Sunday, January 27, 2008

9,056 Miles of Best Wishes!

For about three more hours from the time of this posting, Atlanta and Chennai, India, will be on the same calendar day. This is very important, because today, January 27, is the wedding day of our good friends Meenakshi and Tarun! We have all been looking forward to this day for many months.

The wedding ceremony itself was held earlier today in Chennai, but receptions and celebrations will continue for several days in three different cities in India. I received the first wedding picture (at right) on my cell phone last night.

"MJ" and Tarun should be back in the United States sometime next month. Best wishes, guys! We'll see you soon!

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Second Day Snow

It almost never happens in Atlanta: enough snow to last until the next day. But just such an auspicious event occurred this past weekend, when a quiet, steady snowfall on Saturday deposited enough whiteness to last until Monday evening. The TV weather reports, of course, had a field day. Storm Watch 2008! Buy milk and bread now!

My next door neighbors truly got into the act, building a tiny snowman and perching it atop their mailbox. I like's a sort of winter sentinel, a gentle reminder that the weather can change on a dime.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Sugo, Sugo, Sugo!

This past Thursday evening, a group of us from work decided to meet for P-Council. The Council has been off schedule as of late, due primarily to the holidays and a fairly heavy year-end workload. After some deliberation, we chose Sugo as our meeting place. Sugo is a family-owned restaurant with three locations in the Atlanta area, and our friend Tim, having visited there often, highly recommended it. Since Tim has dined all over the world, we trust him.

When I arrived at the bar, our friend Keith was already there. I ordered a grapefruit cosmopolitan, an interesting twist on one of my favorite martinis, and was impressed by the lightly tonic quality combined with a tasty cosmopolitan base. Tim arrived shortly, and since he was a regular, we were soon visited by the son of the owner, who provided a brief overview of the family history.

It seems that somewhere back along the line, Greek and Italian families came together and started combining elements of both cuisines. Several family restaurants were opened in the Northeast, and in the Nineties, the family decided to bring the business to Atlanta. It is obvious that these people know their food. But not only that, they also know how to serve guests and make them feel truly welcome.

After spending a few minutes at the bar's comfortably appointed lounge area, we were shown to a table, and then the true treat began. The owner came to our table, introduced himself, began to tell us a little more about the family history, and then launched into a prosaic description of the dishes being featured that evening. By the time he had finished, we were in awe. Every ingredient and sauce was described in detail, and it became something of a task to decide between all the wonderful alternatives.

I chose a dish called Pernice's Chicken. Heavens above...I have never eaten anything like this. Allow me to lift the description from the menu, because I cannot do it justice otherwise:

"Pernice's Chicken - Dressed with a touch of tomato basil sauce, Prosciutto di Parma ham, caramelized onions, dates, spinach, pecorino romano, and provolone cheese. Served atop basil and black pepper papparadelle pasta tossed with roasted parsnips, caramelized radishes, figs, cherry tomatoes, cremini, portabello, and oyster mushrooms."

Not only was the food superb, the service was phenomenal. The owner's son stopped by as we were dining to check on us, and our server, a very pleasant and hospitable young lady, dropped back over to our table several times to discuss the food and to tell us a little about herself. An enterprising art student, she has great plans for her future. I hope to see her work in a gallery someday!

In Atlanta, we have many restaurants that try so hard to provide the "ultimate dining experience", and every once in a while, we find a true gem. Sugo is one of those. Our entire visit was so much more than just a dinner. It was like being welcomed into a family's home to dine with them. This restaurant is so "with it" that it even features its own blog entitled "A Day in the Life of a Family Run Restaurant".

Hats off to this wonderful establishment. I cannot say enough good things about Sugo.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

The Hypnotic Effects of HGTV

Is it just me, or is there something about HGTV that puts everyone who watches it regularly into a trancelike state? I'm not saying it's unpleasant or anything, but I've noticed that for many people, watching these shows is somewhat like eating potato chips -- you can't stop at just one. HGTV, for those of you who may have been living under a rock, is a cable TV network devoted to home and (increasingly less) gardening projects. Many of the programs feature remodeling of houses to sell, rearranging of existing furniture, determining a home's market value, etc. It's strange, but once you start watching these 30-minute programs, it's hard to stop.

Of course, there's a local interest factor. We live in Atlanta, and one of the programs features Trading Spaces designer Vern Yip, who lives here in the city. Often, we'll be able to pick out a house that we know is somewhere around here, simply by the appearance of the design elements and the landscaping. For Canadians, there's HGTV Canada, but here in the USA, we see some of its programming as well. Californians can marvel at what it takes to buy a basic small home in Marin County, and Chicagoans can imagine what it's like to live on top of the El tracks. There's something for everyone.

HGTV has a new commercial for itself which shows couples watching programs and playing along, with comments like "Yeah, I don't like house #2...why did they pick that?" We all find ourselves doing it. On New Year's Eve, we were hanging out with friends when they commented that they too leave the TV on HGTV for hours at a time, progressing steadily from one show to the next.

Personally, I think the people at HGTV have hit on something. Yes, TV offers plenty of crime dramas, second-rate comedy, and reality television, but HGTV is a strangely soothing alternative. You can turn it on, walk away for ten or twenty minutes, then either come back to a "fixed" house or a completely new program. It's like watching the soaps, but no one gets hurt, runs away, or is abducted by aliens. And now, you can even watch HGTV in high definition. Which is really nice, especially when you're looking at an old blue shag carpet that they're ripping up and you say to yourself, "Isn't that a potato chip I see stuck down in there?"

Friday, January 4, 2008

Happy New Year from Whole Bean!!!

What better way to start the New Year than with an energetic track from the 2007 Bollywood hit movie Om Shanti Om? Enjoy!

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