Archive for September, 2009

End of the (Yellow Brick?) Road for Elton John

As a savvy reader pointed out in a comment on my last blog, we Atlantans might have a long wait for a road, street, or even a boulevard named after Elton John.

Though he is a famous, well-spoken, elder-statesman of music, he is not an elected official. Not even a former elected official. If you start naming places after musicians, what’s next?

Roads named after the Real Housewives of Atlanta?

Where is Elton John Road?

While listening to an old Elton John CD in the car today, I wondered why Atlanta does not seem to reciprocate the singer’s love of the city.

A friend of mine who works in the music industry tells me that Elton John has said that Atlanta is his favorite place in the US (I have been unable to independently verify this comment).

Whether he said that or not, he certainly has a home here. So why no “Elton John Road?” Former President Jimmy Carter is represented in the names of a Boulevard, library, museum and other high-profile establishments.

Elton John appeared in the news on a regular basis in the UK. From his wedding to David Furnish, to his desire to adopt a Ukranian boy.

I guess that’s why they call it the blues….

A Shot of Flu

Georgia’s governor is promoting flu vaccines by getting one himself.

I am dubious about these vaccines: when I asked my UK doctor about them, he told me that there are thousands of strains of the flu each year. There’s no guarantee that the vaccine you get will protect you against the most prevalent strain that year.

And of course, the vaccine that people really want this year — the one that would allegedly protect against H1N1 — won’t be ready until next month.

A cynic would say that my British GP’s reluctance to vaccinate against the flu is the result of stinginess from the NHS — why pay to vaccinate the entire public there?

But another cynic would say that the makers of the vaccines are making a lot of money off the flu-paranoid public here in the US.

I’ve gotten about twenty emails from my neighborhood parents’ group, all which suggest that families get the flu vaccine as a matter of course every year.

I am scarred by an incident a co-worker in New York several years ago: she got the vaccine, then came down with the flu. That seemed unpleasant on so many levels that I swore them off for a while.

Cheesecake Overload

Cheesecake BistroAfter several thwarted attempts, we went to Copeland’s Cheesecake Bistro in Atlantic Station last night. Only because we arrived at 5:15 PM were we able to get in — usually, the line outside is too long.

But we were curious what enticed so many people on most nights to wait for half an hour or more for a table.

After eating there, all I can say is those regulars in the line must be very hungry. I have never seen such massive portions.

We ordered the children’s nachos, listed in the kids’ appetizer menu — so they would have something to nibble on before the main courses arrived (and, we hoped, sit at the table, rather than running around the restaurant, shouting: “Chase me!” It didn’t work, but it was worth a shot).

The waitress brought a trough of tortilla chips smothered in cheese. The plate was about two feet in diameter.

“Seriously?” I asked. “That’s the kids’ appetizer portion?” She nodded.

I shudder to think what the adult main course of nachos would look like.

I will say that the Cheesecake Bistro offered decent value for money. That pile of chips cost just $3.
Praline CheesecakeWith our unfinished main courses packed into styrofoam takeaway cartons, we ordered an obligatory slice of cheesecake, which no one was able to finish.

It was piled high with whipped cream, drenched in chocolate sauce, filled with sugar, and topped with a big chunk of maple syrup-like substance. In short, it was fantastic. But we felt sick after just a few bites.

Our poor daughter soiled herself in bed not long after we put her down, so I don’t think we’ll be joining the throngs in line outside the Cheesecake Bistro anytime soon.

Sweetening the Deal

If Kraft succeeds in buying Cadbury, I hope the US conglomerate keeps the UK company’s recipes intact. While living in the UK, I often heard complaints from Brits about American chocolate.

One even told me that a Hershey’s kiss tasted “like sick” (i.e. vomit). I gave her an incredibly nationalistic response about where she could put that kiss.

But she wasn’t alone. Several of my American friends preferred Cadbury’s chocolate to its American counterpart. I almost always purchased assorted Cadbury chocolates as gifts in the duty free shops at Heathrow on my way back to the US.

They tend to feature richer chocolate than you generally find here in the US. So I suppose Cadbury is justified in holding out for more money.

Half-Baked Protectionism

I went to a cooking demonstration that offered free samples of caramel cake, shrimp and grits, plus a dash of protectionism.

At the Decatur Book Festival today, cook book author Nathalie Dupree advised the large crowd to buy only Wild American Shrimp, as opposed to the imported counterpart.

She explained that she had visited China back in March. With Chinese shrimp, she said: “You really don’t know where it’s been.”

The crowd nodded. Some even applauded.

But we all missed the irony in her next anecdote: she once transported crawfish on the baggage hold and in a carry-on on a Delta Airlines flight, back when baggage rules were a bit less strict.

She recounted how some of the crawfish bore a hole in their styrofoam travel container, and escaped. Some even wandered around the trunk of the cab from the airport.

She is a charming story teller, and the audience loved it. But I couldn’t help but wonder whether her dinner guests could have used some of the same skepticism she had towards Asian shrimp. If only they had known where the crawfish had been…

That said, I just read this vote in favor of Wild American Shrimp, so she’s not the only fan.

Susan’s Dream Come True

I’m glad to see that Susan Boyle’s album is a hit before it’s even hit the stores!

Musical Dilemma

After becoming one of the more than 23 million people to watch the JK Wedding Dance Entrance on Youtube, I have become hooked on Chris Brown’s Forever. I also enjoyed the walking handstand move.

But I would rather not put money into the pocket of a girlfriend abuser by downloading the song on iTunes. If someone emails me the song, and I don’t ask questions about where it came from, is that stealing?

Starbucks Addiction

St. Paul's StarbucksI picked up an addiction to Starbucks Chai Tea Lattes while living in London. On my way to work, I passed three (yes three!) Starbucks shops in the five minute walk between the St. Paul’s tube station and my office.

There was a jarring juxtaposition between St. Paul’s Cathedral, the 300-year-old masterpiece, looming over the thoroughly modern Starbucks stores. Every day, Londoners and tourists would pile into a queue that wound through the store and out the door.

If I had the willpower to pass by that shop, I would be struggling by the second, then would usually cave by the third.

I took years to become a Starbucks fan. When the stores started descending on New York like locusts in the late 1990s, I thought they were overpriced and overrated.

But when my daughter was born in London in the winter of 2006, I needed to get out of the flat on those days when it started to get dark at 2:30 in the afternoon (i.e. almost every day from December to February).

Baby-friendly coffee joints are limited in London. What makes Starbucks unique is that most shops have doorways and aisles that are wide enough to allow strollers — even a double Maclaren. Also, there are usually changing tables in the bathrooms.

And of course, the drink of choice for all of the moms I know — the Chai Tea Latte — is the perfect blend of froth and spice. I’ve tried to order the same drink at other coffee shops, only to find it’s just too sweet.

At one place in Atlanta, the barista leaned on the spout of a syrup dispenser, releasing a gel-like substance that resembled dishwashing liquid. It reminded me of 7-11 slurpees, which included shaved ice and bright red syrup. The drink tasted like hot sugared milk. Which I suppose it was.

I’m under no illusion that Starbucks doesn’t also use syrup – in fact, I had to ask for extra in my order yesterday (perhaps because of the economic downturn, my local has been skimping lately). But it’s a bit less sweet, and a bit more spicey.

After I had resolved to cut my intake to every other day from my current daily fix, I was perplexed to see that they are rolling out the Pumpkin Spice Latte — which will be tougher to resist.

Driving and texting

This Welsh public service ad about the dangers of texting while driving is sickening. But I wish you could see something that shocking here.

It’s amazing to me how many people — adults! — talk on the phone and text while they’re driving. What could they possibly have to say that is so important that it can’t wait until they get where they’re going?

The one part I’d change about this particular ad is the age of the driver. It implies that only silly teenagers are guilty of texting while driving. But having been almost hit as a pedestrian and a driver in the US and UK, I can say with confidence that grownups — often with kids in the back of the car — are more wrapped up in their phones than in the road.

I hope the shock ads make a difference. This one was so revolting I am wary of getting into the car and facing the throngs of distracted drivers. Let’s hope they watch the ad, too.