Archive for March, 2011

All Good Things Must Come to an End: Top Chef All-Stars Finale

Posted in Atlanta, TV on March 31st, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

As you know, I love all things culinary and all things reality TV, so Bravo’s Top Chef is the perfect combination for me.  Last night’s finale of Top Chef All-Stars involved a show down between Washington D.C.’s Mike Isabella and Atlanta’s Richard Blais.  My adult life flashed before my eyes as my two cities battled it out!  Who was I rooting for?  Well, Mike Isabella hasn’t done himself any favors in the personality category (even once he and Antonia established their ‘cousin’ bond) and since Richard and I are basically BFF (ok, I’ve met him three times), I had to cheer for the home team.  ATL!

The final Judges' Table: so sad it's coming to an end

The final Judges' Table: so sad it's coming to an end

Both Mike and Richard produced amazing 4-course dinners with the help of their sous-chefs (former All-Star conestants).  I was particularly pleased by the ‘simplicity’ and elegance of this challenge, as I felt that most of this season involved buffet-style/too casual meals, involving crock pots, nachos, and comfort food, so I was happy to see these two really produce their most quality food.

Richard’s mind games almost got the best of him, but he made the right decision to re-work the foie gras ice cream (yuck) for round two of judging. (Thank you, Spike!)  I’m psyched to see how Richard will put his 200 G’s to work, and happy to be in Atlanta so I can experience it for myself.

The entire cast watches as the announcement is made.  Casey, what are you wearing????

The entire cast watches as the announcement is made. Casey, what are you wearing????

If you enjoy Top Chef, and all of its quirkiness, you must check out Jon Watson’s Top Chef Finale Recap.  He puts into words everything you’re thinking while watching the show.  After reading Watson’s recap, I’m just sorry I didn’t watch the after show.  (I’m sure it will be on Bravo ten times this weekend.)

What a week!  Top Chef finale AND the NCAA Final Four.  A-Mazing.

VCU

AJC Article Discusses Increased Options for Gluten-Free Consumers

Posted in Atlanta, local food, Restaurants on March 30th, 2011 by Betsy – 3 Comments

Check out this article by Melissa Ruggieri in last week’s Atlanta Journal Constitution, “More Options for those eating gluten-free.”  The article highlights the Gluten-Free Examiner’s Jennifer Harris as well as other locals making it easier for Atlantans to enjoy the gluten-free life.  The article discusses baking mixes and restaurants that offer diners gluten-free options.

brickery

The Brickery, in Sandy Springs, is mentioned for launching a gluten-free menu recently that includes crab cakes, French fries, and even sweet potato soufflé.  I can’t wait to make a visit!  Have you tried it yet?  Have you made any recent Atlanta gluten-free discoveries?

Spring has Sprung

Posted in Atlanta, event, Uncategorized on March 25th, 2011 by Betsy – 4 Comments

spring sprung

This week we’ve had amazing weather in Atlanta, if anything it’s been too warm.  It seems like the higher temperatures are going to be a permanent fixture in ATL from now through the summer, but as someone who’s always cold, I’m ok with that.  Last year was full of weird weather and low temperatures so I’m thrilled to finally experience the early spring in the south.  (I’ll probably regret that statement in a week.)

spring 2

Warm weather gets me fired up about farmers’ markets getting kicked off in the area.  Check out this article from Access Atlanta, that lists the various farmers’ markets in the area.  Personally, I love the Peachtree Saturday Farmers’ Market.  Their selection of veggies, meat and cheeses is great, and parking is easy.  Which market do you prefer?

Veggies at the Peachtree Farmers' Market

Veggies at the Peachtree Farmers' Market

spring peachtree 2

Also, in celebration of spring (well, and my birthday!) David and I are dining at The Hil at Serenbe tonight.  We’re heading down this evening, dining in style and staying for the night at the inn.  If the weather holds up, I’m hoping we’ll go for a run on the Serenbe trails in the morning too.  Good food, fresh air, and time with David.  Perfect.  This is my first time going to The Hil, but I’ve heard many great things about Chef Hilary White and of course, I love the Serenbe produce and the hands that harvest the veggies.

The Hil at Serenbe

The Hil at Serenbe

serenbe

Spring Writing

Posted in reading, recipe on March 24th, 2011 by Betsy – 2 Comments

lw cover

Spring is full of new beginnings and new publications!  In the midst of lacrosse season, spring break trips to Japan, and getting my students ready for exams, I’ve had two new articles published that I want to share with you. (And, as you know, I always love seeing my name in print!) lw bio

Next time you’re at Whole Foods, check out the most April/May issue of Living Without Magazine, which includes an article I wrote about traveling through Montana and Wyoming.  This trip exceeded my expectations with outdoor adventures, beautiful scenery, and gluten-free dining.  It feels like ages ago that I was out west, hiking, fishing, spending time with friends and checking out the restaurant scene, but this article allowed me to reflect on that special time.

lw westward

The Spring 2011 issue of Atlanta’s Finest Dining (which is free, by the way) has an article I wrote called Simple Spring Grilling, which has the recipe for this yummy salmon as well as thoughts on spring cooking.  (You can see the whole article online by clicking here.)  David and I just purchased a dining table for our back porch, so this gives us even more reason to fire up the grill and enjoy the beautiful Atlanta weather.

afd salmon

Reflections on Japan

Posted in travel, Uncategorized on March 22nd, 2011 by Betsy – 6 Comments

hayamview

Japan has been on my mind a lot in the last week.  It’s been exactly one week since I returned to the States, but it feels like a lifetime ago that I spent spring break in the Pacific.  Only in the last couple of days, is Japan no longer the first subject in my New York Times news feed.  Nuclear threat, tsunami and earthquake have slid farther down the page.  I’m not sure whether this is due to the media losing interest, Libya taking its place, or that the situation in Japan is too sad right now, with so many questions remaining, that the media is leaving it alone.

hayamfuji

I am finally able to begin writing about, and processing, this experience. Maybe it’s because I can breathe more easily as of 2:22am this morning when I received the email from Alden that started out “Home again, home again, jiggety jig.”  That’s right.  Alden, Pete and Chip are back in the United States, safe and sound, in Lawrence, Kansas, by way of Okinawa, Taiwan, Los Angeles and Dallas.  (NBD: 36 hours of travel with a newborn and a 21-month old.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Alden, you’re my hero.)

In debriefing my time in Japan, people want to hear about the horror and moments of panic, where I saw my life flash before my eyes.  The news jumps at the opportunity to capture the disturbing images and videos (most of which I still have not let myself see) of earthquake aftermath and uncontrollable waves.  It’s a shame that so often we learn about other parts of the world only when something terrible happens.  Most of my students didn’t know where to find Japan on a map before March 11th or that Japan uses nuclear power as a major energy source.  As with Thailand in 2004, we now associate Japan with destruction, confusion and despair.

Japan is a beautiful country.  I never would have imagined that I would visit Japan, let alone twice in six months.  I don’t regret my trips for one minute, earthquake, tsunami and all.  Yes, I have scary memories of three days of uncertainty, shaking ground, and an unimaginable fear of water, but in the forefront of my mind, I hold the beauty of this country, a beauty which still exists in many places.

The graciousness and kindness of the Japanese people is quite possibly one of the most emotional memories for me, from March 11th.  A neighbor did not hesitate to invite us in her car to go to higher ground.  The five of us were welcomed with open arms into the apartment of strangers in the midst of chaos.  Water and food were shared with us and toys given to Chip for distraction.  Even their cat put up with Chip’s fascination with an ‘indoor pet.’  As I fell asleep that night, I was scared but felt so loved.  Covered in blankets and curled up with the cat, for the first time since 3:00, I finally thought everything might be alright.

We should not ignore the devastation and the struggles that this nation has faced and continues to face.  Tens of thousands of lives have been lost and people remain lost.  Rebuilding has not even begun, but it will, and in a very orderly, efficient way, as the Japanese always do.  But while you pour over CNN and the New York Times, I hope you’ll take a minute to look at some of these images of Japan, specifically Hayama and Zushi.  I don’t have photos of the people that helped us, welcomed us, comforted us, but I hope that these photos will reflect the warmth of Japan that I felt.

hayam umbrel

hayamplumblossoms

hayamview2

hayamseaww

hayama chip

hayamveggies

hayamflowers

Wattsabi Update

Posted in Uncategorized on March 17th, 2011 by Betsy – Be the first to comment

Many of you have expressed concern for my brother and his family.  I just wanted to let you know that Alden has updated her blog today, and thought you might be interested in keeping up on what is going on with them.  I am so proud of her and continue to be amazed by what a strong woman she is.

Here is her post: Wattsabi: 1 Year

Wall Street Journal Article on Gluten Sensitivity

Posted in advice, media on March 16th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

On Monday, the Wall Street Journal online posted an article entitled, Clues to Gluten Sensitivity.  The article discusses a recent study showing that gluten sensitivity exists and can trigger immune responses in people, such as IBS-like symptoms, bloating, and chronic fatigue, to name a few, and that following a gluten-free diet can help alleviate those symptoms.

This article is good news to me because I hope it will encourage people to consider trying a gluten-free diet who are experiencing some of these wide range of health issues.  As the article states, this study will help assure people that they are not crazy to think that they might feel better without gluten, even if they don’t have celiac disease.  Gluten sensitivity can cause much pain and will hopefully be taken more seriously by doctors as more and more research is done in this area.

“Too Soon”

Posted in travel on March 15th, 2011 by Betsy – 5 Comments

Yesterday I landed in Atlanta with an even greater appreciation of family, friends, and the good ole USA than I did just 12 days ago.  For those of you that don’t know, I flew on March 3rd to Japan to spend time with my brother and his family, and help out with my new nephew, Pete and his big brother, Chip.

Chip on a morning walk in Hayama

Chip on a morning walk in Hayama

Pete and Big Brother.

Pete and Big Brother.

The beach, just 100 yards from Rob and Alden's home in Hayama.

The beach, just 100 yards from Rob and Alden's home in Hayama.

Our first week was amazing, spending time as a family, with mornings full of reading stories with Chip, cuddling with Pete, afternoon outings, and great conversations over coffee and home cooked meals.  On the afternoon of March 11, our time in Japan completely changed.

In the midst of the earthquake, tsunami, evacuation, after shocks, and nuclear explosions, I did not have much time to process what was happening and how I was feeling.  We had to be strong for each other and the boys, not allowing ourselves to cry, scream or hide.

Alden and I found ourselves using the phrase, “Too Soon” any time one of us tried to make a light hearted comment about the ordeals we’d faced or if we dared to think we were in the clear on natural disasters.  (The minute we felt a sense of calm, a tremor would remind us that mother nature wasn’t finished just yet.)  At this point, it’s ‘too soon’ for me to write about the last week’s events.  I’m still working through my feelings and emotions, but I do know that I love my family so much, I am greatly fortunate and that there is too much suffering in this world.

While it’s too soon for me to put words on the screen, Alden wrote this lovely post 12 Days, on her blog, Wattsabi. I hope you’ll check it out.  Alden wonderfully articulates the horror of the events, but also the beauty of family, children and the amazing kindness we experienced from the Japanese during a time of chaos, confusion and language barriers.

Thanks again for everyone’s thoughts, prayers, emails and posts.  Your words of concern and encouragement made home not seem so far away.

Books are Gluten-Free: Reading List, Spring 2011

Posted in advice, reading on March 11th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

After international travel and time to peruse my sister-in-law’s bookshelves, I’ve got a good reading list to pass along to you.  I’ve completed some, am in progress on others, or they are a ‘to-do.’  Thank goodness summer awaits in just a few short months!

room

Room, Emma Donoghue: This gripping novel takes you into the mind of a 5-year old boy named Jack, who has never left an 11 x 11 foot room.  As you read, you learn more about why Jack is in this space and a scary, emotional, sad and hopeful adventure begins from there.  I could not put this book down as the voice of Jack is believable and powerful, and the story is suspenseful and will keep you up reading, late into the night.

unbroken

Unbroken, Laura Hillenbrand: The author of Seabiscuit released this book before the holidays.  I read an excerpt of the manuscript in Vanity Fair, and knew I had to get my hands on it.  Hillenbrand brings the reader the true story of Louie Zamperini, Olympic runner and World War II army hero.  Zamperini’s story brings to life an experience in the Pacific during the war that you will not soon forget.  Airplanes, rafts, and prisoner camps only scratch the surface.  If you know someone who loves history, adventure, or just a well-told story, this is the book for them.  Even though there are a few rough scenes, this book is not to be missed.  I am yet to meet someone that didn’t love Unbroken.

heat

Heat, Bill Buford: This book takes us into Mario Batali’s kitchen at Babbo, in New York City.  Former New Yorker writer, Buford gets the opportunity to work for Batali, as a kitchen slave, line cook, pasta maker, etc. for over a year.  Heat also provides a biography of Batali’s life, his wacky personality and his rise to become the quirky, red-headed, croc wearing, TV star that he is today.  Buford also spends time in Italy, with a butcher, among other places, as ‘research’ for the book.  (I want to do that kind of research!)  I always enjoy a good foodie book and Heat served as just that.

at home bill bryson

At Home, Bill Bryson: The newest book from Bryson, the author of A Walk in the Woods, and A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bryson takes his reader through each room of his house while giving us the ‘history of private life.’  I’m just over halfway through this book and I love the little nuggets of random history Bryson gives us, but I have to admit, there’s not a lot of coherence to the book as a whole.  It seems as if he just wrote about the things he wanted to research and tried to find a way to fit these thoughts into a room.  Picture interior decorating gone horribly, horribly wrong.  I will finish the book though and if you’re a history nerd like me, especially a fan of social history, you’ll enjoy this read.  I already know so much more about concrete, the Vanderbilts, rats, the Eiffel Tower, and sugar.  If that doesn’t make you want to read more, I don’t know what will.

villain

Villain, Shuichi Yoshida: This Japanese murder mystery, translated into English (obviously), is a “who dunnit?” that takes place in southern Japan.  It comes highly recommended from Alden so I’m putting it in my suitcase for spring reading back in the States.  The book jacket describes Villain as a “stunningly dark thriller and a tapestry of noir.”  Sounds good to me, whatever that means!

girl-who-played-with-fire-stieg-larsson-book-cover-art

The Girl Who Played With Fire, Stieg Larsson: The second book in the Girl With the Dragon Tattoo series, I have this in hand for the plane ride home.  I have no idea what it’s about but I thoroughly enjoyed Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which got me through the flight home from Japan, round one, without going crazy, so hopefully the sequel will provide me with the same captivating distraction.

tale of two cities

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens: I never read this classic in high school and I figure, being a history teacher and all, I should read this book.  I loved Great Expectations and I’m eager to dig into this one.  It’s on the shelf at home, waiting for my return.  I promise I’m not reading it because of Oprah.

Have you read any good books lately?  Spring breakers, what did you read during your R&R?

Valentine’s Dinner at bhojanic

Posted in Atlanta, Restaurants, Uncategorized on March 9th, 2011 by Betsy – 1 Comment

bhojanic logo

David and I love Indian food.  We really love Indian food.  Until recently, we had not yet found a good Indian restaurant in Atlanta that I confidently felt could ensure a safely gluten-free meal for me.  Much Indian food should be naturally GF, as it’s centered around rice and yummy (flour-free) sauces but sometimes there can be a language barrier, which can make it difficult to be completely clear on what’s gluten-free and what’s not.

Upon recommendations from friends, David and I decided to try out Bhojanic, a Decatur Indian restaurant, for our belated Valentine’s date.  I emailed with the manager earlier in the week and they assured me that many of their items are gluten-free.  Bhojanic is located in a strip mall on Claremont Road (just off of I-85), not downtown Decatur.  It’s very easy to get to and parking is hassle free, unlike downtown Decatur.

When we arrived at Bhojanic, we were immediately seated and of course started salivating at the menu.  There were so many items on the menu, which made me feel confident that there would be something I could enjoy.  It was actually a bit overwhelming to know where to start with the menu, but our waiter was very patient and took the time to explain many of the dishes to us.  (David and I both ask lots of questions!)

bhoj all

In talking to our waiter, he was a bit overly confident that certain things were gluten-free.  For example, he assured us the cornbread was gluten-free, but we had him double check and it turns out that they do dust the bread in flour.  This was a good reminder to me that it’s always worth it to really make sure your waiter verify ingredients with the kitchen.  Even though I didn’t want to be pushy, I also didn’t want to ruin our Valentine’s date.  David is my biggest advocate when it comes to dining out, so he’s always willing to ask, if I’m not feeling as assertive as I need to be.  (Thank you, Valentine.)

We ended up ordering a handful of different items on the menu, but our meal centered around Chicken Tikka Masala, which is hands down my favorite Indian dish.  At each restaurant, tikka masala is a little different, so you never know exactly what you’re going to get, but it’s a tomato based sauce that is delicious, and varying in spice levels.  At bhojanic, you can order different sizes of this dish but David and I wanted enough for two (and leftovers) so we got the bigger serving.  We also ordered a rice bowl to share with our tikka masala.  The tikka masala had a bit of a kick to it, and was one of the best we’ve ever eaten and the leftovers the next day were equally as delicious.

Chicken Tikka Masala...so good.

Chicken Tikka Masala...so good.

Everything we ordered at bhojanic was gluten-free so  we could share all of our dishes.  It’s so much more fun when you can happily stick your fork in your date’s food and take a bite, without worry.  At this point, I don’t fully remember what we ordered (apologies!) but it was all delicious.  We enjoyed a chickpea side dish, a tapas dish that involved shrimp, and a cheese appetizer.  Bhojanic has a long list of specials each night so the menu online is not comprehensive and most of the items we ordered aren’t even on it.  Hence, I can’t tell you exactly what we ate, but you can see the photos.

Shrimp tapas

Shrimp tapas

Yummy cheese dish: Beware, those are jalepenos, not okra, like I originally thought.

Yummy cheese dish: Beware, those are jalepenos, not okra, like I originally thought.

I would definitely recommend bhojanic, but you want to make sure to check with your server or the manager about each specific dish.  Also, they do not use a separate fryer so I would avoid anything fried.  A successful Valtentine’s date night and David’s already advocating that we go back!  Next time, I’ll remember what I ate.

bhojanic – 1363 Clairmont Road, Decatur,GA 30033
404.633.9233