About Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett

Renee Blodgett is the founder of We Blog the World. The site combines the magic of an online culture and travel magazine with a global blog network and has contributors from every continent in the world. Having lived in 10 countries and explored nearly 80, she is an avid traveler, and a lover, observer and participant in cultural diversity.

She is also the CEO and founder of Magic Sauce Media, a new media services consultancy focused on viral marketing, social media, branding, events and PR. For over 20 years, she has helped companies from 12 countries get traction in the market. Known for her global and organic approach to product and corporate launches, Renee practices what she pitches and as an active user of social media, she helps clients navigate digital waters from around the world. Renee has been blogging for over 16 years and regularly writes on her personal blog Down the Avenue, Huffington Post, BlogHer, We Blog the World and other sites. She was ranked #12 Social Media Influencer by Forbes Magazine and is listed as a new media influencer and game changer on various sites and books on the new media revolution. In 2013, she was listed as the 6th most influential woman in social media by Forbes Magazine on a Top 20 List.

Her passion for art, storytelling and photography led to the launch of Magic Sauce Photography, which is a visual extension of her writing, the result of which has led to producing six photo books: Galapagos Islands, London, South Africa, Rome, Urbanization and Ecuador.

Renee is also the co-founder of Traveling Geeks, an initiative that brings entrepreneurs, thought leaders, bloggers, creators, curators and influencers to other countries to share and learn from peers, governments, corporations, and the general public in order to educate, share, evaluate, and promote innovative technologies.


Latest Posts by Renee Blodgett

The Hofsas House in the Heart of California’s Carmel-by-the-Sea

December 4, 2016 by  

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When locals to the San Francisco Bay Area think of Monterey, Carmel-by-the-Sea and the nearby peninsula, they may think of it more of as a romantic getaway or a serenity escape and there’s no doubt they are, but the area also offers some rich things to do with kids in tow. We discovered a great family stay called the Hofsas House Hotel right in the heart of Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is a boutique family-owned inn with 38 uniquely decorated, spacious rooms, many with ocean views overlooking the pines in the village. Yes, for those who didn’t know, Carmel-by-the-Sea is actually a village and it most certainly feels like one as you walk through the town center with its myriad of trees that graciously loom over people’s homes on side streets and the shops on the main drag.

Hofsas House also has an outdoor heated pool, which is a great family-friendly feature and one worth noting since apparently they’re only one of a few centrally located properties that have one. While there’s no hot tub, there’s also a women and men’s dry sauna on the property as well.


Dutch doors appoint each room so if you want to take in the fresh ocean air, you easily can. Our room had a view of the Pacific Ocean  as well as an outside deck. Some rooms and most suites have fireplaces, private balconies, wet bars or kitchens and we were lucky to have all of the above.

While the rooms may have Dutch doors, the clear influence here is German and as it turns out, the third and fourth generations of the original owners are now running the hotel. Carrie is at the helm today who loves to talk about the property and the village of Carmel.  She’s about as hospitable and warm as it gets, guiding you to the best gems in town, from where to go wine tasting and see incredible art to cafes, restaurants and quirky shops.

The German influence is felt throughout as you walk around the property. Carrie’s grandparents were the original owners and their wifi network is even named after her grandmother Donna, who I thought might be the family dog when I first saw the network attribution. I couldn’t be more wrong but what I couldn’t be more right about is Carrie’s continued passion for running the hotel and her pride for the long history that the property holds.

Below, artist Maxine Albro who was also a friend of Donna’s, was commissioned to paint a mural and other highlights to the front of the building to enhance the Bavarian theme in 1957 and it has been there ever since. Maxine also painted three pictures hanging in the lobby.

Each room is uniquely and traditionally decorated and if you pay attention, you’ll fall in love with the details of old. Since the property has been around for awhile, it doesn’t boast modern newly appointed rooms nor is it about luxury and decadence; it is however, authentic, sweet and conventional and because there’s a variety of family-friendly rooms to choose from, you can spread out and even cook in one of the small kitchenettes if you wish. We tried two different rooms during our stay and each had a fridge. The first room, which was smaller but on an upper floor with an ocean view, had an old mahogany dresser (below) and a wood stove. Who doesn’t love a wood stove?

Okay, so we were lazy and used one of those auto-light logs that are in flames within two minutes, but it was a perfect addition to a cool foggy November night with rain on the horizon.

Whether you go for one of their quainter rooms or a larger suite, you can be assured that each one will be unique.

The lobby area albeit small is quaint and has its own list of warm and friendly frills, from the autumn colored decorations to the fresh tea and French roast coffee every morning between 8 and 10 am. They also offer croissants and pastries from a local bakery as well as yoghurts, juice, apples and bananas. You can cozy up on the couch near a blazing fire and read the paper, a local magazine or chat with other guests who may have a few useful stories and insights to share, part of the charm of staying in an inn rather than a larger hotel.

The Hofsas House is located three blocks north of Ocean Avenue, the main drag which is lined with some of the more luxurious art galleries and shops. It is also only eight blocks from Carmel beach, which is known for its lovely white sand and only one block from a child-friendly City park. We were surprised how easy parking was anywhere in the center of town (although most signs say that your spot is only good for two hours and it’s electronically monitored), so be sure to time your smartphone alarm clock and move it after two hours, as I’ve heard that they love to ticket on the southern Peninsula.

Other amenities include the heated outdoor swimming pool and two dry saunas as mentioned above, view deck areas and free wireless Internet access. They’re proud to tout that they’re one of the dog-friendly hotels in the area but not all rooms are, so be sure to mention that you have a dog in advance.  Carrie tells us about the dog-friendly history of Carmel; not only is Carmel a dog friendly town where dogs can run off-leash on Carmel Beach but apparently there are many restaurants and cafes that are pet-friendly as well.

Because Hofsas House was built into a hill, you can get great views of the ocean from the fourth floor and it’s a great place to sit, read or sip on a glass of wine or cuppa Joe while watching the sunset or the rain, which was the case for us. It was a lovely spot to see the luminous clouds come in after a long leisurely day exploring the village.

Our second room was a suite so had two bedrooms, each divided by a door and there were two bathrooms, making it a flexible choice if you’re on a family adventure. Deluxe rooms also have microwaves which is a nice feature if you want to heat up leftovers from dinner the night before which is often the case with me.

We loved the Bavarian-style architecture and it’s a fun addition for kids as well — that, the complimentary pastries in the morning and the heated pool of course.

While it’s within easy walking distance to the main drag so you can leave your car in their complimentary parking lot, it’s also located at the edge of the village, which means it feels a bit more secluded than some other nearby hotels, which is an important “good-to-know” for those light sleepers.

The other thing we loved is the abundance of pines that not just surround the village but fill it — it does at times, feel as if you’re walking through a forest when on a stroll through Carmel.  Below, a view from our first room on the fourth floor looking in a westerly direction….

We recommend Hofsas House as a hospitable family stay in the heart of Carmel for those looking for convenience, reasonable rates and warm and authentic service.   If you go, say hello to Carrie from Renee and Anthony.  Also be sure to read our write-up on two restaurant gems we reviewed during our stay in nearby Monterey and Pacific Grove, although for those who want to dine right in town, we absolutely love Basil Restaurant. If you’re into all things organic, this is the place for you. Known as first green restaurant in the area, chef Soerke Peters takes great pride in sourcing from local farmers. Tell him the San Francisco-based travel writer who was in foodasm heavy over his homemade vanilla ice cream and basil oil sent you.

DETAILS:

Hofsas House Hotel
Between 3rd & 4th Avenue
on San Carlos Street
P.O. Box 1195 
Carmel-by-the-Sea, CA 93921

800.221.2548 

http://www.hofsashouse.com/

Note: we were hosted by the hotel but all opinions expressed were entirely our own.

2 Restaurant Gems on the Monterey Pacific Grove Penisula

December 3, 2016 by  

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If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or go there on business or pleasure, you’re bound to drive down the coast, whether you’re heading to the infamous Big Sur, driving down to Los Angeles or just want a long weekend away on the peninsula along the coast south of Santa Cruz, which serves gems like Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Located a stone’s throw from the more well-known Monterey is Pacific Grove, a ten or fifteen minute drive away.

Photo credit: Beach House.

Tucked in a grove, it’s a lovely place to reflect, meditate, take a walk and finally have dinner. If you’re off on a romantic getaway or just love serenity and stunning views, then the Beach House at Lover’s Point is your spot. Steak lovers can head into directly into Monterey and check out Whaling Station Steakhouse. We review both of them from our recent visit in November below. Be prepared to be hungry after seeing our oh so luscious food photos.

Beach House at Lover’s Point

When you drive up to the Beach House at Lover’s Point, you’re immediately struck by its view of the ocean in all directions. It’s hard to find a bad seat in the house given the wide open windows on three sides however be sure to request a table front row center and if possible, try to book a slightly earlier dinner so you can catch sunset as well. There’s a bar area where you can hang around while waiting for your table or to have drinks afterwards and boasts a panoramic view of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary.

Appetizer options are varied from the oh so fresh and healthy Seared Yellowfin Tuna below, which they serve with a sweet chili glaze, wasabai-honey mustard and fermented asparagus to a Chilled Artichoke with tomato remoulade mayo!

They also offer several salads, from traditional caesar (you can also get this as a side with any of their entrees) to a classic Beach House salad with dried cranberries, apples and goat cheese to a Wild Organic Arugula salad with beets and gorgonzola crumbles. Note the below is that very same salad but we went with goat cheese instead. On top? Fresh toasted hazelnuts of course.

Then, there’s their Charred Brussels Sprouts which they make a little differently. Chef Matthew Farmer and his team toss them with locally made Chorizo (yes, really) and a lot of it, and then bring in roasted butternut squash, garlic confit, arugula (my fave) and some shaved parmesan. It all seemed to work somehow – a great choice if you want a more hearty appetizer on a cold evening. Pair it with any of their glasses by the wine — perhaps a Pinot Noir for starters.

I went for their Charbroiled Pork Chop as a main, which they traditionally serve with crispy marble potatoes, apple-cranberry sauce (oh so yum!), bacon-creamed spinach and a hard cider glaze. Because I tend to avoid heavy carbs, I substituted the taters with fresh sauteed green beans and it was a perfect combo! Other veggie sides include fresh spinach and glazed carrots or for the Italians out there, classed Broccolini.

Below is their Roast Half Chicken with almond-cranberry wild rice pilaf, green beans, butternut squash and sage-leek gravy.  For the traditionalists among you, try their Bacon-wrapped meatloaf with yukon gold potatoes, glazed carrots, sauteed mushrooms, green beans, and crispy fried onions – YUM, right? You can also get a Ribeye Steak sandwich and if you have kids in tow, they offer an American Bacon cheeseburger or Scampi and Fries. There’s also a Scallops Pot Pie with peas, carrots, mushrooms and cipollini onions.


Fish lovers will appreciate their Grilled King Salmon Filet with asparagus, glazed carrots, smashed yukon gold potatoes, and roasted lemon in a dill cream sauce, which we loved. (below).

They also offer a Crab Stuffed Petrale sole with watercress in a citrus beurre blanc sauce and Hazelnut-crusted dabs with charred brussels sprouts, pumpkin gnocchi, cipollini onions, beurre blanc and prepared with a balsamic glaze and arugula pesto. This one is delish but perhaps not for those on a diet. Then again, if you’re on a diet, you’re probably not reading this review. Meat lovers will love their Grilled Filet Mignon with broccolini in a port reduction with horseradish cream and bearnaise butter.

Chocolate lovers will love their chocolate pot de dreme (aka chocolate pudding) or their Mud Pie (both pictured below), which they make with chocolate ganache and toasted almonds. I hadn’t had mud pie in years so it was a treat albeit very decadent.

The mud pie…..

Southerners will love the fact that there’s key lime pie on the menu, except they don’t serve it in the traditional way — it’s in a glass instead but still with the classic graham cracker crust. There’s also a Blue Ribbon Cheesecake with a sour cream vanilla top, ice cream cake and a luscious Grand Marnier Creme Brulee. Oh so scrumptious!

DETAILS:

Beach House at Lover’s Point

620 Ocean View Boulevard

Pacific Grove, CA 93950

www.beachhousepg.com

Whaling Station Steakhouse

Steak lovers, head to Whaling Station Steakhouse when you next head to the northern California coast. Located in Monterey California, this gem of a steakhouse sources their steaks from smaller packers in Nebraska, Kansas and Iowa and all of their meat dishes are served with bacon-spiked spinach, garlic-mashed potatoes and fried onions. You can add your own sauce if you’d like: Bearnaise, Green Peppercorn or Roquefort Butter. For the prime rib fans among you, they offer a slow-roasted prime rib that has been roasted for eight hours, which they serve with Yorkshire pudding, roast beef jus and horseradish cream.

One unique thing about this steakhouse is that they show the cuts in advance and explain where they’ve been sourced and how they’re prepared.

From Sirloin Chateau USDA Prime (center cut), Beef Wellington baked in a puff pastry with truffled red wine sauce and a Petit or full Filet Mignon to a New York Steak, a Rib Eye, a Cowboy Rib Steak (with bone-in), or a Porterhouse for two, you have plenty of options. They also offer Rack of Lamb, Short Ribs, and a Filet Mignon with an Australian Lobster tail — in fact, you can add a half-pound Australian lobster tail to any entree if you wish.

On the night we were there, they offered a special dry aged ribeye as a special so it’s not typically on the menu — it was so tender and delicious, served with garlic mash and fried onions. They’re open, more than most, to substitution so if you’re not a carb fan, you can substitute those taters for veggies like we did.

Abel, our adorable and incredibly gracious waiter, albeit Mexican by birth, touts that pasta is his favorite since he spent his early days in the states living with an Italian family. With a big authentic grin, he reminisced about his early days in the states and how his family today is all in the restaurant history, most of them on the culinary side of the house, not in the dining room. It’s clear why he is outward facing and not in the kitchen — his charming outgoing personality is a win with customers — his warmth made my evening.

We went for the deep fried calamari and fresh oysters on the half shell to start.

The oysters are from the Pacific Coast, not east or Canada, so were on the small to medium side, but oh so fresh and delish! You can also get Oysters Rockefeller if you’re a fan — they serve them in the traditional style with spinach, bacon and Pernod, topped with decadent hollandaise sauce.

If you want to keep it light, they offer plenty of salads, from classic tossed greens and Caesar to Warm Burrata and Wild Arugula with oranges and pistachios to an Italian Caprese with basil and aged balsamic vinegar (displayed below). I can honestly say that there’s never been a Caprese salad I didn’t fall in love with and Whaling Station chefs didn’t disappoint. The preparation was beautiful as well – bravo! If you go with caesar salad for the table, they bring the Romaine out to the table and toss it in front of you, which is a lovely treat.

If you’re a fried food fan and are yawning over the salads, then they have prime rib egg rolls with caramelized onions, Escargot with garlic cognac-parsley butter (nearly opted for that one), short rib raviolis, all house-made with herbed butter sauce in a red wine reduction or Pancetta-wrapped sea scallops with a roasted corn puree. There’s also crab cakes wtih a roasted shallot-tomato salad and hollandaise sauce and one of my favorites — Carpaccio which they serve with extra-virgin olive oil, capers and garlic toast. YUM!!

Italian lovers will appreciate the Steamed Artichoke on the appetizer menu, but instead of garlic, lemon and olive oil, they serve it with tomato remoulade and mayo. Want something a little richer, then try one of those home-made raviolis or their to-die-for Gnocchi with gorgonzola cream sauce.

Anthony went for the dry aged ribeye and I went for their Wild Pacific King salmon since I had started the evening with a lovely buttery Chardonnay from Sonoma. Here, they serve it with faro pilaf, wild mushrooms, bacon and swiss chard in an herb beurre blanc sauce. Seafood lovers will be thrilled to know they have a Sesame-crusted Ahi Tuna with sauteed julienne zucchini and yellow squash on the menu as well as a Dungeness Crab Risotto with meyer lemon zest and fresh mint. In November, they also offered a Wave Street Cioppino which came in a rich tomato broth and included fish, prawns, clams and mussels and a Wild Abalone, which they panko-dust and pan-fry.

Inside, it is somewhat formal with dark red tablecloths on every table and a classic bar as you enter, but the walls and decor have Italian infusion with a little French culture and fun colors thrown in to warm the ambiance.

 They are proud enough of their desserts to display all of their offerings on a side table as you enter the dining room. Whether you’re a creme brulee or fruit fan or love your cheesecake or dark chocolate cake (theirs is flourless btw), they’ve got you covered.

Cappuccino with that creme brulee anyone?

Oh so decadent, oh so beautiful, oh so scrumptious!!

Their cheesecake and flourless chocolate cake served with fresh raspberries and strawberries.

This one had me at hello and was a perfect way to end a late fall evening in Monterey.

DETAILS:

Whaling Station Steakhouse

763 Wave Street

Monterey CA 

831.373.3778

www.WhalingStation.net

 

 

Square Cash, a Seamless & Easy Way to Transfer Cash to Friends on the Road

November 30, 2016 by  

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When you’re traveling with friends or even family, chances are someone may pick up the bill for something where you’re sharing the costs, such as train tickets, dinner or activities. Many people I know use PayPal for this kind of quick transaction between friends but fees for transferring cash between each other exists and they’re annoying — after all, it’s a digital transaction and your money — why should you have to pay for something that should be free? With Square Cash, you can transfer cash quickly and seamlessly and yup, there’s no fee.

Available for both Android and iPhone, it’s simple and quick to do in real time while you’re on the road. Square Cash on-the-go makes it easy for one person to book a group’s flights, hotels or other activities at a destination and be immediately reimbursed without having to deal with it later.  If you’re traveling with family, the same thing applies, whether you’re using it to transfer cash to a family member while on a trip or at home for a product or service you took care of for a parent or relative.

Also think about the same scenario for that girl’s weekend getaway or at home when you’re getting together socially and ordering take-out food for a leisurely evening at a friend’s house. I downloaded the app to put it to the test on both an Android and my iPhone 6, which was about as easy to set up as it gets. After you download the app, it will ask you for your phone number and then later, your email to validate for added security. (below on an Alcatel device)

While it’s free for personal use, they do charge for an exchange of cash for goods and services if you use it for your business for 2.75% per transaction. The Square Cash app is compatible with iPhones running the latest iOS version and Android devices running the latest operating system. You can download the iPhone app here and the Android app here.

After you download the app, you have an option to choose either Personal or Business to accept payment for goods or services — from here, it will allow you to link to your bank account so you can send and receive money. They have a list of transaction fees for non-personal use over on Cash.me which includes their sending and receiving limits. For example, there is a 3% fee when payments are sent from a credit card.

Additionally, you can create different Cash accounts for personal and business use however each account must be associated with a unique email address or mobile phone number, but you can link the same credit or debit card to multiple accounts. They recommend double checking which account you’re signed into before sending or requesting money if you regularly use more than one account which can be viewed in your app settings and preferences can be changed at any time.

Easy to access at your finger tips, Square Cash makes it easy to handle those useful transactions when on the road.

When we tested it out, it only took a few minutes to set up and transferring cash was quick and easy to do — it makes for a more efficient way to handle those transactions when you’re traveling with friends or family or for simple cash exchange at home.

 

 

Disclosure: This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Square, Inc. The opinions and text are all mine.  #CashApp #ad

 

Mark Your Calendar for January 27, the New York Times Travel Show Trade Day

November 29, 2016 by  

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Globetrotters, be sure to put the New York Times Travel Show on your list for a must attend show in January. Held every year at the Jacob K. Javits Center in New York City, the event attracts travelers, industry peeps, media and more across three days, starting on January 27, which is solely dedicated to TRADE DAY, the New York Times Travel Show announced today. We love the event so much that I board a plane and head to the cold and snowy east coast every January to participate in the festivities and starting last year, we came on board as a media partner.

The 2017 New York Times Travel Show kicks things off for their annual show with Trade Day on Friday, January 27, which is a trade-only viewing of 500 exhibiting companies in the Exhibition. Travel professionals may register for the Trade Day here.   The keynote panel for the Travel Show’s Trade Day on the state of the travel industry will be moderated by James Shillinglaw, travel editor and journalist. Panelists include Ninan Chacko, CEO of Travel Leaders Group, Arnold Donald, president and CEO of Carnival Corporation, Alejandro Zozaya, CEO of Apple Leisure Group and Brian King, global officer, digital, distribution, revenue management & global sales of Marriott International.

Trade Day will feature more than 270 speakers including, among others:

  • Ben Baer, managing editor, Forbes Brand Production
  • Steve Dumaine, president & CEO, CheapCaribbean.com
  • Rainer Jenss, president & founder, Family Travel Association
  • Alison Metcalfe, executive vice president United States and Canada, Tourism Ireland and chair of the European Travel Commission’s Operations Group in USA
  • Ken Muskat, executive vice president, MSC Cruises
  • Edie Rodriguez, president & CEO, Crystal Cruises
  • Eduardo Santander, executive director, European Travel Commission
  • Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer, City of New York
  • Bruce Poon Tip, founder, G Adventures

The Travel Industry Conference offers a comprehensive education program designed for travel professionals and features 24 Focus Conferences across diverse travel categories. New to this year’s show are Travel Trends: Focus on All-Inclusive Resorts; Focus on Cuba and Focus on Luxury Travel.   As presenting sponsor of the Show’s Taste of the World stage, a representative from Costa Rica will be the featured speaker of the Culinary Tourism seminar for Trade Day, focusing on healthy sustainable culinary travel.

The weekend of January 28 and January 29 will be open to all attendees and feature global cuisine tastings, cultural performances, travel book signings, one-on-one conversations with travel experts and special discounts and offers for consumers of all ages from over 500 exhibitors.

Industry Sponsors include: Adventure Cycling Association, Adventure Travel Trade Association, Africa Travel Association, American Society of Travel Agents, Association for the Promotion of Tourism to Africa, Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association, Caribbean Hotel & Tourism Association Education Foundation, Caribbean Tourism Organization, Cruise Lines International Association, Cruise Planners: An American Express Company, Destination Wedding & Honeymoon Specialists Association, Family Travel Association, International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, Millennials in Travel, National Association of Railroad Passengers, New York State Tourism (I Love New York), Pacific Asia Travel Association, Professional Travel Bloggers Association, Society of American Travel Writers, United States Tour Operators Association and Well-Being Travel.

Go Nomad, Healthy Aging Magazine, ManAboutWorld, Off Metro, Passport, travAlliancemedia, Travel to Wellness, Travel Market Report, Wander Magazine, We Blog the World, Where Traveler, WNET-TV and WVVH-TV serve as media sponsors.

The Travel Show is the largest and longest-running trade and consumer travel show in North America, featuring the Travel Industry Conference, Consumer Seminars, and an interactive Exhibition including more than 500 exhibitors from Africa, Asia, Australia/South Pacific, Canada, the Caribbean, Europe, Latin America, Mexico and the United States.  In addition to discounts and special offers, the show provides educational seminars and live entertainment for families, individuals, couples and seniors.

 

 

 

 

Magic Carpet Yoga Products: Have Mat, Will Travel!!

November 16, 2016 by  

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I love finding companies with products that are creative and fun especially with an interesting founder and story behind it.  Magic Carpet Yoga Mats Founder and Designer Sophie Leininger grew up in California and Hawaii and apparently loves talking to the moon at night. Sophie now wanders the globe collecting stories and carpets to paint and weave into your daily yoga practice. Her hand-painted designs range from palatial Persian carpets to hand-woven tent coverings and each have their own story. She uses sustainable printing technologies and you’ll be thrilled to know that each mat is tested latex, phthalate, lead free, and is child safe — they even offer yoga mats for kids.

Another important point to note is that their mats are printed with very durable eco-friendly inks and don’t ever run so can be used for Bikram/Hot Yoga without having to worry about color bleeds. And, the designs are ever so colorful and ever so fabulous — have a look!

Each one speaks to you in different ways, and there are so many choices, it’s hard to choose – they’re all so incredibly beautiful!

Magic Carpet Yoga Mats also carries a variety of fun and colorful yoga bags that are handmade and sewn from vintage Guatemalan Huipils in Lake Atitlan, Guatemala. Proceeds from these bags go directly to the Konojel Community Center, which provides nutritious meals to 60 local children – bravo! Each piece is 100% handmade and one of a kind. The colors, symbols and textures reflect a form of expression, a story, a visual language unique to the region.

Bags are lined and feature a large pocket with beautiful detail stitching on the inside to store your wallet, keys, phone, crystals and other on-the-way-to class goodies.  Straps are adjustable and the soft fabric is very comfortable to wear and because they’re soft, they can easily fold up in your luggage, which was a plus for us as a “travel-friendly” find.  Bag measures 28″ long and 6.5″ in diameter and 100% cotton.

SAND 2016: Non-Dualism at its Best & Why We Are Not Our Thoughts!

November 13, 2016 by  

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Because we are covering spirituality and minefulness on WBTW more frequently, it should be no surprise to start finding an increasing number of articles on mysticism, spirituality, Buddhism, the here and now, angels, yoga retreats, meditation, and even some of the more obscure religions. For those of you who read us regularly, you’ll note that I’ve been covering the annual SAND Conference which takes place in the Fall at the Dolce Hayes Mansion in San Jose California and before that, in Marin.

What’s SAND you may be wondering if this is your first visit? Or if you’ve visited the site regularly but didn’t read last year’s article, or my piece on SAND 2014, from SAND 2012 beyond. Technically speaking, it stands for Science and Non-duality or Non-Dualism, which means “not two” or “one undivided without a second”. It is a term and concept used to define various strands of religious and spiritual thought and it is found in a variety of Asian religious traditions and modern western spirituality. Not to complicate things, but in each case, it may have different uses and meanings.

Photo credit: Clare NonDuality Ireland MeetUp

The most recent event was held from October 21-23, 2016 and speakers included Middle East-born Hameed Ali (A. H. Almaas) who is an author and founder of the Diamond Approach, a spiritual teaching that utilizes a unique kind of inquiry into realization, where the practice is the expression of realization, world renowned guru Deepak Chopra who has published more than 70 books on consciousness and spirituality, Matthew Fox, an internationally acclaimed theologian who was a member of the Dominican Order for 34 years,artist and non-duality teacher and speaker Rupert Spira who has studied the teachings of Ouspensky, Krishnamurti, Rumi, Shankaracharya, Ramana Maharshi, Nisargadatta, Robert Adams, and more, Berkeley University Mathematics professor Edward Frenkel, teacher and author Jac O’Keeffe, Advaita Vedanta spiritual teacher Francis Lucille, Richard Rohr, a globally recognized ecumenical teacher focused on Christian mysticism and the Perennial Tradition and countless others.

You’ll find yourself surprised by the depth of discussion as well as the diversity of disciplines beyond traditional consciousness, including mathematicians, psychologists, therapists, medical doctors, physicists, and more. For example, while Dr. Larry Dossey is an MD, he has been deep into the exploration of Mind/Body Interventions, and served on the board of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, National Institutes of Health.  He lectures around the world on among other things, How Our Individual Mind Is Part of a Greater Consciousness and Why It Matters.  

Dr. Menas Kafatos who is a Professor of Computational Physics and Director of Excellence at Chapman University, has authored and co-authored numerous books including The Conscious Universe, The Non-local Universe and Principles of Integrative Science, which weaves these two very important worlds together. He did a session with Deepak Chopra on Friday entitled YOU ARE THE UNIVERSE!

Photo credit: Uliana Bazar

Professor Robert A.F. Thurman, Ph.D., who teaches Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Studies in the Department of Religion at Columbia University also spoke as did people on the symmetry, science and freedom side of the fence, including Kurt Johnson who addressed the edge of the unknown and Jac O’Keeffe who addressed the Freedom Framework. I skipped most of the Science-focused sessions to be honest as well as all the Mathematics and Physics talks, largely because how I experience mindfulness and expansiveness is through my body and using my creative right brain to turn thought off so I can go into a feeling state. Getting into your feeling state btw, is imperative when you attend SAND because if you constantly stay in your head, you won’t experience all the juice that the event delivers.

There’s a ton of heady talks for all the left brains who are interested in this world however and in between talks, you could easily run into a doctor, a physicist, a yoga teacher, a healer, a math professor and a Buddhist guru all in the same hour. The brilliant curation of all these incredible minds and hearts is the work of husband and wife founders Maurizio and Zaya Benazzo. Below Maurizio on stage moderating a panel at the end of day two on consciousness and non-duality, all in layman’s terms and with plenty of humor to boot.

While they had the infamous spiritual puppet in 2012 and 2013 who always added a bit of humor (I didn’t see him last year), a panel with a cast of characters all representing different points of views, was a new experiment this year to the main SAND stage. Panelists JP Sears, Swami Beyondananda and David Ellzey joined Maurizio to discuss mindfulness (or rather mindlessness) in mainstream terms and all the considerations that mainstream brings about. Below, Ellzey played an Italian criminal who talked about his meaning of the world and life, all through and related to what Italians hold dearest — family of course. “My family will all love you of course except when they don’t,” he humorously said to the audience in a voice that oddly sounded like a rough version of Tony Soprano.

David’s character was a far cry from the more subdued Swami Beyondananda(below) who tried to portray the most serious student of consciousness among the group. But….not that subdued. Swami is the cosmic comic alter ego of writer, humorist, performer and uncommontator Steve Bhaerman. The Swami, whose favorite yoga pose is tongue-in-cheek, is the spokesperson for a new non-religion, FUNdamentalism (accent on “fun”). Says Swami, “We are strictly non-dominational.”

Swami became the most popular feature in Pathways, as he held forth on topics such as “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sects” (“… unbridled sects can lead to unwanted misconceptions …”), Teach Your Dog to Heal, Tantrum Yoga (“… the latest rage on the path to ire consciousness”), and more. I’d argue that humor is a great way for us to get to the truth for many people.

Then there was the confused Catholic played by JP Sears who drew a bunch of humorous parallels to being ‘owned by doctrine, guilt and the church,’ all with blatant humor of course.  JP is known for his satire and taking you on his own spiritual journey via video, funny video that is as well as the Sedona Method and his humorous storytelling around the illusory nature of thoughts and feelings that can hinder your happiness.

The idea of this “panel with a humorous edge,” according to Maurizio was to make anyone and everyone in the audience feel more connected to the most basic layers of consciousness and non-duality. This was inevitably followed by free-form spiritual dancing with DJ Dragonfly until well after midnight in the main ballroom.

I loved how many psychologists, psychiatrists, doctors and therapists were there — regardless of whether you’re suffering from an emotional issue or not, you can either get feedback in real-time should you choose to go there, or have one of the most interesting conversations you’ve had in awhile on a myriad of topics ranging from quantum cognition, identity and self, emptiness, depression, anxiety, feminism and the divine, god and goddesses to visual decision making, embodying love, healing Qigong and liberating our innate wisdom.

Below, Julie Yau spoke on the Spiritual Dimension of Trauma as part of an entire morning session dedicated to Expressions of Heart Intelligence. Also included in this session was Intuitive Guidance of the Heart with Deborah Rozman, Christianity and Unknowing with Richard Rohr and inherited family trauma with Mark Wolynn.

Photo credit: Uliana Bazar

Another insightful session was on Beyond Doership with Rosha Silver, from leaving the prison of doership that so many of us live every day to the Yoga of Wonder and Delight with Lorin Roche. On the zen tradition, we heard from Kokyo Henkel and on Identity, Self and Actions with Rita Venturini.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Photo credit: Uliana Bazar

Personally I loved the sessions they refer to as Experiential, which might include Qigong (I loved the energy of Vivienne Verdon-Roe who spoke of healing her Lyme Disease through Qigong), dance, authentic movement, yoga, dance improv and Breema, which we did for the second year in a row. On the surface, Breema might simply seem like a bit of a cross between yoga and Thai massage, but encompasses so much more.  Breema Bodywork, Self-Breema Exercises, and The Nine Principles of Harmony are natural expressions of what they refer to as “the unifying principle of Existence.”

The body work which you do with a partner, offers a practical means of becoming present as a way to support our overall health. In the process, you discover a new way of learning that leads to increased understanding of ourselves and a deepening sense of fulfillment, meaning, and purpose.

Each exercise and movement incorporates nurturing touch, tension-relieving stretches, and rhythmic movements to create physical, mental, and emotional balance. It’s all about tapping into the body’s instinctive healing energy, embracing vitality rather than focusing on symptoms of illness or imbalance. It’s actually quite powerful and builds on itself — in other words, we got a lot more out of this year than we did last year.

Photo credit: Buffalo Rising

In addition to the incredible physical and interactive experiential sessions, there were also more intimate conversations in the Spiritual Dome which they have outside the main conference room facility on the lawn. Some conversations included Music of the Mystics with Tahir Faridi Qawwal, Cello and Sax over Tea with Suellen Primost & Jeremy Marais, Liberating Our Inner Wisdom with Susanne Marie, the Evolution of the Non-Duality Community with Maja Apolonia Rode, a Collective Heart and Awakening with Joe Hudson, the Feminine Principle with Devorah Bry, Living and Loving in the Unknown with Lorne Rubinoff, and Music Al Fresco with Sweet Medicine. There was also evening plenary sessions that included Devotional Poetry with Deepak Chopra and Fanna-Fi-Allah, Innocence and Spontaneity of Not Knowing with Francis Lucille, and In the SANDBOX with JP Sears as a few examples.

The event is very interactive and experiential in so many lovely ways — have a look!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above Photo Credits: Uliana Bazar

Below, Maurizio introduces some of SAND’s keynote speakers who led the evening sessions, which included well known names in the world of consciousness like Francis Cholle, Rupert Spira, Deepak and Ken Wilber who was interviewed on video especially for the SAND audience.

The other thing about SAND that makes it so special is the conversations that happen in between sessions or over lunch outside on the lawn. It’s one of those events where you never know who you’re going to sit next to or have a conversation with and it is inevitably always enlightening.

The other lovely thing about the event is the non-judgment part. You’ll find people napping on lawns, couches, the floors of conference rooms or while sitting up, all as a way to take care of oneself. Taking care of (and loving ourselves) is part of the life long journey and one of the hardest tasks we all undertake. It’s easier to be accountable to someone else than it is to ourselves (think coaches, trainers, etc) and it’s easier to love and commit to another person we care about than it is to our own journey. That spiritual journey must start with loving oneself and self-care is a big part of migrating towards an evolved consciousness, a life that is free from dogma, free from opinion and free from self-blame and pity.

And, of course, as the sun sets at night, you can not just take it in with like-minded souls, but breathe it in. And, it was all so glorious!

Did I say bliss? It’s not really a word that comes to mind when you think of a conference experience but SAND incorporates bliss as it does self-love, awakening, and getting in touch with where spirituality, science, mathematics and our secular worlds converge and ultimately meet in harmony. After all, we are all one after all!

As part of the totality of the experience, they had evening performances, music and dancing, from ballroom “show-and-tell” to a transcendent dance and music experience with Music is Medicine. (below)

Music is Medicine (aka “MiM”) did a performance for us in the courtyard — think of their style as an electronic-organic trance-fusion by soundhealing interplanetary medicine-makers…yes really. The shamanic duo: Rafe Pearlman and Zia Sunseri collaborate in creating soundhealing events and spectacular ritualistic and operatic performances to stimulate the archetypes of our souls.  Rafe and Zia also lead SoundSpa-soundbaths which are unique soundhealing experiences, as well as  Workshops on Finding Your Natural Voice and Vocal-Trance experiences.

 

Useful Resources:

 

Photo credits: Renee Blodgett unless otherwise noted above

 

 

 

Wisdom 2.0, Where Consciousness & Wisdom Meets the Digital Age

November 9, 2016 by  

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Ever since the earliest of days of Wisdom 2.0, the San Francisco-based event that brings together the brightest of minds and thinkers in the world of consciousness and technology, I was drawn to it, and not just because I personally happen to know several of the speakers they bring in every year. When Silicon Valley was starting to be too driven by money and flipping companies (again), Wisdom 2.0 entered the scene at a time when we were being flooded by the same speaking heads who seemed to be center stage at all the same events.

Photo credit:

Wisdom 2.0 was a welcome and inspiring newbie to the scene and while start-up culture and technology is embraced, the core of Wisdom 2.0 is about being grounded, being guided by your heart and innate ‘knowing’, making balance an integral part of your life and following a life of conscious thinking, whether that be at home, while riding your bike, on a walk, having dinner with friends or yes, in the boardroom.

The event brings together leaders in the intersection of wisdom in the digital age and while past speakers have included the founders of Facebook, Twitter, and eBay, you’ll also hear from some of the best teachers from various wisdom traditions, including the likes of Byron Katie (The Work of Byron Katie); Jon Kabat-Zinn (Wherever You Go, There You Are); Richard Schwartz (The Center for Self-Leadership); Glennon Doyle (Love Warrior), and many others. (View a full list of speakers here.)

“Where You Meet the Best Leaders in

Consciousness & Technology….”

Last year’s event was incredible on and off the stage and while it isn’t the intimate gathering it was in its earliest of days, it has evolved and grown into a powerful event that is at the crossroads at some of the most powerful conversations you need to hear today. Quite frankly, it’s become a “must attend” event in the San Francisco Bay Area. I am inspired by its mission and raison d’etre so much that we decided to team up as a community partner this year to bring their curated voices to people who may not have heard about Wisdom 2.0 from around the globe. In other words, if you play at all in or follow technology and want to live a life of consciousness and purpose, it’s worth heading to the city by the bay in February. After all, it’s not as if you can’t fill your agenda with a myriad of other cultural, food, nature and spiritual things, from side trips to Lake Tahoe to the east, Marin, Sonoma and Napa to the north and the stunning coast along Route 1 to the south.

They already gather thousands of people from over 30 countries and part of the interactive agenda is to discuss and collaborate with this intention in mind: “How do we live with greater presence, purpose and wisdom in the Digital Age?” You may have been exploring this topic for years or maybe you’re new to it but have always been curious. In addition to hearing from speakers on the main stage, you can join hosted conversations and breakout sessions that help to deepen and expand the conversation.

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The event is now in its eighth year and includes an optional Wisdom Practice Day on the Monday after the conference (February 20), which is a full day of practice led by Byron Katie, Jon Kabat-Zinn, and other teachers. There will also be several parties, yoga and meditation classes, Q&A with speakers, an expanded Embodiment Lounge, and the crowd-favorite People’s Stage, which offers breakout sessions led and chosen by conference participants. New this year, New Ventures West is sponsoring an expanded Integration Lounge that will offer drop-in coaching sessions and other programming. This year the event is moving to the Innovation Hangar at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco.

EVENT DETAILS:

Wisdom 2.0 2017: Innovation and Spaciousness

February 17 – 19, 2017

Main Conference February 20, 2017

Wisdom Practice Day with Byron Katie and Jon Kabat-Zinn Hosted at the Innovation Hangar at the Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, CA.

HASHTAG #wisdom2, #wisdom2017

Tickets are on sale now at wisdom2conference.com/register.

 All photo credits, courtesy of BZM Studio Photography.

The Atlanta Foodie Guide to Delicious & Decadent Bites

November 8, 2016 by  

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If you’re a foodie lover, you’re probably noticing that we’re doing more and more Foodie Guides in addition to our coverage of food/wine events and of course restaurant reviews. We try to curate an eclectic list of eateries, markets, cafes and upscale restaurants where you can find a blend of authentic and local, sustainable, organic and farm-to-table, and dive joints that serve dishes you’ll remember for weeks after your experience. We did an Atlanta Foodie Guide last year which largely focused on the lesser known Atlanta neighborhoods, at least if you’re a tourist who is new to exploring this southern American city. We covered Castleberry Hill, Five Points, Fairlie Poplar and Sweet Auburn, including Sweet Auburn Curb Market. Our focus last year was on Tasting the South, from Appalachia, Barbecue, Creole and Cajun to Gullah and Low Country Cuisine and one of our picks from last year is on this list.

I spent more time in Buckhead (also stayed there), this past Fall, so more of my discoveries are in this trendy chic more popular area of Altanta although I cover some other foodie gems as well, including the Buford  Highway Farmer’s market which is a bit of a drive out of town.

The Canoe

Located on Paces Ferry Road in Vinings along the banks of the Chattahoochee, The Canoe is supposedly one of the most acclaimed restaurants in the country. While I didn’t have an opportunity to visit it this time around, it’s on my “must-dine” list as I’m dying to taste any of Chef Matthew Brasford’s creations which has earned them a spot on the OpenTable’s Top 100 Best Restaurants in America list. Bravo!

They’re all about farm-to-table New American cuisine in an elegant garden setting that overlooks the river to boot. Imagine unusually creative but southern-influenced dishes, from fresh marinated Golden and Red Beet Salads with Whipped Goat’s Cheese and Candied Walnuts to Smoked Duck Pastrami and Endive Salad and a Quail Egg on the appetizer list to Peppercorn Crusted Kangaroo Loin for something a little different, which they serve with Onion & Olive Jam, Puff Pastry and Black Pepper Agrodolce.

Photo credit: twoforachew.com.

For more decadence, go for Beer Braised Pork Shank, Anon Mills Hominy and Root veggies,Sage Roasted Pheasant with Braised Leg Ragout and Truffle Whipped Parsnip,Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Butter Braised Potato, Asparagus in a Basil Pesto Butter, Pepper Corn Crusted ‘Block Island’ Swordfish,Gulf American Red Snapper, Grilled Duck Breast with Bourbon-Cherry Jus, Rainbow Trout with Spicy Crab Ravioli, Slow Roasted Rabbit with Sunchoke Bacon and Swiss Chard Ravioli or theirDuck N’ Beef Burger with an egg, spinach, pickled onions and Truffle Pommes Frites – wow, right?

The Mercury

We did a tour of the Ponce City Market, which has no shortage of great foodie delights, including a Biltong Bar (South Africans take note). There are countless restaurants worth trying at Ponce City Market that span across a few floors, however we liked the ambiance at The Mercury, so decided to have lunch there on our second day. This 60s-inspired American steaks and seafood-focused restaurant is also known for their cocktails sits in chic, mid-century-style digs. Delicious bites for lunch included smaller portion options like seafood chowder, French onion soup with Gruyere / Emmethaler, mixed salads, a Crab Louie, Crispy Brussels Sprouts, Tempura Avocado Fries (yum!), and a decadent Wagyu Beef Carpaccio. They also do cheeseburgers, an old fashioned BLT as well as more classics like Reuben, Club House and Fried fish sandwiches.

While we didn’t try their dinner entrees due to the time of day, their mains are decadent and as you can see, they don’t serve skimpy portions.

Their Moscow Mule with Vodka, Ginger Beer and Lime that my SITSUM colleague Chris from Pursuitist.com tried during lunch – delish! The ambiance is far from old world with its clean lines, concrete, trendy cocktail bar and high ceilings but makes a great venue for both millennials and business travelers alike.

Portofino

One of the things that makes Portofino so special is its location. Imagine authentic Italian dining in a rustic intimate former home but right in the center of chic and upscale Buckhead. Offering an extensive wine list as well, it’s a romantic, great for a couple’s night out spot, and its dishes are delicious to boot. Starters include more comfort style dishes like Butternut Squash Soup in a Mulled Wine Reduction, Veal and Ricotta Meatballs, Eggplant Lasagnette with goat cheese, Steamed Mussels in white wine and garlic or their Warm Goat Cheese with roasted mushrooms, white truffle oil and grilled Focaccia. There’s also lighter options such as Lily Crusted Tuna, Seared Octopus and plenty of salad options.

For mains, you’ll get excited by their Mushroom Ragu with Hen of the Woods and Oyster mushrooms, Roasted Red Pepper Radiatore,Black Spaghetti Vongole, Lamb Bolognese  with Rigatoni and their Seafood Brodetto with Tagliatelle, Clams, Mussels, Shrimp, Octopus and Lobster Brodo – can you say Divine?

Located at Paces Ferry Place (NW), this gem won’t disappoint Italian food lovers, especially those who want a romantic, old world ambiance.

The Cook House at the W Buckhead

I dined at the Cook House on my first night in Buckhead which worked out well given how late I got in. Still on west coast time, I decided to taste and offer to share with my neighbors next to me at the bar. Located at the W in Buckhead, it’s a nice late night spot as there’s also their top floor trendy bar which stays open till 2 am.  With a Butternut Squash and Ginger Soup on the menu, how could I say no? They serve it with curry roasted pumpkin seeds – it had a whole lotta wow!

They also offer fabulous salads as well, including a Kale Caesar Salad with crispy egg and parmesan, and Roasted Baby Beets with candied hazelnuts and lemon yoghurt. Below is my main choice: the roasted red snapper with Miso braised baby bok choy and Kimchee Vinaigrette. Also worth trying is Roasted Scallops with sweet pea puree and charred Honshimeji mushrooms, their Risotto with poached farm eggs and their crispy organic chicken with glazed baby carrots and lemongrass honey.
Their wine selection is quite extensive as well and their sweet menu is larger than I anticipated. Think butterscotch pudding with salted caramel, cinnamon doughnuts (I bet you didn’t expect that), Vanilla and Dark Chocolate creme brulee with crushed berries, Warm Blueberry cake with cappuccino ice cream and a Banana and Nutella Mousse cake with peanut butter ice cream. Wow, right?

Buford Highway Farmer’s Market

This incredible international farmer’s market is so worth making the trip. Located 40 or so minutes outside of Atlanta, you’ll need a car to get out there. There are 33+ aisles of cuisines from all over the world, from produce and meats to canned and boxed goods. Buford’s market offers unique and exotic produce, organic fruits and vegetables, and a diverse meat and seafood department. They offer a tour where you can learn about diverse types of authentic ingredients, traditional ethnic cuisine, and hard-to-find items.

It’s been around for over thirty years and has provided more ethnic food varieties under one roof than any other single-location grocery store in Atlanta, ranging from Korea, Mexico, Central and South America, the Caribbean, West Africa, Japan, China, Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines, Eastern Europe and more.

You can really get creative about what you can buy here, from Pipicha and Epazote for Mexican dishes, Purslane (verdolaga) for Middle Eastern, Galangal and Lime Leaf for Thai and Curry Leaf for Indian are all available at the store. Browsing through the aisles or the produce section is a boat loada fun!

Del Frisco’s Grille

This sophisticated chophouse chain serves steak, seafood, sandwiches and cocktails in a trendy space in Atlanta’s bustling Buckhead neighborhood along Peachtree Road. Within walking distance to luxury shopping at Lenox Square Mall and Phipps Plaza, the Grille is a great stop after taking in the best of Buckhead. They have a double-decker patio, which has apparently become a huge plus with locals.

Some of the bites include cheese steak eggrolls with sweet and spicy chili sauce and honey mustard, Tuna Tartare with avocado and spicy citrus mayo (above), deviled eggs, fire roasted artichokes with meyer lemon vinaigrette and a parmesan-black pepper aioli, lollipop chicken wings with avocado ranch dressing, crabcakes with a Lobster cajun sauce, roasted corn bisque, and Asian Street Bao sliders with pickled daikon and carrot with cucumber, cilantro and chilies. Other choices include shrimp and grits with lobster sauce, chicken pot pie, Tso’s chicken, Baby Back ribs, fish and chips and a slow-roasted prime rib.

They also make a mean flatbread, with choices ranging from roasted tomato with mozzarella and basil, wild mushrooms and fresh fontina cheese with arugula and caramelized onions.

South City Kitchen

Located in the heart of Midtown Atlanta is South City Kitchen, a fun 1920′s bungalow restaurant nestled among the city’s modern skyscrapers. They’re all about Southern classics with a sophisticated spin — think fried chicken with garlic-sautéed collards, more contemporary dishes such as the Pan-seared Georgia Trout with Benton’s country ham butter, Collard Green Kimchi, and the Pork BBQ scallion hoecake topped with tangy BBQ sauce and horseradish slaw.The venue is on Crescent Avenue (NE) and it also boasts a cozy fireplace.  We were there for appetizers only but it’s also a fun place for dinner or just drinks.

Some of the options include She-Crab Soup, Local smoked trout crostini, Pimento cheese with B&B pickles, celery and benne seed crackers, Jumbo lump crab cake with pickled carrots and sunflower sprouts, roasted oysters with fennel cream, charred lemon and andouille crumble, Duck Confit with squash salad, charred cipolini and chili gastrique, Pickled Shrimp with shaved vegetables, pickled jalapenos, and watercress and a delicious Rabbit Liver Terrine with pickled vegetables, apple mostarda and grilled semolina. Also, they have fried green tomatoes with goat cheese, pan fried chicken livers with country ham and caramelized onions, pulled pork BBQ, shrimp and red mule grits, braised lamb with creamed spaghetti squash, Carolina trout with heirloom bean salad and hazelnut romesco and grilled pork chops.  

 

Kevin Rathbun Steak

This trendy, fun place is located along the Beltline in Inman Park, so you can stop by for drinks and appetizers after a lovely walk past murals, nature and take in all that it has to offer, from kids playing to cyclists. The inside is chic with brick walls and cool art and when the weather is warm, you can sit outside on their lovely patio which we did when I was there last month.  It has apparently been recognized as one of the top steakhouses in the states — I loved the ambiance inside….and out!!

Tasty bites and great wine is an added bonus, such as their Yaya Eggplant fries, Backed Escargot with parsley garlic butter and crispy shallots, Grilled Thick Cut Bacon with Sriracha-Molasses and their Coca-Cola Baby Back Pork Ribs (yes really). They serve those ribs with big green egg smoked and cabbage-scallion slaw, oh so southern style!
There’s also Asian style meatballs with mushroom soy glaze and scallions, Peace Mojo Rock Shrimp with guacamole, Sonoma Jack cheese-pecan fritters with red pepper jelly, Japanese BBQ Wagyu Short Ribs with pineapple Yakiniku Glaze and Miso Aioli, Roasted Bone Marrow with cranberry Grand Marnier Jam (YUM!!), Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Lobster fritters with a lemon zest honey mustard sauce. Unusually creative menu, right? We think so and the service was top notch as well, as we sipped dry Rose on the patio while sampling some of their bites, most of which will add a bit around your middle.
For lighter choices, go for the Ahi Tuna Poke, the Venison or Wagyu Carpaccio with Black Truffle and Sage Aioli, their Beef Tartar with onion crostini, any of their chilled seafood (crab, shrimp cocktail, oysters, lobster tail, salmon or Day Boat scallops with Panang Curry Butter and candied cashews. They also prepare a fabulous Heirloom tomato Gazpacho and have plenty of scrumptious salad offerings to choose from as well, including one of my favorites: beet and tossed greens.

ATLAS Buckhead

This elegant and upscale hotel restaurant on West Paces Ferry Road serves artfully plated American food made from seasonal ingredients. Menu tastes and plates includes a wild mushroom soup with leeks and chanterelle mushrooms, a young sprouts salad with Pea Shoots, Radish Sprouts, Parmesan, Housemade Buttermilk Ricotta, Dill and Toasted Sunflower Seeds, Truffle Potato Pierogi Dumplings with Slow-Braised Wagyu, Roasted Carrot, Crisped Parmesan and Herb-Roasted Mushrooms.

A little heavier but equally delicious is their Fettucine Alfredo withUGA Caviar, Créme Fraîche and Lemon Chive, Crispy Gulf Oysters with Panko, Pickled Peppers, Pepper Jelly, Avocado Mousse and Shishito, Lobster Boudin Blanc with a Warm Potato Salad, Green Apple, Dill, Celery Root and Potato Mousseline and a fresh Heirloom Tomato Salad with Honey Wheat Croutons, Mizuna, Coriander Salt, Field Peas, Woodsman and Wife Feta and Moore Farm’s Sweet Peppers. Oh so divine!

Photo credits: Zomato

Sweet Auburn Seafood

I went here last year and loved it so much it’s back on this year’s list. Located in a neighborhood I didn’t spend any time in on this trip — Sweet Auburn, they serve fabulous seafood, including more casual fare like Seafood Burgers, Lobster Macaroni and Cheese, and an Award Winning Shrimp and Grits. Owner Paul Williams is behind the restaurant and his values are rooted in the south, straight from the soil and lakes of Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Classic appetizers include fried calamari, lamb racks, and kale salad with toasted quinoa, strawberries, gorgonzola cheese, raisins and candied walnuts (YUM!). They do have a classic gumbo on the menu although I didn’t have a chance to try it, crab soup with corn and spicy cream, clam chowder with clams and bacon, grilled steak and asparagus rolles and smoked turkey ribs with a mango BBQ glaze.

Fat Matt’s Rib Shack

Want a traditional Half Bird slathered in a tangy sauce? This very casual but authentic joint is all about ribs and of course great sides to accompany, like collard greens, pork and beans and corn bread. They also serve a mean pecan pie for the old fashioned pie lovers among you.
The reason to go here however is for their ribs, cooked southern style. They prepare slow cooked ribs every single day and they are oh so delish!
Located on Piedmont Road (NE), it’s worth a trip if you love southern style ribs. Serious rib lovers will truly appreciate the no-frills counter-service beer with nightly live blues music.

Busy Bee Cafe

While we’re talking about southern fare, you can’t miss this Atlanta favorite for soul food, which has been around since 1947 and is still in its location on MLK Drive. This is an area of Atlanta that at the time, was one of the few neighborhoods where blacks could open businesses. Bravo for it still being around and serving tasty soul food, from Chitlins and ham hocks to fried whiting, cornbread, fried chicken, meatloaf and more.
You can also get a variety of sides in traditional southern style to go along with a main like cubed steak, neck bones, chicken giblets and rice, turkey wings, liver and onions (my grandmother used to make that at least once a month and we didn’t grow up in the south). Think ground coleslaw, sliced tomatoes and onions, sweet taters, corn muffins, yeast rolls and seasonal veggies. Oh yeah, and desserts are equally delicious.

Baccanalia

This elegant romantic setting is a great place for a special evening out though old world it is not — think industrial elements throughout but decadent and chic upscale woven in. They offered a prix fixe menu for many years but now do a la carte. Organic and farm-to-table is their thing as Atlanta’s original farm-to-table, so think seasonal ingredients from nearby farms including the farm of the owners and chefs Anne Quatrano and Clifford Harrison — applause!
Located in Howell Mill Road in Atlanta, this upscale eatery will be a win among the healthy and conscious diners among you. From crab fritters, red shrimp, farm salads, foie gras and beef tartare as appetizers to red snapper, Maine lobster, Maple Leaf Duck with winter squash and apples, Farm Lamb with sweet potatoes and turnips and a Prime NY Strip with escarole, potato and garlic, it’s hard to go wrong with any choice. They also have a decadent caviar service (osetra, UGA siberian, whiteh sturgeon, hackleback and paddlefish) as well as oysters by the half shell from Prince Edward Island, Washington State, Maryland and New York (Great Whites). If you want to try something a little out of the ordinary, how about their Caviar and Popcorn and pair it with a lovely Henriot Champagne!
Desserts include a Caramel Apple souffle, chocolate cake with get this — olive oil ice cream (pair this delish choice with a Kopke 10 year old Tawny), cheesecake with pear, Red Walnut candied walnut with chocolate sorbet, a Coffee Semi-Freddo, a sweet potato churro with cardamom and maple and something they refer to as Muscadine, which is candied hazelnut and scuppernong!

Polaris

If you want a view, then old-time and well established Polaris is a great choice — it was Atlanta’s first rooftop restaurant and closed down for a remodel, opening back up in 2014. The views are breathtaking and the food doesn’t disappoint as well. They feature seasonable fare, including staples that locals love like coconut red curry vegetables and ricotta with red peppers and mushrooms in a garlic cream sauce – oh so yum!  They’re also known for their specialty cocktails as well, such as their Retro Peach Daiquiri.
Located along Peachtree Street (NE), they are one of the only restaurants in Atlanta with their very own Bee Garden, featuring more than 60,000 honey bees. Their rooftop garden also grows tomatoes, beans, peppers, herbs, flowers and other produce, all of which is served in the restaurant.
Appetizers include Bacon popcorn (how’s that for something truly different?), seared Colossal shrimp with garlic basil and bacon butter, a beet salad with goat cheese and candied walnuts, Parmesan and Chile Lime Dusted Baby Corn with Cilantro Chimichurri, and cheese and meat plates.
Entrees include a Fried Duck Confit with Hazelnut Crust served with butternut squash and bacon braised greens (oh so southern), a Black Berry Balsamic Lamb Chop with Garlic Truffle Fried potatoes and squash, Red Pepper and Spinach Linguini with sweet hot sausage, bacon and cracked black pepper, and Fresh pan seared Florida Pompano with fried red pepper polenta, fennel, radish and cucumber slaw. There’s also a steak oscar for the red meat lovers among you, which they serve with sauteed crab and asparagus with shitake sea salt and Bearnaise sauce. Their presentation is also beautiful again and again!
Be sure to read our last year’s Atlanta Foodie Guide for more suggestions on other restaurants and eateries in other neighborhoods.
Photos: professional food shots from the restaurants websites, other foodie shots taken on my iPhone and Canon 7D except where noted and Canoe Restaurant shot.

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