Archive - August, 2010

Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’ – Roswell

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

This Sunday is the annual homemade ice cream event in Roswell. First let’s get the details out of the way…

What: 6th Annual Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’. A fundraiser to benefit The Drake House.

Where: The Roswell Square

When: Sunday August 29 from 2:00 to 4:00

Cost: $5 per person, $15 per family

I don’t normally post events and stuff to-do on my blog. But I really like this unique festival. Here’s a list of reasons why you need to go to this on Sunday…

The Ice Cream - The traditional ice cream shop is disappearing around here, replaced with trendy frozen yogurt. Yuck! And forget about finding homemade stuff. This event is just about your only chance to try real-deal, authentic homemade ice cream. You can sample a bunch of varieties too. You’ll find some truly outstanding ice cream here.

Only Five Bucks! – This is a terrific value. Getting a single scoop of premium stuff will cost you about this much. For the same price you can eat enough to give yourself a tummy ache.

Get There Early - My suggestion is to arrive early, before it starts. 1:45 would be a good idea. Get parked and purchase your ticket early. Based on my experience, the ice cream runs out quickly. In about an hour the good stuff is gone. Anything left after that is mostly melted.

The Drake House - I knew some folks involved with the early creation of the Drake House several years ago. They offer transitional housing for families in need in North Fulton. When I first learned of the Drake House, I doubted the need for such a facility in this affluent area. Boy was I wrong. They provide a much needed service, especially in this economy. This ice cream event is their main fund raising event. Your five bucks is going to a great cause. I’d consider giving more.

My wife and I have make ice cream for this event in the past and our church has a tent there every year. It is an awesome event, in a cool location and for a good cause.

Alpharetta Celebrities

Celebrity worship is not my forte. But since running my blog I’ve come to realize that people eat this stuff up. I’ve also come to realize that there are more celebrities living in Alpharetta than I originally thought. I decided to throw together a bigger list.

A few caveats before I begin. When I say “Alpharetta” I really mean north Fulton. I’m going to cover Alpharetta, Johns Creek and Milton. Almost all on this list are in the city limits of Johns Creek or Milton. Second, some of these folks may not live here anymore, and some information may not be correct. Celebrities live here to remain somewhat anonymous which makes gathering information difficult.

On this list you’d expect to see a lot of professional athletes. What surprises me is the number of hip hop and R&B artists. Alpharetta isn’t exactly a mecca for this genre of music. But again, I think these musicians are moving here for the same reasons as the others, privacy. You’ll also see a ton of celebs living in the Country Club of the South in Johns Creek. This is perhaps one of the most prestigious neighborhoods in the country. It is also relatively inexpensive compared to the company it keeps. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true.

So without further ado, here’s my Alpharetta celebrity list. Please feel free to add to my list if I’ve forgotten any.

Jeff Foxworthy – Comedian – Country Club of the South

Keith Sweat – R&B – Homes in Windward and Milton

Gary Rossington – Musician, Lynyrd Skynyrd – Milton. Made news in 2008 after being arrested for DUI by Milton PD.

John Smoltz – Baseball – Milton. Very active in the community and a big supporter of Kings Ridge Christian School.

Parvati Shallow – Winner of Survivor TV Show- Lived in the area for a time. Not sure if she’s still around.

Kim Zolciak – Real Housewives of Atlanta – Johns Creek

Tyler Perry – Producer – Recently bought the Dean Gardens in Johns Creek.

Chipper Jones – Baseball – Used to live in Windward, now in Roswell I think.

Tom Glavine – Baseball – Country Club of the South

Bobby Brown and Whitney Houston – Musicians – Used to be Alpharetta’s most famous and notorious residents. Starred in a reality show while living in the Country Club of the South. Split up and moved away several years ago.

Usher – R&B – Country Club of the South

Lil Jon – R&B – Milton

Brian Jordan – Baseball – Country Club of the South

Garrison Hearst – Football – Country Club of the South

Heath Slocum - Golf – Milton

Brian Littrell – Music/Backstreet Boys – Milton

Morris Day – R&B – Milton

Toni Braxton – R&B – Owns many homes including one in Alpharetta.

Keyshia Cole – R&B – Alpharetta

DeShawn & Eric Snow – Basketball and Real Housewives of Atlanta – They lived in Milton during the TV show. Since then they have filed for divorce. Not sure if either is still in the area.

Charlie Leibrandt – Baseball – Country Club of the South

Chris Childs – Basketball – Johns Creek

Allen Iverson – Basketball – Used to have a home in Country Club of the South.

There are a handful of younger celebs that grew up in Johns Creek and elsewhere, including some actors and athletes. Perhaps that’ll be another post.

I drew a lot of information from virtualglobetrotting.com and other sources on the internet. I’ve tried to be accurate without giving out too much information. It is quite possible there are errors.

Dottie’s Delight – Bad Wolf BBQ

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday. This week I continue a summer series reviewing barbecue restaurants in Alpharetta.

I’m always on the prowl for new barbecue. You’ve gotta look beyond the stripmall to find the hidden gem. Case in point is this article I wrote about a church BBQ fundraiser a few months back. It is also how I discovered Q at this joint on McFarland, a place I didn’t plan to review this summer.

So I’m driving down McFarland one day and notice blue smoke billowing from smoker attached to a pickup truck. Next I see the signs. Dottie’s Delight? Barbecue? I was scratching my head. I tried this place once, years ago, for breakfast. I wasn’t impressed. It was basically a lunch counter for construction guys with marginal breakfast options. It was also next to a sketchy looking “massage parlor”. I didn’t go back… until yesterday.

It seems they are in the midst of a transformation, from Dottie’s to something called Bad Wolf BBQ and Pancake House. The to-go menu I swiped says the grand re-opening is in September sometime. But in the meantime, Q has already taken over the lunch menu. I found pulled pork, brisket, ribs and chicken. Humm, sounds like a KCBS barbecue contest. I settled in on a quarter rack of ribs and pulled pork combo. Went with stew as a side item, available at an up-charge (boo).

The pulled pork looked great. The size of the strands of meat was about right, not too thick and a perfect size for a sandwich. It had an impressive smoke ring and a tiny bit of bark. It was moist and somewhat smokey but not overpowering. It could have been more tender but still decent. It worked great with the slices of white bread.

The ribs are baby backs. I was told that my rack just came out of the smoker. They come without sauce but with just a dusting of extra dry rub. I wouldn’t go so far as to say they were dry rub ribs, just had a few shakes for extra flavor. Nevertheless I thought they were very good. They were the perfect in tenderness. Fall off the bone is too tender by my book. These were soft yet had enough body to cling to the ribs ever so slightly. They were smokey and delicious. Just be warned, if you want a glaze or caramelized crust on your ribs you won’t find it here.

They have four sauces on the table. That’s way too much in my opinion. As I remember they had a mustard style, western North Carolina style and two Kansas City sauces. I thought the pulled pork went well with the KC style sauce, especially on the bread. The ribs didn’t need any at all.

The Brunswick Stew is very thick with limas and potatoes I think. There are some pretty large hunks of meat in it, but had a tartness that I didn’t care for a lot. The Q easily outshines the stew here.

On my way out I chatted with the pitmaster on his way to the smoker. He’s just a good old boy from South Carolina cooking what he loves. He seemed genuinely interested in what I thought if his barbecue. We talked some about his smoker and fuel (hickory and oak logs). It was just refreshing to eat Q from and honest to goodness pit smoker and not a Southern Pride electric oven.

Dottie’s/Bad Wolf surprised me. Don’t expect anything fancy here. It still has that lunch counter feel with NASCAR pictures on the wall. Do expect barbecue using traditional cooking methods. You just don’t see this stuff anymore in the affluent burbs.

Dottie’s Delight is located at 765 McFarland Parkway near the intersection of Union Hill Road. It is across the street from BB’s Bagels.

Dottie's Delights on Urbanspoon

Johns Creek and the House of Payne

Many years ago my wife and I were invited to a function at Dean Gardens in Johns Creek. I was a newbie to this area at the time and didn’t really know the significance of this 58-acre estate. I was just there for an alumni event as my wife’s date. It didn’t take long to realize how beautiful and massive this place really was. We strolled the garden, walked down to the river then took a short tour of the house.

And that house… There are times when being colorblind has its advantages. The pink color on the outside really didn’t jump out at me. But rest assured, it was very pink. The decor inside can only be described as over-the-top. We didn’t get to see a lot of rooms, and it was many years ago so I don’t remember a lot. What stood out the most to me was an impressive man cave decorated in the style of the 1950′s.

<cue the fog machine and harp music>

Fast forward to 2010… The AJC announced yesterday that producer Tyler Perry is the mystery buyer of Dean Gardens. He paid approx $14 million for the property and that amazing mansion. His plan for it? Maybe a new coat of paint? Nah. He’s gonna knock the thing down. Demolished. Thirty-two thousand square feet, four years to build and it’ll meet the wrecking ball.

I’m astounded by the display of opulence and wealth. Maybe I’m easy to please, but I’m fairly certain that any 32,000 square foot home would be adequate for my needs. But hey, the guy has money and this is a free country. As much as I scratch my head over this, I think the locals in Johns Creek are tickled pink (rim shot). They’re just breathing a sigh of relief that the buyer doesn’t want to put condos on the property. Everybody wins, right? I just hope they sell tickets on demolition day.

Alpharetta Jobs – August 2010

Around the middle of each month I survey the career websites of Alpharetta’s largest employers. I count the number of openings and tally them up here. I trend the numbers month to month but otherwise I make little to no conclusions about the data. I’ll leave that up to my readers.

August’s numbers are the best so far with 355 positions advertised. HP added a lot of software jobs, as did McKesson. In other news, Coca-Cola announced this month that they are moving 400 call center jobs to a facility they have near Verizon Wireless Amphitheater. These jobs are not reflected in my report.

Alpharetta Jobs August 2010

Company Number of Jobs
McKesson 93
LexisNexis/Choicepoint 28
ADP 68
E-Trade 24
Equifax 33
AT&T 12
Verizon 10
Radiant 15
HP 49
Infor 10
Phillips 8
Alcatel-Lucent 2
Oracle 3
UPS 0
IBM 0
Total 355

New/Closed Restaurants – August 2010

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

I’m constantly trolling the interwebs and roads of Alpharetta looking for changes to our restaurant scene. From time to time as warranted I’ll post an update here on my blog. Here’s what I’ve found recently. If you know of any other new or recently closed restaurants, leave a comment or e-mail me at lee@rootsinalpharetta.com . I also love to review new restaurants. If you’re the owner or manager of a new joint and would like to be reviewed on my blog, drop me a note.

Logan Farms – Alpharetta – Closed

This was a hidden little restaurant on Windward that offered cajun food and a lot of other random stuff. I kinda liked these guys but others didn’t apparently. They are going out of business and have been running a clearance sale on all their frozen food stuffs.

Claw Daddy – Cumming

They opened up in the old Bad Bob’s BBQ space on Highway 9 near Bethelview/141. The menu is mostly fried seafood and cajun items like gumbo. They also have breakfast. I went one day this week for lunch and wasn’t impressed. Let’s just say they have a lot of new restaurant jitters to work through. To be fair I won’t ding them any more than that.

Rio Neuvo – Alpharetta

They are building out a space on North Point formally occupied by Famous Dave’s BBQ, formally occupied by Houlihans (seeing a trend here?). I don’t know anything about these guys. Not sure if it will be another ubiquitous Mexican joint (Speedy Gonzalez type menu) or something more fancy like Pure Taqueria. We’ll see once they open.

Tilted Kilt – Roswell

They’ve got a location in Johns Creek and a few other spots in metro Atlanta. Looks like they are building out in the old Lobster Trap location on Holcomb Bridge Road. If you like chain Irish pub food and the bare exposed midriff sections of attractive ladies, then this place might be for you.

Venus Cuisine – Johns Creek

They opened in the space formally occupied by Hachi Hachi Japanese on Johns Bridge. I don’t know much about them except they they offer Mediterranean food.

Joe’s Crab Shack – Alpharetta – Closed

I have nothing to say here!

Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q – Cumming

Every Friday, Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series I like to call Foodie Friday. This week I continue a summer series reviewing barbecue restaurants in Alpharetta.

I have a strong aversion to franchise barbecue. It is a prejudice I’ve created in my mind based on years of bad experiences. Right out of the gate a franchise Q joint has a high hurdle to overcome to please me. It took a few visits for me to come to this conclusion, but I think Jim ‘N Nicks is probably the best franchise barbecue in the northern burbs. Note that I said the best franchise joint. They keep some sorry company in this category.

Jim ‘N Nicks is has an outparcel location at The Avenue Forsyth. I’ve made fun of cheesy barbecue restaurant decor in my past reviews. Jim ‘N Nicks won’t be spared from my ridicule here. They’ve got their fair share of folksy pictures and other fake knick knacks all over the place. I started to doubt the cords of wood outside the restaurant. Are they for show as well?

Thankfully the answer is no. The barbecue here has a solid core of hickory smoke flavor. I tend to like heavy smoke in my pork. If you’re put off by that, Jim ‘N Nicks might not be for you. Their menu has pulled pork, brisket, ribs, chicken and probably some other Q I’m forgetting. The pulled pork is not really my favorite. It is often over-tender to the point of being mushy. They would do a lot better to cook it less. Otherwise it is beautiful with a nice smoke ring. They sauce it in the kitchen, which I don’t care for.

The baby back ribs are probably my favorite here. Again they have a solid smokey flavor with a decent rub and sauce that’s caramelized on the meat. It is flavorful, tender with texture. My only complaint here one of presentation. On my last two visits the ribs were up-side-down on the plate when they come out. I mean the membrane/convex side is up. It looks rather sorry given how tasty they are. Flip them over guys!

The non-barbecue side of the menu is very good at Jim ‘N Nicks. Many folks rave about the little biscuits they bring before the meal. I’m not a huge fan but they are decent. The chicken fingers are amazingly good, hand battered and worthy of trying as an entree. The fried cat fish is also delicious. Most of the side items are made from scratch. Brunswick stew is available as a side… at an upcharge. Boo!

All in all, Jim ‘N Nicks is decent stuff. The prices are expensive, on par with the boutique barbecue joints down in Alpharetta. I don’t think the quality of their food justifies the price though. Others must disagree with me because this place is always packed. It is worthy of a splurge from time to time though!
Jim 'n Nick's Bar-B-Q (Cumming) on Urbanspoon

Johns Creek and the Quest for a Zip Code

The scarecrow wants a brain, the tin man wants a heart and the lion wants courage. Johns Creek wants a zip code. They’ve enlisted the help of Congressman Tom Price to guide them down the political yellow brick road. Will the great Oz grant their wish?

I’m torn on this issue of zip codes for the new cities of the burbs. In some ways I think they are going for a vanity zip code, something that could become exclusive like 90210. It’ll be a unique Johns Creek number the country club ladies can get snobby about. Yet in other ways I think the zip code system is partially broken and a new zip code for the city makes stuff function better. First I’ll make the case against a new zip.

Zip codes belong to the post office. They were invented by the USPS and are maintained by them. They exist to make postal delivery more efficient. Zips do not follow political boundaries and never have. Asking the post office to create one or more zip codes exclusively within the boundaries of the city of Johns Creek is not realistic. The USPS has enough problems right now, I’m sure they don’t need political pressure brought down on them by Congressmen for the purposes of city identity.

On the flip side, zip codes are often misused and misunderstood. The post office recognizes a “default place name” for each zip code. Johns Creek is not a default name of any zip code, even though they exist partially in five zips. The USPS agreed to allow Johns Creek to be what they call an “acceptable place name” for four of the five zip codes. That’s not good enough for one big reason…

Poor software design. Yeah, I blame it on the software guys (like yours truly). Many software apps incorrectly assume a one-to-one relationship between zip code and city. So for example, when they see 30022, they assume “Alpharetta, GA” or vice versa. Acceptable place names are often not factored into many software applications. As a result, using a website to find a restaurant or get a weather forecast might not work if you type “Johns Creek” or “Milton” as the location.

So what’s the solution? I’d kinda like to see the USPS change the default place for 30022 and 30097 to Johns Creek. Those two zip codes are mostly in the city limits anyway. I’m sure this change would tick off folks in Alpharetta and Duluth. North Point Mall is in 30022 and I’m sure the businesses near there wouldn’t care for the change.

Or Johns Creek could hope for an outcome similar to what happened in Milton. In their case, 30004 was just about the only zip code in the new city. In 2008 the USPS carved out a new zip code from 30004. This new zip, 30009, is mostly downtown Alpharetta with just a few addresses in Milton. They said the change was for efficiency reasons, yet the line somewhat closely follows the city boundaries. I’m certain there was some political influence involved in this though. What is confusing to me is that 30004 still has a default place of “Alpharetta”. It really should be Milton.

Pulling off something like this in Johns Creek would be more difficult considering that five zip codes are involved. And those five zip codes have four distinct default place names. Is it all worth it? Is this a waste of political capital?

52 Bistro – Alpharetta

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

There is a certain type of restaurant that attracts the country club ladies. These are the older gals with a lot of disposable income that can drop a 20 spot on lunch everyday. I don’t know what these ladies do, maybe meet their scrapbooking friends or something. I like to poke fun at these gals but I’ll say this; they have exceptional taste in restaurants. Pay attention to where they eat, it is bound to be good. I find them at places like Never Enough Thyme and other higher end sandwich joints. I wasn’t surprised to see them here at 52 Bistro either.

52 Bistro opened recently in the old Slice Cafe spot in downtown Alpharetta. Their address, as you might guess, is 52 Main Street yet they can be hard to spot from the road. I find it best to approach the restaurant from Church Street, a small side street off Main. The owners of 52 Bistro also run the Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub in Crabapple.

Awwe, isn’t their building adorable? It is a small little house nestled among trees. In front is a koi fish pond. They are not on the menu. The first floor is a little cramped with a small bar, hostess table, kitchen, dessert display and a few tables. Upstairs, where we sat, looks like a sanctuary of an old church. You’re under the high loft ceiling with two stained glass windows to add color. Off the upstairs is the treetop veranda. I don’t suggest this in the summertime but it is beautiful up there. All in all, this little house turned restaurant is cute, fresh, inviting… and probably several other words that realtors might use.

Let’s get to the food. We started with the seafood risotto fritter appetizers. These were like little baseballs of deep fried seafood goodness. They were cooked perfect, golden brown and delicious. On first impression I thought these would be better with more spice. Then the chili glaze taste started to hit me. Yum.

I ordered a Cuban sandwich, which I tried at Taste of Alpharetta a few months back. They use real roast pork (not deli pork meat), long strips of pickle and bread with the right crunch to it. I don’t want to get in trouble with Cuban foodie purists, so read this next part carefully. Is it an authentic Cuban sandwich? No. Is it the closest you’re going to get to authentic in Alpharetta? Probably. Is it delicious? Definitely!

The rest of the menu contains stuff like flatbreads, sandwiches, a little bit of seafood and lamb. It isn’t a deep menu, but there is enough there to keep me interested for a few more trips.

52 Bistro is a winner. I like the neat little house turned restaurant, friendly and attentive staff, and terrific food. Cubicle dwelling IT folks like yours truly might feel a little out of place among the snooty ladies. It’s totally worth it though.
52 Bistro on Urbanspoon

The Greatest Paradox of the Affluent Burbs

The call went out. I noticed it twice in the course of the week. First it was in our church bulletin. A few days later I discovered this article in the Neighbor Newspaper. North Fulton Community Charities is in a bind. Cash flow is a little tight in the summer months, which makes providing services a little tough. On top of that, the food pantry continues to have high demand.

This is the greatest paradox of living in the affluent suburbs of Atlanta. Actually it is a double paradox. The fact that there is such demand for assistance may surprise some. Sure, we’re in a prolonged recession. Yet many of our neighbors are not as well off as you might think. Talk to enough volunteers at NFCC and you’ll hear stories of folks in luxury cars asking for help at the food pantry. It’s a paradox. It happens every day. Even in Alpharetta. Even in Johns Creek.

The second paradox is that charities like NFCC struggle financially. It makes me a bit embarrassed quite honestly. We drive nice cars, live in fancy neighborhoods, dine in expensive restaurants but don’t make even small contributions to local charities in need.

I gave a little something after reading this article. It isn’t much at all. I suppose indirectly I’ve helped through my church. Our congregation, like many others in north Fulton, supports NFCC in a lot of ways. But I couldn’t in good conscience write this article without doing something. We’re blessed to live in this area. Please do your part to support local charities in need.

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