Archive - May, 2010

Emory Johns Creek Hospital

“Oooh fuuudge.”

Only I didn’t say “fudge.” Yeah, I said it as the pain shot through me. It hurt. But more than the pain, it just didn’t look right. It was also Sunday, which meant I was bound for the emergency room. Which hospital did I choose? Emory Johns Creek. What happened? You’ll have to keep reading.

It has that medical school mystique right there in the name. “Emory”. I don’t know if it is true, but a hospital with a top university in the name seems to hold so much more credibility. I have nothing whatsoever to back that up, but it sounds good. It is kinda like sending your kid off to college. Do you want to tell the golf buddies that you sent junior to Emory University or North Paducah College? Same for medical stuff. “Yeah, I got my ingrown toenail removed at… Emory.” Oh la la!

But that’s not why I went there. Of course not.

My first experience at Emory Johns Creek was three years ago. My wife was pregnant with our second baby. Our first was born at Northside (what I call the baby factory). Emory had just opened and was in-network for our insurance. Not only was it closer to home, but they also sported a level 3 NICU. I don’t exactly know what that means, but 3 is better than 1 and 2. And, God forbid, if something were to happen to little Bubba, I’d want a level 3 NICU. Thankfully we didn’t need it.

So the decision on where to have the baby was a no brainer, Emory! Our son was among the first born in the new hospital. The staff were just terrific. They were much more personable and friendly than what we found at Northside. I blame some of that on them just not being as busy. Northside delivers a gajillion babies every minute. It is easy to get lost in their shuffle. But the employees at Emory all seem to love what they are doing, from the MD’s down to the cafeteria workers.

So fast forward to a few months ago. Into the Emory ER I go with… a stubbed toe. I felt like an idiot but the thing was pointed sideways. I hobbled into the ER and signed in. My first impression was… this place still has that new hospital smell! Even after three years! It was beautiful inside. There was almost no wait before I was back to see the doctor. The ER doctor was funny, giving me crap for breaking my “wee wee wee all the way home toe.” I told him that if this medical thing he has doesn’t work out he could try standup.

I survived the broken toe, barely. Thought about playing it up, like a man cold, but I held off. I’ll get back to you on surviving baby number two. He’s a handful.

Emory Johns Creek is a winner. Nice hospital, not crowded at all, with super friendly staff. It is my first choice for most hospital needs. I say most because I’d take my kids straight to Children’s Healthcare at Scottish Rite of course. A good rule of thumb to follow… If they are still in the womb or on the verge of coming out… Emory. Once they are a tax deduction, CHOA.

I don’t always get sick, but when I do, I choose Emory Johns Creek. Stay healthy my friends.

Let’s Review Some Barbecue

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

I write about food every Friday, and sometimes more often than that. Yet somehow I’ve managed to not write about barbecue.That’s too bad because no other cuisine is more debated than Q. It is also the cuisine I feel most qualified to speak intelligently about. More on that later.

So now that summer is here, let’s start talking barbecue! Here’s my plan… Every other week I will review a barbecue restaurant. Why every other week? Because my cholesterol is high enough! All good things in moderation, right? I’d also like to keep my blogging schedule open to talk about new restaurants that are likely to come along.

I’ve assembled the following list of barbecue restaurants. I’m limiting my choices to those in Alpharetta, Milton, Johns Creek and south Forsyth. I considered throwing Roswell into the mix but didn’t. They have some terrific Q including Swallow at the Hollow. The list is pretty long as it is, but I’m not opposed to making it longer.

Here’s the list and the rough order I hope to follow:

  • Smokejack
  • Woody’s
  • Slopes
  • One Star Ranch
  • Pig-N-Chik
  • ‘Cue
  • Dickey’s
  • Jim-N-Nicks

They are in no particular order, just randomly assembled. I’ve been to all but one of these, yet will try to visit each one more time before reviewing.

So why do I feel qualified to talk Q? Because I love the stuff! And like many aficionados, I’ve traveled to a lot of venerable Q joints across the southeast. My family is from North Carolina so I tend to favor Q of that tradition (specifically Lexington-style barbecue from the Piedmont region of the state).

I’m also certified to judge competition barbecue in both the Kansas City and Memphis sanctioning bodies (KCBS and MBN). I only judge two or three contests a year, but I’ve been fortunate to try Q from some outstanding champion pitmasters.

Overall Thoughts on BBQ in Alpharetta

I tend to have an overall negative impression of Q here for several reasons. First, Georgia doesn’t have a unique barbecue tradition of its own. There are influences of Carolina style and Memphis style here, but nothing really sets us apart. Second, there are no generations-old barbecue joints in Alpharetta. The oldest joint on my list is probably Slope’s, and they started up in the mid-90′s. Contrast this to Atlanta and the south side which boast some terrific old Q joints. Third, we’re overrun with chain and franchise barbecue. This goes without saying of any restaurant concept in Alpharetta. But in my opinion barbecue doesn’t lend itself well to franchising. This cuisine is a craft. It takes time and talent to make it well. However, BBQ technology has advanced a lot. I’ve had some decent Q from electric and gas cookers that smoke with wood pellets.

A trend you need to pay attention to is what I call boutique barbecue. These are restaurants that craft small batches of barbecue using quality ingredients. Dive joints they are not. Expensive? Absolutely! We’re talking steakhouse prices. Here in the affluent burbs, I believe you’re more likely to find the best barbecue in places like this.

So let’s give this barbecue thing a whirl this summer and see how it goes. Feel free to disagree with what I say. I’ll try to keep my BBQ snobbery in check. At the end of the day, if you like the Q from somewhere, that’s all the matters.

Smokejack, you’re on deck!

Memorial Day in the Burbs – Proper Display of the Flag

I’m always impressed with the poignant observances of Memorial Day I see in the northern burbs of Atlanta. Have you ever driven through Duluth during this time of year? The number of flags is amazing. We’re a patriotic bunch up here, something I take pride in.

It’s also cool to see so many display our country’s colors on their homes in the neighborhoods. When we moved into our current house I was excited to find a flag hook already installed above the garage. I suppose I could have installed something like this myself, but that would involve using tools and hardware and stuff. I try not to do this kind of thing without adult supervision.

If you’re going to display the flag on your home, you should at least make an effort to follow proper flag protocol. Here’s what I’ve learned on the subject…

Most of us will hang the flag on a staff set at an angle against your home. Always hang the flag with the union (the blue part) at the top. If you can’t figure this part out then you’ve got bigger problems.

Make sure the flag hangs free and doesn’t touch the ground, trees, bushes, garden gnomes, your wife’s Cadillac Escalade, etc.

It is okay to display the flag in the rain or poor weather if it is made of all-weather material. If it is hand stitched then you probably shouldn’t be running it up your suburban flagpole in the first place.

You should take the flag down at night unless you have the flag properly illuminated. This is a tough one that I’ve violated in the past. If you want to play by proper flag etiquette, then you need to install a small spot light.

What to do about flying the flag at half-staff? I’m not really sure how to do this on an angled staff. If possible I suppose you could fly it half way up as you would on a normal pole. I don’t know if this is possible with mine though. I thought I read once that you can furl the flag on the staff. I’m not sure if this is proper during times of half-staff display. If anyone knows the proper way to handle this, let me know. On Memorial Day itself the flag is to be flown at half-staff until noon.

Enjoy your three day weekend. But more than that… enjoy your freedom. Don’t take it for granted. Have a reverent Memorial Day.

Best Place to Live for an Atlanta IT Professional

I recently received the following e-mail from a reader…

One of the things my husband and I like about the Alpharetta area is the sheer number of jobs in the IT field, which we both work in, along with the reasonable cost of living.

Quick question .. we can only get up in that area on the weekends – a few years back my husband was there for a trip. He mentioned the traffic during the week was horrible. I know overall the traffic in the ATL can be a bit much — if you live in Alpharetta and commute to where most of the hi tech firms are – is it really that bad? We have lived in the DC area so we can handle traffic, but would rather not return to hour plus commutes.

Just wanted to pass along that I enjoy reading your blog so thanks!

Tricia

Thanks for the kind words, Tricia! Your e-mail fondly takes me back in time, long ago…

Cue the harp music and blurry mental images

…it was the late 1990′s, the heady days of the IT boom. If you could spell JAVA, you got a job. Crafty IT folk would land contract jobs for big bucks. It was common to start a new IT contract then get a better offer a few days later after running into someone at lunch. Those who stayed with a company got to play the stock option lottery for free. If you were lucky, your company (with no business plan and still in the red) would go public or get acquired. Hello liquidity event!

Cue the needle scratching on the record sound effect

Two recessions later, things are a little different. There are a hundred thousand Indian guys willing to do your job for ten rupees a day.

Oh wait, you wanted to talk about traffic and IT work. Sorry. Metro Atlanta has several geographic pockets of IT jobs. They are roughly located in…

  • Alpharetta (North Fulton)
  • Norcross (Duluth, Peachtree Corners)
  • Perimeter (Sandy Springs, Dunwoody)
  • Southeast Cobb County (Vinnings, Galleria area)
  • ITP (inside the perimeter, Buckhead, Midtown Atlanta)

I’m probably forgetting some, and that also doesn’t mean you can’t find a job somewhere else. I know IT people in Cherokee county, Gwinnett, etc. But as a general rule, these are where you’ll find the concentrations of IT jobs.

If you’re anticipating switching IT jobs every few years then I wouldn’t move to Alpharetta. As much as I like living here, I just don’t think it is ideal for commuting. Your best bet location-wise is the perimeter area, Dunwoody or Sandy Springs. You’re close to GA-400 and I-285, which can move you in any direction. You can go up 400 for Alpharetta or south for stuff in town. Scoot over to Peachtree Industrial if you want to head northeast into the Norcross area, or go west on the perimeter to the Cobb locations.

Don’t get me wrong, your commute is still likely to suck no matter which way you go. I just think that living at the perimeter will reduce your chances of having a truly horrendous commute somewhere. If you tried to commute from Alpharetta to Midtown or Vinnings everyday, you’d want to keep sharp objects out of your cubicle.

Also keep in mind that the surface roads at the perimeter are a mess. It will likely take you more than half your commute to get from home to the highway. But on the flip side, Dunwoody and Sandy Springs are decent places to live with good schools, places to eat, more nightlife options, etc.

I’m also like you in that Alpharetta attracted me because of the sheer number of IT jobs. If you look at my monthly job market posts, nearly every company on this list employs hundreds or thousands of IT people in Alpharetta. If you can land something fairly stable in Alpharetta then by all means settle down here! Take what I said above and ignore it all!

I kinda hope Bob Strader comments on this post. He’s a local realtor and blogger. I always appreciate what he has to say, especially for a topic like this.

Best of luck in your job hunt and move! Thanks again for the email.

If you have questions about Alpharetta or my blog, e-mail me at lee@rootsinalphareta.com or find me on twitter at http://twitter.com/rootsalpharetta

New/Closed Restaurants – May 2010

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

My mother and step-father are coming to visit this weekend. They live in a small town in North Carolina with just a handful of restaurants. They always look forward to eating at one particular restaurant while here. Any guesses what it is? The answer is at the bottom of this column. You’ll be disappointed! At least I always am.

Here are the new and closed joints I’ve noticed over the last month or so…

Woody’s Bar-B-Q – Northpoint

Just what Northpoint needs, another chain/franchise restaurant. And to top it off, it is a barbecue joint. Famous Dave’s tried this idea in almost the same location. Didn’t work so well for them. Woody’s has set up shop in the old Pizza Hut. I haven’t tried it, but I’m almost never a fan of franchise barbecue. You’ll have to forgive me if I’m not in a huge hurry to try their contrived down-home Q.

Mango’s Cuban Cuisine – Northpoint

…but on the other hand, what Alpharetta does need is more Cuban food! I’ve written about this before. And the Northpoint area certainly needs more locally owned joints. So I was excited to try this double whammy of a new restaurant. They are located next to Figo Pasta, a prime spot for cubicle dwellers, but terrible with the parking layout. Inside they look like a chain joint, with fancy printed menus, complicated ordering computers and chain restaurant decor. I’ve been assured they are not a chain.

I was there for lunch on Wednesday. Lunch specials cost $7.75 which includes a soft drink. Not a bad deal. My ropa vieja was tasty but the beef wasn’t as tender as it should have been. The black beans lacked flavor and were just blah. They also didn’t serve real Cuban bread but rather dinner rolls. I really wish a local Cuban joint would make the attempt to offer authentic Cuban bread. It is terrific. All in all, I think Mambo’s on Haynes Bridge beats these guys hands down. They are not that far away either.

East Side Pizza in Johns Creek – CLOSED

I just discovered this place a few weeks back. They were in a location that was saturated with pizza joints. I suppose the competition was too much, because they closed. Kinda stinks because I was growing fond of their pie and cheap prices.

River Tavern – Milton

They have been open for just a few weeks and I’ve already reviewed them. Check out my review if you haven’t seen it. This restaurant confirms my theory that the number of tattoos on the chef is directly correlated to the quality of the grub. I have no tattoos and have a hard time boiling water. See what I’m talking about?

Gyro King – Windward and Highway 9

Not sure if they are open yet. They’ll be setting up in the shopping center with Taco Mac and La Parilla in the space formerly occupied by Burger House and some teriyaki place. Looks like a cheap franchise joint.

…and the answer to my quiz above… Moe’s Southwest Grill. Yeah, I know, yuck. I’ve tried turning them onto other burrito options. They didn’t like any of them, even Chipotle. So think of me while you’re having something delicious for lunch on Saturday.

“I’m From Atlanta”

Has this ever happened to you? You’re out of town on business, maybe at a conference or seminar somewhere. You’re in the elevator making small talk with someone very important, someone you hope to impress or maybe land as a client. The conversation starts off like this…

Very Important Person: “So, Lee, where are you from?”

Lee: (thinking quickly) “um, I’m from Atlanta.”

VIP: “Oh really? My wife’s family is from Roswell.”

Lee: (totally busted in a lie) “Oh, um, well really I’m, um,  from Alpharetta.”

VIP: “How about that, small world. I know all about Alpharetta. You probably live in Windward or something, right?”

Lee: “No sir, I actually live in Cherokee county.”

And just like that, your thirty seconds to make a good impression are gone while you are explaining that you don’t really live where you said you lived. Things would have gone so much better had you admitted to actually being from Alpharetta. But who’s heard of Alpharetta outside of this area?

Do you identify as living in Atlanta or one of the eighty cities surrounding Atlanta? Downtown Alpharetta is twenty five miles, as the crow flies, from downtown Atlanta. It seems a little dishonest to claim Atlanta as your own, right?

Then again, the census bureau defines the the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area as being as being a vast area of up to 31 counties. The land area of it is greater than many states. We also have the largest local telephone calling area in the universe. I can call my in-laws in Rockdale county for free, yet it takes an hour to drive there without traffic. And we’re all from Atlanta, right?

Combine all this with the fact that metro Atlanta is in a rush to incorporate every last bit of land into new cities. It is a mess. Some people don’t like the ‘city’ they live in and will claim citizenship in the next town over. People in Smyrna say they are from Vinings. People from the panhandle of Sandy Springs say they are from Dunwoody, etc. It is confusing and complicated.

Even the Real Housewives of Atlanta don’t truly live in the city limits of Atlanta. I guess “Real Housewives of the Atlanta Metropolitan Statistical Area” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it? Then again, they aren’t real housewives anyway, but I digress.

So I don’t know what to think. Maybe next time I’m faced with the question above, I’m going to approach it like this:

Very Important Person: “So, Lee, where are you from?”

Lee: (answering confidently) “I’m from Alpharetta.”

VIP: “Where the *$#& is Alpharetta?”

Lee: (lowering head a bit) “We are 25 miles north of Atlanta.”

VIP: “Oh wow, out there with the hillbillies and rebel flags?”

Lee: “Not exactly. We are an affluent, high tech suburb.”

VIP: “Sure, right. That’s fascinating, Lee. Bye now.”

The Aliens Looking Down on Windward Parkway

I’m convinced there are aliens looking down on Windward Parkway in befuddled amazement. They are studying us and our ways, and cubicle life on Windward has them completely dumbfounded.

Millions of square feet of indoor space remains empty most of the time, except for about fifty hours a week. It is during those times that the mass migration occurs. Even though Alpharetta is a moderate sized city, tens of thousands of people drive scores of miles to get here. From all over metropolitan Atlanta they come. They drive vehicles that hold four or more people, yet they ride alone on overcrowded roads. By the time they arrive, they are already frazzled and ticked off.

They walk past security guards as they enter the buildings. I suppose someone of authority thinks unauthorized people actually want to enter these buildings. Nevertheless electronic credentials are flashed and folks enter. Next they navigate an endless maze of walls only five feet tall. Finally they arrive at a space marked 5B069 on a sticker left by the networking guys.

Next they enter their own little world. It’s fifty square feet that belongs almost exclusively to them. They are surrounded on four of six sides by what is essentially rigid carpet. Privacy? Almost nonexistent. The fabric walls are dingy and dirty from years of occupants long gone. They’ll spent over two thousand hours a year in these pale neutral colored confines.

A zipper opens a bag and reveals a mobile computing device. It is a wonder of technology that includes the capability of wireless connectivity. Yet it is of little need because they connect it to a dizzying array of wires. Those wires connect it to routers, which are connected to more routers, which are eventually connected to nearly every computer on the planet. While it is booting up, the employee removes a small black iPhone from their pocket. This is not a company-issued or approved device, yet its somewhat limited technology is used beyond its means to communicate trivial personal details over Twitter and Facebook. A greater level of collaboration is achieved with this device in ten minutes than in eight hours working in the cubicle (even though they collaborate about the meatloaf dinner from last night).

Once the laptop computer is finished booting up, this person uses it to communicate with other employees, over a wire, to the adjacent fabric covered box. This communication continues for hours and hours, using technology that is decades old, running on a computer capable of putting a man on the moon… wirelessly. The employees labor to produce software that is used internally by other cubicle critters in unseen parts of the building. These other workers curse the software for being prone to defects and otherwise difficult to use. Little do they know that the people responsible for making it sit yards away and are just as miserable in their cubicle-bound careers.

Steven Hawking recently said we should be fearful of possible alien contact. I’m not losing any sleep over it. After witnessing the above, the little green men probably think we are all morons. Soon they’ll move forward with plans to enslave us to do their work. I just hope they give me an office with a door.

Crawfish Boil – FieldGood May 21

I don’t usually post a lot about coming events, but I couldn’t pass this one up. I learned about this recently from a chef I know online. It’s certainly something you don’t see a lot of in the burbs.

Crawfish… those delectable little mud bugs. I’ve only had them once and that was enough to turn me into a fan. There is something primal about eating these things. You start off with wiggly little critters before they are thrown to their death into a pot of boiling water. They come out soaked through with spicy goodness. Pinch the tail off and eat that morsel of meat that hides within. Then, establish your credentials as a bayou epicure by sucking the head. Let’s get onto the event, shall we?

The folks at FieldGood are putting on a crawfish boil! They’ve arranged to have over seven hundred pounds of crawfish delivered fresh from Louisiana. For $26 you can enjoy all-you-can-eat mud critters, cajun corn, potatoes, sausage, bread and sweet tea. There will also be live music. Here are the details:

What: Crawfish Boil at FieldGood

Where: 11500 Webb Bridge Way, Alpharetta

When: Friday May 21, 5:30pm until 9:00pm

Cost: $26 for adults, $10 for kids

Order tickets by calling 770-343-9697

Alpharetta Jobs – May 2010

I feel like I should explain this series of posts for my newer readers… both of you. Once a month I survey Alpharetta’s largest employers, counting how many job openings they have in town. I tally them up and post here. Now that I’m a few months into this endeavor, I’m trending the data month to month. I don’t know what this data means. I slept through most of my statistics classes in college so I make little to no conclusions about the data itself. Maybe one day I’ll have a mountain of data that I can use as a barometer. Until then, I’ll just continue to post the numbers and let my readers decide. Here are May’s stats.

Alpharetta Jobs May 2010

Company Number of Jobs
McKesson 88
LexisNexis/Choicepoint 65
ADP 39
E-Trade 41
Equifax 41
AT&T 7
Verizon 11
Radiant 19
HP 20
Infor 6
Phillips 5
Alcatel-Lucent 6
Oracle 1
Hansgrohe 1
UPS 0
IBM 0
Total 350

Taste of Alpharetta 2010 – Some Random Musings

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday.

Once again, this event never fails to disappoint. I went solo this year, but that’s okay. I hunt better alone. And hunting is exactly what I did. Upon arrival I purchased forty tickets, all for myself. Mwahahahaahhaha! When the first two booths I hit only charged two tickets, I realized I was in over my head. Somehow I managed to spend every ticket. Here are my random thoughts on the food.

Today’s Secret Ingredient – Pork!

Somehow I missed the Chairman from Iron Chef making that proclamation. Everyone there seemed to have a pork entree. Pork sliders, pork soft tacos, ribs. It went on and on. I expect something like this from Smokejack. Village Tavern, Wildflour and even Sip Tapas served pork. Enough already!

Things That Impressed Me

Milton’s – Small portions that seriously delivered. I ordered the ribs but the girl misunderstood me and gave me shrimp and grits. I ended up trying both. The shrimp were amazing. I’m not normally a shrimp and grits kind of guy, but these were off the hook. The ribs were pretty good too. The rub combined with the glaze in the right savory proportions. I wanted a whole rack, and didn’t even get one rib. I felt worse than Chris Rock’s character in I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. “How much for one rib? You got change for a hundred?” Two tickets for a pinch of one rib. Dang!

Sage Woodfire Tavern – I mentioned earlier that their food didn’t impress me much. Now I feel like an idiot. Sage’s soy glazed salmon was a winner. It was cooked perfectly with a little heat. I’d order it off the menu.

Things That Fell Short

Kozmo’s Gastro Pub – I got the fried calamari right as they were coming out of the oil. They were very lightly battered… like almost no batter. By themselves there wasn’t much there. The sauce that was served along side was fair. But I expected more from this joint.

Sip Wine and Tapas – BBQ pork soft taco. It was the first thing I tried and it looked like it was made long ahead of time. There was no smoke flavor in the pork and it was mushy.

Random Tidbits

Bistro 52 – Attention snooty Windward tennis ladies… mark your calendars! This place opens the first week of June. Today they made a Cuban sandwich that was decent. Strangely enough, I didn’t taste any of today’s secret ingredient… roast pork.

Anna’s Kitchen – This Jamaican joint has somehow slipped under my radar. They had one of the longest lines today. The reason was clear… their jerk chicken was delicious and packed some serious heat. On my to-try list.

Kiku Japanese – They win the WTF award. Kiku had a man with a gong walking around their booth. I’m not sure why, but it was kinda cool. I’ve decided that I need a gong for my cubicle at work. That’ll break up the monotony of my day!

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