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Atlanta Trio

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

My last two posts have to do with our arrival in Atlanta Saturday night. Let me mention three highlights of the time we spent visiting some of the sights on Sunday and Monday.

1. The Jimmy Carter Museum. It was pretty cold Sunday, in the teens when we awoke and the low twenties when we headed out in the late morning. I won’t describe everything we did that day, though we covered a lot of ground. I’ll just mention our final and longest stop, the complex that is home to the Jimmy Carter Library and Museum and also The Carter Center. The library is the standard presidential library that every president since Hoover has had built in the location of his choice. It’s a continuing puzzle to me why presidential papers aren’t maintained in Washington. These libraries all strike me as acts of vanity. Whatever. In any case, given that we were in Atlanta and Carter’s vanity project is there too, we were happy to visit, all the more so by the time we were done, for the museum does an excellent job of giving an account of Carter’s life. We both very much wanted to head straight down to Plains afterwards to see some of the sights there firsthand. The setting for the complex is especially attractive, a park-like setting with views of downtown and midtown to the west. In addition to the text, photos, and video that recount Carter’s life — and Rosalynn’s as well — there are many interesting memorabilia.

2. The World of Coca-Cola. Yes, seriously. The World of Coca-Cola. This place is great! If you’re in Atlanta, go there. It’s at the north end of downtown, immediately north of Olympic Centennial Park and adjacent to the Georgia Aquarium. If we had more time (and Gail were more motivated), we would have visited the Aquarium too. One can buy a reduced-price combo ticket to the two. What do you see at The World of Coca-Cola? I’ll quote from the website.

The World of Coca-Cola at Pemberton Place celebrated its Grand Opening on May 24, 2007. It’s the only place where you can explore the complete story—past, present and future—of the world’s best-known brand.

With 60,000 square feet for you to explore, the World of Coca-Cola features more than 1,200 artifacts from around the world that, until now, have never been displayed to the public before.

Around every corner you’ll experience something new and inviting. You’ll see great interactive exhibits such as a thrilling, multi-sensory 4-D movie (3D glasses with moving seats) and a fully functioning bottling line. You can even give our 7-foot Coca-Cola Polar Bear a big hug! And of course, a World of Coca­Cola favorite—the tasting experience, will give you a refreshing opportunity to sample over 60 different products from around the world. All this and much more make the World of Coca­Cola a unique and must-see Atlanta experience! A visit of the entire attraction is estimated to last an average of 90 minutes.

My advice? Allow more than 90 minutes. We were there for 2 3/4 hours. That included time shopping in the store, so maybe 2 1/2 hours is enough. There’s a lot to see and a lot to learn, not just about Coke but about business in the late nineteenth and the twentieth centuries. There are so many astonishing photos and stories. Getting Coke to the troops during World War II at the traditional price of 5 cents a bottle, even if it cost Coca-Cola a lot more than that to deliver it. Developing the business model of having independent bottlers around the country — and then the world — each of whom would buy the syrup from Coca-Cola, then add water and carbon dioxide, bottle it, and distribute the result. Coke is both a global and a local product. And that Coca-Cola Polar Bear? Hey, don’t laugh. He’s the greatest. We have the photo to prove it. We love him.

As for the Coke itself, I was so inspired by the story that I couldn’t wait to get into the tasting room and drink some. First one encounters some 64 Coca-Cola produced drinks produced in various countries around the world. One grabs a plastic cup, then goes up to different soda fountains to sample them. I sampled a blue drink from Italy that gagged me, then a few more, but I wanted the real thing. Beyond all the international fountains is a room with fountains having Coke in its different varieties — vanilla, cherry, diet, etc. And in the middle of the room, the drink that started all the fuss, classic Coke. I was ready. I took some. I drank. And I was disappointed to discover that I still didn’t like it. I did 50 years ago, but not for the last 40 years.

3. Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site. And to think we almost missed it. We saw some signs pointing toward it on both Sunday and Monday, but never did quite figure out where it was. Then, after the Coke tour, a drive up and down downtown trying to decide where to park for a late lunch, and then finding a parking spot around the corner from City Hall on the south end of downtown and having lunch at a Subway at around 4:00 PM, we decided to make a more serious effort, using my iPhone, to actually find the MLK site. We got there, parked, and entered the visitor center at around 4:30. Of course, closing time is 5:00, so we didn’t have much time to see anything. When the ranger told us that if we headed across the street to Freedom Hall, we might be able to get a space there for the 5:00 tour, the final one of the day, of MLK’s birth home, we went straight there, skipping the exhibits in the visitor center. Of course, no spaces were available. Freedom Hall opens out to one end of a reflecting pool, near the other end of which is the tomb of MLK and Coretta Scott King. We walked on the shaded icy path on one side of the pool, then came around to the front side to see the tomb, across from which is an eternal flame. And the far side of that is famed Ebenezer Baptist Church. Back across the street, next to the visitor center, is the newer Ebenezer Baptist Church. We crossed over in that direction and re-entered the visitor center, with 15 minutes left to see the exhibits. Photos, text, videos on overhanging TV screens. We would have preferred to have more time, but we saw what we could, until everything was shut down. Next time we’ll get there earlier.

I suppose with better planning we might have gone to the MLK National Historic Site before The World of Coca-Cola. But, no regrets. We enjoyed everything we did. We will simply have to go back to Atlanta and give ourselves more time. Had it not been a Monday, we would almost surely have gone to the High Museum of Art first, and thereby perhaps missed The World of Coca-Cola altogether. But the High is closed on Mondays. And anyway, it’s not delicious and refreshing.

Categories: Travel

Craftbar Atlanta

January 14, 2010 Leave a comment

Saturday night, I wrotefrom our Atlanta hotel room that by arriving in Georgia that evening, I had added #45 to my list of visited states. I had intended to write a second post that night, about our superb dinner at Craftbar earlier in the evening, but I was too tired. I’ll make up for it now, though the excitement has dissipated along the way.

When choosing our hotel, we didn’t have a clear idea of where to be. From what little I read, I decided we might enjoy staying in the Buckhead neighborhood — the northern part of Atlanta with some of the best hotels, restaurants, and shopping — and so we booked ourselves in one of the newest Buckhead hotels, The Mansion on Peachtree. It’s a fifteen-story boutique hotel and our room was on the eleventh floor, with views of some other nearby high rises and one of the malls. Only the next day, when we drove off, circled around the mall, and came around on the far side, did I realize that the hotel is in fact one of the two or three tallest buildings in Buckhead. Tall and very narrow. The hotel occupies the bottom floors, but there are another 30+ floors of condos. There’s a mid section with two two-bedroom condos per narrow floor and an upper section, narrower still, with a three-bedroom condo filling each floor. The condo residents have a separate entry on the other side.

Hotel residents arrive by driving into a big courtyard, with the hotel on one side and a two-story building on the other. That’s where the restaurant is, or rather two restaurants. On the upper floor is a fancy restaurant, Craft, and on the ground floor is Craftbar, a combination bar and more casual restaurant. The original Craft, I should note, is in Manhattan, started by chef/owner Tom Colicchio. There are now additional Crafts in Atlanta, Dallas, and LA. You can read more at the website.

We got into our hotel room around 9:00 PM and weren’t eager to get back in the car in search of dinner. The options seemed to be room service or the restaurant across the way. We didn’t want a fancy, leisurely meal. Nor were we ready to call it an evening and stay in the room, since for us the time was only 6:00 PM. The casual Craftbar appeared to be our best choice. To our surprise, when we arrived there at 9:30 PM, without having called over for a reservation, the place was crowded and noisy. Fortunately, there was a two-top available. It was, in fact, the only open table in the whole place. We were lucky. We felt luckier still when we studied the menu. Everything looked fabulous. See for yourself, here.

How about that veal ricotta meatballs, pappardelle, tomato dish? I thought that was just what I wanted, until I looked at the next one down: smoked pork chop, fingerling potato, smoked bacon, grilled apple. Under the list of snacks, Gail liked the idea of crispy risotto fritters. But she’s a sucker for pork belly, and the pork belly, apple, curry, maple syrup appetizer sounded awfully tempting. We ended up relying on our excellent young waiter for advice. The meatballs are indeed their classic dish, but he loves the pork chop. And he assured Gail that the pork belly comes out crisp on the outside. But we had to try the risotto fritters. So here’s what we did. We ordered the fritters to come out with the appetizers as a shared snack. Gail got the pork belly. I got the baby spinach, applewood bacon, pickled egg salad. Then I got the pork chop entree and Gail ordered the hanger steak, potato purée, roasted root vegetable, garlic confit.

How was it? Every bit as good as it sounds. I was insistent that I didn’t want to try the pork belly, since my salad was more than ample and had bacon in it, but Gail insisted, and I can’t imagine how it could be better. Likewise for the pork chop. Likewise for everything. We had to pass on dessert. We were too full. But our visit to Atlanta had gotten off to a perfect start.

Categories: Restaurants, Travel