This past summer I was contacted by Degustabox – they wanted to know if I’d give their product a shot. Why not?
I didn’t want to review anything before I had given it some time.
So first of all, what is Degustabox? It’s a monthly subscription box that contains 10-15 full size products.
I’ve received three so far, and all three have been interesting to say the least.
My family was kind enough to set the box aside for me and not open it until I got home. In no time at all, the arrival of my Degustabox has become a family event. After dinner I’d place the box on the counter and my entire family would surround me as I opened it.
A photo posted by @goodeatsmundial on Jun 3, 2016 at 9:47pm PDT
As a food blogger I get inundated with new products and sometimes it’s hard for me to even think about trying something new. This has been the perfect opportunity to try things I never would have and introduce my family to things they wouldn’t have normally bought while rushing through the grocery store.
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?!
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.
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.
You’re greeted with a to-go counter – to the left, the dining room and to the right, a small bar.
The bar to the right.
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.”
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.
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.
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!
AMC’s The Walking Dead (TWD) is in its fifth season and shows no sign of slowing. The comic book turned TV phenomenon follows our hero, Rick Grimes and his group of survivors as they try to navigate the waters of a post apocalyptic zombie invaded Atlanta has taken the world by storm.
The show is not only set it Atlanta, but it’s filmed here too. I’ll be perfectly honest it was probably one of the top reasons why I thought I might give Atlanta a chance. TWD is one of my all time favorite shows. In fact, I love it so much that I spent the better part of three years convincing my zombie fearing Mother that she should watch the show. I finally convinced her to watch Episode 1 from Season 1 a few weeks before she visited me. By the time she arrived in Atlanta she was already half way through season three. I thought that was enough to warrant a visit to our friends at Atlanta Movie Tours.
From their website:
The film industry is booming in Georgia, with over 700 movies and 20 television shows shot here since 1972. Atlanta has been fortunate to play a key role in many of them, including Driving Miss Daisy, The Vampire Diaries, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay and The Walking Dead. Since 2012, Atlanta Movie Tours has been providing a whole new way to see the city, revealing hidden corners of filming. Our Tour Guides are experienced actors who have worked on these sets, and they share fascinating behind-the-scenes stories you won’t hear anywhere else. Book a tour today and experience it for yourself!
Mind you, venturing through Atlanta looking for zombies on an empty stomach is a terrible idea. So here’s what I’d suggest, broken down by the TWD tours:
This tour starts early, so we knew a hearty breakfast was in order. My Mom and I ventured over to Buttermilk Kitchen on Roswell Road to gear up for the adventure ahead of us.
Their breakfast is perfect for zombie hunting. Just enough to keep you feeling full and energized but it doesn’t weigh you down. Although, to be honest, we put that theory to the test…we may or may not have ordered half the menu.
If you’re familiar with the show, then you already know that the earliest seasons of TWD take place in the city of Atlanta and the direct outskirts of the city. This tour shows you locations from Season 1 all the way through to Season 5.
Our tour guide was Charlie, a lovely engaging storyteller who was also a walker on the show multiple times! All of their tour guides have worked on the sets of the shows they are speaking about, which I think takes the entire experience up a notch.
As a fan girl, I think one of the worst things in the world is to get excited about something you love, and then have someone else sort of just Kanye shrug and “meh” at you. The guides, staff and the guests are all so enthusiastic about this show the energy is contagious! You can’t help but get swept up in it all.
Some places I saw on Big Zombie Tour Part 1:
And that’s not even the half of it.
Now, I don’t mean to brag (okay, I do) but I was lucky enough to happen to be on a tour that was surprised by the drop in of IronE Singleton. He played TDog on TWD until he courageously sacrificed himself to save Carol in the prison (RIP).
That’s the thing about these tours. Don’t for a second think you’re going to get a cookie cutter script and the same ol’ tired spots. Because they actively film in Atlanta, sets are always being added and you might even bump into an actor!
After we spent an afternoon rubbing elbows with a celebrity and chasing filming locations all over Atlanta, we were ravenous.
Instead of BRAAAIIINNNSSS we opted to visit SCK Midtown to get our fix of Southern food with a twist.
However, the true highlight of the meal came before the entrees. We indulged in pork belly and chicken livers.
The pork belly was one of the most tender and flavorful dishes I have ever had, period. All you needed was the side of your fork to cut a piece and it would start to melt as soon as it hit your tongue.
The chicken livers were out of this world. We contemplated ordering another dish, but we decided to show some sort of self-control. They were cooked to perfection, tender with a flavor that was well rounded and bold. The best part though? The earthy taste of the liver still came through. I’ve been cursed with chicken livers that lacked seasoning or had too much – these hit the sweet spot.
Yes, there’s a part two!
These tours are a bit later in the afternoon, so after you’ve had your breakfast at Buttermilk Kitchen you might need a quick snack before hitting the town of Senoia.
My guilty pleasure?
I pass a Krispy Kreme on the way so…
This tour starts in Senoia, GA where they do a lot of the filming for TWD. Main Street is the setting they used to film the infamous town of Woodbury, home to the villain we all loved to hate: the Governor.
Now, there’s one thing I’d like to specifically address here: I had been to Senoia three times before taking this tour. I had done my research about filming locations and taken myself on an impromptu tour. However going with Atlanta Movie Tours was completely eye opening. There were so many locations and sites right under my nose that they have access to that I couldn’t access on my own or even knew existed. There really is no substitute for this tour if you’re a fan of the show.
Our tour guide this time was Michael. Michael had me laughing the entire tour. Not only did he have amazing stories from his time on set but he just might hate Carl more than I do.
GET IN THE DAMN HOUSE CARL!
Some sites we saw on this tour?
That’s not even the entire list!
Main Street has some options for food and drinks that shouldn’t be missed.
You can hit up Senoia Coffee & Café for a great cup of coffee and pastry. Pro-tip: Norman Reedus will sometimes get his coffee there before filming! They do also offer lunch and dinner.
You can also venture to Katie Lou’s for some BBQ. Although this isn’t my top spot for BBQ, the homey feel of the restaurant and friendliness of the staff is what keeps people coming back for more.
If you prefer the bar scene, you can check out Camp Southern Ground Social Club. The venue is large and the staff is extremely friendly and helpful. They have a full selection behind the bar and offer a variety of Mexican and Southern dishes.
These are only just a few of the food places you can find on Main Street, which are all nestled between antique shops and of course, a Walking Dead store!
Whether you are a local or a tourist – you cannot miss Atlanta Movie Tours! Make sure you head on over there, support local and enjoy an incredible experience that doesn’t have a comparison.
To connect with Atlanta Movie Tours (and to book your first adventure) click here!
Disclaimer: I was granted complimentary press passes to take part in the Big Zombie Tour Part 2. All opinions are my own, and are in no way influenced by any outside factors.
It’s a one of a kind experience for “true” foodies that you can join by paying a yearly fee – which gets you your membership and card.
Once you have your membership (and your super awesome card) you can use their app or their website to see what restaurants are participating and then see what option they’re offering and what the price points are:
Once you have determined what option you’d like to take advantage of, call the restaurant to make a reservation and tell them you’re an EOA member. Viola! A completely unique dining experience awaits you and your super impressed date.
I absolutely love this concept. There’s something to be said for wanting to add quality to an experience versus take it away. Everyone is doing a “Taco Tuesday” or “Wine Wednesday” but honestly you’re lying to yourself, me, your taste buds and yo mamma if you say you aren’t sick of the same ol’ same ol’.
The same can be said for the talent of the chefs in Atlanta. To a degree, no matter how creative a menu they may want to put out there, they still have to cater to the masses. That’s why there’s shrimp and grits on every. damn. menu. in. Atlanta. This gives them an opportunity to stretch their culinary wings and really show you what they’re about. I promise you the most passionate food is the most delicious food and these chefs are much more than shrimp and grits or fried chicken.
PS – Fried chicken and shrimp and grits, please accept my formal apology. I LOVE YOU. I REALLY DO. Forgive me? Don’t leave me!
We got to try a lot (like a clinically insane amount) of food at Gypsy Kitchen, which is one of the participating restaurants.
My favorite dish of the night was the garlic shrimp with pickled chorizo. It was the only dish to get me to stop talking. Don’t be shocked, they’re going to come with the heads on. My advice is suck it up and live a little! Just…devour all that deliciousness that normally gets wasted when the head is tossed out. Do it. It’s like gold.
Another dish that stood out was the pan roasted pork tenderloin. It’s not something that I wouldn’t have normally ordered out but I am so glad they brought it out for us to try. The flavor was well balanced and it was cooked to perfection.
One dish that didn’t resonate with me was the marcona almond “nutella” and shaved chorizo. There is such a thing as trying too hard. Although there can be intricate complexities that are found in Spanish cooking thanks to influences from Portugal, North Africa and Asia (which make Spanish food so dynamic and exciting) sometimes it’s okay to just keep it simple and let the ingredients exist on their own.
The chorizo didn’t sit on the toast well (made for some really charming “LOL SORRY” gestures at my fellow bloggers), which was super frustrating. I get the whole “salty and sweet” thought, but I would have rather have had the toast and spread for dessert and that insanely tender and delectably salty chorizo on its own with a really amazing Spanish cheese.
Other highlights for me were the lamb kefta tagine, paella and marcona almond-chicken-tikka masala. That last one came with a cauliflower puree that was absolutely to die for.
For dessert they treated us to churros, which were served with a chocolate sauce and an almond cake that was to DIE for. It was so light and fluffy and not too sweet. The churros were as good as you’d expect. Churros are meant to be decadent and they didn’t disappoint.
The last thing I’ll say is that rumor has it they have the best octopus in Atlanta. I love octopus and I was so impressed with their food I am going to have to make it a point to come back and try it for myself.
Thank you again to Eat Out Atlanta for the opportunity to try all that food and I look forward to using my membership this year!
(My birthday is only 9 days away, just saying…).
Disclaimer: My meal was complimentary but my opinions are 100% my own. How do you know? Buy me a drink and go ahead and ask me “What’s in a name?” I promise a lively and educational experience.
Last week I had the brilliant opportunity to join Eating With Erica & YP (formally Yellow Pages) at The Luminary. YP is currently in the process of rebranding itself. Gone are the days of just a book of phone numbers. YP is now looking to connect with communities on a local level – to support local businesses that not just serve but uplift the community. The Luminary was a great place for their first event in Atlanta.
From The Luminary’s website:
Described by Kirshtein as an American brasserie with regional influences and named after Atlanta’s historic first newspaper, The Luminary features a classically inspired menu, large raw bar, craft beer and cocktail program and 400-square-foot patio space.
We were served a wonderful four course dinner but before I get into that, I want to address my absolute favorite thing about the night: the Pear Necessities.
Aside from being a light, refreshing and absolutely to die for – what I loved about this was in this ONE cocktail, The Luminary was able to encapsulate everything about this event. The vodka that was used was brewed by the first distillery in city limits in over (I think) 200 years. The distillery is actually only a five minute drive down the street and was able to come to fruition when members of the community helped get the owners started by donating to their Kickstarter campaign.
I mean, how freakin’ awesome is that? How often is the vodka in your drink made just down the street from where you’re enjoying your cocktail? Yeah, never. That never happens.
Dinner was also wonderful.
I started off with the Bibb Salad which was light and refreshing.
Next, I had the Chicken Liver Mousse. I struggled with this dish a bit…I think in the end, I like my chicken livers whole! But I love that they offer something on their menu you don’t often seen anywhere else.
For my entree I had the gnocchi in a foie gras sauce. The pasta was so light…like little tiny pillows of heavenly pasta fluff. That’s a thing – don’t question me. The sauce was delicious, but a bit salty due to it being a foie gras base, but I didn’t leave a bite on my plate!
Last, but not least was the salty caramel ganache tart with milk chocolate sorbet. Yeah, so – the answer is YES. YES it tasted as delicious as it sounds.
Overall, I think that Luminary is worth a visit. They won me over with their super sleek decor, the delicious (AND LOCALLY SOURCED) cocktails and creative food options. The service was also impeccable. Our servers Ian and Addie were on point!
Thank you again to Eating With Erica & YP for hosting this event. Be sure to check out their sites to see what other YP events may surface around Atlanta!
I’m sure some of you have seen by now that I’m not shy when it comes to how I feel about “food snobbery.” I mean, there was this gem that got the attention of foodies & Kardashian lovers a like. But for those of you who don’t know: I loathe it.
I will never give anyone crap about ordering Papa John’s or Chinese food from their not so great but closer than the Thai place Chinese restaurant down the road. I do it sometimes. It is what it is.
HOWEVER – more often then not I’m making these decisions based on connivence and availability, not so much that I just adore take out food and I’m always hyper aware of the fact that what I’m eating just…isn’t that good for you. I wish there was another option.
Enter: CHRISTOPHE’S TO GO stage right.
So here’s the deal. Christophe’s is a complete life saver. Sure, their site may pitch it as meals to go for people who can’t cook/don’t like to cook/don’t have the patience. But I think it’s also great for those of us who get SO BUSY that they don’t have the time to cook. I *love* being in my kitchen for an hour but sometimes I have three blog entries to catch up on and I don’t really feel like getting to bed at 1 a.m.
So here’s how it works:
Christophe’s To Go has a menu of different dishes that are a combination of the following:
Curated by a French Michelin Star Chef (Chef Christophe! Duh.)
You can either pick up your dishes in store, you can order them ahead of time and have them dropped off at any of their cooler locations (for ex: if your gym has a Christophe’s To Go cooler, you can order ahead of time, they’ll drop it off in the cooler & you can pick it up on your way out of the gym) or you can order delivery!
Each package is completely recyclable and also are safe to go in your oven or microwave (sans the top, obviously. I can’t even believe I have to say that but I’m not going to get sued when you messes melt plastic in your oven).
So here’s what I sampled & my thoughts:
Salmon on top of spinach topped with a mango chutney with a half tomato and half onion which were roasted:
The heating instructions were a bit off – all of the dishes are a bit under what they should really be to stop people from accidentally burning their food or over heating, which is really quite smart.
Of course what did I do? Over heated it. I’m not even sure how I dress myself in the morning sometimes, I swear. Anyways, this caused the fish to be a bit over done but it was still okay with the rest of the sides. The portion was the “medium” size – enough for 1…but I didn’t find it to be enough for me. So I actually heated up half of the curried cauliflower to go with it. That was a perfect combination and the cauliflower was out of this world. So delicious. I could have eaten that hot or cold.
They recently changed up their menu so you can’t get the salmon anymore…but you can still get the cauliflower! So do it. Don’t be a fool.
The next day I had the Eggplant Parm for lunch. This medium portion was absolutely perfect for lunch. I didn’t burn it this time (gold star!) and I was surprised at how much I liked it.
Let me just…throw this out there: my grandmother’s eggplant parm is legendary. It’s so %#!*&$& good that when I was 16 and had jaw reconstruction my Mother and I experimented a few times until we figured out how we could BLEND THE DAMN EGGPLANT PARM SO I COULD DRINK IT THROUGH A STRAW. OKAY? THAT’S HOW MUCH I LOVE HER EGGPLANT PARM. I TAKE THIS SERIOUSLY. DON’T YOU DARE OFFER ME EGGPLANT PARM IF IT’S NOT SOMETHING I’M GOING TO LOVE SO MUCH I WANT TO BLEND IT SO I CAN DRINK IT THROUGH A STRAW DAMMIT.
For that reason, I usually plan on hating any other versions that I try. 95% of the time I do. But Christophe’s held up. The sauce had great flavor, the cheese was at the perfect amount and I liked that they didn’t bread and fry the eggplant. It was indulging without feeling guilty.
Last but not least, was the Chicken Coq au Vin. I had this dish for dinner the following night and it was by far my favorite entree of the three. The flavors were super complex and delicious, the size (medium) was perfect for one.
So I’m sure you have some thoughts so let me just go ahead and answer them:
No, there’s no preservatives. Nothing’s ever frozen and at most there’s three lines of ingredients. Love that.
No, the food doesn’t have that weird gross taste that reheated food has sometimes. Maybe Chef Christophe is actually a wizard.
“But XYZ is cheaper” – not it’s not. Don’t play. Foodler usually has a $20 minimum plus tax, plus tip, plus delivery. For that amount of money I had two dinners and a lunch.
Yes, it’s okay to put this food on plates and pass it off to your date as home cooked. We won’t tell.
Yes, they have other things to offer…home made rubs for poultry (nom), gelato, bread, pasta sauces – a huge variety.
If you have any questions about Christophe’s To Go make sure you visit their website and be sure stop in one of their stores. The staff is extremely friendly and would be happy to help you out. My location is the Brookhaven one. Hey guys!
Disclaimer: Christophe’s To Go provided me with the samples for my honest opinion of my experience. How do you know my opinion is honest? I didn’t just “over heat” the salmon, I brought it back to life and killed it all over again…then cursed it, then ate it. WOMP. Whoops!