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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.


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.


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


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.


They served us some pickled cucumbers. It was alright.


I had not planned to get any appetizers but seeing Rob’s Chicken and Sausage Gumbo looking so good, I got one for myself. I had thought that gumbo is basically stew served over rice but this one is rice over stew. For $5, it was great.


Their menu had a great selection … with items like cedar plank salmon, beer can chicken, and slow roasted pork, I wished I could try all of them. There will be other trips for sure. But for now, I’ll settle for their signature dish, the bison meat.


I chosed their 14 oz Delmonico Ribeye. Delmonico refers to that cut of steak which is boneless top sirloin … thick with marbling. It is seared and brushed with lemon butter … and cooked medium rare, this is some of the most marvelous steak I ever had. I had expected the meat to be tougher than beef but surprisingly it was tender.


Alrighty … that’s the last of my series of my recent trips to Atlanta. I am going to get off my soapbox right now and pass it on to Suanne. She had a few recipes she wanted to share from her cooking clubs. I bet after almost two months of travel blog, I am sure some of you are looking forward to recipes!

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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.


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.


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!


By the time the Fajitas came, I was really full. The tender-sliced chicken is served on a sizzling hot plate with bell peppers, onions and tomatoes.


It also came with some stuff that you wrapped it in. I still hate the mashed up beans but the tomatoes were very fresh.


The tortilla came wrapped in foil, I guess to keep it warm.


Then the hard part … putting this into the wrap and rolling it up …


… not an easy task really. I guess I must have put in too much and found it hard to keep it together.


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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.


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.


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


The Wheat Thins was quite OK.


It felt a bit dry eating this until after I had finished half of the pack that I realized …


… that this Wheat Thins is supposed to go with the Cheddar Cheese Sauce.


About the only thing I really enjoy is the Bloody Mary Mix. Until today, I have not seen this sold here in the stores. Anyone have seen this in the store somewhere in Vancouver before?


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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.


They served sliced bread … nothing to shout about.


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 ( 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.


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.


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.


What’s next? Let’s talk currency. I normally find that I do not really need cash for trips to the US. A credit card is widely accepted, even in taxis. But then, I do need some cash for giving tips and such. But when I need currency, I normally would withdraw it through my credit card which I think gives one of the best rates. The only caveat is that I must immediately (within the day) pay off the cash withdrawal or it will incur higher than normal interest rates. That works for me because the company pays for the any ATM or exchange charges.

What about baggage? Try not to check in any baggage. Other than the possibility of having your luggage lost, you will save time at your destination not needing to wait for your luggage. According to stats, 1 in 150 luggage are lost or misdirected. Although airlines posted signs about luggage limitations, they are generally not strict about it unless they have an above-normal load. I travel with a big backpack and a rolling luggage and I get on fine all the time. Worse thing that could happen is that they will take your luggage just prior to you get on the plane to load your luggage below deck.

Oh yeah … loyalty/membership cards. When you travel, apply to the airlines and hotels membership cards. I have racked up quite a lot of miles already and it does come in handy when I travel on my own vacation. I have generally used my miles for free hotel stays. Always remember to give them your membership number when you check-in to your flight.


I told you I would say something about food. Suanne packs for me those 3-in-1 beverages (coffee and hot chocolate). The coffee that I make from the hotel room’s coffee machine tastes like soot with sugar — I hate that and never touches it. These 3-in-1s are handy in case I wanted a cup. Suanne also pack for me packets of soya sauce that she swipes from sushi places. You see, I NEED soya sauce with my eggs and in Atlanta, all they have is ketchup.


These are my eating aids. I don’t carry a whole bottle of tums but do have a few in case I need it. I tend to overeat when I travel. Oh, last but not least, the humble dental floss — I go nuts when I get food lodged between my teeth and can’t get them out.


I am sure there are other tips but that’s all I can think of. If you have any questions or tips of your own, please leave a comment.

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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.


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.


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.


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.

What made me stopped at Chili’s was this big sign that says “Big Mouth Burgers”. Not that I am hungry but I just simply got to see what a big mouth burger is.

Got myself seated in a cramped tiny table — and it was so close that I felt I am seated on the same table as my neighbors. So close, I could even smell their food! But it was great though, people are friendly — I had a good time chatting with this two guys next to me who were enjoying their big mouth burgers.

I ordered a very Georgia brew … the iced tea. Tell me now … do Georgians normally drink their iced tea unsweetened? I can’t imagine drinking unsweetened iced tea myself.


I got myself the burger with the longest name … the Chipotle Blue Cheese Bacon Burger. Oh man … this is one of the best burgers I ever had. It is so tall that there is no way I could stuff it in my mouth despite me pressing it down flat. There is a way though … deconstruct it. I took out the not-so-great stuff, like the lettuce and tomato … that worked to a certain degree. For $6.99, it was well worth it.


Very importantly, it was very juicy … it was the chipotle pepper sauce that added a spicy and smoky twist to the burger. The blue cheese crumbles blends very well too with the burger and the smoked bacon. All burgers should me made like this.


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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.


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


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.


The bread came a bit warm. Quite OK but not great. I felt it was somehow squished flat.


I had already decided I was going to have steak for dinner — been thinking about it the whole day long! When I am traveling, I don’t eat much for lunch on most days and mostly just snacked. So, by dinner time, I am mostly famished.

What caught my eye on the menu was this item that says “… marinated for 36 hours …”. It was the $29 Grilled Rib-Eye Steak. It’s marinated in Cajun herbs and spices but is somewhat dry. The french fries and onions strings added to the dry look. The steak was not too bad. I actually expected better.


For desserts, I had the White Chocolate Caramel Latte Cheesecake. As expected, it was rich — overwhelmingly too rich for me. Suanne would have loved this, I bet.


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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.


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


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.


There is also a waffle maker. I normally would make one of those.


The other normal stuff they had on the buffet table are bacon, hash browns, and sausages. They are not really great … well, except for the bacon.


Then there are the normal sliced breads and bagel. I burnt the ones below badly but they are still edible.


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