Tia Maria’s European Café

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This year I decided to stretch the boundaries of Good Eats: Mundial and cover the 2016 International Portuguese Music Awards (IPMA). The awards show recognizes outstanding achievement in the music industry by international artists of Portuguese ancestry.

It should come as no surprise that a few of the IPMA sponsors are restaurants. After all, if there is one thing Portuguese people are best at: it’s cooking and eating. So that’s what brought me to the door of Tia Maria’s European Café.

I sat down with owner Jessica Coelho to chat about the restaurant, the IPMA’s and the idea of community and what it means to her as a Portuguese-American (PA) woman and as a sponsor to the awards show.

According to Jessica, it was a no-brainer to help support the IPMA’s. After all, how could she turn down supporting a the IPMA’s as a Portuguese-American business owner who runs a Portuguese restaurant?!

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A gorgeous xale (shawl) hanging on the wall at Tia Maria’s. Most of the items on the walls are personal or gifts from family, friends and customers.

“I turn it into a night out for me and my staff. Of course, we stay open – a lot of people will come here to have dinner before hand or dessert and coffee afterwards. But it’s nice to be able to celebrate with them too.”

Another deciding factor in her support of the IPMA’s is the changing face of Portuguese-Americans in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. One thing Jessica and I have in common (aside from a great name) is that both of our parents immigrated to the United States from Portugal. Southeastern MA and RI are seeing a huge increase in second and third generation Portuguese-Americans as opposed to first generation, like our parents. They’re younger and are completely immersed in American culture, as opposed to a lot of their older relatives. So there’s a sense amongst first and second generation PA’s to help foster new and modern forms of cultural preservation.

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Pictured: Portuguese palissy ware. Every Portuguese-American has seen these in their grandparents homes or their own.

This immediately brought me back to the idea of community at Tia Maria’s. Speaking to Jessica was a refreshing change of pace from the tired, bored and sometimes forced friendliness that plagues some of the trendiest restaurant owners. She’s as real as they come and it reflects in every aspect of her restaurant: from her food, the service, the ambiance and the décor. Tia Maria’s delivers exactly what you need and want from a restaurant: nothing more, nothing less.

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You’re greeted with a to-go counter – to the left, the dining room and to the right, a small bar.

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The bar to the right.

 

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The entrance to the dining room to the left. Notice the collection of galos along to top ledge, they’re all Jessica’s personal collection!

“During the week we’re definitely more of a neighborhood joint. We have a lot of businesses around us and I know a lot of my customers by name. Between 3-5 we turn into a coffee stop for people. On the weekends we have a lot of tourists who are visiting the Whaling Museum or are from the cruise ships. Then on Sunday’s we have a lot of family’s who stop in usually before or after church.”

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Affectionally named, “Tia Maria’s Living Room” this space is used by people looking to spend some time catching up over espresso and a pastel de nata. Sometimes it’s used for business meetings over lunch. The print above the couch was a gift from Maria Lawton, who Good Eats: Mundial interviewed last year.

I asked about the businesses around her and how she got to know everyone. She told me a story that perfectly illustrated how she’s able to make these connections and how she has been so successful as a business owner.

“We used to offer express lunches, but I took them off the menu. Now we have a reason to interact with our customers when they come in. If they only have 30 minutes for lunch, we can tell them exactly which dishes will be best. For example, don’t order a pizza – it takes 12 minutes to cook!”

By removing the option of mindless ordering and eating, Jessica has created a dialogue between her staff and her customers. That’s how connections are made, and that’s why people return.

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A testament to her connection with customers: to the far right of the image is an orange plate, and to the left of the plate, three glasses. Those glasses are engraved with the name of the restaurant. They were dropped off by a customer as a gift and to this day Jessica still doesn’t know which customer dropped them off. They’re proudly displayed in the dining room.

Another way she connects with her community? Social media.

“I love Instagram (tiamariascafe). I’ll post a picture of a special we’re offering and it’ll sell out the same day. I don’t use Twitter as much. What do I have to say on Twitter? It moves too fast. Instagram is perfect.”

I told her it seemed like she let her customers and community help guide her in how the restaurant ebbs and flows. It didn’t seem like Jessica was interested in forcing anything on her audience.

“Absolutely. I never thought we would turn into a coffee and dessert place at night, but that’s what happens!”

As the customers engage with Tia Maria’s, Jessica looks for opportunity. Of course, don’t think for a second that she is easily influenced or without direction. She knows exactly how she wants to run her business and described herself as a “little stubborn.”

“I’m always open to constructive criticism but there are some things I won’t change my mind on. Sometimes people will tell me I should play something other than fado. They think it’s too sad. You don’t want to go into an Irish bar and hear Justin Bieber, do you? I want fado music playing here. Besides, if you listen to the lyrics it’s not all sad.”

In fact between the fado, the food, the decorations and the cobblestone streets, it’s easy to forget you’re in New Bedford and not in Porto or Lisbon. Jessica is dead on: it sets the tone of the restaurant.

But let’s step back for a minute and talk food. We all know that’s why you’re here. I asked Jessica if she had a favorite dish.

“Our bifana is amazing…it’s so full of flavor.” The bifana is a pan-fried pork steak topped with hot peppers. It’s served on a Portuguese roll with hand sliced rodelas. All for $7.

I ended up ordering the Chicken Moçambique sandwich. The chicken is sautéed in a zesty saffron-garlic sauce, the same sauce used in the traditional Portuguese dish – typically made with camarão (shrimp). The sandwich was served on a freshly made Portuguese roll and served with a side of rodelas. Again, all for $8. The chicken was extremely tender and flavorful, and it was impossible to not dunk the sandwich in the moçambique sauce that comes on the side.

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Chicken Moçambique sandwich ($8).

It’s not very often I enter a restaurant and then leave feeling this good about it. In fact, the last time that happened was probably a year ago in Atlanta. But there’s an undeniable combination of charm, quality and excitement that you get when you enter an establishment like Tia Maria’s. Jessica has put her everything into Tia Maria’s and it shows. We are lucky to have a venue like this in our backyard, and I can’t wait to go back!

 

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2014: Bye Felicia.

2014.

I wish I could say I’m sad to see you go.

I’m not.

You threw some pretty nasty shade my way this year – some of it worse than others:

  • My first love fell out of love with me.
  • Cancer happened.
  • Surgeries happened.
  • Friendships were tested.
  • I didn’t know that “No.” could be a complete sentence.
  • Death happened.
  • I was mean to people who didn’t deserve it.
  • I gave the wrong people too many chances.
  • I felt the most alone I have ever felt in my life – in a city where I knew no one.
  • Financially I was in the toughest spots I had ever been in.
  • Other stuff. And things.

Although to be perfectly honest you did try to make it up to me along the way. Peppered in the heart ache and confusion there was a lot of beautiful and amazing things that happened:

  • I was in love. For a time.
  • Crossed Yellowstone off my bucket list.
  • I also crossed seeing a bison off my bucket list.
  • I can now say I lived in sunny California!
  • Saw more of the country I ever thought I would see in my life. Ever.
  • I adopted two rescue animals and I’m in love with them.
  • I watched my best friend in the world get married.
  • I started a job where I’m appreciated, that I enjoy coming into in the morning.
  • Renewed old friendships.
  • Made new friends.
  • So many Walking Dead memories! Oh my goodness. Met Emily Kinney, Norman Reedus and IronE Singleton!
  • I was forgiven by the people I was mean to.
  • For the first time built a life from scratch, completely on my own and I have never been more proud of myself.
  • Moved to Atlanta.
  • One of my best friends from college had a BABY! Even though I love this precious bundle of joy, I am also thrilled I got to  hit up Disney World with her & my other college BFF before the baby came!
  • I ate so many delicious foods. Nom.
  • I learned to say Yes.
  • I learned that “No” can be a complete sentence.
  • I discovered that the power of the internet is a beautiful and amazing thing and was constantly in awe of the support and connections I maintained with my friends from around the country and the world.
  • GRITS. That gets its own line here.

Good Eats: Mundial started when I first moved to Atlanta as a filler between the endless hours I was spending looking for jobs. I honestly didn’t think I would keep up with updating it. Then one morning I got an email from Denise Romeo of We Like 2 Cook. Truthfully I thought I was being spammed. Why would they want me to join the Atlanta Food Blogger’s Society? But I decided to say yes. Yes. Why not?

Well. Saying YES, jumping in first and figuring it out later can pay off sometimes.

Moving to Atlanta and joining the ATLFBS has introduced me to some amazing people (and food, duh). The Simmons woman in me reveled in the fact that I was suddenly surrounded by strong, intelligent, motivated women – entrepreneurs, foodies, life hustlers that treated me like I had been there all along. These women motivated me, encouraged me and included me – even if they didn’t realize they were doing that for me in the moment. It meant (and means) the world to a scared, stand offish Yankee who wasn’t sure where to start when it came to her new life down South. It lifted me up just when I needed it. It kept me going when I was going through the nasty bits of 2014.

Of course there are men in the ATFLBS too! The only examples of Southern Gentlemen I have met thus far – but I am so grateful they, too, opened their homes to me and made me feel like I had friends here.

Then of course – there’s you!

If you’ve gotten this far in this post – you’re a gem and I love you for forever and ever. I thought that my Mom was going to be the only person who read my bog (love you!) but it turns out some of you guys stuck around and took a peek yourselves.

Thankyou.Thankyou.Thankyou.Thankyou.

Writing and taking pictures about something I love so much in a place I am falling in love with day after day is amazing but it’s PHENOMENAL when people around me take an interest and support me in this journey simply by reading along. Thanks for thinking I have something of value to say. Thanks for thinking my pictures look cool. Thanks for the messages, likes, comments and shares.

Thankyou.Thankyou.Thankyou.Thankyou.

I hope you all enjoyed 2014 as much as did and I hope you all have a safe and Happy New Year!

2015: I am so ready. 

2014 Highlight Reel:

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#Selfie

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Editing on the Tap 1180 patio.

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My lovely college roommates on a surprise trip to Florida!

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My best friend got married!

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Adopted Gryffin in 2014.

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Adopted Atticus in 2014.

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Countless food adventures.

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Sushi in Providence.

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Countless media opportunities.

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ATLFBS event.

Foodie Spotlight: Chef Suzanne Vizethann

Why do just one Foodie Spotlight when you can do two?!

This weekend is Taste of Atlanta and we jumped at the chance to ask Chef Suzanne Vizethann a few questions before the event. In addition to nurturing people through food by use of sustainable, local ingredients – we’d also like to throw out there that she was named champion on Food Network’s Chopped.

Boss.

We cannot wait to see what this force in the kitchen has in store for us this weekend!

Buttermilk Kitchen
4225 Roswell Road NE
Atlanta, GA 30342

Ph: 678.732.3274

Facebook | Twitter

Photo from ButtermilkKitchen.com

Have you faced challenges in your career as a woman in a notoriously male dominated industry? What would be your advice to other young women hoping to break the glass ceiling in the food industry?

Suzanne Vizethann (SV): Yes, of course! It has been challenging, but I honestly think it just made me work harder.  I also think when you are really passionate about something (as I am) it’s hard to fail.  My advice to other young women would be to work hard and learn how to be tough.

What is your favorite dish to make when you’re at home?  

My favorite dish to make when I am at home is pan-roasted chicken with salsa verde or my dad’s spaghetti with fresh pasta.

Who (or what) do you draw your inspiration from when you’re in the kitchen?  

As simple as it sounds, most of my inspiration comes from local produce we receive at the restaurant.  I love utilizing vegetables in unique ways, i.e. making Swiss chard dumplings or squash onion rings.

Photo from ButtermilkKitchen.com

What is your favorite place to eat in Atlanta (outside of your own restaurant of course!)?  

I love the Kimball House, BoccaLupa and Rosebud.

What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s Taste of Atlanta?

I am looking forward to the Friday night kickoff party! I had a really good time last year and thought it was a great turnout.

Photo from ButtermilkKitchen.com

Foodie Spotlight: Chef Christy Stone

Taste of Atlanta is here! For three days, 90 restaurants will be serving up a delicious variety of food in Tech Square. We took this opportunity to speak to two phenomenal chefs whose restaurants will be there representing the best of what Atlanta has to offer.

First up, Executive Chef Christy Stone of South Main Kitchen. Stone uses her creativity and skills in the kitchen to invent various entrées that she calls a healthy take on modern American comfort food.

South Main Kitchen
No. 9 South Main Street
Alpharetta, GA 30009

Ph: 678-691-4622

Facebook | Twitter

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Chef Christy Stone

Have you faced challenges in your career as a woman in a notoriously male dominated industry? What would be your advice to other young women hoping to break the glass ceiling in the food industry?

Christy Stone (CS): I don’t pay much attention to the fact that I’m a women in the kitchen. What I have found to be most challenging is my experience level in a professional kitchen. This is my first restaurant, and I did not “grow up” per se in a kitchen. I choose this career path later than most chefs and found it most difficult to break into the industry with little experience. Gaining the respect of my co-workers and onlookers to view me as a chef and maintaining confidence in my work and myself have been the biggest challenges. I found respect comes from super hard work and dedication to the job and the people that make it happen every day.

I would tell other female chefs to just go for it! Be prepared to really work hard, sacrifice a lot, remain professional and never, ever burn bridges. I can’t stress enough how important it is to be polite and courteous to everyone. People respond well to kindness, not arrogance.

What is your favorite dish to make when you’re at home?

CS: I have a Big Green Egg, so when I’m away from the restaurant (which doesn’t happen often), I love grilling! My favorite is pizza. I’ll make a simple marinara or pesto and add seasonal farmers market finds like butternut squash, kale, apples and goat cheese. I season it simply with salt and pepper and let the Green Egg work its magic! So delicious.

Who (or what) do you draw your inspiration from when you’re in the kitchen?

CS: I find a lot of inspiration from the restaurant staff. We have a great staff with different cultural backgrounds, not only the back of the house, but the front of the house too.  I love hearing about foods they enjoy cooking or grew up eating. I find people to be very inspirational and motivational.

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Photograph courtesy of South Main Kitchen’s Facebook Page.

What is your favorite place to eat in Atlanta (outside of your own restaurant of course!)?

CS: That’s a tough question! One of my favorites was a little place in Sandy Springs on Roswell Rd., Makaras Mediterranean. The city is forcing them to relocate, so they currently are not open, and that makes me sad. I also recently had a great Sunday Supper at JCT. I love the way they serve on Sundays with the set menu. It’s very smart for the kitchen, and I felt I had a whole Thanksgiving feast! It was absolutely delicious – easily one of my favorites.

What are you looking forward to the most at this year’s Taste of Atlanta?

CS: Everything! This is my first time participating in the Taste of Atlanta, and I really don’t know what to expect. I’m really excited just to be apart of it!  If I had to pick one thing though, I’d say it would be networking with other chefs and learning about other restaurants.

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Photograph courtesy of South Main Kitchen’s Facebook Page.

The Spence

The Spence
75 Fifth St. NW
Atlanta, GA 30308

Hours |

Lunch: Monday – Friday  11:30 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Dinner: Monday – Thursday 5:30 p.m. – 10 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 5 p.m. – 11 p.m.
Sunday 5:30 p.m. – 9 p.m.
Bar Opens Daily at 5 p.m.

This past Wednesday I joined the Atlanta Travel Massive group for their bi-monthly meet up at The Spence.

Travel Massive connects thousands of people around the world to meet, learn and collaborate in the online travel industry. This meet up was organized by my friend (and former Foodie Spotlight feature) Caroline Eubanks of Caroline in the City and This is My South.

It was a phenomenal opportunity to meet new people, especially in this field. Traveling has been (and always will be) a huge influence in my life. Most notably we had the chance to hear from Jason Seagle and his business partner speak about their new venture called VAYANDO. From their website:

Vayando is a community-driven tool connecting travelers with micro-entrepreneurs in emerging economies around the world. We promote households that have interest and motivation in sharing local knowledge, activities, experience, and skills with those visiting their area. Travelers get a homegrown experience while local entrepreneurs gain opportunity to build their own small business.

It was really a phenomenal concept that I can’t wait to watch grow and succeed! Be sure to check them out on Facebook and their website.

Now on to the venue!

I wasn’t planning on coming to this event to write a review to be completely honest, but after experiencing the food and service I couldn’t help myself!

The décor is pretty standard for most super trendy restaurants these days. Exposed kitchen, open spaces, metal and wood architecture. It’s like Restoration Hardware threw up in there and then your hipster girlfriend showed up and decorated it with her kitchy “flea market finds” that actually just came from Anthroplogie.

I walked through an outdoor patio to enter the venue and immediately wished we were going to be outside for this event! It’s a great space that allows you to enjoy being outside without being on the street.

We were then shown back to a private room that can be closed off by massive curtains or left open to be a part of the restaurant. Our servers that evening were on point. No one was without a drink in their hand for less than 30 seconds (heyyyy) and the passed apps were brought out in a cadence that was not overwhelming but also didn’t leave you ravenous and wondering where they had disappeared to. Some of the passed apps included a beet tartare, fried pimento cheese puffs and raw oysters on the half shell. Every single one I ate was so incredibly delicious. I have never been anywhere where the passed apps were that good!

I mean seriously when is the last time you had a passed app that has made you want to go back to actually try an entire meal? I feel like passed apps are the ugly step children of food…thrown together on a tray just to keep drunken partiers or conference go-ers from passing out.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. The head chef is none other than Richard Blais, one of the winners of “Top Chef All-Stars.”

What can I say, I like keeping low expectations…it always makes the surprises just that much better. What I’m intrigued about is that their menu often changes daily since they use local and fresh ingredients. They also try to reflect what they’re “into at the moment” whether it’s an ingredient, band, chef or current event.

If I hadn’t had tried their food for myself you might see me rolling my eyes…but they know what they’re doing and I can’t wait to make a return there some time very, very soon.

Apologies for the picture quality. We had some camera issues so the pictures are not the best quality. However we didn’t want to post a review without any pictures, as we think even the blurry ones give you a good idea of what we were working with!

Foodie Spotlight: Samantha Bearman

One of the reasons why I love food is that it one of the easiest ways to bring people together. More often than not, that connection happens around a dinner table. But in this day and age it can also happen all the way from Atlanta to beautiful, sunny, Santa Barbara.

Today’s Foodie Spotlight features Samantha Bearman, a dear friend and an amazing woman who has spent her life always taking it one step further. I’m always in awe of her relentless work ethic which has brought her around the world and back again. She seemed like the perfect person to feature on Good Eats: Mundial. Kick ass women for the win!

Samantha’s Contact Information

Website | Samantha Mae Photography

Facebook | Samantha Mae Photography

Twitter | @sambear805

Pinterest | Samantha Bearman 

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Samantha Bearman

Tell the readers at Good Eats: Mundial a little about yourself!

My name is Samantha Bearman I am a Southern California native and have spent the last 7 years traveling, working, and studying between San Diego, Europe, The Middle East, and Kentucky. I enjoy volunteering, improv comedy, gardening, and cooking. I have a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology from San Diego State University and a Master’s of Public Health with an emphasis in Health Behavior from the University of Kentucky. I’ve worked in pre-natal health care, non-profit organizations and start-up companies and have always taken on the role of social media coordinator.

What do you do at MWQ PR?

I’m currently interning with MWQpr as their Assistant Account Executive, many of my responsibilities have been taking photos for new menu items, promoting the businesses, writing blog posts for the website, and creating a dialogue on Twitter with followers and potential followers, because if we aren’t connected yet, then you’re a potential follower!

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MWQ PR

What is your favorite client of theirs to work with?

Every client of MWQpr is my favorite to work with! However I will say that it is nice to be associated with clients who can create delicious tastings that feed my soul and my pallet.

Do you think social media is an integral part of your food and wine clients success?

A strong social media presence is imperative to creating a buzz about any business, I think when it comes to food and wine it is essential because it is the new form of word of mouth advertising. People want to know what their girlfriends think, what their boyfriends think, and what their coworkers are thinking and experiencing at local business. Food and wine is meant to be enjoyed both with the atmosphere and the overall taste of the menu items.

How long have you been a photographer?

I’ve been a photographer since I was 16 years old, so close to 10 years. I have done culinary photography for several years and have had work featured on Tastetlv.com. Last year I moved from hosting my photos on wordpress.com to samanthamaephotography.com. I enjoy photographing couples because they have a spark and a love for each other that is just so organic and beautiful behind the lens. My camera is typically found around my neck on my many travels, be they local, national, or international.

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Photo by Samantha Bearman.

What do you enjoy about culinary photography? What is challenging about it?

Something I truly enjoy about culinary photography is that the food does not talk back. Something that is challenging about culinary photography is that the food does not talk back. You have a lot of creative freedom to position the items however you feel is best, however with no feedback from the gnocchi or eggs sometimes you have to play around a bit before you are truly blown away by the shot. Also this, maybe goes without saying, after a culinary photo shoot, eating the product is an enjoyable perk of the job!

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Photo by Samantha Bearman.

If you could eat one dish for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Without a doubt, pasta! Every time I go to Italy, and I have been lucky enough to have been several times over the last 6 years, I look for the mom and pop restaurants and just enjoy their delicacies. Pasta makes me happy, and there are so many ways that pasta can be made, so many ingredients that can be added to the dish to enhance the taste, that I am always impressed and delighted by what gets placed in front of me. Also it is probably because growing up my mother’s spaghetti was my favorite comfort food, I used to ask her why hers was so much better than any restaurants, she would smile, give me a kiss on my forehead and say it was because she added some love. When I cook pasta, I make sure to go heavy on the love.

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Photo by Samantha Bearman.

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Photo by Samantha Bearman.

The two pictures above were taken at The Santa Barbara Pasta Shoppe, LLC.

In addition to being featured on TasteTLV Samantha’s photography was featured on Vino Travels. 

To check out more of her photography make sure you visit her website: Samantha Mae Photography.

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Please be sure to also check out the great organizations and companies Samantha has worked with:

MWQ PR | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest 

The Pasta Shoppe | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

TasteTLV | Facebook | Twitter 

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If you or someone you know would like to be featured in our Foodie Spotlight, send us an email at goodeatsatlanta@gmail.com.