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Alpharetta Restaurant News – February 2012

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

I don’t have a lot of new restaurants to report this month. However several from my coming soon list have finally opened. Get out and try some of these new joints!

But before I get into the new restaurants, I’d like to put in a plug for something called Have a Heart for NFCC. Several local restaurants have partnered to raise funds for North Fulton Community Charities, a very worthy cause. If you dine at one of these restaurants on their designated day, a portion of your bill will be donated to the charity. There are some decent restaurants on this list. I encourage you to participate.

Feb 20 – Slopes BBQ
Feb 21 – Altobeli’s Restaurant & Piano Bar
Feb 22 – Olde Blind Dog Irish Pub
Feb 28 – Alpine Bakery & Trattoria
Feb 29 – Sedgwick family of restaurants (Pure Taqueria, Vinny’s, Bistro VG and The Union)

Seven Seas Cafe – Devore Road

This Mediterranean restaurant quietly opened a few weeks ago in the space formerly occupied by The Spot. Not sure where this is? You’re not alone. This restaurant might as well be invisible, especially from Main Street.

I’ve yet to try this joint, but I trust the opinion of Boris Y on Yelp.

Breadtime – South Main

Shhh, don’t tell anyone, but this little mom-and-pop German bakery is sehr gut! Their made-from-scratch ravioli cooked in browned butter is amazing. But you didn’t hear it from Roots in Alpharetta, alright? A full review is forthcoming. I promised them I would wait until they secured their liquor license.

Saigon Cafe – Windward

Their grand opening is Monday, February 20th. Look for them near Smashburger and Einstein Bagels.

Liu Fu – China Inn

China Inn has relocated from Chamblee to Johns Creek. They opened this month under the name Liu Fu. A Chinese co-worker of mine tells me they are generating quite a buzz on the hyper-local Chinese websites. Check them out on 141 across from the Emory Johns Creek hospital. I suggest the Sichuan hot boiled fish.

Bassanos – Johns Creek

Now open on State Bridge Road in Tasca Latin Bistro’s old location. I ate there last weekend and was impressed with their New York-style pizza. It’s certainly worth a return trip. Watch the crowds and be patient as they work out the kinks.

And speaking of Tasca… the broker that sold this restaurant said on his blog that former Tasca chef and owner Rogerio Martins will host a cooking show on Telemundo.

Erwoods – Crabapple

They have a new chef by the name of Brian Earl. He brings steakhouse and Italian experience from past jobs at Houstons and Longhorn. Also new at Erwoods is a wood-fired pizza oven.

52 Bistro – Main Street

They also have a new chef – Adam Legrand. His past gigs include Henry’s Louisiana Grill in Acworth, Downtown Kitchen and Goin’ Coastal in Canton.

Coming Soon

El Molcajete Mexican - Coming to Zola Bistro’s old space on Highway 9 in Milton.
Alfresco - Should open any day now on Main Street and Old Milton.
Meat & Potatoes - Johns Creek in the old Rio Bravo/Star Diner space.
Ipanema Grill - Coming to Old Milton Parkway where Chip’s Southern Cooking used to be.
Construct-a-burger - Still no word on a future location. I’m removing them from this column until I hear of firm plans to open.
Carrabbas - They plan to build a free-standing out-parcel restaurant at The Avenue Forsyth.

Putting Habitat for Humanity on trial?

In September 2011 a violent home invasion occurred in the Glen Abbey neighborhood of Alpharetta and was widely reported in the news. This neighborhood was built by Jim Cowart Residential – a fact not reported in the media. Why? Because it’s irrelevant and doesn’t explain the crime in any way.

On Sunday a boy was senselessly murdered in Milton. Several local news outlets saw fit to mention that the neighborhood was built by Habitat for Humanity. Is this a necessary thing to report? I don’t believe it is. These townhomes are owner-occupied just like the homes in Glen Abbey. So why bring it up?

When you report a story in this way you’re making an insinuation in an ever so subtle way. And unfortunately some in our community are making very direct statements on online forums about Habitat communities and crime. It’s ugly, disrespectful, undignified and not appropriate so soon after such a tragedy.

The insinuation is that families that live in Habitat communities are undesirable or prone to crime or violence. The simple fact is that this kind of crime can occur anywhere. There are broken families in every neighborhood. There are people prone to violence in all walks of life. This murder could have happened just as easily in Windward or White Columns.

Habitat for Humanity does amazing work. Dragging them into this discussion is irresponsible. Let’s put this cowardly step-father on trail and not this amazing charity. And let’s not demean Habitat families who quite literally built their own homes in addition to paying for them.

Now is the time to mourn the loss of this young man and support his family and friends at Alpharetta High School. Say a prayer for them and hug your kids.

The Drake House and Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’

Every Friday Roots in Alpharetta features an article on food and dining in a series called Foodie Friday.

I used to be a Drake House doubter. I recall sitting in a pew at Alpharetta Presbyterian Church listening to our minister talk about the need for transitional homeless housing in north Fulton. “You’ve got to be kidding me,” I thought. Surely this kind of program is needed in Atlanta or elsewhere. There’s no way our affluent suburb would have a housing problem for homeless women and their families. Right?

The weeks went by and I listened to our preacher get more and more excited about the program. Soon a few big donors came to bat. Next came some leaders who facilitated the purchase of an old apartment building in Roswell. I continued to doubt.

Before long our church was sponsoring an apartment and participating in its renovation. We were also kicking in mission funds to the charity, something we continue to do today. But I really didn’t begin to believe in the mission of the Drake House until I started to hear success stories. Unfortunately it took all that work to convince this stubborn doubter of the need for such a project.

Today, amidst a prolonged economic downtown, the Drake House plays a critically vital role in this community. Since their founding in 2006 they’ve helped over 200 single mothers and their families get back on their feet. I encourage you to spend a few minutes on their website and make yourself more familiar with this remarkable local charity.

So why am I talking about the Drake House in my Foodie Friday column? Because they sponsor one of the coolest (ha ha), most unique foodie festivals around. Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin is the Drake House’s premier fund raising event, bringing in tens of thousands of dollars. It is also your best chance to sample genuine homemade ice cream. With today’s absurd proliferation of frozen yogurt joints, I appreciate a bowl of honest-to-goodness ice cream. And I challenge you to find ice cream better than the stuff they’ll dish out at this event on Sunday.

At only five bucks for all you can eat, this event is an exception value. The fact that it benefits this awesome local charity is like having whipped cream and a cherry on top! There’s a ton of other activities for kids and families as well.

If you’re there for the ice cream, take this advice… get there early! The event starts at 2:00. There never seems to be enough crankers to meet demand. If there’s anything left by 3:00, the chances are good that the August sun will have turned it into goo. I’d suggest getting there a little before 2:00 with spoon at the ready.

Here are the details:

What: 7th Annual Miss Mary’s Ice Cream Crankin’. A fundraiser to benefit The Drake House.

Where: The Roswell Square

When: Sunday August 28 from 2:00 to 4:00

Cost: $5 per person, $15 per family

The Youth Service Project

I recently hired a baby sitter, an eighth grader that goes to my church. She seems to be a responsible young lady. I also know her mother and family so there’s some trust built in. This in and of itself is nothing worthy of writing about. More on the baby sitting later.

The mission work my baby sitter performs is very much worthy of a story. This summer she will join many other youth from our congregation to travel to one of a handful of service projects. Our youth work their tails off in challenging environments including the Katrina-damaged Mississippi and Louisiana coasts, various destinations in Appalachia and some inner-city work. A typical project might be to help remodel a home. This trip ain’t Club Med. It’s valuable work to those on the receiving end of the generosity, but there is something more valuable to be taken away from this.

I often worry about the children that grow up in very affluent suburbs such as Alpharetta. It’s easy for adults to realize how fortunate we are to live here, yet kids raised in this lifestyle may have a jaded sense of reality. Our kids attend amazing schools, get cars when they turn 16, have iPhones and $300 hand bags. Atypical? Of course but if you were born and raised here, it’s normal right?

It’s why I’m a big fan of youth service projects. I want these kids out there, working hard, sweating and learning to be servant leaders to someone in great need. They need to witness destruction, poverty and despair; words we don’t say much in affluent Alpharetta. More than anything, they need to learn to respond to God’s love and grace by helping those in need.

So how does baby sitting play into this? Not only do our youth work hard on these projects, they take on some of the cost themselves. It would be easy for our church to pick up the entire cost of the trip (we pay for a lot of it). But the kids will find themselves invested in the project before it even begins if they are footing some of the costs. So here in the Spring they are serving our congregation with projects to raise a few bucks. I won the baby sitting in an auction and am looking forward to using it on a date night with my wife. I’ve got the easy part in all this.

If you’ve chosen Alpharetta as a place to raise your kids then you made a great choice. If you’re not getting your kids plugged into a youth program with service projects like this then shame on you!

Thanksgiving in Alpharetta

Here in the burbs we spend a lot of time and energy complaining. We gripe about traffic, cubicle life, Fulton County government, and MARTA. We complain about who gets to sit on citizen boards. We complain about people of unusual faiths trying to expand their worship facilities. Some of us even complain about what news channels the TVs are tuned to in restaurants. In Milton, a place I like to satirize on a regular basis, they complain about cell phone towers, gas stations and sewer systems.

But at the end of the day, we are extraordinarily blessed to live here. Alpharetta is a terrific place to live, with amazing opportunities for ourselves and our children. Take a moment to consider this on Thanksgiving.

Also take a moment this year to think of those less fortunate in north Fulton. Yesterday’s Appen newspaper featured an article about some homeless people who live in a small tent community… right here in Alpharetta. It’s a heartbreaking story that no one else is covering. It hit me hard to learn of this kind of thing in my community. If you feel called to do so, please support a local charity this season. I suggest North Fulton Community Charities or the Drake House (which was mentioned in this article).

And to my blog readers, have a happy Thanksgiving.

Is this Heaven? No, it’s Alpharetta

This past week a few of us had to deliver faith statements for something at church. We were encouraged to be a little creative, so I framed mine around living in the affluent burbs. What can I say, that’s just how I roll. Thought I would share my suburban faith statement here on my blog since it is very relevant.

I recently heard our preacher talk about the great ends of the church,  among those are the “exhibition of the kingdom of heaven to the world.” With apologies to an outstanding baseball movie, the first thing that went through my mind was … “Is this heaven? No, it’s Alpharetta.”

Sometimes I frame my faith against my life here in the suburbs. My faith has taught me to recognize contradictions I observe. Despite living in one of America’s most affluent suburbs, we have local charities that struggle to meet the demands of their clients. We have rising unemployment in a town of a hundred thousand high-tech cubicle jobs.

My faith teaches me to love my neighbor. We live so close to our neighbors that the acorns from their trees land on my patio furniture, yet I hardly know them. It’s life in the suburbs. Are we “exhibiting the kingdom of heaven”? Hardly. It’s embarrassing really.

My faith teaches me that I’m an imperfect man. There’s a shocker! Despite my sinful ways and failures, Christ died for me. Even though we often don’t heed even the greatest commandment, Christ reconciles us to Him. It’s powerful stuff, yet remarkably simple at the same time. Even so, it is difficult for many here in Alpharetta, myself included, to put our faith into practice, even with the vast resources we possess. So what does Alpharetta look like when we exhibit the kingdom of Heaven? I’m sure it looks a lot different. I’d imagine we don’t cut each other off on GA-400.

I’m trying to raise a young family in Alpharetta. Like most parents I want my children to be well-grounded. I hope they learn to see through the gilded opulence that exists here. I want them to be thankful for the many blessings we take for granted and to be generous givers of their talents and treasures. I’m extremely grateful to have a congregation that will play an important part in their faith journey in the coming years. Thank you and God bless.

Backyard Bash with Jeff Foxworthy

My blog is not really a place to go to find things to do. There are a lot of other blogs out there for that purpose. But from time to time I’ll post a coming event, especially if I have something to say about it. This is one of those events.

On Thursday October 28th Jeff Foxworthy will be featured at a comedy event in Alpharetta called the Backyard Bash. This is a fundraiser for North Fulton Community Charities and a few other local charities. I’ve written about NFCC before as I’m a big fan of their work. This event stands to be a big money maker for them.

I’m also excited to see Jeff Foxworthy perform locally. It’s cool to see him use his talents to support the community (he lives in Johns Creek). And strange as it may sound, I’m kinda excited about going to North Point Community Church as this will be my first time inside Alpharetta’s monster church.

Check out the event website at backyard-bash.org for a funny little teaser video Foxworthy put together. You can also purchase your tickets online. I’ll be there, making a surprise date night of it with my wife (hope she doesn’t read the blog this week).

What: Backyard Bash featuring Jeff Foxworthy
When: Thursday October 28th at 7:30pm
Where: North Point Community Church
Cost: $50 per person to benefit NFCC and others

Veggie Tales and the Gated Community

My kids are really into Veggie Tales right now. I never really noticed this silly song on the show until recently. It is absolutely perfect for my blog’s theme; some terrific satire on living in a gated community in the affluent burbs.

I like how the kid politely asks several times yet the members of the community never really help their neighbor in need. Sound familiar? They are more concerned with talking about how life is perfect in the gated community. “And when you come to visit you can stand outside and see; What a tidy bunch we are in our gated unity!” Enjoy!

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.

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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