Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Restaurant Review - Branchwater Steak, Seafood and Spirits

I was really happy to see activity at the old Robin Hood (Men in Tights) Tavern.  We really need a good Steak and Seafood place near the house.  Yes, we can go to Cabernet on Windward or BistroVG in Crabapple but I like having variety within a 5 mile drive of my house.  The wife and I went to Branchwater for the first time a few months ago and we had a wonderful experience. I typically get the steak special and the wife some sort of a seafood dish.  As she can not have dairy the staff there and Chef Todd have always been accommodating for her dietary needs and even with the elimination of dairy products the food is always great.  I have a friend who is probably the best grill master I know and he is pleasantly impressed with the steaks at Branchwater which is quite a compliment from him.

I tagged this post with Small Business is America At Work as Chef Todd got it right when it came to this venue.  He didn't change everything and completely gut the interior.  Honestly the place is so well appointed that, in my opinion, is a turnkey facility for someone with the right menu and good service to turn this place into a local hotspot.  I welcome Branchwater to Vickery and wish Chef Todd the best of luck!!

Experience Review - Atlanta Motorsports Park Public Karting

A number of years ago there was a rumor circulating that someone was building a private race club in the North Georgia area.  For me this was exciting news as Road Atlanta is a great venue but just a little too far to visit on a regular basis.  Of course there were all of the usual NIMBY issues and legal battles but the folks at AMP were able to complete construction in 2012.  On a wine tour for our anniversary in 2012 we stopped by AMP for a quick tour.  What a place!! 

 Then I noticed a smaller track in the background and saw a shifter kart absolutely flying which we learned later was Chase Elliott.  We drove around the back of the course and this is where the Kart track is located. It is an absolutely top notch facility with true racing karts.  They are significantly lighter than the karts at Andretti and you are on an outdoor course with F1 style lighting, electronic warning markers and CCTV to monitor activity.  They have invested heavily in this facility and the quality shows.

 I ended up taking a friend to the AMP Karting Experience on a whim and wow....we had a very good time.  While the facility is top notch with great equipment and a great venue, the staff is very friendly and makes you feel like you are their number one priority.  The track manager Slade is a very fast driver and he gave me some great runs along with all of the staff running with us at various times during the day.  Steven, Austin, Matt, Cody are all fun to race with and are not too bossy or controlling while maintaining a good focus on safety.  Unlike Andretti it is really easy to understand your lap times and how you stack up against with your lap times published in real time and ranked historically.  My racer name is Big Al:

Go and see the guys at AMP Karting!  Be sure to drive within your skill level and get the kart insurance as there is a higher level of responsibility with these karts.  The staff at AMP Karting will make your experience a pleasurable one and I highly recommend this experience!

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Wine Review - A Beautiful White Burgundy

In the spirit of my sister in law moving to France this year I decided to have a variety of French wines with our multiple Christmas dinners.  I roasted a turkey on Christmas Eve and opened this beautiful bottle of Domaine de la Croix Senaillet Chardonnay.  Specifically this is from the Macon district in the Davaye village which is located in the southern Burgundy region of France.

What a magnificent wine!! The sommelier at Harry's recommended this bottle highly and indicated that this wine is very special and you don't see it very often in the States.  Even if you are not into white wine I would recommend this bottle highly if you can get your hands on it.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

7 Tequilas - Round 2=Never Again

All of you know how I am just a little opinionated about things but I will let the news do the work for me.  I posted a review of 7 Tequilas on November 18th that was definitely negative.  What I did not know is that a couple of days after I ate there they were shut down for a 61 health score:

From WSB on November 19th -

"FORSYTH COUNTY, Ga. — A Mexican restaurant in Cumming took a big nosedive in its health inspection scores in just four months.

Several of the violations at 7 Tequila's Cantina had to do with how the food in the kitchen was stored and kept, including some improper temperatures.

The Mexican restaurant opened in a strip mall on Post Road within the last year.

On Nov. 8, a Forsyth County health inspection found 11 violations, giving it a failing score of 61.

The violations included the men's restroom not having hot water, pre-cooked food held at temperatures less than 135 degrees and employee tasting personal food on the stove near food for sale.

The inspector also found that food in large containers on the counter tops were not effectively cooling.

The 61 was a big drop from their last inspection in July when they received a 100.

Channel 2's Carol Sbarge was told the owner was not available at the restaurant and has not heard back from him about what's being done to fix the violations.

The restaurant will be re-inspected any day. One worker told Sbarge they take great pride in doing a good job and he believes they'll get a good re-inspection"

In my opinion (along with any other food processional) these guys simply don't know how to run a restaurant.  To go from a score of 100 to a score of 61 in four months clearly tells a story about the lack of professionalism in this place.  Hopefully the guys from Bar Rescue were called for some serious re-training.  Fire your manager and hire someone that actually know what the heck they are doing.  Remember in my last article what I said about the lettering and how it really pointed to the lack of attention to detail? Nuff said and I will never set foot in there again.

Monday, November 18, 2013

First Impression - 7 Tequilas Mexican

I was so sad to see Smokejack Midway close earlier this year.  Even worse I think that we need another Mexican restaurant in our area like a hole in the head.  For me there are 3 types of Mexican style restaurants Authentic-Mex, Boutique-Mex and Fast-Mex.  We have all of these close by numbering up to 7 Mexican places in the Cumming area alone.

Authentic-Mex - You typically get this in San Diego or Dallas.  Think Roberto's in San Diego which is typically served food truck style and is something to write home about.  This is the type of Mexican that you can eat with or without a hangover unlike Fast-Mex which will give you the hangover.  The Gorditas and Carne-Asada are to die for.

Boutique-Mex - Typically a lot of thought goes into a Boutique -Mex restaurant.  The food is a creative twist on traditional Mexican with neat dishes like Albondigas (spicy meatballs) or Pescado Veracruz.  Think about places like Pure Taqueria, Cincos or Cheeky. The decor is edgy with a modern twist and is unique unto itself and has only a hint of a Mexican eatery.  The bar is top notch with creative drinks and have multiple locations with 2 hour wait times.

Fast-Mex - These places are usually put in literally any type of building you can think of.  Old houses, old D'Lites fast food locations or anywhere you put a restaurant.  Of course they have varying decor, none of which are tasteful but they give the false illusion that you are at a hacienda in Mexico.  Fast-mex will get your pre-made/microwaved food out to you in minutes after you order.  They usually get you a little wasted with the cheap pitchers of beer and tequilas in order to cover the fact that their food is really nothing better than fast food.  Think about El Torrero, Fajita's and now 7 Tequilas. Mind you if you are in the mood for this type of can be really good such as El Torrero which I have been frequenting for 30 plus years.

So lets look at my first impression of 7 Tequilas.  I was surprised that after Smokejack closed that it took over 2 months for 7 Tequilas to open its doors.  Angela can't eat this type of food so I decided to try 7 Tequilas with a colleague at work .  As I walked up to the door I looked over my shoulder and said to my friend "This is going to suck". Why you might ask?  Well, the vinyl lettering showing their hours of operation were crooked by over an inch meaning this was visible from the street over 100 feet away.  It was this obvious lack of attention to detail at the very onset of my experience here that set the tone for the rest of the meal.  They completely revamped the interior decor and in my opinion did so many things that they did not need to do to the interior of this place. The menu was the stereotypical Fast-Mex menu with the usual numbered lunch specials and some unique items as well.  I ordered the Lunch #1 with Rice and beans.  This was definitely not a place to write home about.  The service was lackluster and the food both my friend and I had was bland and did not sit well with us.  Maybe I will try it again....or maybe not.  The lettering is still crooked....I wont go back till that is fixed.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

OVR Coffee Cafe - Who Says Vegan Food Can't Be Good??

When there was some activity at the old site of Sidneys Italian and we found out what it was going to be, my wife and I were very excited about a new restaurant coming to Vickery.  The last place (Mommy Francis Down Home Whatever) was a complete joke and we have always felt it would be nice to have a really cool coffee shop in the Vickery area.  Something edgy and hip (not hipster) that could catch the interest of folks but still have that small town feel.  Well Lynette at OVR has nailed it when it comes to a specialty coffee shop.  The experience at OVR is quite different than anything that I have experienced and the quality that sets OVR apart from lets say a Starbucks is that the coffee and food is an art form rather than a business.

Simplicity is the name of the game at OVR with the concrete floors, bamboo tables and aluminum chairs.  Gone are the high gloss gold tones of Sidneys replaced with white and grey.  The view of that killer kitchen is preserved which is where you will find Lynette whipping up some sort of a culinary creation.

Creativity is the central theme here and the ideas are flowing constantly from the menu on the wall of the coffee bar.  The menu is dynamic and ever changing and there are many surprises in store for someone that will venture into OVR during the day.  Whats so creative about the food??  Well, the fact that you cant tell it is vegan is the surprise of the day.  The myth about vegan food being tastless or bad is just not true.  Try the carrot cake with cream cheese icing.....wait a minute...its vegan right so no dairy?  Yes, and the carrot cake is probably some of the best carrot cake I have ever had.  It never lasts long at our house.  Stop by for breakfast over the weekend and get the Rosemary Onion Potato tart or the breakfast rolls.  The breakfast rolls sell out quickly so check out Facebook to see when they are coming out of the oven. For you men out there that will not step into a vegan eatery, when it comes to OVR you don't have to check in your man card here. You wont turn into a unic and start singing soprano or lose your manhood because you ate some cake made with soy product.  As a matter of fact you wont even notice the difference.

So first impressions have been very positive but there is a twist to this story which is why it ends up in my "Small Business is America At Work" series.  If you read the post where I explained this category Lynette falls squarely in the position of being passionate and loving what she does.  OVR is the quintessential definition of a small business.  She has family helping her and a small staff that produces a high quality product that far exceeds the big box competitors for the same price.  Lynette pays attention to details and it is evident in both the facility she runs as well as the food and drink that is served there.  Other than the food it is Lynette and her staff that keeps us coming back day after day for good conversation and the funky personalities that we find here.  In short...I highly recommend OVR Coffee Cafe and I hope you come out and support our local small businesses.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

New Blog Category - Small Business is America At Work

Hey there folks!  For whatever reason I have decided to start my blog again.  Originally this was a place for me to tell stories about myself and update friends and family but Facebook has taken the place to satisfy my narcissistic side :).  Originally started as a food blog I really enjoyed writing reviews about my favorite (and not so favorite) eateries.  Now there are plenty of food blogs out there so I wanted to look at the business aspect of anything that I write about as I have a heart for small business.  Why would I have a heart for small business as I work for one of the largest mobile electronics companies in the world?  Therein lies a small story about me.

My father had a pretty amazing career path which included working with NASA at the pinnacle of the space race in the 50's and 60's.  He worked for many large companies as both a full time employee and as a contractor and in 1981 he turned full circle to start a small business financial consulting firm.  He purchased this business as a franchise and worked this business until he retired at the ripe old age of 82.  Through the years I saw many clients of his come and go (most of the clients that "went" were failed businesses)  but I learned the most from the lasting clients that I still remember today.  Specifically I remember the marketing tagline from the franchising company "Small Business is America At Work" and how proud it made me feel that Dad was a part of a "higher calling" based on helping small businesses succeed.  He loved what he did and it showed. While the business did not make him a millionaire it sure did give his work life some sense of purpose and he spoke passionately about his clients and his business.

You see it takes some real guts to start and run your own business.  I says a lot about a person that is willing to perform every aspect of the business function as well as take on the responsibility of not only your business success, but the success of anyone that works for or with you as well.  The level of responsibility is staggering when it comes to a small business and you truly have to love what you do.  So many times I see someone start a business that they do not have the heart for and it shows in their ability to produce a product or service that is attractive to customers.  I can not stress this enough....if you are wanting to start a small business you have to LOVE WHAT YOU DO and live it every day.  That is what makes a small business attractive to me...its not just about the business itself like a restaurant serving food with quality and good service, its about the story of the owner and how they got there.  I notice that if the owner has a sense of calling by principle and in some cases a "higher power" that the business really thrives.  If I use this label, I have gotten to know the owner of a small business and heard their story or I may have an opinion about the viability of a particular business.  You may feel that at times I am anti-big business and in a lot of ways I am but I also realize that big business plays an important role in our economy as well so I may include a blurb or two about a big business competitor to a small business.