My Week with the Ford C-Max Energi

LogoCmaxWhen I was presented with the opportunity to test drive and blog about a car from Allan Vigil Ford in Morrow, GA, I thought, sure, why not!  My husband, Paul, and I have been talking about trading in our 2003 Saturn Ion for a hybrid this summer. The Saturn has done us well but it’s time to upgrade our one-car family with something that suits our needs now; not to mention a healthier option for the environment.

Living in Atlanta means one thing…you own a car. You plan your trips to the store, dinner, meetings, wherever you go around traffic. It’s a reality we live with every day in this city. And as a busy family of four, we do a great deal of driving despite working from home. Paul and I want something that will not only provide the necessary space we need to haul children, two dogs and ourselves around, but provides us with great fuel economy and environmental piece of mind. Enter Ford’s 2013 C-Max Energi, a hybrid-electric you can plug in…at home!

Here are some of the features we loved during our week with the C-Max Energi:

The Energi comes with a charging port and 3-pronged plug.  It takes about 7 hours to fully recharge using a 120v outlet or under 2.5 hours using a community charging station or a 240v outlet which comes with at-home charging stations. The rim around the outside of the port illuminates to show you the progress. When recharged, the rim is completely blue.


You can drive up to 62 mph in electric mode! Yes, you read that right. They say owning a hybrid-electric changes the way you drive; making you more aware of how you accelerate, brake, turn, even your speed. It’s hard not to watch the gauges as braking returns power to the battery or see how long you can drive without the gas engine kicking in.



This seemingly compact car on the outside is not so compact on the inside. Ideal for bratty little brothers and annoying big sisters. The “no-touching zone” in the C-Max Energi’s backseat is such a relief. It even comes with a “room divider” (aka arm rest/cup holder). My 5’11”, long-legged husband also loved the spacious head and leg room.



Cargo space holds wide boxes as well as the most delicate of plants.

The backseat is a 60/40 split for those times you need to haul large pieces of lumber, like for our raised-bed vegetable garden.


Love the placement of the gear-shift, steering column gauges and center console. All common sense. Something I’ve always found Ford masters beautifully.

For those vertically-challenged people, such as myself, I found the C-Max Energi to be a wonderful compromise between a sedan and an SUV. It’s compact, easy to maneuver and has great acceleration yet it rides higher up off the ground than most small cars. It’s pretty zippy too; an unusual quality in hybrid-electrics.

These features alone will make Ford a competitor in the alternative-power vehicle market.  Shhh…we even test drove another “shall-remain-nameless” hybrid-electric to compare the two cars side-by-side. The C-Max Energi won hands down for our family.


After 7 days of mostly in-town driving, the C-Max Energi had used just over a 1/4 tank of gas. And I mean, JUST over. We averaged about 38-39 mpg. Not bad for two newbies to hybrid-electric driving in Atlanta traffic.

Alas, our week was up and we reluctantly drove the C-Max Energi back down to Allan Vigil.

Thanks to Allan Vigil Ford in Morrow for allowing us to test drive the C-Max Energi! Your wonderful staff was so gracious and helpful, answering all of our questions. Cheers to Allan Vigil Ford for finding our next car!


2013 Ford C-Max Energi


STAPLEHOUSE: Kicking Cancer’s Ass While Giving Back

staplehouse_logoCulinary. Cancer. Community. These three words have come together in a most extraordinary way over the last six months. On December 21, 2012, Chef Ryan Hidinger of STAPLEHOUSE  (an underground supper club) was dealt a life-changing blow.  After weeks of feeling poorly, thinking he had caught a nagging stomach virus, he and his wife, Jen, went to the doctor to find out the cause of his pain. What they heard was beyond shocking. Stage IV gallbladder cancer. Ryan is only 35 years old.

Ryan and Jen had been planning since the inception of STAPLEHOUSE to turn this venture into their dream restaurant. They had selected the building, and the wheels were in motion to begin a new chapter in their lives. Within minutes, all of that came crashing down around them. The Hidingers would have to put everything on hold. But what happened within days of the diagnosis was truly extraordinary, and speaks volumes of Atlanta’s culinary community. Fundraisers were set up in their name to help cover the enormous cost of treating this rare form of cancer. Donations were pouring in from all over the country. And with that, Team HIDI was born thanks to family, friends, chefs, restauranteurs and Atlanta’s diners.

Six months later, the fundraising has transformed not only the lives of the Hidingers but the future of STAPLEHOUSE. Today, Ryan is fighting (and winning) a fierce battle against cancer thanks to the generosity of the Atlanta dining community.  Demonstrating tremendous Grace, Ryan and Jen (along with their family and friends, such as Chef Ryan Smith of Empire State South) have revitalized STAPLEHOUSE, turning it into a purpose-driven restaurant which will help raise funds for those in the culinary community experiencing financial hardships.

Please join the Hidingers in making their dreams reality, and help them give back to the community who has given them the hope and strength to kick cancer’s ass!

To learn more about STAPLEHOUSE and The Giving Kitchen, or to donate, visit or


Upcoming Events in Support of STAPLEHOUSE and The Giving Kitchen:


May 16, 2012 at Batdorf & Bronson Coffee Roasters- Atlanta from 7-9pm.

Memorial Day Pig Roast

May 26, 2012  at the home of Jason Apple (Atlanta Food Blogger Sociey, The Kitchen Man Can and Kitchen Fronts of Georgia) from 4:30 pm – until we get kicked out.

Red Pepper Taqueria Industry Night

Beginning May 13th, every Monday from 10p-12a through May and June, Red Pepper Taqueria will donate 10% of sales from Industry Night to The Giving Kitchen!

Dining Out for Team Hidi:

A percentage of sales from your meal will be donated to Team HIDI at the following restaurants: Muss and Turners, Local Three and Empire State South

Dinner of Dreams

PushStart Kitchen in Atlanta, GA is a supper club located at the historic Goat Farm Artist Commune in the Westside neighborhood. Chef Zach Meloy and his wife Cristina open their home to 18 strangers 3x a week and offer their guests a custom meal via communal dining. This historic yet urban environment nestled in between the railroad tracks, Westside Provisions District and the Atlanta Waterworks is a world unto itself where chickens, turkeys and yes, goats, roam the grounds. Where artists of all kinds create in their studios and dreams come to life in loft spaces to the din of the trains passing by.

This was my birthday wish: great food, great conversation and great friends. I wanted my birthday to be a gift to those present at the table last evening. The gift of friendship, support of each other’s life pursuits and incredible food. No one had to worry about allergies (gluten free menu), the cost of their meal (paid for), the company they were keeping (connections were made).  And who doesn’t love capping off a night of food and friendship with a little orange-infused moonshine!

Thank you to my wonderful husband for making this happen for me! It was my dinner of dreams.

Photos and food courtesy of PushStart Kitchen.

So this happened last night –>>

Pork albondigas, cotija, sour cherry jam.

Pork albondigas, cotija, sour cherry jam.

Poblano corn pudding, oyster mushroom, charred onion mascarpone, cilantro.

Poblano corn pudding, oyster mushroom, charred onion mascarpone, cilantro.

Pork loin, carrots in several ways, preserved lemon yogurt, black olive.

Pork loin, carrots in several ways, preserved lemon yogurt, black olive.

Flour less chocolate cake, clementine sorbet, vanilla milk jam, blood orange syrup.

Flour less chocolate cake, clementine sorbet, vanilla milk jam, blood orange syrup.

Last Weekend for U-Pick at Mercier Orchards…Also Hard Cider!

The last U-Pick weekend at Mercier Orchards in Blue Ridge, GA is this Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 10am-4pm each day. On the branches now are Pink Ladies, Fujis and Braeburns with early season Beni Shoguns still dappling a few trees. Unlike the produce aisle at the grocery store, testing the merchandise is encouraged; orchard policy! Sorry folks, no more Granny Smiths but they are available in the orchard store along with many other early season varieties already bundled to take home.  The orchard is very hilly which means boots, sneakers or a good pair of tread shoes are recommended. Cute hats and scarves optional.

Each variety of apple has its own unique taste and purpose, so study up before you hop on the tractor to the orchard.

Pink Ladies

Beni Shogun: In season during September, an earlier ripening version of the Fuji.  Yellow, very sweet and lightly crispy.

Braeburn: In season October-April. Red, orange in color with a mixture of sweet and tart flavors. Ideal for baking tarts or pies.

Fuji: In season Mid-October. Sweet and crunchy. A great snacking apple.

Pink Lady: A late season bloomer, October-November. Firm, sweet, but tart. A great apple to both snack on and use in cooking. Good for apple butter or preserving as well as baking.

**Caution! The yellow jackets are particularly bad this year. The staff in the orchard have allergy and first aid kits on hand in case of emergency. 

Before you head home, make sure to stop by the bakery located in the orchard store for a fried pie and to pick up a couple dozen Apple Cider donuts! Everything is baked fresh on site.

Hard Cider for Sale!

New to Mercier this year is the Hard Cider Tasting Room. Yes, hard cider made from Mercier’s apples all pressed, fermented and distilled on site. Currently they have three flavors to choose from Old #3, Black Bee and Lone Tree with more flavors on the way! These delicious ciders are all natural with no preservatives. The tasting room is serving a flight of four ciders (one which is not available yet) to those 21 years or older. Purchase a pint of your favorite brew for $5 and then bring a bottle or four home with you for $9 a piece. These ciders are only available through the Tasting store but there is talk of broadening the operation to accomodate wholesale markets in the Atlanta area! You hearing this, Tower Package?

Cheers, y’all!

Mercier Orchard Store is open Monday – Sunday from 7am – 8pm.

U-Pick/Tractor Rides are available through the end of October, Friday – Sunday from 10am – 4pm

Dark Harvest Haunted Tractor Tour is available Friday, October 26, Saturday, October 27 and Wednesday, October 31 from 8pm – 11pm.


Taste of Atlanta and its Culinary Storytellers

If you’re like me, hopelessly devoted to food, the creativity behind it, the stories surrounding it, then check out the 11th Annual Taste of Atlanta this weekend, October 5-7 in midtown Atlanta. Over 80 restaurants will be featured at this year’s Taste from all over metro Atlanta and will include three kitchen demo stages, learning experiences, a Family Fun Zone with a Top Chef competition for kids, bar craft competition and a silent auction. For $25 a day, you get to dine at some of Atlanta’s most prestigious restaurants and preview those yet to open. But festivals like Taste give you more than just delectable bites and handcrafted cocktails, there are stories galore from the chefs, owners and barkeeps who keep us coming back week after week. It’s these stories that make Taste and festivals like it so unique. Food brings people together in a way no other element does. It evokes memories, starts conversations, helps us celebrate, even eases the grieving process.

Here’s my write up on Taste of Atlanta for Deep South Magazine. Learn about one restaurant in particular who is sharing their story through food, The Shed at Glenwood and their culinary storyteller and amateur historian, Chef Todd Richards.

Cheers, y’all!

Fried Green Tomatoes – Tasting the Past

There was so much to learn at the Atlanta History Center‘s annual Folklife Festival, but of course one of my favorite demonstrations took place in the Smith Family Farm kitchen. Run by slaves, the kitchen (located in a small out building behind the house) was the heart of the farm where Mrs. Smith’s job was to merely present menus, provide recipes and supervise those cooking and preparing the meals for the family and their guests. These slave women worked in the kitchen from before sunrise to long after sunset doing everything from gathering ingredients, to prepping the food, to cleaning the dishes. Meats, vegetables, fruits, even cheeses were all grown and harvested on the farm like a little self-contained ecosystem.  So what did they eat regularly? Turns out, fried green tomatoes.

Fried green tomatoes were a farm staple due to the abundance of tomatoes, easy preparation and quick turn around time.  As I stood listening, I quickly realized the small kitchen was filled with visitors from beyond the South who innocently misunderstood one of the most recognizable Southern foods. “So wait. This isn’t a variety of tomato?” one woman asked, clearly taking mental notes. “Really?” another person chirped with astonishment. Shaking her head and stating a polite, yet emphatic “No”,  the docent explained that fried green tomatoes were simply unripened red tomatoes plucked from the vine early. The sweetness has yet to fully settle into its meat giving it a somewhat tangy taste.  Once picked, the tomatoes are sliced into rounds, dipped in milk (or buttermilk which was typical) and egg, dredged in cornmeal then shallow fried in a skillet with a little butter or bacon fat to a crispy golden brown. “Just as we do today,” she pointed out “you got to serve ’em hot!”  Maybe with a little goat cheese and bacon on top.

I was happy to learn that the tasty treat I love so much really hasn’t changed over the last 150 years. So the next time you bite into a fried green tomato, just think, you’re tasting the past, transporting you back to the farm, back to a simpler time when local wasn’t local, it was just a way of life.

Świt Bakery and Cafe is SHVEET!

Banana Nutella Tartine on Farm Bread, chicken sausage and latte

My new favorite spot to grab a light breakfast, a lunchtime sandwich or a spot of tea while I write. Świt (break of dawn in Polish) just landed on the Westside a couple of months ago and is already garnering a loyal following among the residents as well as Westside businesses. Unlike the popular Octane across the street, Świt is quiet, bright and inviting. This European bakery and cafe serves up fresh baked breads, pastries, coffees, teas and sandwiches from the old country.  They take pride in the craftsmanship of their breads and baked goods which is evident upon first bite into any of their tasty treats.

Make sure to try this little gem the next time you’re in the Westside district.  Bring a good book and sip a cup of tea with cookies on the couch, plug in your computer and blog away (free wifi) at the community table or enjoy a sandwich or a pastry on the patio while you soak in the sun.  Świt Bakery and Cafe, a little bit of Europe in the heart of the South.


Intersection of Howell Mill and Marietta St, next to 5 Seasons Brewery.

Operating Hours

Monday-Friday — Open from 7:30am to 5:00pm

Saturday — Open from 8:00am to 5:00pm

Sunday — Open from 9:00am to 4:00pm


Fried Chicken, Kerala Style!

Fried Chicken Thali lunch special

If you live or even visit Atlanta you MUST, MUST dine at Cardamom Hill in Atlanta’s Westside district. Conveniently located off of Northside Drive and I-75, Cardamom Hill features Kerala-style Indian cuisine as created from the childhood memories of Chef Asha Gomez. Her take on fried chicken has won the heart of this most southern city.  There are no words to describe this dish other than it simply melts in your mouth.

The fried chicken is a staple on the menu and can be ordered as an entree for dinner or as a Thali for lunch.  And for those with gluten and dairy allergies, never fear, Cardamom’s famous fried chicken can be ordered gluten free! A collective HOORAY can be heard ’round the food allergy world.

Stop by for lunch to sample the fare or grab a drink and dinner at the newest hot spot in Atlanta’s Westside. Cardamom’s menu will delight your taste buds and keep you coming back for more. Don’t forget to order the Chai for an after meal treat!

The lunch menu changes daily (but always has the chicken), so check daily for specials. Gluten free chicken upon request.

1700 Northside Drive,
Suite A-6,
Atlanta, GA 30318
Tel: 404.549.7012

Hours of Operation
Monday – Friday: 11:30- 2:30pm
Monday – Thursday: 5:30 – 10:00pm
Friday & Saturday: 5:30pm to 10:30pm

Food Truck Festival in Atlanta, Georgia

Food truck row at Piedmont Park in Atlanta

My write up for Deep South Magazine on the Atlanta Food Truck Festival at Piedmont Park on July 14th featuring Black Tie Barbecue, Emily G’s Jams and Dr Sweets Cake Emporium.

The Optimist: Bringing the Coast to Atlanta

Atlanta. Memorial Day weekend. The sweltering morning heat gave way to a typical warm summer evening (in May). A soft breeze was blowing as Tropical Storm Beryl was readying herself to come onshore. The city quieter than usual due to sun worshippers fleeing for the waters of the Atlantic and the Gulf. Beryl and her reluctant companion, the beach, had set the tone for our evening meal at The Optimist. The babysitter arriving, sun dress calling out from the closet with the perfect pair of wedges, clutch filled with lip gloss and face powder to blot dewy skin, it was time to depart for summer seafoody goodness. A coastal dining experience in the heart of the Westside.

Having grown up on the coast, I am always reluctant to eat seafood as far inland as Atlanta. It has had to travel a great distance, must be kept on ice until it is cooked (whenever that may be) and many times is farmed rather than caught in its natural waters. These factors leave the flavors of the fish lacking. To cook fish inland well, you have to go to great lengths to do so and know how to prepare it properly without losing the flavor or destroying its delicate texture. From everything I was hearing from friends and fellow food bloggers, The Optimist had conquered this complex challenge spectacularly. I was ready to indulge and transport myself back to my coastal homeland for the evening.

White washed brick, wrought iron and a cheery yellow awning displaying the fare greeted us as we walked through the oyster bar to the hostess stand. The space is open, fresh and clean with white washed planked ceilings and brick walls carried over from the outside. The bar, the bow of this ship with its tasteful, nautically-inspired bar stools and vintage signage light bulbs above, overlooks the entire dining room, captained by a familiar face for Westside foodies and lovers of cheese dip, Michael Cook (formerly of Bone Garden Cantina). A great catch by Ford Fry. We sipped on our Fish House sauvignon blanc while chatting with Michael and thoroughly entertaining the gentleman next us with our witty banter. The bar was full of diners feasting on oysters and kindred spirits waiting for their tables. The energy high, the staff beaming with pride, we knew we were in for a very good night.

After only a short wait, we were seated. Our waiter began his explanation of the restaurant, Chef Fry’s philosophy behind the recipes and the various dishes on the menu. The Optimist uses only sustainable seafood, species not over fished, from large fisheries or farmed. The deal is made directly with local fishermen ensuring the fish is carefully selected and shipped fresh to be cooked within the week. From Florida grouper, to Alaskan halibut, to Georgia trout, the menu offers a diverse selection to suit any fish lover’s palate. And for the wee ones, a Kid’s Menu full of perennial favorites all for $7, because let’s face it, seafood is an acquired taste, especially for children. We decided to start with the Whole Georgia Shrimp a la Plancha. A spicy introduction to the restaurant.

Glancing around the room, there were families with young children seated in the booths, couples on their Saturday night dates and groups of friends enjoying a meal before a night on the town. The open kitchen was a flurry of activity with sous chefs and assistants working the stoves and the grills while Chef Fry personally dressed each plate for service out front. The beautiful, full-bodied shrimp finally arrived along with hot towels for cleaning messy hands. Grilled to perfection, the arbol chile and lime sauce is a wonderful complement to the light shrimp flavor without overpowering it. I was in love with the fact that the heads were left on the shrimp (eyes and all); the head is the best part! I sopped up the shrimp in sauce, licking my fingers thinking my southern Mama would not approve…but Mama, it’s so good. Devouring the shrimp and wiping my saucy fingers on the hot towels, it was time for the main course!

I had wavered back and forth between the scallops and the skate wing schnitzel. Similar in texture and taste to scallops, I decided on the skate as it is a rare find on any menu. I was most excited to try this schnitzel style! My husband ordered the duck fat poached swordfish and our side, beignet corn milk hushpuppies dusted in cane sugar. The skate portion was large and in charge but I was up to the challenge. Lightly breaded and sitting in a shallow brown butter caper sauce, I dug in. Having never eaten skate before, I was delighted to find the texture fluffy and the taste, while similar to scallops, a bit more flavorful. For anyone looking to dive into seafood for the first time, I recommend this dish as your christening. The schnitzel breading coupled with the brown butter and capers is packed full of mouthwatering yumminess and I feel is definitely a signature dish for The Optimist. Not only is it a rare fish to find on a menu, but Chef Fry’s spin on this winged aquatic “bird” is well thought out and beautifully executed. The swordfish, poached in duck fat, was tender, paired with pickled sweet peppers and crispy pancetta which really brought out the flavor of this mild fish. And of course, what can be said about the beignet styled hushpuppies other than, holy yum! From first bite to last crumb, the entire meal was, simply put, delicious. We were so full from dinner that there was just no room for buttermilk donuts with sweet corn ice cream (which I had been coveting all evening at other tables). Next time; and there will be many next times. 

Bravo Chef Fry for bringing coastal flavor and freshness to Atlanta! Now to plan the next visit. Wood roasted soft shell crab or roasted Georgia trout? Hmm…

The full menu is served at the dining room bar while an abbreviated menu is served at the oyster bar next door. The oyster bar opens at 5pm during the week and 3pm on the weekends with closing time stated as “whenever”. A great place for a late night snack and a cool libation.

The menu offers non-seafood fare as well for those not fond of the fish.

Plenty of seating, with large table rounds for parties of 6-8 and booth seating for parties of 8-10.

Complimentary valet and plenty of street parking available.