Food festival for the family

The 2013 Taste of Atlanta was not just for foodies. Although it was one of the largest food festivals in the South and showcased Atlanta’s best chefs, restaurants and spirits, the event was far more than a food tasting party. There were groups of friends and families who came out to Tech Square to enjoy the crisp Fall day, sampling delicious bites and engaging in hands-on activities.  This year’s Taste of Atlanta catered to festival lovers of all ages.

Kids enjoy fried chicken & waffles
Kids enjoy fried chicken & waffles

Keeping up with Atlanta’s growing number of top-class restaurant is no easy feat, especially if one has to arrange for babysitters, fight Atlanta traffic and call for advance reservations. The 90+ restaurants under the tents of Taste of Atlanta made it a little easier for Atlanta residents to check out the latest players in the culinary scene. Parents who enjoy discovering trends in food could actually learn a lot in only a matter of couple of hours of strolling around the festival. A general admission ticket also qualified attendees to register for cooking lessons and attend cooking demonstration. Where else could you learn to make Indian street food (by Chai Pani owner, Meherwan Irani) and deviled eggs (by Thaddeus Keefe at 1Kept and EJ Hodgkinson at JCT. Kitchen & Bar) all in one afternoon?

Indian street food
Indian street food

If you are thinking, “my kids would never eat any of the exotic dishes served at a culinary event,” think again. Adventurous eaters had a unique opportunity to grab bites of Oysters on the half shell (Lure), sea bass ceviche (Alma Cocina), duck confit sliders (Article 14), or Bocconcino (La Tagliatella), but picky eaters have lots of to choose from too! How about a jumbo pretzel (Der Biergarten), fish and chips or chicken and waffles (10th & Piedmont)? Top that off with a yummy (HighRoad Craft) praline sundae and they might spare you for dinner.

Giant Pretzel
Giant Pretzel

Bringing kids to the Taste of Atlanta was also a great way to introduce them to diverse flavors. We have many ethnic restaurants in Atlanta, but often times they don’t make the “first-cut” with diners who are unfamiliar with the menu. Exposure to India samosas (Bhojanic), chicken kebabs (Mediterranean Grill) and Ethiopian fish ribs (Desta) at Taste opens up families to trying new restaurants and cuisines.

The Family Food Zone at Taste of Atlanta offered educational demos and cooking lessons especially designed for kids.  Cooking with leftovers, assembling perfect sandwiches, and eating Georgia grown fruits and vegetables gave practical skills that all kids can use especially in light of healthy eating campaigns. There were also arts and crafts to engage inquisitive minds. The Iron Chef Kids Cooking Competition was particularly inspiring to watch, as confident elementary schoolers cooked in front of a keen crowd.

Kids cook off challenge
Kids cook off challenge

The younger crowd seemed to really enjoy popular beats and the crowd’s attention at Kiss 104.1 FM‘s booth. You definitely need to dance to burn off those calories.

Dancing it off with Kiss 104.1 FM
Dancing it off with Kiss 104.1 FM

Barnes and Nobles on 5th and Spring participated in the festival by featuring some of Georgia’s best food writers. You could select an autographed recipe book and make it a family-cooking night the next day.

Books by GA food writers
Books by GA food writers

What to eat at Holi?

The festival of Holi is celebrated once a year during spring time in India. It has a strong mythological, cultural and social significance. It is a day when people of all ages, religions and backgrounds come together to play with dry and wet colors, water balloons, and much more. Everyone would be outdoors, laughing, giggling, soaking in bright colors, leaving all reservations at home. Continue reading “What to eat at Holi?”

Celebrating Christmas in India

I grew up as a Catholic in a country where less than 1% of the population is Christian. In the city of Chandigarh in northern India, ours was among the handful of Christian families. Even though Christmas was a big deal for us, it wasn’t as festive around as it is here in the western world. Continue reading “Celebrating Christmas in India”

Atlanta Food and Wine favorites

The second annual Atlanta Food and Wine Festival took place this weekend in Midtown Atlanta. With three days of over 80 demonstrations, private dinners and tastings, the festivals was one of the best experiences foodies could have. Chefs, authors and restaurant  owners from all over the south were showcased, while patrons from around the country came to eat, drink and learn.

One of the biggest attractions of the festival were the Tasting Tents. A $100 ticket would get you into an all-you can-eat-and-drink exhibition created by some of the best culinarians, for three whole hours. The Festival Tasting Tents were designed to lead guests through a culinary exploration of the South, featuring themed tasting “trails” like Bourbon, Craft Beer, Wine and Spirits, Farm Fresh, Seafood, Whole Pig, Fried Chicken, Southern Snacks, Global Inspirations and more. We are talking over 100 tasting tents in one area!

While I did my best to investigate each and every vendor at the festival, it wouldn’t have been humanly possible to eat and drink everything. However, from whatever I managed to taste, here were some of my personal favorites.

One Hot Mama’s – Hilton Head based BBQ restaurant served Asian BBQ chicken skewers with your choice of a spicy or sweet sauce, served on a bed of Israeli couscous salad. The flavor was a good fusion of American, Asian and Middle Eastern, something you wouldn’t find anywhere else. It was also appropriate to eat here being Mother’s Day!

White Oak Kitchen and Cocktails – The best fried chicken I ever had! The server told me that chef Vaughn makes his own caramel sauce and lets the chicken soak in it over night. Then he drizzles it with salt and flour and deep fry’s it to perfection. The restaurant is scheduled to open soon in Atlanta.

French Board Chocolates – Artfully created, dense dark chocolate truffles made with caramel, salt and flavors that will satisfy your sweet cravings. They even have an Indian kulfi truffle that is milk chocolate ganache infused with rose, cardamom and toasted pistachios. The chocolates are not too sweet and come closest to what you will find in Europe. Yes, you can purchase them online.

Little Savannah – I give them credit for the most creativity. Being under the Farm Fresh banner, they were able to present something unique and delicious. Almond bread pudding with poached Georgia grown peaches, a hint of blueberry sauce, cream sabayon and drizzle of candied pecans – now that’s a burst of flavors in your mouth. Little Savannah is actually located in Birmingham, Alabama and serves community farm tables every Wednesday.

Cookie Underground – Who would have thought dessert can be good for you? Chef Kim has made it happen with her hand crafted organic veggie cookies. Rutabaga, carrots, sweet potatoes and parsnip are key ingredients for the cookies. The best part is they taste so good you won’t be able to tell the difference.

Happy St Patrick’s!

Photo courtesy of Daniel Sklar

Saint Patrick’s day seems to be a big holiday here in the US. The grocery stores are stacked with green cupcakes, decorations of shamrocks hang everywhere and parades are held in downtown’s around the country. Children are told traditional Irish fairy tales while adults go out on beer drinking binges. But do we really know what this day is all about?

St. Patrick’s Day is celebrated on March 17, the saint’s religious feast day and the anniversary of his death. The Irish have observed this day as a religious holiday for over 1,000 years and it falls during the Christian season of Lent. St. Patrick was actually born in Roman Britain and brought to Ireland as a slave at the age of 16. He is credited with bringing Christianity to the people of Ireland. St. Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved plant, to explain the Holy Trinity and that’s how the shamrock came to become an integral symbol of St. Patrick’s and the Irish.

St. Patrick’s Day is the official feast day celebrated by the Irish. It’s interesting to know that the first parade held to honor St. Patrick’s Day took place not in Ireland, but in the US. On March 17, 1762, Irish soldiers serving in the English military marched through New York City. Along with their music, the parade helped the soldiers reconnect with their Irish roots, as well as with fellow Irishmen serving in the English army. Over the years, patriotism spread to other cities and now more than 100 St. Patrick’s Day parades are held across the United States every year.

So, the tradition continued and here we are today…

Living it up at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival

After years of hosting Food and Wine festivals around the country, Food & Wine Magazine finally found it’s way to Atlanta. Sourced to the duo, Dominique Love and Elizabeth Feichter at Corporate Community Outsourcing, this is the first year of the Atlanta Food and Wine festival. With it’s growing popularity of the dining scene, perhaps the only city in the Southeast (after Miami), it was about time!

The broad theme of the event was “southern.” Represented by local growers, farms, suppliers, authors, restaurants and chefs, the festival drew attention of the foodies around the country.

Over the course of the three-day weekend, you could participate as much as your appetite can hold.  There are street cars and tasting tents that are open till late in the night. A tour of the Buford Highway’s ecletic scene or a day at the Wonderland gardens. And if that wasn’t enough, you can attend one of the private dinners at various restaurants and chef homes. I attended some of the learning experiences and connoisseurs lounge yesterday (day 1 of the event) and here are some of the highlights.

The Bloody-Mary breakfast was perhaps one of the best in class. Top Flr and the Bakeshop joined forces to start your day with a healthy (umm…not really) breakfast that was sure to brighten up your mood. (If you start your day with vodka, how many things could possibly go wrong?)


If you happened to miss the breakfast of champions, you could still get your fill at the 9:30am Argentinian wine tasting with Susana Balbo, a prominent female winemaker.


If drinking early in the morning is not your thing, you could actually get a grilled breakfast by Delia Champion, owner of Delia’s Chicken Sausage, a popular unconventional sausage stand in East Atlanta. She demonstrated a Krispy Kreme chicken sausage on her grill at the terrace of the Lowe’s hotel. Yummy!


I then explored some exotic fruits such as white sapote and sapodilla with the Van Aken’s. They shared recipes that combined fruits and meats into interesting creations – ham and guava, passion fruit snapper ceviche, etc.


It was already mid morning, when I decided an “Escape to Greece” is just what I needed. Chef Pano Karatossas of Buckhead Life Restaurant Group explored the fine wines of Greece while pairing it with a rich piece of lamb. There are different grapa varieties found in the islands of Greece, but all of them have a similar sweet acidic nature to them. I went wine tasting at a vineyard in Santorini a few years ago and was intrigued to see how low the grape vines were to the ground. (So that the strong ocean breeze doesn’t blow the grapes away).


Tennessee Truffle growers attempted to solve the mystery of growing truffles in their workshop, “Truffles: Much Mystery, Little Mastery.” Clearly, you don’t need a degree in agriculture to either grow, cook or eat truffles. (See my recipe of cooking with truffles.) What I did learn was that were over 60 varieties of truffles found around the world, not just white and black (duh!). Truffle grits pie and a Manhattan with shaved truffle anyone?


Renowned chef Mark Abernathytook the heat up while grilling vegetables and a pizza margherita under the hot summer sun of Atlanta. He was very approachable and interacted with the audience, answering all their questions about grilling. “I am not rich but if I was, each day I would eat and drink well and hang out with my kids” he exclaimed.

Me too chef. That’s exactly what I am doing at the Atlanta Food and Wine Festival all this weekend!

La Fete Internationale

This weekend, I attended the annually held Dogwood Festival in Atlanta, GA. It’s the time of the year when all the dogwood trees are in full bloom, the spring season is kicking in and people want to get out and enjoy the beautiful weather. The festival is held at Piedmont Park, Atlanta’s equivalent of New York’s Central Park, located in midtown Atlanta. The entire park is covered with booths, bands and festivities. Artists from all over the U.S. come to display and sell their artwork, ranging from photos, paintings, woodwork, metal, jewelry, etc.

The opening night of the Dogwood Festival was a special event called, La Fete. For $35, you got private access to wine and food tasting pavilion, including entertainment and silent auction. Despite the tornado warnings, I attending the event on Friday night and really enjoyed it.

There were four broad regions of wine, with a hundred bottles to taste from! Food was sponsored by local restaurants and included Indian, Moroccan, Spanish, Lebanese, Mexican, American and many others. I tried everything! The most memorable was the chocolate BBQ sauce prepared by 3 Brothers Catering. The dessert of rolled nuts and chocolate in phyllo by Imperial Fez was also unique. Desi Spice is a new Indian restaurant and was serving juicy and tender tandoori chicken. Apres Diem European bistro served stylish chicken liver pâté.

Also met some interesting people, made friends and checked out the silent auction. Overall, it was a good event, much better than it was last year where they ran out of food before I got there and there was no entertainment.

This was a great international food and wine festival for Atlanta. I hope there are more of these throughout the year.

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