Atlanta Trip: Montana Grill

Atlanta is home to a lot of world famous brands, some of which includes CNN, Coca-Cola and Home Depot. Of that that’s one name that is associated with CNN, Ted Turner. Ted Turner is the founder of CNN. Among other things he is famous for once being married to Jane Fonda and the largest landowner in the US. You know what he uses all that land he has for? It’s to rear bison. He owns over 40,000 heads of bison — which makes him undoubtedly the owner of the largest bison herd in the world.

In the attempt to popularize bison meat, he opened about 50 restaurants called the Montana Grill which specialize in bison meat. We went to one at the Cumberland Mall.

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The restaurant has this timeless look with mahogany paneling, and pendant lighting. There is also a very large bison head hanging up in the wall.

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The table looked kind of busy but upon closer inspection, it’s just the normal sauces they have.

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I started off getting a margarita called the Montana Margarita. I guess that would be a great choice because (1) it’s called Montana after the name of the restaurant and (2) it’s pricier than the other margaritas they server. The $8 margarita is described as 1800 Reposado tequila, Grand Marnier and freshly squeezed sour mix. Sure was a good choice.

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Atlanta Trip: The Border Mexican Restaurant

A colleague of mine at the Atlanta office offered to show me some of the nicer places to eat. Anytime anyone offers to take a drive away from the office area for food, I immediately will jump into the offer. After all, at the rate I am visiting Atlanta, I think I would have tried every place that is within walking distance within the next two trips.

We went to a Mexican restaurant called The Border. It was only until I was home and started blogging about this that I realized, hey … I had been here before. I was here the last time for lunch. Here is the blog entry. That was about lunch … this one is for dinner.

What drink would you order in a Mexican restaurant? For me, I only know of Margaritas and got myself a mango version. Hmmm … not bad. Would have preferred it a bit more fruitier.

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OK, don’t roll over your eyes. I am a newbie when it comes to Mexican food. I am still in a very early stages of discovery. So, the food below may be very basic to you … but not to me! :-)

We also had nachos but ordered something new that I never knew existed. The dip is made of cheese! I can’t remember what type of cheese but I think it is something like goat or something. It was awesome but as I had that, I just keep thinking how much cholesterol there are in this.

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The best part of the meal is this soup. Again, I forgot what it is called but I vividly recalled that it had big chunks of avocado. Next time I am in a Mexican restaurant, I’ll look for this. Wait … I see it now. I actually took pictures of their menu and I guess this one is called … well … Chicken Soup!

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Atlanta Trip: Snack Box from Northwest Airline

I flew Northwest Airlines for the first time. I can’t say that I like it. Not only do they not have inflight movies, why, they don’t even have earphone jacks on their seat for music. That was a bummer. If I had known that, I would have charged up my notebook a bit more and keep myself entertained with the movies I brought along.

Like most other airlines, they have snack boxes for sale. It’s $5 each cash … and USD too.

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Although the box looked bit, there is nothing much in it. There’s Oreos, Trail Mix, Wheat Crackers and Beef Sausages. Compared to United’s snack boxes (click here and here to see United’s) which costs the same, this is rather disappointing.

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About the only thing I enjoyed is the O’Brien’s Beef Summer Sausage … it’s all beef, no fillers.

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Atlanta Trip: Locanda D’Amico at Minneapolis Airport

I flew for the first time on Northwest Airlines. Since NWA is headquartered out of Minneapolis, I had a stopover at the Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport. You know what’s the greatest attraction at this airport? For American, they’ll know that it’s the washrooms!!

For those who do not know, Senator Larry Craig was arrested at this airport for “disorderly conduct”. Apparently what he did was he tapped his feet in the washroom. This is so new to me … tapping of the feet is a signal for people who wants to engage in well, “disorderly conduct”.

Well, I made very sure I did NOT tap my feet when I used the washroom. I have half a mind of taking pictures but there are so many people going in and out that I am sure I would get arrested for taking pictures in the washroom. :-) … Enough of that.

Anyway, we had lunch at a casual-Italian restaurant called the Locanda D’Amico.

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They served sliced bread … nothing to shout about.

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I had the Chicken Scallopini with Prosciutto, served with Linguine with Fontina Sauce. The scallopini was exceptionally good with the cheese sauce.

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Atlanta Trip: Flying Tips

Hey, I thought I share some travel tips I have. Just so to keep the integrity of this blog, I am throwing some, well, eating related stuff too … how does that sound?

I’ll start with some pre-flight planning. Traveling on long haul flights is very uncomfortable unless you are in business or first class. I normally travel on economy and my flights to Atlanta takes at least 5 hours if I have a direct flight.

So, to me, getting a good seat is a big deal. My preference is always windows, followed by aisle seats. I don’t mind the middle seat but I NEED at least an armrest. I make it a point to logon to the airline’s site and then select my seat. You can change your seat even though you have been assigned a seat already on your e-ticket.

What then is a great seat? There’s a good website called seatguru (http://seatguru.com) where they have almost all the seating configurations of every airlines’ aircraft. The beauty of this site is that it tells you the good and bad of each seat so, you know what to avoid and why. Check it out … you will like it.

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To me (and per seatguru too), the best seats are the ones by the emergency exits. Some airlines does not allow you to select those seats through the website but there is a trick … you can call them to put you on that seat. The reason is because they wanted to make sure that you are able to assist in emergency evacuation if required … basically you need to understand English!! The other advantage for this seat if, of course, when it comes to evacuation, you’re the first one off.

See the picture below. The best seat is in this row and the row behind this. I like this row because I have an extra tray space. I normally take out both my camera and notebook and magazine on flight. With drinks and snacks too, you can imagine how cluttered my tray normally is. The seats too have more legroom. It is because they need wider space to help evacuation. Legroom is not a big factor for me really because, well, I don’t have long legs.

BTW, avoid seats that cannot recline … for example, the seat just in front of emergency exits cannot recline and so does that last row of each section.

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Airlines do not provide any headphones for inflight movies. They charge up to $5 for a crummy pair of earphones. I bring my own noise-cancellation headphones. This one is neat … it folds up nicely for travel but the best thing is the noise cancellation feature. Even when I am not using it to listen, I could use it to dampen the ambient noise from the plane’s engines.

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Atlanta Trip: Chili’s Burger at the Atlanta International Airport

The Atlanta Airport (or rightfully, the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport) is, believe it or not, the world’s busiest airport in terms of passenger volume and landing and take-offs. I believe the reason it is the biggest is because of one big factor — Delta Air Lines. Without Delta, this airport will not be what it is today.

As famous and busy as it is, it is one of the unpretentious airport I had been to … well, Heathrow is worse I think. There is nothing to see and do although there are lots of shops and restaurants. But then after a few trips all the shops and restaurants practically sells the same stuff. I must however give credit to the airport … it is the simplest to navigate despite its size. There is absolutely no way one could get lost. In terms of efficiency, it is simply the best. I would describe this as function over form at its best.

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One thing I do notice is the presence of men in uniforms at the airport. I think these soldiers are either going to or returning from Iraq. They are always there with their grey-green uniforms. And the strange thing to me is that every now and then, the airport will break out in cheers and claps when some of these soldiers marches through. The Americans sure are appreciative of the sacrifices of their men in uniform despite most are opposed to the war in Iraq. I must admit I do gawk at their uniforms and gears … and do think … oh man … these men are the best trained in the world in warfare. They know how to kill despite their man in the street look.

See the lines from the Atrium at the ATL airport? Well, it could get that busy. That FIVE line winds its way across the Atrium and into one of the longest snaking queues I had ever seen. Here is a tip: there is a shorter and lesser know security checkpoint at the far end of the North Terminal. I normally take that because it takes only about 5 minutes to clear it.

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There are a total of SIX(!) concourses in ATL. The concourses are linked by high-speed train. When I have time to kill, I would normally walk to my gate through underground walkways. Of late, they have put in a lot of interesting African art sculptures. It is great to kill time.

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On the recent trip I had my dinner at Chili’s at the airport. It was a very busy restaurant, as in all restaurants in ATL. I had to wait in queue for about 10 minutes for a table which was quite OK. I had a magazine at hand and am not going anywhere for the next hour and a half anyway. Continue reading

Atlanta Trip: Cheesecake Factory – Revisited

I don’t know … there is something I really like about the Cheesecake Factory. It’s not the cheesecake. It’s something else. I like their huge portions — which is particularly important because I eat very little for lunch while traveling. By dinner time, I am simply famished. And it is by design. I so look forward to dinner after a long day at work.

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I like their lavish decor … the high ceilings, marbled floors and the huge (fake I think) columns. It’s just simply classy.

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Since Georgia is also known as the Peach State, I ordered the Georgia Peach for my drink. It’s vodka mixed with peach liqueur and peaches swirled with raspberries. I notice I am beginning to take a liking to these types of fruity drinks.

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Atlanta Trip: Breakfast at the Marriott’s

I almost always stay in the same hotel when I travel to Atlanta. It’s at a Marriott hotel and is located just across from our office block in Atlanta. I like that hotel. It’s clean, comfortable, have free high-speed internet and almost everything you will ever need while on business trips. Almost all their guests are business travelers.

Breakfast for me is almost always at the Courtyard Cafe. I wished I had the chance to go further out for breakfasts but it’s hard for me because of the 3-hr time zone difference between Atlanta and Vancouver. Breakfast in Atlanta’s 8AM is 5AM in Vancouver!

The buffet breakfast in Marriott’s is the same everyday. It costs about ten bucks.

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I always start off with coffee with cream and sugar. I like their coffee.

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What I like best about having breakfast here is that the people knows me already after two years of frequent stays here. Recently, they even remember that I wanted two sunny side up eggs before I asked them for it. Only scrambled eggs are on the buffet table but you can order eggs done other ways from the kitchen.

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Altanta Trip: PF Chang

I sort of gate crashed into a team dinner when I was in Atlanta. I had no qualms doing that since I had never been to PF Chang before … and more importantly, someone else is picking up the tabs for this dinner.

PF Chang’s China Bistro is another American chain restaurant. The one we went to was just walking distance from our office. It’s in the newly renovated Cumberland Mall. Despite it’s name it’s more aptly described as an American Chinese bistro … i.e. it tried to look Chinese but it’s really catered for the American tastes. He he he … you know what the initials P.F. stands for? It’s named after the founder of the chain … Paul Fleming! Enough said! :-)

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Although this PF Chang is called a China Bistro, it’s more like a more upscale restaurant. The service was prompt and pretty good. I actually have a bit of a culture shock here … seeing how pretentious this place is trying to be chinese. Starting the many lanterns on the ceiling and the candles in the table. Why … if I am not mistaken, you never have a candle on the chinese table because you only light candles in a funeral for the dead! :-)

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Started with a drink and chose something unique from the drinks menu. It’s called the Asian Persuasion which is basically vodka shaken with fresh brewed organic green tea. Yucks! It was an awful combination — at least to me anyway.

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Well, I was seated at the far side of where the ordering action was and did not managed to get a say on what to order. I thought I better keep quiet since I am a gate crasher this time. But … those guys, all southerners (no Asians) were having problems ordering because I think they eat Chinese only perhaps once every decade or so. Continue reading

Atlanta Trip: Zocalo in Midtown Atlanta

Seems like the whole village was in Atlanta the week we were there — which was good. My boss and my boss’s boss was there too to meet their boss. Separate meetings though. Minions like me have lesser meetings. I had expected this trip is going to be lighter than the previous ones as I am not driving the meetings. I just need to participate … I like these kind of trips.

First thing we did when we landed at the massive Atlanta airport was head over to Midtown Atlanta. Marko had offered to join us for dinner show us around Midtown. For me, I am always game to go somewhere new and try something different. After all these trips to “motherland” Atlanta, I am beginning to run out of places to try in and around Cumberland.

Long story short, Marko suggested Mexican but well, I am not really a fan of Mexican food. Somehow it always conjure up in my mind images of mashed beans … shudder. But then he used the magical words … AUTHENTIC Mexican food … now, that’s a different story altogether. I just gotta try it.

We went to this place called Zocalo. Man, the place was packed to the gills. They seem authentic enough … no aircond, semi open space and guess what … no lights too … just candles. It was unbelievably dark. It was so dark we could not even read the menu. They came by to give us a small torchlight to read. LOL! The place was loud and noisy though … lots of Spanish chatter. BTW, are Latin American ladies generally loud? I can hear their screams and howls and laughters from the other table. The guys are more subdued. They know how to have a great time.

I ordered the Mango Margarita. Wowee … this is the best Margarita I had ever had. It was so fruity that I could hardly detect a hint of tequila. Not a drinker myself, the drink went to my head and felt somewhat tipsy. Nice choice. They came by and asked if I wanted another … no way man, I would not be able to walk after another one. This sweet potent margarita will be my baseline benchmark of what a great margarita is going forward.

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The salsa was awesome. Sure beats the ones we buy from the Superstore about a million times over. Don’t roll your eyes, OK? I got a legitimate question. Guacamole … how do you eat them? Use it like a dip just like salsa here? I saw them making it fresh next to the tables that order them. They looked absolutely delicious. I am gonna try that next time I am in an AUTHENTIC Mexican restaurant.

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Now … for the life of me, I can’t remember what I ordered for dinner. No, it was not because of the Margarita that I have select memory. No, no … it was simply because it was so long ago and I don’t have the receipt. I think it’s some fish dish. It was nice … I liked it. The best part? There were no mashed up beans on this.

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