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Diary Food Pr0n

Recommendation for vendors at the Atlanta Ice Cream Festival

Sell sizes other than “huge”.

Seriously.

There are a ton of vendors at this thing. And it’s a festival about ice cream. Wouldn’t you want people to be able to try as many different options as possible?

Offer inexpensive “tasting” sizes so people can sample more of your flavors.

Sure, you can continue to serve up enormous mounds of ice cream in giant cups for people who want that. But give those of us who want to try more than one thing an option too. Please?

Categories
Diary Photography

A glorious day in Midtown

Midtown skyscrapers

In my post about second homes, I mentioned that I hadn’t quite made that special connection with Atlanta yet. This past Tuesday, I realized that’s not exactly true. I do have strong feelings…for parts of Atlanta.

It only makes sense. Atlanta is huge. The sprawl just keeps going and going. Much of the city is strings and clusters of strip malls, businesses, and homes that are only accessible by car. Of course I wouldn’t find that homey, walkable, or natural.

But there are places where I can stroll around happily for hours and find plenty to do and see. As I rediscovered Tuesday, one of those places is Midtown.

Midtown skyscrapers

My friend and former coworker Stephanie just moved back to the Atlanta area–we met in Augusta, but she grew up here. We’ve been trying to get together and do something for awhile, and finally this week things came together. She and her baby Landon, who is just about to start walking but for this day spent most of the time in his stroller, met up with me at the High Museum of Art.

High Museum of Art with signage for Frida and Diego exhibit

Stephanie hadn’t been there since she was in school; as for me, the last time I’d visited was for the Picasso to Warhol exhibit a year ago. I acquired a photography permit (something I don’t recall them doing last year) and signed a statement agreeing not to post my photos online (alas), then we got to exploring.

We started in the Stent Family Wing, heading up the ramp to see European Art from the 14th to 19th centuries and American Art from the 18th to mid-19th centuries. We took a short break so Stephanie could feed Landon; I was impressed with how organized and thoughtful a mom she is. After a quick diaper change, we were able to take in the first part of the visiting Frida & Diego exhibit before Landon became too fussy to continue. All the while, Stephanie and I chatted about the art, and travel, and cutie Landon, and it was a lot of fun!

I wasn’t quite ready to leave yet, so after walking Stephanie and Landon down to the lobby, I headed back up to finish out Frida & Diego. I hadn’t heard of Frida Kahlo or Diego Rivera before this exhibit came to town, so it was an eye-opening experience. They both had such fascinating lives, their relationship with each other a pivotal point. One of Frida’s paintings in particular, “The Broken Column,” so strongly resonated that I had to fight burning tears. Frida suffered crushing injuries in an accident when she was 18. Her spine was broken in multiple places and her uterus was impaled. These injuries left her in a lifetime of pain and unable to carry a pregnancy to term. She died young, at 47. “The Broken Column” is a self-portrait. Frida gazes at the viewer, standing tall despite the exposed, fractured column that represents her spine, her body riddled with nails, her face streaked with tears.

All of the Frida & Diego exhibit is amazing and informative; I highly recommend checking it out before it leaves Atlanta in May.

After Frida & Diego I went up to the Skyway Level to see Gogo: Nature Transformed, a temporary exhibit of jewelry based on designs found in nature. Much of it was cast from molds of animal bones, and I didn’t really care for it. After that I wandered through the Modern Art exhibits, which were far more to my liking. I especially enjoyed the furniture designs; the High has pieces from Frank Lloyd Wright (instantly recognizable) and pieces that were sold by Herman Miller in the mid to late 20th century. One thing I also appreciated about the Modern Art exhibits, and the others that incorporate furniture or sculpture, is the way the museum has arranged all the pieces. Designing an exhibit is an art unto itself.

After Modern Art I skipped Folk Art and went straight to Contemporary Art. I remembered many of the pieces–Anish Kapoor’s untitled reflective dish, for one–but new items had appeared as well, and other exhibits and pieces that were on display last year are now gone. Then I went down to the Third Level and looked at American furniture, paintings, and sculpture from the 19th and 20th centuries. Items I found especially fascinating were an ornate cabinet, an intricate piano built for its looks rather than its sound, a group of face jugs from Edgefield, South Carolina, and two separate still life paintings featuring dead fish.

Finally I went down to the Lower Level, where I strolled through the Works on Paper exhibit and the African Collection. I found myself drawn to three paintings by Will Henry Stevens in Works on Paper and a display case filled with intricately detailed metal curios in the African Collection. And with that, my wonderful five and a half hours at the High were concluded.

High Museum of Art

At that point I was pretty hungry, so I decided to try and find food. I’d had a protein bar at around noon, but it was now 4:30. At first I thought I’d just go to the restaurant next to the High, but nothing on their menu sounded appealing, so I got on Yelp! to see what was available in the area. Unfortunately, the Midtown branch of South City Kitchen wasn’t open yet. I tried to go to a place called Article 14, but I couldn’t find it. (I ended up passing it later in the evening on a completely different street from where I’d been looking, but in my defense, the streets are both called Peachtree.) Eventually I decided to just keep walking around and eat whenever I found a restaurant that looked good. It took about 45 minutes, but I finally came across a pizza place called Vespucci’s, so I stopped there and had a delicious pepperoni calzone.

Pepperoni calzone from Vespucci's

Thus recharged, I decided there was still enough daylight to warrant going to Piedmont Park, so I headed off down the other Peachtree Street and then up 14th Street, all the while taking photos of beautiful Midtown. I got to the park at around 6:30 and spent about 45 minutes strolling through it, circling the pond and snapping photos of flowering trees and shimmering water. It was pretty out, though it was starting to get cold; I kept my hands in my pockets as much as possible.

Flowering tree at Piedmont Park

Flowering tree at Piedmont Park

Midtown skyline as seen from across the pond at Piedmont Park

Detail of a flower on a tree at Piedmont Park

Pavilion on the pond at Piedmont Park

Visitors Center at Piedmont Park

I took more Midtown shots on my way back to the car. The setting sun made for some nice light.

Reflected skyscraper bathed in a wedge of sunset light

Sunset light washing over 14th Street

I was headed off for home before darkness had a chance to settle in, thanks to Daylight Saving Time. (I may be the only person who likes DST.) As I found my way back to I-75, the dwindling sunset painted Midtown pink.

Pink-hued Midtown skyscrapers

I’d had an awesome day, but somehow I didn’t want to go home yet. I called Sean to see if he wanted to go out to dinner, but he didn’t, so instead of going to the apartment, I drove to our local movie theater to see if they had anything interesting. At the time, my mood was swinging toward either Emperor or A Good Day To Die Hard, but neither was playing at that location. Oz the Great and Powerful was available, but I’d read a review that had somewhat soured me on seeing it…so I went back to my car and pulled up Yelp! again, deciding to just go ahead and have dinner. A search for nearby restaurants revealed a Thai/Malaysian place in an adjacent shopping center. Given my love affair with Penang, that sounded like a plan to me, so I hopped out onto Cobb Parkway and then right off again, heading straight back to Top Spice.

The ambiance wasn’t quite as cozy as Penang’s, at least not in the entryway. I felt rather like I was on stage, as all the tables were raised above the level of the front door and there was no half wall or anything to provide a feeling of privacy. Once I was snug in my booth, though, I was quite comfortable.

Interior of Top Spice

Rather than an entree, I decided to have two appetizers. This was mainly because they had roti canai and I love roti canai, and I knew if I got roti canai and an entree, I wouldn’t be able to finish. The second appetizer I chose was called martabak. It’s made with the same Malaysian “pancake” as roti canai, but it’s a beef and onion curry wrap. Somehow the flavor wasn’t what I was expecting, and I’m not sure I liked it. The roti canai was good, but Penang’s is better.

Then I gave in to temptation and tried their sticky rice mango, and it was amazing. The plate featured three separate items: a sticky rice patty with sesame seeds, a neat pile of mango slices, and a small bowl of coconut syrup. At first I tried alternately dipping the rice, then the mango into the syrup, but I soon found that assembling bites of all three at once created the ultimate flavor. Sticky rice mango is one of the most delicious desserts I’ve ever tasted. I devoured it all.

Sticky rice mango at Top Spice

With that satisfying conclusion to my meal, I was finally ready for my day of adventures to end. I headed home in sublime contentment, my belly full of yummy food, my camera full of photos, and my brain full of happy memories.

View more Midtown photos | View more March 2013 photos

Categories
Adventure Diary Photography

Adventure at Sweetwater Creek State Park

Today I spent five hours exploring Sweetwater Creek State Park, a conservation area to the west of Atlanta. I walked, I hiked, and at times I even climbed, wandering around four marked trails and covering nearly nine miles. I saw beautiful forest, plenty of squirrels and bugs, a couple of deer, two tiny frogs, a long expanse of creek churning through white and gray stone, and the beautiful brick ruins of a mill.

Ruin of new Manchester Manufacturing Company millI got out of bed this morning determined to do something with my day off other than clean, cook, sit at my computer, and watch TV. I’ve gotten into a decent rhythm of late with chores and meals, and this has helped us to save money by not going out to eat, but I’ve been going stir crazy in the apartment. I needed to get out and do something fun and productive and healthy. So I decided to find a park to explore.

Atlanta has no shortage of parks, as I discovered when I started googling. This list is huge, and it isn’t even conclusive. I scanned down the page for anything with a good deal of acreage, then started checking for websites or community information. A number of interesting sites cropped up, including Grant Park, Freedom Park, and Chastain Park. (I’ve been to Piedmont Park before and wanted to find something new.) At some point my searching led me to the PATH website. The PATH Foundation builds walking and cycling trails across Atlanta. I was intrigued by several of the projects, including the Silver Comet Trail. I realized I had already seen part of the South Peachtree Creek Trail when Charles and Heidi took me to Mason Mill Park years back.

Ultimately, though, I decided I wanted to rough it a little more, and Sweetwater Creek, a conservation area, started to stand out. I noticed that it’s relatively close to where we live, and from the description it sounded like it would be really fun to explore:

Sweetwater Creek State Park is a peaceful tract of wilderness only minutes from downtown Atlanta. A wooded trail follows the stream to the ruins of the New Manchester Manufacturing Company, a textile mill burned during the Civil War. Beyond the mill, the trail climbs rocky bluffs to provide views of the beautiful rapids below. Additional trails wind through fields and forest, showcasing ferns, magnolias, wild azaleas and hardwoods.

My destination decided, I set about preparing. Obviously my Nikon was going. I shifted my wallet and little Canon into the bag. I’d also need provisions. I packed a bag of almonds, an Atkins bar, and some snack crackers, then made some tuna fish salad to carry in a cooler with an extra bottle of water. I also fried some bacon, and despite the fact that I left it too long and it got crunchy, I bagged it up as well.

Then I realized that I should probably charge my Nikon’s battery.

As I sat watching the blinking light on the charger, waiting for it to stop its strobing, I realized I would go nuts if I sat around waiting any longer. It was past noon, which meant the Marietta Square Farmers Market was open; I went to an ATM to pull a $20 and then headed up there to buy peaches, tomatoes, and potatoes. (I also bought a small lemon-chess pie for $3 from a vendor whose sweet potato pie is apparently beloved by President Bill Clinton.)

This little excursion gave the battery plenty of time to charge. However, by the time I got home, I was hungry, and Sean needed lunch too. So I boiled some hot dogs and made macaroni and cheese and sat down and ate. Time ticked by as I waited for the food to settle.

And then, finally, I was ready.

Everything was all packed, so I snagged the cold items from the fridge and put them in a cooler with some ice, grabbed the camera bag and my Camelbak water bottle with purse strap addition, and I was on my way.

The drive wasn’t bad and the website’s directions were pretty clear, so I found the park without incident. Upon arriving I discovered there was a $5 parking fee; I hadn’t thought of this, so it was fortunate that I had change from the farmers market. “Enjoy the park!” the man at the booth said cheerfully, and I drove back on the winding road through the trees to the parking lot at the very end, near the Visitors Center.

I’d read up on the trails online before heading out, and I intended to simply take the red trail; it was short and sweet and led to the main attraction, the mill. However, there were people everywhere. A group of kids, one a teen, one possibly a tween, and one who looked maybe 7 were goofing around and talking loudly. Huge families and throngs of friends loped by with baby carriers and walking sticks. I felt that to avoid them–to keep them out of my personal space and my photos–I would have to keep hurrying up and then stopping and waiting, and that didn’t seem enjoyable. So when an unmarked side trail branched away from the red trail, running down along the creek, I took it, and was instantly comforted by solitude.

Side trail along Sweetwater CreekEventually the side trail I was on led me to a bridge that spanned the creek; I saw that the yellow trail also led here. I remembered vaguely from my reading that this trail was longer than the red trail. More importantly to me, it was deserted. Everyone seemed to be fixated on the red trail. Without a second thought I crossed the bridge.

Yellow trail bridge across Sweetwater CreekI got turned around at first, heading down what I thought was a trail but what was actually apparently a service road. RunKeeper’s GPS helped me see that I was going nowhere; I turned back and found the yellow markers leading off away from the bridge, along the creek the way I’d come on the other side. I followed them, and eventually a left fork in the trail guided me away from the creek and into the forest.

I hiked uphill. It was a long climb, but I felt good. It was only when I’d reached what seemed to be the highest point of the trail (though it was hard to tell with all the trees) that I saw any other people. Two men walked by together, and then a third came up behind them moments later. I greeted them all cheerfully.

Yellow trail, Sweetwater Creek State ParkAs I wound my way back down and around, I remembered that the yellow trail was a loop, and the fork in the trail must have defined its start. Sure enough, I found myself walking back along the banks of the creek, and eventually I passed the point where I had set off into the woods. I retraced my steps to the bridge, crossed back over, and this time followed the yellow trail back to the parking area.

I could have called it quits then and headed to the car. It had been a good hike, with lots of uphill climbs. But I had plenty of water left, and I wanted to see the mill. So I turned back to the red trail, which by this time was thankfully less populated. One of the first things I saw was a beautiful butterfly atop a mound of dog doo. Of course I got a picture.

A gorgeous butterfly atop a turd.I found the beginning of the red trail to be far less strenuous than the yellow trail had been. It was mostly flat and very wide. Occasionally there would be an area off to the left where I could climb down to the rocky shore. The red trail also offered some lovely views of Sweetwater Creek.

View from the boardwalk alongside the ruined millIt wasn’t long before I reached the ruined mill. I was overjoyed to discover plenty of great angles for photography, from the trail and from down along the creek. The mill is inaccessible thanks to chain link fencing, but the views are still spectacular. The crumbled brick and empty windows reminded me of the old Sheldon Church ruins near Beaufort, the ruined abbey in Whitby, and Roche Abbey. And the wooden steps down to the mill reminded me of the forest jaunts my classmates and I took during our 2001 trip to Japan. Meanwhile, the water lapping and sometimes surging through the smooth rocks of the creek took me back to my childhood exploring of creeks and rivers in Kentucky. I was enchanted.

Mill stairs creek and rocks
Ruin of new Manchester Manufacturing Company mill Ruin of new Manchester Manufacturing Company mill

Once I’d had my fill of the mill, I decided to keep going on the red trail; a sign indicated that “Sweetwater Falls Overlook” lay ahead just half a mile. I didn’t remember from my morning reading that this part of the red trail was difficult, and so I was surprised when soon I was having to climb over rocks and fallen trees and watch my footing across narrow passages. It took much longer to navigate this part of the trail.

Small, rusty slide, red trailEventually I came across a large family I’d seen earlier; they were out on the rocks looking at and playing in the water. “She caught up with us!” yelled the father, as though this was a horrible thing to have happen. “Everybody back on the trail!”

“What, are we racing?” I mumbled to myself, annoyed, and continued on. I found a set of metal stairs, easily traversed, and shortly thereafter a long passage of railroad ties that might have been meant as stairs but which were far too steep to walk up. I used my hands and climbed, eventually finding myself on a boardwalk. I could still hear the loud family below me, but they seemed to be growing distant. I wondered if they would attempt the climb; it seemed a bit much for the littler ones.

Looking down from the boardwalk, I saw the creek cascading a few feet down some rocks, and I took a picture.

Sweetwater Falls?It never crossed my mind that this could be “Sweetwater Falls”. When I hear “falls”, I expect a waterfall–something tall. So I kept walking, wondering when exactly I would find the falls.

I knew that the red trail had ended and that I was now on the white trail; when I’d climbed up the hillside, I’d been met by a sign indicating that the blue trail was to the right and the white trail was to the left. I’d gone left, thinking the right would just go back to the parking lot (which, as I discovered much later, was correct). I didn’t remember that the falls were supposed to be at the end of the red trail. So I kept walking and walking and walking. And of course, I never found any “falls”, though I did enjoy the views of the creek to my left and the rocky cliff face to my right.rocky cliff faceflowersEventually the trail headed away from the creek and into the woods, and I knew I’d missed the falls somehow. “If I hadn’t seen the mill, I’d be pretty disappointed right now!” I said aloud. I decided to see where the trail went rather than turning around. I didn’t remember anything about the white trail; I was assuming it was one-way and that I would eventually have to go back, and I decided that when I did, I would take the blue trail to avoid having to climb down the side of the hill.

But the white trail kept going, eventually coming to a bridge and some very helpful signage. The bridge, apparently, led to a residential area; I was at the very edge of the park. The white trail continued in a loop that would eventually end back up near where I parked. It was quite a distance, but so was the way I’d come…not to mention that the way I’d come was rough, while the white trail seemed smoother. I continued forward.

White trailAfter a time, the white trail stopped being as obvious. Occasionally the forest cover would break and I’d emerge into a meadow; sometimes white strips were affixed to various plants along the way, and sometimes there was no sign of which way to go. I find it easy to follow established forest trails, whether marked or not, but I wanted to make sure I was headed in the right direction. Sometimes different trails would intersect with the one I was walking, and I was never quite sure if I should take them. I consulted RunKeeper’s continually-updating map to help me decide; somehow the GPS kept working even when I was out of my service area.

Moon visible from clearingFor the most part I made the correct decisions, but at one point I was flustered by the fact that the sun was going down and I needed to get north as soon as possible, so I followed an unmarked trail that seemed to be going in the right direction. At first everything seemed fine; it was a wide, clear path. My first indication that something was amiss was when I came upon a house. I was still within the boundary of the park, so I assume it was the home of a caretaker; there were two trucks in the yard, and one of them was marked “Georgia Department of Natural Resources”. I probably should have just turned around then, headed back to where the trail split and taken a different branch…but instead I kept going.

The path turned into what was obviously a service road, and that turned into a wild mess of rutted dirt and fallen trees. As I tramped through, a deer looked up, startled, and before I could raise my camera, it bounded away. Another one disappeared into a stand of trees just beyond it. I was a little unsettled, but continued walking; GPS informed me that I was at least heading in the right direction, so I hoped I would come upon one of the marked trails shortly.

deer footprintAfter awhile, the service road seemed to die out, and I was again walking a forest trail. This trail, though, was unmarked, and often unclear; it may not have been a human trail at all. I was having no trouble following it, though, and it was still going in the right direction, and the day was growing ever darker. I couldn’t see turning around at this point, not if I wanted to get to my car before the sun was completely gone.

For the last stretch of woods, there was hardly a trail at all. At one point, a thorny branch seemed to wrap around me, hooking itself to my clothes, and I had to wrestle myself free. The leaves crunching under my feet made me paranoid about snakes; I watched every step like a hawk.

And then, finally, blissfully, I spotted a clear trail running directly perpendicular to my current vector. I plunged out of the wilds and back into human space.

It was the blue trail. I turned left, and it guided me back towards the park entrance.

The trail was simple and mostly flat. I walked briskly, not daring to run in the dying light but knowing I needed to get out of the woods fast. At one point I stopped for a photo; the flash went off and two deer I hadn’t even noticed bounded away, perhaps the same pair I’d seen earlier.

As the trail wound around, I groused at it inwardly for not leading straight back to the parking lot. But finally the trees opened onto the back of a building I recognized as the Visitors Center, and the trail guided me up past it to a gently curving sidewalk. At the very end of that sidewalk was the parking lot, and directly across from it sat my car…the only vehicle left in the lot.

my lone carI had made it!

I slid into my Yaris and turned up the A/C. Taking deep drags from the spare water I’d left in the cooler, I drove my winding way out of the park and back to I-20.

In all, the hike lasted five hours. Here’s the RunKeeper map. Towards the end I could tell my legs were tired, but at the same time I felt like if I’d only had more water and sunlight, I could have kept going forever. When I got home and started cleaning up, I discovered thick rings of dirt around both ankles, evidence of my day of hard fun. I also discovered I’d taken a whopping 408 photos, which I later culled down to 377. Click here see them all.

This amazing adventure was just what I needed. It left me so energized and happy. I’ll definitely have to remember to go hiking the next time despondency tries to set in!

me

Categories
Diary

Scalini’s

Sean and I are slowly searching out haunts in our new Atlanta-area home. Tonight we discovered our first Italian place, a lovely restaurant that combines a hole-in-the-wall feel with casual elegance.

Scalini’s is located on Cobb Parkway in the same shopping center as the Best Buy, just above I-285. A huge green light-up sign stretches across the restaurant’s section of strip mall, proclaiming “Scalini’s Italian Restaurant” to the deep parking lot and the roadway beyond. A purely decorative awning runs above the front window, which looks into the dimly-lit bar, and a windowed front entryway provides a glimpse into a cheerful foyer.

Upon entering, we saw a high-ceilinged room dominated to the left by a long refrigerated glass case, displaying its meats and vegetables before a wall filled with dried goods and spices. To the right, past a towering Lady Liberty statue, was a passage through to the bar, and the hostess was straight ahead, guarding the way to the rest of the restaurant.

At this point I was wondering if we were underdressed…but we were greeted warmly and escorted back beyond the bar to a very casual seating area with private booths. There, most surfaces–the walls, the backs of booths, even some light fixtures–were covered with graffiti, messages from past guests, just like at Rhinehart’s back in Augusta. The area was cozy and private, too, with a narrow walkway running between rows of booths so small they could almost be called cramped, their seat backs going almost to the ceiling. The table was plenty big enough, and the booth seats just, so we settled in comfortably.

The menu was expansive, with appetizers, pastas, meats, seafood, and several desserts. Each meal was served with a large salad that included lettuce, tomato, and beets. I was pleased to discover that I found the beets delicious. Meals also came with a bowl of delicious freshly-baked rolls, served with oil and garlic.

We started with a stuffed mushroom appetizer that was the only disappointing part of the meal. Maybe the kitchen was rushed, as it was a bit late in the evening. Maybe their recipe wasn’t great. Whatever the reason, the mushrooms were passable, but not wonderful like the rest of the meal.

Sean’s main dish was a seafood alfredo that looked absolutely divine…scallops and shrimp with fettuccine dredged in that amazing creamy sauce. I had Cannelloni del Mar: lobster, scallops, and shrimp with cheese, baked in a pasta tube with rosatella sauce. It was an extraordinary medley of flavors.

We managed to eat about half of the shared salad, all the mushrooms, a couple of rolls, and about a third each of our entrees. I did find room for some fantastic spumoni, which I think was pistachio and chocolate, served with a cookie of lower sweetness to temper the taste. Finally, full and happy, we strolled back to the car with three to-go boxes.

Tonight’s dinner was a fantastic experience. I was captivated, both by the food and by the ambiance. It looks like Scalini’s is going to be a favorite!