Atlanta Restaurant Reviews: Mini Hot Pot

If you’re not familiar with Asian food, I’m here to help!  Not that I’m an expert, but spending the past 7 years with Jimmy has taught me my fair share of Asian culinary knowledge.  When our friend, Jean, called us up a few weeks ago to hang out at Mini Hot Pot on Buford Highway, how could we say no?  Even if you don’t live in Atlanta, keep reading as hopefully your hometown has a similar establishment.

I’m pretty sure hot pot is a traditional Chinese dish – or rather, bowl.  It’s a super fun concept and something out-of-town guests will likely enjoy tremendously, even if they have no clue what they are doing.  Basically, you sit at a table that has what amounts to a fondue pot for each individual built in.  You select your choice of broth – beef, chicken, and so on – and then order the various menu offerings you want to throw into the broth and cook.  Asian fondue.

 

Generally speaking, most order a large veggie dish with selections of cabbage, spinach, tomatoes – lots of other stuff, even a hot dog!  Then you order your meats or tofu along with eggs and other offerings.  Really, the choices are plentiful.  You also get to concoct your own special sauce either for dipping or flavoring your broth.  The sauce making station can be scary, but so much fun to mix and match flavors.  The servers will help you out if you need a little extra guidance!

Mini Hot Pot was so much fun and I can’t wait to go back.  This particular restaurant in Chamblee is quite tiny so a group larger than six will need to split up.  The servers were friendly and helpful – turning the heat of our pots up and down as needed.  I had Jimmy mix me a sauce which he kept pretty tame, but I can’t wait to spice it up next time!  After letting lots of meats and veggies simmer and flavor my broth, I had the perfect soup mixture left.  You can even take it home to make your own soup!  I decided to thrown in my corn cob and let is soak up the loveliness and I’m telling you it was the best corn cob EVER.  Then I added some noodles and finished my meal off with a delicious noodle soup.

I highly suggest going with a small group and splitting the cost.  You will order more food than you can eat – guaranteed – which can make Mini Hot Pot expensive for one or two people – but way less expensive than other fondue joints like The Melting Pot.  Be prepared to spend more than the usual time dining as well – you’ll be cooking your own food as you go along after all!  Mini Hot Pot also adds a small dish of red bean ice cream at the end of each meal!  Enjoy!!

(Photos are not my own.  Click the photos for links to the owner.)

The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien

What can I possibly say about The Hobbit that hasn’t already been said a thousand times before?  Literally, nothing except that this little ditty gets my full praise and highest recommendation.  If you’ve been on the fence, hop off onto the side of reading Tolkien’s classic adventure before the movie hits theaters December 14!  Hobbits will be your new best friends.

I’m fairly certain this book needs no synopsis or introduction.  Pretty much a rather ordinary hobbit, Bilbo Baggins, gets sucked into helping some dwarfs steal back their treasure from a dragon named Smaug.  On the way to face the deadly fire breather, many adventures, fantastical creatures, and unexpected heroes are met and made.

Forced to read The Hobbit in high school, I never really fancied re-reading until recently.  While I didn’t hate Bilbo and his hero’s journey, neither was I enamored.  Only recently have I found myself really craving well written high fantasy and The Hobbit began to seem like an obvious choice.  I ordered the Annotated edition which I can’t recommend strongly enough and thoroughly enjoyed learning about Tolkien and his writing process.  Understanding how many literary sources he drew from and where his ideas and inspirations originated was like being at school but way more fun.  I was shocked to learn Tolkien’s first vision of Gandalf came from seeing a postcard depiction of an old man in a red cape.

The Hobbit’s story unfolds at a very naturally swift pace.  You never feel like you can’t keep up or that you might fall asleep – hidden dangers lurk around every tree.  Bilbo can be frustrating at times with his sour attitude and his wishes of being back at home, but wouldn’t we all be a bit reluctant to fight trolls on the first night of a road trip?  Watching his character grow from uncertain follower to unexpected hero is delightful and could be the literary definition of character growth.  You’ll also find yourself absolutely in love with the dwarfs – they kick the Snow White dwarfs’ asses!

Tolkien’s novel is also perfect to share with your children or as a family.  Especially during this holiday season, just cuddle up together around the fireplace and take turns reading aloud.  I know kids can be squirmy, but the trolls, goblins, giant spiders, and elves should have them mesmerized!  Plus, there are pictures.

I’m awaiting the film release with barely bated breath.  Martin Freeman promises to be the best Bilbo and my lovely dwarfs look perfectly cast and costumed.  For further immersion into Middle Earth, I bought the Lord of the Rings films during the Black Friday sales and watched them back-to-back-to-back this weekend.  I’d NEVER seen them before and still haven’t read the books, but wanted to get an idea of Tolkien’s bigger picture before seeing The Hobbit in theaters.  Loved the movies and thought they were properly made epics showcasing so much talent from all the creators involved.

Off to the Shire you go!

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Another book knocked off my Classics Club list!

The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

My first Sherlock Holmes!  Completely inspired by my inhaling the BBC’s Sherlock and falling in love with Benedict Cumberbatch.  I immediately picked up the only Holmes story I owned and dug in, only slightly nervous about how well the older, original stories would hold up against the newer BBC version.  I know that’s not really fair since Holmes is a Doyle creation, but all my fears were shortly put to rest!

In The Hound, the Baskerville family has been plagued by a nasty legend involving an almost supernatural hound creature.  If at any time they find themselves out on the Devon moor alone at night, bad things are sure to happen!  When Sir Charles Baskerville is found dead just outside his estate’s gate, Sherlock Holmes and his trusty Watson are called in to investigate how Sir Charles met his mysterious end.  Can they figure out the culprit of these seemingly canine murders in time to save the new heir’s life?

Weak plot description, I know.  It’s just that I don’t want to give anything away since half the fun’s in guessing who (or what) dunnit.  I was really worried that Doyle’s original stories wouldn’t hold up well in the modernity of today’s mystery novels, but definitely not the case at all.  The language and prose are both beautiful and simplistic.  In many ways, the story felt incredibly fresh and contemporary, with only the slightly archaic mentions of carriages, cloaks, and telegrams.  But even these dated references didn’t ruin the vivacity of the story – instead they added a coziness and decidedly British feel that was entirely welcome.  I’m actually shocked at how talented a writer Doyle turned out to be – not sure why I should be shocked since his novels have held up so long.

What most surprised me was how little Sherlock Holmes was actually used in this particular story.  Watson definitely takes center stage and never comes off as bumbling (which modern adaptations can sometimes fall victim to).  I thoroughly enjoyed Watson and often never even missed Holmes, but was pleasantly surprised when he showed his lovably arrogant face again.  And Holmes seemed a bit softer and more jovial in Doyle’s text than in the updated scripts of the past few years.  Two very fantastic characters for the price of one!

Honestly, the only thing that holds me back from shouting the highest praise is the book’s inability to keep me guessing very long.  I knew who the killer was quite early on as I suspect most readers will discover as well.  The plot was just a bit too transparent.  Doyle might have had better success if he’d created more characters or suspects, but when the mystery takes place in a nearly deserted moor – things aren’t going to be too complicated.

I do highly recommend fitting some Sherlock Holmes in your busy reading schedules!  Delightful characters, quickly moving mysteries, and atmosphere in spades will keep you turning the pages.  Really want to find a great Holmes collection and read all his stories and novels.  If anyone has any suggestions of a particular volume, please let me know in the comments.  What are your favorite Holmes stories?  Have you seen Sherlock?  Is anyone watching Elementary and enjoying?

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A Classics Club selection!

Happy Thanksgiving!

I hope everyone’s Turkey Day is going smoothly and filled with delicious food!  My house currently smells like the most wonderful sweet/savory mixture of corn bread and pumpkin pie!  Apparently, southerners aren’t supposed to like pumpkin pie, but I like proving these kinds of ‘rules’ wrong – so there!

Just wanted to take a moment and give thanks to the most important thing in my life – the Hubs, Jimmy.  I don’t normally get gushy and lovey-dovey stuff weirds me out, but I am the luckiest girl in the world.  The past year and a half have been rough and Jimmy has been so patient with me where other men would probably have strangled me or divorced me.  I’ve been unemployed during this time and have had a hard time dealing with going back to work because my last job was such a complete and utter nightmare.  The stress, the misery, the crying daily, and gaining 45 lbs of ‘I hate my job’ weight is not something I miss.  And despite having to change our lifestyle drastically and ridding ourselves of many monetary pleasures, he’s stayed by my side with only the occasional moaning and groaning.

But it’s time, folks.  Time for me to suck it up and get back out there.  I’ve already started putting some feelers out into the universe and hopefully some job interviews aren’t too far into my future.  Not getting my hopes up too high during the holiday season, but January is a fresh start.  I’ve enjoyed my semi-retirement, but honestly, it’s getting a bit old now.  I’ll forever be thankful for the mental health break and the beginning of this blog which probably would not have happened had I just jumped from one miserable job to another.

Also, and this is HUGE, I’m going to make a doctor’s appointment.  Another thing Jimmy has been begging me to do in as sweet a way as he knows how.  Something is off inside this bag of bones of mine and Web MD tells me it’s no good.  So I’m scared as hell, but can’t live this way anymore.  And yes, I know the internet is hardly the bastion of medical health care, but it’s scared me none-the-less.  I HATE doctors, but am thankful they exist.

Happy Thanksgiving!  What are you most thankful for?

November Meetup: The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

Awhile back, I read and reviewed Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief.  I wasn’t nearly as enthralled as the rest of the interwebs and book readers.  So when it was selected as The Liwits’ November book club read I was really excited to see how the ladies would respond.  In short – they pretty much agreed with me.

Obviously, Zusak’s novel is much beloved by many, but as someone who didn’t find it extremely compelling – and a tad bit on the gimmicky side – I was pleased to discuss my dislikes with fellow critics.  Not that we trashed the novel – not at all – and we had one lovely member who adored the book.  We all agreed that Zusak’s prose was mostly gorgeous and that dude can write, but I think Death as a narrator ultimately bothered some Litwits.

Katherine wasn’t thrilled with the ‘magical realism’ aspect of Death adding a sort of fictional haze over the realism of WWII.  I agreed, going so far as to argue against fictional WWII literature in general.  Others believed Death was humorous, added a certain levity, and was personified in a wholly humanistic way that didn’t bother the grittiness of the story at all.

We argued with America’s marketing of The Book Thief as young adult literature.  I’m fairly certain we all agreed that the book belongs among all ages equally.  We did think that teenagers would appreciate the novel.

Our discussion led us to ideas of what evil truly is and what it looks like, the differences between sociopathy and psychopathy, and even our recent political elections.  Everyone enjoyed the novel’s German perspective as we dived into a debate about how humans can turn a blind eye to such torture and how we believe it could happen again if we aren’t careful.  Unfortunately, many struggled with the constant reminders that everyone was going to die in the end which led to an anti-climatic ending that left no tears scattered across the final pages.  In converse, some appreciated this warning which allowed them to enjoy the journey without worry for the emotional turmoil at the end.

I encourage other groups to read this novel together.  While not everyone will love it and some might even find it difficult to get through, The Book Thief generates some amazing discussion which is, after all, the point of a book club!  I’m glad The Litwits read this story together and had such profound thoughts.  Can’t wait until next month when we read The Violets of March by Sarah Jio.  Hopefully, a bit of a lighter read for the Holiday season!

Atlanta Restaurant Review: Rosebud

I’ve been having massive cravings for brunch these past few Sunday mornings and Jimmy has been letting me indulge.  A few weeks ago we drove down to the Morningside neighborhood in Midtown to try out Rosebud.  The location is gorgeous, but parking is not so great.  They don’t really have their own parking so most patrons park street-side, but we found a lot behind the shops which was almost deserted.

First thing you need to know – make a reservation.  This place is packed and super busy at all hours.  See the pictorial evidence below:

Second, the hostess was not particularly good at her job.  It took us approximately 10 minutes just to get our names put on the list because she was being scatterbrained about someone who had made a double reservation.  Once our name was down, we waited around 30 minutes to get a seat.  Probably should have timed it better than arriving with the post-church crowd.

Like I said, Rosebud is beautifully decorated and has a lovely patio.  A full length bar runs the length of the restaurant and looks nicely stocked.  Our waiter, once we were finally waited on, provided excellent service throughout the meal.  He never let Jimmy run out of water which is AMAZING, trust me.

Now for the food – pretty decent.  We were a bit sad that they were out of some popular brunch items by midday, but there were plenty of other yummy sounding dishes to choose from.  We started with the sweet corn muffins served with housemade preserves.  Normally, I don’t like corn muffins (how can I be Southern, right?), but these babies were phenomenal.  And the blueberry, honey, syrupy deliciousness that was served alongside as a dipping sauce was heaven on earth – I kid you not.  By far, our favorite thing we tried!  I’d go back for this one simple $6 dish.

For our main courses, Jimmy ordered the ultimate pancake which is stuffed with the likes of sausage, bacon, and scrambled egg and I had the breakfast bowl filled with grits, tomatoes, poached egg, bacon, and cheese.  Jimmy’s pancake looked like it delivered the goods, but apparently was sort of tasteless.  He wished the sausage flavor had been stronger.  I liked my breakfast bowl – loved the perfectly seasoned warm grits with the contrasting cold tomatoes.  The bacon was thickly chopped with a great smoky flavor, but my poached egg was a disappointment.  Pretty sure this was my fault as I asked for a hard poached egg.  I know poached eggs should have a gooey yolk, but gooey yolks weird me out.  The hard poached egg felt way overcooked – it was almost crunchy.  Next time, I’ll keep things simple, get the gooey yolk, and stir it into oblivion!

Overall, a good place to grab brunch, but don’t expect things to be quick!  Rosebud is hopping and sometimes the staff can seem a bit overwhelmed.  The kitchen might run out of your favorite dishes as well, but with such a large, yummy menu available you’re sure to find something you enjoy.  Plenty of cocktail choices and a great dessert selection will please the sweet tooth crowd as well!  Price-wise, decently affordable for such a trendy place – our bill came to around $25 for 2 entrees and an appetizer!  We left full and I’d definitely go back.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris

David Sedaris is a funny, funny man.  Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk is a funny, funny book.  It’s basically just a collection of anecdotal short stories involving animal characters highlighting some rather crass human behaviors.  Every once in a blue moon, an uplifting, lighthearted story sneaks in, but don’t expect that to be the norm.

Victoria asked me if I thought the novel was good upon completion and I immediately responded – ‘If you have my sense of humor’.  This response put her on her guard as well it should.  Sedaris’s humor rivals my own in appreciating the twisted and, admittedly, grotesque.  These animals let it all hang out in brutal, disturbing, and hilarious ways.  Crows eat the eyes of baby ewes.  Fuzzy bunnies go on killing rampages in the name of safety.  And they are all illustrated with NOTHING HELD BACK.  Sometimes the pictures even squeaked me out.

But never fear, there’s something for the faint of heart as well and the book ends with a truly delightful story involving the friendship between a hippo, an owl, and a gerbil that symbolizes a strange sort of beauty among humans and a hopeful triumph of our troubled species.

Now back to the dark bits – I totally understand why people have a problem reading this book.  They get so bogged down in the nasty pictures and gory plot lines, turning every page in utter abhorrence of Sedaris’s audacity.  All the while, they are failing to grasp the underlining morality of each simple tale.  The extremes in this book are merely portraying actualy animal behaviors that come naturally, no matter how upsetting.   Crows will eat eyeballs – sorry if you don’t approve.  But did you happen to notice how the mother sheep was a complete bitch, a condescending mother, and just an all around poor example of humanity?  I was engrossed in the juxtaposition of instinctual animal survival against the crass, but more benign, human behaviors that are a CHOICE and believe Sedaris is a genius.

I recommend Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk and hope you give it a shot!  You’ve been warned, so be prepared for some pretty intense imagery.  I’m glad I won this book in our book club book swap and can’t wait to return it to Victoria to hear her undoubtedly argue with me about the necessity of the violence.  Please feel free to do the same!