Behind the Scenes at Porsche – CHOA’s Rolling for a Reason

A few weeks ago, we had a chance to go behind the scenes at the Porsche Driving Experience for a charity event benefiting the Aflac Cancer Center at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. We’ve said this before, but Children’s holds a place near and dear to our hearts, so we are always grateful for the opportunity to volunteer at these events and bring awareness to such an amazing cause. This night was nothing short of spectacular, and we’re sharing some behind the scenes photos from this incredible event!

The new facility was opened in 2015 and is located just south of Atlanta right next to Atlanta’s Hartsfield Jackson International Airport. The best way to describe the Porsche Driving Experience is a real life “Test Track” for car enthusiasts. From the history of Porsche, to their wall of paint colors, to the driver development track, this place is a car lover’s dream!

If you are looking to go on a drive, we heard rumors that the blue car was the fastest!

Our evening started with a cocktail reception on their patio, which overlooks their test course and has views of the planes taking off and landing next door at the airport. Combine that with a gorgeous sunset, and it’s hard to find a view that will beat this one! The CHOA VIP attendees had the opportunity to go for a ride around the test course in one of the many Porsche models. While we didn’t get to fulfill our need for speed this time, the Porsche Experience Center offers a variety of different driving experiences here. Prices vary depending on which experience you choose, but still are a bit out of the Local Bells’ budget – guess we’ll have to make do with getting our fast car fix at Test Track this November! (Stay tuned for our tips and tricks on how we saved hundreds on our Disney vacation!)

When the sun went down, the games began and the stakes were high! You had your pick from whatever your game was – whether that was roulette or blackjack, craps or Texas hold’em. Everyone started out with $1,000 worth of chips to gamble as you pleased. For some, they went big but didn’t have to go home early thanks to a donation buy-in that let them stay in the game. Midway through the evening, we heard a moving speech from the Blythes, the honored patient family this evening, about their son’s battle against cancer and the love and support they’ve received from the Aflac Cancer Center and CHOA. Hearing those stories and knowing that the proceeds from this evening go to real people like the Blythe family truly puts everything into perspective.

Shout-out to ONEHOPE Wine for the amazing wine this evening! They donate to a different cause with the purchase of every bottle of wine – a winning combination in our book!

At the end of the evening, we traded in our chips for raffle tickets for some amazing prizes – if you’ve ever been to a CHOA event, you know the silent auctions and raffles are outstanding! Let’s just say Grant and I shouldn’t quit our day jobs to play blackjack professionally…

If you are interested in ways to support Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, we invite you to check out their website, www.choa.org. There are so many ways to give back, whether through amazing events like this or volunteering in their hospitals. For one of their exciting events coming this October, be sure to check out Polo in the Pines at the Atlanta Regional Polo Center! Two days of polo, delicious food, fantastic silent auction prizes, and supporting a great cause. We hope to see you there!

Follow us on Instagram for more of our fall fun to come – www.instagram.com/thelocalbells!

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Tiki House Beach Getaway Part 2 – Food

You can’t go to the beach without enjoying some amazing seafood, so we made it our mission to find some great places for dinner the three nights we were on our beach vacation last month.

One of the best parts of visiting the beaches on the Florida Panhandle is the distance from Atlanta. We made the trip down Thursday morning, and arrived before lunchtime to explore the Rosemary Beach area before checking into the Airbnb. Our first stop was  the Havana Beach Rooftop Lounge at The Pearl hotel. With the breathtaking view of the Gulf Coast, it was the perfect spot to toast to the start of vacation! They have a great happy hour starting at noon ($5 glasses of wine and $5 beers), but their food menu was quite pricey.

We continued our quest for seafood the first evening by visiting Pompano Joe’s Seafood House at Pier Park. The Pier Park area is home to a variety of different restaurants and shops – perfect if you’re not sure what you want to do that evening! The best part is that it’s right across from the beach. We had a nice table outside, away from the loud hustle and bustle inside the restaurant. We had a reservation at 5:45, and it was already slammed by the time we got there! While slightly more expensive than your typical beach dive, Pompano Joe’s had great portion sizes. With a fish entree, you got vegetables, another side like rice and beans, and hush puppies.

Our second night, we went for the views at Barefoot on the Beach, rather than solely food. We sat outside on their huge patio with an awesome view of the beach and ocean. The service here was a little sub-par, but if you are there to just relax and take in the views, it’s a nice place to still enjoy the beach without being on the beach and covered in sunscreen. They had a few Happy Hour drink specials and a good selection of seafood options on the menu. We highly recommend doing one of their seafood baskets, either blackened or fried. You start off with a side salad, get a large portion of shrimp, and another side, so you definitely won’t leave here hungry!

Our best dinner hands down was at the Saltwater Grill. Unlike most places that typically only had Happy Hour drink specials, Saltwater Grill also had specials on some of their most popular entrees before 6 PM. And best of all, your order just had to be in by 6 to get the deal. The food was so good that we honestly didn’t snap too many pictures before digging in! We recommend the Creole Redfish, the Prime Rib, or the Seafood Cappellini if you are there for their early bird specials – and you end up saving up to $10! They also had some great drink specials, with $6 martinis, $5 glasses of wine, and $4 mixed drinks. And while this restaurant wasn’t on the beach, they had a huge aquarium that wrapped around the bar area, so you still got the tropical feel of being at the beach.

And to end our vacation, we couldn’t leave without visiting Thomas’ Donuts for some of the most incredible donuts! Well worth the long wait in the sun to dig into these.

Any places we missed this trip that we should put on our “must visit” list for next time in the Panama City Beach area? Share with us below in the comments! 

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Top 5 Best Eats & Drinks – Park City Adventures (Part 3)

When we weren’t skiing, we were eating our way through some of the best food and drinks Park City has to offer! Here are our top 5 places for food and drinks in Park City:

5. The Spur Bar & Grill – Our first afternoon in Park City, we dropped our stuff at the Airbnb and headed to check out downtown Park City on Main Street. There are so many options for any occasion of the day on Main Street, and we spent about 30 minutes just taking note of some of the restaurants and menus that we wanted to come back to. Once the snow started to pick up, we decided to take a quick break and grab a drink at The Spur Bar & Grill. We said cheers to a great start to our vacation at the upstairs bar, and got a peek of their outdoor patio for the nicer days. While we just had a drink, they looked to have a great menu and have live music several times per week.

4. High West Distillery – We had heard a lot of recommendations for High West and even tried to go our first day in Park City but it was so packed! We finally got a chance to stop by our our last night before dinner to see what all the buzz was about. A local watering hole for locals and skiers to unwind after a cold day on the slopes, High West transforms their outside patio area into the perfect afternoon social hotspot. With the fire going, hot cider and whisky flowing, it was the best spot to still enjoy the beautiful crisp air while staying warm. We tried the American Prairie Bourbon and their signature hot cider. Next time we are here, we definitely want to check our their tour and tastings to really understand the history of High West.

3. Blue Iguana – We love a good Mexican restaurant, and with as funny of a name as Blue Iguana, we couldn’t pass it up! With a vibrantly colorful atmosphere, we reminisced about our wonderful honeymoon in Mexico. The Blue Iguana featured a salsa bar with 6 different all you can eat salsa varieties. TLB tip: Chips refills are not free here (Whattttt??). Blue Iguana charges $2 for a chip refill, so we sparingly ate our chips so we didn’t run out! No additional chips were provided with guacamole either. Despite having to ration our chip supply, we both left full after our delicious dinner. We started off with margaritas (we recommend the frozen over the on-the-rocks version) and the signature guacamole, which was so fresh and a surprisingly a good portion size. Meagan had the chicken quesadilla and Grant had the enchiladas with rice and beans. While it is a Mexican restaurant, it was a bit pricier than our usual La Parilla visits, so be prepared to tack on a few extra dollars for each entree if you stop in.

Tied 1. Buona Vita – As much as we love Mexican, we equally love delicious Italian food! We had an incredible meal at Buona Vita after our first day of skiing. Since we had another day of skiing, we figured why not carbo-load?? The intimate and authentic atmosphere of Buona Vita was surpassed only by the rich, delicious flavors of their food. We had a romantic table for two right by their stone fireplace and started off our meal with a great Italian bottle of wine and the appetizer special of the night – garlic bread. We typically go for a salad appetizer, but we couldn’t resist the bread once we caught a whiff of the garlic! Meagan decided on their mushroom ravioli while Grant went with the tried and true Chicken Parmesan. Both dishes were amazing, and it looked like you couldn’t go wrong based on the empty plates at other tables. We highly recommend Buona Vita for the Italian foodies, couples looking for a romantic evening, or for anyone craving warm, comfort food. Entrees range from about $18-$30+, so plan to take your time and enjoy your meal to get the best experience.

Tied 1. Butcher’s Chophouse – Tied with Buona Vita, Butcher’s Chophouse was a completely different atmosphere and food, but equally as delicious. With it being our final night in Park City, we wanted to relax and enjoy a leisurely dinner. To “cheers” a successful first post-honeymoon trip, we started with some of the signature cocktails – Blackberry Bramble for Grant, and Bubbly Bee’s Knees for Meagan. Now we just need to learn how to make them at home! For our appetizer, we went with the Mazza Plate – a perfect sampler platter of hummus, pita bread, roasted red peppers and tomatoes, goat cheese, and olives, all drizzled with a balsamic glaze. With a huge amount of food, we definitely felt we got the best bang for our buck with this $14 appetizer!

Butcher’s is known for it’s fantastic cuts of meat and fresh seafood options, so it was a difficult choice to decide our entrees. Meagan went with the Butcher’s Signature Chop Chop Salad, and Grant ended up going with the 16 oz. Prime Rib, asparagus, and jalapeno bacon mac. It was the perfect way to cap off our trip!

Bonus: Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory – It wouldn’t be a vacation without a few sweet treats! We found some great chocolates and truffles on Main Street at the Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory. $15 worth of yummy chocolates later, and we were ready to stock up on even more before we left town! TLB Tip: If you don’t get a chance to stop in at the Park City location, RMCF is a national brand that has locations all over the world! 

Curious about other parts of our Park City trip? Check out our tips for snow activities here and our awesome accommodations here.

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Chops Lobster Bar Review

We had a great Valentine’s Day celebration Wednesday night, cooking and relaxing at home instead of fighting the crowds and bad service with all the other couples. Instead, we decided to have our big celebratory dinner Friday night and visit one of the most iconic Atlanta restaurants – Chops Lobster Bar.

To put it simply, Chops Lobster Bar is home of some of the best steak and seafood in Atlanta, and consistently ranks in the top 10 steakhouses in the U.S. The intimate cavern-like dining room creates an inviting atmosphere as you walk in and see the seafood bar front and center. While we waited for our reservation time, we had a seat at the “Lobster Bar” and settled in with a cocktail to kick off our evening.

When it was time to be seated, we were escorted to a table towards the back, tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the rest of the dining room. One thing to note about Chops Lobster Bar is their incredible staff. We were always addressed as Mr. and Mrs. Bell, making it feel very personal to us and almost as if we were regulars.

Since it was a special occasion (and also because we had a gift card to offset some of the cost), we decided to take our time through each of the courses. We started off by splitting the signature lobster tail – you can’t go to the iconic Lobster Bar without eating lobster! The 1/4 lb lobster tail was flash fried and served with warm drawn butter and a Greek honey mustard aioli. The batter was light and crispy, though not overpowering for the juicy, buttery lobster. Definitely recommend this as a shareable starter!

For our next course, we selected the French onion soup and the Chops chopped salad. The soup was served in the tradition crock with copious amounts of cheese, making it a truly decadent soup. The salad had some of the freshest romaine lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, endive, and onion and was tossed in a creamy basil vinaigrette. For appetizers, both dishes were generously sized and could easily be shared by two.

When it came to entrees, we decided to get one steak and one seafood option, representing both of the specialities of Chops Lobster Bar. We chose the 20 oz. bone-in ribeye and the horseradish crusted black grouper. Both were incredible! Though I don’t think there is a bad option on the menu. All of the steaks are custom aged and broiled at 1700 degrees, locking in the juicy flavors. The fish was flaky and light, with a subtle rather than overpowering flavor of horseradish. Again, generous portion sizes for both. We split a side of the smoked Gouda mac and cheese too, which was so decadent and delicious that not a noodle was left behind.

After stuffing ourselves with appetizers, soup, salad, and entrees, we were too full to properly enjoy the dessert course and decided to pass this round. All in all, an incredible experience from the food to the service to the ambiance of the Chops Lobster Bar. Such a great experience comes with a comparable price tag, so it’s unlikely we will become regulars but definitely a place to remember for special celebrations.

TLB Tip: Interested in checking out Chops Lobster Bar or one of the other Buckhead Life Group restaurants? Order an Ultimate Dining Card to get an extra 10% added for future purchases.

Paradisus La Perla – Playa del Carmen, Mexico

Happy Valentine’s Day! While we love this special day, it’s been the everyday married life for the past three months that has been so incredibly special. We knew each other for almost 10 years before getting married, but you learn so much about someone when you live together. We’ve learned that it works best when we each do our own laundry, but that we make a pretty good team when cooking and cleaning in the kitchen. While we’re still in this “honeymoon” phase of life, we thought it was only fitting to share some of our favorite things from our phenomenal honeymoon at Paradisus La Perla in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.

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It’s hard to believe that just a year ago, we were knee-deep in wedding planning. There were three things on our list that we were most excited to plan – the food, the band, and the honeymoon! You spend so much time, effort, and money planning the perfect day to celebrate the start of your marriage, so it was important to us that we picked a honeymoon location that we could relax in paradise to truly begin our life together. Originally, we were going to pick three places and Grant would ultimately decide and book the resort, keeping it a surprise for me. But…..once we started looking, we decided it would be more fun to plan things together (and it took some of the pressure off Grant!).

I love planning and organizing, especially when it comes to vacations. I kept a spreadsheet with our options, including notes about number of restaurants, number of pools, included amenities, location, and traveler reviews. We probably had close to a dozen options we were considering. A big factor in our decision-making was finding a location where the weather and water would still be warm in November, a place that had direct flights from Atlanta, and a resort that was all inclusive, so we didn’t have to worry about budgeting when we were supposed to be relaxing.

I had been to Mexico before with my family and loved the resort we had always stayed at, the Moon Palace. But for our honeymoon, Grant and I wanted to experience a place that neither of us had been to. We narrowed down our options to Mexico or the Dominican Republic, and eventually zeroed in on Playa del Carmen in Mexico. Playa del Carmen is outside of the typical, touristy Cancun resort area that most people associate with Mexico. The resort we decided on was Paradisus La Perla and was about a 45 minute drive from the Cancun International Airport.

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We had some concerns from family and friends about traveling to Mexico, but neither of us ever felt unsafe during our visit. The resort arranged complimentary transportation to and from the airport, and the resort was only accessible by visitors staying there. The one thing that would have been a benefit to us was if either of us spoke Spanish. We knew a few words here and there, but not enough to carry on a full conversation. Maybe it’s time we start listening to Rosetta Stone on our commutes to and from the office!

It’s hard to narrow down our favorite parts of our honeymoon, but here are our top 5 favorite things about Paradisus La Perla:

  1. Royal Service – The name itself just sounds magical, and trust us, it was! Royal Service guests have access to a special concierge for booking preferential dining reservations and spa treatments, have their own personal on-call butler, have a private Royal Service only pool and bar, private Royal Service-only a la carte restaurant, and the “Free to Lounge” area with specialty snacks and top shelf beverages. Gilberto was our butler and was fantastic about getting us the dinner reservations we requested and just making sure we had a wonderful stay. We definitely took advantage of the “Free to Lounge” area since many of our reservations were later in the evening and found it the perfect place to have a quick snack and relax before dinner. img_1855img_1914
  2. Incredible Food – There are 14+ incredible restaurants here! So many that we didn’t even make it to all of them. When you think all-inclusive, you sometimes think it is equivalent with buffets or average food. Not the case at all with Paradisus. While we didn’t get a chance to try it this time, their Passion restaurant is run by Seven Star Michelin Chef Martin Berasategui and is supposed to be phenomenal. Our favorite restaurants included Hadar for breakfast, The Market (or a poolside snack!) for lunch, and Fuego and Bana for dinner. You really could not go wrong with any of their restaurants! And they were very accommodating with food allergies. Grant is allergic to tree nuts, and he received a card that noted his allergy in English and in Spanish that we gave to each of our waiters before dining. img_1911img_1921
  3. All-Inclusive – Similar to our comments about food, having an all-inclusive resort was amazing after a year of budgeting and paying for a wedding. The Paradisus staff was truly top-notch with customer service, and were genuinely appreciative when we did tip someone for exceptional service. The all-inclusive aspect really made us excited to try some new foods and drinks while we were there that we might not have spent the money on otherwise. Grant in particular enjoyed all of the frozen drink variations (Mango Tangos every day), and it was a special treat to enjoy so much fresh seafood. One of our favorite pre-dinner spots was the M Bar, a martini bar. It was so fun to try some new variations of the classic martini and take some notes for when we entertain at home. img_1883-1img_1885
  4. Variety of Things to Do – The Paradisus resort is a combination of two properties, La Esmeralda (family side) and La Perla (adults only). Having such a large, combined resort gave us a ton of options when it came to eating, exploring, and activities. While we were there, we got to go to a Mexican wine tasting class (TLB fun fact: per capita consumption of wine in Mexico is only one bottle per year!), went to a sushi making class, and went on a snorkeling tour. The wine tasting class and sushi class were both right on property, and we booked the snorkeling adventure through AquaWorld. The tour boat left right from the Paradisus beach, drove us out to the reef for an hour of snorkling, then brought us back – all without ever leaving our resort! img_1872img_1891img_1896
  5. Property & Views – Having access to two resorts in one was a great feature! We never felt bored and had some many places to explore. The pool areas were amazing, with comfy lounge chairs, easy access to the bar for food and drinks, and the ocean breeze to whisk your mind away to paradise. The beach was beautiful, and we took a few walks along there to feel the sand under our toes and smell the cool ocean breeze. They had an awesome Royal Service only section on the beach as well, which we tried out only once. 37 minutes under the direct sunlight, and we had to make a retreat for our pool chairs and umbrella! These two pale people can’t take too much of the Mexican sun! Our room was amazing as well – we had our own swim-up access to the pool, jacuzzi, and sitting area. The Paradisus team covered every detail you could imagine! img_1878img_1871img_1841

Sound like a place you’d want to go? Take a look at the website here to read more, see pictures, and book your stay! Have more questions? Comment below or send us an email at thelocalbells@gmail.com

TLB tip: join Melia Rewards (it’s free!) to get an even bigger discount when booking.

Homemade Limoncello – Part 1

For those of you who don’t know, Grant and I met on a European studies trip to Italy and Greece nearly ten years ago! My great grandfather on my dad’s side came over from Sicily, Italy, so you could say Italy has played an important role in both of our lives! When we were deciding on a rehearsal dinner location, we had one of the best Italian meals (that wasn’t in Italy) at Tuscany Italian Restaurant in Woodstock. After gorging ourselves on a sampling of basically the entire menu, the owner sat down with us for a celebratory toast of limoncello. Limoncello is an Italian lemon liqueur, mainly produced in Southern Italy. Traditionally, it is served chilled as an after-dinner drink. I love all things lemon – lemon bars, lemon Italian ice, and limoncello! For whatever reason, I decided to see how it was made and found out that it is surprisingly simple! Being the patient man he is, Grant indulged me and agreed for us to give it a try at making some homemade limoncello this weekend.

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We started off by gathering all of the necessary ingredients: lemons, alcohol (we went with vodka), and a large glass jar. After a visit to Costco to purchase the biggest bag of lemons I’ve ever seen ($6.99) and a 1.75 liter bottle of their private label vodka ($13.99), we grabbed the final item – the glass jar – from Target ($5.79), all in all spending less than $30 dollars! There are a lot of recipes out there for homemade limoncello, but this is the one we decided to follow with a few tweaks: http://theitaliandishblog.com/imported-20090913150324/2012/7/3/how-to-make-homemade-limoncello.html

You start off by zesting or grating the lemons. I used ten lemons and alternating between using the large grater for thicker peels with the small zester to get the hard to grate edges. A word of caution that every recipe says: make sure to no zest the white pith of the lemon or else it will be very bitter.

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It took a good 30 minutes to grate and zest all of the lemons. Once they are settled into the glass jar, you add one liter of alcohol. Some recipes call for Everclear, others call for vodka. Vodka was more easily accessible and cheaper, so that’s what we went with! Costco has some awesome deals on both their private label as well as other national brands. TLB tip: you don’t even have to be a Costco member to go to their liquor store!

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Once we sealed the jar up tight, it goes in a cool, dark place for the next 7-30 days (we read differing reviews on this one, but plan to err more on the longer side of it). At that point, you make a simple syrup to add to the lemon/vodka mixture. TLB tip: use the leftover grated/zested lemons to make lemonade, lemon bars, or infuse into water.

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Stay tuned for part two of our limoncello making adventure! Keep your fingers crossed for us that it turns out!

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