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Taste of Atlanta 2012

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Every year Taste of Atlanta seems to get bigger and bigger. Now in its 11th year, the festival hosts more than 45,000 people across a span of two days. (That is a far cry from 10,000 attendees in 2002!) This year, on the weekend of October 5-7, Taste of Atlanta took over Tech Square in Midtown (an area that can accommodate the larger crowd). The foodie fest included 80 local restaurants, thousands of hungry attendees, three live cooking stages, a Family Food Zone, VIP area, hands on demos in The Kitchen Workshop, Inside the Food Studio panel discussions, a Silent Auction, and The Big Grill: Grills Gone Wild party with grilled food and a musical performance by Yacht Rock Schooner. 100% of net proceeds from the Silent Auction benefited the Share Our Strength Cooking Matters program, which offers adults and teens nutrition, cooking and household budgeting courses. A portion of the proceeds from Friday night’s The Big Grill: Grills Gone Wild benefited Georgia Organics.

Taste of Atlanta founder Dale DeSena said, “Most people hear ‘Taste of Atlanta’ and they think they’ll get lots of great food – and they’re right!” He continued to say, “We love when people discover how educational the festival is. With the addition of The Kitchen Workshop this year and the continued success of Inside the Food Studio, we’re one of the few festivals that really encourages the attendees to engage with the chefs, the food and the programming. We are so proud to serve the city in this capacity and to show the world the amazing restaurants and chefs that help define Atlanta.”

Another festival first this year was the new user-friendly iPhone app. The FREE Taste of Atlanta Festival Guide app allowed iPhone users the ability to make the most of their epicurean experience by planning out their schedule with up-to-date information about book signings, seminars, parking, and cooking stage demos. The app included a map, restaurant guide with festival menu, mark and rate favorites, and connect to Facebook or Twitter.

Taste of Atlanta is a great way to try out new restaurants and talk to chefs or employees at each place about the food, atmosphere, and other topics of culinary interest. The festival works on a taste coupon system (for instance, 10 taste coupons were included with a Saturday or Sunday general admission ticket; 15 taste coupons were included with a Saturday or Sunday VIP ticket; and additional taste coupons could be bought 10 for $10). Most tastes at the featured restaurants ran between two and three tickets a piece. Sodas, bottled water, or alcohol could be purchased for cash. If you bought a VIP ticket, you were privy to free tastes of wine, beer, and spirits; a sheltered tent area with dance music and mingling; and casino games for entertainment provided by Harrah’s Cherokee.

There were so many restaurants present that attendees were sure to find a few bites that excited their refined palates. A few of the bites that I tried included, rabbit rattlesnake sausage, yak, venison, quail breast, blue crab crostini, duck confit, and beer ice cream. Of course, mine were on the more adventurous side because I am curious about new tastes and also to see if it is a dish that I might consider ordering in the future. For those not as adventurous, there were more traditionally loved bites like wings, bbq, sliders, beef, shrimp, and cupcakes available as well. Restaurants spanned different palates and budget ranges, including Waffle House, Taco Mac, Figo, L’Thai, Bhojanic, West Egg, Café Intermezzo, Divan, 5 Seasons, Mi Cocina, Mediterranean Grill, Trader Vics, Melting Pot, Johnny Rockets, Sweet Auburn BBQ, Noche Vinings, Gordon Biersch, Barrelhouse, Surin, and Woody’s Cheesesteaks – just to name a few!

The educational portion of Taste of Atlanta was a nice touch to the festival. I was able to sit in on a live cooking demonstration by Sportsman Channel’s host of “DeadMeat,” Scott Leysath. He cooked and demoed several of the not-so-traditional eats, including the rabbit rattlesnake sausage. I even got a free game-related cookbook for my hunter uncle. I sat in on a VIP hands-on demo in The Kitchen Workshop, “Born in the USA,” with Emily Ellyn, Retro Rad Television Personality, who taught participants how to cook Cornbread Johnny Cakes. Tables were set up so three to four people could share in the cooking experience and socialize. When I went to Inside the Food Studio, where I got to hear wine aficionados and brewmasters battle it out in “Wine vs. Beer.” It was a matchup between 5 Season’s Brewing company’s David Larkworthy and Crawford Moran versus Barcelona Wine Bar’s Gretchen Thomas and Ben McPherson. In the end the audience won because they (21+) got to sample two wines, two beers, and mussels. The Home Plate Main Stage had challenges, demos, and discussions, and the Family Food Zone was equipped to help parents out with their kids nutrition while entertaining the youngsters.

Taste of Atlanta is the best way to get to know a good sampling of top-notch yummy Atlanta restaurants and try bites of different dishes. Who knows, you might even broaden your horizons and palate!

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Art

Rain and Fire in Sedona

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Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando

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Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.

 

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Dance

“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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