We’re Bringing the Puerto Rican Food Party to Atlanta

The coast, the mountains, and the home: that is the landscape of authentic Puerto Rican cuisine painted by Atlanta-based renowned Chef, Hector Santiago. Known for his stint on Top Chef, Santiago has made a name for himself through his restaurants Pura Vida, and his most recent foray in the Atlanta food scene, El Super Pan.

INSPIRED BY THE WORLD – El Super Pan boasts traditional dishes from all around the Spanish Caribbean (Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the Dominican Republic), some of which have very non-traditional fusion elements from other international cuisines, particularly flavors from East Asia. One would never see pork belly buns, fish sauce, or anchovies in Puerto Rican cuisine, but Santiago is a firm believer in the expansion of what we know about food. He is inspired to create by the fresh ingredients grown in whatever environment he happens to be cooking in.

El Super Pan's pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine
El Super Pan’s pork belly bun, a fusion of Spanish-Caribbean and Korean cuisine

Santiago, along with other Atlanta-based Puerto Rican Chefs, Julio Delgado and Andre Gomez, will be planning a menu for Go Eat Give Destination Puerto Rico that provides a true glimpse into the everyday food in Puerto Rico; a real slice of life. But don’t get me wrong, there is nothing “run-of-the-mill” about everyday Puerto Rican food. It is full of layers of spices, textures, and strong flavors, because food and eating is such a big part of Puerto Rican culture. Santiago said that when he was a kid in Puerto Rico, cooking at a young age was extremely common, and all of his friends used to come to his house to cook together, laugh, play, and eat. 

Two staples of Puerto Rican cuisine that you will see as a base for just about every Puerto Rican dish are Sofrito and Adobo. Sofrito is a rich mixture of peppers, onions, tomatoes, salt and pepper that serves as a starting out place for much of Puerto Rican cuisine. Adobo is a complementary mixture of spices that one would be extremely remiss to leave out of their Puerto Rican dish: cumin, corriander, oregano, black pepper, garlic, etc. These spices and vegetable bases make cuisine so flavorful and bold, it’s easy to take for granted. Santiago recalled the first time that he tried oatmeal in the mainland United States, and he thought, “what is this?” “Puerto Ricans hate bland food,” he laughed “at home oatmeal has vanilla, orange zest, cinnamon, sugar, a little salt. It’s one of those big differences.”

YEAR-ROUND FOOD FESTIVALS – Santiago explained that there is an immense festival culture in Puerto Rico. There is always something going on and with that, comes the food. He joked, “If you’re not drinking Cerveza in Puerto Rico, you’re probably eating!” There is truly a festival for every occasion on Puerto Rico and for the harvest of every possible staple food you could think of. There are coffee festivals, banana festivals, taro festivals, corn festivals, tomato festivals, orange festivals and more than five different festivals dedicated to crab. Puerto Rico is also a growing home to very large, internationally recognized culinary festivals, like Saborea (savor) where over 70 chefs, brewers, mixologists, and baristas come together to celebrate the best the country has to offer.  I’m not sure there are many other places in the world where food is SO central and so celebrated–that’s how you know it’s going to be good. 

Bacalaitos--fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack
Bacalaitos–fritters of salted cod, a common beach snack

THE COAST – To start, the chefs will present a taste of the coast. Attendees will taste bacalitos, which are fritters of salted cod. Santiago says bacalaitos are a very traditional Puerto Rican dish, despite the fishes’ natural cold water habitat. They are a food tradition left over from Spanish influence, so they import the cod to keep the tradition alive. There will be a variety of empanadas and alcapurrias. Alcapurrias, unlike empanadas, are made with a batter of mashed root vegetables like plantains and taro, and are often stuffed with fish or crab. This is the food people think of and crave in the coastal regions of Puerto Rico: little, deliciously crunchy, fried seafood snacks that are easy to grab and go.

An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine
An example of mofongo, a staple of Puerto Rican cuisine

THE MOUNTAINS – For the main courses, Santiago, Gomez, and Delgado will prepare a taste of the mountains, a frequent weekend escape destination for many Puerto Rican families. One of the dishes include Mofongo. Although you will find similar cuisine throughout the Spanish Caribbean, mofongo is thought of as originally Puerto Rican. It features green plantains mashed, fried, and served with crispy pork chops spiced with, of course, adobo and garlic. Pork is a common and celebrated form of protein in Puerto Rico. So, we will also get to taste Lechon Asao, pork slow roasted until the skin is thin and crispy, which will be served with arroz con gandules (pigeon peas).

Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding
Arroz con leche, a puerto rican rice pudding

THE CASA – For the final course, we’ll get to taste Puerto Rican desserts commonly served at home such as flan, arroz con dulce, rice pudding with cinnamon, coconut and raisins, and a Puerto Rican favorite: papaya con queso. As I was speaking with him, I could tell Santiago clearly favored the latter as he nodded and said, “It’s amazing.”

All of these thoughtfully planned out and expertly prepared dishes, combined with the live music and dancing always present at Puerto Rican food festivals, we are all going to feel as if we are actually there. We can’t think of a better way to celebrate this amazingly rich culture than through a fiesta of food, one of the things it holds most dear. So let’s eat!

GET YOUR TICKETS TO DESTINATION PUERTO RICO TODAY!
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Read more about Hector Santiago and El Super Pan

Read more abut Julio Delgado and JP Atlanta

Read more about Andres Gomez and Porch Light Latin Kitchen

Changing the Face of Craft Beer

Jason Santamaria is a Beer Architect, a somewhat unusual title. He is the president and one of the co-founders of one of Atlanta’s newest players in the Craft Beer scene, Second Self Beer Company. I recently had the pleasure of visiting the brewery at their location on the West Side of Atlanta, and got to know how exactly he and Chris Doyle, “The Alechemist”, were building.

Jason (left) and Chris (right) at the opening of their Tasting Room.
Jason (left) and Chris (right) at the opening of their Tasting Room.

Chris and Jason have been brewing together since 2005. Jason comes from a culinary family and he claims that this background is part of the reason he felt a connection to brewing craft beer. But for him, it wasn’t just about making the best version of a beer that many others were already producing, it was about making something entirely different.

The first beer that Jason and Chris produced and took to brewing competitions, was a Red Hop Rye. The problem was, it didn’t exactly fit into any particular beer category. Essentially, they combined elements from three different beer categories: Red Ale, IPA, and Rye Wheat beer, and came up with a new style of beer. For Jason, “it’s a perfect example of American ingenuity in beer.” This is Second Self’s beer philosophy. They are constantly working to create beers that have never been thought of or heard of; sophisticated not just in structure or flavor, but in concept as well.

Jason has even introduced international cuisines to American craft beer. Second Self’s “Thai Wheat” was inspired by Jason’s travels to Thailand in 2010. He took cooking classes while there and learned about a tradition spice blend, “well, technically a tea,” he said, that is now the base of the beer. They use fresh lemongrass and ginger, which is something you would never find in a traditional wheat beer. He mentioned that it took about 100 iterations to perfect this drink.13717447_1137234076297947_7784726724660029685_o

This kind of detail-oriented production is what is needed to make the type of beers that Jason envisions: Beers that are able to pair with a multitude of cuisines and flavors. Beers that are not too overbearing, but that still maintain a complexity of flavor that make them a delight to drink on their own. Jason talks about beer as a sophisticated sommelier would talk about wine, and there’s a reason for that. “Wine’s been at the dinner table too long and beer needs to have its place too,” he says.

I believe Second Self is creating a new space within American Craft Beer that is doing just that; it asks for a spot at the dinner table based on its merit and thoughtfulness, and I believe the beers Second Self is producing deserves that spot. So does renowned Atlanta-based Puerto Rican Chef, Hector Santiago, which is why you will see Second Self beers alongside our amazing menu of expertly prepared Puerto Rican dishes at Destination Puerto Rico (by the way, I am partial to the Mole Porter). Any beer with as much insight, enterprise, and creativity behind it as the ones Jason and Chris painstakingly draw the blueprints for, build and perfect, is sure to bring not just beer, but any dining experience, up to a whole new level.

Second Self Beer Company has just opened a new Tasting Room. You can book a tasting tour of the brewery on their website!
Second Self Beer Company has just opened a new Tasting Room. You can book a tasting tour of the brewery on their website!

Get your tickets for Destination Puerto Rico today

Read more about Jason Santamaria and Chris Doyle 

~ By Virginia Spinks, intern at Go Eat Give. Virginia is a senior at Emory University majoring in religion and anthropology. As an Atlanta native, she has grown up around many different cultures and cuisines, and has always had a passion for food. She views food as an experience: a point of connection to bring people together and create lasting memories.

Koreatown Takes Over at Chai Pani Atlanta

I use to call myself a Korean food enthusiast because I’ve probably tried ten different Korean restaurants around Atlanta. Truth be told, I’m more of a Spicy Seafood Tofu Soup enthusiast because that’s the only thing I ever order when I go to Korean restaurants. Looking back after attending Koreatown Takeover at Chai Pani, I must say I’ve failed miserably to thoroughly savor the Korean cuisine offered in Atlanta.

The event was meant to celebrate Chef Deuki Hong and writer Matt Roddard’s new Korean cookbook titled Koreatown. All attendees went home with a copy of the beautifully illustrated book with hundreds of Korean recipes. A group of chefs from Chai Pani, Heirloom Market BBQ, Gaja Korean Restaurant, Buxton Hall Barbeque (North Carolina), and chef-at-large Chris Hathcock gathered together for one night to create a five-course meal of savory and seoulful dishes inspired by recipes from Koreatown.

Thirty minutes into the event, all 140 seats at Chai Pani Decatur were filled. Each guest was equipped with a cocktail or beer to start, and an hour later, the feast began. Everyone quickly picked up their chopsticks, and for those who were chopsticks challenged, they had their forks and knives ready to go!

Rainbow Banchan (side dishes) created by all the chefs
Rainbow Banchan (side dishes) created by all the chefs

A banchan tray presented with texture and flavors ranging from soft and crunchy, to sweet and sour that accommodated all palettes. My particular favorite was the beet and lime juice pickled cauliflower (the bright pink dish in the photo) prepared by Deuki Hong, one of the authors of the book.

Los-Pyunche

Los-Pyunche Smoked galbi trip-tip, shaved onion, Korean pear, sesame leaf, uja mayo, soy wasabi dressing by Atlanta’s very own Heirloom Market Barbeque.
Los-Pyunche
Smoked galbi trip-tip, shaved onion, Korean pear, sesame leaf, uja mayo, soy wasabi dressing by Atlanta’s very own Heirloom Market Barbeque.

This dish was so delicious that it deserves a full presentation and a close up. You can savor similar tender and flavorful pieces of meat at Heirloom Market Barbeque located at 2243 Akers Mill Rd SE.

goan-chujang pork vindaloo, idli  (fermented & steamed rice&urad dal cakes) by chef Meherwan Irani & James Grogan of Chai Pani
goan-chujang pork vindaloo, idli
(fermented & steamed rice&urad dal cakes) by chef Meherwan Irani & James Grogan of Chai Pani
Smoked Beef bulgogi sausage, Carolina gold rice grits, kimchi, and radish gold rice grits, kimchi, radish by Chris Hathcock.
Smoked Beef bulgogi sausage, Carolina gold rice grits, kimchi, and radish gold rice grits, kimchi, radish by Chris Hathcock.

These two dishes took me by surprise. I didn’t expect Korean dishes to carry such drastic flavors. Chef Irani and Grogan’s dish was a blend of Korean and Indian spices while Chef Hathcock’s dish was a Korean and Southern comfort fusion. I was pleasing surprised.

Although everyone seemed generously fed with more than enough food, Chef Deuki’s last dish—the classic fried chicken — still generated a lot of excitement. And the chicken tasted as good as it looked – crispy on the outside, succulent and soft on the inside, fulfilling to the core.

 Korean fried chicken with roast garlic heads and scallion salad.

Korean fried chicken with roast garlic heads and scallion salad.

Once three dishes and several cocktails were consumed, I noticed the upbeat K-pop music playing in the background. I asked my neighbor if Korean music had been playing this entire time, and he amusedly answered that he had been too focused on the food to notice any music. I think that’s a very good indication of the food!

The dessert was my all time favorite ice-cream, Melona Melon ice-cream bar. Although all the dishes presented were made at the event and difficult to replicate, you can always purchase Melona Melon at any Korean/ Asian market near you. It’s an irresistible chunk of flavored ice to cool you down in the Hotlanta summer.

I left the event completely satiated and with a change in perception about Korean food and food in general. I’ve always been so basic (for lack of a better word) when it comes to ordering food. I deemed fusion restaurants unauthentic. Perhaps, fusion restaurants are unauthentic to their native countries, but not for Atlanta, a city with such diversity in both people and cuisines.

~ By Vy Nguyen, current intern at Go Eat Give. Vy was born and raised in a small village in Vietnam and attends Emory University studying Economics and Linguistics.

Street Eats and Summer Festivals

This year was the 5th annual Atlanta Street Food Festival, but expectant patrons may have noticed a pretty large difference between the festival this year as compared to the past few years. The event was moved from its popular central location in Piedmont Park to Stone Mountain Park. If you dread what impact festivals have on your car mileage or your pocket, here are my recommendations on how to make the most of your festival experience…

Plan to Spend the Entire Day 

If you are just going for a few hours, a $15 parking fee, a $25 cover charge and the price of food from vendors on top of everything, seems like a lot to ask. Not to mention, Stone Mountain Park is out of the way for many folks inside the perimeter, and this past weekend sported Heat Indexes of over 104 degrees Fahrenheit. However, I discovered that the people able to make the best of this situation, planned to get their money’s worth by bringing their own lawn chairs and setting them up in the shade for the whole day. This way, you could avoid the heat, have guaranteed seating, and have the time to digest between rounds of eating.

Many people had the right idea in bringing their hammocks! There's lots of trees and natural shade in Stone Mountain Park!
Many people had the right idea in bringing their hammocks! There is lots of trees and natural shade in Stone Mountain Park.

Find the Unique Street Eats

From what I saw this weekend, there are trends in what food trucks sell. I felt that every other truck sold the same tried (but true) foods: burgers, lobster rolls, fried green tomatoes, and some variation of low country boil. But the most popular trucks were the ones that specialized on one food type, or sold food that nobody else was selling. Here were some of the highlights:

Chazito's Cuban Food truck from Savannah, GA served up some delicious empanadas con pollo, tostones, and maduros
Chazito’s Cuban Food truck from Savannah, GA served up some delicious empanadas con pollo, tostones, and maduros.
Mac The Cheese Food Truck was never without a small line . They served me up a Fontina Mac and Cheese although they were serving mac every which way, including with lobster.
Mac The Cheese Food Truck was never without a line. They served Fontina Mac and Cheese although they were serving mac every which way, including with lobster.
Bollywood Zing! based out of Smyrna served up some flavorful samosa chaat (samosa with warm chick pea salad on top), however we did miss their biryani!
The Bollywood Zing! truck, based out of Smyrna, served flavorful samosa chaat (samosa with warm chick pea salad on top), however we did miss their biryani.
Roti Rolls, ranked the best food truck in Charleston features eccelctic sandwiches inspired by many global cuisines and sources their food "farm to truck." This sandwich is their "Foghorn Leghorn;" organic chicken, coconut curried vegetables and house-made kimchi all on Indian Roti. Needless to say, it exploded with flavor.
Roti Rolls, ranked the best food truck in Charleston, features eccelctic sandwiches inspired by many global cuisines, and they source their food “farm to truck.” This sandwich is their “Foghorn Leghorn”: organic chicken, coconut curried vegetables and house-made kimchi all on Indian Roti. Needless to say, it exploded with flavor.
cookie truck
The “Not As Famous Cookie Company” made an appearance with their cookie truck. As a dessert truck serving only cookies, it stood out amongst all the Italian Ice stands. And these  cookies were delicious; they should be famous. My favorite was the peanut-butter chocolate pretzel.

Know That You’re Giving Back

The ticket price for entry may have seemed steep for some, but most attendees may not have known that part of the proceeds went to benefit an important Atlanta-based non-profit, The Giving Kitchen. The Giving Kitchen grants help to those in the Atlanta restaurant community dealing with crises (of any sort).

All in all, this festival was definitely worth going to. Although a bit far removed from it’s beloved Piedmont Park location, the new location certainly helped with the crowd problem. The way the trucks were spaced out in Stone Mountain Park made the event feel more like a relaxed family fun day at the park, than like the congested street festivals that can be irritatingly difficult to navigate. The organization and logistics of the festival could still use improvement, perhaps with a more detailed map and description of the food vendors, or use of an app-like guidebook. However, it already seems that the Atlanta Street Food Festival is getting better year after year.

IMG_2589~ By Virginia Spinks, intern at Go Eat Give. Virginia is a senior at Emory University majoring in religion and anthropology. As an Atlanta native, she has grown up around many different cultures and cuisines, and has always had a passion for food. She views food as an experience: a point of connection to bring people together and create lasting memories.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Women of Vision Come to Atlanta

Ever wondered what it would be like to travel the world, taking photographs, working for National Geographic? What sounds like the best job in the world, is actually one of the most difficult ones personally and professionally.

I recently attended an exhibition on Women of Vision: National Geographic Photographers on Assignment at Fernbank Museum of Natural History (on display September 26, 2015- January 3, 2016), where the influential photography of 11 award-winning female photojournalists is on display. Sponsored nationally by The PNC Financial Services Group, Inc., Women of Vision was curated by National Geographic Senior Photo Editor Elizabeth Krist, who had the challenging task of choosing a selection of images to best represent the broad portfolios of the 11 extraordinary photographers.

women-of-vision-national-geographic-photographers-on-assignment-2-638Next to the photographs is a background story on what social issue the photographer witness or what her feelings were. There is also a video podcast about the female photographers where they talk about what it’s like to be a traveling photographer on assignment for National Geographic.

Some of the things these acclaimed women talk about is having courage to go to places most people wouldn’t think of going to. National Geographic Photographers don’t just cover tourist attractions; they go to warn torn, disaster sites, and are often in the middle of conflict. Safety is an issue. They could be out on the field stuck in the middle of a dessert with little water or in the jungle waiting for leopards to emerge for weeks at a time.

There is the pressure of finding the right photograph that tells a story. “A picture is worth a thousand words” is not a catch-parse in this line of profession. While there is a details story to go along with most photographs, these women are out there to capture a moment in history with a photographer. Sure it’s wonderful if they get recognized as a National Geographic photographer of the year, but most National Geographic photographers do what they do because they are passionate about it.

Women of Vision features nearly 100 photographs, including moving depictions of far- flung cultures, compelling illustrations of conceptual topics such as memory and teenage brain chemistry, and arresting images of social issues like child marriage and 21st-century slavery. In addition to the photographs, visitors have an opportunity to learn how National Geographic magazine picture editors work closely with the photographers to select images and tell a story.

“For the last decade, some of our most powerful stories have been produced by a new generation of photojournalists who are women. These women are as different as the places and the subjects they have covered, but they all share the same passion and commitment to storytelling that has come to define National Geographic,” said Kathryn Keane, vice president of National Geographic Exhibitions. “The exhibition reaffirms the Society’s position as a respected leader in the field of photography.”

“This provocative exhibition will take our visitors on an eye-opening journey that highlights a range of subject matter and natural history themes,” said Dr. Bobbi Hohmann, Fernbank’s Vice President of Education, Collections and Research. “Through their compelling images and stories, Fernbank’s visitors will gain a better understanding and appreciation of our world and its many inhabitants.”

Women of Vision underscores National Geographic’s history of documenting the world through photography and its ongoing commitment to supporting photographers as important and innovative storytellers who can make a difference with their work.

Go Eat Give is giving away 4 tickets to see Women of Vision and Queen of Sheba exhibits at the  Fernbank Museum of Natural History. Leave a comment below and enter to win. Drawing will take place on Monday, Nov 23, 2015 and notified by email. 

Eat Well and Give Back in Atlanta

Atlanta foodies, we’ve got something for you! Your chance at an inexpensive culinary tour around metro Atlanta has finally arrived with the release of the Atlanta DiningOut Passbook. This tiny book of two-for-one entrée deals features over 50 of Atlanta’s favorite eateries and over $1500 in value. Participating restaurants include Agave, STK, Apres Diem, Anis, Murphy’s, No Mas Cantina, McCray’s, Sun In My Belly, Meehan’s, Einstein’s, and dozens more!

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In addition to eating good, purchasing the passbook also benefits the non-profit Open Hands Atlanta. Look at you, you philanthropist foodie!

Enjoy the Atlanta DiningOut Passbook for only $39.99, regularly $99 with special discount code GOEATGIVEPASS2015. What’s more? DiningOut will donate another $10 to your favorite charity, Go Eat Give. That’s a win-win for everyone.

So start saving, eat well, and give back along the way!

Le Diner en Blanc brings Paris to Atlanta

On Sunday, September 132015, Atlanta welcomed for its second consecutive year, Le Diner en Blanc, a 25-year-old Parisian tradition of an all white affair that has now taken its showcase of elegance and friendship international.

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Surpassing last year’s attendance at the inaugural event, which took place at the Millennium Gates Museum at Atlantic Station, the dinner caught the eyes of over 1700 guests and shut down Peachtree Street for a posh picnic taken above and beyond our imagination of a plaid throw and a woven basket.

Le Diner en Blanc unites people from all walks of life each year in 60 cities across 25 countries. This year, Donae Burston and Cleveland Spears hosted the Atlanta event in partnership with Moët & Chandon. They delivered an exceptional evening of entertainment, camaraderie and celebration. Guests came dressed to impress in the finest white attire – gowns, suits, headdresses – you name it. Also suited for the event, Moët & Chandon featured Moet Ice Imperial packaged in all white and the only champagne of its kind to be served chilled.

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The location, unreleased until minutes before the event, nestled eloquently between the historic performing arts venue, The Fox Theatre and upscale Midtown hotel, The Georgian Terrace Hotel. Guests checked in at multiple locations across Atlanta to be shuttled to the top secret location upon its announcement. Atlantans brought tables, chairs, white linen and competitive decor along with homemade dishes to the outdoor party. Rebecca Kailer Downs sparked the evening with sensational tunes performed in French, truly setting the mood for an evening of Paris in Atlanta.

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The waving of white napkins from Ponce de Leon Avenue to 3rd Street signaled the commencement of dinner and concluded with attendees lighting over a thousand sparkers, illuminating Peachtree street. Now, the real party has started.

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Ashanti Floyd, also known as The Mad Violinist, impressed many as he skillfully performed hit songs on the strings of his violin. Based out of Atlanta and Los Angeles, DJ Hands of Grace followed with a set of Top 40, House and R&B that couldn’t help but raise guests out of their seats and onto the dance floor.

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Le Diner en Blanc Atlanta was an unforgettable evening of great energy, class and pleasure. Check out the official website to stay up to date with next year’s locations and dates near you. You don’t want to miss out.

Photo credits: Kayla Freeman

http://dinerenblanc.info/

Africa – Full of Promise

On the 9thof August, I attended Go Eat Give’s Destination West Africa at the Clarkson Community Centre. It was quite a mind blowing experience even for me, having roots in East Africa. I realized just how culturally diverse the African continent is and the special attributes of different regions that set us apart in a special way. Unfortunately, I haven’t travelled vastly in the continent of Africa, but this event definitely piqued my interest to explore West Africa in the future.

The guests arrived in large numbers and dressed for the occasion. The ensembles were quite impressive and most people went out of their way to showcase African fashion with glamour and poise. I interacted with a lot of people who had visited different African countries and some of them even spoke my mother tongue, Swahili.

Conun Drums, an Atlanta based all women’s group opened the event with a spectacular percussion performance of West African rhythms. They engaged with the crowd and had everybody singing and dancing along. The group of four women and two little girls was clad in colourful African attire, embellished with vibrant print and patterns. Needless to say, they have mastered the art of playing drums.

conondrums

Owokoniran Taiwo, a renowned Nigerian musician based in Atlanta, who has been performing for over 30 years entertained the guests with some African tunes. His band is very popular among the Nigerian community and has been known to perform in different events, festivals and weddings. He sang and played the keyboard beautifully. He was accompanied by a skilful drummer. I was surprised to hear him play a popular Swahili song titled Malaika, which means Angel, with such great ease. He sang it like a native. The other Nigerian tunes he sang were very soothing and made me quite homesick. I thought to myself how my father would have enjoyed Owokoniran’s genre of music.

The keynote speakers made great speeches with strong conviction. I was especially moved by the Honorary Consulate of Mali Vince Farley’s and Nigeria’s Ambassador to the US Geoffrey I. Teneilabe’s speeches. They emphasized on the social and economic potential in Africa at the moment and how sustainable trade and tourism will contribute to the growth of the continent. They applauded Go Eat Give’s efforts at promoting cultural awareness and community service with their programs and Teneilabe called for more trips to West Africa in the near future. In the recent past, all that was heard from West Africa was the Ebola Crisis and this negatively affected the region. Teneilabe was keen on reminding the guests that the crisis has been dealt with in the region and Ebola is no longer a threat, which I am sure was a great relief to many.

vince farley

Their speeches resonated with me because they told a positive story of Africa. I have had the opportunity to travel around the world, and I have seen how the danger of a single story can have adverse effects in a society. Most people I have interacted with during my travels have usually had an unfavourable perspective of Africa, thanks to the media. Therefore I have taken it upon myself to always tell of the other positive stories that exist in my beloved continent whenever I get the chance. Also, most people group the continent into one entity, which is entirely false. We have thousands of diverse tribes, languages and cultures. I was happy to see Mr Vince Farley hang a map of Africa during his speech and pointed to different countries where he has visited and worked. It was very educational. He has served as the deputy ambassador in the Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Niger, South Korea, and Yugoslavia.

ambassador of nigeria Geoffrey I. Teneilabe

After the keynote speech the guests lined up to serve the delicious mouth-watering dishes prepared by Chef Okon James from Nations Café restaurants. I was eagerly anticipating the food because it was my first time to sample West African cuisine, and I must say I was quite impressed. My favourite dishes were fried plantain and Jollof rice, a popular fried rice dish in West African countries especially Nigeria and Ghana. Every dish was rich in flavour. I also tried Banku, a popular Ghanaian dish consisting of fermented corn and cassava dough mixed into a paste. Its acidic taste went well with the fried tilapia topped with bell peppers.

Other dishes included Chichinaga (meat Kebab), Vegetable Samosas, Puff Puff (an African snack similar to a doughnut), Ugba (fermented African oilbean seeds), Mafe (tender beef in peanut sauce), Grilled Boneless Chicken Breast, Fried Tilapia, Moi Moi (steamed bean pudding), and Red Red (black eyed peas cooked in palm oil). The dishes vary significantly from what we eat in East Africa. However, I was more than happy to indulge.

After dinner, we enjoyed a Manga African Dance performance by Ramatu Afegbua and her team of agile dancers. They moved the crowd with their ethnic sounds and body movements. Manga is actually a registered non-profit organization founded in 1990 by Ramatu with a mission to teach and preserve indigenous African cultural arts through dance, drums, songs and more. This was my most favourite performance of the day. They executed the true African spirit through dance and music.

manga dance

To close off the event, Sucheta Rawal made some closing remarks, thanking everybody for their role and participation to make the event a success. I extremely enjoyed myself and was honoured to be a part of such a great cause. I believe a lot of people left Destination West Africa having gained so much more knowledge, understanding and appreciation for West Africa, and more importantly, Go Eat Give’s mission.

~ By Christine Okwaro, event planning and fundraising intern at Go Eat Give. Christine grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and has lived in China and Switzerland. Her personal blog is www.thetravellers.de

A Slice of the History of Pizza Pie

Luca Varuni is a master at his craft. As head chef and owner of Varuni Napoli he swears by the freshest ingredients and uses traditional Italian techniques to create the best Neapolitan pies. Growing up in Naples, Italy, he was surrounded by Italian chefs and studied under renowned chef Enzo Coccia, head chef of the only Michelin rated pizzeria in the world. After years of experience, he has settled in Atlanta with the goal of showing everyone what real Italian food is supposed to taste like. Inside Varuni Napoli you will notice large family-styled tables as well as conventional seating for smaller parties with the aim of creating an atmosphere best fit for you desired experience. Don’t be afraid to go alone, sitting at the bar gives you a firsthand experience and a direct view of the chefs at work. Since Varuni Napoli is based on the idea of tradition, we must travel back in time to see where these traditions originated to appreciate how pizza has ended up on our dining table.

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Pizza has a complex history. Some suggest this dish started in Greece, others say Egypt, but the pizza we are familiar with today, got its start between the late 1700s and early 1800s in Naples, a city filled with the poor and working class.

The majority of the population required a quick and inexpensive meal during the day, before returning to work. Street vendors sold these flatbreads made with different toppings to satisfy the needs of workers. They were not looking for a rich or high quality meal, just a little something to tide them over during the long work hours.

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A man named Raffaele Esposito, considered by some to be the father of modern pizza, was known all over Naples to serve the most delicious pizzas. After Italy was unified, King Umberto and Queen Margherita visited Italy when Esposito was called on to make different pizzas for this royal couple. During the meal, Queen Margherita expressed her delight with the flatbread covered with mozzarella, basil and tomatoes (to represent the three colors of the Italian flag) so much that they named the pizza after Queen Margherita. After approval from the queen, the popularity of pizza grew and expanded beyond the borders of Italy.

Similar to Queen Margherita, Luca Varuni is also passionate about margherita pizza. He says here in this interview, “You can tell the quality and authenticity of a pizza place by the quality and authenticity of the margherita.” He proudly explains that the cheese, sauce and olive oil for his pizzas are all from the region of Naples.

During the late 19th century, many Europeans moved to the United States of America searching for factory jobs where the Neapolitans started family-run pizzerias. Americans couldn’t get enough of this Italian novelty as it spread quickly all over the country. Once pizza made it’s way to US, Gennaro Lombardi opened the first documented pizzeria in New York City in 1905, which still operates today. Pizza is a simple dish that started as a snack for peasants, and is now devoured by young and old people all over the world. There are hundreds of pizzerias all over the United Sates, but the Gayot Guide recently named Varuni Napoli as one of the top pizzerias in Atlanta for 2015.

Toco Hills opens its doors to Masti Indian Fusion

A little over two months ago, the Toco Hills Shopping Plaza in North Druid Hills opened its doors to an Indian restaurant with a twist. Meaning “fun” in Hindi, Masti draws a party when it comes to Indian street food. Kabob dogs, Butter Chicken Tacos and fish and chips are just a few of the unique mash-ups found on the menu.

Masti Flyer

By pairing international recipes together, Masti aims to bring familiarity into the mix and steer away any reasons why one might avoid eating Indian food. Its varied menu aspires to attract any and everyone from the most selective eater to food critics.

Masti’s décor is inviting, full of color and customer service goes above and beyond. Take note of the wall décor replicating designs you would see on traditional costumes worn by Indian women.

Masti offers A La Carte Specials, Daily Specials and a full menu for your choosing. To gather an idea of their endless options, the Go Eat Give team sampled items from the appetizers, main entrees and dessert menus. Complimentary rice chips were served as we tried a few traditional and fusion options.

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Mango Lassi

mango lassiSimilar to a smoothie, Lassi is a yogurt based drink blended with fruit (in this case mango), cream and water.

Deconstructed Aloo Tikki Chat

We dove right into Aloo Tikki Chat, a chickpea curry topped with paneer and lentil filled potato patties. This dish is usually enjoyed during teatime in India, the duration between lunch and dinner where heavy snacks such as chat, sandwiches and samosas are eaten. Aloo Tikki Chat was filled with a blast of flavor and holds a spice you can adjust to your liking. Definitely a must try!

Butter Chicken Tacos

butter chicken tacosMasti used a pancake made from rice batter typically seen in North India, to wrap rice and buttered chicken in the shape of a taco. The pancake was overbearing the buttered chicken and would have been more appreciated as separate items. Fun approach to the taco, but not highly favored at our table.

Amritsari Fish & Chips

fish and chipsHands down one of our favorite items on the menu. A popular street food found in North India, the Amritsari Fish & Chips is executed by frying tilapia in chickpea flour and difference spices. Masti did a fabulous job replicating a meal you could order from a food truck in India.

Kabob Dog & Paneer Dog

IMG_2981Masti’s twist on hot dogs offer options for vegetarians and meet lovers using either Paneer Bhurji, a cheese commonly used in Indian dishes or kabobs. Respectively, they are both placed in toasted hot dog bun topped with relished onions, bell peppers and Masti Sauce. Another unique approach to Indian-American fusion, but doesn’t really sell in flavor. Could be a favorite among children.

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Faloodi Kulfi

Fall in love with this rose and vanilla combination topped with sweet noodles, basil seeds and rose syrup. Faloodi Kulfi is a popular Indian dessert and is your answer to scorching weather!

Galub Jamun

IMG_2998A sweet tooth satisfaction, Galub Jamun is a warm doughnut ball swimming in honey and rose infused syrup. Pair it was a scoop of vanilla ice cream and you’re in for a treat.

If you’re curious to try one of Masti’s not-so-traditional combinations head over to Toco Hills with a friend and share a few options family-style. The large portions will be sure to fill you up even when sharing. Don’t forget to grab a spoon full of one or two options at the Paan table. You can choose from an array of these natural mouth fresheners ranging from betel leaves to dried papayas.

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Masti Indian Restaurant
2945 North Druid Hills Rd, Suite C, Atlanta, GA 30329
www.mastiatlanta.com