Sunday, July 18, 2010

In the ATL

It took me a few years, but I figured out the magic formula to make Michael happy on his birthday - go see the Atlanta Braves. I just look up where they are playing and then figure out how to get us there.

This year is was easy, the Braves were playing at home (and really nothing makes Michael happier than seeing a Braves home game). It was off to Atlanta for the Fourth of July weekend.

Of course I had month end close (I know, it's always close and it's always quarter end close during Michael's birthday) so I had to work on Friday - but Michael was able to take the day off. He headed to Atlanta ahead of me and enjoyed the Friday night game. I was his entourage (he isn't high up on the celebrity food chain, so his entourage is pretty small). He didn't bring any bags when he flew down to Atlanta. I brought the bags (actually just one duffel bag - and it had both of our clothes for 3 days - we're pretty good at this packing thing) and I rented the car when I landed Friday night. When he was done with the game he took MARTA to the hotel and where the room was ready and I even had food waiting for him. (Note to Michael's family - we used the Eddie Bauer duffel bag that has been around forever!)

Saturday we met a friend of mine from gum paste flower class at a cute little cafe close to our hotel. Breakfast was delightful and very affordable too. The cafe had an Italian theme and in the restrooms they played Italian lessons as the soundtrack - it was strange but in a very cool way. If you are in Atlanta check out Cafe Intermezzo - they have two locations. The food is tasty, the drink menu is extensive and they are open late.

Saturday, the baseball game started at 4pm, but we headed down pretty early. We had tickets in the 'All You Can Eat' section and we didn't want to miss a minute of the offerings. They have two all you can eat ticket sections, one is for families and beer is not included in the ticket price, the other section includes beer - I'll let you guess which where our seats were located.

The food selections included pulled BBQ chicken, hot dogs, potato salad, buffalo chicken wings, cookies, peanuts, popcorn, water, soda, and draft beer. The seating area was pretty empty which meant there were no lines for food or drinks. The our seats were located in the Terrace Level of the stadium - the same level as the private boxes. Behind our seats there was an air conditioned interior hallway with couches and tons of different food choices (not that we needed any more food, but I had to check out our options which included fancy hot dogs, made to order pasta, and sushi). Best of all there were air conditioned clean bathrooms with no lines!

The Braves had a great game and they won. Yay! Braves win! Braves win!

After the game we walked around the Terrace Level a bit. There was a collection of artwork. Of course we had to take a picture of Michael with Dale Murphy (his favorite player). I like the portrait of Ted Turner peeking over his shoulder too.

The weather in Atlanta was beautiful that weekend. We were so lucky. The temperatures were in the mid-80s and there was very low humidity. Summer in Atlanta can be brutal, we know we've been there in the heat and humidity. It was really hot and humid in NYC over the Fourth of July so we managed to escape the heat.

In the photo below you can see downtown Atlanta and the Olympic Flame. This was the view from the Terrace Level of the stadium.

For dinner that night we went to Woodfire Grill. The executive chef was a contestant on Top Chef - he didn't win but his restaurant gets great reviews. We've been waiting for a trip to Atlanta so we could try the food. The menu is seasonal and changes on a regular basis. The night we went was their annual BBQ. Once a year they have a BBQ to celebrate the 4th of July - it is a 3 course dinner and they sell Sweetwater beer to benefit the Chatahoochee River.
Dinner started off with a delicious salad. It had greens and veges and it was topped with salty bacon bread crumbs and a sweet herb dressing. The main course was a pulled pork with sides of coleslaw and potato salad. There was also a small cup of Brunswick stew and a piece of cornbread.
The salad was amazing. The bacon breadcrumbs were super salty but it was a really good balance withe the creamy herb dressing and the cool crunchy greens. I loved the consistency of the pulled pork, it was chopped really fine, almost like a hash. But the BBQ sauce was vinegar based and I prefer a tomato based sauce. It wasn't a bad BBQ sauce, it just wasn't what I would normally order. The coleslaw and potato salad were also cut in a fine dice. The potato salad was almost like a deviled egg filling. I am not a fan of any mayonnaise based salad but this wasn't bad. The Brunswick stew was meaty and delicious and it the cornbread was a perfect dipper for the stew.
Dessert was wonderful. It was a small individual pecan tart topped with bourbon and peach fried pie ice cream and sitting on top of bit of peach butter. They surprised us by serving Michael's dessert with a birthday candle - it was very cute.
The best part of the meal was getting the check. Michael's sister had called ahead and arranged to pay for the entire meal (including tip). She let me know, but Michael had no clue. When it came time for the check our server walked up and said, "Happy Birthday, your sister paid for dinner." It was perfect. I didn't say anything when I confirmed the reservation or when we were seated - I wasn't sure it was going to work, but it did. It was a great dinner and a wonderful birthday gift. (Thanks J!)
Speaking of perfect birthday gifts, Michael's parents sent him something he really, really wanted - a Dale Murphy Braves jersey. In the picture below we're waiting for MARTA to take us to the baseball game on Sunday.
He wore his jersey on the plane and to the game Friday and then again on Sunday. He was so excited when he opened the package Thursday night - it was just what he wanted and he couldn't wait to wear it to Turner Field.
Before the game on Sunday we went through the Braves museum at Turner Field. They have a really good collection of memorabilia. I like the picture below because the baseball player you can see smiling out at Michael is none other than Dale Murphy!
Who's ready to step out of the dugout and on to the field?
Being that Sunday was the 4th of July, Turner Field had some good pre-game festivities. Team members recorded lines from the Declaration of Independence and that played on the Jumbotron. They had hundreds of members of the armed forces there to present the biggest American flag I have ever seen - it was fabulous. And when we were done singing the National Anthem there was a fighter jet fly over.
Unfortunately the Braves didn't have it together and they really didn't play that well. Michael switched to a 'rally hat' to help get them that win. The rally hat failed and the Braves lost the third game of the series - but two out of three isn't bad.
Monday we started off with breakfast at Thumbs Up Diner on Edgewood. We met a friend of mine and she suggested the restaurant. It was a total hole in the wall but so amazing kind of place. We never would have eaten there if she hadn't suggested it. They don't take reservations and I think there is probably always a wait - at least on weekends and holidays. But the food is well worth the wait. Their potato dishes are called 'spuds' and I had spuds that came in a cast iron skillet, they were covered with cheese and scrambled eggs. They were seasoned perfectly and they had that good layer of crisp on the bottom from being cooked in a cast iron skillet. We "shared" a side of chicken sausage. Shared is a loose term, because as soon as Michael tasted the sausage he forgot we were sharing and ate all but the few bites he reluctantly handed over to me. The chicken sausage was incredible. If we go there again we'll each be getting our own order of sausage.
While we were waiting for our table we noticed the executive chef from Woodfire Grill was also waiting for a table. As soon as we saw him, we knew it was going to be a great breakfast - a chef knows the best places to eat.
After breakfast we spent the day at the Georgia Aquarium. I had a quick trip to the aquarium in January and I was blown away by the exhibits. Of course when I went it was practically empty - on a holiday Monday it was packed. Even though it was crowded we had a good day.
From an open center court the aquarium branches off in to various habitat areas.
One area has several pools were you can reach in and touch sea creatures. We were able to feel sting rays, star fish, hermit crabs, and shrimp. The shrimp were really skitterish, it was hard to actually touch one. As soon as your hand got close they would zip away from you. They must have known how much I enjoy shrimp cocktail.
They have a big tropical tank - the brightly colored fish and corals are just beautiful.
And they have a really, really big tank that holds whale sharks! They have a program where certified divers can dive in with the whale sharks. We were there during a dive - you can see the divers in the picture below. We were told the fish like to swim in the bubbles created by the divers tanks.
The whale sharks were moved from Taiwan to Atlanta by UPS - of course we couldn't pass up the UPS photo opportunity!
It was a great weekend and we can't wait to go back. In fact, we'll be in Atlanta in October. The team manager, Bobby Cox, is retiring and we already have our tickets for his final games.