Tag Archives: Atlanta

Hot Chocolate Run 5K 2015

1 Apr

Probably my coldest run to date, this year’s Hot Chocolate Run 15k/5k was a lot colder (33 F) than the run two years ago when we last ran it. But running with a great partner, joking around, and my awesome new zip up hoodie makes it all worth it!

Parking? We always try to go prepaid to avoid the headache. This year, we parked off of Ralph Abernathy and exiting was a breeze. And the 5-minute walk to the site wasn’t too bad.

It’s all about the “base”
The biggest takeaway from this race was the importance of having the right equipement. While shoes are important, so is having the proper base and outer layers (for when you get too hot or the temperature rises), head wear (hat or beanie), gloves and pockets for storing necessities.

The last time I ran the race, it was too warm for January (temperatures close to 70 I believe), but I was dressed with a thick base layer underneath a fleece tech hoodie. I ended up sweating profusely to the point where I felt like it was Spring within the first mile.


This year, I had my Underarmour base layer which I use for snowboarding under the full-zip fleece hoodie that all runners received. While it was chilly in the morning! The zipper and layers were perfect post-race while we enjoyed our hot chocolate and snacks!


Late Night Munchies Brown Bag Style

7 Oct

What do you do when you’ve got a salty late night craving, but don’t want a sit-down experience? You sit outdoors and do a little people watching at Ben’s Brown Bag.

Ben’s Brown Bag is an excellent walk-up spot for easy food. The staff is humble, friendly, and very welcoming. Although fairly new to the Howell Mill block and neighbor to LaFonda’s, the “Little Food Joint that could” isn’t shy about strutting its stuff on cool fall nights. The place is very simple with outdoor seating. The colors of brown, orange, and yellow remind of us a time where we would all “brown bag” our lunches at school or just bringing something to the office. Prices are a little higher than your “fast food joint,” but they have local, quality ingredients going into every food item…and you can taste the difference.

Ben's Brown Bag with coke

I stand at the window and order the special of the day, “The Big Ben”. A small burger with white cheese, thick bacon, and a special house sauce is aligned with Ben’s theme. My friend (MR) ordered the popular Boom Chicka sandwich which is a marinated and lightly battered chicken breast with garlic mayo and four pickles. No skimping out on the chicken and it’s pressure fried. All items are served in a brown bag (of course!) with a smiley face in line with the feel and theme. One order of chips to share and an ice cold bottled glass Coca-Cola  completes it all. Other drink options include other fountain drinks, sweet tea, lemonade, and Kool-Aid of the day.

Chicka Boom chicken sandwich

The brioche bun is buttery and soft. It’s more like a pillow than a foundation to house the combination of meat and cheese. The burger was cooked to perfection, medium well to be exact. Melted white cheese and thick cuts of fried bacon cooked on a flat top soaks the bun delicately without drowning it to the depths of sogginess. The special sauce is spicy, smoky and yet it’s not a chipotle type sauce. The sauce definitely kept it interesting and quite simply, “special”.

Big Ben Special Beef patty and bacon

Beef patty and bacon

Chips were the perfect complement. Who eats sandwiches/burgers without a side? I call blasphemy on those who think that is acceptable for such an abomination to happen. Chips were sliced a bit thicker than your standard chip. They were crispy, light and with just enough density at the same time. Not quite kettle chips, but crispy enough to hear a loud crunch between your ears. The potatoes were fresh and not oily at all. I guess deep-frying in soybean oil is something I can agree with. Also, the chips were lightly seasoned perfectly for sea salt & vinegar flavor (MR’s chose). Not exactly complimentary to the sandwich and Coke, but satisfying nonetheless. Other chip flavors include cajun, sour cream and onion, sour cream and cheddar.

Lastly, the crowd was ratchet due to the many events in the city of Atlanta including the BET Awards (and after party at Compound), Falcons game, Braves game, “Money” Mayweather in town, unknown rappers trying to market themselves, the ladies headed to the club, and the police to “keep the peace.” Ben, the owner, was a pleasure to talk to. He gave us the background on why and how he started the business and is a very down to earth person with a passion for selling good food in the Atlanta area at competitive prices.

Chatting with Ben the owner

Although the guys in front of us ordered the last shakes of the night, I’m sure we’ll be back again. I hope his business thrives and that Ben continues to share his love of the “brown bag”. And don’t worry, the place closes at 2 a.m.

Ben’s Brown Bag

1021 Howell Mill Rd, Atlanta, GA 30318

This is a guest post by my buddy who goes by the name “Cookies.”

Hearty Ethiopian

19 Aug

About seven years ago, I used to think that Ethiopian food was only for vegetarians. After writing an article on Ethiopian cuisine (during my freelance writing days in college) and trying different dishes with Ethiopian classmates and friends, this hearty and spice filled food cannot be limited to vegetarians. In fact, most of the dishes I order include lamb, fish, or beef!

Lamb tibs

Ribeye goden tibs – the bf’s favorite

When taking first-timers, my favorite spot in Atlanta to take them is Desta Ethiopian Kitchen just off of Clairmont Rd. It’s authentic, served individually for those who aren’t comfortable sharing family style, and provide eating utensils (if you prefer those over eating with your hands). The menu is great at explaining what everything is with a key/dictionary for common food terms (Tibs, shiro, firfir, gomen, ater etc.) and includes substitution options for those who may prefer other sides instead of the traditional injera.


What’s Injera?

Injera in Ethiopian cuisine is equivalent to rice for asian dishes. It’s served with everything and goes with everything. It’s often described as “spongy sour bread” known for its great absorbency, but with the flexibility of a tortilla. In some dishes, such as fit fit or fir fir (which literally means broken), the injera is cooked as part of the entree with the meat and seasonings. This dish is named as so because the injera is broken into smaller pieces and mixed with the sauce and spices. When eating in the traditional style with your hands, medium-sized pieces of injera are torn from the rolled injera and are used to grab or pick up other food. This allows the injera to soak up the flavor and prevents the sauce and spices from getting all over your hands. And even if you do get a little messy, the way I tend to get, there’s hand sanitizer at every table along with wet naps that they provide with the check.

Lamb tibs

Lamb tibs with a side of mesir (without gomen)

Lamb tibs with gomen

Lamb tibs cooked with gomen and a side of miser

The good stuff

I usually skip over the appetizers and order straight for the entrees. I’ve been to Desta quite a few times with different groups of people, but my favorites have been the fish, lamb and ribeye. The BF loves the ribeye or goden tibs (served on a sizzling plate), my father and a few friends prefer the fish tibs (with tilapia) or the fish dulet when they want something lighter and I usually end up with a lamb or fish entree. I can’t speak to the sandwiches or pasta because I am usually looking for a hearty meal, but I’ve heard everything on the menu is pretty great.


Lamb cooked with gomen served with mashed split peas on the side

Fish dulet served with salad

Fish dulet served with salad

Fit fit served wrapped

Fit fit served wrapped

Fit fit (unveiled)

Fit fit (unveiled)

The other good stuff

While I typically order water or mango juice, some of my other favorite drinks for special occasions are tej (honey wine),  tella (beer) or their famous coffee. They also serve a variety of desserts, but I usually don’t have any room in my stomach for anything else. Do you have a favorite Ethiopian dish? Let me know and I’d love to check it out!

Desta Ethiopian Kitchen

3086 Briarcliff Rd.
NE Atlanta, GA 30329


Roasted Tomato Basil and Fresh Mozzarella Soup

10 Apr

After what has felt like a slow-starting and everlasting winter, it’s now Spring. But with that said, I really developed a new found love for soup. Specifically, tomato soups! And I mean all variations from tomato basil, tomato basil artichoke, tomato basil mozzarella and more.

So where did I develop such a longing for tomato basil soups? Aside from the instagram photos, it’s because of  Souper Jenny located on East Andrews. The menu changes daily, but the soups and salads are amazing. Now that the weather is warmer, they also have cold salads on the menu. But make sure you bring your checkbook/cash as they do not accept credit cards and expect a long line anytime after 11:30 a.m. So if you’re looking for a quick in-and-out lunch spot, this may not be your best option, but boy is the food delicious!

In my quest to learn how to cook with basil and finding I had more tomatoes than I knew what to do with, I looked up several tomato basil soups until I found the following recipe by Ina Garten of the Food Network. Check out the full recipe  below.

I’ll admit, it probably took me two hours total to make the recipe and I didn’t follow it exactly, but it was worth every drop. For example, I tossed the soup into the Vitamix for a smoother texture and I added fresh mozzarella chunks just because I love it and had some available from my caprese salad ingredients. I also added extra chili flakes. (Shhh) As with any soup, serve it with some warm bread or toast (Hawaiian bread in my case) and you’ll be set!

Unfortunately, I forgot to snap a picture of the roasted tomatoes, so visualize that as the first image in my brief series.

Slow roasted for 40 minutes.

Slow roasted for 40 minutes.

Into the vitamix for a grainy texture

Into the vitamix for a grainy texture


Get in my belly you roasted tomato basil and mozzarella soup!


Total Time:
1 hr 50 min

Prep:15 min
Cook:1 hr 35 min

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

3 pounds ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chopped yellow onions (2 onions)
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28-ounce) canned plum tomatoes, with their juice
4 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 quart chicken stock or water

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Toss together the tomatoes, 1/4 cup olive oil, salt, and pepper. Spread the tomatoes in 1 layer on a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes.

2. In an 8-quart stockpot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic with 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the butter, and red pepper flakes for 10 minutes, until the onions start to brown. Add the canned tomatoes, basil, thyme, and chicken stock. Add the oven-roasted tomatoes, including the liquid on the baking sheet. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered for 40 minutes. Pass through a food mill fitted with the coarsest blade. Taste for seasonings. Serve hot or cold.

Do you have a favorite tomato soup recipe? While I’m clearly biased, I’d love to see your favorites!

Running America’s Sweetest Race

22 Jan


This past week, myself and a few other friends ran the 5K Hot Chocolate Run. I should’ve ran the 15K, but haven’t been properly training for it, so I chose the next best thing to ensure I hot my chocolate fix. After the race, we received the finisher’s mug with a cup of hot chocolate, a banana, rice krispy treat, pretzels and a marshmallow to dip in the chocolate fondue. (Is your mouth watering yet?)

Check out our treats!

Check out our treats!

Let’s back up to Saturday, aka race number pick-up day. The real reason I signed up for this race to begin with was not the hot chocolate, but the goodie bag which is a technical hooded sweatshirt. The best goodie bag ever! And to top things off, they even came in a cute colored drawstring bags plus they gave away free hot chocolate, chocolate squares and biscoff spread.

Square chocolate

Square chocolate

More hot chocolate (and calories)

More hot chocolate (and calories)

Although parking at the Georgia World Congress Center was no walk in the park, they were friendly volunteers in bright orange shirts to guide the way along with local and national running vendors from the Big Peach Running Company to Jeff Galloway and 110%. After looking though the sale bins of brooks running shorts, Thorlo Experia running socks (buy 3, get 1 free), 110% overdrive compression + ice kits (which my boyfriend really wanted to buy), we walked away with waffle energy snacks, energy blocks and a water resistant iFitness Ultimate II Neoprene running pouch.

After a Saturday evening practice run with my boyfriend, he broke out from a food allergy and we ended our night early. 😦 Early birds that we are, we got to the Turner Field orange lot just before 6 a.m. and we (by “we” I mean my bf) took a quick nap then headed to the blue lot for the fitness/zumba warm-up. Although there was a gear-check available, passed on this leaving valuables in the car and using our newly purchased running pouch to avoid the long lines.

Quick nap before the race

Quick nap before the race

Based on your seed time, all runners were placed in a coral. We were in coral D, but finished the race with lots of coral B and C and runners, so we took this as a sign that we’ll need to run in a higher coral next year. *wink The course was fairly easy with a big downward hill near the finish line that is very encouraging. It was definitely worth the run. I had such a great time, I might have to try the 15K next year!

Sporting the male & female tech hoodies and Hot Choco Run hats!

Sporting the male & female tech hoodies and Hot Choco Run hats!

In case you’re wondering about our “cool” running hats, I actually found a code when registering that got us the neat hats. So as a friendly tip, it’s worth searching for codes and discounts when registering for ANY race. Happy (cold weather) running!

An excited and accomplished girl (excuse the messy hair- Just took off the hat)

An excited and accomplished girl (excuse the messy hair- Just took off the hat)

What’s Gu’ing on?

17 Aug

Gu’s Bistro! That’s what’s goin’ on.

My co-worker and I love exploring Buford Highway and are often rewarded with great gems such as Gu’s. While I must admit that I don’t think I’ve actually had authentic Szechuan food before trying Gu’s Bistro, I am proud to check that off my list and hope to make a trip back with my friends who are always looking for a little more heat in their food.

As is expected of most great hole in the walls, Gu’s isn’t a place that’s easily spotted from the road. In fact, it’s located in a strip mall just behind the Chick-fil-A. But don’t let the exterior deceive you.


We started off with Chengdu Style Cold Noodles that had just the right amount of heat and really prepped our appetite for the following dishes.


Listed as one of the popular picks, the stuffed tofu quickly became my favorite dish (and gave my mouth a break from the spice). The tofu is stuffed with shrimp and mushrooms, fried, then served along with bok choy, bamboo shoots and more mushrooms. While I admit that I am not the biggest tofu fan, I couldn’t help but have a change of heart for tofu dishes after the first bite.The soft and firm tofu is pairs well with its stuffing and encased in the fried tofu.


We also tried the Chengdu Dumplings served in red chili oil. Although the red chili oil is usually served as a condiment at most other places or sometimes only available upon request, these dumplings were served in a bowl of the hot liquid. >__< But have no fear, this dish can also be served in chicken soup or hot & sour soup for milder options.

Not pictured is the Cumin Lamb that is appropriately labeled with two chili peppers on the menu and cooked just long enough that the meat is soft and not chewy. Highly suggested for the lamb fans. Hope you get a chance to check this place out the next time you’re in the area!

Gu’s Bistro
5750 Buford Hwy NE, Suite A
Doraville, GA 30340

DIY Fresh Spring Rolls

1 Jul

Sorry for the recent hiatus from posting. This blog is the first of more to surely come and is also my first attempt at posting via mobile (aka my iPod). Hope you enjoy!

I’ve visited Nam Phuong (one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants) on Buford Highway twice since it has opened and have received both great food and service every time! The first and original location is located on Jimmy Carter.

On my most recent visit, a co-worker and I decided to split the self-prepared fresh spring rolls (aka goi cuon). Below you will see the spring wrappers to right on top of a bowl of hot water used to soften the wrapper. The giant plate is filled with our fillings of vegetables, pork, shrimp, and beef wrapped in grape leaves. On the far left are the fish and peanut dipping sauces.


To start, place a spring roll wrapper in the hot water by placing half in the water and twisting through the water until completely wet. The wrapper will soften slightly but will maintain rigidity and should be laid out on your plate immediately. From here, select your fillings such as mint, cucumbers, sliced carrots, lettuce, sugar cane, angel hair rice noodles and your choice of pork, shrimp, beef. Place these ingredients in the middle or slightly to make the folding easier. You can even sprinkle a little of the sauces or save it for dipping.

To wrap or fold, pull one side if the wrapper completely over your fillings and pull tightly. Close the ends (similar to how you would wrap a burrito) and continue folding until it is completely closed. Here’s what my first attempt looked like.


To get a better view of your filling choices, here’s a closeup.


Although it’s enough for two, we were both stuffed with enough leftovers to make two-three more rolls and would recommend this only if you’re comfortable with touching your food and have more than an hour for your meal. Not featured were our jackfruit and avocado bubble shakes which I am sure also helped ensure we were adequately full.

Nam Phuong – http://www.namphuongatlanta.com/
4051 Buford Highway
Atlanta, GA