a multi-cultural experience. Across the part visitors will find the College Football Hall of Fame which features an immersive experience surrounding the game including a special display about Historically Black Colleges and Universities.

On February 28, 2015 the annual Black History Month Parade will march alongside much of the Atlanta Streetcar route. The parade is the largest celebration of Black History Month in the United States.

EileenEileen is Georgia’s official Festival Explorer and the editor of Occupy My Family, the Atlanta area’s most comprehensive resource for family fun. Click here for more Festival content from Eileen.

Getting to Know Georgia’s Golden Grapes

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Crane Creek Vineyard. Photo courtesy of georgiawine.com.

Crane Creek Vineyard. Photo courtesy of georgiawine.com.

When most people think of American wine, the valleys of Napa and Willamette likely come to mind. But down here in Georgia, we’re not exactly slumming it when it comes to delicious vino. Not only was the state the sixth largest grape producer in the country before Prohibition, but today Georgia is home to more than 40 vineyards, many of which have won prestigious international awards. Today, we sit down with Eric Seifarth, president of the Winegrowers Association of Georgia and owner-winemaker at Crane Creek Vineyards, to talk Georgia wine:

KPK: What grapes grow best in Georgia, Eric?

ES: That’s a difficult question to answer because in many ways Georgia is still a little in search of its grape. But, a lot of established wineries are growing [European-style vinefera] like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Chardonnay that are predictable and understood by most people. And a lot of new wineries are coming on board and planting varieties never grown here, like Rhone varietals like Viognier, and Austrian grapes of Gruner Veltliner, and finding success. South Georgia does a wonderful job with Muscadine, as well.

KPK: Why do you think these grapes grow so well in Georgia?

ES: Grapes like abundant sunshine, well-drained soil, a nice, long growing season and warm days and cool nights. In many ways, that sums up the climate of the Northeast Georgia Mountains.

KPK: You mentioned wines that are understood by most people. Tell us about Georgia wine drinkers.

ES: Overall, Georgia wine drinkers lean to more off-dry, semi-sweet wines than they do the drier varietals, though that’s shifting a bit. It’s been gratifying to see people embracing the more classic French and Italian drier style wines.

KPK: What do you wish people knew about Georgia wines?

ES: That it isn’t the Georgia wine of 20 years ago, when it was all very sweet fruit wines. Today we’re making amazing dry wines that are grown and vintified from world-class areas. See for yourself—pour a glass of Norton, [a native East Coast grape discovered in Virginia in the 1700s], and you’ll be very surprised by how wonderful it is. Our Nortons can compete with any Bordeaux or Burgundy. For whites, I’m partial to my Gruner at Crane Creek, but also impressed with Petit Manseng, which I’ve been tasting fantastic examples of here in Georgia.

KPK: What are some of Georgia’s most revered labels today?

ES: Quite a few wineries have won national accolades with their Nortons, including Crane Creek, Tiger Mountain and Frogtown. Wolf Mountain also does very well, and there’s a new guy on board at Engleheim Vineyards who’s only a few years in but earned a Double Gold Medal at the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (the Super Bowl of wine competitions) for their Sweet Molly, [a Traminette]. Our Villard Noir Rosé, a French-American hybrid, also won Best of Class.

KPK: So we have lots of incredible options to choose from. Can we visit these vineyards?

ES: Pretty much every vineyard has a tasting room—some are large, beautiful structures with restaurants on-site, and some maybe don’t even look open, but you can wind up having the best experience at these teeny little wineries. People really need to go out and visit them all because every single one is unique in that it captures the essence of the owner and winemaker.

KateKate is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications. Click here to read more culinary content from Kate

A Geocaching Adventure in Clayton County

By Sue Rodman

Photo courtesy of Field Trips with Sue

It’s always fun to uncover hidden treasures and geocaching is a great way to discover places you might not visit or see an old favorite location in a new light.

What is Geocaching
Geocaching is a high tech treasure hunt where participants use a GPS system to find boxes filled with trinkets, or in the case of Clayton County, trading cards. Participants take a trading card from the box and leave a trinket or card of their own. Some boxes also contain stamps for participants to collect and a logbook to record your find.

Geocaching Clayton County

The caches in Clayton County are all located at various tourist sights and attractions. Each cache contains a trading card specific to the location, giving quick facts about each historic site. To find the caches in Clayton County, visit Geocaching.com and search all geocaches by username hidden and use the handle VisitScarlett. Hunters who find three or more caches can show their trading cards and receive a prize at the Clayton County Welcome Center located inside the historic train depot in downtown Jonesboro. Once you find the caches, make sure to write your name in the logbook too.

Pair some geocaching with the Explore Georgia deal at the Stately Oak Plantation for an adventurous visit to Clayton County.

SueSue Rodman is Georgia’s official Smart Travel Explorer and the editor and publisher of the award-winning family travel blog Field Trips with Sue. Click here for more Smart Travel content from Sue.

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Spotlight on Georgia’s Craft Peanut Butter Company

By Kate Parham Kordsmeier

Photo courtesy of Georgia Grinders

Photo courtesy of Georgia Grinders

Georgia may be the peanut capital of the world, but shockingly, there are very few Georgia-based craft peanut butters. Atlanta resident, Jaime Foster, is changing that with her new hand-crafted, small batch peanut butter, Georgia Grinders, launching this month. Here she shares her story with us:

Q: What inspired you to start making your own nut butters? 

A: Our family has a passion for high quality, healthy foods. And as a mother of two young children, I was always looking for delicious, yet nutritious snacks and meals to appease picky eaters. “[I often turned to] my grandfather’s homemade almond butter—it doesn’t compare to what is commercially available. So, I decided to take a leap of faith and leave the corporate world to launch a small food business in January 2012.

Q: So that’s when Georgia Grinders was born?

A: That’s when we launched NaturAlmond, an all-natural almond butter. But as the cost of almonds hit a historical high, it was imperative that we diversify. The first and most obvious choice was our official state nut, the peanut. Then Georgia Grinders, which encompasses all of our future premium nut butters (cashew, pecan and sunflower seeds are next) and NaturAlmond, was born.

Q: It’s amazing there wasn’t another local peanut butter producer already. Why do you think that is?

A: The majority of our state’s peanuts are purchased by established brands, mass-produced and then distributed internationally at a low cost to the consumer. Often times these products contain hydrogenated oils, unnecessary sugars and preservatives. But we make a premium, handcrafted peanut butter that contains just two ingredients: non-GMO peanuts from South Georgia and sea salt. That’s it!

Q: I can taste the difference! What’s your secret?

A: We produce in small batches, only when orders come in, to provide the consumer with [fresh peanut butter] with a one-year shelf life.  We have perfected the ideal roasting time of premium nuts and have a proprietary grinding process that results in our signature [crunchy] texture (it also comes in creamy). It tastes like freshly roasted peanuts, not masked by the addition of sugars or oils, and it’s easy to stir and spread.

Q: What’s the future for GA-based peanut butters?

A: The health benefits associated with nuts and seeds—they’re high quality protein, fiber and fats—peanuts are the perfect, locally sourced solution. Plus, nut butters are extremely versatile—use them in sauces, baked goods, added to smoothies or eaten by the spoonfuls to satisfy hunger and sustain energy.

Find Georgia Grinders peanut butter at Whole Foods, Atlanta farmer’s markets and boutique shops like Oli+Ve, Savi, Totally Running, and Star Provisions. Or order online at www.georgiagrinders.com

KateKate is Georgia’s official Culinary Explorer and a freelance food and travel writer for more than 100 publications. Click here to read more culinary content from Kate